Faith looked at the pile of tools and sighed she really needed to talk to the gang about how much they actually needed. This was going to take forever to scan onto the ship and half of it they would probably not even need or even take out of the box.
“Hey Chief you guys ready to go?” The pilot said coming down the ramp. He looked past Faith at the pile of boxes and crates. “Ah that is a lot of stuff.” He said with a raised eyebrow. “Sorry I guess I did not introduce myself, Jack Bleier.” He said taking off his flight glove and extending his hand.
“Oh yeah Faith Westlock.” she said while shaking his hand and let out a deep breath. “Yeah, sorry about that, first time away from the ship, I think my guys overpacked.”
“You guys know this is a salvage ship, we have tools.”
Faith put her hands on her hips and nodded. “We are hoping to do repairs, and not salvage, possibly flying it back here.”
“Oh course, of course.” Jack looked around. “Where are your techs?”
“I told them to grab some chow, I was told you would not be ready to upload for another ten minutes, they will be here.” Faith said hoping that was true.
“Okay, well my guys can start loading and scanning.” Jack said whistling two notes and two heavy labor droids came down the ramp and started loading the cases and containers.
Three hours later Faith was glad she had downloaded her books to her personal comm panel. The Denham Retriever, this salvage ship had one of the most limited library facilities of any Bravo class ship she had ever been on. Jack Bleier was an alright ‘captain’ even though he was only an Ensign and simply had a crew of two techs even though it called for four on the manning report.
But since the ship was understaffed Faith was going to get her own cabin. Cabin might be a little generous a bed shoved into a closet might be a more appropriate term, but better than sleeping in the cargo/repair bay which is where her people were going to bunk.
“Prepare for hyperspace in ten minutes.” The voice of Ensign Bleier came over the speakers.
Faith climbed down the ladder from the flight deck and made her way to the galley where her people were clustered.
“How long are we going to be in hyperspace Chief?” Sliver asked.
Faith responded while filling her cup with water. “Captain Bleier said about twenty hours.”
“Don’t you ever listen?” Gold said from the other side of the room.
Sliver did not respond but simply turned his attention back to the comm panel.
“And this one moves like this?”
“Almost right, in that case since you moved it from its start position it can now only move one space.” Gold responded turning her attention back to the chess board.
Faith walked over towards the tabletop holograph board and looked over the chess board. “You could use the tutorial mode Kerem.”
The small man shook his head. “No, I am learning, I will get this.”
A tone sounded then Bleier’s voice. “Hyperspace jump in 3, 2, 1.”
Faith steadied herself on the table as the ship entered hyperspace, sometimes a wave of disorientation happened, and it was best to ensure you were steady when it happened. She was getting to be an old hand at hyperspace jumps, they had made about twenty jumps traveling here from the Sanctuary system to where they were starting to build Defensive Line Wolf. But this time there was really no weird feelings if anything it was a non-event. Faith looked over her people, no one was looking green or giving any indication of being sick. It happened sometimes.
“How is everyone doing?” Bleier’s asked as he stepped out on the deck from the ladder well a few minutes later.
Faith turned towards him. “Good, good, you need anything from us captain?”
“Not that I can think of, just keep your voices low when in this area, for some reason sound carries right up to the crew cabins and one of my techs is getting some rack time right now.”
Faith nodded and looked around at her people, they were by and by a pretty sedate bunch, unless they were drinking, and she had said instructed them no more than one drink a day while on this mission. She was about to ask Bleier about the library database when he got a chime on his comm panel he smiled and waved as he climbed back up the ladder.
Faith slide next to Kerem at the table and said. “I got winner.” She watched the game as Gold beat Kerem even though she had spotted him two pawns and a knight. They had just hit the reset button when a noise reached them, the noise of people in bed together. People enjoying each other’s company in bed.
The group looked at each other with a combination of amusement and embarrassment.
“I guess sleep was not the highest priority.” Said Kerem.
Silver looked up at the ceiling and promptly hooked his comm panel into the ships speakers and began playing some instrumental music, greatly reducing any distinctive noises from the cabin above them.
Faith spoke up. “Okay guys once in hyperspace we are going to have a meeting to discuss the mission.
Faith pointed to Silver. “Okay tell us the problem.”
“The Burn Mark is dead in space around a small moon on the last planet in this system,” He motioned towards the projected solar system on the wall of the cargo bay, “reports from Zhang Yong, their Engineer said everything was up to specs when they went into orbit. They went to energy level once they got into orbit, making them a hole in space, it was not until they attempted to leave and catch up with The Fleet that they realized they could not move. Normally the Endurance would have returned to bring a ship in for repairs, but our commander, Captain De Cluny, ordered us,” Silver motioned towards the team, “to attempt to bring it in under its own power, rather than send the Endurance and an escort ship out to get the Burn Mark.”
“Everyone read the reports?” Faith asked.
There were nods around the room including the crew from the salvage ship.
Ife one of the two Salvage/Repair Techs on board spoke up. “Anything they could have done accidently to have killed their own ship?”
Silver spoke up before Faith had a chance. “Not Zhang, solid Engineer, the Burn Mark hasn’t had any problems like this and their last time on the Endurance showed no problems or issues with their power supply, I also contacted the other Long Range Support ships staff, no one else has seen this type of problem.”
Bleier spoke up. “I asked for all the data on that system, about fifty ships passed thru that system during the migration, no other ship had a problem, just standard transit.”
Faith nodded. “I looked at that data too, the only other ship that went into orbit around that moon was the gunship that was tasked with rescuing the crew.”
“Did they experience any power loss?” Bleier asked.
Faith nodded. Ensign Bleier was looking out for his ship. “No but they were only there for twenty minutes, the Burn Mark was at energy level one for about thirty-two hours before they tried to leave orbit, they were there for another fifteen hours before they got pulled out.
“So, what is the plan?” Ife asked.
Faith nodded towards Bleier, as it was his ship to reveal their plan. “We drop out of hyperspace close to the Burn Mark, we don’t dock with it, you guys get over on a sled and see if you can figure out the problem, if not, we take it in tow back to the Fleet.”
Ife spoke up. “While you guys are on the Burn Mark, we are going to be doing a search pattern on the moon to see if there is something down that might have caused this.”
There were nods around the room.
Faith spoke up. “Okay you guys string your hammocks and get some sleep, once we come out of hyperspace, we will not be taking a break until either the Mark is moving or in tow.”
“Leaving hyperspace in thirty minutes;” Faith announced, “Clean up and suit up.” Faith said she took her plates to the replicator. There were nods around the room and clean up proceeded.
Ligaya said ‘morning’ to the groups as she entered the galley.
Faith looked up from her panel and was confused for a second. Ligaya, the small Filipino female tech had come from the cargo area, but she had clearly heard sounds of amorous noises coming from above just few seconds ago. She was pretty sure Ligaya was the girl Bleier was spending time when they entered hyperspace twenty hours ago. So, who was upstairs with Bleier right now? Was it Technician Ife? The girl from Africa? Not that it was any of her business, it wasn’t any of her people. Faith finished cleaning and walked down to the cargo bay to suit up.
“Suiting up is such a pain.” Silver said as he adjusted his suit Mark Four suit.
Faith had heard him complain so much it just was just words at this point, not so much with Gold.
“You do it wrong you will be lucky if have enough time to complain about it.”
Silver simply gave her a rude finger gesture.
“Can you check my back.” Kerem asked of Faith as he turned towards her. “Something is not connecting.” He said looking at the panel on his forearm display.
Faith looked it over and saw that one of the leads was not fully plugged in, she reached over and pushed it in, and she heard the satisfying click.
“That was it Chief, thanks.”
“No problem.” The next five minutes were just the noises and comments of her team ensuring the environmental suits were properly fitted and operational. When everyone was double checked they sat down and waited to leave hyperspace. Faith experienced just a hint of stopping when hyperspace was left, not physically, just a feeling in her mind that the ship had stopped.
Bleier came over the speakers. “The stay behind sensors left in this system show no changes since they were activated, we are in the clear people we should be within range of the Burn Mark,” there was a pause and Faith thought she heard another voice saying something. “within ten minutes.”
Faith replied. “We are ready.”
The next few minutes were silent until Gold spoke up. “So, who is Ensign Bleier sleeping with both Techs?”
Faith looked from the letter she was writing to Leo and thought about telling her people it was not their business when Silver spoke up. “If so, he is going to get caught, you can’t hide that sort of thing.”
Kerem joined in. “I don’t think he is hiding it.”
“You mean both women know about him and the other?”
“Hmmm, how about that.” Silver said.
Gold spoke up using a somewhat scholarly tone. “It is no surprising that some of the old mores of Earth are changing out here.”
“What do you mean Gold?” Faith asked not wanting to talk about this but intrigued nevertheless, partially from a personal conundrum.
“Yes, what do you mean professor?” Silver said teasing her.
Gold gave a rude gesture but continued. “We, the Fleet is out here, made up of people from all different cultures of Earth, there is no normal, no ‘regular’, no traditions. We are not around our families, our friends or other religious practices, it would stand to reason that people would change what they think is acceptable.” Gold motioned towards Silver and then herself. “If we were back home, we would never be together our families would be killing each other.” Silver simply nodded. “A lot of people have sex before marriage now and before they were snatched up, they never would have.”
Faith was about to disagree with her, she was not going to change her thinking on what was acceptable, but she was brought back to reality when they got a red light to put helmets, seal up and plug into the sled as the cargo bay was going to depressurize.
Twenty minutes later the cargo door was. Faith took a deep breath and flipped the switches powering up the rockets and engaged the drive, pushing them out into empty space. The first time she had piloted a sled she was scared to death, the void, the vastness, the hollow nothingness of space is terrifying if you let yourself dwell on it. She had felt it back on Earth once when standing on the edge of a cliff, the emptiness the feeling of being sucked into the vacuum. She swallowed hard and piloted the sled towards the Burn Mark.
Gold and Silver seemed to be having a discussion on a private channel and Kerem had his comm panel out looking at something. She was the only one looking vastness around them and keeping her terror locked down. It lessened as they closed on the Burn Mark, with it growing larger and larger, lessening the emptiness.
“Prep for docking.”
A few minutes later they were secured to the hull of the dead ship and Kerem was using the manual controls to open the outer door.
“Captain Bleier we are on the ship, we should be inside in a few minutes.”
“Roger, once you are inside, we will be moving off.”
One hour later Faith was flummoxed, everything was in proper order, but nothing was working, it was if every bit of power was just evaporating from the ship. All the relays were perfect, all connections were within spec. They had started at the power plant, the fusion engine. As far as they could tell it was producing power, but it was not leaving the chamber.
The four of them were floating in the engine room looking confused. That is something, the trickle charge that kept the gravity plates operational was gone as well, from the crew logs it made no mention of any grav plate problems or shutting them down, they kept a charge a long time, but sometime in the last two weeks even that charge was gone.
Kerem spoke up. “Guys check your suits.”
Faith and the others looked over their suit displays. “Everything is good with me.” Faith said. Gold and Silver also noted no problem.
Kerem spoke again. “Look at your power reserve, we should be at ninety-six percent, I am already down to ninety percent.”
Faith double checked her gauge. Kerem was right, she was at one hundred percent when they disengaged from the sled, and they had not been that active. “Power levels people?”
“Ninety-one.” Gold stated. “Opps now ninety.”
“Ninety.” Silver answered.
“Ninety.” Kerem answered.
Faith punched a few buttons. “The sled is down to eighty-one percent.”
Kerem punched a few things into his panel. “It should only be down to no less than eighty-nine after that trip.”
Everyone started talking and Faith held up her hand for silence, her team was quiet. Activating her comm link. “Denham Retriever?”
“We got an energy drain on our suits and the sled, you guys seeing anything over there.”
There was a pause. “Wait one.”
“Nothing on our active systems, let me check something.” The Filipino Salvage Tech said.
Gold looked like she wanted to say something, but Faith kept her hand up.
“We got a drain on our backups, basically anything running on battery power.”
“Okay, we are going to try a few things over here then we are going to head back, a couple of hours is my estimate.”
“Okay your call, but keep us updated, if you guys drop too low call and we will dock with the Burn to retrieve you.”
“Got ya Ligaya anything noted on your scans.”
Ife spoke up. “Not yet, but we are working a grid at level eight, we are only one third done.”
“Thanks, Westlock out.”
Her crew looked at her. “Okay, gang we try replacing the main power connections, if we get nothing there, we are going to try a reboot of the core.”
“We have never done one of those before.” Silver said, the worried tone was clear.
“I know, hopefully it won’t come down to that, but we have step by step instructions in the manual. It should be good as long as we follow the instructions.”
“Will Spooner be, okay?”
Spooner was the positronic brain on the ship, and it was in sleep mode now, but they all knew shutting down the core was a danger to the positronic brain due to the startup surge of power.
Faith shrugged in her suit then realized no one could probably see it. “I don’t know, Kerem you are the closest we got to an expert on positronics.”
“It should be shielded pretty good in sleep mode, but I don’t know. I should be okay.” The Turkish man said but not sounding very convinced.
“Okay guys,” She pointed to Kerem and Silver. “You guys go pull all the major relays points. No matter what we do we are going to have to do a restart after replacing the main connections, one system at a time, and if that doesn’t work, they are going to have to be pulled for a cold start anyways.” She pointed towards Gold. “We are going to put in new power connections to the core and hopefully that does the trick.”
“Boss I hope it works, but I am guessing it is not going to change anything.” Silver said.
Faith saw Gold gearing up to argue but Faith held up her hand to stop her before she began. “I am not betting on it either, but it is the only thing we can do before a full reboot of the core and I want to try everything before that.”
Everyone gave a thumbs up to that, Faith continued. “Keep an eye on your power, it goes below fifty I am pulling the plug on the whole operation and we are going to go into tow mode.” Again, the thumbs up from everyone. “Okay Gold let’s get to work, guys keep me informed of your progress, log all your actions, in case we go below fifty, so we know what is connected and what is not.”
For the next hour her and Gold replaced five of the direct power connections and they had five more to do when Faith called for a break. They floated in the Engine room and they each drank from tubes and ate a protein supplement from another tube.
Faith looked at the channel Gold was talking to her on, it was a private channel and Gold only called her Faith when it was just the two of them and it was not about work. “Yeah Gloria.”
“Earlier when we were talking about sex you had an angry look on you face.” Gloria said with her face looking directly at Faith. “I am sorry if I made you mad.”
Faith sighed. “You didn’t.” She sighed again; Gloria was a close friend despite being her boss. “You started talking about people’s morals changing like it was nothing, and.” Faith let her voice fade off.
“Oh, I don’t think it is nothing, our morals are very important, they make up the way we see the world, but we are all in such a different place from where we came from, this world is very different and we are adapting, no shame in that.”
“Maybe there should be.” Faith replied, but she sounded unsure even to herself.
“Is this about you and Leo?” Gloria asked placing her suited hand on Faith’s suited arm.
“Yes and no.” Faith said forcing a smile. “Leo is a great guy, and he has never pressured me, but I can tell he wants more, and I have the same feelings I think.”
Gloria added. “But.”
Faith grimaced. “But I was a preacher’s kid, my father was a real fire and brimstone preacher, hell and eternal damnation and all that. One time when he caught my oldest sister holding hands with a neighbor boy one night, I thought he was going to perform a wedding right on the spot to ‘curb the Devil’s temptation’ right there.”
Gloria laughed. “Did she marry the boy?”
Faith laughed. “No, he ran away, we later heard he signed up on a whaling ship and the last we heard of him he was sailing the South Pacific.”
They both laughed at the story, but then Gloria got serious. “I can’t tell you what is right and wrong for you, but you are smart, you have a good heart and Leo is a great guy, you two will work it out.”
Faith nodded, she was about to say something when the team channel activated, and Silver’s voice came over. “We have two-thirds of the relays pulled and we are down to sixty-five percent suit power.”
Faith squeezed Gloria’s arm and responded. “Good, we got five more connections to replace, our suits are at seventy percent.”
Silver’s voice came back. “Well, we have been bouncing around this ship, but still, that seems like an awful fast drain.”
Gloria chimed in. “You two have been goofing off if you only got that many relays pulled.”
Faith spoke up. “Knock it off the chatter you two, we got more work to do.”
Gloria looked at Faith smiling, and she smiled back.
“Okay Gold we did the hardest angles first, let’s get the easy ones done before they get back here.”
“We are back on board and secure.” Faith looked at the sled battery, down to thirty-three percent, that was wrong. What was draining these batteries so fast? The new connections had done nothing, the core reboot had done nothing. No power was flowing on that ship and reports from Bleier told her the same thing was now happening on his ship.
Faith worked with her people and took their suits off when Bleier came over the speakers. “Chief Westlock can you come up to the bridge we found something strange.”
“On my way.” She looked towards her team. “Charge the suits, I am heading upstairs.” Faith said as he team did the normal maintenance on the suits and their tools.
The crew was on the bridge their heads buried in their screens. Faith gave a small cough and the three of them looked up.
“Thanks, can you look at this we can’t figure it out.”
Faith looked at the screen Bleier pointed out. The surface scan showed nothing unusual, but there was one crater on the moon that was pretty deep and there was crater within that crater.
“That is awfully deep, is that normal.”
There were shrugs around the bridge. “We thought it was strange too, but it is the only weird thing on the moon, so we came back to this to look it over.”
“And?” Faith said.
“There is some sort of strange energy coming out of that hole.”
“Strange?” Faith said.
Ligaya spoke. “Something the computers can’t identify. It’s a radiation but one that is not in the database.”
“But the wave pattern is strange.” Ife said.
Faith looked over the pattern that the African girl was pointing towards. “That is wrong.” Faith said out loud her finger following the pattern on the screen.
“That is what we said.” Ife said with little irritability in her voice.
“No, the energy is not coming out of that hole, it is getting pulled into it.”
Three hours later they were in deep space away from the moon. Faith and Bleier came down to the cargo bay and to address their people.
“We just got off the comm channel with Fleet command.” Bleier stated.
There was a murmuring. “And they have given us a choice.” Faith said.
More murmuring and Bleier spoke up. “We can investigate further, or we can take the Burn Mark in tow and let someone from the Fleet come back to look into this.”
“We have to decide quick.” Faith stated. “This system is clear and without some other ships screening for us all we got is the stay behind beacons telling us this system is clear, if anyone enters this system, we got about four hours to clear out.”
“And it will take four hours to rig up the tow system to the Burn Mark and make the hyperspace.” Bleier stated.
“So, we investigate now, or have someone else come back and do the whole job from scratch.” Faith declared. “And Fleet Command wants us to activate the self-destruct on the Burn Mark if we leave the system without it, they don’t want a whole ship to fall into Alarian hands.”
There were intakes of breath from Faith’s techs, destroying one of their ships, a ship they knew the crew of, was repugnant to them.
Bleier spoke up. “Chief Westlock wants to leave it up to you guys.” He motioned towards Gold, Silver and Kerem. “You will be the ones going down that crater to investigate the energy drain, my team will be lowering you via crane.”
“What do you say guys, do you want to solve this problem or leave it to someone else?” Faith said looking at her team.
The three techs looked at each other and there were shrugs. Kerem spoke up. “We will follow you Chief, you say tow, we tow, you say go down the hole, we go down the hole.”
Faith smiled at her team. “Okay here is how we are going to go down the crater.”
“Climb aboard gang.” The voice of Ife came thru the channel. Faith and the others unplugged from the sled and carried their crates to the makeshift platform that would lower them down and hopefully bring them back up. The first drone sent down had complete power failure at one hundred meters, the second they had simply let fall with nothing to stop it from not crashing at the bottom. It had stopped sending signal at one hundred twenty meters, either it had lost power like the first or it that was the bottom of the hole. There was only thing they were sure, they only had two hundred meters of cable.
The crane lifted the improvised platform and swung it over the hole. Kerem was in charge of monitoring the depth, Silver their suits, Gold their backup power units and Faith communications. They talked very little as it would waste energy. Bleier came over the channel from the Denham Retriever. “I am charting your energy levels, if the curve of loss changes, I am stopping downward progress at the point you cannot get back up here safely.”
“Roger Bleier.” Faith paused. “Ife move begin lowering us.”
The crane was smooth, whether it was due to the low gravity, no atmosphere or Ife’s expert handling, whatever it was Faith was pleasantly surprised. Without announcement they started to descend.
“Down ten percent.” Gold stated
“Down three percent.” Silver.
“Steady as she goes.”
“Sixty-five on the backups.” Gold declared.
Faith dropped a chemical light over the side and watched it drop. Illuminating nothing.
“Suits at seventy-six.”
Faith dropped another chemical light and watched if all then it stopped and did not move. “We got a bottom.”
Three other sets of eyes were now glued on the green chemical light that they were drawing closer to.” Faith was distracted as well but snapped back. “Progress Kerem.”
“Oh sorry. “One hundred and one meters.”
“Ife stop.” Faith ordered.
A short second later the platform gave a small jerk as it stopped. Faith broke two more chemical lights and dropped them over the side. Counting the time, she did till they stopped moving she did the math for the low gravity. “About twenty more meters.” Everyone was looking at her. “Ife give us ten more meters slowly, Gold turn on the lights.”
The lights on the bottom of the platform came on and someone let out a whistle.
“What the heck is that?” Faith.
“I think it’s a ship.”
Faith activated her camera and sent a series a pictures back up toward the surface. “Bleier, we got a ship down here, can you run it through the identification program.”
There was a pause and then he replied. “The database gives it a fifty percent chance of being a Kalukan design.
“The bugs.” Kerem said the fear coming out.
Gold and Silver pulled their sidearms. Faith was about to do the same but then thought there was nothing to shoot, at least not right now. “Power levels guys.”
Gold answered first. “Suits at fifty-three.”
Silver paused. “Down to twenty-five.”
Faith looked over the side. “Ife give us ten more, then I will start counting down.”
The platform moved slowly, and Faith stared a countdown form four, when they were about to touchdown, she reached one and the lowering stopped. “Leaving the platform.”
Bleier voice came over the channel. “No chances Chief at this rate you guys got about ten minutes before you start back up, not a second longer.
The platform was only a few feet from the ship, and she looked it over. It was buried, at least partially she walked around it, Gold, Silver and Kerem followed, the latter had drawn his weapon. She turned a corner and let out a gasp.
Lying on the ground was a Kalukan to be exact. She had seen pictures of them but this one was laying on the ground not more than ten meters from her, lying half in and half out of the airlock, with both doors open to the interior. It was very much insect like, part ant and part hairy fly with no wings, but it easily could stand at two meters tall, if it had been standing on its multiple legs.
The Kalukans could operate in a vacuum but only for a short time, this one had stayed out to long and was obviously dead. Silver walked over and kicked one of its hairy multi-jointed legs with his boot, it moved with no tension to it.
“Wonder what killed it?” Kerem asked no one in particular.
“Don’t know, don’t care, it’s dead.” Silver said looking at the dark ship.
“You guys better get back up here; we are starting to experience power drain.
“This is the source.” Faith said wanting to know more.
“Doesn’t matter, we can’t do anything, we don’t have time to figure out what is going on.” Bleier said. “Get back on the platform.”
Faith looked around wanting to know what was happening here. She did not want to leave this mystery for someone else, she was here now. Climbing back on the platform she decided to solve the problem that was in front of her, right here and right now. “Okay, what kind of explosives do you have on board.
They had moved into far orbit and the power drain was now negligible. “Let’s see what happens when we close that hole.” Bleier said as he presented with a flourish a big red button to Faith.
“Thank you.” Faith said smiling, she pushed the button, and they all watched the screen, they had set up a visual feed at the crater and watched at the ring of explosions collapsed the opening of the crater, sealing it tight.
“How is it looking Ligaya?”
Technician Ligaya answered after looking over her screens. “The sucking radiation is now down to less than one percent of where it was. It should not be causing us any problems.” There were high fives around the bridge and Silver and Gold even hugged.
“Captain if you could get me and my team over to the Burn Mark, we can get it ready to complete its migration to Defensive Line Wolf.”
It had been twenty-four hours since they had closed the hole and the Burn Mark was almost back to full power. Spooner the positronic brain seemed to be functioning normally but Kerem was still running tests to be sure. Silver and Gold were doing redundant checks and if Faith was correct, they had snuck off for a little alone time together. Faith was moving gear over to the Mark from the Salvage ship, just like she had anticipated a couple of crates they brought had never even opened, let alone used.
She had just moved the last stuff over when she went to find Bleier and tell him, climbing up to the crew deck she heard the unmistakable noises of people together in bed being amorous, slightly embarrassed she climbed back down the letter and bumped into Ife starting to come up from the galley.
“Sorry.” She said as they stood there in front of the ladder.
All of sudden they heard a female voice cry out. In happiness.
Ife chuckled. Faith got red in the face.
“He hit her spot.” Ife said smiled knowingly. “I hope he has more his gas in his tank.”
Faith tried to smile and be worldly, but Ife saw that she was uncomfortable. “I am sorry if I made you uncomfortable.”
“My problem, not yours.” Faith said unsure what else to say.
“Sure.” Faith answered and they got cups from the replicator.
“You don’t get our relationship, do you?” Ife asked.
Faith forced a smile. “No, I don’t, I am sorry I don’t want to judge or anything, but I was taught that stuff like that was only for married couples.”
“Yeah, me to.” Ife said.
Faith’s face must have displayed her surprise. “Oh sorry. But my father was a Baptist preacher, and he was really stern and strict.”
“Mine too, but mine was a Mormon.” Ife motioned towards the table. “You want to talk about it.”
Faith nodded and they sat. “I don’t mean to be rude or judgey but why do you think it is okay now.”
Ife let out a breath. “When found myself here, I was lonely, I met Bleier and Ligaya and we became great friends. I went out on a couple of dates with guys, you know holodeck and all that. Bleier and Ligaya did the same but no matter what we always ending up hanging with each other. One night over some particularly strong drink, things happened. The next couple of days were uncomfortable, but I missed being with my friends. They did to, so we decided that we could have both the friendship and the sex.”
Faith processed this. “But what about God and sin.”
Ife shrugged. “I still believe, God is out here somewhere,” she said motioning around. It was at that point the noise of intercourse resumed.
They both looked up and laughed.
Ife responded laughing. “That boy.” Then she got serious. “Abram had two wives, so did a bunch of other men in the Bible.” She saw the look of confusion on Faith’s face. “You are probably just talking about sex before marriage though, aren’t you?”
Ife took deep breath. “You have a guy?”
“Yeah, he is a Long-Range Captain, Leo.”
“He a good guy?”
“I think so.” Faith said.
“He is not pressuring you to have sex?”
“No, he is a gentle man, at least with me.”
“Your friends like him?”
“They love him.”
Ife nodded. “Friends are great gauges.”
“I think I want to have sex, and I know he does to, but.”
Ife spoke. “But you have a lot of stuff holding you back.”
“I can’t tell you what your morals should be, that is for you to decide. I just know that some of the major things that were barriers before, unplanned pregnancy, sexual diseases they are really not a problem with the medical tech we have now with the auto-docs, one injection and no pregnancy for a month, men and women.” Ife saw another argument forming on Faith’s face. “But yeah, there is the whole emotional level, protecting your heart and the sin issue.”
Faith again nodded.
“If he is a good guy then I think your heart is safe, as for the sin issue, that is between you and God, but I figure He knows I am out here, and I am not hurting no one else, and I am living my life to the fullest with my two best friends. “
Faith looked down towards the cargo bay when she heard someone coming their way.
“Chief all higher functions check out on the Burn Mark; Spooner says he is ready to make a hyperspace jump within an hour of disengaging.” Kerem said walking into the galley.
Faith stood and shook Ife’s hand. “Thanks, you gave me some things to think about.”
Ife smiled and nodded. “I wish you happiness no matter what you decide.”
Two days later they were landing the Burn Mark back on the Endurance.
“Hey look who is here.” Gold said pointing out a figure from the bridge of the Burn Mark.
Faith smiled when she saw Leo standing out in front of the ship. “Can you handle the hand off back to Captain Bilbao?”
“No problem Chief.”
Faith checked her hair quickly and then pulled her jumpsuit zipper down another inch as she hit the button lowering the ramp.
“Well, this is a change of pace.” Leo said as Faith moved down the ramp not saying anything she simply kissed Leo fully and deeply.
“Wow.” Leo said when they came up for air. “That was something.”
Faith hugged him tightly and whispered something in his ear.
Other short story in The Outfitters Universe, That Was Then This is Now and The Goldbricker
The title image is from the TV show Salvage One
Categories: Short Stories, Stories from the Fleet, The Outfitters Universe
Witty observation, disparaging remark, question for A.A., well this is your chance.