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Waking up from a pleasant, if slightly embarrassing dream featuring Airah, my roommate from the Academy wasn’t too bad, especially compared to the way I had felt the day before. Sitting in my Starfighter the whole shift had left me a little stiff but that was nothing I couldn’t work out with some light exercise before my shift. Knowing that I’d either need a shower before or after, I didn’t even bother to change my ship-suit, simply grabbing my helmet and heading over to the gym.

Twenty minutes later, after some light stretching and simple exercises to get rid of the kinks in my body, I was back in my room, stripping off my suit and stepping into the shower, letting the sonics batter my body, making me feel nice and loose, like an overcooked noodle.

Stepping back out, I noticed that Grace was up, and she was a sight to see. Before I could stop myself, I started to chuckle, barely managing to keep myself from outright laughing at and in her face. Her normally nice and tidy hair looked like she had put her hand into an electrical outlet, going in every direction in a way I wouldn’t have believed possible without the help of cosmetic products and there were still smudges of something in her face, most likely lubricant that had been on the job for far too long, taking on a strange, greasy texture as it slowly mixed with dust, dead skin cells and whatever else was floating through the air in the vicinity.

When she started glaring at me I could only pull her up, to her feet, and make her stand in front of the mirror, there was no other way to defend myself. Looking at herself, she had that look on her face that told me she wasn’t sure whether she was supposed to laugh or cry but luckily, she settled on laughing, even if there was a slight edge to it. I gave her a soft push and she headed into the shower, stripping off her ship-suit as she went.

Making sure that I had more than enough time, I decided to be a good roommate and make sure that she was fed and had someone to vent before she went on shift. Simply getting her into a better headspace would be good, not just for her but also for the ship itself. I had no desire for one of the engineers to make a, potential fatal, mistake, just because she was in a bad mood. It was highly unlikely but history was filled with unlikely occurrences happening despite the odds.

Remembering how the other pilots had walked around, having weapons somewhere on their person, I decided to follow suit, putting on the ankle.holster with the small needle-gun Wildcat had gifted me. As I was making sure that my uniform sat right and the weapon was invisible, Grace came back out of the bathroom, naked as the day she was born and her brain still not firing on all thrusters. I blame the extended look I gave her on the dream I had before waking up and had to admit, she had a nice body. I had seen her naked before, just as she had seen me, the small room with the even smaller bathroom made that inevitable but I hadn’t taken the time to properly appreciate the view.

Sadly, the delicious curves were quickly covered by the close-fitted fabric of the ship-suit, which, in turn, was hidden by her uniform. Now, showered and dressed, she looked a lot more alert than earlier and we started our way to the mess.

 

It was still relatively early for the night-shifters to arrive so we could easily grab a bite, some coffee and find a spot to sit. We had yet to even begin to talk and, unless I missed my guess, Grace wouldn’t talk until lightly prodded.

“So, what happened to make you look like you lost a fight with a vacuum-tumbler?” I asked in a joking manner. I was rewarded by a snort and realised if I had asked a moment later, it would have been bad as she took a long gulp of coffee.

“I had the privilege,” she spat the word with enough acid in her voice to make me worry she would melt the deck, “to go over to the Lucky Break, helping their ‘engineering department’,” of which she made her opinion clear by putting it into air-quotes, “to get their ship back into a shape that might survive a hyperspace-jump or three.”

She stopped herself, taking another sip of coffee followed by a deep breath to calm herself.

“Lucky Break, my ass. The only thing lucky about that thing is that it hasn’t broken yet. Their engineering department,” again, she put it into air quotes, while stabbing the air with her fork, “is one person, who was either completely incompetent or drunk. Maybe both.” another sip of coffee and calming breath. So far, the breathing didn’t seem to be working. Or maybe it was, she had yet to resort to throwing things.

“Seriously, I’m not sure if the guy drank the rocket-fuel he was supposed to use for his thrusters, but I wouldn’t put it past him. Their whole ship is crewed by four people, none of whom seemed even remotely competent.” she continued to rant and it was my turn to be surprised at that.

Fleet-Doctrine required to have a permanent watch with additional crew available, for a ship the size of the Lucky Break, that would mean at least twenty people, if it was an unarmed freighter. More if there were weapons involved and even more if they had Starfighters. At a bare minimum, I’d want to have eight, so two people could be on the Bridge constantly and two constantly in engineering. The two sections were over two-hundred meters apart so having watches in both seemed to be a good idea.

My incredulity must have shown on my face, as Grace stabbed towards me with her fork, as she continued to rant.

“Yeah, I had the same look. Sure, the freighter is ancient, almost a century old, but still that thing should be worth a few hundred thousand marks, even as scrap. And they let it sail through the void with a crew that I wouldn’t trust to find a system’s primary if they followed gravity.” she paused to take another deep sip of coffee and I managed to cut in.

“So, you were helping with repairs? How bad was it, I mean, that pirate fighter only managed to do one pass but that guy was good. He managed to survive getting shot at by all our Starfighters and the Merathorn itself, but still, it was just a single fighter.” I asked, quite curious how much damage that one guy had caused. Partially because he had managed to run a gauntlet of all Carmines without getting blown to dust, a failure that rankled me, just a bit.

“Oh, he caused damage, alright. Or maybe saying that he caused damage isn’t quite right. He gave a small push to the house of cards they built in their engineering-department, causing it to come crashing down. In a properly maintained ship, that fighter-attack might have blown the breakers on the shields and scuffed the paint, nothing serious.” she waved it off, as if insignificant.

“But on the Lucky Break? I’d be surprised if those guys ever heard of preventive maintenance, or equipment life-cycles. Their whole reactor was damaged by feedback, their thrusters were misaligned and the hyperspace-coils looked like they needed to be replaced a few hundred jumps ago. That thing is a flying death-trap and I just pray that, if it finally breaks, it won’t be on a vector to anything someone cares about.” she continued on, with even more fire in her voice.

“If you ask nicely, maybe the Captain will allow you to spend some time over there, just to make sure they get to their next destination safely, wouldn’t that be nice?” I asked, bravely keeping my face impassive and my voice serious. The look of sheer horror and incredulity on her face was more than enough to set me off and I broke out laughing.

“You…!” she gasped, pointing her fork at me, as if she was about to stab me. “Don’t even joke about that. Someone might hear you!” she muttered, looking around to make sure nobody was nearby.

At the threat of being forked, possibly to death, I held up my hands in surrender, still laughing.

“I won’t, don’t worry.” I managed to get out and she eyed me for a moment before putting down her fork. “But the look on your face, priceless.” I lowered my hands but was still shaking with mirth.

“You better make sure that I don’t fill your ship-suit with itching powder, right before you need to go onto a nice, long shift, sitting in your fighter.” she grumbled, glaring at me. I doubted she was serious, but I made a mental note to check my ship-suits before putting them on, just in case she was.

“Well, have fun in engineering today.” I wished her, after seeing on my clock that it was almost time for our shifts.

She gave me a friendly wave and I was off, on my way to fighter-country for an exciting day of simulations.

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Tsaimath

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