Well, I actually have been up for more than today, but this seems more like today’s log.
Saahna and I got up a bit before midnight. Unfortunately we didn’t have time to do much more than clean up a bit before heading to our stations. Ships are vulnerable during skim and, while it’s rare, sometimes attacks do occur; so she needed to be in the gunnery suite. Just in case. I grabbed some coffee and headed up to the bridge.
Do’rex was already there, running though approach vectors on his console.
“You get any sleep?” I asked as I dropped into my seat and strapped in.
He flipped a tentacle. “No, I’ve been monitoring our transit. No problems.”
I frowned. “Are you sure you’re OK?”
He flipped another tentacle. “I’m fine. My sleep cycles are different from yours, remember? And I’ll have the entire week to rest while we’re in Jumpspace.”
I shrugged. “OK, great. Thanks.” I got a final tentacle flip in return.
I looked out the canopy. The gas giant was looming large ahead of us; apparently Do’rex had already flipped us after decelerating in. I could see a narrow ring further out; we were already close to the cloud tops. I checked the sensors. It looked like we were the only ones out here.
“Ready to start skim on your orders, Captain,” said Do’rex.
I shrugged again. “Whenever you’re ready.”
He clicked. “Starting skim.”
I opened the ship-wide comm. “This is Captain Kodai. We are starting our skim run. Anyone wishing to watch operations should turn to ship channel 7.” I clicked back off then leaned back to watch.
There isn’t much to see, actually. Do’rex closed the shutters over the canopy before we entered the atmosphere so the only thing I could actually look at was on the external sensors. And even that didn’t show much. We simply dropped deep into the atmosphere with our scoops open, pulling in methane, hydrocarbons and anything else that had hydrogen in it. Our purification plant pulled out any deuterium or tritium that it could find and compressed the rest to use as reaction mass and cooling, mostly stored as water.
It took about an hour but eventually all of the tanks showed full. Do’rex pulled the ship back up and we were above the cloud layer again.
“Anything else, Captain?” he asked.
I shook my head. “Let’s head for Jump distance.” He flipped a tentacle.
Around inhabited worlds Jump points are defined; outbound ships head for a point 100 diameters ahead of the planet in its orbit while inbound ships plot to arrive around 100 diameters behind the main world. Gas giants used for refueling are different. Basically everyone who is there is leaving (since there is usually no point in refueling before landing, unless you’re just passing through) so any point 100 diameters away from the planet is fair game. Still, most ships follow the “100 diameters ahead” rule and we were no exception.
It would take another hour before we hit 100 out. I leaned my seat back and started reviewing our Jump calculations for the third time, wishing I could go back to my bunk.
About 45 minutes after the skim was over Varan came into the bridge. “Finally all of them are asleep,” he said with a sigh. “And hopefully they’ll all sleep late tomorrow.”
I looked over my shoulder to see that he was holding a beer out towards me. “Hey, no alcohol on the bridge,” I said.
He continued holding the bottle. “That was Captain Anna’s rule. I can’t see you keeping it.”
I hesitated, then took the bottle and opened it. “It was a stupid rule anyway.”
He laughed, then climbed up into the Captain’s chair. I felt a brief moment of annoyance, then shrugged to myself. All of us were at least minimally qualified on every position on the ship, that sort of thing is kinda necessary on a free trader, so he knew enough not to hurt anything. And I could have taken the seat at any time, I just felt more comfortable in my old position. And I didn’t want to have to completely reconfigure a console again.
“No wonder Captain Anna was always in a bad mood,” he said, settling in and looking around. “Looking sideways to watch you two would give me a major crick in my neck in no time.”
Do’rex clicked and I laughed. “You never saw the Captain up here. Never took her eyes off her consoles. Not that she trusted us; she would just see where we were screwing up immediately and call us on it.”
“So why aren’t you up here now?”
I looked at him with my best offended face. “Hey, I’m used to this seat.” He laughed.
Do’rex was looking at me. “So… Captain. Can I… Can we have intoxicants up here?”
I looked at him a moment then raised my beer bottle. “Hey, as long as you get us to where we’re going I don’t care what you’re doing.”
He twitched in relief. “Thank you, Captain.” He started unfastening his harness.
“Hey, stay man, I got you!” Varan climbed back out of the Captain’s chair. “What do you need?”
“A stim-stick would be nice, actually.” Do’rex hesitated, then strapped back in. “It is rather late.”
Varan laughed. “I got you, man. I got you.” He looked at me. “Want another?”
I drained the bottle then handed it to him. “Sure, why not? I’ve done my part.” I flicked my console, sending the final Jump calculations to Do’rex. “Let’s do this.”
He laughed. “Sure thing, Captain.” He jokingly emphasized the last word, then left the bridge. A few minutes later he came back with two bottles and a stim-stick. He handed one of the former to me and the latter to Do’rex. Do’rex clicked in response and took a bite of the stick, almost immediately returning to an examination of his console.
Varan hopped back into the Captain’s seat, looked at us, then immediately looked away and pulled up something on the display there. “Looks like everyone is asleep.” He frowned. “Except that lone passenger from Fugitak. Amada? She’s not in her cabin.”
I laughed. “Check Engineering. Or Saahna and Jami’s cabin.”
I heard him tapping on his display. “Oh. Yeah. She’s… in the crew cabin.”
I nodded. “Yeah, it’s fine.”
He was silent for a long moment. I looked over my shoulder to see him looking at me. “Is that a good idea?”
I shrugged and turned back to my console. “It’s Jami’s problem to deal with, not mine. As long as she does her job…” I stopped suddenly and checked my own readouts. Jami was in Engineering and ready for Jump, and I relaxed slightly. “As long as Jami does what she needs her involvement with our passengers is her concern.”
There was a pause. “What about me, Captain?” I heard, finally.
I didn’t turn to look at him but shrugged. “That’s up to you. Be discrete and don’t interfere with operations and it’s fine.”
There was a longer pause. “OK then… sure. That’s… different. I guess.”
I did turn to look at him at that. “That was always Captain Anna’s policy.”
He looked sharply at me in surprise. “Really? I thought…”
I laughed. “You must have known about my escapades. And Saahna’s.”
He seemed surprised at that. “I covered up for you!”
It was my turn to be surprised. “What? When?”
He looked flustered. “Well… Remember Kalimor?”
I thought for a moment then smiled. “Oh yeah! Dawan!”
He frowned. “I lied to Captain Martin about the time you spent with her!”
“Really?” I was surprised to hear that. “We weren’t actually keeping it that secret.”
Now he seemed to be becoming angry. “You were with her every night!”
I nodded. “Yeah, I was. And?”
“What about Saahna?”
I sighed, but thought a few moments before responding. “Saahna and I know each other. Really well. We’re close. And we’ve got an arrangement with each other. Sometimes she’s unhappy. Sometimes I’m unhappy. But we both know that, in the end, we’re always there for each other. What more is there?”
He frowned. “Stability?” he said, finally.
“We’re always there for each other,” I repeated. “What is that if not ‘Stability’?”
He continued to frown. “I… don’t know.” He sighed.
I shrugged. “It works for us. All either of us care is that the rest of you accept it.”
I saw his brow furrow as he thought. I could tell he wasn’t happy with my answer. Fortunately Do’rex intruded before he came up with another question.
“We are at 100 Captain,” he said. “We can Jump at your command.”
I turned back to my console. “Let’s do this.” I didn’t bother to make an announcement; the crew would be ready and the passengers were probably asleep. But I did dim the lights.
Do’rex didn’t acknowledge the conversation we had been having. “Jumping,” was all he said. I watched through the canopy as the faint glow appeared around the edges and the stars faded into the amorphous gray background. Once the transition was complete I hit the control to close the shutters.
Do’rex had been looking at his own controls. “Looks like a good Jump, Captain. Transit should only take about six days. We’ll be at Boilingbrook a day ahead of schedule.”
“I’m sure our passengers will be happy.” I restored the lighting to normal then unfastened and climbed out of my seat. “And I’m either up too early or too late; I can’t tell which. I’ll see all of you in a few hours.”
Varan grunted as I ducked under him. “Maybe I’ll just stay here,” he said, leaning the Captain’s seat back. “I have to be up before our passengers. Otherwise they’ll never figure out the dispensers on their own.”
I waved over my head as I left the bridge. “Knock yourself out. I’ll show up… sometime.” I heard an amused click from Do’rex as the hatch closed behind me.
I went straight to my cabin. I immediately saw in the dim light that Saahna was already there and already asleep. I stripped off my jumpsuit, tossed it into the refresher, then climbed into the bunk beside her.
She sleepily moved over next to me as I settled down. “Sleeping late tomorrow… OK?” she mumbled.
“Sure,” I said, already falling asleep myself. “”Night.”
“Night,” she replied.
I probably didn’t get back out of my cabin until around 0900. I put on my Captain’s jacket and went up to visit the passengers. All of them were already awake but didn’t seem to see anything unusual about my late arrival. I talked to the passengers, promised Kyla and Jeorge that I would give them a tour of the ship, then went back down.
Jami wasn’t in Engineering and Amada wasn’t on the passenger deck. I assumed they were together. The Grayswandir‘s computer could have told me where they were but it wasn’t that important. We were in Jumpspace; where would they go?
I finished my walk-through and came back to the crew lounge to see Dr. Korvusar sitting to one side, reading something on her comp. I walked over and sat down in an adjacent chair.
“Next stop should be a bit more interesting,” I said. “At least there will be more than a few dozen people to talk to.”
“I found the privacy welcome, Captain,” she said, pointedly closing her comp. “There were far fewer people to come up to me and disturb my reading.”
I frowned. “What brings you down to the crew deck then?”
She raised an eyebrow. “I didn’t know it was forbidden, Captain?”
I shook my head. “No. Not unless we’re actually maneuvering or something. It’s just that the facilities are probably more comfortable upstairs.”
“They would be. If there wasn’t a three and a five-year-old running around.”
I hesitated. “Yeah, you probably have a point.”
I became slightly angry. “I can’t turn down passengers; especially from a planet as small as Fugitak.”
She nodded. “I do understand that, Captain. I was not faulting you or your ship. Simply saying that it was quieter down here.”
I sighed. “Yeah, sorry. Didn’t get a lot of sleep last night.”
“Understandable, with your Jump schedule being the way it is. I did my share of overnight Jumps in the Navy.”
“Yeah, I’m sure you did.” I paused. “You probably did all kinds of interesting things there.”
She smiled slightly. “Yes. I did.”
She didn’t say anything further. I waited a few moments to see if she would continue.
“Anything you can share?” I asked finally.
She shook her head without looking up from her comp. “Not at the moment, Captain. I’ll have to think about what I can talk about. Maybe some time.”
She fell silent again. I stood for a few moments longer then returned to my cabin.
Saahna was no longer there. I switched back to my normal jumpsuit and looked over the ship status on my remote. Everything seemed to be normal. Hopefully this will be a quiet week.