Captain Zoltana crossed her arms and pursed her mouth. Kristoff almost smiled.
Heads, faces, chests, and arms bandaged, broken ribs bound, the idiot and the lover lay in their bunks and didn’t meet Zoltana’s gaze.
Like a counselor with two recalcitrant young campers on summer vacation, Kristoff had put them in the same cabin.
“So,” Zoltana demanded, “you just stood by and let them continue their archaic male-dominance barbarism while the crew watched?”
“What does the doctor think of this—this unnecessary violence?”
“She’s impressed that two skinny fellas were strong enough—and passionate enough—to do so much harm.” Kristoff tapped his bandaged face and let loose a grin. “Gives her hope for Alerio.”
Zoltana, with a derisive suck of the teeth, turned on her heel in a sharp about-face and marched down the passage.
The inspection crew returned to the Orpheus, and Kristoff bounded into the wheelhouse. Finney didn’t turn around but kept one hand on the controls and another leaping over the console, setting course and speed, and communicating with the engine room. Alerio did not sound happy.
Nobody was, not when an abrasive slice of sandpaper called Captain Iona Zoltana scraped across one’s posterior.
“Slight change of plans, Finn.” Kristoff perched on the edge of the console and rested his boots on the arm of the captain’s chair. His chair, but his butt rarely occupied it.
“Don’t tell me.” Finney frowned. “She found the cargo behind the cargo.”
“Close, but no.”
“She’s sending along a couple of babysitters to make sure we deliver our legitimate cargo to the destination on the manifest.”
“As entertaining as this is, Kristoff, I’m in no mind for games.”
“You’re no fun.”
“Pilot of a big ship. No time for fun.”
“Ah, she’s not all that big.” Kristoff caressed the panel above his head. “Kinda cozy, actually.”
The uninjured corner of his mouth pulled up in a smile, Kristoff turned his head and watched the stars fly at them as the Martina Vega accelerated away from the Orpheus.
“This change of plans”—coordinates set, Finney locked the wheel and leaned back in her chair—“what does it involve?”
“The worst kind of honesty.”
“Oh, the horror.”
c. 2008, Keanan Brand
Note: For the literalists among us, I am using a literary device when I write that the stars flew at the Vega as the craft accelerated. In truth, what is happening in such a case is a visual version of the Doppler affect, in which the space bodies would only seem to be approaching the ship.