I was wrong about the paperwork. And meetings. And frowns from both Aparoe and Captain for doing something so dangerous. “What if you couldn’t stop it?” Captain asked. We were sitting in his new office, a tiny room near the control center of the ship.
I shrugged. “I did. It didn’t fall or anything; it was still hovering. I just had to slow it down so it would stop moving.”
“An entire shuttle. By yourself. With just your hands.” He was angry, I could tell. “What part of that was taking it easy?”
“I didn’t want it to hurt Luca.” He’d been nice to me. Introduced me to the wonder of working with my hands. I loved it in a way I hadn’t thought I would. I’d thought it would just be about helping out in some way, but I loved figuring out problems and how to fix them. I’d stopped the shuttle, but I’d also sort of crumpled the expensive ship’s exoskeleton in the process.
Which meant we had more work to do. “Can I go?”
“No, not today. Aparoe said you had some mild muscle strain in your shoulders and back. You need to rest.” Captain stood up. “Come on. I’ll escort you back to your quarters.”
I opened my mouth to argue, but he raised an eyebrow and waited. I slowly closed my mouth and then stood. We didn’t talk as we headed toward the lift, and the whoosh as it slid down toward the officer quarter’s level was loud. I crossed my arms over my chest, tucking my hands under them. I hated feeling like I’d disappointed Captain, but what was I supposed to do.
When we stopped at my door, I put my palm on the scanner to unlock the door. I went to go inside, but Captain put one hand on my shoulder and stopped me.
“Officially, I do want to offer my thanks for the way you protected one of my crew. It’s been noted and will be recognized when we return to our base station.”
My mouth dropped open. “Officially?” Then what was all that in his office when he was so upset with what I did. “But I damaged the shuttle.”
“And saved lives at great risk to your own.” Captain’s lips pursed. “Just try not to get into a position where you have to do that again.”
“O-okay.” I didn’t understand, at all. And I was tired after the way my day had gotten longer and longer after the incident. “Thank you.” It didn’t sound quite like a question, but it wasn’t far off. I didn’t know what to say.
“Rest tonight. You can take tomorrow off if you need to as well.”
I shook my head. “I’ll be fine.”
“Wait until tomorrow. Rest well,” Captain said formally. He turned and marched away, his back rigid and his long legs eating up the corridor until he turned the corner and was gone.
Most. Confusing. Day. Ever.
The next day wasn’t much better. I went to breakfast with Priella. She was pretty happy with me. I hadn’t realized that she and Luca were a pair, but she was offering to get me extra food and couldn’t stop beaming at me. It was such a turnaround from her previous attitude, which was a little standoffish, that I almost preferred that she hadn’t changed.
Not to mention everyone else we saw who stopped to stare at me. People literally stopped right in the middle of the corridors. It was awkward. Why were they so surprised? All I did was stop a shuttle from moving. They rescued victims from the Brox people; that was a much bigger deal. They stopped torture.
I just stopped a minor splat from happening.
As my shift went on, more and more people came up to me to say something about what I’d done. I almost regretted it. By the time we were halfway through the shift—where I was allowed to do nothing more than hand over parts and tools again—I was at my limit. I went from talking to no one for years to talking to what felt like hundreds.
Maybe it was just a few dozen, but that was more than enough.
“I’m going back to my quarters,” I told Luca. I had my hands tucked into my sleeves to hide their shaking.
“All right. Tomorrow is our usual rest day, so we don’t have a shift.”
Good. I could hide out all day in my room. “Okay.” My escort was a quiet alien who towered over me but walked so quietly that I couldn’t even hear her following me. It was humorous, in an awkward way, when she had to bend over to stand in the lift. I couldn’t stop my smile.
She left me with a complicated gesture and bow. Her face was just below my chest level when she stopped, and that was when I noticed she had no mouth that I could see. No wonder why she hadn’t asked me any questions.
My sonic shower was as unsatisfying as ever, but the warm cokala was perfect. I sat back on the bed with my drink and cued up the vid I’d started watching the day before.
Lakshou had recommended them. They were boring, he said, but a good way to learn about the species that made up the universe. I’d maybe watched a hundred of the docu entries, and I’d seen things I never imagined.
Talking plants. Alien planets powered by goo that hardened into crystal shards of immeasurable power. Beings that could morph their bodies into any shape, depending on their need—the vid of one thinning out their body to paper-thin thickness and floating away across a large body of water was the most amazing thing I’d ever seen.I’d had dreams of flying, not in a shuttle or a ship, but just my body shooting through the air. It was the most freedom I could imagine having.
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