Love and Starships: Ch 1 pt 1.
Francis was late. She knew this because the scaffolding and lifts of the dock were virtually empty. She silently cursed the smallest of the two suns in the system for shining in her window all night, keeping her from falling asleep, as well as her inability to figure out how to lower the solar shade and keep all of this from happening. Her tired eyes scanned for others around the exterior of the ship who possibly shared her predicament.
Obviously, she knew she was as late as could be. She also knew that if the ship happened to be ready to depart, that the maglifts would retract back inside the dock and likely crush her. Well, the operators on the station usually checked before doing so. Usually.
Francis stepped into the device hoping she had time. Her bag was heavy and lumpy, due to her hurried packing. The lift began to rise with a blurring speed, just quickly enough for Francis to realize the true scale of the GSS Aishou. Before her, she caught sight of the various windows and access ports passing by, while she had yet to reach even midway up the ship where the crew areas started. To the aft of the ship, she could see one of the massive thrusters jutting out into the void of the space dock. It had yet to begin glowing with power. Francis breathed a sigh of relief. Wait, does the ship fly out of the dock on its own power, or is it shuttled out? Francis worried.
The lift stopped abruptly at the level her authorization had selected for her, and the pneumatic doors opened with a whoosh. Just before entering, she took one last look out at the gray and blue planet in the distance, Toronian II. The doors charged with a fresh burst of air pressure to prepare to close up again, prompting Francis to jump in and narrowly avoid being squished.
The air inside buzzed with the flow of recycled oxygen and power conduits inside of the walls. Francis fumbled with the badge affixed to her wrist cuff. One of the computer screens stared at her, waiting for something to do. She quickly touched the tiny electronic tag to the reader, and the trail of lights on the floor lit up, potentially leading her to her room.
As she paced the halls following the slow strobing of the guide light, she realized that the insides were equally empty as the platform outside. Oh jeeze, did I actually dream it was boarding time, and I’m here like, a week early or something? Francis tried looking around for another computer screen that would hopefully tell her the time or date. The winding hallways took her deeper into the craft. The short synthetic fibers of the carpet were pristine, and the door controls at the side of each room had yet to garner any greasy fingerprints.
The floor lights swerved suddenly, turning her to a door that was presumably hers. Making contact with the sensor on the scanner confirmed her suspicion by way of opening the door for her.
“Welcome to your room, crew member Francis Arnold.” The computer greeted her. The room was a double; two tiny beds, two dainty closets, one efficient little fabricator, and the most petite bathroom Francis had ever laid her eyes on. At least it was the appropriate size for an average humanoid, meaning that if her roommate was of a different race, it wasn’t going to be one of those… strange ones. All crew members of her particular level of seniority had to share a room for at the first two years of their assignments on star ships.
Francis slid open the doors of one of the closets to reveal a dirty, dinged-up suitcase made out of some strange plastic material. Francis frowned and closed the compartment up once again. I guess I’m not -that- much of a clean freak, I’ll survive. At least this means that I am here at the right time. Moving to the other side of the room, Francis opened the empty closet, now hers, and plopped down her lumpy bag.
Just as Francis had time to take a seat at the edge of her bed and suck in a solitary calming breath, a loud siren sounded through the ship, followed by a loud announcement. “All crew members of the GSS Aishou, please report to your stations and prepare for undocking procedures.”
Francis stood up quickly and marched robotically out of the room. Her station was at the starboard prow of the ship, deck 17. In this section, it was one floor from the bottommost crew deck of the ship. Francis looked back and forth down the hallway, realizing that both directions appeared exactly the same, and that she could not remember which way she had come from. There’s like… 600 people on this ship, nobody will notice if just one little station goes unmanned. I’ll try to find it but… no pressure if I don’t… right?
Francis picked a random direction and began to walk down it, her stride confident and not in the slightest betraying the frantic thoughts in her mind. Her eyes remained focused ahead, avoiding having to look down at any of the branching pathways that split off to either side of her.
At the end of the long hallway, she met a pair of doors that had an appearance different than those of any other of the rooms. A loud whooshing came from the other side, creating more turbulent indecision in Francis’s heart. Her eyes drifted down to the button at the side of one of the doors, and with hardly a thought in her mind, she pressed it. The doors remained sealed closed, and the panic set it. I don’t have the security clearance for this, do I? Am I going to get into trouble?
Francis moved her foot backwards, prepared to retreat, when the doors finally opened, revealing a personnel elevator and a familiar face. “Francis, what’s with that look, babe?”
Francis pulled her pursed lips apart and lifted her furrowed brow. Not saying a word, she stepped inside the lift to join the strawberry blond. “I’m just thinking hard about how best I can do my duties, Trisha.” Francis responded.
“Well, starting off at your station would help.” Trisha offered. “Computer, deck 17.”
Francis turned to the woman and grabbed at her skinny wrist. “Why didn’t you wake me up?” She hissed with rushed words.
“Because you’re a grown woman who can set an alarm, Francie.” Trisha said. She rolled her eyes and retrieved her arm with a yank. “God forbid we run into an emergency situation and you sleep through it.”
The lift slowed to a springy halt and the doors opened, revealing the bland, metallic hallway that lead off into various smaller passageways. Trisha stepped out first and quickly turned around to face Francis. “You meet your roomie yet?”
“Ugh.” Francis shrugged emphatically. “Could barely brush my hair this morning.”
“Gotcha’. Let’s catch up for dinner time.” Trisha said, before waving her off and walking the opposite direction.
Francis scanned the maze of halls looking for signs. A blinking light just below the deckhead spelled out ‘comms’ and pointed her in the direction of the portholes on the exterior of the ship. In the distance, she could hear the same voice as before calling out over the radio.
The voice repeated, calling out a number that was the same as the nameplate on the station. “Station SP17-6, do you copy?”
Francis fumbled with the buttons, finding the one to allow her to respond. “Ugh… hi… copy.” She stuttered.
“Are we clear there, over?” The voice asked with a slight tinge of annoyance.
Francis looked over the panel of controls and screens, suddenly forgetting how to work the scanners. Panicking, she shoved her face against the porthole and looked back and forth at the structure of the station outside. “All clear… over.” Francis added, remembering protocol.
“Copy.” The voice said briefly.