Love and Starships: Ch 1 pt 2
Francis’s anxiety subsided as the structure of the spaceport started to pass slowly by outside the window a minute later. She turned her face down to study the buttons and controls on the panel, as well as the screen that fizzled with a grid of back-lit rectangles.
As her slow breaths pushed the confusion out of her mind, the training classes she had religiously attended slowly returned to her.
With a flick of the switch, the scanner began to spit out a list of readings to her screen that projected a rough image of the materials outside and their distance from the ship. Just as predicted, the maglifts on the structures had been pulled back against the wall to allow the Aishou to slip out easily.
In the ceiling above her, she could hear the coolant start to flow from the front of the ship, where it was stored and cooled, to the back of the ship, where it would soak up heat from the engines. At least, that’s what she thought she heard, based on the foggy memories of the basic tier engineering classes she took.
The edge of the station finally passed by the window, revealing the dull glow of the second, larger sun reflecting off the planet surface far below. The window dimmed automatically. The hull began to creak, just as it was explained to happen. Her knowledge of this phenomenon did not prepare her for the feeling of dread that came with the sound calling out as she stood less than a meter away from the void of space outside.
“All clear, all secondary crew members may stand down.” The call came with great relief to Francis, who quickly returned back the way of the lift. As she stepped into the empty compartment, a brief look down at her feet revealed she was still wearing her civilian shoes; a ratty pair of black Sbeebas. I’m glad I didn’t run into any officers. I really need to get back to my room and change out of these.
“Deck 14.” The computer voice in the lift announced the stopping of the platform. Francis stepped out, somehow remembering the curves of the hallways. With great concentration, and after testing a couple of doors with her electronic tag, she found the door to the room that belonged to her.
As the mechanism opened for her, she spotted the yellow-skinned alien sitting atop the bed, legs crossed as if it were meditating. It was roughly human sized, with thick brown hair that ran down to its upper back in tendrils reminiscent of dreadlocks. Francis looked up its square jaw that jutted out from its face, to the thing’s eyes. They opened suddenly with two vertical lids on each eye. The deep purple irises turned toward Francis. Before the alien had a chance to stretch out its legs and step down from the bed, Francis stepped out of the room backwards, the door closing after her.
The mechanical innards of the door clicked with a basic lock. Francis tapped the sensor with her badge once again, and it opened without hesitation. The alien, about 10 centimeters taller than her, stood just in front of the entrance.
“You are my roommate, human?” The thing tilted its head slightly and offered a… hand. It was yellow just as the rest of its skin, and had long but seemingly neatly maintained nails. The arm it reached out on was slightly toned with muscles, but shaped differently than the bicep of a human.
“My name is Skee, it is a pleasure to meet you.” It spoke again, the arm still extended in Francis’s direction.
Francis scanned the alien’s body. It wore the same standard issue jumpsuit as her. She took the hand and gave it a weak squeeze. The yellow creature responded with a slightly more tight gesture. “Francis.” She uttered, hardly able to make eye contact.
“I apologize that I was not in the room previously when you seemed to have arrive to greet you more promptly. I understand my sudden presence here may be a surprise.” Skee stepped back politely and offered a space for Francis to move trough and into the room.
Francis stepped in and turned back to get a second glance. “Uh no, I was late coming here. I expected a roommate, too, but…” She said, holding back her offended tone. “Not a Reedeen, first off.”
“Ah, so I have been found out.” Skee said.
“As a communications officer, I’m supposed to know this stuff; all of our allies out there in space and such.”
“Very good.” Skee nodded. He moved back to his bed and placed his bare feet and long toes back up, heels crossed over one another, on the comforter.
“But you… you’re a man!” Francis announced, waving her hands out across the room.
“Excuse me?” The alien blinked his vertical eyelids in quick succession.
“Ah, correct.” He nodded profusely as if in congratulations.
Francis placed her hands on her hips and jutted her chest out. “How did you get into this room then? You can’t be my roommate.”
“My badge got me in, just like yours, it seems.” Skee explained, running his fingers between his toes on the bedspread. “Crewman Arnold was the name also assigned to this room with me.”
Francis grit her teeth and rolled her eyes. “Yes, that’s me.”
Skee blinked his eyes again, seeming to look Francis over with great intensity. “I see, your name is traditionally for males on your planet. Your parents must have been confused when you were spawned!”
“No!” Francis threw her arms up. “Francis is just my name; not a man’s name or woman’s name. The problem is that you can’t have a man and a woman being roommates like this! There’s no privacy!”
Skee continued to play with his toes and roll his head back and forth. “I am able to close not only my eyes, but my ears too. I understand humans are unable to do that second part. If I may offer, doing so should provide you with adequate privacy, correct?”
Francis huffed and turned to the closet, tearing it open and pulling out her bag. She unzipped it without a word and yanked the fresh pair of standard-issue boots out of it. With a quick motion, she slipped off the civilian shoes and stepped into the boots; made the perfect size for her.
Francis offered a short glance at Skee before walking out the door.
After many stops at various floors of the lift, Francis found a level of the ship that finally contained more than a few stay other people. Just outside the contraption was a map of the ship on a computer screen that was able to tell her actually where she was; recreation area B. Listed on this particular level was a mess hall, a gym, and the 3D Audio-Visual entertainment room, as well as various other spaces meant for random activities.
Francis studied the nearby areas marked on the map to make sure she would be able to find her way back to her quarters. The two levels below were crew quarters, in one of which the alien called Skee was probably still sitting, picking his toenails or whatever an top of the no-longer-clean bedspread. Above was a level mostly comprised of cooling systems for engineering, which extended upwards until it met the upper half of the ship.
“Yo, Frannie!” The loud, deep voice snuck up behind her, causing her to jump. Francis returned her face to a calm expression before turning around to make eye contact with her old classmate. Rundle was a Biloban; a member of another humanoid race. On the sides of their faces, Bilobans had deep purple ridges of skin that ran down to the back of their necks, filling out most of the region that would be their ears, making their hearing less than keen.
“I’ve told you, there’s no need to shout at that volume when you’re inches away.” Francis shook her head and folded her arms. Rundle sighed and stepped backwards a few steps.
“This better, then!?” He called out, his voice equally as loud as before.
Francis looked to either side of them where several bystanders had stopped to stand and stare. She stepped forward and closed the distance between them. Leaning to the side, she could detect another person just beyond Rundle’s wide shoulders. Hiding behind his back was a smaller member of the same species; his twin sister Jundle.
“Hello Fran…cis.” Jundle called out, her voice much quieter. Biloban children were almost always born with a twin, a male and a female, possibly an evolutionary trait to make up for the fact that females of the species were much smaller and unable to defend themselves.
“You can speak up, Jundle.” Francis stepped around Rundle and caught her gaze. “I won’t ever be able to hold a conversation with you two if your own brother can’t hear you.”
“I didn’t see you this morning when we were embarking.” Rundle remarked. “I think we’re boarded on the same level, too.”
“I overslept.” Francis said grumpily.
“Oh dear.” Jundle squeaked.
Rundle let out a loud laugh that echoed through the immediate hallways. “Well, at least you made it to the lookout you were assigned to earlier, right? We left the station on time after all.”
“You must not have had time to yourself though. Did you meet your roommate?” Jundle spoke up as she withdrew herself slightly from Rundle’s shadow.
“Ugh.” Francis rolled her eyes and leaned back against the wall behind her. “Everything’s wrong.”
“Already?” Jundle asked.
“Is it…” Rundle began, leaning in to speak in a less-than-discreet voice. “A Sapoean?”
“Oh my-” Jundle held her mouth. “I’ve heard they molt their scales once a week. What a messy affair.”
“Shh!” Francis hushed them and sidled against the wall away from the twins. “It’s a man… a male!” She hissed.
Jundle and Rundle turned to each other and exchanged puzzled glances.
“Listen!” Francis said. With a wave of her hands, she pulled their attention back. “You guys don’t get it. You’ve bunked together since you were born, but I’ve hardly ever had a sleepover. I’ve been nervous about this for weeks! I’m an only child you know. Now they’ve gone and messed up and put me together with someone of the opposite sex.”
“I see how that would be problematic.” Rundle nodded slowly. “Humans have quite obvious sexual features after they reach maturity, isn’t that right? You must be embarrassed about them.”
Francis glared at another crew member who gave her a grin as they passed by down the hallway. “Yeah, compared to you two… hold on, you’re missing part of the point. He’s not just some human, it’s a Reedeen.”
“Reedeen…” Jundle pursed her lips in thought. “Can’t remember last time I even passed by one of them. It’s kind of cool, though, having one on our ship.”
“Not for me!” Francis shook her hands at the air. “What If I walk in on him… I don’t know, changing or something, and I see something weird?”
“You’re probably better equipped to answer that, Frannie.” Rundle insisted, pointing his large finger at Francis. “I mean, you just got a minor in interspecies communication and understanding, right? Still, maybe you could learn a thing or two-”
“Are you saying that you want me to use my roommate as some sort of perverted research topic?” Francis shouted. Rundle rubbed at the ridges around his ear-hole in response.
“Francis…” Jundle meeped. “Maybe if you talked to him a bit, you could figure out some sort of plan, or make a compromise until the Staff Sergeant can make his rounds.”
“Staff Sergent! That’s it!” Francis declared loudly. She quickly turned on her heel back to the map of the ship, looking for something that would describe an area where higher-ranked officials would meet.
“Try above Engineering.” Rundle offered, pointing at the center of the diagram. “Right dead center of the ship. Medbay is around there, and likely also those officers who need to get around quickly.”
“I see it!” Francis declared, ramming her finger against the display with a loud clunk.