Love and Starships: Chapter 2
Just as predicted, the Staff Sergent resided on the floor two up from engineering, in a smallish room on the other side of deck from medbay. The man was a weathered Hispanic no-nonsense looking fellow named Jorge Ford, and after waiting behind at least twelve other people in line, Francis finally was able to enter into his office.
“Francis Arnold.” The man remarked and looked up from his glowing computer screen. “Ah, so you are indeed a lady.”
Francis ran her hair through her fingers to hide the rolling of her eyes. “That is correct, Staff Sergeant, Sir.”
The man’s lips curled up for a split second before returning to its normal stony state. “At least we can confirm that now so that I can no longer be persuaded by the bets some of my colleagues have made.”
“Great, I have something I need addressing immediately.” Francis said, planting her hands on the man’s desk.
“And I shall try to address it the best as possible, but I also have a lot on my plate.”
“There is a man in my room.” Francis said, her eyes locked to Ford’s.
“If your roommate invited over a fellow crew member for a… romantic encounter without informing you first, I would say that is in poor choice, but you should first work out some ground rules before coming to me to settle such affairs.”
“The man IS MY ROOMMATE.” Francis said, slamming her fists on the table.
Ford pursed his lips before looking back down at his computer screen. With a quick tapping of his fingers, his expression changed. “Ah… Ah! I see. Our Reedeen. Is that it?”
“Well, aren’t you going to do anything about it?” Francis pleaded.
“Let me tell you something Crewman Arnold. If what I’ve heard is correct, the Reedeen’s physiology is quite different from our own, so even if he is technically the male counterpart for his species, the differences will be so great neither of you will know what you’re looking at.”
Francis let out a long sigh and put on her most pleasant face for the Sergent. “Can’t I just change rooms with someone? Anyone? What about one of the Bilobans Rundle and Jundle? I just talked with them, they should be fine with it.”
“Crewman Arnold…” Ford said slowly. He leaned back in his chair and made eye contact with Francis again. “There are already several more pressing room changes I need to facilitate. There’s one room where they’ve determined one of them is literally allergic to the other. The first guy broke out in hives. Once we get all these other situations settled, then we can try and find you a more suitable room. For now, just try and get along.”
Francis slumped her shoulders and retreated from the room. “Thank you for you consideration, sir.” She said on the way out.
Her stomach suddenly rumbled out of annoyance, and the realization that she had not eaten since the night before. The lift took her back down bast engineering and back to Recreation Deck B. If she was going to confront the alien, she would do so on a full stomach.
The mess hall was a mix of smells both familiar and strange. Francis wandered to the back of the hall and joined one of the lines, willing to accept whatever offering of food was at the end of it. As the procession of people continued, she finally reached the stack of shiny metal trays where the line of people split into to on either side of the buffet.
Francis reached absentmindedly at one of the stacks, only to see another crew member reaching for the same.
The bulky and red male Flaytean flinched and retracted his hand. “Uh, go ahead.”
Francis averted her eyes and retrieved the topmost tray. In the reflection of the pristine metal, she could see her dark eyebrows furrowed under her curly, messy bangs.
Francis took a few quick deep breaths as she came into reach of the first serving of food; a basket of Toronian Wheat bread rolls. Despite there being two sets of tongs, the Flaytean on the other side of the sneeze guard eyed her nervously. She quickly grabbed up the tongs and planted two of the lumps of bread on her tray. The others ahead in line inched up slowly as the farthest group of people ahead took their time scanning the array of food. Francis gave them a helping push forward.
She quickly took several scoops of the mostly ignored trays just ahead of her before departing the line and heading towards the dining room. In between the tables were decorative plants originating from various planets. Francis took a seat at an empty table beside an Earth fern that was clearly struggling in the dry air of the ship.
“I thought you were going to wait for me.” Trisha appeared from around the corner and plopped her tray down with a loud clatter. Francis’s eyes shot up as the strawberry blond slid into the seat across from her.
“Starving?” Trisha interjected, looking down at Francis’s tray. The first serving of what seemed like a mash of fruit had begun to drip over onto the front and onto the table. The bread rolls in the corner had been shoved together and overlapped the edge of the compartments to hang into the watery tomato sauce of the cocktail shrimp. “I thought you hated seafood.”
“I bet they’re just synthesized.” Francis scoffed. She examined the tiny, unsettling legs of the crustaceans before picking up her tray and spooning the contents of the cocktail onto Trisha’s setting.
“Hey, no, not okay!” The woman complained. “They were touching your rolls. You know I don’t do gluten.”
Francis pulled her tray away with half the sauce still clinging to the metal, and even more on the table. Napkin in hand, she began wiping down the spoon of the offending liquid.
“Is everything okay?” Trisha said, lifting her eyebrows as Francis fussed with her silverware.
“I got to meet that new roommate of mine.” Francis said, finally making eye contact.
“It’s a male Reedeen. You remember those guys?”
“No?” Trisha pondered. “Wait… a male? As in a man? Is that the correct term to use for an alien? No, why is a man sharing a room with you? Did they seriously think you were-?”
“I don’t know, every paper I’ve ever submitted to the GS says ‘female’ on it, but people can’t seem to read past ‘Francis.’”
Trisha tapped her fork loudly as she punctured the veggies on her tray. “Maybe you should go to-”
“Already been, already tried.” Francis stopped her. “Something about there being too many changes already. Some guy with hives.”
“Looks like I’m stuck with… Skee for a week now, or even longer.” Francis sighed. She plunged the clean spoon into the fruit mash and brought it to her mouth.
“Skee, huh?” Trisha attempted to respond, a remnant of food still being masticated. “Well, at least you’re trained to be good with these alien types.”
“Attention all crew members of the Aishou.” Francis sat up as the voice came over the ship’s intercom. “This is your Captain; Luke Patrice. I wish you all, both new and veteran crewmen, a welcome aboard as we begin our maiden voyage on this day. It is my honor to have you all on this ship as we make our way around the system and lend aid to those in need. As of 18:00h, Toronian time, all of our systems checks have shown green following our departure from the planet’s space port. As we prepare to receive our first orders from GS Command, I request that everyone make themselves comfortable aboard as we look forward to hopefully uniting the galaxy a little bit better.”
Francis rolled her eyes at Trisha and took a big bite out of one of the bread rolls.
“Listen, if this big ship can play diplomat between two races…” Trisha apprised, “then you can learn to get along with one roommate for a couple of weeks.”
“I guess it can’t hurt…” Francis said, her eyes studying the odd shaped bubbles on the interior of the bread.
“What I’m sure of right now though, is that you need a good night’s sleep.” Trisha said, waving her fork across the table.
Francis shoveled a few more mouth fulls of the paste down before clattering her spoon down upon the tray. “What if though… it snores?” She offered one more thought.
“Is that the issue now?” Trisha scoffed back.
Francis stood up with the tray balanced in her hands, one bread roll left behind. “Night, then.” She said before wandering back to the kitchen and depositing the tray. She quickly shoved down the last bit of the soft bread before exiting the deck.
The second time around, the room was easier to find. Francis held her breath as she activated the door open. To her surprise, the room was empty. Exhausted, she plopped herself down on the edge of the bed. So tired. I hope he doesn’t come in all loud and wake me up.
A thought suddenly popped into her head and she stood up before wandering back to the bathroom area. A sliding pocket door stood as a barrier between the two areas of the room. There was a simple locking mechanism meant to hold it closed; an electromagnet activated with the press of a button. On the outside of the door, as expected, was another panel used for emergency situations only.
I wonder how many Reedeens get on modern ships like this, and actually learn about what they do. Francis studied the shower; an ultra high efficiency blaster unit that cycled between short busts of air and water to clean the user. No towel required. Francis pondered using it, but the thought of Skee returning while she was inside made her worry. She returned to the door and practiced closing and locking it several times.
The main door of the room opened suddenly. Skee appeared on the other side as Francis caught herself midway through sliding the bathroom door back open.
“Hello, Crewman Arnold. Were you going to use the bathroom?” Skee said, tilting his head.
“Oh no, just checking things out.” Francis fibbed. She quickly pushed the door all the way back into its pocket. “You’re free to use it if you like.”
“Oh no, that is not necessary.” Skee shook his head. He made a full turn before sitting down on his own bed, his legs dangling over the edge.
Francis sat on the bed herself and began to undo her boots. She noticed the shoes on the alien’s feet; a similar pair of standard issue ones, albeit smaller and longer. Skee rubbed his ankles together and slowly worked his way out of the shoes without having to undo them. “Much better.” He nodded. Francis turned her attention back to the many rows of laces still holding onto her own feet.
“I just… it would be good if we had a schedule for when we do need to use the bathroom.” Francis began to explain, her eyes not willing to meet with the alien’s.
“My biology has me defecate in… how do you say… the middle of the night. Approximately once a week.” Skee explained slowly.
“I see…” Francis hummed.
“Allow me to assure you I can do so silently and without excess smell. I consume a plant-based diet.”
“Fine, fine, I don’t need to hear anymore.” Francis said, shaking her head rapidly. She noisily tossed the boots, now free from her feet, under the bed. “Mostly the shower, I was talking about. I’ve been known to take a long time in the mornings.”
“Ah, like I said, that is not necessary.”
“You don’t shower?” Francis asked, examining Skee’s face for any trace of irony.
“Only if I am in direct contact with something like mud. My dermis is naturally antibacterial, I don’t perspire to any great degree, and my skin shedding is about one-eighth of that of a human.”
“Oh…” Francis said, processing the words. “Earlier… if you don’t mind me noting… you were quite interested in your… toes.” She finished, instantly regretting what she had said.
“Ah, you noticed. I must confess, I synthesized the item of clothing you call… socks.” Skee explained. “I believe I found out that my species has a mild allergy to the cotton plant.” He lifted his foot up upon the bed and gently ran his fingers between his toes. “Luckily, our wardrobes and the lining of these boots are synthetic, and quite comfortable.”
Francis let a long sigh out of her nose. She relaxed and eventually pulled her feet up on the bed to mirror Skee. “I’m sorry if how I acted earlier… I just didn’t know how to react.”
“May I tell you of the time we had our very first non-native species visit our planet?” Skee offered.
Francis let a long yawn escape from her mouth, followed up by an involuntary stretch of her arms up towards the ceiling. “Hmm, I would like to hear it, but possibly another time. Is that alright?”
Skee leaned back against the wall and picked up the pillow in his hands. “Of course. I understand the allure sleeping has for your species, having such comfortable accommodations.”
“Earthlings weren’t the only people to imagine a pillow.” Francis joked. She slid off her own bed and began pulling back the pristine layers of covers. “Is it alright if I turn off the lights?”
“Yes, go ahead…” Skee paused. Francine moved to the door and smacked the button. She began to pull the uniform off over her thick, curly hair revealing the thin, short camisole underneath. “…I am able to see quite well in the dark, so it is not a big matter.”
Francine quickly held the uniform over her chest and tiptoed her way to the closet to retrieve her pajamas out of the bag.