Two race clash in the middle of uncharted space.
|Kaylin stepped out of the Captain’s office filled with relief. Relief, and an overwhelming sense of dread. She hadn’t known what to expect when she’d gotten the summons earlier that day. She hadn’t done anything wrong that she knew of. She’d convinced herself that she’d either done something wrong, or something terrible had happened to one of her family. She must have looked like a nervous wreck when she arrived at the Captain’s office, for he’d immediately tried to make her feel comfortable. She’d been relieved when he told her that she was getting promoted to Lieutenant. She was now in charge of her own squadron of pilots. In fact, in the whole flight section, there was only two people above her, and one other squadron leader.
The only problem was that she’d been promoted above Vince. She was dreaded telling Vince, but she knew she wasn‘t going to be able to avoid it. If she didn’t tell him, he’d find out, and he’d make her life even more miserable if she didn’t tell him herself. It’s not like she could avoid him, they lived together after all. Never mind that the rooms were technically hers, but they were ever so slightly bigger than his. Probably just a fluke in where she’d been assigned on the ship. It may not have been her fault, but he blamed her for it. Therefore, he moved in with her. Now she couldn’t avoid the confrontation.
Despite dragging her feet, she came to the door of her quarters far too quickly. The door opened by itself, and she stepped inside. She was immediately greeted with a big kiss, and for a minute she melted, feeling loved in Vince’s embrace. Then all too soon he pulled away, noticing that she held something in her hand. He looked at her curiously, pulling her further into the room and down into a chair.
"What did the Captain have to say," he asked from his seat across from her.
Kaylin braced herself for the explosion she knew she was going to face in a moment. "Nothing much," she answered cautiously. "He said I’ve been doing really good work lately, between reparations, helping training the new recruits and the simulations runs." She paused, not really wanting to continue.
"That’s all," Vince asked, sounding doubtful. "He usually doesn’t waste his time talking to junior officers unless he has a reason, let alone a half-breed. I can’t see why he’d bother to set up a meeting with you if that’s all he had to say."
Kaylin let the insult slide like she normally did. She knew that Vince loved her, even if he wasn’t always the most considerate person. "He promoted me," she said in a soft voice, almost a whisper. "I’m a lieutenant now."
Kaylin wasn’t expecting it when the blow came. She hadn’t even see Vince stand up. For once she was glad of her half-Arashin heritage, that let her resist pain even a little. She knew that if it came to a fist fight she would easily win, but she couldn’t bring herself to hit Vince, even after he hit her. "What the hell did you do to get promoted?" He roared from above her. "What the hell did you do?" He tried to hit her again, but this time she blocked it. "You must have done something to get it, you little whore. Did you sleep with him? Make him feel sorry for the poor little half-breed?" Vince spat at her.
"No!" Kaylin shouted, rising to her feet. "I didn’t do anything but do my job. Why can’t you see that?" She couldn’t believe how upset he’d gotten. She knew he’d be mad, but she had hoped that maybe, just maybe he might be happy for her. He loved her after all. Didn’t he?
"Fuck that." Vince screeched. "You don’t do anything that the rest of us don’t do just as well, you bitch." Vince leaned into her face. "You’re lucky you even got an assignment here in the first place. How many men would have gotten between your legs if I hadn’t stepped in to protect you, huh? Don’t you remember how alone you were when you first got here? You’d never have gotten this far without me. And how do you repay me?" Vince paused, visibly shaking with anger. "You fucking embarrass me. I don’t know why I let myself to be seen with you. All you do is use your fucking looks to get into bed with anyone that‘ll further your career."
Kaylin was starting to get mad herself. She hadn’t done anything wrong. All she’d done was do her job. So maybe she put more effort into it that others. So what if she looked like something out of the porno chips that were popular now, that didn’t give him any right to think that she’d sleep with someone just to get a promotion. She’d never slept with anyone before Vince, and now she wasn’t so sure she should have done that. "I did not sleep with anyone, you idiot." She screamed before she thought about what she said. "Stop assuming that I’m some kind of whore just because I take after my mother. What the hell did I ever do to make you think so little of me?"
Vince’s eyes widened in anger. She could see the vein throbbing in his forehead. "You little bitch," he muttered. "See if I protect you anymore." He said, storming into the other room. Before she had a chance to say anything he was back and heading towards the door, his few belongings in hand. "We’re through." He stormed out the door and it slid shut behind him.
For a moment, Kaylin didn’t quite grasp what had happened. He dumped me, she realized. She just stood there, watching the door. Then, when she realized he wouldn’t be coming back for awhile she walking into the bedroom and sat down on the bed. Her quarters had seemed cramped before, the two of them in just the three rooms. It suddenly seemed a lot bigger now. And a lot lonelier.
Kaylin woke the next morning and felt a bit better. She missed Vince though. She’d thought for so long that he loved her, that she loved him. She gotten used to him being around. He was the only friend she had on the ship. Not that she hadn’t tried to make friends, but for some reason, people usually didn’t seem to want to be more than an acquaintance with her. It had confused her at first, but she had decided that it was probably because of her heritage that people held back. She was the only Arashin on the ship after all, even if she was half human. She didn’t look that different than anyone else really. Her pale blonde hair was normal, she didn’t even wear it in the normal Arashin fashion, long and intricately braided. She’d always preferred a simple short cut, just above her chin. Her green eyes had been inherited from her father instead of the traditional Arashin pale blue. Her skin was even a bit darker than her mother’s pale skin, if not nearly as tan as her father’s was. She could have passed for a human if not for her strength. She had inherited the full Arashin strength and endurance. If she tried she could probably have lifted twice as much as Vince without hurting herself. She always had to remember to watch her strength when she shook hands or she’d end up hurting the other person.
Kaylin dressed in her normal uniform, a well-fitted black sleeveless shirt and navy pants with a comfortable navy jacket. The flight crew wasn’t required to wear full uniform all the time. They spent too much time off the ship by themselves on scouting missions, transport runs, and other duties that it was more efficient to wear comfortable clothes. And they also spent too much time crawling around their small ships doing maintenance that their uniforms would get ruined if they were any color but black. The only time they had to wear full uniform would be if some ambassador was on board or there was something special going on. Kaylin herself opted for the uniform pants and undershirt and her own jacket, preferring to leave the uniform’s over-shirt hanging up in the closet.
Before she left her quarters for the day she picked up the little button that marked her new rank. She dropped it on the end table sometime last night when she’d been arguing with Vince. She pinned the button onto the color of her jacket with the rest of her rank buttons. Everyone else would know by now, so it would be no use trying to hid it. Kaylin looked herself over in the mirror once, then headed out the door for her hanger.
The bustle and the noise of the hanger was a welcome comfort. It was normal and hadn’t been affected by Vince at all. Her fellow pilots congratulated her as she passed, or at least most of them did. She recognized the few that didn’t as Vince’s friends. No doubt they’d already heard what Vince had to say about her promotion. She saw Vince on the other side of the hanger, but he ignored her as she passed. Not that she was really expecting him to say anything to her.
Her own ship sat in it’s spot, waiting for her. The little scout was hers, and hers alone. She preferred the light scout ships to the bulky fighters like Vince used. She wasn’t really one for going out and shooting at other ships, preferring to act as a scout ahead of the ship. Not that she wasn’t fully capable of handling a fighter, she would do so if it was required of her. Most of the pilots here could have handled either ship, but choose between the two according to their preference. At least one good thing could be said for being a scout. Her promotion had been to scout squadron commander. Vince was in the fighter squadron. Kaylin imagined that things would be much, much more uncomfortable for her if Vince was in her squadron.
She was in the middle of cleaning the view screen of her ship when she heard her name called. Looking over the side of her ship, she saw Lt. Commander Jack Garridon, who was in charge of the both the squadrons. She crawled down the ladder and took the hand that he offered her. "Congratulations on the promotion," he said with a smile that looked very friendly. "It’s too bad that Lt. Lopez transferred to another ship, but I think you can handle it. You deserve the promotion." She barely managed to hide her shock at that statement, so completely different from what Vince had said. "Commander Sarivan sends her congratulations as well. She had to go to a meeting with the Captain this morning to discuss the new sector we’re approaching. We have a meeting at 1300 to discuss it." Jack paused for a moment seeming to remember something. "That reminds me that I should probably go inform Lt. Daniels about the meeting as well." He waved at her as he headed for the other side of the hanger, where the fighters were kept. "Hey Tom," she heard him call as he spotted Lt. Tom Daniels, the leader of the fighter squadron.
Kaylin shook her head and grinned. Jack Garridon was a very nice person and very friendly too, but he was a little absentminded and impulsive. She was a bit nervous about the meeting though. She was really new to being a squadron commander, but she supposed she’d do alright. The Captain wouldn’t have promoted her if someone didn’t think she’d do well at the job. Before she could get too worried about the meeting she turned back to her ship. There was something off about the engine. She wasn’t getting as much speed as she should. Perhaps it was something with the power converter. Opening up the access terminal near the engine, she went to work. Before long she’d pulled her jacket off as she leaned into the machine with tools in hand, too engrossed in her machine to worry about the meeting.
The meeting was held in a small room near the flight bay. Kaylin, Jack, and Tom sat at the small table that was the rooms only furnishing. One wall held large windows that looked out upon the space around them. Two more held various decorations. The last wall, the one the three officers were facing as they waited for the Commander held a view screen that would soon show them where their ship was headed next. For the past few weeks they’d been scouting around the border of the Nevan territory, with Nevan permission of course. The Space Confederation’s records were extensive and always needed updated. That was the purpose of their Explorer-class ship, the Athena. They passed through territories, charted and uncharted collecting information about the planets, the stars, the peoples. All this was sent back to the Confederation, to be cataloged in their constantly updated system. This push for information was a new thing, only a decade old. It had been started by some official who felt that relations between members would be easier with a greater understanding of how the others lived, what their world was like. So far it seemed to be working, as tension had gone down a significant amount during the past few years.
Kaylin turned away from her view of the stars when the Commander came in. Eve Sarivan had been serving on this ship for years before Kaylin had been assigned here. She knew all the crew, and worked exceedingly well with the command staff. If rumors were true, she’d once been the Captain’s lover. Kaylin didn’t know anything about that. She’d only been on the ship for a little over a year, coming here off of an assignment on a Destroyer-class ship patrolling one of the far borders.
Commander Sarivan took her set and slid three data pads down the table. Kaylin turned hers on after she saw the other two do the same. Scrolling down the information she saw a course chart. "Here’s the information that we have on our next mission," Eve spoke as their eyes turned back towards her. "Instead of continuing through the Nevan territory into the Taxlon system, we’ll be heading off into the uncharted territory between here and the Sariat territory. We shouldn’t be getting too close to the Sariat’s space though. The Captain isn’t sure how they’d handle a scout ship near their closely guarded border. We’ll keep at least a day’s flight away from their furthest known border, so we shouldn’t have any problems at all. It’ll be a lot of work for the scout ships though, because this is entirely un-surveyed space. The Captain wants the location and specifications of even the smallest asteroid. Think you can handle that Kaylin?"
Kaylin nodded. "I think we can handle it," she replied with a smile. The Commander smiled back at her. "Good," Eve said as she slid yet another data pad towards Kaylin. "Here is the information on what the Captain wants for the scouts. I need you to come up with a schedule of flights for the recon. We’ll be changing course in the morning and should get into the sector in two days, so have a schedule by then. Get with Lt. Commander Garridon if you need any help."
Kaylin saw Jack nod and knew he wouldn‘t mind helping her if she asked. The Commander turned then to the fighter squadron leader. "Lt. Daniels," she said calmly. "Don’t think you’ve got an easy few weeks just because this is a mainly scouting mission. We really don’t know what we’ll find in this system, therefore we need you to have your fighters on alert. I want at least two fighters out with the scouts at all time. More than likely they’ll just be getting some easy flight time in, but I want them there just in case."
"Now problem, sir," Daniels replied with formality. Kaylin didn’t know if he ever relaxed out of strict military discipline, for some reason she doubted it.
"If there are no questions, then this meeting is closed," Commander Sarivan paused for a moment, but no one asked a question. "Dismissed." Kaylin picked up the two data pads, and filed out the door with the rest of the officers. She saw Lieutenant Daniels head back towards the flight deck. She opted instead to head the opposite way, towards the mess hall. She hadn’t had lunch yet and she was starting to get hungry. It would also give her a little bit of time to look over the information before she had to go back to work.
She selected a nice salad and a glass of water and took her tray over to sit at an isolated table. She was used to eating along. Vince usually didn’t eat lunch or dinner at the same time that she did, which didn’t really bother her. It meant that she didn’t have to deal with him while she tried to concentrate on the information. That was the weird part of breaking up with Vince. She missed the company, but she didn’t really miss him. Kaylin shook her head and keyed up the information on the first data pad.
She’d just finished reading all about the next sector when a person sat down next to her, making her jump. She looked up, startled, and saw that it was Lt. Commander Garridon who sat next to her, leaning forward on his elbows to pick up the second data pad. He smiled at her. "I thought you might like some help with this," he said reassuringly as she relaxed from her initial alarm. "They did shove this position on you without really explaining much, didn’t they?" He patted her arm reassuringly. "Let me go over this information with you."
He pulled his chair closer so that they could both see the information on the data pad. On it was the specs for the type of scouting mission she needed to arrange. The Captain wanted five scouts in arc surveying the area in front of the ship. "Including you, there are twenty scouts," Garridon said calmly after explaining the best possible arrangement.
"So, four shifts of five scouts," Kaylin said, pulling up a chart on the other pad. "That’d give each person six hours of flight in a day, time to make any repairs they need, and enough time to sleep."
Jack nodded. "Exactly," he pulled up another file on the second pad, this one with the names of the scouts. "Now, your problem is to figure out who to put on which shift. It may not get dark or light outside the ship, but some people aren’t going to want to be out there when they think they should be asleep."
Kaylin nodded. She scrolled down the list. She came to one name the made her pause. "Harris," she said, thinking quickly. "I’m pretty sure that he prefers working nights. I think I remember him always volunteering for the late missions."
Jack nodded with a smile of approval. "Exactly," he said. "Best to put him on the graveyard shift then." Kaylin scribbled the name down on a cell on her chart that would represent one of the late shifts. "Janis is always at work early in the morning, so she’d probably like one of the early morning shifts." Jack nodded again. They worked together to try and fit the person to the shift. Lt. Commander Garridon helped her when she didn’t really know enough about the person to guess their preference.
"Aren’t you two cozy," came a snide comment that made Kaylin start. She recognized the speaker even before she looked up. Vince stood by the table, sneering down at her. "Trying to find someone to do your work for you now?" Vince said loudly, with a cruel grin on his face. "Perhaps you miss me already," he suggested, "so you’re going after the first male to come near you."
Kaylin was starting to get mad. He didn’t have to say such things in public. He’d never directly insulted her in front of others and she was getting both embarrassed and mad all at once. "Perhaps you think you can sleep your way to another promotion." All of a sudden a big splash of water hit Vince in the face, she didn’t really realize she’d done it until she looked down and saw the glass in her hand. She set it down carefully on the tray. Suddenly she felt every eye in the hall looking at them. Vince looked like he’d been shot. She scooped up the data pads and walked out of the room, trying not to run. She looked back once to see Vince still standing there, his fists clenching and unclenching. Jack Garridon looked suspiciously like he was trying not to laugh as he handed Vince a napkin. Kaylin was glad when the door slid shut behind her.
She realized she shouldn’t have done that. Shouldn’t have reacted in anger. Kaylin sighed as her feet carried her towards her quarters. She dropped off the data pads in her room before heading back to the hanger. She couldn’t help but walk a little slowly, not really wanting to face Vince anytime soon. She was pretty sure that she’d just made things worse between them. What’s done is done, she thought heading down to the special room set aside for training. She’d been working with the three newest scouts before she’d been promoted and she didn’t see why she shouldn’t continue to do so now.
Later that evening she laid on her bed and went over the rest of the information of the data pad. She laid on her stomach with her feet resting at the bottom of her bed. She was almost done with the schedule. She’d figured out a way to get the scouts the farthest apart, so that they could cover the most amount of space. She’d set them up in a 180 degree arc around the front of the ship, just within range of each other’s sensors. She’d also set them so that their flights would be at the outer edge of the ships sensors. The smaller scout ships could travel faster than the big explorer could, so she would have them zig zag around in order to cover the most area and still stay in formation with the ship. She was just going over their scheduled course when a tone sounded throughout the room, making her jump.
Getting up from the door, she headed cautiously towards the door. She didn’t know who’d be there. Vince usually just came right in, even before he’d moved in with her. Cautiously she pushed the button to open the door. Standing there was Lt. Commander Garridon. "Mind if I come in," he said after a few moments. She stopped staring at him and moved away from the door. She really hadn’t expected him to come see her.
"Can I get you anything," she asked nervously as she led him over to her living area.
Jack shook his head, relaxing back into the couch. "No," he said with a smile. "But thank you for offering." Kaylin sat down across the low table from him, oddly enough in the same chair she’d sat in the night before when she’d argued with Vince. "How is your schedule coming?" He asked casually.
Kaylin relaxed, he’d just come to check on her work. "Oh," she said with a smile, leaning forward with her elbows resting on her knees. "I’m almost done with it. I’ve got the flight pattern planned, just need to put the finishing touches on the schedule."
"When you finish, you should take your information to the Commander, and then, once she’s approved it, call a meeting with all the scouts and let them know what’s up." Kaylin nodded, that sounded like a good idea. "What will you do if someone doesn’t like the spot you’ve put them," he asked.
Kaylin thought for a moment. "I suppose I can have them trade if they want a different shift. Let them discuss it among themselves."
Garridon nodded at her. "That’s what I’d do in your place," he admitted. He paused for a moment and they lapsed into an uncomfortable silence. Kaylin thought Jack was trying to work up the nerve to say something, but she wasn’t sure what.
"I heard that you and Vince broke up," he said finally. "How are you handling it?" He looked genuinely concerned as he spoke.
"It must be pretty obvious after that scene in the cafeteria," she said, not quite meeting his eyes. She looked up sharply when he started laughing.
"That was truly great," he said once he’d gotten himself under control. "He really deserved that. You should have seen his face too." He started laughing softly again.
Kaylin smiled at him, not quite feeling it though. "He’ll probably be really hard to deal with now," she said with a sigh.
Jack put a hand on her knee, making her jump. "Don’t worry about him," he said earnestly. "You’re a lot better off without him. He never was the nicest person. Did you know he threatened anyone who made any attempt at getting to close to you?"
Kaylin was shocked. She knew that people were cautious around her, but she’d always thought it was something about her that made them act that way. She’d never thought that Vince would go so far to keep her isolated. "But..."
"It’s true," Jack said. "Ask any of the scouts. I imagine that people are going to relax a bit now that you’re no longer with him. It’s one thing to speak badly about him while you seemed so besotted with him, but now that you’re no longer with him it’s another matter entirely. Besides, people are really getting tired of his arrogance. You should hear some of the things he says about you when you’re not around."
Kaylin blushed. She figured they probably weren’t as bad as some of the things he’d said in her presence lately. She’d always thought that he’d been such a nice person, always thought that on some level he cared for her. It hurt to know that she’d just been fooling herself. She wasn’t quite sure how to react to the news about Vince. She didn’t quite want to meet Jack’s eyes.
He reached over and tipped her eyes up to meet his. "Don’t believe the things he says about you," he said firmly. "The rest of us don’t. Trust me, even if you are only half human, it’s not something that we hold against you. It doesn’t even bother the rest of us, only Vince and his friends. The rest of us realize that heritage doesn’t mean that much. You deserve your promotion and you deserve someone better than Vince." Jack rose off the couch and headed for the door, leaving her staring amazed at the wall. "I just thought that you should hear that." The door slid shut behind him, leaving her alone with her thoughts.
"Loneliness of Space Chapter 2" by Covarla