Chapter 2


Gaitune-67, Hangar Deck


Paige carefully picked her way down the steps to the hangar deck. She was often seen trotting around the base in high heels, but these on her feet were her going out ones. This meant they had at least an extra inch to them plus the heels themselves were extremely narrow.


“Adds to the elegance,” she’d explained to Joel one day when he’d questioned her about whether it was worth the extra effort of walking.


She didn’t need Molly to tell her that from an engineering perspective she was particularly unstable. Having to work hard just to stay vertical was testing her in ways Joel’s group workouts never could.


Her butt cheeks were aching already and she hadn’t even made it to the pod yet!


She reached the yellow flooring of the deck and carefully picked her way over the ridged, painted tiles onto the smoother decking, carefully avoiding oil patches and the more slippery-looking areas.


She was so focused on where she was putting her feet it wasn’t until she was within speaking distance that she looked up to see Maya dolled up to the nines.


She looked her friend up and down, her eyebrows raised. “Wow!” she exclaimed.


Maya twiddled at her hair. She’d blown it out, but hadn’t gone to the futile effort of trying to curl it. She wore a dress that Paige would normally only wear to a club. And uncharacteristically, she was also wearing super-high heels.


“You look fantastic!” She looked down at herself, “I feel under dressed…”


Maya grinned. “Thought it was time we both got back out there.”


Paige stepped forward and linked her arm with Maya’s as they took the last few steps to the nearest pod. “I think we’re going to have a blast tonight.”


The girls giggled as Maya slapped at the button to open the nearest pod. Just then there were footsteps and Sean Royale appeared from around the side of the next pod.


“Ladies,” he nodded politely.


He was in oily overalls, presumably still covering some of Brock’s work on The Empress. There were a bunch of upgrades that needed to be made before the Federation would approve them for flight, and with Brock being on vacation, Sean was volunteered to help out.


It took him a second to take in the sight of the two girls as they clambered into the pod. His eyes widened suddenly. “Er. You off out?” he asked, stunned.


Paige turned over her shoulder as she stepped up, hoping that her dress wasn’t too short at the back for that kind of maneuver. “What gave it away?” she asked, her tone as innocent as she could make it.


Sean stuttered. “Er… I… You… You both look very nice,” he blurted, opting for the standard, safe version of what he really wanted to say.


Paige swung around and sat down with a thump on the seat next to Maya. “Thanks!” she grinned, twiddling her fingers at him as Maya lowered the door of the pod and programmed up the coordinates for the side street next to the bar.


Sean watched awe-struck as the pod ascended into the air and turned gracefully on its axis to face the hangar door opening for them.


Now, out of sight of the two girls, he started walking again, his toolbox banging against his thigh. The problem was he was still distracted, looking off in the direction of the pod. Half a step later he felt a thwack across his other leg as walked into an engineering cart.


“Mother fucker!” he cried out, dropping the tool box with a clatter.


He rubbed furiously at his leg, knowing full well it was going to be one hell of a bruise until his nanocytes took care of it.


In pain and frustrated he glanced back over his shoulder to see the pod disappearing into space and the hangar deck doors closing after it.


“Shit,” he muttered under his breath as he bent down to pick up the tool box he should never have been carrying in the first place. “You owe me big time Brock Lysta.”





In the pod, Paige and Maya were chuckling at the video feed that Emma, The Empress EI had streamed to them.


“Thanks for that!” Paige giggled.


Emma’s voice cooed over their pod intercomm. “You’re welcome. I was surprised that Sean would be so distracted like that. He normally seems so… focused.”


Maya shrugged. “I think he’s been a bit out of sorts. What with Brock and Crash being away for the last week or so there’s also been a higher proportion of females around. Some guys are affected by that I guess.”


Emma closed down the holoscreen she had been running in the pod. “Bless his heart,” she commented. “He’s been so good helping with my upgrades too. I’ll have to find a way to make it up to him.”


Maya and Paige exchanged puzzled glances, their minds boggling over what Emma, a computer program, could possible mean about making it up to him.


“Anyway,” she continued, “you’re going to be out of normal comms range in a few moments, so I’ll bid you a good evening.”


Maya nodded, understanding that she was able to communicate with both the hangar deck cameras and comms, and the other ships and pods around, but it was all through the local EtherTrak… or whatever the Federation equivalent of that was. “Ok, thanks Emma. Have a good night!”


And with that the comm dropped out.


“So when are Crash and Brock back then?” Maya asked, the mood of silliness subsiding.


Paige lifted her eyes, scanning her memory. “I think they have another week.”


Maya frowned. “It’s a bit odd though. Them taking their vacation together, isn’t it?”


Paige shook her head, her freshly curled hair already starting to drop back to straight. “Not really. I mean, they work as a team, so if Crash isn’t flying, there is less for Brock to do. And you wouldn’t want any of the big ships going out without Brock on standby in case anything went wrong.”



Maya shook her head. “No, I mean them going to the same resort, even though they spend all their time together at work.”


Paige shrugged. “You mean how we’re going out on a Friday night, even though we’ve been hanging out all week at work?”


Maya chuckled. “Touché!”


Paige watched out the window at the stars as they sped down to Estaria, the planet growing larger in their screens. “I think they’ve been friends for a very long time. Long before they joined the Sanguine Squadron.”


“Well, good for them,” Maya chirped brightly. “It’s so hard to stay in touch with friends in this day and age. Relationships can be so… disposable.”


Paige looked down at her hands.


Maya suddenly looked concerned she had offended Paige. “I mean, some of them need to be trashed! Completely. I wasn’t talking about you and Carl.”


Paige smiled weakly at her friend and her eyes drooped briefly in sadness at the old pain. “I know. It’s okay. And you’re right.” She glanced out at the star scape briefly.


When she turned back she wore a broad smile, her lipstick and cheeks gleaming as if her new mood has infused it with sheen. “Promise me we’ll be friends forever?” she said, grabbing at both of Maya’s hands.


Maya beamed back at her. “Of course we will. I promise.”


Paige noticed a tear forming in Maya’s eyes.


The two girls hugged, awkwardly trying to maintain their positions on the bench seat in their short, tight dresses.