Elida sat in the pilot chair of the Winnipeg, feet propped up and hands interlaced behind her head. Amae had gone to bed hours ago, and Isaac left to his room about a half hour earlier, leaving some blissful silence as the ship glided its way through the infinite vastness of space. She knew she should be paying more attention to the levers, buttons, and lights in front of her, but her mind was instead meandering and mulling over a conversation that she had with Isaac before he retired for the night - or was it day? It’s impossible to tell the difference in space. Elida checked her wrist device, tapping it to get the time: 2347, almost the start of a new day. A sigh escaped her lips as she closed her eyes to half slits and settled down deeper into the cushy seat. Elida briefly noted a swath of lavender to catch her eye as the ship veered in the other direction, noting how similar it was to Amae’s lilac skin and her lips curled into a tiny smile.
Elida didn’t realize she had dozed off until she jerked awake, hearing Winnibot’s alarms going off. “Uhh, shit, shit, SHIT!” Hands started slapping the buttons at random before she even realized she had no idea what she was doing or what was wrong. She froze in panic for a microsecond before deftly hoisting herself up and twisting out of the chair, and dropped to the floor right into a sprint towards Amae’s room. She rapped on the door, still hearing Winnibot’s alarm noise pounding in her ears to the same beat as her heart.
Elida discovered she had a little drool at the corner of her mouth and quickly wiped her mouth with the heel of her hand. She was wiping her hand on the thigh of her jumpsuit as the door slid open. She froze, hoping Amae didn’t see any of that as her eyes drifted upwards, then felt blood rush to her cheeks as she realized that Amae was, in fact, in the nude. Or at least, mostly nude. A sheer chemise nightgown fell down to Amae’s knees and Elida noticed that she was staring and her jaw hung open.
Elida heard the familiar giggle from the other woman, and felt a finger brush underneath her chin, gently closing the mouth that moments before had drool seeping out of it. Elida coughed, looking at the floor of the ship and was unable to bring herself to meet Amae’s soft eyes. “Uh, Winnibot was makin’ a buncha noises and, um, I guess I don’t know what the problem is…” Elida trailed off, hoping her cheeks didn’t look as red as they felt.
“Oh! Well, did you ask her?” Amae’s voice was bubbly and friendly, even though her sleep had been interrupted for potentially no reason. Elida admired her bright outlook on life, and wondered how such a gentle creature could even exist in this galaxy. She risked a quick glance up to Amae’s face, locking onto her eyes briefly before she spun her head to the side, as if she was looking for the box-shaped robot.
Stupid, of course I should have thought of that. Elida grinned sheepishly. “Oh. Uh. Yeah, no I didn’t do that,” she managed to mumble out, hoping she wasn’t tripping over her tongue too much. Amae surprised her by slipping a cool hand into Elida’s clammy one and tugging her back down the hall towards the bridge. “Hey Amae, don’t you, um, want to get dressed?” Elida twisted her head to look back at Amae’s room, the door still wide open.
“Don’t be silly! If there’s a problem it’s best to fix it straightaway, or it could lead to even bigger problems!” Amae’s positivity radiated out of her. Elida tried to nonchalantly wave her free hand through the air, in a vain attempt to dry the sweaty mess that had become of it. She wondered if Amae could feel the warm dampness of her hand before shaking the thought away. Amae stepped up to Winnibot, patting the metal as if it were a soft dunkrum instead of a cold hard box of panels, wires and computer parts. The noises quieted. “What is it, Winnibee?” Amae crouched next to Winnibot.
“I have detected a ship that has been close to our proximity for longer than would be needed for any foreseeable reason. We have passed a multitude of planetary orbits that could have fulfilled nearly anything that was necessary.” The robot reported dutifully.
“Thanks, Winni!” Elida had gotten used to Amae holding her hand and forgot they were linked until she felt a soft brush across her knuckles before Amae eased her hand away. Did Amae just run her thumb across my hand? Elida’s internal monologue started up. Nah, she was just letting it go and I’m imagining it. It was probably just the air circulating. The former queen tried to ignore it, realizing her eyes had a direct line of sight to Amae’s small but perky chest. Normally she wore a tight green leather jacket that hid her body, but Elida couldn’t help but notice Amae definitely had some curves to show off. She chewed at the corner of her bottom lip, watching as Amae expertly tapped on the portable info screen’s clear keyboard, pulling up the other ship’s specs. She hadn’t seen Elida’s eyes looking at her more fully than ever before. Elida followed the curve of her breasts upwards, finding the subtle purple marks that hugged her shoulders and continued up from there, eventually framing her whole face.
In fact, Amae had noticed Elida glancing at her nearly naked body, but appeared to be deep in concentration of the moving holographic images that were floating in front of her. Amae smiled to herself, purposefully gazing intently in front of her, wondering how long until Elida becomes her adorable awkward self this time. It had become a game for Amae, what she could do to make Elida uncomfortably awkward around her, and how long Elida would give up those pretenses as her deeper desire battled between that schoolgirl innocence. Amae threw her head back, suddenly, to look at Elida, “I have great news!”
The former queen grunted with surprise, and Amae was rewarded with a deep crimson blush across Elida’s creamy brown skin and widened eyes as she tried to quickly find an appropriate place to look. Somehow, it was Amae’s mouth. Elida was scared to move her eyes away, so instead her gaze bored into those pink, soft lips. At least, they appeared to be soft to Elida, she wouldn’t actually know, of course, but she did wonder … “Mm?” Was all that Elida could muster up for a response, finally remembering to answer Amae.
“It’s my brother! He tracked the Winnipeg when we passed Xija about a week ago!” Her excitement was enough to make Elida grace her with a full smile, genuinely happy for Amae. She knew the siblings were close, they had to be after being orphaned together during the Narrows War. “There must be something wrong with his comms, though, or he would have hailed us by now.” Amae’s eyebrow furrowed as her fingers danced across the keys in front of her. Elida was quiet, not wanting to disturb her concentration. “Winnibee, can you please transmit this to his ship? It’s encoded in a language we made up together, so if there’s something really wrong, or if it’s not him, it will just read as gibberish.”
“That is well within my parameters and one of my most basic functions. Transmission has been sent,” there was only the barest hint of a pause between the bot’s sass and the task completed.
Amae clapped her hands together. “Great!” She smiled at Elida, “I guess now I should get dressed, huh?” The bewildered look was all that Amae was hoping for as she stood from her spot, using Winnibot to help herself up. Amae purposely patted Elida’s shoulder, moving her hand to rest on the other woman’s arm. The sudden physical touch made Elida jolt, but she looked into Amae’s copper colored eyes and felt her body instinctively relax. Amae’s head tilted toward Elida, then moved closer. Their heads were close enough that Amae’s chestnut curls fell softly around her face, and Elida could feel Amae’s breath on her cheeks. Elida happily soaked it up, but the moment was cut short.
Isaac’s boots squeaked as he walked up to the cockpit and the two women. “Hey, what’s happening? I heard alarms going off.” Amae broke all semblance of contact as she backed up, startled.
Elida looked at the floor, scowling slightly before she locked her gaze on Isaac. She steadied herself before answering, “Yeah. Winni picked up on a ship that’s been following us.”
“Ship? What? What ship?” Isaac looked past Elida, out of the front of the ship’s view of space. Not seeing anything, he approached his shipmates.
“It’s my brother. Or, at least, it could be my brother,” Amae answered. “I’ve just sent a message, so I guess we’ll see.” Amae turned, walking back to her room. Elida felt mild disappointment creep up as she watched Amae leave, then turned back to Isaac, giving him a soft whack across his chest.
“Hey! What was that for?!” He played up a hurt expression, genuinely confused. Elida didn’t answer, just shook her head as she plopped down in the pilot’s chair. Isaac sat in the seat next to her. “You okay, buddy?”
“Yeah, fine. Just, uh, tired is all.” She shifted positions in the chair a few times, before standing up. “Well, as long as you’re here, maybe I’ll get a little sleep.”
“Sure thing, El.” Isaac smiled at her, waving her off.
Elida got up, sighing with relief as she made her way to her room, head down and staring at her feet. She was replaying the last 30 minutes in her head, a private smile showing on her lips. “Umph,” she was knocked back unexpectedly as Amae exited her room and turned into the distracted Elida. She was fully dressed this time, but just as beautiful. “Sorry! I wasn’t paying attention to where I was walking.”
Amae didn’t back up immediately, instead she pressed against Elida, pinning her against the wall with her slender body, “I … think that was actually some space turbulence,” Amae’s voice was soft as she released Elida after a moment. Elida felt the tips of her ears warm. She didn’t know how to react, so she mumbled another apology and escaped into her own room quickly.
Amae watched the younger woman disappear before she walked back to the front of the Winnipeg. “Amae. There has been a response. Would you like to read it?” Winni was ready the moment she stepped inside the room.
“Yes, please Winnibee.” Amae sat in the recently vacated chair Elida was in. The robot trundled closer to Amae, a holograph message lit above her. Amae read quickly and silently. Isaac, sitting next to her, was shifting in his seat, creating soft creaking noises. He cleared his throat. Amae continued to read, leaning forward and tapping her chin with her pointer finger. Isaac coughed, loudly. Amae turned her head to him, “Are you okay? Winnibot, what is the proper procedure to perform first aid on a human?”
Before Winni could begin, Isaac waved her off, “Shh, shh, no need, I’m okay. But are you? Is El? What is going ON with you two?” Amae inhaled, contemplated briefly, then let out her breath with a shrug.
“Well, it just seems like you both are wound tight. You get into a fight?”
Amae’s laugh bubbled forth, “No, we haven’t gotten into a fight.” She let the silence settle in the air, hoping Isaac would let it rest.
“Well, I --” Isaac was cut off abruptly by Amae.
“Crackers! We’ve got to get to Chaz’s ship, and fast!” Amae reached for the controls, guiding the ship to spin around the way they had just come from, a tiny ship appearing in the distance out the front window.
Elida had been pacing in her room, trying to calm her heart rate from the encounter in the hall. Thoughts were mulling in her head: Why hadn’t she taken that opportunity to kiss Amae? Maybe she didn’t feel the same way that Elida did when she saw the other woman. When she saw Amae her heart skipped, her hands started sweating, her face flushed … no, Amae was full of confidence, something that Elida had when it came to fighting, but not much else, especially when it came to other people. Isaac had been an exception. Before he came, she rarely worked with others, and usually couldn’t wait to be done with them. It was too dangerous, she had always needed to be careful in any dealings with others. It’s what made scavving such a perfect fit: most of her dealings with people came from those who paid her, and her training had prepared her for the more vicious aspects of the job. Not to mention the payments could be pretty lucrative sometimes.
Elida felt the ship’s movement change suddenly, and instinctively shifted her weight to adjust accordingly. Something’s wrong, she thought, her mullings interrupted. She weighed whether or not to go back out and risk the awkwardness between her and Amae, the not one, but two close calls they had. Elida rubbed her forehead with her thumb and index fingers, trying to smooth out the worry lines that weren’t there, then slid her fingers through the curls on top of her head. She sidestepped over to the mirror that hung in her room, deciding that if she was going to see Amae, she would at least look more presentable. She shuffled her curls back and forth, but they kept falling in their same old position. Elida gave up on her hair and made sure the rest of her was presentable. She took a breath and made her way to the cockpit to join Amae and Isaac.
She first noticed Amae with a sense of urgency openly visible in her face. She glanced to Isaac, who was watching out the front. The Winnipeg was headed for a ship that looked like it was floating in space. Silently, she flopped into the seat behind Isaac and watched as they approached the ship. Amae deftly maneuvered the Winnipeg to dock next to Chaz’s ship and looked at her shipmates. “I don’t know what we’re going to find, so we should be prepared.”
Elida instinctively checked her gun’s charge, “I’m good. Isaac?”
Isaac nodded, “Should be charged.”
Elida stared at him pointedly, “Should be? Isaac. Just … grab a gun that’s been charging.”
“Okay, okay,” Isaac got up and headed back to swap out his gun.
Elida stood and moved next to the pilot seat. She cautiously put a hand on Amae’s shoulder. “Hey. I’m sure it will be okay,” her voice was gentle and, she hoped, reassuring.
Amae reached across her chest to put her hand on top of Elida’s, holding it there before the other woman could take it away. They stayed frozen like that for a minute, in silence, neither wanting to break the moment. Elida realized she was holding her breath, and let out a soft exhale, which caused Amae to squeeze Elida’s hand before she let it go and stood. “Well, I guess no time like the present!”
Isaac popped back in, a fresh gun in his holster. “We ready?” Both nodded, and headed to the airlock hangar. Elida took charge and went first, putting on her helmet and exiting the Winnipeg, sliding down the extended ladder. She opened the hatch that led into the other spaceship, revealing a ladder into the other ship’s hangar bay. She unholstered her gun as the other two followed her. The trio crept to the door into the main part of the ship and, when Isaac and Amae asserted that they were ready, Elida hit the door release, moving her body in front of it and aiming her gun at whatever may be behind the door.