There’s a ghost on the Hephaestus, and Minkowski wants it gone.
What’s she talking about, anyway? There’s no ghost. There’s no more echoing voice of Captain Isabel Lovelace, telling them that she was here. There’s no more creepy blocked off room with evil spiders. There shouldn’t be- there are no more whispers in the hallways, no more days repeating, none of that. All gone and done with.
And yet there is a ghost all the same.
There’s no walking around the Hephaestus. There’s no gravity. You float. So Minkowski floats her way around the kitchen, and she thinks she sees someone in the corner of her eye sneaking food again, but when she looks he isn’t there.
He’s gone and done with too, Minkowski firmly reminds herself.
So she grabs the jam and a piece of bread. It’s strawberry. Lovelace said she liked the raspberry flavor best, but they don’t have that in the Hephaestus this time around. This time it’s strawberry. She told Lovelace this, and she muttered something about Command and shoving their face in her ass.
Minkowski pours the jam from the bottle they keep it in and scrapes it on the bread with the back of a spoon. She hasn’t touched the knives, lately. The star isn’t messing with her brain anymore, she doesn’t think, but you can’t be too cautious.
When she returns to the med bay with the snack, Lovelace takes it gingerly as if she’ll break it.
“Why?” she asks.
“Why what?” Minkowski returns.
“The ship is falling apart,” Lovelace says, and yes, Minkowski knows this. “We have so many repairs to do. 137 systems in the red.” Minkowski knows this too. “Why would you take the time to make me jam and bread? That’s rations we might need later.”
“Because,” Minkowski says, “there isn’t much I can do alone.”
“And you trust me to help with repairs?”
“Trust you more than Hilbert.”
Lovelace takes a bite. There’s jam on her upper lip. “So, what. You’re gonna fatten me up and hope I help out once I’m feeling up and at ‘em?”
“Something like that,” Minkowski replies.
Lovelace licks the jam from her mouth.
“I also wanted to thank you,” Minkowski adds, a second too late. “That should be me in that bed right now. You pushed me out of the way.”
Lovelace rolls her eyes. “Yeah, well, what would this ship be without its daring Lieutenant Commander,” she says dryly.
“You’re welcome for the bread,” Minkowski says.
“You’re welcome for your life,” Lovelace returns. “Tell Hera to maybe turn up the temperature in here? It’s fucking freezing.”
Minkowski raises an eyebrow. “Why can’t you ask her?”
“She’s not talking to me. Aren’t you, Hera?”
Hera, apparently, does not deign to give a response.
“I’ll talk to her,” Minkowski says. “Let me know if there’s anything I can do to help speed up your recovery.”
“Get someone other than Sel- Hilbert to work on me, then we’ll talk,” she says, and licks strawberry jam from her pointer finger.
The ghost follows her, floating by her side. She wishes he would go away. There's nowhere for him to go, because he isn't actually here, but she wishes he would go away.
Minkowski isn't a superstitious woman. She's tough, and she's smart, and she's pretty damn reliable. She doesn't do ghosts, or magic. But time and time again, this ship tries to prove her wrong.
Her ship. It's her ship. Maybe it's Hera's, too, but it's hers. Lieutenant Commander Renee Minkowski. And now it's his, because he won't leave her alone!
Fine. Fine! Minkowski isn't superstitious but Doug Eiffel is gone. Maybe he isn't dead yet, but he's gone, and it was her fault, and she told him he would be safe, and she sent him out in the ship in the first place, and now he's following her around the ship and she's pretty sure she deserves it. He's there, resting his arm on the open fridge door and making some reference as easily as he breathes, and there, tapping away on his computer and conducting the symphonies that blare through the speakers.
And he isn't anywhere, because of her. He's gone, because of Minkowski.
She didn't mean to go to the communications room, but she's there now.
"C-commander Minkowski?" Hera asks.
A beat. "Are you mad at me for ignoring Captain Lovelace?" she asks. "Are you going to make me-"
"No, Hera," Minkowski replies. "I think I get it."
Hera has so much to do she has so much to do she has so much to do she has so much to do-
There’s no such thing as ghosts. Hera knows this, because she knows everything. It’s her job! There’s no such thing as ghosts, even though humans like to believe in them. There’s no proof in it. There’s no practical evidence to back such a claim up.
There’s no such thing as ghosts, but sometimes Hera thinks a legacy can be a ghost. It’s what you leave behind, right?
Hera, of course, has to keep track of what day of the mission it is. That’s part of her job. She knows that Minkowski does the same, but sometimes Minkowski says that Hera is wrong, that day 492 already happened, what are you talking about, Hera- but then she shuts up and goes throughout the day more subdued than usual.
Hera has to keep track of what day of the mission it is. It’s programmed into her. She doesn’t even have to think about it. Today is day 679.
Quietly, she has started another count. Today is day 13 since the day Communications Officer Doug Eiffel left the Hephaestus station. Today is day 13 since the day Hera’s best friend was gone.
If legacies are ghosts, Eiffel’s ghost lies in her brain, ticking off days one by one. She doesn’t mind having him there.
Mission in action, presumed dead. Hera knows what that means. Hera knows everything. And Hera can’t forget things, so it isn’t like she forgets that he’s gone like Minkowski does. It’s just like every single second, every time she would inhale if she had lungs, every moment of every day is another painful reminder that she’s still on this station and he’s still gone.
Hera has never had a friend before.
She’s only three. Of course she’s never had a friend before. She still has Minkowski- of course she has Minkowski; at first there was tension because they both tend to be a little stubborn but then there was Eiffel and the three of them were a team. By the end, they were a family.
The end. Ha. Hera doesn’t know if this will ever truly be over. At this point, she’s started thinking about the latest big bad things as the end. Maybe one day it will be.
But she really hopes this time isn’t the end. She really hopes.
Hera has so much to do. She has so much work to do; the Hephaestus is in shambles and her brain feels like it’s going to fall apart at the seams. It won’t, because she doesn’t have a real human brain. But she has so much to do, she has so much to do, keep the cracks in the life support systems at bay and make sure the temperatures are regulated and fix the air circulation in the rooms with holes in the walls and she just has so much to do!
Usually, running the ship just feels like- well, not like breathing. Hera doesn’t have anything to really compare it to. It just is what she does. But now, it’s all so fast, and she can do it, she can, but it’s hard. And she misses Eiffel. He was her best friend. Hera has never had a best friend.
And now he’s gone, and even though she knew it would happen eventually, she still can’t help but feel painfully human in her grief.
There are quite a few ghosts on the Hephaestus, contrary to popular belief. Lovelace would know.
Lovelace. She wonders when she started calling herself that, even in her own head. It was always Isabel. She always wished her crew was allowed to call her Isabel. She likes her first name. Isabel Lovelace. It’s a good name, suits her.
Maybe it’s a before and after type of situation. Before the escape ship, she was Isabel, and now she’s Lovelace. Before her first crew member died, she was Isabel, and once they said goodbye to him, she was Lovelace.
Whatever. Doesn’t matter.
Point is, she’s used to hearing Fisher cracking a joke in the dining room, Hui staring out at the stars in the observation deck as if he isn’t sick of them. She’s used to catching a glance of Fourier’s ponytail in the corner of her eye as she pushes herself through a room, always rushing to do some important thing or other. She’s used to hearing Lambert’s nasally voice from behind her, saying don’t do that, Captain, that’s against protocol! And Selberg- Selberg didn’t even have the decency to die in order to stay on this fucking ship.
What’s one more ghost, anyway?
Eiffel was always kind to her, even when he was terrified. Well, maybe kind isn’t the best word. He was always polite. He averted his gaze so she wouldn’t see his anger.
Minkowski stares at her head on. Makes her bread and jam. Thanks her for taking the shrapnel in her stead. Minkowski meets her gaze every time, and there’s this fire there. Lovelace doesn’t think she’s ever seen it leave her eyes, but oh, she wants it to. Lovelace wants to see what happens when Minkowski snaps.
And Hera- Hera is Hera. She doesn’t talk to Lovelace anymore. If Lovelace asks for Hera to turn up the heat, maybe she will, by a few degrees, but she won’t acknowledge it.
Lovelace thinks it’s because Hera was Eiffel’s best friend, and in the end it was her own stubborn heartbeat that shot him into the great beyond. Or maybe Hera just doesn’t want Lovelace to hear her glitch. It’s been getting worse, lately.
Who cares? The AI hates her. Minkowski is… well, Minkowski is Minkowski, and sometimes she shouts at her and proves that her own stubborn heart is still ticking and sometimes she shows up in the med bay and replaces the bandages on her stomach. And Selberg is Hilbert, now.
Selberg is Hilbert. Same man, different name. Changing and staying the same.
It’s all cycles, so it isn’t like Lovelace is surprised that he’s gone. Doug Eiffel. Laughing and joking like Fisher, communications officer like Lambert, smart like Fourier and Hui. A man with many faces. Lovelace doesn’t know if she would say that she liked him, but she respected him. And yet there he goes, in a ship she built from the ground up, spiraling into the void. Alone. Afraid.
It’s something like what she must have done, when she left.
(Why can’t she remember why can’t she remember something must have happened because she’s back and she was supposed to never go back but she can’t. fucking. remember)
Communications Officer Doug Eiffel is gone, presumed dead. He’s a smart man, a smile on his lips and a fast moving mind, but she doesn’t know if there’s a way for him to survive. A way for him to find anyone to keep him safe.
But then again, Lovelace found a way to not die, right? He’s a competent man. Maybe he’ll do the same.
He has joined the chorus of ghosts, though, tiptoeing around the station. Lovelace knows that Minkowski doesn’t know what to think of it. Minkowski sometimes turns to her left and opens her mouth as if expecting a tall man to be floating beside her, already waiting to hear what she has to say. Minkowski sometimes makes half-aborted sounds that might have been a name had she not remembered that there’s no saying his name anymore.
None of them talk about it. About him. At least, as far as Lovelace knows, and she knows most of what goes on. She invented being paranoid on this station.
Lovelace is used to it. Now there are two communications officers, one hunched over and perpetually frowning and the other lanky and perpetually grinning. She didn’t know one that well, and she knew the other too well. She can hear them whispering sometimes, and she can’t tell whose voice is whose.
Ghosts on the Hephaestus. Whispers of the dead people. Maybe it’s just a form of mourning, or maybe Lovelace is a little crazy.
She thinks she sees a shadow moving in the corner of the med bay again. Probably just her imagination.
Lovelace waves at it anyway.