Ceres, part 1

I got caught up in research about crab boats vs. fishing trawlers for the Tillamook story, so this next short is what I started writing first. This is about Crown Prince Laszlo Hartmann of Faustina’s imperium not quite alone on high-speed space ship. Not quite alone? The android Minerva is with him. Ordered by his mother, the Empress, their first scouting mission is to the asteroid belt, to assess not only mining possibilities but also colonization.

Because this takes place seven weeks after then conclusion of “Obligations of Rank,” spoilers are unavoidable. Unless you think it will be some months before you get around to reading that book – and you will – and might have forgotten this, go listen to one of my podcasts or something if you don’t want to be spoiled.

Again borrowing an idea from another writer, in this case Michael Chricton, I’m taking two very, very different people, packing them into a sardine can, and sending them somewhere they cannot escape from.

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Minerva closed the heavy, shielded door which lead to the reactor and its support complex which made up the aft sixty percent of Lionheart.  A doublecheck with her mind told her the seals were correct.  It would not do to have a potential radiation leak contaminate the center part of the ship.

She did not glance at the blue-green copper alloy sphere in the precise center of their interplanetary craft as she passed.  The reactionless motor inside drew its power from the fission reactor she had just checked and operated completely silently, driving them at a constant one G acceleration.  They had made their turnover just over eighteen hours ago and their thrust vector pointed to the anticipated position of their destination.

Up the ladders, Minerva arrived at the airlock to the final upper three decks.  They had pressure and air, being made for human habitation.  In this case, demi-human habitation.  As this was her fifth trip to check the reactor, she slipped off her paper-made coveralls and dropped them into a waste bin.  Naked, she stepped into the emergency decontamination station for fifteen seconds, letting the water run over her smallish body.  Stepping out, she toweled dry her black – but with a hint of scarlet – short hair, with its inch-long fringe down the right side of her face.  The rest of her was still wet as she stepped into the airlock, just big enough for two, and pushed the button to let it cycle.  When the hatch above her split open and slid aside it was easier to simply leap up and out, rather than bothering with the ladder.

The bridge was sparse:  a long control panel with two chairs in front of it.  The panel and these chairs were the only onboard designed to rotate ninety degrees.  One position for when Lionheart’s long baton form was horizontal in a gravity well and vertical when under acceleration with its special motor.  The chair on the right was occupied.

“I can read the data here, Minerva,” Laszlo Hartmann said, waving at the screens, “but you know I value your unique insight.”

“All nominal, captain,” she replied, stepping close enough to his left to almost touch him.  When a little water dropped off of her onto his shoulder, Laszlo looked up and left…

…right at her naked chest, just above his eye level.  He sighed.

“You are on duty and the second-in-command of this ship,” he said, moving his eyes up to her slightly adobe ones.  “I expect you to comport yourself accordingly.”

“I was off duty the moment my feet touched the deck of the bridge.  Sir.” To emphasize her point, Minerva straightened her back, pushing her chest out a little more.  “I shall retire to the observation deck, two above, to replenish those parts of me which require it.”

She walked to the next circular opening in the ceiling and leaped again.  The ship’s captain just shook his head.

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