Never send a woman to do a man’s job. And never send a demi-human to do a Machine’s job.
I appreciate in the middle of this little addition we see again that, once again, these two keep talking right past one another as their backgrounds are so different.
Turns out my guess in the previous post of a total length was a bit too short; imagine that. While I did have two more scenes in mind, where I decided to stick a fork in “Ceres,” for emotional impact, was just over 5300 words. Those other two scenes? No one says I cannot write another story about these two…
In a minute she was next to the faring’s simple hatch. Kneeling, Les watched her twist the toggle and swing it open before easing inside. He flicked to the one camera in there…
And saw nothing. No ambient light from the stars at all. Pitch black. Ah. The light on her helmet flared on.
“Even with my eyes, I could not see,” she said to him. “Can you see me?”
“Yes, Min. You’re doing fine.”
“Yes?” Did something happen?
“I gave you the power to name me. Thank you for doing it again. Oh, I have found the damaged section.” He saw her light move up and away to the faring. Moving the camera to follow… “Can you see that?”
“No, the optics aren’t good enough. What do you see with your eyes, Min?” Les asked.
“A hole, barely over a millimeter. Are you… I see you are: testing for a leak in the aft quarters, but nothing yet.” She sighed. She rarely sighs. “Let us hope the original hull was enough to stop it. I shall see what I can to for the array now.”
He returned the camera onto her, observing as she took first some inspection equipment and then some fine tools, looking all the world like a surgeon.
“I can restore an estimated forty percent effectiveness of this small section of the assembly,” she said, disappointed. “As co-captain, I recommend that our return to Earth be at no more than point seven-five G.”
“You just added a week to our mission.” He tried to essay a joke. “Shall I lock the crew quarters to keep you off of me?”
“If that’s what you,” he heard the catch in her voice, “want, captain.”
“A joke, Min. A joke. I guess a bad one,” he admitted.
“I am very young, Captain. I’ll need five more minutes here.” She sounded back to normal.
“Based upon my mother’s order, you and I seem to have all the time in the world, Min.”
“Kah, kah!” That odd laugh, reminiscent of his mother’s godmother, the machine Fausta. The sound which first made Laszlo consider setting this form of hers free. A report fed into his mind that there did not seem to be a leak in the aft of the ship. He left the nitrogen there, just in case.
Twenty-five minutes later, Minerva was back into the airlock. The outer door closed and the inner opened, given the interior vacuum.
I’m bringing us to one G, he thought to her. No, I’m not ignoring your recommendation, but otherwise recalculating our vectors to the dwarf planet will take hours.
Minutes later, the floor split open and she jumped up just as Les unbuckled and stood, raising his arm in an imperial salute.
“As captain, I formally promote you to full leftenant,” he called. “Further, for your successful actions in an extremely hazardous environment, I shall ask you be awarded the commendation medal. Congratulations, Leftenant Minerva!”
She flung her arm into the air.
“Thank you, Captain Hartmann! Deus vult!” she nearly shouted.
They lowered their hands. He stepped to her and this time embraced her.
A kiss on the cheek is all I can manage without possibly puking, he thought, just a little ashamed of himself. “I guess you were right,” he said softly to her ear. “I am fond of you, too.”