What’s the old quote? “Well, that escalated quickly.” I really didn’t expect Aurie to come on so strong.
Per what I said yesterday, we shift perspectives here. Mech tech Jimmy Burns of Nova Scotia Rocketry is now the “main character” for a while. And if you missed the foreshadowing in this segment, you should be beaten with a stick.
Burns and his mates had just received their second, and last, ales. They needed to make an early night of it as, after hearing nothing from Ottawa or Trudeau for months, they were informed that trucks would be bringing a rocket and commsat to lofted in a week. From its sleepy, semi-mothballed state, the teams of NS Rocketry were nearly on double shifts to get ready. With the launch pad only two miles away, everyone lived in Canso or its surrounds. And with so little to launch, all had other jobs.
“Much of a catch today?” Gates, the eldest, at forty, asked Burns, knowing he worked on a small commercial fishing boat.
“We were bringing in our lobster pots today,” Burns replied, pausing his mug, “and we ended up with nearly thirty. That means the price will be down a little tomorrow, guys.”
They all helped one another with hints like that.
“I’ll stop by before sun-up,” Gates laughed. “My two boys are a fortune to feed!”
“Perhaps I will, as well,” Ypres agreed. An electrical tech from Quebec, he retained their distinctive accent.
There was a break in the clouds for a moment and Burns stole a look at the half moon.
“You’ll never make it,” Macleod laughed. The same age as Burns, twenty-seven, he was as light complexioned as Burns was dark. “We loft satellites, not people, Jimmy.”
“I know,” he sighed. The other three chuckled. He had told them when hired on two years ago that, as a kid, he had dreamed of traveling to space. It was why he had become first an aircraft mechanic and then later took the job at the spaceport, even if it was a significant pay cut. He took a large drink. The mug came down but his eyes stayed up. “A man can dream.”
There was a sound from the inside of the tavern. He lowered his eyes. The owner, Val, was followed by two unfamiliar women. The first was in her late forties, he guessed. The second…
The second, even in the low light, was astonishing. Straight, dark hair just to her shoulders. Slightly almond eyes. Snub nose over a mouth with a tiny smile. Couldn’t be over five-five but she walks like a soldier. An impression reinforced when the two carefully set down their rifles then shed their rucksacks. They were dress no differently than anyone on the peninsula.
Curious about Burns’ sudden reaction and wondering who came out onto the deck, the other three looked over and back at one another.
“I regret being married,” Gates muttered.
“For which one?” Ypres asked. “Elegant. Wonder why they are here? And from where?”
Macleod, engaged, kept his mouth shut lest anything get back to his girlfriend.
The girl was talking softly to her companion while looking out at the dark harbor. When she turned her face back to the other, she smiled when her eyes crossed his.
“Did you see that, John?” Jimmy asked Gates, to his right.
“It’s… You’re right, Loup. Where are they from?” He stood from the bench and picked up his mug in his left. “I’ll ask.”
“Evening, ladies,” he said. “I’m Jimmy Burns. You two must be pretty adventurous to come to a nowhere place like this.”
“We are,” the one who had smiled at him said, patting the bench with her left hand. She had some kind of American southern accent. As he sat next to her, she went on. “We came to see the spaceport. And I came to see you.”
The older woman choked on her wine. He looked up in concern.
“She’s fine; does that all the time,” the girl said with a grin. She turned and put her right hand out. “I’m Aurie Hardt. Is it Mister Burns or Jimmy?”
“If you came all this way to see me,” he said, running with her obvious joke, “it better be Jimmy.”
He let go of her hand – so strong for a girl – and half stood with his hand out to the other. She took it without standing.
“Colour Jansen. From the Northern Federation,” she introduced herself. “My cousin was visiting from Texas and wanted to see, what she called, the edge of the world.”
“And you, too,” Aurie added, still smiling as he sat back down. She placed her entire palm onto his vest. “You work at the spaceport. We want a tour.”
Pretty sure their one security officer would have a fit over that, Burns took a moment to look at Hardt now that he was closer. It was only candlelight but there was some odd shading to her hair. Purple? Did she dye it? Much more interesting were her eyes.
“They catch the candlelight. Golden.” Suddenly aware he had said that aloud, he turned away and lifted his left hand to take one of the two last mouthfuls. Rather than being offended, the girl scooted closer to him, their hips and shoulders touching. For some reason this made Jansen shake her head. There was a guffaw from his table. Shut up, Macleod!
“So,” he tried to recover, “please know, Mrs. Jansen, that we always welcome our neighbors from the NF. And for you, Miss Hardt, welcome to Nova Scotia. The edge of the world, both up and out.”
“Such poetry,” Jansen finally smiled and raised her glass. “And it’s Colour, Jimmy.”
“Interesting you said Nova Scotia and not Canada,” Hardt interrupted. “Thinking of changing sides?”
“It’s not a question of sides, Miss, er, Aurie,” he said with a sharp look. “My family has been in Halifax for over two hundred years. This is my home. What the…!”
He would have sworn in court that her eyes just got brighter when she leaned her face inches to his.
“Family. Loyalty.” Her mouth was right there… “I like that. Will you take me home?”
Colour poured the last of her wine and gave a great sigh. All three men at the other table were laughing.
Already partly rising to the occasion, Burns touched his forehead to hers. When she didn’t move, he kissed her.
“You bet.” But he leaned back and tilted his head left. “It’s a tiny, one-bedroom house. I’m not sure where Mrs. Ja… Colour, that is, could stay.”
“I yell a lot during sex,” Aurie admitted. The three men were almost howling in laughter now. “Will it bother you if you’re on his couch tonight?”
“I…” Colour began.
“Make it a three-way!” Macleod yelled.
“Shut it!” he yelled back. More laughter.
“I have earplugs,” the polite older woman said. “I’ll be fine.”
“Then let’s go,” Aurie said, standing and getting her pack and rifle. “This is going to be a long night.”
Burns shot a glimpse at the others. Ypres was crying from laughing. Shut up!