“So when will you be officially meeting your crew, Captain?” Rimana asked, settling into her chair.
“We leave port in a day and a half,” I told her. “Tomorrow is good enough.”
“Right.” She looked around, her eyes glowing again. “Commander, er, at communications, what’s your name again?”
The woman looked around, looking slightly frightened. “You mean me?” she asked timidly.
“Got a middle name?” Rimana asked after a moment.
“Right. Mind if we call you Twitchy?” Rimana asked, smiling brightly. The woman looked at me.
“I don’t mind,” she said cautiously.
“I don’t think the Navy would be pleased if they found out we’ve renamed someone ‘Twitchy’.”
“Can you pronounce her name?” Rimana demanded.
“Sure. May-her-shall-hashbrowns …” I coughed. “I’ll get it eventually.”
“What planet are you from?” Rimana asked, rubbing the scar on her forehead.
There was a distinct pause in all movement. It certainly explained why she was so timid. The residents of Heshq were known as excellent mind readers.
“Right,” Rimana said cautiously. “You’re from Terra-Nee, Captain?”
“Yes. You’re from Trepidusk?” I asked her. Her eyes glowed again.
“What gave it away?” she asked innocently.
“It’s rather obvious that you’re a shape-shifter,” Commander Carter told her.
“Rather,” Commander Batnter agreed.
“That’s the nicest way it’s ever been put to me,” Rimana said, laughing. “What planet are you from?”
“We’re both from Machal,” Carter said. “We can’t do anything as interesting as teleport or read minds.”
“What can you do?” I asked.
“We fade into the background,” Batnter said.
“I thought invisibility was Remost’s trick,” Rimana said.
“It is. We don’t become invisible, just very hard to notice,” Batnter explained.
“I wish I could do that,” May-her-hashbrowns… Twitchy said to herself. I had to admit that it would take years of practice to get her name down right. Suddenly she sat up. “Captain, we have an incoming transmition.”
“On screen,” I ordered. Soon I was looking at Admiral Resop. “Greetings, Admiral,” I said, standing.
“Captain Velose. I have here the mission of your ship for the next year,” he announced.
He cleared his throat. “For the next year, the Etamitlu-class ship Golden Algae has the honorable mission of keeping the intergalactic freeways clear of any and all wandering creatures, namely space squids, space moose, space sheep, stellar oysters, cosmic fish, cosmic jellyfish, and various other pests. Any questions regarding your mission?”
I wanted to ask if he was being serious, but that was against regulation.
Rimana rubbed the scar above her eyebrow again. “Would the mission be different had I been captain?” she asked. I glared at her.
“No.” was the answer.
“Thank you,” I said. The transmition cut off, and everyone stared into space for a while.
“Why would the mission be different if you were captain?” Carter asked Rimana.
“Because my brother is not a pirate,” she answered. They all looked at me.
“What makes you say that?” I asked, trying not to snarl.
“I’m in control of weapons and defense. Part of defense is knowing your enemy. I presume you don’t just so happen to have the same last name as the most wanted pirate in Bayshed territory,” Rimana told me.
After a moment I shrugged. “All right, so my brother is a notorious pirate. He’s the one that sent me through the academy, actually. So what?” I asked. “I’m not evil. I can assure you we won’t be getting attacked by pirates any time soon.”
“Personally I always thought that being attacked by pirates would be exciting,” Carter said. I shrugged again.
“They always over-dramatize it.”
“So did you ever work on a pirate ship?” Batnter asked, smiling.
“Yes,” I answered. “For a few years, until my brother sent me to the academy.”
“Why did he do that?” Rimana asked.
“Did you ever kill anyone?” Carter asked.
“No I’ve never killed anyone!” I snapped. “As far as I know only one person on that ship had ever killed a person, and that was in self-defense.”
“Why did your brother send you to the academy?” Rimana repeated, her finger going to her scar. I stood, straightening my uniform.
“He felt it was important to my future that I not be on that ship any longer. I’m going down to main engineering and then to the sick bay. If anyone wishes to join me they may,” I declared. I walked to the elevator, and Rimana followed me. After a moment of hesitation May… Twitchy stood as well.
“By the way,” Carter shouted back, “the elevator is slightly broken.”
“What do you mean, ‘slightly’?” I asked.
“Don’t use the word ‘elevator’ and you’ll do fine,” Batnter told me, smiling.