We make it to the hangar quick enough that we beat my hard-on back, but not by much. It’s dark inside and out now, and that suits me fine. Can’t go in the ship, Heloise would birth an escape pod. I pick up the little tease and put her down on some crates and then I’m on top of her.
Whatever Arrow might think, I do have other things to do in port than attend to my own needs. After the ship is secure in the hangar, and never mind the mildly erotic implications of that process, I meet up with a mechanic to have him check her over. It’s only been six weeks since her last tune-up, but little problems become big problems in a hurry when you’re out in the black, and I’d just as soon things went smooth. Surviving in my business is a constant process of shoring up little leaks and trying to make sure money stays ahead of entropy.
Then it’s off to the exchange to offload the little cargo we managed to get before we took our rather precipitous leave from Jordani 2. I discovered a few years back that it’s possible to put your goods out for sale and then have any offers sent to your pad while you, say, sit in a bar with one hand on a drink and the other on a Maenali contortionist, and ever since I have refused to do business any other way.
An hour out from Enasa System and within shouting distance of civilization. The ship is dirty and so am I; the dry shower doesn’t wash off everything, especially when a prudish AI won’t let you get naked in it.
We’re riding pretty light, lighter than I’d hoped. But Enasa is an export kinda place, so I hope to pick up some cargo there, even the wiggling kind. Got to meet with Gerund before I do anything else, but I’m expecting a few hours’ layover for refueling and a couple minor tune-ups. The back loading bay is –“
“A few hours? Captain!”
I spin slowly in my chair and almost miss my navigator’s pratfall onto the bridge. Don’t get up. If I jumped up every time she fell down, it’d qualify as cardio. She scrambles to her feet, red curls in her red face.
“Captain, c’mon, only a few hours after three weeks in space? We can’t even get drunk in a few hours!”
“Then you’re not doing it right, Arrow.” I turn back to the console, though barring any unforeseen low-atmo collisions or newly-birthed black holes, the ship will bring itself in just fine without my help. “And if we’re going to hang out on any planet, I’d just as soon not do it on Enasa Five, thanks very much. Too many folks there think I owe ‘em something.”
Arrow takes her seat next to me – she actually has something to do there, checking our arrival time and making sure we have the right instructions and clearances from the port authority. I bring up my mail on my side of the screen. She’s not using it, right?
A few items of local and semi-local news – boring. Threats and offers from people I don’t really want to see – also boring. Message from an old friend tagged “personal” – promising! Pop THAT one up…
Ah, Celestine. A lady from a little red planet overheated by the smaller of the binary pair 1 Areitis. She helped me out of a nasty spot on her homeworld a few years back, and we’ve kept in touch ever since. Her mails are mostly chatty nothings about her family; she has about eighteen siblings – ‘scuse me, “broodmates.” But this time, there’s an attachment.
My navigator grumbles as another binary system fills the screen, a pair of teal tits unrivaled on three neighboring planets. Arrow is not impressed; she’s seen these tits before, but I have a rather more refined appreciation for –
“Dangerous obstruction of workspace detected! Elevated levels of hormone production detected! Ship is beginning final approach to port on Enasa 5 and I must recommend complete focus on safe docking procedures and protocols!”
I snarl and thump the console as those precious orbs disappear from view. “HELOISE!” But there’s no point in arguing with a computer.
“Shoulda known better, Boss,” Arrow says. “Celestine always sends ya stuff Heloise doesn’t like.”
“You get yourself back to work, or it’ll be your tits obstructing the visual field.” I storm out of the bridge and take my elevated hormone levels to the shower.
No idea where this “cold shower” myth got started; the few times I’ve tried it, I’ve only managed to shock my erection into further aggression, but I can tell you that there is absolutely nothing about bathing in space that dims the libido, or does anything else, for that matter. There’s nothing like a good shower, and this is nothing like a good shower. I stand there squinting in my boxers as various supposedly cleansing powders puff into my face, feeling like nothing so much as a chicken wing being breaded. As I try to ignore it, my mind is drawn irresistibly back to those tits.
Now, I don’t want you to think I’m a soft touch or anything. I’m parsecs out of my teens, and ordinarily it would take more than a picture of a rack – even one of the Local Group’s great racks – to put me in such a frustrating state. But this I blame on Heloise.
She’s old gear, real old. Came with the ship, and when I tried to replace her after I discovered her irritating proclivities, I found out that this old boat can’t even run without her anymore. Might be her fault. I wouldn’t put it past her to have worked her way into the other systems and made them all do her bidding. At any rate, if I ever get my hands on the man who programmed her – or woman, more likely – I’ll let him stew on the ship with her for six months and then strangle him with his inhumanly distended member.
Heloise has a long list of things she won’t allow on board, but it’s the sexual prohibitions that get in my way. That and the “no nudity in showers” thing, that’s just ridiculous. She can detect elevated hormone levels anywhere inside the ship, and boy does it make her holler. You try to maintain an erection while a computer-generated old lady scolds you. Maybe there are guys who like that, I don’t know.
At any rate, by the time we’ve been a few weeks in space and I’ve gotten shouted at every time I even put my hands in my pockets, I get to a point where frankly, Celestine’s tits are overkill. I can set Heloise off by looking at virtually any rounded surface in the engine room. And while we’re on the subject, I think shipboard mechanics must be about as hard-up as I am – why must every stationary surface in there look like a shiny, upturned bottom?
I reenter the bridge, nicely floured but not especially less filthy in either mind or body, to hear Arrow giving our credentials to the port authority.
“This is navigator Arkina Arrow for transport ship Needlessly Large under the command of Captain Roderick Zarkov. You should have our cargo report now. Requesting permission to dock.”
“Transport Needlessly Large, your cargo has been approved and you have permission to dock in hangar 24. Be careful coming in, it’s a busy day down here.”
“Thank you, Enasa.” She clicks off and turns on me as the ship eases itself down through the atmosphere. “I wish you’d change that name again. Or change it back. I feel like an ass every time I have to say it.”
“It’s not wrong, though, is it?” I answer, taking my seat. I like to be in the captain chair when we come in to port. “You’re lucky Heloise does all the work of squeezing us into those little hangars.”
Arrow sees my eyes glaze over. “Oh my god,” she laughs. “You’re fantasizing about a ship going into a hangar. That’s what’s happening right now. Do me a favor, Captain.” She gets up and goes to do whatever it is she does when we’re landing. Maybe the shower works better for her. “Try to get laid while we’re in port. I’m sure you of all people can manage that in a few hours.”