By time Kat had gotten dressed I had cleared a spot in the sitting area. I guess you could call it a dinning area, but I mostly ate my meals in the command chair. There was a little table and two benches that all could fold into the bulkhead if needed. I had to clear them because flat spaces breed litter. I suspect that was the original reason for making them fold away in the first place.
With a small spread of different freeze dried packs and some drinkable coffee, I was waiting for Kat to return. I had been trying to decide on what food would be better with coffee when she walked up. She held out her arms and said, “What do you think? For an older model fabricator, Dusti did a pretty good job.”
I took a drink to try to loosen up my tongue when Kat did a little spin and bent at the waist. She dropped into a squat flexing her hips and looked over her shoulder at me. I wasn't fast enough to hide the fact that I had snorted my coffee. She shrugged as she stood. “Maybe I should have Dusti loosen it up a bit. It seems to be restricting YOUR breathing.”
I mopped the coffee off of my face. “Yes well, tact has never been a skill I was graced with.” I offered the seat across the table from me. “Care to partake in a fine dinning experience?”
She eyed the sealed packets on the table. “What, no candle light?”
“Cooking isn't one of my skills either.”
She slid into the seat and picked up a veggie protein bar with some sort of hard candy shell. “No need to explain Dix. You have been living as a bachelor for what?” She looked around the room. “A decade?”
“A dozen years actually. Is it that obvious?”
She nodded as she crunched away at the bar. In between mouthfuls she said, “I'd say even Dusti is desperate for a woman's touch.”
Dusti didn't sound a bit sarcastic as he said, “My bulkheads are shivering in anticipation.”
Kat made a show of holding her hand at the side of her face and whispering loudly at me, “He measured every millimeter of my body at least six times.” I snorted again.
Dusti sounded incredulous, “One cannot be truly accurate without a properly detailed model.”
She looked straight at me as she asked, “And just where is that model stored?”
Dusti and I answered in unison. “Just never you mind.”
She shook her head and took another bite of her meal. She held up the wrapper for me to see. “I think this bar expired before the end of the revolution.”
I shrugged. “They are freeze dried and vacuum sealed. I don't think they ever really expire.”
She nodded at the coffee pot and reached for a mug. I warned her as I filled her mug. “I hope you like it strong.”
She took a tentative sip and saluted with her mug. “It appears you have at least one galley skill captain.”
I laughed. “Coffee is hardly a skill. And please, cut out the captain stuff. It's just been me and Dusti for so long I doubt I'm fit to handle a crew.” I turned over a package of some sort of synthetic meat product. “Look, I don't mean to come across as stereotypical. I mean I don't want to impose or anything. Please don't take this the wrong way.” I stammered.”But is it possible you could also, you know, do a little cooking?”
She gasped. “Why Dix. You took so long asking I thought you were going to ask me to strip and dance for you.” I'm sure I turned bright red again. Kat laughed. “Yes, of course I can cook. I'm no grand gourmet, but I can't do worse than these stale carb blocks.”
Dusti was ever the critic. “Don't bet on it. Dix can.”
I growled. “It's not like you have to eat it.”
“Thank the stars.”
Kat looked puzzled. “Doesn't Dusti need any nourishment for his senti-sys?”
“He has a sub-basic digestive track. Nothing but pre-canned glucose and protein slurry.”
“Eww.” Kat faked a gagging shudder.
I shook my head. “No it's okay. He doesn't have an olfactory system. He can't taste it.”
“Thank the stars for that as well.”
Kat washed down the last of her second meal pack with her coffee. “So cap, ah, I mean Dix. Why are we still sitting here? Shouldn't we be halfway to a chop-shop by now?”
“Unfortunately no. Not yet.” I looked at the clock on the wall display. “We don't have authorization to move yet.”
“But I already told you, I have no claim to Fancy.”
“It's notjust you I have to worry about.” I picked up the only truly edible freeze dried food, ice cream. “Dessert?” She shook her head no as she poured another mug of coffee. “It's a legal requirement.”
“Out here?” She waved her hand around the galley. “Who's going to stop you?”
“It's not that. Dusti's a cargo ship. Sometimes we even haul normal paying freight. If I ever want to haul another load to Larson, or Mixon, or any of the other socially acceptable stations, I don't want an insurance company slapping me with theft warrants. I have to give Nav-Com three full standard hours to relay any protests before final claim is granted.”
Dusti cut in. “You see Madam, Dix is not very good at making friends with people in positions of authority.”
She shrugged. “So what are you planning to do until then? More ogling and banter?”
I stood up from the table. “I was thinking of a little tour.” I held my hand out to her. Kat downed her coffee and carried her mug to the sanitizer. It took me a moment to realize what she was doing. I almost smacked myself as I picked up my own mug and did the same.
I lead the way to the control room. “First off is the bridge. I tend to spend most of my time in here while the ship is underway.”
She squinted into the darkness. “Are the lights broken?”
I looked around the room. “Dusti, could you raise the lighting in here?”
The dim over head lights came up to full brightness and even I was surprised at how dark I was keeping it. I grimaced at the amount of clutter and litter I had been ignoring in the darkness. “I, um, guess I'll be giving you a helping hand with the cleaning.”
Kat looked confused. “There are seats for three, but only screens for two. I had imagined a ship's bridge would be able to see more than this.”
I looked back into the unfamiliarity bright area. “Uh yeah. Dusti, the blast screen is down.” As the entire far wall began to raise I shrugged. “I don't usually have it open unless I have to pilot manually.”
Dusti chimed in. “Let's hope you don't have to experience what that is like. I'm told there is a fare amount anal puckering for the spectators when Dix is flying.” Kat snickered.
When the screen was fully lifted, Kat Looked out at the unending starscape before us and gasped. “It's so, beautiful!”
I looked at her. “This can't possibly be the first time you've seen the stars?”
She just nodded without turning. “I've done engineering work before, I've seen what was around the ship on monitors, but I have never gotten to look out an actual window at them before.”
“Not even out a station window?” I asked.
“Um.” She looked down at the deck. “No, not even there.” She looked back up and pointed to the five meter long window. “Will it break? Is that why you keep the screen down?
Dusti spoke first. “Not hardly. The glass is a reinforced polymer of...”
“It's stronger than the rest of the ship.” I cut him off. “I like the displays because Dusti can show me more information on them. I've, um, seen too many, things, out that window.” I turned around and pointed to the chairs. “I like to sit in that one. But after I get it a bit cleaned up in here, you are welcome to sit any any of them you like.”
Kat pulled her view away from the window. “Thank you. I'll do that.” She turned to head out of the bridge. When she noticed I was still standing there, she turned and said, “Isn't there more to the ship?”
I looked back up from her ass. “Oh yes, ah, here, let me show you.”
We breezed through the galley and the sitting area again. “Across the corridor are the ship store and freezers.” I pointed out the two doors one either side of the sitting area. “Next is the main head and dressing facilities. I trust you figured out those, and the med-unit, already.”
Kat nodded, “Oh yes, warm water, nice smelling soap, and more sensors that a governmental security check point. I don't think I've ever stepped foot on a more perverted ship before.”
Dusti's speakers said, “We aim to please.”
Kat crossed her arms. “Please who I wonder.” She fixed her eyes on me without turning her head.
“Ah hem.” I cleared my throat before any more offenses could be admitted to. “Beyond here are the crew cabins.” A set of four wooden doors stood in pairs at either side of the corridor. “You can pick whichever one you like. I mostly use that one for storage.” I pointed to the door closest to the head.
“And the other's?” Kat asked.
The doors all clicked and stared to open. Dust said, “We've had a durth of visitors as of late.”
Kat looked in at the disheveled bunks and cluttered desks. The closets were open and one of them was missing half it's door. She tisked. “It's a good thing you haven't. They'd hardly ask for a return trip.” She turned and pointed to the last three doors at the end of the hall. “And those?”
I looked up from the smudge on the deck I was trying to scrub away with my toe. “The big one in the middle leads to the cargo bay. It's two full decks tall. The one on your side is the air lock. The right one is the ladder below.”
She pointed to the cargo door. “That's not engineering?”
“Nope. Dusti's engineering area is all below us. His engines are a mid-ship, so there is more room behind us for cargo.”
She walked to the ladder door. “May I?”
I followed right behind her. “Please do. There's really no point in keeping anything hidden from you here.”
There's not much to say about an engine room. The fabricator, recycler, and filter assemblies were all clustered near the back. The engines, subsystems, and reactor took up almost all of the middle. Just in front of them was a small data closet and Dusti's triple sealed senti-system unit. Kat pulled open a curtain that was hanging in a corner to reveal a very dusty treadmill. I laughed, “So that's where that went.”
She just shook her head and looked around some more. “No weapon systems?”
Dusti said, “I'm a pacifist.”
I ignored him. “We have a localized repulsion system and some small scale kinetics for space debris. But no, nothing substantial.”
“I see.” Kat said. “Dusti, can you make me another ship-suit or two, and some t-shirts and boxers? I have a feeling my clothes are going to get a bit dirty around here.”
It took me a few moments to realize she was walking again as I was busy picturing just how dirty she might get. Kat didn't look back, I think she was fully aware of just what my thought processes were already.
Dusti asked, “Would you like them specially tailored?”
“Oh I'm sure you have all the measurements you need already. Just make them comfortable.” I rushed to catch up and just managed to hear her say. “Maybe throw in some blue and to keep them from becoming too see through.” I followed up the ladder close behind her. I think she swayed her hips a little extra just to see if I'd fall. It almost worked.