Warp Riders – Chapter 16

It wasn’t that the Navigatrix was worried about the Captain, but it was very out of character for her to be late to dinner.

The Captain was the one who decided when dinner happened, for one. She was also usually the one to round the rest of them up when the Bosun gave the signal. She also, it turned out, carried a lot of the dinner conversation.

After the third attempt by the Engineer to draw them all into a rousing explanation of the microtransistors she was using in the short-range radio comms, the Bosun slammed the lid back on the pot.

“Why would she stay out this late?” She huffed. “Food doesn’t stay good forever.”

“I’m sure it’s not a personal slight.” The Navigatrix gently lifted the pot lid and served herself seconds. “It’s certainly her loss.”

“You don’t think there’s anything dangerous out there?” The Engineer let only the slightest hint of guilt into her voice.

The Stowaway also, somehow, looked guilty; they rarely wore emotions on their face, and the Navigatrix tucked that fact away for later contemplation.

“I’m sure she’s wrestled worse than this planet,” said the Bosun. “Saw her disable two security bots with one right hook once.”

There was a moment of silence while they all contemplated that feat. Then, one by one, they turned to the Navigatrix.

“Sorry, but I don’t throw hooks of any type.” She folded her arms. 

“Your entire job description is finding things,” countered the Engineer.

“Things in space!”

“We’re all technically in space!”

“Yelling at me won’t make me better at a thing I don’t know how to do.”

The Engineer huffed and sat back. “You want us to all sit here and wait to see if she’s coming back at all?” Behind her, the green glow of the horizon threatened sunrise.

Suddenly, the Stowaway stood up. They looked pointedly at the Navigatrix, and then grabbed a water bottle and walked to the edge of the camp. When the Navigatrix returned their gaze, they tilted their head to one side in a gesture that felt half challenge, half dismissal.

“Well.” She stood up and stared them in the eye a little longer. They didn’t flinch, just stood there. “Fine.”

The Navigatrix picked up a water bottle for herself, and looked at the Engineer. “Did you reassemble those short range radios? I see I’m going on a rescue mission.”

Later, as she and the Stowaway walked away from camp, the silent guest in front, she considered the possibility that this was a way to murder them all, one by one. They were small, yes, but who knew what skills they had besides, apparently, tracking captains through wilderness.

“For the record” she hissed, “I don’t really trust you.”

The Stowaway gave her a withering glare, then returned to scanning for signs of their errant Captain.

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