Warp Riders – Chapter 19

Wind whistled across the cave mouth, sending a deeper hum around the cavern. The Captain tried bending her injured knee again, gently, and it felt fine, totally fine and then– “Fuck!”

“Captain! What are you doing down there?”

She breathed slowly through her nose until the pain spike passed. 

“I’ve fucked up my knee. It’s fine.” Well. “I mean it’s not fine, but it’s… I’m fine. They’re sending a splint, right?”

“Splint, boat, rope, more rope – anything else?”

“Wouldn’t mind a stiff drink and a beach umbrella, actually.”

A snort was just audible, echoing down into the cavern. And then silence once more. The Captain focused on massaging her knee, which had swollen up enough her pant leg was tight around it.

They had enough medical supplies on the ship itself that she wasn’t worried long term about it; short of a full break, they could handle most things in the field. She’d be off it for a few days, but that was fine. She could supervise; no more research trips, stick to repairs.

It did hurt like a bitch, though. Maybe shock had worn off? She was shivering a bit still; maybe it hadn’t quite passed. How long a trip was it back to camp if you were jogging? How fast could the Stowaway run for supplies – and how heavy was the inflatable raft?

The logistics of her own rescue were fascinating, and the Captain was deep in thought about how best to optimize the immediate circumstances when the Navigatrix mumbled something down the tunnel.

“You what?”

“I said it’s – it’s very peaceful on this moon.”

“Besides my peril?”

No response to that, of course.

“No, no, it’s a very peaceful sort of spelunking disaster, my mistake.”

Quiet. Then.

“Captain,” almost too quiet to hear, down the tunnel and into the cavern, “do you miss Lucy?”

Oh, no. No no no. Not now. “Don’t do this, Navigatrix.”

“It’s just, I thought I missed her before, but now we’re here – I just, I really feel it, her absence.”

The Captain flopped back onto her back in frustration. Why NOW. “We all miss her, for sure, but, it’s been a long time–”

“Well, now, no. It actually has been almost no time at all–”

“–that’s not what I mean, you pedantic–”

“I think we’ve had maybe a month of linear time–”

“She’s gone! She’s gone, and we all had that meeting about it, and why are you bringing her up now?”

Wind whistled.

“I just keep thinking that she would have gotten a kick out of all this.”

“She made it clear she didn’t enjoy any of this when she LEFT US.”

“Captain, are you still this mad at her?”

The Captain was overwhelmed by frustration with the Navigatrix; so much, her eyes pricked and she had to blink and blink and whisper “fuck” under her breath a few times.

“I’m not mad. I’m disappointed.”

“Are you sad?”


It was amazing, how audible the Navigatrix’s skeptical silence was down in the cave. The Captain rubbed her face, extremely furious.

“Captain – I’m not going to tell you what to do, but you’re allowed, if you like, to miss your little sister.”

“She doesn’t deserve to be missed.”

Well, that came out of her own mouth, didn’t it. Might as well dig this pit even deeper. “She’s the one who abandoned us! We were a crew. We had a job to do!”

“We all know we’re only doing them for fun now, Captain.”

“They’re still jobs!”

“Well, don’t you ever think about retiring?”

“What?!” Why was she bringing this up? “No! Why! Are you planning to leave me too?” The Captain cringed to herself as her voice cracked. “Because just – just tell me and fuck off so I can find another navigator.”

That got a snort.

“I might be the least likely of this crew to do such a thing, Captain.”

It sounded like a joke, but the Captain heard some of that gentleness in her voice that so often pissed her off. She must be out of adrenaline, because she had to admit she almost felt comforted.

No need to say it aloud, though.

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