WARNING:
CONTENT IS A WORK IN PROGRESS. POSTED SECTIONS MAY UNDERGO EDITING. YE BE WARNED.

In A Starship's Wake

By Stephen Schamber

Chapter 15: Meeting The Carvers

    “You folks still have quite the full day ahead of you don’t you?” Mr. Carver set a bowl of rolls on the table, joining the place settings Joseph, Tyrone and Allison had helped with. “Lots of running around to do still, and you’ve been up longer than I have.”
    The ship was unloaded, and Mr. Carver had invited them to his home for lunch. Tyrone and Joseph knew from prior experience how good a cook Mrs. Carver was, and readily agreed. The couple had spacious living quarters attached to one of the agricultural domes they owned. In the past several children had occupied it with them, but all had moved out now.
    “Yeah, there’s a lot to get done,” Tyrone agreed. “Good thing there’s so many of us. I’ll be going a few domes over to make sure our next load is ready. Joseph and Allison get to go job- and apartment-hunting.”
    “To a shooting range as well.” Joseph made the addition to the list with a nod. “I have a pistol for her, but she’ll need to practice with it.”
    “I’ll need you to teach me to use it, too. I’ve used rifles before, but never a pistol.”
    “Don’t worry, it’s not hard to pick up.”
    They were interrupted by the arrival of Mrs. Carver, carrying what from the smell had to be a beef pot pie. “The main course is ready.” She set the dish on the table, where it joined several sides that had already arrived. Mr. Carver assisted by pulling a chair out of her way.
    “That smells delicious!” Allison said.
    “Thank you.” Mrs. Carver gave her husband a teasing grin. “Gordon sometimes gets tired of beef pot pie, because I make it too often.”
    Mr. Carver rolled his eyes. “I have never said any such thing.” He held her chair as she sat down, then turned to his own.
    “No, but you thought it very loudly when I made it every day for a week.”
    “I did, but that’s different.” Mr. Carver took his own seat, and the rest followed his lead. “Anyone will get tired of even the best food eating it for an entire week.”
    “I was a little worried Allison would have had this already, you boys have my recipe.” Mrs. Carver looked around the table checking that everything was ready. “You have nothing but time on that ship, spending days in FTL the way you do.”
    “Not as much this time.” Tyrone shook his head. “Those seedlings needed a lot more attention than most of our cargo, I don’t think we scratch-made anything on this trip.”
    “Also we’re lazy,” Joseph added.
    Tyrone laughed. “It’s true.” Despite having all the time in the world between stops, they never seemed to get a lot done. Actual cooking, as opposed to precooked lasagna and simple meals, didn’t happen as often as it ought.
    The friendly banter halted for a moment and the group bowed their heads in prayer. Allison didn’t miss a beat; she had grown used to that ritual during the week in FTL. Tyrone wondered vaguely whether she would continue it on her own.
    When they had finished, they passed their plates one by one to Mrs. Carver, who dished a slice of pie onto each. Tyrone’s stomach growled as he reclaimed his plate and set it in front of him. Allison was right, it really did smell delicious. He and Joseph had attempted the recipe a few times, but it never came out as well as Mrs. Carver’s. They weren’t as practiced.
    “Where will you be going to look for an apartment?” Mrs. Carver changed the subject as they began passing the sides around the table. “There are some nice places in Hickory Tower, which is by our biggest dome. A lot of our married workers live there.” A smile stole across her face. “Usually because their wives wouldn’t live in the tiny, dated, low-rent dormer places they kept when they were single.”
    “So they have the official female seal of approval,” Allison chuckled. “I’d be interested in looking at them. I don’t think the last place I lived would have met that standard.” Allison directed a doubtful look at Joseph.
    “Not likely,” Joseph agreed, “although I never did see the inside.”
    “My room on Garden Variety Animal was a massive step up.”
    “Well, the Hickory Tower units are likely to be fairly similar to the ship. The size is scaled up a bit because there’s less need to conserve space,” Mrs. Carver commented. “They aren’t fancy, but they’re attractive places. Clean, in good repair, relatively new, and you don’t have to share any of the amenities with your neighbors. There are some common areas for get-togethers, but you don’t have to stand guard over your laundry.”
    Allison laughed. “Good, I always hated doing that. All of my clothes are new too, so I wouldn’t want to start losing them.”
    “They are?” Mrs. Carver looked up from her plate, startled. “I don’t think I heard that part of the story.” She gave her husband an angry look, but he only shrugged his ignorance of the matter.
    “You might not have.” Joseph knit his eyebrows, trying to remember exactly how much he’d told them. “She didn’t bring a lot of her things out with her when we went back. She was worried the property manager would try to stop her from leaving. With good reason, as it turns out. He did try, but he couldn’t run as fast as she could walk.”
    “I took her to get replacements when I was buying supplies,” Tyrone added.
    “Mm.” Mrs. Carver swallowed. “That explains a lot. Well, if you find you’re short of anything, stop by here before you go to the store. Our daughters could never bring themselves to throw away old clothes, but they’ve never bothered to come back and get them either. They were about your size then, so there’s probably some things that will fit you.”
    “Thank you. Are you sure that’s okay?”
    “They’ve been out of the house for years.” Mr. Carver waved his fork as though to brush the concern away. “They’ll never even notice. If they wanted any of those things, they would have collected them at some point. Besides, they’re busy with other things.”
    They returned to the subject of apartments for a while. Mr. and Mrs. Carver knew of a great many near their business holdings, and were happy to provide details about them. Tyrone mostly left the talking to the other four. He chimed in occasionally, but focused most of his attention on his food.
    “How large are the bedrooms on your ship?” Mr. Carver asked Joseph as they were discussing the size of the units in one building. Mr. Carver was of the opinion that they’d skimped on space when building it.
    “Not large. They did a fairly clever job of packing everything into the space, but there are limits to what you can do on a starship of our size. Every room does have an individual bathroom crammed into it though, including a shower. I still don’t understand why, I didn’t have my own bathroom growing up and I managed just fine. That section included, each one is still less than half the size of your dining room.”
    “Fairly small then,” Mr. Carver said. “I guess Allison will be getting more space no matter what she picks around here.”
    Allison gave a noncommittal shrug. “I never felt cramped on Garden Variety Animal, so I’m not too concerned about it.”
    “It might be nice to have your own kitchen, living room and whatnot though,” Joseph said. “Tyrone and I try to keep them clean, but we tend to let them get cluttered.”
    “That part will be cool, yeah.” Allison cut another bite of pie, shifting uncomfortably. “My apartment in Nevarris didn’t have much of that, so it will be fun to be able to set it all up the way I want. Once I have enough money for furniture, anyway. I’m honestly nervous about the whole thing. Being on my own again is a little frightening. It didn’t work out so well the first time, you know?”
    Tyrone’s gut gave a guilty twist. It hadn’t occurred to him that Allison might not want to be back out by herself just yet. Suddenly he wished he hadn’t talked quite so much about helping Allison find work on the station. He and Joseph hadn’t wanted to pressure her to stay here. He exchanged a look with his partner that told him Joseph was having the same regrets.
    “Well if you’re not ready you don’t have to stay here,” Tyrone said. “You can keep traveling with us for a while.”
    Allison shook her head. “I’d like to, but you and Joseph have already done more than enough for me. It’s not right to make you support me when I could be doing it myself. I can’t make you keep taking care of me just because I’m afraid.”
    “This won’t be anything like the first time.” Joseph patted her shoulder comfortingly. “Couradeen Station is very different from Nevarris. There are far more churches than strip clubs, and the police don’t tend to overlook people like the Temorran Kindred. You’ll be safe here.”
    “We’ll be here to look out for you too,” Mrs. Carver promised. “We’ll check in with you every day or two. Gordon put together a few job leads for you, and they’re all with long-time business associates of ours. Any of them will take good care of you. They’re decent folk, otherwise we wouldn’t still be in business with them.”
    “Joseph and Tyrone will be back here before too long as well.” Mr Carver grinned at the two pilots. “I’m their best customer.”
    Tyrone shrugged. “It’s true.” The farmer had been one of the first to hire them, the first to rehire them, and was either the recipient or the originator of nearly a quarter of Garden Variety Animal’s cargo.
    “They’ll be back here in about a month with another load for us.” Mr Carver frowned and scratched the back of his head. “You know, I can’t actually remember what it is. Do you?” He turned toward Tyrone.
    “What, are you going senile already?” Mrs. Carver feigned surprise, and the whole group laughed.
    “Well, if he is then so am I, because I can’t remember either,” Tyrone said. The seedlings were the most unusual cargo they had brought for him, but they’d brought plenty of others. Seeds, fertilizer, and equipment were the normal cargoes. “He’s right about the timing though, we’ll be back here within a month.”
    “If it turns out Couradeen Station isn’t the right place for you, don’t worry about it,” Joseph said. “We’ll take you on to someplace that suits you better.”
    “Thank you, all of you,” Allison said. “Knowing I have a support network I can trust this time makes it a lot easier to face.”
    “Is everyone finished eating?” Mrs. Carver asked, preventing an awkward silence. “I have some blueberry pie and ice cream for desert.”
    “That sounds great to me!” Tyrone said. “I am sensing a theme with the pies. You’re trying to get rid of the flour aren’t you?”
    “Perhaps,” she laughed as she stepped over to the kitchen, Joseph going along to help. It was separated from the dining area only by a large island, so they didn’t have to break off conversation. The blueberry pie was significantly smaller, but looked every bit as tasty as the main course.
    “Thank you for finding some job leads for Allison,” Joseph said to Mr. Carver. “That’ll save us a lot of legwork.”
    “You’re welcome. Did you see anything in them that interests you?” Mr. Carver had given the notes he’d taken on them to Allison on their way, and she’d already read through them once or twice.
    “A few things, yes,” she nodded. “All the names were different of course, but I recognized some of the business types from home. I think most of them are familiar enough that I can pick up the job quickly.”
    “Make sure your first stop is at the one most interesting to you,” Mr. Carver advised with a wink. “No matter which it is, it’s likely to be the easiest job interview you ever have. I explained to all of them why I was asking if they had entry-level openings. They gave me positions they knew would suit, and they’re all pretty much ready to hire you as soon as you walk through the door.”
    “Convenient,” Tyrone commented. “You’ll be on to apartments before two o’clock local time. Throw in the pre-approval letter that Immigration gave you and you should be on the shooting range by four.”
    “Pre-approval letter?” Mr. Carver repeated.
    “According to our case officer, most landlords will accept them in lieu of doing a normal background check and application process.” Tyrone accepted a plate of dessert as his partner and Mrs. Carver returned. “It basically says that the Immigration Department did all of those things already and confirmed they would pass whatever check the landlord would run.”
    “Although you and Joseph are on the hook for it if they’re wrong,” Allison said.
    “In this case yes, but only because we sponsored you for entry,” Joseph said. “Your rent is a minor concern in that regard, we’re on the hook for a lot more than that. Usually if they issue one the Immigration department is on the hook. Gary thought it would speed things along for us.”
    Tyrone nodded emphatically in agreement. He’d been unable to provide that explanation because of the bite of pie in his mouth.
    “I’m sure he’s right,” Mr. Carver said. “Landlords tend to be sticklers about knowing the background of the people they’re renting to. Nobody wants a tenant who’s going to trash the place. The process usually takes a couple of weeks.”
    “And it’s a good thing I can bypass it, because I don’t have a couple of weeks to wait,” Allison said.
    “Speaking of time, I probably ought to get moving.” Mr. Carver checked his watch an hastily ate his last bite of desert. “We still have a lot to do today in the domes. I’m hoping we can get most of those rubber seedlings in the ground today.”
    “Well, I wish you luck with that,” Joseph said. “We should get our errands accomplished too. Thank you both for lunch, it was excellent as always.”
    “You’re welcome,” Mrs. Carver said. “Allison, let us know where you settle on living. Maybe we can scare up some old furniture for you as well.”
    “Thank you,” Allison said. “I’ll be sure to do that.”

Published: April 15 2018

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© 2019 by Stephen Schamber