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Published: August 26 2018

    Happiness flooded Tyrone’s mind as he floated into semi-wakefulness. Why was he so happy? There was a reason, but he couldn’t call it immediately to mind. It came back between heartbeats as Justine shifted slightly in her sleep. Feelings of contentment associated only with her seeped through him as he caught the scent of her hair.
    Did he need to get up yet? He opened one eye to check the clock, and saw it was four in the morning. That was far too early to get up today. Sleep returned almost as soon as he established that.
    When he next opened his eyes, it was just before six. More sleep would be nice, but there were still plenty of boxes at the apartment to move. They ought to get a reasonably early start. Careful not to disturb his wife, he slipped from the covers and into the small bathroom at the back of their quarters.
    Justine was awake by the time he finished, waiting for her turn in the shower. She stopped him for a kiss before he could walk past, tossing her things toward the bathroom to get them out of her hands. “I’ll head to the kitchen and get breakfast going,” he said. She nodded and released him.
    Coffee supplanted breakfast as the top priority when he got to the kitchen, because none was ready yet. Joseph must be sleeping better. Before long he had a large pan of scrambled eggs cooking as well, various vegetables they had lying around chopped into it for flavor. There was plenty of work to do today, a good breakfast could only help.
    Justine arrived only a few minutes after the food was ready, her still-wet hair hanging haphazardly down her back. She was working on it with a brush as she walked. “Oh good, you’re done,” she said when she spotted Tyrone scooping the eggs onto plates.
    “Got hungry in the shower?” Tyrone asked. He gave her a teasing smile.
    “I was already hungry, I just wasn’t listening to my stomach yet. I was hungrier than I thought I would be. We worked hard yesterday, so it probably shouldn’t have surprised me.”
    “We’ll be doing it again today.” They prayed and began to eat, and there still was no sign of Joseph. When he finally did arrive, he hurried to fetch his own plate and pour some coffee.
    “Change of plans.” He set his food on the table and shoveled in the first few bites before explaining. “Spacedock just called, they want to start working on Garden Variety Animal at eight.”
    Tyrone’s pace quickened as well. It was already a bit past seven. “Why did they change the schedule?”
    “I didn’t get a full explanation, but they need our original time slot for a rush job. The ship they were going to work on in our bay this morning will be easier to work on at moor than us, so they got moved outside and we got moved up.”
    “Did you mention they’ve disrupted our entire plan for the day?”
    “No,” Joseph laughed. “Usually we’re thrilled to be bumped ahead like that, and the tech that called remembers us. He was excited, thought he’d be doing us a big favor. I didn’t want to dampen his enthusiasm right before he works on our ship.”
    “Well, the change still helps us,” Justine said. “We won’t have to worry about getting out on time tomorrow.”
    “Nope, now we just have to rearrange our whole agenda for today,” Tyrone grumbled. “It figures that the one time we actually didn’t want a quicker turnaround is the time they’re able to squeeze us in early.”
    “Life is like that,” Joseph agreed. “Did we secure everything we moved aboard yesterday? We don’t want that stuff banging around during maneuvers.”
    “No, we didn’t. I’ll see about that after I finish eating.”
    “Alright. Once that’s done, would the two of you mind running to Tubman’s Armory to pick up our replacement missiles? I’d still like to load them while we’re sitting in the docking bay. I’ll fly the ship over so they can get started.”
    “Sure, not a problem,” Tyrone said. Justine nodded agreement. If they didn’t get that done in the docking bay, it would be an enormous pain later. Loading missiles was much easier in a docking bay with gravity turned off than on a space walk at moor.
    “Will we be able to come back to the same moor once repairs are finished?” Justine asked.
    “Yes, I requested it through tomorrow morning in case there are delays on the Sternwood docks and we can’t be loaded overnight,” Tyrone answered.
    “Good thinking. I hoped so. We can drop the missiles off for Joseph to load, then go back to the apartment and start moving the rest of our boxes into this gangway. Once the ship is back, all we’ll have to do is shove them through the door.”
    “Good thinking,” Tyrone repeated, his mood brightening a little. “Never thought of that, maybe the schedule change will work in our favor.”
    “I think it did,” Joseph agreed. “Now we don’t have to balance keeping someone at spacedock with the ship against meeting with this PICTA fellow.”
    “Also, now I won’t have to stand around a noisy docking bay loading missiles.” Tyrone gave his partner a triumphant smirk.
    Joseph gave it right back. “And I won’t have to haul boxes of your possessions two hundred yards to the ship.”
    Justine rolled her eyes. “Yeah yeah, less chores all around, it’s great. I’m going to go finish getting ready. When you’re through trying to one-up each other about it, let me know and we can go get some of them done.” She deposited her dishes and headed for the couple’s quarters while the two men grinned at each other.
    “She’s probably right,” Joseph said. “Let’s get to work.”
    Everything was completed with plenty of time to spare. Tyrone found himself in the L-shaped gangway of the moor with Justine, watching through the large viewing windows as Joseph backed their vessel away and turned her toward the upper ring. Jospeh would soon watch him sail Garden Variety Animal away permanently. Neither was ever reluctant to trust the other with the ship. Would that change when each had their own ship?
    A warm hand slid into his, and Justine leaned her head on his shoulder. “Another nice thing about this schedule change is that we don’t have to hurry. Joseph won’t be able to load missiles for another forty-five minutes, and it won’t take us nearly that long to bring them there. We can take a nice, leisurely walk through the station.”
    Leisurely was an apt description of how they walked too, hand in hand and not in any hurry. The route to the repair dock couldn’t be much shorter than it was, and Tubman’s Armory was on the way. Orson Station was much smaller than Couradeen Station, and travel relied more on feet than vehicles. The furthest a destination could be from you was about a mile and a half.
    Early as it was, the station was already alive with activity. The conversations groups of people had as they walked into, out of and past businesses made the busy commercial corridors buzz. The halls of Orson Station were brightly lit, and the glowing signs in the shop windows eliminated most of the remaining shadows.
    “Hey, did you and Joseph fix the set of cargo bay doors that was jammed?” Justine asked as they walked past an electronics store. “I only saw the thruster replacements on the documents for the insurance claim.”
    “Those and all the other incidentals, like the broken lights,” Tyrone said. “We thought about trying to get some of the thrusters working again, but we didn’t have the parts and didn’t need them for the trip back. If we got them running they’d only fail again, and insurers don’t like amateur mechanic work by owners.”
    They also didn’t pay for expended munitions. Replacement of the missiles and all the ammunition used up in the fight with the pirates was up to them. He wished they hadn’t had to use up so much, the missiles in particular were pricy. Their purchase at the at the armory ate up most of the profit from the trip. Fortunately the corridors into the rings were less traveled, because he and Justine left pulling nearly half a ton of ammunition each on flatbed carts with large, well-greased wheels.
    “I’m glad Joseph has to load all of this instead of us,” Justine said. “I knew how much you had used up, but this brings it home a little more.”
    “We really ate through a lot. It turned out alright though.”
    “I’m glad I’m going to be with you now. You two have gotten into trouble a lot this month. I’ll be here to stop you for the last few trips before we buy the new freighter.”
    Tyrone frowned. “Well, we have gotten into trouble, but I don’t know that you would have stopped us either time.” Justine did not answer immediately.
    “Maybe not,” she admitted. “Twice in one month is just a little much. I can usually count on a few months of uneventful trips between crazy adventures. Joseph is getting a little out of hand.”
    “It’s not all down to Joseph, dear. Neither of us made the decision to go hunt down that distress signal, we just went. It never has been either, nobody could have predicted that time we were attacked by pirates ourselves, and I planned the course that time.”
    “Well, one of you came up with a plan to attack a warship, brought a strange girl on board the ship, and nearly got involved in a turf war between gangs. All of those were Joseph, and that’s not even an exhaustive list.”
    “Okay, you can’t count the turf war thing,” Tyrone protested. “Nobody from the Teton Sector would expect a bunch of fourteen year olds to be foot soldiers in a gang.”
    “Most people also wouldn’t try to break up a fist fight between random teenagers on someone else’s dock.”
    “Fair, but you might want to pick different examples for the other two. Those were times he was actually right. Allison could be dead, or frankly worse, if Joseph hadn’t offered her a way out.”
    “What if she had turned out to be a drug addict, a thief, or any of a thousand other possible criminals who would have taken advantage of you two?”
    “Well, I don’t know, she didn’t. She turned out to be a nice farm girl who fell in with the wrong crowd. Joseph was pretty sure she wasn’t any of those things.”
    “Joseph isn’t the best judge of people, and you know it. Allison turned out to be fine, but if she hadn’t it wouldn’t be the first time. Except this time you’d be stuck with her on the ship for at least a week. Garden Variety Animal doesn’t have a brig.”
    “Because Joseph got involved, Allison is safe and reasonably happy on Couradeen Station. Maybe she would have gotten out of it on her own, she was ready to try, but the chance of success wasn’t good. Without Joseph’s offer, she would probably have been sold to God only knows what destination to be abused.”
    “Yes, and thank God she wasn’t, but you had no idea what the outcome would be at the time. Same thing when you attacked the corvette.”
    “We saved the lives of eight people,” Tyrone protested. That decision had been his as well, so he was more motivated to defend it. “More, that corvette could have destroyed a lot more ships before anyone else managed to stop them.”
    “Again, thank God for that, and I’m not saying you shouldn’t have done it.” Justine paused for a breath to continue, but stopped, biting her lip. When she continued, it was in a quieter tone. “I’m glad you helped all of these people, I just hope that when we have a family on that ship you won’t take some of the risks you’re fine with now.”
    He had no good response for that. Not acting on a plan that held such promise to save lives was too horrible to contemplate. To take his wife and children into that kind of danger was too irresponsible to contemplate.
    The same conflict between responsibilities consumed Joseph’s mind right now. Regret of inaction against consequences of action. Joseph had always leaned toward action, and hang the consequences. Now he saw a need to change that behavior, and it was a painful struggle to figure out which was the right course.
    “I don’t think I will be.” Tyrone’s reply came after several corridors’ worth of pondering. “A repeat of what Joseph and I did there, with kids aboard? That’s not going to happen. I don’t think I would have done it with just you aboard, either. I just hope it never comes up again, because it would chill me worse than a month-long space walk to stand by and watch it happen.”
    She reached over to grip his shoulder. “Chances of that happening again are slim, especially once we stop doing unaffiliated routes. Joseph takes big risks on big things. I just don’t want us to take risks the same way, even on less heavy things.”
    “That doesn’t seem like too much to ask,” Tyrone agreed. “I’ve thought about what separates us a lot the past week or so. Joseph is worried about his behavior too. We talked about it a little on the way back here, but it made me realize that even on sensible things he’s always been the big risk-taker.”
    “True, work on trade routes in unaffiliated space was his idea, and so was the ore hauler. You originally just wanted to work in Teton Sector space, didn’t you?”
    “Yeah, it’s a profitable business to be in and looked like a stable lifestyle,” Tyrone said. Joseph was always the one to come up with the next big thing. I think he likes the adventure of it. Even with his tendency to get into trouble, I think his obligation to us kept us out of even more.”
    “It’s a good time for him to notice it then. The ore hauler will mark a major goal achieved, and that obligation will be a weaker influence now. Better if something else keeps him cautious as well instead of just obligation to his new crew.”

Chapter 33: Together Again

By Stephen Schamber

In A Starship's Wake

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