[Episode 13 of a spin-off from my novels The Hitch-hiker and
Mission of the Unwilling.]
Monica. Mon-i-ca. Monica, Monica, Monica.
Darn it! That girl triggers me. What is it with those lo-o-ng legs and short short mini skirt? And Monica-cino? Who does she think she is? Oh, and did I mention her problems?
I clenched my fists. Where does that girl get off? I mean, Liesel puts on a brave face. She’s a good sport. Says Mario’s nothing to her now; no, less than nothing, a cockroach for choosing Monica over her. But I sense, with my empathic powers, that she hurts.
But was Mario enough for Monica? No, apparently not. I glanced at the Captain, a contented smile on his lips as he basked in the glow of Jupiter. I knew why he had that smile. That emotion had slipped past the keeper. Darn it, Monica!
How does she do it? Some would say she attracts men like bees to honey; I like to think flies to a … Or as Minna used to say, “Do you reckon it’s a Boris thing?”
‘Coffee? Most honourable Captain? …Holly? Holly? Yoo-hoo! Holly?’ Cup thrust in front of my face. ‘Your wakey, wakey, get up and smell the…’ Sniff! Sniff! ‘Mochaccino…mmm…mocca—’
‘Sorry, Nathan, have you got anything besides a Monica-cino?’
Nathan chuckled. ‘Sorry, Holly, the Captain took the last Cappuccino.’
‘Pity, oh, well,’ grabbing the cup, I whispered to Nathan, ‘had enough of Monica to last a lifetime.’
‘There’s just so much Monica that one can take.’
Nathan turned to Fahrer. ‘Captain, just checking, as your 2-i-C, that since our rendezvous with the Sister Ship is complete, that we proceed with our mission on the Little Sister Ship to scout out Boris’ hideout.’
Fahrer stared at Jupiter’s red spot and nodded.
‘We are proceeding through the red spot worm hole to reconnoitre the planetary system of Betelgeux for signs of Boris and his cockroaches, are we not?’
The Captain nodded.
‘Is that a “yes we are”? Or “Yes, you heard me” nod?’
Fahrer shifted his whole body to face Nathan. ‘Well, what do you think, Nathan?’
Nathan shrugged. ‘Based on…Oh, forget it!’
The Captain flicked his hand at him. ‘Leave, will you. I’m concentrating!’
‘I’ll go and check the pods then.’ As Nathan passed me he muttered, ‘Can’t say I didn’t try.’
Nathan leant closer. ‘Did you sense anything?’
I glanced at Fahrer. ‘Nup, except that you annoyed him.’
‘I can see that.’ Nathan shook his dreadlocked head and left the bridge.
I gazed at the door as it slid shut. Why didn’t I sense what Fahrer was feeling or thinking? What’s wrong with me?
I sipped the liquid from the travel cup. Grimacing, I gulped down the liquid that had the taste and consistency of dirty dishwater with lumps in it. ‘Nathan!’ I yelled through the inter com, ‘The coffee machine is broken again!’
‘I don’t know what your problem is, Holly, my coffee’s perfect,’ Fahrer said.
We plunged through the stormy red spot of Jupiter; a centuries-old hurricane to the observers on Earth, but to Star travellers, a worm hole in a constant state of flux. Intelligence from ISF headquarters suggested Boris and his fleet of cockroaches lurked on the outskirts of Betelgeux, a red supergiant about to explode into a supernova.
Fahrer remained aloof and guarded, sipping his perfect coffee. How dare he! No one ever ignored the Hol! From birth, I was the star of the show, blonde, cute, belle blue eyes and an outgoing personality. Daddy’s little girl; his favorite. Once I overheard my mother say to a friend that I was the prettier one, as she compared me to my sister. My sister Kate was the plain one according to my mother. Poor Kate. How she scored Dan, I’ll never understand.
And…how could Fahrer show no interest in me? I found that fact alone unfathomable. How come he only ever noticed my existence when finding fault? His pedantic picking knew no limits; he judged my piloting prowess, manners, you name it and he would oblige by picking on it. I sympathised with my late cousin Minna bullied at school. Now it was pick-on-Holly-time. My father’s argument echoed: ‘Minna brought the bullying on herself.’ Yes, that’s reasonable, I thought at the time. Minna took life so seriously. We stayed at her place, in Adelaide, in 1986, just before Kate’s wedding. During homework on her German, she threw her pencils at Kate because she dared to give her advice on how to memorize the vocabulary. What a temper Minna had! I suppose I was only eleven at the time, and she was under a lot of pressure studying for her final exams. Kate said Minna had got into trouble for sneaking out of the house the previous weekend to meet a boy and getting drunk. Still, Minna was my favourite cousin. Until now…
How could I get him to notice me? I purposely made mistakes, and did obvious little offences, “F-pars” as I called them, to attract Fahrer’s attention. I wanted him to notice me, desperate for him look in my general direction. Anything to detract from the monotony of travelling through space. You think space travel is this all-exciting adventure, but it’s not. Just a road trip, really, but in space. Oh, why won’t he acknowledge that I exist? Why does he torment me? The only time he let me into his world, was to criticize me.
I operated the computer programme as part of piloting and navigating. However, I programmed my way, which still reached the same result and the same reaction from Fahrer who would say, ‘This is not the way you programme! The computer does not need to say a friendly “hello” when you start it up.’ Or if I decided that we would take an alternate route, the scenic route so to speak, he would inevitably say, ‘That’s not the way to go! You always must take the shortest possible path between two points. What is this scenic route business? We are not a science ship!’ His hands would fly up in the air and threaten to take over. I tried not to react. After a hard day’s work on the bridge, Liesel and I would giggle like school girls over the latest rattling of Fahrer. After a shift-taking, having used all my energy and will-power not to weep, I coped by laughing.
Everyone else in the crew, even Clarke, the robot, considered my personal touches amusing, brightening the tedium of trekking through the vast vacuum of space. I began to programme the computer to play music throughout the ship to enliven atmosphere. No music and all silence made the Little Sister metal cage a morgue. Occasionally a really jazzy piece of music would play and sitting in the pilot’s seat, I bopped along to the beat. Fahrer would glare at me and snap, ‘Stop that noise!’ and the music to stop.
Sometimes I deliberately cast aside my boiler-gravity suit, donned my sports shorts and t-shirt, and floated. I love that floating feeling, bouncing and rolling around the corridors and cabin. Soon the rest of the crew, Fahrer as the exception to the rule, would engage in free-form anti-gravity happy hours. Friday night, Clarke would stream music compilations from the tapes found in Trigger (a car belonging to John, Minna’s late brother and friend of the crew) and we would fly, bounce and anti-gravity dance to the beat. It was cool! Space travel was so much more fun than I had ever imagined it would be. For a time, I’d forget about the Captain.
© Lee-Anne Marie Kling 2018
Feature Photo: Sellicks Beach Sky © L.M. Kling 2018
Want more? More than before? Don’t just listen to the rumours of the war on Boris, read it for yourself. Find out where Boris is lurking and why. And what mischief that alien cockroach you will grow to love to hate gets up to. Check out my novels on Amazon and in Kindle. Click on the links below: