Authors: Maria Hammarblad
Copyright © 2015 Maria Hammarblad
Cover image: Dreamstime.com:Philcold
This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead is entirely coincidental. Characters and places are either a product of the author’s imagination or used fictitiously.
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The large ship ahead looked festive.
Space was so dark, and the Bell glittered like a diamond with her lit up windows.
I still didn’t want to go. Too much happened to us there, and the past few weeks of shore leave with my husband had been the best of my life.
Adam lifted his hands from the controls and let our shuttle coast. He had an eerie ability to read my moods, even though he was an android. Or maybe because of it.
“Are you okay?”
I sighed. “Do we have to go?”
“Alex, you know I do. You don’t. Or, well, we can run away if you want. Find some planet out of the way where they won’t think to look for me.”
Good points. Leaving the space-navy or boy scouts or whatever his organization were would be frowned upon. Not returning when called for would probably get him court marshaled.
I wasn’t sure what such a thing would entail, but nothing good would come of it.
He smiled, clearly trying to cheer me up. “Don’t you want to get back to work?”
Adam’s voice was the epitome of patience. “If my memory serves me right, which it does since I’m an android, my wife is the utmost expert on the history of the late 20
century to early 21
Hardly an impressive accomplishment since I was
in the late 20
century. Recognizing gadgets, describing languages, politics, and other aspects of society was easy since I lived there for most of my life. Adam helped. He had been in 2014 for six months, and as he just pointed out, his memory was perfect.
He’d still be in my time if I hadn’t gotten myself shot and killed. He saw an opportunity to bring me to 2577 where I could be revived, and when I woke up I was on a spaceship almost six hundred years in the future. I was alive, but unable to go home.
He looked amused. “You might not consider it a big deal, but imagine if you ran into a person from ancient Egypt. Wouldn’t you be curious?”
Valid point. I was a walking and talking artifact to the people of the 26
century. Without Adam’s protection I’d be their favorite toy to poke and prod. They gave it a good shot, and he had to marry me to keep them from taking me.
Work aside, the Bell held our family and friends.
“So, what do you want me to do?”
Adam’s voice shook me out of my thoughts. If I told him to turn the shuttle around he would, no matter the long-term consequences to himself.
I couldn’t let him do that.
“Full speed ahead, Commander. Take us home.”
“That’s the spirit.” He glanced over at me. “How about, we solve whatever crisis they found and resume shore leave? I have seven hundred and sixty two days saved up.”
“Seven hundred… Two years? You have
worth of unused shore leave?”
He shrugged. “The same rules apply to me as to everyone else. I just never had a reason to leave the ship before.”
How many days did they get in a year? How many years had he just worked, worked, and worked?
Better not think too much about it.
I kept my eyes on the window as we left space behind and entered a huge bay. We had gone through the force field that separated the inside of the Bell from space so many times, but seeing it never got old. I couldn’t see it when looking straight ahead, but it glittered when allowing the shuttle to pass.
The idea of being in a large hangar with the bay doors open and this flimsy energy shield being the only thing separating us from space both frightened and fascinated me.
I wasn’t an adventurer. I would never have chosen this life, but most of the time it wasn’t too bad. The large spaceship had become home when I needed one, and it was the only one we had.
Adam landed between two other shuttles in a long row. The bay always made me think of metal birds just waiting to fly out and explore.
He glanced over and lifted an eyebrow. “You’re really okay?”
I probably didn’t look the part.
“Yes.” I nodded to emphasize the word and calm his worries. “Are you?”
We left the Bell just a few weeks earlier, after his evil sister took over the ship, forced him to commit unspeakable acts, and set him on fire.
I missed most of
battle since I was kidnapped at the time. I returned to a wreck, both in terms of the ship and my husband.
Good thing he was an android, or it wouldn’t have ended as well. It was still difficult.
I don’t know if androids can have PTSD, but if they can, he does. I probably do too.
I spent months waking up in the middle of the nights, screaming and fighting invisible enemies. Leaving was a final attempt at self-preservation for both our sakes, and now we were back.
Being home might be good, but I doubted it.
Adam’s fingers danced over the console, faster than any human could have executed the commands. He powered down the shuttle before answering.
“I think I will be. Returning was the logical choice.”
Our Captain had called for us and we were needed. Adam
to respond. Ignoring the call would have made him a deserter.
We left the shuttle side by side. Strange that no one came to meet us. I had been sure at least John, my father in law, would be there. Whatever was up must keep everyone really busy.
Unless he left when we did. He didn’t get along all that well with the Confederacy or its military protocols, but life on the Bell without him seemed a gloomy prospect.
He might have thought the same about life there without us, but I hoped he was still there.
Adam said, “I guess I should go find a uniform and report for duty.”
He didn’t sound enthusiastic. I assumed I was the only one not ready to return to our regular way of life, but maybe he felt the same.
I nodded and we walked side by side to the lift. I reached my hand out to him and he took it, giving my fingers a gentle squeeze.
Surreal. So much had happened, and the ship looked just like it always did. The pleasant corridors held tasteful decorations, and it didn’t take much imagination to visualize an expensive hotel.
Our apartment looked the same too. I kicked my shoes off and dropped into my favorite corner of the sofa.
Adam disappeared into the bedroom and reappeared moments later, buttoning the shirt of his uniform.
Civilian Adam was gone.
Adam, commander of a starship was back.
We’d only been away for three weeks, but I had forgotten that my husband in uniform was
One advantage of being back.
“Are you in a hurry?”
He gave a slight shrug. “My sense of duty says yes, but you corrupted
a long time ago. Why?”
I stood up and brushed an imaginary speck of dust from his chest.
“Nothing. You just look so good in this I want to take it off.”
He laughed and gave me a tender kiss.
“How ‘bout I keep that in mind and try to hurry back?”
to hurry back.”
“I always do. There’s nowhere I’d rather be.”
I didn’t expect to see Adam again for many hours, but he called me on the radio after less than ten minutes.
“Alex, would you mind coming to the Captain’s office?”
I did mind. The top floor was dedicated to work. Stray passengers like myself had no business there and it intimidated me.
I couldn’t say
. If they wanted me up there it had to be important.
My body gave the same reaction as always in the lift up: panic. I couldn’t recall even one time when visiting the upper floor led to something good. Adam could suppress his emotions and sometimes I envied him.
didn’t fear the top floor of course, but I did.
The office door opened to John thundering, “My girlfriend is not property.”
I knew everyone in the room, except for a man with dark hair and glasses. Did people really wear glasses in this day and age? I hadn’t seen a pair since I left my own time. Maybe it was vanity, an attempt to make himself look smarter.
The stranger winced, but stood his ground.
Adam came over to stand next to me, and Anya closed in on the other side. I reached out for her hand and she took it. My friend was a surprisingly solid hologram. She might not be a person in the strictest sense of the word, but she was my best friend, and she had always been there for me.
Our captain, Blake Jones, crossed his arms. “We’ve been through this before. It started with Adam, and we went to court to establish his rights. Then you tried to take his wife. Now you want our counselor. These people are key members of my crew, I won’t accept any more of this.”
Off duty he was a good friend and I spent many evenings chatting with him and his wife Ima; the ship’s catlike medical officer. On duty he held an air of authority that could strike fear into anyone. Right now I was grateful to see it.
The man opened his mouth but John cut him off. “No. I said no. You can’t have her.”
I didn’t have to be overly smart to figure out what was going on.
Anya clutched my hand and I held on to hers. In my old life, back in my own time I might have argued that a computer was a computer, but now I knew better. Anya and Adam might not be the same as I was, but that didn’t mean they weren’t people. Individuals. In the end, the world was filled with people trying to fit in and make a home, and they were no different.
The stranger turned to stare at me. “You. You’re Alexandra Marie Smith.”
He spit my full name out. Whoever he was, he was clearly aggravated beyond civility.
“Yes I am. And who might you be?”
“Joshen Martinez. Are you happy in your little sham marriage to the bucket of bolts?”
I slapped him.
My act made everyone in the room fall silent. Peace and quiet at last.
I should probably take the opportunity now when I had everyone’s attention.
“You will never call my husband anything like that again.” I stepped forward, feeling quite content with him taking a step back. “You think Adam and Anya are machines, but they are people, just as alive as you are. Maybe more alive than you. You’re just a small-minded pathetic little figure who poses as a scientist and fears everything he doesn’t understand.”
I took another step forward and he took another step back, almost walking into John.
“I love my husband. He loves me. I’m pretty sure the concept of love surpasses your understanding of reality, but John loves Anya, Anya loves John, I love both of them, and you need to stop this shit.”
John bent forward, towering over Martinez.
“What she said.” He made the words sound like a growl.
Blake said, “Okay. He gets it. You four, out of here.”
Martinez went for the door too. Blake said, “Oh no. We’re not done yet.”
In the corridor, Adam crossed his arms and shook his head. “Nothing changes.”
Anya clutched my hand again. “They won’t take me, right?”
John said, “Of course not. But maybe we should take a little tour in my ship just to be on the safe side.”
“I can’t leave without the Captain’s permission.”
He put a hand on her back and pushed towards the elevator. “We’ll see what happens, okay?”
I lingered next to Adam, wanting to give the others some privacy. He stopped by the door to the bridge.
“I have to go, but I’ll be home soon. See if you can find out what else is going on.”
I didn’t want him to go. I yearned to get on John’s ship and leave, just the four of us. Telling him
would just make him depressed.
“I have a question, Commander.”
He met my eyes and smiled. “And what might that be?”
“Is kissing allowed on the command deck?”
“If it isn’t, I think we can make an exception.”
He put his hands on my hips and inched me closer, brushing his lips against mine, teasing, before giving me a real kiss. It made my legs feel weak and I didn’t even hear the Captain’s door open further down the corridor.
I did hear Blake clear his throat, and Martinez said, “Oh.”
Adam pulled back, but didn’t release his grip on me.
“I should go in here.”
“I guess. If it’s necessary.” I stood on my toes and whispered, “Or you could come home and take all my clothes off.”
He smiled and held my gaze. “I’ll be there as soon as I can.”