Part One: Patrolling Rusty
Jett had timed their music playlist so that the obscure, centuries-old song “Magic Carpet Ride” by Grandmaster Flash and The Furious Five was blasting in their Astral Patrol Squadron’s audio system just as they arrived at the outskirts of the huge and barren planet nicknamed Rusty, after its distinctive coloration. Only meters from the planet’s largest of three moons, her patrol partner and lover Amoret switched the squadron to essential power so they could hover around Rusty for the next 48 hours without exhausting excessive energy. Had Jett and Amoret not programmed plenty of music and assorted other entertainment before they hurtled off for their rotation of patrol duties, it would be two days of mind-shattering boredom guarding a planet that had nothing and no one on it nor any reason or resource to entice any entrepreneurial moron to break the laws of the Intergalactic Allied Nations (IAN, dripping with disdain). Then again, mind-shattering boredom was precisely what instigated their entire relationship shortly after Jett had been assigned to the equally humdrum J. Epps Space Station (JESS, affectionately) situated, seemingly, at the edge of the universe.
Amoret, slightly older and far more mature, lowered the volume of the funky jam, much to Jett’s displeasure. She openly expressed her feelings with a long face aimed at Amoret, which Amoret intentionally ignored. Jett knew it was because they had to carefully set the ship’s trajectory and log their arrival which always made her brain foggy and her eyelids heavy. When Jett, attempting to fob off the routine programming, released her seat belt and leaned over intending to playfully lick her partner’s cheek, Amoret silently warned her with a severe sidelong glance, leaving Jett hanging midway between them with her tongue out. Falling back into her chair and retracting her tongue, Jett grudgingly turned her attention to helping her mate set the ship for their planetary patrol orbit. Besides, the sooner they were done with it, the sooner they could have fun.
With a sigh, Amoret finished plugging the last sequence for their trajectory around the rust-colored sphere and leaned back in her pilot’s seat, stretching out her long legs as she raked her fingers through her straight, shoulder-length hair. Jett had left a rather sarcastic arrival log in the computer and clicked the “save” option, then glanced over her shoulder at Amoret with a mischievous smile. Her partner gave a small laugh that didn’t sound as enthusiastic as it normally did whenever they ran these patrols together and Jett thought maybe she was tired. Jett pushed herself out of her chair, straddling herself over Amoret’s legs as she leaned forward and pressed the button the pilot’s seat that made it recline. Amoret half grinned wearily, shaking her head, but didn’t protest. She watched as Jett unzipped her black flight suit and pulled her arms out of the long sleeves, letting the top half of it dangle from her waist. Underneath the flight suit, she had on a purple racerback tank that left her slim black bra-straps exposed on her shoulders.
“You are very tempting, but not this time, OK?” Amoret tugged on the hem of Jett’s tank, and gave her hips a squeeze.
Feeling perplexed and embarrassed as she sat on Amoret’s lap with her uniform halfway off, Jett stood up, muttering a meek apology. Making out in the pilot’s chair had become such a ritual for them on every patrol that Jett reckoned she must have taken the privilege for granted. Amoret made a point of frowning and reached for Jett’s hand as she watched her.
“Oh, sweetie, don’t pout and sulk,” she said with a tilt of her head.
Jett wanted to complain that she wasn’t a child, but she brushed the affront aside, and adjusted her face to a more playful expression as she leaned over and upped the music volume. She began to sway to the new song, swinging her arms at her sides, and nibbling on her lower lip.
“Wanna dance with me instead?”
Raising the back of the pilot’s chair to its original upright position, Amoret stretched her legs again. She looked at Jett apologetically with a tilt of her head. Hesitating as she opened her mouth to say something, she closed it with a grimace and a small breath through her nose.
“Jett, these oldies you love so much are about to drive me insane.”
Shocked, Jett couldn’t believe how Amoret was acting on this patrol. She’d never complained about the music before. Previously, she’d always seemed to enjoy laughing and dancing with Jett, singing along as they zipped out into the black of space in their little silver mechanical bubble of a ship toward their assigned zone. Even though Jett had often asked if she wanted to listen to anything different, Amoret always told her to play whatever she preferred. Jett’s heart sank thinking about all the ancient 20th and 21st century songs that she had meticulously programmed for their trip which, apparently, her girlfriend had suddenly grown tired of. She was rendered speechless and stopped swaying her arms while she stood there in silence, staring at Amoret as she bit her lip harder.
Pushing herself into a standing position, Amoret’s raven bob fell forward over her shoulder as she bent her lanky body over and retrieved a slim satchel resting alongside the base of her chair. Feeling Jett’s questioning stare burning into her, she looked up with a small smile and put her hand on Jett’s arm. Jett felt her heart sink into her stomach, and she glanced away from Amoret’s pitying gaze.
“Actually, I have an important exam this week, and I was thinking I could use this patrol to get in some study time,” Amoret placed a hand on her satchel as if to indicate the reading material she’d brought with her.
Jett’s face brightened a little bit at that. “Oh, are you going to take the lieutenant’s exam?”
“That’s the one,” Amoret nodded, looking weirdly relieved and worried at the same time.
“Why didn’t you say something!” Jett exclaimed, feeling happy and excited for her career-focused girlfriend. “I could quiz you, or whatever you need me to do to help you pass.”
Amoret gave a small laugh at Jett’s enthusiasm. “Sweetie, first I have to read the material. But you could help just by giving me some quiet time and take care of the logs.”
Jett blew out a breath, nodding. “Right, of course. Quiet and logs. I got it.”
Amoret knew that Jett hated doing the logs, and she raised her eyebrows, worried about exactly how Jett was going to carry that out. “And you’ll do them per regulation, right? I won’t have to review them, will I?”
Opening her mouth in offense, Jett scoffed. “I got it, Amoret. I’ll take care of it. I’m gonna log the logs right.”
“Aw, baby, I know I can count on you,” Amoret put an arm around Jett’s shoulders and pulled her close for a hug. She moved in for a kiss and even though Jett tried to kiss her lips, Amoret planted a quick smooch at the corner of her mouth, wanting to avoid getting sucked into an extended kissing session. Jett gave her a grin that looked more like a sneer, squeezing Amoret in a hug, still hopeful she would get a bit of affection before being stuck on her own. But her partner just smiled and withdrew her arm as she walked away.
Jett watched her pull a built-in stainless-steel table from the far wall followed by releasing a matching seat just adjacent to it. The seat had a backrest folded in half and Amoret lifted it, clicking it into a locked position. Then she took a blue rectangular computer tablet out of her satchel and propped it up with its attached stand, hanging the satchel behind the seat on a hook that also extended from the wall when depressed. Powering the tablet on and touching a few buttons on the screen, a light emanated from its base, projecting a keyboard image on the silver table. The keys glowed each time Amoret’s fingers touched one, registering her quick movements. She didn’t offer any further attention or conversation, so Jett sighed, slapping her hands on her thighs soundlessly as she looked dejectedly at the ship’s main console and the universe’s most boring planet looming outside the windshield.