Looking for Love on the NebulaNet

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All Apologies

The tension teeming inside the ship was palpable as Amoret steamed silently in her anger as she worked deftly at the main console attempting to resolve Jett’s error. When she felt the ship come to a standstill, Jett’s heart sank because then she knew her mistake was serious. They had never come to a full stop in orbit before.

“Amoret, I’m really sorry,” Jett said, clutching her face with her hands and looking at Amoret for a reaction. She didn’t know whether Amoret was too absorbed in working the console controls or if she were purposefully ignoring her, but she only received a reply of silence.

There were questions cycling through Jett’s mind that she refrained from asking because she didn’t want to disturb Amoret’s concentration. She wanted to know what Amoret was doing and how she was going to find the capsule, or if she would be able to find the capsule, and what would happen if she didn’t. Jett worried that if they didn’t retrieve the capsule, it would affect Amoret’s ability to be promoted even if she passed the exam. Then she worried that giving Amoret stress over the capsule would impact her performance on the exam—Amoret could have been spending the time studying instead of fixing the mess that Jett had created.

She wanted to cry because she felt so mortified, but that would only make Amoret even angrier and she’d send Jett down below because she wouldn’t want to hear it and thought crying was juvenile. So, even though her face was reddened with her humiliation and her eyes were stinging, she just bit her lips and squeezed her eyes shut to hold back the salty tears. All she could do was wait until Amoret said something one way or another.

It took awhile to figure out, but she realized that Amoret was running perimeter scans around the known coordinates searching for the capsule. After over an hour of fruitless scans with Amoret’s fingers visibly shaking as they hovered over the controls, waiting for each result, the computer finally made a chirp of affirmation. Amoret was moving through the commands so quickly that Jett couldn’t keep track of what she was doing. But soon Jett saw the familiar blue stream in the distance outside the window and she knew that Amoret had managed to retrieve the capsule.

Jett let out a long silent breath as she relaxed all her clenched muscles. She thought, as she often did, how amazing Amoret was: beautiful and brilliant. And extremely angry.

Despite Amoret’s anger, Jett was surprised that she was so quiet. She didn’t have her usual chastising words or her lists of demands and expectations that she expected Jett to follow through with in penance. She didn’t even flash her glowering, dark eyes at Jett. Instead, she got up with her silent fury emanating from her body like an aura and walked to the back of the ship to shut down her tablet before putting it away. Jett watched her disappear down the stairs to the deck below. Unsure what else to do, Jett waited in her chair, careful not to touch anything lest she dig herself into a deeper hole, until Amoret came back to the main console smelling and looking refreshed.

Amoret had made it clear that her study-time was over and that she was resuming responsibility of their duties. Jett wanted to tell her that she could manage the other tasks without issue, but she didn’t think Amoret was bound to be receptive to that suggestion. She sat bouncing her heel as quietly as possible, waiting for instructions from her partner.

“Put your seatbelt on.” Amoret’s words, when they finally came, were like ice as she pulled her own belt across her midsection.

Jett tried to follow the order, but her seatbelt kept getting locked as she tugged on it. Amoret was busy firing up the engines again and thankfully didn’t see the vexed expressions on Jett’s face accompanied by silent cursing while she attempted to coerce the seatbelt into submission. She couldn’t believe she was so useless that she couldn’t put her safety restraints on properly!

With some miniscule fortune granted upon her, the restraint finally clicked into place just as the engines were ready and Amoret turned back with lasers in her eyes to check that Jett was secure in her seat. Jett half-heartedly started to smile to show her readiness for flight, but Amoret’s glare was burning a hole in her. Instead, she pursed her lips and shifted her gaze to the rusted planet.

Moving the squadron at full speed, Amoret was clearly attempting to make up for lost time in their patrol trajectory. With the capsule found and secured in storage, there was little else for them to do except their routine observations. The hourly log was already late, and Amoret would have to justifications for the delay in the next log.

Thoughts of the required explanations made Jett hope that Amoret wouldn’t face any reprimands for Jett’s failure to properly launch the capsule in the first place and the consequential delay. Jett, as merely an Astral Officer, was only allowed on patrol rotation because Amoret was a Senior Flight Officer. Though she performed duties on the patrol squadron, Jett’s status was more akin to a ride-along guest. Amoret was responsible for everything Jett did, and Jett had no idea what amends she could make for putting Amoret’s career at risk.

After what seemed an interminable amount of time, Amoret slowed the ship, easing it back into the original pace of orbit and once more lowered the engine’s powers. Though she followed her partner’s cue and released her seatbelt, Jett was unable to release any of the tension that she felt building back up despite Amoret’s proficient ability to resolve the problem. She was longing for the comforting touch from Amoret that usually followed one of her screw-ups: a squeeze of the hand or a squishy hug that provided emotional support and allayed Jett’s fears about work. But Amoret was sitting erect in her pilot’s seat, hands competently on the controls showing no intentions of reassuring her. Jett shivered as if the cold from space had crept inside the ship and twisted its icy tendrils into her spine.

With the evening logs deftly completed by Amoret—none of which faulted Jett for the disruptive error and instead matter-of-factly stated the capsule location failure—the women were finished with the tour’s duties until the next morning. Following that, they would wrap up the final hours of patrol around the planet and then depart their trajectory for their return to JESS. Amoret, exhausted from the drain of her studies and the stress-filled problem-solving, stood up and stretched without so much as a glance toward Jett, who watched her every move in hopes of receiving just a tiny bit of reassurance.

“OK, we’re done here,” Amoret said flatly as she walked away from the main console. Jett thought it was an odd choice of words since Amoret had done all the work and Jett hadn’t done anything except become a prisoner of tension amidst the glacial silence.

Jett’s voice cracked as she spoke for the first time in hours. “Do you want any dinner? It’s so late, and…”

“I’m not hungry,” cutting Jett off curtly, Amoret picked up her toiletry bag and snatched the pajamas she’d worn the previous night from the shelf she folded them into that morning. With no less spite, she followed up the statement as she began walking to the deck below, obviously only intent on a shower. “You can eat or whatever you’re going to do.”

Jett’s stomach had been rumbling for hours, but she hadn’t wanted to say anything. Now it had turned queasy from Amoret’s harsh tones, but she dragged her feet to the back of the main deck and pulled open the food storage drawers. She knelt on the floor, rummaging unenthusiastically through the lower drawer of small silver-wrapped snack packages. Laying her cheek on the cool edge of the stainless-steel drawer, her eyebrows bunched up and the stinging in her eyes came back, spilling out tears across her nose. There wasn’t even any air-flavored faux chocolate cake to provide her with a modicum of comfort.

While her partner was in the shower below, Jett thought about logging into Starwave to find someone on her friend list who would be willing to listen to her laments, but she couldn’t convince herself to power on the tablet much less sign in. Besides, none of those people were her real friends; she didn’t know why any of them would be interested in her problems. Plus, she always had problems. If she started splashing her woes onto someone’s electronic screen across the stars, she’d be inclined to do it the next time something went wrong, too. She couldn’t rationalize the fairness in heaping her heavy heart on virtual shoulders, so she pushed the tablet bag into her bag and sat spinning idly around in her co-pilot’s seat for several minutes in contemplation of her existence.

With no one else in the universe she could talk to other than Amoret, she turned on the ship’s log recorder and listened to it automatically announce the date and time before it prompted her to speak. Shamefully spilling out apologies for her failures, she paused when she started to make promises to do better. Well, hadn’t she already promised Amoret she’d ask for help and then not done it? It wasn’t the first time she’d done that, either. What was the point in making more promises when she’d failed to keep the one she had just made that morning? Instead, she tried explaining that she’d just wanted to surprise Amoret by doing something right for once but acknowledged she should have known better.

Hearing Amoret’s footfalls on the steps, she stopped recording her remorseful diary on the ship’s log. Amoret would not be happy about her using the CAADE device for her self-condemnation, and she didn’t want to get in more trouble right now. But she was glad to have gotten her woes out of her system so that she wouldn’t irritate her partner with them, especially when she caught Amoret’s glower as she appeared on the main deck.

When she finally gave up on the possibility of any restorative conversation with Amoret and crawled under the covers on her cot, ignoring the nauseating hunger pangs from not eating, Jett placed tiny wireless audio buds in her ears, and pulled up Nirvana’s “All Apologies,” another centuries-old classic tune, on her tablet. She set it to repeat, playing it countless times, allowing her tears to flow in silence. Then she let the song’s lyrics and the ship’s buoyancy set her adrift, submerged by sleep, into dreams filled with the vast darkness of space.

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