21 October 2326
Bannerman Sejora woke up and was unable to see anything. Still drowsy from the deep sleep he had just left behind, it took him a while to realise that his lack of vision was due to the fact that his face was buried in his wife’s armpit. She had drifted out of the zero-gee sleeping bag and had come to rest in this awkward position.
He gently pulled her towards him, trying not to wake her up. Once he had her safely back in his arms, he could not resist but let his hands wander over her naked body. Since their new orders had forced twenty-four hours of down-time on them during which no scans were permitted, they had quickly discarded their jumpsuits and spent most of the time pleasuring each other until they were close to collapsing. At that point, they had dragged themselves to the ‘bedroom’ which was nothing more than a glorified closet with a sleeping bag big enough for two attached to it.
Neeshu awoke from her husband’s gentle touch. She rested her hand on his, grunted and mumbled, “Again? Aren’t you sore?”
“Oh yes,” he replied. “But it’s totally worth it.”
She rolled her eyes at him, then pulled him in for an extended and very intense kiss. Once she was done, she said, “Well I need a break. If we weren’t in microgravity, I’d be limping right now.”
They both laughed wholeheartedly until they had tears in their eyes. Sejora seized the occasion to wrap his arms around his wife once more. His hands gradually moved into more intimate positions until Neeshu patted them away.
“No! You’re not coming any closer until I’ve had a chance to clean off!”
“You’re no fun at all sometimes,” he said and pouted for good measure.
He unzipped the sleeping bag from the inside, then pushed open the door to their very confined bedroom. The bright light that engulfed the main compartment hit them with full force, blinding them for a short amount of time. They both grunted from the unexpected shock.
“Someone left the light on again,” Sejora commented.
“Don’t look at me. You were in charge of closing up.”
“Oh well,” he shrugged, “it’s not like we’re going to run out of power any time soon.
Sejora pushed himself off from the sleeping bag and drifted out into the main compartment. He then turned around, looked at his wife and asked, “So, breakfast?”
“Sure. I’m starving,” she replied. “What are you making us?”
“Well, I’d offer to make pancakes, but we’re all out of flour.”
“We’re also out of a kitchen,” she added.
“How about a nice blue nutrition cube then?”
“I’d rather have pancakes, but if you insist,” she sighed.
He joined in her sigh and said, “I miss food.”
“You and me both.”
Sejora unfolded the ration tray and they both tethered themselves to it to enjoy breakfast without floating away. The enjoyable part of breakfast was sitting together and revelling in each other’s company. They did so mostly in silence as they consumed their share of nutrition cubes.
Just as they were done with their meal, the sensor array terminal pinged loudly.
“Sounds like the scan is over,” Neeshu said.
“Yep. Would you mind?
“I was hoping you’d do it. And I could... assist you.”
Sejora raised an eyebrow. Without saying another word, he folded back the ration tray and grabbed the handrail above him to pull himself towards the computer terminal. Once there, he confirmed that the magnetic anomaly detector had indeed finished the deep scan it had been tasked with. Bannerman Sejora then pulled up the data summary and began scanning through it.
He had only just begun when he felt his wife’s hands holding on to his shoulders, and her lips latching on to the right side of his neck, just below the ear, resulting in a sharp intake of breath on his part.
“Bannerwoman Neeshu,” he said, “what is the meaning of this?”
“Only trying to assist you in your very important work,” she replied, before whispering, “Sir,” in his ear, sending shivers down his spine.
Neeshu then firmly pressed herself against his back and ran her hands further down his chest, while he was still trying to focus on the data in front of him. Neither of them had bothered to put on a jumpsuit, making it that much easier for her to distract her husband. Her hands continued to travel further down, while her lips never left his neck.
The computer did most of the work, comparing the data gathered during the deep scan to stellar archives and nav-data, filtering out about ninety percent of anomalies. The remaining ten percent still represented a vast amount of cases to be manually checked by the two-person crew.
Every once in a while, Sejora would point at the display in front of them, asking her opinion on a specific anomaly. Neeshu would raise her eyes to the screen and comment on it, never interrupting the steady strokes with which she was teasing him.
“What about this one?” he grunted.
“Nah. Regular but too intense, probably a pulsar. Keep looking,” she said, and went back to working on his neck.
He archived the data and selected the next anomaly on the list. This continued for a while, and all this time, Sejora had to endure his wife’s never-ending ministrations.
“Wait! Go back to the last one!” Neeshu suddenly exclaimed, clenching her hands.
“Ouch! That’s too hard!”
“Oh! Sorry!” she let go of him and rested her hands back on his shoulders.
“What was it with the last one? It didn’t strike me as odd,” he asked.
“The software highlighted it because it couldn’t estimate the range.”
She pointed at the specific information on the display. The programming behind the MAD had classified the anomaly as non-yet registered, meaning that it did not match anything in their database. The vector it was on did not correspond to any natural source of magnetic anomalies in that sector of the galaxy as far as humans had explored it, and it matched the new detection criteria the station had been provided with the day before.
“You’re right,” Bannerman Sejora said, “this could be it. Nice catch, wife.”
“You’re welcome,” she replied, and kissed him on the cheek.
“Are you not going to finish what you’ve started?”
“Later. Now we have actual work to do.”
She let go off his shoulders, gave him a pat on the back, and pulled herself over to the comm-pod. Once there, Neeshu did not have to wait long. Moments later, the terminal in front of her pinged, signalling that Sejora had transferred the relevant data to it. She formulated a quick status report, attached the data to it, and sent the message off to Command via hypercom.
The transfer was almost instantaneous, and a few seconds later, she received a confirmation message in return.
“Are you done? Do you think we can go back to what you were doing earlier now?” Sejora shouted from the main compartment.
She left the comm-pod and returned to her husband, only to say, “sorry love, but we have the next scan to set up.”
He sighed as only response and went back to work on the computer terminal in front of him.
Six hours later, Sejora and Neeshu were floating aimlessly through the main compartment. After programming the MAD once more, they had nothing else to do but wait for the scan to complete, which would take several hours. So they had returned to making love to each other until they were exhausted once again.
They had then dozed off in microgravity, while holding on to each other, his arms wrapped around her back, and her arms wrapped around his waist. They drifted along like this until Sejora’s head gently bumped into one of the overhead handrails, causing him to open his eyes.
Sejora pushed against the compartment wall and propelled them back into its centre. He wanted to let go of his wife, but she was firmly attached to him. Instead, he decided to wake her up by placing a soft kiss on her forehead. She slowly opened her eyes and smiled at him, a smile which he gladly reciprocated.
“How long was I out?” she asked.
“No idea, I slept as well. Just woke up actually.”
“Anything from the MAD yet?”
He glanced towards the computer terminal, then replied, “Apparently not. But it won’t be long.”
They enjoyed the feeling of each other’s body close together for a while longer. Then, they let go of each other and went to the hygiene station to freshen up and finally put on fresh underwear and jumpsuits.
Neeshu laughed, “I think this was the longest time we’ve spent naked together since our honeymoon.”
“Definitely,” Sejora said. “We have to find a way to do this more often.”
“Sign up for another long-term mission like this?”
They both looked at each other and simultaneously laughed out and said, “no!”
Sejora went back to the sensor terminal, and Neeshu observed him from a distance. A few minutes went by in silence before she spoke again.
“I wonder what’s the target.”
“Mhm?” her husband replied, not having paid attention.
“The target,” she repeated, “I wonder what it is.”
“Oh. No idea,” Sejora scratched his head. “But judging by all the trouble they’re going to, it must be important. Probably a big supply depot, or a spacedock, or something like that.”
“You’re probably right. I just hope it brings us closer to ending this damned war.”
“I know what you’re thinking. Me too,” he said.
They had both expressed their desire to have children together eventually, but while they were both on active duty, regulations would not allow it. Neither of them wanted to give up their career, and neither would expect the other to make that sacrifice. They had fought too hard to reach where they were, and they had plenty of time left before the question of having children became urgent.
They also believed in their cause, and had vowed to each other not to bring children into a galaxy dominated by a never-ending war, or into a world that was not master of its own fate.
They had barely been born when their homeworld, which was actually a moon orbiting a gas giant, had declared independence from Earth. This had resulted in a conflict that was still ongoing, more than two and a half decades later.
Both Sejora and Neeshu had been drafted into the Tarhinan Space Navy at the age of seventeen. After their basic training was completed, they became part of the Reserve Force, giving them time to get to know each other as well as considering their options for the future. They eventually decided to get married and volunteered for officer’s careers in the Naval Reconnaissance Unit.
They had both agreed to put their cause first, and for a few years, this meant that the did not spend much time together. Eventually, their dedication was rewarded, and they were both assigned to the same specialised task force, leading up to their extended stay aboard this tiny remote observatory.
Ultimately, however, they both longed for the war to be over, so that they could start properly living life and planning their family.