Her name was Beena. Of course she joined the crew. An arranged marriage and being a dutiful wife was not a life she wanted and here she was, living in an adventure, and one unlike any of her romances had prepared her for. She developed crushes on several members of the crew, and the casual sex among the crew was something she never knew she had been missing. But it seemed as if it was Eleanor she was most interested in. And Eleanor was still resolutely celibate.
Although the medical achievements of the Federation were far in advance of what Eleanor had left behind on Earth, death was still present, and space can be a dangerous place. Over the years, many of the crew members had retired to live out their long lives as civilians, like the café proprietor she’d met all those years ago on the space station and the Number One Eleanor herself had replaced. But some had died in service, mostly through accidents. The ship seemed a safe enough place, but it was still a thin shell of metal surrounded by a vacuum.
It was a trivial accident. Commander Grainne was in the cargo bay as a cargo shuttle was being unloaded. A large cannister had not been secured properly when the shuttle had been loaded and when the shuttle door was opened, the cannister fell from a height onto Grainne’s head, crushing her skull instantly. The medical repair machines could perform miracles; growing back a severed limb was child’s play. At a pinch, a new body could be grown for a severed head, if it was caught in time. But there was nothing to be done if the brain was destroyed.
Time stopped for Eleanor. She knew she had to take command. She realised someone was screaming and at first she thought it was her, but she realised it was Jane, cradling the body of her dead lover. She wanted to go over and comfort her friend but first she had to follow protocol and establish her command. There were procedures to follow. She detailed crew members to clean up, giving them instructions to look after Jane, who was still cuddling the corpse, blood spattered over her breasts, tears streaming down her cheeks. Eleanor left the cargo bay and made her way to the bridge.
That night, when everything to do with command had been settled, Eleanor persuaded Jane to leave the storage area where Grainne had been put, awaiting proper disposal. She hadn’t eaten all day, so she took her to the mess and made her eat.
“I don’t want to sleep alone tonight,” Jane told her.
Eleanor took her back to her cabin and let Jane rest in her sleeping pit. She lay down beside her and they spent the night with their arms around each other. This was the most intimate they’d ever been.