So Eleanor and Jane became members of the crew of the starship Mother Knows Best. The boss lady was called Commander Grainne. Not Irish, though. Apparently the name meant something in her own language.
Which raised another question. How could they understand what everyone was saying? It was explained to them that when they had been unconscious after they’d first been brought on board, they’d had a bio-electronic device implanted in them. This allowed them to understand the language of anyone who spoke to them, and they were understood in return. But why wasn’t Commander Grainne’s name translated, Eleanor asked? The explanation made her brain hurt.
Before their training began, in the tradition of ships making welcome new crew throughout the universe, they were thrown a party. The ship’s mess had a bar. They served alcoholic drinks. The beer didn’t taste quite like Earth beer, the wine not quite like Earth wine, but it got you drunk, as they both discovered quickly. Eleanor realised how tipsy she was getting and started refusing drinks. Do they have coffee in space was the thought going through her mind?
Jane, on the other hand, was really enjoying herself. Several crew members had taken a shine to her and were cuddling up to her. Being surrounded by naked women plying her with drinks was heaven for Jane and soon they were engaged in more than just cuddling. Eleanor was both fascinated and horrified by what was going on. Intellectually she knew what her friend got up to with other women, but she’d never seen it, it had always been in private. Here she was performing for an audience. And it would appear from the behaviour of the others in the bar, this was not something that was frowned upon.
“You can join in, too, if you like,” said a voice beside her. Eleanor looked round and was surprised to see the commander standing next to her. “We’re all girls together here, and we don’t try and hide it like you do on Earth.”
“Not my cup of tea,” explained Eleanor, and she wondered how that came out in the commander’s own language.
“What! You mean you and your friend are not a couple? We’d assumed there was some sort of romantic attachment when we picked you up.”
“No, we’ve never done it. Jane has suggested it, half seriously, but we don’t want to ruin our friendship. I’m sure she still wants to get inside my knickers,” – she looked down – “if I was wearing any, but friendship comes first. She comes running to me when some girl has broken heart, and I to her when a man breaks mine.”
“Well, I’m afraid it’s going to be some months before we’re anywhere where there are any men.”
“After my last relationship, a few months’ celibacy sound wonderful.”
Eleanor found the spaceship equivalent of coffee in an effort to sober up before heading back to her room. It was definitely odd walking along the corridors stark naked with other naked women walking past and saying hello. The surface of the moon was long gone and there were just the distant stars visible now. She wondered if she’d ever get used to it.
And it was just as strange back in the room. The screen could bring up information about the ship and its command structure, all the known inhabited planets, the political make up of what best could be called the Federation. Jane had not returned by the time she decided to turn in for the night.
Jane was snoring in her pit when Eleanor awoke the next morning. They had duties to learn, so Eleanor nudged her. Surprisingly, Jane had no hangover.
“I’ve been reading up on how things work around here,” she explained as they were walking to the mess. “It’s just like Star Trek only with no clothes.”