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Though Hell Should Bar the Way: Chapter Seven

       Last updated: Wednesday, January 31, 2018 07:57 EST



    I spent my next duty on the hull with Captain Leary as he indicated our course to me from the Dorsal A masthead platform. The captain was using a brass rod — it must have been filled with something — between our helmets so that we could talk without actually leaning into direct contact.

    I listened to his descriptions of what I should be seeing as my eyes followed the sweep of his arm across the glowing Matrix. He could have been whistling to me in bird language and it would have made as much sense, or almost as much.

    Apparent color indicated relative energy levels compared to the level of the bubble universe I was viewing from. That was simple enough. I didn’t understand how the captain was so sure how the universes were layered, though; which one a ship should enter before it went on to the next.

    I hoped that when I compared what the captain told me with the Sunray’s plotted course, I’d understand better. Anyway, that’s what I started doing on the bridge as soon as I reentered the hull.

    Cory was on duty. He let me use the command console — the only console — and took a flat-plate display himself. There was no reason he shouldn’t have done that — nothing was happening or likely to happen — but it was still a kindly action.

    I don’t know how much it helped me, though. I felt badly out of my depth as I viewed the astrogation plot as a three-dimensional hologram and compared it with my memory of what I’d seen on the hull — and Captain Leary’s commentary on it. I’ve got a good visual memory, but the captain had been describing subtleties which continued to escape me.

    The tap on my elbow just about made me jump out of my skin. “Hellfire!” I said and turned my head.

    One of the delegation stood beside the console; she’d just touched me. I’d seen her among the ministry personnel when they were boarding, but I hadn’t had contact with any of them before now. There was no reason to: They had quarters separate from the officers and crew, and they messed separately also.

    I’d noticed this one; she was very pretty. She was older than I’d thought, though; not old, but past thirty. From a distance I’d guessed she was twenty, like me.

    “I’m Maeve Grimaud,” she said and smiled, which made her even more attractive. “I believe you’ve just been out in the Matrix?”

    Maeve’s dark-blond hair was shoulder length. She wore a two-piece outfit of soft violet fabric which wasn’t fancy but matched her eyes.

    “Yes, ma’am,” I said. “I’m pretty busy now.”

    “Well, I was hoping that you could take me out on the hull,” Maeve said. She smiled again. “I’ve never seen the Matrix, and I’d like to. With a guide.”

    You could do better than me, I thought. Aloud I said, “Ma’am, I’m still in training. If you get permission from the captain, I suppose I can. But not now, please. I’m trying to apply what Captain Leary showed me before I forget it all.”

    Her face tightened a trifle, but the smile was back an instant later. “Of course,” she said. “I’ll hold you to that.”

    She turned and walked off the bridge. I followed her into the corridor with my eyes. She got into the companionway and I turned back to my exercise.

    Cory was looking at me from his station. He didn’t say anything, but he was smiling.



    An hour later, a text crawl from Maeve appeared on the bottom of my display. It said that she had permission from Captain Leary to go onto the hull with my escort. I replied that I’d take her out at the end of my next watch.

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