Excerpt: “Captain Stone of the Havilah?”
That's me. I'm Captain Stone. I was sitting in a quiet little cafe called the Red Bagel. When I dock at Clearly Station, I always eat at the Red Bagel because they have an even number of yellow tables and red tables and an even number of chairs. They always give me the same yellow table to sit at and the same waitress always served me. At that moment, I had a computer tablet in my hand and I was studying a screen full of lists. Years of practice allowed me to look up immediately to inspect the owner of the voice who had addressed me, instead of ignoring it as a part of me greatly wished to. The voice belonged to a male, a human, with strong looking, grease-stained hands. He wore coveralls with no name tag or company logo, so he was an independent spacer, like myself. His coveralls were clean but as permanently stained as his hands, worn at the knees and slightly frayed at the cuffs.
He was a worker. Rough, but clean and neat.
My glance up at him was apparently all the reply he needed, for he went on, “My name is Andrei Danilov. I’m here to apply for the position of 1st mate you advertised for.”
Ah. I looked down at one of the lists on my tablet’s screen and found his name. I had posted my advertisement yesterday evening at 19:07 station time. One Andrei Danilov had responded to it at 5:56 station time this morning and set an appointment to interview at 9:30 today. It was now 9:28.
“You are punctual,” I replied with a smile.
Which was not a greeting, of course. Andrei Danilov blinked at me and I realized that my reply had been abrupt and out of the blue. Rules, I reminded myself firmly. Stick with the rules. Get out of your own head. I pulled up another list on my tablet, briefly scanned its contents to remind myself of how to be welcoming, then looked back up at Mr. Danilov. He was beginning to shift with…discomfort. My extended silence had made him uncomfortable.
Please sit down,” I pointed to the yellow metal chair across from me. “It is good to meet you, Andrei Danilov.”
Likewise.” Mr. Danilov smiled at me charmingly as he sat, and that smile paired with the twinkling in his blue eyes made him look very handsome in that moment, and my female human heart skipped a beat. “You can call me Andy, if you like.”
My heart only skipped one beat though. He was being charming, but, “I don’t like nicknames Mr. Danilov. They are not real.”
Once again, he didn’t know what to say to me and he looked uncomfortable. So I pressed on, accessing another list and pasting my gaze on his nose, which was my way appearing to have eye contact without actually having eye contact. Mr. Danilov had a very nice looking nose.
“I have 10 requirements that must be passed in order for me to consider giving you the position, Mr. Danilov. You have passed two already. Number 3 is, can you lift that?”
I pointed at the floor next to my table. There sat a brand new drive shaft for my ship’s starboard engine. It weighed 103.275 lbs. Danilov didn’t hesitate. With a confident, “Sure, no problem,” he got up, bent at the knees, got a grip on the shaft and then stood up straight. He held the shaft for a few moment at chest height, then put it down gently on the floor.