A Captain and Her Ship Ch. 02byEutopia©
The control column jittered and jerked in her hands, just like the rest of the cockpit did around her. Stray knick-knacks collected from around the universe rattled, holding their positions thanks to primitive suction cups. Sophie glanced down as she flipped a switch to engage her breaking flaps, her gaze momentarily catching on her jiggling bosom as her true age shone through her space captain visage; a quick smirk and a gentle 'heh' the product of her own amusement.
A red flash and a deep beep brought her back to attention as her head shot up once again, eyes focusing on the holographic wasteland laid out before her thanks to Vul's built in navigator streamed through her projector. The sand filled atmosphere of Guric Nine was hopeless to traverse with eyesight alone, without even a rudimentary guidance system you would break through the sand clouds and die on a swift impact with the dirt or sand surface. That's if you were lucky not to end up in a sulphuric lake of some kind.
"Gently now, Captain, Guric Nine's atmosphere is a difficult one to traverse even for a-"
"Shut up, Vul, this isn't my first pony show!" Sophie bit out, her hand reaching up above her to engage a few more flaps to help even Vul out. Vul fell quiet once again, though he could not hold his captain's outburst against her (in fact, he completely lacked that ability to begin with) due to his earlier...hiccup just a week prior, Sophie had to burn through most of her food and was barely scraping through on emergency rations, let alone the meager amount of water left. Directly after she had woken last she had to contact Hijo Corp to report the upset in her schedule; they had quickly purchased supplies for her to pick up at the nearest friendly territory planet. That planet happened to be the inhospitable land of Guric Nine.
"Open visors!" Came Sophie's order as she approached the last few kilometres of the sandy atmosphere. Vul easily complied, sliding open the protective layer. What met Sophie was a flurry of faun, broken by a few scant glitters of pearlescent, glowing lights of tiny glass like structures held within the sand. For such an overwhelming coverage of her vision she found it a beautiful sight. Like a magpie's gaze caught by a shiny coin, it was only Vul's voice that broke her out of her stupor.
"Concentrate, Sophie!" It was enough of a warning that she managed to successfully glide out from under the sands stronghold and into the clear, pristine air of Gitar, a small trading village located along the hemisphere of the dessert planet.
"Well done, Sophie; though perhaps next time I should guide us down."
"Vul, flying is the little fun I get on this job and you are not about to take it away from me because of a little thing like safety. I am perfectly capable of flying us in like I have just demonstrated." She quickly switched Vul into auto-pilot, the spacecraft easing into a far more smooth and elegant ride now that it was fully in control of its descent. Detaching the control column and sliding it back in to place she undid her safety straps and removed herself from her piloting seat.
"Besides, I doubt anything could go wrong as long as I have you looking over my shoulder." She finished on a softer note, her fingers gliding over the smooth span of control panel as she walked back into the observation deck; her eyes missing an electric spark spit from a socket near where her fingers trailed off. Her feet heavily plodded down the set of stairs, her head giving a curious perk as she heard a panel slide open only to be met by a protruding appendage extending from the wall. It easily slipped under her arm, guiding her elegantly down the staircase; she could only giggle as it perfectly mirrored a picture from a fairy book.
'A Prince guiding a princess down the sweeping staircase and into the ball below. Save for the prince part, of course.'
"I really wish you'd remain seated until we land, Sophie. You could easily fall and injure yourself if something was to go wrong." Vul's voice seeped from any available speaker littering the area as a second appendage pressed into his captain's lower back, guiding her to where a seat sat in the observation deck.
"Vul, I have complete trust in your abilities." Sophie quipped back, her hand coming to rest on the extension kneading at her back, giving it a comforting pat. Vul fell silent and Sophie simply assumed he had turned his attention to the more important part of finding them a bay to dock at and the subsequent landing. The continual prodding at her back, however, let her know she had still not escaped his attention. With a playful giggle she resigned herself to the nagging and took a seat, though the smile that it was delivered with seemed to lose its exuberance as the tentacle guiding her by the arm slipped free, the petal unfurling to brush a lock of her out from her face and tuck it behind her ear; the second following suit by dragging the tip of its closed pod along her jaw line.
Both retreated with a quick zip as if they only dared to touch her so intimately for so long.
Needless to say their relationship had seemed to change, something Sophie did not think possible from a pre-programmed system like Vul. Not being a programmer Sophie had simply chalked this down his AI; he took in information and changed to suite. However, even she knew it shouldn't have changed the base his personality was built on. There were certain actions that gave this subtle change away; Vul had been more, well, affectionate. Though it was something she would have expected from a human companion, it was still glaringly different from Vul's usual composure.
The way he would engage her more on a personal, physical level was the biggest give away. If he found her tucking her hair back far too many times, instead of fetching a hair tie or something similar he would simply hold her hair back for her. Mornings she had woken to find his extension wound around her body, her own arms holding him to her in an intimate way after a night of hushed conversation. There were gentle touches, slight corrections to her clothing and even assistance with her dressing; bathing was a must attend event. There had been no sexual connection since that one time, whether or not that had been because Vul did not wish to aggravate her injuries or because he was waiting for her to say so, Sophie did not know. It was an uncertainty she was not comfortable with and she'd be damned if she asked.
She gave a huff as she shifted in her seat, her jumpsuit moving against her in such a way that it rubbed against her chest wound causing a pained wince.
"Are you in pain? Have your bandages ripped? Are you in need of my assistance?" Came the nanny-cry of her ship, an extension whipping forward as its petals popped open to reveal an optic. It dipped to her chest, her jumpsuit zipper tugged down to just below her bust, revealing a standard issue white muscle shirt. Using one of his petals Vul carefully, delicately eased the jumpsuit away from the muscle shirt like he was peeling away a petal from a bud. Sophie assisted by tugging down the collar of the undershirt to reveal the bandages expertly applied by her ship.
"They are fine, Vul." Sophie drawled, rolling her eyes.
"I can offer you some more pain medication, Captain."
"That would be great." A slightly relieved sigh slipped through her nose as her body relaxed further into the chair. In all honesty Sophie adored the attention, it was something she was not used to, be it from human or mechanical. She had always been quiet, kept to herself and was not thin and attractive; she was stocky with cherub features. She, unlike a few of her classmates, was not popular with the boys.
'For heaven's sake, I haven't even held a man's hand before.' She thought, a few fingers pressed to her lips as she brooded on her lack of a love-life prior to her ship's advances. Her childhood and teenage life was a sore spot for her, and she could only hope that her adult life would be better.
"We are now landing." Flowed Vul's automated message just a few scant seconds before the whole ship gave a shudder and Sophie cursed, she simply knew that something would have fallen over in midst of all the turbulence.
"Open observation visor." She intoned, wishing to see where they had decided to stop over to gather supplies. Even performing multiple tasks Vul didn't hesitate for a second to slide back the monolithic screen protector, though the window's view was swallowed up momentarily by a wave of sand from their landing.
"Landing gears engaged." Came the next notification in a line of procedure's listed off by Vul, yet Sophie was too curious as to the new landscape unfolding before her. It was nothing overly spectacular or beautiful, though she might have been biased from her upbringing being surrounded by green foliage. All Guric Nin gave her was sand, dirt, clay dome houses and a vast array of dulled metal constructs. Gitar was certainly a village built around foreign metal trade and catered to only that; it was one giant scrap heap. The view of the observation deck was quickly encompassed by a neighbouring spacecraft as Vul slid into their assigned dock, landing with a heavy thud.
Sophie could only recoil in a look of horror as she came face to face with a Tuopi; the Tuopi following suit with a look of disgust as it laid eyes on her. It looked like a bipedal tapir that was severally overweight, coloured sewage green with more overhanging rolls and flaps than a Shar Pei. Its mating warts looked inflamed and Sophie could only gather that it would soon go into heat and those very nodules would start leaking a puss that stunk to high heaven in hopes of attracting a mate. The Tuopi looked equally appalled by her own appearance.
'Beauty truly is in the eye of the beholder' She cringed "Close the observation deck window visor." As she gave a swift turn, intending to find her way to the loading bay she was met with a glass filled with a few scant inches of water and a pill, each held by opposing tentacles.
"Some relief, Captain." Came Vul's soft, oozing voice as she took the offered items, throwing the pill back and chasing it down with the little amount of water they had left all while making her way into the cavernous loading bay in the belly of the spaceship. Placing the used glass on top of a crate (that was quickly snatched up by an awaiting tentacle) she strode eagerly towards the small door beside the loading section, a feverish sense of cabin fever quickly swallowing any hint of hesitation.
"Vul-" the door slid open, a hot gush of sweltering air curling around Sophie, she swore she could feel her skin crisp up like pork belly on a spit in a fraction of a second "close the door!" And just like that is snapped back into place.
"Sophie are you alright?!" Came Vul's distressed voice as Sophie promptly began shedding layers, stripping herself of her blue over-alls to reveal white shorts to match her white muscle shirt.
"Get me some cooling foam or I'm going to cook to death before I can make it five steps." Sophie huffed to herself as her pasty, freckled skin was brought into the light.
Vul had presented a Hijo Corp stickered container. Plucking up the bottle she pressed the wide nozzle to the palm of her hand, watching as blue foam poured into it. She dragged the applicator up her arm, all the way to her shoulder, going over it again and again until the strip of foam was as wide as her arm. She casually tossed the now empty container over her shoulder, not even hearing it clatter to the ground and Vul caught it mid flip. Grasping the foam in her hand she easily peeled the now malleable substance, stripping it off her arm and quickly fashioning it around her neck like a scarf.
She gave a long drawn out sigh of relief as the chilled, life-giving foam immediately brought her satisfaction from what had been her brief brush with scorching heat. Content in her new wardrobe, she grasped a pair of thin, Lycra like slip ons which she easily jostled her feet into. Grabbing a bag slung over a rung she set forth towards the door once more, ready for the influx of sweltering heat this time as the door slid open.
"See you soon, Vul!" She called over her shoulder.
As she set foot onto the long walkway stretching from ship to landing dock, she looked up into the sky. She was met with a perpetual twilight as the soaring sand-storm caught high in the atmosphere acted like a large gossamer curtain blocking out the sun.
She began her long trek to the pick-up station, her feet slogging through the sand.
As the paperwork had been signed and the arrangement of delivery finalised, Sophie found herself with a bundle of free time on her hands. She took this opportunity to explore the local setting, though she was normally incredibly nervous in these kinds of situations, she had been cooped up in Vul for far too long. She missed being around others that had a heart beat. As she walked through the crowded market place, she took solace in the occasional shoulder bump, the scent of fried food and the vibrant noises.
Her magpie eyes were caught by a near-by booth as its content sparkled and glimmered. She quickly trotted over, her eye affixing themselves the goods displayed. She took joy in surfing over the number of beautiful jewellery pieces, gorgeous stones, some rough and uncut like they had been smashed from stone, others flawlessly smooth, no doubt a natural process thanks to the high winds swirling with sand.
"They are beautiful, yes?" Came a thickly accented male voice from beside her, the closest Earth accent she could relate it to would have been Russian. Looking up from the beautiful display of gems stuffed into twisted pieces of metal, she was met by olive green eyes set in a humanoid face; if you looked over the wet dog like nose tip and the long, protruding elf like ears that curved outwards towards the ends. His features looked Anglo in origin, all of his body covered in a dark olive skin that matched his grey hazelnut hair, long and straight, hanging down between his shoulder blades in a tied back ponytail.
'A Tafty' Sophie was almost curious enough to throw social etiquette out the window and try to catch a glimpse of the long tail his species were equipped with.
"You're a long way from home, Human." He flashed a grin, showing off how much sharper his molars were than hers.
"Ah, yes." Sophie agreed, her head ducking back down again to look at the gems, her anxiety forcing her to bite her tongue. It seemed he had no such qualms as he tried to draw Sophie into interacting with him. He leaned further in, his fingers pointing to a pale pink coloured gem.
"That's called a Yujin, they believe it brightens the spirit so your loved ones can always find you. That greeny one next to it? Called Piko..." This continued on as they slowly moved down the booth, the Tafty pointing out the lore and meaning between certain eye catching objects. Sophie kept quiet, nodding and observing, though she was slightly uncomfortable she was not rude enough to interrupt and walk off. It was also incredibly fascinating to learn about the Teran's, the indigenous race of Guric Nine, myths and so on. Sophie ate up random facts like chocolate truffles.
"What's that one?" She piped up, interrupting the Tafty's explanation. Sophie's eyes were glimmering with excitement as she peered down at the gorgeous frosted white structure before her eyes. The crystal structure sparkled and gave off a pristine, divine aura. The Tafty gave a startled blink before his expression morphed into a lop-sided grin. He had not expected to hear her voice, he had almost thought he had been passing time with a partial mute.
"You have excellent taste. That is known as the Guidan Ju Lopai or in Human, The Guardian's Heart." He informed her as he himself looked down at the beauty before them. It was made up of coarse crystal beams stretching into the shape of dodecahedron like cage, each meeting point sprouting off blunt spikes.
"It's made up there" He paused, taking a second to look up at the glimmering sand sky, Sophie following his gaze. "They fall down to Guric Nine very, very rarely. No one knows how they're made, but the Teran believe there are giant guardian's that live in the sand storm that protect them from things like invading forces, asteroids, any number of things. These" he paused once more to point at the fine structure "are said to be their hearts. To wear one, let alone own one is a very special honour among the Teran tribes, some nomadic tribes strictly allow only the leader to posses one. The men that posses them are said to great warriors that will always win in battle, the woman that wear them are great mothers, birthing strong warriors and future leaders." He finished, casting a look at Sophie's face. He cocked an eyebrow as he watched her lips purse, curious as to what was in her head at that moment.
'Once again the woman getting jipped, saddled with popping out babies instead of fighting battles and being bad ass. I wonder if Teran have any female leaders...'
"What is your name?" Her thoughts were interrupted by the Tafty's question.
"Your name" He laughed, a deep doleful sound.
"Oh, my name is Sophie." She chuckled nervously along with him, not knowing what else to do in such a situation other than go with the flow. Her chuckle became trapped in her throat as she heard a near-by yell, her head turning swiftly to check out where the ruckus had come from. It was only for a few brief seconds before she turned back, the Tafty now gone from her site.
"Ah, wait, I didn't get your name!" Sophie called out weakly, looking around for the handsome male that had indulged her curiosity. She gave a dejected huff as she resigned herself to not finding him again, though she gradually grew content with the knowledge. It was a new experience for her, and a good one at that. Sophie gave a short smile as she turned back to the jewellery, only to have it drop swiftly from her face, her eyes widening as her stomach fell through to her feet.
The Guidan Ju Lopai was missing.
'Oh fuck' She thought, a barely audible whimper escaping her lips as she looked around in a panic. There was a split second decision communicated only between her legs before she bolted like a startled deer, escaping into the vast crowd and away from the scene of the crime.
Sadly, this would not be Sophie's last brush with crime because of a scrappy Tafty.
Sophie fell onto her arse as she came to a thudding halt, her back pressing up a nearby mud slathered building. She panted, huffed and wheezed as her unfit body not used to running gave into its human weaknesses, her face bright red even as she pulled up one of the ends of her cooling foam scarf contraption to pat at her overheating face.
"I'm too fucking fat for this shit, god damn." She heaved, letting her head fall between her knees as she tried to recover. It was several minutes before her heart rate dropped to a semi-normal level; sweat still pouring down her body and staining her shirt and shorts. She no doubt stunk to high heaven.
She lifted her now weary head up, letting it fall back to rest against the dirt wall behind her as she finally took in her surroundings. She had obviously stumbled into the more rural setting of Gitar, the local inhabitants of Teran going about their daily lives. A small collection of the children kicked a ball back and forth in the large opening the buildings had made, their faint clicking and odd grunt filling the air around them in a playful atmosphere as they communicated between each other. Sophie couldn't help but feel a fraction of her stress lift off her shoulders as she simply sat and watched their amusing antics, the children jostling and shoving each other in hopes of gaining control of the ball.