Trigg breathed a sigh of relief as the door closed. Something about the way Cassandra Luckenbach had looked at him had him exceptionally uncomfortable – no, he was lying to himself. Something about Cassandra Luckenbach made him exceptionally uncomfortable. It’s not that he was a guy to get his feathers ruffled at just any little thing. He prided himself in his calm and calculating demeanor, and keeping his moments of emotional weakness private behind the hatch to his quarters. He tried his damnedest to never get caught with his foot in his mouth and actually did a pretty good job of keeping both boots on the deck and away from his teeth. But then again, there was that “show you what I expect” comment he’d let slip in front of Luckenbach, as well as the many, many others that had crossed his mind as she’d been talking.
He laid down the flex screen he’d been staring at, since he hadn’t actually read a single word in the whole time he’d been holding it. He glanced up at the bookcase, his eyes falling on Heart of a Dog. How, really, had she known about that book? It was rare even at the time of the revolution, and afterwards it had been practically unheard of. He’d checked. Even the digital copies that he could find were bastardized, cheap versions coded by school nerds in need of cash (and attention to detail). Not that it particularly mattered, he told himself. It was simply a strange coincidence that they’d both read the same rare, almost extinct Russian novel.
He picked up the flex screen again and tried to focus. Granted, it had been a long day, especially since Barnes’ annoying message last night that Sanchez had gone and gotten himself shot. Damn the man, anyway. If he hadn’t gotten himself killed, Trigg would never have had to hire passenger to take his place. And then if those two damn crewers hadn’t turned down what was a very generous offer for a very cushy job, Trigg wouldn’t have had to spend his afternoon chatting about Russian novels and old books with Miss Longstockings herself. If he got lucky, the flight would be a smooth, quiet one and he wouldn’t actually need the extra pair of hands he’d hired for anything more than a tail in a seat for regulations’ sake.
The door chime sounded, followed by a knock on the door. So much for getting caught up on my paperwork, he thought with a mental growl. “Come in!” he called to the door. The door didn’t open, but the chime sounded again. “Come in!” he called again, getting frustrated.
There was a knock, and a muffled voice on the other side of the door that he could barely understand. Standing, he used the four strides that it took him to get to the door to get out his frustration and calm his nerves somewhat. He keyed open the door, only to see none other than Cassandra Luckenbach, back again.
“I thought I dismissed you?” he said.
“I thought I said ‘Come in!’ when you rang the doorbell?”
“You did.” She held up her thumb. “I’m not special enough to be able to open your door.”
He mentally kicked himself. Of course, he’d forgotten to get her thumbprint access to the crew areas of the ship. “That’s my bad, Miss Luckenbach. I forgot to order your crew-area access.”
She shrugged. “It’s okay – I didn’t expect the all-access pass until next week anyway.” She gave him a slight grin. “I mean, I’m not that special.”
And remember that, he thought at her with a mental glare. “What can I do for you?”
She held out a flex screen. “Stubb – sorry, Mr. Williams, I keep forgetting – forwarded this message to me from First United Bank. It looked important, so I didn’t want to let it sit until tomorrow morning. And I was still in this area of the ship.”
“Why didn’t you just transmit it to me?”
“Still don’t have that all-access pass, sir.” She stated it matter-of-factly, but he imagined he heard a bit of sarcasm underlying her words.
With a sigh, he swallowed the retort he would have given one of the more experienced crew members and took the flex screen from her. He keyed open the message. “This is good news,” he said. “Sanchez’s debts have been cleared by his home bank. The rest of his life insurance policy can be paid out now.” He handed her back the screen. “Tell the bank that everything is good to go.”
“Still don’t have that all-access pass, sir.” That time she really was being sarcastic. Trigg couldn’t decide if he should be mad that she was already being smart with him, or if he should be impressed with her guts. Maybe there was more to Sister Innocence than he’d picked up on before.
“Then go to the bridge and tell Stubb to forward the message.” With a nod, she took the flex screen back from him.
“Anything else?” she asked.
He furrowed his brow. “You might want to take a look at your attitude. Just in case you’re actually being as sarcastic as you sound.”
Her eyebrows rose. “Oh, my bad, Commander. We had such a good talk earlier I thought that…” She trailed off, and her voice turned serious. “No, you’re right. Thanks. Anything else?”
He shook his head. “Nope. You’re set to go.”
“Sir.” She turned and started down the hall. He watched her for a minute, then called out. “Miss Luckenbach!”
She turned back, her eyes immediately wide and clearly eager to please. “Yes?”
“What was it?”
He stepped out into the hall. “You said we had a good talk and that you thought…something. What was the something you thought?”
She took an audible breath. “Nothing. I mean, Janet Ruiz said that the crew calls you Trigg and the formalities were just there to keep passengers out of trouble. We’d had a good discussion about the books and you’d given me a place on the crew so I guess I thought I didn’t have to be extra formal, either. I guess I was wrong.”
Trigg shook his head. “No harm done, Miss Luckenbach. You’re dismissed.”
She nodded and turned quickly on her heel to start back down the hall. He watched as she turned the corner and disappeared. Taking a deep breath, he stepped back into his quarters. She had been right about the casual culture that the crew had. They all called each other by whatever first names or nicknames they’d picked up over the years. They were a well-oiled team and everyone knew their jobs. Most importantly, despite the casual environment, everyone still knew their place and knew where the authority on the ship resided.
Cassandra was clearly a smart girl, so why couldn’t he allow her to join the culture like he had the others? He picked up the flex screen on his desk and attempted to read it for a third time. He’d handle that question later, maybe even over dinner.