Grace examined the drive.
“What’s the verdict?” Kat asked.
“It looks like the data is completely fine,” Grace said. “The casing is just damaged. I can replace it easily enough.”
“Ophelia’ll be glad to hear it,” Kat said. “I’m going to go report in. How long is it going to take to replace it?”
“It’s not super delicate work,” Grace said. “I can have it fixed up in an hour.”
Kat nodded. “I’ll tell her it won’t interfere with the drop off schedule.”
She left engineering quietly and made her way to the bridge. Ophelia was the only one who looked over when she entered. Farah was sitting at the sensor console, focused on the screen in front of her.
“Good news, Kat?” Lucy asked. Kat still found it somewhat disconcerting how she always seemed to know exactly who came in without looking, whether they announced themselves or not.
“The drive is in good shape,” Kat reported. “Grace is going to replace the case. It won’t take her long.”
“Good work,” Ophelia said. “Take a short break and report back here for bridge duty in an hour. Make sure that Allison and Leon come as well.”
“Sure thing,” Kat said.
“Don’t sit in Ophelia’s chair,” Lucy called.
“I make no promises,” Kat said. She headed off of the bridge, the door sliding shut behind her.
“Is there a reason we’re letting them take over for us?” Lucy asked.
“I think it’s time for that,” Ophelia said. “Farah!”
“Yes, Captain?” Farah asked.
“When those three take over for us I want you to come to the conference room with me,” Ophelia said. “Just for a little while.”
“Yes Ma’am,” Farah stated. She tried to keep her mind focused on her work but couldn’t help but be distracted. What did the captain want with her? Finally, Allison, Leon and Kat showed up to take control of the bridge.
“Peace,” Allison said. “I’ve gotta take over that console but you can stay right there if you want. I could use something to cuddle.”
“It’s all yours,” Farah said, moving away.
“At least smile or something,” Allison muttered. “Honestly, you could be super cute if you’d loosen up.”
Farah looked over at Ophelia. She’d gotten out of her chair and seemed to be waiting. Lucy was already gone. Farah moved to follow Ophelia to the conference room.
The two sat at opposite ends of the table. “I heard that you checked the Alliance’s files on us,” Ophelia said.
“I’m sorry!” Farah declared.
“Don’t be,” Ophelia said. “Everyone does it. Are you curious? About how I got kicked out of the Academy, I mean.”
“Oh, yes,” Farah said. “If you don’t mind telling me, I’d like to hear it.”
“It’s not a complicated story,” Ophelia said. “In my youth I wasn’t into the whole monogamy thing. I had what I thought was a brilliant plan too. I’d get involved with women who were already in serious relationships. That way, none of them could say anything even if they found out about the others.”
“How did that get you kicked out of the Academy?” Farah wondered.
“I’m getting to that,” Ophelia said. “I was in my early years at the Academy when I met a girl named Cordelia. She was engaged and we hit it off right away. At first we were just friends but one night… Well, things got serious. At first I didn’t think it was a big deal. She was just like the other women I was involved with, or so I thought. Turns out that Cordelia was a bit old fashioned. She hadn’t even slept with her fiance. After our tryst, she called things off with him so that she could devote herself to me.” Ophelia scratched her head. “I didn’t know what to do. I wasn’t used to commitment. I screwed up. I let her move in with me, figuring that she’d get tired of me and move on soon enough. We ended up staying together for two years. The whole time she stayed totally devoted to me.”
“But you didn’t feel the same way,” Farah muttered.
Ophelia shook her head. “I kept seeing other women on the side. I was in my final year when she found out. Naturally, she was hurt, angry, heart-broken. I realised right away that I’d handled the situation badly, that what I did to her was horrible, but I thought it was all over. Turns out, she was also the daughter of the head of the Academy’s Board. He found out what I’d done and he used his clout to make sure I paid. From there, I moved on to Akumil. It seemed like a good choice. Akumillians aren’t much for monogamy either. There is a ceremony for it, but it’s not super common. Plus there are ways of getting a ship there outside of the Alliance’s influence. I met Lucy there. She was one of the women I got involved with. The two of us partnered up to get a ship and we recruited Kat, Paul, Leon, Jane, Stephen and Damian from there. The rest, as they say, is history.”
Farah wasn’t sure what to say. Ophelia was looking at her expectantly. “Thanks for telling me,” Farah offered.
“Do you want to know why I told you?” Ophelia asked.
Farah nodded, brushing some loose hair out of her face.
“The reason is simple,” Ophelia said. “I tell every new crew member my story once they pass Lucy’s inspection.” She smiled at Farah. “That’s right, your inspection is officially over. First thing tomorrow, you’ll start working with Kat on your flight training. Relax and get some rest before then, okay?”
“Yes Ma’am!” Farah bowed and hurried out, feeling slightly giddy.