When you’re a cadet at the Academy, there isn’t much reason for conflict when you fall in love. Unless, of course, when author-god creates it. I ultimately decided against forcing conflict upon my two innocent little cadets. They should be allowed a time of happy butterflies to build a strong relationship that will be stable enough to withstand anything I decide to throw at them later in their life. But at one point those two discovered their love for each other in much more dire circumstances. Which inevitably leads to harsh words. Yes, Nate and Adelie can also fight with each other.
Ophelia watched Adelie putting on her holster and loading her gun.
“Are you sure this is a good idea, honey – after what your father just told us?”
The commander sighed, pulling her hair back into a ponytail while furrowing her brows. “No, I’m not sure if this is a good idea, but do I really have a choice?”
“Who has a choice?” Lieutenant Havisham had entered the room, leaning casually in the door frame. His gaze fell on Adelie and the expression of admiration that Ophelia had observed a few times before changed to worry as he saw the holster and the gun. “You’re not planning to go downtown alone, are you?”
“Actually I am.”
“After everything your father just said?! Have you lost your mind?” The alarm in his voice was impossible to miss. Adelie avoided looking at him as she clipped additional ammunition magazines to her belt.
“Maybe I am, but I’m certainly not going to sit here twiddling my thumbs waiting until the Corporation comes ringing politely at the door bell. My orders are to get the files from Sergeant Marco and that’s what I’m going to do.”
“Commander, the Corporation wants you dead. Are you sure there is no other way to do this?”
“There isn’t any other way. It’s not like I haven’t checked. Look, I don’t particularly enjoy venturing out there in the downpour, putting my life at risk for something that we’re not even sure will help us. And I’m not going to put any of you at risk if it’s me they want. They would kill you first and me second, and nothing’s won.”
The lieutenant made a sound of frustration. “Why can’t you wait until we find a better solution?”
Her hands gripped the back of a chair, knuckles becoming even whiter than her fair skin already was.
“Lieutenant, I would, but we don’t have the time. The longer we wait, the higher the probability that the Corporation gets there first, and then we have an even bigger problem.”
“Why don’t you let somebody else go?”
“And who would that be? We don’t know who’s on our side and who isn’t. We can’t wait for another team to get here. We’re pretty much at a dead end, Lieutenant. So I’ll go.”
“No.” The lieutenant extended his arm to the other side of the door frame as if he wanted to block it. Adelie’s head snapped up, finally meeting his eyes. The chill in her voice was cold enough to cause goosebumps on Ophelias’s back.
“You’re not going. Shanghai Five is a prime spot for them to target you. Major interstellar hub, high crime rate, people coming and going all the time, and going missing – the investigations if there are any would be sloppy at best. Perfect place to get rid of somebody. You’re staying here. I’ll go.”
His voice had a steely determination Ophelia didn’t know he was capable of expressing. She hadn’t even expected that he would confront her that directly, judging from their usual friendly banter. Olga shifted uncomfortably next to her.
“Oh, I wasn’t aware that there was a switch of command. Last time I checked, I was the one giving orders around here.”
“Okay, fine. Play the rank card, Commander. I still think that you’re risking your life unnecessarily and that you are a stubborn, reckless death-or-glory seeking daredevil.”
“Is that what you really think, Lieutenant? Or this just your bruised ego speaking?” She had walked up to him, hands on her hips, chin up, shoulders back. Ophelia didn’t want to meet her alone in dark alley in that mood, but Nathan wasn’t taking anything from her.
“Ahem, guys – why don’t you go together?” Olga’s voice piped up, but nobody paid attention to her; they stared at each other with burning eyes. Ophelia cleared her throat.
“I think that’s a good idea. You’re a STING team after all, one of the best as far as I’m aware, and you can keep each other alive which seems to be your primary motivation. I promise we double-lock the hatch behind you and don’t let anyone in.”
They both turned towards her.
“That’s actually is a really good idea.” The Commander wasn’t opposed to it, that was good news. “That is, if the overprotective mother hen, formerly known as my First Officer, would like to tag along.”
“You’re his Commander, you can order him to come with you.” Ophelia couldn’t help but pointing out the obvious.
Adelie grinned a bitter grin. “Of course I can. But in a matter of life or death I prefer people following me voluntarily.”
“I… ah, forget it.” Nathan pushed away from the wall and crossed the room towards the weaponry in big strides. He vanished inside and they could hear him rummaging around. Things clinked and chinked, then he emerged while still putting on his jacket. Ophelia glimpsed the black strap of a holster under his arm and a row of ammunition magazines on his belt. Adelie smiled triumphantly and put on her own black leather jacket. They both looked suddenly different. Grim.
“Good luck you two. I hope we see you two alive and unharmed back here.”
“Wait, wait, wait! You can’t go out like that!” Olga jumped up so quickly that her chair almost tipped over. “I order a grouphug!”
The two pilots sighed audibly, and Ophelia rolled her eyes, but they all obeyed the engineer, who after all had a point. They hugged each other tightly, then Adelie and Nate left. The two women heard the hatch open then close. Deafening peace filled the battle cruiser.
“What the heck just happened?” Olga exhaled and leaned on her chair.
“We observed what can happen if two people in a very risky business fall in love and don’t want to lose each other.”
“You seriously think those two are in love?”
“I don’t think that, I know that. I’m just not sure they are aware of it themselves. Which adds to the tension.”