Erin slammed into floor, her groan changing to wheeze from a quick blow to her solar plexus. Black and gray spots swam through her vision, but left enough space for her to recognize a set of knuckles rapidly heading for her jaw. She heard a voice, tinny and echoing, yell, “STOP!”
Waves of pain washed over her as the fist ignored the distant command. The gray spots fled as black took over.
“What the hell was THAT?” Gillian’s face, twisted and red, snapped forward, leaving less than an inch between her nose and Samantha “Sammy” Gutierrez’s. “When I say STOP, I mean STOP! If you ever pull some shit like that again, I will put you in the med-bay. Do you understand me?”
Sammy stared above her superior’s head, eyes never leaving the far bulkhead. “Yes, ma’am!”
“Get the hell out of my sight before I do something you’ll regret!”
The ship’s third shift navigator performed a crisp about-face, strode off the practice mat, and out of the gym, head unbowed and back straight.
Captain Megan Hurley poured a finger a bourbon into a metal tumbler, glanced at her Master-at-Arms, then poured a couple more. She handed the whiskey to her shipmate and friend of fifteen years. “What do you think caused it?”
Gillian slammed back the offering in one gulp. “Kendra,” she exhaled.
The captain frowned and swirled her drink around before taking a sip. She leaned against her desk, arms folded. “Explain.”
Gillian shrugged, studying the empty bottom of her cup. “Sammy blames Erin for Kendra’s death. Not much more to tell.”
“Should I put them on separate shifts?”
Lips disappeared as Gillian pondered the question. “No. If you do that then Sammy’ll never get over it, and it’ll look like we’re babying Erin.”
Megan set her glass on the desk. “And if their problems affect the running of the ship?”
Gillian grinned at the petite blonde. “That’s why they pay you the big bucks,” she said as she stole the neglected drink and downed it.
Captain Hurley rubbed her temples, trying to ward off the building ache. “You’re such a help.”
“I aim to please, Captain.”
Silence reigned on the bridge, its grip harsh and tyrannical. Erin’s eyes kept stealing glances at Sammy over at the navigator’s station, despite the throbbing her jaw suffered every time they looked. Her assailant sat stiff-backed, view never wavering from her plot readouts.
A course correction popped up on Erin’s pilot-eye view screen, and she sighed.
Erin’s fingers punched in the course correction, her face screwed up in frustration. “Careful, Princess. You might break a nail.”
Erin swiveled her seat to the side. “What is your problem?”
Sammy gave her a look normally reserved for something unpleasant found on the bottom of a shoe. “You. The captain never should have hired you.”
Erin arched a chilly brow. “Oh. So I guess you wanted to be a pirate’s toy then? Guess you never know about some people, do you?”
Sammy’s head snapped up for the first time, eyes blazing. “What I want is my wife back, you spoiled bitch!”
Erin recoiled from the venom. “Your…Kendra?”
Sammy laughed, bitter and hard. “You didn’t even know, did you? You just wanted to play hero, consequences be damned, and got her killed!”
Erin turned back to her station. “You know what? Screw you. Kendra was brave and gave her life so the rest of the crew wouldn’t be raped or sold as sex-slaves. If you can’t understand that…then you didn’t deserve her in the first place.”
“How dare you!” Sammy leaped out of her chair, body trembling in rage.
“How dare you?” Erin retorted. “You want to hate me? Fine, but don’t try to stir up pity pretending it’s because of Kendra.”
The door swished open and Captain Hurley strode in. “Return to your station!” she snapped at Sammy.
Hurley raised her hand to cut off whatever the younger woman would have said. “Stow it! I won’t have this on my ship.” She placed her hands on her hips and stared at Erin. “Stahl, can you work with Gutierrez?”
Erin cocked her head as she studied the other woman. “I can if she can.”
“Well, I can’t,” Sammy screeched. “Captain, she got Kendra ki-”
“That is enough!” Hurley barked, fists balled so hard her knuckles turned white. “I gave the order to execute the plan, Master-at-Arms Gillian commanded it.” Her voice lowered to a dangerous whisper. “If you want to blame someone, blame us.”
Sammy deflated at her captain’s anger. “I’m sorry, Captain. I don’t blame either of you, but I can’t work with…with…” She flicked her hand in Erin’s direction. “It’s her or me, Captain.”
Captain Hurley didn’t hesitate as she drew herself up to her full height. “Then it’s her.” Sammy’s eyes widened at the decision, and she opened her mouth. Hurley shook her head and Sammy’s jaw clacked close. “You are relieved of duty and confined to quarters until such time we make planet-fall, where you will be discharged with whatever wages are owed. Get out of here.”
Sammy’s eyes glistened as she looked back and forth between her captain and her enemy. She stomped out of the room, slamming Hurley’s shoulder with her own as she passed by.
Captain Hurley walked over to the nav-station and sat down. “Captain…” Erin began.
“Don’t talk to me right now, Erin. I’m not mad and I don’t blame you. Just…not now.”
The two finished out the shift in silence.