Alexander tapped his bare foot onto his ship console, making a beat where there was none.
“This is ridiculous; we need music.” He slammed his hand down carelessly onto the intercom button. “Hey Ashley, can we please get the radio going?”
There was a pause that was highlighted by the idle crackling of the intercom.
“Ummm, no? There is no radio; we are far too far out. You know that, Alex.”
Alex started pressing through the buttons on the console methodically as if he was trying to see what each individual button did.
“Do we not have music saved to the ship, or just some kind of player with an album or just something more than the sound of this ship ringing in my ears?”
The pause was even longer than there was a very quick, rehearsed response.
Alex took his hand off the intercom and folded his arms as he scoffed.
“This ship is a pile of smack; what kind of crazy people don’t put music into such a long journey?” He asked rhetorically as he fiddled with more buttons.
The intercom screeched with the sounds of metal colliding in the background.
“Stop pressing buttons, you idiot; you nearly took my head off with that last one.”
Alexander lifted his poised hand from the next button he was about to press with a longing. Cautiously, he very gently pressed the intercom button and spoke softly.
“I am sorry beautiful. Is everything okay?”
“It is fine, although I could use a hand down here with some cleanup.”
“You got it; I’ll lock it off up here and head on down.”
Alexander double-checked the autopilot on their craft and started to head down to meet up with Ashley. He stumbled down the narrow corridors of the ship, putting his hand down on railings that wobbled or, in turn, gave him a healthy helping of grease. He rolled his eyes and wiped his hands on his overalls before finally meeting up with Ashley, who was picking up bottles of cleaning chemicals that lay on the ground in front of a dented shelving unit. Ashley spied Alexander out of the corner of her eye and pointed at the shelves, to which he returned a queasy smile.
“Ah shit, Oli is going to be pissed.” Alexander said as he wandered over to the rack, running his hands across the dents.
“You think? You really need to stop touching shit. Half of Oli’s crap barely runs, so please stop damaging the things that actually work.”
Alexander looked up at the large hydraulic arm above the racking with an inquisitive stare.
“Why, or who put this shitty little rack down here anyway? It is right under a hydraulic arm, which.” He started to squint, thinking harder his thoughts were interrupted.
“Seemingly does nothing?” Ashley interjected.
“Yeah, it must be another one of his stupid fucking projects that never went anywhere.
“Yup, just another one of his projects. How about, instead of looking at a dumb bit of metal, you help me clean up the mess you made?”
Alexander snapped out of his stare and shook his head slightly; dropping down to one knee, he started to help Ashley clean up the scattered bottles of chemicals.
“It is a wonder that none of them were crushed; I would have hated to come down here to see you cleaning up some old chemical that is never going to be used.”
“Me? Why am I cleaning things up in this scenario?”
“Because women are born cleaners, like how men are born leaders or sex gods….”
Ashley rolled her eyes and ignored Alexander as he rambled on with his misogynistic dialogue. She had a small grin as she half listened to him ramble, trying to find a line that would cause a reaction out of Ashley, occasionally stopping to look pointedly at her to see if he had landed a blow.
“Damn, you are resilient today. Usually, you have slapped the sexism out of me by this point.”
Ashley let out a loud, exaggerated laugh.
“Oh, sweetie, I usually would. But it just clicked.”
“I don’t care about anything you say.” Ashley said as she caressed Alexander’s check.
They both chuckled at one another before sharing a short kiss.
“Now, clean up your mess.” Ashley stood and started to wipe her hands on her overalls. “I need to get back to stock counting.”
Alexander sat back on the metal grating and pointed to himself.
“But isn’t it my turn for stock tack?”
“It is, but this cargo run is taking us past the interference zone, so you can chat with your little lady friend if she is flying around out there.”
Alexander’s eyes lit up, and an uncontrollable grin embedded itself onto his face, one he tried to quell with a poor attempt.
“I swear just the mention of her gets you all excited. Has she told you her name yet?”
“No…” He said with a put-on frown. “But it is fine; names are not important; what is important is the person and that that person likes me. Which she does… maybe.”
“Well, you better hurry up; just because I am doing the stock take does not mean I am doing everything while you try and run away with your crush. You still have a lot of work to do before we breach the interference zone.”
“Yes, Ma’am.” Alexander said with a straight back and a fierce salute.
Ashley walked off with clipboard in hand while Alexander started to horde the fallen bottle like a squirrel gathering lost nuts for the winter. Stacking them haphazardly, he ran off to do the other daily tasks of maintaining the ship. From scrubbing down surfaces to repairing broken machines, he ran all over. The smaller jobs were glossed over and barely done, but good enough for the day. While the larger jobs were begrudgingly done as meticulously as needed. Rushing back to the cockpit, he sat down with speed, spinning his chair around in the process. Tapping on a touch screen, he tracked their course with a finger that hovered over the screen, tapping once again when he found what he was looking for.
“I really need to actually check this at the beginning of jobs. I very nearly missed an opportunity.”
He slumped back down in his seat and grabbed his radio; pre-emptively, he tuned it to a frequency that housed nothing but static. He watched as the ship piloted itself through the wreckage around it. The remains of a war that had left this part of space cluttered with the corpses of ships. Alexander’s ship made its way through the final bodies and emerged on the other side; he stirred in his seat and firmed his grip on the comms as the crackle on his radio started to turn into a steady and silent hiss.
“Snake here on the hunt for some foxes.” Alexander called through the comms with a smile.
He turned his ear to the receiver and looked away from it as he waited.
“This is Fox here, warning you that we know how to bite.”
Alexander relaxed into his seat.
“Oh, that is no worry because… Damn, I have nothing for that. That should have been so easy to counter.”
The comms crackled, and laughter came through before the voice of Fox.
“You are nothing but a disappointment if you ask me, but then again. There is no way you could be as sly as me.” There was a brief pause of ambient audio coming down the line before she spoke again. “You can’t tell, but I am winking.”
“You are an idiot.”
“You couldn’t even come up with an argument for, ‘I can bite.’”
“We are just going to have to agree that neither of us is smart, maybe?”
“Agreed. I am not happy about it, but I will agree.”
Alexander looked over his course and frowned as his eyes darted over the travel line.
“Any chance you are heading anywhere near the wandering moon on your trip?”
“I am sadly not Snake; we do this every time; I am on a set course; it will never deviate.”
“Yeah, I know, but I want to meet you.”
“Trust me, so do I. But until you start taking jobs in my area, that won’t happen. I won’t give up my job for you, and I know you are the same. You and your girlfriend need to stick together, and there really aren’t any two crew jobs out here.”
“You say out here like you are millions of miles away. If I remember correctly, part of our journeys is only a few hundred thousand kilometers apart.”
“Oh, what was I thinking? Nothing but a cakewalk. I will just pop on over and borrow some milk, neighbor.”
The two of them laughed for hours until the radio connectivity fell apart. At the end of the conversation, Alexander sat forward with a warming feeling in his stomach, and he thought of the conversation.
Getting up from his chair, he double-checked his autopilot again before heading back down the hall and towards his sleeping quarters, where he found Ashley lying on their bed with a book that she promptly put down as Alexander entered the room.
“How was Fox?” she asked, patting the edge of the bed, encouraging him to sit.
Dropping onto the bed, he lay back over Ashley with a long sigh.
“It was so nice but so frustrating. I just want to meet her!”
“I assume you are both still too busy to meet up?”
“Yeah, it is lame. I know it is stupid, but I would love to date that woman; she is so sweet.”
“It is not stupid; it is okay to want things.” Ashley started to pet Alexander’s hair down as she spoke. “And even more importantly, it is good to explore your feelings. If you like this girl, enjoy it, but don’t let the idea of being with her confuse you. You have to make sure that you still remain you and still maintain your other relationships…”
Alexander could feel the tension in the room; it was soft and calming.
“I am terrible at having crushes on people. Why can’t this just be like what we did?”
“What? Premarital sex, a pregnancy scare, and a shotgun wedding?”
“Yeah, those things, you know, the no-pressure thing.”
“Did I forget to mention the pregnancy scare? That was a lot of tension for me, thank you very much.”
“Well, I mean that, but I mean, I knew what was going on. I knew how you felt. I still don’t even know if she likes me back, I can’t even be sure if she is avoiding me or just busy, so I am cautious to contact her, even though that is all I want to do. But if it is that she is just busy, that is such an attractive quality to me. There is just a lot going on in my mind, and I can’t settle it.”
“Look.” Ashley said, sitting Alexander up. “Dating multiple can be hard, or it can be easy, and the two biggest determining factors in that are the people and your attitude. You have to understand that you are not trying to date her because you are lonely or because you are touch starved. You have me, we fulfill each other’s needs, and that can mean when you get additional good feelings from someone, they can be overwhelming because you already have so many for someone else.”
Alexander nodded as he looked up to Ashley.
“I don’t even know what she looks like, but damn she sounds pretty.”
“I know, I have heard her voice; she is very pretty sounding.”
“None of this is bad, by the way. I feel great. But, like you said, it is a lot, and I am still struggling with it. Maybe next time I contact her, I will be a little more level-headed.”