Freya's Tears

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Chapter Three - Shopping Day

Mission: Book Two - Ginnungagap
Location: Lafayette - PX
Timeline: Day Two

Els prowled the grocery aisles of the post exchange, leaning against a wire cart. The cart had the stereotypical defective wheel which rattled incessantly as she pushed it along. The PX was the only available retail outlet for the military and families stationed here, therefore the establishment held much more than food. Half the building was devoted to all manner of other goods any household would need—furniture, clothing and tools barely scratching the surface of its offerings.

Naya and Tobias had drawn the short straws this morning and they’d accompanied Els on this shopping trip. She’d sent them off in different directions with instructions and currently stood in the canned foods section, a frown on her face as she studied labels. Prices were much more expensive on a planet with little food production. Everything had to be imported here and that costed extra. Still, the crew needed to eat. Tallying up their current purchases, knowing they still needed to check into the hardware and home supply areas, Els realized that they’d likely exceed the initial one thousand credit tab. She’d be forced to supplement their purchases with ship funds, an expected outcome but one her miserly self had hoped to avoid.

She scanned the list in her hand. Kasli wanted peas and Kolodka couldn’t survive without his supply of corned beef hash. Tobias had already dropped six cans of beef stew into the cart before strolling off in search of bread. Everyone had to take a week of kitchen duty and each enjoyed their own recipes—except for Austin who didn’t care one way or another what was available. That made for quite the conglomeration when it came to stored foodstuffs. With an aggrieved exhalation, Els paused in front of the canned vegetables and began pulling a selection from the shelves.

“What do you think?”

Els glanced up from her task to see Naya twirling about, a dress held up against her body. She scanned the material with a raised eyebrow. The mustard yellows and faded reds in the design went well with Naya’s darker complexion. “Looks nice.”

Naya spun around again, watching the way the dress hem moved. “I think so, too.”

Placing a stack of cans in the cart, Els nodded. “Now will you go pick up the beans and rice I asked for?”

With a moue of aggravation, Naya stared at Els.

Unaffected, Els stared back. “Shop on your own time, Prashad. It’s not like we’re jumping planet today. Once we get the stores gathered, you can spend your credits how you like.”

Seeing that Els wasn’t affected by her displeasure, Naya rolled expressive eyes and huffed discontent, the dress falling to drape itself over her forearm. “Fine. Beans and rice. Aye, aye, Skipper.”

Els lowered her chin and narrowed her eyes at the use of Austin’s nickname. “Now that’s just being nasty.” She smiled at Naya’s laugh. Naya wasn’t the type of person to hold a grudge, her temper much like a quick summer storm, full of violent potential and quick to fade. Her eternally buoyant spirit was one of her best qualities.

Arranging the dress over the end of the cart, Naya walked down the aisle, passing a mother with two young children. Casting a glance over her shoulder, Naya said, “You need to get laid, Els.”

Piqued, Els called back, “Ja? And who was it who got in the way of that last night?” Naya laughed again, disappearing around the corner. The woman sharing the aisle with Els turned and glared. Els opened her mouth to apologize, replaying the words in her head with bemusement, but the woman harumphed, gathered her two children and strode after Naya to turn the opposite direction at the end of the aisle. Els closed her mouth and shrugged. It wasn’t as if either of them had said a swear word. The children didn’t look old enough to understand the topic of the conversation anyway.

“She’s right. You need to get laid.” Tobias came up from behind her and dumped several loaves of bread in the cart. “Thirty-two credits.”

Els took a brief moment to scowl at the gunner who merely smiled back, bright red mustaches flanking his mouth. When he didn’t alter his demeanor, she shook her head and added his prices to her calculated tally. “Your opinion’s duly noted. Do you have anything else to add about my sex life?”

“About your sex life? Not a thing. You’re a big girl. You’ll figure it out.” His smile widened at Els’s ineffectual glare. “But I was thinking it’s time for a vacation. We’re only a couple of stops from Bliss. Think maybe we can take a week’s leave there?”

The thought was an intriguing one, deflecting Els from the fact that no one on her ship had anything better to do than discuss her romance with Kasli. A week’s shore leave at Bliss would be the perfect distraction, not only for she and Kasli but for everyone in general. It had been several months of successful endeavors—they deserved a little time off. And Bliss was well-named, a planet where tourism was the gross international product. Els and Kasli could rent a romantic bungalow in one of the nature preserves and spend several glorious days without the constant demands from and intrusions by their well-meaning and totally inappropriate crew mates.

The idea took root. Of course, it would depend on Commander Folsum’s offer. For all Els knew he’d want her to head back the way they’d come, most likely as a data courier. If such was the case, she couldn’t turn down a paying job. Regardless, with some careful planning and an eye toward this goal, Freya’s Tears could work its way around to Bliss eventually.“I like it. I can’t guarantee it—”

Tobias waved her off. “I’m aware of the vagaries of the business.”

Els nodded. Sometimes she forgot that of all her crew, Tobias was the only one who’d once been a commissioned officer like herself. He’d been part of the same Confederated Navy in which Kasli had been enlisted, but had left the service with a higher rank than Els had ever attained in her sub sector navy. The thought that he had more command experience than the captain of his ship sometimes disconcerted Els. Had Tobias been on board year and a half ago, he could easily have taken over when Captain Bercini had died of a heart attack. Instead Els had been there, the only crew member with the necessary experience to lead the others.

“What’s next?’

Bringing herself to the present, Els studied the list. “Um…We’re just about done with the food. Can you check the kitchen area? Austin torched our last large fry pan, and we need a replacement.”

Tobias grinned. “Got it.” He backed away the way he’d come, Els watching him go. “I’ll get cast iron if they got it. He can’t destroy that.”

“Wanna bet?”

He chuckled and turned away. “No bet!”

Els returned her attention to the vegetables, comparing her list to what she’d already put into the cart. In reality she knew that she could culminate her relationship with Kasli at any time. They both had their own cabins; it wasn’t as if anyone could hear them through the thick bulkheads that made up the ship. The only thing stopping them from falling into bed together was Els. Before her ex-lover Bennie Takahashi’s employment as medic a year ago, Els and Kasli had been slowly progressing toward a deeper relationship, a friendship that had morphed into something a little more. They’d never had a chance to explore or even discuss the matter. Bennie’s appearance and a sexual past with Els had hindered that burgeoning friendship, deflecting their potential as Bennie once again took up with Els. Bennie’s subsequent perfidy six months ago had left Els feeling both betrayed and romantically adrift. The last thing she had wanted to do was jinx a new romance with Kasli by moving too fast, not when they’d been taking the unhurried route in the beginning.

A week on Bliss would do wonders for everyone. It was Austin’s home planet too. Els expected he’d want to actually leave the ship this time to visit his family. She continued shopping, entertaining prurient daydreams of a three day weekend with Kasli in a forested wonderland.


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