Captain Stone and the Crew of the Stormrise Pt. 3

Captain Stone and the Crew of the Stormrise Pt. 3

* * *
It wasn’t until dinner the next evening that Pepper and Stone managed to get a moment to speak to each other. The Wisp was waiting for him at the table when he came in, a reader paper in each hand and a wrinkled brow as he seemed to compare the two.
“New job?” Pepper asked, moving to take the papers from him for dinner.
“Maybe,” he replied, sighing as he handed them to her. “Maybe a new war between the P’sha and the Black Cats. The P’sha want to hire us for some wet work.”
“Weren’t they the ones who…”
“Yes.” Stone cut her off before she could finish the sentence and pulled her chair out for her.
“Do they know who you are?” She asked, concerned, as she sat down.
“No.” He said, slowly, his eyes had a faraway look in them that made her suddenly uneasy.
“No.” He was more present this time, more firm in his answer as he let go of her chair and moved to his own. “Different name, remember? Plus, they think I’m dead.”
“Well then, on to more pleasant topics then?”
“Of course.” Stone flashed her a smile. “I seem to have fallen asleep before the juicy part in that story last night. Is that where you are picking it up tonight?”
“No.” She blushed and picked up her fork. “I will let you read that for yourself, after dinner.”
“Good or bad?” He asked, slyly, starting his own dinner.
She just smiled and shook her head as she lifted a bite to her mouth. Her bowl contained a mixture of insects and decaying plant matter, belying the common belief that Wisps lived off of solar radiation and water. Her mouth actually contained grinding teeth to break the carapaces of insects and her digestive system was probably the most human-like thing about her.
Stone ate whatever Evie decided to cook for the crew, tonight it was a hearty stew from Stone’s home colony and he tried not to remember being served something similar by the P’sha priests.
It didn’t take too long for the friends to eat their respective dinners in comfortable silence. When they were finished, Pepper handed the reader paper to Stone and set about clearing the table.
“So, this is the scene, huh?” He said, leaning back and placing his free hand on his full stomach. Pepper didn’t answer and he didn’t wait for her to.
She watched his face as she gathered the dishes and too them to the elevator which would send them back to the galley.
“Well,” He said, not looking up from the paper. “They certainly got the fact that Wisps are hermaphroditic right, but why use human parts when you aren’t even a mammal?”
“Why use outdated human terms for any of it?” Pepper asked, coming to set a covered tray down on the table.
“Huh?” Stone asked, looking up at her.
“Wisps have different biology than humans, we also use different phrasing for biology, gender, sexual relations, etc. So why use the term “hermaphroditic” which is considered outdated by even human botanists?”
“Oh.” Stone looked away, thoughtfully, for a moment before turning back to her. “Apparently, I haven’t shifted completely out of the box with my thinking, I apologize.”
“At least you admit it.” She said, pressing her mouth to his forehead in a kiss. “Have you finished the scene yet?”
“Yes.” He handed the reader back to her.
“Good, then it is time for dessert.” She pulled the lid off of the tray to reveal two bowls of ice cream topped with chocolate covered insects.
“Wow, when did we get chocolate?” Stone asked, picking up his spoon as she placed a bowl in front of him. “Can you eat chocolate?”
Pepper laughed, taking her seat and her own bowl. “We got chocolate from our last raid, also plant based ice cream so I can have that too. I can eat small amounts of chocolate, but the dairy products in it will give me indigestion at higher doses.”
“Good to know.” Stone was already about halfway through his treat and reminded Pepper of the young boy she met decades ago, eating sweets like a starved man.
* * *
After dessert was cleaned up, Stone changed out of his armor and into his sleepwear, chatting idly with Pepper and trying to keep the topic of conversation light.
“So, how much of that scene would be possible?” He asked playfully, catching her around the waist and drawing close.
“You rogue!” She exclaimed, playfully smacking his shoulder. “While I certainly have the equipment to give you some enjoyment, you are sadly lacking.”
Stone laughed and released her with a kiss. “Too bad, I kind of like the idea of being the dashing hero with a girl in every port.”
“Is that why you have a crew made up of female-identifying people and fly a vulva shaped ship?” Pepper laughed, pulling away and sitting on the chaise in the lounging area.
Stone just stopped and stared at her, she almost laughed again at his deep-thinking face, but decided to let him go on uninterrupted for a second.
“I’ve never thought about that before.”
“Which part?”
“All of it.” Stone said, sitting next to her and laying his arms on the backrest of the chaise. “Especially the ship though, I bought it because it was cheap and looks like a fish with the solar sheets out. But, you are right, with them in it does resemble a vulva. The female-identifying crew hasn’t occurred to be either until just now. If I, Rosie, and Evie weren’t gay there would be a lot more shenanigans on this ship.”
Pepper laughed harder, imagining an awkward orgy with her human friends. Stone pulled her close with an amused smile.
“What do you want to do before bed, my dear.” Stone finally asked as her laughter subsided.
“We’ll read in a second, first I want to show you something on the viewing screen.”
“I’m not sure whether I should be afraid or interested?”
“Both.” Pepper said, working the controls in the armrest to bring the screen to life.
There was a sudden burst of dramatic music and Stone jumped at the volume. The screen lit up with a man standing tall and looking off into the distance. He was wearing black exoarmor, the type that you would wear in a ground battle, and had a patch over one eye. The patch, like the breastplate on the armor, had a skull and crossbones on it, both looked brand-new.
“They made a movie?” Stone groaned, moving a hand up to cover his eye. Pepper intercepted the hand.
“Keep watching, it gets better.” She was grinning and her eyes were sparkling in a way that piqued Stone’s interest.
Into the scene on the viewer swept a, human, woman dressed as a Wisp. Her hair and skin were dyed green and she had a purple strapless dress on which looked like a wrap on top and pedals on the bottom. The man on the screen swept the woman into an exaggerated kiss before drawing his sword and yelling “Onward, men! Let’s get that booty.”
More dramatic music played as a montage of battle scenes appeared, finally fading to black as a release date was displayed on the screen.
“Three months until that travesty.”
“The crew wants to screen it.”
“Of course they do.” Stone laughed. “You and Evie work it out and I might even show up.” He extracted himself from around Pepper and got up.
“We were thinking that, since it comes out the week before, we would make it part of your birthday celebration.” She called after him.
“I don’t have birthdays.” He quipped, heading to the bathroom to relieve himself.
Pepper smiled and shook her head at the predictable answer as she got up to turn down the bed. Three months from now he would be sitting in the ship’s lounge area, eating popped corn and laughing at the movie with the rest of them. He would even blow out the candles and eat a slice of cake; but, she would let him play curmudgeon in the meantime.
* * *

Captain Stone and the Crew of The Stormrise Pt. 2

Captain Stone and the Crew of The Stormrise Pt. 2

*             *             *

*             *             *

Stone loved the soft melody of Pepper’s voice, these days he didn’t even notice when she switched from English to her native tongue, the Song of the Wisps. It always helped him fall asleep, helped the stress of the day melt away. When they met, he was already too old for bedtime stories, but the others weren’t and so he participated. Now, he wouldn’t know how to sleep without them.

“Ross took one look at the ship and engines and started making a list of supplies he would need to just get started.” Her voice picked up again so Stone tuned back into the story, mildly interested in how else this author interpreted his life story in their fiction.

*             *             *

Stone’s heel clicked against the deck plates outside of his berth once again, barely two hours since he had guided Ross around the ship. He turned to the boy and handed him a few credit chips for parts and started towards the bazaar himself to get food for the galley. He didn’t notice Ross disappear into the crowd, but the look of joy on the kid’s face when he saw The Stormrise made Stone trust him to return with the required parts.

What he didn’t know, however, was where he was going to get the funds to stock the galley. Stone had been bouncing between ships for the last several years as a mercenary and trying to save up for a ship of his own. The capture of his last ship at a different stop accelerated his plans, however, so he didn’t quite have enough. Stone put on the charming smile that got him a deep discount on The Stormrise purchase and strutted through the station.

By the time that Stone had made it to the market, his past as a cutpurse had come in handy several times. Not many unaffiliated stations used anything other than hard currency, but too many visitors were unused to the weight and how to carry it. Stone, for instance, had a series of pockets throughout his armored chest piece and pants as well as a ceramic blade in each boot. Anyone watching him walk and shop would be hard pressed to see where he kept his money.

The first table he came to in the bazaar had something that greatly interested him, but instead of something to purchase it was a Wisp. She (presumably a “she”) was probably about five feet tall with pale, mint green skin. Her leaves were folded back along her head like hair and her lavender petals brushed the floor like a tulip shaped skirt. She was shopping for a wrap, the one on her torso matched her skin, but she was looking at more vibrant patterns at the table.

“This one matches your petals.” Stone said, handing her a wrap that she wouldn’t have been able to see from her side of the table.

“Thank you,” She blushed and nodded, taking the wrap from him and looking at the price tag. Wisp expressions were hard to read, but Stone sensed that she was disappointed.

“My treat.” He insisted, handing credits to the proprietor and draping the wrap around her shoulders. “I would love to have the company as I shop for ship’s rations.”

The Wisp grew darker in what Stone could only describe as a blush and thanked him again, taking his offered arm.

“My name is Stone, Captain Stone.” He said. “What is yours.”

“Unpronounceable to humans.” She laughed. “I keep meaning to take a—how do you say, “nipped-name”—to use, but I cannot think of one.”

“Well, may I call you My Lady for now?”

She seemed to blush again and nodded.

Stone passed up several tables of spices and food oddities before the Wisp stopped and pulled him to a halt as well.

“Do you know how to cook?” She asked him.

“No idea.” He smiled and she mimicked the motion. “I was just going to get dehydrated meals for the crew.”

She paled and shook her head. “That is a horrible thing to do to your crew, your cook should fire you.”

Stone laughed. “I don’t have a cook yet, would you like the job?”

The Wisp shook her head again. “I am a medic, but I do know a little cooking. I will show you some things in exchange for the wrap.”

“Excellent trade!” Stone exclaimed, letting her turn him around to the tables that they had passed.

By the time that Stone and the Wisp had returned to the ship, Stone had purchased a hover cart to carry all of their purchases and managed to have more credits than he had before he hired Ross that morning.

“Captain,” They heard Ross’s voice float around the corner as they entered the berth. “I managed to get everything on the list, but I had to haggle pretty strongly so it might not all work.”

“I am sure that you will figure it out after dinner.” Stone called to him, “Come help us stow all of this food.”

“Us?” Ross asked, popping from behind some crates left by The Stormrise’s last owner. “Oh!”

“Ross, this is our new friend with the unpronounceable name, she will be manning the galley until we can find a cook.”

“I am a medic, and I haven’t accepted your job offer yet.” The Wisp said.

“Nice to meet you.” Ross said, sticking his hand out awkwardly.

“And you.” She said formally, shaking his hand with an equal awkwardness.

“Excellent!” Stone said, clapping his hands together. “Let’s get to work.”

The two men got to work storing everything according to her instructions as the Wisp started cooking. Once the food was put away, Ross went back to his parts with a promise to be called when the food was done.

Stone stepped behind the Wisp and put his arms around her, leaning his head against her hair. It was softer than it looked, the leaves covered with a soft fuzz. She smelled like peppermint.

“You are what Earth women call ‘a sly one’, are you not?” The Wisp asked with a curious lilt to her voice.

Stone laughed. “I have been called that before, yes.”

“Wisps and humans are not sexually compatible.”

“I know.” He replied, settling around her more comfortably. “I will admit curiosity, but I just really like holding beautiful women. Besides, you smell like peppermint.”

“I do not know what peppermint is.” The Wisp replied. “I have been studying human biology for some time now and I believe that there are safe ways to satisfy your curiosity if you would care to experiment later.”

“Now who’s the sly one?”

“You, or you would not have approached me in the bazaar.” The Wisp tuned to look at him and lifted up to briefly press her lipless mouth against his. Stone’s lips tingled from the brief touch and the area of her face where his lips had touched were slightly blue now.

“Definitely peppermint.” Stone breathed.

“Then that will be my name.”

*             *             *

Pepper stopped reading when she heard Stone’s breathing pattern change and felt his head grow heavier on her lap. He was asleep now. She briefly wondered how much of that last bit he had actually heard and how much of it would follow him to his dreams. She stayed still, enjoying this contact for as long as she could, but eventually he rolled to his stomach and off her lap.

Pepper slipped off Stone’s pillow and brushed her mouth against his cheek in a kiss before pulling the covers over his shoulders. Her room was accessed through a ceiling ladder from Stone’s room, right up against the radiation shielding from the engine. It was warm there and the lights made it almost feel like home as she curled in a ball and shifted her leaves and petals to the rays to sleep.

*             *             *

*             *             *

Captain Stone and the Crew of The Stormrise Pt. 1

Captain Stone and the Crew of The Stormrise Pt. 1

She waited until he was good and settled, with his head in her lap, before she picked up the reader paper and began. This was their nightly ritual, ever since their first days together. He would work himself to exhaustion trying to provide for the two of them and she made sure that he came home to a warm dinner and a comfortable place to lay his head. The story reading was also part of the ritual and she was getting very good at reading in English.

Captain Stone and the Crew of The Stormrise by d.d. hill.” She started reading.

“Seriously?” He asked, the right side of his mouth drawing up in the way that made hers follow suit.

“Shh.” She cooed, smoothing back his hair with her free hand. “Just listen to the story.”

He exaggerated a sigh and let her pull his patch off his left eye and place it on the stand by the side of the bed.

“Chapter 1.” She continued, switching which hand held the paper so that she could hold his hands on his chest.

“It was just like any other day on the Shipwreck Space Platform, the junked hulls came in and the crews tore them down to the studs. The damaged, but still alive, ships docked in other ports and got repairs and upgrades. What marked this day as special was in the second berth of “D” deck. The berth was rented by a small passenger liner called The Stormrise, and a deal was taking place.”


*             *             *

Stone looked at the ship with a great sense of pride. It was his now, well, his and his crew, once he finds one. His first step is to go find that kid who was selling refurbished junk and get him to refurbish the ship. It wasn’t going anywhere without a good mechanic.

The button on his gauntlet locked both the ship and bay as he left, his boots clicking as they struck the deck plates.

He didn’t have to go far before he found the kid. The homeless section of the station wasn’t far from his berth on purpose. It was cheap for him to rent and the berths were good for short-term work. The kid was sitting on the floor behind one of the emergency door ribs. He was probably around 17 or 18, but looked much younger because of malnutrition. He was deftly taking apart a gauntlet and rewiring it, probably to hack the bio lock. Stone stopped in front of him and waited to be acknowledged.

“Can I help you with something?” The kid said around a tool in his mouth, not looking up.

“Want a job?” Stone asked, half fascinated with the kid’s deft fingers.

“I have a job.” He replied.

“Want a job fixing up the ship that will get you off this station?” Stone clarified.

The kid actually looked up at him at this point. “What ship?”

“The one in Berth 2D. Can you make it fly?”

“I can try, what happens if I don’t?”

“Then you get a room on board and food while you try.”

“Deal.” The kid finished up the gauntlet and put the tools in his pocket. “When do I start?”

“Now.” Stone put his hand out to help the kid up and to shake on the deal. “What’s your name?”

“Ross.” The kid replied, taking Stone’s hand as he stood and slung a pack over this other shoulder. “I will take a look, but no guarantees.”

“Fair enough.” Stone let go of Ross’s hand and turned to guide him to his new home.


*             *             *

“Ross?” Stone asked with a chuckle, moving Pepper’s thumb with his lower lip as he talked. “Wait until Rosie hears about that!”

“Shhh.” Pepper admonished. “She recommended the book to me, just listen.”

“Mmmmhmmm.” Stone smiled, closing his eye again while Pepper took the book back up.