Authors: Jason Halstead
By Jason Halstead
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Be sure to check out these other Vitalis
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Vitalis - N
(Vitalis, book 2)
(Vitalis, book 3)
“Kira!” Captain Sharp snapped, drawing the attention of his navigator.
“Captain!” She jumped, hitting her knee against the steel at her station. She was tall and her predecessor
had been considerably shorter. The handyman on the
hadn’t made it up to adjust the ergonomics for her yet. She clenched her jaw to bite back the pain and turned to face him. “Sir?”
“It’s a milk run,” he said, grinning at her to show he was amused, “but have contingency courses plotted
; this isn’t the Core shipping lanes we’re flying.”
, sir,” she snapped. “I’ve got two backup routes and a warning alert in place for proximity.”
Sharp nodded. “Good
. We still on schedule for the jump in two hours?”
Sharp turned away from her and looked at the rest of the small bridge of his transport vessel. He was a private merchant
who made money trucking goods for the highest bidder. The rumor was so far he’d only handled legal fare, but that was only because the right offer hadn’t come along. “Where’s Tarn?”
“He was in the galley last I
seen him, Captain.”
Sharp grunted, then hit the ship-wide intercom on his chair. “Tarn, report to the bridge!”
Nearly three minutes later, a mildly overweight man with a scar running from his disfigured left ear across his cheek and nearly to his chin stomped through the hatch to the bridge. “What’s up, boss?”
Sharp turned to stare at him. “The galley is twenty feet away!”
“Had to finish my sandwich. Skeet was eyeing it up.”
“Skeet’s a songbird in a cage.”
“Never trusted birds. I seen rebels running greenhouses on Venus using birds to communicate to each other!” Tarn protested.
“You got problems,” Sharp said with a sigh. “Look, we’re jumping to the Altair jump station and heading from there to the mining stations. We unload mining equipment and pick up ore to ferry back to the smelter. There’s a good reason for anyone who knows our payload to be interested and Altair’s not heavily populated. I want to make sure our defenses are up
. Are they?”
Tarn snorted. “Best they ever
been, Cap. Shields are ready and the damages from that last brush when we was chasing that comet are fixed.”
“Yeah, plasma defenders are good.”
Sharp grunted. “Make sure you set up early warning alerts when we get in system
. It’s a three month trip and I don’t think you want to be the only one up for it.”
Tarn laughed and waved his hand,
and then headed off the bridge. “I’m an ex-Marine, Captain. I’m always ready.”
After he was out of earshot
, Kira turned and caught the Captain’s eye. “What?” he snapped.
“Kira, you’re new, but so far you haven’t screwed anything up. You got something on your mind, you say it — unless it’s about me,
and then you tell me in private.”
She nodded and swallowed visibly. “Okay, um,
sir. I just… I thought there was no such thing as an
Sharp nodded slowly. “Yeah, me
“Hey Kira, you looking forward to the cold sleep?”
Kira turned away from her locker, holding the shirt she’d just taken off over her breasts. “Eric! I didn’t know you were in here. I’m sorry!”
Eric Sackman shrugged, the movement going all the way to his prominently displayed penis. Kira jerked her head up from watching it bounce, blushing fiercely. “Got doused in some coolants while I was patching up a leak in the pushers. Something always goes wrong every time we jump.”
Kira nodded, glancing down at him again as he waved his arms to finish drying off the water that the blowers hadn’t gotten. He was a small man, or so she’d thought. He was several inches shorter than her and looked pretty scrawny in the coveralls he usually wore. The height wasn’t a problem — she was taller than most people — but now she saw that Eric was lean but also solid. And of what weight he did have, well, there was a good size chunk between his legs. She looked away, blushing again.
“Hey, relax. It’s gonna happen from time to time. We got one locker room and one shower, even if there are two stalls in it. Only three heads in the whole ship. There’s six of us and not a one that hasn’t seen the other naked. You’re going to have to get used to it or…”
“Or what?” Kira turned back to look at him.
He smiled, showing perfect teeth. “You know what they been calling you?”
“What?” she groaned.
She shook her head and looked down. Her pants were still on and they covered her legs. She was tall; a lot of that length came from her legs. She’d kept them in great shape with whatever aerobic exercise she could find, depending on where she was at and what she was doing. “Better than ‘Boobs,’ I guess.”
Eric laughed. “It’s not that they’re not fine…”
She laughed with him after a minute. “Okay, all right, I get it. Loosen up. I just…this is not how I saw my future happening.”
Eric chuckled. “Yeah, I hear that.”
She stared at him, surprised. “Really? I mean…Oh crap. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean anything by that. I’m just flustered.”
Eric laughed again. “I’ve evolved over the years to look the part
; no offense taken. What’s got you flustered?”
She wanted to tell him
, trying not to stare at the enormous piece of meat between his legs, but her cheeks caught fire at the scandalous thought. “Um, me being half-naked and all.”
“I could turn around,” he offered without moving. “Or you could just get used to it and drop the shirt.”
She bit her lip as she considered it. Sooner or later everybody would see her; it only made sense. She nodded. “All right, but there better not be any new nicknames!” She lowered her shirt and tried to present her chest as proudly as she could.
Eric’s face went from a smile to being purely blank,
and then he caught himself and nodded with a smile. “I don’t know. I can think of a few fitting ones.”
She rolled her eyes and tossed her shirt into her locker. She knew the blush had spread from her face to her chest but she refused to back down. She turned and grabbed the waist of her pants before she could come to her senses. They dropped and she reached in for a change of clothes. She heard a gasp come from Eric.
“Problem, Mr. Sackman?” she inquired as sweetly as she could. She glanced over and understood immediately. What had been hanging impressively was now pointing directly at her — and it was exponentially more impressive. “You’d better put that away before you put somebody’s eye out.” Or spear me in the kidney, she mentally added. She shivered at the thought but tried to disguise it by changing into her workout clothes.
, yeah, I’ll see what I can do about that.”
Kira glanced at him again after she finished dressing. He was still staring at her with an erection strong enough to act as a landing strut for the
. She smiled again, knowing this time that he wouldn’t notice the redness of her face, and then turned and walked out with a little extra sway of her hips. She bit back the giggle until she was out of the lockers and heading towards the passageway that circled the cargo bay. The cargo bay had been vented for this trip, but the access passage around it was the only decent option for exercise. She turned the corner and looked down the long passage.
Three dozen laps later
, she figured she was close to three miles in. A short run, by her standards, but life on a transport was never promised to be one of luxury and accommodation. She headed back to the locker room, wiping sweat from her brow. She stepped in and saw Captain Sharp putting on some running shoes of his own. He glanced up at her and did a double take.
“Check the display, Kira! If it says
occupied you stand fast. Last thing I need is a bunch of sex-crazed men running around this ship because you walked in on them in the shower or something!”
Kira stared at him, thoughts firing off in her brain so quickly she couldn’t identify them.
“Pick your jaw up; it’s okay. I was finished anyhow. Going to get a run in before we sack out. Looks like you already did.”
“Sir! I didn’t— I mean, I don’t— I wasn’t—
Sharp chuckled. “Relax
. Just pay more attention. This is your first run; you’re nervous. I get that, it’s okay. Everything set up all right in the nav computer?”
She nodded, finally managing to seal her lips together.
“Good. Get yourself a shower but be sure and hit the button on your way in. Last thing you want is Tarn stumbling in on you.”
Kira shuddered. The thought of the fat ex-Marine ogling her body made her nauseous. “Yes
, sir. Sorry, Captain. I’ll be more careful next time.”
He nodded. “I bet you will. Otherwise I’ll have to make sure I’m the one who walks in on you…”
Kira gasped, causing the Captain to laugh at her as he walked out of the locker room. “Never had the need for a lock but if it’s a problem I can see if Eric can rig one up.”
At the mention of Eric
, Kira’s eyes narrowed. “No, sir,” she growled. “It’s fine.”
He shrugged and headed out for his own run. Kira followed him just enough to turn and see the display that was now obvious to her. Letters that clearly indicated
occupied or unoccupied, along with a red and green light. She shook her head at her own naivety and walked back in to the shower. She slapped her hand on the button to set the display to occupied, and then went to her locker.
Her shower did little to cool the growing anger inside of her. She slipped into comfortable clothes for the cold sleep but instead of heading to the hibernation chambers
, she called up the whereabouts of Eric Sackman on the computer. He was in the engine room. How fitting. She hoped he was getting dirty again.
When she found him
, he was just replacing a panel on a console. She waited until he turned before stepping up and slapping him. Hard. Eric’s head snapped back and he took a half step away from her to catch himself. His own hand went to his cheek, but the flare of rage she saw in his face drained once his eyes met hers.
“Oh shit, Kira! Oh no, you’ve already changed. Oh shit, oh shit! Look, I’m so sorry – I didn’t mean for anybody else to— Oh shit, who was it?”
“Captain Sharp,” she spat at him.
“Oh, okay, well at least it wasn’t Tarn or one of the cargo monkeys. Still, he didn’t see anything
, did he? Shit, Kira; it was just a little joke. I didn’t mean for”