I've almost gotten used to Lady Godiva. It's rather like my art class in college, where we had nude models, and you got used to them walking around starkers, making comments about the pictures being drawn. None of them looked one-tenth as beautiful as she did, though. I refuse to ask Captain Hawkins to change the way she looks just to accommodate me, though. I suspect it's his idea of an initiation stunt. It wouldn't surprise me if Lady Godiva looked much more normal and clothed...until he found out he had a once-married priest under a vow of celibacy as a passenger.
She appeared at my bedside to wake me up. I haven't been so flustered since that time I went to the adult emporium when I was in college on Frey-- to watch the "live show"--a live erotic/exotic dancer. It was one of those booths that you kept on pressing your thumbprint against the credit voucher to keep the window from closing every thirty seconds or a minute or so. The dancer was beautiful, flawlessly nude, and with her back to me. She turned around...and I recognized the face. It was a fellow student in an archeology class at school, working her way through college, and not expecting any of her fellow students to be in the audience. I guess she thought college students would be "above" that---untrue in my case, anyway. I was shocked, not expecting to see her, or anyone I knew--to say the least--certainly not expecting to see her nude. She had a smile of calculated lust for the others, but when she turned to me...and she recognized me,too...she made sure none of the others could see her...and then stuck her tongue out at me! I was too flustered to press my thumbprint again, so the window slid up, and I left the adult emporium. I saw her again at my archeology class, but she never talked to me again, and her attitude sort of dared me to tell someone. Of course, I never would. That would mean admitting I was desperate enough to go to go to one of those places. Of course, that was before I married, much less became a priest.
"Ready for breakfast?"
"Sure! Uh....let me get dressed."
She smiled. "I'm really not here, you know....and I'm not the Captain's fantasy-figure, either. But I'll leave. The mess hall is to the right, eight doors down."
I wondered about the other crew members. Surely it wasn't an all-male crew. Did they all like their AI's image being so blatantly sexual?
As it turned out, I needn't have worried. In the mess were the other members of the crew. There were two engineers, but both were Shaped persons from Isis, derived from wolf genes. They were male and female, but neither one thought anything about a naked human female.
"Nice to meet you, Father," said the taller engineer. " My name's Sue Strongarm I'm not of your faith--I'm Rushite, myself...but I respect a spiritual person ."
Hawkins, buttering his biscuit, snorted.
"Thanks, I'm Flint. I correspond with a Rushite priest. May I say, Sue, you have a beautiful pelt?" It was beautiful, gray and glossy, like her lupine ancestors and what clothing she wore was utilitarian...vests with pockets and tools. She was a biped, though, and her forehead was, if anything, bigger than mine.
"Flattery will get you---quite a lot, actually. This is
my mate, Paris Lastnamebedamned."
"Interesting last name."
Paris gave a wolfish grin. "Couldn't decide. So at least it's distinctive. Welcome aboard, Father. You don't play chess, do you?"
"Welllll....I'm not a great player, but I muddle through."
"Yes! YesyesyesyesYES!!" It was practically a howl.
"You've done it now, Flint. Paris has been looking for someone who gives a damn about playing for months."
There was one other crew member there, but he wasn't
eating. A tall black man with silver in his hair, with innate dignity
that seemed to come with age. He smiled and stood up, and said, "Glad to
meet you, Father. I'd shake hands, but I can't. I just come here for the
conversation...such as it is. My name's Cetawayo Khamsit."
"Yes. My funeral was six hundred years ago, during the old Fellowship days. I'm the co-captain, as well as the backup for the AI, Lady Godiva."
It wasn't unusual, especially in the days before the Edenite drive, to have one's personality duplicated in a computer backup, that would continue after your death, a virtual you. It's still sometimes done, but not as often. Oftentimes, in the sublight speeds of the Fellowship, they were the safest of captains, when trips took years instead of weeks. I have seen many "ghosts" such as Cetawayo, but this is the first time I had ever spoken with one. "I bet you have some interesting stories to tell."
Hawkins moaned. "The problem is he likes to tell 'em over and over and over...."
I sat down. Scrambled eggs, biscuits, oranges....very
ordinary fare. "No other passengers?"
"Passengers to Loki are scarce. Traders looking for opportunity, some scientists, and that's about it. However, we were scheduled to drop off some supplies there, and we can always use the Cardinal's money to accommodate a passenger...."
The rest of the day the Captain and crew were mainly concerned with getting past most of the Kami system. It was advisable to get far away from any other ships that might be using an Edenite drive, for fear of a heterodyning effect, and of course, there were so many key worlds here, it was highly recommended to get far, far away before starting the Edenite drive. I mainly stayed out of the way until supper, also at the mess. There was a small exercise area, and I practiced some kicks there.
"Just some fools who were sightseeing. We're getting to the outer planets of the Kami system now...we're between Iranagi and Izanami's orbits. Amaterasu is just a very bright star now, not looking like a sun at all. We should switch over to Edenite drive tomorrow morning," Hawkins answered, wolfing down his chicken livers. The wolf-derived Shaped-persons were, on the other hand, eating delicately, savoring every bite....very much not "wolfing" things down.
A ghost, two genetically-altered wolves, a
one red-headed prankster in command, and a beautiful, nude, untouchable
And one priest--- who definitely needed to pray for this group.
Especially and including--himself.
Return to Redwine at Dinner.