Ambrose sat at the kitchen island, laying his arms and head on the countertop. He watched the glowing numbers on the stove’s clock turn from one to another. One to another. One to another as he hummed to himself.

Odin, Ambrose’s best friend since they met, was looking through the kitchen door but staying out sight. He twisted his wedding ring around. And around. And around as he fought with himself.

“Odin, what are you doing?” Key said, boomingly through the silent house.

Ambrose shot his gaze from the numbers to the empty doorway. Odin said he’d be back in a minute. But it’s been 57. He looked back at the green numbers. 58. He always liked the color green. 59.

Odin shushed his wife, but she refused to indulge him any more than a volume reduction. “What are you doing? You said you would tell him an hour ago!”

“I just don't know how to tell him.”

“You've been saying that for the last three and a half weeks. Enough is enough.”

“This isn’t something we can rush. This is sensitive. If I said this wrong…”

“You’re just stalling.”

“No, I’m not!” he said, louder than intended.

Key stepped forward a bit, and in a lovely coo, she said, “Yes. You are. Maybe you should try plan B instead.” 

Odin, in his worrying, completely missed the white box with a yellow bow in her hands. He took a step forward, and, with both of them in the doorway, he kissed her. “You’re the best, hon,” he said, sliding his hand over hers on the box.

“Best not to forget that,” she said, removing her hands from the box and walking away from him.

She rounded the corner but peeked around to make sure her husband did as he said. From her hiding spot, it looked as if Odin was bathing in the light of heaven. He faced the kitchen, tweedling on his feet. With an exhale liken to the fantastical big bad wolf, he vanished into the dazzling light. 

With every step, Odin wanted to turn back with every step forward but somehow reached the island. He barely set the box on the counter when Ambrose jumped to attention. “67!”

“Excuse me?” 

“67 minutes. What’s in the box?” he asked, pawing at one of the bowstrings.  

“I have something to tell you, but open this first,” Odin said, pushing the box across the counter slowly, preventing any sound from the box.

“For me?” he squeaked, climbing higher on the stool, so his legs sat on the seat.

With a nod from Odin, Ambrose giggled as he pulled on the ends of the bow. The stool rocked under him, drumming in anticipation. He pulled the lid up, and all noise stopped. At the bottom of the box was a furry ball. 

Ambrose cocked his head as he picked it up. 

Once clear of the box, the ball moved. It straightened out to fit across Ambrose’s hands. With two small brown eyes, it stared at Ambrose and him at it. “It’s a kitty!” he said with a growing smile.

“She’s a Manx. She likes the water.”

“She’s perfect,” he said, pulling her close to his chest. She rubbed against him as he pet her back gently.

“Speaking of perfect, she’ll make a perfect copilot on your adventures since between work and Key’s pregnancy, I’m going to be too busy to be there myself.”

  Ambrose stopped petting the cat with a blank face. He suddenly grew a smile. “You’re having a baby!” 

“Not for a few months. Are you alright with that?” Odin asked, leaning in.

“You’re going to be a dad, and Key’s going to be a mom, and I have Luanne,” he said, cuddling his cat close.

A handful of years later, Commander Odin Andromeda and Lieutenant Evelyn Venice were on a mission for the Defense Directorate, the martian government agency of Space defense and exploration. They were navigating their small shuttle through the Sappho System, to the Martian Empire's outer limits, a dozen or so light-years from the mother planet.

The two of them had been stuck in the small shuttle for a week since they left their warship, the Titan. It was cramped and if they bumped together one more time, one, if not both, were going to blow a gasket. And neither of them knew how more shuttle rations they could choke down; they were running out of disgusted expressions.

“Anything on radar?” Odin said, leaning back from the helm. 

“Remember my answer an hour ago,” she breathed, with her elbow next to the screen and her head leaning on that hand.


“Same answer.”

“What does the directorate think is out here?”

“A goose or two. Of the wild variety. It sounds right up their alley of wasting the time of a former farm girl and a Phobos colonist.”

“I know they're not great, but you have a very dim view.”

She spun in her chair like lightning. “What in your life gives you one brighter. They wouldn’t even let you go to the academy if it wasn’t for political distress. Then they made you do more classes and made you stay more than three times longer than any other student. And instead of giving you a captain’s chair that you went to the academy for, you’re an interim commander where you get booted off your ship two to three times a year to make room for an academy student that’s going to be a captain long before you.”

Odin opened his mouth for words, but the only sound was a searing thud to the rear starboard. The force threw them into the front control panel and thrusted the helm into Odin’s chest. By the time the second thunder rang out, they were already bracing themselves.

“Radar?” Odin asked, with a hand on the helm and the other on his chest.

Evelyn pulled herself up to her station. “One ship. Back starboard... Another volley!” 

This time the thunders were followed by sparks and metal jumping off the panels. As the main panel became alight with flames, Odin and Evelyn fell to the floor.

“I guess there’s actually something out here,” Evelyn said, wiping some blood from her brow, “but I’m not apologizing.”

“Is the radar and systems still up?” Odin asked, making her turn away right before he couldn’t hold a straight face anymore. His eyes and cheeks cringed up. With every breath made them hug tighter.

“Weapons offline. Shields obliterated. And…,” she looked back at Odin, who went back to faking, “another ship is coming.”

“Well,” Odin started, digging into his pocket, “my son’s lucky rock hasn’t failed us yet.” He had a small shiny grey rock in his right hand.

“It better start working it’s magic soon and fast because life support is going too.”

“We are going to be there for Orion’s next birthday. Say it with me.”

“We’re going to be there~,” the two of them said, stopping for another volley ripping into the rear compartment.

The last thing they heard before succumbing to oxygen-deprived unconsciousness was Orion’s rock hitting the metal flooring.

Evelyn could feel the pound of her head through her body. When she had the strength to open her eyes, she was met with her green reflection in two pointed-ovular black holes. She jumped to the side into a set of familiar arms.

“Don’t worry, that’s just Luanne,” Odin said. 

“It's just a cat," she breathed. "Don't tell me a cat saved our lives.”

“No, no. Ambrose is getting some med supplies for your forehead.”

She touched her forehead, bringing down blood-covered fingertips. “Oh, yeah. Are you okay?”

“Yeah,” he hoisted them to their feet. “It's only a few bruises,” he finished, biting his lip.

“How did you get so lucky? Wait, who's Ambrose?”

“My cousin. Sort of. He's a good friend and the owner of the second ship you saw on radar.”

“I guess the rock worked.”


“I think I got everything you wanted,” Ambrose interrupted, thumping a box down on the rear wall bench. “Oh,” he looked up, “good morning.”

“Yes, good morning,” she said, changing her pitch as Luanne grazed her leg.

Luanne nuzzled her head against Ambrose's leg, making him pick her up. He cuddled her in return. After a minute of love, she meowed and licked his hand. 

“Are you two alright?” he asked, looking down at the floor. 

“We’re fine,” Odin said, sitting next to the box. “How much longer to Titan?”

Ambrose walked to the helm. “Two. Three hours at the most.”

“That fast?” Evelyn asked. “I took us a week to get this far.”

“Yeah, this ship is made for long fast trips through space. But it gives me plenty of time to play nurse.”

“Okay. I’m going to give Luanne a bath before we get there.”

“You’re going to bathe your cat for two hours?” Evelyn asked.

“Yes, any less and she gets grumpy,” Ambrose said, carrying Luanne down the corridor that he came through with the supplies earlier.

“I better sit down,” she exclaimed, putting her hand to her head and collapsing next to Odin.

“Don’t worry,” he replied, taking a cloth to her forehead, “Bath time is very important on this ship, so I made sure I got him a cat that liked it as much as he did.”

“Speaking of worry, if you think I didn’t notice that grimace when you sat~”

“Just let me fix you up. I rather have a doctor that’s not bleeding herself,” Odin said, placing a few thin white bandages that pulled the sides of the cut together.

“You can be such a baby.”

In reaction, Odin pulled off his latest bandage, causing her to jump along with a shriek to pierce through space. 

“You’re just proving my point, ya know?”

“Doc released you from med-bay,” Captain Peter Centauri said as he sat on the head of the war room table. 

“Yes, he did,” Odin said from Peter’s right. 

Peter slid his gaze to his left, to Evelyn and Ambrose. “Yes, Marineris gave him a good bill of health and wrapped up his four broken ribs.”

“Remind me to thank the Directorate for the memories. What did they even send you out there for?”

“If they knew…,” he paused through the surge of pain, “they wouldn’t’ve just sent the two of us in a dinghy.”

“Well, if they knew, they didn’t tell us,” Evelyn added.

“Ambrose, right?” He paused, but not long enough for an answer. “Not to sound ungrateful, but why were you there?”

Ambrose was tapping a pen against the tabletop. “I was just passing by.”

“Just passing by?” Peter asked, crossing his arms.

“On my way to Jinto. The flowers are beautiful this time of year.”

“Then out of the three of you, you must have seen something to identify the people who attack you.”

Ambrose stopped his drumming.

“They came at us from behind we… only saw them on radar,” Odin answered.

“And we were more worried about our lives.”

“Ambrose, you’re the only one that could have seen anything.”

“I only saw your ship in trouble.”

“Only?” Peter said.

“He can’t lie, Peter, if he says that’s all he saw that’s all he saw,” Odin barked.

“But that makes no sense. How could you not see any part of the ship you confronted to save my people?”

“I can’t tell you anything.”

“Can’t or won’t?!”

“Captain!” Odin yelled.

“I can’t,” Ambrose said with tears welling up. 

“It sounds like you won’t!”

“I promised,” he cried.

“These people almost killed your friend. Are you say your promise is more important than that?”

“Captain!” Odin yelled again, standing to his feet.

“The Loulanee!” Ambrose yelled. “The Loulanee,” he breathed.

The room cooled. Peter had a smile across his face, but Ambrose was reddening. Right as Odin settled back in his chair, with his hand to his chest, Ambrose ran out of the room as fast as the Loulanee appeared.

“Now look what you’ve done,” Odin said through a snarl, trying to get back to his feet.

An hour later, Evelyn found Odin in the mess. He sat alone, staring down into his cup. Within the minutes she got her meal, many of her shipmates went up to the usually friendly commander to be met by his downward head.

“Odin?” She sat her plate next to him. “How’s Ambrose?”

“Not well. I’ve never seen him like this,” he said, not moving his gaze.

“Tell me more.”

“He has a strict code. He won’t lie. He can’t. He can’t break his promises. It hurts him so much. When he’s forced to do it… The last time it happened he locked himself into his room on his ship for ten days. Didn’t eat, didn’t speak. It scared me more than anything.”

“And know?” she asked, bringing her cup to her lips.

“He’s crying under his control panel. Holding onto Luanne like a life preserver, something he didn’t have before. But he still won’t speak to me. Maybe you could?” He looked up at her. “Get him to speak I mean.”

“Me? Why?”

“He let you pet his cat. He talked to you. He likes you.”

“He likes me?”

“That’s why you woke up to Luanne staring at you. She somehow can sense if people are good or not and she tells Ambrose. It makes it a lot earlier for him socially.”

May 16, 2020 03:47

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