Chapter Six

“Go on up to the room,” Jardel said.

“Not gonna happen,” Opal replied.

“Then stay here for all I care,” Jardel said as she powered on her maintenance suit. Soft green lights illuminated the suit’s collar and back zipper.

“Just don’t go gallivanting around in the public areas,” she continued.

“Party,” Opal said.

“No! No party,” Jardel snapped. “It’s dangerous on the outer levels. If we… If the ship…” The soft green lights on the suit dimmed and changed colors as they went through the post routine, checking for errors. The suit was hanging on a suit rack, gloves firmly wrapped around the hang bar. It looked like a headless person trying in vain to do a pull-up.

“If Dad makes a mistake or the jump goes wrong, the outer levels will be the first to…”

“Fine,” Opal sighed.

Jardel bent down and rubbed the dog’s head. She smoothed the hair back on Opal’s face so she could see her eyes. They were big, black eyes with a sad bent to them. Opal always looked like she was sad and worried, but at the same time her eyes looked as if they were filled with all the love in the universe and if you let her, she would give some of that love to you. Jardel looked into those deep, black eyes and remembered her grandfather sitting in his recliner, smoking his pipe and reading a book. Opal was always right there, snug and asleep beside him. Opal had made her grandfather happy and Jardel realized that she too might just love this ornery, little mutt. She was genuinely worried about the jump and if she were honest with herself she would probably be devastated, or at least sorry, if anything happened to Opal.

“It’s just that I wor…”

“Your breath smells like tacos,” Opal puffed.

Jardel was about to curse out loud when the maintenance suit made three beeps, each one higher than the other, indicating that it was online and ready.

“I don’t care what you do,” Jardel said as she stood in a rage and stepped up to the suit. The back of the suit opened for her but she just stood there, looking at the suit and then back at Opal, thinking of something to say. Finally, with a huff she reached up and grabbed the hang bar. She lifted herself up with the skill of a gymnast and put her feet through the back of the suit and wiggled her legs into the pants. Once her feet were in the suit and on the ground she let go of the bar and inserted her arms into the sleeves. The back of the suit automatically zipped itself up and the suit adjusted itself to fit her perfectly. She stepped out of the rack and turned back to face Opal who was walking through the door.

“Hold up,” Jardel said, but Opal paid her no mind and walked through the door.

Jardel hurried over to her funsuit, which was still in the crouched position she had left it in, although the slit down the side had closed.

“Cape,” she said and the figure transformed itself into a long, black cape, folding itself onto the bed. Jardel picked it up and swung it around her as if putting on an overcoat. The funsuit attached itself at a point on each shoulder. The weight of it felt good on her and she did not care that capes had gone out of style decades ago. The cape made her feel a little important, almost regal, and Jardel was not someone who gave two shits about what was in fashion at the moment, although looking down, she did think it was a tad bit long at the moment.

“Shorter,” she said and the cape adjusted itself by a few centimeters.

“Shorter, half meter,” Jardel said and the cape adjusted itself so that it was just below her knees. The cape of an emperor, she thought. She walked to the door and remembered her helmet. She looked around the room until she saw it on a hook by the hang rack.

“Get over here,” she said and the helmet glided off the hook and followed her out the door. In the hallway she heard the elevator ding and saw Opal get on. She walked over and stepped into the elevator just long enough to punch the floor that their room was on.

“Go to the room,” she said.

“Okay,” Opal replied.

“Thank you,” Jardel said walking away. “It’s for the best, trust me.”

“Yes,” Opal said as the doors began to close. “Gonna poop in your shoes.”

Jardel ran back to the elevator, but the doors closed before she got there. Jardel banged on the doors.

“Opal,” she screamed. “Don’t you dare!”

She hit the door one more time, but it was of no use. Opal was a dog of her word and Jardel knew with one hundred percent certainty that if the fleet made a successful jump and if she ever made it back to her room, her shoes would in fact be filled with dog poo.

For some reason, the fast anger she felt left her as quickly as it had come and she smiled thinking about that stupid dog. She turned from the elevator and headed toward the maintenance tube to make her rounds. The helmet followed smoothly behind her.

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