Lt. Cmdr. Shiana Bell watched Captain Grey enter the ship’s commons. As always her mind went to his ballet like beauty as he made his way to her. There was nobody in space who moved as gracefully in zero G as Capt. Leonard Grey.
“I assume, Lt. Cmdr., that you are requesting to leave duty for some shore leave down Earthside.” Shiana nodded. “Good, you deserve some rest. Have a great time and I’ll see you in a month.”
“Thank you sir,” Shiana said. “Are you heading Earthside?”
“No, I have a lot to do on board the Magellan. I’ll stay here. As usual.”
Shiana bit her lip. She had forgotten that the captain never went Earthside. “If you don’t mind me being so bold, sir, a little change of scenery never hurts anyone.”
“Being bold is part of an XO’s job. Don’t worry, Shiana, I’ll make it out into the base and may even take the hop over to Gagarin City. There’s one table in the casino that isn’t as rigged as most. I tell the crew to never trust steel dice in a magnetic field, but on occasion…” He winked. “Do you have plans?”
“A few, sir. I just love having my feet on the ground, feeling the weight on my legs, you know. Sure, I’m wobbly for the first few days. OK, I’m a little wobbly the whole time I’m on planet, but it feels great. And to be back with Wayne, even for a short while. We’ll go to the coast. I can almost feel the surf on my shins, the sand between my toes. I can almost see Wayne’s devilish grin as he chases me playfully across the beach into the waves, catching me tenderly and thinking of the nights in the cottage. I’m sorry to get so personal, sir.”
“That’s OK, Shiana. It would be a lonely life if a captain couldn’t have personal minute or two with his XO. I hope you and Wayne have a great time. I remember when I used to… sorry, I know you don’t want to hear an old man rambling about ancient times.”
“But I do, sir, though perhaps another time, when I don’t have a shuttle to catch. And you know, Leonard, that you can talk to me as a friend any time you need to step away from being the captain.” Until he had mentioned his past Shiana had forgotten the accident, had forgotten how his wife, Margret had died and he had been so badly injured. It had happened long before her time, but she knew that he had a hard time convincing Command to let him go back to space. They almost lost out on the best captain, best officer, in the fleet.
“I know,” the captain said. “You have been a good friend. And I know what you are thinking. Yes, I still miss her, after all of these years, but I am not jealous of anybody else’s happiness. I chose the life I live and am happy with the choice. Well, it’s about time you head off or you’ll miss the shuttle. Have a great voyage.”
Shiana leaned over and hugged her commanding officer then leaned back and saluted. He saluted back and gave her a wink. “Now don’t you worry about the ship’s Old Man over the next month, I’ll be fine, if a little poorer after the casino visit.”
She turned and headed to the port that lead towards the airlock. Glancing back over her shoulder she saw the captain swimming gracefully away. Something that she always knew but had forgotten was made obvious.
The captain was missing both legs from just above the knees. He had lost them in the accident that had taken Margret, his wife.
With that thought came the realization that the reason the captain never went Earthside was the freedom he would have to give up. In space he was the most able-bodied person imaginable, on Earth many would consider him handicapped.
She left the ship and floated into the base and to the dock. A few new recruits, well-muscled from their stint of basic training, clumsily made their way off of the shuttle. She shed an inward tear for her friend and space-locked captain that was anything but handicapped.