This is a companion piece to "Science vs Romance" as a character profile of Layna. Once I get my full crew figured out I might start to spin them together into a full story.
She’s reached that point already--her eyelids drooping, she avoids lunch because she’s not hungry, a sure sign of exhaustion. Keeps her hands moving at all costs, because if there’s a pause, a break in concentration, she might as well curl up under the console with her thumb in her mouth. It’s hard to justify uselessness when there’s an economic process to choosing the people aboard the ship, and she would know. Sifting through endless piles of applications; adventurers, crazed scientists, minimally skilled translators so tired of living in a crowd that they would give up anything to feel the vast expanse of space, people she sympathizes with but cannot employ. She helped pick the best, most suitable candidates for deep space exploration.
She’s spent most of her life up here, an accidental pregnancy but cherished nonetheless, spoiled by the backyard blanket of stars and galaxies and by a crew that hadn’t seen a human child in years. And the cycle repeats: her exhaustion, despite eight hours of deep sleep, comes from her own accident, a miscalculation in timing. She’s never gotten the hang of time, when light years mean more than minutes, it’s hard to be precise. Black hole distortions, time variances, relativity. Time--what is it really? A measurement specific to a person, depending on their position in space. A minute to her could be an hour to someone on the other side of a singularity. Time theory distorts her view of reality, as it moves forward on a time line.
To Henry, this makes no sense.
She’d been revolving around him slowly for some time, fascinated by the way he stood so solidly on the ground. Planet-born, like everyone else on the ship, but different somehow. She, who can float from world to world, from culture to culture, finds herself inexplicably drawn to a trained killer. Never could stay away, she thinks wryly, though now he probably wishes she would. “Okay” was the only response he could muster when she told him, and then, “I need to walk”. Not surprising, really.
Her hands move methodically over the keypad. Signals coming in, and she relays them, separates the ones she wants to translate, assigns the others. They follow the mission religiously, and that’s what keeps them together, even as they individually fray. Find suitable colonization sites. Expand the human race over the galaxy. Try not to interfere. Her crew has done well, even if they don’t have much to show for it.
“Layna--you alright?” The question comes from behind her, the concerned captain checking in on his first mate. Her hands have frozen over the keyboard, her eyes shut, and she’s not quite sure if she has been dozing or not. She shakes herself.
“Yes, sir. Couldn’t sleep last night, that’s all,” she lies. Still not ready to place blame on the child as it seems too small to do anything consequential to her system. Besides, the captain can’t know yet, not until she actually talks to Henry. The father of her child. She grimaces. It sounds weird in her head, and she can’t imagine speaking the words out loud.
I need more time, she thinks, and then smiles at the irony. Timing is such a tricky thing to her, she doubts she’ll ever get it right.