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Glory had instructed the onboard computer to wake her and then crashed, still wearing the gold dress she'd put on for dinner so she wouldn't have to repack the carry-on bag that contained a few changes of clothes that she'd brought back to her room earlier. Most of the belongings they'd collected from her parents' home had been left on the little transport ship Richards had used to take her there, and he had instructed the pilot to have a few of the men transfer them to the cargo hold of the shuttle they'd be taking out to the Nautilus.
She was amazed that she'd managed to sleep the entire time, no tossing or turning or anything, considering that usually she couldn't sleep at all in a new place. But then again, having the freedom to do as one pleased, rather than being worried what your parents thought you should be doing, was rather liberating. Maybe she'd been so relieved that she was finally able to relax.
Whatever the reason, that relaxation didn't last once she was dressed and ready to go. Kurana arrived to find her pacing, and Glory was so excited to get to the shuttle that she practically left the other woman behind, she walked so briskly.
"Our shuttle is one floor from the top," Kurana told her as they stepped into a lift at the parking tower. "Captain Richards is considered a VIP, so you'll always find his ships at the top levels."
"Yeah, we studied about space station configurations at school, so I figured we'd be heading up," Glory told her. "I'm so curious to see if the docks look any different up there."
The doors opened even as Kurana giggled, saying, "Well, not exactly different, but there's more space and less docks, I suppose. That, and a much better view of the stars from the observation lounge. I would never take a newbie into the shuttle before showing her a first glimpse of where we're going. Come on. You can leave your bag right here while we have a look. Nobody would even think of messing with your stuff on this level, especially since it's clearly marked."
Glory's suitcase was a shimmering gold color, just like the rest of her clothes, though in a somewhat deeper tone. The crest of her family – the star – was clearly emblazoned on the front. Kurana was right. There was no way anyone could mistake who it belonged to.
She followed Kurana with an excited anticipation. It was one thing to get a glimpse of the distant stars from the Regulus Prime observatory, and quite another to get a good look at them without any filters. There were thousands of little pinpoints and a few that were just a bit bigger than the others, which Glory knew meant they were probably closer rather than larger, though it was easier to guess at the size of a star by its color.
"This is incredible," she sighed dreamily as she gazed longingly out the window.
"Honey, this is nothing," Kurana scoffed. "Wait till you get a load of the wormhole. Come on, we have to get on board and settled. I need to go find Reagan, and your seat is way up at the front with the officers. Do you think you'll be all right to find it on your own?"
Glory nodded as they stopped for a moment so she could retrieve her bag and then continued through the docking bay doors. She said, "Yeah, I should be fine. Finding the way to the front of a shuttle can't be that difficult, even though this one is really huge."
Kurana snickered. "Yeah, I'll bet you'd think so. But hey, I'll leave you to it. You'll discover a whole lot more about space travel soon enough." Near the entrance to the shuttle itself Glory saw a few people, though like Kurana most of them were headed for the rear of the vessel. It didn't take long before she was following the upward incline and a few blinking lights up to a partition and into the seating area beyond. To one side she saw a huge wall covered with little cubes, and many of them contained luggage.
Glory rolled her eyes and glared at the tiny compartment, which was not wide enough and not tall enough for her suitcase. Honestly, guidelines on how to conduct oneself while on board an interstellar vessel were hardly useful if you couldn't even bring your baggage along for the ride.
As she continued to struggle with the possibilities of how to fit a ten-inch-wide suitcase into an eight-inch-wide hole, she felt rather than saw something decidedly male brushing past her, his thigh making contact with her ass along the way. She turned with the intention of glaring until she caught sight of the man in question.
"Captain Richards, please excuse me," she said. "I didn't realize I was blocking the way."
"Of course you weren't, Miss Star," he said, smirking. "It's just that your delectable backside was too tempting to ignore while you were bent at such an awkward angle."
Now Glory actually did glare. "You must be teasing me, sir."
He snorted softly. "Perhaps. Here, let me help you with that."
Glory shook her head and laughed. "Sir, I'm beginning to think you hired someone to assist instead of the other way around."
Richards slid his fingers along the side of the cubicle and pushed a button that she should have spotted immediately. Her jaw dropped and her face flamed as the width and height of the space expanded, and her body fell forward as the suitcase slipped neatly into place.
"Um, thanks," she whispered softly, rubbing at the bruise that was beginning to form on her wrist thanks to its unfortunate placement just then. Richards reached out and caught at her hand, turning it over so he could assess the damage.
"Personal cubicles are always retracted until they are to be used just for the sake of convenience," he explained as he continued the rubbing motion where she'd left off. "It's another one of those things you only learn from actually being there; they don't mention it in school. You'll get used to little things like that the longer you travel for GalactiCorp, Miss Star. I trust you know how to find the seat that is yours so we can get under way?"
Glory's flush deeped, and her jaw snapped shut.
"Of course I do, sir," she grumbled, trying not to grit her teeth over his magnanimous attempts at chivalry. What part of ‘independent woman' had not been clearly understood when he'd read over her resume? "Does this seat have any strange buttons I'll need to know about as well? I'd hate to inconvenience you any further."
Richards snorted another time, the sound somewhere between miffed male and impressed employer. "No, it doesn't. The seats are all self-adjusting on this particular transport shuttle. Although some of the older shuttles or ships we'll travel in may still have the outdated equipment on them. But I'll be sure to give you fair warning about them, all right?"
"Yes, please," she agreed, nodding. "It's awfully difficult to look like a competent repairs specialist when you are woefully uninformed about the unfamiliar equipment you're about to be experiencing."
The captain chuckled. The smooth, low tone of his voice became even more electrifying when he used it in that manner than it was when he'd conducted their interview yesterday in his businesslike and serious tones. Glory might have known that the addition of cheer to his already enticing vocalizations would not make it any easier to pretend a disinterest that she didn't particularly feel.
"Come, let's get settled in, shall we?" he said then, and Glory followed him down the aisle.
Apparently, her seat was right in front of his own, and she was too aware of the man as they each buckled their harnesses and prepared for the upcoming take-off. At least the shuttle would be doing a soft launch from the lunar dock rather than requiring a force necessary to escape planetary orbit, as the shuttles from Regulus Prime had to do. They wouldn't have to endure the mind-numbing pressure of a full exit, just the jarring one as their ship broke away from the clamps and emitted a slow burn so they could head off into deep space.
Glory wasn't overly interested in this seven-day portion of her journey, which would probably give her ample opportunities to look out the window. She imagined she would have more than enough down time to enjoy the stars now that she'd chosen a career in space. She was far more excited to reach their destination and board the Nautilus itself.
She had been raised at Regulus Base and had never left it in all her twenty years. Now, though, as a fully trained robotics specialist, she would be setting her feet on an actual starship for the first time. She couldn't begin to imagine all the different tech she'd be introduced to on the ship alone, let alone what sorts of things they find once they'd reached Gamlin. Her heart thundered just thinking about the exciting life she'd chosen for herself.
"Would you like to watch the movies during your trip, Miss Star?" asked the flight attendant as she went by.
"Oh, no thank you," Glory replied automatically, used to the fact that she didn't have credits for such extravagances.
"Go ahead and give her a headset, please," said Richards from behind her. "By the time a week has passed she might just change her mind."
"Sir?" Glory gasped, flushing again. "I really don't need them. I brought my book-reader along."
"Don't forget, Miss Star, that you're going to need something to do besides read once we've gotten out there," he reminded her. "I don't think there's a huge marketplace full of digital books to choose from once you've run out of those. That headset has a universal plug, so you'll be able to use it with that device for music and movies, and it could even double for other things which might require a listening device."
"Yes, I suppose you're right," said Glory with a sigh. "You know so much more than me – it's disconcerting, really. I was the head of my class. It feels weird to be the one in need of advice instead of always being called upon to give it."
She looked back at him as she said this and saw him grin. The effect of those pearly whites, his chiseled good looks, and the wayward lock of golden hair that fell into his big brown eyes as he placed a pillow behind his head and leaned back literally made her swoon. She quickly turned back around.
Of all the sensations and changes she'd undergone since she'd decided to take this job, meeting Captain Xavier Richards and trying to ignore her growing attraction to him had to be the worst. She would go and get her first real job with a guy she found irresistible. It was probably all part of the whole ‘rebelling against your parents' package she'd just signed up for.
Still, she wouldn't change a thing. She was headed for the stars, and the adventure of a lifetime.