Tales from the Stream Ch. 03

Celebrity

Author’s Note

Space pirates. Lesbian space pirates. That’s really all you need to know. Well, that and not a lot of overt sex. Sexiness yes, but story first and no lurid details.

Yo ho ho and all that.

* * *

Tales from the Stream 3: Hildegard von Bingen

This is Your Captain Speaking

“Ladies and gentlemen, we’re coming up on a bit of turbulence and for your safety and the safety of the crew, the captain has illuminated the fasten seat belt sign.” Jade’s voice erupted from the tinny speaker mounted in the ceiling above the dining table while at the same time, echoing down the corridor with a split second delay.

Amaliya rolled her eyes once and went back to concentrating on the cards in her hand.

“On behalf of myself and the crew, this is Captain Jade wishing you a pleasant journey, wherever your travels may take you. The tower has just cleared us for landing pad niner niner niner, and we’ll be on the ground shortly.”

“I thought she’d be tired of it by now,” Emily said.

“Obviously not,” said Amaliya from across the table.

“Black Prince Airlines hopes you have enjoyed your flight and we encourage you to visit our social media site for coupons and a chance to win an all expense paid trip to any one of our popular destinations. Some restrictions apply.”

“Oh for fuck’s sake.” Amaliya laid her cards face down on the table and rose from her seat.

Just then, Emily produced a small foil pouch labeled ‘mac & cheese’ and plopped it in the center of the table atop the pile of granola bars.

“You know my weakness,” Amaliya said, sitting back down and peeking at her cards.

“I know you’re bluffing,” said Emily.

“Phfft.”

“Hey, loyal crew. This is your captain speaking. There’s something up here you need to see.”

Amaliya extended her middle finger in the direction of the overhead speaker before rearranging the order of her cards.

“She’s never giving this up is she?” said Emily. “I thought if we waited long enough she’d get tired of it.”

“Hey crewww?”

“It’s your fault, you’re the one who showed her how it works.”

“Me?” Emily sat up straight. “I used it once. I just assumed you already knew how it worked.”

“You give us too much credit.”

“Crew. Seriously. You’ve got to see this.”

“We’ve got a hot game going on,” Amaliya hollered. “There’s mac & cheese on the line.”

“Yeah,” echoed Jade’s voice, “Well up here there’s a ship on the screen.”

Amaliya and Emily looked at each other, set the cards face down, and rose from the table.

* * *

Barnacles

“Is that the Kobayashi Maru?” Emily said, crowding next to Jade at the pilot’s seat. “I didn’t think they’d get under way that fast, much less hold enough grudge to come after us.”

“It’s not the Kobayashi,” said Jade, pointing to the transponder code under the ship’s image on the screen.

“Hildegard von Bingen,” said Emily. “Never heard of that ship.”

“Meh. You’ve seen one space penis, you’ve seen ’em all,” Amaliya quipped.

“Are they changing course,” Emily asked.

“No,” said Jade.

“What about rail guns?” Amaliya said, her brow knit as she spoke. “We don’t look like space debris do we?”

“The new transponder diagnostic checked out five by five when I installed it.” Emily said. “We should be squawking Black Prince codes to anybody in range.”

“Including them?”

“Including them.” Emily squinted at the display. “Zoom in a little.”

Jade touched the screen and made a reverse pinching motion. “What is that?” she said.

“Space penis,” said Amaliya, “with some sort of—”

“Barnacles. It looks like barnacles,” Jade said.

“I was going to say venereal disease.” Amaliya grinned. “Space herpes.”

“There’s no such thing as space herpes. No space barnacles either,” said Emily. “Besides you can’t tell what it is from this distance.”

“Yeah, but look…” Jade reached in to pull up maximum zoom. “No. No, it’s too regular for barnacles. It looks like… I don’t know what.”

As the three women glanced at each other, the console flashed with the text ‘Incoming Hail.’

Jade shrugged and tapped the screen.

“Good day fellow traveler.” A woman’s voice, with a musical lilt, filled the tiny space of the conn. “This is Hildegard von Bingen standing by if you should need any assistance, materially or spiritually.”

“Interesting,” mumbled Jade.

“Very,” said Emily.

“We’re down to our last pouch of mac & cheese,” said Amaliya, radio mic clutched in her hand.

“Would you—” Jade reached for the mic. Amaliya held it up and away from her grasp.

“Black Prince, this is Hildegard von Bingen. If it is nourishment you need, I suggest you come aboard and break bread with us. Our galley stock is simple, but we are always willing to share and we would enjoy your company.”

“Obviously they don’t know us that well,” said Emily, grinning.

Amaliya brought the radio mic to her mouth. “Hildegard von Bingen, that sounds like a splendid idea. My sisters and I would bilecik escort love to take you up on your offer. Do you have a time in mind?”

“Black Prince, Hildegard von Bingen. Come at you leisure. We are always happy to have guests.”

“Thank you Hildegard von Bingen. Black Prince out.” Amaliya set the radio mic down and grinned.

“Sisters?” Jade said.

“She’s right,” Emily said. “They don’t know us that well. And breaking bread might go better without the ‘Yo ho ho, lesbian space pirates at your service,’ introduction.”

“You’ll never meet a nicer bunch of lesbian space pirates, though, would ya?” said Amaliya.

“No. No you wouldn’t.”

Amaliya held her arms out. Emily stepped in for a kiss and a moment later pulled Jade in for a hug.

“Are we done with the kumbaya moment?” said Jade. “We really don’t know what we’re getting into. How do we know they’re not some inter-galactic assholes using a woman’s voice to lure unsuspecting travelers?”

“Like a siren?” Amaliya said. “Maybe those things on the ship are big rocks they’ve strapped to the hull so we can crash against them as we’re entranced by their singing?”

“Seriously?” said Jade.

“I can 3D print some tasers,” Emily suggested.

“Emily.” Amaliya frowned. “I can understand your mistrust, particularly with that last ship you were on, but part of the healing process is to realize not everyone is out to harm you.”

“But I’d feel better if we could defend ourselves,” said Jade, nodding toward Emily. “Just in case.”

“Okay.” Amaliya said, “I’m going to see if there’s a bottle of wine in the supplies we pilfered from the Kobayashi. It would be such a faux pas to show up at their airlock empty handed, don’t you think, Cap’n?”

“Even for space sirens?” Jade said.

Amaliya shrugged and headed for the ship’s stores.

* * *

So Nice to Meet You

“Flying buttresses. Never would have guessed that’s what we were seeing on the scope. Not in a million years.” Jade’s voice crackled over the short range radio in her pressure suit. “If somebody asked me to make a list, I probably would have ranked space barnacles higher than flying buttresses. Who puts flying buttresses on a space ship.”

“Hildegard von Bingen, apparently,” said Emily.

“What about space herpes?” asked Amaliya. “Where’s that on your list, Cap’n Jade?”

“There’s no such thing as space herpes,” Jade and Emily said in unison.

“Kind of looks like Notre Dame in Paris,” said Emily “but, more like Notre Dame as a Lego set that some kid got tired of and rebuilt into a space ship.”

“You had an interesting childhood,” Amaliya said.

“It does,” said Jade. “Very Gothic for a space ship.”

“And a bit homo-erotic,” Amaliya put in.

Her comment was met by silence.

“What?” she said. “This docking maneuver? Tip to tail? Come on. Even the name… For a couple of ships that look like a big space penises, you’ve got to admit the possibility exists.”

“It’s so we don’t have to stop the spin, just match theirs,” said Emily. “Keeps the gravity on, less stress on reactor fuel supplies for both parties.”

“Like we mentioned. We’re pretty new to the pirate business,” Jade said. “And Amaliya, hon, let’s try not to get thrown off as soon as we board. So maybe keep the sodomizing spaceship thing on the down low.”

“Aye-aye, Cap’n.”

* * *

“Space penguins?” Amaliya said as the trio transited the outer hatch of the Hildegard von Bingen. Peering through the window of the inner hatch was a young woman in a nun’s habit.

“Welcome fellow travelers,” she said as the inner hatchway swung open. And then, “I’m sorry. I should have waited for you to remove your helmets so you could hear. Welcome fellow travelers.”

“Thank you,” said Amaliya. And, from a pouch built into the thigh area of her pressure suit, she produced a one and a half liter bottle of grapefruit juice.

“A gift,” Amaliya said as the young nun cradled the bottle in her hands. “I was hoping to bring wine, but we don’t have any on board.”

“This is fine, friend. We only use wine for the holy sacrament.”

“Of course,” said Amaliya.

Jade and Emily were looking around the interior of the ship. Jade began sniffing the air.

“My apologies if the air is a bit off,” said the young nun. “There are many of us in close quarters.”

“No,” said Jade. “No it smells like… It smells great.”

“Aromatics,” said Amaliya. “Somebody’s cooking smells wonderful.”

“It is a simple vegetable broth, but it is among our favorites. Sister Jane prepares it on special occasions. Since we only just learned of your arrival, it will be some time before we eat. Perhaps you and your sisters would like a tour of the garden where the herbs are grown.”

Amaliya nodded.

“I’m sorry.” Jade stepped forward. “We haven’t introduced ourselves. I’m Jade. This is my sister Amaliya and my sister Emily.”

“Are you Hildegard?” asked Amaliya.

The young nun smiled. “I am called Sister escort bilecik Catherine. Hildegard von Bingen is the patron saint of our abbey, and it is for she that our ship is named.”

“Our ship is called the Black Prince, ’cause Cap’n Jade thought it sounded cool.”

“It is an awe-inspiring name,” said Sister Catherine. “Come. I will show you the garden if you are ready. And you won’t need your tasers. I assure you, we bear you no ill will.”

Amaliya, Jade and Emily looked at each other, their faces pink.

“Sorry,” said Jade. “I wasn’t entirely sure who we would be meeting.”

“Understandable,” said Sister Catherine. “Come. Let me show you the garden.”

Amaliya, Jade and Emily nodded in unison. The three women’s heads swiveled this way and that as they followed Sister Catherine down the corridor.

“This is a beautiful ship,” said Emily, “Ours is so plain. Functional. But this. This is beyond words.”

“It is our home. We are told to dissociate from pride, but I cannot help but feel a little when I look at what we have made here.”

Jade sniffed the air. “We must be getting close. It smells… heavenly?”

Sister Catherine flashed a smile. She then halted the group’s progress to address another nun in the corridor. She held out the bottle of grapefruit juice.

“Sister Angelica. Would you see that Sister Jane gets this to serve with tonight’s meal?”

“Of course.” Sister Angelica took the bottle and continued on, while Sister Catherine led the group onward.

“And here is our garden,” Sister Catherine said as the group stood just outside a compartment filled completely with green.

Only the scant space surrounding the trio of two-meter long ultra-violet tubes overhead was devoid of plant matter. Every bit of wall space had been converted to planting boxes. The center of the room had shelves full of potted plants. There were vines on the ceiling and plants hanging in baskets. Even the floor was covered in moss.

“I suggest removing your boots,” said Sister Catherine.

“Of course,” said Jade. “We wouldn’t want to trample… Wow. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so much green.”

“Wait till you feel the moss between your toes.” said Sister Catherine. “That is why you should remove your boots.”

“This is amazing,” said Emily.

“Oh, and it smells so good,” said Jade, curling her toes around the mossy carpet.

“This is one of four compartments where we grow our food,” said Sister Catherine.

Amaliya walked deeper into the rows of plants. Toward the rear of the compartment, she found a young woman tending to some sprouts.

“Hi. I’m Amaliya,” she said.

There was no response.

“Ah, I see you’ve met Sister Lúcia. You must forgive her. She does not speak.”

“Oh, a vow of silence,” said Amaliya. “That’s cool. Nice to meet you Sister Lúcia.”

“We require no such vows here. Sister Lúcia is simply very contemplative. She prefers to spend her time with the plants and in prayer.”

“Well, Sister Lúcia, I’d say you’re very good at what you do,” said Amaliya. “And if you don’t want to talk about it, well… you do you, as they say. These plants are lucky to have you.”

As Sister Lúcia coaxed a sprout from a small container to transfer it to a larger one, Amaliya’s gaze fell to a series of closely-spaced parallel lines tattooed on the inside of the young woman’s left wrist.

Just then, another nun arrived at the doorway. “Sister Jane reports dinner is to be served shortly,” she said and left.

Sister Catherine spoke up. “We should probably make our way to the refectory. Sister Jane would never admit it, but she becomes quite cross with those who are late to supper.”

“Of course,” said Jade.

“See you at supper, Sister Lúcia,” Amaliya said, and waved goodbye.

* * *

A Calling Received

Amaliya, Jade, and Emily glanced down the long row of faces, each one framed in an identical nun’s habit as they sat at the refectory table. At the head of the table, an older nun quickly introduced herself as Mother Bertilda and rose to her feet.

“Sisters,” she said. “We are fortunate to have guests with us for our supper, so I ask that you all be on your best behavior this evening.” The old nun shot glances up and down the table, singling out a few blushing faces. “And now, let us pray.

“Heavenly Mother, be present at our table as we share these bounties you have bestowed upon us with fellow travelers Amaliya, Emily and Jade. And let us resolve to forever share our blessings with all those we encounter on our path. For it is only through your love that we may meet as strangers and part as friends in fellowship.”

The old nun raised her head.

“Smells wonderful,” said Jade.

“Sister Jane has a gift in the kitchen,” said Mother Bertilda.

A pair of young sisters appeared. One was filling water goblets while the other bore a tray of tiny glasses, each half filled with grapefruit juice.

“Shot glasses,” said Emily to no one in particular. “Wouldn’t bilecik escort bayan have expected that in a flying abbey.”

Sister Catherine, seated next to her, elbowed Emily in the ribs. “They are from the sacrament tray.”

“Oh,” said Emily. “Isn’t that kind of… I don’t know.”

“Our garden consists of mostly root vegetables and vine plants. There are no citrus trees. Our vitamin C comes from strawberries and blackcurrants.”

Emily nodded.

“Your gift of grapefruit juice is a blessing to us. A gift from God delivered by your hand. And we treat it as such.”

“Actually, it was Amaliya’s idea.”

Sister Catherine smiled politely.

Several large tureens were bought out and placed along the center-line the long table. Each one steamed from the gap where the handle of a ladle protruded from under the lid. Plates of baguettes were next, along with bowls full of leafy greens.

Jade inhaled deeply each time the servers walked past. It was only after Sister Jane appeared from the kitchen and took her seat next to the two servers, that the tureens were uncovered. Every so often, along the long table, one of the sisters would rise to ladle soup for those around her. Another would fill a plate with salad, while another would break pieces of bread.

Amaliya rose from here seat and broke off a piece of baguette. Mother Bertilda placed her hand gently on Amaliya’s forearm. “Please, you are our guests,” she said. “It is our honor to serve you.”

Amaliya shrugged and reached to place the piece of bread on Lúcia’s plate, who was seated across from her. She sat down again.

When all were served, the long rows of diners sat patiently until Mother Bertilda lifted her spoon and said, “Thank you Sister Jane for this wonderful meal.”

The clatter of dinnerware began in earnest.

Amalya smiled at Lúcia across from her. Lúcia turned her eyes to the table. Undeterred, Amaliya said, “I bet there’s a lot of you in tonight’s meal, isn’t there? Your plants, I mean.”

Lúcia said nothing. All around were conversations between sisters, but Lúcia remained silent.

“Good spinach,” Amaliya said. “I never thought I’d say that about spinach, but it’s very good.”

Lúcia stirred her soup in lazy circles.

“How long were you a slave?” Amalaya asked.

Conversation at that end of the table became hushed.

“I saw your barcode,” said Amaliya. “On your wrist.”

“Lúcia is a free woman,” said Mother Bertilda, “We do not engage in such activity.”

“I wasn’t suggesting—”

“We were fortunate enough to have the means to bargain for her freedom when we encountered her. Unfortunately, the same could not be said for her mother.”

“I’m sorry,” said Amaliya. “I shouldn’t have said anything.”

“Nonsense.” Mother Bertilda waved her hand. “If we were all born into paradise, we’d have nothing to work toward in this life.”

Amaliya turned back to her salad, poking at it with her fork.

“That’s not your ship out there, is it?” Lúcia said.

The entire refectory fell silent at the sound of her voice.

“Where did you get it?”

“Lúcia,” cautioned Mother Bertilda, “I’m happy you’ve chosen to converse with us, but these are our guests and your choice of words is questionable.”

“No. No, it’s not our ship,” said Amaliya. “At least it didn’t start out that way.”

Emily shot her a hard glance from the other side of the table.

“Perhaps another topic of conversation is in order,” suggested Mother Bertilda. Then turning to Lúcia, “Ours is not to judge.”

“No,” Jade spoke up. “We haven’t exactly been straight with you.”

“Your actions have been nothing but honorable during your time with us,” said Mother Bertilda. “Your past is between you and God, not me and my sisters. Please, let us enjoy our time together.”

“We’re not really sisters,” said Jade. “We’re pirates.”

Emily glared.

“Space pirates,” said Amaliya.

Sister Catherine spoke up next. “Well, you’re certainly the nicest, most well-mannered pirates I’ve ever encountered.”

“You… you deal with a lot of pirates?” said Jade.

“What kind of sisterhood would this be if we only helped the pious or the well to do?” Mother Bertilda asked. “We offer God’s love to all those we encounter in our travels.”

“We’re… um… Lesbian Space Pirates,” said Jade.

“And what exactly happened to keeping this on the down low?” Emily complained.

Sister Catherine laughed out loud.

“What?” said Jade. “Isn’t that a sin or something?”

“Oh,” said Mother Bertilda, “In my younger days… Oh, I’ve lost count of the chilly nights I would seek the warmth and comfort of my sisters. I’m sure anyone around this table would tell a similar tale. Love is not a sin, dear.”

Jade nodded. “Okay, then.”

“I bet it gets pretty chilly in space,” Amaliya said to no one in particular.

“It does at that,” said Sister Catherine, blushing.

After a brief pause, the refectory once again filled with voices of many simultaneous conversations.

“Mother Bertilda,” said Lúcia, “I believe I have heard my calling.”

Mother Bertilda fixed her gaze on the young woman, saying nothing.

“I wish to accompany our guests, if they’ll have me,” said Lúcia. “I wish to guide them on their spiritual journey if you think I am ready for such a task.”

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