08 February 2013
PREVIOUSLY: "Phobos Cruise Crazy"
By Curtis C. Chen
"More shrimp cocktail, sir?"
Barrett nodded. "Don't mind if I do!"
"Thank you, sir." The server piled more tiny pink crustaceans onto Barrett's plate, followed by a dish of dark red sauce. "Please enjoy."
Liz elbowed Barrett in the ribs. "Slow down there. You're going to make yourself sick."
"Well, obviously," Barrett said. "It's not a real sea voyage unless somebody gets sick."
"You're hilarious. And we're not at sea."
But she wasn't listening to him anymore. Her own words rang inside her head: "at sea." They weren't on the ocean, but Liz was feeling somewhat lost.
She looked around the cavernous, multi-level dining room. An army of servers and wait staff maneuvered around the labyrinth of tables, dishing out food, refilling wine glasses, and generally making sure that none of the seated guests had to do anything but eat, drink, and be merry.
Maybe that's my problem. Maybe I just don't know how to be happy. Liz looked back at Barrett's smiling face. Maybe you should be with someone who does.
A burst of applause sounded behind her, and Liz turned to see two uniformed crewmen approaching the Captain's Table: a tall, Nordic-looking man with large hands, followed by the dark and compact Doctor Sawhney.
"Sorry we're late, folks," the Norseman said, bowing slightly before he sat down. "I'm Captain Erickson. And I believe some of you have already met Doctor Sawhney, our ship's physician."
The two officers walked around the elliptical table, shaking hands with each of the diners, then took their reserved places. Captain Erickson sat directly across from Liz, on the short axis of the ellipse, and Doctor Sawhney took the empty seat on her right.
Conversation meandered for a while, from food to wine to the ship's specifications to each passenger's occupation and reason for coming on this particular Mars cruise. An older gentleman was loudly telling the story of how he and his wife had met when Liz looked over at Doctor Sawhney and saw that he wasn't particularly interested, either.
She leaned toward him and said, "Tell me about the incident. The one that occupied you for so long."
Sawhney blinked. "We had a passenger in the airlock."
"Isn't that what the excursion area is for?"
"He wasn't wearing a spacesuit."
Liz leaned closer. "What happened?"
Sawhney shook his head. "I'm sorry. The situation has become more... complicated since I spoke to you at the staircase. I'm afraid I can't offer many more details."
"Well, what can you tell me?"
"Wouldn't you rather talk about something besides medicine? You are on vacation, after all."
Liz tilted her head. "You think I became a nurse because I don't like discussing medicine?"
Sawhney shrugged. "I make no assumptions."
"Come on. I'm sure whatever you have to say will be more interesting than Mr. and Mrs. Rubenstein's meet cute."
The doctor looked up and across the table. Liz followed his gaze and saw the captain watching them with a passionless smile.
"Not here," Sawhney said.
CONTINUED IN "Funny Story"...
Photo Credit: stevendepolo via Compfight cc