0118: Boxed In

Ziggurat #26

“If the colony was going to have a leader, Clyde Jackson looked like the natural choice. He’s led real frontier expeditions. There are folks living in Chicago again ‘cause of him.”

“Am I butting in?” Constance asked, glancing down as Rosemary reached across the table to touch Lamont’s hand.

Lamont stood and pulled out one of the other two chairs of the table for the young woman; a conventional courtesy that nevertheless brought a smile to Miss Beckett’s face and widened the grin on Rosemary’s. 

“Not a bit,” Rosemary said, extending her hand toward the colonist. “Rosemary Wells.”

“Constance Beckett,” The younger woman replied, her eyes darting over the muted green of the other’s uniform jacked as she gave Rosemary’s hand a rather firm shake. “You’re a nurse?”

Rosemary’s grin flattened subtly into a grimace. “Medic, dear,” She corrected. “Specializing in field medicine and exobiology.”

Lamont suppressed a smirk. “Miss Wells was just saying that it’s a shame the two decks don’t mingle more. You seem to be something of an ambassador.”

Constance shook her head, glancing up at the cafeteria. The crowd was beginning to thin as crew members returned to their stations. “Time comes I just need a little breathing room is all,” She admitted.

“There’s more open space on the colonist deck than practically anywhere else on the ship,” Rosemary observed.

“Doesn’t feel so open with Abner breathing down my neck,” Constance complained, taking a sip of her club soda. 

“Abner Wade,” Lamont nodded in recognition. “Cleans the command deck during second shift. He seems like a nice enough chap.”

“Oh, he’s nice,” Constance sighed. “The trouble is that Miss Anna has it in her head that we’re suitors, and Abner’s like most of the others. He takes whatever Miss Anna says as gospel truth. The thought doesn’t cross his mind that I’ve got a say in the matter.”

Lamont ran a mental calculation. “Abner is one of—is it five bachelors in the colonist group?”

“Four,” Constance corrected, resting her chin on a fist. “Sarah Brown and John Mays are engaged now.”

“I reckon it’s expected that the single colonists would pair off over time,” Rosemary considered.

“Sure, it’s expected,” Miss Becket admitted, “But I got a choice, don’t I? Maybe I’ll settle down, maybe I won’t. Who gave Anna Owens the right to decide?”

“I’ve been wondering the same thing,” Lamont agreed. “She has a surprising amount of influence. Has it always been that way?”

Constance shook her head. “If the colony was going to have a leader, Clyde Jackson looked like the natural choice. He’s led real frontier expeditions. There are folks living in Chicago again ‘cause of him.”

Lamont scratched his chin. “Clyde’s the one who tried to kick me out of the meeting on Tuesday,” he remembered. “And tried to drag you out of the New Year’s Eve party.”

Constance nodded. “Miss Anna met with him a few times early on. Now he’s just one of her goons. Does whatever she tells him.”

“It sounds as if that’s true for most of the colonists,” Rosemary offered.

“More or less,” the younger woman agreed.

“So what makes you different?” Asked the medic.

Constance shrugged, gazing into the bubbles that floated up from the bottom of her glass. “I left home at thirteen. I completed the colonist program on my own. I didn’t come all this way to be boxed in. Not by Miss Anna or Abner Wade, or anybody else, neither.”

Just then Lamont stood, his eyes fixed at the portion of window behind Rosemary’s head.

“Did I say something wrong?” Constance asked.

Lamont dismissed the question with a wave of his hand, then pointed. “Do you see that?” He asked.

Next: Blue Giant