You can find the first part of the series here.

Toini pulled on her boots and laced them up. Black leather, ten holes, reinforced toe caps. On board the ship she didn’t really need them, but it was a matter of habit and comfort. She’d worn these boots for years – probably close to a decade, she’d forgotten – and she wasn’t going to stop just because she was in the comfort of her own home.

They were a part of her.

Well, almost. Taking them off after a long day was kind of nice too, but that didn’t mean she had any other footgear she’d rather wear.

If that made her a creature of habit, then so be it. It wouldn’t be the only thing. She knew fair well she had her quirks and peculiarities – being in love with a pair of boots wouldn’t be the weirdest. Probably wouldn’t make the top ten list, if there was one.

Grinning to herself, she pushed the door open, stepped out into the hallway, and made her way to the mess. Time for coffee.

She snagged a cup from the tray on the bench and filled it from the machine.

Plain white porcelain cup. Hot black coffee. No milk, no sugar.

For the longest time, she’d wondered how come she didn’t get a kick out of coffee the same way everyone else claimed they did, and she’d been taking it stronger and stronger without really feeling anything. Eventually, as part of the medical checks when applying to Kroma, she’d learned she was immune to the effects of caffeine. No matter how strong she took her coffee, she wouldn’t feel any more awake. It was something in her genes, and no one she knew had even heard of it before.

In the end, it turned out to be a good thing. She stopped taking her coffee super strong, and began enjoying the taste of it.

That didn’t mean the coffee on the ship was weak. If she wanted it her way, she’d have to make it herself. She had a crew to think of, and they liked their coffee strong enough to float a horse shoe.

“Good morning, Your Holiness.” A short white man had appeared in the door to the galley. “How’s tricks?”

Stefan Helgesson, her ship’s chef. Probably in his upper fifties, bald, and a bit on the chubby side. A scar across his face gave him a perpetual scowl, but you didn’t have to talk to him long to know him for a cheerful fellow.

“Good morning, chef Helgesson.” Toini had long since given up trying to convince him not to address her formally, and these days she just let it pass. “A new dawn’s blessings upon you and your domain.”

She could do formal too, and he seemed to like it.

Helgesson beamed at her. “Any requests for breakfast?”

“I’ll do the rounds as usual now.” Toini paused and thought for a moment but decided not to complicate things. “Could you send me up the usual to the bridge in an hour?”

She couldn’t remember the last time she’d asked for anything out of the ordinary.

“Sure thing, Your Holiness.” He raised an eyebrow and winked at her. “Don’t forget to bring a cup of coffee for Dipali.”

Toini winked back. “Of course.”

A moment later, he turned around and disappeared into the galley.

Alone in the mess, she looked from the cups on the tray, to the coffee machine, and back again. A wry smile tugged at her lips, and then she too turned around and left. One day, she’d bring Dipali a cup of coffee in the morning, but not today. She saw no reason to make the poor woman worry.

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