You will find the first part here, and the previous part here.

Toini left the mess and headed aft towards engineering. She and her cup of coffee, stopping now and then to take a sip.

Not a long walk by any stretch. About half a minute at a leisurely pace. Most of it through the huge converted cargo space that separated the bridge and quarters from the engines.

When she’d taken over the Orange Cream, the ship had been a freight hauler. Sturdy as a rock, and about as interesting. Toini had no interest in shipping goods though. What she needed was a mobile base of operations.

She’d filled up the cargo space with empty freight containers, and repurposed them as crew quarters. Cheaper and easier than rebuilding the entire thing. A bit primitive, perhaps, but no one complained.

A wry grin tugged at her lips as she thought about it. Someone who’d complain about that kind of thing wouldn’t have been a good fit for her crew anyway. Not that they weren’t an opinionated bunch – just not people who’d complain about the living arrangements on board.

Well, except Raoul, but he didn’t live in a container. By virtue of him being her chronicler, he was entitled to an actual cabin, which was probably just as well. He’d have whined her ears off otherwise. Not that he didn’t anyway.

Toini sighed. She knew fair well what she’d done to deserve having him assigned to her, but she’d never been able to figure out who’d he offended. It’s not like being chronicler for an out-of-favour paladin of an unpopular god was a desirable spot for a career cleric.

Perhaps he’d just been too successful, and someone had decided he needed to be put in his place.

She pushed the thought away and opened the door to engineering. It wasn’t worth bothering about.

A narrow corridor, across the width of the ship, and a ladder up the rat’s nest. Here, the thrumming of the engine grew loud enough to drown out her footsteps, and the vibrations of the engine travelled up through the soles of her boots.

Toini raised her voice and hammered at the ladder with her free hand. “Dipali, report.”

Nothing.

She waited a few seconds, and then hammered again. “Dipali.”

“Go away,” came the response a moment later.

“I love you too.” A wide grin grew on Toini’s face.

Everything was fine, and there was no real need for a report after this. It wasn’t really the report she’d come for though.

“Did you bring me coffee?” Chief Engineer Dipali’s head appeared in the doorway at the top of the ladder.

A small round face. Dark brown skin, lined with wrinkles, and worn tough by weather and wind. Black hair tied back in a pony tail, and a blue and white Celestial Dropbears baseball cap.

Toini shook her head. “No.”

Dipali’s face scrunched up in a grimace. “Then how can you say you love me?”

“Shut up.” Toini waved for the woman to come down. “I’ll walk you to the mess.”

“Bitch.” Dipali winked at her. “Just a second.”

She disappeared for a moment, probably just making sure everything was in order before she appeared in the doorway again, turned around, and climbed down the ladder. A short wiry woman in her upper fifties. Blue coveralls over a white t-shirt. Oil stained hands, and three tiny cogwheels in a leather thong around her neck.

“Coffee,” she said, and glared at Toini.

“Coffee,” said Toini.​

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