Love Me

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Thanks to Maer for doing all the heavy lifting in this slightly unusual conversation...

Wednesday, 30 Jul 2521
Kuiper II class, Summer's Gift
En route to New Canaan
2315 hrs, ship's time

We were two days out of Deadwood before I could get Lagniappe's registry board modified to ping as ours. Collings was a great help there, updating me on the current pitfalls and tells the Feds watched for and I was able to reinstall the board with less apprehension than I would have had. I lay flat on my back under the pilot's console, one leg dangling over the bay below as I worked to get the board back into the proper slot. I had my pencil torch gripped in my teeth and my neck at an awkward angle, but plug that board in I did.

Figures. It’s always easier to yank it out than slide it in. I flipped the last pinlock and was rewarded with the little green status light telling me everything was in order. I tucked the inevitable danglers back behind the panel and screwed it down with the satisfaction of a job well done. Not that I didn't have help. Maybe I can get Joshua to rustle up something extra for Collings in the morning. Cream for his coffee or something...

There'd be time enough to pursue it tomorrow before we kissed dirt. Right now all I wanted was a hot shower and a cold drink before turning in. Landfall made things interesting and I wanted to be fully rested to meet it. So it was with the air of finality that I stowed my tools in my bag and scaled the ladder down to the crew deck.

The corridor was dim, the lights in night mode to save power. Our girl cruised on in peace, my ear picking up the contented hum of her engines aft. Nothing was screaming for my attention. I could enjoy my shower without the internal nag of tasks left undone. Rubbing my neck to get the pinch out that installing the board had put in, I nearly had my door open before I noticed the note.

It was tacked to my door by the simple expedient of tucking it in the seam of the jamb. It was at hand height, folded in half, and my fingers actually brushed it before I saw it. Open Me it said and I recognized the writing as Joshua's. I plucked the paper free and walked inside; locked my door, dumped my bag on my bunk and settled against my pillows. I'd left my task light on and curious and not a little surprised, I regarded the note before reading it. It was completely unexpected, an unlooked for extra, and a little trickle of warmth and excitement stirred inside me as I wondered what it held. Taking a deep breath to steady myself, I opened the note.


The note, when unfolded, had writing on both halves. The top half said simply, Follow Me. The bottom half, on the other hand, had a set of directions written in Joshua's neat handwriting.

Turn left, proceed 50 paces.
Turn left, proceed 17 paces, face left.


Aft starboard container, my internal compass whispered. The rest of me, however, was less coherent: What … ?

I slapped the note to my chest and frowned at the pipes overhead.  Read the note again. The words remained the same. Curiosity fought with fatigue. Curiosity won. Putting boots to deck, I left my quarters with note in hand and dutifully counted out my steps, keeping my stride as normal as possible despite being self-conscious of their number. Fifty steps took me down the corridor and through my workshop aft as I'd anticipated and I faced left crossing the threshold on the other side. Fifteen ... sixteen ... seventeen. Turn.

The access door to the aft starboard container sat there, the status lights showing everything locked up tight.  Tapping the console and drawing up the door history, I saw none of its doors had been opened in the past 48 hours.

What the—? Of course.  Idiot.  I realized my mistake and retraced my steps to face my door, and now oriented properly in relation to the outside of my quarters, turned left and went for’ard the requisite fifty paces.  From there it was obvious where my intended destination was but keeping to the spirit of the game, I resolutely measured my paces all the way down.

Fifteen ... sixteen ... seventeen. Turn.


An open note clung to the door of the garden container that Joshua always fondly referred to as Botany Bay. The top half said, Find Me and the bottom half simply contained a sketch of a butterfly.


The door was unlocked. I took the note in hand, put it with its mate, and stepped through. As always, the greenery, the moist atmo, and the sound of trickling water from the tanks were a welcome respite from the unrelieved severity of the ship. The plants hid the metal bulkheads from view, rubber matting softened footfalls to a whisper. Lights twinkled from controls and status displays, winking like fireflies through the stalks and leaves. The overheads were on for the sake of the plants but somehow their glare was softer here. I closed my eyes and breathed in the scent of water and life, and my fatigue fell away.

The crinkle of the note in my fingers recalled me to the task at hand and I opened my eyes, looking for the butterfly, wondering how the hell Joshua managed to catch one and bring it aboard. Deadwood and its environs were pretty damned dry and it was winter when we were there. Any tidy-minded butterfly would have been hibernating or had flown north for the winter. So thinking, I eased slowly through the hydroponics, delicately lifting a frond here, moving aside a leaf or bloom there, looking for something impossible.

I found it toward the back, an improbable spot of red amidst a clump of dark green. Lifting it gently from its perch, I saw it was an origami butterfly, exquisitely made. Looking closer, I saw Joshua had written a note on its wing.

Unfold Me.

With a twinge of regret for undoing something so beautiful, I dutifully did as asked.


When unfolded, the once origami butterfly followed the same pattern as the previous notes. The top half said, Solve Me. The bottom half was what looked to be a haiku.

Mechanical sails
Catch the wind of endless black
Moving Gifts forward


I read the words, sussed their meaning and took myself aft again. In the days of maritime vessels on Old Earth, engines had replaced the need for sails and strong winds to push the ships through the seas. Amused at how I'd already passed the engine room in my first attempt, I walked the length of the Gift and stopped at the engine room door, expecting to find another note, the next clue in the puzzle game.


Another open note was attached to the door of the engine room. The upper half said Climb Me and the bottom half had a sketch of the ladder leading into the Lagniappe. Quickly handwritten underneath were the words, Almost Finished!


I retraced my steps to the midships lounge and the ladder aloft, wondering how I could have missed the engine room note when I passed it for the aft container ... and suppressed the urge to look over my shoulder to catch Joshua sneaking behind me planting the notes. Would I find another note on Lagniappe instructing me to crawl belowdecks through the containers? Or would I find another mythical paper creature?

Not a unicorn. A dragon, maybe? A gryphon?

I raised the hatch and gently closed it after hauling my ass through it, mindful of the hour and those who might be sleeping. A quick turn around the lower deck of the dropship revealed the engine compartment, head, and lockers sitting as we'd left them. I lifted the stairs up next, ducking under them to the airlock at port. Nothing there either. That left the upper deck and the bridge platform. I eased the stairs down again and took them to the ladder for the bridge, wondering just what would be waiting for me.

Nothing, as it turned out. Just the yoke and the controls glowing dimly in standby mode. The bridge was a wash. I skinned down the ladder and took the stairs to the rear deck, checking the passenger seats to either side as I went. Nothing there but the usual straps and armrests. The stairs gave out on the elevated platform aft. The ceiling loomed low and I hunkered down to spare my head as I came off the last tread. Pulling my pencil torch from my sleeve, I turned it on and swept it left to right.

Centered on the platform was a medium sized crate serving as a table.  On it were two small plates, marking places for two.  The plate on the left had an origami butterfly perched delicately on its rim.  I knelt and took the butterfly up.  A note dangled from it.  Clipping my torch to my shoulder, I put the note to the beam and read it.

Keep Me.

Touched, I put it carefully aside and inspected the rest of the table. Two glasses filled with what appeared to be wine stood like soldiers beside their plates. The one at mine had a note attached.

Drink Me.

I lifted the glass and regarded it.  The liquid inside gleamed darkly, flashes of red flickering in the light of my torch.  I put it to my lips and the wine was rich and full on my tongue.  The heady notes of it lingered after I swallowed, teasing with the hint of cherries, woodsmoke, and chocolate.  My eyes fluttered closed and I thought of a summer’s day at my uncle’s dascha, feasting on the harvest of early summer in the twilight, fed by laughter, stories and song.  I put the glass down and opened my eyes and took in the rest of the table.

The center held three things:

A thermos with a note on it that said: Pour Me.
An empty bowl with a note that said: Fill Me.
And a bowl of strawberries, with a note attached saying Dip Me.

Intrigued and determined to see this through, I did as asked.  The thermos held melted chocolate, warm and silky.  Emptied, it filled the bowl a scant inch from the brim.  I mopped the drips from thermos with my finger and licked it clean.  The chocolate was smooth and bittersweet, the perfect foil for the fruit on the table.  Following the last command, I plucked the topmost strawberry from the bowl and dipped it.

The chocolate glistened seductively in the light of my torch, the berry a perfect ruby red, and I couldn’t resist biting into it.  Juice exploded on my tongue and I rocked back from the sheer pleasure of it.


Joshua quietly crept up the steps. He gained the top tread and saw Rina eating a chocolate covered strawberry. As he crept, he made just enough noise so he wouldn't startle her. After all, he wasn't out to scare her. Far from it.

As he got up close to her and she turned around to look at him, he reached up to his forehead and removed the note that simply said, Kiss Me. Joshua then held it out in front of him with a quiet smile on his face and waited for Rina to follow the last of her instructions.

Go to Joshua's Crew Page or to Rina's Crew Page
Go back to: Timeline Season Four, April 2521 to Dec 2521

Go to Peripatetica - Rina's Journal entry and RP log
Go to Rina's Russian Glossary
Go to Rina's Crew Page