5. Diaz.

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As she made her way back to her quarters, Diaz was unable to shake the feeling that something wasn’t quite right about the corrosion that had caused the hatch pin to fail like that, but she couldn’t put her finger on it.

“Hello, don’t I know you?”

She was still thinking about the hatch failure while she stood waiting for the elevator and at first didn’t realise the question was directed at her.
She turned to see a striking young woman with jet black hair, high cheekbones and athletic physique, who she vaguely recognized, looking at her with a quizzical smile and a raised eyebrow.
But it was the eyes that threw her. One was so dark it was hard to make out the pupil from the iris, the other a bright, glacial blue.

“Sorry, I was miles away,” said Diaz, extending her hand to the girl, “Frankie Diaz.” she snapped her fingers, “I remember now! You delivered supplies to the Gliese 905 expedition in Andromeda last year. I transferred to the Alice Marie there and you gave me the newbie tour.”

The woman laughed, shaking Frankie’s hand, “Carli, just Carli, good to see you again. And that’s ok, I’m a little slow today myself, must be the clone tank,” her hand rose involuntarily to touch her face, “still feeling a bit dreamy, if you know what I mean. I was just going to stretch my legs around the port, clear my head, want to join me?”

“Ahh, that explains the eye then,” said Diaz, “I didn’t think I would have forgotten something like that so soon.”

Carli snorted in amusement, “Oh, there’s an explanation alright, but it isn’t what you’d expect…”
She proceeded to fill Diaz in on the last dramatic couple of days and, by the time they realized neither of them had actually called an elevator yet, they were well on the way to becoming friends.

Just as the elevator doors were closing behind the happily chatting young women, Lazzaro was entering the med bay and finding to his disappointment that Carli had checked herself out.

He checked in with Matt Drake, the med officer, to get an update on her condition and was informed that the young lady in question was as tough as they came and had adapted to her surgery remarkably quickly.

“Oh well, at least that means she’s feeling better,” he said, “and it’s not like she won’t be around…I expect I’ll be bumping into her soon…” he paused, hearing what he’d just said, “…again, I mean. Hopefully without the whole punctured eyeball thing and all that,” he gestured miserably with his outstretched hands, “accidental groping business.”

“No, I expect next time it’ll be intentional.”
Drake didn’t try to hide his amusement and Eric couldn’t help noticing the doctor was deriving a considerable amount of entrainment from his discomfort and his woeful attempts to make his enquiries sound casual.

What? What are you looking at me like that for?” he asked, somewhat too defensively, as the doctor grinned mischievously and shook his head.

“Not for me to say, I’m sure,” Drake replied, “I’m sure the young lady is very grateful to you for your gallant behaviour Eric, I guess that’ll just have to do you for now, hahaha.”

Lazzaro bit back a denial, not wanting to give Matthias the satisfaction, and besides, all it would do was confirm what the two men both knew; that he was already hooked.

As Diaz and “Carli, just Carli.” strolled down what passed for the main strip of the NASA 6 spaceport, checking out the selection of merchandise (some traders legitimate, others, not so much) the young engineer kept stealing surreptitious glances at her new friend, trying to gauge how much to trust this extraordinary looking woman.

Should she tell Carli of her suspicious about the hatch cover?
Would she think Frankie was out of line?

She was spared from having to resolve this dilemma, for now at least, by the arrival of their esteemed leader, Captain Zachary “ZT” Toes, who strode towards them, clouds of Jamaican Gold smoke trailing in his wake.

“Ladies, ladies, please allow me to buy you both a well-earned drink…”

In the far end of the cargo hold, something or somebody moved in the darkness.
There was a metallic CLUNK, as if an object was being attached to the hull, followed by the sound of a hatch being closed very carefully.
Then silence.

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