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Hugo Dreadnought in Love

by Kat Beyer

Hugo Dreadnought loved Captain Harriet Sanguine for three reasons:

1. She hated war.
2. She was too damned smart for her own good.
3. She forgot her stylus behind her ear at least once a day.

He thought the trouble had started during the Battle of Trafalgar Loop, when the good ship Protector had assisted the Navy. Later everyone had said, heroic service, above and beyond, etc., but veterans knew it for a darting, shark-and-sardines dogfight, with enormous carriers and tiny junks chasing each other into the dark.

While the enemy ships were still a distant glittering line, First Engineer and Helm had asked him and Second Helm to plot six courses for every maneuver. First Engineer had explained, "If our course isn't working, you see, we simply must have more than one way out. And as soon as we adjust, you must start all over again. Six more. Good study."

Helm had added, "Yes, and you might save our lives."

So Hugo and Toyohara Chikayoshi, Second Helm, had strapped themselves to the navigation table so that no blast or fall would dislodge them. They taped bits of paper beside screens and made notes with Navy issue ballpoints, knowing that at any minute they could lose power. They did, twice. The second time, in the silence on the bridge, Hugo realized something must be very wrong and, yanking free of the straps, dove down the hatch to the engine room. He saw what he hadn't wanted to see, and came back to Second Helm, saying, "We've lost them." First Engineer relayed the news up to Captain Sanguine where she sat in the dark. Up ahead, a ship was struck and her face was lit up in the glowing flash, serene and sad.

"Can you cover it, Dreadnought?" she asked.

"I can," he had replied with all his heart, and had spent the rest of the battle dodging back and forth between the engines below, while calculating breathlessly into his headset every time Second Helm needed him.

He and Toyohara had come out of it feeling like brother and sister. Then the Captain had come picking her way through the Engine Room and set a hand on his shoulder and said, "Well done." She'd stopped then, frowning, and felt above her ear.

"Must've lost it in all the fuss," she'd muttered, and kept on with her tour of the ship.

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