Second Excerpt – Zero Draft – Any Cube Will Do




(The Different Worlds Challenge, Zero Draft)

By Virginia Black

Excerpt from what will become SECOND


Rooke pushed the lever that shifted the table further away from her and stretched her stiff legs straight. Now that the rest of the away crew had ventured off to their own separate interests, she had more room to spread out.

She lowered the lights in the cube, but couldn’t do anything about the music unless she lowered the door. For now, she wanted it open. After weeks in the enclosed spaces of her small cargo frigate, she was [please] to be in a larger room, even if she was exposed to the rest of Witta’s Den.

The Den was a giant U-shaped entertainment [center] for levels tall. The main floor held a stage at the top of the U, with a dance floor in the hollow space surrounded by forty or fifty tables. Levels 2 through 4 held private cubes of various sizes, areas with tables and seats and walls that converted into bunks – whatever configuration customers wanted to pay for.

Rooke had splurged for a cube large enough for her and four of her crew. The others were back on the frigate, loading new cargo for transport. It’d been the least preferred job for their next run, but she’d had to take what she could get.

Still, they were a hard-working crew and they hadn’t mutinied when she’d paid them late, so…a cube in The Den.

Only now they were off doing the gods knew what until the show started in three hours, and she was free to stretch out as much as she needed. It was hell sometimes being taller than most of them. Even Gavon only stood tall enough to look her in the eyes.

The song changed to some new modern scratch beat that made her spine itch. She drank the local fermented swill – which wasn’t half bad – and watched the locals on the lower deck, the other crews in cubes like hers, and the high-credit upper class on the top deck where the wealthy few spent the value of her whole frigate just for an exclusive cube for a night.

Rooke set her bottle down and happened to glance at a cube across from hers when she saw someone she wasn’t expecting to see.

The captain of the Autonoma was here.

Rooke didn’t know her name, but recognized her even at this distance. The other captain leaned against the railing that stretched along the entire U of the second level, drinking from a bottle just like Rooke’s.

They stared.

Rooke was still annoyed that she’d lost out to this captain. Autonoma had bid and won the best job on the day’s roster carrying medical supplies to a medium security world a dozen jumps from this station. That kind of credit would have paid for a full upgrade for the Loyal, but those new components would have to wait a little longer.

It wasn’t the worst thing to happen to Rooke lately, but she still wasn’t happy about it.

The staring continued, until Autonoma’s captain looked away and went back to her cube.

Rooke wasn’t sure what to make of that, and was oddly disappointed the stare down hadn’t continued. She went back to watching the rest of the Den.

A shadow appeared at the edge of her cube, and Rooke looked up with surprise.

Autonoma’s captain was here.

She was taller than Rooke had thought, though probably still ahead shorter than Rooke. This close, Rooke could tell that she was from one of the inner planets, not the far reaches like Rooke and some of her crew.

Rooke lifted an eyebrow in question, and her visitor tilted her head toward one of the benches in the cube in response.

Out of pure curiosity, Rooke nodded.

When she sat down, she looked almost regal. That really made Rooke wonder where she was from. This woman was no station rat who’d escaped to the void – she was raised with her feet on solid ground somewhere.

Who was she?

She finished whatever was in her bottle and slid towards the amenities console, lifting the bottle with a wave that signified an offer to buy round.

Rooke made her wait for a second before she nodded, and was rewarded with a wry grin.

A moment later, after a hand was passed over the console, an image of the woman herself flashed onscreen. Rooke only caught one name before it disappeared.


A panel in the wall opened, and the ordered bottles arrived. Bain claimed them and set one next to the bottle of Rooke’s that was nearly empty.

Rooke supposed it was time to break the ice. The woman had just bought her a drink.

“When do you head out for Rebba?” Rooke asked, yelling to be heard over the music. The manifest in the dockmaster’s office had displayed the destination of the medical supply run.

“Ten hours,” Bain said, just loud enough for Rooke to hear.

The music here was truly awful.

“At least you’ll get to see the show.” Rooke wondered why she was bothering with small talk. It wasn’t something she normally did.

Bain tipped her head in response, looking away. She frowned, and Rooke wondered what that was about. Perhaps there was one person in the universe who didn’t love the Witta.

Rooke scrambled for something else to talk about. Captains as a rule were a close-mouthed bunch who didn’t talk about their ships’ armaments or capacities, where they were going or where they’d been. Too much information shared was a liability.

Bain must have thought the same, and took another sip from her bottle without saying a word.

The staring continued.

And then…

Bain reached out with a hand and waved at the door panel. The fourth wall of the cube descended while they stared, and to anyone else, it would look like they were about to discuss private business.

Rooke wondered what business they had to discuss. They’d barely met, and were traveling in separate directions. If anything, they were competition.

When the door closed with a clank and the ventilation system adjusted, the only sound in the cube was the low thump of bass through the wall. It wasn’t loud enough to disturb the sudden quiet.

Rooke didn’t move, and though caution dictated that she should at least be on the lookout for some sort of attack, none of her defensive warning bells were ringing.

There was, however, a new urgency in her body.

Bain set down her bottle and stood to remove her jacket. She was armed, which wasn’t surprising.

The surprise came when she stepped forward, slowly enough for Rooke to watch her every move, and shifted the table out of the way completely.

Bain’s intent was clear in her eyes, and Rooke couldn’t seem to form the words to stop her as Bain stepped between her spread legs and pushed Rooke back against the cube wall with a hand to her chest.

Without saying a word, Bain climbed on her lap, straddled her and spread her coat wide.

Strong hands grasped her ribs through her shirt, firmly molding to her body. With each squeeze of Bain’s hands, she pressed her hips into Rooke, and her face getting closer with each second.

Rooke was no stranger to the random station hook-up, but there were usually negotiations first. This was new. Bain clearly wasn’t interested in talking.

Rooke discovered that she wasn’t either.

She put her own hands on Bain’s hips, encouraging more movement, then threw her head back with a gasp when Bain’s thumbs found the most sensitive parts of her nipples through her shirt.

When Rooke came back to her senses, Bain was tugging on her nipple through the fabric with one hand while the other worked inside her own pants, driving herself every closer to a fast peak if her breathing was any indication.

Rooke could smell Bain’s skin now as well as her arousal. The sensations of sight and smell and touch nearly overwhelmed her, and she felt like she could come herself just from the spectacle.

Finally, with a moan that shocked Rooke with how deeply she felt it low in her own body, Bain came and sagged against her.

Rooke wished in that moment that she was naked. It was too dark to see the color of Bain’s eyes, but they were lighter than Rooke’s own brown, and stared at Rooke’s lips.

They hadn’t kissed.

Bain recovered right away, loosened Rooke’s belt and unfastened her pants far too slowly for Rooke’s tastes.

Rooke didn’t want to close her eyes, but she did, and was shocked by how fast Bain worked her flesh. Somehow, Bain managed to get even closer while still driving her fingers inside just the way Rooke liked it.

When Rooke was done, heaving against the cube wall trying to catch her breath, she nearly came again when Bain looked at her while licking her fingers.

Not the usual hookup at all.

Bain stood, shakily, and resettled her clothes. She handed Rooke her forgotten bottle while sipping from her own and then reclaimed her seat. Bain gave her the respect of looking away while Rooke adjusted her own clothes.

Five minutes later, they sat across from one another as if nothing had happened.

Finally, Bain sighed.

“Ellisen,” she said. “Ellisen Bain.”

A first name was a gift indeed.

Ellisen waved an arm and the door slowly rose.

Rooke realized that to anyone outside, it would look as if they’d come to sort of an agreement.

Perhaps they had.

Ellisen finished her bottle and set it down with finality. She stood and offered one last, small smile.

“Captain,” she said, and left without looking back.

Rooke wondered if she’d ever see Bain again.