Felix sat across the table from the young woman. She was medium height, and dressed in clothes that were well-worn and common for the people of the outer settlements. She was quite thin, with long limbs that seemed to accentuate that thinness. Almost gangly, but not. She had hazel eyes set aside a long, thin nose, bushy eyebrows, and dirty brown straight hair that ran down to the middle of her back. Her hazel eyes had the depth of intelligence to them, but they didn’t reveal much more.
Felix put his head in his hands and sighed. This was a nightmare. Not only was he going to need extra resources to make it to the end of the journey, now he was going to have to look after this girl and make sure she didn’t break anything. Then, once he finally berthed at Lunar Station, it would be his neck on the line for not preventing a stowaway. His boss was not going to be happy about this.
“How in the universe did you get onto my ship?”
Dawn looked at him with surprise, as though Felix had asked what color the sky was on Earth. “I stole a loader’s uniform, walked through the passage, and onto the ship.”
Felix thought it over and found her explanation unsurprising. This wasn’t the first time there had been a stowaway from Enceladus. “Those idiots,” Felix muttered. “Enceladus has the worst security in the entire galaxy. And that’s saying something.”
He paused and sat back in his chair, spinning a pen between his fingers. “Why didn’t you just get a ticket on one of the ferries?”
“Too expensive. Plus, my family never would have allowed it.” She took a bite of apple.
Felix thought she looked pretty young, but she carried herself like someone with experience. Maybe she was older than he thought.
“Where did you live down there?”
“White Rock City.”
“My whole family are miners. Four generations of us. We’ve been digging tunnels, processing rock, and dying early for over a hundred years now.”
“And why couldn’t you just leave? How old are you?”
“Oh, plenty old enough. You haven’t kidnapped a minor miner, if that’s what you’re worried about.”
Felix ignored the pun. “That’s not what I’m worried about.”
“You seem pretty worried.”
“I’m worried about dealing with someone who’s eating all my well-rationed food. Especially someone who goes straight to the fresh fruit.”
“I looked over your cupboards. This was about all I could tolerate. Everything here is freeze dried, dehydrated, or 90% salt.”
Felix tried to get back on track. “Weren’t you telling me why it was you had to run away instead of buying a ticket to Earth like everyone else?”
“Oh, right. Well, in my family, we don’t just do mining. We are miners. We are the miners of Enceladus. The proud clan of Stonepike. No one gets to leave. Once a Stonepike, always a Stonepike, and always a Stonepike on Enceladus. My parents even had a marriage all set up for me, with this guy named Ralph. Ralph. Can you believe that? Who names their kid Ralph? Who’s named Ralph and doesn’t change their name or go by their middle name or something? Anyway, no one was going to let me go, so I left.”
“I see,” Felix said. The story didn’t all add up for him. The way Dawn told it seemed reheased. And while there were plenty of over-bearing parents in the galaxy, no one could force their adult child to stay on planet, no matter how rich the family history. Dawn was now eating a peanut butter sandwich. “Did they feed you down there?”
“Look at me. Does it look like it?”
Felix chuckled. She was certainly thin, though she didn’t look starved. In any case she was eating all his food.
“Listen, even if this is your first meal in months, we don’t have enough food on board for both of us to last until Lunar Station if we keep eating this much. We’re going to have to be careful with the rations.”
Dawn just kept eating. “Okay, Dad.”
Felix put his head in his hands.