Tomas is grumbling again on shift. I don’t want to give him the slightest encouragement, but he’s distracting me even now, so I have to say something. We’re both human, after all.

“Problem, fellow?” I ask. Polite. Direct.

“Not besides the usual,” he answers, and yanks something large and metal out of the wall—a long thermo-pipe support. This hallway hosts the junction of half the ship’s thermo-currents, intersecting in an elegant lattice.

“Try not to take it out on any of the primary systems,” I suggest. I don’t sound at all authoritative.

Tomas grunts. “None of these systems are working for me, anyway.” He shoves a new pipe support in its place like it’s personally angered him. “We could find a viable planet right now, and I’d still have to work my next shift. Wouldn’t I?”

Cover of Queens & Courtesans: A Sirens Benefit Anthology, edited by Jessica Corra, cover design by Amanda Lewis.

Read full piece: Queen’s Mechanic