Piloting in the Nude

She leaned in to my ear and whispered, “I like to pilot in the nude.” A slight smile crossed her lips as she eased back into her chair. I was blushing, and her eyes twinkled even more, but there was nothing I could do about it.

“That’s quite an image,” I said, nodding and struggling not to gape from the tips of her toes to the crown of her head.

She lounged and all of the eyes on the bar were on her, but her eyes were only on me. “It’s very stimulating,” she said before plucking a piece of fruit. “You feel every little vibration of the ship, the warm pod fluid caressing you. It’s like returning to the womb.” She pulled the fruit into her mouth with her tongue.

“I’ll have to try it some time,” I said, stuttering when I couldn’t control myself. I was leaning forward, involuntarily, getting closer to the smell of her perfume. She uncrossed her legs, cloth hugging her hips, and stepped toward me. Her fingertips grazed my shoulder as she passed.

“Try it and tell me how you like it.” I couldn’t turn and watch her leave. But the mumbled conversations in the bar resumed and a waiter walked up to me and handed me the bill. I paid without looking at it, then ran to the hangar.

“Are you sure you want to do this, boss?”

“Of course I do, Garid!” I snapped. He shrugged and readied the pod, pumping in the last of the filtered fluid. I stripped off my clothes, to my undergarments. I stood in the hangar, shivering slightly. No one gave a second look, as if people boarded their pods naked all the time. A few of them smiled and I tried to smile back, but they were already looking away.

“Alright, it’s ready,” Garid said. Together, we plugged me in and I felt myself being lifted slowly into the pod. With a deep breath, I reached down and tugged at my waistband, flinging off my underpants. I heard someone start to laugh, when I was plunged into the capsule.

The fluid was not warm. It was cold and clammy and sticky. It seeped. I ignored it and let my consciousness swell over the ship, my own Gallente Tristan body. “Everything is ready,” came Garid’s voice.

The docking clamps released me and squeezed me out into space. Maybe the fluid will warm up when I move, I wondered.

“What was that, boss?”

Sorry Garid, I said, just thinking out loud.

I pushed forward, firing the afterburners. The fluid remained cold and uninviting. I could not feel any vibrations, I was perfectly still. I circled around the station once, twice. Nothing.

I warped to an asteroid belt, a few pirate ships scoured it for unarmed miners. They targeted me and I returned the favor. The fluid was even colder, but I could feel the vibrations now. The pirates fired on me and I returned fire, but everything was shivering. I was shivering.

I was being crushed, the fluid touching every inch of me. I wasn’t getting enough air and I opened my mouth and inhaled. The fluid invaded and I coughed to try and expel it, but the pirates were firing on me and I rocked with each spasm.

I warped away, back to the station, and called in to dock. With each cough, more fluid was getting into my lungs. I was drowning when the docking clamps caught me and pulled in my ship.

The hatch opened and I burst from the pod, pulling the plugs out painfully. I toppled out onto the hangar deck, throwing up blue pod fluid, cold, shriveled, and naked. I shivered and gasped for air and people were laughing. The fluid stuck to me, oozing out of places. I was covered in it and everyone was laughing, even Garid.

When I could finally breathe again, and had the pod fluid out of my eyes, Garid helped me stumble toward the showers.

I left the station the next day, without returning to the bar. I wore a podsuit when I entered the pod this time. The fluid wasn’t quite as cold and it didn’t cling to me nearly as much, but I stayed away from the asteroid belts. I aimed for the outskirts of Minmatar space, far away from the station.

I’d run a few courier jobs. Something quiet and simple.

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