“Morning, loser,” Steph said, barely glancing at him as he pulled himself to a view window to take a peek at Eo, glowing yellowish-orange in the blush of Jupiter. “Mmmumph dalloph,” O’Conner replied. “Right,” Steph said, continuing to fine tune her lab experiment.
“I didn’t lose,” he said, pulling the toothbrush out of his mouth and depositing it into a Ziploc bag. Unsure what to do with the froth in his mouth he decided to reopen the bag and spat into it, sealing it again. “I was just slightly second.”
Steph wrinkled her nose at his hygiene as a smile crept on her lips. “Loser.”
O’Conner ran his fingers through his hair and slid up next to her. “How are the Gamma tests going today?” he asked, pretending to be interested. “HETE-3 is sending good data back and we’re bouncing it to Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope back home.”
“Great,” O’Conner said, utterly uninterested, yanking the digital camera off the charger and snapping a few photos out the view window. “I want to talk to you about something.” Something in O’Conner’s voice made Steph stop and turn to look at him. The orange glow from Jupiter made him look tan and attractive. “You really made me look silly out there yesterday,” he said, suddenly serious.
“I did?” Steph seemed genuinely concerned. “I didn’t mean to.”
“That feed went to Houston Beta,” O’Conner said. “I got a lot of shit from Command and Control over you bum rushing the airlock to beat me. You know that beat protocol. NASA protocol.”
Steph hung her head. “I know.” Then she locked eyes with him. “I just wanted to win.”
“Of course you did, you competitive bitch,” O’Conner said, a sly grin on his face. “But between your protocol breach and the AI at C&C giving me shit, you’re going to need to learn you can’t always win, regardless of our relationship up here.” Again, Steph looked down and replied meekly, “I know.”
“Come here.” O’Conner said, releasing his grip from the Bay to float freely. Steph pressed a few buttons on the experiment module to put it on Auto and gently pushed away from it, moving gracefully across the room. O’Conner took a hair net from a Velcro pad near his head and put it over the cabin camera and stuffed a gym sock from his pocket over the mic.
“Why did you do that?” she asked, her voice slightly husky.
“Because I want you to take off your jumpsuit.”
“What?!” Steph exclaimed. “Why??”
“Because I’m going to punish you for embarrassing me. I’m going to spank you.” Steph looked at the covered camera and mic. She looked at O’Conner. He wasn’t fucking around. He was pissed. She must’ve really made him look foolish to the C&C bots.