The descent into Allgate Station was long. While lag time between transmissions made the first few exchanges feel like mail, Port-Comm operator Duncan's smooth voice was worth the wait.
"Pan-Sys Arogo, this is Allgate lane support."
"This is Arogo comm. We have lane and we're sliding in."
[Then she had to wait and wait for the reply message.]
"Hey star lady. I have you on mid sensors. You're well in-lane and right on time to make my day."
"Hi supercomm. Can't wait to snuggle up to your dock."
[Wait for it... Wait for it...]
"I got you a sweet berth. Right against the market."
"Anywhere near you, hero. I've crossed a galaxy just for you." She had never been truly near him, except in her dreams. But she did dream.
"--Senseless." That immediate interruption was from the altogether too close Yxsy!!yl, who worked internal-ship's-communications beside her. "He must know we're in from Cu'Nnen."
"Hush! Stop monitoring my comm!"
"Our comm. I've had to listen to this nauseating performance for hours." His clicks and hisses were an irritating counterpoint to Duncan's soft baritone vibrations. "And who is 'Julie,' X!x?"
"Julie is me," she replied. "It's a name he can pronounce." She directed one eyestalk piercingly at Yxsy!!yl. "Mute my line and pay attention to your cabins, Yxs. Can't you see I'm working here?"
"Working? You're fantasizing." He was right, and knew it. Yxsy!!yl was the single other tarborsect onboard the Arogo and had seen her bunk. She was able to fool the others on this mixed-crew ship, telling them the lining she spun was preparation for moulting. It was really a nest, formed by instinct while she dreamed of meeting her perfect Man.
During the shortening lag-time, X!xvixxl absent-mindedly ran her left pincer along the knobbly underside of its matching mandible while she set up her brand new interface software. She had to barter for the interface, beg her commander, make promises to her captain to extend her tedious contract, and finally install the thing herself before she could get to this point. It would all be worth it, though, as soon as she could see his face -- as soon as he could "see" her.
"Got a surprise for you, Duncan."
"Do I detect vidcomm protocols, Julie?" came Duncan's now nearly lagless reply.
Suddenly, there he was, activating his own newly installed vidcomm, beautifully human, with an enclosed mouth, forward-set eyes and pale, fleshy skin, tufted with shiny hair on the top of his head.
"Do you have visual?"
"I'm not sure, Duncan," X!x said through her voice filter, which translated her grating clicks as a girlish purr. "I might be catching some interference from the entertainment channel. Is there an interview with a night-flic star playing now?"
Duncan's face broke into a friendly smile that showed a row of white teeth. X!x had many occasions -- being a connoisseur of human night-flics -- to witness the exposure of dental bone as a gesture of happiness and affection. She enjoyed it aimed at her; so much so, she forgot to speak again.
"Do I get to see you?" Duncan's voice was tinged with a sweet shyness.
She almost fell off her peg.