“You're going to boil if you don't strip down,” said the woman next to him.
Michael peered to his right, looking past the brown bangs splayed across her face and into a pair of half opened green eyes. “I'll be fine,” he said.
She sighed. “No you won't. You'll sweat, your clothes will get wet and then tonight you'll freeze your ass off.”
Michael ignored her, closing his eyes and trying as best he could to will away the pulsating pain that rhythmically coursed through his entire being.
“Suit yourself,” she said moments later, rolling on her side to expose her back to him.
Michael wondered for a short moment if he hadn't listened to her because of his stubbornness or because of his pride. Either way, he soon fell into a deep sleep. In his dream, he was back home, his apartment was a mess, but it wasn't such a big concern because Cassandra was there, cleaning the slum he lived in. He went to her and hugged her. When he moved away from the hug, he realized quite unsurprised, that it was Andrea. As though this were normal, he continued hugging her. She put her fingers on his chin and pulled his face in closer. Their lips met, and the soft warmth of her tongue slipped into his mouth.
Sunshine beamed through his eyelids, painting his groggy consciousness a bright pink as he woke up drenched in sweat and breathing heavily. He sat up in the cot and looked down at himself, dark spots soaking straight through the dirty pressure suit he'd been wearing for the past few days.
Movement caught his eye, the woman next to him was taking off her bra. “Told you so,” she said, a sly grin on her face. “For a century old man you sure aren't that bright,” she continued, slipping her panties off and then picking up a towel from the laminate tile floor.
Michael got up and palmed at the zipper at his back.
“Turn around genius,” said the girl.
Michael eyed her with disdain; he was genuinely annoyed. Nevertheless, he obeyed and almost immediately felt a tug followed by a cool rush of air against his sweat covered back. The relief was bittersweet as his pride took another blow when she grabbed on to the waistband and tugged the flightsuit down to his ankles.
“There,” she said. “Now get some sleep, I'll do you a one time favor and get this washed.” She waited for him to slip out of the boots and step out of the pant legs before she gathered up the pressure suit and walked off.
Michael laid down on the cot, naked and completely uncomfortable in regards to his social predispositions, but admittedly cooler. The only downside at this point other than being completely exposed was the fact that he could smell the last few days of sweat, blood and general filth that had accumulated on his body. This fact, however, still didn't stop him from falling asleep in mere minutes.
He woke with a start when a towel was dropped on his crotch. Looking up, he saw that same troublesome woman; her wet hair matted against her neck and shoulders.
“Do you know where the showers are?” she asked, to which Michael shook his head. She sighed. “Alright, come with me.”
He instinctively searched for his clothing before remembering she had taken them to be cleaned. With no other option, he wrapped the towel around his waist and winced when the material snagged a suture on his arm.
“Come on,” she said, waiting at the door barefoot with her towel around her chest.
Michael followed. They traveled down the crowded hallway, turning a few corners before descending a staircase and walking through a swinging door. Behind it was a tiled room filled with benches; lockers along the walls.
“Thanks,” Michael said.
“No problem. By the way, your jumpsuit is covered in tears and holes. I'm thinking I'll just get you one of ours.”
Michael just nodded and watched her walk off. He heard showers running and hadn't queued in yet that this place was co-ed in almost every way. In the shower room, two men and a woman were washing. Michael felt that familiar cultural stigma boil up inside him as he looked at the naked female form. This was obviously something he was going to have to get used to.
He tried as hard as he could to ignore the woman and walked into the shower room. Each shower head was equipped with a soap dispenser. He was intending to take very little time here, but found himself lingering in the high pressured hot water. Two of the previous occupants had left when the third shut his shower off and walked across the tiled room.
“Hey Michael.” said the stranger.
Michael turned to him, awkwardly. “Yeah?” he inquired as he squinted through the water that sprayed over his face.
“I don't mean to be rude, I mean ... you're the one and only Captain Michael Rafferty," he said with a boyish glee. "But we've got very little hot water for the number of people here.”
“Right,” Michael said, shutting off the vavle.
The man smiled awkwardly. “Thanks,” he said, walking out of the room.
Michael stood there listening to the drips of water on the tile, feeling like he didn't belong here at all.