Yuki had just placed the carrier on the ground when she heard John call out to them. She stood and waved her hand over her head in response. Caroline was squatting next to the carrier with her finger held up to the door’s metal bars. A little pink tongue darted in and out, licking it. She looked up at Yuki with a smile that went from ear to ear. The little girls grin was infectious; Yuki could feel herself smiling in response.”
“We need to get going, how about you grab the carrier and I’ll get my bag?” Caroline didn’t respond. Thinking she was too engrossed with Kit, she tapped her on the shoulder. Caroline looked up.
“We need to get going, you grab his carrier and I’ll get my bag.” She was surprised at Caroline’s response; the little girl’s smile vanished as she lifted her hands up, signed quickly, then pulled them tightly to her chest. The movement was so slight, if it wasn’t for her glasses automatically translating, Yuki might not have even noticed.
Seeing her own feelings of insecurity reflected in the little girl’s face, she crouched next to her, brought her own hands up, looked her in the eyes and signed, “You were too fast, what did you say?”
Caroline’s face lit up at the site of Yuki signing. She said, “You know sign language?”
“Yes, I do.”
“Are you deaf too?”
Yuki looked down for a moment then said, “Yes, I am. Without my glasses I can’t hear.” A sense of something like relief filled her mind. It was almost as if she was admitting it to herself, not to Caroline.
Caroline, as little as she was, must have recognized the look on her face. She put her hand on her arm and said, “It’s okay, lots of people are.”
Yuki smiled, thinking that was probably something her father and mother have told her. “Thanks.” Not wanting to have to say any more about it, she asked, “Um, what did you say before?”
“I asked you what his name is?”
“Oh, it’s, uh.” Unsure how to sign the word Kit, she spelled out each letter.
Caroline spelled it back to her then looked back into the carrier, she signed, “Hello Kit.”
The small, pink tongue darted in and out again.
Yuki looked toward John as he called out again.
She reached over and tapped Caroline on the shoulder, “We better get going. You take Kit.”
Caroline nodded okay, she stood up and grabbed the handle with her right hand and headed off for the boat. The extra weight was enough to make walking back to the boat a little difficult; she had to use both hands on the handle. Poor Kit was bounced back and forth with each step she took.
Yuki watched to make sure she was okay then pulled out her bag from the truck. She slammed the door shut and quickly caught up to Caroline.
When they reached the boat, Caroline dropped the carrier and said to her father, “Daddy guess what?” But before he could respond she added, “She’s deaf like me and knows sign language.”
He glanced quickly at Yuki before saying, “She is?”
Caroline said, “Yep, and this is Kit.” She pointed at the carrier.
He knelt to look inside. “Kit? Well, hello Mr. Kit, how are you?” He stood and said, “Honey, why don’t you take him to the boat and get him settled?” She grabbed the carrier and headed to a small ladder resting against the boat.
Jordin turned to Yuki, “Thank you, I think you’ve made her day. Not many people know how to sign around here.”
Yuki noticed that he hadn’t signed when he said that. Not wanting to bring it up, she said, “Um, no problem, um, I’ll see if she needs any help.”
She grabbed her bag then suddenly turned to John, “I almost forgot, thank you very much for all you’ve done. I’m very grateful and, uh, thanks for bringing Kit. Um, will I see you again?”
“I hope so, cause I’m your ride out of here when you get back!”
“Oh, that’s fantastic! I didn’t know that. Uh, well, thanks again.” She stuck out her free hand to shake his.
“Nope, that won’t do cause I’m a hugger.” He reached over and pulled her into a bear hug.
She was caught off guard but soon realized that if she didn’t hug back, he wouldn’t let her go. She dropped her bag and squeezed.
Yuki and Caroline remained in the boat while John and Jordin pushed it further into the water. The twenty-four-foot aluminum hull easily slid back into the gentle waves of the bay. Jordin grabbed the edge of the boat and easily pulled himself in. He made his way to the rear of the boat and lowered the big outboard motor into the water. Caroline stood on an overturned crate by the console, she kept her eyes on her father as he made some adjustments. He lifted his hands away from the motor, turned to Caroline, made eye contact, then gave her a thumbs up.
Yuki watched as Caroline made sure the throttle was in neutral, then pushed in the starter button. The big motor came to life with a muffled rumble. She was impressed with how serious Caroline looked and the level of trust Jordin has in his daughter, considering how young she is.
Jordin made his way to the console and watched as Caroline, standing on her tippy toes, slowly pushed the throttle forward and steered the boat out into the bay.
Yuki turned to Jordin. “How old is Caroline?”
Keeping an eye on where the boat was going, he replied, “Nine.”
“Wow, I’m not used to seeing someone so young entrusted with navigating a vessel this size, or any size for that matter.”
“Living out here, in these conditions, means you have to learn young. If something were to happen to me, she would have to know how to run everything. I’m sure it’s the same thing in space, everybody has to know everyone else’s job.”
He tapped Caroline on the shoulder as they got closer to the open ocean. “I’ll take it from here, Honey. Good Job.”
“Thank you, Daddy.” She smiled widely at him as she switched places with him.
Yuki moved next to Jordin to help him as he unrolled a chart and tried flattening it out. Holding down a corner she asked, “How far do we have to go?”
He pointed to where they were and said, “It’s sixty-five miles, so, with today’s conditions, about four hours.” He looked out to the open ocean. “The winds are from the North which means the seas will stay calm, so it should make for a smooth and much safer trip. We should dock at the Freeman’s Cove mining camp at around (he looked at his watch) seven.”
A whimpering came from the carrier which Caroline had stored by the console to keep it out of the spray from the cold water. A little paw made its way out from between the bars of the door.
Yuki said, “It looks like someone’s getting antsy.”
Jordin asked, “What is it? I haven’t had the chance to get a good look.”
“An artic fox.”
“Yeah, but it’s not a real one, it’s actually a robot or, I guess, cyborg would be more accurate.”
“So that’s what Qbit was talking about! He mentioned something about a companion for you. I didn’t think he meant one of these.”
Yuki was a little surprised, “You know about these?”
“Yeah, your Mom’s told me about them. She’s seen a couple while doing her research.”
“Oh.” She hesitated then asked, “What’s she like?”
“Yeah. I don’t know a lot about her.”
“Well, how should I put this? Uh, she’s very, uh, dedicated to her work. It’s kinda like her work is her life; everything revolves around it.”
“What kind of research?”
He shrugged his shoulders and looked away, “Um, I dunno, just your typical Artic research, I guess.”
“You’re not telling the truth.”
“What? How do you know that? I mean, what makes you say that?”
He looked at her again, especially at her glasses, “Wait, what? Your glasses? What are you talking about?”
“They can read your pupils, respiration and body language and a couple of other things. From that information they can tell if you’re telling the truth or not.”
“Really? That’s cool, I guess.” He made an unsure face. “Kinda unfair but I see how that could come in handy.”
Suddenly realizing she might have offended him she quickly said, “Oh my gosh, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to…”
He smiled, “Relax it’s okay.”
She looked back at Caroline and Kit. “It’s just that everyone seems to know so much more than me about everything. Why didn’t Qbit fill me in more?”
“I don’t know but, sometimes it’s better that way. Sometimes, knowing everything takes the fun out of finding out.”
While they were talking, Caroline had come over, she pulled on her father’s pants leg, “He said he needs to recharge his batteries.”
Yuki was so taken back by what Caroline had just said, that she almost lost her balance. She looked at her and asked, “What did you just say.”
“He said, he has to get into the sun to charge his batteries. Can’t you hear him?”
Yuki turned to Jordin with her mouth wide open, “She can hear him?”
“Oh yeah. She’s very good at it. I assume Qbit told you about you having the same ability?” He motioned towards Kit.
“Yeah, but I didn’t really take him serious. Well, I don’t know if that’s the right word. I mean, there was a lot going on and hearing something as fantastical as that was a little bit too much for me to really even take in. You know what I mean?”
“Sure, it’s not something that comes up in everyday conversation.”
She asked Jordin, “Can you hear him?”
“I didn’t just then, but I could if I concentrated. I think the younger you are the easier it is.”
“But, how does it work? I mean, how can Caroline and I hear him when we’re both deaf?”
Yuki hadn’t meant to say that, she looked away.
Jordin said, “Hey, it’s okay, I know about that too.”
She was confused, “Then why did you act so surprised when Caroline said I knew sign language?”
“I thought it would be better to let you mention it when you were ready.”
Yuki looked down, “Again, everyone seems to know everything. I don’t think that’s very fair.”
Yuki looked toward Caroline and was about to say something else, when she noticed that Caroline was reaching for the latch to let Kit out.
Yuki yelled out, “No Caroline, don’t!” but Caroline, of course, didn’t hear her.
Caroline undid the latch and pulled the door open. Yuki froze, expecting him to dart out of the carrier.
But instead, Kit stuck his nose out and stopped to sniff the air. Then slowly stuck his head out; his ears popping free of the carrier door.
Caroline said, “Mickey Mouse ears.” She put her hand out to him, Kit smelled it and gave it a lick. She pulled her hand away and Kit came out the rest of the way and sat on the deck. He looked around, licked his side briefly, then jumped up onto the console between Yuki and Jordin. He looked up to the sky and found what he needed. His ears turned forward toward the sun, which was just above the horizon. Kit sat down and closed his eyes.
“Charging,” said Caroline.
Yuki smiled at her and said, “Yes, charging.”