by Lara Wilson

Hotdog knew that most of his fellow pilots spent their time off gambling, drinking, exercising, and catching each other and other romantic interests in dark corners of the ship, and while he enjoyed all of that, each week he spent half a day in the hydroponic gardens of one of the farming ships using an expertise that very few knew he had to aid in the growth and development of the foods needed to sustain nearly fifty thousand people.

As he knelt next to a vat of tomatoes, carefully transferring a few of the plants to precious soil tubs, he felt someone join him and looked over to see Suki, one of the trained botanists, kneeling next to him, her hands immediately going into the water.

"How are they doing?" she asked, smiling back at him rather shyly before turning her attention to the buds on the plant before her.

"On schedule. I want to see how these will do in dirt. We've received clearance to turn some of the recreational gardens on Cloud Nine into vegetable ones. Sometimes the hydro grown plants don't transfer well."

"We're very lucky to have you here, Brendan. None of us are anywhere near expert at hydroponics like you."

"Growing up on a hydroponic farm all I wanted was to get away," he replied with a slightly apologetic shrug. "I joined the military as soon as I could, just wanting to be off world. I never dreamed I'd become a pilot but I never wanted to be a farmer. But, I don't mind, really," he added quickly. "I find this very...relaxing, and it feels good to help out. I'm just amazed so much info sank in during my rebellious teen years."

Suki shot him a quick grin. "I can't see you as a rebel."

"The name Hotdog isn't just because of my piloting skills." He tamped down the dirt around a hearty tomato plant, the picked up a hose and turned it on, carefully watering in the roots. "I used to race cars, drink illicit hootch, smoke behind the barns, kiss pretty girls. Back then, my dad never thought I'd amount to anything." The last came out a bit sorrowfully and he looked at Suki when she brushed damp fingers over his arm. "Was he still...?"

Hotdog nodded. "Living on his farm on Virgon. I know he was disappointed when I left the farm but I also know he was proud to see me graduate from the Academy and join the Colonial Fleet. We kept in touch and while I don't think he ever understood my choice, he respected it. I think...I hope he'd be proud of me now."

"Of course he would be. You risk your life on a daily basis to help protect what's left of the human race. That takes more courage than I have, I k now. More courage than most have. How could a parent not be proud?"

Hotdog reddened slightly at her compliments but smiled and reached for another pot. "Thanks, Suki, but, you know, I think he'd really be proud if he could see me like this. He always said that for a farmer, feeding others was the best thing in the galaxy, and now I know how he felt."

She nodded. "Without us, without these ships and the plants and seeds, well, there's only so many supplements. We would have run out weeks ago and the rumbles of hunger that still exist would be starvation instead." At the thought, the pretty botanist shuddered, then rose to her feet, wiping her hands on the towel hanging from her belt. "I have to go check the batch of cucumbers that had signs of mold developing yesterday, but then I'm off shift. Would you like to meet me for a drink at Garinos?"

At the mention of the farming ship's most popular and yet quiet saloon, Hotdog nodded. "Twenty minutes? I should be able to get the rest of this vat transplanted by then."

"See you then," Suki called with a wave as she headed for another section of the vast farm.

Smiling to himself and humming a tune his father had hummed while farming, Hotdog turned back to the tomatoes. He found it rather amusing that for the first time he'd attracted a pretty woman not because of his daredevil piloting but because he knew plants.

Yes, his father would be proud.

And Hotdog knew that everything he did on this farm, helping to feed their people, gave him more confidence in himself that translated to his work as a pilot.

Everything was important.

His father had known that, too.


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