Author: Brendan Chris
Personal Log, Stardate 56998.4
“Wow. Um, where do I begin. I’ve never really bothered to keep a personal log before. Well, anyway. Hi! This is Rengs Aris speaking. I, uh, just graduated from Starfleet Academy with the rank of Ensign, and I’m on my way to my very first assignment!”
<Sound of off-screen person clearing throat.>
“Oh! Um, and this is my wife, Rengs Meris. Smile at the camera, honey! Yeah, so, I graduated the Academy, went home to Bajor for some shore leave, and now we’re on our way to our new home! I’m going to be part of the security team and Meris is taking up the role of high school teacher. Well, we know starships don’t technically have high schools, but I guess there are enough teenage students on this ship to warrant bringing in somebody to teach at their level. So, yeah, we’re going to rendezvous with my new ship, the, um, U.S.S. Silverado, in about three hours!”
I leaded back in the pilot seat of the Durango, a Type-9 shuttle, the yellow on my new uniform a sharp contrast to the dark grey. I’m still getting used to the duty uniform after wearing cadet uniforms for the past several years.
I’m a pretty typical Bajoran, I guess. Since in Bajoran culture the family name comes first, not last as in most species, I’ve had to deal with being called ‘Mr. Aris’ on several occasions, rather then the correct address, Mr. Rengs. No. I’m sorry. That’s Ensign Rengs now, to you! It’s great to be an officer now!
I grew up on Bajor. I was pretty young when the Cardassian Occupation ended, but still old enough to know how to make a hand grenade from household materials. I was lucky enough that both my parents were still alive at the end of the Occupation, unlike so many of my friends’ folks. It was a pretty depressing time.
I can’t remember when it was exactly that I decided I wanted to join Starfleet, but I remember what made me start to think about it.
When I was sixteen my parents took me to Deep Space 9, a space station in the Bajoran system administered by the Federation. That was our first trip to see the Celestial Temple. Prophets, that was my first time in space! I remember seeing all the different ships and aliens, and thinking about how cool it would be to actually travel somewhere.
Of course, my parents could talk all they want about the Prophets and the Celestial Temple, but what they hadn’t told me was that to everybody else, what we call the Celestial Temple is just a wormhole, a tunnel leading to a distant part of the galaxy.
Well, that’s not really true. I mean, I knew it was ALSO a wormhole. What I didn’t know was that as far as the rest of the galaxy is concerned, it’s ONLY a wormhole, and the Prophets are extra-dimensional aliens. Kinda gave me a new perspective. Anyway, then the Dominion War started and one thing lead to another. Next thing I know, I’m sneaking onto a freighter bound for the Rigel system.
Getting into the Academy wasn’t hard. With the Dominion War in full swing, Starfleet wasn’t all that picky about applicants. They made sure I wasn’t a changeling, checked to be sure I wouldn’t collapse dead on them or anything, and next thing I knew I was in the fast track program, bound for the front as soon as my combat training could be completed.
Then the war kinda ended.
The timing was great, I’ll admit. Rather then getting rushed through the Academy and shipping out to the front lines, I was able to finish my full four-year Academy course at a more reasonable pace. I met my lovely wife Meris at a restaurant called ‘Sisko’s’. C’mon, like any Bajoran would miss the chance to visit the restaurant owned by the Emissary’s father!
So I graduated from the Academy and was assigned to U.S.S. Silverado. My wife signed on as a schoolteacher and I’m sure we’ll be able to fit in right away.
“Do you even know anything about this ship?” Meris asked me. Her tone wasn’t unkind, indeed it rarely is. Like any good schoolteacher she’s great at hiding her true feelings. Still, she was clearly not pleased with me. Come to think of it, I think it started around the time I found out which ship I was assigned to. I think she was hoping I’d get a space station or planetary posting. Maybe even Deep Space 9. But that’s not what I wanted.
“I’ve read up on it,” I replied, “She was part of a Starfleet mission to eliminate some kind of threat involving artificial reality several months ago. I think that’s it.”
“You need to watch more vid-screen,” Meris said flatly, “I can’t believe I just said that! I usually have to tell my students to get off their lazy butts and do something else!”
I gave her a quick smile.
“That ship’s been on the vid-screen almost as much as the Enterprise! Only it’s always something bad. Did you know they pulled her out of a junkyard?”
“I heard about that,” I replied, “But she must have had a really thorough refit. I mean, Starfleet has pretty strict safety standards on their ships. We’ll be fine! During the Occupation, we were always re-using and rebuilding whatever we could get our hands on.”
Meris glared angrily at me. Oops. I keep forgetting that she’s a little sensitive about Bajor. Growing up on the colonies, she’s had lots of trouble with ‘real’ Bajorans who claim the colonials never did anything to help during the Occupation.
“I hear they nearly exploded because somebody hooked up the plumbing wrong,” Meris said.
“Rumors,” I dismissed, “You know Starfleet; that kind of sloppy behavior would never last long.”
I thought about adding ‘you really shouldn’t pay so much attention to rumors and gossip’. Then common sense took over and I shut my mouth.
Three hours later:
“U.S.S. Silverado, this is the shuttlecraft Durango,” I said over the comm channel, my voice quivering with excitement, “Requesting permission to-“
“Yeah, yeah,” I was cut off by an annoyed sounding male voice, “Shuttlebay 2. That’s the rear one, by the way.”
“Um,” I was taken aback, “I was kinda hoping to do a quick flyby first. You know, take a look at the ship?’
“We don’t have all f**king day!” the voice snapped, “Just hurry up and-“
The first voice was interrupted as another male voice, sounding just as annoyed, cut it.
“For crying out loud, Jall, don’t be such a prick! Durango, flyby is granted. Just don’t take all day, please.”
“Um, thanks….Durango out.”
Meris and I exchanged glances. Neither of us had been expecting that.
I lay in a basic flyby course into the helm; overtake the ship from the rear, turn around, make a pass from the front and then dock. Activating the autopilot, I turned my attention to the front window.
The ship was Ambassador-class, I already knew that. I smiled smugly at Meris as we passed by the ship’s gleaming warp nacelles, skimming over the top of the saucer. I wasn’t a big fan of the Ambassador-class, personally. They look bulky and old-fashioned compared to the newer ships, but I guess they still do the job. The saucer was round, not oval. The secondary hull was cylindrical, not squat. And the ship actually had a neck between the two! Common sense nowadays dictated that the saucer section of a starship should connect directly to the secondary hull, without putting a vulnerable support strut between them. Still, my wife could say what she wanted to; Silverado clearly looked like she was in great condition to me. Meris simply shook her head with a sigh, turning back to her magazine padd.
As we turned for our second and final pass, I was able to pick out one of the items that made Silverado a unique ship from a security and tactical standpoint: her pulse phaser cannon. Many ships in Starfleet were being outfitted with them these days, but Silverado’s the only Ambassador-class ship I know of to have one. Man, what I wouldn’t give to play around with that baby! I’ll have to be extra nice to my C.O, try to get some bridge time in!
Pulling my eyes away from the ship, I guided the shuttle into the lower hanger bay, setting it down gently on the deck. Cycling the systems to standby mode,I followed Meris out the rear hatch, welcoming the chance to stretch out after spending several days cooped up in the shuttle.
Looking around, the shuttlebay seemed pretty empty. There was a runabout sitting on the deck nearby, the markings revealing her to be the U.S.S. Asessippi. But no technicians and no engineers. Nothing.
“I was hoping somebody would be here to welcome us,” Meris said, peeved.
“Perhaps we forgot to knock?”
“Welcome to Silverado,” a voice hissed in my ear.
Instantly my security training took over. I spun, dropping into a crouch and bringing my hands up into a defensive position.
A slim Andorian stood in front of me. His hair was cut extremely short for an Andorian and he had a thick gold ring running through one antenna.
“No need to get frightened, pink-skin,” he chuckled.
“It’s not nice to sneak up on people!” Meris said, hands on her hips. Feeling my ears turn red, I stood and nodded my greetings.
“Ensign Rengs,” I said, “Um, I was told to report here…”
“Ensign Pysternzykz,” the Andorian replied, “I’m SOO sorry we didn’t have a welcoming committee availably, but they were all booked.”
Meris crossed her arms while Pysternzykz walked back towards the exit.
“Who’s going to show us to our quarters!” she demanded.
“If you need any help, just ask Sylvia,” the Andorian called back over his shoulder.
Meris and I exchanged glances.
“Where do we find her?” I called, shouting to be heard across the hanger bay.
“Around,” Pysternzykz shouted back, the doors shutting behind him.
My wife and I exchanged glances.
“Sylvia???” Meris asked.
“Calm down, honey,” I started pacing. This wasn’t what I was expecting! When I did my training stint on the U.S.S. Ontario there had been an officer waiting to greet me, to help me get settled in and to introduce me to my C.O. Now, being left standing in the middle of an empty hanger deck, I was getting a bit nervous.
“OK,” I said finally, “We need to track down ‘Sylvia’, whoever she is,”
“What a novel idea!” Meris muttered.
I turned to her.
“Meris, we can’t start this assignment like this. I’m sorry if you’re not happy with something, but can’t we make the best of it?” I gave her my best sad puppy-dog face, the one carefully honed by many weekends spent in San Francisco bars, trying to convince the local ladies that a deeply religious people like the Bajorans could be good lovers, too.
“You look so funny when you do that!” she reached out and pulled me into a hug.
“I love you,” I whispered, giving her a peck on the cheek, “Let’s find our quarters so we can…settle in?”
“All right!” I raised my voice, “Computer! Please tell me the location of Sylvia.”
“Sylvia is on Deck 11, Sector 1,” replied the computer.
“So we know where to start,” Meris said, walking towards the door.
I recalled what I could of an Ambassador-class ship’s layout.
“I wonder what she’s doing in the computer core,” I muttered.
We walked through the corridors towards the turbolift. The ship was looking pretty good for her age; the cream-coloured doors and silver paneling looked like they had been lifted right out of a Galaxy-class ship. The lighting was bright, the overall feeling that of a fancy hotel or apartment corridor.
“This isn’t so bad,” I said to Meris.
“Yeah,” she agreed, “I like it much better then the grey they put in the newer ones.”
The turbolift dropped us off on Deck 11. We had actually walked halfway to the computer core when Meris stopped me. She was looking around.
“Do you notice anything…different?” she asked.
I did. Looked just like the Ontario. Muted greys and blues, silver trim, mellow mood lighting.
“That’s never happened before,” I said slowly.
“Is it just this one deck?”
We rushed back to the turbolift, asking to be taken to Deck 10.
As the doors opened, we were greeted by the site of warm, creamy colours.
“Deck 9,” I requested.
“Maybe we should ask Sylvia about it when we find her,” I suggested uneasily.
Meris just bit her lip.
We returned to Deck 11 and walked into the small alcove overlooking the locked and secured Computer Core Control room.
It was empty.
“Maybe she left while we were admiring the décor,” Meris muttered.
“Computer, where is Sylvia now?” I asked.
“Sylvia is on Deck 11, Section 1”
“There’s nobody here!” I said, exasperated.
“Sylvia?” Meris called out.
I looked around, but couldn’t see anybody. The room was empty, nothing but racks of isolinear chips and a few banks for bio-neural gel-packs.
“Um, where are you?” I asked.
“This isn’t making any sense,” I sighed.
“Oh, I’m sorry, dears,” Sylvia said, “That was a pretty mean prank to play on you! I think I’ve been spending too much time working with Lieutenant Jall.”
I realized that the voice was coming from the comm-speakers, like the computer or an open comm-channel. It wasn’t the ubiquitous computer voice, though. I guessed that somebody was calling us from some other part of the ship.
“So, where on the ship are you?” I asked.
“I really am here,” Sylvia replied, “Sort of. I am the Federation Starship Silverado, but you may call me Sylvia. I’m technically everywhere, but this is where my consciousness is centered.”
I was speechless. A sentient starship? That I hadn’t heard of!
“I guess you weren’t briefed very well,” Sylvia sighed, apparently understanding the situation from our lack of response, “I’m so sorry. Ensign Yanick usually greets new crew additions. In theory anyway, we haven’t had many additions since we were first launched. But one of the senior staff, not mentioning any names, was playing in the holodeck with the safeties off and sort of broke fourteen bones, not to mention tearing four ligaments, chipping a fang, receiving seventeen flesh wounds and losing 1.43 liters of blood. So it’s sort of an emergency and in all the confusion we forgot about your arrival. I don’t know why I let Pysternzykz talk me into misleading you, but let’s get you settled into your quarters so you can rest for a bit.”
Nodding dumbly, we allowed Sylvia to direct us to one of the residential wings on Deck 10.
We found ourselves in a reasonably sized one-bedroom suite. It was a bit small compared to accommodations on a Galaxy or Sovereign-class ship, but compared to some of the more utilitarian vessels being turned out nowadays it was pretty spacious. After informing us that larger quarters could be found when we started having children, she departed. I guess. Or stopped paying attention to us. Whatever it is that an always present computer does when it wants to leave you alone.
Wait…did she mention children?
I quickly offered a prayer to the Prophets, begging them to have let that children remark pass by Meris unnoticed.
“I’ve never had a computer imply that I should have a child,” Meris said thoughtfully to herself.
To borrow a human phrase; ‘Oh, s**t!’!
“Meris,” I said carefully, “We’ve discussed this! Starship duty can be dangerous, the last thing we need is a kid! What if something happened to me?”
“Oh!” Meris accused, “So it’s OK if something happens to you and I’m left all by myself?”
The conversation went downhill from there.
I awoke the next morning on the couch, noticing how the fabric had imprinted its pattern into my skin. The bedroom door was still sealed shut. No doubt Meris would be getting up soon. Probably better to be gone before she got up.
After showering, I dressed and ate breakfast, checking on my way out the door to be sure my earring was properly attached. One of my Academy roommates had commented on how my earring looked like one his great-grandmother wore. I guess he didn’t understand the religious significance.
I got him very drunk that weekend and left him in the hands of an Andorian body-piercing parlor. He’s never going to make that mistake again!
“Sylvia?” I asked, slightly nervous about invoking the name of the ever-present computer.
“Yes, Aris, what can I do for you today?”
“Um, could you tell me who my CO is?”
“Wow, they really didn’t brief you very well. Your CO is Lieutenant Commander T’Parief. Don’t let the fangs scare you, he’s a very reasonable lizard.”
“And where can I find him?” I was almost afraid to ask.
“He’s in Sickbay.”
“Great,” I started walking towards the turbolift. Sylvia cleared her throat.
“Huh?” I asked. Was I missing something?
“You’re welcome!” Sylvia said, sounding a bit peeved.
I arrived in Sickbay and was be greeted by a smiling Terran woman. OK, she was hot, I’ll give her that much. Gorgeous body, long auburn hair and a beautiful smile. Actually, her smile was more beatific then beautiful. Reminded me of Kai Winn.
“Hello,” she said, “may the grace and glory of God be with you!”
Aw crap, a religious nut. Tilting my head, trying hard to hide my earring, I stepped in. It was well known that Bajorans rarely got along with any religious species. Most of them were insanely jealous that we actually had proof of our god’s existence.
“Thanks, I’m Ensign Rengs. I’m looking for Lt. Cmdr. T’Parief.”
“Dr. Noel Wowryk. He’s over there,” she pointed at a heavily bandaged form on one of the bio-beds.
“Thanks,” I started to move past her.
“You’re Bajoran, aren’t you?” she asked cautiously.
“Yeah, I am,”
The smile fell off her face and tears started welling in the corners of her eyes.
“What?” I asked.
“Oh,” she sighed, “Bajorans make me so sad. I hate to see an entire species damned to hell.”
I was shocked.
“WHAT??” I demanded, angrily this time.
“No Bajorans have ever embraced God and Jesus,” she replied, shaking her head sadly.
“Of course not,” I scoffed, “We’ve embraced the Prophets. What do we need with your God?”
Wowryk spun around to face me. I noticed the rest of the Sickbay staff had retreated carefully, giving me pitying looks as they hid.
“There is only one true God!” she snapped, “And the first Commandment states ‘Thou shalt not worship any false gods before me!”
“The Prophets are NOT false gods!” I forced out from between glanced teeth, “They live in the Celestial Temple! They’ve sent their Orbs among us! That’s a hell of a lot more then your God has ever done for you!”
“Blasphemer!” Wowryk shook her finger in my face, “He sent His only son to die for our sins!”
“Which you can’t even prove!” I laughed.
“Get out!” she snapped coldly.
I dashed out the sickbay, ducking as a neural imaging scanner flew straight at my head.
“I want to register a complaint!” I snapped, walking into the security office. The dark haired human behind the desk gave me an annoyed look.
“And who the hell are you?” he demanded.
“Ensign Rengs Aris! I just got here!”
“Oh. Well, welcome to the team. I’ve been wondering when you’d turn up,” he stood up. Up and up and up. Towering over me, the giant was at least 6’4. I’m a tall guy, 5’11, with a solid build, but this guy was BIG!
“Lieutenant Stern,” he introduced himself, holding out one hand, “I’m handling things for Lt Cmdr. T’Parief while he’s in Sickbay.
I shook his hand when he offered it, following the old Earth customer.
“So what’s your complaint?” he asked.
“Say no more,” Stern sighed, “Let’s see, you’re Bajoran. We’ve never had a Bajoran onboard, so I’m guessing that you and she got into some kind of religious argument?”
“Thought so. Did she slap you, scream at you or throw something at your head?”
“Threw something at my head,” I said, “You’re making me think this has happened before…”
“Oh, it has,” Stern said with a smile, “A few times, actually. Religious matters usually mean you better duck. Hit on her and you’re more likely to get slapped. She’s surprised us on a couple of occasions, so it’s best to stay on guard.”
I was puzzled. That woman was a menace! I said as much to Stern.
“Eh,” he replied, shrugging, “She’s a good doctor, and she kinda, well, long story. But if you want to get back at her, here’s what you do: sneak into her quarters and put a little ketchup on her sheets. I promise, that will be payback times ten.”
“Yeah,” Stern looked at me funny, “Paste. Red in colour. Made from tomatoes.”
“I know what it is!” I sighed, exasperated, “Look, I don’t want petty revenge! I want to know she’s not going to attack me or insult my religion again!”
“We’ll have a talk with her,” Stern promised.
There was a moment of silence.
“So,” I asked, “What am I supposed to DO?”
“About Wowryk?” Stern scratched his head, “I thought we already covered that!”
“No! I mean, yes, but what do I do for the rest of the day?”
“Ohhh!” Stern nodded in understanding, “Well, things are pretty quiet right now. Tell ya what. Take the rest of the day to unpack and familiarize yourself with the ship. The guys and I will meet you for dinner, you can meet the rest of the team.”
Deciding I’d rather not go back to my quarters to face the wrath of Meris, I skipped ahead to the ‘familiarize yourself’ part of my schedule. Basically, this meant wandering around the ship, finding out where everything is and pretty much wasting time.
Fine. If I’m going to be a security officer on this ship, I should know where all the vitals are, right?”
My first stop was obvious: Engineering!
Finding it was easy, Sylvia was only too happy to direct me as long as I said ‘please’ and ‘thank you’. I walked down the corridor, took a turn and found myself at a closed door. I moved to step through-
-And slammed to a stop as my face struck the closed door, the ridges on my nose scraping painfully against the metal.
“By the Prophets!” I swore, griping my now flattened face, “What the hell?”
“I’m sorry,” Sylvia said, “But you don’t have clearance to enter this section.”
“What?” I demanded, “Why not!”
“I’m just the computer,” she replied, peeved, “I don’t know why your clearance hasn’t been entered!”
“Why didn’t you say so BEFORE I made it down here?”
“You didn’t ask.”
I banged one fist against the bulkhead in frustration. Fine. So my security clearance wasn’t set up yet. That would mean visiting the Ops officer.
“Rengs to Operations,” I said, tapping my comm-badge, “could somebody please-“
“Not now, I’m busy!” there was a click as the line went dead. I recognized the voice; it was the same one that gave me the rude greeting in the shuttle.
Fine then. He doesn’t wanna talk? I’ll just track him down.
Problem: The Operations Officer was up on the bridge. If the computer’s security subsystems wouldn’t let me into Engineering without a clearance, I had a snowball’s chance in the Fire Cave’s of getting onto the bridge.
“Sylvia,” I asked, “Why is it that any alien intruder can march right into Engineering or onto the bridge without any trouble, but you won’t let me, an Academy-graduated officer, in??”
“I don’t write the rules, honey,” Sylvia sighed, “I just play by them.”
Getting up to the bridge proved easier than I had thought. Lieutenant Stern was able to grant me a visitor’s pass. He warned me that I still needed to deal with the Operations Officer to get my permanent clearance setup.
I was more than a bit excited as I rode the turbolift. The bridge is the center of activity on a starship. The brain, the command center. The place where the Captain and his most competent and senior officers guide Silverado on her trek through the stars. A closely knit bridge crew is a model of efficiency; many hours spent together helping them mesh into a coherent whole.
I had a brief glance of the bridge: blue-grey upholstery, blinking control panels and a large main screen before everything went dark.
“Way to go, numb-nuts!” somebody was shouting.
“Sylvia said he was in the turbolift!” objected another.
“I was,” grumbled a deep, resonant voice, “But I was in the foreword turbolift. This is the aft turbolift. Surely even you can make that distinction!”
“That ‘woman’ is becoming a menace!”
“Don’t start! You’re the idiot that programmed her in the first place!”
“I think he’s waking up!” Another voice, female.
“If you would learn to refrain from such juvenile antics,” another female voice, cold and firm, “this kind of thing wouldn’t happen!” Reminded me of Lilith from my favorite Earth sitcom.
“Right!” snapped the second male voice again, “And you locking Crewman Shwaluk up with holograms of the Klingon Women’s Wrestling Team wasn’t juvenile?”
“I do believe he actually enjoyed the experience.”
“He was in traction for six weeks!”
“At least take the damn bucket off this guy’s head!”
I suddenly realized I was sprawled out on the bridge floor. My uniform was cold and damp and there was something on my head. I felt a firm tug.
“Uh-oh,” the second voice again. I finally identified it as Lieutenant Jall.
“What do you mean, uh-oh??” demanded the first voice. The Captain, maybe?”
“Um, uh-oh as in ‘Uh-oh, I think it’s stuck,” replied Jall. Another tug, this time I cried out in pain as my neck twisted.
“Yeah, definitely stuck,” reported Jall.
“Don’t worry, whoever you are,” the first female voice again, “We’ll take care of you!” I felt a reassuring hand on my arm
“Oh, wow!” the woman said happily, her hand gently squeezing, “Fifebee, come feel his biceps!”
“I will not, thank you,” Lilith, or Fifebee, as she was apparently known, spoke again.
“Do you mind?” I tried to say. With my nose and chin rammed up against the side of the bucket I really couldn’t say anything.
The hand relocated to my chest before being pulled away.
“For crying out loud, Trish,” the Captain said, sounding clearly exasperated, “Can’t you wait until we get the damned bucket off his head before you start feeling him up??”
“And not even then,” rumbled the deep voice.
“Oh, right,” Trish said, sounding sheepish, “Sorry sweetheart. Would it make you feel better if I felt you up instead?”
“Oh, for Pete’s sake!” somebody else groaned, “Get a room!”
“AND GET THIS THING OFF MY HEAD!” I tried to should. It came out more like “ARGEGNEFAED!”
“If you rotate the bucket twelve degrees on the X axis and apply five kilograms of pressure,” Fifebee said, “You have a 85 percent chance of removing it successfully.”
“OK,” Trish said, “T’Parief, you wanna do this?”
“Did I mention,” Fifebee continued, “that you also have a 54 percent chance of breaking his neck at the second vertebrae?
“Maybe we should get him down to Dr. Wowryk,” Trish said worriedly.
“You think?” somebody asked, “Y’know, that just MIGHT be a good idea?’
To quote another Earth phrase:
“Do we even know who this guy is?” Wowryk was asking as she carefully started cutting the bucked off my head with a small laser scalpel.
“Nope,” the voice I presumed to be the captain sighed, “He can’t talk with that thing on there,”
“He doesn’t look familiar below the neck,” Wowryk commented.
“It a wonder you know what ANY man looks like below the neck,” he muttered.
“Don’t you start with me!” Wowryk snapped, “I am a doctor! It’s my job to be familiar with the bodies of everybody on this ship! Whether I like it, or not!”
“You could say that. This Bajoran prick came waltzing in here, blabbering about his precious ‘Prophets’, never mind that everybody know there’s only one true God-“
“Spare us the televangelist bit,” groaned Jall.
“I didn’t know we had any Bajorans on board,” the Captain muttered.
“He’s new,” Jall said, “Remember? This morning? A shuttle?”
“Oh yeah. Right after T’Parief had his little ‘training accident’. Although I don’t see how having a piano fall on his head could possibly be involved in security training.”
“Between you and me,” Jall said to the Captain, “he’s been watching too many cartoons.”
“Noted. Any luck, Doc?”
“Almost done,” Wowryk, “Don’t worry, the mercy of God will pull you through,” she patted my shoulder reassuring. I could track her progress with the laser scalpel now as a bright light between my eyes.
Finally, the bucket was off.
I was greeted by several faces leaning over me. A tall, slim human male with Captain’s pips, a dark haired male with some strange Terran ethic look wearing an anti-grav suit, a shorter blond girl with a big grin and my old friend Dr. Wowryk.
“YOU!” Wowryk shrieked, waving the laser scalpel in my face, “I TOLD YOU TO GET LOST!”
“Woah!” Stafford shouted, grabbing the madwoman by the wrists and pulling the scalpel away, much to my relief, “Watch it, Doc! “
“HERETIC!” she screamed.
“C’mon, Noel,” Stafford said soothingly, pulling her away, “Why don’t you just step into your office for a minute and pray for his soul or something? We’ll take care of this.”
Tossing her head, Wowryk allowed herself to be led out.
“He’s cute,” the blond girl, Trish remarked to the remaining officer.
“Yeah,” I recognized the voice of Lieutenant Jall, “He is!”
“Sorry about that,” Stafford said coming back from Wowryk’s office, “She’s just been a little stressed lately, um, Ensign…” He scratched his head, “I’m sorry, I don’t recognize you.”
“Rengs Aris,” I replied, “I just got here. I was trying to find somebody to setup my clearance so I could take a look around.”
“Oh,” Stafford said, “Jall will take care of that, Ensign Aris,”
“I will?” Jall asked.
“Yes,” Stafford said, “you will. Now!”
“Um, sir?” I piped up, “It’s actually Ensign Rengs,”
“Huh? Oh. Right. Bajoran. My bad.”
“Jeffery to Stafford,” The officer on the comm had a distinct accent that I identified as Irish. I was rather proud of my ability to recognize Terran accents.
“Stafford here,” the Captain replied.
“Ah found the problem with the lateral sensor array. Somebody dumped chicken soup all over the control circuitry.”
“Nice,” Stafford sighed, “How long to fix?”
“About an hour to replace the circuits. The carpet’s a total loss, though.”
“Understood. Once you’re done, we’ll get underway, Stafford out.”
The Captain turned to me, extending a hand and giving me a wry grin.
“Welcome to Silverado,” he said.
“I want a transfer.” I said flatly.
I had returned to my quarters, finding Meris in a much friendlier mood than she was in the night before. I guess her day had gone better than mine. Not that that was saying much!
“I’m sorry, Ensign,” the dispatch officer on my screen said, matching my tone, “but that’s impossible!”
“The only reason we were able to send you out there in the first place was because that shuttle had to be delivered,” the bland looking man explained, “If you want off that ship, you’ll have to wait until her next scheduled stopover at a Starbase.”
“Which is when?”
The dispatcher consulted a padd on his desk.
“Saratoga….Secondprize…Selcardenfrugan,” he looked up from his padd, “What the hell kind of name is ‘Selcardenfrugan’ for a starship, anyway??” Without waiting for a response he turned back to his padd.
“Ahh, Silverado. Two more months,” he set the padd aside, “I suggest you try to get settled in there. If you still want off in two months, you’ll need to take it up with your CO.”
“Happy Zlarkezdeth Day,” he cut the channel.
I was stunned.
“I don’t understand,” I muttered, mostly to myself.
“Zlarkezdeth Day,” Meris cut in, “It’s a Gorn holiday. It marks the death of Zlarkezdeth.”
“Zlarkezdeth. He was a great scholar and pacifist. Introduced sweeping reforms to Gorn society and-“
“So they mourn his death?”
“Not really,” Meris sighed, “They celebrate it. He was the most hated man in Gorn history.”
I shook my head.
“I don’t care about Gorn holidays!” I snapped, “I want off this madhouse!”
“I admit,” Meris said carefully, “I was a bit concerned too. But I met a most interesting woman when I was touring the classrooms, Madame Schoonbaert. We had a delightful lunch and she’s offered to teach me Terran dance lessons.”
“There’s a treat,” I muttered, “I was attacked twice by a madwoman, led on a wild goose chase across the ship and spent my afternoon with a bucket stuck to my head!”
Meris looked at me for a moment.
“Drinking with your security buddies already?” she chuckled, shaking her head, “You rascal! Anyway, somebody named Stern called to remind you about dinner. Hurry up and get dressed, we’re meeting them in the Officer’s Mess in twenty minutes.” She disappeared into the bedroom.
“Um,” I started “Meris, I think this was meant to be a guy thing…y’know, meet the team?”
“Nonsense,” Meris called, “Now, your uniform is already laid out. Hurry up!”
Meris and I arrived at the Officer’s Dining Hall to find the evening meal in full swing. Most of Alpha shift, that is, the day shift, had come off shift ready for a bite to eat.
Silverado was a pretty big ship. Back when her class had been conceived, it had been THE biggest ship class designed. The Galaxy-class ships were bigger now, of course, and I’d heard rumors about a new mega-ship being designed. The Outback, or Outfielder. Something like that. Anyway, the point I’m trying to make is that on a ship of over eight hundred, you need a fair bit of space along with the facilities to service a crew of that size. Silverado had two main dining halls; one for officers and one for everybody else. Of course, since everybody had replicators in their quarters it seemed a bit excessive. Extensive studies though had shown that while most crewmembers preferred to have breakfast alone in their quarters, they also preferred to have the afternoon and evening meals with friends and colleagues.
The room itself was standard. A few windows looked out at the stars, while on the wall opposite stood a bank of replicators. One of the side walls also had a serving counter and a door that presumably lead to a real kitchen. The dozen or so tables were occupied by Alpha shift officers. The Captain was eating with the Chief Engineer and the Conn Officer, Trish. At one end of the room the guys from Security had pulled three tables together.
I quickly noticed that none of the other security officers had brought their girlfriends or wives along.
I turned to relay this observation to Meris, only to find she was already approaching the table, leaving me with little choice but to follow.
“Runabout,” Lieutenant Stern was saying, “C-cup, Orion.”
“I can beat that,” chucked a stocky guy from down the table, “Venture-class scout. B-cup. Roznian.”
Commander T’Parief was sitting at the head of the table saying nothing, an amused look on his face.
“C’mon, Simmons!” Stern objected, “A B-cup can’t beat a C-cup! A C-cup is bigger, no matter what planet you’re on!”
“Yeah,” Simmons said smugly, “But women from Rozniak have four!”
“Were we talking quantity or quality here?” wondered the tall blond guy from further down the table, turning to the huge, red-furred, headless being sitting next to him. The behemoth shrugged wordlessly.
“Yeah,” the blond muttered, “I guess you don’t care much for breasts, since women on Baruda don’t have any!”
“What is with that, anyway?” demanded a wiry, Klingon youth, “Breasts are the defining point of a woman!”
“That is SO sexist!” Meris muttered beside me.
“Hey, let’s ask the new guy!” Stern said, noticing me at last, “Hey, Rengs, what class of shuttle is best for picking up chicks?”
“You should know,” Simmons chuckles, gesturing at Meris, “You’re the only one of us that’s managed to get one!”
Meris raised one eyebrow.
“Sure you wouldn’t rather eat in our quarters?” I whispered.
“No,” she whispered back, “But I will take a table over there. You can eat with the rest of the Neanderthals. Have fun!”
“Wait!” I hissed, “I’m coming with you!”
“No you’re not!” she hissed back, “You will socialize with your new crewmates, and you will have fun doing it, by the Prophets!”
“Yes, ma’am,” I muttered, turning back to the table.
“Wha-psshhhhh!” laughed Simmonds, imitating the sound of a whip.
“At least I have a chance of getting laid tonight,” I said flatly as I sat down.
“Excellent!” laughed the Klingon, giving me a slap on the back that nearly introduced my face to the tabletop, “At least one of you weaklings can behave like a proper male!”
“I thought Bajorans didn’t care about that kind of thing?” chuckled the blond.
“Just because we’re a religious people doesn’t mean we’re not good in bed!” I muttered, taking my seat.
“OK, introductions,” Stern said, clapping his hands, “Everybody, this is Rengs Aris, our newest team member. He’s going to be specializing in energy munitions.” He started going around the table, introducing the other members of the Alpha shift security squad. Ensign Simmons was in charge of explosive munitions, stun grenades and the like. Ensign Dar’ugal, the large furry creature, was an expert in strategy and counter-strategy. The blond, also known as Ensign Marsden, focused on hostage negotiation while Stern, aside from being the Deputy Security Chief, was the team sharpshooter. The Klingon was introduced as Crewman Keklar. Surprisingly enough, he’s the hand-to-hand combat specialist. Commander T’Parief, as Security Chief, was a little of everything with a focus on hand-to-hand combat. Really, how do these people expect to break the stereotypes associated with their races if they take on such stereotypical roles? Of course, this was coming from a Bajoran who specializes in weaponry.
Silverado had been out in space long enough for the security team to have seen action on several occasions. A mishap here and a ruptured plasma conduit there had, Stern proudly informed me, caused the rest of the crew to nickname them ‘The Hazardous Team.’
There were dozens of other security members, of course. Everybody at the table had their counterparts on the Delta and Gamma shifts, along with thirty or so ‘redshirts’; lower ranking security officers and crewmen who served as general security support. The security department wore yellow markings on their uniforms these days, red being reserved for command staff, but back in the 23rd century red had been the colour of security and operations and the nickname had stuck. Those of us at the table represented the security specialists on the ship and I considered myself proud to be a part of the team so quickly after finishing at the Academy.
“Do you think I could hit the back of Stafford’s head from here?” Stern asked, readying a pile of mashed potatoes on a makeshift spoon catapult.
“I would not suggest it,” T’Parief said calmly.
I watched in horror as the white blob sailed across the room, over Meris’ head, to come to a perfect landing on the back of the Captain’s short, spiky hair.
“Nice shot!” Simmons laughed, giving Stern a high-five.
“Now you’ve done it,” T’Parief sighed as Stafford’s head whipped around, fire in his eyes, “The challenge has been issued.”
Challenge? There was no way the Captain would respond to such idiotic behavior.
I was quickly proven wrong as Stafford grabbed a dinner bun off Yanick’s plate and hurtled it at the security table. The bun smacked Stern between the eyes, bounced, and came to a rest in Kreklar’s blood wine, splashing the vile fluid across his uniform. The Klingon’s eyes bulged.
“I HAVE BEEN DISHONORED!” he roared happily, “TODAY IS A GOOD DAY TO DIE!”
He grabbed an entire rokeg blood pie from where it sat conveniently on the table in front of him. He threw it with such force that it sailed far over the Captain’s head, splattering all over an Andorian officer sitting at the next table. The Andorian responded with a vlexnar heart, the bloody organ widely missing both parties and coming to a landing right on Meris’s lap.
As the food fight erupted from all sides, I dived under the table, my last sight that of my wife being caught in the crossfire.
I guess I wouldn’t be getting any that night after all.
“Behavior unbecoming an officer, vandalism of Starfleet property, waste of Starfleet resources,”
Those involved in the ‘Battle of the Potatoes’, as it was becoming known, were lined up in Cargo Bay 1. With the number of people involved it was obvious to everybody that the conference lounge wouldn’t be big enough. Meris, of course, had been excused along with the other civilian family members who had been present.
The officer delivering out punishment was introduced as Commander Matthew Noonan, First Officer. This human was disturbingly pale, with jet-black hair and gentle but defined features. He moved with a fluid grace that was as disturbing as it was graceful. Something about him reminded me of…what? I suddenly couldn’t recall, like a cloud had come over my mind. What was I worried about? He was a Starfleet officer, there was absolutely nothing abnormal about him in any way.
I had noticed that Captain Stafford was among those of us lined up for Noonan’s little lecture. My opinion of him as the ruler of this madhouse rose a notch; he may be willing to play in the dirt with the rest of us, but at least he was willing to pay the price.
“So,” Noonan went on calmly, “It has been decided that as punishment for your participation in the ‘Battle of the Potatoes’, you will assist in the cleaning and repair of the Officer’s Mess, starting immediately. Good evening.”
“Well, that’s a relief,” I muttered to Marsden as we left the cargo bay, “Something like that at the Academy and we’d be running laps for a week!”
“What are they gonna do? Old spooky knows everybody’s bored stiff, we haven’t found anything interesting in weeks! Besides, with the Captain involved there’s no way he’d go for a harsher punishment.
My opinion of Captain Stafford dropped back down to its previous level.
One month later:
I stumbled as the ship shook around me, grabbing onto the bulkhead to keep from being tossed to my feet. Looking out the conference room windows I caught a fleeting glimpse of the enemy vessel as it flashed by Silverado.
I was settled more comfortably in my new assignment that I had been initially, although Meris was still fitting in far better then me. She found herself so overwhelmed with the task of bringing knowledge and discipline to the teenagers on board that the antics of the Starfleet crewmembers, which seemed horrible breaches of professionalism to me, were completely irrelevant to her.
I was ‘on deck’, as the junior officers say. The ship was on Red Alert. We’d delivered Federation Ambassador Redu to the Hometis system, where he was needed to negotiate the end to a decades old war. Unfortunately, the inhabitants of Hometis IV were holding him hostage while the inhabitants of Hometis V, convinced we had betrayed them, had sent two of their attack ships to warn us off.
The ship shuddered again under a direct hit, sparks flying from the wall display panel and several of the starship models falling over in their display case.
I, Ensign Burke, Ensign Pye, Ensign Day and several other junior officers were basically sitting in the conference lounge, waiting our turn. Our job was to wait close by in case somebody on the bridge was injured and unable to man their station. At that point, one of us would be called out and another junior officer would be called up to the conference lounge from below decks in case we also were injured. An open comm-link to the bridge kept us abreast of developments.
Out the aft facing windows, I could see the remaining Hometian ship (the other had been disabled) as it turned for another attack run. Energy bolts leapt from the ship’s weapons arrays, smashing against Silverado’s weakening shields. Over the comm I could hear Lieutenant Jall shouting that holographic systems were offline.
“Sciences, you’re up!” Sylvia snapped, her usually cheerful voice rushed and just a bit afraid. Ensign Burke immediately ran for the door, ready to take the place of the presumably defunct holographic officer, Lieutenant Fifebee.
“Shields down to 30%” T’Parief called over the channel.
“Yanick! Lateral thrusters!” Stafford was ordering, “One-seventy degrees one the X axis, point the cannon at them!”
The ship shook again.
“Hull breach on Deck 11!” Jall called out, “Emergency force fields down to 76%”
“Return fire!” Noonan called out.
The ship shook again, even harder than before. The link to the bridge dissolved in static.
“Operations, Auxillary Starboard, Engineering and Tactical!” Sylvia shouted over the groan and hiss of damaged systems, “On the double!”
That was me! I jumped out of my seat, following Day and two officers I didn’t recognize onto the bridge.
The bridge must have taken a direct hit. A flickering force field had sealed off a breach in the starboard side bulkhead, stars were visible through the opening. Bodies were scattered across the floor. Ensign Yanick clung to her helm console, a nasty bump on her forehead. The starboard Auxillary console was a shattered ruin, as was the body of whichever poor soul had been working there. On the aft deck the massive form of Commander T’Parief was sprawled on the carpet. I noticed with relief that he was breathing and quickly turned my attention to my board.
Shields were down, torpedoes were offline and one of the power conduits that fed the pulse phaser just happened to run through the breached area of Deck 11. I quickly rerouted power through secondary conduits on Deck 10.
“Tactical!” Stafford shouted, not bothering to check who was there, only that somebody had taken the post, “Target their engines! Fire at will!”
I locked the targeting scanners on the Hometian ship’s aft section and let loose with a full phaser barrage. I managed to breach their shields, but the shot that should have taken out their engine assembly went wide as they ducked into evasive maneuvers, skimming past our port nacelle and delivering a direct torpedo hit to the armored upper section of the nacelle.
“Direct hit to the port nacelle!” Day called out from Operations, the body of Lieutenant Jall collapsed on the deck but also still breathing, “Minor hull damage,”
“Bridge to Engineering,” Stafford called, “Simon, we could really use torpedoes about now!”
“Not gonna happen, sir,” Jeffery called back, “Ye’ll just have to improvise!”
“Tactical,” Stafford called out, “Any bright ideas?”
I watched as the enemy ship maneuvered behind us, careful to stay directly aft of the ship where there was a small gap in phaser coverage. I thought back to some of their earlier maneuvers, an idea forming.
“Spin one-eighty degrees and line up the cannon,” I started.
“We’ve tried that!” Stafford said, “Didn’t work!”
“Right,” I shouted as the ship shook again, “But be ready to execute a ninety degree port roll on my mark!”
“What the hell?” Stafford said, “Yanick, you heard the man!”
I watched my console carefully as the ship spun like a top, Yanick doing her best to aim the powerful but fixed-position phaser cannon at the enemy ship. As before, the alien ship quickly dodged to port, staying clear out of the cannon’s path.
“MARK!” I shouted.
With reflexes much quicker than I would have expected from her hair color, Yanick tilted the ship until it stood on one end, the phaser cannon still pointing uselessly away from the enemy ship.
But that cannon isn’t Silverado’s only weapon.
The enemy ship’s new trajectory, combined with Silverado’s rotation, took them right over the top of the saucer section, an area best avoided due to the five separate phaser arrays ringing its upper surface.
I fired all five arrays together, three of the five beams impacting hard on the alien ship’s unshielded hull. The strain on the ship’s power grid meant that the phaser blasts weren’t even close to full power, but the three combined still packed a hell of a punch. With a burst of light the vessel exploded like a balloon struck by a pin.
“YES!” Stafford called out, “Nice shot, Ensign,” he turned to look at who had taken over Tactical, “Um, you. Rings?”
“Rengs,” I said with a smile.
“Right, good work!” he turned to his First Officer, “We have an Ambassador to rescue! Get the injured down to Sickbay and get somebody up here to patch our roof.”
“Expecting rain, sir?” Noonan asked with a grin.
“Snow, actually,” Stafford chuckled, “Ensign Rengs, keep a close eye out for any more of those ships.”
As the transporter beam released me I immediately looked around our entry point for enemy soldiers, even though Pysterzykz had assured us the room he was being us into was empty.
He didn’t tell us it was an empty dungeon. Whips and chains hung from the walls while a massive cross with wrist and ankle cuffs dominated the center of the room.
Stern, Dar’ugal, Marsden, Keklar, Simmons and I had beamed down to the Royal Palace on Hometis IV, hoping to rescue the Ambassador. Our plan was simple: home in on the only Kataran life-sign on the planet, blast the nearby interference generator that was preventing us from beaming him up and beam back to the ship. The Captain and First Officer had already tried negotiation with the Hometian King to no effect.
“Why are there no prisoners?” Keklar demanded softly, “There is no point to an empty dungeon!”
Simmons had moved carefully to a side table, picking up a cylindrical rubber object.
“What kind of torture device is this?” he wondered.
Stern looked over.
“I think we’re in somebody’s playpen,” he observed.
Simmons frowned for a moment. As Stern’s words sunk in he made a face and immediately dropped the object.
“This way,” Stern consulted his tricorder.
We quickly left the dungeon/playroom and moved down the corridor. We were about halfway to the Ambassador’s position when we met the first guards.
Their first shot hit Marsden square in the chest, the green bolts flinging him backward.
Being the energy weapon expert, I offered my assessment.
“Regulan StunGuns,” I said quickly, “Non-fatal, but tomorrow morning he’s going to wish he was dead,”
“No worse than a hangover,” Stern grunted, firing back at the guards, “They’re probably scared the Federation will retaliate if they kill any of us!”
“Meris would be thrilled,” I muttered. Big mistake. Never think of loved ones in the heat of battle!
We dispatched the last guard. Moving quickly past their position, Dar’ugal pointed at the guard’s hand. A small communications device was sitting on the floor, not six inches away.
“It’s a fair bet everybody knows we’re here,” Simmons said.
Resistance grew thicker as we moved deeper into the palace, Dar’ugal dragging Marsden behind him like a sack of roots. We had fought our way to the entrance of the Great Hall when Simmons stiffened, hit in the back by a stungun. I spun around, stunning his attacker in turn. But we were now faced with a fight on two fronts, and our hostage negotiator was unconscious and drooling all over himself. Stern and Dar’ugal held the front line while Keklar and I face the rear.
“Any bright ideas?” Stern called, ducking as a stun beam shot over his head.
“Yes!” Kreklar called, “I wish to take vacation on Quo’nos this year!”
“Great!” Stern shouted, “Rengs, you?”
“Take out the interference generator!” I called back, firing at a Hometian guard and missing. A stun grenade clattered to a rest less than a foot away from me. With lightening reflexes, Dar’ugal grabbed it and whipped it back the way it came. There was a sudden lack of weapon’s fire from that direction.
“No s**t!” Stern said, nailing his own guard with a phaser blast between the eyes, “But what about your vacation?”
“Oh,” I shrugged, “I was thinking of Risa,”
Dar’ugal roared in disapproval.
“He’s right,” Stern said, tossing his rifle to Dar’ugal and patting down Simmons’ body, “Risa’s no place for a married man, unless you leave the wife at home. Or you have a ‘special arrangement’.” Dar’ugal gripped a phaser in each hand, mowing down targets and ducking as return first passed through the spot just vacated by his head. Well, chest. Barudan’s don’t have heads.
“Um, no,” I watched as Stern continued patting down Simmons, slipping his hand into the Ensign’s pocket.
“Lieutenant, is this really the time for foreplay?” I asked.
Stern pulled a plasma grenade out of Simmons’ pocket and smiled.
“He never leaves the ship without it!” Stern smiled. He poked his head over his makeshift barricade, looking for and finding the device that prevented us from beaming the Ambassador to the ship. He nodded at Kreklar.
“Kreklar to Silverado,” the Klingon barked, his strong accent making the words sound like an obscenity, “Prepare to beam us and the Ambassador aboard!”
“You throw that thing,” I shouted, “And you might kill some of them!”
Stern shrugged and pulled out his tricorder, tapping the device for about ten seconds. When he spoke, the tricorder amplified his voice, drowning out the weapons fire.
“ATTENTION HOMETIAN FORCES!” Stern’s voice bellowed, matter-of-fact, “I’M GOING TO BLOW UP YOUR INTERFERENCE GENERATOR NOW, SO IF YOU DON’T WANNA DIE, MOVE IT!”
He tossed the grenade at a fancy, blinking device, Hometians scrambling away just before the grenade and device went up in a brilliant flash.
“Beam us up!” Kreklar called.
My last sight before I was beamed away was of three dozen angry Hometian soldiers storming our former position.
“Excellent work,” T’Parief was saying, a large patch of shiny scales the only sign of his previous injury, “The Ambassador has been recovered, this ship is safe, and the Hometians have agreed to conduct negotiations over subspace holo-transmission. You have all done well.”
“And I’m sure the fact that you were lying in Sickbay was a great contribution,” Simmons chuckled.
“You and I, hand to hand, 1700 hours,” T’Parief said calmly.
“We are standing by outside the Hometian system until such time as the Ambassador has completed his negotiations,” T’Parief continued, “We have stood down from Red Alert. You are all off duty until tomorrow.” He turned and limped out the door.
“Poor guy,” Marsden commented, rubbing his sore chest, “That’s twice in one month now that he’s been put out of action.”
“No small feat,” I murmured to myself.
I wandered the ship before returning to my quarters. Repair teams were hard at work patching hull, replacing systems and enduring Sylvia’s constant ‘advice’. Useful tidbits like ‘ODN conduits have higher priority than corridor carpets!’ and ‘Will SOMEBODY clear out the mess on Deck 11?’. If I didn’t know any better, I’d think she was somebody’s mother rather than a sophisticated computer program. I passed a pair of techs in environmental suits getting ready to go through the port airlock, a sled of equipment tethered behind them. I finally reached our quarters on Deck 10.
I immediately collapsed on the couch, my earring jangling loudly. I’d already showered the battle grime off in the security locker room, otherwise Meris would have immediately booted me off the furniture.
As a pleasant surprise, Meris was in her happy, loving wife mood, rushing to enfold me in her arms.
“I’m so glad you made it back safely!” she breathed, “You’re all right? Everybody’s OK?”
“Yeah,” I said, “Marsden and Simmons were stunned, but we’re all going to be OK.”
“Thank the Prophets,” Meris sighed. She was quiet for a moment, then pulled a padd out of her pocket.
“This, um, came for you earlier today,” she said, handing it to me.
It was an offer of reassignment. A security posting aboard the USS Ossington. I showed it to Meris.
“Well,” she said neutrally, “It’s what you wanted, isn’t it? Same job, different ship.”
I thought about it, moving to a new ship, a new crew. No insane Doctors, no food fights, no buckets and a proper, professional crew.
But wasn’t that what I was expecting from Silverado? I was sure surprised there! Who was to say the Ossington would be any better? I could be jumping out of one frying pan and into a fire.
And what about Stern, Marsden and the guys? I was really starting to mesh with the rest of the team, to respect their talents along with their eccentricities. In fact, I could apply that to the whole ship! Captain Stafford, who had struck me as something of an incompetent ass, handled himself really well in battle, and the crew was certainly loyal to him. Maybe it was all right to do things differently, so long as the job was done.
My wife? I could tell by the reluctant way she handed me the padd that she didn’t want to leave. Why would she? She’d settled in quicker than I had, forming friendships and bonding with her students.
I set the padd on the tabletop and pointedly hit the ‘off’ switch.
“Let’s give this one a little more time,” I said to her with a smile.
“There’s another project that we could devote a little more time to,” she said with a playful grin, pulling me towards the bedroom.
Yup, definitely the right choice!