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Time And Bottles

Posted on Aug 18, 2017 @ 3:19am by Commander Jacob Crichton
Edited on on Aug 18, 2017 @ 3:19am

Mission: The Romulan Way

= Time And Bottles =

(cont’d from “The Distance Between Stars”)

LOCATION: USS PHOENIX
SCENE: MCO’s Quarters
STARDATE: [2.17] 0817.1745


Jake Crichton thumbed the door chime control again. He felt a little awkward standing in the heart of the marine’s area of the ship. Though technically a part of Starfleet’s chain of command, Starfleet marines were not much like their fleeter cousins, and it showed. The first thing Jake noticed was that all of them looked like they could take his head off with a punch if it came down to it. The effect was especially disconcerting in the few female marines Jake had seen; although he technically outweighed a few of them, they were all lean and wiry muscle, and charged with a sort of kinetic energy that suggested, without quite overtly threatening, the possibility of sudden and overwhelming violence. Some physical training was a part of Starfleet Academy’s curriculum, and there was a small amount of mandated exercise (most of which was folded into the annual physical, but nothing like daily fitness regimen of the Starfleet marines.

The fleet had its scientists, its tech geeks, and its diplomats, but the marines were soldiers. Technically, so was Jake - its mission of peaceful exploration notwithstanding, Starfleet *was* the military arm of the Federation, and Jake had seen too much fighting during the 2nd Dominion War to forget that - but he’d never wanted that descriptor for himself. He respected the marines, especially the complement that had been with them on the PHOENIX for the duration of Neo-Essentialist crisis, but their job was to fight, and at the end of the day, Jake just wasn’t a fighter. In a galaxy full of beings who insisted it made him naive, Jake had always taken a sort of pride in that. But now that he was among the marines, he felt a faint sense of shame. If the situation with the Romulans should degrade into war, these people would be called upon the hold the line. Meanwhile Jake, with his shiny new rank pip, would more likely be left behind the lines, watching from afar as people like these marines carried out orders Jake knew would kill them.

Jake thumbed the chime control for a third time. Finally, he heard the sound of someone moving around inside, followed by a few mumbled curse words. He could just barely make out the phrase “goddamn ship better be on fire” from the other side of the door, and this made him smile. Kass Thytos hadn’t made the best first impression when she’d (arguably) put one of Jake’s lieutenants, Cindy Rochemonte, in a coma… but he’d served alongside the diminutive MCO for over two years, and had developed a great deal of respect for her in that time, not to mention a considerable amount of fondness. So when the door swished open and Kass stood there glowering at him, Jake responded with the kind of sunny smile he reserved only for good friends.

“What?!” Kass demanded sharply.

Jake cleared his throat and tapped at the rank pips on his collar. Kass rolled her eyes.

“What, *sir*?!”

“I’m here on business,” Jake said.

“Any reason this business couldn’t wait until I’m back on duty in the mornin’?” Kass demanded.

“Yes, but it’s a surprise,” Jake said. “Can I come in? Unless you were entertaining or something-”

“Oh shut up,” Kass growled, but she turned and walked back into her quarters, leaving the door open. Jake followed her inside and looked around; the room was barely furnished, and Jake saw almost nothing in the way of personal touches. The only thing giving the room any color was a small watercolor painting, probably by Buttercup, tacked up on the wall. Jake examined the artwork, and decided it was either a lion or maybe some kind of mutant pizza attacking a town. Jake didn’t know art, but he knew what he liked.

Kass plopped down in the center of the small couch on one end of the room, her arms crossed. She glared up at him.

“You’re here to chew me out about Yu’s security people, aint’cha? Because she already read me the riot act, so you can skip to the end.”

Jake looked around, not seeing anywhere else in the room to sit. He looked down at Kass.

“Is there a chair I could-”

“No,” Kass said. “People sit down, then they get comfy, and then you can’t ever get them out again.”

Jake shrugged. “Can’t fault your logic on that.”

“Yer cuttin into my beauty sleep, *sir*,” Kass growled. “Can we move this along?”

“Okay,” Jake said. “Major Thytos, you are to respect the autonomy of each of the department heads aboard this ship-”

“Aw, come on!” Kass said, her head lolling back in the kind of melodramatic gesture that Jake occasionally saw from Dahlia. “I been chewed out for this already!”

“-even those whose duties may seem to superficially overlap with your own,” Jake continued, ignoring her protests. ‘“Furthermore, any deployment of your marines during a diplomatic mission such as ours must first be cleared by senior staff, which means myself and Captain Kane, and any deviation-”

“I’ll say ten Hail Mary’s and make her an apology card,” said Kass. “Can I go to bed now?”

“-from this model threatens the overtures for peace that both the Federation and Romulan governments have made,” Jake finished. “There. Consider yourself officially chastised.”

“Next time just slip a note under the door or somethin’,” said Kass. “Now if that’s all, I’m gonna go back to bed.”

The door to Kass’s quarters chimed again. Kass scowled.

“Oh, what the hell is it now-”

“Don’t get up,” Jake said, moving towards the door. “It’s for me.”

“What the hell’re you on about, Crichton?” Kass asked, rising from the couch to follow him to the door. “Ain’t there anything in them fancy command books about respectin’ people’s boundaries , or-”

She trailed off as Jake opened the door, and a black robot roughly the size of a small dog floated into the room and settled gently on the floor before her.

“What the hell-” Kass started.

Jake stooped and picked up the robot, taking it back over to the couch where Kass had just been sitting. He placed the robot on the small glass table set beside the couch, and started working at a small control panel mounted on the device’s back.

“Is that… an exocomp?”

“It is,” Jake said. “Picked him up all the way back on the CENTURY.”

“The CENTURY,” Kass repeated. “You don’t mean back when all the trouble started, do you?”

“I do indeed.”

“You mean to tell me you’ve been carrying that thing around for the last two years?”

“Well, not exactly,” Jake shrugged. “Got left behind on Earth when we took off with the PHOENIX, but I picked him up again when we got back.”

“Leave it to you to have a damn pet robot,” Kass said. “So what’s it doing in *my* quarters in the middle of the goddamn night?”

“Bringing this,” Jake said. A panel slid aside on the exocomp’s back, and Jake reached in, producing a tall bottle full of brown liquid.

Barton’s bourbon.

“Where’d you find this?” Kass said. Jake noticed her demeanor had suddenly, noticeably, improved.

“There was one stashed behind the bar at Iphie’s,” Jake said. “She yelled at me for getting into it, but the way I see it, the big guy would have wanted us to share this. And as of approximately 30 seconds ago, I’m officially off duty. So, what do you say?”

Kass regarded him evenly, and for a moment Jake wasn’t sure that she would accept the invitation. Then, her features softened a little, as she reached out to accept the bottle of bourbon from Jake.

“I still don’t forgive you for draggin’ me outta bed,” Kass said. “But I gotta admit, I’ve had worse wake-up calls n’ this’un.”

“I’ll replicate some glasses,” Jake said as he moved towards the replicator, but Kass had already unscrewed the bottle.

“Tch, amateur,” she grinned, before upending it.

=[/\]=

They passed the bottle, and the time. They were getting low now, and Jake could feel a pleasant buzz humming gently through his body. A few more drinks would push him into full-on drunk, but he wasn’t worried about that. Kass had gone a little giggly herself, but Jake wondered if she wasn’t just putting on a show to make him feel better. Her cybernetics gave her the constitution of bear, after all, and she was used to drinking against the likes of Jim Barton or Harry Bellecotte.

They’d both forsaken the couch for the floor, and were leaning up against the walls in one corner of the room, passing the bottle between them. “It’s like, I’m just trynna’ to protect the ship, y’know?” Kass was saying. “I know yer the besainted Chief of Security, so why ain’t *you* comin’ to *me* about how we’re gonna shore up the gaps in our defense?”

“Maybe she was going to,” Jake shrugged, taking another small sip of the bourbon and handing the bottle back to Kass. “She’s just mad you moved without talking to her first.”

“You’re a shit drinking buddy, Perfect 10,” Kass said. “You’re ‘sposed to take *my* side.”

“I think I’m supposed to manage conflicts between the crew,” Jake said. “Not that I’ve been doing a great job so far.”

“That sounds self-pitying,” Kass said, her demeanour suddenly brightening. “Are you self-pitying drunk? Did I get Commander Golden Boy self-pitying drunk?”

“Golden boy,” Jake repeated contemptuously. “Right. I barely know what I’m doing anymore.”

“Ah, please,” Kass said, waving this off. “Yer good at everythin’. ‘Cept maybe marriage. And drinkin’.”

“I used to be… I don’t know… *useful*, you know?” Jake said. “Now I feel like I spend half my day on paperwork and the other half having whatever conversations with the crew the captain doesn’t *want* to have.”

“The cap’n trusts you to speak for him, act for him,” Kass shrugged. “It says a lot.”

“I don’t know,” Jake said. “I just don’t think it’s where I’m most useful. I feel like I spend all my duty shifts on edge, like I can’t get comfortable or my uniform’s gone too tight or something like that.”

“An’ I’m sure going home to them empty quarters each night ain’t helping much,” Kass said quietly.

Jake looked up at her. She wasn’t looking at him, and he got the sense that she wasn’t quite sure how Jake was going to take that statement. The dissolution of Crichton’s marriage had become one of the things people were pointedly *not* talking about, after the scene between Jake and Eve Dalziel on the bridge some weeks before.

“No,” Jake admitted. “It isn’t.”

Kass offered Jake the bottle. He took it, and took a long drink.

“Ain’t much I can say on that score,” Kass sighed. “Sometimes it don’t work out no matter how much folks want it to. Sucks, but it’s life.”

“Yeah,” Jake said.

“But as to that other thing,” Kass continued. “You ain’t the most conventional ExO I’ve seen, I’ll give you that. But you care, you’re a hard worker. Don’t think it’s the job, I think it’s your ego that’s got you all twisted up.”

“What do you mean?”

“You wanna be everybody’s *friend*,” Kass said. “Crew, VIPs, civvies… hell, you nearly hugged the damn Amaterasu when they showed up. An’ sure, it’s adorable an’ all, but sometimes you gotta crack the whip insteada’ crackin’ jokes.”

“Hey, I tell *great* jokes.”

“Yeah yeah,” Kass said. “Can I give you some advice?”

“Sure.”

“It’s easier to loosen up than tighten up,” Kass said. “When I take a new command, I like to get all my meanness out on the table fer everyone t’ see, right up front. I let ‘em know I’m in charge an’ what I expect from ‘em, and what they gon’ get if they piss me off. I let ‘em know I want a ‘sir’ out of their mouths any time they talk to me, an’ I let ‘em know how hard they’re gonna work if they want to be a part of my unit.”

“Sounds charming,” Jake said.

“But after that, when I’m satisfied everyone knows where they stand, I can relax a bit. An’ let them relax, too. Long as they do what’s expected and don’t step outta line with me, ain’t no reason they gotta see my mean side ever again.”

Jake gave Kass an incredulous look.

“Okay, maybe not *never* again, but you get mah point,” Kass said. “You ain’t here to make friends and neither are they. But they get the job done an’ make you look good while they do it… well, maybe there’s time for friendship later on.”

“I hope so,” Jake said. “Otherwise I filched this bottle from the Vulgar Tribble for nothing.”

“Oh so we’re friends now are we?” Kass said. “I dunno, Crichton, I already have so many suitors vyin’ fer mah attention.”

Jake grinned. “But none of them found Barton’s stash of hooch.”

“That’s a leg up, at least,” Kass said, taking another swig.

“You ever wonder about him? Barton, I mean.”

“Try not to,” Kass said. “Figure he made his choice, an’ that’s why he ain’t here. Doesn’t always work, though.”

“Yeah,” Jake said. “No disrespect to Lt. Yu, but I’d feel better having these Romulans aboard if Barton were still around.”

“I knew it,” Kass said. “You’re as hinky on them bein’ aboard as me!”

“‘Hinky’ may be a strong word,” Jake said. “Actually, is it? I don’t think I’ve ever heard it before.”

“Mr. Diplomacy,” Kass continued. “Mr. Faith In Others, and he wishes the big bad sasquatch were still here in case them Romulans got anythin’ up their sleeve.”

“I am *not* Mr. Diplomacy.”

“Yeah y’are,” Kass said. “You always are. There’s the Amaterasu, or that time yer evil clone or whatever he is tried to kill you and you *still* saved his ass…”

“There were extenuating circumstances!”

“An’ even just a minute ago, with me an’ Yu!”

“Me and you?”

Kass rolled her eyes. “Lieutenant Yu. Don’t Abbott-and-Costello me, Crichton.”

“Nice name drop,” Jake grinned. “Didn’t take you for a fan of the classics.”

“Boy, I *am* a classic,” Kass said. “An’ don’t you forget it, neither.”

And with that, she finished the bottle.

=[/\]=

Shawn Putnam

A.k.a.

Jake Crichton

Executive Officer

USS PHOENIX

 

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