“I still can’t believe we lost that game,” Katie muttered from Tactical.
“We were down 45-10 at the half,” Annabeth replied. “The fact that we finished 70-20 is an accomplishment,” she said optimistically.
Tigranian looked out at the bright stellar nurseries on the viewscreen, teeming with new stars just waiting to emerge from their clouds of glowing nebular gasses. It really was quite beautiful and he had given permission for Laria to continue her experiments this morning, at least until the Pike arrived for their relief in place.
The Pershing was due for its semi-annual warp core services which had to be accomplished at a starbase. It would take at least three weeks to complete the process, which meant long hours for the engineering shifts and some limited shore leave for the rest of the crew.
Laria was ecstatic when they announced the Pershing would head to Deep Space Nine. It would be the first time she ever stepped foot on Bajor, and she would be experiencing it with Tigranian. He was excited to share the experience with her as well. Annabeth and Alex had decided to take their long-awaited honeymoon at a vineyard in the Kendra Province. Meanwhile, Scharr was happy only to be spending twenty-one uninterrupted days taking his warp core apart and putting it back together again.
The Pershing would be relieved on its patrol duties by the U.S.S. Christopher M. Pike, one of the only two Federation super carriers left in service after the war. She and her sister ship, U.S.S. James T. Kirk, were being rotated on presence patrols throughout the Alpha and Beta Quadrants as a show of solidarity between the Federation and her Allies as well as a warning to anyone looking to take advantage of the chaos sown by the war to cause trouble.
Phil was especially excited by this turn of events. He had left the Pike almost a year ago and he was excited to see how his old ship was holding up.
“Sir,” Laria said from the science station. “Five Federation ships dropping out of warp.”
“Ah, our replacements have arrived,” Tigranian said pulling on the bottom of his uniform jacket.
White flashes signaled the appearance of the Christopher Pike Strike Group. Four Akula class escort frigates provided perimeter security for a long, tear-drop shaped vessel at least six hundred meters in length. Two long, enclosed flight decks ran the entire length of her port and starboard sides. Four stubby warp nacelles jutted out from her stern.
“There’s my old girl,” Phil said from the helm. “That ship holds a lot of great memories.”
“Thanks a lot, Phil,” Katie replied from behind at Tactical.
“Nothing wrong with a little nostalgia now, Katie.” Tigranian said reassuringly.
“Whatever you say, Sir,” Katie replied.
“Do you mind putting Captain Miller on hailing frequencies?” Tigranian said turning his chair towards her “or do you wanna keep giving Phil a hard time?”
“Can’t I do both, Sir?”
Annabeth and Laria laughed. Phil did not.
“Ms. Stone…” Tigranian said turning his chair back front.
“Hailing frequencies open, Sir.”
“Welcome to the frontier of freedom, Johnny Boy,” Tigranian said. The image of an older Starfleet Captain wearing pilot’s wings on his uniform appeared to greet him.
“Listen to you, Dan,” he said with a smile. “You’ve been a captain for about fourteen minutes and you think you can talk to an old star dog like that.”
“Tact has never been one of my strong suits, John.”
“To be sure. It definitely wasn’t when you stole my best pilot from me last summer,” he looked down at Phil. “How’re you doing Saber? This crazy cast of characters treating you right?”
“I can’t complain, Sir,” Phil said with a smile.
“Saber?” Katie said incredulously.
“It’s my callsign,” Phil said not looking back at the rest of the bridge crew. “It’s from an old movie I really like…” he said trying to change the subject.
Miller flashed him a look for not sharing that piece of information with his new crew. Then, the captain turned his attention back to Tigranian.
“Well, John, why don’t you beam aboard and we’ll brief you on your patrol area before we head out for DS9?” Tigranian asked.
“My pleasure, Dan,” Miller said somewhat sarcastically. “Is there gonna be milk and cookies or are you busting out the Klingon creepy crawlies for the snacks?”
“I wouldn’t waste good racht on you, John, and you know it.” They both laughed.
“I’ll see you in a few, Dan.”
“I’ll meet you in the transporter room.” The screen went blank and Tigranian climbed up from his chair.
“Sounds like you two have a history,” Annabeth said to Tigranian.
“That might not be the right word for it,” Tigranian replied. “I met him last year when I traveled to the Pike to pick up “Saber” over there,” he said gesturing to Phil.
“Sir, I thought you and Captain Miller got along very well at the time.”
“That’s because you didn’t see the part in his ready room where he threatened to break my jaw for taking one his aviators out from under him.”
“How did you react to that one?” Annabeth asked surprised.
“Well, I wasn’t sure if he was kidding, so I put him in a mok’bara wrist lock and took him down to the carpet. After that, the conversation took on a more civil tone.”
“Are you serious?” Phil said staring at Tigranian.
“Dead serious,” the captain replied with a straight face. “I think it gave us something to talk about other than you. Made things a lot less awkward between us.” He glanced back at Laria who stared back at him with a grin on her face. “Annabeth, assemble the staff in the ward room. I’ll escort John up from the transporter room.”
* * * *
“So why didn’t you ever tell us your callsign, Saber?” Katie said mocking Phil.
“It just didn’t seem important for me to talk about,” Phil replied.
“What movie did you say it was from?” Laria said with a confused look.
“You probably wouldn’t know it, it’s very old and not a lot of people know it.”
“Try me, I know a lot about the history of Earth culture.”
“I cannot think of anything less interesting that I would like to be talking about right now…” Scharr said from the end of the table.
Phil and Laria glared at him.
“Don’t mind, Mr. Scharr,” Annabeth said from her chair. “He just can’t wait to be waist deep in a plasma manifold screaming at ensigns to do their job.”
“You know me too well, Ma’am,” he said with an actual smile.
“So, Phil,” Katie said turning back to him. “You really miss that ship that much, even with this group of people keeping you entertained all the time.”
“It’s not so much the ship, I guess,” he said looking down at the table. “I love it here, and I love being behind the helm of the Pershing,” but there’s nothing like flying a T-Bat right to the edge and cruising through space like you own it. You just don’t get that on a big ship like this.”
Katie got a smirk on her face.
“It can’t be that great. I’ve seen the Pershing do some pretty amazing things since I came aboard.”
“You can’t explain it to anyone who hasn’t lived it, Katie.”
“Tell you what then, fighter jockey, next time you get a chance to fly in one of those little things, I’ll ride along so I can understand.”
“You know what, Stone,” Phil said leaning forward. “I might just take you up on that.”
“We’ll see, Lexington,” she said in a mocking English accent.
The doors opened and Tigranian walked in with Captain Miller.
“The commanders,” Annabeth said as the room rose to their feet.
“As you were, take your seats,” Tigranian said. He sat down, but Miller walked straight over to Phil.
“Saber!” he said throwing his arms around Phil.
“It’s good to see you, Sir,” Phil said with a smile. “How’re the Lancers doing?”
“I’m not even gonna lie. It’s a rough time for our kind right now. All the squadrons, including the Lancers, got scattered to hell and back after the war. They’ve mothballed all the strike carriers except for us and the Kirk. I believe the words Starfleet Command used to justify it were that carrier groups are, “too aggressive and too costly” to keep in service. Most of our pilots have been reassigned to planetary security duty. I haven’t gotten a replacement in almost eight months. We’re so short-handed, we can barely fill out the air tasking orders.”
“I’m sorry to hear that, Sir,” Phil said a bit crestfallen.
“Well the good news is that they don’t keep us in port much anymore. We’re always rotating out on missions. It seems were not ‘too aggressive’ when the Federation wants to drive home a point somewhere.”
“Typical,” Phil muttered as Miller took a seat next to Tigranian. The next half hour was spent briefing the various hotspots in the Federation Zone of Occupation that the Pike would patrol. Their course over the three week period the Pershing would be in drydock would take them from Eriatat, along the Tholian border, and then back along the Badlands. The Pershing would rendezvous with them at Cardassia Prime before the Pike headed back to Federation Space next month.
“Too Easy, Dan. Have anything else you want me to take care of for you while you’re on vacation?”
“Don’t underestimate the threats in this nice little piece of space, John,” Tigranian said cautiously. “I know you don’t think there’s anything you can’t handle, but I’ve been surprised a time or two out here.”
“Typical for you starship fleeties,” Miller said with a patronizing grin. “But the Pike’s squadrons can dominate a whole star system. I’m not too worried.”
“Suit yourself, Brother,” Tigranian said shaking his head.
“However, there is one thing I’ll ask of you.”
“Oh, really?” Tigranian said looking back at him.
“Yeah, I figure you owe me a couple. One: for stealing Saber from me and two: for that little stunt you pulled in my ready room that day you came aboard.”
“I suppose fair is fair,” Tigranian lamented.
“Saber,” Miller said turning to Phil. “When was the last time you were behind the stick on a T-Bat?”
“Oh, Sir,” Phil said thinking. “Must be at least nine or ten months now.”
“One year’s coming up,” Miller replied. “You don’t get some flight hours and they’ll pull your certification.”
“Hadn’t thought of that, Sir.”
“Yeah, that says something, Sab. How about you come fly with the real pilots while we’re out here? Come work for me again?” Miller quickly turned to Tigranian. “Only temporarily,” he said reassuringly. “I know I lost the fight to keep him permanently.”
“Are you serious, Sir?” Phil said not hiding his excitement very well.
“Definitely, like I said, I’m short-handed and could definitely use another good pilot to face all the threats that you new CO is so worried about out here.”
Tigranian scoffed a bit.
“Is that alright with you, Sir?”
Tigranian considered it for a moment.
“Well, if you don’t mind giving up your shore leave, Phil. Not really gonna need you for warp core services.”
“Alright,” Phil said turning to Miller. “You ve got another pilot in your rotation.”
“Excellent!” Miller replied. “Welcome back to the big leagues for awhile, Sab.”
“You just make sure you remember what ship you’re assigned to when we come back to pick you up, Phil. I don’t want to have to almost break John’s wrist again to get you back. Don’t think his old body could handle it again,” Tigranian added.
This time, the whole table except for Miller laughed.
“Sir, there is one more thing I’d like to request.”
“From which, Sir?” Tigranian said with a grin.
“From both of you, really.” Phil looked at Katie. “I’d like to take Lieutenant Stone along.”
“Sure, we’ve got plenty of guest quarters…that is unless you two will be sharing a room.” The entire table fell awkwardly silent. Annabeth cleared her throat and looked at Miller. “Ok, guess I struck a nerve there…” he said trailing off.
Katie flashed Phil a glare.
“Why would I want to spend my three weeks of relaxed duty on a cramped fleet carrier watching fighter jockeys zoom around like Betazoid hummingbirds?”
“Did you not just say that the next time I had a chance to fly a fighter you’d tag along?”
“He’s got you there, Katie,” Alex added from across the table.
“Not helping, Doc,” Katie muttered back at her.
“If you’re too scared of course,” Phil said flashing a look at Katie, “I’d understand if you wanted to back out.” Katie glared at him.
“Sir,” she said turning to Tigranian. “Permission to tag along with old Saber here. Don’t worry, I’ll keep him from doing something stupid like saying he doesn’t want to come back. If he does, I’ll drag him back.”
“Fair enough, Katie,” Tigranian said before turning to Miller. “John, they’re all yours. Good luck keeping those two from being at each other’s throats the whole time.”
“Good. Oh, and Captain Miller,” Katie added.
“I’ll be needing that extra set of guest quarters,” she flashed another glare back in Phil’s direction.
* * * *
By that evening, Miller, Phil, and Katie had disembarked. The Pike was on its way towards the Tholian Border while the Pershing set a course for Deep Space Nine.
Laria stepped out of Tigranian’s bathroom in her nightgown and crossed over to his brand new bed. She slipped underneath the klongat fur, hugged Rijo close under one arm, and picked up a PADD with the other. She was hoping she could enjoy a few chapters of her book before bed, but Tigranian was still typing furiously away on the monitor at his desk.
“Are you coming to bed, Daniel?” Laria said looking up from chapter three of Northanger Abbey.
“If you mean that foam-filled abomination you replaced my QongDaq with, then no. I’ve got some work to finish.”
“If by QongDaq, you mean that cold metal slab you somehow could sleep on, than I’m glad it’s gone. At least I let you keep the fur.”
“You love that fur, L. Don’t lie,” he said still typing away at a Starfleet digital requisition form.
“What are you possibly doing that can’t wait till morning?”
“I swear, it seems like nothing on this ship happens without my signature. Scharr dropped fifty system service requests in my inbox before I left the bridge this afternoon and all of them have to be reviewed and signed before we arrive at Deep Space Nine tomorrow…plus I’ve got a couple of other of things on my mind.”
Laria placed her pad back on the nightstand.
“Tell you what, if you come to bed and finish those forms in the morning, I’ll make it worth your while…” she said. Tigranian raised his eyes from the monitor just in time to see her playfully drop one shoulder strap of her nightgown down from her shoulder. He briefly paused, but then went back to typing.
“Those are wonderful, but they’ll still be here in the morning too…”
“Daniel!” she shouted. He smiled before turning off his monitor.
“I’m kidding,” he said rising to his feet and pulling off his t-shirt. He crossed over to the bed and collapsed next to her, instantly resting his face in her chest.
“Hello there!” she said surprised.
“Hi…” he said, his words muffled by her bosom.
“That feels so weird when you talk,” she muttered as she started to rub his back. “Whoah, you’ve got knots on top of knots back there.”
“Dealing with all our issues the past few months hasn’t exactly been easy, but putting my head here helps…”
“Glad I can be of service,” she said with a smile. “But you seem a little more out of it than usual.” He rolled back over, rested his head on her stomach, and stared up at her face.
“I’m just wondering if it was a good call to let Phil and Katie leave with the Pike”
She started running her free hand through his hair.
“Why wouldn’t it be?”
“I don’t know, just a feeling, I guess.”
“They’re both grown-ups. They’ll be fine.”
“I know you’re right,” he replied.
“Plus, in less than a week, we’ll be on Bajor. We’ll see the sights, take some time to relax. Then we’ll come back to the ship, have time to fight couple of hand to hand battles on the holodeck. It’ll be just what you need: a whole three weeks without any problems.”
“Great, I think you might have just jinxed it.”
“I guarantee you, it’ll be great,” she said with a reassuring smile. She leaned forward and kissed him.