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Part of USS Constitution: Better The Devil You Know

Better The Devil You Know – 2

USS Constitution (NCC-91700), Fabula Stretch, Delta Quadrant
Stardate: 78677.91
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As Horatio McCallister sprinted across the pitch, his heart raced in sync with the game’s intensity. The crowd’s thunderous roar, a symphony of anticipation, filled the air. The grandeur of Wembley Stadium, with its towering stands and meticulously manicured turf, was a testament to the magnitude of the event.

With the ball at his feet, McCallister danced past opposing players with grace. He could hear the encouragement of his teammates, their voices a steady pulse amidst the chaos of the match. Victory was within reach, and McCallister could taste it like the salty sweat on his lips.

But just as he was about to make his move, a blue-skinned Bolian defender launched a brutal tackle. The force of the impact sent McCallister sprawling, his body crashing against the unforgiving grass. The referee, a stern-faced Vulcan, wasted no time in blowing his whistle, the sharp sound piercing through the chaos of the match.

“Foul!” the Vulcan declared, his voice carrying authority. “Penalty shot for McCallister.”

McCallister rose to his feet, determination burning in his eyes as he stepped up to take the kick. The weight of the moment hung heavy on his shoulders, but he pushed aside the doubt, focusing on the task at hand.

With a deep breath, McCallister lined up his shot, the ball resting on the penalty spot like a planet awaiting its orbit. He blocked out the crowd’s noise and the pressure of the situation and honed in on the goal ahead. Then, with a swift motion, he unleashed a powerful strike, the ball rocketing towards its target like a photon torpedo.

As the ball hit the back of the net, the holographic crowd erupted into a thunderous roar of triumph. McCallister’s teammates surged towards him, their faces alight with jubilation as they enveloped him in a whirlwind of high-fives and congratulatory slaps on the back.

Caught up in the euphoria of the moment, McCallister tore off his sweat-soaked soccer jersey, his muscles glistening with exertion beneath the holographic lights. With a triumphant shout, he flung the jersey into the air towards the supporting crowd, watching as it soared like a comet through the night sky before disappearing into the ecstatic crowd of spectators.

But before McCallister could fully savour his victory, his teammates hoisted him onto their shoulders with a mighty heave, lifting him high above the holographic pitch like a conquering hero. The crowd’s cheers swelled to a crescendo, their voices blending into a symphony of celebration reverberating through the stadium. He could hear them cheering his name in unison. 

McCallister wiped the sweat from his brow as he stepped off the holographic pitch and down the corridor towards the changing rooms, the crowd’s cheers still ringing in his ears. Wembley Stadium had felt as real as ever, the rush of competition and camaraderie filling him with a familiar thrill. But as he spotted his first officer, Commander Thaustin, among the simulated teammates, he knew it was time to return from the realm of sports to the world of starships.

“Thaustin,” McCallister greeted, gratefully accepting the offered bottle of water. The cool liquid was a welcome relief after the intensity of the match. “I thought I had locked the holodeck doors?” Shrugging the issue off, he shared a knowing smile with his first officer. “What are you doing here anyway? I thought you were off duty?”

Thaustin chuckled, a wry smile playing on his lips. “Just wanted to see the star athlete in action, Captain.”

McCallister grinned, taking a long swig of water before pouring some over his head, relishing the refreshment. “Ah, well, you missed quite the show. But speaking of which, I’ve been thinking…”

Thaustin raised an eyebrow, intrigued. “About what, sir?”

McCallister leaned against the holographic changing room door, the remnants of his soccer jersey still clutched in his hand. “About getting more of the crew involved in this. Forming teams, organising matches—what do you say?” His eyes sparkled with excitement, his voice filled with anticipation.

The first officer considered the proposal, a thoughtful expression crossing his features as he followed his captain into the changing room. “Soccer on the holodeck? It could be a good way to promote teamwork and fitness among the crew.”

“Exactly!” McCallister exclaimed, his enthusiasm infectious. He told the computer to delete all the holographic characters as he went to where his stuff awaited him. “And besides, it’s a great way to blow off steam. Are you interested in joining?”

Thaustin chuckled, shaking his head. “I’m afraid my expertise lies more in interstellar diplomacy than sports, captain. But I’m willing to learn if you’re willing to teach.”

McCallister clapped his first officer on the shoulder, his grin widening. “Then consider yourself signed up for the Constitution soccer team, Commander. We’ll make a player out of you yet.”

As they exited the holodeck, McCallister couldn’t help but feel a surge of excitement at the prospect of sharing his love for the game with his crewmates. “We should get the entire senior staff involved with this. It would be great!”

Thaustin continued to chuckle at his captain’s newfound sense of excitement. “I’ll add it to the agenda for our next meeting.”

As they walked down the corridor, their conversation was interrupted by a call from engineering. “Lieutenant T’Penni to Captain McCallister,” came the voice over the comm. “I am pleased to report that the reconstruction of our warp nacelles is complete. We’re ready to bring the warp drive back online.”

McCallister exchanged a glance with Thaustin, a sense of anticipation building within him. “Excellent news, Lieutenant. Carry on with the final checks, and let’s get ready to get underway again.”

With a nod of satisfaction, McCallister turned to his first officer, a twinkle of excitement in his eye. “Looks like it’s back to the real game, Commander. Warp speed ahead.”

“Looks like it’s back to reality, eh, Captain?” Thaustin remarked with a playful grin, gesturing towards the turbolift at the end of the corridor.

McCallister chuckled, wiping a bead of sweat from his brow. “Aye, back to the ol’ starship grind. But first, I think I’ll need a sonic shower. Can’t exactly stroll onto the bridge in this… sporty ensemble and have the crew thinking their captain is running around the ship looking like a drowned tribble.”

Thaustin stifled a laugh, eyeing McCallister’s bare chest with a mock-serious expression. “A wise decision, sir. I’m not sure the crew would take too kindly to a sweaty, bare-chested captain. In fact, I’m sure the crew will appreciate the return of your usual, ah, professional attire.”

McCallister laughed, a hearty sound that echoed down the corridor. “Ah, but you know what they say, Thaustin. A little charm goes a long way—even if it’s hidden beneath a layer of sweat.”

With a playful wink, McCallister turned on his heel and headed towards the nearest turbolift, leaving Thaustin chuckling in his wake. As he followed in the captain’s wake, he couldn’t help but shake his head with amusement. After all, it wasn’t every day that you saw the captain of a starship scoring goals in nothing but his sweaty bare chest. But then again, on the USS Constitution, anything was possible.

As Captain McCallister stepped into his quarters, the adrenaline from the soccer match still coursing through his veins, he was greeted by the familiar warmth and comfort of his personal space aboard the Constitution. With a contented sigh, he moved toward the centre of the room, his muscles still humming with the residual energy of the game.

The soft murmur of the ship’s systems filled the air as McCallister made his way to the small alcove where his bathroom was. 

With practised efficiency, McCallister began stripping off his sweat-soaked soccer kit, the fabric clinging to his skin as if reluctant to let go. With each article of clothing removed, he felt a sense of liberation wash over him, the weight of the match lifting from his shoulders with every discarded garment. With a final tug, he removed the last of his clothing, tossing it aside with a mixture of exhaustion and satisfaction.

McCallister stepped into the sleek confines of the sonic shower, the warm waves of energy enveloping him like a comforting embrace. Closing his eyes, he tilted his head back, allowing the pulsating rhythm of the shower to wash over him in gentle waves.

The gentle massage of the sonic waves against his skin was like a symphony of relaxation, easing away the tension that had built up during the intense game. McCallister let out a low groan of pleasure as the warmth seeped into his muscles, loosening their tight grip and leaving him feeling weightless and free.

With each passing moment, McCallister felt himself sinking deeper into a state of blissful tranquillity, the worries and stresses of the day fading into the background as he surrendered himself to the comforting embrace of the shower. The scent of the cleansing agents filled the air, mingling with the soft hum of the ship’s systems to create a cocoon of quietness within the confines of his bathroom. It was a rare moment of solitude amid the chaos of ship life, a precious opportunity to indulge in some much-needed self-care. 

But just as he began to lose himself in the shower’s soothing embrace, the intercom crackled to life, interrupting his moment of peace. 

“Captain McCallister, this is Commander Belire Kazlaf,” came the voice of his chief science officer over the intercom. “Our work in mapping the surrounding area is now complete. When you’re ready, I’d like to show you what we’ve found. Could you join me in astrometrics?” 

McCallister sighed inwardly, torn between the allure of the shower and the call of duty. With a resigned nod to himself, he responded, “Of course, Commander. I’ll be there shortly after I’ve visited the bridge.”

Closing the intercom, McCallister turned his attention back to the task at hand, determined to make the most of his time in the shower. The warm waves continued to cascade over him, each pulse a reminder of the vastness of space that awaited them beyond the ship’s hull.

But just as he began to relax, the door chime sounded, shattering any hope of him being alone again. With a frustrated sigh, McCallister wrapped a towel around his waist and exited the shower, prepared to face whatever interruption awaited him.

“Come in,” he called out as he approached the door, bracing himself for the inevitable intrusion.

As the door slid open, McCallister was met with the sight of Lieutenant Commander Rubon Jarata standing awkwardly in the doorway, his eyes widening in embarrassment as they inadvertently locked onto McCallister’s semi-naked chest.

Caught off guard by the unexpected intrusion, McCallister couldn’t help but feel a twinge of annoyance at the untimely interruption. But he maintained his composure, offering Jarata a reassuring smile as he tried to ease the younger officer’s apparent discomfort with the situation.

Jarata, for his part, looked as if he wished the floor would open up and swallow him whole, his cheeks flushed crimson as he stammered out a hasty apology for the intrusion.

“I-I’m sorry, Captain,” he managed to blurt out, his gaze darting nervously away from McCallister’s chest. “I didn’t mean to disturb you. I just wanted to inform you that the updates to our shuttles are complete. If you have a moment, I thought you might want to inspect the work.”

McCallister nodded understandingly, though he couldn’t suppress a wry smile at Jarata’s obvious discomfort. “Thank you, Rubon. I appreciate the update. I’ll see to it later. Right now, I need some time to get ready and head to the bridge.”

“Oh, me too,” With another apologetic nod, Jarata hurriedly retreated from the captain’s quarters.

Alone once more, McCallister let out a weary sigh, grateful for the respite from the interruptions. With a quick command to the computer, he replicated a fresh new uniform and set about getting dressed, eager to finally put an end to the series of interruptions and get back to the business of exploring the cosmos.

As the turbolift doors swooshed open on the Constitution’s bridge, Captain McCallister, the seasoned leader of the starship, stepped out, looking every inch the epitome of Starfleet professionalism. His first officer, Commander Thaustin, stood behind the helm, a mischievous glint in his eye, ready to engage in their usual banter. His uniform was crisp and pristine, his hair neatly combed, and no trace of sweat marred his appearance.

Commander Thaustin, standing behind the helm, couldn’t help but smirk at the sight. He and Jarata had obviously shared what happened between McCallister and Jarata when the Risan pilot visited him in his quarters. Thaustin, with a hint of mischief, was eager to tease McCallister. “Well, well, if it isn’t Captain McCallister, looking like a new man.” He remarked in a tone low enough for only McCallister to hear, their shared history evident in the banter. 

McCallister shot his first officer a knowing grin, his eyes twinkling with amusement. “Why, Commander Thaustin, are you suggesting that I no longer resemble a drowned tribble?”

Thaustin chuckled, shaking his head. “I wouldn’t dare, sir. But I must say, the crew will be relieved to see you back in your uniform and not showing off your bare chest like a Holodeck holo-novel protagonist.”

McCallister laughed heartily. “Ah, but where’s the fun in that, Commander? A captain needs to keep the crew on their toes, after all.”

“Indeed,” Thaustin replied with a similar smirk, his voice tinged with anticipation. “All systems report ready to get underway, captain.” The crew, too, was eager for the journey, their excitement palpable in the air.

“Understood,” McCallister said, looking at the wide viewscreen before them. They were in the middle of nowhere with not much to see. “Belire wants to show us what she’s found of this region before we get underway.”

“Makes sense, though I’m sure she wouldn’t be able to tell us much besides what we know already.”

“Perhaps,” McCallister replied. “Nevertheless, I wouldn’t mind knowing before we head out through the unknown.”

Thaustin agreed, and as McCallister gestured for them to head back to the turbolift he had used, he called for Jarata to take over the bridge. 

“Captain’s log stardate, seven-eight-six-seven-seven point nine-one. Repairs to the ship’s engines have been completed ahead of schedule. Using the Voth transwarp coil has helped shed at least two years off our journey back to the Gradin Belt. However, we continue to find ourselves in a region that has no civilisations from what we can tell. Most planets are either lifeless or their stars are just forming. As a result, we will need to ensure the ship continues to operate to its best ability, including the crew. I have ordered the senior staff to begin working on ways to ensure that the crew morale does not falter while we travel through this area of space. It will be at least twelve months of us by ourselves. I am certain that morale will remain positive with the right focus and encouragement. In the meantime, where we can, we will explore what awaits us.”