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Part of USS Daedalus: Those Moments Inbetween

Cat, Mouse, and Otherwise

USS Daedalus
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“I wondered where I’d screwed up when they detected Mackenzie’s signal inbound.” Helena Dread mused as she worked at the stove, a delicate trove of ingredients at work in the steaming pot. The day was heading toward its zenith, and she’d tossed an invite to dinner to her squadron commander, Wren Walton, who had accepted and shown up with a bottle of pale ale.

Walton was sipping at a mug of the synthehol-infused ale, amused.  “You ever going to past this…whatever this thing is? You made more than your usual trip to the principal’s office as a kid?”

Dread sighed, “No, I was a near-perfect child.  My teenage years, however…left much to be desired.”  She stirred the thickening soup, “It has nothing to do with you or anyone else.  Daedalus is my first command – my first real command.”  She explained her time onboard the USS Peregrine Falcon and how, when her captain was killed, she took the center chair and got the ship home under a field promotion that was made permanent.  “Maybe I thought they’d turn me loose on a ship…but I ended up back at a station doing station things.”  She tested the soup and smiled at its near-perfect flavor profile.  Flicking off the heat, she went about serving it as she related, “As much as I don’t think I belong in that chair…I’ve started feeling like I don’t want to get out of it.”

They sat casually on the couch in Dread’s quarters, dinner being eaten in between their conversation.  Wren asked, “Literally or metaphorically?”

“A little of both.  Is that some kind of warning sign of a captain’s psychosis?”  She said with a smile, but a tinge of worry crossed her lips.

“You’re the doctor, Helena.”  Dread stuck out her tongue at Walton, who rolled her eyes, “No, I don’t think it’s a sign of whatever it is you said.  I think we all have that fight or flight response eventually.  The chair has a lot of power and can overwhelm us.”  She put her finished dish on the coffee table, “That’s the first time you’ve said you want to keep the chair – even if it is happening simultaneously with the desire to run away from it.  That’s progress, I guess.”

They sat in silence, listening to the dull thrum of the ship’s engines and systems.  Dread sighed, “I think how nice it would be to jump ahead and live my retirement years as a fleet captain or admiral of something or another.  Find a nice corner of the universe to just…exist.  Read some books, explore the nature around me…, and not have to wonder or worry what alert was going to trigger or what message from some…malcontented badass was going to bring to my doorstep.”

Walton stared at her, shocked, “That’s not the Helena Dread I know…or anyone knows.”

A shrug from the Deputy Squadron Commander, “I didn’t used to think about it all – too busy being all sassy pants McGee and keeping my reputation intact.  In the last month, I’ve started to wonder about my future…and my place in it.”  Wren remained silent; her eyes remained affixed on Dread.  “Don’t give me that look – nobody gets out of this thing alive.  We can live extraordinarily long lives at the behest of scientists sane and mad – but we all have an expiration date.  Sometimes you just get to thinking about where this whole…thing will take you in the end.”  She tossed back the remains of her ale, “You can’t tell me you’ve never thought about it.”

Walton pondered the question.  “I…think I just spent a lot of my career fixing problems with officers – ship to ship, station to station that I never really sat down to think about it.”  She stood and refilled, offering it to Dread, who accepted.  “Pandora Crawford…I’ve been thinking about what happens when we eventually face her in the open – no more shadows, no more hints, and allegations…face to face, fist to fist.”  Wren flopped down on the couch next to Dread, “A wise man once said, ‘Nobody chooses when,’ and I think that’s what I’ve been circling when my mind starts to swing into thinking about where my life will go.”  She swirled the fake alcoholic drink, “Our lives will keep going until they don’t, Helena.  Trying to think we know how to figure out when…or how it will go…that’s a far more dangerous game to play.  Live as you were meant to – living and alive.”

Dread shook her head, “You should have been a ship’s counselor.”

Walton chuckled back, “Don’t threaten me with a good time.”