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Part of USS Atlantis: Mission 9: Just a Quick Stop

Just a Quick Stop – 3

Port Royal, USS Atlantis
July 20, 2400
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“Seriously, how did we all end up with all of our shore leave days lining up together?” asked Kelly as she sat herself down next to Matt in the collection of seats and couches their group always ended up assembling.

Port Royal, a name which seemed to be sticking for the ship’s primary lounge, never kept seats clumped together for a group of eight, but that never stopped the group of friends when they were able to line up schedules for socialising that wasn’t gaming. And so, while a good number of the crew were station-side enjoying leave and some others were stuck aboard keeping the lights on, like the collected officers assembled here after their shifts, there was no one to complain about seats and couches being moved around.

“Somethings up, but it’s not ours to question why,” Matt said as he accepted the pint from his girlfriend, giving her a quick peck on the cheek for it. “I’m just going to take it as it comes. Two days of not working, a chance to wander around a new station and unwind before we’re all launched head first into the great unknown.”

“You know that last part is like the primary part of the job description when you signed up right?” Chuck asked. He and Hito were the only non-coms in their group and things had been said from time to time about that, but no one else in the group worked in Engineering and the rule of the group was ‘rank means nothing’.

“I think it said ‘boldly go where no one has gone before’ actually,” Kelly responded, “but launched head first into the great unknown is pretty much what lower deckers are for right?”

“Might be for you lot, but I’m a valued and respected member of the Engineering detail,” Chuck said, earning a snort of disagreement from one Hito Tanaka. “Something to say, funny man?”

“Chuck, buddy, pal, friend,” Hito said, padding for time, “you and I just spent a day recalibrating and cleaning the secondary impulse exhaust manifolds. Not the primary, but the secondary. If you were valued and respected, you think you’d get the secondary?”

“Ah screw you Hito,” Chuck answered.

“Maybe later you two,” Nerys spoke up. “I’m looking forward to just having a few days off and being able to do whatever. Seriously, there’s a bar on the station, real alcohol, not this synthehol stuff. Who’s with me for cocktail hour?”

The seat of hands did include everyone at the table.

“One more shift each and then we’re all on leave,” Wy’run said, then looked to Matt. “Aside from a night out getting drunk, it seems,” he said with a salute to Nerys with his cider, “big gaming session or one-off?”

Everyone’s attention immediately shifted to Matt, who just stared them all down while sipping his beer. He took his sweet time, enjoying the focused attention, and would have taken longer if Kelly hadn’t reached over and pinched him in the side with a viciousness ranking on assault. When he tossed an aggrieved look all she did was wink at him and smile. A moment more, shaking his head, he turned to the table. “I’m not running anything. Does someone else want to perhaps?”

Everyone looked around at their fellows, trying desperately to spot the one face giving away hints of something brewing behind the scenes. Or just steam coming from ears or fires from gear grease catching alight.

“I’ve got a one-odd idea,” Kelly finally said after nearly half a minute. “Day two perhaps? Nothing serious, just some light-hearted fun perhaps?”

“What system?” Nerys immediately asked.

“We need characters?” Jessica asked.

“What type of dice?” came from Tanaka.

Kelly raised a hand and a few unasked questions died on people’s lips. “Character creation will be done and it’ll literally take like ten minutes at most. Just bring all your dice, but you’ll only need three of them at most, usually two, so Chuck will be able to cycle most of his dice through jail as we go.”

“Setting?” Wy’run asked.

“Its turn of last millennia Earth, middle of nowhere monster hunt. You’ll be playing Lieutenant!” Kelly’s last sentence made little sense to everyone until those who could see them registered the presence of Lieutenant Rrr’mmm’bal’rrr, which then dragged everyone’s attention to the hulking Gaen in his uniform.

Before anyone could even make efforts to put drinks down and get to their feet, the Gaen had waved a hand, indicating they stay seated. “No need to stand Ensigns, Petty Officers,” they said with their characteristic rumble. “I’ve come to make an inquiry actually.”

“Of who sir?” Matt asked. He’s always been the quickest off the draw with the group after all, hence why he was the normal GM.

“The entire group actually, but primarily yourself Ensign Williams, as I understand you are the master of ceremonies within your social group. Do you mind if I join you?”

A chorus of ‘No, not at all’ or similar erupted around the table and Chuck was offering his seat in quick order, before finding and dragging an empty seat over, forcing his way between Nerys and Wy’run. “Uh, how can we help Lieutenant?” Jessica then asked, breaking an awkward silence.

“Your particular form of group entertainment is…intriguing. I’ve seen plenty of people participate in re-enactments or games on the holodeck, but you all seem to prefer this more primitive form. You don’t even rely on holograms for your little models,” Rrr said, their clasped hands coming to rest on the surface of the table.

“That’s part of the charm actually,” Matt answered for the group. “No technology, no fancy tricks. Just some models, some paper, dice and a set of agreed-upon rules. Then it’s all creative storytelling, dice rolls and imagination.”

“So as the master of ceremonies, you are responsible for creating the story then?” Rrr asked directly of Matt.

“In the hobby, it’s called Game Master, but yah, for the most part. I come up with the broad strokes ahead of time, then finer details as we progress. Need to be able to improvise a lot as well since I honestly have no idea how this lot will respond to anything I lay in front of them.” He glared directly at Hito who just gave the perfect ‘Who me?’ look, hand to his chest in mock indignation as well.

“So collaborative storytelling within set rules? Surely that must result in some undesirable outcomes occasionally?” Rrr asked.

“Rule zero – all other rules are merely suggestions,” Matt answered.

“Other rule zero – Matt cheats all the time in favour of the story,” Chuck followed up. “But yeah, sometimes the rules aren’t nice. Or the dice. Mostly the dice.” He nodded sagely as if he had just spoken the most profound piece of wisdom ever uttered.

“But to circle back a bit, Sir, we mostly avoid technology because it’s a slippery slope. Holographic characters, next it’s maps, then we might as well just play on the holodeck. But then we’re at the mercy of a program that may or may not have contingencies in place for decisions we make and you’re not so much free to do what you want, but to act within the scope of the story someone else wrote.” Matt’s explanation earned a series of nods from around the table.

“I see.” Rrr took a moment to look the entire group over, then nodded their head. “I hope you all enjoy your shoreleave together. It was an interesting logistical challenge to organise.” Rrr then made to stand before Kelly leaned forward, halting when they noticed the Ensign, and settling back down.

“Sorry, Sir, did you arrange for all of us to have leave at the same time?” she asked.

“I did. I understand your gaming sessions are a group activity and are arranged for when all of you have suitable periods of off-duty time. So, I arranged for all of you to have leave together in case you wanted to indulge in your hobby.”

A series of ‘Thanks’ issued around the table, but Kelly had something different to say. “Would you be interested in learning a bit more about our hobby sir?”

Silence settled over the table for a few moments, before Rrr spoke. “I am not entirely sure that would be appropriate Ensign.”

“A one-off, educational experience sir, where you indulge your curiosity,” she countered. “Four, maybe six hours, right here, day after tomorrow.”

“I have no dice, or understanding of the rules,” Rrr replied.

“Don’t need to. We’ve got plenty of dice and I’m running the session for once, just a single session, with rules no one here knows, but are super simple.” Kelly smiled at them. “There’s only one big rule at the table: no ranks.”

Rrr’s head tilted to the side in thought for a moment. “I shall consider it Ensign.” And with that, they did stand. “Thank you all for indulging my curiosity. Carry on.” And then they turned and departed.

And just as quickly everyone was leaning forward and whispering.

“Why did you do that?” Hito asked.

“Seriously Kelly?” Wy’run asked. “They’re senior staff!”

Solan merely tssked at her as they shook their head.

“No, it’s a great idea,” Kelly answered back. “Make a friend with the Ops chief and maybe, just maybe, we can sweet talk them into giving us a proper, dedicated gaming session time.”

“You want to befriend a bridge officer, to get them to reorganise schedules, to give us a proper gaming time?” Chuck challenged. “Madness. You’re mad. This is mad.”

“Mad like a fox,” Matt finally spoke. “Besides, you heard them, might not happen at all.”

“Well, I for one, welcome the idea of the Lieutenant joining us,” Kelly said, sitting back in her chair properly, then dragged Matt back so she could lean against him. “It’ll be fun either way. Now, serious question, pizza or tapas for the table?”

And that is when the real friendly arguments started around the table that night.