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Part of USS Endeavour: Drink the Wild Air

Drink the Wild Air – 1

Aeriaumi III
September 2400
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Captain’s Log, Stardate 2400.928. After months on the Romulan border, Endeavour has finally been called back deeper within Federation space. A diplomatic summit at Starbase 414 demands the attention of myself and First Minister Hale, while the ship herself gets some overdue software maintenance and updates. 414 orbits Aeriaumi III, one of the Federation’s earliest colonies, with several notable leisure resorts and a rich local culture. As such, I’ve directed the crew to enjoy shore leave for the next week or two.

‘Yyyyup. Right there. Perfect.’ But Cortez felt sunshine spill back across her back as Valance drew away from the lounger.

‘I’m just applying sunscreen,’ Valance said suspiciously.

‘And I’m enjoying it.’ Reluctantly, Cortez rolled onto her side and opened one eye. Bright sunlight tumbled down from a peerless blue sky to bathe the white sands and ebbing waves with flecks of gold. Down in the surf, Endeavour crewmembers splashed or swum or drove further towards the waves with carbon fiber boards painted vivid colours by enthusiastic locals. But up here was the row of white loungers, stood like sentinels awaiting those in search of relaxation, and she’d claimed hers with a long towel and a fizzing purple cocktail stuffed with fruit sat on the side table.

It was a good spot not very far from the beach-front resort the captain had secured for the crew who’d wanted this kind of break, with good sun and a good view and the straw-roofed bar less than twenty metres away. And yet her girlfriend looked unimpressed. ‘We can try the jet skis this afternoon,’ Cortez offered.

‘I know.’ Valance flopped onto her lounger. Even on beach-front shore leave, she was all straight lines and discipline, sat upright and in swimwear more suited to sport than relaxation. ‘But I also know you’re keen to finish that… book.’

‘Don’t say it in that tone.’ Cortez smirked as she hefted her PADD. ‘Timewarped is a perfect summer read of a thriller -’

Valance snatched the PADD out of her hand and flicked to the blurb. ‘Hypatia Bunk has lost her job and her girlfriend in one day. Desperate, a chance encounter with an old flame makes her sign up as staff on the Starlight Expanse, a pleasure liner bringing Alpha Centauri’s richest and most famous up close and personal with astonishing stellar phenomena. But a navigation error sends the Expanse too close to a black hole. When the ship is dragged inside, it seems too late – except Hypatia wakes up not dead, but at the start of that week. A week she, and only she, is destined to relive over and over. Can she break the cycle of stars and misfortune?’ Valance tossed the PADD back. ‘That sounds -’

‘The science,’ said Cortez with unbridled delight, ‘is terrible. I’m still on the first repeat, and Hypatia’s yet again spilt a tray of drinks on the senator’s son.’

‘And you’d rather read this than head to the Old Town?’

‘Ugh.’ Cortez flopped back onto the lounger. ‘You’ve seen one colonial old town, you’ve seen them all. There’s one major street that’s two hundred years-old, the cafés try to sell you local coffee, there’s an old book shop with local history books, the museum has at the heart of it the hulk of the first colony ship, except it’s the same damn design that was used to settle every other late twenty-second century Federation colony world…’ She opened one eye, a little bashful as she heard her own vitriol. ‘Sorry. I grew up on a place like this.’

‘I know you and I have slightly different ideas of what makes a good holiday…’

‘Yes, I want to relax, not run through a full itinerary of cultural enrichment. My only disappointment with this resort is that there isn’t an actual bar in the ocean that I could swim up to. I’ll have to plan my drinking, and I resent planning anything right now.’ But Cortez saw Valance’s face, and sighed. ‘Reading and sunbathing til the afternoon. Then the toys on the water?’

‘Maybe.’ Valance patted her lounger, then stood. ‘I’ll go see what they’ve got at the depot.’

Cortez knew she could have called her back – made amends, found a compromise – but in the end she was silent as Valance traipsed off into the sand. Even here, Endeavour crewmembers shunted out of their XO’s way. Perhaps she’d just trained them that intensely. Perhaps it was the fact that, even here, Valance strode straight-backed and square-shouldered and with the same determination in crossing a beach as in crossing the bridge.

With a sigh, Cortez lay back on the lounger. The warm sun made her feel better at once, at least. If not perhaps a little over-exposed, a little over-heated. So she nudged her sunglasses back down, took a sip of the iced, fruity morning cocktail she’d been enjoying, and picked up her PADD with its terrible book.

‘Oh, Hypatia,’ she sighed with satisfaction. ‘Let’s see if you get locked half-naked out of your quarters this cycle.’

This first day of shore leave followed that pattern in good order. Valance took much, much longer to investigate the options for water sports than Cortez thought necessary, and she suspected her girlfriend had taken a walk just to keep occupied. Even the afternoon’s proposed power-ski excursion around the bay did not spark the enthusiasm Cortez had hoped for, with she herself thinking longingly of her lounger or a gentle paddle in the ocean or back in one of the hotel pools, and Valance visibly distracted.

Cortez woke in their luxurious hotel room – beach-facing balcony, bed big enough for six – later than usual the next morning, and alone. This was little surprise, as Valance was prone to rising early for exercise and nobody thought shore leave would stop this, but Cortez chose to not wait for her, dressing and heading down to the beach-front patio. Soaked in morning sun, white linens wafted in a gentle breeze as serving staff brought out food and hot drinks, and here she found more like-minded colleagues taking the day easy.

She’d already secured a coffee as she slid into a seat at one of the longer occupied tables. Doctor Sadek sat there with her wife Yasmin, across from Lieutenants Danjuma and Song. A small stack of PADDs by the last empty chair suggested it had been claimed.

‘I see we’re starting the day as we mean to go on,’ Cortez drawled in greeting. ‘Getting a break from the kids?’

‘They went to the sports centre this morning,’ said Sadek, sipping her tea. ‘I’ve already given them up for dead.’ At Lieutenant Danjuma’s startled look, she waved a dismissive hand. ‘I’m sure Lawal is smart enough to leave the rest of them behind, don’t worry.’

‘That would be inauspicious,’ deadpanned Lieutenant Song on the potential cowardice of his young brother-in-law. ‘The captain’s daughter is with them, after all, and I’d expect this to reflect poorly on us in the next personnel review.’

‘Commander Valance won’t be joining us?’ asked Yasmin, stirring her chai.

‘Commander Valance has to get a chill twenty-five k in before breakfast,’ said Cortez, checking the breakfast menu on her PADD. ‘She and I have aggressively different ideas about shore leave.’

The glance between Sadek and her wife was not lost on Cortez, and at length the doctor gave a wry smile. ‘Have you considered not spending shore leave together?’

Cortez raised an eyebrow. ‘We’ve not had a proper break in months. I thought it’d be nice for us to enjoy this fortnight.’

‘You live together,’ Yasmin pointed out. ‘You see each other plenty. This is a chance to refuel by whatever means you enjoy, not whatever means you feel you ought.’

The Chief Engineer swept her gaze up and down the table stacked with married couples. ‘You’re all together.’

‘For now,’ said Sadek. ‘I’m going to read and do a yoga class later. Yasmin’s heading into the Old Town.’

‘There’s a base camp up at the Yorviken Range where Lieutenant Rhade and some others are doing hiking and mountain climbing; I was going to join them after lunch,’ Lieutenant Song agreed.

‘I would, too,’ said Danjuma apologetically, ‘but the latest Annual Review of Astrophysics is out and I need to stay on top of it.’

Cortez made a face at the Head of Stellar Sciences. ‘Now that’s work. Is your department still fighting like cats in a sack?’

‘I’m only acting department head and I really don’t want that to last, so if our next mission occupies my team then that’s all the more excuse to pass the baton to Turak.’

Cortez glanced at Sadek. ‘I’ve never known people to dodge a promotion more than our science department.’

‘We’re blue-shirts. We’re here to be nerds.’

‘And this,’ came the voice of a new arrival, ‘is from the chief engineer, who didn’t complain a bit about being passed over for second officer.’ Saeihr Kharth padded up from the beach in sandals and a bathing suit, her hair damp, a towel slung over her shoulder, and pulled up the last empty seat. ‘There’s a human saying about glass houses somewhere.’

Cortez smirked. ‘You see, I work for a living down in the engine room. You just snooze on the bridge until trouble comes along. You’ve got the time to help run the ship.’ She cast her gaze down the beach, which at this time of morning was not yet the hustle and bustle of holiday relaxation, but the domain of committed swimmers and surfers. ‘The water’s warm already?’

‘Barely drops below twenty this time of year,’ said Kharth, smoothing her rumpled hair back. As Cortez watched, she glanced at her stack of PADDs and slid the one on top somewhere hidden in the middle with, Cortez thought, a rather affected air of nonchalance. ‘I thought I’d get a swim in before breakfast.’

‘You’re all really bad at vacationing. I refuse to do anything intellectually or physically stimulating this entire time.’

Lieutenant Song set down his teacup and looked to Kharth. ‘Were you going to join us at Yorviken, Commander?’

Kharth shook her head. ‘Despite Isa’s condemnation, I was planning on enjoying the beach.’

‘Someone has to!’ said Cortez. ‘I didn’t force Adupon to draw the short straw and supervise the software upgrades for nothing!’

‘Poor Adupon,’ snickered Kharth. ‘You’ve probably saved him; I think he’d have a breakdown if he disembarked and had to choose how to relax.’

‘People keep getting overwhelmed by options. I view it more like a buffet.’ Cortez twisted again to survey the beach, then straightened as she spotted two familiar shapes making their way back up from the sea, surfboards slung over their shoulders. ‘Tar’lek, Nate! How’re the waves?’

Arys and Beckett stopped at the edge of the patio, and the young Andorian gave a nod that was in her eyes altogether too disciplined and polite when the crew was crammed together on beach-front shore leave. ‘Diverting enough, Commander.’

‘He means,’ said Beckett with a sunnier grin, ‘surfing isn’t actually our favourite thing.’

‘What’s wrong with everyone? We come to a luxury resort and you’re all sick of the break!’

Beckett planted his board in the sand and shrugged. ‘Because it’s all surfing and jet skis and water sports, there’s pretty much nothing of sailing boats here. I’d have to go up to Klentemon on the northern coastline for that.’ He jerked a thumb at Arys. ‘This one wants a bloody museum.’

Arys looked indignant. ‘You’re an anthropologist and you’re criticising me for -’

‘Colony museums are all the same,’ said Beckett, with the same dismissive air Cortez had deployed on the topic the day before. ‘But go, don’t let me stop you drinking coffee on a cute cobbled street and waxing lyrical to pretty girls about the age of space exploration.’

‘You should join me, then, Nate,’ called Cortez. ‘I intend to blend my brain with the most inane trashy books and trashy cocktails possible for the next fortnight.’

‘And I think I’ll be there,’ mused Kharth, frowning at a PADD, ‘to make sure she doesn’t fall in the ocean and die.’

‘Tempting offer, Commanders,’ said Beckett, shouldering his board again. ‘But I have other plans.’

Sadek raised an eyebrow as the two young officers headed back for the hotel. ‘Did anyone else get a shiver up their spine at that? A bored Nate Beckett with a plan.’

‘Most importantly,’ said Cortez, picking the menu back up, ‘a plan far from here. But enough of this – what’s actually good for breakfast?’

Comments

  • Okay, can we actually have Hypatia Bunk fiction, please? It just sounds so delightfully trashy and fun. I love that Isa and Karana both seem to be trying to have a holiday together and when faced with the prospect of just having separate holidays Isa just can't compute. I'd love to see Karana's perspective of that decision loop. And now with the prospect of bored Agent of Chaos Nate running around, I'm waiting with an element of glee to see what he gets up to. I'm here for aggressive relaxation, but I'm also here for the chaos that is about to ensue.

    October 5, 2022
  • Okay, this chapter was a revelation! Obviously, this is an invigorating change of pace for the crew after their many conflicts. They deserve ever trashy novel and every cheesy tourist excursion. What I most enjoyed about this chapter was the frank portrayal of romantic relationships. This isn't TNG's many stories about love-at-first-sight, this is the natural perceptions and navigations of relationships that have some tenure to them. The conversation about Cortez and Valance not spending the entirety of shore leave together was captivating. "Whatever means you feel you ought." Oof! On top of that, Kharth being BAD at vacationing was a treat. I love all these insights into the crew we can only get in such a different environment. This mission is gonna be gooooood.

    October 5, 2022