Órlaith sat alone in one of the many bars located in downtown San Francisco. Nursing a margarita she watched the live band play ancient country songs. She wasn’t familiar with George Jones, George Strait, and Garth Brooks, but who ever those people were she was enjoying the covers of their songs.
“Can I get you anything else?” A waitress asked Órlaith breaking her from her thoughts.
“Uh… sure. How about some cheesy breadsticks with marinara sauce?”
“Right away,” she said with a smile and she disappeared into the crowd.
Marcus David Ming appeared from the crowd and dimness of the bar heading toward his former protégé. He looked around as he approached and asked as he got close, “What drew you to THIS place my dear friend?”
Órlaith looked up surprised, “Ming!” She jumped up and hugged him, “Have a seat. Why? I like live music, and do you see any other Starfleet?”
The former commander of the Knights chuckled and returned the hug before he took the offered seat, “Thanks. Not quite my musical speed normally but it’ll do I suppose. And no….I’ve not “picked up” any other Starfleet here as of yet. Have you ordered?”
“Food? Just some cheesy sticks.” She held up her margarita to illustrate the other option. “As for the music they had a Metallica cover band in here a few nights ago, and they usually have contemporary music the other nights. Contemporary really isn’t my thing.”
He looked at the menu for a moment and looked up. The server did a double take when her eyes met his. Violet eyes were very rare in humans especially those whom appeared to be of Asian decent.
Ming hid his amusement at the gesture. She did inquire about his order recovering faster than most might.
Offering a cordial smile he said, “The cheeseburger, medium well, hold the lettuce, extra pickles. I’d really like to get the fried calamari in the place of the fries. Marinara to dip them in would be outstanding. A pint of Andorian ale to wash it down if possible.”
“Of course. I’ll be back with your drink and both of your food in just a few minutes,” the server said smiling at the two patrons before once again vanishing into the crowd.
The former mentor looked at the woman who’d once been his student and said with sincerity, “It is very good to see you again. It has been way too long.”
“Always,” she said, ”We’re a long way from the Denver that’s for sure.”
An emotion he could only classify as bittersweet touched Ming’s heart at the mention of the USS Denver. While it was not his first ship it was the home of his first command. Commanding four other fighters during the war he’d managed to have surprisingly few losses among his fighter pilots. He’d taken them personally but he’d been hailed as one of the best fighter commanders during the war for tactical excellence and his low losses.
He’d also managed to mentor the woman across from him when she was a young lady before she embarked on a very impressive career. She impressed him much earlier than most. Just how much he’d never told anyone. He’d always been quite grateful for her friendship since.
“Very true. How’re you holding up these days,” Marcus asked before pausing and adding, “Well I hope.”
She shrugged, “I have the easy life. I didn’t see myself being put to pasture so early, but we’re at relative peace… not that threats don’t exist. So, I train these kids like we’re going to war. Like you trained me.” Sighing she took a long sip of her margarita before continuing, “I just wish I was out there in the black. How about you?”
Marcus nodded with a bit of a smile, “I know what you mean. I’ve been a bit of two minds about it myself. Not that I didn’t get enough excitement during the war myself but part of me does miss being out there…Flying by the seat of my pants, as the old saying goes, at the edges of the known galaxy.”
He paused before continuing, “Then again teaching small craft doctrine at the Academy and assisting with new doctrine development at Command has a certain satisfaction to it too I must admit. It’s rather fun when the students….and even a few seasoned officers…whisper about thinking me a psychic.” Marcus’ violet eyes met Órlaith’s for a moment before his face broke into a mischievously amused grin.
He added playfully, “Crazy right?”
The waitress arrived with the plates and fresh drinks, “There you two go. Is there anything else I can get you?”
Órlaith shook her head, “I’m good.”
“I’m set as well. Thank you though,” Marcus said with a bit of a smile.
She smiled, “I’ll check on you two in a bit.” Turning she disappeared into the crowd as the band struck up a version of Willie Nelson’s “Always on My Mind”.
Tearing off a cheesy stick she dunked it into marinara and bit into it and smiled happily. “These are good. So, where do a couple of old fighter pilots go from here?”
Marcus dipped a calamari ring into his maranara sauce and ate thoughtfully for a moment. His eyes met his former student’s once he was done and he said, “I don’t suppose flying of into the galactic sunset would be much of an option…..”
“That’s not off the table,” Órlaith said with a grin. “I think the kids would like it if I quit and found us a home somewhere not here. Mindy likes it here, but the other two don’t care for San Francisco much. That has been the added benefit of being stationed here on Earth. I missed having the kids with me on the Crazy Horse.”
Marcus smiled as his former mentee talked about her kids. His family life was short lived as he had stayed in fighter command for longer than Órlaith had which had not pleased the woman who’d become his wife and, later, ex-wife. Another pilot, Sh’iv, had gotten him into Andorian Ale which was what he was drinking now. In his own mind he could admit how much he missed the Andorian woman. She was a Shen which was one of the two feminine genders of the Andorians he reminded himself. She had a family on Andor now and he was happy for her too althogh he knew how much he had missed her though. He dismissed the might’ve beens as he looked into the liquid in the glass.
“I’ve given it some thought to be honest. T’kown, who is a member of the Vulcan Security Directorate now, and I have continued talking over the years. He confided something to me in private that I guess I will be doing with you assuming that you agree,” Ming said with a slight smile as his eyes once again met hers.
“I know how to keep a secret,” Órlaith replied. “I will listen to what you have to say, but no promise I will do anything beyond that.”
Ming continued after her agreement, “I was informed that there was an intriguing vessel in impound. It was used as a raider some decades ago. Captain Jean-Luc Picard infiltrated the crew, much on accident, and the ship ended up in orbit of Vulcan. The crew was either killed by a rogue crewmember or else arrested and the ship was impounded. Rather than being destroyed it was lost in bureaucracy which happens, albeit rarely, even with the Vulcans.”
Marcus took another drink then said with his voice and smile becoming a little wistful as he went on, “It’s classified as a BC-011 which is still fairly well armed and shielded even by the standards of today. It also has a modest cargo bay with analysis equipment. I’ve thought more than once it would be nice to either retire or at least go on an extended sabbatical to captain it as a merchantmen. It’d be well protected and a home away from home….If I could find a trusted group to crew it of course.”
She considered that for a moment, “An interesting thought, but I have the kids to take care. I can’t go galivanting off on something like that.”
“I suppose I should’ve thought more into that. It’s always been a bit of a direction I’d thought I’d want to move into. Fighters / small craft seemed a best use from my talents as a midshipman. Doctrine and education seemed the next best step. I’ve always regretted not getting into starship command especially for something like an Akira class which heavily relied on small craft / fighters or another Nebula Class like the Denver which had multi-role options which could play into that realm. If I could go back and do it over I might play things a bit differently especially since I enjoyed the exporation aspects of being in the dark. I’ve occasionally wondered if it’s been too late to be honest,” Ming said with the first real bit of regret he’d shown outwardly about his decisions….Especially toward the woman sitting across from him.
“Everything that has happened made us who we are today. I wouldn’t change an thing.”
Ming nodded and mulled that over for a moment before saying, “True. I admittedly enjoyed teaching and training new pilots. I got that bug from a certain someone who I shan’t mention.”
Marcus winked at Órlaith and gave her a knowing smile. He realized that he was more at ease with this woman than virtually anyone else he knew. That was a rare thing and he knew it.
“Well, I got to be honest, I train these kids the same away you drilled me. We may not be at war, but one day we might be. Besides it’s a dangerous galaxy, both natural and non-natural threats are out there. They may not fly a fighter into battle, but they will know how to handle a shuttle or a starship when the chips are down. And that is a win in my book.”
Captain Marcus Ming’s violet eyes all but sparkled with pride and amusement. He said, “Well….I have always done my best to make sure to hedge my bets in the field. I try to pass that on to those I have taught. And you know my policy…..What is the old saying from the late 20th / early 21st century? Ah…To go hard or go home. Nice to know those work for those that I’ve taught in whatever form works best for them.”
Órlaith raised her Margarita, “I can toast to that.”
Ming raised his Andorian Ale and touched his glass to hers before taking a pull that nearly emptied what was left in the glass. He stared at the table for a moment before looking back at her, “I cannot express how glad I am that I played at least a small part in your success. When we first met I sensed that you could go far. You’ve met every expectation I had and then exceeded them by leaps and bounds. I hope this comes across in the fashion I intend but I must say that I am quite proud of you, Órlaith.”
“Thank you,” she said blushing a bit. Checking the chronometer she sighed, “Well, I probably should be getting home. Cory is dropping the kids off in an hour. Mindy is twelve and can take care of herself, but Liz and Xander are certainly too young to be by themselves.”
Marcus was a bit disappointed that he could not stay and talk longer with Captain Murphy. It’d been too long of a gap since they last spoke but they finally managed to correct that. He hoped that it’d not be very long until their next meeting now that they were both posted to the Academy.
Toward that end he gave her a smile and showed genuine warmth as he said, “I totally understand. Now that we are both at the Academy I sincerely hope that we’ll get to talk more soon. We’ve still got a lot of catching up to do I think. Maybe at some point I might get a chance to meet the kids.”
“Of course,” Órlaith said with a smile. “Hey, you remember when the flight was getting used to your tactics and you had Sh’iv pretend to be you? What are you doing tomorrow?”
Ming thought for a second and smiled lightly, “Worked like a charm as I recall. They were expecting more subtly from her and more aggression from me. Running into the reverse scenerio certainly threw everyone off guard. McPhearson was the first to figure it out but it took a few simulated kills before they caught on.”
He tiled his head couriously and added, “I have three classes from 0800 to 1300 hours. I actually gave the students off for the afternoon suggesting independant study. I’ve a feeling that many to most will be focusing on non-academic studies but they’ve been working exceptionally hard and doing quite well. It gives me time to work on the labs for the next few weeks too I figured. Why do you ask?”
“I have a couple of students that are getting a little cocky, and could use getting knocked down a peg or two. Meet in my office tomorrow about… say 14:00? I’ll do the briefing and you fly my ship as me. My callsign now is Hindenburg, thanks to the other instructors at the Academy,” she said rolling her eyes.
Ming smiled a bit and repleated, “Hindenberg? Now that sounds unwarranted and a bit dubious.”
His mind was working as he spoke then added after a second or two, “Maybe we could say that we’re both up there but not that we switched identies for the training excersize?”
She smirked a little embarrassed, “They said I had a similar career trajectory after the Crazy Horse. As far as both being up there?” She shrugged, “Sure.” She checked her chronometer again, “Now I do have to go.” She kissed him on the cheek, “See you tomorrow. Those kids won’t know what hit them.”
“Sounds like a plan. I will be looking forward to it and I guess I will see you in your office tomrorow afternoon,” Ming said with a casual tone that leaked a bit of eagerness.
With that Órlaith tossed several slips of latinum on the table and dissappeared into the crowd and out the door.