Oh, what a fun caper!
I know, I wasn't there. Mac still won't talk about it, and Alyssa is embarrassed at how easily she was taken down.
But Chief Stone - sorry, I suppose I ought to call her General Stone, right? Or maybe Aunt Mikki?
She had a blast!
Every time she tells the story, the fight gets bigger and more epic!
The uniforms were a mixed bag. Nearly everyone was Starfleet, but the pilots’ uniforms had become more utilitarian and tended to brown, while the starship officers and crew still had the Starfleet blues.
“Since the earliest days of seafaring, it has been a Captain’s happiest duty to unite people in matrimony. But since I outrank them all, I’ve decided it’s my job.”
Laughter rippled around the assembled crews, something which had been in short supply the past fortnight. The death of Wingbat had hit hard, not just among the close-knit community of Direwolf pilots, and even the return of Mac, Stone, and Jordan in a mystery ship hadn’t alleviated it. Wingbat had been well-liked throughout Starfleet, and the bizarre circumstances surrounding her accident just exacerbated the pain.
For the pilots, it was simultaneously devastating and ignored. Wingbat was one of their own, after all. On the other hand, it was seen as an unforgivable sin against the code of the pilot, the idea they went out every day and pushed their machines to the edge of their abilities and beyond, dragging it back from disaster at the last possible instant. When one of theirs failed, well, it simply proved that they weren’t truly worthy. It was cruel, perhaps, but it was the only way they could wrap the cloak of invulnerability about themselves and return to the black, mission after mission.
It had been ruled an accident, the culmination of an unlikely chain of events. Mechanical failure and disregard of standing safety protocols were determined to be the proximate causes, and while everyone was scrupulous in not speaking ill of the dead the whispers among the pilots placed the blame squarely on Wingbat. But when Daniela attempted to delay her wedding, Kendra was adamant in her refusal.
“Daniela, I’ve learned this lesson in a hard school. Death doesn’t mean those who made it through must stop living; in fact, it’s the exact opposite. And even if they died foolishly, we the living have to honor the intent of their memory. So go finish planning. You’re getting married, and that’s that.”
After the laughter died away, Kendra continued. “We are gathered today, July Third, 2120, to celebrate the joining of these two souls, Commander Daniela Garcia and Lieutenant Elliott Kay. If anyone has reason to object to this union, let them speak now or forever hold their peace.”
As expected, nobody spoke.
“Daniela Antonia Garcia, do you take Elliott to be your lawfully wedded husband, to have and to hold, for better or for worse, in sickness and in health, for richer or for poorer, being his rock and his joy, until death do you part?”
Sounding much younger than her years, Daniela said, “I do.”
“Elliott Michael Kay, do you take Daniela to be your lawfully wedded wife, to have and to hold, for better or for worse, in sickness and in health, for richer or for poorer, being her rock and her joy, until death do you part?”
Shannon stepped up and pressed a ring into Daniela’s hand, while Captain Orloff did the same for Elliott. Kendra guided them through the placing of the rings.
“Then by the power granted me by Starfleet and the Terran Federation, I pronounce you husband and wife.”
To everyone’s astonishment, Elliott stepped back, stiffened to attention, and snapped off a salute to his wife. Then, as a roar of laughter cascaded over the crowd, he stepped up and collected a kiss.
“And don’t you forget it!” someone shouted from the seats. Then the wedding party started to dissolve.
At the reception, Kendra cornered the couple.
“Congratulations,” she said, and wrapped them both into a hug. After a moment she released them.
“Elliott, I’ll ask just once more, then I’ll shut up. Do you want to transfer over to Endeavour? Captain Stewart would be happy to have you.”
He shook his head. “No, thank you Ma’am. It’s not going to be easy, we know, but we’re prepared. And Captain Van Leeuwen has said she’ll take both of us aboard Pioneer when she commissions in October.”
Anna Van Leeuwen had been recruited, which one could reasonably interpret as stolen, from the United States Navy. She had been on the fast track to Admiral in the USN before Kendra dangled the prospect of a starship command before her, and she’d resigned practically before the words were out of Kendra’s mouth. When asked about her eagerness, she’d said, “I’d always known there was something missing; I just didn’t know it was the Pioneer until it was there.” She was currently serving on Enterprise as Third Officer, getting on-the-job training.
“I’d heard about that,” agreed Kendra. “It should be a good move. Double Dip, how are you?”
“Surprisingly happy, Admiral. It’s, I mean, this is what I wanted,” and she gave Elliott’s arm a possessive squeeze. “But it’s also really, I don’t know. Odd?”
Kendra nodded. “You know I know what you mean. Any time you feel like talking, my comm is open to you.”
Hesitantly Daniela reached out to Kendra, and Kendra helped by moving into the hug, which lasted a good ten seconds.
“Stop crying. It’s not proper for the Admiral to cry at a Commander’s wedding.”
“Oh, shut up, Commander. Lieutenant, take your wife and mingle. The sooner you greet everyone, the sooner you can leave for your honeymoon.”
“By your command, Admiral. Come on, Danni.”
She stood there, watching them walk away, until an arm wrapped around her waist.
“Hi babe. It’s bad form for Commanders to molest Admirals.”
“How’d you know it was me?”
“I’m the Admiral. I know all. Ouch!”
“How many years have you been doing this, you think I don’t know what you feel like?”
“They okay?” Cass nodded to the newlyweds.
“Pretty much. They’re good for each other’s sanity. Everything clear for departure tomorrow?”
Kendra felt Cass nod. “I have all of Elliott’s shifts covered. Anna is going to take tactical on her watch so I could just bump the regular watchstanders up a shift.”
“Any other glitches?”
“Nothing that the Admiral needs to worry about, but have you seen what Cleo and Antony have done?” Cleocatra and Antony were the kittens LJ and Alley had given them.
“You need to get a new chair for your office.”
“Other than that, no. We’re going back to 40 Eridani with a proper science team and spend a full week exploring Freyr.”
“And Endeavour? Are they still on track for their buoy-dropping?”
Val’s team had managed to cross over from hand-building the warp buoys to more-or-less mass producing them. It was still slow, but there were enough on hand to seed all the systems they had already explored. Endeavour, since she was the faster ship, had drawn the short straw and were going to spend the same week hopping from system to system and deploy them all.
“Yes, and don’t think Kiri is thrilled, because she isn’t. She’s muttering about diverting to a system somewhere along the way to get in some exploration.”
“As long as she stays on schedule, I don’t care.”
“Ken-doll, aren’t you nervous about leaving the system? I mean, Defiant and Defender are only a week out of trials.”
“And, to the point, they’re a week out of trials,” countered Kendra. “Plus they have the Richard, Roosa, all the Wolves and Direwolves. They’ll be fine.”
“I feel like I ought to knock on wood.”
“There’s some by the bar. Seriously, Cass, they’re going to be fine. Petra and Chloe have plenty of experience.”
“I suppose. I guess this is what it feels like when parents go out for the night and leave the kids with a babysitter?”
Kendra laughed. “I hadn’t thought of that, but it does. Hi, Alley, LJ. We were just talking about System coverage, want to join in?”
Alley demurred. “No, thanks. I get enough of that during regular staff meetings. LJ?”
“Oh, don’t think you’re going to suck me into this! I’m a shuttle engineer and a small craft manager, not a tactician.” She beamed at her girlfriend. “Besides, that’s not what we wanted to talk about.”
“Oh?” Kendra arched an eyebrow.
“Well, we were thinking. If you’re not burned out on officiating weddings, do you have a few minutes? We don’t need anything fancy, just, oh, shit!”
Kendra was climbing up on a table. “Ladies and gentlemen!”
“Kendra! Get down!” hissed Cass, tugging at a trouser leg. Kendra shook her off.
The room grew mostly silent.
“I realize this is highly irregular, being Double Dip’s wedding, so I’m going to ask them. Where are they?” The crowd parted, revealing Daniela and Elliott. “I have two more people who want to get married. What say you? It’s your day.”
Behind her, Alley buried her bright red face in LJ’s shoulder.
“Why not? We’ll just have to double date on our anniversary!”
A cheer rose, and Kendra hopped down. “You heard the lady. You want the full ritual, or quick and dirty?”
“Quick and dirty will do,” muttered Alley, pulling hair from her mouth. “Then we can escape.”
“Oh, no, not before a toast. Right. Quick and dirty. You!” Kendra pointed at one of the growing crowd of observers in a flight suit.
“What’s your name?”
“Ensign Marsh,” said the pilot.
“I didn’t ask for your rank.”
“Lexie. My friends call me Locksmith.”
“Lexie. Good. Stand with Alley. Cass, you want to stand with LJ? We need two witnesses.” She ignored the fact that there were probably fifty people clustered around them now.
Duly hustled into position, Alley and LJ found themselves facing each other.
“Rings! We need rings! You don’t have rings, do you? No, of course you don’t. Rings, oh, thanks!” A lieutenant handed two plain gold rings to her.
“Whoever donated those, see me afterward!” she called, and then she was off again.
“Right, that one looks like it will fit you, Alley, and that means this one’s for you, LJ. Now switch them. Good. Ready?”
Kendra took a deep breath. “Quick and dirty. Alley. Do you?”
“Huh? I mean, yes.”
“LJ, do you?”
“Rings. LJ, put yours on Alley. Good, it fit! Alley, your turn. Well, it’s close enough for now. Congratulations. You’re married.” She turned to face the crowd and yelled, “They’re married!”
The cheer shook the Njord. Then the party really started.
“Ohhhh,” moaned Kendra, head down on the table, cradled between her arms.
“What’s wrong, mama?” asked Lisa over her breakfast.
“It was a really late night, sweetie, and mama didn’t get enough sleep,” said Cass, sipping her cacao.
“And why are you so chipper?” Kendra’s voice emerged.
“Because I know the rule of one glass of water for every other drink, and I cheat.”
Kendra looked up, eyes bleary. “You cheat?”
“How? I saw you knocking back toasts just like me.”
“You had toast, mama? Can I have some?”
“After your cereal,” said Cass. “Did you ever read the manual for the implants we have?”
“You know I don’t read manuals.”
Cass sighed. “You have limited control over your nanobots and what they scavenge. Last night, before the ceremony, I programmed mine to keep my BAC below 0.02%, enough to feel good but not enough to get silly or regret my life choices the next day. And you know I don’t need as much sleep as you.”
Topping off her mug, she smiled brightly. “Look on the bright side, dear.”
“There’s a bright side?”
“Yes. You don’t have to be on the bridge until nine. Unfortunately, my shift starts in ten minutes, so I’m going to leave you with the girls. Lisa, Mikki, try to behave until Aunt Mikki gets here, okay?” She kissed the top of each head at the table before breezing out of their quarters.
“Number One, are we clear?”
“Just waiting on confirmation from Enterprise, Ma’am,” said Sanzari. “Courses are laid in for our simultaneous departure.”
“Never thought I’d see the day we both are out on missions,” admitted Stewart. “Glad I was wrong.”
“Very good. Number One, take us out.”
“Aye, Ma’am. Ensign Furber, execute.”
The two starships pulled away from their docks and crept towards the open bay doors.
“Message from Flag,” said Castor.
“What is it?”
Kendra’s rough voice came over the bridge speakers. “Endeavour, good luck on your mission. See you when you get back. Cassidy, out.”
With a grin, Stewart said, “Did she sound a little worse for wear, Number One?”
Sanzari barely repressed her own smile. “I think she did.”
“Captain, we’ve reached the edge of the warp exclusion zone.”
As a safety precaution, no ships were allowed to enter warp within ten thousand kilometers of Njord or another starship. The warp drive produced a warp field, which was manipulated to propel the ship through space. The more powerful the field, the faster they could go, and the larger the field grew. Enterprise produced a field a thousand kilometers across at warp six; Endeavour’s field at warp eight was double that. Nobody was entirely sure what would happen when two warp fields intersected; Dr. Roberts believed the two drives would fail, fused into lumps of formerly-useful parts. She had the math to back it up, but there was another line of thought which suggested that the drives would fail more energetically, if not catastrophically.
“Very good. Number One, I believe Proxima is our first stop?”
“Make it so.”
“Ensign Furber. Proxima Centauri, warp eight. Engage.”