Malcolm was all set to fly the shuttle but the moment he looked in Lili's eyes really looked at how red they already were that seemed impossible. "Haddon, pilot the shuttle, he said. He went to the back and sat with Lili.
He offered her his handkerchief. "Here, keep it, he said.
"Come here, he said, and put an arm around her. He leaned in and briefly touched his lips to her hair, hoping she didn't feel it and no one had seen the gesture. "Just cry." he whispered.
"That was better than last time, Treve said.
"Yes. A lot less fumbling, Jennifer said, smiling. There was a small campfire burning nearby, lights flickering on their bodies.
"Did I, did I displease you last time?"
"No. But there's something to be said for experience."
"True. You know, Polloria and Baden are such hardliners. If their faction stays in control, we will probably be outlaws for the remainder of our days. However, however long yours are."
"Treve, you keep saying things like that. Just how old do you think I am?"
"I, I suspect that it would be foolish of me to, to answer that." he smiled. "But I think your signs of aging are different from ours."
"Treve, I'm only twenty-seven years old, Jennifer said.
"Oh. Well, that explains your, um, vigor." he kissed her. "Another round?"
"We should sleep, she said, Despite the fun, you and I need to find some place tomorrow, where we can stay a while, and set up a temporary shelter. Sleeping under the stars is no good when it's raining out."
"I'm glad you're here, he said, I may even love you a little bit."
"I may even love you a little bit, too, she said
Jenny was waiting at the Shuttle Bay. She looked at Lili. "Oh, Roomie. How do you feel?"
"Like a shuttle hit me."
"I'll take her back to quarters, Jenny said.
"Very well." Malcolm replied, the shoulder of his uniform damp. "You'll let me know if, if anything, he said to Lili. "Although I know there's nothing that, that can be done."
Lili nodded and they departed.
The shuttle arrived in the bay. "C'mon, Old Man. Time to pay the piper, Travis said. MacKenzie kept his rifle pointed at Doug, but lowered it once the shuttle hatch was opened.
The Empress was waiting. "Huh. I see you failed, she said.
"She was dead when we got there, Doug lied. "Del was, uh, killed in action. Haddon here should move up a grade."
"Yes. We'll go in tomorrow for another strike. This time it'll be with both shuttles. We still don't have transporter capabilities." Hoshi commanded. "In the meantime, get to the Mess Hall and take control of Game Night. It's getting too rowdy and Jun can't sleep with all the racket."
"Empress, we really should talk about the mission." MacKenzie protested.
"You gonna keep me longer than I want to be here? Oh, that's not a good move, MacKenzie, she said, Travis, you're with me. Haddon, dismissed." She left with Travis, who followed eagerly.
"Babysitting drunken crewmen? Ha, that's almost as good a punishment as what I had in mind." MacKenzie said to Doug.
"Father, I think we need to make contact, Treve said, back at their home.
"Treve, we are going to be judged tomorrow, the next day at the latest." Chawev said, There's little sense in it."
"For a day, you and I are still free men." Treve replied. "Apologies mean nothing. We need to see if, if we can take any sort of action to rectify what we've done to these people. That woman she looked as if we had removed a planet from under her and she was falling in space."
"They are not our equals."
"No, Father, I respectfully disagree. And, and even if I am wrong, we still must try. The night people they mean something to us. But to them, to the humans, it seems, it means more to them if it's someone who's right there. We should determine if there is any way any way at all to bring the night here."
"There are legends." Chawev allowed. "Sketchy details. It's a part of why the dishes on Point Abic were constructed. That much I know."
"Then I know who we should contact, Treve said.
"All right." Chawev said, Let us try. Be with who you desire."
"Yes, Father. Be with who you desire."
Back in their quarters, Lili just sat and rocked and cried.
Jenny didn't know what to do. "I, I can't tell you to stop." she finally said, If I were you, I'd probably be bawling, too."
That made Lili stop for a moment. She dabbed her eyes with the saturated handkerchief. "It's, it's like this. It's like, I guess, like being a widow. Only there's no body. Except there was a body. It was, it was Jay's, and it was two years ago. So I've been through that part already, kinda. And now the real feeling of it all is smacking me."
"Just let it out."
"I, huh, it's not fair. I mean, we both knew this was coming. It was such a nutty thing. And, and it all happened so quickly. It hasn't even been two weeks and I'm just, I'm devastated. I, uh, I should get my, my mind off things. I should go to work."
"What, and cut your hand off with a knife? You're not in any condition to go back, Jenny said.
"But, but, no matter how I feel about things, people need to eat."
"They'll find someone to fill in. Delacroix's actually been doing pretty well."
"Del? Huh. Never pegged him as the cooking type."
"Well, he's not very creative, Jenny said, But what he does is adequate. Nobody's starving."
"I should thank him, maybe write him a little note that can go in his file."
"Lili, you, uh, there's stuff on your PADD. Don't know if you want to read it."
"Yes. We, um, he was able to read and write on it for a while. He, uh, he wrote you a letter. I'll, I'll leave you alone to read it."
The Mess Hall lived up to its name. It was smelly and disorganized, and currently chock-filled with inebriated crewmen. The game was on the widescreen: the Ganymede Hunters versus the South American Pistoleros. The Pistoleros were at bat Ty Janeway and Lefty Robinson. The Hunter pitching was Aditya Balakrishnan and Amanda Cole. The windups were interrupted, and the batters charged the twin mounds.
"Boys and girls! Fight in the first ten minutes! Anyone who bet on that can go double or nothing!" Masterson yelled over the din.
It wasn't the only fistfight. Two crewman argued over a mug of synthbeer and ended up whacking each other in the jaw. Doug only intervened when the weapons came out. He went back into a corner. This was not a good place to spend time. He didn't want synthbeer, didn't want to watch the game and certainly didn't want to be around slobbery drunken people. He spent his time looking around the room.
Haddon and MacKenzie were in a different corner. He was grabbing her bottom. Masterson approached them. Someone turned the sound down on the widescreen. "This oughta be good." Ramirez yelled from the back.
It was a quick match. Masterson staggered and fell and became sick when MacKenzie hit him in the belly with a chair.
"I'm with Mas uh, MacKenzie now!" Haddon announced to the assembled mob.
The sound was turned back up on the widescreen. A commercial. "And this fight was brought to you by Picard Synthbeer." It switched to a slick ad. Ty Janeway in full uniform, with a stunning dark-skinned model wearing nothing but a pair of what looked like high-heeled cleats. Janeway addressed the camera. "Picard Synthbeer. It goes down ..." he smiled, "smooth." Back to the game. The Hunters were winning.
Doug got up. "Okay, okay, turn it down. Empress wants the kid to sleep. So either watch in your quarters or slap on earbuds. And that means everyone." He left.
Lili sat in bed, reading. "Forever, Douglas
." she whispered softly.
She began to type.
I learned a long time ago that you never say mine when it comes to the people you love. It's been almost forty years but the lesson applies now more than ever, I think. I want you to know, though, if you can ever see this, that it is forever.
Spent, she put her head down on the pillow. "I'm afraid to sleep." she whispered to the empty room. "I'm afraid there will be nothing."
In the halls, Doug was heading back to his quarters. Tripp fell in with him. "Got a minute?"
"I, uh," he looked around furtively, "I got the transporter working again."
"That's not what the Empress said."
"No. Only three people know it's up. Tell me, what's that planet like?"
"Hot. There's game animals. Medical care. Don't know how the people are but there's a lot of forest. It seems sparsely populated so there's room. Planning on a little Shore Leave?"
"Planning on permanent Shore Leave." Tripp said, But I need some help."