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Down the corridor, the two Cutter captains talked. Rather, Christensen talked and Isenberg listened. He found it slightly ironic that she called him ‘Thomas’ after he was just chastised for using given-names too much. Still, the wisdom she imparted in a very few minutes was more than he had received in all the leadership classes he’d ever attended.
They arrived at Captain Littleton’s office to find the door shut and locked, and the privacy sign lit. Across the hall, they found Commander Sahani busy at her desk. When they entered her room, Sahani came around the desk. “It’s good to see you, Yvonne,” she said as the two women greeted each other warmly, kissing each other on the cheek. They couldn’t have been more different, Isenberg thought, and yet were very much alike.
“And you, too, Sarisha. Thomas here has a request.”
Sahani turned to him and offered her hand. Her grip was firm, unlike Christensen’s. “Commander, I presume Chief Guzman has told you all about me.”
“He’s had a few stories, Ma’am. All complementary, of course, although a couple were hard to believe. My sensor tech tells me you pioneered most of their procedures.”
“It was a team effort,” she replied modestly. “So, what can I do for you, Commander?” He told her of the need for a caretaker crew for the evening. She agreed, commenting that she should have thought of it herself, and made a call to the Command Center requesting it. Vice Admiral Charles Littleton himself came on the line and approved the request. He said he’d have the duty officer make the arrangements and notify the Cutters. In hindsight, Isenberg considered the difficulty in coming up with sixty-plus crewmen plus thirty or forty Marines on short notice even on a station as large as a Starbase, and he felt a bit guilty for making the request.
“Sarisha and I were roommates at the Academy,” Christensen informed him. “Everyone thought we were going to kill each other, but we sorted it all out and became friends. In fact, it was her stories that inspired me to transfer from Star Fleet to the Police Force.”
“And here I thought it was so you could spend more time with what’s-his-name, the rugby player,” the shorter woman jested. “Wilhelm, wasn’t it? What ever happened between you two?”
“Oh, he got out of the service after three years, and we got married,” she said, smiling.
“Really? That’s great! And I’m sorry, I should have known,” Sahani blushed with embarrassment. “I’m sorry for not staying in contact with you. But after ... well, you know ... I took an assignment on Vulcan. I lost touch with a lot of people. I’m really sorry for that.”
Yvonne wrapped her friend up in a hug. “It’s okay,” she said softly. “I understand. We all understood.” They stood there for a long moment; Isenberg found a spot on the wall that suddenly looked interesting.
Finally, the two women separated. The Star Fleet officer wiped a single tear from her eye. “Thank you.” She gave them a crooked little smile. “So, you and Wilhelm. Who would have suspected? Things are well, I take it. Any kids?”
“Three -- a boy and two girls -- and another daughter due in three months.” She laughed when they looked her up and down. There’s no way she's even six weeks pregnant, let alone six months, Isenberg thought. “My husband’s a sea horse,” she told them. She laughed again at their confusion. It was a light, tinkling sound fitting her image. “I can’t carry a baby to term -- I lost two, and the second one almost killed me. So Wilhelm had an artificial womb implanted.”
Isenberg was almost stunned speechless. What came out of his mouth next made him wish he had been. “That’s ... different. How’s that make him a manatee?” In his mind’s eye, he had a mental image of a huge, wallowing pregnant man basking in the sun by a swimming pool.
“Not a sea cow,” she laughed again, but with less humor this time. “A sea horse, like the tiny fish that looks like a horse’s head. The female lays her eggs in a pouch in the male’s belly, and he takes care of them until they hatch.” He felt silly. He should have remembered that. “Our first born was a test-tube baby; the other three were transplanted about a month after I became pregnant. He carried them to term, then had a C-section for obvious reasons.”
Sahani shook her head in disbelief. “Amazing what modern medicine can do. I always knew you had Wilhelm wrapped around your little finger, but wow, that's incredible.”
“Well, he’s an incredibly wonderful man. This was all his idea. There are times I wish I had never agreed to it -- the risks are just too damn high.” She wanted to pull the curse word back in; she knew her friend didn’t like it when people swore. Funny thing is she wasn’t overly religious and yet refused to swear or drink.
Sahani simply ignored it. “I’m sorry we pulled you away from your family, Yvonne. You can turn the assignment down if you want.”
“No,” she shook her head emphatically, “I had to get out of there -- Wilhelm is ‘nesting’ and it's driving me nuts. I’ll be home in time for the baby to be born. That is, unless this mission lasts longer than you’ve suggested.” She knew her ex-roommate would take the bait and put a word in on her behalf with the Commodore to let her keep the Gendarme. The comm unit interrupted the conversation; Commander Sahani’s aid informed her that the training simulator was programmed as she had requested. She excused herself, which was a polite way to ask her guests to leave.
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