A girl’s gotta have options. That’s what she had said, what was it? – was it five years before? Travis Mayweather looked at a display on a Sick Bay monitor as it scrolled past the temperature – 23.9 C – to the time – 1440 hours – and then to the date – May seventh of 2161. That was right, then, it had been about five years ago that she had said that. Nearby, a bat squealed in its cage. It then let out a really loud, ear-splitting shriek, and he jumped. “Why do you even keep that thing around?” he demanded of the doctor. He already had his sidearm unsheathed, ready to shoot that damned bat. "The Derellian bat,” said the doctor; “makes an enzyme that’s useful for treating infections. My predecessor may have been a subhuman saboteur, but he did know his alternative treatments. Everything in the menagerie he brought over from the NX-01 is useful.” The doctor surveyed his dominion, such as it was. He was a thin fellow, with a face that was mostly nose, and his demeanor was pretentious. “But Phlox was a saboteur,” Travis said, “She had me torture and kill him myself,” Travis said, smiling a little in remembering his fun. He resheathed his sidearm. “So, Dr. Morgan, how’s the baby?” “Your son,” the doctor replied, “is not doing so well.” He beckoned Travis over to a monitor. There were two security guards in the Defiant’s Sick Bay with them, guarding a patient laying on one of the bio beds. One of the guards came over. “Hodgkins, this doesn’t concern you,” Travis said, a little angrily, “go back to guarding her.” “Yes, Commander,” spat out Hodgkins. The man’s attitude was obvious – he coveted what Travis had, or at least what he thought Travis had. Still, he returned to his post. “Over here,” Dr. Morgan indicated quietly, pointing on the monitor. “See that? The fetus has a hole in his heart.” “Oh,” Travis was crestfallen, “But you can fix that, right?” “I can, but, well, come with me a moment,” he said, and then added more loudly, so that Hodgkins and his partner, Curtis, could hear, “I may need you for a transfusion, Commander, so we’ll do the test in the decon chamber. We wouldn’t want the sight of a little blood to overly excite anyone now.” The two of them entered the chamber. The doctor shut the door and made sure it was secure. “I want you to listen to me very carefully,” he said. “Oh?” “The Empress has never been more vulnerable than she is right now.” “Our son has got to be even more vulnerable, though, right?” Travis asked. “He is. But with vulnerability comes certain, er, opportunities.” “Opportunities?” “I’ve seen how she treats you, and how all of the other men on the senior staff do,” said Morgan. “Well, they’re jealous,” Travis said defensively. “Perhaps they covet your position,” Morgan allowed, “but wouldn’t it be better if you could really lord it over them, not as the Empress’s consort, no, but as the Emperor Travis Mayweather himself?” Travis blinked several times. “What are you driving at?” “It would be unfortunate for the fetus. But she could die on the operating table.” “Our son would die, too.” “Correct – a most unfortunate sacrifice. But then you could seize power. Kill the other men on the senior staff – Masterson, Ramirez and MacKenzie, and Torres, too – and kill off the kids she’s had with them, as well. Install, perhaps, one of the female second shift or night shift pilots as your consort. You like Shelby Pike and Melissa Madden. I have seen how you stare at them when you think the Empress is not looking. Or maybe you’ll choose Lucy Stone, the Science Officer. She’s the smartest female on the ship and, yes, I am including the Empress in that statement.” “You’re talking treason and mutiny, Doctor.” “There’s nothing wrong with overthrowing tyranny – and getting what you truly want in the process.” “That would be a lot of killing to do. Huh, I could take my time with it.” That part certainly appealed to him. “No, it would have to be fast. Have you read any Machiavelli?” Travis shook his head. “I suggest you start. Make your decision immediately.” “How come?” Travis asked. “I’ll need to start the surgery soon if you decide that you do wish for me to repair the hole. Today would be preferable. So I’ll wait for you to tell me what you think the outcome of the surgery should be. But don’t dawdle.” “What do you expect to get out of this, Doc?” “Oh, I’m sure you’ll reward the kingmaker,” Morgan smiled an oily smile, “Take an hour. No more.” He jabbed a needle into Travis’s arm and took a little blood, and then opened the door. Travis was about to leave in order to think things over when he heard his name being called weakly. He walked over to the bio bed where the mighty Empress Hoshi Sato was laying. She was six months pregnant and already as big as a house. “Is everything all right?” she asked, “I can’t be hanging around here. I’ve got worlds to conquer.” “The baby needs an operation,” Travis said, warily eying Hodgkins and Curtis. They seemed too close, and too nosy. Knowing that he had sired an imperfect child was the kind of a sign of weakness that could be used against him, if it ever really came out in detail. “Take a walk,” the Empress said to the two security crewmen. “We are here for your protection,” Hodgkins protested. “I said leave,” her voice was a lot sharper. The two men left. Once they were gone, she asked, “What’s going on?” “The fetus has a hole in his heart,” Dr. Morgan said, “I can perform the surgery today. You could be up and about again in less than a week.” “Will the surgery leave a scar?” she asked. “I’ll do my best when it comes to the both of you,” Morgan said, “but I can’t make any promises. This is delicate surgery.” She seemed to accept that and thought of something. She then said to Travis, “Izo. I will name him Izo.” “Izo?” “Yes. You know all of the names for my children are meaningful. Jun means truthful; Kira means dark; Arashi means storm; Takara means treasure and Takeo means warrior.” “And Izo?” Travis asked, hoping it wasn’t idiot, a designation she sometimes used for him, and it was certainly not out of any affection. Some of the men who wanted to take his place knew that, and they surely didn’t covet that as a part of the deal. “It means iron, for he’s going to be powerful once that hole is sewn up. After I’m dead, they’ll all fight over the succession. The only blood tie they will have in common is to me, so none of them will be out to kill me. I’ll live a long and comfortable life. They will love and revere me.” “Well, you’re the Empress,” Travis said, as the doctor busied himself with putting together a hypo. “It is that,” Hoshi said, “but it’s also because I’m their dear old Mom. None of them will have that kind of a tie to you, except for Izo. And even then I’m not so sure. After all, you’re not their babysitter, Aidan is.” “Right,” Travis said, “uh, I need to take a walk for a while. Sick Bay smells bother me a bit.” “Get back here for when Morgan puts me under,” Hoshi commanded, “and get security back in here.” Travis nodded wearily. When he opened the Sick Bay doors, Hodgkins was standing just outside, with Curtis nearby. “She’s all yours,” he said. =/\= He walked a bit, seemingly on auto pilot by the time he got to the lift. “Uh, deck six.” The doors opened in time for him to see Melissa Madden and Shelby Pike waiting for that same lift. He walked out and turned a little in order to watch them move. They were roommates, and there were rumors that, if you offered something they wanted, they would do more than be a little friendly, either to each other or to a guy like him. Everyone knew Madden was bi. Pike, on the other hand, well; she had had a profession before becoming a pilot. It had been the world’s oldest one. “Ladies,” he said. “Ha!” Madden scoffed as the lift doors began to close, “You don’t know us very well.” The last sound he heard from them was some giggling and he was left to imagine what was going on in the lift. Travis turned to walk to quarters, but found them occupied. The babysitter – Aidan MacKenzie – was in there with the Empress’s five children. Jun, the eldest, was the son of some guy named Ritchie Daniels, who was supposedly a time traveler although Travis had always thought that was just some line to get into Hoshi’s pants. It had been about Daniels that Hoshi had referred to the need for options. But Daniels had left quickly, and the report had been that his shuttle had crashed on Daranaea, a planet of furry fox-faced aliens. A few weeks after that, Hoshi had started experiencing violent morning sickness. When that baby was born – and looked nothing like Travis – Hoshi assured him that her sleeping around was a good idea. “It’ll keep the senior staff in line. A girl’s gotta have options,” she had said, and they were off to the races. The aforementioned four and a half year old Jun had a small knife and was busily throwing it against a wall to see if it would stick. The Empress had next seduced MacKenzie, who had been in Tactical. But outside of bed, he had displeased her, and so she had busted Mac to babysitter, the lowest level on the ship, even lower than any of the women. She’d had painfully alarming Braxton Hicks contractions throughout the last trimester of that pregnancy, and had been ordered by Morgan to spend a lot of that time in bed. Travis had had to wait on her hand and foot. Kira was the tallest of the children, and was a few months shy of three. He was throwing a tantrum. Next born was Arashi, but no one really knew who his father was. Hoshi had insisted on not finding out, as she figured a mystery in that area could work to her advantage. Arashi was either the offspring of José Torres, the security chief, or Frank Ramirez, the Chief Engineer, Charles Tucker’s replacement. That pregnancy had been punctuated by long volleys of kicking. Nearly two-year-old Arashi was mesmerized by a PADD and its pretty, blinking lights, until it frustrated him. He started banging it on the floor. The most recent – before Izo, that is – additions to the Sato clan were the twins, the children of the current Tactical Officer, Chip Masterson. Takara was the only girl, and she was currently wearing a little midriff-baring imitation of her mother’s uniform, a bit of exaggeratedly inappropriate sexiness for a child who wasn’t even a year old and was still in diapers. Her slightly younger twin, Takeo, had taken to pulling her pigtails any chance he got, so she retaliated by hitting him. They had been breech births. And now Izo, allegedly, would be the last. Every time she’d gotten pregnant by some other guy, Hoshi had assured Travis that he wasn’t forgotten, and that he would get his chance “soon”. And now his chance had arrived, and it was a very different chance from what he had thought it would be. “Travis, are you here to help?” Aidan called out over the din as he grabbed a fresh diaper from the stack, “’Cause if you are, Takeo needs to be changed.” “Uh, no, I gotta go,” Travis said. With no particular destination in mind, he just started walking, beating a hasty retreat out of there. He wasn’t exactly safe in the Defiant’s halls, but he wasn’t exactly a target, either. There were aspects of his position that were coveted by others. But anyone taking him out of the picture would not get his job. Instead, most likely, all that would accomplish would be to move one of the piloting hotties to the day shift and the next First Officer would be the next guy in line – Masterson. Anyone knifing Travis would potentially get bedroom privileges, but also occasional deafening time with the unruly brood. They probably didn’t covet that. Travis found an unused lab. There was a stool in it, and he sat down. “What the hell do I do?” he asked no one. “Izo, huh? I don’t even get to pick out the name. And he’ll be Sato, not Mayweather.” He sighed. “What would it mean,” he said to himself, “if I let Morgan do what he’s suggesting? Bodyguards. Watching my back all the time, and everyone’d be gunning for me. I’d have to take out Torres and Masterson first – they’d be the toughest. Aidan might even be glad. And then what, after I step over the bodies of four senior officers, five little children, God knows how many security crewmen and, and my own son? Not to mention her. I was just a sergeant with the MACOs before she spotted me. She’s the one who got me here. She’s why I’m in this position at all. She’s why there’s an Izo to begin with. Morgan isn’t suggesting this in order to make my life any easier – he’s suggesting it to make his own life easier. Morgan always looks out for Morgan, and for no one else. He’s only pushing this because he figures he’ll have something over me if I say yes. This isn’t my plan and it isn’t my ambition – it’s his.” He bit his lower lip, and made his decision right then and there, and it was a new start for him, for he had never felt this way before, never thought this way. It was a thought for dreamers, an emotion for suckers, and he had, until that moment, felt that sort of thing was beneath him. But no longer. He could tell that things would be different, that he would take whatever Hoshi dished out, like he always did, but now there was a purpose to all that submission. And the purpose was to pave the way for Izo. All that mattered was Izo, from that day forward. There was nothing and no one else. =/\= He ran to Sick Bay once he’d gotten off the lift. “Doc!” he yelled. Morgan and Curtis looked up. “Do everything you can for Izo!” “And the other matter we discussed?” asked Morgan. “I’m glad you’ll be helping with any, uh, rehab you think the Empress might need after the surgery,” he said, sidestepping the question, “And, well, I’ll be there for that, too.” He said, but it wasn’t her comfort and health that he was thinking about at all. It was Izo’s. “Rehab?” Hoshi asked, voice rising. “Calm, please,” said Morgan, “it’s only to, uh, help prevent any scarring. And Travis could help you – you may take a day or two to really recover.” He shepherded Travis a little bit away from the bio bed. More quietly, he said, “You’ll say nothing?” “I won’t. But now you owe me. You will do everything in your power to help Izo, any time he is sick or hurt, for the rest of your life. Do you understand?” “I suppose I do. Empress,” Dr. Morgan was all oily smiles again, and called out, “let’s get you prepped!” “And you’ll stay and wait?” Hoshi asked Travis. “Yes, I want to be sure Izo is all right.” “Now begin counting backwards, by threes from one hundred,” Dr. Morgan said, “begin.” “One hundred, ninety-seven, ninety-four,” and she was out. The doctor drew a curtain and Travis was again alone with his thoughts. There had been many titles he had coveted over the years. And he had even achieved a few. But it wasn’t consort, or lover or boy toy or First Officer or pilot or even Emperor that he coveted any more. There had been things he had wanted, commodities to decorate his uniform or his cabin or even his bed. But his decision had changed his life in an instant, and it was as if he was beginning anew. There was but one commodity that he wanted, and that was an heir. There was but one title that he wanted, and that one was Dad. He knew there was every possibility that he would not live long enough to ever hear Izo say it. But he was hopeful. Morgan would now owe him. And Travis would cozy up to as many of the security crewmen as he could, in order to protect the boy, due to be born in late July or early August. He would do whatever he could, for nothing else mattered, and Travis vowed that he would follow every lead and protocol and hunch if it would help Izo. There would be no stone unturned in his quest to give his son every possible advantage, no matter where any of those protocols and hunches led. After all, a fellow’s gotta have options.