As Mamat tumbled through the portal, D’Mala was waiting for her, hands on hips, a stern expression on her face. “You cut it way too close this time, Mamat. I thought we lost you.”
“I know. Sorry. The B’lalru is gone.” Mamat groaned, her head pounding, vertigo unsettling her stomach. “I need to lie down.”
“Not for long. We’re prepping to hit FTL.”
Mamat nodded, groaned again. “Z’lar and N’lar?”
D’Mala shook her head. “They didn’t have a chance with the Selareans. We did receive the alerts, though. Much appreciated.”
“Just doing my duty, Commander.”
D’Mala snorted in reply. “Seriously, Mamat?” She grabbed the back of her childhood friend’s flight jacket to hold her steady.
Mamat winced, turning a vile shade of green. “Well, you always have out-ranked me.”
“What am I going to do with you? D’Mala sighed. “Come on, let’s get you something for that headache and the nausea. I don’t want you hurling all over the deck. We’re short-staffed, so you’d be cleaning up after yourself.
The shift to FTL drive was uncomfortable, as usual, but Mamat took it in stride – especially since D’Mala had given her a major dose of something. She could still see brilliant whorls when she closed her eyes, so she kept them open, the pale blue light emanating from the deck soothing.
“Where we headed?” Mamat whispered.
“Along with the alert from Z’lar regarding the Selareans, we also received a communique from the Storm Front. It seems they want our assistance in a small matter.”
D’Mala looked pensive, which was unusual. Then again, she could risk being vulnerable given their long-time relationship. Even her long black hair, which was usually woven into a tight knot, had come loose, and she was yet to twist it back into a semblance of order.
“The Storm Front? Doesn’t sound familiar. What small matter?” Mamat leaned again the bulkhead, crossed her arms. “I know how you like to downplay. . .”
D’Mala paced back-and-forth a few times, then paused. “Yes, a small Coalition matter. We’re still weighing the potential repercussions.”
“Well, if you agree to assist Capt. Ryan. . .”
“Ryan! He’s here?”
“Don’t get too excited, as he really does need your expertise.”
Mamat furrowed her brow, and D’Mala laughed.
“I would think you’d be pleased. After all, you two. . .”
“Yes, but this is a mission, right? A survey mission? And into potentially hostile territory?”
It was D’Mala’s turn to frown. “Yes. . .And Mamat?”
“It’s a one-way. ”
“I’m not sure I know what you mean. . .”
“We’ve been called to the Andradean System and have actually looped. Can only stay until the rendezvous with the Storm Front, Capt. Ryan’s vessel. If you agree to assist him, then we have a small window to make that happen. If not, we need to leave asap. It’s too dangerous, what with the Selareans expanding their breeding grounds and other matters. We’ve been tracking the larger chunks of Old Earth. It’s a mess out there.”
“Then come with us. With your expertise. . .” Mamat grabbed for her friend, who backed up.
“You don’t even know what he’s asking of you yet. Besides, you know I can’t leave. This is an opportunity to gather intel on that Tripodian business. Haven’t you accessed the updates from the Grid?”
“I haven’t had time to queue up recent galactic events. . .” Mamat turned away, her eyes tracking the approach of Ryan’s ship on the scanner. “. . .much less future pace the repercussions.”
“Well, you better get to it then, as Ryan is hailing us and preparing to board.”
After tossing back the vile tasting liquid that burned her throat, Mamat shuddered.
Ryan laughed at her scrunched-up face. “It’s called Irish Whiskey. Have another,” he poured a generous portion into her cup. “It’s only polite—to toast our success.”
“Oh all right. . .But we’re still in geosynchronous orbit over Tripodia Prime. We haven’t even landed yet.”
“I like to think positive. Besides,” he grinned, tossing back his third or forth shot, “I’m feeling lucky. It’s an Irish thing.”
“An Irish thing. . .” she shook her head. “Well, with your luck – whatever that is – and my access to the Grid, we definitely have a good chance at opening relations with the new residents of Tripodia Prime.”
“Indeed we do,” he grinned, waving an arm toward the storage locker in his quarters. “There are a few planet-side who just might remember how deals used to be negotiated on Old Earth.”
Mamat raised her glass for more. It was beginning to taste good, and she wondered if that was such a bad thing after all. “To successful negotiations!”
As Ryan filled her glass once again, Mamat thanked the Four Corners that she would never need to deal with the Zor again. . .may it forever rotate upon itself.
(image by istakenn)