August 14, 2268
One of the benefits of having your own ship is that it tends to save on hotel bills. At least as far as Garadun was concerned. Why waste money on a hotel room when you have a perfectly good set of quarters aboard your own vessel? It wasn’t as if he’d been in deep space for a really long spell and needed time off the ship.
When Cera had put Calypso in for restoration, one of the things she’d had done was a full renovation on all the crew quarters: new bunks, new fixtures, new floor panels, new furniture. For her own quarters and Garadun’s, she had Vega Station’s engineering teams take two pairs of adjoining cabins, remove the connecting walls and turn them into a set of suites. They were now the same size as those belonging to commanding officers aboard Constitution class starships, if not slightly larger. Each suite had a bathroom, bedroom, living room, and study. The rest of the ship’s cabins were also roomier than before. What had once been double occupancies were now singles.
The extra-special feature installed in Cera’s quarters was a huge aquarium that had been built into one wall. She went to local shops and filled it with different tropical fish species from Vega’s oceans. She’d graduated as an engineer from Starfleet Academy; but for her life science courses she had taken marine biology. She loved the sea and was a qualified diver. No great surprise considering she had been born and raised on Prince Edward Island. In the Captain’s Office next to the bridge she kept, among her assorted mementos, a model of her vessel’s namesake: the original Calypso that had belonged to famed Earth oceanographer Jacques Cousteau during the twentieth century.
The extra-special feature in Garadun’s quarters was his new kitten, a little ball of fuzzy cuteness he’d named Magik. She was a Vegan shorthair; a local breed descended from the common domestic shorthair found on Earth. Her fur was black and her eyes blue; although they would likely change when she got older. She was skinny and fuzzy with big ears that she’d grow into like all cats did, and he adored her. When Humans had first colonised space they had taken their pets with them. And given their natural ability to adapt to new environments, housecats had done very well and thrived on many colony worlds. There were numerous new breeds found across the Federation.
Magik was a shelter kitty. Garadun had always had cats in his life, but since coming to space this hadn’t been possible. The two ships he had served on didn’t allow pets (a normal policy). But now that he was aboard Calypso, the situation had changed. He asked permission from Cera and she’d been very agreeable. After all, she had the aquarium. It was only fair that he was allowed a pet as well. So he went to a local animal shelter, sat with a bunch of kittens, and let them decide. Magik had been the one who chose him, who clung to him, who followed him everywhere. Abandoned cats have a tendency to be very loving and dependent, and Magik was no different.
Although it made him angry that after two centuries since coming to the stars, there was still a need for animal shelters. That Humans still hadn’t learned to be responsible. More proof that the Federation wasn’t the utopian ideal it always tried to pass itself off as. Utopian societies don’t allow cats to go homeless.
He’d only had Magik for three days, but he loved her with all his heart and couldn’t imagine life without her now. Assorted cat toys were scattered across his quarters, including his bed. All the usual feline accessories were tucked away in corners: litter box, scratching/climbing posts, food and water dishes.
Despite it being a Friday evening, Garadun was still on the ship; just him and Magik. She was currently scampering around his living room with boundless feline energy and having fun playing with her toys, climbing stuff, and apparently trying to break the kitten warp speed record. The rest of the crew were planetside. By now they would have had dinner and were likely in one of the capitol’s many nightclubs. Somebody had to stay aboard Calypso and he had volunteered.
He was lying down on his sofa and reaching for the book he was currently reading when the computer console in his study started giving off double-tone beeps. He sighed and got up. He’d instructed the main computer to relay any incoming transmissions to his quarters. He sat down at the table and activated the monitor. To his surprise it wasn’t Cera or Jan or Nessa, but a young Vulcan woman; and a very pretty one at that. Her eyes were the darkest brown, her skin fair, her silken hair was black, and she had a slightly Asian look to her.
It took Garadun a couple seconds to respond. “Hello, may I help you?”
“I am trying to reach Captain Cera Rigel.” She had a very nice voice, too. “Have they directed my transmission to the correct vessel?”
“Yes, this is the Calypso,” Garadun confirmed, nodding. “I’m Garadun, her First Mate. Cera’s in the city right now.” Little Magik came trotting over, crying for attention, so he picked her up and started petting her. She immediately began purring, then looked at the monitor and pawed at it, full of curiosity. The Vulcan arched an elegant eyebrow, and for a moment he was sure she looked amused.
“This is Magik.”
“My name is T’Prin. I am Cera’s cousin.”
“Nice to meet you,” he said, and meant it. “Would you like me to patch you through to Cera? It’ll just take a second.”
Garadun tapped a button and T’Prin’s image shrank to a thumbnail in the corner of the screen. He tapped a few numbers and a light blinked as the call went through. Then Cera’s image came up. Her communicator was a civilian model; similar to but far more advanced than the “smart phones” of the twenty-first century.
“Hey, Gar,” she said, then grinned and waved her fingers at Magik, who was still in his arms. “Hello there, cutie. So what’s up?”
“Got your cousin T’Prin on subspace,” he told her. “Want me to link you?”
“T’Prin? Yes, please!”
“Here she is,” he said and connected them. Then he killed the line. Interesting. He knew Cera had an extended family on her Vulcan side, though she rarely talked about them. Especially her biological father who was a complete and total douchebag. But she’d mentioned her cousin T’Prin before. Evidently they kept in touch.
Garadun gave his kitten a kiss. “Pretty, wasn’t she?”
Cera held up her vidcomm and smiled at her cousin. She hadn’t seen T’Prin in person for more than five years, the last time she’d visited Earth. T’Prin was the only one of Cera’s Vulcan relatives to do so and they’d become good friends, exchanging letters and talking via subspace when they could.
T’Prin was sitting in her bedroom. “It is agreeable to see you again, Cera.”
“Agreeable? That’s the best you can do?” She gestured to Jan and Nessa and stepped into a quiet corner of the restaurant lobby.
“It is good to see you.”
“That’s better,” said Cera, grinning. “I’m sorry I haven’t written or called in the last few months. I’ve been really busy.”
“So I presumed. You said in your last letter that you’d resigned your position?”
Cera ran her fingers through her hair. “I didn’t want to work for a corporation.”
“I spoke to Aunt Evelyn, and she informed me that you had inherited a spaceship from your late grandfather. She further informed me that you were currently on Vega while your new vessel was in drydock.”
“I see Mom’s been keeping you in the loop.” Cera sighed. “I wanted to tell you myself, but ever since I got the ship, things have been crazy. I had to hop the first transport to Vega, and then the restoration took up all my time, and then–”
“There is no need to explain, Cera,” said T’Prin reasonably. “It’s only logical that you would be preoccupied with your new responsibilities. I understand.”
“Is the work on your ship finished?”
Cera grinned again. “Calypso’s all ready to fly. You should see her, T’Prin.”
“Perhaps I shall.” T’Prin glanced behind herself for a moment. “There was a specific reason for this call.” She hesitated. “I wish to invite you to my wedding.”
Cera’s jaw went slack. “You’re getting married? Seriously?”
“His name is Navin.”
Although Vulcans prided themselves on their ability to conceal their emotions, they weren’t perfect. Cera could see that her cousin wasn’t thrilled with the idea. Marriages on Vulcan were traditionally arranged during childhood, and more often than not the two involved hardly even knew each other. Cera thought it was patently stupid.
“Do you even know this guy?”
“I have met him twice before,” T’Prin replied.
“You sound so thrilled,” Cera observed dryly. “Look, are you sure about this?”
“It’s all arranged. Can you attend? The wedding is in five weeks time.”
“Just a sec.” Cera minimised T’Prin’s image and then used her vidcomm to calculate the amount of time it would take her to get from Vega to Vulcan at maximum warp. She brought her back up. “If I leave now, I can get there with a week or so to spare.”
“So will you attend?”
Cera gave T’Prin a warm smile. “Of course I will. I’d be honoured.”
“Thank you, Cera. I very much wish for you to be there.”
“Am I allowed to? Your family and everything?”
“It is my right,” said T’Prin firmly.
“Can I bring a guest?”
“If you wish.” T’Prin gave her a questioning look. “Who, may I ask?”
“My best friend and First Mate: Garadun. I’ve told you about him.”
“I just spoke to him. Yes, he may attend as well.”
“Thanks. I’ll see you when I see you, cousin. Take care.”
“Peace and long life, Cera,” said T’Prin, and ended the transmission.
Cera put away her vidcomm thoughtfully. She strolled back to where the Orions were patiently waiting for her. “Well, we’re off to Vulcan.”
“Vulcan? Seriously?” said Nessa.
“When?” Jan asked.
“We’ll leave tomorrow,” Cera replied, then gave them a lopsided smile. “My cousin T’Prin is getting married, and I’ve been invited to the wedding.”
Nessa rolled her eyes. “A Vulcan wedding. Well that sounds fun.”
Calypso broke orbit the following day as scheduled, leaving the Vega system behind at her maximum cruising speed of warp eight. The warp core ran nice and smooth. All the work that had been done had made it better than new, because the original engine had only managed a top speed of warp six. Cera had heard rumours that there were some Coridan and Orion ships that could reach warp ten (if you had the connections and money to get them) but she’d never seen one for herself.
Warp ten. Now that would be something.
They were only a crew of four, and with a month-long trip ahead of them they had a lot of time on their hands to get to know each other better. Talking in the mess hall, in the small gym while working out, or around a table playing cards were the most common ways. Garadun frequently brought Magik with him when he left his quarters (if he was going to a safe part of the ship). She was only eight weeks old and needed looking after; kittens require a lot of stimulation to help them grow into healthy adult cats. To say nothing of basic affection and love.
The kitten was living proof to Nessa of how different a man Garadun was from the ones she was used to. He was clearly streetwise, yet at the same time had an unashamed affection for small, furry animals. He was open with his feelings; he wasn’t constantly trying to prove his manhood; and, most notably, he treated her like a person, not a sex slave. He liked her for being Nessa, not for being an Orion female. At first she thought it was some unconventional ploy to get her into bed. But Jan Koor assured her that this was the way he treated all women, including Orions. He found her very desirable, yes. But he would never push anything or even make a pass. It made a nice change.
It was also obvious to Nessa that Cera was very attracted to her. She made an effort not to show it, to act like colleagues. But if there’s one thing Orion women are good at it’s spotting sexual attraction. In truth the feelings were mutual. Cera Rigel was unlike any Vulcan Nessa had ever met – namely because she’d been raised on Earth by her Human mother. She was also quite beautiful. And just as Garadun did, Cera treated Nessa with friendship and respect, not like a sex doll. The idea of becoming Cera’s lover appealed to Nessa, but it was too soon to make a move. She had a good job on Calypso; she didn’t want to risk it. She could wait until the time was right.
Jan Koor wasn’t your average Orion man either. Although born and raised in Orion culture, he’d spent the last several years among Humans and other aliens. He understood the Federation’s rules and could work within them. Most of the time, anyway. For him piracy generally wasn’t worth it. Too much risk. Commerce was safer. The Federation had a rather puritanical and close-minded view of slavery, but he wasn’t involved in the slave trade directly so it wasn’t like he was losing money or anything. His new Captain was worthy of respect: she wasn’t a fool, nor was she weak.
As for Cera, she was grateful for Garadun’s initiative in contacting his old shipmate. Jan Koor knew more about transporters than any other engineer she’d ever met; and was also a competent engineer in other areas of ship’s functions. He was outgoing, but not obnoxious, and was far less chauvinistic than she’d expected. Orion men made a habit of selling their women after all. He gave her respect, and Garadun had assured her that Jan was trustworthy. The big Orion had a personal code he lived by, and his word was his bond. You could trust him to watch your back.
Nessa was a pleasant surprise. Cera had heard all the stories about Orion women: of their sexual appetite, of their innate talent as lovers. The “Orion slave girl” image was a modern interstellar legend. Nessa fit the outward image: she was beautiful and sexy and she knew it. But she was also smart, confident, and extremely capable of handling herself in a fight. She was her own woman, looking for a chance to prove herself. Given that she’d gotten free of a slave culture, Cera was determined to give her that chance.
Garadun liked Nessa. She was extremely easy on the eyes and they got along. He’d been around Orion women before, and they all reacted well to being treated like anyone else and not sex objects. It made friendship effortless. Yes, he thought she was gorgeous, and the idea of making love with her was the stuff of dreams. But he wasn’t going to hit on her. It wasn’t his way. Besides, women were never interested in him as anything more than a friend.
Despite industrial improvements and the advancement of technology, the basic treadmill hadn’t changed much. Nor did it need to. It was a hunk of equipment that allowed a humanoid to run in place as an aid to fitness. This was a necessary fact of life for those who spent a large part of their time living aboard spaceships.
The boredom of running on a treadmill hadn’t changed either.
Nessa walked into Calypso’s small gym one evening for a spot of exercise and was greeted by loud, rhythmic music that was unlike any she’d heard before. Garadun was jogging on one of the three treadmills, bobbing his head in time to the music. He wore black cargo shorts, a grey sleeveless tee with MARS NEEDS WOMEN and the Utopia Planitia Yards logo on the front, and he was running barefoot.
Nessa put down her kit bag and towel, and then went over and stepped onto the adjacent treadmill. She set it at the same speed as his and started to jog. Her workout attire was far more flattering: skin-tight grey athletic pants, a clinging purple tank top with built-in support, and black and purple jogging shoes.
After a minute or two she said, “Barefoot?”
“Better traction,” he replied between breaths.
“Doesn’t it hurt?”
Garadun shook his head.
“By the way, what is this you have playing?” she asked.
“The Talking Heads,” he said, then added when she looked at him, “It’s the name of a music group from Earth. Twentieth century. Song’s called Life During Wartime.”
“Interesting. I didn’t know you were a historian.”
Nessa kept jogging. She was wearing tight clothing and was bouncing as she ran, but he wasn’t even trying to sneak in a few looks. It was almost disappointing. Respect was all well and good, but there was such thing as a girl’s ego and self-esteem. He tapped a button on his treadmill’s control panel and it slowed. His breathing eased.
“Tired?” she said.
“I’m not as young as I used to be,” he said, taking a small towel off his treadmill to wipe his face as he trotted along.
Nessa gave him the once-over. “You don’t look that old to me. For a Human.”
Okay, she had to ask. “How old are you? If you don’t mind me asking.”
He shook his head. “You wouldn’t believe me if I told you.”
“Why wouldn’t I?”
“No-one would. Except Cera of course,” he said with a slight smirk.
“You two are very close, aren’t you?”
Garadun slowed his treadmill to a walk. “About as close as you can get.”
Nessa looked at him as she jogged. “Do you love her?”
“Of course I do. She’s my best friend.” He said it without hesitation and very matter-of-factly. “But no, we’re not having sex. We’re friends, not lovers.”
Nessa slowed her own treadmill to a walk. They had talked on a daily basis over the last couple of weeks, and she liked him. So far she’d gotten the impression that he wasn’t the kind of man to hide things about himself. If you asked him about something, he answered. To her knowledge he hadn’t lied to her about anything.
“Can I ask you something?”
Garadun nodded. “Go ahead.”
“Cera likes me, doesn’t she?”
“Oh yeah, that’s for sure,” he replied with an amused grin. “Big time. I don’t blame her one bit. You’re totally gorgeous, Nessa.”
“Thank you,” she said, pleased, then eyed him curiously. “But you two?”
Nessa gave it thought. Cera was half Vulcan. “Have you two… mind melded?”
From the expression that crossed his face, she saw that she’d asked a very personal question. Perhaps too personal. But, to her surprise, he answered.
“Yes, we have. It’s one of the reasons we’re so close.”
“But not a couple.”
Garadun chuckled as he walked. “You have no competition from me, Nessa. If you want Cera, then by all means go for it. Besides, she only sleeps with girls.”
Nessa was glad to hear it. Thus far no-one had ever refused her, but there was always a first time. Besides, she really liked Cera. She increased the speed of her machine and resumed jogging. Most men would have matched her because of testosterone poisoning, but apparently Garadun was too comfortable with himself for such games.
He kept walking.
“Okay, I’ll bite,” she said a couple minutes later. “How old are you?”
Garadun shook his head again. “You won’t believe me.”
Garadun sighed. “Okay. I’m three hundred and two.”
Nessa stared at him and he shrugged. Was he serious? There were a lot of species in the galaxy with very long lifespans, but Humans weren’t among them. To the best of her knowledge they topped out around a hundred standard years, and they were very aged and fragile by that time. Garadun looked to be, oh, in his thirties if she was any judge. He had dark brown hair which he kept buzzed to a few millimetres, including an equally short moustache and goatee, hazel eyes, and his physique was average. Fit, but not noteworthy. He would easily blend into any crowd.
“You mean that. Three hundred and two.”
“Technically, yes. It’s all a bit complicated.”
“And you’re Human, right? Not an alien that simply looks Human?”
“You’re a very interesting man,” she told him.
Garadun resumed a light jog, having finally gotten his second wind. “And you’re a very beautiful woman.”
“You know, for most men that would just be a line. But from you I know it’s a genuine compliment. Thank you.”
Garadun shrugged. “It happens to be true.”
“There a girl waiting for you somewhere?”
“Yeah, the sleeping little fuzzball in my quarters,” he replied with a smile.
“I mean do you have a woman?”
“No, I don’t have a girlfriend. Or a wife, or a mistress, or a concubine.”
Garadun sighed. Some things never change. “Do you think I’m a nice guy?”
“Well yes, of course.”
“That’s why not.” Garadun turned off the treadmill and stepped down, wiping the sweat from his face. “Look, I need a shower and Magik gets upset if she wakes up and I’m not there. I’ll see you later.”