Thursday, January 21, 2016
August 22, later (part 3)
We stepped out of the back room and into the musical din of the dance club. I thought a drink was in order since I wasn’t so sure how my still-wobbly legs felt about bopping. I was just about to say something to that effect to Betra and Oses when the music suddenly cut out. Strident alarms took its place, along with a gruff voice.
“This is not a drill. All Mataras and nonessential personnel, evacuate to escape shuttles immediately. Repeat, this is not a drill. All Mataras and nonessential personnel, evacuate to escape shuttles immediately. All officers, report to your stations at once.”
There were a few startled cries, but everyone was already leaving the club in an orderly fashion. We were well practiced for this eventuality.
Betra patted my shoulder and ushered me to take my place in the exodus. “Go. Half our group isn’t in here, so I have to get to the Matara section and snag the rest. I’ll collect Anrel and Megan.”
We hit the exit and he jogged off in the direction opposite where I was going. Oses had already disappeared, no doubt to take his place on the bridge.
I knew Betra would get to Anrel before I could, but my feet dragged anyway as I moved towards the in-house transport that would take me to the shuttle bay. I had my portable com at my mouth when Tep’s voice issued from it.
“Shalia, don’t come to us.”
I breathed a sigh of relief to hear his voice. “Betra’s on his way to get everyone from our group.”
“I’m heading to Medical, but I’m escorting Megan and Anrel to the shuttle bay first. I’ll com Betra that we’ll meet you there.”
“Thanks, Doc. You’re the best.”
Since I knew where my baby was and that she was in the best of care, I stopped second-guessing where I should be go. I squeezed into a transport with a bunch of other women from the club and had a moment to be grateful I’d finished Happy Sex Festivities in the nick of time. Boy, wouldn’t that have been an awkward ending.
Just as the transport opened to the shuttle bay and we surged out, the alarms quit blaring. We turned questioning looks to each other but kept moving until the gruff voice began speaking again.
“Immediate evacuation postponed. Remain calm but on standby for further instructions.”
We halted and looked around, waiting to see what would come next. More transports arrived, spilling out women and liaisons. Tep and Megan also appeared. Megan held Anrel, who blinked wide eyes in the bright lights of the bay. I hurried over to them.
“Here’s Mommy,” Megan said to Anrel. She gave her a kiss on the cheek before handing her over to me. “A dramatic end to the grand opening, huh?”
“No kidding.” I smiled at her and Tep. “Thanks for watching Anrel. Any idea what’s going on, Doc?”
He shook his head. “Not yet, but I should get to Medical just in case. Excuse the abrupt departure.” He brushed Anrel’s cheek, kissed Megan on the forehead, and offered me a little wave before hurrying back to the lift.
“The alarms woke her up,” Megan said. “She yelped once but calmed right down.”
I paused between kissing my baby’s adorable face to ask, “No problems?”
“Not a bit. She’s such a good girl, aren’t you, Anrel?” Megan sighed as she looked at the baby. “I want to play the field before I settle down, but I think I’m getting mommy fever. She is wonderful, Shalia.”
Candy and Katrina located us, followed a second later by Betra and the rest of our group. “All present and accounted for,” he grinned. “And no, I haven’t heard what’s going on this time.”
As if to make a liar out of him, his com went off. The same gruff voice that had come over the public address system issued from the device, speaking Kalquorian. Since I don’t hear as fast as Kalquorians talk, I only caught a couple of words ... but I distinctly heard ‘Earther’.
As soon as Gruff Voice stopped talking, we women gathered around Betra expectantly. He looked troubled. Knowing us so well, he didn’t try to give us any false assurances.
“Potentially bad news. We detected an Earther battlecruiser along with three Tragoom ships and a couple of Bi’isil hunter/killers. They started heading our way, but suddenly turned tail and ran when we went on alert and armed all weapons. No doubt they were feeling out our defenses, seeing how ready we were to engage.”
We stayed silent as we digested that news. My fears reflected on everyone else’s face.
It was Candy who choked out, “Earthers, Tragooms, and Bi’isils? Banded together?”
Betra grimaced. “Maybe. We know that quite a few of your space fleet went rogue after Armageddon. They’re mostly going the way of pirates, attacking smaller vessels for food, power, that sort of thing. A few have targeted Kalquorian vessels, still fighting a guerilla war on their own.”
“But working with Tragooms? How is that even possible?” Katrina spoke slowly, as if in shock.
“Tragooms are opportunistic. Kalquorian technology is a huge prize for them, so it would be no surprise if they offered to help rogue Earth ships in fighting us.” Betra scowled. “It’s more probable that Tragooms got hold of that battlecruiser and are flying it themselves. There may be no Earthers on board at all.”
“What about the Bi’isils?” I wanted to know.
Betra’s lip curled. “As much as I’d like to find a reason to point a finger at those little beasts, it’s most likely the hunter/killers are stolen by Tragooms. I doubt Bi’isils are roaming about with Earthers and Tragooms in the hopes of taking out a small Kalquorian convoy.”
“We’re so close to the Empire,” I mused. “Why would they be flying near your borders?”
“Because once we’re within our borders, they’ve got damned little chance of getting to us,” Betra said. “They know our fleet is mostly concentrated within the Empire and near to Earth. It could be they hoped we would be more relaxed this close to home.”
“They had enough ships to challenge us,” Katrina said. “I wonder why they didn’t?”
“Because a challenge is not a definite win,” Betra said. “Tragooms are cowards if they don’t have a clear-cut advantage along with surprise. They had neither in this instance.”
Candy blew out a breath. “I realize there is no point in worrying. Either they attack us or they don’t. Still, I don’t expect to get a lot of sleep tonight.”
“You didn’t expect to get sleep tonight anyway,” I pointed out. “Go back and dance the night away.”
Candy pulled a face. “I’m afraid my desire for dancing is out the window right now.”
That seemed to be the consensus. With the all-clear given, we drifted towards the transports. Our big night out was done.
Betra had to file reports anyway. And no doubt Oses would be on the bridge for several hours. I smiled at Anrel. “Ready to get into your own bed, little warrior?”
Megan handed me Anrel’s diaper bag. “How was the club until the party was crashed?”
“Amazing. You’re going to love it. And if a more intimate type of dancing is wanted with your beaus, the back room seems to be the place to go.”
Megan laughed. “Gotcha. I’ll keep that in mind.”
We all headed to the transport, ready to call it a night. I was delighted to have Katrina close so I could interrogate her about showing up with Clan Wotref earlier.
“Things are back to normal with you and the captain’s clan?” I asked. I hoped with all my might that the news was good. “Did Matthew—?”
She shook her head. “My son has not come around yet. I hope he will.”
Candy slipped her arm around Katrina’s waist. “So what made you start up with Clan Wotref again?”
Katrina shrugged. “I can’t be held hostage from my own happiness. I want my son and grandchildren in my life, but it’s wrong to let my life be dictated to me. Matthew has no right to force me to live by his beliefs.”
“You must have struggled with that decision,” I said quietly. We reached our section and got off the lift. Megan wished us good night and went on to her quarters.
“Let’s go to my quarters,” I suggested to Candy and Katrina. “If you feel like telling us what happened.”
“I would like to,” Katrina said. “I know it seems like I cut you two out, but I could hardly think about it, let alone talk.”
We went to my rooms. Anrel had drifted off to sleep, so I settled her in her crib. I left the door between rooms open. We sat on my lounger and continued to talk quietly.
Katrina picked up her tale. “As I said, I have decided to live my life as I see fit. I sent Matthew a message saying he no more knows God’s mind than I do and he had no right to be so self-righteous. I asked him to reconsider keeping the grandchildren away from me. I am willing to visit them without my potential clan since it is Matthew’s right to raise them as he feels is right. But I will not cut Clan Wotref out of my life to accommodate him.”
“Good for you,” Candy said. “Even though I know that must have been the hardest message you’ve ever had to send.”
Katrina shrugged. “It’s actually a relief. Had I done as my son wanted me to, I’d resent his interference. I’d feel I’d not been true to myself. I couldn’t live like that, angry at Matthew for ruining my chance at love and happiness.”
“So where does your relationship with Clan Wotref stand now?” I asked. “They looked pleased. Well, Wotref and Ret did. Siko didn’t look ready to tear heads off, so I guess that’s a good sign.”
Katrina snickered at my observation. “Siko is a big marshmallow under all that rude language and grouchiness. When I showed up at their door, he was the first one to hug me. It took Wotref threatening to break his arms before he would let me go.”
“Tell me they’ve asked you to clan,” Candy begged.
Katrina nodded. Candy and I both clapped our hands over our mouths to muffle our delighted squeals. “You said yes, right?” I demanded.
“Settle down, you two hopeless romantics,” Katrina laughed quietly. “I told them to consider us engaged to be clanned.”
“Katrina! Why wait?”
She shook her head. “Because I need a little more time to try and convince Matthew I am doing what is right for me. If I join Wotref’s clan right now, he may think I’m doing it just to spite him.”
“How long will you wait for him to see it your way?” Candy asked.
“Clan Wotref plans to retire from the fleet in a couple of years,” Katrina said. “I can’t stay on the ship with them, and they won’t be on Kalquor too much until then. I will go through with my plans to work as a liaison for the Matara Complex.” Her eyes twinkled mischief. “If my big strong men haven’t come to their senses by the time they resign their commissions and come home to Kalquor, then I will become their Matara.”
Wow. What drama, and for once it’s not mine. I sure hope Matthew gets his act together for everyone’s sake. In the meantime, Katrina can enjoy being with the men she loves.