"So, what are you going to do when this war is over, Vashti?" Lieutenant Quinn O'Malley asked, looking up from his plotting boards at the
pretty, dark-haired weapons officer to his left.
"Catch some rays," Vashti Saint-Marie said. "I'm going to break out the skimpiest, most non-regulation bikini I can find, plomp down on
some sunny beach on some gorgeous planet somewhere with a mojito in one hand, and just soak up enough sunlight to make up for all these
years spent working under artificial light."
"Can I join you?" Quinn quipped.
"No. I prefer my vacation plans not to include annoying tech-nerds."
"Ouch," Quinn grabbed at his chest in mock pain. "You wound me milady."
"I hope it's fatal," Vashti griped.
"How about you, Petrovich?" Quinn asked, spinning around in his station chair to regard the hard-faced engineering officer. "What are you going to do when this war is over?"
"I'm going to sit myself down on the first barstool in the closest bar I can find, order a beer, and repeat step two until I'm broke or drunk," the big Russian said.
"Beer, not vodka?"
"Ha! Vodka is the single vilest invention that Mother Russia ever produced, a blight on her good name. Give me a good stout or a lager any day, the only thing the Germans ever did right in their lives."
"I'll drink to that. How about you, Commander?"
"Get married. If he'll still have me." First Officer Allison Keller stroked the ring she wore on her right hand, the one that she had once worn on her left before being called up out of the reserves. "If not. . . I don't know."
"Of course he'll still have you, Commander," Quinn said confidently. "Who wouldn't want a hot babe like you?"
Commander Keller had long-since exhausted the whole, "flirting with a superior officer is a court-martial offense" speech, and just settled for giving the incorrigible Quinn a stern look. "People change in three years. Sometimes, they change a lot," she said wistfully.
Quinn nodded and spun around in his chair again. "Doesn't anyone want to ask what I'm planning on doing?"
"No, because no one cares," Vashti said.
"Ouch. . . another palpable touch, my lady. Anyway, I'll tell you guys anyway. First, I'm going back home. Then I'm going to find the prettiest, most gorgeous lady in the world. . ."
"Stop right there, Quinn," Vashti groaned.
". . . and eat my mom's lo mai gai and shumai at our family restaurant until I pop," Quinn concluded. He gave the rest of the bridge crew an innocent look. "What?"
"Nothing," Vashti sighed. She'd been had again.
There was a long pause.
"Hey, Quinn, I was just wondering," Anton Petrovich asked. "You're full-blooded Chinese, right?"
"100% yellow, baby," Quinn quipped.
"And you're not adopted?"
"Not at all."
"Hm. I was just wondering, how'd you wind up with a name like Quinn O'Malley, anyway?" Petrovich asked. "It's not exactly common."
"Well, actually, it's pretty funny," Quinn said. "When I was born, there was this long line at the clinic for names registration, and the lady behind the desk wasn't really paying attention."
"Oh god, I don't like where this is going already," Vashti sighed.
"So my dad is standing in line right behind this Irish couple," Quinn went on. "They come to the desk, lady asks them, 'Name of child.' They say, 'Quinn O'Malley.' 'Right then, here you go, have a nice day, next. Name of child?' My dad says, 'Sam Ching.' 'Same thing, Quinn O'Malley, right then, here you go, have a nice day, next.'" Quinn snapped his fingers like a flamenco dancer.
There was a long pause.
"That's retarded," Vashti groaned.
"Hey, I thought it was pretty funny," Quinn pouted.
"That's because you're a retard too," Vashti said snidely.
"Aww, you know you love me, babe --"
"Captain on deck," Commander Keller interrupted.
The bridge crew snapped to attention as a tall, lean black man stepped out of the elevator lift and onto the deck. "At ease," Captain Solomon Dube intoned in his deep, bass voice. "Mister Keller."
"Captain. 1117 and all's well. No further updates since my last report. Star Force One will be arriving in half an hour, as scheduled. You may take the conn."
"Thank you, Mister Keller. I have the conn." Allison Keller saluted and stepped aside from the commander's station, taking a seat at her usual position behind the tactical displays. Captain Solomon Dube of the "TAS Birmingham" was a South African wet navy officer who had transferred to the Star Force after the Drengin attack on Johannesburg. Rumor had it that he was also pureblooded Zulu, and a descendent of the legendary Shaka himself. The rumors were probably false, but it was clear that under his command, the Interceptor-Class destroyer had amassed a remarkable number of enemy kills, the most of any ship in the Alliance fleet. Stern, efficient, and courageous, he was the poster child of the war PR effort, and the obvious choice to for the Presidential honor guard escorting Star Force One to Piers.
Two other Alliance capital ships had been chosen for that honor. To starboard, the TAS Shanghai, an Atlas-class heavy cruiser bristling with missile and mass driver banks, the ship that had broken the back of the Korath invasion fleets. In the lead position, in the place of honor, was the TAS Terra itself, commanded by Admiral Montgomery Burnside, High Commander of the Star Force Navy. TAS Terra was one of the new Stormseeker-class battleships, six times larger than the old Birmingham, armed with state-of-the-art photon torpedos, protected by top-of-the-line Kanvium armor that could halt a Korath nano-ripper dead in its tracks. Her weapons had never once been fired in anger, and with the war now over, it seemed that TAS Terra would be the first and the last ship of her class. But, for now, she would serve an honored role as a symbol of Terran determination and military might, a reminder of the price that was paid on the eve of galactic peace.
"Mmmm? Yes, Mister O'Malley?" Captain Dube asked.
"I was just wondering," Quinn said. "Do you have any plans on what you're going to do once the war is over, sir?"
Captain Dube thought for a moment. "Let's make sure the war is over first, Mister O'Malley."