Klingseis Chapter Ten
The four of us stand silently in the lift as we travel ten decks down from the Command floor. The lift stops, and I step out to allow Darden and Hale room to exit, exhaling a sigh of relief when they disappear around the corner. I thought I would enjoy silence from Hale, but his newfound tranquility while pressed up against me was enough to make my stomach churn.
I might need a shower. Maybe two.
I hurry back into the lift before the doors close, and feel a slight jolt to the left as the lift changes directions horizontally, guiding us aft. Finally, it’s just the Commander and I.
“I thought Hale and Richards were going to wrestle right there on the table.”
A smile appears on Briggs’ face. He turns to me, and offers me a silent chuckle. “Let’s hope for all our sakes that we will never have to witness that.”
“Although…they weren’t the only source of tension during the briefing.”
Brigg’s nostrils flare as he inhales deeply. He returns his gaze back toward the lift doors, “You are referring to the Ambassador and I.”
“When did we start getting grilled by Hycain diplomats?” I ask, hoping that I haven’t overstepped any boundaries.
“I don’t know,” Briggs replies, “but, you’re right. I shouldn’t have behaved the way that I did.”
It’s obvious that the Commander is uncomfortable with this subject, so I decide to move on to something more fun as I look up to the deck indicator on the lift’s terminal.
I just missed my stop. Yep, I forgot to signal my destination. No matter, I didn’t want to go to work anyway.
In the hope of sparing myself embarrassment, I decide to pretend Officer Quarters is my intended destination. An increase in gravity signals that the lift is now beginning to climb.
“So, have you given any more thought to offering me a rematch at O’Keefe’s?”
The smile returns to the Commander’s face.
When the crew is in down mode, O’Keefe’s is a section of the hangar deck that transforms into an impromptu speakeasy one night every couple of weeks. The standard fare is poker, darts, and simulator games. What draws most of the crew, however, is the occasional drunken boxing match.
There is an unspoken rule that rate and rank are left at the door when you cross O’Keefe’s threshold. Prendable will obviously never go there, he understands his presence would disrupt the appeal of the hangout. However, he has allowed the crew this small oasis from division and stature.
The thrill of gambling, excessive drinking, and the sight of blood might be what entices others to visit the hangar, but I much more enjoy the target shooting simulator, or what the crew affectionately call “The Shotbox.” Senior Yogusashi cannibalized a couple of malfunctioning flight simulator pods and turned them into a single contraption large enough to house two people for a one-on-one challenge. One of Richards’ software geniuses added some impressive scenarios to add to the realism. Most are simple combat backgrounds, your typical jungle scenarios, open fields, or the interior of a spacecraft.
Briggs and I decided that with his training as an infantryman and my role as a pilot, the fairest fight between us would be the general sidearm challenge. The simulation starts with a series of stationary targets that increase in difficulty, targets become smaller and their motions become increasingly chaotic the deeper into the simulation. Your points are determined by how quickly you hit the target after it appears, how close your shot is to the center, and overall accuracy. Briggs and I have played a number of times and each time he wins by the skin of his teeth. I honestly don’t know how he does it. I receive a near-perfect score every time I play alone, and I spend a large amount of my off hours in the damn thing. He should not be able to beat me.
“I don’t know, I feel like I need to keep my legend alive. I may not get so lucky the next time.”
I smile back at him. “You never know, you could get even luckier.”
Wait. I did not just say that. That’s not what I meant.
“I mean…your shots may find better targets.” This time I say with an awkward point of the finger.
What the fuck does that mean?!?
Briggs chuckles again. It’s either a show of charity, or this is the way he behaves when he is around a social moron. Mercifully, the computer announces that we are coming up on the first level of Officer Quarters, and the door opens shortly after. I force one last smile and somehow manage to make my way through the opening without stumbling or running into the crewmen who is waiting on the other side.
Before the doors closes, I turn around in the hopes of salvaging this embarrassing moment. “Well, I’ll see you around, hopefully. Keep that trigger finger healthy.”
I hate myself. I hate myself. I hate myself.
“Good day, Lieutenant,” he says without elaboration.
The lift door closes and humiliation sinks in as my face flushes. My previous words boil inside my head.
Did he say ‘Lieutenant’ because I’m getting too friendly? Or is it just easier to say then ‘Klingseis’? Maybe he forgot my name and didn’t want to hurt my feelings? I wonder if they are serving alcohol in the mess.
I must have been blocking the entrance to the lift for an extended amount of time, because a group of four ensigns, each appearing too young to be officers, are currently staring at me with concern. I turn around to face them, and toss my arms in the air.
“This isn’t even my deck!”