Sunday, May 29, 2016

Bark: Incursion - Chapter Nineteen



2701.11.23.21.44 – In transit; CFV-B Pallas

With the fleet secure in warpspace, I left Robson on the bridge to supervise the handover to the junior officers taking command on third watch and returned to my quarters to freshen up before my late dinner date with Kat. I had only just shut the hatch to my quarters when ArtEMIS alerted me that I had a personal message waiting for me on my private terminal.

AI.#CFV-B Pallas -{Admiral Kincaid, I received a data package for you just before we made the jump. Shall I upload it to your terminal?}-
"Yes, please, ArtEMIS." I replied, fetching a clean jumpsuit from the wardrobe and taking a seat at my desk. My pulse quickened a few beats when I saw from the countersign on the package that the message was from Malia. It had been almost a month since I had heard from her last, when she had told me that the upgrades she had been coordinating on FOB Poseidon were complete and that she would be returning to Wolf 359. I loaded the video message first, desperate to see her face and hear her voice.
"Hi, gorgeous. I hope you're safe and well." Malia said, smiling warmly to the camera. She sat on the bed in her quarters, wearing nothing other than perfume and hairspray, to remind me of exactly why I needed to return from my patrol. "I got back to Hera this morning. Quite a dull trip in the end, but with the new reed beds installed on Poseidon, no-one's going to be drinking brown water for the next few years, at least.
"I've got another trip out to the outpost in Gamma Draconis coming up next week. They've been having issues with their CO2 scrubbers. It's not too far out of the bubble, so I should be able to message you a bit more often. It would be nice to speak in real-time, but one of us always seems to be in transit. Videos are great, but it would be better to talk properly." Malia said, tucking a loose strand of hair behind her ear, and looking slyly at the camera. "I've missed you. I hope you appreciate how hard this is for me. This is the longest I've gone without sex since High School. I really need to see you again soon. Anyway, the troubleshooting run to Gamma Draconis will be my last trip out in the field for a while. I'm going to need to take some time off. Gus, I didn't want to have to tell you like this, but, uh... I- I have a passenger. I think this is the universe's way of telling me that I need to grow up and settle down. I know we only had a couple of days together on Hera, but I know we could have something special. I felt it the moment I saw you. I've thought about it, and I want to keep him. I know this is partly your decision, too, but I really do. I love you, Gus. Message me when you can."


Stunned, I ran up the rest of the data package. Inside there were a dozen high definition scans of the foetus Malia was carrying. The scans were only four days old and Malia had attached just a simple two word note of explanation. Our son.

I fetched a drinking bulb from the kitchen module and filled it with whisky, taking a large gulp, feeling giddy and lightheaded. Not knowing how I should feel or what to think, I changed into my fresh jumpsuit before sitting down again at my terminal and staring at scans for a second time. It was difficult to reconcile that it was a miniature human being in the pictures, but when I looked carefully, I could see arms and legs that seemed tiny compared to the outsized head. It was too early to be able to see any kind of family resemblance, of course, but instinctively I felt connected to the image of the miniscule baby in a way that I hadn't been when Kat had shown me the scans of her twins. The sensation was utterly alien to me, but not unpleasant. I watched Malia's video a second time, to hear her voice and see her perfect figure once again, this time with the knowledge that a part of me was growing inside her. It only made her even more beautiful to me. I paused the video and gazed longingly at Malia's image, tingling from scalp to toenails.
 
CMR. Jmsn#11894118 -{Hoy! Gus! Where are you? You were supposed to meet me in the wardroom five minutes ago.}-
RADM. Kncd#11892166 -{Sorry. I'll be right there.}-

I shut down my terminal before hurrying to the officer's wardroom, grabbing a small tray of sandwiches and taking it to the table Kat had reserved for us. I slid the tray into the restraining rails to keep it in place on the table as Kat filled us a drinking bulb each with water from the pressurised jug she had retrieved on her way in.
"What kept you?" Kat asked accusingly, stealing a sandwich from my tray.
"Sorry, Kat. I got a bit distracted."
"You look a little flustered." Kat said, studying me carefully. "I didn't interrupt something, did I? A little 'me' time?"
"Oh, stop. I got a message from Malia."
"I see." Kat's eyes still sparkled playfully, not ready quite yet to stop teasing me. "She hasn't dumped you, has she?"
"No, but what she told me was even more unexpected than that."
"Oh, do tell." Kat said, taking a large sip of water.
"She's pregnant." I replied, still not sure I believed it myself. Kat coughed and spluttered, barely avoiding spraying me with the water in her mouth.
"Jesus, Gus!" Kat put her drinking bulb back down on the table, hacking intermittently for a good couple of minutes before she was able to breathe properly again. "Have you not heard of contraceptives? Did neither of you have the sense to take precautions?"
"It was a little bit late by the point we thought about it." I admitted, feeling rather embarrassed.
"What are you going to do?"
"Malia wants to have the baby."
"And you?"
"I haven't finished processing it all yet. I'm not sure, but I think I quite like the idea."
"Gus, you're kidding right?" Kat replied, aghast. "You've known this woman for all of five minutes. What is this? Love at first fuck?"
"Kat, keep your voice down." I warned her, worried that our conversation was starting to attract unwanted attention from nearby tables. "Our relationship didn't start too differently, I seem to recall."
"Right, because that worked out perfectly. A whirlwind romance followed by a whirlwind divorce." Kat shook her head. "Don't you think you're rushing things a bit?"
"Look, we were young. We both made a lot of mistakes. I'd like to think we've learned from them."
"Of course, you're so much wiser now. That's why you're having an unplanned pregnancy in the 28th Century!" Kat hissed, barely keeping the volume of her voice under control.
"Kat, what is wrong with you? Why should you even care? You're the one leaving to get married and have a family."
"That's different. Itzal and I have been together long enough to know we're right for each other." Kat took my hand in hers from across the table, concern written across her face. "How can you know that about Malia? And think about the baby. I remember you telling me how you always resented your father prioritising his career over his family. How can you two have kids if you're both flying off around the Local Bubble all the time? I don't want you waking up in a few years' time realising that you've made a horrid mistake."
"I don't know how to explain it. It just feels right. Like the right thing to do. I love her, Kat." I said, shrugging. "When you told me back on Hera that you'd met someone else, it felt like you were ripping my heart out, when actually you were giving it back to me. I'd always hoped that one day we might get back together properly. Sure, it's great being friends that fuck, and I thought I could live with just that, but when you said that you were starting a family with Itzal, I realised that I wanted something more, too. I never thought it would happen this quickly, but how can I let the opportunity go now that it's here?"
"Why didn't you tell me this before? That you still felt that way about me?"
"I didn't want to risk losing what we had. And the ship had sailed, right?"
"Gus, you idiot." Kat grimaced, on the verge of tears. "If only I'd known. If only I'd told you what I really wanted... We never did talk enough."
"It's a bit late for that now." I squeezed Kat's hand sympathetically. "Maybe in ten years time we'll both be divorced again and then we can re-marry. Third time's the charm, right?"
"Oh, Gus." Kat sighed, after a short, bittersweet laugh. "We screwed that up good and proper, didn't we?"
"Not entirely. We're still friends, aren't we?"
"Always. Though maybe we'll have to take a raincheck on the benefits for a while." Kat said and smiled.
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