No response. Ria sighed. "Malcolm Reed," she called out, "get your arse out of that office
before it gets thrown through the airlock!"
Aha - there was life after all... the door in front of her (which, incidentally, had been
locked from the inside) swished open to reveal a dour, sour looking Malcolm Reed. He sighed at her. "You can't make
me do anything, Lef-tenant," he informed her, making a point of emphasising her rank. "In case you hadn't noticed, I'm the
same rank as you now."
"I - I still have seniority over you," Ria retorted, seeing her argument vanish off the precarious
cliff it had already been hanging from.
Malcolm raised an eyebrow in her direction as the two of them began walking out of Jupiter's
armoury. "By what?" he inquired calmly, and then answered the question for her. "Two weeks, certainly no more than three."
Ria tried to protest, but was cut-off by Malcolm, apparently still in full flow. "What's
the matter, Ms. Nielsson?" he asked her, smirking a little. "Sad now you've lost your skivvy? You have to face up to facts.
Sooner or later I will outrank you, and there is nothing you can do about it."
There was nothing really that could be said to that, in Ria's opinion; she was fresh out
of smart remarks for the evening. As much as she hated to admit it, it was another point for him. England one, Norway nil.
For now, at least.
As they rounded the next corner, Malcolm and Ria found themselves joining the back of a small
throng of people all heading in the general direction of the turbolifts that would ultimately lead some of them to living
quarters, and others to launch bays to go back to Earth.
Malcolm waited by one of the lifts, waiting for it to get to his deck. For no other reason
than there was no reason, Ria joined him, the both of them watching the chattering flow of Starfleet and civilian personnel
(greatly outnumbered by the navy-blue jumpsuits) as they milled mostly into the other lifts. There was something to be said
about people who worked in space, Ria thought to herself (she was allowed to have this opinion, having been posted to Jupiter
just six weeks previously, along with Malcolm Reed). They were all bloody bonkers. And she was also starting to sound like
Malcolm as well... not that she could help it, of course. That man was just... contagious, for lack of a better term. Utterly
After what seemed like an eternity of waiting, the turbolift doors in front of Malcolm opened,
revealing a mercifully empty car. "See you in the morning, Ria," he said to her, stepping inside.
"Night, Malcolm," she grinned, making as if to go back the way she had already come. When
she vanished around the corner and out of sight, Malcolm hit the button for the deck he wanted to go to. And just as the doors
hissed into motion...
"Hey... hold the lift, would ya?"
Quickly, he jabbed the door-holding mechanism, and waited for the owner of the voice to reach
him; he did within a few seconds, and bent over almost double inside the turbolift car, panting heavily and clearly trying
to get his breath back.
Malcolm used this opportunity to study the stranger. He was dressed in civilian clothing,
although that didn't mean much - Ria had been in her civvies when she had dragged him out of the armoury (why, he couldn't
imagine) - although the first thing to catch his attention had been the colour of the shirt that the man was wearing... it
was some disgustingly hideous combination of orange and yellow. Tearing his eyes away from the eyesore, Malcolm silently took
in everything else... fairly tall, scruffy hair, sturdy build... nothing out of the ordinary in any way that he could see.
After a few seconds, he straightened up again and shot Malcolm a wide grin. "Thanks," he
said breathlessly. "Didn't think I was goin' ta make it."
"Not a problem," Malcolm replied coolly, still eyeing that shirt with no small level of suspicion.
"Which deck did you want?"
The man told him - the same as Malcolm's - and three seconds later the lift doors closed
all the way, and the car began to hiss into motion, smoothly moving downwards through the bowels of the station. While Malcolm
stared idly at the front of the lift, the other man had already moved to the back of the car, leaning heavily against the
small railing, taking deep, shuddering breaths that seemed incredibly loud in the confined space.
Malcolm saw the malfunction first, rather than hearing anything. It began as a flickering
of the overhead lights in the lift, drawing the attention of both passengers for a split second before they extinguished altogether,
and the lift was plunged into dark.
"That's not good," Malcolm heard the other man say, mostly out of curiosity than anything
Then the lift stopped moving.
"Definitely not good."
Malcolm now had the sudden and very powerful urge to find the stranger's neck in the darkness
and wring it as hard as he could. Stating the obvious wasn't going to get them anywhere, although he didn't say it out loud.
"Is there some kind of communication relay in this thing?" he wondered idly, still not completely familiar with the innermost
workings of the station as a whole.
"Nope," came the oh so encouraging reply. "Not s'far as I know."
"Oh crap," Malcolm stated plainly, for once not caring about his language. "I suppose that
puts us at the mercy of the repair and maintenance teams, then," he added mirthlessly.
"Looks that way." Just then the emergency backups kicked in, and through the dim red light
now emanating from somewhere, the armoury officer could just about see the expression on the other man's face as he regarded
the lift doors with a jokey look. He then sat down against the back of the lift and patted the space to his left, inviting
Malcolm to join him. "C'mon, Loo-tenant," he said genially. "Sit down."
Rather reluctantly, he did so. "How did you know that?"
"My rank," Malcolm elaborated.
The stranger grinned and indicated Malcolm's uniform; the two silver pips on the right hand
side of the zip gleamed in the dim red light. A few seconds later he spoke up again. "I think they're lookin' inta some kinda
failsafe for these sorts o' things," he informed Malcolm in a conversational tone of voice. "At the moment they're relyin'
on ya ta carry communicators all over the place."
Presumably, 'they' referred to Jupiter's engineering complement, although again Malcolm remained
"There's a hatch built inta the top o' the car," the man continued, looking at the 'roof'
of the lift. "But you're not s'posed ta open it unless you're completely sure there's nothin' wrong with the outside environment.
But we can't be sure of anythin' goin' on outside until the hatch is opened. Which is kinda defeatist, really."
Malcolm nodded his head - just the smallest of motions, enough to tell the stranger that
he was listening, even if he wasn't taking any of it in.
"Y'know," the man continued, changing tack at the speed of light. "I don't think I've seen
you around before. Where d'ya work?"
Well, that threw Malcolm off-kilter. "I - I'm in ordnance," he heard himself say in tones
of near-perfect calm. "Armoury."
Inexplicably, the man grinned. "Blowin' things up?" he joked brightly, then grew more than
a bit subdued at the glare he was receiving. "Sounds like fun," he added, even sounding more sobered.
Malcolm smirked. "It has its moments," he allowed, returning to staring at the inert turbolift
doors. "What about you? What do you do?"
The man shrugged his shoulders. "At the moment, nothin' very much at all," he said flippantly.
Another shrug. "We're plannin' on gettin' the Enterprise outta dry dock by the end
o' this year. It's what... January now? Ten months. We want her outta the Sol system by St. Andrew's Day."
"Any luck with the Vulcans?" Malcolm enquired dryly, mentally casting his mind over the positions
in Starfleet that this man could feasibly hold (and there was now no doubt that he was Starfleet). Captain came to
mind, given the tone of his voice when he mentioned Earth's first warp five ship, although that was no means any kind of guarantee
to rank. He was also starting to feel a bit nervous about this kind of interaction with someone who was clearly senior to
him, but also seemed to have no qualms about it, which was mildly reassuring.
The man laughed mirthlessly. "Ya kiddin'? If they had their way, it'd be my great-grandkids
runnin' that ship by the time it got inta open space."
"Fair point," Malcolm acquiesced, finally beginning to enjoy the friendly banter. "But St.
Andrew's doesn't seem too... pushy," he settled for, struggling briefly to find the word he was searching for.
The man nodded. "Know what ya mean," he agreed, cocking his head to one side. "But when you're
dealin' with Ambassador Soval, anythin' this side o' the next millennium is us actin' all antsy about the whole shebang."
"Mmm," Malcolm grunted in response, back to staring at the top of the shaft.
"An' it's not as though we've not got the crew, either," the man continued, almost as if
he couldn't bear any type of silence. "Okay, we're missin' a helmsman, an' the comm officer we did have on a provisional basis
moved back ta Papua New Guinea ta be with his wife an' kids, but other than that we're gettin' there."
Again, Malcolm nodded. Just let the man talk... he'll shut up eventually... I hope.
"Armoury officer's provin' a little tricky," the man said suddenly, finally catching Malcolm's
full attention. "Whittled 'em down ta two, an' - I got nothin' against either o' them - but they're both idiots, in their
own special way." He chuckled dryly.
"Anybody I know?" Malcolm asked, successfully managing to repress a full-blown grin.
The man cocked his head again, clearly in thought. "Eugene Miller," he said eventually, "an'...
Malcolm nodded. "I've met both of them before," he replied, "although Commander Aber only
His companion nodded. "Be glad it was only briefly," he stated darkly. "She may be a damn
good sharpshooter, but tha's about all she has goin' for her. Antisocial, thinks she's Evel Knievel reincarnated an' only
pretends ta be human most o' the time. An' then there's Eugene." He shook his head. "Don't even wanna go there."
Thinking back to past experience, Malcolm nodded, but before he could formulate any kind
of response, there came from up above an almighty banging noise - and the sound of human voices, one male and one female.
Malcolm was on his feet in an instant. "I don't suppose you could hurry this up, could you?"
he asked the lift roof sarcastically.
"Keep yer shirt on, Loo-tenant," the man laughed in a low tone, still reclining against the
wall of the turbolift.
Before Malcolm could say anything to that, there was another burst of laughter, this time
from up on top of the lift. "Hey Nick, we got Lieutenant Reed trapped down there," the woman remarked, sounding surprisingly
audible through the layers of metal synthetics. "Sure you don't want to keep it that way?"
'Nick' laughed as well. "Depends who's with him," he told her. "I'd hate to put them through
anymore unnecessary suffering!" Both of them laughed again.
While Malcolm scowled at the closed hatch, his companion had risen to his feet and now had
his neck craned up as well. "Anytime today would be good," he said clearly.
"Aye sir," Nick called back. "Be right with you."
The man turned back to Malcolm. "Sorry 'bout that," he said, sounding at least as if he was
trying to be sincere, although he looked anything but. "Just can't get the staff these days."
Malcolm shot him a humourless half-grin, just as the hatch above them began to crank apart
very slowly, and after a few seconds the woman poked her head through the reasonably-sized opening. "Gentlemen," she said
cheerfully. "Haven't had too long to wait, I hope."
Malcolm's companion shook his head. "Think I lost track o' the time," he replied nonchalantly,
rubbing the back of his neck with one hand. "Any chance of us gettin' outta here now?"
"You're the boss." The woman's head disappeared, and a few seconds later a rope ladder dropped
down through the hole she had left behind. "One at a time," she trilled from her position.
Malcolm looked at the other man. "You first," he offered.
The stranger nodded and swiftly began to climb up the ladder with ease. When he had completely
vanished out of sight, Malcolm followed him up, grunting with annoyance when a breeze blew down through the opening, causing
the ladder to sway uncontrollably from side to side. When he finally did emerge out of the turbolift, both Nick and his anonymous
companion had vanished.
"Up there," the woman told him shortly, pulling the rest of the ladder back up through the
hatch. Looking to where she had pointed, Malcolm saw a thin metal ladder that led up the side of the lift shaft to the open
doors to the deck immediately above them.
By the time he had topped that ladder and had both feet on solid decking once again (which
was a most welcome feeling), Malcolm noticed both of the other men deep in some kind of conversation. After a minute or two
Nick picked up his toolbox and disappeared down some corridor.
"Nice talkin' with ya, Loo-tenant." The man offered Malcolm his hand, who after a second's
deliberation shook it, if with a little less enthusiasm.
"Likewise," Malcolm replied.
"Reed, wasn't it?"
"Okay. Sleep well, Mister Reed." The man grinned at him, and then made as if to leave as
well and just before he actually disappeared out of sight, Malcolm could have sworn that he heard him say to himself, "Can't
be worse than Kate... he can't be..."