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Earth to Bellwether Aboard the Orange Marmalade Express

Posted on Sun Jan 30th, 2022 @ 2:11pm by Senior Chief Petty Officer Fordyce Kirschler

735 words; about a 4 minute read

Mission: Ninety-Nine Bottles of Swill
Location: SS Orange Marmalade

It had been a real struggle paring down "necessities" to bring on the voyage to RS-97 just due to the sheer volume of his possessions. (He was a man who liked things, someone who enjoyed the beauty of objects not churned out by an industrial replicator.) But the situation was further complicated twice over.

First, the allotment of personal space aboard the relay station sounded little more than a fraction of a fraction of a storage closet. That made sense given the station itself was hardly more than a storage closet, at least as far as celestial objects went.

Second, the nature of his transport had its own special limitations: the SS Orange Marmalade, a civilian freighter under contract with Starfleet Medical, was carrying what seemed like a nebula's worth of neurozine to facilities along the Breen border. It was delicate cargo with many considerations needing to be made for safe transport and navigation, which the Vulcan skipper had been certain to mention while interrogating him over the measurements of his belongings.

Ford had made a joke asking if they were in some kind of freighter competition over matter-antimatter fuel efficiency, but it had fallen on pointy deaf ears. He'd gotten a chuckle out of the Bolian second officer, though. And he'd been more willing to engage with Ford, taking him up on the man's offer to look into minor problems with several of the ship's subsystems. It was busywork for a seasoned engineer, but he needed busywork when their cruising speed was a blazing warp five-point-six.

He could have taken a shuttle and made it to RS-97 in half the time - he'd even requested as much - but Starfleet had him saddled like a pack mule with supplies for the relay station. He suspected that was the real reason the captain didn't care for him - a last minute addition to the manifest with enough baggage to require navigational recalculations and cargo realignment.

He spent his days realigning slightly misaligned waveguides and cleaning plasma conduits. He'd promised himself he'd spend his evenings refamiliarizing himself with subspace communication protocols and the aging equipment aboard the relay station… And to his credit that lasted about three nights, but he soon caught wind of a fizzbin tournament in one of the cargo holds, which led to an endless tongo game that took the better part of a week and saw him relieved of a few of the prized possessions he'd fretted over bringing.

Ford was back at the tongo wheel again trying to climb back out of the hole when the voice of the Bolian second officer came over the comm.

"Kirschler? We're coming up on visual range of Bellwether if you want to take a look on a monitor. We'll be in transporter range in about two hours, and you-know-who is looking to make a quick turnaround…"

The rest went unspoken: the captain's slowing us down just enough to fling you and your crap onto that floating commbadge before blasting off toward our first real port-of-call, so you'd better start packing now.

Ford looked down at his tongo hand then looked at the table and then back to his own cards. The best he could pull off would be a minor consortium, and he was pretty sure the heavy breathing coming from his left was the tell of a Tellarite with something close to a full monopoly.

"Retreat," he said, tossing his cards onto the table and taking the single strip of gold-pressed latinum the dealer flipped his direction. He grunted as he stood up from the table - his body's way of letting him know he'd been in one position too long for his age - and headed for the cargo bay door. "All right, Mott. Appreciate the head's up."

On the way back to his bunk he'd taken a look at the relay station on a monitor long enough to confirm that it looked just like he (vaguely) remembered, little bigger than the strip of latinum between his thumb and forefinger. A minor wave of claustrophobia washed over him for some reason, but he shook it off as he made his way down the corridor.

Six people. One station. Floating in nothingness on the fringes of a nebula.

God help me, I hope somebody at least knows how to play tongo.


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