Posted Feb. 16, 2020, 12:24 p.m. by Lieutenant Celina Rodriguez (Chief Tactical Officer) (Kate O'Neill)
Shuttle on route to Deltana V
Celina walked into the cockpit of the almost derelict shuttle Jack was piloting to their destination. One look at the craft and she had no desire to race Jack to the cockpit. It had nothing to do with pride or competitiveness. It was pure survival. The engine made, what could only be described as a backfire, which was impossible because it was not a combustion engine. Half the seals seemed to be held together with duct tape and the others looked ready to blow any second. A variety of passengers filled the back along with cargo such as chickens and other small livestock. It felt more like they were fleeing an oppressor than going on vacation. Gripping the co-pilot seat, Celina sat down next to Jack. “Is this thing supposed to vibrate like this? Do you have the inertia dampeners off for fun,” she asked activating the safety restraint for good measure.
Lt. Celina Rodriguez CTO
“I am experimenting with an idea, if I make it vibrate just right for you it’ll get you in such a good mood you will be more submissive and do what I say for once.” he said looking over at her with a small wink as he reached over taking her hand as he kissed the back of it.
“Eyyyyyeee know mah knee is tight buuuuh can we nah skip on duh dis count mah sauge,” Celina pressed back hard into the seat so that the vibrations amplified even more obviously in her speech. “I prah mus to lis in iffa you get me uh per son to do dis,” she added breaking out in a fit of laughter. Strapped to the chair, Celina decided to get silly. “I am your fah ther Luke,” she said letting the vibrations create a deeper tone to her voice.
Unbuckling the strap, Celina sat up so that the chair no longer affected her voice. Getting a sly smile, she looked over her shoulder to make sure everyone was out of earshot. “Reminds me of the night at the Golden Flamingo where we were on that stakeout,” she broke into a bout of laughter. No one had to watch their mark that night. paper-thin walls and crazy bed with red sheets were the only warning system she and Jack needed to know when Ivan the Enforcer was ready to go out on another mission. “How many movies did we watch waiting for him to come out of that room and make the weapons deal. Maybe I am a little dog because this chair,” she hooked a thumb back, “has me wanting to go sit in the back with the free, love hippy dippys in cargo after one minute.” Moving to the edge of the seat, Celina reviewed the course set on the console.
“I seem to recall we also lost the perp cause you… can be very distracting my love.”
“Do you think there is really anything to this? I mean… this is Cesar we are talking about. Are we just going to show up at a planet and sip fruity drinks by a beach?” Jack asked, he was doing this purely cause of family, but he couldn’t deny he didn’t feel there was going to be much to this.
“Well based on probability we have a fifty percent chance of having this blow up horribly in our face and need to call for a marine extraction before facing a court marshall for something we never saw coming. You do still have those contacts in spy contacts?” Celina wore a smile. The times of spies and lies were over for them. Jack swore he was out after the job nearly killed him. So her comment was purely meant for humor. “The other fifty percent is that we will be on a beach sipping Mai Tai’s and watching a sunset as Cesar runs around doing whatever he is going to do. What I do know,” she stopped looking at the screen as she spoke, “is that we have a 100% chance of being together and that is all I ever want and the only thing that makes me happy.”
“Well aren’t you a cute little puppy, optimistic too. Somehow I feel like this is going to end far badly… I got a bad feeling about all this.” Jack said, the last line somewhat a throw back to their favorite movie, but he truly was worried to an extent. Cesar was a good guy but he made a lot of really dumb choices.
His sister always encouraged him to be more open, her influence helped him after their parents death but Orion had been a time he learned to open and trust more than anytime. Whatever his sister began, Celina finished for Jack. Her love and companionship helped him in a time that could have been much darker for him. He owed her everything in many ways, and would spend two lifetimes repaying her.
“So put on your big boy panties and make sure we are in the 100% probability where we are sipping Mai Tai’s. I don’t care if you need to stun or deck or tie someone to a tree,” she wore a serious expression but her mouth was fighting a smile. “I want my sunset, Jack. You will give me my sunset.” Celina winked at him.
“You are assuming this place has sunsets, for all we know it could be some world with only like 2 hours of sun and we are in dark the rest of the time.”
A series of beeps on the console indicated the ship was approaching Deltana V. “You need help landing this or should I make sure the free lovers back there have their goats secured in cargo,” she asked him.
Lt. Celina Rodrguez CTO
“I got this, just be careful… I love you moosh.” he said as he pulled her close and gave her a kiss before letting her go in the back to check on everything as he began to make the decent.
As the shuttle doors opened the heat, humidity, and scent of salt water filled the compartment. If the view outside of the landing ramp bore porters in white shorts with colorful shirts, Celina might have let out a sigh of happiness. Instead, her breath was caught in her lungs as she looked around at what some people might mistake for a location of a stranded shuttlecraft. The landing port was nothing more that hardpan with no concrete or asphalt anywhere to be seen. There were two buildings on what was being considered a spaceport. One said customs which had someone in a straw hat seated out front sipping what could only be an alcoholic beverage. The other building has a sign with hand-printed letters stating Supplies.
As Celina stood on the ramp desperately trying to find a way to put a positive spin on this, the passengers streamed off the shuttle, with livestock in tow, as if this was exactly where they wanted to be. Oh my god Jack is going to kill me, she thought letting her eyes survey the landscape.
“Isn’t it perfect,” Cesar spoke with obvious elation to his voice.
“For a crash site,” she came back immediately in response to her brother’s question. “Cesar tell me this is not the place?”
“This is the place,” Cesar wrapped his arm around his sister giving her a rough side hug. “I am meeting Joaquin and Fred in about an hour so why don’t you and Jack take in the sites. Have a little fun,” he elbowed his sister giving her a wink before he started heading down the ramp.
“Doing what? Getting some local waterborne virus. Cesar…Cesar,” Celina yelled moving more to a whisper which each word instead of increasing her volume. The last thing she wanted Jack to know was how much she thought this was a bad idea.
Lt. Celina Rodriguez CTO
As Jack exited he looked around as he let his eyes take in everything. Somehow this was everything he expected, and feared all at once. “Cesar… you do know I have killed a lot of people, like… at over 30 confirmed? It’s possible even low hundreds for unconfirmed, high grade explosives and gun fights can often make it hard to track who killed who…” Jack said as he looked over at his future brother in law. “I just want you to know, I know how to make certain kills can never be confirmed… it’s not that hard to hide bodies in deep space…” he said as his eyes narrowed as he looked Cesar up and down. “So… for your sake, this better get a lot better a lot faster.”
“Jack, it’s me,” Cesar spread his hands out to the side as he walked off the ramp backward with a grin. “When have I steered you wrong?” His pace was as steady and easy-going as his smile. Cesar’s expression belied nothing but calm confidence.
Celina at this second could not be made but only concerned. “Ces,” she held up a finger. Her expression was more worried with a crease forming over her brow as her mind played out all the variations this situation could encounter.
“Lina I got this. I told mama that I would take,” he smiled and extended his hand to her as if in promise. It was the gesture that said ‘dont worry I got this and you. Unfortunately, that was not going to be the case.
“Wait! Wah,” she started to point but before she could finish the thought Cesar kept talking over it happened as her brother droned on and on.
“care of youuuuuuuuu,” Cesar drew out the last word as his easy steady gait carried him easily and steadily off the side of the landing ramp rather than the end. Celina cringed and brought her fist up to her mouth to stifle any words that might want to spill from her lips. Her eyes had closed not needing to see her brother go ass over tea kettles onto the sandy surface.
“He fell didn’t he,” she asked Jack for confirmation not needing to see what was playing out in her imagination.
“I’m okay,” Cesar popped up like a deranged gopher next to the ship as Jack and Celina also began to disembark the shuttle. “I’m okay. Jack, you need to get maintenance to look at the shuttle ramp. I think there was some grease or oil,” his voice trailed off as Cesar brushed loose bits of debris from his clothes.
“Are you sure you are okay,” Celina asked approaching her brother who had now moved to the spot he should have been if Cesar walked down the ramp like a normal person.
“Yes, I am perfect. Now, why don’t you and Jack go to the spaceports lounge and get a drink one me,” Cesar dug into his pocket and then began checking all his other pockets for credits to fulfill his suggestion to Celina? Soon realizing he didn’t have a credit on him Cesar leaned over towards Jack. “Help your brother out. I will get you the credits back when I find an automated credit machine,” he clapped Jack on the back in a reassuring manner.
“Spaceport lounge? You mean that building over there,” Celina hooked a thumb over her shoulder to the dilapidated building with huge rust stains along its exterior. Palm fronds hung half on and half off the roof giving the structure the aura of some castaway shelter built out of spit and desperation. “The one that looks like you could get tetanus and die from poisoning all in one afternoon?”
“Don’t be so judgy. You know the best places to eat are out of the way diner. Get us a coupla drinks and maybe an appetizer sampler,” Cesar chastized his sister as he began to walk away.
“I am going to go get some transportation so stay put,” Cesar said over his shoulder.
Lt Celina Rodriquez
“I’m not judgy… I just don’t like to eat something that fights me as I try to swallow it. It’s a simple request… and I seen you throw up trying to eat calamari so don’t act like you want super exotic either.” Jack quipped to Cesar as he shook his head as he watched Celina move away.
Celina let out a laugh and lit a mental candle for later at church for being so blessed have Jack accept her crazy mixed up family like he did.
“We just need to get settled, finish this up… and bolt. No need being here longer than we need… I don’t want a repeat of your trip to Yahni II, Klingon pleasure planet my ass… they tried to sell Celina and want to experiment on us.”
“Yes but I looked good in that outfit and how does one learn anything unless they start to experiment,” she handed him a local lukewarm brew as she slapped his butt. Hopping onto a barrel, she let her feet dangle in small circles. The soft breeze stirred her hair so it had a beachy quality to it. She was as relaxed as if she were sitting in a five-star resort on Risa instead of a backwater world with dust for a landing pad and the need for medical prophylactics to protect from food poisoning.
“Experimenting can be fun…” he said with a small smirk as he took the drink as he sipped it, instantly spitting it out as he looked at her. “Is this even a real drink? Did they give us the mop water?”
“It’s salt water because I got us dirty martinis heavy on the extra dirty,” she struggled to get down her sip. Jack was right. The drink was sub standard but would probably knock them on thier butt.
“You know this place isn’t so bad,” she nudged his side with her shoulder making Jack bobble a bit. “I mean we are here. The weather is perfect. They have a beach. I don’t have a swimsuit. Hmm what is a girl to do,” she mused in a questioning tone with a sly smile. “Any ideas XO?”
“I think you are gonna keep your clothes on while passersby are here,” he said as he stuck his tongue out at her as he couldn’t help but feel a smirk on his face.
“I wasn’t planning on here baby,” she sipped her drink slowly using the straw. “I am sure with a desolate as this place is being the spaceport there has to be a cove somewhere that’s a bit more reclusive. We could do a little role play. I could be Seraphina the mermaid and you the dashing prince whose heart I have to steal. We could be a regular Disney movie with a talking fish and crab that you ultimately make into a fabulous New England Boil,” she broke out hysterically laughing. The absurdity of the fantasy she just created matched the absurdity of this place being a resort.
“Fine, this isn’t as bad as I thought.”
“Might I suggest a room for the evening,” a Barzan asked appearing from around the corner of the building they were waiting in front of. Barzan were easy to spot with the breathing apparatus attached to their jaw supplying them with the toxins their body needed to breathe off their homeworld. The woman was dressed in a long muslin white robe with a small green turtle embroidered on the stand-up collar.
“Yes please, two rooms…” Ardashir said as he looked over at Cesar. “You can be on your own,” he said as he was in no way going to share a room. He was going to enjoy what little time he could with Celina.
“No problem,” Cesar spread his hands outward as he spoke in a relaxed gesture like he was pushing his problems away.
“Excellent. If you and the Mrs. would follow me please I will lead you to the commune,” the man gestured broadly in a direction. “I will send someone back for you friend later.” It might have been the booze but this guy seemed way too nice. Not like evenly genius nice but more smoking the old peace pipe nice.
Turning back to Cesar Jack eyed him with a harsh look as he began to do the I am watching sign with his two fingers. “You, stay, put. Don’t wander… you understand?” Jack said as he got up and began following Celina with the guy.
Taking Jack’s hand in hers,” Celina moved in the indicated direction. Following the path, the man indicated she came to an abrupt stop seeing their form of transportation. Instead of an actual vehicle was a large ostrich type bird. It was much larger than anything Celina had seen in a zoo standing almost two feet over Jack. It’s back was wide and flat with a saddle strapped to it. Sparing the briefest glance at Jack Celina licked her lips not sure what to say.
“Do not worry Missus. He is tame and his wings have been clipped so he can not fly away. I assure you he is safe and far more sure footed that a donkey or mule,” the man stride next to a mount gesturing Celina over.
“Oh…okay,” she replied fighting the urge to run back to the shuttle and wait there for her brother’s return. It was going to take a lot more role play than this to make Jack forgive her for pulling him on this adventure. Moving next to her avian transport, Celina put her foot into a stirrup.
“You sure they are tame? They all look like they have key lime disease…” Jack said with a bit of trepidation as he began to mount the creature feeling a bit of uncertainty as he fond himself firm on its feathery back.
Celina lifted her foot to slip on like Jack only the action was nothing like Jack. Her bird decided it was time to venture forward without its rider. A hop step forward meant Celina had to hop step forward. Groaning she caught her balance and attempted it only to have the mount hop step once again throwing off her rhythm. “Ugh stand still or I swear I will introduce you to Colonel Sanders,” she growled at the bird. His head swiveled pointing to black beady soulless eyes her way.
Punching off the ground a third time did the trick. She was now on her mount. Looking over at Jack she rolled her eyes. “Don’t say it Creed. When is the last time you saw a Puerto Rican on a six foot tall pigeon We are not a desert people like you.”
“I don’t know, I think it might suit you. It’s just like riding a very feathery horse… it’s more afraid of you than you are of it…” Jack said as he gently patted his bird on the side as it made a soft cooing sound.
“Its just because yours is a girl,” she rolled her eyes at Jack looking at the dewey eyed bird looking up at Jack. It was a look that she was used to seeing from just about any female of any species. She couldn’t refute it though. Jack had a way of turning his dark eyes onto you and making you turn into a puddle. With his ostrich it seemed to be more of the patting that gave the creature a dopey happy look right now.
“Besides, these people wouldn’t use them as animals to ride if they didn’t tame them. No one wants to ride the animal that is gonna eat you.” Jack countered as he began to learn to have the animal trot, though not in the direction he seemed to want to go.
“Ever see Alfred Hitchcock. I think it is more the pecking to death than eating we have to be concerned about hero,” she gestured down at her animal.
“No… no… the other way… the other way.” he said as he tried to get the reigns to move the bird but it seemed determined to trot near the food trow as it began to eat as a loud sigh could be heard from Jack. “I wonder what they taste like with 11 herbs and spices…”
Celina let out a small laugh seeing Jack struggle with his mount. The creature had obviously found something far more interesting buried in the dirt. Luckily Jack had really good balance as the creature seemed to be hopping back and forth using one leg and then the other to scratch at a patch of ground. If Jack didn’t have good balance he would have been tossed off after the first hop. Instead Jack was starting to resemble a cowboy on a feathery bronco. “You need to pull back. Pull back,” the guide spoke and mimed what Jack needed to do in order to get his mount under control. “No…no like this,” he said exaggerating his motions so that the guide looked like he was about to fly off the mount the way he was flapping his arms.
“Like this baby,” Celina could not help but poke fun at Creed as his mount seemed more intent pecking the ground than responding to the Creed’s command. She imitated the guide as she barely controlled her laughter. Jack was doing exactly as one would expect someone should do to control an animal they were riding on. His animal all of a sudden seemed to have developed a stubborn streak. The fact this was a bird and not at horse was just escalating the comedy factor because instead of making it raise its head, Jack’s actions was making it turn in a tight circle as it continued to dig. “You are not doing it right.”
“Yes yes she is correct,” the guide said pointing to Celina in a slightly encouraging tone. “You do it like this. This,” he imitated the exact gesture Creed was trying. “Show her who is in command. Make her see who is the boss. Give her a good tug on the reins. You need her head up,” the guide pointed to the ostrich like creature who was highly intent on digging some morsel of probably food out from the soft dirt mound she was poking at like a woodpecker. “If you must hit her on the rump as your pull back to get her attention,” the guide suggested. “Give her a good crack and then in a strong firm voice announce, “Ermaline obey me. Head up. Do as I say,” the guide’s slight accent made the words roll off his tongue like he was directing some bizarre Shakespearean play instead of guiding a this couple to the camp a few miles away.
“Oh god,” Celina could not stifle the laughing anymore clapping a hand over his mouth as tears formed in her eyes. She would have sold her soul for a recording device right now. Seeing Jack fighting with an over sized chicken hell bent on finishing its lunch paired with the polar opposite advice of the guide was almost more that she could take.
“Deep voice,” the guide rolled his hand out in front of him as if demonstrating what he needed Jack to do. “With me..Ermaline obey me. Try it as your pull. Ermaline,”
“I’m sorry,” Celina began to apologize as tears of laughter rolled down her cheeks. “I wish I was a better person but I am not.” Laughing was wrong but everything so far about today was like a bizarre dream. She would be without a brother after this trip. Jack would kill Cesar but in this moment, she realized why she loved him so much. Jack would do anything in the universe for her including battling a seven foot chicken.
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