Location: In orbit of Jutus
Speed: Standard Orbit
Shields: Nominal
Hull: Nominal
Systems: All Systems Nominal

Bridging The Gap
Episode 11 - Family Matters
Stardate 73834.3
MD005 0900 hrs

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Tickling the Ivories

Posted on Sun Jan 13th, 2019 @ 9:56pm by Captain Cornelius Tremble
Edited on on Mon Feb 4th, 2019 @ 1:32pm

Mission: Episode 5 - It Would Be Their Pleasure
Location: Casperia Prime - Various locations
Timeline: MD011 2000 hrs

He ached. It wasn’t a bad thing, it served as a reminder that he was alive. That everything was right in the here and now. Given some of his dreams over the days leading up to the mission, Neil had begun to wonder at times.

But pain was real and he was into real. His mind wandered to Larta again and he wondered about that. He was attracted to her, he could be honest about that. But it was far from a wise course to follow.

Her relating that she was half Klingon had peaked his curiosity, which had caused him to take another look at her during their holo-call and he’d felt himself drawn to her physical beauty.

And she fought well. She was obviously a well trained and practiced fighter. Neil could pick apart his attraction to her, but the sheer fact that she was part Klingon and identified as such gave him pause.

He had studied the Klingons. The Corp held enemy familiarization courses. Through the years, Neil had even taught a few. They were an honorable, but fickle species; living with their passions on their sleeves. And they were unpredictable.

Once showered, he wrapped a towel around his waist and wandered to the view port, looking down over Casper Prime. The Pioneer was holding a high orbit and the atmosphere was clear.

Shore leave held an appeal. The last planet he’d felt under him had tried to scald his lungs with acid, not to mention the rest of it.

He’d toyed with the idea of pulling a BBQ together: everyone involved in the mission had earned it, but most had applied for and been granted leave as soon as they had returned.

Even with the bruising and bone weariness he was feeling, his mind wouldn’t shut down. He activated a wall screen bringing up tourist options and felt even more tired. Relaxing wasn’t exactly something he knew how to do.

He was well aware that he was a cliche.

Neil toyed with the idea of putting a camping kit together and heading to the surface. Or maybe doing some surfing: but the flash of his insignia caused him to reconsider. He was supposed to be an officer now, not that that changed time off, but should he change his socialization habits?

With that thought in mind, he browsed the selections and then something caught his eye. An evening of music from a variety of species was being held with champaign and canape… It described a semi-social setting.

He noted the dress code and then touched the screen, adding a reservation, then turned to his closet and began climbing into a uniform.

Twenty minutes later he was on the surface of Casperia Prime walking steadily into a garden area. It was built in the center of a maze, which raised steadily to a water feature with many small bridges and trees. A crowd was gathered about while a pianist who was played pieces from different species, structured to fit the instrument and strung together in a display of musicianship that was impressive.

The pianist, a dark heard woman, was even more impressive and Neil could only compare her situation to his own, in a small way. If the music wasn’t so extraordinary, you might be more distracted by the pianist.

Neal noticed more than a few people glancing at him and he had to grin. He’d chosen summer mess dress: white, including visored cover to make a statement. This was a pleasure/resort planet and beings needed to be reminded that there were dangerous things out there.

The other reason was that people tended to see the uniform and not remark much about the person wearing it. With his face in the shape that it was, he didn’t need to be stared at for that: and the questions that would likely go with it.

He accepted a flute of champaign from a passing waiter and found a spot on one of the bridges near the pianist where he could listen. The pianist was mechanically perfect and artistically gifted, adding flourishes up and down the piece which was particularly impressive.

Another passing waiter stopped with some canapé’s and he snacked on those. He’d read, in his New Officer’s Primer, that enjoying one’s food, or at least giving the appearance of such ensured that you did not offend the hosts.

Neil had chosen to attend this gathering for the music, but it didn’t hurt to practice for when it mattered. The food actually did taste good: butter poached crab with caviar and dill on a herbed bit of toast was his favorite so far. It meshed well with the champaign.

Oddly, so did the simple potato chips the waiters had sat around.

As the evening progressed, he spoke with a few people but none stayed too long before the bling from his uniform faded and the beating evidenced on his face caused some shock.

His sense of humor didn’t help.

One leggy blonde wearing a mostly there blue dress asked him what had happened and he had told her that regular beatings were a requirement of the Corp.

A couple of Andorian’s proved more troublesome: he had to blatantly tell them he was not interested in comparing scars, but was always in the mood to give more. The female seemed to take that as a challenge and Neil caught a glare from the male as he drug her away.

At some point, the pianist changed to string quartet and his interest wained. Neil soon found himself speaking with a small group of tourists and he forced himself to answer some questions about the corp until they seemed to tire of his novelty and the mob swirled away from him and he turned to lean on the bridge railing he’d been using as a backrest and sighed. It was nice to be on a planet again without someone shooting at him. Then a light voice came from behind him.

“You have a slow leak there, Marine?” Neal grinned despite himself and saw a diminutive, raven haired woman he recognized as the pianist. Studying her, he decided she was near his age, but svelt. She was wearing a black body wrap from left heal to right finger tips which showed off her figure. Close up to her now, he could see that she wore makeup, not mask, that reminded him of those worn at mardi-gra.

“Not so much, miss. Just debating on life changes, fine music, and how the latter adjusts to the former,” he told her.

“Well of course it does, sculpting music to attract the emotionally drifting is our bread and butter.” She held a hand out to him then, “I’m Camille, by the way. But my friends call me Camy.”

Neal took her hand and shook it slightly awkwardly, wondering if she expected him to kiss it. Instead, he tried to stay with humor, “I’m Cornelius, or Neal.” He told her, “Most of my friends call me Lieutenant.”

She cocked her head at that, smiling, but told him. “Now that’s just sad, Neal. That tells me you work with most of your friends and keep them at an arms length.”

He wasn’t quite sure what to say at that and she smiled again, “No charge for the head shrinkage,” then she moved up beside him and looked into the sluggishly moving waters, littered with flower petals. “I am glad you liked my music, I saw you while I was playing.”

Neil turned his head toward her at that, “That was an amazing piece. I’m surprised you saw me with as complicated as it was.”

She laughed a full throated laugh at that. “Dressed like that, who could miss you?”

His laughter mingled with hers and she told him, “My obligation here is done: I was going to head to a small piano bar I know and relax for the evening. Want to join me?”

She as curious of course. Curious about the Corp. Curious about why he was a marine. Why there were marines and why he stayed doing what he did.

She took him to a little place, called Ivories. It had rich dark wood and burgundy leather furniture, while a battered baby grand sat center stage. Couples sat side by side in the booths and tables, indulging in each other and the cocktails provided.

She played a few more tunes, then turned the keyboard over to him as she retrieved snifters of brandy and a cigar from the bar while he fiddled with the keys. Cami had been pushing him once he admitted to playing a little.

It took a couple of drinks, but she eventually coaxed him into playing and singing Great Balls of Fire. Camila was delighted, even though it took a couple of false starts for him to find the right keys.

At one point she sat down next to him on the bench, as he got into the song and called out “Neil, ya big stud. Take me to bed or lose me forever!”

Neil nearly fell off the bench, and laughter echoed a bit as she pulled him to his feet. “I did a quick bit of research of your song and that comes from an old earth movie. I thought it appropriate!”

Then she kissed him, running fingers through his hair.

Minutes lather, they walked out into the moonlight and she half led him down a moonlit path. She told him that she was from Shandalar’s Colony, but had moved to Earth when she was seven. She was gifted and studied at all the good musical schools. Currently Cami was touring about, working where she wanted and seeing the galaxy.

Her small bungalow wasn’t overly far, but while they walked Neil caught movement in his peripheral. Neil froze then, one hand sliding around her, pushing her protectively behind him as he moved into a combat stance She tugged at his arm then, “Ignore them. It’s the locals hovering again. Just in case we wanted something.” She didn't seem as concerned as he was at the two humanoid shadows that were moving in the shadows.

“That’s... Odd,” he murmured to her. She tugged at his arm and he let himself be led as she laughed,“Don’t worry, I’ll protect you.” Her hands slid up his shoulders and she kissed him again. This kiss left them both breathing deeper and she took him by the hand again.

He looked into her eyes then and decided he might be getting getting jumpy in his old age and let her himself be led. Ten minutes later, they reached her bungalow and she was pulling him into through the door.

Neil still had shadows worrying at his mind until she said, “Alright Marine, come unwrap me.”

Then he did what any good marine would do. Follow orders.

Second Lieutenant Cornelius Tremble
Marine Commanding Officer, USS Pioneer


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