An underwater base, millions of light years from home.
It all seemed a bit fantastical to Dreana as she gazed out into the ocean, what she could see of it anyway.
She had been reassigned here following the decomissioning of the starship Aurora. She hadn’t received any further details about her new assignment, so she assumed that it would be finalised during her journey and after her arrival.
Dreana stepped into Admiral Kain’s outer office. A young woman manning the desk there looked up.
“May I help you?” she asked.
“Commander MacArthur to see Vice Admiral Kain,” Dreana stated with a polite smile to the aide.
“One moment, I’ll see if she’s available.” She activated the intercom to the inner office.
“Admiral, Commander MacArthur is here to see you.”
“All right, send her in Viv,” came the reply.
“Go on ahead, Commander,” Viv said, looking up and nodding.
Dreana made her way into the room, and stood at attention before her new superior, Vice Admiral Marsa Kain.
“Commander MacArthur, reporting as ordered, Admiral.”
“Welcome, Commander. Please take a seat,” Marsa said after shaking hands with Dreana.
Dreana took the offered chair and gazed across the desk at Marsa.
Marsa reviewed the personnel jacket in front of her. Dreana had done very well in numerous battles during her tour on the Aurora. The fact that she had survived physically intact was nothing short of remarkable. Mentally, Marsa was sure that she would have an experienced attitude towards battle that was precisely what they needed.
“I can tell that you’re anxious to know why you’re here.” Marsa gazed back at Dreana with dark, expressive eyes. “Rest assured, I will answer all your questions.”
Dreana was aware, of course, that Marsa Kain was telepathic. Such abilities were governed by a code of conduct to protect privacy, although strong emotions made it difficult for telepaths to block out associated thoughts.
So as they chatted, Dreana tried not to let her mind wander or her excitement get the better of her. “Yes, I am a little intrigued.”
“Your service over the past decade has been invaluable. It is reflected by your many commendations.” Marsa continued reading and noted to herself that Dreana wasn’t married or otherwise entangled. She looked up and gave a sly grin. “You’re exactly what I… sorry, what we need.”
Dreana’s heart seemed to skip a beat, as she was drawn unexpectedly by Marsa’s charm. Despite her intention not to let her thoughts wander, for a moment she daydreamed of undressing the admiral, and more. Shit.
“Sir?” she prompted, trying to steer the conversation towards why she was here.
Marsa gave her a wink and an amused grin. “Truly, you are blessed with a vivid imagination. I hope you put it to good use, Commander.”
Dreana didn’t know what to say to that, but as Marsa looked intently at her she would guess that she was returning the favour.
Finally, Marsa stopped grinning and got to the point. “A new task force is being formed here in the Pegasus Sector, and you’re part of it,” she explained.
“Since we’re not the only people out here with ships, you can fully expect to run into trouble with all sorts on your assignment. Our official position is that we don’t want to engage in open warfare, and we want to maintain good diplomatic relations with the native populations that out here without interefering too much in their affairs.”
Marsa paused for effect. “The flagship, Sapphire, is a new class of explorer, designed to survey systems that have only been probed at long range, but with the teeth to survive out on the frontier. She doesn’t yet have a Commanding Officer. That’s why I called you here.”
Dreana looked bewildered as the implication of the last sentence hit her. “Me?” She was stunned almost to the point of speechlessness. Her own command, already?
“Thank you, sir!”
“Not only that, but I hereby promote you to Captain, with all the privileges and responsibilities of that rank.” Marsa smiled at Dreana. “How does it feel, Captain, to have your own ship?”
“I may need a moment to pinch myself.”
“Mm, no doubt,” Marsa commented, entertaining a brief fantasy of pinching a naked Dreana and listening to her moan.
“The Sapphire is in space dock at the moment. The engineers are just putting the finishing touches on the outer hull. She will serve you well, Captain.” Marsa had made an unannounced visit to space dock in her civvies the day before and had been very impressed with the ship.
“In the meantime, Admiral Blaine has expressed a wish to speak with the captain of his flagship, so I suggest doing that soon.”
Dreana stood, at attention once more. “Thank you Admiral Kain. May I be dismissed?”
Marsa stood, stepped around the desk, and gave Dreana a congratulatory handshake. “Good luck, Captain. I… I hope to see you again soon.”
Dreana stood there hesitantly, gazing into those dark brown eyes.
Marsa smiled, tapping her foot in feigned impatience. “Or if you’re not in any hurry you could kiss me, I know you’re dying to, and I don’t mind.”
“But I only just met you. And it would be… improper.” Dreana blushed at the admiral’s forward suggestion.
“When two people on my world feel a connection as intense as this, we don’t run and hide from it,” Marsa explained, leaning close and holding Dreana at the waist. “Is your mind so rooted in your human upbringing that you won’t kiss a beautiful woman who feels the same way you do?”
“I didn’t say I wouldn’t.” Dreana leaned in and pressed her lips to Marsa’s, abandoning reason in the face of passion.
“Admiral, Dr. Prince is here to see you,” Viv chimed in over the intercom.
“Sorry, duty calls,” Marsa said with an apologetic smile as she broke the embrace. She returned to her desk and thumbed the intercom.
“All right, send her in Viv. Captain MacArthur was just saying her farewells,” she answered, silently blowing a kiss to Dreana.
Dreana raised her hand to catch it and smiled. “See you again soon, Admiral.”
She left the inner office with a spring in her step, passing Dr. Prince, who was the Admiral’s next appointment. From what Dreana recalled, Elaine Prince was an accomplished surgeon who had signed on with the Expeditionary Fleet more than a decade ago to see more of the galaxy. Now she was here in the Pegasus Sector, so far away from home and her humble beginnings.
On her way to see Admiral Blaine, she thought about what Marsa had said. As much as she hated to admit it, Dreana had found that climbing the career ladder meant fewer opportunities to connect with anyone; leadership required her to set a good example to the rest of the crew. She knew what it meant to have to hide her feelings and never act on them, no matter how much her heart ached.
So it was little wonder that she felt dazed by the encounter in Kain’s office. They had both wanted it – no, craved was perhaps a better word for it. If it hadn’t been for Marsa’s busy schedule, they might have taken things further than one kiss.
She almost wished she hadn’t gone through with it, because she knew now it would be difficult not to think about Marsa’s lips pressing against her own. She didn’t think she could forget that faint taste of peppermint, or the tangy fragrance of passion fruit and vanilla. Nor would she clear from her mind the wonderful feeling of being held by someone who wanted her.
Dreana shook her head, trying to dispel such thoughts as she entered the office of Admiral Blaine and spoke to his aide.
“Admiral Blaine has been expecting you, Captain. Unfortunately he’s tied up in an important meeting right now so he’s arranged a special tour of the Sapphire for you.”
“A special tour?” Dreana echoed.
“Yes, he pulled a few strings and got the project’s lead designer in to give the tour. It’s not often you get the chance to rub shoulders with Admiral K’tena!”
“Uh, no I suppose not.” K’tena had retired from the fleet several years back but couldn’t stay away for long. At present she was a civilian consultant working for the department she used to run.
“I was hoping for a little more enthusiasm than that.” Traci K’tena stood in the entrance to the inner office, looking as lean and toned as her days in service. The years had undoubtedly been good to her, and that comfortable jumpsuit didn’t hurt either.
“It’s an honour to meet you, ma’am,” Dreana said.