Captain’s Personal Log, Intergalactic Date 677061.20
Finally! Our janbots have arrived. I’ll be so glad not to clean my own toilet. As a bonus, it looks like we’ll be keeping Todd Ahndmor for a week or so as he runs them through their paces to make sure they’re fully operational. CleanSpace is working very hard to make up for one of their products taking my officer mind-hostage.
The new janbots had already been cleared by Union Fleet—by Lieutenant Donna LASTNAME’s team, in fact—but I’ve instructed my own computer security team to run their own tests. It can’t hurt to be extra careful, especially after the trouble we’ve had. If the fiery-tempered Donna wants to raise a fuss, I’ll let her cousin, Enigo, handle it.
Plus, it gives Lieutenant Doall a little more time with her fiancé and his family. I’ve granted her in-ship leave so she can make the most of it.
Commander Deary and Andrew Ahndmor have been thick as thieves since I introduced them. It’s something to see when two engineers who love their ships like children get together to swap stories. And speaking of love, it’s plenty obvious how much love there is in the Ahndmor family. Much as I respect my Pa, I don’t think I could have stood being under his command, but they are close as a crew and a family. And they already think the world of my ops officer. It warms my heart, especially knowing Ellie’s own prickly family situation.
‘Course, she has a family right here on the Impulsive, and tonight, we’re going to have a little shindig to honor her fiancé for his role in saving us.
The small mess had been converted to a party room for the first time since they’d hosted the crew of the Inconceivable before the experiment that nearly destroyed the universe. This time, the chef forewent serving a turkracken, but there was plenty of other food, plus beer and drinks of all kinds.
Ellie had changed into a cute little asymmetrical dress Misha had bought for her back on Rest Stop. She’d said the store owner had insisted Ellie would need it, and the impromptu engagement party was the perfect time.
The crew—her friends—cheered and toasted them and shared stories. Commander Smythe gave a droll and accurate description of Ellie’s and Todd’s reactions when, after having danced all night without learning each other’s names, they found themselves at the same briefing the next morning.
“This is why proper introductions are important,” he concluded for all.
Ensign Gel, the Globbal who was the only one immune to the space loonies, shared how, from dozens of light-years away, Todd had helped him and Ellie save the ship. He left out the most embarrassing parts but did play up the humor.
“…so the ship is getting colder and I’m freezing solid—literally!—and you people are chasing each other around with swords and reprogramming the computer to play games and doing I-didn’t-want-to-know-what-else. And these two are finishing each other’s sentences, making plans and counterplans, guiding me…and calling each other ‘Princess Elliebean’ and ‘Toddybear.’”
As the laughter died down, he raised his glass. “To Elliebean and Toddybear, may they save whatever ship they happen to be on!”
Someone demanded she explain her engagement ring, which had 42 citrine chips arranged in a cluster like a dandelion.
“Well, Janbot—my janbot, the one that used to clean my room—used to bring me dandelions. This is before it went crazy mind-controlling stalker. It worked in the arboretum before cleaning crew quarters, so it always brought me any it had picked.”
Todd took up the story. “That was actually our first indication that the janbots were moving past their programming. See, that janbot had changed its routine so that it had weeding duty immediately before going to clean crew quarters.”
“It was key to finding the vector of infection for the Cyber virus,” Ellie concluded. “Plus, I know—creepy stalker mind-control robot, but before all that, it really was sweet. I was actually going to miss those little flowers, so…” She held up her ring.
The “aww”s, both heartfelt and sarcastic, were interrupted by Commander Paolinelli on the bridge paging the Captain. Jeb and Phineas stepped away, indicating for the rest to carry on with the festivities. After all, that is why there are three shifts. The “A” team didn’t have to do everything.
While Todd’s brothers put him to task for being a sappy romantic and a nerd, Caroline took hold of Ellie’s hand to look more closely at the ring. “And the two of you designed it? It’s beautiful, and I love that there’s a story behind it. Those are the best.”
“Is there a story behind your ring?” Ellie asked. Caroline wore a simple gold band.
“Not their creation or even how we chose them, but Cal had them blessed by Pope Benedict VII before we got married.”
Captain Tiberius approached and excused himself for interrupting. “My apologies, but we’re going to have to cut this shindig short. There’s a ship in distress and we’re the closest to answer the call. I’m afraid, Caroline, we’ll need to send you on your way.”
“Of course, Captain. Should we take Todd with us as well?”
The captain’s eyes twitched toward Ellie, who did her best to look professional and not disappointed. He shook his head. “I don’t think that’ll be necessary. They’ve got engine trouble, is all. Not every ship is built as reliably as the Impulsive—or the Chotskey.”
She laughed. “Let me gather my crew, then. Boys!”
Ellie and Todd walked them to the shuttle bay. At the Knick, Todd’s mom hugged them both. “It was so good to meet you at last, sweetie. Thanks for escorting us down.”
“Yes, Todd,” Darmond said with comically strained enthusiasm. “Thank you for showing us the way!”
“Yes,” Andrew enthused, his eyes wide and blinking. “You’re our hero!”
Their mother huffed a longsuffering sigh, then spun them both around toward the shuttle. “In!”
They watched from the observation deck as the Knick left the bay and made its way back to the Chotskey. Todd turned to Ellie, smiling a smile she felt to her toes.
“May I escort you to your quarters?”
“Yes, thank you, my hero.” Then she giggled. “I think I missed having brothers.”
“Trust me. You didn’t miss much.” But there was warmth under the annoyed tone.
They spoke lightly about brothers, the party, and the stories people told about being under the influence of the Space Loonies. Other people were in the lazivator, so they contented themselves with sly glances as it took them to the officers’ deck. He followed her into her quarters.
She didn’t even bother with the lights but spun to meet his embrace. They kissed with the passion built up from a long separation followed by too long together in the company of others. His hands moved over her as they had that incredible first date. Oh, Keptar!
“You saved me,” she said as she pulled away to nibble his ears. “You saved us all.”
He kissed her bare shoulder. “I thought you were all going to die. And you were acting so… so…” He kissed her with reckless abandon, then pulled away to whisper in her ear. “I didn’t know whether to be terrified or turned on.”
“How about now?” she asked, and then there was no more talk…
…until a voice came over the intercom: “LaFuentes to Ahndmor.”
Todd sprang away from Ellie. “We were just kissing, I swear!”
There was a pause. “This ain’t a hands-check, man. We’ve cleared your janbots, and the Captain needs you to put them to work ASAP. Have Doall escort you to the janbot station.”
Ellie was already shaking her head in amused exasperation and heading to her bedroom to change into her uniform.
Todd spoke to the air, “Uh, yeah. Right. Er, copy. We’ll be right there.”
“Good—and Ahndmor? I said I’d break your face if you hurt her. Anything else is between the two of you.”
“But that brings up another issue, ‘cause we’re going to need your quarters for VIPs. You wanna bunk with your fiancé?”
Todd looked at the closed door behind which his very beautiful and very enticing fiancé was shedding clothes. He gulped hard. “I think it’s better if I don’t?”
“No prob. You can bunk with me. I’ll have someone move your stuff. LaFuentes out.”
“Oh, okay. Thanks. Ahndmor out.”
Ellie emerged, her make-up toned down to something more professional, and in her pantsuit uniform. She was just as beautiful, and he couldn’t help smiling.
“Ready to get to work?” she asked.
“With you? Anytime.”
You know, coming up with a stardate calendar is not an easy thing. I believe Star Trek did it by years, seasons, and episodes, but I’m not so fortunate. I tried to convert time to metric. Now, whenever I have a stardate, I have to sit and manually recalculate, referring to my chart and the stardates of the other adventures. As a result, I got caught by surprise at how few months Ellie and Todd have been together. I gave them a little extra time between this episode and Naked Impulse.