When last we met, the ship was in musical chaos thanks to a Cybersong virus, and a team of programmers from the Union had landed to help rid the Impulsive of this dangerous annoyance. Ellie has been assigned to be the liaison and had discovered that her former love interest and the woman who had made her tour on the Mary Sue hell were part of the team. Needless to say, she breaks into song.
Can it be? Can it be Raoul
My rival at his side?
Anxiety – Like on the Mary Sue
I want to run and hide!
I’ll suck it up, I’m not a buttercup.
I’ve been an officer too long!
And we must save the Impulsive
From this Cybersong.
As the violins swell to a touching, encouraging chorus over the speakers, Ellie squared her shoulders and strode toward the shuttle. Near some containers, a teleporter flash caught her eye, but it was just Chief Dour. He had just enough time to heave a sigh before the teleporter took him again. Ellie shrugged and continued on.
The team had opened the back and were bringing out equipment. Wrapped up in their setup and with their backs to her, they did not notice her approach.
They’re just jumping right in on their job, she told herself. That’s a good thing. Now, if I can start off without a sour note – literally and figuratively…
She waited until she was almost close enough to touch Raoul, then opened her mouth to sing a stirring welcome. Instead, she found herself saying, “Welcome to the Impulsive. I’m Ensign Doall…”
She stopped when the programmers cheered and high-fived each other. “Excuse me, but what’s going on?”
They turned smiling, triumphant faces toward her. Raoul’s immediately blanched when he saw her. Did he feel the same butterflies she did? If so, he quelled them quickly. “Ellie! It’s been so long.”
Her nemesis from the Mary Sue, Lieutenant Donna Perez, stepped between them. She was just tall enough to look down her nose at Ellie. “What’s going on is that we’ve taken the first successful step in ridding you of the Cybersong program. We’ve developed a dampening field, like a firewall, that neutralizes the virus. It also isolates us from the Impulsive sensors. If the Cybervirus is picking up cues to determine musical arrangements, it could use them for more nefarious purposes.”
Raoul spoke up, “Didn’t you feel a tickle when you crossed the field?”
“I’m…not sure.” Despite the motivational chorus and her own self-talk, she’d been trembling inside.
“Well, I’m sure some people will be more aware than others,” Lt. Perez said dismissively. “I asked for Lieutenant LaFuentes to meet us. Where is he?”
Am I still not good enough for you? Ellie thought, but aloud, she said, “I’m the Operations Officer. You’ll be working with me on this project.”
“Which doesn’t answer my question.”
Remembering anew why she’d rejoiced with Perez joined Union Fleet, Ellie countered, “Why do you need to see Lieutenant LaFuentes?”
Suddenly, the entire shuttle bay rang with a warm tenor.
Prima Donna! First cousin by my mom
Why are you here? Are you to cheer
Me or save us?
Please tell me true
That you’ve an…
At that moment, he crossed the threshold to the “firewall” around the shuttle and the song died in his throat.
“Whoa,” he whispered, then shouted a laugh. He picked her up and swing her around. “You are wikadas! A fracking genius! So, can you do it for the whole ship? I am so sick of singing.”
“Sorry. You and your guitar are on my team.” She looked at Ellie. “Make it happen, liaison.”
Ellie blinked. What was going on? “Why?”
Perez glared at her as if she were being stupid. Ellie remembered the look. “Did you major in musical performance at HuFleet Academy?” Donna asked.
Enigo groaned. “Man, I knew that would come back and bite me one day.”
Ellie gaped at her crewmate, the Chief of Security. The only time she’d ever seen him connect with anything musical was when he used Dread Oog rage metal to defeat the Cybers. “You majored in music? You play the guitar?” Her mind flashed back to when she’d seen him in Loreli’s room. Hadn’t there been a guitar in the room?
He responded, “Double major, and it was an easy A. What? Tough guys can’t be artistic?”
Perez did that flicking motion with her hand as if brushing away an annoyance. Somehow, that always made Ellie feel even more agitated. “We’ll deal with your misperceptions later. Enigo, mi primo querido, why don’t you take me to your captain?”
“I should -” Ellie started, but Enigo was already holding out his elbow to his cousin.
He told her, “No worries, Ensign. You stay here and get briefed on this amazing feat of theirs and how we make it work for the rest of the ship.”
Ellie was about to protest when she saw Raoul grin and shrug. A lock of hair fell over his eye. How many times had she brushed that stray lock away? She felt her heart melt. “All right, then. That’s not a bad idea.”
“Thank you for your approval,” Perez said acerbically. She grabbed a backpack from where it leaned against the shuttle. They took off, chatting in the native language of the UGS Hood. When they crossed the barrier, they broke into a duet. Donna had a beautiful soprano to rival Enigo’s tenor.
Of course, she does. Ellie suppressed a sigh, but when she turned back to Raoul and saw those soulful brown eyes, she found herself wanting to sigh for a completely different reason. She pushed that aside, too. “So, where do we start?”