I’m going to have some words with the Living History Society about their instructions when working with the Big Rock Donut of Time.
We were having a grand time in the Wild West when my ops officer, Ensign Ellie Doall, got bit by a big ol’ rattler. We abandoned the mission and had the Birdot bring us back home. Only, somehow, it lost my ensign in time! We’ve been in orbit for two days as we ran back over all possible histories trying to find her.
“Ensign! Ensign Doall!” Jeb hollered again. His voice was getting horse, and no amount of imposazine was going to make it better. No imposazine was going to mend the ache in his heart if he lost his miracle ensign on a boondoggle assignment.
Suddenly, the BRDoT intoned, “The traveler is returning.”
“‘Bout damn time!”
The doctor, who had been leaning against a rock going over the latest reports on successful imposazine injection dosages for chronic hangnails, toe fungus, and anti-aphrodisiacs, rushed to the captain’s side, ready to render whatever aid was necessary.
However, moments later, Ellie dashed through, frazzled, but otherwise heathy and whole. Her snake bite healed. She wore a simple pantsuit of mottled grays with a bewildering array of laces and buckles.
She gripped the captain’s arms as if reassuring herself he was real. “Captain, what’s the date?”
She sighed with relief when he told her. “And I’m an ensign? Really, an ensign, not just because you say so?”
“Definitely because I say so, but I daresay, HuFleet agrees with me.”
“Leslie Straus—is she an ensign, too?”
“Unless something odd’s happened in the last three hours. Are you all right?”
“Just trying to get oriented.” She looked around wildly. “Where is everyone else? The historians? The historians! Sir! I think ph’Tonna might be involved with Enigo LaFuentes!”
He gave her an odd, disapproving look. “Even if that is the case, that’s between her and our Chief of Security, don’t you think?”
“Chief of Security? Enigo is our Chief of Security? Oh, thank heaven. I am home.”
“Ensign, are you all right?”
“Yes, sir. I’ll explain everything sir. It’s just good to be home.”
* * *
Captain’s Log, Intergalactic Date 676594.56
Even when it’s a boondoggle, time travel is a headache. It seems that through a one-in-a-million incident that even the Birdot hadn’t predicted, Ensign Doall missed saving herself from a terrible life choice that nearly wrecked the Union. See the attached mission debrief because it’s too much to summarize and worth watching, anyway. Long story short, the damage had been repaired with only one minor glitch…
Ellie was so glad to be home on the Impulsive, eating lunch with her friends, even if they were all laughing at her. Or, rather, her story.
“Viva, jefe!” the security members of the group shouted, causing heads to turn momentarily their way. But not for long. People were used to the boisterous security personnel of their ship.
Enigo, reclining in his seat so that it balanced on two legs, held up one hand in gracious acknowledgement. He’s been smirking since she’d briefed the senior officers that alternate him had been warlord of an armada.
“Guys!” she scolded. “It was seriously horrifying. Lieutenant, you were perfectly content to skin me alive and, and, make me into a jacket for one of your lovers or something.”
He examined his nails. “Don’t get on my bad side.”
The chuckles died down fast.
He looked at them in askance. “What? I’m kidding. Mira, this happened when I was young, right? Not long away from the Hood? Of course, I went back to my roots. And dayam if I didn’t make good. An armada.” He signed wistfully, then leaned forward and pointed at Leslie. “And you, chica. Chief of Security? And double-crossing me to save the ship? Bueno!”
LeRoy whined, “Do I have to be an ensign, Boss? Only, I really hate paperwork.”
“Nah, you’re good. Maybe alternate you is scared of chickens or something.”
Leslie leaned forward. “So, who else was different?”
Just then, the mess hall doors opened, and Commander Smythe stepped through. Ellie gave a guilty start when he looked in their direction, but when he waved her to him, she excused herself and followed him back out. They walked in silence to the lazivator, and he directed it toward crew quarters. Only then, did he speak to her.
“You seem uncomfortable around me, Ensign. Please be assured that, despite my alternate self’s romantic preferences, I do not think of you as anything more or less than a valued member of our ship and a young woman with a promising career.” He emphasized the word “young.”
“Yes, sir. Thank you, sir. I value your mentorship, but that’s all. So, why are heading to crew level?”
“It seems you have a personal call you can not put off any longer.”
* * *
Ellie sat in front of her console in her quarters. She took a deep breath and ran her fingers through her scandalously short hair. She’d reread her personal logs and rewatched some of her recorded communications, and she still didn’t know how she was going to deal with this bizarre change in her personal life. She kind of hoped that Alternate Doctor Pasteur was right and her brain would adjust to the new reality.
In the meantime, one did not keep the King and Queen of Chatway waiting. After all, Chatway was a founding member of the Union.
The comms connected, and the face of the Princess Ellie Fardin, daughter to Jirek and Ester, appeared on the phone. She broke into a huge delighted smile.
“Godmom! Mama, Daddy! It’s Aunt Ellie. She’s okay!”