“Not so fast,” groused Aengus.
“I told you it was going to be one of those days. I don’t have an office, so I have to go to everyone else. Think of it as exercise,” said Danielle as she entered the next conference room.
An utterly stunning brunette wearing a royal blue uniform was sitting at the table. She looked to be in her early-forties but wore her age very well. She smiled at Danielle. “Hi. I am Maria Perez. You must be Danielle.”
“I am. Nice to meet you finally. I am so sorry it has been so crazy,” said Danielle as she sat down. She pointed at her bodyguard and said, “That’s Aengus, my long-suffering friend.”
“I heard you needed a bodyguard,” said Maria. Seeing the look of horror on Danielle’s face, she quickly added, “Don’t worry. Not from gossip. Grennady was hoping to win an ally, not knowing you had already sent me the stats.”
Danielle stared at her for several seconds before she burst out laughing. “The snake!”
“Exactly. I let him ramble and then asked him why the children hadn’t had any growth checks or immunizations against preventable diseases,” said Maria.
“Bet that shut him up,” said Danielle, smiling.
“You would think it would, but no. He then accused me of being one of you,” Maria said laughing.
“What did you say?” asked Danielle, enraptured.
“I told him yes,” said Maria. “You should have seen his eyes bug out.”
Danielle dissolved into a fit of giggles. She wiped her eyes when she was done and sat up straight. “Thank you for that. I so need a laugh. It has been a rough couple of days.”
Maria raised an eyebrow, questioning.
So Danielle told her.
“!Ay Dios Mio!” exclaimed Maria.
“Exactly. We have a meeting at hour four and fifty minutes to learn the surgery machine in Medical 7a and then the Medical Council at hour seven. Did you have any questions about the draft I sent yesterday? I wanted to make sure you and I agree because Grennady will fight us every step of the way,” said Danielle. “Oh! I almost forgot.” She reached into her pants pocket and pulled out an insignia. She handed her the gold double circle insignia. “Captain in the Medical Corps.”
“Cool! I was wondering how I was going to pull off all the pubic health items you listed under my prevue,” said Maria, putting the insignia on her collar.
Danielle got an evil glint in her eye as she smiled and said, “Same rank as Grennady.”
Maria burst to laughing.
Ten minutes later, Danielle and Aengus was were aboard the Tau Ceti for the Survivor’s Council, walking into the conference room on the Executive Deck. Danielle marveled everything looked the same as on the Gliesea and Nandoria. She found a seat along the side and Aengus took up position behind her. She looked around the table and found a mix of uniform colors, including military black, which surprised her.
Spartak stalked in and began the meeting with no preamble. “Let me start by introducing Danielle McQuarrie,” he said, pointing at her.
She made a small wave at everyone.
“She is the Senior Medical Officer for the Fleet, the Strategic Director for the Earthlings, and a Fleet Captain. Please assist her in anything she needs. She has uncovered several places where we can improve processes,” said Spartak.
“All that and you have only been here seven days?” asked a statuesque blonde. “I am Shonda and I hail from Brasik IV.
Danielle smiled at her. “Yes. It’s been a busy week and I have a big mouth,” she chuckled.
They went around the table, introducing the vessel captains and Strategic Directors from each of the three other rescued planets.
“First off, we will have a Medical Council meeting at hour five and fifty minutes on the Gliesea in the Executive Conference room. We have invited each of you and all medical personnel we could find on the planet rosters. If there is anyone from your planets or vessels whose skills in this category who were not listed on the roster or wants to get medical training, please invite them,” said Spartak.
“What if they already have roles?” asked Taras, the Centiarian Commander.
“May I?” Danielle asked Spartak. He nodded. “Most individuals will wind up being auxiliary medical support. I have about 270 people from Earth who I can mobilize for core staff since most of us haven’t been given a role yet to keep the disruption to a minimum. We want to make sure we have several individuals per vessel to respond to emergencies besides the core staff who will take care of daily needs. We will also stagger training so no one department or vessel is impacted at once. I’ll go over all of this later. If you have anyone on your vessel who practices folk medicine or alternative care, or was any kind of scientist, please invite them. We need to get preventative immunizations created if there are gaps in the bio-filter. I also have several research projects that I need initiated,” said Danielle.
“That is good news. I have a couple of research biologists I will tap who are bored out of their minds as teachers,” said a dark-haired woman from Pelus.
“That works. Thank you,” said Danielle, who then looked back at Spartak to hand back control.
He nodded and started his normal agenda.
She heard her name called. “Huh?” she asked.
“I asked if there was anything else?” said Spartak, grinning. By the look on her face, he had a pretty good idea what she had been thinking about. His thoughts had gone there several times today.
“Uh, no. Sorry, got distracted,” she said sheepishly. A slight bushed creeped into her cheeks.
He smiled and let her off the hook. He would come back to it later when they were alone.
* * *
The rest of the day blew by as Danielle ran from meeting to meeting. The Strategic Managers gave her the lists and resumes she needed and they reworked the list as much as they could without getting Spartak’s approval. The surgery device was beyond easy to use. Both Danielle and Maria chuckled that they had worked with harder-to-use IV pumps on earth. It didn’t surprise Danielle that Grennady had been able to fake it for so long. The Squad Commanders had no concerns with the new Earth pilots but were not interested in adding women. She was able to get them to agree to flight qualifications physicals and gave that responsibility to Grennady. By the time she got to the Medical Council meeting, she had the final items she needed for her plan. Two hours later, it was adopted in its entirety once everyone saw the stats. They established committees to write the actual protocols, and they agreed to meet in a week.
As Danielle left the conference room, a wave of exhaustion fell over her. She leaned against the transport wall as it headed towards 4b. She closed her eyes for a few minutes to ease the burning.
“You have held up pretty good considering how little sleep you had,” said Aengus.
“How, how did you know?” she asked, opening her eyes to glare at him.
“Spartak told me when I mentioned you needed an office,” said Aengus.
“Thanks for doing that. I wasn’t sure if it was even an option,” said Danielle, smiling at him. They stopped at her floor and got out.
Once they got to her door, Aengus looked very uncomfortable.
“What?” she demanded.
He rubbed the back of his neck and said, “Spartak said to remind you of the meet and greet tonight in the 7A Dinging Hall at the eighth hour.”
“You have got to be kidding me!” she growled. “I haven’t slept, I haven’t had a shower. Hell, I didn’t even get breakfast, lunch or dinner. If you hadn’t slipped me that bagel, my last meal would have been over twenty hours ago - and your hours, too.”
“I will let you argue the point with him,” said Aengus. “I just follow orders.”
“Fine,” she said. “Good night.”
“Uh,” he started.
“Do you really think that in the mood I am right now that he would have a prayer of winning an argument with me?” demanded Danielle.
Aengus just smiled. “Night, ma’am.”
Danielle debated calling him after she poured a stiff drink, but decided it would be better to beg forgiveness than ask permission. She took a couple of generous slugs of whiskey and headed to the shower.
* * *
Danielle heard voices from her room as she looked for something comfortable to wear. Esmee had given her a couple of trial lounge outfits. Bethany came in without knocking as she said, “Mom, Spartak is here. Oops! Sorry, I didn’t know you just got out of the shower.”
Danielle looked out her door and saw Spartak standing there, his mouth gapping at her as he took in her wet body that only had a towel wrapped around the important parts. “Boy, this day is something else. I will be out in a minute,” she told Bethany.
Bethany turned to look at their guest as she left her mother’s room and had to chuckle at his reaction. She offered him a seat. “Sorry about that,” she said. When he didn’t respond or look away from the door, she added, “You might want to close your mouth, because if she sees your face like that, she will probably lose it.”
He blinked at her and nodded. He sat down.
Bethany sat on the other couch and smiled at him. “So, what is up?” she asked.
He looked at her, blinking again. He then realized she was saying it as an innocent teenager and not like Evgen would have meant it. “I will wait until she comes out.”
“Okay. Suit yourself,” she said.
Danielle walked out of her room with her head piled on her head in a messy bun and silky lounge pants with a cami. She had slid a kimono jacket over it since the cami wasn’t exactly leaving anything to the imagination. She took one look at his face as he started to wind up and said, “No.”
“What do you mean, no?” he asked.
“Gee, why do we seem to have this conversation over and over. I am not going and Bethany is not going without me. I am exhausted,” she said flatly.
“No excuses,” he growled.
“Excuses?” she screeched. “I cannot believe,” she started.
“I am going to let you two talk, or fight, or duke it out,” stammered Bethany as she retreated to her room.
“I am too tired to slap on a fake smile and be pleasant. I have only had a bagel today, and that was hours ago. No,” she said.
“Yes. Everyone must go who is not mated. I make no exceptions,” said Spartak.
“I am no hurry to be mated. I have more important things to do, so take the meet and greet and, and,” she stammered.
“And, what?” he said, standing and putting his hands on his narrow hips.
She glared up at him. “Take the meet and greet and go without eating!”
“Get dressed or you go like this,” he growled at her.
“I will not!” she shouted as she poked him in his chest. “My maiden name was McDonald. I come from a long line of Scot’s stubborn. You have a better chance of changing the mind of a rock!”
“That’s not acceptable,” he roared as he stepped closer.
“That acceptability crap is fine when I am on the clock, but after nearly eighteen hours of a twenty-hour day, I am off the clock!” she snarled as she stepped forward.
Spartak’s face shifted from anger to something unreadable as she bumped chests with him. His eyes shifted from her eyes to her lips. He was wondering how soft they were when she stuck the tip of her tongue out to lick her lips. Seeing the sheen she had left behind on her very kissable lips as her chest heaved in anger was his undoing. He gently placed his hands on each side of her face and crashed his lips down on hers in a scorching kiss.
Danielle was shocked stupid once she realized he was kissing her. Really kissing her. It took her several long seconds to organize that one thought. The sparks and tingles she felt were overwhelming. She melted into him as she started to kiss him back. She wrapped her hands around her forearms as she opened her mouth to give him better access.
He pulled her body tighter against his groin with one hand as he slid his other hand behind her neck, pulling her head closer as well.
Danielle melted further into him.
“Oh!” said Bethany after she came out of her room to find out why she wasn’t hearing shouting anymore. “I guess you don’t have to go find a mate anymore.” She giggled and went back into her room.
They both ignored her.