Two hours later, they had gone through the list of every female in the fleet, regardless of what planet they came from since the complaint was the same. Only the Kleponian mates did not want to have roles outside of the home, as expected. There were a few exceptions throughout the other vessels, but most women wanted to do something, even if part-time. Getting his buy-in for the medical corps and the distribution of those people across the Fleet was an easy sell. She had decided to staff only male medical staff on the Kleponia. Spartak agreed.
“Next issue is the women who are capable of combat flight. See the red ones. There are six from Earth and 11 from Pelus. We also have an Earthling who is an aeronautical engineer. She does not want to fly as a normal job since she has a small child but wants to learn your craft for emergencies,” she explained.
“No,” said Spartak. He saw the look on her face and knew she was getting ready to lay into him. “It’s not because I don’t think they can handle it. I can’t sell it. Males in this Fleet are just not going to tolerate a female flying beside them. They have to trust each other in a battle and that just won’t happen,” he explained.
Danielle thought about how to present her back-up plan and finely went with blunt truth. “How about a compromise?” she asked.
“How can you compromise? They either fly or they don’t,” said Spartak.
“Not necessarily,” she said, smiling. So she explained her plan.
“Well, other than the short-term chaos, that is actually a good plan. Let me run it by Iosif and Evgen and see if they see any challenges I don’t,” Spartak said. “What’s next?”
“The wholesale assignment of women as teachers if they have any kind of education. There are two problems with it,” she said.
“What?” he growled.
“First, we just do not have enough kids for all these women to teach. That is going to cause boredom. Second, I have had several of the women tell me they hate children. They might be okay with caring for their own, but they can’t imagine managing other people’s or a bunch at one time. They are the lavender color on the roster,” she said.
Spartak looked down at the list. “This many?” he said, flabbergasted.
“Not everyone wants to be a mother and teaching is a tough job,” she said.
“If we made them a teacher, and they weren’t already one, it was because we didn’t have a matching role to what they did on their home planets,” said Spartak, defensively. “The key reason we picked them was their age and health.”
“Spartak, we get it. Remember what I said about if mama ain’t happy?” she asked.
“Yeah,” he sighed. “What do they want?”
“Well, it depends on the woman. The lavender ones with a yellow shade in choice column are willing to try the new role listed. It still leaves more than enough for teaching,” said Danielle.
“What’s a fashion designer? asked Spartak,” confused.
“Remember the lounge pants I had on a couple of days ago?” she asked.
“The soft pink ones with the strappy shirt thing?” he asked, smiling as he remembered how good she looked in that.
“Yes. Esmee designed those,” she said. “She wants to make more leisure wear and wants to expand into lingerie.”
“What the hell is that?” Spartak asked.
Danielle smiled and sent him a couple of sketches from her tablet.
His eyes bugged out when he opened the files. He swallowed hard as he squeezed his lips with his fingers. “This,” he started and then had to clear his throat. “This is not for public, correct?”
“Oh, no. It’s for more private moments,” she said, smiling. She noticed he hadn’t taken his eyes off of the sketch.
“Have you ever worn anything like this?” he asked, raising his eyes to look at her.
“Sure. Most Earth women have several items like that in their underwear drawer,” she said, shrugging.
“This could only help the birth rate,” Spartak said as he contemplated the idea.
Danielle just started laughing.
* * *
Thirty minutes later, Danielle was in the gym on 7b with Talia and Lada, the only other women in the Fleet beside her and Bethany that knew Krav Maga. Aengus stood silently in the corner, hoping no one saw him and want to use him as a fight dummy.
“I like these exercise clothes. How did you get the dispenser to make them? I gave up yelling at the damn thing,” said Talia.
Danielle laughed. “I finally pulled up the whole clothing line in the archives and told the stupid thing to go to the link,” said Danielle. “I got lucky because this had no rating. I tried it for a cami and tap pant set to sleep in, but the dispenser refused to make it. It just gave me an error code. When I asked Silas about it, he explained the moral rating system. It won’t make anything classified as immoral.”
“Ah, that’s why it wouldn’t make a vibrator,” chuckled Lada.
“That must have been an interesting conversation with the dispenser,” Laughed Danielle. She glanced at Aengus and smiled at his blush.
“You have no idea,” Lada chuckled.
“Okay, I have you two here because you both know Krav Maga. Where are you?” she asked Leda.
“Brown Belt,” she answered.
“FSB?” asked Danielle.
“Yeah. Started in Federal Protective Service,” Leda said.
“FSO? I never heard of that one,” Danielle said.
“We protected the big wigs. It was a pain in the butt,” she groused. “How did you know?”
“Software Consultant and Krav Maga,” Danielle answered. “Evgen thought it was self defense.”
“I heard about what you did,” said Talia. “Bet it surprised bet the High Commander.”
“Just a bit,” Danielle chuckled. “Evgen, too.”
“I am a third degree Black Belt. My uncle is the assistant Krav Maga Worldwide Force Training Director,” Talia explained. “Mossad.”
“I figured. I am a Blue Belt,” she said. “ER nurse.”
Both spies laughed.
“Hell, you probably saw more action than I did,” laughed Lada.
“On a full moon? Probably. My daughter is a new yellow belt. Between the four of us, we are going to teach the other women in the Fleet basic self defense,” said Danielle.
“Is this because of the incident?” asked Talia.
“You heard about that?” asked Danielle, raising an eyebrow.
“Yes. It’s not common gossip though,” she answered. “Old habits die hard.”
Danielle looked between the two women. “Find me who did this. Bring it to me without apprehending.”
“Seriously?” asked Lada. When Danielle nodded, Lada gleefully rubbed her hands together.
“Okay. Let’s put together a 50-minute program we can offer three times a cycle, starting here on the Gliesea,” said Danielle. “Females only. Depending how this goes, they may add it to the combat training.”
So they walked through the pieces and came up with a plan.
* * *
Danielle tapped her band to open the door. Spartak stood there with a bouquet of gorgeous red roses.
“Come in. How did you know about roses?” she asked him as she smelled the flowers. They didn’t have much scent, but that wasn’t uncommon with hothouse flowers.
“The archives have valuable information. Apparently, we do not grow any flowers. The dispenser took several attempts,” he said, shrugging. “Do you like them?”
“Were you studying up on Earth customs?” she asked as she found a pitcher to put them in.
“Yes. I tried to bring you something called a Philly Cheese Steak, but the dispenser just couldn’t manage it,” he said.
“You tried to just order a cheesesteak, right?” she asked.
“Yes,” he said. “Was that wrong?”
“No. Just complicated. Let me make you one,” she said. She walked over to the dispenser and rattled off several food ingredients.
She then started chopping onions. “Have a seat. Can I get you something to drink?” she asked.
“I like those IPAs Earth makes,” said Spartak.
“Got it,” she said. She handed it to him after the dispenser appeared it.
He took a sip as he watched her finish the onions and then chop the mushrooms. She put a skillet on the two-burner stove and poured some oil in it. She sauted the onions and mushrooms and then set them aside. She brushed the hoagie steak rolls with some oil and then put them face down in the skillet for a couple of minutes. She then wrapped them in what on Earth would be foil, turned the heat up, and tossed in the shaved beefsteak. After several minutes, the aromas scented the air.
“Do I smell cheesesteaks?” said Bethany, as she jogged into the room just as Danielle was adding back the vegetables. Once she saw what her mother was doing, she squealed, “Yeah!” She pulled up a barstool and waited expectantly. Catching Spartak watching her, she said, “You are in for a treat.”
Danielle threw on the provolone and let it melt before chopping it some more. She scooped some into the first bun, plated it, and handed it to Spartak. She then made the second one for Bethany. She took the last of the mixture and made her sandwich just as Spartak groaned as he bit into the sandwich.
“Awesome, huh?” said Bethany around a mouth full of cheesesteak.
He mumbled what sounded like “uh-huh” but didn’t stop eating to answer.
Danielle ate her sandwich, standing at the counter. She tossed them both a napkin after wiping her own hands.
“That was amazing. No wonder the dispenser couldn’t figure it out,” said Spartak. “Thank you for that.”
“Thank you for the roses,” she said, smiling. “Do you want to sit on the couch?” she asked.
He nodded, picked up his beer, and head to the couch. He waited for her to sit down with her drink and then sat next to her so their thighs touched. “So, how did the Krav Maga thing go?” he asked, then took another sip of his beer.
“Good. We got the class blocked out and they will put the word out tomorrow,” said Danielle. She looked at him for a minute and then decided. “I wasn’t going to tell you yet, but it’s your Fleet.”
“What?” he asked, not sure he wanted to know.
“It asked Talia and Lada to find who did that horrible thing to Sasha,” she said and then looked up him. After seeing the look on his face, she stammered, “They have the right skills set. Talia had already found out about it.”
“How,” he growled.
“Talia said it wasn’t gossip. She did counter-intelligence for a living. Mossad is the best in the world, er, Earth. I told her to bring it to me without apprehending them,” Danielle said.
“All right,” he said, sighing.
“They have the skills to investigate things. This is another example of using skills women have,” Danielle said.
“You think Evgen can use them?” he asked.
“Yes,” she said, shrugging. “Talia is abroad the Gliesea and Lada is aboard the Wanamoor.”
She watched his face change as he seemed to decide something. “Did you decide about us?”
“Well, Bethany is on board. You realize we are a package deal, right?” she asked.
“Yes,” he said, watching her.
She blew out a big breath. “I have thought about it a lot, actually.”
“And?” he asked.
“It’s going to look bad while I am trying to make all these changes,” she started. She saw his face fall. “I am not saying no. I am saying not now.”
“What does that mean?” he asked.
“Can you give me a few weeks while I get all the changes in place and then let’s see? I definitely like you so much more than I did that first day,” she said, smiling.
“Well, I can say the same thing about you,” he chuckled.
“Spartak, I am not holding out for better options. I don’t want anyone else,” she said.
“I guess I should be glad after all those offers you got today,” he groused.
Danielle just looked at him. “Those were not offers. That was flirting. The way my father explained it was it isn’t about the thousand times a man hears no, it’s about the one yes,” she said.
He had a thoughtful look on his face and then agreed. “Or at least, it used to be.” He picked up her hand and wrapped his much larger one around it. “Can we still spend time together?” he asked.
“Sure,” she said. “Just no mating.”
He groaned and slumped down on the couch. “It might just kill me. It’s been a long time,” he leered at her. When that didn’t budge her, he tried puppy dog eyes.
“Seriously?” she laughed. “Geez. It doesn’t matter what planet you come from, you are all the same. If waiting is too hard, you can sit on the other couch or we can wait to see each other.”
“No. That is unacceptable,” he said grumpily.
“Only option,” she said.
“All right, I concede,” he said. He looked at her for several long minutes. “How long has it been for you?” he asked.
“Well, um,” she said, thinking about it. “Almost five years. Huh. Boy, time has gotten away from me. You?”
“Thirteen long years,” he said, giving her pitiful look. “I know, I know,” he groused as he squeezed his hand.
She chuckled. Then she looked up at him with a mischievous grin. “Kissing is not mating.”
He grinned and then crashed his lips down on hers.