Several minutes later, she heard her name yelled through the door as a heavy fist banged on her door. She ignored it as she held her daughter. Her band buzzed. She ignored it. It buzzed again. Danielle glanced at it, recognizing the name. “Why don’t you go sit on the couch, sweetheart. I need to deal with this,” said said, softly.
Bethany nodded and walked over to the couch.
Danielle answered her band. “No.”
“Open the door, Danielle,” growled Spartak.
“No. I quit,” she said, shutting off her band.
It buzzed again. Pissed off beyond all comprehension, she answered her band. “There is nothing you can say will make one bit of difference. They threatened my daughter. If they come near her or me again, I will kill every last one of them,” she snarled before ending the call. She took the band off and threw it in a kitchen drawer before walking over to sit on the couch, pulling her daughter into her arms.
After several minutes of just holding her, she said, “I am so sorry, baby. I was just trying to make our lives here better.”
Bethany lifted her head and smiled at her mother, “I know. This wasn’t your fault.”
“Tell me what happened? Did any of them hurt you?” asked Danielle.
“No. I had the door locked. They only scared me with the banging and shouting. I called for security and Evgen answered. He got you,” she explained. “How did you get in?”
“I just started swinging and hurling bodies. They were in the way and all I could think of was getting to you,” Danielle told her.
“Can you even quit?” Bethany asked.
“If he doesn’t like it, he can take us home,” Danielle said.
Meanwhile, outside the suite door, Spartak stood there fuming as he thought through the options.
“Can she really quit?” whispered Aengus to Evgen.
“No, she fucking cannot,” growled Spartak. “Why does everyone forget I have good hearing?” he demanded as he turned towards them, glaring.
Aengus blanched at the look on Spartak’s face.
“Everyone of these assholes needs to wake up in a cell. Stack them like firewood, I don’t care. These were my orders and I will not tolerate insubordination!” he shouted. “No rations for any of them either.” Spartak started to stalk towards the transport tube but was stopped by Evgen’s hand on his arm.
“What about her?” Evgen asked, nudging his head towards Danielle’s door.
He sighed. She would not be as easy to deal with as the unconscious men. “She once told me she was as stubborn as a rock. We are going to let her cool off,” said Spartak. “She showed restraint. She didn’t kill any of them.” He looked back at the piles of bodies all over the hallway, some groaning, others silent. “Well, I don’t think she did, anyway. Aengus, guards around the clock on her door. Arrest anyone who enters this floor who doesn’t live here.” He stalked over to the transport tube and entered when it arrived. Their last sight of their boss was his thunderous expression, glaring.
“Boy, is he angry at what they did to her,” said Aengus.
“No, he is angry that they did this to his mate. Worse, he is angry at himself because he didn’t prevent it,” said Evgen. “Take your position. Ramos will relieve you at shift change.”
* * *
Evgen came into Spartak’s office and sat down on the guest chair across from him. “She still ignoring you?” He was surprised at the ragged look on his friend’s face. “You haven’t slept, have you?”
Spartak just grunted.
“It’s been three days. Shouldn’t you release the prisoners?” asked Evgen. “Or kill them. Just do something. Starving them is cruel and not your style,” said Evgen. “Most of them are contrite. I saw several of their mates rip into them once they found out what the men had done.”
“She still won’t talk to me,” said Spartak. “She won’t answer the door or her band.”
“She must not be cooled off enough yet,” said Evgen. “I remember one time my mother was so angry at my dad over gambling she locked him out of the house for almost a month. Strong women have strong tempers.”
“Uh, Spartak?” Jareth said, timidly. The poor ensign had been the biggest victim of Spartak’s wrath since Danielle quit.
“What?” Spartak growled, making Jareth flinch.
“Zoya, the Russian Strategic Manager, is here to see you,” Jareth said.
“Tell her to go away,” said Spartak.
“No,” she said as she barged into his office. “Just because Danielle refuses to do her job doesn’t mean you get to. There are decisions that need to be made,” Zoya said in a shrill voice.
Spartak just glared at her.
“I need to know what to do with this job assignment roster. Several of the women have been locked out of their jobs,” she snarled. “I tried to tell her this would happen, but no, she wouldn’t listen.”
“I heard the conversations, Zoya. I know what you said,” Spartak growled.
Zoya blanched, but then recovered quickly. “Who is replacing her?”
“I don’t care who does it until she comes back,” growled Spartak. “Now get the fuck out.”
“Fine,” said Zoya with a smile. She turned on her heels and left the office.
“That feels like a bad idea,” said Evgen as he watched her go.
“I read a great quote from some guy named Mark Twain while researching Earthlings. Good decisions come from experience, and experience comes from bad decisions,” quoted Spartak.
“And Ezra Taft Benson said, Bad experience is the only school that fools keep going to,” quoted Evgen. “And I think you just signed up for a Master’s degree.”
“Get out,” growled Spartak.
“The prisoners?” Evgen asked.
Spartak sighed and got up from his chair. He stalked towards the holding cell on the flight deck. Evgen following.
“You scared a young girl for actions done under my orders. Do you feel like powerful males for doing that?” Spartak yelled as he glowered with his hands on his hips. “All you males got your asses handed to you by a small woman for your foolishness,” Spartak growled. “I do not tolerate insubordination in the Fleet. We know who you are. If any of you ever pull a stunt like that again, I will toss you out into space myself. Is that clear?” He heard a few mumbles. “Is that clear?” he bellowed.
The responses were louder.
Then Spartak got an evil smile on his face. “Now you get to go home and deal with your mates who are less than pleased with you. As a matter of fact, not one mate called to ask for your release. A few called to say we could keep you indefinitely. I suggest groveling.” He turned to Evgen. “Let them out.” He stepped around his friend and walked to the transport tube.
He had some groveling of his own to do.
* * *
Erica knocked on Danielle’s door. “It’s me,” she said. The door opened for her. Aengus looked in quickly while the door was open. Danielle didn’t look much better than Spartak did. Good. maybe this had a chance of being over soon. He resumed his position.
“Well, you look like shit,” said Erica. “Have you even showered?”
“Don’t make me regret letting you in,” growled Danielle, who laid on the couch looking up at her friend.
“No, she hasn’t. And all she has eaten is Ben & Jerry’s Fudge Brownie Ice Cream,” tattled Bethany.
“Shut it,” growled Danielle.
“How the hell did you get the dispenser to make it? I still can’t get mine to make a damn chocolate bar,” Erica groused.
Bethany walked over to the dispenser and said, “Hershey’s chocolate bar. See Earth Archives, Food, Snack, Candy, Chocolate.” The treat appeared, and she handed it to Erica, who grinned. “It works because there are ingredients listed in percentage order. I can finally get Monsters.”
“Thanks!” said Erica. She then walked over to the couch and sat across from Danielle as she opened her treat. She set a dozen red roses on the coffee table. “Those are not from me. Spartak asked me to give them to you since you won’t answer the door or your band.”
Danielle just grunted.
“It’s been ten days. Are you done pouting yet?” asked Erica.
“What the fuck?” Danielle growled.
“Do you not care that Zoya has been dismantling everything you have built?” asked Erica.
“No,” said Danielle.
“She is making every woman subservient to the men’s whims,” said Erica.
“Why? She was the first one complaining about men’s expectations,” said Danielle.
“Bribes,” said Erica.
“Everyone is suffering because you are not there to protect them,” said Erica.
“Where is Spartak in all this?” asked Danielle.
“He is as checked out as you are. He did nothing when Chatura had two more women kidnapped for mates,” said Erica.
“No, he didn’t,” said Danielle.
“How do you know?” asked Erica.
Danielle laid her arm over her eyes and grunted.
“Linnea, Emily, and Jada are all asking about going scorched Earth on these bozos,” said Erica.
“And not you?” asked Danielle sarcastically.
“Oh, I got elected to enter the lion’s den. They heard about the pile of bodies outside of your door and were a bit skittish about reaching out,” said Erica. When she saw the skeptical look on Danielle’s face, she added, “It took the three days to get the blood out of the carpet, Danielle.”
Danielle sighed as she sat up. “All right. Tell me what has been happening.”
“Shower first. You stink,” said Erica.
* * *
“There. All showered, teeth brushed and dressed. Happy now?” asked Danielle sarcastically.
“Yes. You smell better. Now eat,” she said, putting a bowl of beef stew and a plate of buttermilk biscuits on the table before motioning her to sit down to eat. “My grammie always said soup can fix anything. The biscuits are extra.”
Danielle sighed and did as Erica asked.
Erica sat down in the chair next to her and said, “So, here it is. Zoya went bat-shit crazy with power.” She then catalogued every rule Zoya had instituted from gym restrictions, to content limitations for entertainment, roles, sexual frequency, clothing limitations, and access to other women for conversation, calling them subversive. “She angered the other Strategic Directors from the other planets and they won’t have anything to do with her. The other Strategic Managers from Earth even avoid her.”
“So if a man asked for it, she made it a rule for every female in the Fleet,” summarized Danielle.
“Yes. She even stopped all the training and locked women out of their work floors,” said Erica. “I told Choko to keep the biological research on the down-low, so it’s the only program that has continued. Talia was ready to kill Zoya when a Kleponian tried to mate her and Zoya actually gave permission. For a fee, of course.”
“That didn’t end up happening, did it?” she asked.
“No. Evgen stepped in and Spartak backed him up,” said Erica. “The Kleponian is screaming that Zoya still owes him his mate since she wouldn’t return the jewels he paid her.”
“That must have been interesting. Spartak allowed that?” Danielle asked.
“Spartak hides in his office and avoids anything involving her. She hit on him so much, he banned her from the Gliesea,” said Erica.
“Really?” asked Danielle, stopping the spoon halfway to her mouth.
“Embarrassed her in the Dining Hall. Said he had a mate and since she couldn’t leave him the hell alone that she could get off of his ship. Even had Evgen escort her to the transport bay,” said Erica. “Once she was off, she can get back on.”
“Wow. That must have been messy,” said Danielle.
“Danielle, he is hurting because of your silence. This isn’t his fault,” said Erica.
“He is the one who ordered us brought here. Yes, it is,” said Danielle.
“You know what I mean. The stupid-man reaction wasn’t his fault,” said Erica. “You know, he kept all those men locked up in a cell with only standing room and no food for three days.”
“Three days?” she said, surprised.
“Yep. Then threatened to throw them out into space if they pulled anything like that again,” she said.
“Huh,” Danielle said.
Erica waited patiently while Danielle worked through her emotions. When she saw her wavering on a decision, Erica toppled the final domino with, “Every female in this Fleet needs you.”
Danielle sighed. “All right.” She thought about the emotional blackmail and added, “And I hate you for that low blow.”
“No, you don’t,” Erica grinned and tapped her band. “Operation Scorched Earth is a go.”
A few minutes later, there was a knock at the suite door. Bethany opened it and in filed Emily, her daughter Madeline, Esmee, Linnea, Jada, Choko, Talia, Lada, Mara, and the archivist who had been helping with the training materials, Margot, with her daughter Heather. Even Shonda, Circe, and Gusta from the Survivor’s Council were present.
Danielle just sat there dumbfounded that she had so many supporters.
Aengus stood inside the door, looking at all the females finding seats. “With this crew, you could take over the entire fleet.”
“Now why would you think that?” smirked Erica.