Two Truths and Their Lie
Two Truths and Their Lie
"I can't do this," Emily announced suddenly, skidding to a halt. Directly in front of her towered the USS And Another Note, a vessel that, although nothing real special as far as spaceships go, she couldn't help but feel intimidated by. It had to be at least twice as large as she'd pictured in her head and filled with just about a hundred Starfleet employees, some new, but most with many more years of experience than her. She took a deep breath and then turned to head back the way she came.
Soul, who was standing just behind the soon-to-be Starfleet Captain, grabbed Emily by her shoulders and spun her around once more. "Like hell you can't," she practically growled. "Do you realize just how much trouble we went through-"
"-I went through to get you this far? Now beam your ass up there and go meet your new crew!" Soul shoved Emily forward just for good measure. Emily hesitated for a moment before transporting herself aboard the ship. Soul followed her in with a sigh.
"Captain," a stranger greeted Soul upon rematerializing on the And Another Note.
"Sorry? Oh, uh, no - that... This is your captain. Captain Emily Claus." Soul gestured to her companion, who gave an excited wave. "I apologize for any confusion. I am Soul Powers, First Officer and Navigator."
"The mistake was mine. Captain." The man saluted in Emily's direction in greeting. "Scottie Lewis, Chief Medical Officer. I look forward to working under you."
"Me too!" Emily exclaimed happily. "Or, rather... over, I mean. I am looking forward to working over you. Yes, that is exactly what I meant to say."
An uneasy silence hung in the air. Finally Soul clapped her hands together, doing all she could to erase Emily's bad first impression. "Captain, if it's all the same to you, might I suggest we make our way to the bridge and become acquainted with the rest of the crew? As I understand it, you wanted to get underway as soon as possible."
"Ah, yes! Of course!" Emily nodded vigorously. There was an awkward pause before it occurred to Emily that the others were waiting to follow her out. "Sorry, would you mind showing me there?" she asked Scottie, trying not to look too embarrassed.
Scottie raised a skeptical eyebrow but granted the girl's request nonetheless. "This way, Captain."
"He knows!" Emily hissed under her breath to Soul.
"He does not. And if you quit being such a baby about the whole thing the rest of the crew won't suspect anything, either."
Allow me to pause for a moment and explain this scenario in its entirety. You see, Emily wasn't really the assigned captain to the And Another Note in the first place. Although the girl had dreamed of living on a ship and traversing the galaxy for as long as she could remember, the cold truth was that she simply didn't have what it took to get into the Academy, as she proved year after year with every rejection. Emily had all but given up hope when she crossed paths with Soul, a childhood friend who claimed to have the perfect scheme to make their wildest dreams a reality. Thus far Soul and Emily were only guilty of impersonating a Starfleet officer, but they were about to do something much, much worse.
They were about to steal a starship and its crew.
Within the following hour Emily was introduced to those stationed in the cockpit and the three Lieutenant Commanders aboard: Chief Engineer Blaise Martin, Communications Officer Shelby Williams, and Ryn Paris, Chief of Security. She also met Scottie's assistant, a nurse called Amanda Goldberg who went by 'Zap'. Her mind still spinning with names and faces, Emily grabbed a sheet of paper and quickly jotted down a few notes to help her keep everyone straight.
"Uh... Captain," Soul tapped Emily on the shoulder, crouching down to be level with her. "I think the crew is expecting some sort of welcome speech. This is a five year mission, after all, and I can understand their desire to wish to know just where we're headed first."
Emily nodded, shutting the paper in her Captain's Log. "Of course. Uhm..." She dropped her voice down to a whisper: "Where exactly are we going, again?"
"Never mind; just... just keep sitting there and look the part." Soul straightened her back and took a deep breath before addressing the crew. "Everyone to their stations! Ready to launch in five!" She seated herself at the front of the ship and immediately began punching in coordinates. "I hope you like the heat, because we're headed to Alpha Sector V, unless something more interesting pulls our attention along the way."
The deck became flooded with voices shouting out orders and readings of expected weather, travel time, and anything else remotely relative to the journey they were embarking on. Yellow, red, and blue shirts passed one another as they filed into their seats and other areas of the ship. Being her first time travelling in this way, Emily took the extra precaution of pressing a button that activated her seatbelt, which unraveled itself from wherever it had been concealed in the chair. Soul noticed this in her peripheral vision and rolled her eyes. The Helm Officer, whose name Emily had already forgotten, began reading out the launch countdown over the intercom.
"30, 29, 28..."
"Emily, dear, do kindly remove your seatbelt."
"Hey, you can never be too safe!"
"24, 23, 22..."
"You look the equivalent of an adult seaman wearing a child's floating device."
"20, 19, 18..."
The captain sighed and undid the safety mechanism. She squeezed her eyes shut just as the vehicle lurched forward, skyrocketing several thousand feet above the planet's surface. In another minute or two the spaceship seemed still again. Emily looked to Soul, her brows furrowed.
"What happened? Why have we stopped?"
"We didn't. We're in space, moron." Maybe this wasn't such a good idea after all. If this went on for five whole years...
"All checks complete, Captain," a woman was saying. "It should be smooth sailing all the way to Alpha Sector V."
"Why shouldn't it be? Isn't this a new ship?"
She blinked. "Y-Yes, of course. But it's protocol to double-check that all areas of the spaceship are running correctly upon taking off."
"Upon? Doesn't it make more sense to check these things... I don't know, before departure?" Beat. "Whatever. Thank you, uh..." Emily glanced down at her Captain's Log. "Shelby?"
"Blaise Martin," the Chief Engineer corrected. "You'll find Williams just outside."
Emily made a face. "Huh. Must be the red dress; everyone looks the same around here. It's really quite unorganized."
With a tense smile, Blaise nodded to Emily before taking her leave. Soul made sure that the ship was set up on autopilot before spinning around her seat to give Emily the most judgemental glare she could possibly muster up.
"What?" the captain shot back, crossing her legs.
It didn't take long for the theft of the USS And Another Note to come to the attention of the Federation. This isn't surprising, considering they had left behind the poor bloke who was Starfleet Academy-certified to lead it. To say that he was having a bad morning was putting it mildly. Unfortunately for the now space pirates, the majority of the other Starfleet ships that had set out that same day had their orders now changed to include the And Another Note's capture. On the flip side, they had little to nothing to go off of and it would be a good six months, twenty-four days, and four agonizing hours before Soul and Emily ran out of luck in that respect.
In the meantime, Soul suggested that Emily spend the following couple of days poking her head around the ship in an attempt to get to know its layout and goings-on better. She had incorrectly assumed that after having retaken the Academy's entrance exam a quite remarkable number of times, the captain would already harbor at least a basic understanding of how a spaceship generally worked. Because of this, Emily had ended up circling the same couple of hallways for a half hour while attempting to draw herself a map of the ship.
"Huh. This door looks new," Emily muttered to herself. She paused to quickly pencil in the room on her inaccurate map before hitting a button alongside the wall that pulled apart a set heavy metal doors. "Hello? Knock knock, anyone home?" she called out, ducking around the corner. It was there that she found Scottie and Zap, crowded around a countertop and completely engrossed in whatever latest project they were working on. "So this is where you've been keeping yourselves holed up," she mused.
The two of them looked up. "The Chief Medical Officer and his nurse in the sickbay. Yes, that is awfully unusual, isn't it?" Scottie mocked. "And just what brings you out of your fancy captain's seat and all the way down here?"
Emily shrugged, climbing onto the counter next to them. Scottie winced at this behavior. "Boredom, mostly. Plus, my First Officer thought it would do me some good to get to know the area." Scottie went back to his work without responding, and so Emily went on: "So tell me, Scottie - it is Scottie, isn't it? - what exactly are you working on down here? I mean, I can understand helping out when people are sick or injured onboard, but what is there to do in the meantime besides sit around twiddling your thumbs?"
"Captain." Scottie turned his head to Emily, obviously trying hard to keep his cool. "Pardon my bluntness, but might I suggest referring to your crewmen by their surnames? You'd be surprised by the amount it does for your ethos in a command position."
"Why do I get the feeling you don't like me very much?" Emily pouted.
"Because I don't. And neither does the majority of your crew."
Emily looked hurt. "You can't know that. Amanda - I mean, Goldberg! Zap? You like me, right? We're friends?"
"Uh... no." Zap didn't even look up from the file she was flipping through.
"Look. Captain..." Scottie strummed his fingers over the metal countertop. "We're all here for different reasons, but regardless of what those are, we've all spent years studying and training to get here. Now, I'm in this position because I am a professional and I think it's safe to assume that it would give the crew, myself included, some reassurance that you are as well. As far as I'm concerned, the main duty of a captain is to install confidence in his or her crewmen. However, with the way you've been behaving since you came aboard..." The doctor trailed off, frowning at Emily as he watched her scribble several key points from his speech into her log. "Do you see where I'm coming from? This is exactly the sort of behavior I'm referring to! A proper captain shouldn't have to take notes on someone else telling them how to do their damn job, they should just know!"
Scottie flailed his arms about in frustration. Zap didn't do so much as flinch towards the others, instead keeping at her work uninterrupted. She knelt down to pull out a filing cabinet and began sorting a stack of forms into it.
Heavy boots clanking over metal floorboards, Soul marched down the corridor in search of Emily. "Shouldn't've advised her to go running off like that," the ship's navigator silently cursed herself. "At least not before having a tracking chip installed."
She tried another door and peered inside. "Can I help you, Powers?" one of the crewmen asked upon spotting her.
"Did the captain come by here?"
"Yeah, actually, now that you mention it. We did see her... what, a half hour ago? Strolled right on in like she owned the place, knocked over a bunch of emergency packages, and then took her leave almost as suddenly."
"Sounds like Emily," Soul grumbled. "Which way did she go?"
"Towards the sickbay, I think?"
"Thanks." Soul nodded to the crewman, who saluted her and went back to work. She then made her way in the direction of the sickbay, where she happened to run into the very person she was looking for.
"Captain? What have you been doing down... No, actually, don't tell me." Soul folded her arms across her chest. "There's been a slight... situation. You're needed on the bridge."
"A situation?" Emily whined. "But I wasn't expecting any situations to come up for at least another week or so!"
Scottie turned on a sink and began rinsing several tools off. He had to raise his voice to be heard over it. "Well? You heard the First Officer. Better get going, Claus; we can take care of ourselves just fine down here."
"That's Captain to you."
"I'll start addressing you as Captain again when you start acting like one."
Emily stuck out her tongue before scurrying to Soul's side. They turned the corner, heavy doors sealing behind them.
"I told you once and I'll tell you again, I had everything under control!" Emily assured her companion. Soul, however, remained unconvinced.
"That's not what it looked like from where I was standing. How am I supposed to get you to pass for a proper captain in no one will respect you as one?"
She shrugged indifferently. "Respected or not, the job still has its perks. First crack at the cheese tray, for instance, or the distinguished spot at the dinnertable..." The Starfleet impersonator and her accomplice then entered the bridge, where they found a couple officers huddled around a screen on one of the control panels.
"We'll discuss this further at a later time," Soul whispered to Emily, wrapping up their conversation.
"Or never." The captain flipped her hair defiantly, to which Soul wrinkled her nose. "Alright, so what's this 'little situation' I've heard rumors of?" she asked, approaching the others. As if on cue, the four crewmen parted for Emily to see what the issue was for herself. "Well?" she demanded after staring at the screen for a minute and still drawing blanks. "I don't see anything unusual. What am I supposed to be looking at?"
"That's just it, Captain," Nat Drobotenko, the And Another Note's Helms Officer with a noticeable Canadian accent, began to explain. "There's nothing there. We should be able to see Alpha Sector V by now - III and IV, too. But... nothing. Our radar is still getting a signal from them, but that's about it. There's just an empty space where it should appear on the map."
"Planets don't just disappear."
"You think I don't know that!"
"So you're telling me they just got up and walked away?" Emily leaned forward and tapped at the screen with an index finger. "Seems more likely to me that we have a systems malfunction and we're actually nowhere near the planets themselves."
"Martin already confirmed that everything's running smoothly," Shelby said, biting her lip. "I can call her back in if you think that she did a shitty job, but I've flown with Martin before and that's rarely the-"
"Captain? I think I found your planets." The others looked to where Nat was pointing at the large glass panel that lined the nose of the spaceship. Sure enough, three orangey-yellow balls were visible in the distance, nearly forming a perfect line.
"Well there you go!" Emily exclaimed. "Exactly where they're supposed to be. Case closed." She pounded her fist lightly against the screen for good measure. "So what is that? Another fifteen, twenty minutes until arrival?"
"Stop the ship!" Nat shouted suddenly, shoving Emily out of the way.
"Those planets aren't far away - they're just small! We going to land on them, we're going to crash into them!"
Without a word, Soul made a dive for her driver's seat and hurriedly pulled back at the ship's controls. The And Another Note didn't seem to appreciate the sudden change of plan and skid to a halt, its speed dropping at a dangerously fast pace. Those who didn't make it to their seats in time were thrown against the back wall and then to the floor once the vessel had come to a complete stop, no longer it motion. Now hovering, it became clear that Alpha Sectors III, IV, and V were, in fact, less than a starship's length away from them and each still looked hardly bigger than a basketball.
"Close call," Shelby exhaled, using Soul's chair to haul herself up again.
Nat shook her head in disbelief. "This is impossible."
"Okay, so the planet's not exactly to the scale we originally anticipated. Big whoop," Emily laughed uneasily. "I don't suppose there's any sense in trying to beam down to it, taking this most recent observation into account. Although, I'm a little disappointed that no one bothered to point this out before we set off..."
"Something's wrong," Nat insisted, spinning around her chair. "Where the planet is now, how much space it's supposed to be taking up on the radar... It just doesn't match up. I can't explain it, but you have to believe me!"
"What's going on?" a male's voice demanded. Emily turned to see Scottie entering the compartment and was slightly surprised to find that he was being trailed by Blaise and not Zap. "Did we hit something?"
"Nearly." Soul stood up again and brushed herself off. "Tell me, Doctor, do you notice anything... I don't know, unusual about the view?"
Scottie took several steps closer to the window, squinting. "I'm assuming that's Alpha Sector V there. Or rather, one of them is. We're pretty close..." He shot a confused look in Emily's direction. "Why have we stopped?"
"Objects in the mirror are closer than they appear," Shelby sang. "And much smaller, apparently. Probably close to our size."
"So you think something did this to the planets? I mean, I'm assuming they weren't always this way." Blaise pressed the palms of her hands against the glass with curiosity.
"That appears to be the general consensus," shrugged Emily.
Blaise looked over her shoulder. "Well? What are we waiting for? If something caused the planets to shrink to this extremity, naturally occurring or otherwise, aren't we obligated to look into it?"
"Well, I see someone is ready to pounce at the first sign of adventure," Scottie mused. "I, for one, think it's a brilliant idea. Let's just send an exploration party down to - oh wait, no, never mind, we can't without risking crushing half the planet's landmarks underneath our proportionally giant feet."
"Careful, Lewis. With sarcasm like that, someone might just get hurt."
"We wouldn't have to use the transporters, though?" Shelby suggested. "Couldn't we send someone out in a space suit, have them take a look from up close but not actually touch the surface?"
"If there are still lifeforms on the planet they'd cast one hell of a shadow," Nat muttered.
Soul shook her head. "I remember reading about Alpha Sectors III through V. Their last documentation was recorded nearly 300 years ago, and even then the planet was near desolate. It's practically all desert and home to only a single small species of humanoid life forms that was rapidly decreasing at the time. It's doubtful that they noticed their planet and those around them shrinking with them on it, but odds are that by now they've either all died or figured out how to get the hell out of there."
"And if not?"
"Then they're stupid and not worth our time."
"Williams and Martin have a point," Emily said, her eyes lighting up. All eyes in the immediate vicinity turned their attention to her, perhaps wondering if, for the first time since the And Another Note had taken off, their captain did have something important to add. "If there's just a small chance that investigating around the planets will tell us something about what happened to them, then it's worth taking. We could even bring back a couple samples and see if our science department can draw any conclusions from them."
After several more minutes of weighing alternatives the crew agreed on the plan. Willow Dwiggins, the Science Officer, even volunteered to collect the samples herself. Decked out from head to toe in a fancy space suit and with a thick cable attaching her to the And Another Note, Willow was sent out on her mission. She returned an hour later carrying ten vials, each containing a slightly different sample of sand.
"I'll be in my office if anyone needs me," Willow mumbled upon removing her helmet and quickly disappeared down a flight of stairs.
"I don't know what Dwiggins expects to find from a bunch of sand," Soul sighed. "But I suppose it's certainly one place to start."
"Don't be such a skeptic. Do you realize the amount of fun someone could have if we actually manage to manipulate the energy used to create such an effect as this?"
Soul glanced at Emily with raised eyebrows. "Fun? First off, you forget that the shrink ray has already been invented. Secondly, the only thing such a power could be used for is destruction. It's only fun if you're the one harnessing it and have a certain disregard for morality."
Emily leaned back against the wall with an exasperated sigh. "See, this is the problem with the economy in most galaxies. People are so quick to assume the worst in one another. No creativity, just 'this is used for good' and 'this is used for bad'. Labels are incredibly narrow-minded, if you ask me."
"Sometimes I wonder if you can even hear yourself blabbering on..."
It's funny how time doesn't seem to exist aboard a spacecraft. Everything appears to function in a continuous motion, never ceasing. It wasn't until well after midnight according to the ship's programmed standard time when crewmen began abandoning their posts for some shuteye. Scottie found himself unable to sleep, however, and after some time of trying he finally decided to climb out of bed and take a stroll across the And Another Note to see if Willow had uncovered anything new.
"Dwiggins?" the doctor called out, turning the corner into the Science and Research Department. He scanned his eyes across the laboratory, but Willow was nowhere in sight. He repeated her name and wasn't answered once more.
Scottie stepped further into the room, where he noticed a small pile of what looked like dirt and broken glass. He frowned, kneeling down beside it. "Must've dropped her samples and left to find a broom," Scottie mumbled to himself. "What a klutz." He picked up some of the orange sand and rubbed it through his fingers thoughtfully. Scottie then stood up again, dusting whatever powdery remains were left on his hands off onto his black pants.
Having lost interest in being up in that wee hour of the morning, Scottie had begun to walk back towards his quarters when he was suddenly hit by a splitting headache. He reached an arm out to support himself against the wall, clenching his teeth against the pain. He tried to keep going, but wasn't even halfway back when the throbbing had become near unbearable.
When telling the story later, Scottie would be unable to recall exactly what had happened to him in the following couple of minutes. But whatever it was came as quite a shock once he had regained control of himself and the pain subsided. After all, he didn't remember the ceiling being quite so high... or the corridor so wide...
Motherfucker! Scottie mouthed, putting the pieces together.
"Lewis! Goddammit Lewis, why didn't you listen to me!" Willow sprinted over, out of breath. She stood at about the same height as Scottie - an entire head taller, actually. But that wasn't saying much, given that the both of them were no bigger than a mouse now.
"Listen to you? I never even saw you, let alone heard you!"
Willow shrugged. This was a perfectly valid excuse, although an unfortunate one. "In any case," the scientist went on, "I think it's safe to assume that the sand had something to do with the shrinkage issue. I have cause to believe that its properties work by means of touch."
"No shit, Sherlock!" Scottie let out an aggravated groan. "I could've told you that much! Now why don't you make yourself useful and figure out how to reverse it?"
"Calm your tits. We have more important things to worry about than ourselves; the sand shrunk the glass until it shattered, unable to contain it anymore. I'm afraid that if we don't get it back where it came from it might start effecting the And Another Note as a whole. Hell, for all we know it already has!"
Scottie rubbed at his forehead. "Well, isn't that delightful news. So what are you suggesting we do to clean up this mess, keeping in mind, of course, that we won't be able to reach anything much higher off the ground than three inches? Five at the most?"
"You're right... We can't do much in this form. Not alone, in any case." Willow clicked her tongue in contemplation. "I can get my Junior Science Officers working on a cure once we eliminate the immediate threat."
"Whelp. Who are we waking up first?" Scottie asked, pulling a communicator from his belt. He clicked it a couple times, pressing the microphone against his cheek. "Check, check? Hello? Can anyone hear me?" He glanced down at the device with a frown. "It doesn't seem to be turning on... You don't think the shrinkage would affect whether or not it works, do you?"
"It's... possible. I don't know. But tell you what, if that's the case, I left my communicator on the table back there. If you think you're up for one hell of an obstacle course, we might just be able to use that..."
The task proved to be about as difficult as one would expect. The long trek back was a royal pain in the ass, but the real first challenge was getting past the already sealed doors. Luckily there had been an alternate entrance into the compartment, barred by glass that was unlocked. With as much combined force as they could muster up, Willow and Scottie were eventually able to create a space big enough to slide through before they snapped shut again.
After locating the communicator and steering as far away from what was now a miniature sand dune as possible, their next obstacle was rock climbing to the top of the table. Twice Scottie lost his footing and nearly plummeted to his death off of a stool. Willow seemed to have less trouble with this, at least until she saw the amount they still had to ascend.
"How do you propose we go about climbing the table's leg?" she questioned, hoping Scottie already had a plan in mind.
"Follow my lead."
Willow watched nervously while the man dove off of the stool and barely managed to catch himself on a thick wire running down from the surface above them. Wrapping his leg around the cord and hoping it would hold, Scottie began to pull himself up slow and steady.
Willow gulped. "Think you can move it closer from the top?"
Turns out he could and, with the aid of quite a handful of words of encouragement, Willow joined Scottie atop the piece of furniture. They were both panicked and exhausted, but at least they could now use the communicator.
"Hello! Hello, can anyone hear us?"
"This is Lieutenant Dwiggins and Doctor Lewis. Please, if anyone's there, anyone at all-"
"At ease, soldiers," Emily moaned, rolling over to answer her communicator. "Captain Claus speaking. This had better be pretty freaking important, waking me up at such an ungodly hour..."
"Oh, thank god! Yes, yes, it's an emergency!"
"Captain, I'm going to have to ask you to gather as many senior officers as you can and come find us in Dwiggins' laboratory in the Department of Science and Research. We'll explain then."
"And whatever happens, don't touch anything!"
"Yeah, yeah, I'm on my way," Emily yawned, tucking away the communicator. She attempted to roll out of bed, flopping herself onto the floor with a loud thunk.
Soul rubbed an eye. "Whelp. Guess this means I'm still asleep and dreaming."
"Don't we wish that were the case," Willow said, staring up at Emily, Shelby, and Soul, who now towered over them.
"No? Well, then I must be seeing things. I wouldn't put it past Claus to slip something into my drink as a stupid prank."
"Wrong again," Scottie sighed. "Believe me, this situation is a bit more stressful from where I'm standing."
"But, c'mon. Magical shrinking sand? Really?"
"Look, I know it sounds crazy-"
"Fucking magical shrinking sand?"
"I don't know, I think they're kinda cute like this," Emily giggled, leaning in for a closer look. "Do we really have to turn them back?"
"Well, we have to at least try," Shelby insisted. "But where would we even start?"
"Don't you even think about touching me," Scottie threatened, eyeing Emily's hand as it inched closer and closer. She ignored him, however, and went right on ahead and scooped the man up in the palm of her hand. Scottie let out a catlike yowl.
"Fascinating! You're, like, pocket-sized and don't weigh a thing!"
"With all due respect, Captain, don't make me bite you."
"Just... be careful not to accidentally drop him," Soul advised. "Zap seems well-trained enough, but should we find ourselves in a scrape, we might still be needing our Chief Medical Officer."
"You pUT ME DOWN THIS INSTANT OR SO HELP ME-"
"Worry about us later," Willow tried, urgency in her voice. "First we have to get that stuff off the ship, before it causes any more damage."
"After we went through so much trouble to bring it on? Isn't that counter-productive?" Shelby challenged.
"And a fat load of good it did us," Soul muttered. "Dwiggins is right. Our best course of action would be to get the sand back onto the planet where it came from. It took a while before the glass shattered, so I'm hoping we won't have any trouble repeating the process, just in reverse. Your thoughts, Captain?"
Emily set Scottie down again, possibly bruising him in the process. "Uh, yeah! Of course! Any volunteers?"
Shelby and Soul looked expectantly to one another for a tense minute. They then attempted to resolve the question with a quick game of Rock, Paper, Scissors.
"Best two out of three?" Shelby pleaded, her paper having failed her.
"I'll wake Martin," Soul suggested. "She sounded intrigued enough earlier tonight."
Willow gave a curt nod. "Perfect. In the meantime, Lewis and I can get started on searching for a cure here. Captain, if it's not too much trouble, do you think you could get a couple of Junior Science and Medical Officers? The more minds we have working on this puzzle, the better."
"Just not Zap," Scottie added quickly, rubbing at the leg he had landed on. "I'd never hear the end of it."
"Of course! I'll get on that right away!"
"Look at you, taking orders from the lower ranks," Soul sneered.
"Oh, piss off."
Soul managed to find Blaise's room easily enough. Without bothering to knock first, she pressed a button hanging alongside the wall and the door slid open. Despite being Chief Engineer, Blaise's room was quite... cozy, for lack of a better word. Crammed into the tight space was a desk and a single bed, which was currently being occupied by not one, but two bodies.
"Is there a boy in your bed?" Soul scoffed rather loudly.
Blaise let out a shriek and shoved the other person over so that they fell off the mattress and disappeared somewhere between the side of the bed and the wall. "Jesus fucking Christ, Powers, what in the devil's name are you doing in here!" Blaise gasped, springing into an upright position and pulling the sheets up against her chest.
"It hasn't even been 48 hours since our crew was put together! How do you already have a boy in your bed?"
"I don't know what you're referring to," Blaise said a little too quickly.
"You don't have to lie to the First Officer on my behalf," a male's voice chimed in. He stood up, making his presence known and in the process nearly making Soul want to gouge her eyes out.
"nOPE," she managed, spinning around to stare at the wall instead.
"Bennett," Blaise hissed under her breath. And then back to Soul: "Sorry, I'm really sorry, I... Well, the captain never officially stated a policy regarding... well, this sort of thing. So I just kinda assumed. We're... We didn't just meet, if that's what you're thinking!"
"Bennett Rieser," the man introduced himself with a little wave. "And Another Note's counselor."
"Yes, okay, never mind who you are," Soul exhaled. "Martin, the captain wished to speak with you about... Well, we'll discuss it on the way. So why don't you both, um... put some clothes on, send Rieser back to his own quarters, and I'll just... I'll be waiting outside."
Within a matter of minutes Blaise had exited the room in full uniform and was in the middle of tying up her hair. "Look, Powers..." she began, spotting the First Officer. "Would it be too much to ask that you do me favor and forget whatever you thought you saw back there?"
Soul couldn't nod her head fast enough in response. "Believe me, I'm trying. So. You and the counselor are...?"
"For nearly a year now. Well, he was only a Junior Officer until recently, but..."
"I see." Soul shook her head, remembering that there was even more pressing gossip at hand. "Right, sand! Uh, you remember those samples that Dwiggins returned with?"
"Well, funny story..."
Soul then spent the time it took for the two of them to rejoin the others summarizing the details regarding their unusual predicament. As anticipated, Blaise was more than willing to help out in whatever way that she could.
Emily had gathered six Junior Officers from both divisions (as well as Zap, just to spite Scottie if nothing else) who were already hard at work on their puzzle. Despite Willow's obvious disadvantage, she seemed to have little trouble with giving instructions to the Junior Officers as they frantically flipped through paperwork and scrawled various formulas across a whiteboard.
As all this was going on, Shelby and Soul helped Blaise into the space suit and prepared to send her out.
"Be careful with this," Emily instructed, handing Blaise the sand in a brand new glass container. "It's pretty big, so hopefully you'll have enough time to make it before anything happens."
"Don't worry, Captain. Nothing's going to happen."
Something did happen. It just wasn't something that the group was necessarily worried about in the grand scheme of things. Blaise made it to the closest planet, Alpha Sector III, just fine and emptied the sand back into its atmosphere. The planets looked even smaller now, although not by much. Blaise was headed back when her jet pack started to fail, perhaps out of fuel already.
"This would happen the one time we don't bother to link her to the ship with a cable," Shelby despaired.
"Can't we beam her back?" suggested Emily.
Soul bit at her lip. "Setting up a transporter lock would be difficult. Possible, but... really difficult."
"Then we can send someone else to pull her back in. Take a second suit and use the cable just to be safe."
"I'm not putting one of those on," Soul said. Shelby held out a fist, preparing for another round of Rock, Paper, Scissors.
Emily sighed. "It's fine. I'll just go."
"Are you sure you can handle it?"
"I'm just flying over there and pulling her back, right? That sounds simple enough."
It had to have been, because not even Emily screwed it up. Clinging to Blaise's backside like a small child, Emily was able to steer the both of them back to the And Another Note in no time at all.
They boarded the ship and waited until their entrance had completely sealed and gravity was back up and running before coming all the way inside. The very first thing Emily did was remove her helmet, upon which she was immediately punched in the face.
"What the actual fuck?!" the captain screeched.
"That's for picking me up earlier," Scottie explained cooly. Clearly the shrinkage was reversible, as both he and Willow were back to their usual size. "I avoided your nose this time because I don't want to go through the trouble of fixing it back up again, but the next time you try something like that..."
"You just hit me! I... I'm your captain - you can't hit me!"
"I'm so glad you're okay!" Shelby exclaimed, throwing her arms around Blaise.
"Yes, alright. That's about enough of that." She pried Shelby off with a slight smile.
"Oh, she gets a hug," Emily whined, rubbing at her cheek. "I can't believe you'd hit a girl, much less your captain..."
Willow stretched her arms above her head with yawn. "Well! This has been a lot of fun, but if it's all the same to you lot, I think I can hear my pillow calling me. I'll be in my bedchamber if you need anything. Which you won't, if you know what's good for you."
"Good idea," Soul agreed. "And I suggest the rest of you do the same. First thing tomorrow morning I'm getting us the hell out of here."
"Amen," Zap said flatly. Her complete lack of emotional investment in any given situation would continue to impress most of the crew for weeks to come.
And that, my friends, is the story of how Emily and Soul stole the And Another Note and encountered their first misadventure. The following morning they did book it the hell of there and in the end never did end up making any real discoveries regarding the fucking magical shrinking sand and the effects it had on Alpha Sectors III, IV, and V. In fact, they didn't even bother getting any proper documentation of the incident because Emily, who they assumed would have the issue taken care of, didn't realize that this was the goal behind their voyage in the first place.
She would continue to make this mistake for as long as she was in command of the And Another Note. But more on that later.