Perchance to Dream
Once the last crate had been loaded and the final box delivered, the Ulasomorf pulled away from the docking station. In a matter of minutes, Omega was just a blip on their rear sensors. Finn watched as it slowly slid across the screen and eventually vanished.
Yawning, Finn asked Jake, "Could you take the helm for awhile? After everything that's happened today, I could use some sleep."
"Go ahead, bro." Jake told him. "I'll let you know if anything happens."
As he headed for the door, Jake asked, "Oh, by the way; how'd it go with that cute quarian?"
"Goodnight, Jake." Finn said pointedly, not bothering to turn around. Jake's laughter followed him out of the bridge.
Finn took of the Blue Suns armor and unceremoniously tossed it piece by piece behind him as he walked through the corridor. He hated body armor, and would rather have a good shield emitter over plating any day.
As he struggled to tug off the last boot, Ensign Mannon stepped out from an adjoining corridor.
"Making yourself at home?" She asked, putting a hands on her hips.
"Bah." He muttered, still struggling. "I'll pick it up later. It is my ship now, after all."
With a sigh, she shooed his hands away and grabbed the boot by the toe and heel. After a few hearty tugs, she managed to yank the boot free.
"Thanks." He told her, taking the boot. "I'm glad to be out of that crap."
Dropping the boot right in front of her seemed rude, so he continued heading to the cargo bay. To his surprise, Mannon followed him.
"You don't have to thank me." He told her. "I don't have enough friends to start leaving them behind."
"It's not that." She blushed, quickly adding, "Not that I'm not grateful; I am. I was just wondering if I could ask you something."
Finn shrugged, saying, "Shoot."
"Finn," She asked hesitantly. "Why are you avoiding Earth?"
"It's on the other side of the galaxy. Waste of time going all that way if we don't need to." He said a lot more breezily than he felt. He paused a moment before asking, "That reminds me; did you get in contact with the Alliance?"
"I did. I asked for help, but apparently there's some problem with the krogans that has everyone on edge."
"What kind of problem?" Finn asked, a bit alarmed. People were still talking about the disaster known as the Krogan Rebellions.
"They wouldn't say." Mannon told him. "They offered protection, but we'll have to go to Earth."
"Figures." Finn muttered. He tried to move around Mannon, but she quickly cut in front of him again.
"Look, I know you don't like the Alliance, but-"
"I don't have a problem with the Alliance." He told her truthfully.
She was surprised by his answer. "You … you don't?"
He shook his head. "Sure, there are a few bad apples, but overall, the Alliance are good people. Overbearing, sometimes, but well-intentioned."
"Then why do you refuse to go there?"
Finn was silent for a moment before asking, "Why were you on J-27?"
"Why were you on J-27?" Finn repeated. "That shot you made in Fuego's library was one in a million … nice work, by the way. You're skilled with a rifle, you're quick on your feet, and you're good with the comm systems. You'd probably make a fantastic officer back on Earth. Why were you posted to J-27?"
She blushed, but didn't respond.
Nodding, Finn told her, "When you tell me, I'll tell you."
As he walked away, a feeling of guilt overtook him. Sighing, he said, "If we don't find what we're looking for in New Elysia, we'll go to the Alliance. Okay?"
"Okay." She replied, her voice quiet. Bowing her head, she started walking towards the bridge.
Once she was gone, Finn threw the boot across the cargo bay. He was being unreasonable; he knew it as well as she did, and for some reason that annoyed him.
"Like I didn't have enough on my mind." He muttered as he entered the lift.
He jabbed the fourth floor button with prejudice and leaned against the back of the lift as it started its ascent. After a few moments, the lift doors opened to reveal a surprising number of packages. Darsan and Eri were in the central room on the fourth floor. Eri was opening the boxes while Darsan lounged in a chintzy-looking couch that now occupied the middle of the room.
Darsan glanced at Finn. "Surprised; ah, Finn! We were just talking about you."
"Hey Darsan." Finn said, giving the elcor a friendly wave. "Decided to redecorate, huh?"
"Cheerily; since we're likely to be here awhile, I thought the place could use some more color, don't you think? Besides, not all of us can sleep on a human bed. Don't worry; I'll only charge you at cost for the furniture."
"Much appreciated." Finn replied, not doubting for a second that Darsan meant it. "I owe you anyway for the save. I still can't believe you went out and bought all of that gear."
"Well, it was on sale." Darsan said, pointedly looking away.
Finn grinned as the elcor busied himself with an extremely fake-looking potted plant.
Shaking his head, Finn turned to Eri. "So, how you settling in?"
"Well enough. I had my stuff shipped here before we departed. I hope you don't mind, but we already took the liberty of marking our doors."
Glancing around, Finn spotted a door with Eri's family crest and another that simply read "J-27 or Bust". "Good idea. Might as well be comfortable while we're running for our lives."
"Importantly; speaking of which; I took the liberty of filling the pantry. I can't choke down those omni-bars."
Eri shrugged, saying, "I guess that's what I'll be eating."
"Cheerily; don't worry, Eri; I picked up a few dextro-provisions."
Finn gave him a curious look. "Why? Don't get me wrong, I'm glad you did, but how could you know we'd need some?"
"Just a hunch." To Finn's surprise, Darsan gave him a wink.
"A hunch?" Finn repeated, not bothering to hide his disbelief.
"Yes. It was just a hunch. Always be prepared, isn't that what humans say? Faking alarm; speaking of which, I believe I left something on the stove."
Finn watched Darsan stomp over to the lift. As the doors closed, he commented flatly, "Gee, I wonder if Darsan's hiding something."
"What, you don't believe he's really cooking something?" Chuckling, Eri grabbed a dufflebag that was lying next to him on the couch, saying, "I'm going to go unpack before I check out the weapon systems on this junker. You need me for anything?"
"Nah, I'm heading to bed myself."
Nodding, Eri said, "Goodnight, man."
As Eri started to walk away, Finn thought back to his conversation with Fuego Massani. Coughing, he asked aloud, "We're good, right?"
"After what happened with the Polaski job … we're still friends, right?"
"Yeah, we're fine; you did come back and save my ass, after all. Besides, we all knew the risks." Eri replied, giving Finn an odd look. "Are you okay?"
Finn was silent as he contemplated what, if anything, he had to say. Eventually, he just shook his head, saying, "Nothing. I'm just tired."
To his surprise, Eri walked over to him and gave him a reassuring pat on the back. "Get some sleep, man. If we're really in as much trouble as you say, we're going to need those fancy brains working right."
Finn couldn't help but chuckle at that. "Thanks, Eri. Hold down the fort, okay?"
"You got it." With that, Eri took his box and disappeared behind the door to his room.
Finn started to go into the same room he had previously used, but stopped when he realized that he was the captain now. With a sigh, he walked into Krieger's quarters. When he hit the light, a lamp in the corner turned on, bathing the room in a soothing orange light that revealing a bed that looked to have been slept in recently.
"And Mannon was getting on my case about the armor." He muttered, staring at the mass of blankets and sheets. "Well, she can go find another room."
Aside from the state of the bed, the room looked unused. Krieger had spared no expense either; the cabin came equipped with full environmental and atmospheric controls, a full-size private bathroom, an autowash capable of holding and cleaning several sets of clothes, and nice fluffy carpet. Finn was a bit curious as to why the bed was his size. He wondered if Krieger ever actually used it; the bed was certainly larger than a volus would need.
"Eh. Maybe he expected company." Finn considered the thought of Krieger as a ladies man for a moment before shaking his head and chuckling to himself.
After a nice shower in the bathroom (my private bathroom, Finn reminded himself), Finn set his clothes in the autowash and turned off the light. After fumbling in the dark for a few moments, his hands touched the warm mattress.
"Self-heating bed." He murmured as he slipped between the covers. "How nice."
"Slipstream, can you read me?"
Finn jerked awake in the cockpit of his Tyrael starfighter. It was a basic design; a control pod and a heavily shielded eezo core nestled between three wings that were roughly three times the length of the entire craft. They weren't scheduled to fly today, but that was part of the fun.
Stifling a yawn, he quickly said, "Slipstream reporting in. Is that you, Sergeant Rico?"
A long-suffering sigh answered him. "Yes, it's me. I thought you'd like to know we're nearing our destination."
"Excellent!" Finn said, grinning despite the fact that no one could see him. "You both ready to give 'em a show?"
A far less confident voice stammered, "I dunno, Slipstream. Maybe this isn't such a good idea."
"Come on, Kat. You wanted to show these losers up more than I did." Finn told her. "What are you worried about?"
"What if we get caught?" She replied. "We could get thrown out of the Acadamy."
"Relax, Katt." Replied Sergeant Rico. "We've done this dozens of times. We'll fly the stupid race, Slipstream will win, he'll gloat for about fifteen minutes, and we'll go home."
Finn chuckled. "That's right. Cheer up; I'll buy us a round of drinks when we get back to the Acadamy."
Rico snorted. "You're sixteen, Slipstream. All the fake beards in the world aren't going to convince a bartender your babyface is old enough to drink."
"Leave that to me." Finn replied.
As Finn brought his fighter out of FTL, three blips appeared on his sensors.
"Well! If it isn't Slipstream! About time your lazy ass made it." Said a good-natured voice.
"Wanted you to feel special for a change, Greg." Finn quipped back as Kat and Sergeant Rico took up position on either side of him.
Greg laughed through the intercom. "You boys ready to get left in the dust?"
Finn grinned, his fingers twitching in anticipation. "You wanna talk, or race?"
"All right then; first to reach asteroid J-27 wins. Ready?"
A momentary wave of confusion passed over him. Hadn't he heard that designation before somewhere?
"Slipstream? Hello, Slipstream!"
Finn shook his head. "Yeah. I'm ready."
"Then on the count of three! One! Two! Three!"
Finn was gone in a flash; his ship zoomed into the lead as the other five starfighters raced to catch up.
The asteroids were too few and far between to really play a factor; the real point of the race was to see who was a better streamer. His grin widening, Finn activated his FTL drive.
Finn awoke, feeling strangely warm. He lay there in silence, staring up at the darkened ceiling of his room as the last fragments of his dream slowly faded away. His eyes, now adjusted to the low light, looked around the room as the here and now came back to him.
He was just starting to drift back to sleep when he felt something touch his bare chest. Finn looked down to see a pale arm slide across his chest, the three fingers of the attached hand holding his side gently as something very warm snuggled against him.
"I really hope that's not you, Darsan." He whispered.
Whoever it was hugged him closer, feminine curves pressing against his side. A strangely sweet scent passed his nostrils as her breath fell on his cheek. Ever so slowly, he turned his head to see a pale maroon-tinged face resting on his shoulder, her eyes closed and her expression peaceful.