Phoenix Rising
By Janet Lynne

Part 7

See Part 1 for disclaimers (including a new one regarding explicit sex)

-13-


Kara made a final entry into the computerized record and checked the time display on her data screen. Time for lunch. Time to see my baby. She grinned as she stood and shrugged out of her lab coat, settling it on the back of her chair. She recognized a familiar warmth and her grin grew wider. Devon was nearby...closer than she usually was, anyway, while on the bridge. I wonder what she's fixing us for lunch? Her stomach rumbled hungrily as her blood tingled in anticipation of spending time with her mate. She left Medlab and crossed the corridor to the mess hall, and was greeted by her crewmates.

"Hey Doc," Chad greeted with his trademark wide grin. Beside him, Cyd lifted her fork in greeting.

Kara returned the smile with a wave, "Hi, Chad, Cyd, guys."

"Doctor," Rusty grunted, not looking up from his meal.

"Hey there, hon," Jim said as he tilted his glass in greeting. "What's on the menu today?"

Kara grinned as she joined her mate in the galley. "I don't know...let me see what my partner here is cooking up." She wrapped an arm around Devon's waist and looked around her to see what she was preparing. "Hi, love. What's cooking?"

Devon looked down at her mate with a large grin as she continued to prepare two meal packs. "Hi, babe. Pasta." She added with a leer that only Kara could see, "With red sauce."

"Ooh," Kara said saucily. "My favorite."

"I thought white sauce was your favorite."

"Not anymore." The dialog, both ends of it, was so saucy that the room's other occupants understood fully what was really being discussed.

"Christ, you two...can you leave your bedroom secrets in the Captain's quarters, please?" Rusty grumbled.

"Crewman Schwartz, my Medical Officer and I are simply discussing meal ideas," Devon provided innocently.

"Uh, huh. Whatever you say, Devon. But I wouldn't have minded being a fly on the wall of your quarters the last time you two discussed pasta sauce."

As Devon laughed and Kara blushed furiously, Cyd and Chad both nearly choked on their food, and received a pointed gaze from Jim.

"You two alright?" Their Captain asked.

"Yes, Cap. This is just a little spicy," Chad provided.

"You've got that right," Cyd muttered under her breath.

"Commander Mitchell, perhaps you're not aware of the fact that I have extremely sharp hearing. Care to elaborate on what you meant by that remark?"

Cyd froze and blanched visibly. "Um, Captain...I mean, Devon...I just meant to agree with Chad...this Szechwan chicken is quite spicy." She buried her face in her meal, hoping that the discussion was at an end.

"Mm, hm," Devon drawled, but let it end. She finished the preparation of their meals and turned to her mate, grasping her about the waist and pulling her close. "Mm," she whispered. "I've needed this all day."

Kara squeezed her tightly and buried her face against Devon's shoulder. "Me too, love." She took a deep breath, pulling in Devon's scent along with her essence and letting it fill her senses.

"Hey, uh, you two wanna get a private room?" Rusty suggested around a mouthful of beef with noodles.

Devon looked up from her beloved's lovely face and commanded sharply, "Crewman Schwartz...shut the fuck up."

"Shutting the fuck up, ma'am." He returned his attention to his meal and Devon returned her attention to her mate's neck.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Devon finished her last bite of pasta and wiped her mouth before pushing her tray away and leaning back in her chair. "Okay, since everyone's here, I've got some business to discuss."

Her mate's hand took up it's normal position on her right thigh and she smiled at Kara as she grasped it. "Last night, I had a communication with a Fleet Battle Cruiser inbound from Neptune Sec. They recently engaged a group of five hostiles. They took one out, but the others escaped, including one," she gazed pointedly at each of her crew, "With an illegal dimensional drive. They hopped out."

"Shit," gasped Chad and the sentiment was echoed by everyone else at the table.

"Are they sure it was an advanced drive?" Jim asked.

"Yep, the Captain relayed the battle data to me. Its signature was strictly Reticulan, and the Grays had reported the loss of a small hopper recently. Its pilot was killed."

"Oh, Christ," Rusty exclaimed, shaking his head. "WorldGov must be shittin' all over themselves."

"I can imagine that they are, and that the more reactionary politicians are fearing war. But fortunately, we...you and I...know the Grays better than that. We know that they basically expect that sort of behavior from humans, even still, and that they have no fear of death. However, I can imagine that they do want the situation taken care of as expediently as possible, so I'm thinking that I now have some idea of why we've been called there. Also, unofficially, the Fleet has given me wide latitude in dealing with this. It, um, seems that the ship that hopped may have been the one that destroyed my mother's cruiser." She looked down at the table, knowing that her eyes would be reflecting the pain she was feeling, and Kara rubbed her thigh tenderly.

"Well, Cap," Rusty said with conviction, "I'm ready to take down the motherfuckers, how about you?" He looked her in the eye and then turned his gaze to each of his crewmembers as well.

"That's where I stand, Rusty. How do each of you feel about it?"

Jim stood and rested his hands on the table. "Devon, I think I can speak for the whole crew. We are behind you one thousand percent. You get us engaged with the bastards and we will help you to take them down. Am I right?" He addressed Cyd and Chad, knowing where Kara stood by virtue of her obvious support of her mate as she leaned against her.

Cyd and Chad both nodded vigorously. "Yes, absolutely."

"Hell, yeah."

Devon nodded and smiled. "Thank you. Okay. Well, in that case, our orders are changed somewhat. We have been approved for exterior-mounted cannon, and will pick them up at the depot on Titan Alpha."

"Yes!" Chad yelled as he jumped to his feet. Jim and Rusty nodded, both very pleased with the news.

"God, what is it about men and big guns anyway?" Kara remarked to Cyd, who shook her head with a grin.

"It must have something to do with feelings of inadequacy, don't you think, Doctor?"

"It's quite possible, Commander. Especially in the case of these three." She grinned to soften her words and Devon laughed deeply.

"Alright, you women. I haven't seen any of you refusing to do your share of the shooting, have I?" Rusty asked. "Especially you, Cap. What are you rated again? Level ten, eleven?"

"Fifteen, actually," Devon answered with a smug grin.

"Jesus, and they let you fly instead of command ground battalions?" He shook his head, then added, "Yeah, well, Dev, no one ever confused you with a mommy's girl, now did they?"

"Nope. Okay, enough bullshit. When we reach Titan Alpha, we will be outfitted with the new weaponry and we will all be spending time learning the system while outbound. Let's just hope we don't engage the bastards before we reach Saturn Sec."

Everyone at the large, round table muttered their agreement. "In fact, I think we'll step it up a little. Jim, can we go to one hundred ten percent maximum on the engines? Say for a twelve or twenty-four hour burn? It would be nice to cut a few weeks off our travel time and blaze through those sectors faster than they can follow and engage."

"I think we might manage that, Dev, but I'll have to run the numbers to be sure. We're in great shape equipment-wise, with plenty of backup capability." He stood as he said, "I'll go run those numbers now and get back to you in an hour or so." He looked at Chad. "Crewman, if you're finished, you can give me a hand."

"Sure, Jim," Chad said as he stood and gulped down his juice. He squeezed Cyd's shoulder as he picked up his tray in his large hand and walked it to the galley.

"Okay, guys, thanks. I appreciate the support. As you were." She stood and picked up their trays and Kara joined her in the galley. Kara could feel the tension within her mate, though she appeared outwardly calm, and rested her hand in the center of her back as Devon disposed of their trash.

"Come on," Devon said, feeling the transfer of affection through her mate's hand. She grasped Kara's hand and pulled her behind her out of the mess hall and across the corridor to the Medlab. She palmed the door switch and as it closed behind them, pulled Kara close. "Give me that hug that you know I need."

"Gladly, love," Kara said as she melted into Devon's embrace. She pulled her mate close and rubbed her back gently. There was much she wanted to say to support her mate, but let her touch and their bond communicate it silently. The love passed between them, strong, loving and supportive, and Devon let it wash over her, renewing her confidence and her conviction. She kissed the soft, blonde head that rested against her chest. "Thank you, baby. You feel so good." She grasped Kara's shoulders and pushed her gently away so that she could gaze at her. "You give me exactly what I need, Kara. Thank you."

"I love you, Devon. I will be, I will do, I will provide you with whatever you want and need, always. And with great pleasure. You are my Universe."

"And you are mine." Devon pulled her close again and bent her head to kiss her. They enjoyed a long, loving kiss and let it deepen briefly, as a promise for later. Devon ended the kiss with a deep sigh and murmured, "I have got to marry you soon, lady."

"Name the date, my love, and I'll be there with bells on."

Devon looked deeply into Kara's eyes as she said seriously, "Three months from now, give or take a day, on Sen."

"Three months from now, on Sen," Kara repeated, as she choked up with emotion and tears began to fall. "And I'd like to take your name, too," she whispered, no longer able to trust her voice.

"Gods, Kara," Devon gasped, as the emotion of the moment caught up to her. "Thank you, love. Thank you so much." She pulled Kara into a tight embrace and didn't let her go for long minutes. She was so filled with emotion that she didn't think she could handle seeing anyone else, so she stood, holding her mate quietly in the dimmed Medlab, as the quiet, soothing sound of the water in the hydroponics system accompanied their embrace.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Shortly thereafter, Devon sat on the bridge, distracted by thoughts of her mate and of what they had promised each other, when her comm buzzed and she absentmindedly reached over to flick at it. "Yeah?"

"Devon, I ran those numbers and I can give you one hundred twenty-five percent for twelve hours."

Devon ran the calculations quickly through her head and responded, "That'll clip off what, twelve, fourteen days?"

"Fourteen, and I'd hate to push her any harder than that, Andy."

"Understood. Thank you, Jimmy. I'll go ahead and punch her up now, rather than wait until we reach current maximum."

"Aye, Devon. I'll watch the numbers here on my end. Out."

Devon punched some figures into the ship's comp and glanced at her co-pilot. "Okay, Cyd, on my mark increase thrust fifteen percent."

Cyd nodded. "Aye."

"Three, two, one, mark."

Cyd initiated the sequence and two sets of eyes watched the readouts on their data screens. Several minutes passed while they watched the readouts and numbers carefully. Devon's sharply tuned and very experienced ears detected the slight hint of strain that the engines were working under as she felt the increased velocity.

Devon nodded, satisfied. "Engines are nominal. On my mark, increase thrust by ten percent and hold."

"Aye, Captain."

"Three, two, one, mark."

The ship's velocity increased noticeably again, and Devon's eyes locked on her readouts.

The comm buzzed and Jim's voice floated into the cabin, "She looks good, Dev. We're well within parameters back here. Out."

"Copy, Jim. It looks good up here, too. Thanks." She swiveled away from the cabin wall and faced her console. "Cyd, I'd like to keep a close eye on these engines while we're pushing them so hard...I don't want to leave them unmonitored. If you'll finish off the shift, I'll take night watch and perform shutdown."

"Fine."

Devon ran through a few maintenance checks and then sat back and rested her hands on her thighs. "Well, then. I'll see you at the end of shift."

Cyd nodded as she loaded a sim. "Okay, Devon. I'll brush up on these advanced sims of yours while I'm here."

Devon stood and smiled down at her co-pilot. "Good. I'll see you."

She turned and left the bridge through the main door, striding toward the back of the ship. When she poked her head into the Medlab, she didn't see her mate, so she continued on toward Engineering. As she passed the passenger section, she thought, Kara must be checking on her patients, when she felt the warmth that signalled her soulmate's proximity. Not wanting to disturb Kara, she strode past the passenger berths and palmed the cargo section hatch. Before stepping inside, she kicked at the left heel of her boot with her right toe, engaging the magnetizing function, and then did the same with the right heel. Her boots locked onto the metal floor as she stepped onto it and she carefully strode across the length of the section, making sure to not lift one foot until the other was securely on the floor. Reaching the opposite hatch, she de-magnetized the boots and floated up slightly as she palmed the hatch open and stepped through.

Jim looked up from his console to see the Captain enter and wait until she was right-side-up with respect to him, then she strode toward him.

"How's it look, Jim?"

"They're humming right along, Devon. Running like the proverbial train."

"Let's have a look at the numbers," Devon said as she gazed over his shoulder. Graphical readouts showed all engine properties well within the normal operating range. "Good, Jim. Let me know if any numbers begin to approach redline, huh?"

"Will do. You'll be staying on shift until shutdown, I presume?"

Devon nodded seriously. "Of course."

"Right. So will I. I may have Chad relieve me briefly, but otherwise, I'll be right here."

"I'm going off for a while, but I'll relieve Cyd at end of shift."

"Okay, Dev. Sounds like we've got it covered."

"Mm," Devon agreed. "Carry on. I, uh, think I'll go see what Kara's up to. Later, Jimmy."

"Devon, you are becoming entirely predictable, my friend," Jim said with a sly grin.

His friend blushed and shrugged before turning away and leaving the section. My God, she's fallen hard. Couldn't have happened to a couple of nicer ladies, either. He shook his head with a smile and returned to his monitoring.

Devon slowed as she approached the passenger section. She wanted to check on how busy Kara was, but didn't want to bother her. As she strode through the door, she knew absolutely that her mate was within, because their link started throbbing fiercely. Jesus, this thing is weird. Nice, but weird.

Before Devon had even fully entered the berth she was in, Kara turned, surprised. "Honey, hi! What's up?"

"I'm off for several hours...taking over watch again for seven at the end of shift...I just thought I'd see what you're up to."

Kara grinned widely. "Ah, you missed me, huh?"

Devon looked embarrassed and glanced behind her toward the corridor. "Shit, Kara, not so loud...I'd hate for anyone to hear that."

"Oh, not good for the Captain's reputation, huh? I see." She grinned crookedly as she set her comp unit down on the chamber beside her and approached her mate with open arms, wrapping them around her waist.

"Not a bit good, no," Devon said as she willingly pulled Kara close and buried her face in her hair.

"I've got news for you honey...everyone knows how hard we've both fallen."

"Oh, baby, no..."

"I'm afraid so." Kara kissed the shoulder next to her and sighed. "Mmm, this is nice. So, do I, um, have the Captain's permission to end my shift a little early so I can eat dinner with my partner?"

"You certainly do."

"Thank you."

"No problem." Devon bent her head to kiss her lover and enjoyed her taste until they were both more breathless than they should be while still on duty. She rested her cheek against Kara's head and said softly, "Sorry, Kara. I know we shouldn't be doing this, but I just can't help myself." As she felt the stirrings of the sweet fire within that Kara always managed to stoke, she pulled away. "I'd better leave so you can finish what you're doing."

"Honey, it's okay. I don't mind in the least...I needed a break anyway. And um, I'm almost done here, would you like to stay? I only have one more chamber to check after this one."

Devon's face broke into a warm smile. "Yes, I would. I enjoy watching you work and don't get the opportunity to do it often. Thanks."

"Don't mention it," Kara said, matching her warm smile. She leaned forward and brushed a quick kiss against warm lips before turning back to her job. Devon settled into a chair against the wall of the small berth and watched as her mate returned to her task of checking readings and collecting data.

As she watched her partner leaning over the large cryo-unit and then kneeling at its side to check readings, Devon admired her professionalism. She's every bit as accomplished in her career as I am in mine...maybe more so. She has two M.D.'s for Sennaat's sake. She shook her head, wondering how her mate had managed to accomplish so much at such a young age. She remembered a conversation they had shared on one of their first nights together.

They were lying together, drifting in the warm, wonderful space between lovemaking and sleep, and she had asked Kara if she had been with many women before her. She had never asked anyone that particular question before...had honestly never cared about the answer...but this time felt that it mattered for some reason. Kara had shared openly, having no desire to be anything but completely honest with her new mate.

"Well, let's see...my first time was at University, while I was studying premed. I was young...I had taken accelerated courses and entered University at seventeen. I felt pretty lost at first...I had never been away from my parents for more than two nights. My first roommate was very nice. She was two years older...a year ahead of me at school...and made me feel comfortable right away. We discovered that we had some shared interests and bonded pretty quickly. Within a few weeks, we started to sleep together. Her name was Lara."

"Mm, an older woman showed you the ropes, huh?" Devon asked quietly, squeezing her affectionately.

"Oh, yes, an older woman. She was all of nineteen," Kara chuckled. "She was my first sex partner and really, my first serious relationship. We were together for about five months, until a handsome doctor caught her eye. Which was alright, because I was feeling a bit trapped by then. After Lara, I had some casual encounters, and then another somewhat long-term relationship when I was doing my residency in Old Phoenix...a doctor at the hospital there...Maren. After that there were several more casual flings, and then I met Elana when I accepted the post on Mars. She was dark and exotic and caught my eye right away. When she was assigned to co-lead the hypersleep project with me, we became close, and, well...you know the rest of the story."

"Mm," Devon had said, pulling Kara up to meet her lips again, "That I do. I especially like the part where you left her and found your soulmate." The kiss had deepened and they had made love again, both falling into exhausted sleep immediately afterward. Devon shook her head and grinned as she recalled the disheveled state that they had awakened in the next morning when the alarm had chimed.

"What's funny, love?" Kara's soft voice pulled her from her reverie.

"Oh, um, just recalling that morning when we woke up on the other end of the bed."

"Oh!" Kara grinned. "That was comical. We, uh, engaged in some pretty acrobatic feats the night before, if I remember correctly."

"God, Kara, that we did. Jesus." She shook her head and gazed comically up at her mate.

"I'm finished here, love, and just need to check the chamber in the next berth."

"Okay," Devon exclaimed, jumping to her feet. "Let's go, babe." She wrapped her arm around Kara's shoulders and walked her into the next compartment. A half hour later they could be found in their quarters, engaging in more of those acrobatic feats as their crewmates guided their ship safely out of Mars Sector.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Devon leaned back in her pilot's seat. The Bridge was dark, illuminated only by the readouts flickering across the equipment. The ship utilized a twelve-hour day/night system, which roughly simulated the diurnal/nocturnal patterns of Earth and Mars. Devon felt that the simulated day and night made her crews feel more at ease...more at home aboard ship. So, ship's lighting systems were partially dimmed from 1900 to 0700 hours, and brightly lit from 0700 to 1900.

When she worked evening shifts on the bridge, Devon preferred to keep it darkened. Therefore, she sat in the soothing dark, which closely matched the space outside, monitoring the ship's systems, the lights of the equipment reflecting off her face and light eyes. She kept half an eye on the readouts while most of her brain replayed the recreational pursuits she had enjoyed earlier with Kara. She closed her eyes and smiled as a vivid memory, accompanied by sensory stimulation, played across her awareness.

Laughing, she had rolled them over and Kara had crawled down the length of her long body, kissing and licking all the way, finally turning and situating herself straddling Devon's face. As Kara had settled her golden curls against Devon's face, Devon had moaned blissfully as Kara buried her face delightfully in her mate's dark curls. They had commenced licking and stroking in unison, delivering delirious pleasure to one another, and had finally stiffened and arched as one, climaxing together. Afterward, they had lain entwined until roughly one minute before Devon was due to relieve Cyd on the bridge. Not wanting to part. Never wanting to part.

Devon shook her head as she recalled the pleasure they had shared, and her body shivered in remembrance. Gods, what her touch does to me. One look, the slightest touch, awakens the sweet, liquid fire that races to every part of my body at once, and pools in my groin until she relieves the pressure. She sighed deeply and blew out a breath. I have never felt so complete. It's because she completes me. I could never have been complete until we had met. Now...gods...I'm part of a whole, a partnership, and I know, without a shadow of a doubt that I need her to continue to feel complete. She chuckled quietly. My Gray friends, as stoic as they are, will be having a laugh over this. I do believe that I once told the Consul that I could never exist tied down to a single person. It's laughter in my mind had been so loud that it was almost painful. Gods, I wonder if it knew...

As she allowed the pleasant thoughts free rein, she glanced at the chronometer. Two hours until shutdown. Gods, I need to be in bed, holding my love while she sleeps. She sighed again and was beginning to think about what she could do to take her mind off of where she would rather be when the door from their quarters slid open quietly, the subdued lighting from inside briefly illuminating her.

Kara stood in the doorway holding two tea mugs. She spoke quietly, "Want some company, love?"

"Gods, Kara, yes. But why aren't you sleeping, baby?" Devon said as she reached for her mug. She caressed Kara's fingers with her other hand as she grasped the cup.

"Couldn't sleep. I, um, don't think I can sleep alone anymore." She shrugged, looking excruciatingly cute as she did so.

Devon sipped at her tea and nodded. "I doubt that I could either, Kara. Jesus, what has love done to us?"

The question sounded serious but Kara knew it was meant in jest. "You mean other than making us feel completely fulfilled, joyously uplifted, and completely physically satisfied?"

"Yes, my cute little smart-ass, other than those things." Devon grinned widely from behind her mug. "I'm talking about myself morphing into a quivering mass of completely dependent, romantic mush."

Kara winced and scrunched up her nose cutely. "Ooh, honey, yuck. I like my description better."

"So do I. Come 'ere." Devon reached out to her with open arms and a lopsided grin and Kara carefully set her mug on the side console before settling in Devon's lap. She nuzzled Devon's soft hair as she breathed, "Is this proper bridge conduct?"

"It is now," Devon said as she nuzzled Kara's cheek in return. They sat in that position, mostly quiet, but sharing occasional small talk until it was time for Devon to shut down the engines. Then, as the ship maintained its velocity and shot through space toward Jupiter, Saturn and the outer planets, they retired to their quarters to sleep soundly for the rest of the short night.


-14-

Three weeks later, as the Phoenix passed through Jupiter Sector, halfway to its next destination, its all too human crew were engaging in the activity that most adequately dealt with the effects of cabin fever.

The Captain and her Medical Officer stood in the darkness before the large window in their quarters, writhing together. Devon was pressed up tightly against Kara's back, reaching around with one hand to stroke her intimately while her other hand caressed a breast. Kara's hands lay on each of Devon's, pressing them more tightly against her body as she arched back into her lover.

"You're close, baby, come for me," Devon whispered.

"You too," Kara whispered as she dropped her right hand and reached back to find Devon's damp curls.

As Kara's fingers skillfully found their mark, Devon groaned loudly and bucked against the small hand. "God, Kara, yes..." A few moments later, they were writhing almost spastically as the tremors overcame them, and both sets of knees buckled. They ended up in a tangled heap on the floor as they tried to catch their breath. Devon stretched out on the floor and pulled her mate against her, needing to feel her in her arms.

"Jesus, Kara."

"Mm."

In the Chief Cargo Handler's clean, but cluttered quarters, a tenor voice moaned in unison with bass-timbred grunts as Rusty leaned over the bent-over Chief Engineer, thrusting gently to deliver exquisite pleasure-pain. One hand rested on Jim's back as the other reached around to stroke him. The two male voices rose briefly in a crescendo as their passion exploded and after regaining themselves, Jim was turned and pushed down onto the bed, and then pulled into an embrace by the tough cargo handler.

The lights from the several control consoles in the quarters illuminated the figures as they slept together, the many metal-mesh bags of equipment hanging on the walls casting odd, distorted shadows around the space.

In cargo bay three, a hand-scribbled note requesting that anyone entering buzz the comm first, had been hastily attached to the keypad by the hatch. Inside, two entwined figures gyrated together skillfully as they hovered near the ceiling, the bright light from the recessed fixture above them glaring off of slick skin. Chad held Cydona securely about the waist as he thrust into her, eliciting delirious moans.

"Are you close, baby? 'Cause I am," the young man panted as he squeezed his eyes shut.

"Yes," was the breathless reply. "Can you..."

"Ohh, yes, baby, yes," Chad panted as he pulled out. "I know wh...what you like." He withdrew and caressed her outer folds with his member, providing the clitoral stimulation that she needed. After just a few seconds, they were both moaning loudly as their hips bucked wildly together. As their cries of passion reverberated off the metallic walls, their motion threw them into the cargo netting surrounding a large container, and as Chad thrust out his left hand to stop their motion, he caught his hand in the metal netting.

"Ughh," he cried as his wrist was snapped back, while his body continued its forward motion.

Cyd, cradled against his chest and aware of little else other than the waves of pleasure still rolling through her body, whispered, "You're not coming again, are you?"

"No, I think I br...broke my fucking wrist," Chad gasped through clenched teeth.

Cyd's eyes flew open when the words finally registered, and she gasped as she saw Chad's wrist hanging in the netting at a grotesquely unnatural angle.

"Chad!" She screamed and pushed at his chest to try to push him back closer to the netting. "Hold on...I'll get you out." She got them close enough to grab the netting and pull them in, and then frantically tried to free the tangled hand. Her stomach turned as she freed the limb and his hand hung limply from the obviously broken wrist. "God, Chad, I'm sorry...I need to get you down and to Medlab."

As Cyd pulled him close and pushed off from the ceiling toward the floor, Chad managed a pained smile. "S'okay, Cyd...it was worth it."

She scowled mildly as she settled them on the floor and helped him to grab a handhold with his good hand, then launched herself back toward the ceiling to retrieve the articles of their clothing which had scattered all over the huge space.

"Just grab my briefs, Cyd, and get them on me...I don't need anything else."

Cyd nodded from where she hung against the far wall and grasped her pants and shirt, leaving her underwear for later retrieval. She pushed off and floated back down and slipped Chad's briefs over his muscled legs and thighs, blushing lightly, even though the two of them had become very close.

When they were both somewhat more decent, Cyd punched the comm and requested, "SysComp...location of Dr. Murphy."

"Scanning...Dr. Murphy is in the Captain's quarters."

She punched in a code and spoke, "Kara, we have a slight emergency...can you meet Chad and me in Medlab, please?"

Kara's voice floated over the comm unit shortly. "I'll be right there...is it life-threatening?"

"No."

"Okay, out."

Kara rested her cheek against Devon's belly for a second before saying quietly, "Sorry, love. May I finish this later?"

Devon grinned down at her lover devilishly. "Absolutely, baby. You'd uh, better wash your mouth before you leave, though."

Kara remarked coyly as she hopped off the bed, "And you'd better wash your hands. I know you're going to want to accompany me."

Less than two minutes later, Devon and Kara, dressed identically in black tanks and flight pants, strode quickly into Medlab. Cyd stood beside Chad as he sat on a diagnostic bed cradling his left hand in his right. Kara could see immediately the extent of the injury and sucked in a breath. As an empath, she was acutely aware of her patients' discomfort, and even her professional detachment didn't adequately protect her from feeling for them.

"What happened?" She asked softly as she gently grasped his arm and examined the broken joint.

"Well, Doc," Chad grunted. "D'you want the details or just the gist?"

"How about the gist for now, Chad, and you can provide me with the details later," Devon replied for her mate.

Cyd continued for Chad, "He got it caught in some cargo netting in the bay."

Two black eyebrows rose toward the ceiling as arms crossed in front of the Captain's chest. "Oh, this is just too good. I think I'm gonna wanna hear the details now, please."

Cyd's chin fell to her chest in embarrassment as her injured friend managed a pained chuckle. "Ever had zero-g sex, Cap?" He grinned despite the searing pains shooting up his arm.

"Lorenzo, who the hell do you think you're talking to?"

"Oh, sorry, yeah...of course you have. Well uh, things got away from us and we drifted into the netting...I reached out to stop us and it got caught."

"You're lucky that's all that got caught, Chad. Jesus Christ...you know how dangerous that can be."

The young man grinned arrogantly. "Not when you're as good as I am, Cap."

"Right, Chad, that's why you're sitting in your underwear in Medlab with a broken wrist," was the deep, sarcastic reply. She addressed Kara. "How does it look, hon?"

"Not too bad...it could've been worse. At least it's not a compound fracture." She laid the wrist gently in Chad's lap and closed her eyes, visibly calming and centering herself before saying softly, "I'm going to do a little energy healing first to help with the pain, then I'll give you an anesthetic before setting it and using the knitter."

"Okay, Doc," Chad grunted, then took a deep breath. Cyd moved behind him and laid comforting hands on his shoulders.

Devon smiled mildly at the sight and shook her head, then took on a look of wonder as she saw her mate hold her hands on either side of the injured wrist, cradling it very gingerly. Kara's expression was very focused as she concentrated on delivering the healing energy to her patient.

"Shit, Doc, your hands are as hot as fire," Chad remarked, astonished.

"It's a good fire, Chad. Just hold on for a few minutes, okay?"

"Okay, Doc." He received a reassuring squeeze from Cyd. A few minutes later, he looked wondrously at Kara and said, "Kara, it doesn't hurt...it's throbbing like a son of a bitch, but it doesn't really hurt."

Kara smiled. "Good. That's the idea. I conducted tachyon energy through my body into yours and it has initiated healing already. We still don't fully understand the exact mechanics at work, but we do know that in addition to promoting healing on a subatomic level, it also eases pain better than any topical or systemic agent."

"Jesus, Kara, I wish you'd been on board the last time I was injured in a pirate attack," Devon remarked.

"Yes, love, not to mention the bar fight a few months later, right?"

"Too right, love." Devon grinned.

"Okay, Chad. Just sit here for a moment, please, while I get my scanner."

"Um, Kara, if you can heal with your hands, can't you see with them too? You know what I mean?"

"Yes, I could scan your energy field but that won't really tell me anything that I can't already see with my physical eyes. I need the scanner to see what skeletal structures, tendons, and musculature are involved. I'll be right back."

Devon, leaning casually against the adjacent diagnostic bed, said, "Tell me, Lorenzo, Mitchell, what lessons have we learned from this little incident?"

"Um," Cyd started to say but Chad interrupted her.

"To brace ourselves better against the ceiling if it looks like we're gonna come together, Cap. Or do it closer to a corner of the room."

"That's not quite what I had in mind, Chad, but if you were as experienced as you claim to be, you would have known that already." A single raised eyebrow punctuated her point.

"Point taken, Cap. Got any tips you want to share with me?"

"Not on your fucking life, Chad. Just be more careful next time, okay?" She turned to address Cyd. "Maybe you should try to get some of that abundant common sense you seem to possess to rub off on him."

"It couldn't hurt, Captain," Cyd replied sardonically.

"Nope, it couldn't. Chad, listen to your lady for once, huh? She won't steer you wrong."

Kara returned with her diagnostic scanner and ran it over the injury, wincing as she viewed the image. "Sorry, Chad, it looks like a multiple break. That must have hurt like hell. Okay, I'll need to anesthetize the area before I set it. The Reiki energy I gave you hasn't numbed it quite enough to protect from that pain. Then I'll use the bone knitter." She addressed Devon and Cyd. "This will take about an hour."

"I'd like to stay with him, Kara."

"That's fine, Cyd. Why don't you have a seat, then."

Cyd did, sitting behind her friend and picking up his uninjured hand. He graced her with an appreciative smile and leaned against her slightly, hoping no one else noticed. Devon did, but magnanimously decided not to comment.

Devon walked up behind Kara as she prepared the syringe and said quietly, "Babe, I think I'll go back to our quarters and get a little work done."

Kara remarked over her shoulder, "Sweetheart, you don't need to wait up...why don't you just go back to bed?"

Devon glanced quickly at the other two who were sitting several paces away and then whispered, "You know I can't sleep without you. I have some battle data to study...I don't mind waiting for you."

"Okay, baby. See you then." She turned and kissed Devon quickly, then approached her patient again.

Both Cyd and Chad were wearing smug grins and Chad said, "I'll try not to keep her here too late, Cap."

As Devon left the medlab, Chad was greeted by a grin and the hand gesture that, it turns out, translates to "fuck you" in nearly every sentient language in the known galaxy.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

The next morning, the rest of the crew were gathered around the large table when Chad entered. His left arm, from his knuckles to his elbow, was wrapped in thick, white bandaging and rested in a mesh sling.

Rusty chuckled as his companion settled his tall frame into one of the chairs, wincing slightly as his arm hit the table. "So, I hear you had a little problem last night, kid."

"Yeah, I'll bet you've heard all about it by now, Rust," the younger man groused. "Where the hell were you, anyway?"

"Since when do I need to make my whereabouts known to you? No, Chadwick, I hear you had a little trouble managing a simple zero-g maneuver."

"Fuck you, old man."

Rusty laughed deeply. "Now I'll think twice about letting you do me!"

"Alright, you two, give it a goddamn rest already, huh?" Requested the lounging Captain. She sipped at her tea and glanced at her partner, shaking her head.

Kara met her glance with a barely perceptible grin and addressed Rusty. "He'll need to be on light duty only for the next week, which I don't think is a problem, is it?"

Rusty shook his head. "Nope. No cargo to on or offload for a few more weeks. He can just sit on his ass at one of the engineering consoles and run all the maintenance diagnostics I've been putting off."

"Aw, shit, Rust..."

"Hey, too fuckin' bad, loverboy."

"Yeah, well, where were you and Jim last night, Rust?"

"Making out better than you did, boy," Rusty replied as Jim nearly doubled over with laughter.

"Aw, fuck you all..."

"Chad, what can I get you to eat?" Cyd said as she stood, feeling sorry for her friend and more than a little guilty over her part in the accident.

Chad's warm eyes brightened at the offer and he replied, "Coffee and a couple pastries would be nice, Cyd."

"Okay." She squeezed his shoulder and headed to the galley.

"Ah, ain't that sweet," Rusty chided.

"It is sweet, Rust, and you'll never know that sweetness like I do."

"Jesus! Give it a goddamn, fucking rest I said!" Devon snapped. "Can't you two come up with some decent, friendly conversation, just once? I've got a damn headache and your bickering is making it worse."

Kara immediately moved from her chair to the couch where Devon was reclining. "Honey, you didn't tell me you had a headache. I thought you were just tired." She sat beside Devon on the edge of the seat and laid a soft, warm hand on her forehead.

"It's just tension, I'm sure, Kara. I get these when we move into pirate territory."

"Have you ever tried yogic breathing to deal with them?" She asked as she caressed Devon's brow. The audio from a vid playing quietly in the background effectively masked their conversation.

"Once in a while. I usually just pop a couple of pills...it's easier." She shrugged.

"Breathe with me for a few minutes," Kara urged her quietly.

Devon grinned slightly. "Okay. You know I can't turn you down."

Kara leaned forward and kissed her forehead tenderly. "And I'll take advantage of that fact whenever I need to." She sat up and said, "Okay, with me now. Take a deep breath and hold it."

Devon did, and Kara silently counted to eight, and then said, "Now release it slowly."

Devon did and they repeated the cycle for several minutes. As Devon rested against the sofa, looking much more at peace, Kara gently picked up her right hand and applied pressure to the meridian between her thumb and index finger. The combination of deep breathing and acupressure effectively took care of the headache and Devon's eyes fluttered open to gaze with wonder at her mate.

"Sennaat, Kara. You're a wonderful healer," she breathed.

Kara's features glowed at the praise and she whispered, "Thank you, but it's what you pay me for."

"It's not nearly enough. I'm gonna have to make you a partner in this operation." She picked up Kara's hand and kissed it, her bright blue eyes never leaving Kara's misty green ones.

"Thank you, my love. Nothing would make me happier," Kara said softly.

"Done, baby. When we get married on Sen, I'll transmit the contract to my accounting and legal people and let them know that I've taken on a partner...in every sense of the word." She chuckled. "Maxwell will probably shit himself, thinking I've lost what's left of my bearings."

"Honey, if it's a problem for you, legally or financially, we don't have to go through with it. You are what I really want...all that I want. All that I need."

"I know that, Kara. But I very much want to do it. The thought of sharing everything that I have with you makes me feel very good...I'm shocked at just how good. It's not something I ever gave any thought to before." She shook her head, surprised at the depth of her pleasure. "I shouldn't be shocked though, should I? Since you came into my life, nothing should shock me. You complete me, Kara."

"And you me, Devon." She leaned down and captured her mate's lips, very softly, lingering there until a cleared throat behind them made them separate.

"What is it, Jim?"

"If you're feeling up to it, I'd like to go over some of the new weapons specs with you."

"Sure, Jim. My personal physician here has cured me...body and soul." She pulled Kara close for another kiss before sitting up and settling her feet to the floor. "I'll see you for lunch, babe. What do you feel like today?"

Kara grinned at her coyly. "Why don't you surprise me?"

Her coy grin was matched by a rakish one as Devon replied, "I'll do that. Bye."

"Bye."

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Devon and Jim sat hunched over the large data screen, examining the ship's exterior layout. Rusty stood behind them, leaning on Jim's chair.

"What do you think, hon?" Jim asked, glancing back at Rusty.

Rusty scowled at him, and Devon chuckled. "Oh, now I know why you two weren't around for the excitement last night." She clapped Jim on the back. "You're always mellow for days afterward...so are you, Rust." She grinned back at the large man.

"Shit, Devon, then you should be mellow all the goddamn time now, shouldn't you?"

"Mm, that's right. I should be." She grinned again.

"If I had a sweet little thing like her around, I'd be taking full advantage... two, three times a day advantage."

"What makes you think I'm not, Rust?" Devon said with a leer.

"Right, hon...haven't you noticed the change in our skipper here?" Jim asked with a large grin.

"Goddammit, Jimmy, why d'ya have to be so damn candy-assed? Can't anything be private on this damn ship? You know I only like you to call me that in private."

Jim reached back and laid his smaller hand on the large one sitting on his shoulder. "I'm sorry, Rust. You know I wear my heart on my sleeve."

"Like I said, baby...candy-assed."

"And how else would you like me if it's not candy-assed, big man?"

"Um, okay...why don't you two discuss this further in private...say later, over a nice bottle of 2085 Merlot that I've got stashed?" Devon asked, suddenly feeling acutely uncomfortable.

"Dev, that sounds like a fine idea. Rusty?"

"Sounds damn good to me. Now show me where you think that front cannon array should go."

Devon breathed an almost perceptible sigh of relief and returned her attention to the blueprint on the screen.

"Right here," Jim replied, pointing to the struts separating the control cabin from the living section directly behind it. "It should be on a section of ship that doesn't rotate. I did a little design work while I was in the Fleet, and this proved to be the best location for the front array. We can install a control console on the bridge, that way the conduits don't have to run very far."

"Good," Devon said, nodding. "There's plenty of room in the cabin for another console and seat, and I'd like to be aware of how the battle is going while I pilot." She looked at Jim seated beside her. "I'd like to have Chad manning that console, if you concur. Rusty, I'd rather leave you free to handle repairs in the event of a breach."

"Sure thing, Devon. I've pretty much got that down to a science now, anyway."

"That you do, Rust." Devon nodded thoughtfully. "Okay, Jim, how do you feel about manning the aft weapons console back in engineering? I know you've got enough to do as it is when we're engaging pirates, but only Cyd and Kara are left, and I really need a co-pilot when the battle gets hot, and Kara..."

"I know, Dev. I doubt she'd be comfortable manning a cannon. I can plan on handling it, but I think she should be trained as my backup."

Devon nodded. "Yes, good point. We'll all be trained to man the new systems...even though Fleet may not let us keep the weapons beyond this run."

"Well, Dev," Rusty remarked, "We'll just see if your little Gray friends don't have something to say to the Fleet about that."

Devon grinned lopsidedly. "Oh, you think so, huh, Rust?"

"I do, ma'am. Okay," he continued as he placed a meaty finger on the screen. "We'll run the conduits from this point to here, and through the bulkhead here, above the cabin hatch."

"Looks good," Jim agreed.

"Right. Well, I think we have the placement all worked out. Jim, I'd like you to shadow the Fleet grunts while they install this...make sure it's done the way we want it." She smiled apologetically as she added, "I know you don't enjoy vacuum work, but you're due to renew your environmental suit certification anyway."

"Alright, Andy," Jim said with a sigh. "You're right. I do have to keep those skills sharp. Hey, does Kara have any EV suit experience? Or zero-g?"

"No, I don't think so, and I've been thinking that we need to get her trained. I think I'll take care of that myself. Do it while we're sitting on Titan...since it's going to be a longer than normal stay now anyway...while we get those weapons systems installed."

Jim and Rusty nodded their agreement, and Devon said as she stood, "Good work, guys. I'm feeling better about engaging those assholes all the time."

"We've got it handled, Andy...don't you worry."

Devon looked her oldest friend in the eye and said softly, "I wouldn't, Jim, if I didn't have such precious cargo this run." She turned and left, leaving her crewmen staring after her silently. At the hatch, she turned and added thoughtfully, "I'd like to take care of all the bastards once and for all and make local space safe again."

Her crew had no doubt that she, more than anyone else, could accomplish that.


Part 8

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