The Antares fleet is one of the United Terran Republic's finest fleets, aside from the Battle Hymn fleet. within this fleet, a small group of friends try to hold ties while serving their duty aboard separate fleets, while battle the adversities of war, and the troubles of running a fleet.
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Mr. Blackbird Lore
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Post by Mr. Blackbird Lore »

In the months proceeding the Hymn's assault and the Terran fleet's capture of Saratar, the station had shaped up to be a fairly nice place. While currently much of the station was sectioned off and unmanned due to a lack of personnel, it was swiftly becoming a second hub for fleets on patrol, rivaling even Waypoint in its ability to handle ships, and in many ways better, as the world it orbited proved to be quite an enjoyable place to take leave.
The station itself, or at least the parts that were now inhabited, had been cleaned up nicely, the dust and dirt of the Drathonian occupation had all been cleaned out, and the only hint of lizards was the awkward Moonie Free state, a fairly harmless semi-autonomous collective of the oft maligned and never truly appreciated Moonie subtype of Drathonians. Fortunately, the colony of smaller lizards hated the tyrannic Drathonian state just as much as the Terrans did, and ended up making fine companions when they chose to co-mingle with the Terrans, which was rarely.
The most welcomed change, at least in the eyes of the Terran military personnel who were stationed there or often passed through, was the addition of a number of pubs, bars, and restaurants that popped up in one of the sectors which hadn't been zoned for habitation, giving the sailors, airmen, and marines a place to relax without having to leave the station.
It was in one of these newer establishments, Lando's, that a group of friends from the Antares fleet found themselves today. With one exception, the group was wearing the rich Burgundy uniform of the fleet command, readily identifying them as Naval personnel, the exception being an MP in Marine greens, whom had been assigned as security aboard one of Antares' ships.

"What's the difference between bird flu and swine flu?" Aidan Price began as he readied one of his typical jokes. With an expectant look on his face he looked around at the others, and then without leaving much space for one of them to offer an answer he continued on, "If you have bird flu, you need tweetment. If you have swine flu, you need oink-ment. Get it, 'tweet' and 'oink'?"

"Ha ha, good one there, Price," responded Hector the MP with an exaggerated laugh. "Almost as good as your nursery school joke. And no, no need to tell it again." From there Hec took a swig of the drink he had ordered.

Commander Hastati Graves, eldest of the group and senior in rank, was wearing an entertained smile. He reserved it specifically for Price's terrible jokes and other forms of humor that were so bad as to be laughable. "One of your better ones," he told Aidan honestly, with a half-salute of his glass. Then he too drank with a certain measured deliberation that was visible in all his movements, as if every step and glance and gesture was planned in advance.

The Twins had very opposing reactions to Aidan's joke- Missy's head immediately found it's way to the table with a bit of a 'thunk' before it went to her palm, covering her eyes. She was obviously laughing, but it seemed almost that she was embarrassed to be laughing at the joke.

Bea, on the other hand, seemed genuinely amused by the joke, as she sat back in her chair giggling at it. "Oh, that was a good one. I honestly didn't see that coming!" once she had regained herself she opened her mouth to speak again, but Missy's hand swiftly went to cover it and shut her up. Hector, spotting Bea's reaction, began to force a few more laughs as well.

"Let everyone else have a chance to speak, Bea..." Missy grumbled slightly, tired of her sister's mouth constantly running. In response, Bea turned a bright shade of red for a few moments, but a glance from Missy had her concentrate and try to calm down for the time being.

A wide smile grew on Aidan's usually stern face as he heard the good feedback. He could always count on his friends to laugh at his jokes. "Glad you liked it," he said as he thanked the table, "I thought of it while reading over some old medical journals a while back."

Hector was finishing off his drink to mask a slight look of irritation because of Missy. "There's no harm done in offering opinions. 'Sides, I'd rather hear Bea talk than listen to another medical pun. No offense, Aidan."

"None taken, Hector," Aidan responded.

Graves surveyed them all with that default look of mild curiosity, as if studying something with his nearly golden eyes. The sisters were an interesting act, but silly. He often wondered if any work could get done if they had been deployed together- thankfully they hadn't- but it still pestered his roaming thoughts. Though in all fairness he would love, and had already tried multiples times, to have Missy transferred to his ship, the Schrödinger. No such luck. Likewise with the large MP- it damn near struck the Commander dumb when Sergeant Shey declared he was going to be security rather than a ground pounder. He was built, and capable, of greater things; Graves had said so, but it seemed to fall on deaf ears. "Do you do any... other comedy, Aidan? Other than question and answer puns?"

"He does Physical comedy!" Bea offered, seeming excited about it "Sometimes He pretends to be all flustered and drops things, or picks up the wrong things, or even hits people with things on purpose but pretending it's an accident! It's pretty funny!"

Missy's forehead again found its way into the palm of her hand. "That's just called being a Klutz, Bea..." she tried to point out, but Bea didn't seem to notice, continue to blather on in an airheaded kind of way.

"Like, this one time, I came into the med bay to see him, and he put his hand down on a tray, but the tray wasn't all the way on the counter, and it totally launched some shiny metal things halfway across the room! He even fell over, he's great at the act!"

The young doctor Price gave one of his quick, punctuated laughs and cleared his throat. "Yes, Bea, physical comedy. It is on purpose," he said as he maintained a straight face to play along. "And as for other types of comedy, not really. I only really have the chance to tell jokes to you guys."

Meanwhile, Hector had grabbed another drink and began to sip it as he glared ever so slightly at Aidan. "Now that sounds like some good comedy," he added as he set the drink down.

Hastati had the sneaking suspicion that physical comedy was not a portion of his practiced humor. Just a sneaking suspicion, though; similar to his theory that the large MP had a hankering for one of the Templeton girls. He hadn't decided which just yet, but was pretty positive that Hector was crushing for one or the other. The matter of comedy having been exhausted, he moved the conversation toward something more to his interests: "They're talking about the possibility of shipping Antares Fleet. Nothing in stone, of course, but it's definitely buzzing around the Admiralty. So don't be surprised if we do."

"Hrrrmmm..." Missy vocalized as she contemplated something, before looking at Graves. "I know you're a commander and everything, and you're mister go-getter and mister protocol, but I have something here for us if we do get into a proper deployment situation, and you're probably the only guy above my own rank I'd trust with this thing." The engineer stuffed a hand into one of her pockets and pulled out a number of datacards and slightly modified datapads, which she placed on the table in front of everyone.

"What I got here is what I call 'Piratechat'. Basically, the data disc contains the programming and protocol to piggyback private communications on official transmissions. Basically, it's a text chat that updates only when official transmissions are sent, so that in the case of a blackout or something where we can't do a normal vidchat or send proper messages, we can stay in contact. The Program should work on just about any console, but I've rigged these datapads to run it especially and keep us all connected in an emergency. Sound good?"

Bea nodded along as Missy explained, seeming a bit proud of her sister's accomplishment. "Yeah, Yeah. we've already tested it and stuff, It can even sneak chatter through the Antares' comms without anybody noticing, I should know, since it's part of my job and all. This way, we'll never be separate, even when we're apart, which I think is awesome!"

Hector, the Military Police Sergeant, slid the datapad that was placed in front of him to the edge of the table before picking it up and staring at it. "Is this contraband, I smell? You would happen to be doing anything that would make me question you, eh Missy?" Hec said as he teased the engineer a bit.
"Bah, there is no harm in friends talking to each other," Aidan chimed in with his own 'playful' tone.

Hastati plucked the datapad before him carefully, slowly, analyzing it meticulously as though through sheer willpower he could discern its many encoded secrets. He was in actuality pondering the possible consequences should someone be discovered using it as well as any inadvertent consequences it may have that wouldn't immediately result in court marshal but might still cause harm to the system.

After a time he realized there was not a problem he could imagine that Missy would not have foreseen. "Definitely contraband. But I might just be able to make it something more... legitimate." He tucked both the 'pad and 'card in a jacket pocket and returned to nursing his drink. "I like the idea, but am wary to use anything unsanctioned. I will see if I can't find a means of implementing it without risking all our careers."

"I think at this point the only way to risk our careers is to stand in front of a Lizard's gun, or kill a bunch of our own men." Missy pointed out, as they all knew well that the UTR needed as many talented people as they could get. "Besides, if I detect any kind of security breach with the protocol, I can terminate it. It should only be the five of us using it anyway, and these copies of it are the only ones with proper security keys. So long as nobody gets their hands on the datapads or the cards, we're safe."

Again, the shyer sister nodded along at the engineer's explanation, since, despite being a motormouth, she always backed off when her sister was taking the spotlight. "We've already tested it for external security problems, and as far as we can tell, it's impossible to hack, since it is just a piggyback protocol; it doesn't have its own system to cause problems for the official transmissions," Bea added.

Hector tucked his own datapad into one of the inside pockets of his jacket without further teasing. "I'll still take a closer look at it from a security personnel point of view, just to be safe," he finished before going back to sipping on his drink. "So what cued the interest in building your own IM system? Thought you were more into vehicles."

"Well, I for one am quite happy about this," Aidan said in a somewhat chipper voice. "This should make it easier for me to get in touch with you guys, and share new jokes when I come up with them."

"Gah! That's it, definitely confiscating these," Hector cried out sarcastically as he playfully tapped Aidan's shoulder with a fist before getting up to get refills on everyone's drinks.

Hastati was only slightly relieved to hear this. He still did not wish to risk his ambitions of Admiralty, but at the same time he could not convince himself that this would be in the least bit dangerous for his career. It would take some more thought. "I could use a joke now and then to break up the monotony of bridge work," Graves said, trying to encourage the thin doctor. Back to the pirateware. "So this will send and receive directly to my personal 'pad? Or must I use this one? People might think it odd that I suddenly begin using one other than the Fleet Command standard." He paused, gratefully accepting his drink from Hector. "If I can use my personal 'pad, then I believe I'm on board for this little experiment."

"That's what the datacard is for- You can upload the program onto any datapad or console, just be careful which ones you do. I can guarantee the ones I've prepared to be secure, but not any of the other ones you may log into. Be sure to always log out if you've ever used another device for the program." Missy explained, matter-of-factly. "Once you log out, any devices other than the Piratechat pads will automatically erase the program."

Hastati had to interject: "So it reinstalls at every relaunch? Why not just scrap temp files?"

"That's our biggest security feature, it is a bit annoying, yes, but it keeps the program from falling into the wrong hands. Unless it gets rid of itself completely, somebody can copy the program code and cause problems for us. This is how I keep it from breaching security. Like I said; Piratechat is only for when standard communications are unavailable."

Then the Commander only had one more question: "What's the install speed?"

"On every ship aside from the Pluto class, the program installs in about one tenth of a second. It's not really a hardship to wait for, if that's what you're worried about. Think of it like a game disc- just pop it in and it loads up, letting you 'play'" Missy grinned, clearly proud of her work.

Hastati waved a hand. "If that's all, consider me convinced." He settled back, realizing he had leaned forward in his tense posture reserved for political and debate scenarios. A sip of his Crown helped his mind settle down, to remember that this was a social gathering, not an officer's meeting.

While this discussion went on, Aidan sat patiently in his own seat as the 'technical' talk was a hit or miss. He understood most of it, but it wasn't as simple as mending a ruptured artery.

With several glasses in hand, Hector arrived back at the table and placed each drink in front of its respective owner. Upon sitting back down he raised his own glass and said, "Chatear, mi amigos." At which point he raised his glass and took a swig.

A competitive urge to correct Hector or respond with, "Cheers," in six other languages rose and then subsided quickly with a deep inhalation and proceeding sigh. Hastati settled to respond simply with a surprisingly native-sounding accented, "Chatear," before finishing off his last glass of the night. Three was his limit, regardless of the day, time, or occasion. He had never broken that rule since he had implemented it at age 18. Just one more indicator of his immense willpower.

"Cheers" The twins chimed in, not ones for using any of the older Terran cultural languages, and took swigs of their own drinks. Bea started looking a bit rosy, the swig having tipped her over the edge of her tolerance for alcohol, but the hardier engineer seemed to be more able to hold her liquor.

"Aw, geeze..." Missy muttered, as she noticed the change that had come over Bea. "I still don't know how she stays completely sober before she hits her limit, and then just tanks like this..." Bea simply giggled "Hehehe.. Tanks..."

"Looks like I'll be having to walk Bea back to the Antares tonight," the more sober sister pointed out, seeming just as annoyed as she was amused. "Guess I can't help it, but I sure wish she could."

Hector finished off his own last drink, looking like he had just been drinking water; the alcohol had not yet gotten to the point of making him tipsy. After setting the glass down with a solid thunk he looked over to Missy. "Ya know, I could just walk her back. I mean, we are stationed on the same ship after all," he offered the buzzed engineer. "That and I am still fairly sober, and I am an MP officer. She couldn't be in better hands."

Missy deigned it reasonable at the moment to inspect Hector, and attempt to figure out his intentions toward her sister. However, as things were, she couldn't really disagree to letting someone else handle the swifltly degrading constitution of her sister, Bea was quickly turning into a ragdoll, after all, and though Missy was stronger than she looked, she didn't really feel like carrying ninety-two pounds of drunk, semi-conscious sibling to another ship before having to make her way to her own posting.

"Alright," the engineer agreed to Hector's offer. Besides, Sergeant Shey was one of their good friends.

Aidan, unlike Hector and very much like Bea, was feeling the effects of his drinks and looked to be rather unstable.

It seemed things were coming to a close, so Commander Graves rose from his seat, straightened his jacket, and glanced among his comrades, judging their condition with obvious scrutiny, like a metallurgist evaluating the purity of his latest forge sample. "I hope you all know the way back and have prepared adequate means to return. Anyone need any assistance, other than Bea?"

"Well, looks like Doctor Price could use a hand," Hector said as he pointed towards the slumping Aidan. "Here's hoping he doesn't have a busy day tomorrow."
"It might save his patients from having to suffer through his jokes for too long," Missy whispered to Hector as she handed her sister over to the larger MP, before she too straightened herself out and looked over the group of friends. "I know my way back to the Whistler easy enough" she assured Commander Graves, before starting to wander off. She wasn't exactly walking straight, but she did have purpose to her stride and was obviously still mostly in control of her motor skills.

Bea, on the other hand, had begun hiccuping and mumbling something to herself, even faster than she usually spoke. It was nearly impossible to understand what she said, although it did sound like she might have been wishing everyone a good night.

"Come doctor and we'll get you squared away with some transportation," offered Hastati, waving Price in the direction of the door. A gentle hand guided the good doctor outside, onto the main thoroughfare. There the Commander was presented with a dilemma, an old math equation of sorts. The tram bound for drydocks was traveling at something near 5mph due "west." It stood about thirty degrees to the relative right of Lando's front, the track some thirty feet ahead. The question was: could Commander Hastati Graves haul Aidan Price's drunken form thirty feet before the tram passed by?

"Yeah yeah, I'm comin'," Aidan mumbled as he languorously stood up from his seat and meandered out of the bar. His usual glare now looked more belligerent as bags had formed under his tired eyes.

Rather than think it out, Graves slung Aidan over a shoulder like a sack of potatoes and hoofed it to the tracks with the remarkable grace his friends had undoubtedly come to expect from his movements and mannerisms. They arrived a few seconds ahead of schedule: plenty of time for Hastati to arrange Aidan's body for a quick deposit before clambering aboard himself with all due swiftness.

Aidan's eyes were now more alert and the glare was gone after the sudden shock of being hoisted up like so many bags of flour.

"Sorry, Price. Hope I didn't shake you up too much."

"Oh, no worries, Hastati," Aidan replied as he settled down again as the tram went on its way.

As soon as the others had gone, Bea managed to regain enough strength to look up at Hector, and she looked him in the eyes- maybe. Her eyes were sort of glazed over, and she had a sort of dazed expression on her face. She grinned. "You're so nice, Hector." the bespectacled communications officer complimented the MP, before a sudden shift came over her face, and she leaned forward, swiftly emptying the contents of her stomach onto the front of Hector's uniform.
After a few moments, she wiped the side of her mouth with one hand, while patting Hector on the back with the other. Sounding slightly worse for wear, she added "Real nice..." before passing out.

Hector reflexively caught Bea before she hit the ground, but the look on his face was sort of frozen with a look of, "Why?" Blinking his eyes rapidly, the MP got over the shock of the event and hoisted the now unconscious comm officer onto his back.

"You are damn lucky that I care about you, Bea," Hector confessed as he found himself feeling many things. Mostly that he hoped Bea actually was passed out so as to not hear him, and he also found himself once again thanking his uncanny luck that he got the chance to help Bea; even though she was unconscious and he was now covered in puke.

"Now let's get back to the Antares so you can go to bed, and I can take a shower," Hector said before making his way towards the ships.

Thankfully Aidan's stop arrived well before Hastati's, so the Commander could get the inebriated Petty Officer Third Class to his boarding ramp. After that, it was up to the good doctor to find his way. There was only so much babying Graves would perform, even for his friends. He would not weigh himself down with the burdens they made for themselves through choice. Not to say he disliked any of them, simply that he had a code of ethics and standards to which he stringently adhered. Drinking did not upset him in the slightest, and he was not in the slightest bit irritated to have escorted Price to his ship; to the contrary, he was always happy to help a friend in need. Handholding- getting him to his room, undressing him, tucking him in- was beyond the Commander, however. He didn't think Aidan was that far gone, but even if he were it was not a responsibility Hastati would have taken upon himself.

His duty performed, Graves caught up with the tram and hopped aboard for a ride to his own beloved Schrödinger. It brought a smile to his face, thinking about the ship and what marvelous pedigree he intended to bestow upon the the six-month old Mars-class destroyer. It would be one for the books, of that he would make sure.
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