Monday, May 07, 2007

More "Lost" Games of Command scenes

Okay, this one isn't so much lost (it's part of Chapter 7) as it was pared down. This is the uncut version from 2001, so pardon some of the inconsistencies. The book was originally a series, you know. Poor thing's been through hell...


“All I know, admiral, is that Doctors Fynn and Monterro still have tests to perform on Serafino. They don’t want anything to occur that could cause him to relapse.”

Kel-Paten glanced down at the small woman standing next to him on the bridge. Her face was in profile to him. She watched the starfield flowing by the large forward viewport as the Vaxxar traveled at sub-light speed towards the nearest Fleet Base on Panperra Station.

He hated when he couldn’t see her eyes when she spoke. He was learning, sometimes the hard way, to read her expressions, the nuances between her words and thoughts. True, he’d been trained-- he liked that word better than programmed-- to correctly interpret over one hundred and forty human facial expressions and another sixty-seven non-human ones. But these classifications were useless when it came to Tasha Sebastian.

He needed to know more than the fact that her facial expression designated, for example, mild amusement. He needed to know if that amusement was directed at him or against him; if it were an amusement she felt he’d understand and wanted to share with him; if something he said or did was the source of that delightful and often pixie-ish smile. He needed to know if he made her feel something.

And nothing in his progr-- his training allowed for that.

Right now, the little he could see of her face told him she’d adopted her “professional expression”-- a noncommittal, almost bland mien. She simply reported the facts as she knew them, and had no opinions of same.

Or else she had deep opinions and was not about to share them with him. He’d known her long enough, studied her long enough, to see that also as a viable option. It was at those times he felt the most left out. She didn’t trust him enough to share her concerns with him. Or, like most of his crew, she believed he wasn’t capable of caring.

He was. She’d taught him that, too.

So he probed, asked a few more questions about Serafino’s condition and got nowhere. Except that now she thought he didn’t have any faith in Fynn’s medical abilities.

“I assure you, Sebastian, I have a great respect for the doctor’s assessment here. However, her focus is different from ours.” He liked that as soon as he said it. It aligned Sass with himself under the heading of “Command”, breaking from her usual allegiance with the CMO.

“As I understand it, we’ll have nothing to focus on if Serafino is comatose again. Or dead.” She looked at him briefly, a slight raising of one eyebrow as if to say, ‘Are you following me on this, fly-boy?’

She hadn’t called him “fly-boy” since the peace talks. Before that, it had been one of the names she’d taunted him with from the bridge of the Regalia. Fly-boy. An ancient aviator term for heavy-air fighter pilots. The first time she’d leveled it at him he’d taken offense but she’d used it so often after that that it became almost a term of endearment. At least, he liked to think of it that way.

Now, all he rated was the raised eyebrow.

“I only intend to question the man, not torture him,” he told her.

“At least not yet, eh, Kel-Paten?” she replied, her voice lowered a bit and with a hint of a smile.
“Sebastian.” He paused.

“Kel-Paten,” she replied and then paused.

It was the ‘name game’, one of their few rituals that had continued after the peace talks. He would say her name, followed by the appropriate warning-filled pause whenever something she said or did warranted his supposed disapproval. And she would reply with his name, either matching his warning tone or, more often, mocking it.

This time it was the latter.

“When we reach Panperra he’ll be turned over to Adjutant Kel-Farquin,” he said, watching her carefully for her reaction. “That should be torture enough.”

She choked back a laugh at his comment, which told him she remembered what he did. Homer Kel-Farquin’s whining, nasal voice and supercilious manner had been one of the low-points in the peace talks. Kel-Paten would steeple his hands in front of his face every time the Adjutant would launch into one of his obnoxious diatribes. After one such painful session, Sass had sarcastically complimented Kel-Paten on his ability to appear so focused on Kel-Farquin’s every word.

“I am not focused,” he’d told her without expression. “I am sleeping.”

He’d been rewarded then with one of her-- heart stopping-- smiles. Not dissimilar to the one now teasing across her lips.

“Why Admiral Kel-Paten,” she drawled. “I heard you were so impressed with Kel-Farquin’s oratory talents that you ordered copies of every one of his speeches.”

“I believe,” he countered dryly, “that would be grounds for a Section Forty-Six.”

“Unless one had a justifiable reason for ordering them. You know,” she said, continuing their verbal game, “those tapes may contain the very thing we need to defeat the Illithians.”

He thought for a moment. “A subliminal transmission of their contents into Illithian space could be very effective,” he posited, matching her feigned concern.

“Or considered cruel and inhumane methods.”

A slight shrug. “Who would be left to complain?”

“There might be a few. After all, I found copious amounts of gin to be an workable antidote.”
He glanced down at her. “I slept.”

“And well I remember your ingenious defense. Better than mine. No hangover.”

“It’s a methodology I developed after a long association with Triad politicians. Let my experience be your guide.”

She clasped her hands behind her back and rocked on her heels. “I’ll keep that in mind for your next staff meeting.”

Had he misread her? Was she aligning him in her mind with the likes of Homer Kel-Farquin? He wasn’t sure until she grinned up at him. “Gotcha!” she said softly.

He couldn’t help it. He felt a small smile form on his lips but she was turning away from him, her attention on a nav-tech on the lower tier of the bridge. There was a problem with some incoming data. She stepped quickly down the stairs.

Some of her warmth, however, lingered behind.


Yes, indeed.


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