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The Tigers Come In the Night

Posted on Sat Feb 4th, 2017 @ 2:18am by Lieutenant Jeremy Stone

Mission: No Quarter
Location: Starbase 442
Timeline: Prior to Red Alert!

Mulgrew flicked the sweat from his brow onto the deck and then used his other hand to wipe another handful of sweat off his brow. “How many laps is this?” he asked. Though Lieutenant Jeremy Stone was in front of him, and the military working dog Sidious still further ahead, Mulgrew knew Stone well enough to know that first he frowned and then he looked at the wristPaDD. Further Mulgrew knew two things: after checking the PaDD, Stone would answer and two, Mulgrew wouldn’t like the answer.

“Thirteen and three eighths laps,” Stone answered, his voice floating back as Mulgrew struggled to keep up. He was only gladdened that Jeremy was also sweating through the long-sleeved PT shirt. Stone must be the only person in all the Federation that constantly wore long sleeve shirts and pants all the time. Never deviating from that norm. He was also right, he didn’t like the answer.

“How many more to go?” He mentally kicked himself for asking.

“Sixteen and five eighths,” Stone answered simply.

Mulgrew flicked sweat at him. It was a childish move, completely wrong for a therapist to do…but there it was. It’s not like Stone would even notice it. He was still pulling ahead. “Isn’t this enough?”

“No,” Stone answered. “We’re doing thirty laps.”

“Why?” Mulgrew asked, even though he knew the answer.

Still it took Stone awhile to answer. For most people it might be an internal struggle to not be sarcastic, or mean or to say something they might regret. For Stone, Mulgrew knew, he was genuinely thinking of an answer to the question. “Because we said we would do thirty laps.”

And there it was, plain and simple. Somewhere Jeremy heard that they would run thirty laps of the largest of the habitat rings on the station and that was the end of it. It was now Law – capital L and everything. Stone enforced the law, he didn’t violate it.

“We’ve done thirteen,” Mulgrew began, testing the waters while wiping his face with his already sodden shirt.

“Thirteen’s not thirty,” was the simple answer.

“Okay, we can stop at fourteen, complete this lap,” Mulgrew said, trying to create a middle path for the two of them. Again, with the mental kick – hard – of his own backside he heard himself say, “Or finish up at fifteen.”

“No,” Stone answered simply. Sidi remained quiet on the subject, as if he declared impartiality. Mulgrew was hating that dogs couldn’t sweat. He wasn’t even sticking out his tongue yet. And the dog looked as if he were smiling. Like he was enjoying this. At the moment he hated the dog. And wasn’t feeling kindly towards Stone much either.

“Why not fifteen?”

“Fifteen isn’t thirty.”

Mulgrew sighed, actually sighed at that. Or was just gasping for more oxygen. One or the other. “Yes, it’s not thirty, but what makes it that we can’t stop after fifteen.”

“We said thirty,” Stone answered after a long time. Like he was trying to process the difficult answer out of a question that simple. It seemed to be a trick.

“But why do we have to do thirty when fifteen would be sufficient?”

“Is it?” Stone asked. “Sidi doesn’t appear tired. I’m not…” here Stone faltered as he actually had to think about his own fatigue level.

“Well I am, very tired, and sore and I’m not sure I can do another two laps, much less sixteen and five eighths.”

“Sixteen and a half,” Jeremy corrected, making sure the data was accurate.

That was it, Mulgrew wasn’t going to let himself be subjected to physical torture AND have his facts corrected just because they were updated. “Okay, Jeremy, I’m done, I’ve had it, I’m stopping.” Mulgrew did just that, he slowed from his jog and started walking, sure just stopping and collapsing was a bad idea. He half expected Jeremy to continue his own jog and leave him behind. But with a quick word, he and Sidi stopped as well, walking back. The dog’s brown eyes regarded Mulgrew with, what the therapist was sure, suspicion that he actively worked to ruin his fun.

Jeremy, if he didn’t have a set limit beforehand, might not have stopped running until he actually, physically, couldn’t go another step and collapsed. Then wouldn’t know for how long he’d run.

“How long is a lap on this thing?”

Jeremy checked the PaDD. “A klik,” he answered, simply, calmly as if the information meant nothing.

“Thirteen and a half kliks?” Mulgrew said then it struck him. “You were going to run thirty kliks for fun?”

Again, Jeremy just shrugged as if the information didn’t mean much. “Sidi likes to run,” he said, again simply and flat, with no hint of what the words actually meant to others.

“I need water,” Mulgrew muttered. In some ways Jeremy was the most difficult patient he’s ever had. Sometimes, though, he was also the easiest. Once he realized that Mulgrew could be trusted, Mulgrew knew whatever Jeremy said was the truth. Or at the very least as he knew it. Without deception, guile or disingenuous tendencies, therapy for Jeremy was easy. Getting Jeremy to accept that therapy, however, was hard. Getting Jeremy to remember it was harder still.

“There’s a turbolift not far ahead,” Jeremy said. “It can take us to a replimat where you can get water.”

“We, Jeremy, where we can get water.”

Jeremy merely looked at Mulgrew with his brown eyes as if the thought were either so obvious as to not be spoken or that Jeremy hadn’t actually considered his own needs. Because it wasn’t yet scheduled on his PaDD. Mulgrew wanted to ask if Jeremy scheduled a water break but was afraid he’d know the answer to be ‘After I ran thirty laps’. And then Jeremy wouldn’t get himself water before that.

Instead, he indicated Jeremy should walk with him. But true to his word, there was a turbolift access not too far down the hall. “Are you set to start your new assignment?” Mulgrew asked as the doors closed and the car began moving them through the station and to the replimat.

Jeremy was scowling now, which meant something bothered him far more than just that he wasn’t sure the answer to something, or that he’d forgotten what he should know. “I’m…” he sighed as he leaned against the wall, twisting Sidi’s lead between his hands. “Was Captain Langford behind this transfer?”

“Langford?” Mulgrew asked, “He’s not allowed to make decisions regarding you any more, you know that.”

“Yes,” Stone said as he just stared at the length of braided rope. He let out a deep sigh. “It just seems that…maybe he got someone else to send me here?”

“What’s the problem?” Mulgrew asked as the car came to a stop and the doors opened. Just across the way was the replimat. It was busy but there were still a few open tables they could claim. Mulgrew found that even he was getting used to the idea of people turning to stare at the dog as they came into more populated areas.

Jeremy shook his head as he remained quiet. Far too often merely saying things got him in trouble. He had to have the worst transfer record in all of Starfleet and, as he knew, it was mostly his fault. He really did try it just was that…he didn’t understand far too often.

“Jeremy,” Mulgrew said, stopping just as they were entering the replimat. “What’s bothering you about this assignment? You know you can trust me.”

“I know,” Stone whispered as he looked over Mulgrew’s shoulder. “I just…I hear…” He took a deep breath and held it, if only to keep himself from speaking. “I’m hearing things about the ship I’ve been assigned. I’m hearing they’re…” Jeremy stopped again, his jaw clenching as he shook his head.

“What have you heard?” Mulgrew asked taking them to the replicator at the other side from the table they’d claimed. Sidi was sitting at it, watching them, ready, Mulgrew knew, to run over to Jeremy the moment he thought he was needed.

“I’ve heard they were criminals,” Jeremy spit it out. He wasn’t sure what bothered him more, that he was sent to this ship if they were criminals with the knowledge that it would cause him even more problems. If a ship was allowed to operate as a criminal enterprise, they must have good connections and it would be another fight Jeremy would have to take on to keep to doing the only thing he knew he could do. The one thing he could keep coming back to. He wasn’t good at anything else, just being a security officer and…by extension a chief security officer. “They’re running crimes on a Federation ship!” His jaw clenched harder, as did his hands.

“Do you have evidence of this?” Mulgrew asked, concerned.

Jeremy remained silent, staring at the wall. Another couple moved around them and placed their orders. Finally, he shook his head. “But if it’s true? How am I not supposed to do my job? If I do, then it’ll be more problems. They may even try to put me back to 235.”

“Just wait then, wait until you get more information. Don’t walk up and try to arrest your new captain upon meeting him for the first time. Not without evidence.” For most people that might be a joke between friends “ha ha, yeah, don’t arrest your captain!” For Jeremy, especially at this moment, it was a literal order. One that Mulgrew finished off by saying just that. “Until you have good evidence, and present it to someone you can trust then don’t arrest your captain.”

“Ahndyl,” Jeremy said. “I trust her. She’s a lawyer.” He frowned again. “She’s my lawyer.”

“Yes,” Mulgrew answered, feeling some tension release. He wasn’t sure Jeremy would accept what he was saying, order or no. But it seemed as if he were. “You know I’m leaving tomorrow morning? Which is good, because I’m sure I’m going to be sore.”

“I know,” Jeremy said, again not looking at Mulgrew. “I’m trying to forget that.”

“Why would you try to forget that?” Mulgrew asked, always amazed at the dichotomy. Jeremy hated his dissociative memory disorder because of the way it made him be…well…him…but then he also used it to avoid unpleasant things.

“Because when I remember that you’re leaving, I also remember that I’m going to be all the way out here without any friends.” Jeremy hung his head, shaking it. “Without anyone that understands.”

Mulgrew took a breath on his own. There were times he forgot that for Jeremy, their relationship wasn’t just therapist and patient but that Jeremy counted Mulgrew among the very few people he actually considered a friend. It was a very short list. “I know, but you can always call. Always. You have that written in your PaDD, right?”

Jeremy nodded, but still didn’t look up. Sidi had silently padded over to them and nudged Jeremy’s leg, distracting him. Jeremy looked at the dog and absently scratched behind one ear.

“And you’re going to make new friends,” Mulgrew said, forcing himself to sound happy and smiling. “That’s something we’ve worked on, remember?”

Jeremy only shrugged. He didn’t but that didn’t matter. He was sure Mulgrew was right about that. He was always right about things like that. “I can call you though,” Jeremy said. “When I need to talk?”

Not if, but when. Mulgrew nodded. “Of course, any of your friends.”

“Sure,” Jeremy said, “All three of my friends.” He looked down as the dog nudged him again. “Four.”

Mulgrew clapped Jeremy on the shoulder. “C’mon, let’s get that water. And something to eat. Sidi looks like he’s positively wasting away and he’s just going to beg food off others anyway, might as well get him his own.”

“I make sure he gets his meals on time,” Jeremy said, scowling. “I take very good care of him, the doctors always say he’s very well cared for.”

“Yes,” Mulgrew said, glad that he managed to distract the big man. “Yes, I know you do.”

“Sometimes they even claim he’s spoiled,” Jeremy said, sounding very defensive.

“How could they think that?” Mulgrew said, confident the sarcasm would go over Jeremy’s head…then within milliseconds afraid that the sarcasm would go over Jeremy’s head and…there it was, the answer to the question Mulgrew didn’t mean to ask. Judging from the cadence, this was going to be a long time in answering.

 

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