"Somebody always has to be the outsider..."
by Lisa Caitlin Grey
Part 2: Rescue & Revelations
Well, a week later, Miri and I docked with the TSN regional command station where we were to rendezvous with our respective ships. I hadn't gotten as much done with Duality as I had planned on but, gosh, I sure had fun not getting it done and I had the ear-to-ear contented smile to prove it. Good-byes with Miri were tearful. We were going to miss each other badly. I also had to leave Duality in storage at the command station while I was at space.
Over the next five years, I spent most of my income on upgrading Duality's systems and components. My career was progressing nicely and there were definite projections that I would soon have a command of my own. Miri was faring similarly. We hadn't seen each other much in the last five years due to our liberties not coinciding, but we kept in contact as often as possible via vid messages and vid phone. Currently, I was the second officer on the dreadnought Aquinas on blockade duty around the forbidden colonies, where the Galactic government sent homosexuals or others they deemed an abomination.
I was standing third watch. It was my favorite time. There wasn't much activity and I was pretty much left on my own while two thirds of the ship slept. I was going over some routine reports when my sensor operator spoke up.
"Contact, incoming, Lieutenant Commander Callaway," he said crisply.
"How far, Mister Peters?" I asked.
"Just entering sensor range. About three thousand AU's, closing slowly," the sensor tech informed me.
"Hail them, please, Miz Larson," I told my comm tech.
"Communications established, sir," she said after a few moments.
"Very well, on the main view screen please," I said.
Soon the main view screen changed from the view of space to a view of the Captain of the incoming ship. I could tell right away that she hadn't always been a she. She was one of those transgendered people who the Galactic government banished to the sector of space we were blockading. The fact that I could tell this was evidence of cheap, inferior genetic tailoring viruses. Otherwise she would have appeared normal female to the untrained eye.
"Incoming vessel," I said after I keyed my mic, "You are approaching a restricted area. Alter course at once or we will be forced to fire on you."
"TSN Aquinas, this is the captain of the UNARMED cargo vessel Tina. To whom am I speaking?" the captain asked.
"This is Lt. Cmdr. Callaway, second officer. Again, I say alter course or be fired on," I replied.
"Lt. Cmdr. Callaway, you must let us through. We carry a cargo of desperately needed medical supplies headed for the planet Diversity. Thousands will die if we don't make it through." The Captain of the Tina's eyes shined with inner peace and conviction that she was doing the right thing. "Please, let us through," she begged me.
"My orders are clear, Tina. No ships go in, no ships go out. If you continue your approach, I will be forced to destroy you," I informed her.
"Very well, Lt. Cmdr. Callaway," she replied. For a minute I though she had come to her senses and was going to alter course, but then it was clear she intended to keep right on coming.
"How long until she is weapons range, Mr. Ireland?" I asked my fire control officer.
"About in two minutes, Sir," he responded.
"Very well, when she gets in range, fire a warning shot across her course. Full volley," I ordered.
"Yes Sir!" he replied smartly.
Two minutes later I heard the ships main batteries fire and watched as the 16 particle beams cut a swath neatly across the cargo ship's trajectory.
"Mr. Callaway, the light show was very impressive, but if you intend to stop us you will have to destroy us," the Tina's Captain advised. She was determined to pursue this idiocy, obviously counting on my humanity to spare her.
I had just decided that it was working for her when my personal comm crackled to life. "Mister Callaway, this is the Captain. Why have the ships weapons fired?"
"Blockade runner, sir. I fired a warning shot to get her attention," I informed my commanding officer.
"Has she altered course?" the Captain inquired.
"I'm afraid not, Sir," I replied.
"Very well, Mr. Callaway, you know your duty. If she crosses the line, destroy her," the channel went dead.
In an hour the Tina would reach the line. If she crossed it I would be forced to destroy her. I would be forced to kill all aboard an unarmed vessel on a mission of mercy. That was something I couldn't live with, though I knew disobeying these orders were going to cost me my career and very likely my life. Yet I knew what I had to do.
Working quickly at my terminal, I hacked the fire control computer and locked it down with an encrypted password. It would be easy to defeat, but it would perhaps give the Tina enough time to get out of weapons range before she could be fired upon. Soon that was done and I settled in to wait for the end of my military life.
The Tina slowly crept across the line into the restricted area. Now the fun would begin. My bridge crew looked expectantly at me. I sat impassively. Finally, my fire control officer, the next in command on the bridge, spoke up.
"Sir, the cargo vessel has entered the restricted area," he stated.
"I am aware of that, Mr. Ireland," I said calmly.
"Your orders, sir?" he prompted.
"At ease, Mr. Ireland," I replied.
"Sir you know our orders are to destroy any ship crossing the line," he said, clearly getting agitated.
"I know what the orders are, Mr. Ireland. I said stand down!" I snapped.
As the fire control officer sat back down and glared at me, my private comm came to life again. "Mr. Callaway, this is the Captain. Has the vessel changed course?"
"No, sir, it hasn't," I replied.
"Has it crossed into the restricted area?" the Captain asked.
"Yes, sir, it has," I replied.
"Then why haven't you destroyed it?" the Captain demanded.
"Because I don't intend to, sir," I said, sealing my fate.
"I beg your pardon, I thought I heard to say you don't intend to destroy the blockade runner," the Captain said calmly.
"You heard correctly, sir," I said just as calmly.
"Am I to assume you have a legitimate reason for this?" the Captain asked.
"Yes sir, I do," I replied.
"Are we about to be set upon be a fleet of war ships?" the Captain inquired, the tension mounting.
"No sir," I stated.
"Then what possible reason could you have for disobeying a direct order?" the Captain said, pronouncing each word in precisely clipped speech.
"Because, Sir, destroying an unarmed vessel on a mission of mercy would be morally and ethically wrong. Respectfully, that is my reason, sir," I said in just as precise speech.
Just then the bridge door slid open and the Captain entered.
"Mr. Callaway, you are relieved. Mr. Ireland, destroy that ship. Lieutenant Larson, call a security detail up here to take Mr. Callaway into custody," the Captain commanded.
"Captain, the weapons are not responding. As soon as I tried to fire them they all went off line. Primary, Secondary and Tertiary, sir, all of them," Lt. Ireland informed him.
"Get them back up, Mr. Ireland," the Captain said, looking sharply at me.
"Captain, the system has been locked out with an encryption code," the fire control officer stated.
"How long until the ship is out of weapons range?" the Captain asked.
"Less that 45 minutes, Sir," the sensor tech replied.
"Then, Mr. Ireland, you have a half an hour to break the code and get the system back on line," the Captain said.
"Sir, it's been set up so that any attempt to tamper with it will cause the system to do a hard reboot," Lt. Ireland informed the Captain. What he didn't add because we all knew it all too well was that hard booting the system would take a minimum of an hour before they could bring the weapons back on line.
The Captain looked at me. "Mr. Callaway, remove the lock and I will not add sabotage to the charges against you," he said.
"Respectfully, sir, I cannot," I said.
"Cannot or will not, mister," the Captain asked sharply.
"Does it matter, sir?" I asked.
"No, I suppose it doesn't," the Captain said with resignation.
The security detail arrived and took me into custody. The Captain ordered them to take me to the brig. I sat in the brig for several hours before the security team returned to escort me to the Captain's ready room. When we arrived, the Captain was sitting behind his desk. He signaled the security team to leave and gestured for me to sit down. I did so.
"I wanted you to see this," the Captain said as he turned the view screen to me.
It was a split screen recording of a communication between the Captain of the Tina on one side and my Captain on the other.
"Goddess' blessing upon you, Lt. Cmdr. Callaway," the Tina's Captain said.
"Lt. Cmdr. Callaway has been relieved of duty. This is the Captain of the Aquinas," my Captain said.
"Then blessing upon you, too for allowing us through. The medicine we carry will save thousands that would otherwise have certainly perished," the strange man-woman said.
"Do not bless me, or thank me. It was only by virtue of Mr. Callaway locking down our weapons systems that you yet live," my Captain stated.
"Then he is a compassionate man and has our gratitude," the Tina's Captain responded.
"Indeed," said my Captain. "I just though you might like to know what the man to whom you owe your gratitude has personally given up to save you and your people. Brock Callaway was a bright young officer on the fast track to make admiral, possibly being the youngest ever to do so. Until now his record had been spotless. I happen to know he was to be given his own command within the next year. Helping you and your people has cost him all that at the very least. Very likely it will cost him his life after the court martial."
"Then he is courageous and honorable as well as compassionate," the Tina's Captain said, her eyes shining with tears at what had been sacrificed for her and her people. "Thank you for telling us about him. He will be remembered as a hero to our people."
"Indeed," agreed the image of my Captain, "He has my utmost respect for his honor and conviction. I deeply regret that I must be the one to bring the charges against him."
"Perhaps you can all learn a lesson from him," the Tina's Captain said sadly. "Perhaps you can learn from him that there are more important things than orders and that maybe there is a higher duty to your fellow human beings."
"Perhaps," my Captain said, also sadly, "but more likely we will just learn the price of disobeying those orders and disregarding the duty to the TSN."
"That would be most regrettable," the Tina's Captain said, a tear running down her face. "Please give Mister Callaway our respects and tell him our prayers are with him. He has our eternal gratitude."
As the display went blank, I looked up at the Captain. He actually looked a bit misty eyed himself.
"Thank you for showing me this, Captain," I said sincerely.
"Son, I truly respect your strength of character," the Captain said, "but now you have put me in an unenviable position, that of having to bring charges against someone I respect. I am not an uncompassionate man, and I can't honestly say that I disagree with what you have done here, but as TSN Officers we are sometimes called upon to perform in ways that do not align themselves with our morals or ethics. Here is the list of charges against you."
He passed me a hard copy document. I read the list and knew I was in deep trouble. Two charges of insubordination, one charge of Sabotage of a TSN warship, one charge of aiding a criminal to escape, and one charge of being transgendered...What? Transgendered? Uh oh. I looked up sharply at the Captain. He reached out across his desk with a closed fist. When his arm reached full extension, he opened his hand and on his desk fell a large translucent pink pill.
"I assume you know what this is," the captain asked.
Damn right I knew what it was. Whatever money hadn't gone into the Duality had gone toward this pill. It represented far more than the sizable monetary investment it had cost me. It was to be my salvation when I left the Navy in another five years and was free to cruise the galaxy in Duality answering to no one but my heart. It was the answer I had sought for so long. It was to me, my completion.
"I've never seen it before in my life," I lied smoothly.
"Then you won't mind if I smash it then," the captain grinned and reached out with his electronic note pad.
"NO! Please!" I cried as I dove forward protecting the precious pill, betraying my dark secret, while receiving a sharp blow across my hands as the pad slammed down on them.
"That's what I thought," the Captain smiled again at me. "Son, look, I might have been concerned about finding this yesterday, but at this point it makes little difference. They will probably execute you from those other charges alone. As I said, I am not an uncompassionate man. I am not charging you with being Transgendered and here's what I am going to do. I am going to let you keep that pill. Keep it hidden however you can. After the court martial, if they sentence you to death, take the pill. At least you can die as who you want to be. If they don't sentence you to death then you decide how best to handle it. This is a gift from me to you, as a sort of recognition of your courage and conviction, and also an apology for what I must do."
The Captain stood and offered me his hand. I rose and took it, tears in my eyes at his kindness. "Mr. Callaway, it was a pleasure to serve with you," he said. "I'm going to miss having someone of your competence holding the watch as I sleep."
"Captain," I stammered, "I...I don't know what to say, beyond it was a joy to serve under you. I pray you never have to make a choice like I did. You're a good man and good men don't deserve such choices." I came to attention and saluted him. He saluted back and I palmed the pill and opened the door where the waiting security team escorted me back to the brig.
Two weeks later I was back at the TSN Regional Command Station. Usually this was a happy place for me because it usually meant liberty and taking Duality out, but this time it wasn't so happy. I was cooling my heels in a cell at the station detention center. My court martial would be in about four month's time. The pill was safely hidden, but for the moment I could do nothing but wait.
I heard a bit of a ruckus out in the hall but I didn't think much of it, assuming it was a drunken sailor they had brought in for having too much fun on liberty as had happened quite often in the three months I had been here. Until, that is, Miri appeared at my cell door.
"Hey Sailor!" she said happily. "Fancy meeting you here."
"Miri? What are you doing here?" I asked.
She squinted her eyes, pantomimed ashing a cigar, and in an unbelievably good Bogart impression, said, "We're here to getcha out, see." The cell door popped open. And she continued, "Com'on , shweetheart, lets beat it before the heat gets here."
"We?" I asked.
"Yeah," she said, dropping the flippancy and looking up the hall. "Me, Brian and a friend of his. Come on Brock, we don't have much time."
"No," I said and her eyes bugged. "I can't let you all do this. My career is ruined and I'm possibly going to be executed. I can't let you guys take that kind of risk."
"Too late lover," She said. "We have already taken out the guards, and committed enough TSN violations to put us in the same boat you are, so get your cute ass in gear and let's go. We can argue about it on the Duality."
I got up and followed her down the hall after making sure I had the pill. We moved swiftly through the dimly lit corridors and amazingly encountered no one. We made it to the docking bay where Brian and his friend had the Duality prepped and ready for our flight into infamy. We quietly slipped from the docking bay and slowly made our way away from the station so as to draw as little attention as possible. It didn't last long. The comm chatter picked up, then we received an incoming message.
"Duality, that is a restricted vessel. Your undocking is unauthorized. Return to the docking bay at once," the Station Space Traffic Control demanded. When we didn't respond, they began calling for assistance.
"Everybody strap in," I ordered. "We are in for a bumpy ride here, but I have a few surprises for them."
I engaged the stealth mode and the exterior views of the Duality showed the hull turn to a silvery mirror finish, visually, as well as most other forms of detection, almost invisible. Since speed was of the essence I had to fire wall the throttle, which would make us hot and bright to infrared, but it couldn't be helped, even with the best stealth technology they would have eventually stumbled across us. The Duality leaped forward, accelerating like a racing ship a quarter her size. There was only one ship close enough and fast enough to catch us. It was a destroyer and it was bearing down on us at a tangent to our course. As we neared its weapons ranged, it turned its main propulsion toward us and began to burn to match vectors.
"Duality," came a familiar voice. "Heave to and surrender, or I will be forced to fire on you."
"Sorry, Kim, I don't have anything to lose," I told my old friend. "You now have the same choice I did, except in your case it's a friend, in mine it was an innocent. Fire on me or let me go."
"Brock, unlike you, I will not jeopardize my command by disobeying orders," Kim replied as a warning shot from the destroyer's four particle beam cannon cut across our course. They were nowhere near as powerful as the Aquinas' main batteries, but still a couple of well placed hits could easily take the Duality out.
"We're screwed," Brian's friend said.
"Not yet, I still have loads of tricks," I grinned. I pushed a concealed button under the control panel and a sighting reticule appeared on the main view screen. "Last chance, Kim. Let us go. As your friend, I am asking please."
"It's not going to happen, Brock," she said. "Now heave to and surrender, or the next one is down your throat."
I had carefully drifted the Duality directly behind the destroyer, until the reticule was squarely over the main thrusters. I then pulled the trigger on the joystick controller. The cabin lights went dark momentarily as the single dreadnought main battery particle beam stabbed out, scoring a direct hit on the destroyers drive crippling it. I then vectored the Duality away from Kim's limping destroyer and accelerated out of her weapons range.
As soon as we were beyond the tracking range of any TSN forces I made one more drastic course correction and cut the drives, rendering us virtually invisible. Setting the autopilot, I got up and headed to the galley. I poured myself a glass of fruit juice and sat down at the table. The others followed me in and sat down as well.
"Very nicely done, Captain Brock, sir," Brian's friend commented.
"Brock will do for now. None of us are in the TSN anymore and I wasn't even a Captain then," I replied.
"Begging your pardon, sir, but it seems to me that we are on YOUR ship and we are YOUR crew for the foreseeable future, and that kinda promotes you to Captain," the slight man stated. "By the way, since nobody is going to be polite enough to do it for me, I guess I should introduce myself. My name is Dan Chestnut. I served under Brian as a computer tech when he was third officer aboard the heavy cruiser Trinity."
"Pleased to meet you, Dan," I said politely.
"Brock, where the heck did you get a dreadnought class particle canon?" Brian asked. "And more baffling, how the heck did you find room to mount it on Duality without it being visible?"
I grinned, "It cost me my last two years wages and it's amazing the space I saved by upgrading all the ships systems to the newest micronized naval versions. Call it part of my TSN compensation package."
"YOU? YOU misappropriated TSN assets?" Miri laughed.
"Well, I never claimed to be an angel," I told her sweetly.
"So, my Captain, what are we going to do now?" Miri asked.
My look turned grim, "You are all a bunch of morons you know," I said sadly.
There was a general chorus of agreement, which took me off guard and we all started laughing. But I quickly sobered again.
"You have become outlaws to save someone you never truly knew," I said somberly.
"What are you talking about? You are my best friend, Brock," Brian said.
"No kidding," Miri added, "I think I know you better than anybody here, being your LOVER and all. Hell, Brock, I would follow you through hell itself if that's where you were going."
"You're right, sir, I don't know you that well," Dan commented, "but you are important enough to Brian to throw away his career and that's a good enough reference for me."
"Well, I have something to tell you that may change the way you feel," I said sadly.
Everyone looked at me expectantly, so I pressed on. "I have a secret that I have kept hidden from all of you." I paused to take a drink of juice, stalling a bit before continuing. "Geez, I have kept this hidden for so long my throat bulks at saying the words. I...well...I'm transgendered. I have always felt uncomfortable as a man and I have always known on some level I was female inside." They all were looking at me, as if waiting for me to go on, sensing there was something else, so I placed my precious pill on the table, looked at each of them before saying, "I won't be as you see me for much longer. That pill cost me a my third year's salary, and it will make my outside agree with my inside."
"Is THAT all?" Brian sighed in relief. "Goddess, girl, I have suspected that from almost the beginning."
"I am your LOVER, Brock," Miri laughed. "You didn't think I knew this? Damn, you were definitely off in your own little world. Oh, you kept it well hidden to the general population, but I guess those of us you felt safe with kinda saw enough to suspect."
"Well I had no idea," Dan grinned. "You kept it totally secret for the five hours or so I have known you. Like I said before though, if Brian stands by you that's good enough for me."
"I don't know what to say," I said looking down as the tears began to fill my eyes. "Thank you all for being so accepting. I never expected that."
"Sheesh, Brock, we threw away our careers and became deserters who will be executed if we are ever caught," Brian pointed out. "We care a great deal for you and I don't think this changes that a bit, even if it had been a surprise. I don't think you had anything to worry about with us." There was a general chorus of agreement.
"Well, boys, I think us girls need to talk about our relationship," Miri said smiling. "If you gentlemen would be so kind as to take the watch, Brock and I are going to retire to the stateroom for a bit."
"Well Dan," Brian grinned. "I think 'lover' out ranks 'best friend', so I guess we should do as the lady says."
As the guys got up and headed out to the control cabin, Miri got up and got our secret bottle of champagne and a pair of flutes, before giving me that come hither look and disappearing into our stateroom. I picked up my pill off the table and my cup of juice and followed my lover.
How will the change Brock is planning effect his relationship with Miri? Will she remain his lover, or will they now just be friends? Stay tuned for the next part of the story. --LCG
I would like to thank those that helped me with the proofing and structure of the story. I would also love to hear any and all constructive feedback. --LCG
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