Thanks to all for your suggestions for this first LTD Extra. I hope to be able to write them all (even the bunk party!) in time, but for now, we have a winner! Hope you enjoy.
The Eagle smelled like a brand-new ship, as it was, fresh from the factory, the most advanced model the G.L.E.E. had ever produced - the only ship in the whole fleet with a ghost of a chance at succeeding in this impossible mission. Up lifted his chin as he struggled to pin two new pips onto the collar of his dress uniform and tried not to think of the dark-haired girl he’d left in his bed, the look in her eyes as he’d walked out the door. His gaze fell on the viewscreen and the Earth falling away, the distance between them widening with each passing second.
His door opened and Tripp entered without preamble. “All set, Lieutenant-Commander?”
Up managed to get the damned pips fastened and spread his hands wide. “How do I look?”
“Like you’ve got a stick up your arse, is that what you were going for?”
“Watch it, Lieutenant, I can write you up for insubordination now, remember?” Up said. There was a big send-off party tonight, a ridiculous media blitz before the Eagle left orbit - even the Admiral himself was going to be there. Up would much rather be in the gym, knocking out some reps, forgetting himself in the punching bags, but his new rank made that impossible. Diplomacy, ceremony, all this bullshit - this was his least favourite part of being a Ranger.
Tripp, on the other hand, was irritatingly cheerful.
“Come on, Up, it won’t be so bad! At least there’ll be booze.”
The mess was already full of people when they arrived, Rangers and civilian staff, reporters, ambassadors, various VIPs. Everyone in dress uniform or fancy outfits, the food being served a hell of a lot better than what they were going to be eating for the duration of the mission. Up made his way through the crowd to the bar, Tripp on his heels.
“I’ll have a whiskey-”
Tripp’s hand shot out and thwacked him on the chest. “Up!”
“What?” Up said, annoyed.
“Up – Up – who is she?”
Up looked around. “Who is who?”
“The redhead, Up, the redhead! Is there anyone else?”
Up eyed his friend and scanned the crowded hall.
“Right there, next to the Jovian ambassador -”
Then he saw who he meant - and she was stunning, he had to admit. Tall and slender, the redhead was dressed in civilian clothes but wore a G.L.E.E. com badge attached to the front of her blouse. She looked like the kind of person who smiled a lot, and indeed she was smiling even as she listened patiently to the purple-skinned Jovian’s animated monologue. Her eyes, very briefly, flickered in their direction, and Tripp stood a little taller.
“I’ve got to meet her,” he said. “Come on.”
“Not really interested in playing wingman tonight, Tripp-”
Tripp wasn’t listening. Up sighed and took his drink from the bartender with a nod. He had a feeling he was going to need it.
“Oh, the Ambassador’s Ball!” Tripp was saying loudly by the time Up caught up with him. “Lieutenant-Commander Up here and I worked security there once. Quite an affair. Lots of pomp and circumstance. Not a whole lot of sense, though, if you ask me.”
The Jovian looked a little affronted. Tripp stuck out his hand. “Lieutenant Connor Tripp, pleasure to make your acquaintance.” Before the ambassador could say a word, Tripp had turned to his companion. “And you must be-”
“Rosie Baker,” she said, the corners of her mouth turning up. “Dr. Rosie Baker, if we’re giving ourselves titles.”
“Rosie Baker,” Tripp said, saying her name as if he wanted to savour it forever. “And is it too much for a poor soldier like me to hope that you might be travelling with us on this fair ship after we leave orbit, Rosie Baker?”
She looked amused, though not totally taken in with the inexhaustible charms Tripp believed he possessed. “In fact I will be, Lieutenant. I’ll be working as part of the civilian medical team. Do you use that line every time you embark on a dangerous mission like this one?”
Tripp blinked, but didn’t miss a beat. “Nah, Rosie Baker, I think I was saving it for you.”
A real smile played, a little shyly, on her face, and Up took the opportunity to fade into the crowd. No wingman needed tonight.
He spent the evening sitting at the bar, shaking hands and nodding, making dull conversation when necessary, nursing his whiskey, pushing the dark-haired girl out of his mind. He didn’t see Tripp again until the reception was over, the significantly louder, drunker crowd starting to disperse. He came and sat next to Up, his elbows on the bar, hands over his face.
“How’d it go?” said Up, who hadn’t really been expecting to see him again tonight.
“Great,” said Tripp into his hands. “She’s great. She’s fantastic. She won’t let me get away with anything.”
Tripp dropped his hands onto the bar. “She’s engaged.”
“Ah,” said Up.
He turned to look around just as Rosie paused in the doorway, biting her lip, her eyes on Tripp.
Up slapped his friend on the back. “Come on, Tripp, cheer up. Next drink’s on me.”
Stars Passing By will tell the story of Tripp and Rosie. While this first part was told from Up’s point of view, most of the others will be from theirs. Thanks for all the love you’ve shown to these characters of mine - I’m looking forward to sharing their story with you. This is just the beginning.