Sunday serialisation – Andrea 7.2

Andrea cover300

Andrea – in search of space, picks up where Making Merry left off.

Fresh from her work on Project Prodigialis, Rear Admiral Andrea Smithson takes command of the Terra II project.

The largest in-system luxury cruise liner had been refitted and recommissioned in the Royal Space Regiment fleet as HMDSV Colin Pillinger. Its mission? To identify, locate and survey a habitable but uninhabited planet which can be populated over time to take pressure off Earth and its resources.

For the cast of characters at the start of the project, click here

For a brief list of acronyms and initialisms used, click here

 

Andrea – in search of space. Chapter seven, part two.

Once inside, Patsy told Tarquin to close the door and sit cross-legged on the floor. Of course, he did exactly as she had told him. Long before he had joined Deep Space Ops, Patsy had planted in him some EPHS commands that ensured she had total control over him any time she needed or desired it. Half an hour later, the two emerged from the side room. Neither gave any indication of what had been happening inside the room, although various members of the bridge crew had, by then, drawn their own mistaken conclusions.

Meredith was doing the Admiral thing – inspecting and talking with all the bridge crew. Whether she was taking any notice of their replies was open to conjecture as was the question of whether what she was asking each of the officers amounted to anything more than an oft-repeated performance. She stopped when she saw Patsy and Tarquin re-enter. She turned to Andrea and asked, “Time for lunch?”

“Of course,” Andrea said and guided the party towards Ishmael’s ready room, which adjoined the bridge. On cue, a group of masked, socially distanced stewards brought in a selection of sandwiches and savouries, and hot and cold drinks. Meredith moved towards the table on which these delicacies were placed just as Ishmael entered the room.

“Ahem,” Ishmael coughed to attract the Admiral’s attention.

“What is it, Commodore?” the Admiral asked.

“Masks may be removed in this room, Admiral, but social distancing must be observed and, critically, hands must be sanitised before touching any of the food or utensils.”

“Yes, of course they must,” Meredith said with a totally un-admiral-like sneer, “Come on, people: hands, face, space and all that bloody palaver.” Turning to Tarquin, she said, “Captain Stuart-Lane. How do you think this oh-so-tight, figure-hugging suit makes me look?”

Tarquin started to open his mouth, blanched, winced a little and finally said, “Very much the Admiral and Commander of the Royal Space Regiment, I should say, Ma’am.”

Meredith turned to Patsy and said, “Well done, Patsy. Well done indeed. Happy, Andrea?”

“Always,” Andrea replied with the sweetest of smiles. Turning to Tarquin, she asked, “How are you getting on with Miss Nambeesan, now she’s on your floor?”

“Well, cracking, actually. She’s a real corker, that one. Can’t say too much yet – a bit hush-hush – but I’ve had Daddy take some of the money from my trust fund and transfer it to her account, so she can use it to help her parents, or maybe a stonking great holiday for the two of us when we get back to Earth.”

“How much money? If you don’t mind me asking, that is.”

“Not at all. Just a few thousand.”

“A few?”

“Five or six. I can’t remember exactly.”

“That should buy a nice holiday.”

“Well, it will build up.”

“What do you mean, it will build up?”

“You didn’t think it was just once, did you?”

“I think we all did, actually,” Meredith said.

“Gosh, no. That’s not how we Stuart-Lanes work. Daddy set up a monthly transfer.”

“Of five or six thousand?”

“Yah.”

Meredith turned to Andrea and whispered, “Looks like one of us made a bad decision, somewhere along the line.”

Andrea smiled weakly.

“So,” Patsy said, “Have you and Nusha… you know… done it?”

“Heavens no, she’s not that kind of girl. Though I did kiss her once.”

“Where?” Patsy asked, coquettishly.

“In the cupboard behind the officers’ mess,” he replied with a naughty-boy grin.

“Not where on the ship, stupid boy. Where on the Nusha?”

“On the cheek, of course. Left upper, as I recall. Wouldn’t do for a chap to be trying to do anything more forward than that with a proper lady.”

“Oy!” Andrea exclaimed, “You can consider yourself on a warning, Mister.”

“Why? What have I done?” Tarquin asked, clearly shocked by his boss’s outburst.

“You know very well what I’m talking about. You may live to regret certain things you have said and done.”

It was apparent that, although much of Tarquin’s public behaviour had changed, he himself hadn’t changed one iota. Still the same entitled, amoral rich kid, still no empathy or understanding of other people’s feelings. Clearly his future was to be in politics – right-wing, of course.

That an atmosphere had developed around the lunch table was beyond dispute, as was the understanding that a certain First Officer was in it, front and centre, up to his locker [that’s Davy Jones’ locker – a sunken chest]. The party broke up soon afterwards, the majority of senior officers having concluded that Lieutenant Nambeesan, Head of Administration Services was, in fact, something of a gold-digger and that, as such, she and Tarquin deserved each other. It wasn’t helped by the fact that the said Lieutenant was, with the sole exception of the ship’s commander – oh, and the visiting admiral, of course – the single most desirable woman on board and that, by common consent, Tarquin was, his family money apart, the polar opposite of that.

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