Heard It Through The Grapevine

Rik Caine had finished his shift and was returning to his office to slump down on his couch, pull a short from the barrel and get through yet more paperwork. He wondered to himself why anyone would voluntarily become Chief of the Boat. As he sidled into the room like a dusty lawman entering a saloon he noticed that things had changed since he’d last been there. He raised a single brow with intrigue. The lights were on when previously they’d been out for the count. In the middle of the desk floated a hat. Not just any hat, a brown felted fedora with a little card tucked into the hat band. Hidden under the hat, and giving it the illusion of defying gravity, was a bottle of whiskey. Perhaps work was not finished after all and the couch and that short of hooch would have to wait a while longer.

Rik moved closer to the foreign items that had appeared in his office like ghosts in the night. Lifting the hat off the bottle to inspect it, he couldn’t help but notice the flowing lines of the glass bottle, its sturdy belly as solid as any foundation containing pure liquid gold. The neck was short and perfectly straight like a meerkat looking for danger. It was a thing of beauty. He studied the label momentarily; an unmistakeable TR on the neck band standing out like a beacon to welcome boats safely to shore. Instantly recognisable. A smile played across Rik’s lips like he’d won blackjack in a casino. Templeton Rye. The drink of the era he embodied. He reached his hand out to touch it; check it was really there and he wasn’t going to pull awake on his couch with the same disappointment and wishful hoping as a Joe pulling awake alone; the dame having disappeared into the night. He touched it and felt the cool glass; he wasn’t dreaming.

Smiling again he then turned his attention to the fedora that had been perched atop the bottle as he’d entered. It was a thing of beauty, soft to the touch and all kinds of class. He picked it up delicately; as if it were a newborn child. His heart beat a little harder as he turned it; admiring the craftsmanship and detailing from every angle. Setting it back down he pulled out the card and it all made a little more sense. Coral lips; stark contrast against the white card. Being fairly sure he didn’t have another admirer there was only one who would go to this much trouble; one who would pick up on the very meaning of him and enhance it. The redheaded dame called trouble who had had graced his door. Amelia; the dame that made him dizzy. He kissed the card and leaned back in his chair wondering what he had done so right. The thought cut off however when the doors slid open.

He didn’t even bother to hit the chime. The tall blond joe simply walked in like he owned the joint and settled himself in one of the chairs in front of the desk. Looking like he’d stepped off the high seas of the silver screen, his eyes and the glasses that hung off the bridge piercing hid in the shadows of the tricorner hat with a plume large enough to fan a princess and featuring a hand painted skeleton fish. He smoothed his damask vest with the jolly rogers, skeleton fish, and spaghetti and meatballs pattern woven in as he looked at the fedora, then to the gumshoe expectantly.

Rik looked the bo over with intrigue. It wasn’t often someone sidled into his office with the confidence of a fakealoo artist on the film-flam. He felt like the barkeep at some kind of drum watching his newest patron with suspicious interest. Rolling the fedora up his arm he let it rest on his head, tipped and covering his eyes slightly — if the two gents from out of time were going to dance; he at least wanted to look the part.

“Admiral Waterhouse sends his greetings.” A smirk painted the tall blond’s lips, and he tipped the hat upwards to bring his softly ridged forehead and his faint trill spots into the light.

“Admiral?” Rik repeated half questioning and half concerned all the while swallowing firmly. He knew Amelia’s father was an Admiral but, had she told him already? A thousand questions fired through his head like the pistons of a speeding train. “You must be Noah?” he asked after a moment. The spots, the ridges showing a family resemblance. He cast his mind back to his conversation with Lily; apparently this rogue was trouble with a capital T. Rik grinned as he tipped the brim of his fedora to the elaborately dressed Joe before him. “I’d offer a seat but… Well…” he quipped nodding to the already seated position of his guest. “Care to dip the bill?”

Noah’s eyes dropped and skimmed the lower edge of his lenses, then he snorted with amusement as he shook his head.

“Only if you have rum, and not that synthehol blasphemy,” he answered, letting silence answer the other queries. His eyes took a meander around the room, actively turning his head to do so.

Rik chuckled to himself imagining Amelia saying something identical to the same question. This Joe was interesting that’s for sure; the pirate garb, the goggles, the reaction that made no sense. Slowly he lifted his finger to his chin tapping it in concentration. Rik leaned back in his chair after a moment. “Sadly not; it’s the replicator or I crack open the rather special bottle of hooch your sister left in my joint,” he responded, assuming that he was the infamous Noah Waterhouse.

Noah’s attention turned to the bottle for a moment, before his eyes found the bottom of his glasses again. His gaze slowly drifted left towards the display case in the shelves. “Smith and Wesson .32 double action 4th model?” He said this hesitantly, slowly, and as if he was reading it, as he turned his attention back to Rik and pulled a flask from a pocket inside his vest.

“You come prepared with your own hooch I see,” Rik quipped, taking admiration at a man who could not only get away with wearing garb he’d expect to see in a swashbuckler movie; but carry a flask around too. Rik took out a tumbler from his drawer and twisted the lid off the bottle breaking the seal with a satisfying crack like knuckles at the start of two hoods squaring up for a fight. As he pulled the stopper out he could smell the deep, rich amber nectar within; inviting him in like a temptress siren beckoning sailors. He poured a measure, savouring each and every moment of the process and parking Noah’s comment about his gat for now. “What are we toasting to bo?” He asked after a short pause and stealing a first sip of the hooch that had appeared in his office just like the dame who had supplied it. It was smooth, with just the right amount of kick. Easy to go down and a classy tipple, much grander than that he had offered Amelia on their first encounter. He’d have to get her to try it. Have to repay her. Have to thank her. As his mind wandered slightly he was almost caught off guard by the reply.

“To the Flying Spaghetti Monster, for touching us and filling our lives with so many wonderful things,” Noah insisted as he lifted his flask upward before bringing it to his lips for a taste.

Rik inclined his head unsure by what Noah meant and raised his glass upwards as if making an offering to the sky. “So while we’re sat here chinning — maybe you can spin the yarn as to how you’ve come to know your gats — not many who’d recognise her,” he said nodding to the case on the shelf to his right.

“Let’s just say a red-headed wench is coaching me,” Noah answered, stealing another sip from his flask. His eyes dropped to the bottom edge of his lenses, and he nearly spit out his drink as a string of words in Klingon tumbled from his lips — what little the universal translator could pick out spoke of his mother and thanking pasta she was back at the shipyard.

Rik watched the man with interest, the way he was speaking and reacting to things it was almost as if he were a parody of spy talking too obviously to someone in his ear, but Rik couldn’t spot any clear signs of communication devices about the man dressed as a pirate sat before him. “Problem with the hooch?” he asked after a moment before quickly adding, “and that’s an interesting garb you’ve got on your back; there a story behind it?”

“No, no, the rum’s fine. Smooth as silk, made it myself. Wanna try?” Noah held the flask out in offering, and his eyes darted downwards again. “This is my Friday’s best. Dad wanted me to make a good impression, and he’s–” He paused. “He’ll probably regret asking it of me.” He grinned wide.

Nodding slightly, Rik took the offered flask, taking a quick swig of the liquid inside before handing it back in one move. It was as smooth as he said; like drinking silk and the subtle bitter notes of alcohol didn’t leave much of a burning in the back of his throat. “Some mighty fine hooch you’ve cooked up, quite a talent,” he complimented before returning to his own glass of Templeton Rye. Rik paused again watching the man talk, correcting himself. Something was amiss but he couldn’t quite place his finger on it. “A planned visit then?” Rik enquired, his whiskey-hazed gum-shoe mind racing like sprinters to the finish.

“Mum and Dad asked me to look in after Pond called Mum for advice on your treasure there,” Noah explained, nodding to the whiskey and the fedora.

“I notice you call her Pond,” Rik commented picking up on the nickname Noah used. “How’d she come by it?” he asked interested as to its meaning.

“Mum and Dad named her for a character from an old earth show, Doctor Who — Amy Pond,” Noah answered with a shrug. “When she was young, Dad would tell her, Come along, Pond since that was a thing the Doctor would say to Amy. It just kinda stuck.” Another sip from the flask, and he leaned forward, gesturing with it. “Dad in particular was curious about you after reading your service record. He does that sort of thing because they don’t like to let him actually repair things, y’see. Brass aren’t supposed to get dirty, right?” He laughed, looking to the fedora again. “It suits you. Pond’ll be pleased.”

Rik nodded. Amy, Amelia – made sense. He made a mental note to check out the show clearly so important to the dame he was dizzy for and her family, before the colour drained out of his face like paint being poured from a pot as Noah mentioned that his and Amelia’s parents were already familiar with him and his record. He couldn’t help but wonder what the Admiral would make of a roguish gum-shoe being sweet on his dame of a daughter as he back-pedalled the conversation. “He… Read my jacket?” Rik questioned, swallowing slightly.

“Of course he read your jacket,” Noah returned, a sly smile tugging at the corner of his lips instead of a trademark grin. “He trusts Pond can take care of herself, but she’s still his little girl. He takes an interest, y’see.” His eyes skimmed the bottom of his lenses again, and he snorted. “Though, it’s really Mum you should be worried about. Dad can meddle with your career, but Mum… well, she’s the one who taught Pond how to be the deadly creature she is.”

Rik swallowed uncomfortably again, he was behind the eight ball and shifted awkwardly in his seat. “From… what I could tell in that painting of yours… equally scary and damn impressive,” he said after a moment trying to get his thoughts out. “And your mother knows her 20’s Earth hooch, I’m impressed.” He paused again. “It’s a mighty fine hat too.” He took it off to admire it once more, before picking up the white lipstick-stained card from his desk and tucking it into the band. “From the sweetest and most beautiful dame I’ve had the pleasure to lay my peepers on,” he finished forgetting who he was talking to, momentarily lost in the thought of Amelia.

Noah chuckled, shaking his head slightly. “He really is dizzy for the dame,” he said, almost as if he was talking to someone.

Rik cocked his head sideways like a child listening outside a door they weren’t supposed to. Too many inconsistencies, private moments shared with no one visible in the room. Off the cuff comments not related to the narrative of their conversation. Like the cogs in a watch ticking away Rik’s investigatory mind kicked into gear. His brow lowered slightly in concentration as he tried to hear the muffled sound of an audio device. Nothing. He glanced over the pirate sat before him before landing on his face. Eyes up and down like a yo-yo in a school yard. Goggles. Like having a light switch pulled on Rik allowed a small smile to creep across his face as the puzzle finally fell into place. “I sure hope you can tell the folks that I’m no tomcat foolin’ around — I suspect they’re making their own minds up literally as we chin huh?” he said inclining his head and raising his glass by way of a greeting, in case that thing had a camera built in.

“I was wondering when you’d catch on,” Noah returned with a chuckle, his eyes dropping to the bottom of the lenses again. “Mum says thank you, she’s getting dinner at Valanna’s next time she and Dad are on Earth. Dad thought you’d take longer to catch on… but either your service record doesn’t give you enough credit, or he was giving me too much.”

Rik took a sip from his glass and set it back down on the desk. “What can I say; Starfleet jackets are often littered with nonsense and diatribe. Wanna test the mettle of a Joe? Watch him go to town on a hood and elbow him into the slammer after twelve hours solid in an interview room,” he commented, taking another swig of the smooth whiskey he had been so graciously provided. Rik knew of Valanna’s, but had never been himself. “I hear it’s good, happy to oblige,” he quipped raising his glass to the goggles again.

“Dad’s translated a few service records for me, he’s usually good at sorting out the reality behind the fleet bull,” Noah insisted with a shrug. “Though maybe it’s just parlor tricks because he knows the people in question.” His eyes dropped to the bottom of his lenses again, and he smirked. “Mum says that made Dad squirm. Do you suppose I was near to the mark?”

Rik chuckled. “Well I would imagine he’d need a special brand of universal translator for that one bo.” Letting the smile play over his lips a little longer he reached for the glass and took another sip of the liquid gold it held. Like a bee to pollen Rik was hooked on the hooch. “He should consider himself a lucky Joe — you could be stepping him into a dive in the Tenderloin for gagh so bad it’ll make ya heave a full sundown later. He’s got it lucky, classy joint is Valanna’s from what I hear.” He couldn’t help but let out a small chuckle as he shook his head slightly and took another swig, draining the glass of its contents. Here he was, sat with a pirate in front of him, having a third party conversation with the parents of the dame who’d driven him dizzy.

“Actually, they might go for it if it was somewhere like the Tenderloin, Mum just loves putting muggers in their place,” Noah returned with a chuckle. “And Dad likes watching her in action. Though if the gagh is shit, she wouldn’t want to go.”

Rik couldn’t help but let a laugh escape at that comment as he mulled over the unusual situation he was in. Meeting Amelia’s parents without even being able to see them. His inquisitive mind couldn’t help but wonder what they thought of the ol’ gum-shoe. “Well I can see where Amelia gets her fire,” he paused and smiled to himself. “If you do head out that way, Ask for Gra’ak; tell him Jim Gordon sends his regards and he may crack open the good hooch. As for the gagh, it’s as rough as sandpaper with the flavour of death itself. That dive is full of bindle stiffs, chippys and molls looking for an easy time, all of them there for underhanded business and to forget their woes rather than have a decent bite. Hell, its one raid away from being classed as a low down creep joint,” he concluded with a devilish grin, remembering his time undercover and spending a lot of time getting into just enough trouble to be convincing.

Noah laughed as his eyes were pulled to the bottom of his lenses again. “Mum wants to know what the name of this dive is? She’s curious what quality hooch name dropping will get her, and she’s so terribly bored since settling back in at Utopia.”

Rik couldn’t help but let another charming but devilish grin play across his lips. “It’s a little joint called the Grey Targ round the back of Ada Court, look for the grey door that has no place being there and knock four times. They keep themselves to themselves and … Maybe leave the uniform at home, Starfleet ain’t exactly a welcome sight,” he explained.

“Considering Mum takes any excuse to ditch her uniform, even if she’s on duty—especially if she can get away with it on duty—I don’t think that’ll be a problem.” Noah shook his head with an amused grin.

Rik chuckled and shook his head, understanding more about Amelia as the conversation went on. “Well fair play; if you need a change of pace and don’t mind roughing it where quality is concerned, head on down to that dive; you’ll get hooch by the barrel and some good music to boot from an impressive canary with a solid set of pipes,” he added.

He poured himself another measure of the Templeton Rye. “Sure I can’t tempt you with a short, bo?” Rik asked his pirate guest before pausing and adding, “and I forgot to mention when you sidled into the joint; you’re a talented artist”.

“She’s let you up for air long enough to notice the artwork, huh?” Noah asked with a smirk. “Have you seen the new painting in her office, or just the two in her quarters?” He considered the bottle of whiskey for a long moment. His sister had raided her personal stash to spoil this man who’d made such an impression on her, and this particular bottle had come to her by way of Uncle Spiegel — there was no doubt about the quality of it. “Okay, I’ll give it a try.”

Rik cocked his head and raised and lowered both eyebrows quickly, saying nothing. “Well I might-a missed that bat’leth hanging on the wall,” he admitted. “Only seen the ones in her joint, yet to visit her office,” he said, his mind wandering briefly before snapping back to the room and remembering who it was he was talking to. He cleared his throat. “Good call bo, it’s mighty fine,” he said pulling another tumbler from his desk drawer. He poured out a measure and slid the glass down the desk and accidentality clipped a PADD onto the floor by Noah’s chair. “Well that was supposed to be a whole lot more class than it was,” Rik said with a wince.

“You missed the bat’leth?” Noah shook his head slowly as he collected the PADD from the floor and the glass from the top of the desk. The PADD lit up, and his eyes dropped to it automatically — like most people who read regularly, words drew him like a moth to flame. “Batman, huh?”

“I missed the bat’leth,” Rik admitted. “I was… distracted,” Rik admitted, thankful Noah hadn’t called him on the less than impressive glass slide. “As for that…” He said nodding to the PADD before continuing. “I have an affinity with the character; cut from the same cloth I suppose. I guess in a way those stories saved me from becoming a snowbird and a low down hood.” He paused for a moment not sure how Amelia’s parents would take to that part of his life; or even how much of it they already knew. “You know of the Dark Knight?” he asked eventually breaking the silence.

“Snowb-” Noah started to repeat the word, a confused tilt to his head, as his eyes were drawn to the bottom of his lenses again. A simple ‘oh’ silently passed his lips, and he read for a second more. “Dad said to relay his condolences about your parents.” His eyes dropped to the PADD again. “A lot of my early drawing used Pond’s comics as reference. She’s got some Batman in there, though she favors the Turtles and Wonder Woman.”

Rik lowered his head slightly and took an intake of breath. He wasn’t used to people discussing his past; let alone offering sympathy. “Thank you,” he said, simply not knowing how else to respond. He let the silence linger a moment before continuing. “Wonder Woman is an interesting dame; the turtles I don’t recognise; Amelia chinned to me about the painting hanging in her joint; how I learned of them.” Rik admitted before pausing. “Say bo, you may be able to help; I’ve never been able to get the batsuit to update in that software the way I want it, a lot of the source material has been lost. Don’t suppose I could trouble ya for some artwork to plug into the program?” he asked, hopeful that Amelia’s brother could assist. “Only if it’s no trouble you understand, happy to pass along some latinum, or rum, for it,” he added.  

“Get me some reference, and it should be easy enough,” Noah returned with a small shrug. He eyed the contents of the glass in his hand, and drug it under his nose for a smell. It certainly wasn’t his rum, but it didn’t smell bad either. “If you don’t have it, I’ll just borrow some of Pond’s Batman comics. I’ll tell her you and I had been talking, chinning you call it? And I just need reference for a painting or something. As for paying me? Don’t even worry about it, I only ever do art for hire when I need something. Right now, I’ve got a working ship and I’m a welcomed guest on this boat. Hard to be in less need of money.”

Rik smiled. “You sir, are a gent,” he commented as he got up abruptly from the desk and almost bounded over to the shelving unit. Crouching down he slid open the door and rummaged through boxes muttering to himself. “In here somewhere… I know you are.” There was a momentary pause as, like a kid at Christmas, he exclaimed with excitement when he found what he was looking for. Standing up, he headed back to the desk, dropping the graphic novel on the table as he retook his seat. “Should be a starter — and you’re spot on; chinning is exactly what we’re doing bo. You’ll be fluent yet,” he added. “Could you… Add it into the program if you hand the access codes? My skill is lacking in that area”.

Noah watched with a smirk and a sip of the whiskey as Rik retrieved the treasured tome from its hiding place. He could see the overlap in personality with his sister, and could see him as a good match for her. Hopefully nothing insurmountable lurked with the skeletons in his closet. If the chatter that scrolled across the bottom of his lenses were any indication, he’d quite won parental approval too.

“I can make things look pretty, but if you want it to feel right, you might want to ask me Mum to install it. Though, there is where danger lurks, she’s a genuine lunatic,” Noah cautioned with another sip of the whiskey. Not bad, considering it’s not rum, he mused to himself.

Rik grinned as he picked up his own glass and took a sip the whiskey; it went down smooth without the usual burn that followed. It was as classy as the dame it came from. “A lunatic?” he asked after moment of pause with a single brow rising above his ice blues that were looking at Noah and the goggles which allowed his and Amelia’s folks to chin; or judge him. He hadn’t quite worked out how this was going — hard to read people when they weren’t physically present and what they said came second hand.

“Well I’m one for danger and I’m intrigued by what she could do to dial the program up; getting a little stale these days,” Rik admitted hoping it could be revived.

“Are you s–” Noah started to protest, even as his eyes skimmed the bottom of his lenses. A snort escaped along with a small head shake. “Well, no time for second thoughts now, she’s accepted… insists even. I’ll put together the look of it, send the results along with your program and access codes, and she’ll send back your torture. Does Pond know about the program yet?”

Rik finished the contents of his tumbler with one swift action and set the glass down before producing another PADD from the inside left drawer of his desk. “Excellent news!” he exclaimed sliding it over to Noah. “Here’s the PADD with all the program details and access codes; apologies in advance for the poor coding. You can double-blink or whatever fancy thing them goggles do to transfer data,” he said with a grin and a glint in his eye. Rik paused and shook his head slowly. “Ain’t got around to telling the dame that I dress up as a bat and go fighting hoods in Gotham,” he admitted as he poured himself another measure.

Noah glanced at the PADD as he set his drink on the desk, but didn’t pick it up. His fingers fell to his leather wrist band, and a couple of flicks brought up a holographic one handed keyboard. His fingers danced, and the PADD turned on. Data scrolled across the PADD’s screen and Noah hardly paid it any mind.

Rik watched with interest as the wrist band kicked into life and the data flew across the screen of the PADD that remained untouched on the desk. “Engineering voodoo,” he commented, not to anyone in particular as he watched; impressed with the pirate’s toy.

A corner of Noah’s lip curled up in amusement at the gum-shoe’s remark; it was a phrase his mother slung happily at his father, as well as two uncles — one blood, the other not. He reached out to tap the PADD, shutting it off.

“She’ll probably want to play with your program. I think the Batman comics she had were the ones with the female Robin? What was her name?”

“Stephanie Brown,” Rik said without much hesitation. “She made a damn good Robin — shame what they did to her,” he added after a moments thought. “And I’ll have to invite Amelia to Gotham,” he concluded with a smile to himself.

“She’ll like that.” Noah collected his drink from the desk and took another sip.

Rik let a warm smile play across his face as the thought of him being able to share Gotham with Amelia played on his mind. From the sound of it; she’d enjoy what the game had to offer as much as he did which only served to widen his charming grin. As his mind wandered to the redheaded dame he eventually snapped himself back to the room and cleared his throat. “So what will be done?” he asked with excited intrigue.

“I’m going to make your batsuit look good. What Mum decides to do once she gets the physics right on the cape and such, well, only the Flying Spaghetti Monster knows… she certainly isn’t the sort to give warning.” He slowly shook his head again; his sister’s toy really had no idea what he was in for. “Mum’s responsible for many insane holodeck programs. Pond should have a copy of the family holoprogram collection here, and it’ll be available for anyone to use. If you want an idea of how masochistic you are, look through the collection. Tennis should give you an idea of her warped sense of amusement, particularly with the realism dialed up to eleven.”

Rik’s eyes sparkled with excitement at the prospect of a better Gotham playground — and that he would be able to share this with Amelia. “Insane holodeck programs huh? Sounds sure swell to me,” he quipped as he listened with interest to the collection. “I’ll have to ask… and… Tennis?” he queried, not really sure if this was some unusual version of the sport that had been cooked up. Amelia certainly hadn’t mentioned an interest in tennis.

“Long ago, before Pond or me, Mum was on a special assignment that involved high risk of encountering the Borg. You may or may not know of them, but last I heard they weren’t a risk anymore,” Noah explained, twirling the whiskey in his glass. “She made a training program on how to handle an encounter with them, and during the first years after the threat was eliminated, she still wanted Pond and me to prepare, just in case their elimination hadn’t been effective. That’s the Tennis program. As she relaxed the longer it’d been, she added more cartoonish game play and such, still with useful and truthful undercurrents to the play to teach all the right survival skills just in case.”

Rik nodded with interest. “Sounds like fun; I’ll have to ask Amelia for a game of Tennis,” he said with a grin before pausing and letting his mind replay over the commentary from before. “Oh… and, flying… what now?” he asked after a moment realising the term had cropped up before and he was still none the wiser as to who or what a Spaghetti Monster was, why it could fly and how that linked to the man before him being dressed as a pirate.

“Flying Spaghetti Monster,” Noah repeated; quiet, firmly, carefully. “The deity of the Pastafarian faith, of which I’m an ordained minister.”

Pausing Rik opened his mouth to speak but couldn’t find the words. He looked at the man slightly puzzled and reached for his glass and drained the contents. “The Flying Spaghetti Monster… Pastafarian?” he asked before adding “I’m sorry bo, can’t say I’m familiar”.

“It’s okay, I’m used to people not getting it,” Noah insisted as he snorted softly, and shook his head with a bemused smirk. “The important thing is that we love everyone as the Flying Spaghetti Monster does, and we learn and explore to experience all that he’s seen fit to touch.”

Rik nodded. “Well I don’t fully understand what a Spaghetti Monster that flies is, but sounds like a solid philosophy to me,” he said still not sure he understood but made a mental note to read up on it and ask Amelia any questions about her brother’s views he may have.

“Here,” Noah said, reaching into a pocket inside his vest. He pulled out a small book with a soft red leatherette cover with a gold foil picture of a wad of spaghetti and meatballs, and gold leaf on the edges of the page. It had certainly seen better days. “I’m due to recycle that one soon and replicate a new one, so just see that it gets back into the replicator when you’re done with it.” He stood up and held the small book out to the gum-shoe.

Leaning forwards Rik outstretched his arm and took the book with a small nod of his head sealing the action. As he leaned back in his seat he took a long look at the worn book, finding the image of pasta and meatballs fascinating. He flicked through the pages briefly before setting it down on the desk next to the Fedora and bottle. “Will do and that’s mighty swell of you bo; I’ll give it a read — still think my hat is better though,” he said with a wink and a devilish grin letting his hand rest on the Fedora and running his hand over the ribbon band lightly.

“You would think that, what with fancying my sister and her giving it to you,” Noah observed with a tip of his hat. “But I made mine.” With that, he turned and headed out the door.

Rik couldn’t help but chuckle as the pirate turned to leave. “True enough bo, true enough,” he said. He rolled the fedora up his arm and rested it over his eyes as he brought his legs up onto the desk and crossed them leaning back slightly in the chair. “See ya around!” he called out as the door shut behind Noah. 

Sittin’ Here and Wonderin’ What It’s All About

“What’s a Dick like you, doing on a ship like this?” Amelia couldn’t stop the words from tumbling from her lips as she darkened the door of his office. The Jazz that had spilled out when the doors opened had been on par with the holo-recording her brother had found and she’d just spent the last two hours in the holodeck enjoying. Having already pushed her chips forward without even knowing the odds, she figured she might as well go all in. She draped herself against the frame of the door with a smirk, one gloved hand on her hip, and one coral pump clad foot tucked behind her other ankle. Her dress matched the color of her pumps perfectly, the back seams of her Cuban heeled nylons were straight, and her pearls draped around her neck at just the right length above the sweetheart neckline of her dress.

There were a stack of PADDs so high it was reaching for the stars and from the half-empty bottle of whiskey on the disorganised desk, it had clearly been a long, slow night. Neither a hinky crewman nor clip joint to investigate. Yes. A slow night with jazz, paperwork and hooch. Hardly glamorous, but then Rik Caine wasn’t much into glamour unless it was from a dame on his arm.

Her voice trailed through the air almost blending with the smooth melody of the saxophone playing from computer terminal on the desk. From a few feet away she looked like a whole lot of class, but then, class didn’t often find its way to a security office so late at night. He grinned to himself and knew she was going to be trouble the moment she walked in the office.

“Rumour was you were in need of a half-way decent gum-shoe so they shipped me out.” He leaned back in his chair. “But that’s my excuse, what’s a dame like you doing in a dive like this? You found yourself in some kind of dutch?” he quipped playing along and looking around the dimly lit office, styled as far from standard Starfleet as he could manage. 

She snorted in amusement as she crossed the space between them, the doors sliding shut behind her with a soft whoosh as she perched herself on the edge of his desk. Her hand fell on the neck of the whiskey bottle, and she spun it to inspect the label as she pondered just what to say. The fact of the matter was, he’d shown up and settled in without so much as a nod to either herself or the Captain. It raised two finely shaped fiery eyebrows, and Amelia had volunteered to look into it.

“Trouble’s my middle name, but usually because I’m the one spreading it, not the one stuck in it,” she finally purred as she released her grasp on the bottle — it wasn’t swill, but it wasn’t anything to write home about either. “You’ve drawn a little notice from the bridge, so we thought we’d extend a proper welcome.”

For a moment Rik was clammed. He knew he should have looked away seconds before he actually did, but the redhead had fire and was certainly easy on the eye. Truth being told, he’d always been a fan of trouble and so grinned at her comment. Probably why he ended up as an investigator; probably why he was so good at it. He needed another drink, a new hobby and an easy life but what he had was a keen eye, a phaser and a stubborn demand for truth and justice like a starved dog who just found the last meat-covered bone in town.

“Not one for making a scene, prefer to slip in quiet and do my job. I’m touched upstairs noticed, but I made sure the transfer papers found their way to the right high pillow — I’m guessing you got ’em just fine or you wouldn’t be here.” He couldn’t help but notice she had gams light-years long as she perched on his desk.

He waited for her to finish eyeballing the bottle before taking another tumbler from the desk drawer. “Seeing as you found yourself here, and there ain’t nothing I can help you with work wise it seems, and what with you coming all this way just to say hello, how about a smell from the barrel to make the trip worth your while? It’s not the best, but sure beats synthehol to warm you on a cold tub in space. So, how ’bout it, tempt you with a short? Doesn’t look like you’re on duty unless there’s a new uniform code I don’t know about,” he asked, nodding to the dress.

“Well, I haven’t been caught out of uniform when I should be in it.” She winked as she grinned wide. “You have to assure me you’re not on duty either, if we’re going to share a drink,” she insisted as her eyes moved to his, after a quick detour past the fresh tumbler. She half expected them to be shaded by a fedora, but alas. She couldn’t help a small pout at the missed visual.

His eyes were a pale blue, like sunlight bouncing off a glacier. A little heart but a lot of sorrow. The heavy five o’clock shadow that covered his slightly squared jaw was neat enough to look purposeful, but rough enough to cast some doubt. That was the line that Rik Caine walked, able to blend in on both sides of the law. For him, that was where he needed to be. To the untrained eye he guessed he looked like a common hood, but opinion wasn’t something that bothered him. He ran a hand through his carelessly tussled dark hair and grinned at her comment, raising one eyebrow slightly with intrigue.

“Well officially I don’t start until the morning, but something told me to settle in early… never know what kind of–” he paused “–trouble is gunna turn up when you’re staring down the last half-a bottle without another soul about.” He poured her a large measure, then topped up his own glass and took a swig.

“An old Earth writer once said there is no bad whiskey. There are only some whiskeys that aren’t as good as others. Well, I don’t know what kind of crazy he was… but this is a bad whiskey.” He coughed and shook his head slightly, half-laughing as the harsh liquor hit the back of his throat. “Sadly it was all I could rustle up on the trade freighter en-route. Met a nice blonde, pirate’s moll, helped her out a little and this was the reward… not sure what that says about my work, but I suppose you’ll be the judge of that. So… what do I call you red?”

“Well, if you’re smart, you won’t make the mistake of calling me Red again,” she quipped with a laugh, and took a sip of the whiskey despite the testament as to its quality. It went down about as smooth as sandpaper, and to her credit, she managed to not cough though there was no hiding the effort made to do so. “If I decide I like you enough, you can call me Amelia, otherwise it’s Commander Waterhouse.” It was practically a challenge, waiting to see if he was as daring as his looks hinted — would he take the invitation or just fall back on the safety of protocol? She set the tumbler down on his desk, resting her hand on top of it. She hadn’t yet decided if she was going to finish the contents, but if she wanted to offer better, it would involve retreating to her quarters.

“I’m going to hope that it says more about the blond, and her failure to show proper gratitude, than it does about your skill,” she added, her fingers tapping at the glass in time with the music, her gloves softening it enough to make it nearly silently.

Rik couldn’t help but chuckle. “No offence meant, just didn’t know what to call you and red seemed fitting — but Amelia, well that’s a very beautiful name.” He paused as he took another swig of whiskey, grimacing slightly as the burning amber nectar slid down his throat like hot magma on rocks. “We can sure hope so, but I’m sure you’ve read my jacket and wouldn’t have let me aboard if you weren’t confident I could deliver.”

He looked at the woman perched on his desk once again, he wasn’t getting dizzy for this dame but she was a beauty — even if she was technically the boss. “Well, you got dressed up and came seeking a drinking buddy late at night… I won’t lie; I know you’re taken with my charm.” He laughed, part self-assured but mostly with ironic jest. “Still, a dame such as you doesn’t strike me as one that hangs around a dive with a gum-shoe unless you’re partway sure you like him enough, or perhaps intrigued enough, to forget protocols. So…” He leaned in close and met his eyes with hers looking around like a canary about to sing. “Amelia–” he leaned back once more and let the use of her name sink in– “you’re a fan of old Earth jazz?” He looked to her rhythmically tapping digits. He wondered if maybe he’d crossed a line with a command staff member that didn’t know him, his style, and contemplated if this would be a short assignment. Still, it was worth the risk.

The first time her name drifted from his lips, she grinned, though she could feel a slight blush rise at his complement to her name. She trusted her make up to hide the tell tale flush, she wasn’t ready to concede that ground to him. Everything that came between it, and the next time ‘Amelia’ danced from his lips, was a testament to how his ego stretched to the stars like gravity couldn’t hold it back. The urge to pluck the single support beam that would send it tumbling to Earth sang to her like a canary in a cage. But she liked the way his voice caressed the curve of her name.

“I was dressed for the holodeck, don’t flatter yourself, Rik,” she chastised him though she smiled, lifting her hand from the tumbler to wave a finger at him. “It just so happens, the program I spent the last two hours in was a live recording of a little Jazz band my brother ferreted up on Earth while Vindicator was in at Utopia Planitia for refit. Lady luck must like you to set me in the right mood before sending me your way. Though, if she loved you, she would have put the idea in my head to raid my booze collection first. I have much finer than this back in my quarters.” And yet, she collected the tumbler and brought it to her lips again.

The idea of inviting him back to her quarters rapped at her consciousness not unlike the two am call of a nightstick on the front door. She knew it was a bad idea, but she couldn’t shake it as her eyes found his again. Disengage while you still have the upper hand, she thought to herself; yet there she stayed perched on his desk, foot bouncing in time to the music.

Rik gave her a wicked grin that played across his face as if a line was being traced in the sand. “Well I s’pose I can believe that; although Lady Luck must love me just a little if she sent trouble wrapped in a dress that fine to chin with a Joe like me.” He paused for a moment and took a final swig of the rough whiskey, before emptying the last few precious drops from the bottle into his tumbler. “Impressed you like the old classics though, not too many in this day and age that have even heard of it, let alone appreciate it long enough to spend two hours in a holosuite and come seeking more.”

He paused again before looking to the empty bottle, to her and then back at his own sorrowful excuse of a full glass. “Looks like we’re all out,” he mused, letting the moment drag out a little as the song changed to a slower tempo number with a soulful canary breezing out some lyrics like a leaf on the wind. Whatever her story had been when that had been recorded, that doll had had a fine set of lungs on her. “Unless of course you’re planning to confirm my belief in the good lady and invite me back for something smoother… Would be a shame if you made tracks when dressed to the bricks like that after all. I’m only thinking of you, you understand,” he said with a small wink showing his hand and going all in.

“My, is that tongue of yours shining like silver right now,” Amelia mused, spinning the tumbler in her grasp on the desk top. Staring into those icy baby blues of his, Amelia felt like she stood on the event horizon — one misstep and she’d go tumbling in, head over heels. In the back of her head a small voice reminded her how absolutely scandalous this was, the XO flirting with an enlisted man, but like the gin in a speakeasy, that made it all the sweeter. What would Rochelle think if Amelia took the next step and invited him back to her quarters? Even if it was just a drink, the gossip vine was hot on this ship, and such a dalliance would sizzle across it like a drop of water on a griddle.

“Doll I’ve been shaking the few dimes I have left since you stepped on in — you sure know how to light up a doorway and a room, and I’d be a liar if I said anything different. You should know I’m not in the habit of lying or going on the flimflam to get what I want, so my words are all I got. And ya know, you’re not exactly spinning less than silver yaself,” he said with a smile, watching her with interest.

She brought her drink to her lips again, to hide behind it as she considered. The firecracker rolled across her tongue and down her throat, and she couldn’t help but long for something better to chase it away. She needed more time to think, and he’d provided her another topic to grasp like a mobster would an alibi — the music.

“I was lucky enough to have a mother who minored in 20th century Earth history during her time at the Academy, and both my parents love music. Couldn’t help but rub off, and I like a little bit of everything,” she confessed, and took another sip. The more that passed her lips, the easier it flowed, and his boldness left her feeling obligated to finish what he’d shared with her unless she was going to retreat without him. In that case, the least a lady could do would be to leave the rest of the drink as a consolation prize? She felt like she was on the fast track to an empty glass though.

Rik paused again letting the music fill the silence and the song do all the talking. The sultry tones of the artist started singing about a girl meeting a boy and he let it linger before he spoke again. “Well it’s good to know I won’t be alone on this tub with my fondness for old music. You must approve of my office design,” he added, looking around the room at something almost reminiscent of a PI’s office from 1920’s America. “See that gat behind the glass? Hundred per-cent bone-fide original,” he said somewhat proudly of the antique six-shooter. “Belonged to a PI from Chicago who was shot by the mob in 1923. She’s a real beauty.” He looked back at the woman that he was sure could change the rise and fall of the sun with a single smile. “Different kind of beauty to a redheaded trouble-maker,” he crooned.

“You know, an old book I love has a quote that goes ‘the French have a phrase for it. The bastards have a phrase for everything and they are always right. To say goodbye is to die a little'” he mused, out loud, enjoying the company of this siren that had caught his undivided attention. He was sure it was a rouse, a trap laid out before him in the night like a sneak getting ready to climb through an open window to clean a joint out. Yet, at the same time he couldn’t help but enjoy the thrill, the chance of a game well worth winning.

The words flattery will get you everywhere had been about to escape Amelia’s lips when Rik drew her attention to the deadly beauty behind glass, and there was no two ways about it, he’d just earned himself a ticket to her quarters. How she hadn’t noticed the piece before this was a testament to how distracting he was.

“Does she work?” The important question, as the only other one left to answer she could not ask him. What bottle would she present when they reached the executive officer’s suite? She didn’t know him well enough to pull out the blue stuff, but she had some wonderful moonshine and some top shelf whiskey she could offer.

Rik pondered for a moment, the idea of testing the piece filling him with a sense of giddy excitement like a kid who had wandered into a candy store when his momma wasn’t looking. “Good question… want to get it out and give it a test?” he asked with a mischievous twinkle in his ice blues like starlight bouncing off a tropical ocean.

“I’m sure no one will hear and drop the dime on us… it’s late as well. We’re all… alone, together,” he emphasised. “It won’t trigger any alarm either. It’s too old fashioned to be picked up by the sensors,” he added, almost daring her.

“You sure know just the thing to say to a girl to make her weak in the knees,” she purred, then knocked back the remainder of her drink. “However.” She leaned across the desk, looking straight into those icy windows of his. “If we take her to the holodeck, I’ve got a subroutine that’ll let us play without having to waste any of those hard to replace hunks of lead.”

“A dame who appreciates the value of an antique. My, my ain’t you something,” Rik quipped. “Well, we’re clean outta hooch so moving on seems like a sound idea and you’ve got me intrigued with your…” he paused and pursed his lips for a moment, picking the perfect word before letting the corner of his mouth turn up as slow as a taxi pulling up outside a gin mill. “Subroutines,” he concluded, allowing any indication of a double-entendre to be hers to imagine. “Lead on Miss Ameila Waterhouse — me and my gat are all yours tonight,” he concluded, getting up slowly for the first time since she entered.

His physique was slender, but defined. His clothes, dark trousers and a blue shirt rolled up at the sleeves and unbuttoned at the collar, were stylishly untidy. Simple, understated. Walking with purpose to the cabinet, he tapped on the release controls as if he were a pianist rolling out a tune on the ivories and the glass promptly slid open. Rik wasn’t sure if it was the revolver or her, but his heart was drumming a beat something fierce in his chest trying its hardest to escape.

Taking it out slowly Rik pushed down on the latch releasing the top-break and checked the cylinder before snapping it back with a swift wrist action. He aimed it briefly before spinning it on his finger and offering the weapon, handle first, to the vixen on his desk. “Here’s where I pray I haven’t troubled you enough that you jam the roscoe in my button,” he said with a wink.

“I’m not one to waste my time in the company of people who don’t at least amuse me,” she insisted, sliding off the desk. In her heels she had a few inches on him, but she suspected they’d be nearly eye to eye if she slipped out of them, though she’d probably still have the advantage. As she closed the space between them, her fingers wrapped around the offered handle, and a chill ran up her spine. There she paused a long moment.

“Do you know your way around the ship yet?” she finally asked, taking a step backwards towards the door of the office. “Or do I need to go slow so you can keep up?” She smirked as her eyes darted between him and the pretty piece in her hand. She couldn’t decide which excited her more at this point, but she kept falling into the depths of his eyes, cold as the ocean and easily just as dangerous. “I have a riddle for you, smart guy. How do you know you’ve satisfied a redhead?”

Rik mused for a moment exaggerating his thought process. “Do you offer bad hooch and a gun and see if she bumps ya off? Or maybe you get closer like pulling up the collar of a winter coat and see what move she makes next,” he said lowering his tone and taking a step closer to the dame in front of him.

He kept his gaze on hers — locked together like the strongest safe in town. “As for knowing my way round this ol’ tub, ‘fraid I don’t so I’ll be following you blindly wherever ya lead me doll — you strike me as the type that’d enjoy that type of power though”. 

“That,” Amelia said, finding herself stepping closer to him instead of backing towards the door as she had before, “is perhaps the treasure map to follow on how to satisfy a redhead, but it’s not the big red X that tells you you’ve found the spot.” Her heart climbed into her throat, and the sound of it in her ears was like a tommy gun on full auto. She was certain he could hear it, he had to be able to. She swallowed, and leaned just that much closer. “No, that big red X is when I unlock the handcuffs and let you go.”

And with that, she stepped back from him, spun around, and was out the door. “Do keep up, I wouldn’t want you to get lost. I’m having such fun,” she called over her shoulder.

“You’re a firecracker ain’t ya doll?” he commented, his own heart beating a faster drumbeat. “Guess I’ll have to go hunting for that elusive cross”.

Rik watched her turn and leave, those long gams taking elegant strides like she’d learned how to float instead of walk. “Me too doll, me too,” he called after her as he followed like a puppy being called for dinner, and only just managed to lock the office door as he did so.

The corridors were empty, made sense for this late hour; or was it early now? He couldn’t tell. Left turn. He followed a few paces behind, partly because he didn’t know the way and mostly because he was enjoying the view. Right turn. Lost as if he’d wandered into a maze, there was no return now. He was truly at her mercy. He enjoyed the back and forth power exchange of their late night encounter, kept the evening full of spice.

Another turn, left again, and there was the turbolift. As Amelia spied it, and waited for Rik to turn the corner behind her, a verse of song sprung fully formed into her head. Normally when something is fully formed in the head, it bursts from the forehead, but this danced from her lips as he rounded the corner and she turned to face him. It wasn’t the first verse, but it certainly felt right.

“I fell for your jivin’ and I took you in,” she sang, realizing she hadn’t actually summoned the turbolift yet. She half turned to press the button. “Now all you got to offer me’s a drink of gin. Why don’t you do right, like some other men do?” The doors opened behind her, and with only a fleeting backwards glance first, she stepped back into the turbolift. “Get out of here and get me some money too. Why don’t you do right, like some other men do?” Amelia crooked her finger and beckoned him to join her in the lift. “Like some other men do.”

He slowed his walking as her sultry tones hit him square in the ears. If it had been a punch in the ring, it would have been the knockout blow. He smiled, locking his eyes on hers enjoying the irony of the song she had picked. Not to be beat he took a deep breath. He wasn’t much for singing; his voice, while capable of holding a tune, had a rough but pleasing growl undercutting each note. “Face of a betting women, she bets on every hand, she’s a tricking modafunkyou everywhere she lands,” he responded taking the original lyrics of the song she had just sung at him. It fitted as well as a glove and by the time he had hit the last beat he was standing close just inside the turbolift door. Close enough to feel her breath, close enough for the spark to be charged.

The doors slid shut as the moment lingered, no instruction to the computer being given.

“I used to have plenty of money, the finest clothes in town, but bad luck and trouble overtaken me, bound to get me down. Please have mercy, Lord have mercy on me. Well if I’ve done somebody wrong, Lord, have mercy if you please… Well if I’ve been a bad boy, baby, I declare I’ll change my ways,” Rik crooned, his voice just above a whisper, continuing their musical interlude.

The computer chirped. “That deck is not recognised. Please state your destination.” Rik could have cursed like a sailor at that moment but instead rolled his eyes as he caught the fiery dame’s gaze once again, taking yet another step closer.

For all the teasing she had received over the years, twisting her nickname or her family name into any number of water based pun, never once had the liquid comparison ever felt so apt — the only way she could possibly have felt like more of a puddle was if she’d been a changeling. She had told herself that she was going to make him make first contact, that she wouldn’t touch him until he touched her first, but he easily gave as good as he got and Amelia was not used to being anything but in charge.

She had found herself leaning in, ready to just kiss him, when the turbolift had so rudely stepped in nearly spoiling the moment. She couldn’t help a small little laugh, her eyes dropping for a moment, only to find his as soon as she looked up again. Her breath caught in her throat as he took that one more step so that the only thing that kept them from touching was effort.

“I, uh–” she started, and swallowed. “How about a rain check on playing with the gat, and we go back to my quarters for a nightcap?” The words just tumbled out, tripping over themselves like a thug caught in the act, and she was sure that she was nearly the color of her dress and no amount of makeup could hide it at this point.

Rik reached his hand out slowly, lightly tracing down the elegant frame of her lower arm to the hand holding the six-shooter, his fingers grazing hers with complete intention but the possibility of accident. He lightly pried the gun away and tucked it into the back of his belt, like a cop in an old TV movie who had just taken a firearm away from a no-good hood. This moment, however, lacked the forceful arrest that followed but instead was filled with was enough sparks to light up the fourth of July.

“We’re hitting on all eight doll, a nightcap at your joint sounds like a fine plan to me,” he said not needing to raise his voice much in the small cylinder that was the turbolift. “Would be a fine shame if you lammed off when we’re getting on so well… or at least, I’m amusing you enough to get another drink,” he added, reiterating her words from earlier like playing back a favourite song on an old record player.

“Deck eight,” Amelia directed the turbolift, her eyes darting upwards — a habit picked up as a child growing up on starships, but one she couldn’t manage to break, no matter how juvenile she felt it made her look. “Right, another drink,” she murmured as the turbolift hummed to life. “Did you want to stick to whiskey?” It was a stupid question, but it was all she could spit out. Her head still swum from the fleeting skin contact as he took the gun back, and she was mentally cursing her choice to wear the gloves with the outfit. Her eyes closed.

Rik smiled to himself as she instructed the turbolift with a flick of her eyes like she’d cast some kind of spell willing the contraption to move. Cute, he couldn’t help but think as the lift steadily climbed. “I’ll take whatever you think I’m worth — as long as it goes down easy and beats the poor excuse I had to offer,” he said with another of those half smiles.

“You know doll, now I see ya up close and personal and in all this light; you’re really quite the dish,” he said, lightly tracing her hairline and faint Trill spots with a caress of his hand. Her skin was softer than the richest of silks, and he had to admit the touch made his heart beat loudly into his eardrums. He wondered how she would react, but he’d jumped in headfirst, without checking to see if there were rocks, and there was no backing out now. Day one onboard and he was already starting to feel dizzy for this dame, and not just any dame, but a forbidden redheaded vixen that had graced his doorway holding that invisible sign saying trouble in nine different languages. But those gams, those sun-blushed red lips like vine tomatoes fresh for plucking, and the fire in her eyes matching the flame red of her hair. From the first words she’d let drift through his office. Sure she may be trouble, this may all end up similar to taking a smoke in a firework factory but boy, was it worth every stolen second of forbidden time.

Amelia’s eyes fluttered open again as his hand brushed her face, and she visually traced the shape of his in return as she leaned into his caress. She felt like she could crawl out of her skin waiting for the turbolift to reach her deck. At any point those doors would open, and anyone could be standing on the other side…. Anyone such as Rochelle. She wasn’t sure what Rochelle would think, but Amelia was almost certain her friend—her commanding officer—wouldn’t approve. Part of her didn’t want to disappoint, didn’t want to get caught in such a scandalous position, but this just felt right. The chemistry was palpable like a looming summer rain, and all she could think about was that first raindrop that indicated the oncoming deluge.

Her hands settled on his shoulders, and she leaned in, removing the remaining bit of space between them as her lips found his. This long anticipated connection sent a jolt from head to toe as the turbolift doors slid open behind him. Amelia was beyond caring if anyone saw or not, all she wanted was to be inside her quarters where there was no one to watch her unless she invited them in.

Mirroring her every move, but looking nowhere near as good as an honest reflection, he felt her lips connect with his. The culmination of their game — the big reveal. Turned out they both had the winning hand that night. It was soft, tender, sweet. Electric enough to power the whole ship. His hands instinctively wrapped around her, pulling her in closer and resting on the small of her back. The moment, like a scene out a movie, played out without interruption as he continued to embrace the red headed dame who making him dizzy.

He pulled away slightly at a time that felt natural to do so and rested his forehead on hers, their noses lightly grazing. His breathing was more rapid, his baby blues firmly locked on hers. If a picture could paint a thousand words than that moment was an entire library. “You’re full of surprises Amelia,” he managed to whisper through baited breath. Before she could return a comment he had embraced her once again. Rik hadn’t even noticed the doors opening behind him, exposing their forbidden moment to anyone around. He didn’t think he cared if anyone was to see—there are some things in life worth loosing everything for—he figured this was one of them. Figured, no. He was damn certain this was one of them.