Spies and Booze
Renithor’s skin turned several shades lighter. “What? Lieutenant Taryr is in the sickbay?” He asked with significant alarm. He had never meant for the prank to escalate that far. He began to perspire, suddenly feeling extremely hot.
“Yeah, he’s fine though. No injuries. He just thought his tongue fell out and it took the ChiefMed down there ten minutes to convince him that his mouth was intact.”
“Oh, Qwaar-dammit. You had me thinking it suffocated him or something,” he replied with relief. “How do you know about that?”
“Well what can I say, I must be Sajuuk incarnate.”
“Come on, Lieutenant, I’m serious.”
“Sickbay sent me a message the moment he arrived. I set the ship’s main AI to notify me of anything regarding you or your crew.”
“Well isn’t that a little excessive? Whatever happened to privacy?”
“I like to keep an eye on mission critical assets.”
“Right. I’m honored,” replied Renithor sarcastically. “By the way, I think I’ll host a welcome back party for Taryr on the corvette. Since you know all about what kind of drinks my crew is stashing, maybe you can help.”
Vayra smiled mischievously at the suggestion. “Sir, you’re not thinking of sending him to the sickbay again?”
“No, just his pride. We can have a large banner hailing the return of the brave Lieutenant Taryr,” Renithor remarked with some heavy sarcasm in his voice. The intelligence officer giggled at the suggestion.
“Pleased to actually meet you, Captain Ren,” Vayra said with a grin.
“What, after studying my file for the past year, Lieutenant?” Renithor cracked another sarcastic remark.
“No, Captain, I’m not that obsessive.”
Despite her creepy knowledge of everything about him, possibly down to the amount of hairs on his head, Renithor quickly found himself becoming good friends with Vayra. He had invited her to part-take in his sarcastic “welcome back” party for Lieutenant Taryr to get to know her better as someone who he would be working closely with, but he found himself getting to know her before they even got to the corvette.
Lieutenant Vayra was a lot like him. She was fairly bold and intelligent and didn’t like formality much. While some Vaygr officers might have taken this to be a lack of respect, Renithor welcomed it. He felt too young to be in such a high command position, to speak nothing of his promotion, and it was refreshing to have someone who talked to him openly around. He also figured that her great liberty around him was carefully considered. Having as much knowledge of him as she did, she could probably sum his personality up before even meeting him. Vaguely, Renithor’s subconscious recalled the stern at-attention stance she stood at in the presence of Admiral Vrad and then the loose, relaxed, stature she had adopted as soon as the Admiral left. They shared a sense of humor and it was easy to make her laugh without any effort. He found himself laughing as well, much more often than he remembered doing around most Vaygr since the academy years.
As they approached his command corvette, Renithor took a small pad out of his pocket and after a few swipes on the touch screen, he found the controls to the corvette’s door mechanism and remotely opened it.
“Welcome, Lieutenant, to my humble ship.”
“Looks nice. A little small though, isn’t it, Captain?”
“Well, I used to have a bigger one. An old fire-clad class assault frigate named the ICV Rapier, though we had some interesting nicknames for it. I recall one was the smokestack. The vessel was old and one of the engine rings was loose, and the plasma would travel around it in a rather odd way making it look like the rear of the ship was on fire and letting off a ton of smog. We also called it the interceptor due to an incident when a Turanic combat subroutine took control of the ship…”
“I read about that, sir.”
“Yup, I was telling my fiancé about it earlier.”
“How is Lyra?”
Renithor paused- he had not yet told Vayra his fiance’s name, so having Vayra mention it so casually put him on guard. “She’s fine. Not that it’s your concern,” he replied coldly while giving her an unwelcoming look.
“I’m sorry, Captain, I hope I didn’t offend you.”
“No, it’s fine, Vayra. I’m just not used to people peering into my life. I find it… odd.”
They had now walked onto the corvette and the door closed behind them, revealing a long hallway which branched off in several directions. Renithor led the way and they walked through the second door on the left and walked for another thirty seconds before coming to a small mess hall. The room had one long table and a kitchen. There were some chairs scattered around and one of the corners had a large circular table for playing cards on and a sofa. A few crewmembers were in the room and they yelled “welcome, sir” to the captain as he walked in.
“I’ll just have to have you promise not to count the hairs on my hear or watch over me while I sleep… but we can talk about that later. Wait a second,” Renithor told Vayra and set his Exotic Fusion can, still unopened, on the table. He then walked to a small dial-pad on the wall and pressed 1, patching his voice throughout the corvette. “Alright, listen up. This is the Captain. I want all crewmembers at the kitchen within 5 minutes. Anybody not here by then is going to be either airlocked, or reassigned to work at a rehab center on the flagship- in which case your alcoholic ass will wish it were airlocked.”
Renithor had a way of being easily approachable and very informal around his crew, and his jokes about various invented punishments made him more likeable. This came at the price of being taken less seriously, but it had been months since they had seen combat and day to day Renithor did not mind them slacking on carrying out his orders. He had nothing better to do that to chase them around for it anyways.
Five minutes passed rather quickly and almost the entire crew had gathered. Renithor had everyone sit at the table while he stood at the head. “So… everyone except Taryr is here… good. How was the show he gave?”
“You should have seen his face after just two seconds!”
“He thought his tongue fell out!”
A chorus of excited voices exclaimed various things about Lieutenant Taryr’s encounter with the Harella Peppers.
“Glad you guys enjoyed the fireworks. Now, he’ll be back from the infirmary soon and I want to throw him a return party for his great endurance and bravery.” Ren paused while a laugh rose from his crew members in response to his sarcasm. “This here,” he gestured towards Vayra, “is Lieutenant Vayra. She works in intelligence and apparently knows every Qwaar-damn detail about every one of us. Probably knows how many hairs each of you has on your head… She told me that all of you have secret stashes of alcohol…” He joking expression turned into a frown and he glared at his crew. “You all know that is against regulation.” A sudden silence swept through the crew while they eyed him attentively, anticipating his next actions, fearful for their alcohol stashes.
“So, all of you have to cough up a couple bottles each, and I’ll overlook the rest.” A relieved sigh went up from everyone at the table. “I expect a nice row of bottles on the table in two minutes. Do it now, make it so!”
Vayra nodded approvingly as the crew scurried off to the bunks to bring their alcohol. She brushed her hand through her wavy red hair and fixed her eyes on Renithor, deep in thought. Noticing her look, Ren raised his left eyebrow quizzically. “What is it, Lieutenant?”
“Nothing, really. Just wondering why you were Admiral Vrad’s first choice for this mission.”
“You don’t think I am qualified, Vayra?”
“I think you’re qualified and loyal… but… never mind.” Vayra’s voice trailed off and she looked away as if something were on her mind. “Vrad, he has an interesting way of going about some things.”
“What are you talking about?” Renithor asked, his suspicions rising.
“Nothing,” she replied with a warm smile. “Just fleet intel stuff. Just curious that he chose a Taiidani for this mission. It just adds a new dimension of relations between you and Admiral Varas.” She shrugged.
Ren nodded and decided to drop the topic, but his suspicion persisted. “Yeah, I know. It’s hard sometimes to be accepted by your people. Makaan has been getting rid of those clan sentiments from the crusade days, but I still see them going strong sometimes. Anyways, let’s have some drinks.”
He picked up a bottle of Fire Dragon that a young female crew member in charge of fire coordination for the command corvette had just placed on the table. He uncorked it and poured Vayra a shot into a stainless steel cup nearby.
She picked up the shot and sloshed it around for several seconds. Then, a wide grin spread across her face as if he had just told her something amusing. She took the Fire Dragon bottle from Ren’s grip and handed him the shot he had just poured for her. Ren’s eyebrows shot up as she started chugging straight from the bottle. He blinked several times to wear off the shock and swallowed the shot.
Wow, I did not expect that.
When Vayra set the bottle down again, a third of it was missing. “There, that’ll give a slight buzz.”
Oh please, Ms. I’m-Vaygr-So-I-Can-Drink-A-Lot, you’re not the only one with a high tolerance here…
Ren took a swig from the same bottle, but proceeded to instead pour several shots after that first swig.
Qwaar-Damn, this tastes like straight up rubbing alcohol. I hate this stuff.
Vayra looked on unimpressed as Renithor took a few shots in rapid succession. He had a high tolerance, but he doubted he could outdrink her. He turned to the young woman who had brought the bottle a minute earlier. “Cathy, please bring me some battle chili and while you’re at it, use the matter fabricator to print a sign, welcoming the brave Taryr back.”
“Yes sir!” Answered the young woman eagerly. She ran off and soon returned with a can of chili.
Vayra looked questioningly at Renithor.
“I’m hungry,” he shrugged as casually as if he had chips in front of him. He opened the can and stuck a fork inside. He put the first fork-full in his mouth. A hot and spicy feeling burned into his tongue, but it was nothing he could not handle. He shoveled another two forks of the extremely spicy meal into his mouth as casually as possible. Vayra’s jaw nearly dropped. Clearly, Ren’s ability to eat spicy food had not made it to his file.
Yeah, I bet you wish you could eat battle chili like this
Seeing Renithor’s smile at his little victory in their undeclared contest, Vayra formed half a smile and pretended not to notice. She took the Fire Dragon and tipped it up again, drinking the fiery alcohol as if it were nothing. Ren let out a laugh.
A large stocky Vaygr walked up to the pair. “How was your meeting with the admiral, Captain?”
“Good. I actually met more than just the admiral.”
“Who else was there?” Renithor only smiled in response. “Wait, you mean…?” The man’s eyes widened at the realization that Renithor had met with Makaan just an hour earlier. “Holy ■■■■. Everyone, the captain met with Makaan!”
The crew all dropped what they were doing and ran over, sending a flurry of questions flying at Renithor. He chuckled in response. “Yeah, yeah. Well, not him exactly. He’s plugged into the ship’s computer matrix. I only spoke with him through some speakers and a camera… And one more thing everyone. Since you’re all here, with the exception of our brave warrior, I have an announcement.”
Renithor paused for dramatic effect. “I’m being promoted to the second in command of the Winter Carrier Group.”
The men and women of his crew uttered in confusion. Some congratulated him, others stated they would miss him. Renithor stood up. “It’s been a pleasure serving with all of you. We have done fine work at Hethlim, but I think it’s time for us to part ways…” Renithor turned to Cathy, the young woman who had brought him the chili.
“Cathy, you’re the smallest of us here.” She smiled embarrassed. “But, you’re also the bravest. I remember how you overcame your fear of combat and worked to coordinate the fleet’s combat during our latest battles. Thanks to you, dozens of Vaygr lives were saved. Pursue your career, and you will make a great officer one day.”
He turned to address the muscular man who had questioned him about his meeting. “Lendil, you are a skilled warrior and a bright mind. You’ve earned your place on this crew twice over. I’ll recommend that you be posted for Corridor Commando training. I think it would suit you well.”
One by one, Renithor continued to say his goodbyes each of the crew. Finally, he came to Vayra. “Lieutenant Vayra, I understand that our paths only begin here. I look forward to working with you, and I hope that our partnership brings much success to the Vaygr.”
“Likewise, Captain Tairidu.”
“What’s all the commotion about?” Asked a familiar voice from the far doorway of the kitchen. Taryr stood at the door, straining to appear as tall and proud as he could to make up for his Harella Pepper related debacle earlier in the day.
“Welcome back, warrior!” Renithor yelled to Taryr, while simultaneously gesturing towards the sign Cathy had put up just a few minutes earlier.
Taryr read the sign once, frowned, and read it again. Then the sarcasm of the sentence hit him and he turned several shades more red. “I uh, thanks…” He muttered, and entered the kitchen, desperately looking for some alcohol to try and prove his Vaygr masculinity and redeem himself. Renithor handed him a large cup full of Fire Dragon. Taryr quickly drained the whole thing.
Vayra took a step closer. “Captain, I forgot to tell you, Taryr is being reassigned along with you. He’ll accompany you to the Winter- they need a new fire control operator.”
“What?!” Sputtered Taryr. “We’re going to the ICV Winter?”
Vayra beat Ren to reply. “Your captain is being promoted to second in command of the Winter carrier group.”
“Oh wow, that is… something,” Taryr replied, still surprised by the unexpected news. He took another glass of alcohol from the table, and drank the whole think in one swig, in true Vaygr style.
“Of course, Taryr, you’re going to have to prove that you’re worthy to come with me. Your performance as a Vaygr earlier this morning hardly gives me hope.” Renithor remarked as a joke.
“You can’t be serious, sir! I am all Vaygr!”
“Nah, I don’t see it.”
“I bet I can outdrink any man here!” Taryr boldly claimed. Vayra wanted to accept the challenge, but Renithor raised an arm to keep her from saying anything.
“I accept that challenge, Lieutenant,” Renithor said, surprising Taryr. Renithor was generally known to have a stick up his ass when it came to alcohol.
The rules of the contest were not defined, but they were simple: Keep drinking until someone falls over. The two each grabbed the nearest glass of alcohol, and with great speed emptied the contents. Then the next, and the next.
Taryr grabbed a glass of Fire Dragon while Renithor downed a glass of rum. The two looked at each other across the table while the crew cheered. “Feel like surrendering yet, Lieutenant?” Renithor asked, mischievously eyeing the next drink Taryr was likely to grab.
“Not far Sajuuk has to offer, sir! A Vaygr never yields!”
“Haha, alright, Taryr. Let’s see what you’re made of!” Renithor and Taryr each finished the glass they were holding, and Taryr grabbed the next drink on his side of the table: The Exotic Fusion Renithor had bought from the vending machine on the flagship. Renithor was pouring another glass of Fire Dragon for himself, so Taryr hurriedly opened the can and sent its bottom rocketing to the sky.
Renithor and Vayra fell silent and awaited Taryr’s reaction, knowing the nature of the drink he had just had. The crew kept cheering, but the pained expression spreading across Taryr’s face quickly made them fall silent. The quietly exchanged questions and intently watched his every reaction.
The lieutenant’s face was turning several shades redder every second. Maintaining the greatest clam he could, he set the Exotic Fusion back on the table and swallowed what he had been holding in his mouth. Renithor and Vayra were struggling not to laugh as Taryr began to sweat and hyperventilate. Tears formed up on his eyes and he started shaking.
Cathy was the first of the crew to catch on. She had seen his reaction to the Harella Pepper Ren gave Taryr earlier in the day. As soon as she realized what was wrong, she sprinted across the kitchen to grab the neutralizer liquid- a blue fluid which usually nullified any spicy properties of food. She poured a large glass and ran it to Taryr.
The lieutenant held out for two more seconds before lunging for the glass. Vayra piped up to stop him, but Renithor pulled her back by her shoulder. Vayra knew that while the neutralizer would help with most spicy foods, even including the famous Vaygr battle chili, it only amplified the properties of Harella Peppers.
Taryr pumped the liquid into his mouth, then stopped about half a second later and dropped the glass. He started coughing and screamed out loud, sprinting out of the room towards the medical bay of the flagship.
A minute passed while everyone digested what had just happened in silence. Then, Vayra started to laugh. “Captain, I definitely underestimated you. Maybe Vrad picked the perfect man after all. I don’t think I’ve ever seen something so diabolical. Qwaar-Jet would be proud.”
Renithor smiled, then began to laugh. First it was just a slow chuckle, then picked up to a hearty laugh, and finally turned for the hysterical. The crew began to laugh, and finally joined Vayra and Ren in guffawing at what had just happened.
“Aw, ■■■■, Vayra. I haven’t had a laugh like that in ages,” Renithor finally managed to say after about two minutes of laughing as he wiped tears from his eyes. He took the rest of the Exotic Fusion and chugged it in several seconds, then threw it back on the table. The crew fell silent and watched his reaction, expecting the same fiery pain that had made Taryr rush to the medbay. Renithor simply stood up, nodded to his crew, and walked away. They stared stunned at his bad-assery as he vanished into the corridor leading to his bunk.