Nobody But Me
Summary: The Andromeda Ascendant needs an upgrade
Be courteous to all, but intimate with few, and let those few be well tried before you give them your confidence. True friendship is a plant of slow growth, and must undergo and withstand the shocks of adversity before it is entitled to the appellation.
George Washington, Earth (1732-1799)
"Retrofitting?" Rommie sniffed. "They are retrofitting me!" She stood on the Command Deck, arms folded across her chest, scowling.
Dylan smiled and patted her on the shoulder. "It's okay, Rommie. It's nothing against you. You're just getting minor upgrades."
"Right." She pouted and very nearly stomped her foot.
"Look, why don't you just come with us, Rommie? Staying here will only aggravate you."
Rommie shook her head. "No way, Dylan. I am not leaving the Andromeda here - - completely unmanned, while these people crawl all over her. Someone has to be here to make sure they don't change things too much."
"I'll leave some crew members here to make sure they don't make any drastic changes." He turned away. "Pack. We're leaving within the hour."
"No buts! Pack."
She frowned as he walked away from her and then turned towards her quarters. "Fine, I'll pack - - and go on this little trip - - but I'm not going to have fun."
Beka was doing a systems check on the Maru when Dylan walked onto the flight deck. She looked up at him quickly, and then turned her eyes to look behind him. "So, where's Rommie?"
"She'd better be packing!" He dropped his bag at his feet and scowled.
"So you had to order her to come along, huh?" Beka grinned. "I'm not surprised."
"Why are you not surprised, Beka?"
She laughed. "Come on, Dylan! Think about it. Someone is going to be fiddling around in Andromeda's circuits. Rommie is linked to Andromeda - - it's only natural that she would be sensitive about it." Beka snorted softly.
Dylan nodded. "Yeah, I guess."
"Don't worry. She'll be fine once we get there."
"I hope so, Beka. I don't plan on babysitting a pouting android all week."
Beka laughed. "I don't think you have to worry about that, Dylan." She turned back to her control panel. "I'm going to finish the pre-launch systems check. Want to make yourself useful and help?"
Dylan grinned. "Sure thing."
To pass the time, they continued with the pre-flight check. When it was finished, Dylan picked up his bag and headed into the back of the Maru, scouting out a bunk. He stowed his bag under a bunk and then headed back to the flight deck. Just as he got there, the outer hatch opened again and Trance walked in.
"Hey, Trance. Have you seen Rommie?"
Trance smiled. "No. Should I go look for her?"
"Nah, she'll be along."
Beka smiled and got up. She walked by them, heading into the back of the Maru. As Dylan turned to follow her, he looked back at the hatch and nearly stumbled as Rommie walked on board.
"Rommie, glad to have you aboard."
She smiled as she walked past him. "Thank you, Dylan. I'm sure I'll have a good time on this outing."
"Oh - kay " Dylan scratched his head as he watched Rommie walk away from him. He sighed loudly as he secured the hatch in preparation for leaving the Andromeda. "All secure, Beka." He spoke into his Com-link. "Ready when you are."
"Good. I'll be right there." She finished stowing her gear and then check on the remainder of the crew before heading back to the flight deck. "All set, Dylan. Everyone's on board and we're ready to go."
Dylan nodded as he worked at the science console.
"Say good-bye to the Andromeda, folks."
He looked up quickly, a look of surprise crossing his face.
Beka gulped. "Sorry. Poor choice of words. She'll be fine."
Dylan nodded. "Ready when you are, Beka."
"Let's get out of here then."
"So where are we going, Boss?" Harper was sitting at the small counter in the mess of the Maru. He held a half-empty Sparky Cola in one hand and was tapping the edge of the counter with the other.
"How many of those have you had, Mr. Harper?"
"Ever?" Harper grinned.
"Today." Dylan tried not to grin back at his hyper engineer.
"Um " Harper did the math in his head. "This makes four I think. Unless I'm forgetting one."
"Or five but what's a little caffeine among friends?" Harper chuckled. "So - - are you gonna answer the question?"
Dylan rubbed his forehead as he looked up. "Question?"
"Where - - are - - we - - going?"
Dylan smiled. "Ah, that question." He tipped up his bottle of water and took a long swallow. "We're taking a vacation."
"R&R, Mr. Harper. Sun and fun."
Harper frowned. "Well - - what for?"
Trance giggled. "Told you he wouldn't understand, Dylan."
Dylan sighed softly before nodding. "Look, it's been a rough few months - - for all of us. The Andromeda being in the spaceport on Tarn Vedra undergoing retrofitting is the perfect excuse for us to cut loose and have some fun."
"Wow, Boss. That's deep." Harper stared at him for a minute. "So - - where are we going?" His eyes opened wide. "Seraglio? Oh - - pul-ease tell me it's Seraglio!"
Trance slapped the back of Harper's head, making him wince reflexively. "No! We're not going to Seraglio! Geez, Harper. Get your head out of the gutter!"
"What gutter? Seraglio is beautiful!"
Trance shook her head. "Right, Harper. Slave girls and grapes."
Trance looked up as Beka walked in and smiled. "Right, Beka. Eunuch guards - - that must be what Harper likes about it."
"Hey! Don't forget the silk wall hangings. I love the silk walk hangings."
The ladies ignored him as they continued to talk. "I bet he goes just for the Eunuch guards, Trance. What do you think?"
"Hey! I do not!"
"Yeah, Beka. I bet he just loves those oiled bodies "
Harper jumped up, fuming, and squawked as a hand grasped the collar of his shirt, holding him still. "What?" He twisted and flailed to no avail.
"Hold still, Harper! They're just trying to see how angry they can make you. Sit." Dylan pointed to the stool Harper had just vacated.
Harper sat - - grumbling under his breath. Dylan shook his head, a small smile on his face. He let the gang ramble on for a minute before breaking up the Harper-bashing fest.
"Ladies - - come on. Play nice." He sighed loudly. "I feel like a camp councilor here. Are we all adults - - or what?"
Rommie chose that moment to walk in and, since she hadn't heard the conversation, asked, "What?"
The group looked over at her and, after a small delay, burst into laughter.
"What did I say?"
"Nirvana dead ahead."
Beka's voice brought Dylan out of his reverie and he looked up as three other heads swiveled his way.
"Nirvana? Wow! I heard that place was ex-pen-sive!"
"Is there anything for an android to do on Nirvana, Trance?"
The voices all spoke at once and Dylan smiled at their reactions. He was very glad he'd been able to surprise them with their destination. As the din got louder, Dylan held up his hands. "Hey! Can I talk here?"
It took a couple of minutes but they eventually quieted.
"We have a week, folks - seven days."
"Seven days!?" they all exclaimed together.
Dylan chuckled. "Seven days."
Harper got to his feet. "Seven days of paradise " He suddenly looked sad and sat again. "Seven days in paradise and an empty bank account." He sighed forlornly.
Beka sputtered and Trance stammered before Dylan spoke up again. "It's a 'paid' vacation - - on me."
"You?" Beka looked up at him quickly. "How?" She squinted her eyes at him. "Are you secretly wealthy or something?"
Dylan grinned and winked. "Well, I had a few investments that have had three hundred years to mature " The incredulous looks on their faces were priceless and it was all he could do not to bray his laughter. "Seriously, I'm expensing most of it back to the Commonwealth for services rendered - - the rest I'm springing for. So enjoy yourselves - - within reason. I'm not made from money, you know - - and I'd hate to be paying this off for eternity."
The crew grinned.
"So who's going to tell Rhade that he has a spending limit?" Harper grinned and raised his eyebrows.
Beka put her hand on his shoulder. "How about you?"
"No! No - - no - - and no!" Harper backed away. "You!" He spun around, pointing at Trance next, "Or you!" He stamped his feet. "Darn it! I'm not doing this."
Dylan laughed. "I'll tell Rhade. In fact, I'm heading up there anyway. It's time to put this bucket on the ground."
"Joke, Beka," Dylan said over his shoulder as he walked out.
"So what are we going to do first?" Harper was nearly bouncing in his excitement.
Beka looked his way as she hoisted her bag over her shoulder. "I don't know about you, Harper - - but I'm going to find my self a masseuse and get comfy - - for a very long time."
Harper gaped. "You mean we're on our own?"
"Yup. Have fun, Harper - - and don't get into any trouble. I don't plan on having to bail your butt outta jail."
"I'm crushed, Beka! Crushed, I tell ya." Harper held his hand over his heart and rolled his eyes upward.
A quick slap to the back of his head made him cry out and rub his head.
"Hey! Be careful of the genius."
Beka snorted her laughter. "Right, Harper. C'mon, we've only got seven days and I, for one, am going to have some fun."
"Working against the clock, huh?" Harper picked up his bag. "I guess I'd better get hustling then."
Just then Dylan walked in, blocking the hatchway. "Whoa, guys. Hang on a minute." He reached into the pocket of his leather jacket and pulled out six small pieces of plastic. He fanned them out in his hand. "Take a card - - any card." He grinned at the blank looks on the faces of the crew. "Take a card, gang. They are your pre-paid room reservations. Best resort on the planet."
Rhade frowned from his place at the counter. "So we're all staying together?"
Dylan grinned. "If you count separate rooms in a resort with twenty-five hundred rooms 'together', then, yes, we're all staying together."
Trance giggled. "Twenty-five hundred rooms? Wow! That's amazing. Are any of the rooms even close to each other?"
Dylan looked at the cards and pulled two out of the stack. "These two are within three doors of each other - - pool side."
Trance plucked the pair from his hand. "Thank you, Dylan. C'mon, Rommie - - we have our rooms."
Rommie raised her eyebrows. "Pool-side, Trance? I don't own a bathing suit."
Trance grinned and put her arm around Rommie's shoulder, pulling along beside her as they exited the Maru. "I'm sure there are plenty of places to shop for a bathing suit, Rommie. Come on - - let's get checked in." She smiled back over her shoulder. "Thanks, Dylan. See you around."
"Be back here in a week, Trance."
"Yes, sir!" Trance smiled as Rommie gave Dylan a mock salute - - and then they were swallowed up by the crowds.
Dylan turned back to the dwindling group. "Okay - - who's next?"
Rhade ended up with a small suite with amazing views of the distant mountains - - and close enough to the turbo lifts that would carry him down to the gaming tables.
Beka took a light, airy room with caressing breezes and close proximity to the resort's spa. She fully intended to allow herself to be pampered as much as possible over the next week.
Harper was in geek-heaven with his room key. It was for a holo-suite. Maybe he'd spend his vacation on Seraglio, after all.
Dylan smiled as he pocketed his own room key. The only thing better would be someone to share his private bungalow with.
"No! Really! Rommie, it is SO your color."
Rommie turned again, looking into the full-length mirror critically. "It's blue, Trance."
"It's electric blue, Rommie - - and you look wonderful in it."
The android put her hands on her slim hips and pouted. "But I like the red one, Trance."
Trance leaned forward and whispered, "So who says you have to settle for just one?"
Trance grinned at the incredulous look on Rommie's face. "Really, Rommie. Why don't you take two - - they're small."
The pair burst out laughing at the pun and Rommie went back into the changing room of the boutique to change out of the tiny bikini.
A soft gasp was heard as she walked into the suite and the bellhop smiled. "Is everything to your liking, Ms. Valentine?"
Beka grinned. "Oh yeah. Everything is perfect."
The bellhop bowed. "Please don't hesitate to call if you need anything. The schedule of classes and the contact numbers for the spa are beside the Com-port. We took the liberty of scheduling a massage for you at fourteen hundred hours. If that is not a convenient time for you, please feel free to reschedule by contacting the spa."
"Fourteen hundred hours sounds just about perfect. Thank you."
"You're welcome. Have a good day."
Once Beka was alone in the airy suite, she spun around once - - and flopped back on the bed, grinning. The Com chirped a couple of minutes later, bringing her back to the present and she got up and went to answer the call.
"Ms. Valentine, this is Tomas - - from the spa. I am calling about your massage."
"Yes? You aren't calling to cancel, are you?"
"Oh no! Not at all. I'm calling to inquire about your preference in masseuses."
Beka frowned. "My preference?"
"Male or female, Ms. Valentine."
Beka grinned. "Oh, definitely male."
This time the voice on the other end of the Com link was smiling. "As you wish, Ms. Valentine. We'll see you at fourteen hundred hours, then."
Beka bit her lip. "Um - - where do I go for this massage?"
"Why - - no place, Ms. Valentine. The masseuse will come to your rooms."
Beka was stunned. "Thank you, Tomas." She severed the connection and whooped. "Damn, I think I could get used to this place."
"Here you are, Mr. Harper." The bellhop opened the door and stepped aside, allowing Harper to enter the suite ahead of him before entering, carrying Harper's bag. Once he had placed the bag near the door leading to the bedroom he began the tour of the room and its various special features.
Harper was rendered speechless, unable to form coherent sentences. The bellhop noticed and smiled.
"I couldn't help but notice your dataport, Mr. Harper. The virtual matrix can be controlled from this control panel - - or its exact duplicate located in the bedroom. The control panels can be operated using the keyboard or, in your case, by jacking directly into the matrix using your dataport. If you are controlling the matrix using the control panel, these goggles should be used." He pulled a pair of opaque goggles out of the shelf just below the control panel. "Either your dataport or the goggles get plugged into this port on the control panel." The bellhop pointed out an entry port to Harper.
Harper was spellbound as he listened to the various features and programs the matrix was capable of carrying out. Finally, he couldn't hold back any longer. "Can this do Seraglio?" he blurted.
The bellhop grinned. "It sure can. Slave girls and grapes - - Eunuch guards and silk wall hangings." He sighed dramatically. "It's one of my favorite haunts. You won't be disappointed."
"Yes!" Harper pumped his fist into the air. "This is going to be one heck of a vacation."
The bellhop excused himself then, leaving Harper alone in the vast, windowless suite. The young engineer took his time learning all the features of the virtual matrix system, finding that it surpassed anything he had worked with before - - Andromeda's systems excepted, of course. Once he was comfortable with the features and workings of the system he laid back on the sofa, plugged himself in and took a trip.
Rhade scowled down at the hapless bellhop, who insisted on simpering in fear every time the Nietzschean even looked at him. He'd had enough of Dylan's 'vacation' and he hadn't even finished checking in to his suite yet.
A low growl followed the bellhop into the suite and the poor young man couldn't retreat from the confined space fast enough. As the door closed behind him, Rhade breathed a sigh of relief.
"Simpering fool! Gods, why can't these resorts at least employ people with a little back bone." He paced - - and fumed.
After a couple of minutes, in which his temper abated somewhat, he stepped to the floor-to-ceiling windows covering one wall of the living room. The view was magnificent, framing the distant mountains perfectly. He leaned forward, placing his hands on the glass as if daring it to break and let him fall. The suite was on the thirty-second floor and it would be a fatal fall should the glass shatter - - but he had no fear of dying. The majestic vista had captured his attention.
"Is that snow on your tallest peaks?" he mused aloud. He allowed himself a couple of minutes of contemplation before pushing away from the windows and looking about himself at the space he was going to be living in for the next week.
"It'll do, I suppose." In fact, it was a very well appointed suite - - elegant but understated, and masculine. The room was finished in dark woods and leather upholstered furniture.
After throwing his bag into the bedroom, Rhade exited the suite.
The hover-car stopped atop the dunes, nose facing out over the vast expanse of water. After a minute or two the tall man unfolded himself from the interior and climbed from the conveyance. He stretched in the ocean air before pulling his bag from the back of the vehicle and heading out over the sand toward the solitary structure on the dunes.
The driver of the vehicle watched the man walk over the sand and enter the bungalow before turning around and heading back to the main part of the resort. It was his job to bring people out to the bungalows but he didn't think he'd ever understand the need some people felt to be so isolated. Why spend so much money to come to a resort of this magnitude - - only to hide yourself away from the rest of the guests and the amenities the resort could offer?
Dylan set his bag down just inside the door of the bungalow and walked through the building and out through the glass doors leading to the wrap-around deck. He sighed as he dropped into a deck chair and turned his face up to the warmth of the sun. After a minute he chuckled.
"By the Divine, I love the feel of the sun on my face." He grinned. "Beka would think I'm crazy." He shook his head as he imagined her griping about 'weather' and planets in general. "I hope they're having a good time."
"Oh yeah - - right there!" A low moan followed those words, and a long drawn-out sigh of contentment. "Oh - - harder - - damn, you have amazing hands!" She looked over her shoulder and smiled. "So, Carlos, can you stay right here for the next week?" Beka sighed contentedly.
The tall, swarthy man laughed. "I'm afraid not, Ms. Valentine."
"Hey! I told you to call me Beka."
The masseuse bowed and grinned. "Beka it is - - and you can always request my services - - for your massages."
Beka rested her head on her bent arms again and sighed. "I think I might just do that, Carlos."
The massage table was set up in her living room, just in front of the open balcony doors. A gentle breeze wafted over her body as the strong gentle hands of her masseuse kneaded her muscles and slowly relaxed her to the point of oblivion.
When Carlos had finished the massage, he covered her with a soft sheet and let himself out of the room, leaving her to her restful slumber.
"Another!" His fist pounded the mahogany wood.
"You've had enough. Maybe some food would help?" The man behind the bar flinched as Rhade stood and reached behind the bar to grasp the bottle of liquor ensconced there.
"I will decide when I need food - - human." Rhade poured a generous helping of the green liquid into his glass. Keeping one hand on the bottle so it would not disappear again, he picked up his glass and tipped the contents of it down his throat. "Damn, that's good." He immediately poured another glassful of the liquid.
"Sir? That might not be a good idea "
Rhade glared at the frightened bartender. "And why would this not be a good idea?" He tossed back the glass of liquor and began pouring another.
"That's," he swallowed heavily, "That's Angelian Fire Water. It's - - very potent."
Rhade grinned over the glass and he picked it up again. "Is that so?" He tossed it back again. "Good. Oblivion is just what I'm looking for."
The bartender sighed and pressed a button under the counter. In just a couple of minutes a woman appeared at Rhade's elbow. She smiled when Rhade blearily looked up at her.
"Well, well! What have we here?"
The woman smiled and looked down before meeting Rhade's inebriated gaze. "Hi, I'm Crystal. Mind if I join you?"
Rhade shrugged. "Sure - - why not? I'm Rhade." He lifted the bottle. "Want a drink?"
Again Crystal smiled. "Sure - - why not?"
The bartender placed a glass in front of her and Rhade poured them both a drink. He lifted his glass to toss the liquid back when she took a dainty sip of hers. Suddenly he thought it more prudent to take a smaller drink than he was planning. Setting the half-empty glass back down on the bar he looked up at Crystal.
She smiled and took his hand. "Care to dance?"
Rhade tugged his hand free and shook his head. "I don't dance."
"Really?" She ran her hand up his arm. "You look like you would have some pretty amazing moves, Rhade."
"Trust me - - I don't."
Crystal leaned against him, rubbing her thigh along his and making his head spin. "Maybe we could practice someplace a little less crowded."
"You do have a room in the resort - - don't you?"
Crystal smiled and took his hand again, pulling him to his feet. "Then why don't we go there?"
Rhade grinned as he slung his arm around her shoulder. "That is a great idea, Crystal."
She smiled over her shoulder at the bartender as they walked away. He mouthed 'thank you' to her and she nodded once before leading Rhade to the bank of turbo lifts to go to his room.
"Oh yum! Another - - please!" Harper moaned softly as another peeled grape was placed on his tongue. // Seraglio Slave girls and grapes eunuch guards okay, so I could do without the eunuch guards silk wall hangings so beautiful //
Two days of bliss - - and Harper got hungry and sick of the same scenes all over again. After all - - he was merely plugged into a virtual matrix; not really being fed peeled grapes by a lovely slave girl on Seraglio. He sighed and kissed the slave girl good-bye before opening his eyes in his suite on Nirvana.
Harper rubbed the exhaustion out of his eyes and unplugged the cord from his data port before standing and heading to the bathroom. He took a long hot shower and wrapped a towel around his waist. Wandering back into the living room he called out, "Computer - - date and time please." He listened to the computer tell him he'd been in the virtual matrix just over twenty-four hours and then launched into a weather report. "Stop! Jeez, just what I need, a pushy computer." He continued to berate the computer system as he got dressed.
"So what to do now? Where do I go next?" Harper's stomach growled and he grinned. "Dinner - - breakfast - - whatever the heck meal they'll serve me around this joint! That's what's next on the old agenda - - food - - and then? Someplace exotic - - with hot babes!" He nearly ran out the door and then, pulling it shut behind him, sighed. "That's what a vacation is all about!"
Rhade groaned as he tried to peel open his eyes. His head was pounding and his mouth felt like it was stuffed with dirty socks. Sitting up quickly had him nearly heaving as his stomach rolled and his sight wavered. "Day-uhm - - I musta really tied one on last night." He scrubbed his hands through his hair and stumbled into the bathroom to take a shower.
A copious amount of hot water and about twenty minutes of scrubbing had him feeling almost alive again. The bathroom was steamy as he stepped from the shower and grabbed a towel. He dried his face and then turned as he began drying his back. His gaze caught the mirror - - and the words 'Thanks for a lovely time, C.' inscribed in the condensation.
Rhade's breath caught in his throat as he tried to figure out just who 'C.' was. Somebody obviously had a good time - - with him - - and he'd love to remember it. Who knows - - maybe he had a good time, too.
"Damn - - just my luck - - to get lucky and not be able to remember it."
A knock on his door startled him out of his reverie and he stalked over to it and yanked it open. "Yes?" His eyes opened wide at the lovely vision standing in the hallway. She was just a couple of inches shorter than him, had long strawberry blond hair and legs that didn't seem to quit. "Wow "
"Thank you, Rhade." She smiled at his discomfort. "I was wondering if you wanted to get something to eat."
He smiled and leaned against the doorjamb. // Damn! Is this the elusive 'C'? How could I forget her? // He looked her up and down, whistling softly under his breath.
"Why, thank you, Rhade." She did a slow turn in the hallway. She patted his cheek as she stepped past him and into the room. "I'm Crystal, by the way."
"Well - - hello, Crystal." He closed the door and did up the top button of his jeans.
Crystal reached up and kissed him lightly on the lips before draping herself on the sofa, one leg up on the cushion and one on the floor, giving Rhade a nice peek-a-boo glimpse of her satin panties.
He gulped as he slipped his arms into his shirt and began to button it up.
"So - - ya hungry, Rhade?"
He watched as she licked her lips and his hands fumbled with the buttons of his shirt. Crystal stood and walked over to him. Slapping his hands away, she began to button his shirt - - and then stopped. "Dinner or dessert first, Rhade?"
And then she kissed him. It looked like dinner could wait a while longer.
Harper sat at a small table in the pub area of the resort eating a medium rare hamburger with the works and French fried potatoes. He was washing it all down with an Alderian Lager. "Damn, this is good!" He wiped his face with his napkin and then looked up just as Rhade walked by - - with a mighty fine babe on his arm.
Harper snorted then sighed. Leave it to Rhade to find a beautiful woman to spend a few days with. He saluted with his beer. "Have fun, Rhade. Hope you don't catch anything."
The meal was finished and Harper leaned back in his chair, wondering just what program he'd run next. He was through with Seraglio - - too - - predictable. And then it hit him. He knew exactly where he'd visit next - - and maybe this trip would last a little longer than his last one had.
He charged his dinner to his room, silently thanking Dylan for the amenities, and raced to the turbo lift. This was one trip he couldn't wait to begin.
Rommie stepped, dripping, from the pool. She slicked her hair back from her face and looked up to find Trance watching her from the comfort of a nearby lounger.
"Have a good swim, Rommie?"
She smiled and walked over. "Yeah, Trance. The water's great. Why don't you take a swim?" She reclined on a lounger next to Trance and closed her eyes, letting the sun beat down on her.
Trance smiled as she thought about it - - swimming, that is. Probably not the greatest of ideas - - an avatar of a sun, in a swimming pool - - even if the pool was huge, which this one was. She could steam a foot of water off it without even trying. Nope - - no swimming today.
"I'm very comfortable lying right here and soaking up the sunshine, Rommie. I'll leave the swimming to everyone else."
"You okay, Rommie?"
She thought for a minute before answering. "Yes, Trance. I'm fine. But I think I've had enough swimming for one week." She sat up and looked at Trance. "Is there something else we could do?"
Trance grinned. "I'm sure we can find something to keep us occupied, Rommie. Why don't we head in and get changed. We can look in the resort amenities book and see just what else this place has to offer."
"Good idea, Trance. Let's go."
Many pairs of eyes followed their progress from the pool area as they walked away, and more than a few men wished they were following them.
Beka stepped out of the hot tub and sighed. Two days of pampering by very gorgeous men - - and she was bored out of her skull. If something didn't change, and soon, she'd be stark raving mad before the week was out.
Wrapping a towel around her, she walked back into her suite and pulled the terrace doors shut behind her. She showered and then changed before heading out into the main part of the resort. Nirvana look out - - she was a woman on a mission.
Stepping up to the reservations desk, Beka pasted a smile on her face. "Hi there. I'm trying to find a couple of friends of mine. Could you help me out?"
The young woman behind the desk looked up and smiled. "Friends?"
"Yeah - - friends."
"And if these people are your friends - - why don't you know where they are staying?" The woman stared at her, trying to read something - - anything - - into her demeanor.
Beka straightened up before answering. "Well, it's like this. We came here together and, in the excitement of the moment, we lost track of each other - - and I have no idea what their room numbers are - - or where exactly to find them."
The young woman frowned at Beka for a moment before asking, "Are you sure they want you to know where they are?"
Beka sighed. "Look, I'm not trying to bust in on their good time. I'm just getting bored all by myself and was looking for some company."
The young woman nodded sympathetically. "I completely understand. For those who are unused to vacationing, a paradise such as this can be a bit overwhelming if you're here alone." She smiled. "Unfortunately, it is against policy to give out the room locations of our guests. Maybe if I took your name and room number I could contact your friends for you and pass your message along?"
Beka nodded, not happy, but understanding the resort's policy nevertheless. "Very well then. My name is Beka Valentine. I'm in Suite 742."
The woman smiled. "Ah, the spa suites. Very nice."
"Yes, whatever." Beka pushed her hands through her hair. "I'm looking for Trance Gemini and Rommie - - or Andromeda. They said they had rooms by the pool."
"Ms. Valentine, the Nirvana resort has twenty-seven pools. I will contact your friends and pass along the message that you are looking for them."
"Thank you." Beka pushed away from the counter and wandered off through the lobby.
Trance and Rommie met by the poolside bar. They had changed and were ready for something new. "So, where to, Rommie? What are you looking to do?"
Rommie shrugged. "I really don't know, Trance. I've never taken a vacation before. What does one do on vacation?"
Trance grinned. "Oh, Rommie! There are many things to do - new things to try." She stood and took the android by the arm. "Why don't we wander around a little? We'll head toward the shopping area and see what is available. From there we can do any number of things."
"Okay, Trance. Lead the way."
They meandered away from the pool area, through the main lobby where the registrations took place and into the shopping center. In their excitement, they never saw the blond standing at the registration desk - - inquiring about her friends.
Harper was searching the virtual matrix for the perfect destination - - to him. Unfortunately, it wasn't exactly high on anyone else's list of hot spots to visit, so he was having trouble finding a program to get him there.
Suddenly he pulled the probe from his dataport and threw it across the room. "Damn it! There has to be a way to get there." He paced anxiously as he fumed out loud. "Okay, it's a virtual matrix, Harper. Your genius should be able to figure this out. Think!" He stopped and stared at the control panel on the wall for a minute before plugging himself in again and settling back to explore the matrix.
After about a half hour he found himself walking along Beacon Street - - back in his old neighborhood. Boston, Massachusetts - - no place better in his eyes. He looked around at the virtual landscape. It was a bit - - fuzzy in places. Well, it was better than nothing.
After walking around for a couple of hours and seeing nobody he knew, he realized just what exactly was missing from the program - - reality. Stopping on the crumbling sidewalk, he looked around. There were people walking by and some talking in little groups - - but they were anonymous people. Hell, he'd lived in Boston long enough to recognize faces! And then he remembered that this was just a simulation - - a facsimile of the real city he knew and loved.
He continued exploring the familiar, yet not familiar, area, poking his head into old buildings and tunnels - - everywhere he could find an opening. He found Brandon's old hideout - - the simulation was really good - - but there were no people he knew.
Finally he unplugged from the matrix and sat in the darkness of his room, just remembering the people and places from his past - - and missing them more because there was no bringing them back.
Rhade hopped out of the shower and stood in front of his window. The snow on the distant peaks called to him and he made up his mind right then and there to leave this part of the resort and have an adventure. Drinking with Crystal every night could kill him before the week was up.
He packed his few belongings and called the front desk to finalize his travel arrangements. There was a transport leaving within the hour and he was going to be on it.
Trance and Rommie were laughing as they walked into Trance's suite of rooms. They dropped their many parcels on the living room floor and began to sort through them. Suddenly the flashing message icon on the vid screen caught Trance's eye.
"Hey! I have a message!" She activated the screen and then jumped slightly when a young man's face filled the screen.
"How may I help you?" he intoned expressionlessly.
"Hi! I'm in room 1645 - - Trance Gemini. Do I have any messages?"
"Searching Yes - - Room 1645, Trance Gemini. You have one new message. This message originates from the reservations desk in the main lobby of the resort. A Beka Valentine, Room 742, has been inquiring about you. If you would care to contact her you may do so at your convenience."
The vid screen went blank and Trance looked over at Rommie. "Thank we should give her a call?"
Rommie grinned. "Sure - - why not?"
The call last less than a minute and now Beka was on her way over to Trance's rooms. The second half of their vacation promised to be more fun that the first half had been - - and an hour ago neither Trance nor Rommie would have thought that possible. How was it that they hadn't even known they missed Beka until she called them?
Rhade thought he heard his name being called - - by - - Harper? He looked around the transport and spotted the diminutive engineer near the back of the conveyance. Sighing and shaking his head, he made his way to where Harper was waiting.
"Rhade! Fancy meeting you here! You thinking of snowboarding on those mountains?" He grinned up at Rhade, who just shook his head and sat beside him.
"Yes, Harper. I'm going to go snowboarding. I was getting a bit - - restless - - in the main resort."
"Restless, huh? Is that what you call it nowadays?"
Rhade glared at him. "What the hell are you talking about, Harper?"
Harper met the glare with a huge grin. "I saw you with that gorgeous red-head. Man, I'd never get tired of that!"
Rhade stretched out, crossing his feet at the ankles. "Crystal - - yeah, she was fine - - but I was getting cabin-fever, if you know what I mean. I need an adventure."
"Me too, T - - me too! Wow, can you believe it? Me and you - - travel buddies."
Rhade rolled his eyes as Harper bounced on the seat. "Travel buddies - - just great."
Dylan ran along the sand, arms pumping, legs stretching - - eating up the distance quickly. He'd been running every morning on his isolated stretch of beach and he found that he liked the pound of the surf and the feel of the breeze on his face as he ran.
He pounded up the steps to the bungalow and grabbed a piece of fruit out of the bowl on the small table before going out onto the deck and sitting down in one of the deck chairs. His heart was racing and he concentrated on slowing his breathing as he sipped at a bottle of water and finished off the exotic fruit.
The days were long - - and relaxing and he was reluctant to leave this place and head back to the action-packed days that were his routine of late. But reality was bound to catch up with him soon and he was determined not to dwell on it while he was here. He was taking this R&R to heart - - rest and relaxation sounded perfect to him.
The book was good - - but the waves beckoned and Dylan rose from his place on the porch and went inside. When he re-emerged a few minutes later he was dressed in a short wet suit and was carrying a surfboard.
Two steps and he was on the sand, sprinting toward the beckoning surf. He ran until he was in thigh deep water and then jumped on his board and paddle out to meet the incoming waves.
Soon he was riding the crest of the perfect wave - - balancing on the knife-edge of disaster as he surfed the perfect line into shore.
Hours later, he dragged himself from the water, picked up his surfboard and looked back toward his bungalow. He shook his head and began walking. "Huh, I was wondering how long it would take."
He leaned his surfboard against the side of the building and then climbed up on the porch. "Did you save any ale for me or did you bums drink it all?"
"Bums? I resent that remark, Boss." Harper puffed out his chest and did his best to glare at Dylan.
Rhade snickered and waved his beer in Dylan's general direction. "Why don't you join us, Dylan? I think we actually may have left a beer or three in the cooler."
Dylan raised his eyebrows in question. "Really, Rhade? How noble of you."
Trance giggled, Rommie grinned and Beka snorted as they all saluted him with his beer. Rommie handed her bottle to him. "It's cold - - and I don't drink, Dylan."
He took the beer and took a long swallow. "Thank you, Rommie." He gestured with the beer. "And welcome to my humble abode."
"Humble, my ass. This place rocks, Dylan!" Beka grinned as the rest of the crew saluted with their bottles.
Dylan sat in the only available lounge chair. "So how long is everyone staying?"
"Um - - four days?"
"That's what I thought " He took another long swig of beer. "I get the master bedroom. You will just have to bed down where you find room."
Everyone started talking at once, brutally debating who was going to bed down where. Dylan sighed as he realized that he had actually been missing this - - on some level.
"Maru ready for docking."
Welcome home, Maru. Hangar Bay 14 is ready and waiting to receive you.
Beka smiled as she maneuvered the Maru into the hangar bay. They were home.
Dylan picked up his bag and headed out of the hangar bay.
He stopped and turned back. "Yes, Mr. Harper?"
"Thanks for a great vacation!"
Dylan smiled as the sentiment was repeated by the other members of the party.
"It's good to be home." She smiled up at him.
"Yes, Rommie - - it is." He turned then and began walking down the corridor.