The Tiger and His Teeth by Markstrom Benson In the good days, the ones with summer and gravity and the neighbor girls in bikinis?all year round?there were these bothersome things called ?school assemblies.? All students had to miss chunks of their classes (?had to? being subjective) to go sit at some worthless gathering of the student body with nothing to talk about except frivolous school activities that normal kids like Markstrom Benson had nothing to do with. What did an earnestly studying (subjective) high school kid need ?Bike for Science? for? ?Bike for Science? sounded nice about now. Markstrom would host ?Naked Spacewalks for Science? at this point, as his department was going to be surpassed for mutinies and things he didn?t want anything to do with. And the neighbor girls in this neighborhood were the furthest from bikini-types you could want. Sure, Narin and Aylyn and Claire were smokin?, but Narin was what Markstrom?s dad called a Rapunzel-type, Aylyn had no interest in male attraction (except for the captain?authority turned her on, he guessed), and Claire was hot in the schematics-y, tricorder-y sort of way. Not to mention: Hayes had them all first. The closest to someone he wanted to see in a bikini was being seen in a?what did Aylyn describe it as??Not-Quite-A-Coma. Chi was apparently off the deep end, knee-high-in-batshit, or something. And those types always brought along pleasant surprises when they were trying to catch some sun. Nope. Sleepy time for all bikini candidates. Markstrom?s mind was occupied. With things other than what it should have been. He?d accidentally been the first to arrive at Narin?s, and they were sort of awkwardly looking sideways at one another. She was, or seemed embarrassed about something, and Markstrom was trying to decode her poolside appearance. More like her appearance for ?Naked Spacewalks for Science.? ?Narin,? he asked. ?Call me by rank, Lieutenant. We?re on duty.? Narin didn?t say this with a smile. ?Commander, how long do you think this will take?? ?As long as needed until we figure out what to do.? ?What do you mean?? Markstrom asked, befuddled. ?I thought Hayes made all our plans, or was making them, or something.? ?What do you think this meeting is all about, Lieutenant? Hayes?Captain McQuarrie has disregarded our lives. We?re gathering so I can hopefully gain the favor to take McQuarrie out of power, replace Ramirez into power, and get home so we can extradite the former captain to the proper authorities.? Markstrom, of course, knew nothing about this. He figured Hayes was going to lead them on a righteous mission against oppressors who obviously had a big secret to hide. Not only that, but Markstrom also assumed that the ?proper authorities? weren?t going to do to Hayes what proper authorities should do to traitors. Something about the nature of all this folderol told him that if the wrong hands grab hold of Hayes?s neck, it would be to choke, until there was no life left. He felt out of breath, scared, tense. The word, ?What?? with a beckoning inflection left his teeth, and before Narin could go on, her door hissed open and in walked Claire Eyensworth, and she was wringing her hands. Following her was Trilo Trekar, and then Aylyn Cta, who wheeled in a diversion to the tension in the air: looking grumpier than ever, arms crossed and head bent down a bit, was Varia. Everyone else rose in the room and showered him unremittingly with questions of how he felt, comments on their relief. Varia just dismissively shook his head, waved them away, and said, ?No, no, no, look, I?m fine. Let?s just talk about what we?ve come to talk about.? People sat, and the meeting began with Narin, standing as if she should have had a gavel and robe. ?This morning, there was a thirty-eight percent turnout for duty, excluding those issued to sickbay. Crew are believing that there is a real rebellion going on ship-wide when only it?s going on in the captain?s ready room. We can?t allow this to happen. However, since I strive not to be like our adventitious captain?? ?He?s not our captain anymore,? Trilo said. ?They stripped him rank. Captain of the Lexington said so.? ?They technically stripped us all of rank,? Markstrom argued reticently. ?By law we?re all no longer under any system where we?? ?And whose fault is that, Markstrom?? Trilo snapped, coldly, like a splash of blood dividing snow. ?They think we?re all traitors, so they strip us all of rank. But by principle, the captain is the only one?? ?Depending on whose principles?? Markstrom asked, still cool, leaving Trilo with naught of an immediate answer other than a steady look of displeasure. ?As we can see,? Narin intervened, salvaging her presiding role, ?there is a division amongst the department heads as to where our devotions lie. So, before we get into the details of this meeting, I?d like to take a quick poll. Raise hands, those of you who are against our captain, and whatever he sees as a reason to defy Starfleet and the Federation.? She herself boldly raised her hand. Trilo Trekar and Varia raised theirs. ?So I am to assume that you three agree with what the captain is doing?? Aylyn offered first, ?I?ve known the captain for four years, same as all of you. Sure, he?s been downright apathetic, uncaring? ?carefree? is a better term. Anyway, he?s ignored politics and the war, and the things going on aboard the Coldstream that didn?t involve social activities. That leads me to believe that he has a damn good reason to get off his ass and take matters into his own meathooks like this. What about you, Claire?? Claire offered second, ?Hayes hasn?t only been our captain, but he?s been our friend as long as we?ve all been on this ship. He?s a good man, and wouldn?t endanger us unless, like Aylyn said, he had a good reason. I believe he loves us all.? Markstrom, after tenebrously watching Narin and Aylyn try not to squirm at that final comment, offered third. ?I?m sorry if this sounds insulting, but in any other situation, I?d understand the split opinions. But in this one, if you?re not totally getting Hayes?s reason to do what he did, you?re being ignorant. Ignorant! I mean, come on, people, Admiral Ramirez was going to level the surface of Metriaga. Need me to spell out for you what that means? Kill innocent people! And he was obviously doing it to cover something up. That much is so blatant that you?d have to be blind to not see it. And then, for Admiral Remington to be also in on it, at a level of power that could acquit Ramirez of genocide charges? There?s proof of all this as truth. Listen to the auto-logs for the bridge.? ?What Hayes did after that?? Trilo said. ?The Lexington? Self-defense! Check the auto-log on that one too! He was begging Barsuk to stop. You?re talking about a captain leading his unwitting crew into outlaw-hood when there was a captain who led his unwitting crew to death. And if you remember, fellas, technically, Hayes didn?t even kill them. Barsuk self-destructed. You people are looking at the surface, and when followers of a leader look at the surface, they get the opposite impression. It?s like you all picked up the book of What Happened and read the synopsis and judged it on that. Know where the synopsis is? It?s on the fucking cover!? ?Thank you for the update, Lieutenant,? Narin said, stopping his rant, motioning him to sit. ?Whether what he did was justified or not, he did it without our consent. It boils down to this: we are now at war with Starfleet and the Federation, and only one person wants to be.? For a second the lights dimmed, and the red alert lights flashed. Then everything went back to normal. ?What was that?? Narin asked. Markstrom answered with a strained and apathetic voice, ?Malfunction. It?s been doing that all morning, just going on for a second and then stopping. I have people looking into it.? ?Resuming,? said Narin formally, almost like the ship?s computer, ?one person chose to do this. One person damned us all. There were better things the captain could have done to accomplish doing what?s right. He didn?t have to hurt the admiral.? ?Earth to Narin!? Markstrom burst out. He stood and went to her, bending over face her directly, and though it was something Starfleet slapped your hand never to do, it liberated him, invigorated him, and fueled his rage, and his?(righteous)?aim. ?Ramirez was going to massacre innocent civilians!? He shouted deliberately, shouted at her face, permeated her cold exterior to unearth a grimace, watched her sweat. ?Are you saying it would have been better to stand by and let it happen? Bring it up later? ?You know, Admiral, that might not have been the best thing to do.? What the fuck is wrong with you people?? It was Narin?s turn to stand. ?Lieutenant Benson, you are out of line!? But he persisted, ?We found something they didn?t want us to find. And because we were smart and tried to stop a mass-fucking-murderer, they tried to kill us.? ?Lieutenant, refuse to sit down right now and you will be removed and placed in the brig indefinitely.? ?I?ll take myself to the brig if you three,? and he waved vehemently at Narin, Trilo, and Varia, ?can sit there and tell me that I will be taken into custody for pointing out the obvious.? He watched them watch him, wordless, furious, repugnant. ?Come on,? he beckoned. Varia lifted his chin from his fingers? cradle and spat, ?I would be sitting here if I?d been taken to a Starbase. McQuarrie?s defiance has cost me my legs.? ?It?s a disgrace,? Trilo added. ?To regain my honor, I must?? ?Drop the ?honor? act, Trilo. If you listened to your empathic? side, you?d be agreeing with me. But it never made its way out. Trilo exploded from his seat, claws reaching out to seize collar, cuff, or throat. A guttural cry came forth. Varia tried to stop him, but the pull of Trilo?s lunge brought him out of his wheelchair and helplessly onto the floor, where Claire and Aylyn sank to assist him. Narin cried her shrill orders as Trilo fumed in Markstrom?s face. Managing out of Trilo?s grasp, Markstrom bellowed to his former comrades, ?Fuck you people, all of you! You?re all too proud to face a fault in our perfect world. There?s smoke rising in Utopia, and none of you choose to see it. Not even you two,? he fired, indicated Claire and Aylyn. ?If you saw it as plainly as I did?as I do?as I will, you?d be on your feet. You?d be on your feet right fucking now. So fuck you people.? ?You see it so plainly, Markstrom,? Trilo growled, ?that one might think you?re in on it.? ?You?ve cried your first witch, constable. Keep going; see how many of your friends you can burn at the stake.? Markstrom headed for the door. ?You are the captain?s best friend, after all,? Narin pointed out. ?Where are you going, Lieutenant?? Markstrom turned and saw the broken semicircle of people he thought he could trust, saw Varia fighting human tears, saw Claire allowing one to circumnavigate her cheekbone and swim into the air beneath her, saw Aylyn?s fear?her ignored want to go with him, to be the figure of ?(righteousness)? right by his side?in her face, saw Trilo?s anger, and saw Narin?s demand for the same old rule. Hopelessness invaded him as he saw them, and somberness as well. The crescendo had come, and had brought the room to a fortissimo and a grand pause, and now for the tapering lull, the pianissimo calm that would bring the maddening bolero to a disquieting close. ?To the brig,? Markstrom said. ?As I promised. You can get me when you?ve all wizened up, when you?ve pulled your heads out. Hayes has to be with you, and you all have to honestly tell me that there?s something wrong out there. Then you?ll get me back.? And he left, heading directly to his promised destination. The meeting, he heard later, through a chain of tipped guards, was recessed until he could be coerced out. Requirements of the meeting entailed all department heads, so he prided himself in his stay, in this dark cell, where no one came to him; none. Somewhere down the hall, though, there was a beast?s breath. It sounded like it was laughing. == --------------------------------- Now that's room service! Choose from over 150,000 hotels in 45,000 destinations on Yahoo! Travel to find your fit.