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"Captain's Log, star date 7049.7, Captain
Chris Larabee, USS Maverick, reporting..."

Now what was he going to say? That he and his starship had come to the aid of a beleaguered population of a besieged planet, fought alongside them against overwhelming odds, and had emerged victorious — again?

People were going to start thinking he was making it all up.

He deactivated the log. He'd do it later. It wasn't like they didn't have the time, stuck out here in what was literally the middle of nowhere, the region of space where the four quadrants met in a nebulous region known as the Four Corners, the boundaries of which were continuously under dispute and the inhabitants of which were habitually targets for anyone who wanted to increase their respective sphere of authority.

When that happened, things got lively, and they'd be called upon to fulfill their duties as Federation peacekeepers. But most of the time, it was days of unrelenting boredom broken only by hours of sheer monotony. Like now.

He checked the duty roster and switched the intercom on. "Officers' Call. All Officers not on watch assemble in Ten Forward."

He headed for the lounge and a good, stiff drink. The replicator there could make any one of the millions of intoxicating libations in the known universe, but he always drank straight old-fashioned whiskey.

Lieutenant Standish was already there, which was no surprise. The man had an office somewhere on the ship, but he did most of his business in Ten Forward. That included the technically-illegal-but-everyone-knew-about-it gambling operation he ran for fun and profit. Larabee sometimes wondered if they did a genetic profile on Standish if they wouldn't find out he was really a Ferengi. Still, because he was con man himself, not much got past him, and he was the best damned security officer Larabee had ever worked with.

He signaled Inez to bring him a drink as he sat down. She didn't even have to ask what he wanted.

Ezra lovingly stacked several small ingots of gold-pressed latinum. "Relaxing after yet another day of keeping the Cosmos safe for life, liberty and the pursuit of a meaning to it all, Mr. Larabee?"

"Somebody's gotta do it," Larabee grunted.

Standish whipped out a deck of cards. "Can I interest you in a game?"

"You cheat."

"You wound me, Captain."

"Speaking of wounds..." Larabee heard the familiar low-timbred drawl from behind him and groaned. "You were supposed to come by the infirmary so I could check your arm," Dr. Jackson admonished him as he joined them.

"It was just a phaser burn. It's probably gone by now."

"I got records I gotta keep, Captain. Makes me look bad if I don't keep track of my patients."

"I'll come by tomorrow. I promise," Larabee mumbled.

"Care to make a wager on that, Dr. Jackson?" Standish grinned.

His answer was drowned out by the animated conversation Lieutenant Commander Wilmington was having with that mouthy kid, Ensign Dunne. Dunne was so fresh out of the Academy that the ink on his commission wasn't dry yet, and what he lacked in experience and common sense, he made up for in overconfidence and bravado. Even so, he was a likeable kid, not afraid of a challenge. Larabee could see he had what it took to be a Star Fleet Officer, once the cockiness was tempered with a few doses of reality.

Wilmington adored the kid. This was Wilmington's first tour as Exec, and Dunne was the first junior officer he'd ever had full responsibility for qualifying. His tutelage at this point in time would make or break the young Ensign's potential future in Star Fleet. If he didn't teach him right, the kid would be doomed, both professionally and maybe literally.

"How many times do I gotta tell you that you can't rely on telemetry alone? You gotta go with your gut instincts," he smacked the kid's belly hard enough that it probably left a handprint.

Dunne winced, but didn't miss a beat. "Yeah, but it was the telemetry that revealed the weakness in the subducting layer. If I hadn't been watching those readings we would have never..."

"We don't talk about work in here!" Inez scolded them. "What would you have to drink?"

"A beer," Wilmington answered.

"What kind? Terran domestic, Terran import, Selterian bubble-water, Romulan Ale, Telurian..."

"JUST BEER!" Wilmington snapped, mostly because he knew Inez was giving him a hard time on purpose. She always did.

Inez looked at Dunne. "The usual?" she asked him.

The kid nodded.

"Bovine mammarian secretion," Standish intoned. "That stuff could kill you, kid."

"I know," Dunne grinned.

The young man was not presumptuous enough to seat himself at the Captain's table without an invitation, but Larabee didn't shy away from opportunities to mingle with his crew, especially during Officers' Call. "Have a seat, Dunne," he nodded towards an empty chair.

Wilmington hadn't waited to be invited. Chris Larabee was an old friend. They'd gone through the Academy together, and their friendship had weathered some hard times that would have broken the ties between most men. Now, as always, his place was at Larabee's side.

Ezra looked around the table and shuffled his cards.

"Can I interest you gentlemen in a quick game of chance?" he asked.

"You cheat," Dr. Jackson echoed Larabee's earlier sentiment.

"Ah, but therein lies the challenge. And I do know you gentlemen all love a good challenge."

"Speaking of challenges," Buck said softly and nudged Chris purposefully.

The ship's administrative officer, Lieutenant Mary Travis, had entered with Ensign Casey Wells, the ship's new supply officer. Wells had just transferred to the Maverick and this would be her first Officers' Call.

Both women were more interested in the intricacies involved in the logistics of running a starship at the sub-structural level than they were in Buck Wilmington, and that chafed his first officer no end. That, and for some reason, Buck seemed to think he and Mary... Lieutenant Travis... should have a less formal relationship than what was required to ensure the efficient operation of the ship. The pair joined Admiral Orin Travis at the bar. Admiral Travis, the senior JAG officer for the sector, was the father of Lieutenant Travis' late husband.

"Who is that?" Ensign Dunne's already big eyes got even wider as he stared at the two women.

Wilmington smacked the back of his head and ruffled his long, black hair, which, Larabee noted, was getting dangerously close to exceeding regulation length. "That's Lieutenant Travis, boy. You see her every..."

"Not her, the other one."

Wilmington choked back a laugh. Ensign Wells looked like a boy. Acted like one, too. It hadn't occurred to him that anyone would rather look at her than at the elegant and statuesque Lieutenant Travis.

Wells was looking back. She stared directly into Dunne's eyes and the kid quickly found reason to be suddenly interested in the milk Inez had placed in front of him.

Off in a corner of the room, Larabee noticed his Navigation Officer, Lieutenant Vin Tanner, trying not to be noticed.

Tanner was a puzzle and Larabee wasn't sure why, but he felt a strange affinity for the blue-eyed Vulcan. Like most Vulcans, Tanner was a loner, but Larabee suspected that it was not entirely by choice. Tanner had lost his Vulcan parents at a remote research outpost on Tasco 7, lightyears from any vestige of Vulcan civilization, when he was only 5 years old. He'd spent the rest of his formative years with humans, and went by the name they had given him, never having learned to accurately pronounce his own Vulcan name. Deprived of the rigorous mental indoctrination of the Vulcan culture, he didn't know how to be a Vulcan, nor did he know how to react to humans who expected him to behave like one. At the same time, enough 'Vulcan' had been ingrained in him during his early childhood that he wasn't completely at ease with humans, either.

He rarely laughed — except maybe with his eyes — but he did smile. He had a subtle sense of humor, and he also had a temper, both of which took humans and Vulcans alike off guard and made them leery of his company. Larabee was fascinated by him, though. It was not because he wanted to know how the man's mind worked, but rather because he did know. Maybe it was that mind-meld thing Vulcans knew how to do, but damned if sometimes it didn't seem like he and Tanner knew what the other was going to think before he thought it.

Like now. Tanner was looking up at him. Just a slight sideways nod of his head was all Larabee needed to get the diffident Vulcan to join the group.

Tanner had the long, wiry limbs and slender body that was typical of most Vulcans, and he moved with the easy grace of a cat. Larabee was glad he had forgone the opportunity to counsel Ensign Dunne about the length of his hair, because Tanner's hair was even longer, and Larabee had no intention of enforcing the regs in his case. For one thing, the hair covered his ears, so the shy officer didn't stand out conspicuously among the rest of the mostly-human crew. Some of them didn't even realize he was Vulcan, although hiding that fact was not the reason Tanner chose not to display that particular physical characteristic. The pointed ears gave most Vulcans a somewhat sinister, even demonic appearance. Tanner on the other hand, with his fine features, soft curls and large blue eyes, well, to be honest, he tended to look more like an elf, which did not exactly lend itself to a commanding presence.

"Mr. Tanner!" Standish said cheerfully, "Finally, the opportunity for a challenge presents itself," he shuffled his deck again. "Care to join us in a game?"

"You cheat," the Vulcan said softly.

"And you count cards without even trying. I'd say the odds were even."

A normal Vulcan would have told Ezra precisely what those odds were. Given his background, Larabee doubted that Tanner possessed the intrinsic Vulcan ability to perform complex mathematical computations in his head, but, maybe he simply knew when to keep his mouth shut.

"I wonder what's keeping Commander Sanchez?" Standish remarked as he dealt the cards. "Not like him to miss Officers' Call."

"He'll be here," Dr. Jackson assured everyone. "He knows we won't go ahead without him."

And as if the Doctor's words had magically summoned him, the ship's Counselor marched into the lounge and took his seat, sighing gratefully as it molded around his large frame.

"Rough day?" Larabee asked him.

"Crew's tired," Sanchez reported. "I'm seeing a lot of stress reactions and just plain short tempers. The usual after a combat scenario." He leaned back in his chair. "The price we pay for being the minions of Good in the shadow of Evil... the few who sacrifice for the many."

Dunne snorted. "No wonder they call you Preacher."

Lieutenant Tanner raised one of his gently arched eyebrows at the Ensign, who suddenly remembered Sanchez considerably out-ranked him.

"Uh... Preacher...Sir," the boy fumbled to recover.

Commander Sanchez didn't even seem to notice the boy's insolence. He grinned broadly and slapped his hands down on the table. "Everyone's here... shall we get started?"

Standish sighed and retrieved the unplayed cards as everyone stood up to leave.

"Officers' Call, ladies," Buck motioned to Travis and Wells to join them. Inez nodded to her assistant that it was time to take over for her. She was a civilian, but it was an unspoken rule that she was included in this activity.

"You're welcome, too, Judge," Larabee said to Admiral Travis. Since the JAG officer was senior in rank, it was his prerogative to accept or decline the invitation, but Larabee didn't think he would. It was general knowledge what 'Officers' Call' really meant on the Maverick.

The group of eleven marched intently from the lounge, their expressions one of serious commitment to their sworn duty, even though everyone there knew their real plans.

Two minutes later, they were gathered in the holodeck.

"What'll it be this time?" Wilmington said, eagerly rubbing his hands together.

"Can we do Camelot again?" Ensign Dunne asked.

"Fine with me," Sanchez answered.

The others turned to them both and frowned. As the Wizard Merlin and that evil little shit Mordred, Sanchez and Dunne hadn't been stuck wearing all that hot, heavy armor, so of course, they'd had fun. Wilmington unconsciously rubbed the spot on his chest where his Sir Geraint had taken a paralyzing blow from Standish's Sir Gawain in a jousting tournament, not to mention that Larabee, Tanner, and Travis hadn't spoken to each other for three days afterwards because of that Arthur-Lancelot-Guenevere misunderstanding.

"I don't think so, JD," Wilmington said.

"I rather liked the federal agent thing," Standish said. "FREEZE! ATF!" he pointed his not-yet-replicated weapon at the others.

"That's because you found a way to pit arms smugglers against drug dealers and take both their profits," Jackson pointed out.

"You cheated," Sanchez added.

Larabee turned to the Navigation Officer.

"Let's let Vin decide this time."

The Vulcan almost looked panic-stricken at having been given this responsibility, but Larabee's casual grin quickly put him at ease. "What'll it be?"

Larabee could just barely perceive Tanner's smile as he sealed the holodeck and punched in the code.

In the next instant, the sight, scent and sound of technology was replaced by dust and a blazing Terran sun.

The women looked down at their constrictive clothing. Ensign Wells vowed on the spot to ditch it for something more comfortable the first chance she got, but Lieutenant Travis found the femininity of it appealing despite the fact that it was far less practical than her Star Fleet uniform. Inez didn't look too different from what she did in Ten Forward, although the switch to natural fibers resulted in her clothing now weighing ten times as much. Judge Travis looked as dignified as ever in his black pinstripe suit, a gold watch fob hanging from the pocket to add authenticity.

The other seven men were suddenly aware of the weight of the primitive weapons they now carried on their hips, a familiar sensation that made all of them smile except for Dr. Jackson.

"I'm a doctor, not a gunfighter," he huffed.

The blue-eyed Vulcan, his lanky frame now cloaked by a hide jacket and a colorful bandana, and his ears now concealed by a slouch hat as well as his long hair, patted the mare's leg on his thigh, tipped his hat, and winked at him.

The seven men gathered the reins of their hologenic horses.

Captain Larabee, as always, gave the command as they mounted up. "Let's ride, boys."

It was good to be back in Four Corners.

The End

This story takes place in the Alternate Universe of STAR TREK: Deep Space Nine. Permission for other writers to use the events, settings, scenarios and/or characterizations established in this story is freely granted by the author.
"Captain Larabee" and "Lieutenant Tanner" photos courtesy of Maria
January 27, 2001

Please send comments to: Nancy W.
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