The Press

“Mantikor!”

 

The cry was taken up by eight other voices and ended in a roar that all but drowned out the dull thump of the man’s head hitting the table.

A stack of shot glasses rattled and fell, rolling around the table, but the score didn’t matter.

What mattered right now was getting up. The pride of Lyssa’s Fury was on the line.

 

Lt. Dominikiia Volkova lurched to her feet, gripped the table for momentary support and then extended both arms high.

She thought she should say something witty or clever, but nothing surfaced.

She settled for “I need a piss.”

Laughter filled the room as she headed for the head, tracing a shaky path. However, it was only a head on a Navy ship. Civilian street called it something else. The question helped ignore the way the ground seemed to roll under her.

Privy? Lavatory? No, those were the sort of words her father had liked to use. He thought himself sophisticated. Pretentious was another word of his that Dominikiia felt fit better. Besides, she thought, how much washing really took place in a washroom.

Toilet. That was it.

Pleased to have resolved this pressing philosophical problem she promptly purged herself.

 

The room was quieter on her return. The wagered credits had been pocketed, Sergeant Haddock was still face down on the table, and the operators of the Polis 21st Thrakon Brigade, “Mantikor”, had settled to one side of the bar. Their counterparts from the assault ship, Joseph Stilwell, had occupied the other.

Lt. Volkova wobbled over to the bartop instead and leaned on the edge before seating herself, her head tucked down.

“Ma’am, I would greatly appreciate it if you managed not to throw up on my counter.”

She flashed Spiros the barkeep a thumbs up.

“If I do, I’ll cover the cleaning.”

Spiros stood opposite her, cleaning a dirty cup with a dirtier rag.

“What’s with that? You guys all do that.” A finger pointed at Spiros’s cloth.

“Helps put people at ease. Looks a bit creepy if we just stand there doing nothing.”

“… That actually makes sense.” She said, grudgingly.

 

Her sphere had a live contact waiting. She accepted it without bothering to check the contact’s ID.

Suddenly, she was face to face with Captain Galweigh’s digizen. She sat bolt upright and saluted.

“Lieutenant. Get your troopers back to Lyssa. We’re going underway.”

“Yes, sir.” She winced as the words came out slurred, but she stilled her face.

“You’re drunk. Again.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Do I need to drag your sorry arse out of a cell?”

“No, sir. We’re all here.”

“Who’s we?”

“Mantikor, sir.”

There was the faintest suggestion of noise that Captain Galweigh had just bridged the divide between his head and palm in record time.

“They keep an eye on me, sir.” Dominikiia volunteered.

“And who watches them?”

“We watch each other, sir.”

Dominikiia definitely heard him groan that time, but to hell with it. If she spent all her time aboard Lyssa’s Fury she would go absolutely spare. She could only handle looking at the same bulkhead for so long.

“Stars above. Fine. However, dockside is the limits. I want no more merry jaunts into Hades again.”

“Sir.” Good word that, nice and neutral.

“I’m choosing to assume you meant ‘yes, sir’ by that.”

“Sir.”

“I’ll also assume you meant the same there too. We push off in two hours. I want Mantikor flushed out and combat-ready.”

“Yes, sir.”

 

 

There was a crash as the door slammed open. Boots. Many. All conversation stopped as fourteen sailors streamed in and filled the far side of the bar, blocking the door. Shoulder patches proclaimed them as belonging to Malice Aforethought.

The collection of stun-prods announced their intentions long before their leader spoke.

“Congratulations, ladies and gentlemen, you’ve all been volunteered for service on Malice Aforethought.”

“Lieutenant Volkova? What was that?”

“Sorry, sir. Press gang. Going to end contact now.”
“Do not-

She cut the contact and swiveled on her chair to look at the intruders. She had intended to do so in the manner she’d seen on holo-dramas. Arms against the bar, legs crossed, ‘piss off’ attitude.

Instead, the chair squeaked and the motion made the room spin so badly that she fell off her chair rather than stood up. The walk over to the sailors at the other end was much easier when she focused on her feet. She tried to speak, but doubled over to vomit noisily on the floor.

“That’s two hundred credits I’m adding to your tab,” Spiros called out.

She considered her options.

There was the easy way and the easier way.

She mentally shrugged, forwarded one thousand credits to Spiros via the sphere, then grabbed the sailor closest to her and drove her knee into his trouser fork.

She heard the rest of Mantikor scramble to their feet along with Stilwell’s marines, all rivalry forgiven as they faced down the press gang.

The easier way then.

Through them.

Published
Categories Short Stories

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