The voice that crackles over the comms was tinnier than usual but had the same good-natured teasing tone as always. “Yes, Quinn, vacation. You do understand the word, right?”
“Yes, Captain. Vacation, noun, a fixed term between periods of schooling or work, or the act of leaving something once previously occupied. I can give you the translation in fifty-two spoken languages, as well as seventy-six nonverbal ones. What I don’t understand is why you’ve chosen to put myself and that word into the same sentence.
The silence that came before the Captain’s answer could only be described as uncomfortable. “Something…has come up. Nothing major! But, well, something.”
“Captain, for you to be communicating on this frequency, you would have to be on the shuttle and within orbit of the planet, not on the bridge. That doesn’t sound like ‘nothing major’ to me.” Glancing around briefly to make sure no one was watching, Quinn ducked into the nearest gap between buildings, barely wide enough to be called an alleyway. They pressed their back to the wall of the restaurant and glared at the opposing wall of the souvenir shop, fingers pressed lightly against the comm device implanted just behind their left ear.
“Look, we both know that we’re not really supposed to be here. And as you updated us last night, the estimations you gave on Enforcer activity in the area were wrong.”
“Captain, if by ‘wrong’ you mean that someone chose to misinterpret the information I presented, I-“
“Quinn, I know you weren’t there, but you did update us last night. This planet has caught Enforcer attention and in a big way. They want it for their own; their ships are swarming up here. The good thing is that the local factions are aware of them and keep them from making landing. Bad thing is that we can’t get through to pick you up. Not without being seen, and if the Enforcers knew we were here if they got their talons into you….”
An involuntary shudder (such a curious reaction, really) ran down Quinn’s spine at the very idea of it. “…So we wait it out?”
“Precisely. Either the local forces will drive the Enforcers off long enough for us to sneak in, or a full-on battle breaks out, and we sneak in under cover of that. But until either of those scenarios or one that we don’t expect happens, we’re kind of stuck. So take a vacation! It’s a pleasure planet, after all. Might as well enjoy it!”
Which was how, thirty minutes later, Quinn found themselves at a beachside bar, looking out over Koriel’s indigo seas, with a far too vibrantly colored drink in hand. A pleasure planet indeed; the temperatures were balmy, and the atmosphere an ideal mix of gases that would suit a wide variety of species. Koriel was picturesque as well, but Quinn was confident that that wasn’t what had attracted the Enforcers. Technically, that was what they’d been sent down to investigate. Unfortunately, it hadn’t gone well.
Still wasn’t going well, to be perfectly honest.
Heaving a low sigh, Quinn took a sip of the drink without thinking and winced at the sweetness of it; it was almost sweet enough to mask the burn of alcohol on the tongue.
Neither was an enjoyable sensation.
“Well now then, what’s got you looking like you just bit into a Saskien apple? That scowl of yours is the thing of nightmares.”
Quinn looked up, startled at the voice, and their hand twitched for their weapon before they remembered that they had determined that the leisurely pants and short-sleeved shirt they wore didn’t conceal the blaster nearly as well as their uniform had. So the weapon was back in their rented room, tucked under the mattress. Foolish, that… “I wasn’t aware that I was under any obligation to provide anything, nightmares or otherwise.”
The speaker was tall…for a Tarvien, at least. The scaled being would probably come up to Quinn’s shoulder once they stood if one didn’t include the crest that currently lay flat against the other’s skull. The Tarvien’s elongated face was now expressing mild amusement, judging by the slight smirk that flashed just a bit of sharp fang and the relaxed crinkling around his eyes. He shifted his weight, leaning forward, and rested one hand against the table – Quinn’s eyes automatically flicked to it, taking in both the detail of how the dark red scales on the back of the other’s hand faded to a pale yellow towards the palm and also the fact that it held no weapon…that they could see at least.
“Fair enough, you’re not, but at the same time – so stiff and formal looking? That doesn’t look comfortable; why not relax a bit? I’ll buy you a drink?”
“I already have one,” Quinn stated simply, gesturing to the drink that they had set aside for the moment. Still, it was close enough and obviously still full. So why would such an offer have been made?
“You are certainly the social type, aren’t you? Can I sit here?” Before Quinn could respond, the Tarvien was pulling out one of the other chairs at the table and settling in, the bit of furniture shifting to accommodate his anatomy, most notably the thick tail that had dragged along the ground behind him. Quinn started to protest, but the Tarvien leaned in close, making a fast motion that Quinn vaguely recognized as the human equivalent of laying one’s fingers against their lips. “Look, something tells me that you’re in a very similar predicament as me. You’re on this planet, you don’t want to be, but you cannot get off for whatever reason. Right?”
Quinn tensed at that, and for the second time in five minutes, their hand went for their gun. Instead, they pressed the palm into the edge of the table, doing their best to keep their expression neutral. “And just what gives you that idea?” They asked, one brow raised questioningly.
The red-scaled Tarvien flashed them a toothy smile, flicking one wrist lightly. That one took Quinn a bit longer to recall – ah, a Tarvien shrug. Stars, but they missed having access to the ship computers…
“We’re on a high-class pleasure planet, darling, and you’re scowling like that? Either someone pissed you off something fierce, or you don’t want to be here. Or, I suppose both are a valid option….”
“And what about the possibility that you’re the one pissing me off?”
Before the Tarvien could respond, an instinctual alarm went off in the back of Quinn’s mind, and they flicked their gaze over to the entrance of the bar. Some newcomers had entered, and a chill raced through Quinn as they recognized the carapace-like armor of an Enforcer. Scratch that, two of them. Quinn was already rising to their feet by the time they spotted that their unwanted companion had focused on the Enforcers as well, a low chittering sound rising up from his throat. He looked to Quinn and managed a bit of a lopsided smile. “Something tells me you want to get out of here too,” he mentioned, then reached out and grabbed Quinn’s hand, pulling them carefully away from the table. “Come on, follow me.”