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Author’s Note: Silly little story written ages ago for a writing prompt and reworked a bit for WTS! Forgive me for the likely bad Czech translation… it was compliments of a translation program! –D. A.
By D. A. Ratliff
Colonel Jon Rivard, head of the military contingent on the ESS Argas Science Vessel, was in his office attempting to complete a tardy mission report, when Dr. Marek Stepanek came sprinting in, slamming the door shut. The doctor’s normally tousled hair was wilder than usual, his breathing coming in short labored breaths. He was clutching a coffee cup in his hand so tightly his knuckles were white.
“Doc, what’s wrong? You look like you’re running from some gal’s angry husband. What gives?”
“Je to blázen. Honil mě po celém Argas.”
“Whoa, whoa, Doc, English — my Czech is improving, but not when you are talking at warp speed.”
Stepanek took a deep breath, “He is crazy man. He is chasing everyone with a coffee cup in their hand around the ship.”
Rivard chuckled. “You’re talking about Wesley I take it.”
Stepanek frowned. “Who else is crazy man around here. Ever since his stash of that special blend of coffee he ordered disappeared, he has been nuts. He is not getting any work done. He’s just running around, sticking his nose in everyone’s coffee to see if it is his special blend.” Rivard stifled a laugh as Stepanek made air quotes. “If I hear those words one more time, I swear I will zabij toho blázen.”
“Somehow, Marek, I don’t think I want to know what that means. I’ll talk to him.”
“Colonel, talking will not help. He needs to stop. He made Miko cry, snatched the cup from her hand, spilling half of it. He took a drink, then shoved it back at her and stalked off. We have coffee since the Armstrong found us and is making regular supply runs. It’s not like he isn’t getting enough caffeine. He is coffee diva.”
Rivard stifled a chuckle. “Unfortunately, Marek, we need him. I promise I’ll take care of this. We can’t have the crew hiding from him.”
Marek thanked him and left, looking warily in both directions before stepping out into the corridor. Rivard was still chuckling when his X-O, Major Daniel Davin, rapped on the doorframe. He jerked his head for Davin to enter.
“Don’t tell me, Wesley?”
“How’d you know, Colonel?”
“That coffee stain on your jacket’s a pretty big clue.”
“Yes, sir. Wesley grabbed my cup in the mess hall. I had just poured it, so the mug was full. Worse, he went after Sergeant Johnston’s thermos in the transport bay this morning. Johnston never leaves on a mission without his thermos of coffee. Sir, Dr. Wesley is out of control.”
“Major, I agree. Anyone who attempts to interfere with a six-foot-five, two-hundred-and seventy-five-pound Marine and his coffee, is out of control. Go get changed. Director Marin likes us neat and tidy. Don’t want her wrath down on us as well.”
Rivard watched as Davin departed and then glanced down at his feet. The entire time Stepanek and Davin were in his office, he had been sitting sideways of his desk, reclined back in his chair, laptop perched on his knees, and his boots resting — on a cardboard box. It wasn’t just any cardboard box. It was a box of specially blended coffee, the missing box of specially blended coffee.
Dr. Roger Wesley had been preening about the special coffee that he had ordered, but wouldn’t share with his staff or anyone else, even him. He had decided that the fussy scientist needed to suffer just a bit. He snuck in Wesley’s quarters and took the box. However, enough was enough. He didn’t like the fact that Miko had gotten upset, or that Wesley could have died, albeit, a justifiable death at the hands of Sergeant Johnston.
They had gone through a challenging time. For seven months, the enormous research vessel drifted in space, flung out of orbit when the planet, Portha 3, exploded. Out of touch with Earth, they drifted without the artificial intelligence computer core operating. Wesley, Stepanek, and the science-engineering team kept life support operational by jury-rigging the systems and managed to get the navigation back online. Long-range communication was another matter. Provisions ran quite low, and until Stepanek’s engineering team repaired the planetary propulsion, they couldn’t begin to look for food. The problem was coffee didn’t seem to exist in the Magellan galaxy, and that did not sit well with astrophysicist Dr. Roger Wesley. When the ESS Armstrong located them, he had raced to the galley for coffee.
Sighing, Rivard decided that he would figure out a way to distract Wesley long enough to sneak back into his quarters and place the box back in the closet, just a bit deeper than it had been when he removed it. Then he would confront Wesley, demand to search his room, because no one would have taken his precious coffee, and discover the box, deep in the closet.
This was going to be fun. He not only had the pleasure of watching Wesley’s angst over the loss of his special coffee, but he could rag him about accusing everyone of stealing his coffee when he simply didn’t look hard enough for the box.
Rivard reached for his coffee cup, which was sitting on the porthole ledge. He had to admit that Wesley had great taste in coffee. He was enjoying the special blend. This was definitely going to be fun.
Please visit D. A on her blog: https://thecoastalquill.wordpress.com/