“You’re a damn cheat,” the Bolian Engineer hissed as he threw his cards into the middle of the table, “take it,” he demanded.
Neil smiled as he ran his fingers over his cards, as he smiled. “Don’t mind if I do, to be honest,” he reached into the middle of the table as he pulled the pile of chips in his direction, “the card Gods are smiling on me tonight,” he laughed. After the Trent’s mission to Koruku III, Neil was glad for the distraction this game was just the thing he needed to take his mind off of that planet.
Drik looked at the Commander, looking deep in his blue eyes. The Bolian’s blue skin glistening with sweat, he was intent on something. But what?
Neil gave the Bolian a puzzled look, “What are you doing, Drik?”
“Trying to see if those eyes are cybernetic or not,” the Bolian replied.
Greg just laughed as he stood up, making his way to the replicator, “Drik, you know better than that, Harrington here has the cards marked,” the Human managed to say that with a reasonably straight face knowing how Drik would react. “He can tell what cards you have before you can. Coffee, hot two creams, two sugars,” he ordered.
Dirk stood up, “I knew it,” he quickly gathered all the cards, intent on feeding them to the replicator.
“Drik, Drik, he’s kidding,” Neil tried to explain, but the Bolian was having none of that.
“No one wins that many hands in a row,” Drik hissed back, “no one.”
“It just proves, boys, I am a better card player than all of you,” Neil laughed as he started to sort his growing pile of chips. “You’re rather quiet tonight, Drew,” Neil looked at the third human sitting at the table.
“Oh, don’t drag me into this. I’m only here to play cards, well till you drag out the good stuff,” Drew held up his glass, “then I will be here to get drunk.” He winked.
Neil walked over to a nearby cabinet as he pressed his finger to the locking mechanism. Pulling out a bottle filled with an amber-colored liquid, “whiskey, anyone?” He knew that none of the men had to work in the morning.
As the group took their seats around the table, each pouring a drink, Drew picked up the cards in front of him as he started to deal, “Queen, no help for the wanna be Engineer,” he smiled as the Bolian. “A pair of Jacks for the Security Officer,” he nodded to Greg. “Seven for the dealer,” he commented, “and finally,” dealing a two of hearts to Neil. “Ouch, three deuces.”
Grik tossed his card down on the table as he tossed a chip into the center, “damn cheat,” he muttered.
The hand continued with Drew eventually folding; Drik folded in typical fashion accusing everyone of cheating, with only Greg and Neil remaining. Both friends locked eyes, trying to determine who was the best, both bluffing the other. Someone had to have the better hand, but who?
Greg looked at his down cards one last time. He was pretty confident in his straight. After all, what were the chances that Neil could win for the fourth hand in a row? Greg saw the bet as he tossed his chip into the center of the table. Reaching down, he picked up four more chips, “And I will raise you twenty.”
Neil knew all that he needed to know; Greg was too cocky. It was the man’s tale. Neil tossed his bet into the center of the table, “let’s see ‘em,” he looked at Greg.
Greg turned over his hand, “straight,” he grinned from ear to ear as he started to reach for the center.
“Looks like someone got de-chair,” Drik laughed.
“Dethroned,” Greg corrected.
“That’s what I said,” Drik replied, “de-chaired.”
Neil just smiled quietly as he turned over the rest of his cards. In his hand, he was holding two queens. Setting them beside the deuces, he just chuckled, “full house, I believe that’s mine.” He winked.
Greg and Drik both looked at each other and, in unison, called him a cheat. The table erupted in laughter as Drik continued his rant. The sounds of fun were only interrupted by the chime of the door. Neil set the cards down, “probably the Ex,” he forced a smile. His time on the station had proved interesting. Not long after their arrival Luci had filed for divorce. It was a sudden and painful blow, but he’d been dealing with things the best he could.
The gang just whistled and laughed as Neil made his way to the door; however, the room was entirely quiet as the doors opened. Each man jumped from the table, Drik accidentally spilling three of the drinks and a nearby bottle of whiskey. Drik attempted to compose himself as the Commodore entered the room.
“Commodore Mitchell,” Neil looked at his sudden guest, “I wasn’t expecting a visit, Sir.”
“At ease, gentlemen,” the Commodore looked at the table, his eyes falling on the bottle. He smiled. “My apologies for interrupting your evening, Commander, but I have an important matter to discuss with you.” He looked to Harrington’s guests, “take a seat boys, this won’t take long.”
“Neil, I need to see you at docking port 14,” he handed the man a padd. “At zero seven hundred tomorrow morning, you will assume command of the USS Galileo. The Galilieo’s orders and crew have already been assigned; however that can wait till the morning for that,” he looked at the table. “Your crew will be arriving within the next few days.”
Neil stammered as he took the padd, “Sir.. I don’t..” he looked at the padd. “I mean, I wasn’t….” The collective moans behind him told him all he needed to know. The Galileo had a history; she’d seen the end of many a career. Neil tried to hide his surprise and disappointment. If this was his chance at a center chair, then he’d have to take it.
The Commodore grinned, “that’s the look I enjoy seeing,” he pointed to the table, “I haven’t played in a bit, mind if I join ya.”
Neil was grinning from ear to ear, “yes, Sir.”
The Commodore nodded as he picked up the deck of cards, “so, five-card stud nothing wild,” he spoke as he tossed a chip into the center of the table. Mitchell set the cards down for a second as he poured himself a drink, “and the sky’s the limit.”
Morning came early as Neil replicated a clean uniform, prepped himself, and managed to arrive at docking port 14 at least thirty minutes ahead of schedule. He needed a few minutes to prepare himself for the Commodore’s arrival. He was looking out the large windows at the ship, unaware of the appearance of another person. His internal thoughts were finally interrupted by the sound of someone talking. “I’m sorry, what did you say,” Neil admitted he hadn’t been paying attention.
“She’s a beautiful ship,” the man next to him commented, “sleek lines, solid design, and perfect in every way. Well, it would be perfect if she wasn’t a killer.”
Neil took a step back, “excuse me?”
“The ship,” the man pointed a finger out to the Galileo, “cursed that one. She’s ruined a few careers, a dozen or more failed missions,” he leaned in a bit closer, “and I heard rumors that her last two Captains were killed while on duty.”
Neil didn’t respond, he’d done his research, and he already knew all this. “Hmm,” he managed to squeak out.
“I tell you what,” the man next to him smiled as he turned to walk away, “I wouldn’t wanna be her Captain. That ship is a career killer.” He smiled as he took off.
Neil just stood there dumbfounded, “career killer,” he muttered.
Commodore Mitchell just laughed as he walked up behind Harrington, “pay no attention to lore or mythology here, Captain,” he commented. “Yes, the Galileo has a past, but it is nothing that a good crew and Captain can’t put behind them.”
“Yes, Sir,” Neil replied, standing up a bit straighter, “Will you be touring the ship with me?”
“No, sadly, something has come up, and I am afraid most of the plans I had for the day just got changed.” He took out a small wooden box from his pocket, “here, take this.”
The box was decorated with items traditional to naval travel and lore; as Neil opened the box, he was impressed with the soft black velvet fabric that lined it. In the center of the box was a small metal-like object, almost two inches around. It was thin and highly decorated, “I am not familiar with the person inscribed on this,” Neil admitted.
Mitchell smiled, “it’s something I give each new Commanding Officer. That’s a Saint Brendan the Navigator medal. In the days of sailing ships and times long ago, he was the patron Saint of Sailors.”
Neil looked puzzled, “didn’t you just say to ignore mythology,” he smirked as he thanked the man.
“Can’t help to be a bit superstitious,” Mitchell smiled, extending his hand, “fair winds and calm seas, Captain.”
Neil extended his hand, “thank you, Commodore,” he shook the man’s hand.
“Your mission briefing, crew roster, and Executive Officer information will be ready for you when you get to your ready room. I am afraid due to time, we have had to forgo much of the typical fanfare,” he stated as the two walked to the airlock. “Your Senior Staff has been assembled already and your XO selected,” he coughed, “I know you’d rather select your staff yourself, but frankly, we don’t have the time.”
Neil nodded; it was a bit odd but not unheard of, “anything else, I need to know before I,” he jerked his head in the direction of the ship, “board.”
“Not at this time,” Mitchell responded, “get the ship operational, get her staff prepped and ready. You’ll leave the station in two days, understood.”
Neil nodded, “Yes, Sir.”
“Good, go see your ship, Harrington,” he stated as his comm badge sounded. Turning, he tapped his chest, “Mitchell here.”
Neil turned to hand his transfer orders over to the Security Officer; honestly, he wasn’t listening to a thing he was being told. This was something he had been waiting for, something he wanted. However, the moment was equal parts excited and sad. Lucia and Tess were a large part of his life, and they should have been there. Fate sadly had other plans for their lives. He longed to have his family with him, but that wasn’t a possibility now. Now, he would have to learn to move on and develop a new family.
“Welcome to the Galileo Commander,” the Security Officer gave Neil his padd back, “I mean Captain.”
Neil smiled, “thank you, Ensign.” He tucked the padd under his arm as he stepped through the docking port and into the next adventure.