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[JP] RAdm. Reynolds, LtCmdrs Neathler and Marshall - Goodness Gracious Eight Balls of Fire (Parts I-III)

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Another bit of excellent writing, by our CO, our FO, and... well, now, that would be telling, wouldn't it?

Congratulations as appropriate!


((Sto’Vo’Kor, Crew Lounge, Deck 9))


They waged wars on a field of green; strategy devised, and tactics enacted, put to the test on the lush verdure lacking in blooms. Trajectory and geometry were the currency of the day; mathematical statistics and probability winning out over brute force. Armed warriors stood on either side, the pitched battle between made with long wooden weapons — gladiators in the arena — without the cheer from a spectating crowd…


...As it was shore leave, and the lounge was blissfully bereft of patrons. 


The dull thunk of a striped pool ball hit the felt boundary and disappeared down into the corner pocket. Triumphant smile notwithstanding, Jo stood up from her shot and leaned on the cue, beer bottle lifted with some measure of victory, finger pointed from around it toward the battlefield between the blonde and the hazel-eyed woman opposite. 


Marshall: That’s two. You’ve got to admit, I’m getting better. 


And watched as a rebounding ball from the shot knocked the white into the centre pocket.


Marshall: Kinda. 


Eyebrows raised, Quinn lifted her gaze from the inexorable path of the cue ball into the pocket. She grinned, raising her palm parallel to the ground, and rocked it from side-to-side with a chuckle. Out of uniform, in worn jeans and a loose t-shirt, she didn't look the prim and proper Admiral that she usually was — and, at times like this, that was how she liked it.


Reynolds: Kinda.


Even as the smile refused to dissipate any, Jo’s tongue lodged in her cheek and a long sigh deflated her chest.


Marshall: One day, Quinn. One day.  


Beer bottle handy, Jo took a swig and glanced across the open expanse of the crew lounge to where their Chief of Security and Tactical would make her appearance from. Possibly an odd request to meet the two in the lounge, but it was a far sight better than being holed up in Quinn’s Ready Room for the duration of all the comings and goings expected. She watched the Admiral setup for the next shot through a swig of beer. 


Marshall: Do you think she thought you were pulling her leg?


Reynolds: I hope not. ::The crack of resin snapped through the air as the white collided with another ball, sinking it with barely any thought at all.:: Though perhaps "come and play ball" isn't the more obvious of invitations.


Marshall: What can I say, you’re a subtle creature. 


Quinn chuckled in reply, shooting a sly twist of a grin toward Jo with equal precision to her pool playing. Trying not to smile and failing quite aptly, Jo heard the doors swish open and looked over to see the young Security Chief in all her glory entering the wilds of the crew lounge. Lifting her beer bottle up to catch her attention, Jo beckoned her over. 


Marshall: Sami! Over here!


Sto’Vo’Kor, a familiar place, frequently visited the last two years and yet, for obvious reasons, nerves were rushing through her body as she stepped through the doors this time. Samira wore black jeans, and a light grey t-shirt, fingerless gloves, matching color with the shirt, hidden in her back pocket. Casual clothes as requested in the invitation.


Ok, this was just a game of pool. Maybe she should have practiced a bit more, she couldn’t remember the last time she had played a game. Wasn’t it with Blackbird while he was on the ship? She took a deep breath as she stepped through the doors. Too quiet, everyone was down on the station or on Palanon. Or not that quiet when she heard the recognisable voice of the First Officer calling her.


She walked over to the pool table, plucking a bit of grey fur away from her shoulder, nodding in greeting as she arrived.


Neathler: Sir, Jo. ::She quickly glanced at the different coloured and striped balls on the table. :: Who’s winning?


Probably an unnecessary question, but it was the first thing that came to mind. Quinn smiled, one hand on her hip, leaning on her pool cue. As much as she preferred formality, not one for allowing her officers to refer to her casually on duty, at times like this it felt incongruous.


Reynolds: We're off duty, Sami. You can call me Quinn.


Quinn instead of sir. That would take getting some used to and not exactly the way she was raised. Still, it was only for the duration of this game; she figured for now.


Marshall: And I wouldn’t say “winning” so much as “succumbing to my eventual slaughter”. Albeit a little slower than last time. You’re losing your touch, Reynolds. ::A cheeky grin sprouted as Jo plucked her beer bottle from the side rail and she turned the grin to Sami.:: How are you at the old game? Come prepared to be my saviour?


Neathler: I’m afraid, I’m a bit rusty, I haven’t played in a while. ::She looked at the setup, a hand going through her short hair.:: And I admit, I’m more familiar with snooker than eightball. Do you pot the balls by number?


Marshall: Some players do. ::She took a swig from the bottle.:: But I tend to pot whatever I can before Quinn turns this into a massacre. 


Reynolds: I feel I should point out she takes her defeat with good grace because she knows she'll be murdering me at springball tomorrow.


Samira raised an eyebrow. So that’s what was happening when the Commanding and First officers held meetings? Either playing pool or springball? Still, it was good to see them both taking some time off for themselves, although she still was wondering what she was doing here herself.


Neathler: Got to keep the score even somehow. Maybe I should just observe and learn from the best. 


And in the meantime come up with a strategy to not be slaughtered instead, Samira thought as she already studied the position on the pool table, thinking of which shot she’d try first. Quinn glanced toward Jo, a sly twinkle in hazel eyes, and then looked back toward the brunette.


Reynolds: Maybe it's time to step up.


Step up as in not observing? Right, of course. Her eyes still on the game, unaware of the interaction between the other two, Samira walked around the table, looking at the game from a different angle. What was she thinking, of course the Admiral would want to see how well she played? What was the point of inviting someone to a game of pool, if that someone just observed? At the corner of the table she took a step back, looking up at the others.


Neathler: In that case, I’d pot the three first, with a gentle shot. That would leave the cue ball at the correct position to go after the eight.


Picking up the tail ends of Quinn’s grin, Jo chuckled through a swig from the beer bottle, and held out the pool cue to her commander counterpart to take. The fun was always in the opportunity to kick back together without that mantle of duty weighing down the shoulders like a backpack of bricks; throw off the shackles of command and enjoy easy conversation through the guise of playing a game. 


Marshall: I think we have a contender. How about it, Sami? Give Quinn a run for her credits. 

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((Sto’Vo’Kor, Crew Lounge, Deck 9))


Before Samira accepted the pool cue, her right hand automatically reached for her gloves and in a matter of seconds, the leather fabric covered her hands, except for her fingertips. Only then she reached for the cue, a grin on her features, nodding thanks to Jo. At least the cue ball was easy to locate, she had spotted the white ball in one of the pockets as she had done the brief tour around the table. 


A few seconds later, the cue ball reappeared on the table at the starting point, which would make it trickier to pot the striped three. She took a deep breath, rolling her shoulders and clearing her mind. Trying to convince herself she was just playing some pool with her brothers and not the highest-ranked officers on the ship.


She took her position, lined the cue with the white ball and the target ball, and gave it her best shot. The striped three barely made it to the pocket and disappeared. Yet she had ticked the white ball a bit too gently, the cue ball rolled slowly until it courteously stopped and wiggled itself against the five and the seven. She stood up straight and looked at the result, shaking her head.


Neathler: Well, that didn’t go as planned.


Tilting her head to the side as she regarded the balls both potted and not, Jo chuckled and took a swig from her beer bottle. A satisfied small sigh escaped as she looked up to Sami with a grin, Quinn reaching for her bottle of root beer between shots. 


Marshall: El Comandante here will already be calculating the trajectory and geometric arc she needs to pot the next one. 


Reynolds: And the all-important velocity. ::Quinn shot a grin at the pair, moving around the table to position herself for her shot.:: Don't worry about it. It's as much an initiation rite as it is a game of pool. 


Velocity, Samira couldn’t shake the feeling the Admiral was somehow having a go at her first shot with that comment. She took a few steps away from the table so that anyone could walk around it and have an overall view...


Neathler: Initiation rite? Are you starting a senior staff pool club?


She knew about social clubs existing among the lower deck crew, and she was pretty sure similar clubs existed among the officers too, but seeing she didn’t contribute much to group activities, she wasn’t up to date with those.


Marshall: Technically, we started one. ::She scratched her cheek and leaned her hip against the table, pointing the bottle of beer toward Quinn.:: Then our third left, so we’ve got an opening. 


Quinn found her shot, leaning over the edge of the table to line it up. Cue ball smacked into its target with a sharp crack, rolling away to thud into the cushions, while the other sunk into a pocket with a satisfying thud. She straightened, cast her eye over the new alignment of their battlefield, then looked toward the brunette.


Reynolds: How about it? The Gorkon's in need of a new Second Officer and you're the first name on our list.


About to return the pool cue to Jo so the blonde could make the next shot if she ever had the chance, Samira dropped the wooden cue as the words of the Admiral seeped through. They were kidding, right? She kneeled down to pick up the stick, and when she raised, she looked from the Admiral, towards Jo, back to the Admiral who grinned right back in an undisguised show of amusement.


Neathler: Me?


She could think of plenty of names, plenty of persons with more experience and older than herself that would suit for the position that was now open after Genkos’ transfer. Names like Whittaker, who had commandeered a ship before; Nkai who usually sat in the centre seat when the Senior Staff were away; Sevo, who had been the First Officer before; Erin, who had a lot more experience than Samira; all came to mind. Confusion etched on her features, she looked down at the pool cue in her hands, before handing it over to Jo, who took it with a grin. 


Marshall: You. 


Reynolds: One day I'll offer someone the post, and they won't look at me like they think I'm out of my mind. ::Her eyebrows lifted, humour colouring her voice.:: One day.


Marshall: But that, ::she pointed the pool cue over the table, like a jousting lance,:: is not this day. 


Still speechless, Samira looked at the point of the cue now pointing at her, accusingly, then to the amused look on the Admiral’s face. Were they pulling a joke here? In all her time, ever since she graduated from the Academy, she had hardly sought for contact between the higher ranks. Even when she reached lieutenant commander, she felt closer to those of the lower ranks. 


And yet here she just received an invitation to become the Second Officer of the ship, not just any ship, the flagship of the task force. She hardly even knew what the job entailed. With James gone, she was alone in guiding her own department and as Second Officer she figured she would have to be present with even more meetings and making decisions that concerned the entire ship instead of just a department.


Neathler: But why me? I mean, ::Her hand reached to the back of her head, ruffling her short hair just briefly before she lowered it.:: I’ve never given any indication of… ::She paused briefly.:: I hardly have any experience.


On the other hand, it was the opportunity of a lifetime. A privilege that, if she’d say no, might never happen again. Wasn’t this what she wanted? Something she had earned and accomplished herself, without the help of her family?


Marshall: Two years as an officer on the flagship of the Tyrellian Taskforce, and one year of that as the acting Chief of Security and Tactical… ::The blonde scratched the back of her neck with a quick click of the tongue, then leaned her hip on the pool table, punctuating her speech with adequate gestures of the beer bottle.:: You’ve got an impeccable record, Sami. Strength to strength all the way through. When Quinn asked me who I thought it should be, there really was only one.


A swig of the beer bottle later and she was ordering another round from the bar, recalling a conversation the two had on Giáng Sinh many moons ago, and how Samira had then seemed like a deer in the headlights. Granted, they were stealing some of Soup’s tequila to “ward off the cold”, and doing so with the Chief of Security might have been a conflict of interest, but still hilarious. 


Marshall: You’re always prepared for department meetings, I’ve never had to chase you for anything so much as a written record on someone joining...


Reynolds: If it's any consolation, few people feel completely ready for it, so don't let that stop you. ::Her lips twitched, a smile tugging at the corner of her mouth.:: One day I'll tell you a story about how I went from leading a cosy department to being First Officer to over a hundred thousand people.


A hundred thousand people, at least the Gorkon crew, only had a population of six hundred people. Samira gave it some thought. She never had walked away from a challenge before. The only difference this time was that there was more at stake. Both the Admiral and Jo thought she was ready for it, otherwise, they wouldn’t have made the suggestion. Now all she had to do was convince herself. She inhaled deeply, letting out her breath slowly as she nodded.


Neathler: It’s a huge step, and there’s only one way to find out if I’m suited. ::She looked at both of them.:: Very well, I accept. ::She smiled briefly.:: And I’d like to hear that story one day, si… Quinn.


The brunette smiled with a small nod of approval, while Jo was a little more overt in her delight. The blonde beamed with a grin mid swallow, but that didn’t stop both arms going out to the side in a victory lift. They had time to go through all the ins and outs and routine changes in the coming weeks of shore leave, but for that moment, the three of them stood around the pool table under the dim lights of the Sto’Vo’Kor lounge, the future looked a little brighter. 


Marshall: That’s the spirit! Welcome to the team, Sami. ::Shaking the dwindling beer bottle in her hand, she let out a small happy sigh.:: I think we need another round or two in celebration. 


Reynolds: Sounds like you just volunteered to me.


She waggled her almost-empty bottle in the blonde's direction. Jo narrowed her eyes playfully to the Admiral, trying and failing to contain the amused smile stamped on her features, and waved to get the attention of the stewards.The wonderful thing about having the Admiral with them in the lounge was the care and attention given by ship stewards, at least it was in the beginning. They were far too used to the two rocking up for a game these days, content to let them play on without checking in every two seconds if everything was alright, or if they needed more ice for the burns dished out in either direction. 


Neathler: Maybe between the two of us, we can find a strategy to defeat the Champion of Pool?


She raised a quizzical eyebrow towards Jo who grinned back, mischief evident in blue. 


Marshall: Diving in head first, I like it. Told you, you were made for the job. 


Reynolds: This must be what mutiny feels like.


Marshall: Only if you’re lucky. 

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((Sto’Vo’Kor, Crew Lounge, Deck 9))


With a smile, Samira listened to the friendly banter between her superior officers. She took a few steps back with the idea to hop on to the next pool table, but decided against it. She had done that once, which resulted in a tear in the table’s green velvet. She had never forgotten the mouth off she had received from the owner of the table. Even while the proprietor was… a holographic one. Until this day, she wasn’t sure if it all hadn’t been a prank coming from one of her brothers.


When the steward arrived, the temptation to order a glass of champagne in order to celebrate was high, but she ended up requesting a glass of whiskey. She had too many questions to rejoice, hardly knowing what the job entailed. But looking at the current setting, she didn’t want to fire all her questions either. After everything, both the Admiral and Jo had experienced on Trueno, they needed a break.

Neathler: Next to pool and springball, are there other activities I should… ::She paused briefly.::  train?

Quinn gave the question some thought and sipped from her bottle of root beer. Images of motorbikes and solar-powered ships came to mind, but she didn't want to force every hobby of theirs onto the brunette. Another idea popped into her head, something they'd never managed to organise with Genkos.


Reynolds: No. ::She raised her eyebrows with a small grin.:: But you do have to bring one of yours to the table.

Samira chuckled at the response. One of her gloved hands ruffled her short hair for a moment, seeing the steward approaching them with their drinks. She waited until he arrived and took her glass. Swirling the golden liquid before she took a sniff. Somewhat disappointed, she looked in the bar's direction. No Klingon bartender to be seen, otherwise she would be drinking the genuine stuff instead of the synthoholic version. With a deep breath, she took a sip. Guess it would have to do.


Neathler: Well, there’s the sparring in the gym.


Although knowing she hardly saw the Admiral in there, she figured it might not be something for the hybrid to do. Or maybe the Admiral visited the gym at different hours than Samira did. She took a step back, leaning against the pool table behind her, placing the glass on the edge.


Neathler: And I finally managed to set up the holodeck version of the Giáng Sinh Biathlon. I’d like to cut a few more seconds of my time before I send the program to my brothers so we can compete our times. ::Smiling, she raised an eyebrow.:: I’m sure they wouldn’t mind some extra competition.


It had almost taken her a year to get the last touches to the program as she wanted it to be perfect. For some odd reason, she still didn’t understand herself, she was spending more time in her quarters now she had Ko. If only… now why didn’t she think of that, next time she should take the critter with her to the holodeck. And choosing a warmer setting for the next challenge would make it perfect.


Jo grinned at that, taking a long drink from the newly replicated beer bottle in hand, and pointed around it at Quinn across the pool table from her. A flash in blue eyes appeared, the quick quirk of an eyebrow, amusement clear on the blonde’s features. An oft topic of debate, usually over some form of pastry in their meetings. Sometimes cake. Not a trace of guilt in there, but “if you can outrun a dinosaur, you can do laps of the ship” had come out of her mouth recently. 


Marshall: Funny you should mention that, Sami. I’ve been trying to get Quinn into the gym for a long while now. Maybe not sparring but running, lifting, doing things that move the body out of the “sat down behind the desk in the Ready Room” position.


Quinn breathed out a sigh, lifting an open palm. Dismay and question, all in one sweep of the hand. It was a return to a familiar battleground — and not one she could so easily dominate as the pool table in front of them.


Reynolds: Did Walter put you up to this?


Samira chuckled while Jo took a swig from her bottle, glancing sideways to the Captain with added mirth. 


Walter, the blond captain of the USS Triumphant. The ship that had come to the Gorkon’s rescue a couple of times already, and maybe even more, in the time before she was part of the Gorkon crew. Samira didn’t know the man, only having seen him at the Admiral’s wedding. Other than that, he was somewhat of a mystery. At least in this universe. There was a dream version of the man she knew better, she respected even.


Neathler: If you’re looking for competition, we could set up something for you. Just between the three of us. ::She paused briefly, a twinkle in her eyes showing.:: Or you could make it a family outing, sir. Mister Walter included.


Reynolds: Hell, no. ::Few things were more dry than her voice at that moment. Vulcan deserts, perhaps, but even then there was no clear victor.:: He might be my husband, but there are limits.


The blonde’s laughter bubbled up at the immediate and unrelenting response front he Admiral, letting loose the well-cultured decorum usually on display. This was the Quinn she knew; genius, adrenaline-junky, and swore like a Livernois Shipyard docker. 


Marshall: In that case, here’s to the first meeting of the new and improved Pool Club. 


With a fresh round of drinks supplied and dished out, Jo offered her beer bottle to the centre of the pool table and, with a cheeky grin bearing on her features, arched her eyebrow. With a more demure grin — but a grin nonetheless — Quinn inclined her head and looked toward Sami, her expression saying "wait for it".


Marshall: Though, what do we call it? Eight Balls Of Fire? Triple Threat?


Reynolds: The Triple Threat Pool Club. I like it.


Samira took a few steps closer, raising her glass like the others did with their drink. The anticipation on Quinn’s features made Samira realize how these two women knew each other through and through, making her feel like a little intruder.


Neathler: Triple Threat Pool Club, it is.


Although she had no idea what kind of threat she was posing herself. Her eyes shifted to both of them, two people she looked up to and would have to work with closely from now on and get to know them in the process. It was only now Samira realized she had agreed to a huge task. If something happened to one of them, she would have to step up. Hopefully, that day would never come.


Her gaze went to the current game. She should look at the situation from a different angle. Isn’t the best way to know the enemy, by learning how they worked and thought? In this case, playing a game of pool and then work out a strategy to defeat them? Translated getting to know them better? Which was probably both their plan from the beginning. Yep, she was going to conquer this little quest.


Neathler: Care to show the youngest of the Club how it’s done, s… Quinn? ::She winked at Jo, who chuckled right back.:: We’ll need to work out some strategy later on.


Reynolds: I hope you're going to be this enthusiastic about helping me beat her at springball tomorrow. 


With an impish flicker of a grin, and a worried side look from her XO, she walked around the table to find her shot. A crack of cue against hard resin and the cue ball went zooming across the table, bouncing from cushion to cushion and smacking into other balls, spending them spinning in a perfectly choreographed, showy and totally unnecessary trick shot.


Reynolds: Until then, a masterclass it is.

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