ParSec snapped to attention. “Welcome aboard, Captain!”
“Thanks,” the man said. “Sign here, please.” He thrust a small pad at her and stood waiting. ParSec looked at Chavez, who shrugged. She signed the pad.
“Great, hang on.” He folded himself back through the hatch, in stages, and then backed out again while dragging a large box. The box had a frosted front and blinking lights. Blinking lights on a coffin-sized box, in Hy’s personal experience, were never good. “There you go,” the man said, slapping his hands together. The box had tiny wheels on it; it continued to roll a few more inches after he set it down. “You have a good day, now.” And he swung the hatch closed behind himself. Within seconds an engine fired up and the floor shook as the delivery ship disengaged and fell away.
Chavez was already bent over the box. “It must be cheaper to order frozen captains,” he said. “Maybe they buy them in bulk.”
ParSec leaned in to peer over his shoulder. “Captain? Ahem, Captain? Captain… what’s his name?
“Shipping label says ‘Parvo, V.’”
“Captain Parvo? Sir?”
“You should probably salute louder,” Chavez said. “I don’t think he can hear you.”
“Is he alive?” ParSec asked, wringing her hands. “How long before you can bring him back?”
Chavez leaned back on his heels and tapped the front of the box. “It’s set to decant him automatically in another hour or so,” he said. “Probably not a good idea to rush it.”
They contemplated the box. Through the frosted window a face could just barely be seen. A strong face. Possibly even a noble face. But most of all it was a surprised face, and whatever the surprise had been, it had not been a happy surprise one.
They leaned back. “We wait,” ParSec said.
“Agreed,” Hy said.
“Oh, yeah,” Chavez said.
Hy straightened up and brushed off her slacks. “You know, we could reset the timer. No, no, hear me out,” she said, trying not to giggle at the horrified look on ParSec’s face. “Just think how effective a frozen captain would be! He’d always give the orders we’d want to hear!
Chavez grinned. “He could work 24-hour shifts!”
“Plus he makes a great desk! Or bludgeoning object, in times of war!”
“He’ll keep our drinks chilled!”
Through this litany Lt. Commander ParSec’s face had cycled through some interesting colors of its own. When she took a deep and deliberate breath, it returned slowly to its normal icy-pale shade, only it wasn’t the friendly, let’s-go-skating kind of ice. Her face was the ice that children get trapped under, the ice that slowly creeps up over your continent when you’re not looking. “You are talking treason,” she said slowly, multi-ton chunks of glacier slipping into the sea with every word.
The other two brought themselves under control, barely, under her gaze. “Technically he hasn’t yet taken control of the ship,” Chavex pointed out, chuckling. “At this point, legally, we’re just being obnoxious.”
“Be that as it may, we need to get him to his cabin so he can defrost in private. Coming out of cryo can be a bewildering and vulnerable time, I would imagine, and I would be remiss in my duties if I knowingly allowed him to embarass himself and possibly undermine his authority before he even has any,” ParSec said stiffly. “I need to return to the bridge immediately and prepare for the captain’s arrival. Both of you, take him to his quarters.”
Hy dropped the hand from in front of her face since it was no longer needed. Badly-controlled smiles must often be concealed. Frowns can go where they please. “Excuse me? No, you need to call a valet or somebody, I don’t do heavy lifting. Also, I don’t work for you. We had this discussion.”
‘Yes, we did,” ParSec said, in tones that suggested that the discussion in question had not been complete in and of itself and may in fact have only been Round One.
“There are clear defined lines between the military and civilian duties and responsibillities on board the Venture,” Hy said, in icy tones of her own. Somewhere a small ski resort was in danger… “And I handle the civvy stuff. That is definitely military.”
“But you have to–”
Hy stood up ramrod straight and managed to look ParSec in the neck. “What? What do I have to do, since I am not under your jurisdiction and do not take your orders? I’m not going to go through this every time you want something. Hauling capsicles is your problem, not mine! Got it? Are we clear?”
Gradually, cracks formed in the permafrost. ParSec mumbled something.
“Understood,” ParSec said, glaring. The two women settled into a glaring match; ParSec had the reach and uniform for it, but Hy was winning on sheer rage.
“Hey Hy, can you give me a hand with this thing?” Chavez asked cheerfully.
“Oh, sure, doc,” the mayor said immediately, to ParSec’s complete astonishment. Hy looked back up. “What?”
“You just said–”
“I don’t take orders. Polite requests often work, though. Consider that as an alternate option, I’m sure it’s mentioned in one of your op manuals somewhere.” Hy bent to help push the crated captain.
ParSec stood stock still for a moment, possibly convincing herself that murdering both of them would be wrong and would soil her uniform, and then stormed off.