Mouse carefully sipped her fruit juice made from real artificial pine apple and quickly glanced around the UER Arcturus's mess hall. Unsurprisingly, it was mostly deserted and, equally unsurprising, the large windows at the port side offered a view of the UER Augustus travelling through space next to them. For weeks now, the view from the mess hall windows had been the UER Augustus and it would remain to be the only view until the convoy reached the front two weeks and three days from now. Mouse suspected that, by then, the front would already be someplace else entirely and they'd have to travel some more weeks to actually get there, by which time the front had shifted again and so on.
All but one member of Gamma Squadron looked up when they heard the doors of the mess hall opening with a slight whoosh and simultaneously suppressed a groan of annoyance when they saw David, the genetically perfect squad leader of Alpha Squadron, step inside. He was quite handsome and he moved with calculated elegance and determination. Much to the dismay of all but one member of Gamma Squadron, he moved towards their table.
"Ah, Wolf, I was looking for you," said David, his voice sharp and precise.
"Is that so?" said the only member of Gamma Squadron who got called by his real name.
"Indeed I was," said David. "As you are well aware, it is mandatory for all fighter squadrons on board this vessel to practise in the simulation pods for at least three hours a day in preperation of our arrival at the front."
"So?" said Wolf. "You are aware of the fact that we usually spend more than three hours a day in those pods, right?"
"Yes, I am aware of that," said David. "However, it quite surprised my squadron and, presumably, Beta Squadron as well, to find an entirely new simulation added to the database."
"Yeah..." said Wolf slowly. "So?"
"Well, while I am quite prepared to accept that the so-called 'Centauri Federation' has a formidable arsenal, I do believe that they will not have the capability to deploy a, ah, 'Death Star'."
Gamma Squadron suddenly looked very innocent indeed.
"Well, you know what they say, variety is the spice of life and all that," said Wolf calmly.
"Perhaps," said David. "However, battle simulations do not need 'spice'."
"Yeah, they do," said Wolf. "If we're flying the same simulations over and over again we're gonna get stuck in a routine and that won't help once we actually reach the front. And before you say anything, the computerised randomisation just doesn't cut it."
David closed his mouth and pondered this. "I admit you have a point. However, I still believe the 'Death Star' was quite a poor choice. I believe I shall ask Captain Norton for permission to devise some more appropriate simulations."
"You do that," said Wolf. "In fact, you go do that right now. The sooner the better."
David nodded curtly, turned around and left as elegant and as determined as he'd arrived. Wolf turned to his squad.
"OK boys and girls, who did it?"
Badger looked up from the book she was reading. "Hmm? What?"
Wolf rolled his eyes dramatically. "The Death Star simulation. Who programmed it."
"Oh," said Badger. "Not me."
"Yeah, it was me what did it," said Ferret, smiling his most charming smile.
Wolf sighed. "Ferret, you do know my policy on bending and/or breaking the rules, right?"
"Oh come on, sir, it was supposed to be a surprise for Badger's birthday. Not my fault those damn gens stumbled across it too soon."
"Er-hem," said Lioness pointedly.
"You're defective, you don't count," Ferret said airily.
Lioness's eyes narrowed dangerously. "Oh, I'm going to make you pay for that remark."
Wolf sighed loudly. "You know, it'd be nice to be in command of a normal squad one day."
"We are normal," said Ferret. "It's them that're so bloody strange."
"OK, that is it," Lioness snarled and lunged at Ferret.
"Not the face, not the face!" Ferret shrieked as he hit the floor hard.
"You know," Mouse said brightly, "it's turning out to be a nice day after all, don't you think?"
Wolf just groaned.
Mouse aimlessly wandered the many corridors of the UER Arcturus. Technically she wasn't allowed to, but on long voyages most rules got relaxed. She was looking for something to do and on a military starship it is quite hard to actually find it. Sure, it was fun to hang out in the mess hall, play around in the simulators or watch Lioness beat the crap out of Ferret yet again, but even that got repetitive after a while.
Eventually Mouse's feet led her to the simulation bay. She stared at the closed doors in wonder, before remembering that Beta Squadron was training in there right now. Smiling, she walked into the bay and noted with satisfaction that five out of the twelve simulation pods were shuddering and shaking. The read-out from the nearby control console told her that four out of those five were running the Death Star simulation and, more importantly, that Sheila was using pod 4. Mouse walked to pod 4 and entered vice-captain Carter's personal security override code into the lock.
Sometimes, knowing Ferret was very useful.
With a small hiss, the simulation pod opened and Mouse slipped inside next to a surprised Sheila. On the inside, the pod looked exactly like a Republican fighter, meaning that there was only room for one. This meant that Mouse had to press her body very close to Sheila's in order to fit. Mouse did not mind this one bit.
"Amanda, what are you doing?" Sheila asked. Much like David's, her voice too was sharp and precise and the similarities did not end there.
"It's Mouse, remember?" said Mouse, closing the pod. "And I'm just paying you a visit."
"Mouse, please, I am training," said Sheila.
"Come on, you're a gen. What do you need training for?" said Mouse, softly kissing Sheila's neck.
"This is not the time," Sheila protested weakly. "You must leave."
"Really? Is that what you want?" Mouse whispered.
Mouse knew it was a mean question. Sheila M-Omicron 26 was a gen, grown and conditioned to want nothing but to perform the duties she'd been grown and conditioned for.