Many parsecs away, Hyperion was in the midst of her own liberty. While she lingered among the Utopia Planitia orbital fleet yards, high above the rusty Martian landscape, her crew had free reign of the Sol system. Many crewmembers had ties there, or were at least curious to revisit sights they hadn't seen since their Academy days. It wasn't often that Hyperion surfaced for air, in such a conspicuous setting at that, and most sought to capitalize in some fashion.
It was a literal homecoming for Aurek Petroski, who had been born on Mars and spent his summer recesses there between school years on Earth. He'd taken the opportunity to revisit both planets, with his first officer along for the ride, but the majority of their time since had been spent in briefings with shipyard officials. After the USS Taming Sari had limped into dry dock following a pirate ambush, Hyperion's maintenance schedule had been lengthened a few days. The setback wasn't all bad news- it provided ample opportunity to focus on unfinished business in the Beta Quadrant.
With meetings and schedule updates concluded for the day, Captain Petroski made his way back to the orbital dormitory maintained by Utopia Planitia. The Hyperion crew had been assigned their own floor in the multistory structure, though said floor was really more like one big corridor. On either side of the corridor lay room after room, two bunks and one head apiece. One end of the corridor was capped with a gym, the other with a lounge. Anything else one wanted could be found planetside.
With so many crew away upon recreational pursuits, Petroski's footsteps echoed conspicuously through the long hallway. He finally halted before a door to his left, and chimed it.
"Come in," a young voice offered.
Petroski entered, and found Ensign Hadden Frost reclining on his assigned bunk. Frost sat up and threw aside the novel he'd been reading. "Oh, hi sir! I'll be out of your way in a sec."
The captain waved him back with a disarming look. "I promise, Ensign: it may not seem like it, but placing you on pins and needles every time I pass through here was not the purpose of this arrangement. I'll only be a moment."
Petroski and his XO had elected to assign berths for temporary quarters at random, taking only sex into account... and while they were mixing up the entire roster, they saw no reason not to throw their own names in. It fit in with the more relaxed leadership style they'd adopted after nearly losing command of Hyperion many years earlier. It was SI's tendency to cleanse agents of their benevolence; Petroski and Zavvis wanted their crew to be the exception to the rule. They wanted damn good personnel who were still persons, not machines, and were committed to staying that way. It seemed they served to fill a void in SI that had been achingly empty; these days, Hyperion received transfer requests in droves. It didn't hurt that the ship and crew had garnered quite a reputation, with a stunning list of accomplishments that few others could claim to match.
Petroski was true to his word, needing only a few minutes to change out of his uniform and into a civilian suit. "How was your visit home?" he asked Frost as he straightened his cuffs.
"Good, sir. Thanks." Compared to most of the crew, Frost hadn't left home all that long ago. He was a recent graduate, and had only a few months of real cruising under his belt. "How 'bout yours?"
"All too brief." Petroski hefted a pair of satchels beside his bed. "I hear you've a flair for programming holodeck simulations? I may need to commission a few. I'm not likely to be allowed a return trip in this lifetime."
Frost sat up even straighter. "Sure, sir. Anything you want."
"You're also welcome to join any of the scheduled excursions that interest you. We've sport and masquerades running on a regular basis. You can witness just how unkind time is to a man who was semi-decent at quarterback a hundred years ago." Petroski smirked, then angled for the door. "Good day, Ensign. Don't wait up, I don't know when I'll be back."
Petroski stepped through the door that opened for him, and made for the lounge. Both of the satchels he carried were full of things that, in his opinion, could only be made well on Earth: cigars, pinot noir, coffee, and chocolate. When they were allowed back aboard, Hyperion would be stocked similarly, on a much larger scale: a tradition that Donaldson had started, and Petroski and Zavvis had gladly continued.
The lounge was empty. It was trivial to find Zavvis there, dressed in elegant form-fitting robes and poised before a window to stare out at the Martian landscape that reminded her of home. Petroski approached her side, set down his burden, and leaned in to kiss her cheek.
"The next time we find ourselves on an unintentionally long holiday, I promise I'll ask whether Vulcan wouldn't be fair game," he deadpanned.
Zavvis returned his greeting. "I must question where you find such optimism." She glanced toward the satchels. "For Lieutenant Rao?"
"Yes... and, a peace offering." He nudged one of the satchels with a foot. "After the way our last bout of communication went, we might find it expedient."
Zavvis shook her head. "It was a confusing situation at best. I hardly think they hold a grudge. Is Jake meeting us here?"
"That's the plan, unless he got held up somewhere. I hadn't heard anything along those lines." Petroski checked his chronometer. "We've plenty of time yet. We'll track him down if we must, but there's no rush."