At the end of his workday, Lidon went to the ship’s crowded lounge. The place was always busy at shift’s end as people took the opportunity to transition from work to off time. Every one of the low tables scattered in the space was taken, and only a few seating cushions surrounding them remained. Most eyes were trained on the vids that replayed kurble matches from home and the latest news feeds.
Lidon nodded at the hails of other Nobeks and went to one of the liquor dispensers. There he debated his choices. The more potent the drink, the less allowance of it you were allowed. On a destroyer, no one on active duty was allowed to get drunk. Every man had to be ready to fight at a moment’s notice, even when patrols were deep in the Empire’s territory.
Lidon waved his hand at the scanner, letting it identify him and display his alcohol ration amount. He chose kloq. If he stuck to the popular spirit, he’d be allowed five glasses before the dispensers cut him off. Tired from the kurble game and working a shift immediately afterward, he doubted he was going to be that sociable, but who knew? He had a lot going on in his head, things that might make sleep difficult to come by.
The lounge was filled with men who had also played earlier today or had watched the game. Snatches of conversation drifted to Lidon as his glass was filled. Everyone he heard was agreeing it was a great match. Many of the players, winners and losers alike, were on the receiving end of invitations for intimate entertainments from those who had stood on the sidelines.
Lidon’s drink finished dispensing and he grabbed the glass from the machine’s tube opening. He stopped short when he saw Tranis and Degorsk sitting nearby, deep in conversation.
So the first officer had liked the Imdiko’s ass after all. And Degorsk, who was almost never seen in the lounge unless he was in the company of his staff, had agreed to have drinks with him. Well, well. The Dramok was surprising Lidon yet again.
As if feeling Lidon’s gaze on him, Degorsk looked in his direction. Their eyes met. The medic flushed and nodded acknowledgement before returning his attention to Tranis.
There was an empty seat next to Degorsk. Lidon debated joining them when the head commander of the fighter complement called to him. “Come sit with us, Commander. That was some game you played this morning.”
Lidon reluctantly joined the table full of Nobeks. They shifted to make enough room, some sharing seating cushions so he was able to have one to himself. He was still sore and his brace made him feel clumsy. He still managed to lower carefully down so that he didn’t fall on his ass and embarrass himself. The position of his seat allowed him to keep an eye on Degorsk and Tranis. Alerted to Lidon’s presence, Tranis raised his hurling hand to him. Lidon nodded back, noting the poisonous swelling was gone and it had turned a healthier color.
To his companions, Lidon said, “I haven’t played in some time. I enjoyed it.”
The fighter commander, an older Nobek named Gewit, rumbled laughter through his barrel-shaped chest. “I guess you did! Nosdin is still bitching about the broken jaw you gave him.”
Lidon sneered. “He should have his sight tested. Maybe he wouldn’t have kept running into my fist if he could see better.”
The Nobeks at his and the surrounding tables howled at that. Under the din of laughter, Gewit leaned close and said, “How about our first officer? That young bastard is tough.”
Next to him Fol, one of the fighter pilots, said, “Did you see his hand at the end of the game? I thought it would explode from the swelling.”
Their tones were admiring, and they cast heated glances at Tranis. Another pilot, a young Nobek named Sehert, commented, “There would be worse Dramoks to be clanned to. Does anyone know if he’s got an interest?”
Gewit snorted. “Looks to me like he’s concentrating on Imdikos right now.”
Fol chuffed mean laughter. “He does like punishment if he’s sniffing around Dr. Degorsk. That man is a torment to be around. It’s no wonder he’s still not clanned.”
Sehert grimaced. “Probably it’s the Imdiko sniffing around, hoping the commander is too young and stupid to know better.”
Lidon’s lips twitched in amusement. Degorsk was definitely the receiver of attention, not the other way around. The Imdiko’s smile as he spoke to Tranis was strained. He looked uncomfortable, especially when Tranis leaned close to him and spoke intimately in his ear.
While the other men’s comments about Degorsk were less than flattering, at least it meant none of them thought of him as likely clanning material. Less competition for Lidon.
He still couldn’t resist defending the Imdiko. He said, “I don’t think Dr. Degorsk is the desperate type. He’s smart with much life experience, and Commander Tranis would do well to seek his counsel.”
Gewit elbowed Fol. “Maybe the commander likes the idea of making the doctor behave.”
His comment earned growls of lustful appreciation from those at their table. Fol licked his lips. “Imagine being taken to task by such a Dramok. It’s a pity he’s so young.”
Gewit gave Tranis a long, slow look. “But he’s still powerful. I wouldn’t hold his age against him.”
Lidon’s brows rose. Gewit was nearly fifteen years Lidon’s senior, making him much, much older than Tranis. Surely he was only thinking in terms of sex when he discussed the first officer, but what if he wasn’t? If Tranis was indeed courting Degorsk, then age wasn’t something the Dramok held against others either.
Lidon kept an eye on the pair at the other table, silently wondering about the possibilities.