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Past is Prologue

Posted on Wed Dec 1, 2021 @ 12:44am by Lieutenant Commander Sunita Conlon

Mission: Prelude - 00
Location: Earth – Vail, Colorado
Timeline: December, 2386
1428 words - 2.9 OF Standard Post Measure

Small flakes of snow drifted down from the sky outside of the frosted window. Sunny sat on a sofa in an oversized cable-knit sweater and shorts staring into the fireplace. She watched the flames consume the bark on the newest log and send it skyward in crackling sparks and smoke.

The sound of a bang from the kitchen area shook her from her thoughts and she looked past the decorated tree and presents waiting for the next day.

"I'm fine!" Zoe's voice floated out from the kitchen.

"Are you okay in there?" Sunny asked.

"Be right with you," Zoe called back.

"Do you need any help?"

"If I can wrangle a Xelatian Psychrolutidate I can handle this."

Sunny smirked and started to turn back, letting her gaze fall on the ornaments hanging from the tree. They were reflecting the flames as well, but in multiple colors, and sending flickering colors across the floor. She turned and looked out of the window at the snow. There would be fresh powder for them to ski the next day.

Zoe came out of the kitchen trying to clutch three steaming mugs and a canister of whipped cream in her arms. She was dressed similarly, but with longer stretchy pants instead of shorts. Zoe managed to make it to the sofa and gently lower her whole body toward the table in front of them to put down her armful without spilling anything. She got the mugs on the table but dropped the can.

"Nailed it," Sunny needled her.

Zoe grabbed the can and quickly stuck her tongue out at Sunny before handing her a mug. Zoe upended the can and sprayed whipped cream out on top of the hot chocolate. She then grabbed her own mug and did the same.

Sunny held the mug between her hands and lifted her arms as Zoe flopped onto the sofa with her head on Sunny's lap and legs stretched out over the arm of the other end. They sipped their drinks in momentary quiet.

"Have you made up your mind?" Zoe broke the reverie.

"I'm still thinking about it."

"You should take it. It won't be so bad, and you can apply to transfer again in the future."

"I know. I don't know."

They sipped their drinks.

"Is it the shipyards or the teaching that bothers you?" Zoe prompted.

Sunny shrugged. Zoe pursed her lips, then smiled.

"I always wondered what it would be like to sleep with a professor."

Sunny rolled her eyes, "I'd be an instructor, not a professor, and I wouldn't be your professor anyway."

"Maybe I'll go back and study engineering. They sound pretty hard up."

"Ha ha, so funny. Do we have to talk about this?"

"Talking about it would help you."

"I think mulling it over in silence would help me."

"It will give you something to do."

"But you keep me so busy."

Zoe giggled briefly, but then serious look fell on her face, "I've been meaning to talk to you," she looked at the third mug on the table, "I was going to wait for them to get back."

"I really hope you're not planning on breaking up with me during Christmas."

"No," Zoe laughed, "I'm not planning on breaking up with you."

"I really hope you're not planning on proposing to me during Christmas, then."

Zoe rolled her eyes, "You would be the one proposing to me, thank you."

"What is it?"

Zoe twisted her mug back and forth in her hands.

The front door, which was past the kitchen, opened. A frigid breeze swept down toward them as Rhys, Vasu, and Regulus came into the house laughing. They stomped off their boots and started shucking off their winter clothes.

Zoe sat up, "You guys made it. We'd given you up for lost in a snowbank."

Rhys smiled crookedly at them, "Nah, Reg and I would have Donner Partied Vasu and been fine. I hope you're not doing anything untoward with my sister."

Zoe stretched back and put her head back in Sunny's lap, "When have I ever done anything toward with your sister?"

Sunny batted at Zoe's arm, "What did you guys bring us?"

"Rhys and I," Vasu inserted himself into the conversation, "Are going to change and hit up the hot tub to smoke. Reg brought you guys--"

Regulus pushed Sunny's brothers apart holding a bottle out of a brown bag, "--scotch."

With their winter attire stored, the three guys split and Regulus joined the two women on the sofa, sliding in under Zoe's legs. Sunny picked up the third mug and held it and her own in his direction. Zoe held hers up between them.

Regulus dragged the cork out of the bottle of Glenmorangie 10 and topped off the three drinks. He tucked the bottle to the side of the sofa and took his mug from Sunny.

"So, what were you guys up to?" he inquired.

"Zoe had something she was avoiding telling me," Sunny drove the conversation back to where it had been interrupted.

"You haven't told her yet?"

"I was getting to it."

"Oh, so you're both in on it?"

Zoe and Regulus shared a look, then Zoe sat up, "I was offered a new assignment. That's why I think it would be a good idea for you to accept the position at the shipyard and the academy. It will keep you busy."

"What's the new assignment?" Sunny was suspicious of being kept out of the loop.

"USS Goodall," Zoe braced for Sunny's reaction.

Sunny didn't react.

She let it soak in.

The silence dragged on.

Zoe couldn't take it any longer, "I knew you were asking to be posted to a ship, and Regulus is already posted to a ship, and I thought I may have reached my potential here and wanted to expand my horizons. I didn't think it would be dramatically leaving you behind like it kind of is now. I haven't accepted the assignment yet. I can totally say no still--"

"--why would you say no?" Sunny cut in, "This is great for you. The Goodall is a great opportunity."

"So..." Zoe still seemed unsure, "'re okay with it?"

"I'm really happy for you, Zoe," Sunny reached out and hugged Zoe, "really."

Zoe breathed a deep sigh of relief.

"I told you not to be so dramatic," Regulus tried to lighten the mood.

"He did, he did tell me that. Are you going to be okay?"

"What, with you two out of my way and all of the fresh meat coming through the academy?"

Zoe and Regulus looked at each other and broke out laughing.

"What?" Sunny questioned, "You don't think I can still pull cadets?"

"You forget I was there when you were a cadet," Zoe laughed and bumped into Regulus's drink hand, spilling chocolate on him.

Regulus put his drink down, "We love you, but you can barely see beyond a schematic when it's in front of you. How long after knowing Zoe did you two hook up? Five years?"

"Yeah, yeah, that's fair. I love you guys, too."

Zoe lifted a hand and walked her fingers up Sunny's shoulder before booping her on the nose, "Oh yeah? Prove it."

Sunny moved toward Zoe like she was going to kiss her, then quickly lowered a hand to her side and started tickling her. Zoe started to convulse and tried to retreat, but Regulus caught her from the other side and started tickling her as well. Zoe flailed around, and eventually the three of them fell off of the sofa and onto the ground with a thump.

The three of them lay exhausted, piled on top of each other in a mixture of arms and legs, with chocolate spilled on all three of them.

Sunny took a deep breath, "We are a mess."

"You're a mess," Zoe stuck out her tongue at nobody in particular.

Regulus stood up and offered a hand to haul each of the ladies, "We should probably retire. I've heard Santa doesn't visit houses where people are still by the fire."

Sunny and Zoe each took an offered hand and Regulus hauled them to their feet. Once they were up, he surprised them by dropping down, grabbing them each by the waist, and hoisting them onto his shoulders. They playfully struck at his back as he took large careful steps towards the stairs.

"This doesn't seem safe!" Zoe squealed.

"I like to live dangerously," Regulus mocked, to which the two women on his shoulders groaned and as he walked toward the stairs.


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