APINI HIVES/EARTH MARSHAL'S OFFICE, A LITTLE OVER 1 MONTH SINCE BRIDGET AND STINGER MET

Stinger had been with her as she'd seen her son, Ian, off to MIT and the empty nest syndrome was harder for her to take than she'd realized. Ian had been everything to her over the last 18 years. Seeing how it affected her, Stinger suggested she stay with him and Kiza. No promises, no conditions. He simply asked if she wanted to stay.

It'd been just about a week since she arrived, and already it felt natural to be here. Kiza welcomed her warmly and treated her like a sister, instead of a rival for Stinger's attention. Bridget wondered how old Kiza really was, her actions suggested she too might be older than her looks suggest.

Humming to herself, Bridget is content in her tasks and happy to be able to help the man she loves in his day to day routine.

While Bridget cleans up after lunch, Stinger decides to walk the grounds checking on his apiary. He wants to make sure their prep for winter is going well before he heads out on another errand for Her Majesty Jupiter Jones. It's exciting to think that Bridget will accompany him this time.

October doesn't have many blooms with pollen for the hives and the sweet corn was harvested late August. Stinger always plants late blooming hearty flowers and vegetables to help any straggling colonies. Zinnias, oregano, carrots, mums, and goldenrod all pepper the yard and between the fields. He ensures the spiders are driven out - so the bees are safe and they can get the nutrients that help to fight mites and colony collapse.

...

When Stinger seems to be about half an hour late from his rounds, Bridget messages him and asks if he wants tea. He doesn't respond, so she checks with Kiza to see if he'd met her at the neighbor's to arrange for spring planting. Kiza's confused, he won't do that until mid winter and she hasn't seen nor heard from him.

Bridget tries Stinger's comm again. No luck.

Agitated, the bees are entering the house in droves and flying about her head frantically. She'd better go find him.

As she's donning her mucking boots to go hunt him down, a message comes through on the Marshal's FTL. She half trips with a boot partially on as she rushes to answer it.

'Earth Marshal. Ready to receive,' she replies.

'Aegis Cruiser Sigma 089 reporting.'

Tsing's ship? What could she need at this moment? It's nice to hear from Tsing and crew, but Bridget doesn't have time for a friendly chat.

'Captured ship leaving orbit after a weak distress signal was received. Captain Apini was being held against his will. Receiving medical treatment for his wounds. Captors have been arrested. Be ready for transport.'

Stinger was kidnapped?! What the hell is going on?

Quickly Bridget switches gears to throw on her marshal's jacket and boots to look a little more respectable. Then she contacts Kiza that her dad is found and to be on guard while manning the marshal's station. She's juggling her 'to go' bag while strapping on her belt holster and pinning on her badge as she dashes to catch the waiting shuttle.

MEDICAL BAY ON THE AEGIS CRUISER SIGMA 089

Tsing and the doctor are standing outside waiting for Bridget.

"Marshal Thornton, Captain Apini received some head trauma. He is stable and his physical wounds have been attended, but he appears to be disoriented." The doctor speaks quietly and tries to keep her calm.

"What do you mean?" Bridget's brows furrow and she backs up a step. The fact that they aren't simply letting her in the room is down right alarming.

Tsing takes her hand to ground her, "My friend. Take a deep breath, ok?"

She isn't able to do anything of the sort. "Just tell me, Mika."

"Stinger asked for the FTL to report the attempted kidnapping, to report in as the marshal." Tsing's expression is filled with concern.

The medic spells it out further, "We have reason to believe that the captain has been put through a partial memory wipe. We're prepping the scan now. But he's being rather uncooperative. You should know, there's no way to recover memory from a wipe."

Shoving her way into the room, Bridget holler's his name and runs to his side. She cups his face in her hands and checks him over. There's still a trace or two of bruising on his face, but it's fading.

"Git yer hands off me, you blasted imposter!" his words snap as sharply as his sudden tight grip on her wrists. He yanks her hands from contact with his face.

"Stinger, what's wrong? That hurts." She winces at the strength of his grip. The look in his eyes says he wouldn't think twice about breaking her arms.

"I don't know who you are wearing MY badge and that sloppy half uniform. But under the jurisdiction of Aegis code 9765-0965 section 2b, I am placing you under arrest for impersonation of an officer and section 5d for theft of MY badge," he growls squeezing a little harder.

Bridget tries not to flinch as she glares and thinks through her options. She could knee him to get free momentarily, but it would mean hitting her boyfriend in parts she's quite fond of. And with his incredible reflexes, if he's not completely incapacitated she'd not make it more than a step. She doesn't think she could make herself point a weapon at him. To add insult to injury, the pistol she carries is the one HE gave her. Seeing it, would only make him more aggressive. Panicking, she looks toward the door. Tsing and several security guards have already taken aim at Stinger.

"Stinger Apini, you will let the good marshal go NOW," Tsing issues the command.

"Mika you're in on this too?" His grip loosens slightly, but not enough for Bridget to wriggle out. "What kind of damn sick joke is this?"

"Sting, it's not a joke. We believe part of your memory was wiped. We've told you this twice now, but your selective hearing was kicking in. So, let the marshal go." Stinger does, but he's still mighty upset. She continues, "You accepted a high profile Captaincy about a month ago."

"What Captaincy? Who is this bloody usurper?" He points to Bridget. "I'd remember a face like that one. Damn young upstart acting all cozy with me." Seeing Tsing's steely glare, he lets out a breath and pinches the bridge of his nose. "Beeswax...you're serious."

Pale and shaking, Bridget swallows. But she stands her ground, at the same time she digs her fingernails into her palms to verify this is actually happening. She reminds herself that he's confused and needs understanding right now, so she'll try to grin and bear it.

When he gains his composure again, he dismissively waves at Bridget, "Go write your little report or something useful."

She doesn't budge.

"I told you, get out of here! Now you think you're high and mighty with a bit of authority and can get something from me?" Stinger shouts, the default for when a former commander feels ignored.

When Bridget storms out of the room, Tsing gives him another raised eyebrow that would make mere mortals wilt.

"What? You're looking like I was a real bastard again. I'm not gonna cave to that look this time." Stinger's petulance is really kicking in. He's confident that when all hell breaks loose he can still fight his way out.

"You deserve to be slapped up side the head and I think she was considering it." Tsing replies flatly in disgust, leaving him alone.

Perhaps a little more of the truth is needed so he can start to process the world again. She adds looking back at him from the doorframe, "Sting, until 10 seconds ago Marshal Bridget Thornton was the best thing that ever happened to you. You were the one that suggested she help Kiza with the post since you got the Captaincy with Her Majesty Jupiter Jones. Bridget and I are good friends and you won't ever treat her like that again.

As of this moment, you are under house arrest confined to this room, for assaulting an Aegis marshal. I'm pretty sure she won't press charges, but I will. If you know what's best for you, you'll submit to the cranial scan. If you consent, I'll reconsider the arrest. And before you go thinking she's too soft for the position, think on this. I saw her make an instant decision to shoot and kill someone she thought was a friend - right over your own shoulder. It saved an entitled's life."

The door slides shut behind Tsing and she gives the command for it to lock. But not before she hears the crash of glass shattering against the door. She wonders out loud, "Why do I insist on continuing this friendship, Old Man? I keep having to get your ass out of trouble."