Trouser Travails - Chapter 5
"Love begins by taking care of the closest ones - the ones at home."
Early the next morning, the crew was bustling about the space station and doing the tasks that were needed to get the Arcadia ready for a visit to the Home World of Earth. Supplies needed to be laid in, repairs done to the outer hull plating which had gotten damaged during the mission where they had almost lost Harlock. The hull plating had been damaged by asteroids after the shielding system had unexpectedly shut down. Tochiro was still trying to figure out what had happened and was determined to have a system that would protect the Arcadia and its' inhabitants completely and would not fail.
The farm staff were unloading harvested crops to the stasis storage aboard the station for times of hardship for the peoples of Earth. Harlock remained convinced that another takeover was imminent, despite no visible evidence to that end, so they quite simply did as their Master and Commander requested of them. Perhaps, they thought, Harlock had learned something important that they were not yet privy to on his last mission. Harlock never tipped his hand prematurely and held onto information until you needed to know what he had decided to do. Harlock had been right many times in the past, so they had no reason to doubt him or his instincts.
Tochiro was bustling about, everywhere at once, directing the repairs for the hull plating, and the engine upgrades he had recently decided to begin work on. He wanted to begin the process of utilizing dark matter for both weapons and shielding, so he needed to begin to lay the groundwork for that transition. The deflector and shielding systems were also to be made new, based on the dark matter energy source he had tested and thought would be an advantage for them and their missions, but it was not without disadvantages and could be problematic if things were not completely harmonized.
Tadashi Daiba was on the bridge, coordinating the upgrades with Tochiro outside the ship and Yattaran and Maji in the Engine room. He knew that the new power choice was risky, and could go horribly awry if not carefully controlled and synchronized within the Arcadia, her engines, weapons and shielding programs. He was very soberly doing the tasks needed to ensure the safety of everyone. He was now a far different young man than the feckless youth he had once been. He had learned from Harlock some of the advantages of a cooler head and temper. Daiba was very proud this day, that Harlock had entrusted the command integration to him completely. After all, why else would Harlock have not been at his usual post this morning? Tadashi was determined to do his very best.
Kei Yuki was looking over the plots for the trip to Earth and the approach vectors least likely to be noticed by Earth Government. She plotted three different routes and four in-atmosphere hiding places for the Arcadia as they awaited Harlock to complete his visit with the Widow Schulte. More repair work and data downloading would be done while they waited for him in one of the several secret dry docks on Earth. The backup plans needed to have backup plans and she carefully laid in to the NavComp the alternate courses she had calculated. She was good at her job, but wondered idly how Harlock could do these course changes in his head without prior calculations. HE could do these changes on the fly, so to speak, while she needed to use computer based programs to do the same thing. She dutifully continued her tasks as one bad calculation could put them inside the planet instead of outside of it.
The ship was crawling with personnel, all doing the tasks at hand, but two were missing.
Mimee was strumming her harp in the garden aboard the space station. Harlock didn't need her just now, but she had to confess, she was curious as to why she had yet to see him this day. It was most odd - he was usually as visible as Tochiro during a refit, wanting to know all of the ins and outs of how the changes would impact his ability to lead in battle. He was either very busy on board, or he was not yet up. Very strange behavior for him - he was always in the thick of the ship's activities.
She got up and tucked her harp under her arm as she strode out of the garden to the ship's docking area. She checked with Tochiro, who hadn't seen Harlock. She went aboard, and no one there had seen him on the bridge either. Odd, she thought. She checked his quarters, the observation dome, the mess hall and his office. She even went to the gym area to see if he was practicing his katanas. No Harlock anywhere aboard the ship.
She went back off of the ship and walked over to his suite in the space station. She knocked gently on the door and received no answer, so after a few moments, she unlatched the door and peered inside. All she could see was a mass of red-tinged brown hair peeking out from under the blue sheets and blankets on the bed. The cat was now upside down at the bottom of the bed, between Harlock's legs, all four feet in the air, snoring softly. The bird was still on the perch by the desk with his head under his wing. She closed the door again gently. She softly glided over to a com and called Thea.
"Thea, I just checked in with the Captain and he is still fast asleep. This is so unlike him. Can you check on him, please?" Mimee asked quietly. She didn't want to sound too worried, but this was most unlike Harlock, no matter how wounded he was at that moment, he would always put on an overly brave front and do what he thought was needed.
Thea chuckled a moment on the other end of the Com. "That is because Doc Zero and I drugged him last night. He'll probably rest most of the day today. He'll be mad about it when he wakes up, but I would rather have him well and unhappy, than happy and walking around wounded and not healing. He needs rest. We just saw to it that he would rest!"
Mimee chuckled in turn. "Yes, he will definitely be upset, but you are right. How long do you think that he will sleep?"
"Probably a good twelve hours more. He's been running up to the edge of fatigue, and this sleep is the best thing for him to do. He doesn't need to be a part of today's refit. Tochiro can fill him in later, and it is probably best if most of the bugs are worked out on this refit before Harlock takes a look at them," Thea replied.
Mimee smiled. "I'll leave him alone, then. Let me know if he needs soothing later. He will likely need the harp when he awakens and after he chides the two of you for making him miss all of the excitement!"
Thea sighed, "Yes, that would be nice. I'll call you."
If Mimee had had a mouth, she would have been smiling. She went back to the garden and played her harp some more, thinking back on all of their adventures and this strange, quiet, wonderful but stubborn, and very complex man they had all grown to love and follow. How many of them had he rescued and how many of them owed their very lives to this man? She hummed as she strummed.
Harlock awakened, groggy and foggy some time later. Not quite the twelve hours Thea and Doc Zero had hoped for, but more hours than Harlock himself would have chosen to be comfortable with. He was hurting again and needed a boost in his pain medication. He also had to go to the bathroom rather badly - his bladder was complaining insistently. He stumbled into the bathroom and took care of his body's immediate needs, then glanced at himself blearily in the bathroom mirror as he held himself upright on the counter by the sink. His hair was tousled, his glass eye and patch were still on the nightstand and he looked like he had been out on a week-long bender, with his good eye bloodshot red.
He noted that his bandages had been refreshed and that both of his hips were a little sore. He grimaced; he had been given sleep meds again! He rubbed his sore hip on the right, then changed hands and rubbed the other on the left. Why Doc Zero and Thea believed that he needed to be drugged to rest properly was something he intended to discuss with them. Firmly discuss with them...
Yawning widely, he glanced over at the clock. His good eye shot open quite widely as he took in the hour, "1400,"he bellowed in disbelief. He stared at the clock but did not quite understand how it could be saying such a time. He was never later than 0500 getting up in the morning! Never! He prided himself on his internal clock, which had never let him down before.
Miuu padded softly on quiet cat feet in to the bathroom to peer up at his human who was swearing rather inventively in languages both Earthbound and alien. The cat hopped up onto the bathroom counter and rubbed against Harlock's hands which were firmly gripping the sink's edge. He said "Mrruppp" and rubbed Harlock some more in an obvious desire to be petted. Harlock absently rubbed the cats' ears and chin. Then stroked the cat down his marmalade striped back. The little cat then put his forefeet on Harlock's chest and bumped his chin with his head. "Mrrow", he said. Harlock gathered Miuu in his arms and absently stroked him as he walked back to his bedside. The cat was very happy with the attention and purred loudly. Harlock began to calm down with the soothing actions of petting the cat.
Harlock let the cat jump down to the bed and he then sat on the side rather wearily. He reached for the Com and winced as the chest wound pulled and small knives seared through his muscles. He picked up the Com and asked for Doc Zero. He hated taking the pain killers, but too much needed to be done and he would not do well without them, he knew. "Doc, I need a boost in the pain meds - can you bring me a dose?" Harlock asked reluctantly.
Zero smiled. He knew how much Harlock was not liking the need for the medications. "Of course, Captain. I'll be right over. Could you shower and then we will tend to your wounds after you have washed them?"
"Yes, Harlock out." Harlock cut the Com and walked wearily back to the bathroom. He took off his dressings and put them into the trash can. He then tied up the bag and put it down the refuse chute. He turned on the water which automatically came out at his preferred temperature. He stepped into the shower and let the water wash over him, soothing his muscles and cleansing his wounds for him. The multiple heads of the shower washed him quickly and he soaped up with the cleanser and allowed the pulsing shower to rinse him clean. He got out and wrapped himself in a large towel for his body and a smaller one for his hair.
He needed a haircut, he thought. He smiled ruefully, remembering the interesting haircut Widow Schulte had given him when he was recuperating in plain sight on Earth. In order to hide, she said, he needed to blend in, so she had cut his hair in the fashion of the Amish men. She had put a bowl on his head and had cut around it's edges. She had then trimmed up his beard a bit, and then shaved off his mustache. He had been totally unrecognizable! Grinning to himself over that memory, he went back out to wait for Doc Zero. Harlock went over to the bedside table, prepared to put his glass eye back in and put his patch on.
Doc Zero and Thea Mallory entered Harlock's suite to find him kneeling on the floor with his head, chest and arms under the bed and his toweled backside pointed upwards as he scrambled and struggled with something under the bed. They both looked at each other in surprise - what was Harlock doing?
"Give that back! You miserable excuse for a mouser! That is NOT your plaything!" Harlock was arguing with Miuu, it seemed. With that, Harlock let loose a string of invective, all aimed at the naughty cat under the bed. The cat was rumbling back in warning as he did not want to lose possession of whatever he had.
Zero and Thea entered the room, but forgot to close the door behind them as they were curious as to what Miuu had that Harlock wanted back. The next thing that they knew, a largish marble shot out from under the bed and toward the door with Miuu in hot pursuit of it. The cat deftly batted the big marble out the door and down the hall. Harlock, scrambled out from under the bed and set off in hot pursuit.
Thea and Zero stared at Harlock, then at each other as he sped by. Thea picked up the smaller towel from Harlock's hair as it had fallen as he scrambled after the cat. She hoped that the other towel was more firmly attached. They went to the doorway and peered out at the Captain's retreating form as he ran panting after the faster cat. Tori - bird set off flapping after them curious as to what the cat had gotten away with. They both started to grin, then figured they ought to go help him. Miuu and Tori both could be handfuls at times.
It was easy to track Harlock, they just followed the sounds of his cursing as he chased the cat. They eventually caught up with him, holding his left side, heaving huge breaths as he trembled from his exertions. He had the cat cornered in the kitchen pantry.
The cat was in the back corner, guarding his prize and had his ears back, showing his teeth and growling at Harlock. After all, he had fished his prize out of the icky water and he deserved to keep it! It was his turn; Harlock kept it most of the time, after all! Miuu only wanted to play with it some, too. It was only fair, he thought in his catly mind. He put the marble ball firmly under his belly and laid on top of it. There! That ought to be plain enough even for a human to understand.
Harlock was very frustrated, for if he rushed Miuu in this mood, he would have more than the thigh wound to worry about! He needed to find a way to neutralize the needle sharp claws and sharp teeth of his furry friend. He didn't have anything with him to trade Miuu for his eye, so he would have to take it back rather carefully.
Harlock unwound the towel from around himself and folded it in half. He leaned in closer and then tossed the towel on top of Miuu and then leapt over to pin and immobilize the cat within the towel. Miuu began to scream in anger as Harlock picked him up carefully. However, with his hands full of angry and possessive cat, he was not able to pick up his eye. So, he picked it up between his big toe and the second toe. He turned around and suddenly noticed that he had an audience.
Thea grinned at Harlock's discomfort in his current state of nakedness. He held the cat in the towel low enough to cover himself somewhat and then pushed the eye back over toward Thea and Doc Zero. "Pick up my eye and take it back for me, will you? I have to defuse a mad cat before I can come back."
Harlock waited until they had done as he asked and then he went to the kitchen cooler to find a peace offering for the angry, struggling and spitting cat. He dared not let the cat loose until the trade was done. He opened up the door with his foot and elbowed it open to look inside. "Look, Miuu, TURKEY!"
The angry cat stopped sputtering and struggling to get free from the towel. Turkey? Miuu licked his lips in anticipation. He considered the trade. It was a good one. He could play with the little ball another time, turkey was not to be taken lightly. He said, "Mrrrrp?" and started to purr so that Harlock would know it was alright to put him down.
Heaving a sigh of relief, Harlock put the cat down and swiftly got the plate of leftover turkey out of the cooler. He padded over to the closet to get a plate for both himself and Miuu. He was hungry, too! Harlock had missed both breakfast and lunch and his stomach reminded him of that fact. He put the plates on the side table. The cat had freed himself from the towel and hopped up next to Harlock on the table. Harlock retrieved his towel and wrapped himself back in it. He sat at the table and they both devoured a lot of turkey. The only sounds for the next few minutes were the sounds of contented chewing from both man and cat.
Harlock left the kitchen and went back to his suite. He felt a bit self-conscious walking around in a towel, and really hoped he wouldn't run into any other crew before he made it back to his rooms. He breathed a sigh of relief as he closed the door behind him.
Turning around, he saw that Doc Zero and Thea had straightened up things a bit and were waiting with his bandages. He held out his hands in a mute plea. Thea motioned him to the bathroom for another shower. She handed him a new towel and he grinned his usual half-smile.
Minutes later, he was freshly washed, medicated, bandaged and dressed comfortably. They motioned him to the couch and watched as he laid down on it. Thea covered him wordlessly with an afghan, left a book on the table and a glass of wine. "I'll need to check on things," Harlock said, hopefully.
"Not now," both medical people replied firmly.
"You need rest," Thea stated.
"Your wounds need time to heal," Zero replied, "all that chasing the cat and your wounds won't close up properly if you don't rest."
"Besides, don't you think that if Tochiro really needed you to know something that he wouldn't come and tell you about it himself?" Thea asked.
"We'll have someone bring up your dinner for you," Zero said. "Rest today, Captain. Tomorrow is soon enough for you to be into the thick of things."
They turned to leave as Harlock did not reply, but did not move to get off of the couch, either. "Thank you," Harlock said; suddenly he was very weary, "everyone but me seems to know what my limits are in terms of getting whole again." His tone was a bit rueful.
"Bear that in mind Captain, the next time you rush headlong into a situation that could kill you. We need you alive and leading us where your heart bids you to go and what it tells you to do." Thea stated quietly.
Zero nodded, smiled and added, "Without you, we are nothing more than a bunch of disaffected, thrown away people that no one else wants. You give us purpose and while you lead by example, we would all be happier if that example was a bit more safely done."
Harlock suddenly realized that they were speaking what the entire crew was thinking. He would have to be less devil-may-care. He would consider what was said. They were scolding him; gently, but scolding him all the same. He'd discuss their methods of controlling him later.
They both left and closed the door behind them. Harlock smiled. He yawned again and snuggled deeper down under the afghan. He would have to find a small ball for Miuu tomorrow, otherwise the cat would try to steal his eye again. Full of turkey, he drifted off to sleep, and for some reason, he dreamed of home and chocolate chip cookies.
Miss Masu made her way into the kitchen to work on the evening meal. She was thinking of Turkey Tetrazzini for dinner with a nice green salad, tomatoes and cucumbers. That would use up the left-over turkey and would still be different from last night's meal.
She then looked in the cooler and discovered that somehow the turkey she had set aside had been raided. She ground her teeth as she noticed the two dirty plates set in the sink. She sighed. Being the Arcadia's cook was a thankless job as everyone thought that the cooler was put there just for them. She got her knives out and started to sharpen them considering her options.
Quiche, she thought. I could do turkey quiches with the salads. She called over to the farm to request eggs, milk, mushrooms, red peppers and broccoli. That would expand the amount of food she had to work with.
Masu turned on the ovens and began to mix the pie crusts; then rolled them into the round shapes she needed for the 150 pie pans. She would figure out who the turkey thieves were later, and they might feel the wrath of her knives!
Doc Zero later came in to tell her that Harlock would be taking his evening meal up in his suite. As he was speaking to her and telling her the brief version of the purloined eye, he let slip that it was Harlock himself who had raided the turkey, to appease Miuu, who had stolen his eye. She demanded the entire first witness tale, laughing over the antics of both Captain and Ship's Cat.
Miss Masu discovered that she was no longer upset over the pilfered turkey. She chuckled. That cat! He drove a hard bargain! But, at least Harlock had eaten, too. Too often, she thought to herself, he didn't eat enough to keep him going. She snickered. Part of her wished she could have seen him corner the cat with his towel. That must have been quite a sight! She would have to pump Thea for information, later. Grinning, she continued her meal preparation and decided at the last minute to add chocolate chip cookies to the menu. The Captain had a weakness for them, and he could use the calories, she thought.
Later, she got out the good dishes and special tray she kept for the Captain's solitary meals and had one of the men go and cut a red rose for the tray's bud vase. The rose was there to honor Harlock's dead wife, Maya. She doubted that he would ever be fully recovered from Maya's death, as he tended to hang onto the memory of dear souls, whose cost he counted as his own.
As she placed the rose in the vase, she considered all that she knew of Harlock. For in Masu's heart, the rose honored the man who had saved her, not just his wife Maya. She hoped that someday he would allow his heart to accept another lady. Until then, they would have to keep him (mostly) in line. She shook her head. They all had their work cut out for them!