I maintained the straight face with which I had greeted Janie until I had rounded two corners and several hundred feet of corridor. Then and only then did I collapse against the wall and begin laughing!
Bartlett had it bad and it showed! The last time I had seen a face like that was in the mirror the day after Mariana and I had gone pub crawling in Brisbane after the first Belt Mission! The stories of how we had stopped and switched ranks in every airlock had the whole unit rolling in the floor and totally blitzed! That night was when I knew was hooked. I wonder how long it’s going to take Bartlett to realize that He had chased Her till She had Him right were She wanted?
Just as I was getting my breath back, who walked up but Capt. Travis?
“Well Mr. Stuart are you having a seizure or did I miss the joke?”
“Sorry Capt., but have you seen Bartlett around Cantarubias lately?”
He stared at me quizzically and said “No, can not say that I have.”
I just laughed again, “Oh you should, it’s the worst case of hooked I have seen in a long time!”
Laughing, he asked “Bad?”
“Oh, first class Tuna on the hook! But, to change the subject I was looking for you when I chanced on the humor of the Day!”
He chocked down his grin and asked “And what could be of import to get that out of your mind?”
I grinned back, “I have to admit it’s time to eat some humble pie and say I need to unfreeze Ash. I know, my reasons to keep him down are still valid; but, my need of his skills overrides those constraints!”
He stared at me for a moment and said, “I think I need him also but, you first!”
Grinning I said, “I am overwhelmed. Bartlett presented me with more data than I can handle. I am an Engineer with a bunch of patents true! But, I do not have a true Research and Development mentality. Wading through googols after googols of data chasing patterns is not my forte. On the other hand, that is Ash’s forte. I need him!”
Travis grinned back and said, “I need him and his Plans & Training background to answer specifics about the UNWG’s development programs to come after us. So, we really have a common cause!”
I sighed, “Glad to hear that; just, let me break it to him my way! I need to keep control of the Hound Dog Capt.”
He gave me a strange look and said, “The name is Travis and if you are buying its Glen.”
I grinned and said, “And when we are on the ground at whatever Hanna’s place is gonna be called, it will be Travis. If I am buying it might even be Glen. But as long as you are the Captain of a Ship under Way and the Commander having High, Middle and Low Justice; you will be to LTC Stuart, Capt. Travis!”
He grinned, “So you gave me the winning bet?”
“Nope but, I will now. Always ask for a date or a place. We swapped the ranks as mission or humor required! They were cover stories. The real ranks are COL and COL Stuart. We just never forgot where we came from!”
I had never seen such a stunned face!
He gave a wry grimace and said, “I guess I do not have as much of your classified files as I thought. Wake up Ash up by all means. I assure you there are some stories I want to hear!”
I grinned, “Thank you, and I hope we get a chance to tell them!”