The Unfortunately Named Mel-Lan Story.
"…Scouts report no additional movement by the Tremavines, sir." Tracy glanced back down at her clipboard, turning it off when she saw that was the end of the messages. "Have you decided about the position on Nalmin, captain?" she asked.
Lanson sighed. "Not quite yet."
"I hope I don't need to remind you that there's only a week before they need to hear your answer, sir."
"You don't Tracy, thank you."
"Sir," another voice called up from below. "There's a Melvin Thresh holding for you on line six."
Lanson frowned. "I told him not to use official channels."
Tracy raised an elegant eyebrow. "Maybe if you returned his calls he wouldn't have to."
Lanson barely glanced at her. "I'll take it in my office," he said, making his way quickly down the halls and closing the door once he arrived. He flipped the switch on his desk to open the proper line. "Melvin?" he asked.
"Dammit, Lan," cursed the voice on the other end. "Why haven't you been returning my calls?"
"I've been busy," Lanson said, though he hadn't, not really. He just wasn't sure how to tell Melvin about the promotion that would take him to the other end of the universe.
"Like I'd have been calling this much if it wasn't important?" Mel snapped.
"I'm sorry," Lan said. "I just didn't know how to tell you-" a piercing wail from the other end of the line interrupted him. "Is that a baby crying?"
"Yes," Melvin nearly snarled, "yes it is."
"Why do you…? Who's baby is it?"
Instead of answering, Mel said, "I need you to come home."
"Why?" Lanson asked as the crying became louder. "Whose baby is that?"
"Ours," Mel snapped back.
There was a long moment of silence.
"You're not going to explain this over the phone, are you?"
"You need to come home," Mel repeated, slamming the phone down.
Lanson put down his own receiver in a daze. "Shit," he finally said. He pulled open the door to his office. "Tracy," Lan called. "How quickly can I make it home- back to Frensin, I mean."
She glanced at her datapad. "Two days," she said.
"…and we'll need urine samples, of course," the young and portly nurse said.
Lanson rolled his eyes, but accepted the tray that she held out.
"Why are there two cups?" Melvin asked as he accepted his own tray.
Lanson thought for a moment that it was obviously because there were two of them, but thankfully he didn't say it before he realized that they both had two cups.
The nurse nodded. "That one is for the semen sample."
"What?" Lan asked, his tray rattling as he almost dropped it.
The nurse looked at him. "It's only procedure. Everyone who leaves the planet must give a semen sample. It's even more important considering the kinds of things you may have been exposed to in the Daragon complex." Her tone said implied that everyone knew that, and Lan was an idiot for not knowing.
Exchanging a glance with Mel as they thought briefly of the men that wouldn't be leaving the planet, or a semen sample, Lan merely nodded before gesturing Mel toward the bathroom. Leaving was more important than arguing about bodily fluids.
The bathroom was a large room, covered in pale green tiles, and containing two of everything. It smelled of clean and sterile, the florescent lights' humming loud as it echoed off the walls.
Side by side at the urinals, Lan and Mel filled their first cups.
"It's weird," Mel said. "Three days ago I'd given up hope of ever leaving this planet, and now here we are."
Capping his cup carefully, Lan washed his hands. "I know," he said. "But enough of my men were left behind, I'm not sure I'll ever feel whole again."
Mel grinned without humor as he dried his hands. "Part of us will always be left here, I guess," he said.
Lan nodded, bringing a hand to cup Mel's chin. "We need to be content with what we still have," he said quietly. He brought his own lips to Mel's for a soft kiss. "I'll help you with your semen sample, if you help me with mine," he whispered when the kiss ended.
Mel grinned again, this time with a wicked undertone. "It's a deal," he said, one hand already sliding down Lan's abdomen.
"What the hell is this?" Lanson yelled, slamming open the door to Mel's apartment, grateful that he still had his own key. He'd been planning to return it, but like everything else it got put off until Lan could find the right time.
Melvin's head snapped up and he glared at Lan. "Shh!" he hissed. "I just got the baby to sleep."
"What the hell is this?" Lanson whisper-yelled, planting his arms on his hips and glaring at his lover.
"Remember when we were on Armin and they took semen samples before we could leave?" Mel asked. "Apparently they got mixed up and sent to the wrong lab."
"So?" Lan asked.
"So we've got a child now, and so help me God, you are not going to make me raise it on my own."
"What am I supposed to do about it?" Lanson snapped, though quietly.
"Help me raise the damn thing!"
"I didn't ask for a child!" Lan almost-yelled.
"Neither did I!" Mel yelled back. He winced almost immediately, and they both held their breath for an instant as they listened for the baby to wake up.
"So get rid of it," Lan hissed once the silence remained unbroken.
Mel gave him the most offended look Lan had ever seen. "That is my child," he hissed back. "Likely the only one I will ever have. I'm not going to simply 'get rid of it.'"
"What other choice do you have?" Lan asked. "You can't support yourself, let alone a child!"
Mel's eyes flashed in anger and Lanson had to remind himself that this was not the time for passionate argument-sex. Not with how loud they'd get, and a baby in the next room. "That's why you're going to help me!" Mel growled.
"And why-" Lan started.
"Because if you do not, I'll tell Space-Force, and then see if you ever get your promotion!" Mel interrupted.
"You would threaten me?" Lan growled.
Mel's eyes narrowed. "If that is what it takes to get you to admit to some responsibility in this, then yes."
Mel was right, though. Lan already had the promotion, but if word got out, he'd never move any higher. If the correct people learned, they'd probably use it to get him demoted in short order. "I can't believe that you would stoop that low, Mel," Lan said, disgust coloring his voice.
Mel stuck his nose in the air. "If it works, Lan," he said.
"Don't yell at me captain!" Doctor Thresh yelled. "I did not make the decision to travel deeper into this complex."
Lanson opened his mouth to yell back, but he was interrupted.
"Captain!" Huffman called as he ran around the corner, something clutched tightly in his arms.
Lan turned to frown at him.
"Where's Rochester?" Carlyle asked.
Huffman relaxed his arms so they could see the datapad, blood turning it a dark red.
"Who's blood is it?" Lanson demanded. "Answer me soldier!"
Huffman swallowed. "The monsters got him," he said, his voice haunted.
"What monsters?" Melvin asked.
Lanson walked forward, passing Huffman to peer down the hallway he'd emerged from.
There were no monsters. But Rochester's body was crumpled at the far end of the hall, at least one limb ripped free and lying outside the glittering pool of blood.
"What monsters?" Doctor Thresh asked again, stepping up beside Lanson to look down the hallway.
"They got him and they got the datapad, and they'll get us next!" Huffman said, his voice suddenly shrill.
Lanson and Melvin traded glances. "Pack everything," Lanson said, turning around. "We need to get moving." He snatched the datapad from Huffman, but the soldier had been right that it was dead, a few squiggles, a crackling hiss and the brief scent of burning all that Lanson received when he tried to turn it on.
"…And they will eat our flesh, and our nightmares will-"
"Huffman!" Lanson shouted, slamming soldier against the nearest wall. "Pull yourself together!"
Huffman's eyes still flicked about in an unsettled manner, but he nodded, and Lanson let him go.
"Don't worry, Huff," Rivinen said, lightly punching Huffman's shoulder. "Captain'll get us out, you'll see."
Lanson turned away, hoping he could live up to expectations as he led the group down the pale silver hallways. The halls became more and more destroyed as they neared the exit, until it looked as though a war had been fought inside the complex. Huffman giggled nervously at the bloodstains that hadn't bothered him on the way in.
They came at last to the main entrance.
It was a large open space, glass chandeliers hanging from the ceiling, trickling like waterfalls towards the ground. The front wall was nothing but glass and steel beams, now dark from the night that had fallen outside. Inside the space stretched up four floors, intersecting catwalks and open stairwells crisscrossing above the ground floor, made of opaque glass and shining metal.
It would have been something to see, sunlight glittering off every surface, soldiers and scientists and visitors alike passing along the walkways, intent on their own business.
It wasn't much now; a chandelier had fallen, its crystals scattered across the floor. Several of the walkways sagged dangerously; one or two had collapsed entirely, all of it gleaming duly in the flickering florescent light.
"Monsters, captain," Rivinen said, gesturing to the ground from where they had entered on the second level.
They were large, larger than a man, bodies deformed and bulbous, sickly pores oozing pus and blood, their stench drifting on the faint air currents across the floor.
Bits of clothing and uniform still clung to them.
"I think we know what happened to the Daragons," Carlyle said quietly, checking to make sure his gun was loaded and ready.
A groan came from behind them, a haunting grumble that still sounded uncomfortably like a human voice.
They all looked back down the hall they had emerged from, where a few of the monsters could be seen lumbering towards them, movements jerky and inhuman.
Rivinen aimed his gun at them, though he didn't shoot.
"See if we can get across," Lanson said, nodding at the catwalk in front of them. "Our best bet is getting back to the ship."
They clustered together, scientists in the middle, guns pointed outwards. Eyes flickered between the monsters behind and the monsters below.
"They're starting to climb," Huffman said, insanity tickling his voice.
"Keep moving," Lanson said, his own eyes tracking the monsters that were, indeed, climbing up the stairs ahead of them.
"They're cutting us off," Doctor Thresh said, that arrogance still in his voice, for all that he was right.
"Go left here," Lanson said as their catwalk intersected another.
"That's away-" Carlyle started.
"Yes," Lanson said, "but there are no monsters there." He was right. And a fallen catwalk prevented the monsters on the second level from simply cutting across the walkway along the wall.
"They're getting closer," Huffman said, his voice unsteady.
"If we can get back along the wall, we can probably hold them off and clear a way to the exit," Lanson said, trying to keep his voice steady to calm Huffman.
He shouldn't have bothered, because Huffman open-fired at the first monster that set its foot on their catwalk a moment later.
The noise seemed to send the monsters into a frenzy; gone was the lurching slow pace as they ran after Lanson's small team, howling as they piled onto the thin catwalk.
The suspended path couldn't hold all the weight, and Lanson could feel it swaying dangerously. "Run!" he shouted, and run they did, quickly leaving the scientists behind.
Lanson spared a brief thought of leaving them behind for good before he pushed it aside, grabbing the nearest soldier. "Cover for me!" he yelled over the noise of the monsters.
Running back, he shoved Teldem into the arms of the nearest soldier, grabbing Doctor Thresh's hand as the catwalk behind gave way, dumping the third scientist and the monsters to the ground below. The remaining half of the bridge was still swaying dangerously, and Lanson ran as fast as he could, shoving the doctor ahead of him. He leapt the last few feet, landing on top of him. And just in time, as the catwalk gave way, plummeting to the floor with a loud crash and several pained howls from the monsters below.
"All right, Doctor?" Lanson asked, looking at the man below him.
Doctor Thresh nodded. "Mel, please," he said. "The least I can do after you saved my life." Doc- Mel looked up at him, eyes deep but unreadable.
"Come on!" someone shouted. "You two can have a homoerotic moment later, we've got to get out of here!"
The baby had woken up. Mel had glared at Lan, though Mel had been the loud one, and gone to check up on it.
Lan sat down on the couch while he waited. He hadn't asked for this. But then, Mel hadn't either. And Mel couldn't support a child on his own, there was simply no way, not with the pay he was getting as a scientist on Frensin. Lan couldn't support himself and a child either, but together they'd have enough, if just barely, to live as a family.
"Can we sue them?" Lan asked when Mel reentered the room, carrying the baby.
Mel sighed as he bounced the baby a bit. It had stopped crying, but still didn't sound happy. "I've contacted a lawyer," he said, the fight gone from him, too. "But he didn't sound too hopeful. He says we might have signed the proper release forms when we were trying to leave the planet."
Lan led his head drop onto the back of the sofa. "I remember lots of forms about tests, but nothing at all about progeny," he said.
"Me, too," Mel said, "But I was too tired to read them all carefully. And the lawyer said something about a general release form, absolving Armin of any liability if anything should actually be wrong with us."
"A child isn't exactly something 'wrong,'" Lan pointed out.
Mel shook his head. "The way he explained it, it made sense," he said. He bounced the baby a bit more, and a timer went off in the kitchen. "Will you hold him while I go get his bottle ready?" Mel asked.
Lan nodded, and Mel set the baby in his arms. Lan looked down at his son. He had Mel's eyes. "Aren't baby's eyes supposed to be blue?" Mel asked, as their son looked back up at him, eyes green and unfocused.
"What?" Mel called from the kitchen, over the clattering of plastic as he got the bottle ready.
"He has your eyes!" Lan called back.
"Then how can you turn him away?" Mel asked, appearing in the doorway.
Lan looked up at him, at another set of green eyes, set deeper into a larger face. "I can't," he said.
Mel handed him the bottle, and showed him how to hold it so the baby could drink.
"I can't leave you," Lan said, meaning both of them. He sighed. "I'll refuse the promotion, pull strings until I can transfer out here," he added, forgetting he hadn't told Mel yet.
"Promotion?" Mel asked.
Lan looked up. Mel was angry again, really angry, and Lan felt himself go a little bit pale as he clutched their son tighter.
"What promotion?" Mel demanded.
Lan cleared his throat. "I was offered the position of commander on Nalmin. They need my answer by the end of the week."
"Nalmin?" Mel said, voice tight with anger. "That's clear the other end of the universe."
"What were you going to do about it?" Mel asked. "About us?"
Lan shrugged, looking back down at their son. "Break up with you," he said quietly, "move to Nalmin and marry the first woman I met who had your eyes."
"…But I'm not at all worried, since you'll be in charge of the mission, Captain Kermesh."
Lanson nodded at his superior. "Thank you, sir," he said. His outfit was standing at attention on the loading dock, waiting only for the scientists to arrive so they could leave.
The High Captain peered at Lan, his gaze intense. "This will look good to the Commander General," he said, knowing Lan's ambitions.
Lan smiled slightly. "Thank you, sir," he said again.
A clatter of footsteps drew their attention to the door, where the three scientists appeared, accompanied by their luggage and their equipment.
"Doctor Thresh," the High Captain nodded at the leader of the scientists.
Doctor Melvin Thresh, Lanson remembered from his briefing, was in charge of the science end of this mission, since final communications from Daragon had said something about an experiment gone wrong.
His briefing hadn't said anything about the Doctor's tousled brown hair, or his entrancing green eyes. Happiness would be looking into those eyes forever, waking up to them every morning, watching eyelids cover them in sleep.
"We are not late," Doctor Thresh said, his eyes narrowing at the High Captain in anger. Lan watched the fire dance in those eyes, wondering faintly what they would look like in other passions.
The High Captain held out his hands in surrender. "Of course not, Doctor Thresh," he said. "We merely gathered early."
The eyes narrowed a bit more, but the doctor seemed to accept that explanation and his gaze transferred instead to Lanson. "You are the captain?" he asked.
Lanson nodded. "I am," he said.
"Have your men carry our supplies onto the ship," Doctor Thresh said.
Lanson frowned. "You do not order me," he said.
The High Captain clapped him on the back. "I'll leave you to it, then," he said, whisking himself off the dock.
Neither of them noticed.
"Very well," Doctor Thresh said. "Would you please have your men carry our bags onto the ship, Captain Kermesh."
It still wasn't a request, but Lanson nodded at his men anyway. They needed to get underway. He could fight with the doctor later.
"You were going to break up with me," Melvin said.
Lanson nodded. "You love your job," he pointed out, trying to shift the weight of the baby onto a different part of his arm. "I couldn't take you away from that. You wouldn't have followed, even if I'd asked."
"How do you know that?" Mel demanded. "You didn't even bother to ask."
Lan shrugged as best he could while holding a baby. "It doesn't matter now," he said.
"Oh, I think it does," Melvin persisted. "You're all ready to leave your job for me and this child, but you don't think I'd be willing to leave mine for you?"
Lan set the baby aside carefully before standing up, needing his few extra inches of height for this. "You were the one who demanded I come back here and help you raise the child," he snapped. "How could I not think that you won't leave your job?"
"Well I should at least be allowed the option of leaving it!" Mel shouted. The baby whined a little in a pre-crying sort of way, but they both ignored it. "You're not the only one willing to make sacrifices!"
"Then why did you get angry when I mentioned the promotion?!" Lan yelled back.
"Because you were planning to leave me!" Mel snapped, turning away from him.
Lan reached out, but didn't touch. "I wouldn't have been happy," he said, quietly.
"Not even with a 'woman with my eyes'?" Mel said, crossing his arms.
Now Lan did touch his shoulder. "Only because she would remind me of you, Mel."
"Then why marry at all?"
"Higher officers are supposed to be married, raise a good family," Lan protested weakly.
"And what would you have done when you met the first soldier with green eyes?" Mel asked, turning back around at last.
"I would have been lost, Mel," Lan said quietly. "But he still wouldn't have been you."
Mel stepped closer, though not quite close enough to embrace. "You have a family here," he said.
Lan nodded. "But the promotion is still on Nalmin," he said.
Mel sighed, his focus fading into the distance. "Give me two months," he said at last.
"What?" Lan asked.
"Two months, that's all I need to finish my current project. Then I'll take a leave of absence from work, see what I can find on Nalmin. If it still seems like this is going to work."
Lan nodded slowly. They wouldn't begrudge him two months to move out there, not if he said it was because of his new family. He didn't know how they'd take the news, but higher officers almost always married, always had a family, and Lan would never be happy unless those eyes were around. "Alright," he said, hugging Mel close for a moment before they turned to attend to their son.
"Rivinen!" Lan shouted, reaching out a desperate hand to the solider, though his arm would have to be three times as long before he could pretend it made a difference.
Riv glanced over his shoulder at the closing blast doors. He tossed them the last of his trademark guilty grins, the effect only slightly spoiled by the blood trickling from the cut on his temple. "Bye captain!" he called, hefting his gun in his left hand as he brought a grenade to his mouth with his right. He pulled the pin and threw it at the approaching monsters, Lan's last view of his youngest solider backlit by fire as the young man aimed his gun down the passage and screamed as he shot at anything that moved.
Mel's hand on Lan's torn shirt pulled him back as the door slid shut on the scene, leaving two scientists, four soldiers and a wisp of smoke safely on the other side.
"Dammit, Riv," Lan shouted, kicking the door. An explosion sounded on the far side of the door, reverberating though the metal floor. Lan took a deep breath. "Let's get moving," he said, grabbing Mel's wrist because he was closest.
They traveled farther into the Daragon complex, their exit having been cut off long before Rivinen's sacrifice. Faint lights glowed along the ceiling, different colors visible at each intersection of hallways. Lan wished they knew what the colors meant. Surely one of them would lead to an exit. Though with their luck, it would be the one they had entered through, leading them right back to the monsters the Daragon's had turned into.
"What are we even looking for?" Carlyle asked. He was now the youngest of the bunch, and he'd always been the most talkative. Perversely he was also the sneakiest and quietest of them, but only when need be.
"A way out," Lan muttered, leading his team to the right. It hadn't always been true. They'd come to find out why communications had stopped, originally. They knew now that it was because the Daragons had all turned into monsters, though how, exactly, was still a mystery. Lan was unwilling to risk more men to learn the answer, though. If the Arminins wanted to know more, they could send their own damn soldiers. Lan just wanted to see the remainder of his party out alive.
They went up a flight of stairs, down a few more hallways. There were even more colored lights at the intersections now, and Lan hoped that meant they were getting somewhere. So long as the somewhere wasn't the middle of whatever had created those monsters.
Glancing down a hall to the left, Lan noticed that the walls turned into windows. They were deep within the complex, so he doubted they were lucky enough those windows led outside. Still, he was curious, and so cautiously led his small team down the hall.
"What is it?" Teldem asked. He was the other scientist on this mission, here as an intern to Melvin.
Mel had his nose smashed to the glass, blocking out the reflected light with his hand. "They're labs!" he said. "Maybe there's a computer in there we can use."
Lan frowned, debating the risks. The Daragon monsters had undoubtedly been created in a lab, but judging by the lack of destruction in this hallway, it was unlikely to be this one. And, with a little luck, though why they would have any now was beyond him, they would be able to find a schematic of the complex on one of those computers.
With that they'd be able to easily find another exit, something Lan had despaired of once Rochester's blood had ruined their datapad. It hadn't been Rochester's fault that he'd fallen to the first monster, but that device had been one of the worst casualties.
Lan nodded. "We'll go in," he said.
The doors were unlocked, and Lan hoped that didn't use up all of their luck as they huddled around a computer terminal. Frecker was their computer specialist, and he nervously tapped keys while the others watched over his shoulder.
Uninterested in the process, Lanson tapped Carlyle's shoulder and nodded at the door. The two of them stepped over, watching the hallway for movement. It seemed as though they had left the monsters behind, but it never hurt to be cautious.
A gasp from behind drew Lan's attention. "What is it?" he called.
"The details of an illegal experiment," Melvin called back. Lan could hear the faint clicking of plastic. "I'll bet that's what happened to the Daragons," Mel said. "Copy that."
There was tense silence once again.
It was interrupted by cursing. "The experiments are open," Frecker said, "but the map of this place is locked."
Lan cursed as well. "Can you break in?" he asked.
Frecker looked at him. "I don't know how long it'll take," he said. "Might be all night."
Which could easily be long enough for the monsters to find a way around the blast doors. Lan nodded. "There's another set of blast doors at that end of the hall," he said, gesturing the way they'd come. "Carlyle and Teldem, go and shut it. Melvin, come with me, and we'll see if there's another set on the far end. If we're stuck here, we'd best make it defensible."
The hallway was longer than Lanson liked, but it was straight, and there was another set of blast doors before it intersected with another hall. Entering the code to shut them, Lan watched Mel as they rumbled closed.
Mel watched him back. "We're never getting out, are we?" he asked.
Lan shook his head. "I don't know," he said.
"Oh," Mel said, his eyes dark in the faint florescent light. "Then-" he jumped across the hallway, flinging his arms around Lanson, smashing their lips together as though it was the last thing he would ever do.
Lan kissed back the same way.
So... I changed some stuff around at some point, and I rather like the order of everything at the moment, but I'm still worried that the two long flashbacks are TOO long. If you could have an opinion on the topic, and then if you could share said opinion with me (novel idea, I know), it'd be a big help. Even if you're just saying that you think it's fine.
Review no matter what you think,
Thanks in advance,