Love in Space (R)

Commissioner Vera Rodus of the Federation Diplomatic Corps sat in the VIP Quarters onboard the USS RAMSEY staring out the porthole watching the stars warp by. She was returning to Earth after an exhausting six month tour in the Dacour Quadrant that included mediating a dispute at the Araway Embassy, representing the Federation at the wedding of the Frankien Ambassador's daughter, and a good will visit to the Mlong Outpost.

Getting back to Earth had proved to be almost as arduous as her mission. She missed her rendezvous flight when she left the Mlong Outpost and ended up hitching a ride on a freighter to Deep Space Twelve where she had to wait nearly two weeks until the RAMSEY picked her up and although she was behind schedule she was grateful for the comfort and luxury of the starship and she looked forward to her return to Earth.

The intercom beeped in her state room and she frowned knowing it couldn't be a good sign since they were at least a week away from Earth.

"Commissioner Rodus, the Captain would like to see you in his ready room, please," one of the Bridge Officers informed her.

She was fairly junior in the Diplomatic Crops but Vera had been around long enough to know that members of the corps were often political pawns and second rate personnel in comparison to the mighty and important Starfleet personnel and she sensed that the Captain had some bad news for her. She sighed but put on her game face as she left her quarters and headed for the Bridge. The Second Officer greeted her as she stepped off the turbo lift and he escorted her to the Ready Room.

Captain Craigen, who had graciously greeted her when she reported onboard, stood from his desk and welcomed her with a warm smile.

"Commissioner Rodus, thanks for stopping by," he said, gesturing for her to take a seat. "Would you care for something to drink?"

"I'm fine, Captain, thank you," she said pleasantly.

The Captain was a well groomed and well fit Senior Officer who wore the uniform well. He was also adept at playing the political game and Vera knew he hadn't summoned her to his Ready Room for a social visit.

"I'm afraid I've got some bad news for you," The Captain said as he returned to his chair behind the desk.

"Yes, Sir."

"Looks like we're being diverted to the Welkton Sector," Captain Craigen informed her. "There's been a flair up between the councils and the Federation wants a show of force in the area. You're welcome to ride along but we probably won't be back this way for a few months."

"I understand, Sir," Vera replied, being the good team player she was.

The Captain leaned over and punched a few keys on his desktop computer.
"There is a transport ship passing by within our range," The Captain told her. "You can catch a ride with him if you'd rather. It's a lot smaller and slower and it lacks the comfort of the RAMSEY but it would get you back to Earth in about three weeks."

"Those transports aren't even Federation ships are they?" Vera asked with concern.

"They're contractors," The Captain replied. "The pilots are required to be Federation qualified."

Vera considered her options for a moment. "Well, Captain, I'm sure the RAMSEY Crew doesn't want to have to nurse maid a member of the diplomatic corps while heading into harm's way," she said. "I guess I'll take my leave."

"Very well," The Commanding Officer replied neutrally. He punched a few more keys. "The WILLOW will be within transporter range in an hour. You can report to Transporter Room Four."

"Yes, Sir," Vera replied, standing and shaking the Captain's hand. "I appreciate your hospitality and I thank you for getting me this far."

"Good luck and safe travels," The Captain replied.

Vera left the Ready Room and the bridge and returned to her quarters to pack. She was annoyed and disappointed but in this line of work you had to roll with the punches and she wasn't about to whine to the Captain of a starship about her insignificant trials and tribulations.

Commissioner Rodus reported to Transporter Room Four and took her place on the transporter pad. The Transporter chief punched in the coordinates and when he got the all set from the WILLOW, he signaled the Commissioner to standby and then he energized and a moment later Vera found herself standing on the small transporter pad on board the Transport Vessel WILLOW.

"Transport successfully completed," she heard the WILLOW Pilot acknowledge and when her vision cleared from the transport beam she saw a tall bearded man in a silver jump suit standing a few feet from the pad.

"Confirmed, WILLOW." the RAMSEY Transportation Chief replied through the communication speaker. "RAMSEY out."

"Thanks for having me," Vera replied as she stepped off the pad.

"As if I had a choice," the pilot grumbled as he left the small transporter room.

Vera followed him down the thin dim low passageway. "Well, I appreciate it just the same."

He stopped and turned to her. "You're on the WILLOW, a transport vessel. I just dropped off a crew on the TransAlpha Space Station. We're the only ones on board now. I'm Murdock."

"Commissioner Vera Rodus of the Federation Diplomatic Corps," she replied proudly.

"Great," he mumbled, rolling his eyes. "I hope you're not going to try to convert me."

She frowned, knowing she had just been insulted. Murdock was tall with sandy-brown hair and gray eyes.

"Follow me," he sighed and she allowed him to lead her through the ship giving her a quick tour on the way.

There was a large cargo area (empty) and several crew quarters.

"Since it's just you and me I'll secure these lower decks," Murdock said as they climbed a ladder to the next level. "Everything you'll need is here on this level," he said. "The galley is right there. You can have Quarters B. I'm in Quarters A."

He led her up a short ramp that emptied into the ship's cockpit and she saw the deep space out the forward screen in front of them. There was the master pilot's chair in front of the navigational console and a few other chairs scattered about the relatively small cockpit although there was room to walk around the various consoles and panels.

"Let me fly the ship," Murdock requested. "You're free to come and go as you wish. There's a small gym on the other side of the galley and an entertainment center in 2B. You should be able to keep yourself occupied during the trip. Baring any problems or diversions to pick up other wayward souls, we should be back on Earth in about three weeks."

"I understand," she said. "I guess I'll go check out my quarters and freshen up."

"Fine," Murdock replied, collapsing into the pilot's seat.

Vera left the cockpit, walked down the ramp and onto the second deck and let herself into her cabin which was surprisingly large for the size of the ship with a couch, a table, a large bed, a private holo-viewer, a communication console and computer, and a small kitchenette. The far wall was glass that gave her a wonderful view of space.

She dropped her bag on the bed and went into the lavatory to use the head and straighten up her hair in the mirror until she heard the door chime.

"Open," she said as she came out off the lavatory.

The door slid open to reveal a bored looking Murdock.

"Everything okay?" he asked, not really sounding interested.

For some strange reason, Vera's heart began to race at the sight of him.

"Yes, fine," she replied, always the diplomat.

"The engines are fairly loud but if you turn up the music it shouldn't bother you too much," Murdock replied. "Please don't leave this particular deck without requesting permission. The engineering section is dangerous and I don't want you nosing around down there."

"I have no interest in Engineering," she assured him.

"It's pretty boring around here," Murdock acknowledged. "Unless we run into space abnormalities or a meteorite storm or space pirates or some such nonsense you'll think you're on a cruise ship."

"Only there's no dancing," she joked but he didn't seem amused.

"Anyway, if I'm not in the cockpit, I'm usually in my quarters," he said. "I'd rather you not hang out in the cockpit if I'm not there. It's on autopilot and there's an alarm system if there's any problems so don't panic if you hear it."

"Sure, that's not a problem," Vera replied, nodding her head. "I'll stay out of your way."

"Okay."

Murdock left her cabin and she stared at him long after the door closed. Three weeks alone in space with that guy? She wasn't used to being alone with anybody but there was something mysteriously grumpy yet intriguing about Murdock. Usually she was a member of a diplomatic team that worked in groups and when she thought about it this was the first time in her career that she found herself alone with a man on a ship in space. It made her feel awkward and strangely insecure.

Two days went by and Vera barely left her cabin. She got the impression that Murdock was a loner who liked his own space. Why else would he be piloting a ship alone? She ventured into the galley a few times and checked out the entertainment center but mostly she read in her room or used the computer for surfing. She also worked on her mission reports hoping for a better assignment after her recent successes.

On the third day of the trip, Vera was sitting at one of the galley tables sipping coffee and reading on her mini-computer when Murdock entered the room and ordered waffles from the automated cook.

"Hello," Vera said with a polite smile.

Murdock nodded and she was glad when he sat at the table with her instead of going to one of the empty ones.

"Except for the murmur of the engines, it's very quiet here," she observed.

"Yeah," Murdock agreed.

"I don't know if I could do this all the time," she said. "Don't you go space crazy?"

"I like the solitude, actually," Murdock replied.

"How long you been doing this?" She wondered.

"Five years," he replied. "Most Transport Pilots are washed up Federation guys."

"Is that what you are?" She asked cautiously.

"Yeah, I got court martialed for disobeying a direct order," he sighed. "One minute I'm on the fast track for command the next minute I'm shuttling supplies and people all over the quadrant."

"I'm sorry," she replied.

"Don't worry about it," he said. "I got what I deserved."

He finished his breakfast and left the galley.

Later, Vera walked into the cockpit. Murdock was seated in the pilot's chair reading a book.

"You don't use the computer to read?" She asked.

He held up a tattered old paperback. "I like the old way better. The smell of the paper."

She took a seat in one of the nearby chairs. "Why did you disobey a direct order?" She asked.

"Because I thought the old man was wrong and he was going to get some more people killed," he said.

"What happened?" She asked.

"I was assigned to the light cruiser DAWKINS during the Xig war," he said.

"The DAWKINS?" Vera asked, her face going white.

Murdock nodded but didn't pick up on her reaction. "There was engine trouble followed by a plasma leak."

"Over two dozen crew members died," Vera revealed.

"Oh, you know the case?" Murdock asked, glancing at her in surprise.

"Yeah, I heard about it," she answered quietly.

"We needed to shut down the plasma leak before everybody on board got poisoned or the ship blew up," Murdock said. "The Engineering Officer was dead. The First Officer was dead. I was the junior helmsman but I told the old man we needed to jettison the core."

"Why didn't he?"

"We were in Xig territory. He was afraid without warp drive we would be captured or destroyed by the Xigs. I argued that we'd still have impulse power and would have a chance but if we kept losing the plasma nothing good could happen. He sent those guys down there to try to stop the leak. It was a suicide mission even if they succeeded."

"And they didn't stop the leak," Vera said.

"We were at critical. The core was going to be compromised. Two Xig war birds appeared on the scope and the old man tried to make a run for it. We were crapping plasma. All the Xig had to do was shoot a torpedo at our trail and we would have been incinerated but the old man thought we could outrun them before the core breeched."

"So you disregarded his orders and jettisoned the core," Vera realized.

"I was the next senior guy left even though I was only a Lieutenant. There were about fifty crew members still alive and I knew the only chance we had was to shoot the core. So I did it over the old man's direct order not to and almost as soon as it cleared the ship it exploded sending us in an uncontrolled spin but the shields held and we weren't fried by the explosion."

"And you weren't captured either," Vera recalled.

"We lucked out," Murdock replied with a shrug. The Starship BOUNTY came out of warp and chased away the two war birds. The BOUNTY had to tow us back and the old man had me arrested for violation of the Federation Code of Conduct."

"You were found guilty?"

"A junior Lieutenant with five years of service going up against a twenty five year Federation veteran with six ship commands under his collar? What do you think?"

"Didn't he retire after that?"

"I'm pretty sure he was told to put his papers in," Murdock replied. "I was made the scapegoat to save face but everybody knew the old man was responsible for most of the deaths and that the ship would have exploded had I not jettisoned the core. But I'm the one who disobeyed the order and so I was the one who got busted."

"I'm sorry for all that," Vera sighed.

"And here I am," Murdock remarked. "Transporting a Commissioner in the Diplomatic Corps back to Earth."

"I'm sure you feel like you're scraping the bottom of the barrel," Vera remarked as she left the cockpit.

Murdock watched her leave with a bemused look on his face.

The Commissioner didn't come out of her cabin for the rest of the day and Murdock assumed she was like most members of the diplomatic corps – prissy, entitled, detached and clueless. He usually ignored his passengers anyways but in this case he had to admit that there was something different about Rodus that he liked. She was independent and attractive with a streak of confidence and awareness that caught his attention.

It was after midnight and Murdock was seated in his pilot's chair reading his book and monitoring the communication channels when The Commissioner entered the cockpit.

"You're still up?" She asked.

"Did I say something to offend you earlier?" Murdock asked, raising his eyes above the top of the paperback.

"No," she replied, taking a seat in one of the chairs.

"You seem to be keeping a low profile," he observed. "I hope I don't scare you. I know I come across as a moody bastard but that's only because I am!"

"I know you'd rather being doing anything else than this," Vera replied, staring out into space.

"I still get to pilot a ship," Murdock replied. "I guess I can't complain."

"You'd probably be on a star ship somewhere now if you hadn't been discharged from the Federation."

"What's done is done," Murdock told her. "Can't look back."

"You don't seem as bitter as I would have expected," Vera remarked, throwing him a look.

"You're the Diplomat, Rodus," Murdock replied. "Aren't you impressed?"

She smiled. "Maybe you'd make a better diplomat than me," she sad sadly.

Murdock put the book down and studied her for a moment. "Things not going well?"

She shrugged. "Sometimes I wonder what in the hell I'm doing out here," she admitted.

"How many years you got under your belt?"

"Six in the deep space program," she replied.

"Why'd you take that duty?"

She smiled sadly. "Broken love affair," she revealed.

"Ah," Murdock replied, shaking his head in understanding. "That's what most of us are doing out here."

"You left a lady behind?" She asked.

"The WILLOW is my lady now," Murdock replied with a smirk.

"You don't like what I do, do you?" Vera remarked.

"I really don't care what you do," Murdock replied. "Doesn't affect me until some starship captain is telling me to give a lady a lift. Politics and diplomacy are above my pay grade. I just pilot a transport ship."

"I enjoy the challenge," Vera revealed. "I like meeting different species and learning the various cultures. I like being a peacemaker and trying to make a difference in the larger Federation picture. Sometimes I just wonder if any of it really matters, that's all."

"I'm sure it does," Murdock replied. "Otherwise, why do it?"

"It's a lonely life," Vera sighed. "There are always protocols and customs and procedures and the fake sincerity and the polite way of doing business. Sometimes I wonder if I've forgotten who I am."

"Well, who are you?" Murdock asked.

Vera Marie Rodus, twenty-nine years old, Commissioner Second Class, United Federation of Planets Diplomatic Corps."
"No, who are you?" Murdock asked again.

"I was born on Earth. My father was career Federation. My mother, sister and I followed him around the galaxy when we could. I grew up on space stations and space ships and distant planets. I returned to Earth when I was eighteen to study political science and diplomacy at the Space Academy. I fell in love with a cadet who broke my heart and chose his career over me."

"So you joined the deep space diplomatic corps in hopes of finding him again someday," Murdock replied.

"Well, there is a certain romance to that, don't you think?" She smiled.

"Not if you never find him," Murdock told her. "Or, worse, he's not looking."

"Last I heard he was a Lieutenant Commander on a cruiser in the Coda quadrant."

"He might as well be in the delta quadrant a million light years away for all the good it's going to do you," Murdock said cynically.

She seemed offended and hurt by the comment.

"If you're still waiting for this guy you're going to be waiting for a long time," Murdock clarified.

She stood and gave him a curt stare. "Goodnight, Murdock," she said as she left the cockpit in a huff.

Vera decided she didn't like Murdock and she tried to avoid him during the next few days but that was hard to do unless she was going to spend the entire trip in her cabin. She found herself going stir crazy in very short time. As a diplomat, she was naturally a people person and she enjoyed interacting and conversing with folks and since Murdock was the only living person on the ship she didn't have much of a choice but to talk to him even if she didn't like what he had to say when it came to her love life.

He left her alone unless she had something to say and he was almost always in the cockpit monitoring the travel lanes and listening in on various communications. She often heard him chatting with passing ships and he told her of the few times he got to play hero rescuer when a ship was in trouble or someone needed emergency medical transportation from some remote outpost somewhere. He also told her the story of the time he smuggled a Katyalian princess through the Bravo sector when most assumed she was on a federation starship somewhere and the time he was chased by Tasmasian pirates through the Clorian beltway.

"This job is ninety eight percent mundane boredom with the occasional moment of excitement, action, crisis, and thrill," he said.

"Right now it's mundane boredom, right?" Vera sighed, knowing she was finding herself boring too.

"You don't strike me as a very happy person, Rodus," Murdock remarked.

Again, she was offended by his to the point observations.

"And you don't strike me as a very nice person," she protested as she leapt from her seat and huffily left the cockpit.

Vera spent the rest of the day sulking in her cabin, upset mostly because she knew Murdock was right. She wasn't a very happy person. She spent her childhood bouncing all over the universe, the only man she ever loved dumped her for the love of the stars, she found herself working a lonely career living a lonely life bouncing through the stars just like she had as a child. She found it ironic that she chose a career path that took her to the very places she loathed as a child.

And now she was stuck on a transport ship with a jerk of a pilot who seemed to have the ability to push her buttons every time he opened his mouth. Yet she found herself continually returning to the cockpit to talk to him because there really wasn't anything else for her to do on this damn ship.

Once again it was after midnight when she stumbled out of her cabin after another sulking round and she found Murdock in the cockpit shooting the breeze with some third shift watch stander on a passing cruiser.

"What's that, communication sex?" Vera asked once Murdock ended the conversation with a giggling female voice.

He smiled. "It's lonely in space, Rodus. Haven't you noticed?"

She ignored him and glanced out the viewer at the bright stars. "It really is beautiful out here though, isn't it?"

"That's why I do it," Murdock agreed. "Have you ever seen a meteorite shower? Or a blazing comet? Or the Frasian lights? A supernova?"

She smiled when she saw his face light up.

"It's worth six months of boredom just to be able to see one of those moments," Murdock told her.

"I never looked at it like that," Vera admitted.

"Maybe you've been looking at all this the wrong way, Rodus," Murdock remarked. "You should be out here for yourself, not some absent guy or the diplomatic mission."

She sat back in her seat and smiled. "Maybe," she realized.

Suddenly she wanted to cry. How had her life become so screwed up? How had she become this lonely?

"When's the last time you got laid, Rodus?" Murdock asked bluntly.

"That's not the sort of question you should be asking a Commissioner in the Federation of Planets Diplomatic Corps," she said, trying not to sound offended.

"You just strike me as very…frustrated," Murdock replied.

"Is this what you do?" She asked critically. "Try to seduce your lonely female passengers?"

"Have I tried to seduce you?" Murdock asked innocently.

Actually, no, she had to admit, although a part of her wished he had.

"Have you ever done it in space?" he asked.

"I'm not discussing my sex life with you, Murdock," she said with a frown.

"Maybe you should try it sometime," he advised. "Doing it in space, I mean."

"What difference does that make?" she asked, although she knew she shouldn't

"Turning off the gravity," he said with a smirk. "Doing it floating. You've never tried that?"

"No," she confessed and a part of her had to admit she found the idea interesting.

"It's very freeing," Murdock told her.

The ship's communicator jumped to life.

"This is the SS BIGELOW, anybody out there?" a male voice called.

Murdock leaned over and opened the channel. "This is the Space Transport Vessel WILLOW. How can I help you?" He asked.

"We're heading for the Desmen sector, WILLOW. Anything up out that way?"

"Not that I've heard," Murdock replied.

"Very well. Where you headed?"

"Earth," Murdock said. "Bringing home a hard working lady for some much deserved R and R." He glanced at Vera and smiled.

"Enjoy! BIGELOW out!"

Murdock closed the channel and glanced at Vera. "You are taking some time off, right?"

She shrugged. "I'll see my mom for a few days," she said. "But I'm due on Kadaserman early next month for the unification negotiations."

"Boy, it never ends for you, does it?" Murdock commented.

"Are you a spy?" Vera asked.

"Why would you ask that, Rodus?" He asked with a raised eyebrow.

"Oh, all this late night communication chatter. You must hear a lot of stuff unofficially and off the record," she said.

"Sure," he replied. "And occasionally I pass along something if I think it's relevant. But most of it is just idle chatter and meaningless flirting although I do have to admit its pretty easy picking up the dirt when you shoot the shit with low level bored watch standers."

"So, are you a spy?" She asked. "A federation intelligence agent using this ship as a front?"

"I wish it was that glamorous and cloak and dagger, Rodus," Murdock sighed. "But I really am just a washed out federation officer piloting a transport ship doing what I can to help out the cause."

"Oh."

"You sound disappointed," he remarked, giving her a look. "You think I'm wasting my life?"

"No," she said honestly. "I just wish you were doing something more fulfilling."

"I really don't mind this, Rodus," he said. "Hell, I never would have met you, right?" He grinned.

She smiled. "Yeah, I bet this has been the highlight of your career," she said sarcastically.

"You're okay," he replied. "For a diplomat."

"Why don't you like diplomats?" She asked with interest.

"My first assignment was onboard the light cruiser FAIRFAX," he said. "I was the junior guy on the ship and I got stuck escorting a delegation of you guys around the ship for three weeks and representing the ship at the social gatherings. Then I had to sit at the table during the Quabbo talks listening to the inane negotiations and back and forth. Our diplomats ended up screwing the natives out of a large piece of real estate just to placate the Ambassador and it struck me that you guys were nothing more than two faced soulless politicians playing the game."

"There is some truth to that," Vera agreed. "There is compromise and sometimes we make unethical and immoral choices for the greater good."
"Who's greater good?" Murdock wondered.

"It all depends on who side you're on," Vera admitted.

"I'm a rules and regulations guy," Murdock replied. "That's why I don't question my court martial. I broke the rules. I disobeyed my commanding officer. I was wrong."

"Even though he was wrong?" Vera asked. "Even though you saved the ship and the crew?"

"How'd you know about that incident anyway?" Murdock asked with interest. "It wasn't that big of a story."

"One of my first assignments was to work with Ambassador Sta to negotiate a peace when the Xigs were ready to stand down," Vera revealed. "We had to review all the cases of Federation involvement and incidents. "The BOUNTY had fired on those war birds so it was an issue."

Murdock glanced at her and saw that she was staring out the viewer deep in thought.

"There must be more to it than that," he remarked. "What's bugging you about it?"

She turned and stared at him. "My father was Commanding Officer of the DAWKINS," she said quietly.

"Your father is Captain John Pepchuk?" Murdock asked with disbelief.

"I took my mother's maiden name after they divorced," Vera revealed. "I thought it would avoid confusion and conflict in my diplomatic career."

"I see."

Vera glanced at Murdock and she could see that he was visibly upset. "I'm sorry," she offered weakly.

"There are approximately 100 billion to 1 trillion galaxies in the Universe which means 10 to the 22nd and 10 to the 24th stars and who knows how many sextillions of people and here I am giving a lift to the daughter of the guy who cost me my career," Murdock remarked, staring at her. "What are the chances?"

"He was wrong, you know," Vera sighed.

"I know that, Rodus," Murdock replied. "It doesn't matter."

"It matters to me," Vera said strongly. She stood and began to pace. "I can't tell you how much I resented him for dragging us all over the galaxy but at least I had the solace of knowing that he was a Starfleet Officer who advanced to command and had a good career."

"Right," Murdock replied.

"You don't have to tell me my father was an average officer at best, Murdock," Vera said acidly. "How do you think it feels working and serving with some of the greatest officers in the fleet, the most successful diplomats and ambassadors around, only to discover that your own father was a sub-par performer?"

"You are not your father, Rodus," Murdock told her.

"Yeah, but you must really hate me anyway."

"I don't even hate him," He revealed.

"Yeah, well I do," she said angrily. "I'm embarrassed to know that he was passed along and given command mostly because he was a part of the crony system doing just enough to make it but not standing out in any particular way, masking his weaknesses until he was promoted into positions he wasn't qualified to be in and ended up killing people and ruining careers."

She burst into a sob and buried her face in her hands.

"I am so afraid I'm going to turn out to be my father," she sobbed. "What if I'm not good at what I'm doing? What if I'm just going along and being average? Average in my job. Average in my life, average as a woman."

"I think you're well above average, Rodus," Murdock replied.

She wiped the tears from her face with the back of her hand. "Maybe I should have just married the first guy who came along and stayed on Earth and been a wife," she sighed.

"That's not who you are, Rodus," Murdock told her. He pointed with his finger at the stars out the view screen. "Billions and Billons," he said. "Think of all the possibilities. All the opportunities. All the challenges."

"And look at how lonely it is out there," she sighed, collapsing back into her chair. "You sit here night after night waiting for some voice in the dark to enter your heart and give you a little company."

"This is my life, Rodus," he said. "I'm okay with it."

"Will you make love to me?" She wanted to know.

He looked at her like he wasn't sure he heard her right. "Gee, Rodus, I'm flattered, but I'm not the guy you want."

"How do you know who I want?" She questioned.

He studied her for a long moment. He'd have to be crazy to pass up such a willing opportunity. His chances didn't come along that often and here was an attractive, intelligent, and apparently horny woman asking him to have sex with her.

"It's been a while for me, Rodus," he said quietly.

"I'm sure it's been longer for me, Murdock," she replied.

They walked into her cabin and Murdock put his hand to her cheek, kissing her softly. She kissed him back more desperately and passionately and they fell on her bed and made out with lonely longing and instant gratification. She helped him get her clothes off and he was quickly out of his flight suit and she admired his muscular naked body as he squeezed her exposed breasts tenderly while trailing his other hand down her body before gently pushing several fingers into her womanhood. Vera moaned with happy pleasure as she pressed against his warm chest and she could feel the heat radiating from him. His hand found her stomach and he slid it along her skin.

She turned onto her side and his arms wrapped around her and he pulled her closer against his warm body. She felt his groin rubbing against her ass as he intertwined his legs with hers and his hands began to roam her body. He rolled her onto her back and perched over her, lavishing one of her breasts with his tongue as her nipple hardened. He moved his mouth up to hers and kissed her, nipping at her lips and her mouth opened to allow his tongue to fill her mouth. He spread her legs with one strong hand and his finger slipped into her as he released her from the kiss and she turned her head away. He began to lick her earlobe while shifting on top of her and nudged her legs wider. His fingers exited her and his penis slowly entered her.

"Relax," he whispered in a coaxing purr.

He stayed still for a bit and then he began to move and Vera began to truly enjoy herself, coming several times before he was finally done too. When it was over,
Vera lay limp on the bed exhausted and satisfied and she drifted off to sleep feeling at peace and completed relaxed for the first time in a long time.

When Vera awoke, she was still naked under the blanket and Murdock was asleep next to her. She felt exposed and venerable but happily satisfied too. Murdock sighed with contentment as he awoke and he rolled over and looked at his bed mate.

"Mornin' Rodus," he said with a smile.

She snuggled against his bare chest. "Hello, Murdock."

"I like your diplomacy," he grinned.

"I like your piloting," she smiled.

He climbed off the bed, pulling the blanket off with him leaving her with absolutely nothing to cover herself with.
"Don't be shy, Rodus," he said with an appreciative smile. "You're beautiful."

He used the lavatory and when he returned she was still lying exposed on the bed waiting for him. He lay down and pressed her against his chest. She stared at him, taking in his dark blue eyes and the depths of his strong and masculine face. He smirked as he pulled her closer, tilting his head down to whisper in her ear.

"Isn't this a nice diplomatic mission?"

She studied his face as her eyes examined every detail of his face. With a smirk, he leaned in closer and gave her a kiss.

"I need to go check the cockpit," he said with disappointment.

"You're the pilot," she smirked.

She watched him dress and when he left the cabin she went into the lavatory naked, stepping into the shower and washing her hair and reluctantly washing the scent of sex off of her. She turned off the water and got out, wrapping herself in a fluffy white towel.

Returning to the cabin, she gazed longingly at the bed for several moments remembering their night of bliss. She hadn't been that spontaneous in a long time and she very rarely got involved with men she worked with in any capacity but she had been vulnerable and she had been feeling worse than guilty since she realized that it was her father who had ended Murdock's Federation career.

Murdock returned to the cabin and smiled when he saw her sitting at the foot of the bed wrapped in nothing but a towel.

"All's well?" She asked.

"All's well," he confirmed as his gaze adored her.

He stepped across the room and sat next to her, gently pulling on the top of her towel so it gently slipped down. He cupped one of her soft exposed breasts in his hand and idly massaged it lightly, smiling when she moaned and arched into his touch. Her nipple hardened and she groaned again, her lips parting invitingly. He kissed her softly, lingering for a moment while a heavy sigh escaped her mouth and he smiled against her lips.

"Are you hungry?" He asked.

Vera opened her mouth wanting to say 'for you' but her stomach rumbled and she blushed. "Apparently," she admitted.

"Come on," he said, grabbing her hand and pulling her toward the door as the towel fell to the floor.

"Murdock, I'm naked," she giggled.

"We're in deep space on a ship alone," he laughed. "Who cares?"

They went into the galley and had pancakes from the automated cooker.

"I don't think I've ever eaten naked before," Vera admitted with a smile as she sat across from him in the nude.

"I'm not complaining," Murdock replied.

"Is this the new diplomacy?" Vera asked with a laugh.

They ate and then Vera returned to her cabin to dress while Murdock went to the cockpit. She joined him there when she was dressed and he gave her a few pointers about piloting the ship and what some of the controls were for. She was studying the navigation scope and the radar but she could feel him glancing at her and he looked like he wanted to say something but he didn't.

Well?" She prompted with a slight smirk.

He leaned over and kissed her softly and she responded sweetly. He lightly braced his arms on either side of her shoulders deepening the kiss before drawing back.

"It is very peaceful here," Vera told him.

Her hand rested softly against his chest and her soft lips brushed against his. He placed his hand on the back of her neck and slowly he moved his lips against hers gently and then nipped playfully at her lower lip. He slid his tongue along her lower lip, running his free hand down her side to her knee and drawing her leg over his lap. Her breathing increased and her lips parted and he pulled her closer until she was sitting in his lap and he darted his tongue into her mouth.

Murdock chuckled softly as he watched her gaze move to his eyes. She blinked and then softly smiled, nestling closer against him and closing her eyes.

"It is very peaceful here," Murdock agreed.

Carefully, he detached himself from her, groaning as her leg brushed against his arousal when he moved. She looked at him for several long moments and then she felt a soft breath brush tantalizingly against the skin.

Vera rested her head against his shoulder. 'How long until we reach Earth?" She whispered.

"Couple of weeks," Murdock sighed before he began placing kisses on her neck. "I think it could be a very enjoyable couple of weeks, don't you Rodus?" He asked.

Vera nodded and nuzzled his neck contentedly. "I'm not normally like this, Murdock," she said.

"I know," he said knowingly. "But you're off duty right now so don't worry about it."

"Do you do this sort of thing often out here in deep space?" She teased as she moved back to her own chair.

"No," he assured her. "It's not very often that I'm alone with a woman for starters. And the last thing I need for business is a reputation of being a gigolo."

"So why me then?" She asked with interest.

"Why not you, Rodus?" Murdock asked honestly. "I think you're pretty amazing and I don't sleep with every diplomat that comes along! Besides, you seduced me!"

"You sure this isn't some sick game of revenge?" Vera wanted to know. "Because of my father?"

"I could ask you the same question," Murdock replied without missing a beat. "What do you think he'd say if he knew you invited me into your cabin?"

"We haven't gotten a long very well in recent years," she admitted.

"What does he do now?" Murdock asked.

"Teaches at one of the private flight academies," she replied. "Wonder what kind of reputation he has there." She glanced at him. "You haven't said anything about your family."

Not much to say," Murdock replied. "My mother was widowed early and I grew up in a small town on Earth. I used to lie in my backyard at night and stare up at the stars and fantasize about going up there. I had all the telescopes and other equipment and I followed all the Federation news on the computer. I had a long wave that could pick up some of the moon shuttle transmissions and I loved the idea of a life in space."

"So you picked the Academy," Vera deduced.

"I busted my ass in high school in science and the Space Cadet program," Murdock told her. "I managed to land a scholarship because my Uncle knew somebody who knew somebody who knew somebody."

"I'm glad you got in," she said.

"My first year as a midshipman when I got to go up in orbit for the first time?" He said with a smile. "It was better than sex."

"I guess you didn't date much," Vera teased.

"Come on, Rodus, don't you remember your first time in space?"

"Not really," she admitted, staring out the view screen. "I mean I was practically born in space so I guess I just sort of took it for granted."

"I never take it for granted," Murdock said. "Especially after I almost lost it all. The only reason I got this job was because one of my old instructors at the Academy went to bat for me. I had to get about six waivers and every time I wake up and look out the view screen and see that I'm in space I say a prayer of thanksgiving."

Vera smiled. "I'm glad you're still able to do what you set out to do despite what happened with my father."

"I'm sorry things didn't work out so well for you and him."

"The last few years before the divorce were pretty stressful," she sighed. "And I started to figure out that my father wasn't the greatest guy or officer around."

"I just don't think he was cut out for command," Murdock offered in a more gentle tone. "He probably would have been better off teaching back at the Academy or maybe serving on Staff somewhere."

"I was on DAWKINS a few times," Vera recalled. "I'm trying to remember if I ever saw you."

"I think I would have remembered if I saw you," Murdock replied with a sheepish grin.

"I remember O'Hara the Chief Engineer and having dinner with First Officer Cortimier and his family one night," Vera remarked. "I think they were the first people I knew who died in action."

"I think of them often," Murdock said with a sigh. "Cortimier was one of my first mentors."

"I'm sorry for your loss," Vera said.

"So, Rodus, there's really no man in your life right now?" Murdock asked with a raised eyebrow.

"Who has time for any of that when you're bouncing around the galaxy being a diplomat?" She sighed. "I'm never in one place long enough to say more than hello."

"Hello," he joked.

"Murdock, it's just sex, okay?" She said with a sigh. "You asked me the other day when's the last time I got laid and it had been quite a while so that's what last night was all about."

"Sex," Murdock replied. "Nothing else?"

"Why would it be anything else?" She asked.

"You don't seem like the kind of diplomat who would jump in bed with just anybody," he observed.

"What about you?" Vera challenged. "There must have been women in your life."

"Oh sure," Murdock admitted. "Like you, I fell hard when I was young and at the Academy."

"She dumped you?"

"No, she died in a training accident," Murdock revealed. "That's when I lost my innocence," he sighed. "I watched her get vaporized when her trainer exploded doing practice maneuvers in the Allabaster Asteroid Belt. I had to keep piloting my trainer having just watched my girlfriend die."

"That's horrible," Vera said with wide eyes.

"After that, I didn't get so close to women," Murdock sighed. "Party hardy and meaningless one night stands was fine but as soon as somebody was looking for a 'relationship' I was on the next ship out!"

"We're just two lonely lost souls, aren't we, Murdock?" Vera sighed.

"So maybe last night was about more than just sex, Rodus," Murdock replied.

"What happens when we reach Earth in a few weeks?" She wanted to know.

"I have no idea," Murdock confessed. "All I know is that I don't do one night stands anymore."

"I'm still a Commissioner in the Federation Diplomatic Corps and you're still a pilot of a transport ship," she sighed as she quickly left the cockpit fighting the pit in her stomach.

Vera was sitting in her cabin that night when the door beeped.

"Open," she said and the door opened to reveal Murdock standing there with a rose in his hand. "You've got to be kidding," she said, giving him a long stare.

"Maybe it can be just about the sex," Murdock replied with a smile as he stepped into the room

She laughed and patted the bed next to her. "Come here, you jerk."

Murdock sat on the bed and smiled and for some reason her knees suddenly went weak. She didn't resist when he pulled her shirt off and she helped him slide her skirt down her legs to the floor. His hot breath was on her neck and she found herself excited with eager anticipation. She unzipped his flight suit and her eyes were on his chest as he pushed on her shoulders, pressing her back onto the bed. His hands cupped her breasts through the lacy material of her bra and his fingers passed lightly across her hard nipples. She moaned as he rolled one of her nipples between his fingertips and waves of longing passion shot through her. She stared at him, inviting him to do more and his mouth closed over the peak of her breast as he pulled the bra away. He sucked and she groaned, her fingers tangling in his hair as she arched her back. She whimpered as his teeth rubbed lightly against her nipple and her hips bucked when she felt his hands tugging on her panties.

"Do you want me to turn the gravity off?" He whispered into her ear.

She nodded and watched as he climbed off the bed and punched a code into the computer. Suddenly, all the lose objects in the cabin began to float and Vera felt herself lifting from her bed, watching as her discarded clothes floated around her.

Murdock stripped out of his flight suit as his feet left the floor and he floated toward her.

"Yes, I-" She spread her legs and watched as his head docked right in her muff. "Oh God!" She laughed as they floated across the top of the cabin with him sucking on her privates.

He reached for her bra and unclasped it, watching as the garment floated off her body and his hands teased them as he kissed a line downward and she felt cloth brush against the inside of her leg. With a whimper, she let him pull her panties off her leg and she giggled as they floated away.

They seemed to be in a naked mid-air dance with each other and it felt more incredible than she could have dreamed possible. She took in his masculine glory when he finished licking her pussy and was now floating above her and she liked what she saw as she bit her lip and looked into his face and she saw that he was watching her with equal amazement. They embraced and kissed and twirled and spun each other as they hung in the air. It was possible to do more sexual moves and positions suspended in air then she could have imagined possible and while they engaged in amazing foreplay in various floating patterns and maneuvers she was aching to feel him inside of her. He brushed aside a clump of floating hair that had wafted onto her face and then his hand slid down her side in a silken caress to cup her hip and pull her against him floating in air.

Vera arched her hips wanting to feel him inside her. His lips descended on hers claiming her mouth as he slid into her and she kissed him hungrily, sliding her tongue into his mouth. He growled and let her adjust to his thick length inside her while she explored his mouth. She rocked her hips against his and with no bed or other obstruction to stop them she clenching her muscles as he thrust inside her, propelling both of them across the room until they bounced off the wall and began floating back the other way.

Murdock groaned into her mouth and pulled back to thrust smoothly into her again, his tongue swirling into her mouth with the same rhythm as his hips moving against hers without restriction or interference and she screamed with joy while clutching at his shoulders as the tension built. He moved faster and she was sure she would burst from the pleasure as they spin through the air. One moment she was on top the next she was underneath him and the sensation of him inside her the entire time had her ready to explode.

She looked at him pleadingly. "Murdock," she said breathlessly.

He grabbed her ass and pushed into her harder and it wasn't long before she felt the amazing joy of floating sex as he pounded himself powerfully inside her. She was able to thrash with pleasure as she climaxed freely in midair and Murdock continued thrusting firmly into her until he reached his own climax that kept them propelling across the room. When the action was completed they clung together and allowed themselves to float around the room as if they were on a cloud. Her eyes fluttered open and she made a wordless noise of gratitude and satisfaction.

"Rodus," he murmured and she was sure that the weightless sex was the most amazing thing she had ever experienced.

The way he said her name made her feel beautiful in a way she had never felt before and she hooked her leg over the top of his and slid it up until her knee was resting on his upper thigh.

"Murdock," she said softly, nestling her head against his chest as they floated, her naked body pressing against him. "Are we going to float all night?"

She nibbled at his lip and each breath she took pressed her breasts against his chest.

He kissed her firmly. "I could make love to you all night," he whispered.

She had been so willing and she responded beautifully in the gravity-free environment and now they held on to each other as they floated around the cabin. He had been amazing and she loved every second of being with him, not shy about being naked in front of him because he made her feel beautiful and sexy and wanted and it had been a long time since she had experienced that sensation. She panted, trying to catch her breath. What had just happened? She didn't know where to even begin to try and untangle her emotions. She could feel butterflies fluttering in her stomach knowing this just wasn't some one night fling. It had been two nights already and she wanted much more with Murdock the Transport Ship Pilot.

Still floating, he kissed her tenderly and she surrendered to him, letting him deepen the kiss. When he released her, he smiled as her lips moved lightly across his and then moved along his jaw. She nibbled at his ear and he cupped her breasts, loving their full soft weightlessness in his hands. He kissed the soft skin at the base of her neck and he turned her so her back was to him and they were standing straight up and down seven feet off the floor. She gasped letting him take her from behind as he was able to bend them in such a freeing way as they floated that she felt the most sensational feeling she had ever felt.

Vera smiled contentedly nestled comfortably against Murdock's warm chest. They had restored the gravity after some really wild midair sex and now they were lying together in her bed. She could feel his steady breathing ruffle her hair. Feeling happier and more peaceful than she could remember she closed her eyes while trying to snuggle closer to him.

"Rodus," he said quietly.

She sighed and draped her arm over his hips allowing herself to drift asleep while Murdock pressed a soft kiss to the top of her head.

When Murdock awoke he was pleased to find Vera still asleep, cuddled against him. He gently lifted her head and captured her soft tender lips with his. She sighed lightly and he examined her angelic face until her eyes fluttered open and she stared at him. A slow smile spread across her face and she kissed him.

"Rodus," he said happily.

"Good morning, Murdock" Vera smiled.

"Sure is nice to wake up next to somebody for a change," he said.

"It is," she agreed. "I'm going to shower."

"I'll go check to make sure all is well," he replied, watching as she slipped naked form the bed and went into the lavatory.

They shared breakfast in the galley later and then she kept him company in the cockpit while he checked the navigational status, communications, radar and other routine daily ship business.

The communicator beeped. 'Hey WILLOW, this is CAVALEAR. You there?"

Murdock smiled and hit the open frequency button. "Hey, Coop, how's it going?"

"You on your way in?"

"Yeah, where you going?"

"Taking a relief crew out to the VINCENZO. Got a full house here."

"Hey, you decent?" Murdock asked. "I'm going to put you on screen. I want you to meet somebody."

"Sure, go ahead," Coop replied.

Murdock hit a few buttons on the console and an image formed on the view screen.

"Coop, say hello to Rodus," Murdock grinned.

"Well, well, well, hello there, lady!" Coop winked.

He was an older gentleman with graying red hair, a big red nose and a grin that filled the screen. Vera instantly liked this man.

"Rodus, this trooper is a good pal of mine, Coop," Murdock introduced.

"Pleasure to meet you," Coop said charmingly. "You must be pretty special if Murdock wants me to see you."

Vera smiled but didn't say anything.

"I'm taking Rodus home after a noble mission out in the hinterlands," Murdock explained. "The RAMSEY got re-routed."

"Something tells me that the RAMSEY's loss was your gain, Murdock!" Coop grinned. "So how's your trip been, Rodus?" He asked with an easy yet interested tone.

"Smooth sailing so far," she smiled, glancing at Murdock.

"Is that son of a bitch treating you okay?" Coop wanted to know.

Vera shrugged. "He's doing okay most of the time," she teased.

"Well, you just let me know if I need to straighten his ass out," Coop remarked.

"Coop was one of the first to welcome me into the transportation fleet," Murdock explained to Vera.

"You look drunk, Murdock" Coop commented. "Or is that just punch drunk?" He grinned.

"Nice chatting with you, Coop," Murdock replied with a smirk. "Safe travels. WILLOW out."

Murdock hit a button and the view screen returned to the starts.

"Two ships passing in the dark," Vera joked.

"When you're out here alone sometimes a little communication keeps you sane," Murdock replied. "I had a dog a while back but I let a kid have it when I left him and his family off on Darius IV a couple of months ago. He looked like he could use a friend."

"You gave away your dog?" She asked with surprise.

"I kind of miss him so I try not to think of it too much," Murdock sighed.

Vera leaned over and kissed him on the cheek. "That's the nicest thing I ever heard anybody do," she said.

They shared lunch in the galley and Vera spent most of the afternoon in her cabin reading and taking a nap. Murdock stopped by later and when Vera said that she was feeling a little ragged, he mentioned that there was a small hot tub in the exercise room.

They went into the exercise room and Murdock filled the small tub with steaming jets of water that made for an inviting opportunity and Vera smiled while Murdock watched with a grin on his face as she peeled out of her clothes, glancing at Murdock as she slipped out of her bra and panties and eagerly slipped into the steaming water.

Murdock disappeared for a moment and returned with a bottle of Champagne. Vera smiled and accepted one of the glasses. He poured the champagne into her glass and she watched as he stripped naked in the soft light. He was gorgeous. She took a sip of the bubbly as he stepped into the bubbles.

They soaked in silence enjoying the Champagne and after a while Vera smiled seductively as she slid closer to him and then onto his lap. His hands settled on her hips and she pattered his neck and jaw with kisses as she rubbed her naked breasts against his chest.

"Rodus," he whispered. "I don't deserve you."

She was surprised by his remark. "What do you mean?" she asked.

"You're much better than I could ever hope to be," he sighed.

"I never gave away my dog to make some kid happy," she said, kissing his nose as she straddled his lap facing him.

"I want you to be happy," he said.

"I am happy," she replied. "Now."

"Come on, Rodus," he said. "You fly around the galaxy doing important work meeting important people and dignitaries and Ambassadors and Chancellors and politicians and leaders doing good for others. How can that possibly compare to a ride on a dingy transport ship piloted by a washed out federation officer?"

"Who showed me how to have the best sex possible," she giggled, kissing his chin. "I spent a weekend naked on the Paradise Planet trying to get the Adamites to give the Evens more equality," she said. "They told me that was going to be the best pleasure of my life but I was mostly humiliated and embarrassed trying to negotiate with egotistical males in the nude. Last night, floating with you, now that was Eden!" She laughed and kissed him on his lips.

He studied her as if he was seeing her for the first time. "You like being here with me?" he asked.

She nuzzled his hair before placing a light kiss on his forehead. "Yes, Murdock, I like being here with you." She pressing her lips to his.

"You know, I've been doing this for five years now," he told her. "There have been long stretches of incredible boredom and some unbelievable loneliness mixed in with moments of excitement, danger, crisis, and challenge, but meeting you has the first time I've actually felt a sense of redemption."

"Redemption?" She asked with confusion. "What are you talking about?"

"If a Commissioner of your stature doesn't mind being with a loser like me, I guess there's hope for me yet," he said with a smile, kissing her neck.

"You're not a loser, Murdock," Vera assured him. "My father was wrong. My father is too blame. Not you."

"There's a reason why I keep to myself and don't involve my family or friends in my life," he revealed.

"Why's that?" She whispered.

"Because I feel like I disappointed them," he sighed. "Cadets I went to the Academy with are Commanders now. In charge of ships and crews, out there doing interesting things and living the life I once dreamed of. Last month, I transported ten thousand pounds of seedling to Samsling because the Prime Minister wanted to plant a forest in his barren back yard. What a thrill," he said sarcastically.

"You have more character, honor, compassion and kindness than most people I meet," Vera replied sincerely.

She kissed him meaningfully and her hand found his member and she guided him into her, the sensation of the hot tub water giving her increased pleasure and she began to ride him. His hands were on her hips and he helped lift and drop her as they made love in the hot tub, their passion mixing with their perspiration as the small room became a steam bath in the considerably rising temperature.

When they were done with their pleasure, they climbed from the tub and walked naked to her cabin where the cooled off in the shower, drying each other off before climbing naked into her bed to cuddle and sleep.

"I never tell people who my father is," she told him as they lay in bed together. "A few people know but I don't mention it or my upbringing in the Federation. I have many encounters with federation officers and I'm too ashamed to tell them that my father was the guy who lost his command and killed half his crew. There's no way I can justify what he did or defend him so I just keep my mouth shut."

"You are not your father, Rodus," Murdock told her for a second time.

He heard her softly crying and he brushed some strands of hair out of her face and smoothed away her tears and he felt a hurt inside of him as he held her close.

*** *** ***
Murdock was gone when Vera awoke in the morning. She slipped naked from the bed and used the lavatory before dressing and freshening up.

She heard his voice as she approached the cockpit and could tell there was urgency in his tone as he spoke.

"TOYORMA, I have contacted the Pluto Observatory and they tell me that the Starship GLENN is on their way to your location. They expect to arrive in about three hours," Murdock said.

"WILLOW, we appreciate your assistance," A crackling faded voice responded. "We hope we're still there when..." the transmission crinkled off and Murdock threw Vera a concerned look.

"What happened?" She asked.

TOYORMA is a supply ship," Murdock replied. "They had a core breech and need to abandon ship. We're too far away and slow to get to them but hopefully GLENN can get to them in time."

"As beautiful as it is out there it's still a dangerous place," Vera remarked, glancing out the view screen.

"We all know the risks," he commented, motioning her to the seat next to him. "How are you this morning, Rodus?"

. "You hungry?" She smiled and Murdock offered her grin in return. He hopped to his feet and Vera happily walked with him to the galley.

"I feel like I'm on vacation," she said with a smile as they ate. "I haven't been this relaxed and happy in a long time."

"That's nice, Rodus," Murdock replied.

"It's like being on a cruise or something," she said, peering at him. "Do you ever take leave?

"The company makes us stand down every so often," he revealed.

"Where do you usually go? What do you do?"

Murdock shrugged. "My mom died a few years ago so there's nothing back on Earth for me," he admitted. "I usually just hang out on one of the space stations. I like the red skies on Merri and I'll spend a week there sometimes."

"Ah yes, Merri," Vera replied with a nostalgic smile. "My sister got married there."

"How come you're not married, Rodus?" Murdock asked.

"Who has time for love when there's always the next diplomatic mission waiting out there?" She sighed. "I've never been very good at the love stuff."

"I think you're pretty good," he smirked.

She smiled. "Have you ever done it in the cockpit?" she asked.

He grinned. "No Rodus, I must confess I haven't."

They cleaned up their dishes and returned to the cockpit. Murdock took his seat in the pilot chair and checked on a few readings and he was surprised when Vera dropped to her knees and swiveled his chair around to face her. She reached up and pulled the zipper of his silver flight suit all the way down to his groin and she pulled down his briefs so that his 'rocket' was exposed. Taking him into her mouth, she stroked the tip of him with her tongue while curling her hand around the base of his shaft. He moaned and his hands threaded through her hair as she ran her hands over him, caressing and stroking his length and then pulling on him.

"Rodus," he groaned as his hips rocked.

She took him farther into her mouth, sucking him off as her hand dipped to the soft fullness of his sack while she enjoyed his arousal and when he exploded into her mouth she was happy that she had brought him pleasure in such a primal way. She swallowed his warm semen and then she crawled into his lap as he sat in the chair trying to catch his breath.

"That was fantastic," Murdock marveled and he kissed her fully on the mouth. He studied her face for several minutes when he pulled away from the kiss. "Thank you."

"I don't do that very often," she admitted with a blush. "I just had the urge to satisfy you and make you happy any way I could."

"I'm sure you've seen all types and cultures of sex out there in your job, Rodus," Murdock said while he brushed her hair with his hand.

"That doesn't mean I particpate in it!" She said, rolling her eyes. "The Paradise mission was about as far as I ever went and there was no sex involved. Just nudeness."

"Have you had sex with a non-human, Rodus?" Murdock asked.

"I'm not sure if I'm ready to tell you about my sex life, Murdock," she admitted with embarrassment.

"You just gave me oral sex, Rodus," Murdock reminded her. "I remember a course I took back at the Academy about the different sexual cultures out there," he said as Vera stood and Murdock zipped up his flight suit. She took a seat in the chair next to him and listened. "One of the biggest fears when the Federation first started exploring the galaxy was that there would be cross race breeding that could cause problems. Just like back on Earth way back when different cultures and ethnic groups got together. Could a human female carry a Vulcan's child? Could a human male penis fit in a female Organen's genitals?"

"Sex is still the universal language, Murdock," Vera told him.

"I remember my first liberty call," he said. "We stopped in on Deep Space Three and I saw my first Tigerian with the three breasts."

"As if two aren't enough," Vera deadpanned.

"So, have you been with an extra-terresial, Rodus?"

"The girls in the diplomatic corps always used to tease about being with a Prisactivian," she said.

"Ah, yes, the males with the alleged eighteen inch penises," Murdock said, sounding slightly envious.

"Oh, they're that big," Vera confirmed but she held up her hand when he gave her a funny look. "No, I'm not speaking from personal experience."

"Well then?" He asked.

"Part of our training is all about not getting involved with the folks we work with," she said. "I took that pretty seriously, although I must admit I did fall for an Evalian when I was working in the embassy on Evalia but it ended badly and I learned my lesson."

"I'm sorry, Rodus," Murdock said with sympathy.

"What about you, Murdock?" She asked. "A girl on every planet?"

"No, nothing like that," he said. "This isn't the type of life that lends itself for successful romances. I have a lady friend on Merri and an old flame I see from time to time when I pass through the Figna sector but there hasn't been anybody steady or serious in a long time."

"Me either," she sighed. "How 'bout that Katiyalian Princess?"

"Are you kidding?" He laughed. "They have to be virgins when they marry. Can you imagine the inter-planetary incident I would have caused if I had deflowered her!"

He gave her a long look before returning to his work and she went back to her cabin to send a few communiqués to her supervisor. Later, Vera found the cockpit empty and she went to the door of the pilot's cabin, ringing the bell.

The door opened and she found Murdock sitting at his desk typing on his computer console. The room was full of books stacked in shelves with protective doors and also set in piles on the floor.

"What's this, the Murdock library?" she joked.

"There's a lot of down time in this job, Rodus," Murdock said, turning to look at her. "Nothing wrong with a good book."

"I agree," she said, walking across the room and curling her arms around his neck and kissing him on the cheek.

Murdock reached up and pulled her face to his. His kiss was gentle and comforting.

"What do you want from me?" She whispered.

"Nothing," he told her honestly. "I don't expect anything from you, Rodus."

She tried not to feel hurt or rejected as she stood and glanced around the cabin. In addition to the countless books, there were several paintings of various Starfleet ships and mementos from his life, including a photo of what she guessed was his mother and another one of a female Starfleet Academy cadet standing with a young Murdock and she assumed it was his lover who had been killed in the training accident.

"It's not that I don't want you, Rodus," Murdock said as she walked around the cabin looking at his things. "It's just that I know I can't have you."

"Why not?" She asked, looking at him as he stood from his chair.

"Because you're a Commissioner in the Diplomatic Corps," he reminded her.

"Maybe I'm ready to quit."

"You're too good to quit, Rodus," he told her. "Quit and do what? Ride around the galaxy with me?"

"It could be fun, Murdock."

He held her hands in his and kissed her softly. Then one of his hands traced from her breasts to her crotch and then back up again. She was throbbing for him and she sighed with want as she thrust her hips upward. He tugged her panties down from under her skirt while kissing her passionately. His fingers slid inside her and her hips twitched with approval as they fell on the bed and he continued to bring her to satisfaction with his finger. When she couldn't hold it back any longer she cried out his name and he felt her orgasm shoot through her body.

When she stopped thrashing, she pulled him close. "Murdock," she murmured happily.

He lay on his side next to her with his hand still on her exposed muff as she lay on her back staring at the ceiling giggling as he nibbled on her ear.

"What do you remember about your father?" She asked out of the blue.

"Geez, Rodus, where did that come from?"

"I was just wondering,"

"I remember going fishing with him," Murdock replied after giving it some thought. "I was maybe five."

"How'd he die?"

"Virus. He was thirty two. My mother was thirty. She never remarried. Said there was no point. He had been her one true love."

"How sad he was taken so soon," she sighed.

"What kind of memories do you have of your father?" Murdock asked as he rubbed the palm of his hand along her pubic hair.

"He was strict, rigid, disciplined, and not very warm," she revealed.

"Yeah, that's how I remember him," Murdock replied. "Stubborn and arrogant."

"He was hard to get to know as a father," she admitted. "Of course, he was gone a lot and that didn't help either. He had me and my sister but I always thought he wanted boys."

"How 'bout your mom?"

"An angel," she said proudly. "A dedicated and loyal Officer's wife which was probably her downfall. She's remarried now and happy."

"That's good," Murdock replied.

"How 'bout your mom?" Vera asked, rolling on her side and facing him.

He moved his hand from her pussy to her naked ass. "After my father died, she devoted herself to me," he said quietly. "She was so proud of me when I got commissioned and the worst part about getting court martialed was having to face her afterwards."

"God, I hate my father," Vera groaned, rolling off the bed and sitting up.

He leaned over and kissed her naked fanny. "It's not your fault."

Vera shrugged. "Somehow, I still feel responsible." She glanced over her shoulder at him. "You have any booze around here?" She asked. "The real stuff, not the synthesized crap from the duplicator."

He smiled and rolled off the bed while she pulled her panties back on and rolled down her hiked skirt.

"Dasha whiskey," he said proudly, pulling an odd shaped bottle from his bottom desk drawer. "Coop gets it for me."

He got two glasses and poured their drinks. He handed her one of the glasses and they both made toast gestures before taking sips feeling the burn of the alcohol as it made its way into their stomachs.

"The last time I got drunk was with the Ambassador of Rootan last year," she said. "I was sick in quarters for two days."

"You must have had the Rootan Rye," Murdock grinned. "That stuff will turn your brain into sawdust."

They both ended up getting drunk on the Dasha whiskey and they sat around in his cabin telling personal and family secrets, giggling over idiotic space stories and confessing their biggest regrets and failures.

Unexpectedly, Vera burst into tears and Murdock gently pulled her against him as they sat on the bed together. She tried to stop crying but the sobs kept coming and after a minute she turned in his arms and buried her face in his chest.

"I'm sorry for everything that's happened to you and I apologize for my father," she wailed.

"Rodus," he said warmly. "Lay down."

She felt his breath on her cheek as he helped her to fall back on the bed. "Maybe you shouldn't drink," he advised.

She could feel the warmth of his body close to her and her stomach fluttered from the booze and later she awoke and went to the lavatory to puke. She felt him behind her as he held her hair back until she had nothing but dry heaves into the metal commode and after she brushed her teeth he helped her back to the bed.

Vera felt like warmed over puke when she woke in the morning. She saw some medication by the table and a glass of water but Murdock was nowhere to be seen. Her head felt like sludge as she slowly pulled herself up and took the pills, stumbling into the lavatory with the shits from the whiskey and she took a quick shower to try to feel at least presentable.

She went back to her cabin for a change of clothes and found Murdock manning the controls in the cockpit.

"Good afternoon," he said with a grin when he saw her enter.

"Oh God," she mumbled. "Afternoon?"

"You alright?" he asked,

"Bastard," she moaned. "Why'd you give me that Dasha whiskey for?" She collapsed into one of the chairs.

"You're a big girl," he replied. "I figured you could handle it."

"Bastard," she repeated.

"Rodus. I'm sorry."

"I'm going back to my cabin to die," she sighed. "You won't be seeing me for a while."

She spent the next day and a half mostly in bed. Murdock checked on her occasionally and brought her soup and crackers but she didn't eat much or even converse. It wasn't until she rang the bell to his cabin door and slipped into bed next to him a few nights later that he knew she was back to normal.

"You hungry?" Murdock asked her in the morning and she smiled happily.

"Famished."

They went to the galley and had a hearty breakfast.

"You know, we're getting close enough to Earth that the traffic is starting to pick up," Murdock told her. "I'm going to have to spend more time in the cockpit."

"You practically live there now," she laughed.

"You could probably catch a ride in on a faster ship if you wanted to get home sooner," he said.

She was surprised by his comment.

"Do you want me to?" She asked, trying not to sound hurt.

"No, No, of course not," he admitted freely. "But I felt I owed it to you as ship commander to inform you of your options."

"To tell you the truth, I don't want this trip to end," she said.

"Me either," he said with a sigh.

But before they knew it, they were approaching Earth. They had made love several times, including in the gravity free environment, and they talked about their lives, their dreams, their hopes, but not so much about their future together knowing that once Vera left the ship chances were they'd never see each other again.

You alright, Rodus?" Murdock asked quietly once he got permission to enter Earth's orbit and prepare to beam Vera to the planet's surface.

She thought about it as she sat in the chair next to him in the cockpit and finally she shrugged. "Truthfully, I'm not sure," she confessed.

Murdock kissed her tender and soft and it made her heart break. She wrapped her arms around his neck, pressing herself hard against him and his hand caressed her cheek and she ran her tongue across his lip. Not surprisingly, their kissing became heated and his hands skimmed down her sides to cup her ass as they stood from their chairs in unison. She wrapped her legs around his hips eager to feel him against her. He broke the kiss and leaned his forehead against hers.

"We're out of time," he sighed.

"I know," she said with defeat, trying to collect herself. "I should beam down now."

"They already have your clearance," he said sadly.

"Yeah, I know," she said.

"Your mom will be happy to see you."

"Yeah, I know."

She reluctantly left the cockpit and he followed. She stopped at her cabin to get her luggage and he escorted her to the transporter room on the lower deck.

"What's your next assignment?" She asked quietly.

"I think I'm bringing a crew out to the Groppon Station next week."

"What are you doing until then?"

"Gotta put this baby in the repair station over the moon," he said. "Guess I'll just stay there until she's ready."

"You know, the Diplomatic Corps has a small fleet of its own ships," Vera told him as she stepped onto the transporter pad. "I could put in a good word for you if you were interested."

"I doubt they'd want me with my record, Rodus," he sighed. "But thanks for thinking of me."

Her eyes watered as he punched a few buttons on the transporter console.

"Earth Lay Station Twelve, this is WILLOW. Ready for transport."

"Will you miss me?" Vera asked quietly.

"Yes, Rodus, I will miss you," Murdock said bravely.

He jumped onto the pad and grabbed her in a strong embrace and kissed her passionately.

"Goodbye, Rodus," he said, his voice breaking.

He stepped off the bad and returned to the console.

"Lay Station Twelve, Energize," he said softly and he watched as Vera slowly disappeared.

"I love you," she said just before she beamed out.

It was wonderful to see her mother again and Vera enjoyed her visit but it didn't take her mother long to figure out that her daughter was miserable.

"You okay?" Mrs. Rodus asked after a few days had passed.

Fighting back tears, Vivan hugged her mother tightly. "I missed you," she whispered.

Her mom nodded with understanding. "I've missed you too, dear, but something tells me that's not what's bothering you."

"Oh, Mother," Vera sighed, holding her tight. "I met someone."

"Well, good for you!" Her mother said happily.

"No, not good for me," she sobbed. "We had to say goodbye."

"Why?"

"Because I'm off on another damn mission and he's out there somewhere piloting his stupid ship."

"Well, we all make our choices, Vera," her mother said.

Vera continued to mope around the house remembering her ride on the WILLOW and her time with Murdock.

"Have you talked to your father about this?" Her mom asked a few days later.

"Why would I talk to him about this?" Vera frowned.

Her mother shrugged. "He still has connections," she said. "Maybe he could pull a few strings for you."

"I can't call Daddy, Mother," Vera sighed.

"Why not?"

'Because it's Murdock that I've fallen for."

"Murdock?" Her mother asked with surprise. From the DAWKINS?"

"Fifty billion people out there and I run into him," Vivan sighed.

"Call your father anyway, Vera," her mother advised.

So she did. Thy chatted on screen and when she mentioned Murdock by name she could see her father's face go white."

"You owe him, Daddy," Vera said. "And I love him. Can you help me out?"

Murdock was hanging around the repair station feeling sorry for himself. He missed Rodus and he realized that he had finally found the woman for him but he knew it would never work out. He'd be back out on the WILLOW soon doing his boring transport runs and she'd be off on her next diplomatic mission.

He thought it was a mis-communication when he was ordered to Earth by Starfleet Headquarters shortly before heading out for the Groppon Station. He flew the WILLOW over to Earth and beamed down to the Starfleet Headquarters in San Francisco, reporting to Admiral TJ Myer.

"Murdock," The Admiral greeted him as he entered the Admiral's Office.

Myer was a tall good looking star fleet officer with a stout frame and a rugged looking jaw.

"Sir?" Murdock said with confusion.

"Do you know why you're here?" The Admiral asked.

"I have no idea, Sir," Murdock confessed.

"We're terminating your contract with the transport agency, Murdock," The Admiral announced. "You're no longer commanding the WILLOW."

"Is there a problem, Sir? Did I violate some code? Someone complain?"

"Yes, we got a complaint from Commissioner Vera Rodus," The Admiral revealed. "Didn't you just bring her in?"

"Yes sir," Murdock replied with a confused frown. "I wasn't aware she was dissatisfied with my piloting."

"Oh, I didn't get that impression," The Admiral replied as he took his seat behind his desk. "Did you know I served with her father?"

"I was not aware of that, Sir."

"And I know you served with him," The Admiral noted.

"Yes, Sir," Murdock replied, chewing on his bottom lip.

"So here's the deal, Murdock," The Admiral said. "Seems like we got an opening in the Diplomatic Corps Pilots Crew. You interested?"

"The Diplomatic Corps?"

"They fly mostly the cruiser class. You'd be part of a crew of three. Lead Pilot. You'd have all the rights and privileges of a Federation officer but you'd work for the Diplomatic Corps."

"With my record?"

"I expunged the court marital, Murdock. You get your rank and time in service back retroactive and you're transferred to the diplomatic corps. Okay?"

"What's going on, Admiral?" Murdock asked with confusion.

"I believe Commissioner Rodus called it Operation Redemption," The Admiral replied. "Her father is the one who called me."

"Her father?" Murdock couldn't believe it.

"You're getting a second chance, Murdock," The Admiral advised him. "I wouldn't question it if I were you."

Commander Sam Murdock of the Federation Diplomatic Corps Pilots Crew took command of the Diplomat Cruiser LANCER. His first mission was to transport Commissioner Vera Rodus' Diplomatic team to Kadaseran for unification negotiations.

Once they were out of Earth's orbit and well on their way to their destination, Commissioner Rodus summoned the ship's pilot to her quarters.

Slipping her arms around his neck as soon as the door opened, her kiss was full and Murdock smiled with satisfaction as he lifted her off her feet and she wrapped her legs around his waist as the door closed behind them.

"Rodus," Murdock said happily, cupping her ass with his hands.

She rubbed her hands through his hair while ravaging his mouth and neck. After a while of making out, she slowly slid down his body and when her feet touched the floor he laughed as she tucked her face against his chest.

"So, you pulled a few strings?" He asked.

"A few," she admitted. 'Is that okay?"

He swept her up into his arms kissing her again as he carried her to the bed.

Kneeling in front of her, he pulled her shoes off followed by her socks and then he began undoing the buttons of her diplomatic uniform before straddling her, his strong thighs pinning her beneath while he kissed her completely only breaking long enough to strip her naked. Kissing the tip of his nose, she pulled at the hem of his pilot's jersey but his gaze was on her breasts and she could feel his erection through his uniform pants. His arm wrapped around her hips and he kissed her breasts

"I missed you," he said, moving up and kissing her gently on the mouth.

She cupped his face in her hands. "I missed you more."

"Do you want me to turn the gravity off?" He whispered.

Vera woke up feeling happier and more contented than she had in a long time. Gently easing out from under Murdock's arm, she studied him. He looked so peaceful and every inch of him was beautiful.

"Murdock," she breathed, "I love you."

"I love you more," he replied without opening his eyes.

"I never imagined I'd find Love in Space," she said happily.