Intermission by cathrl
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“I could sleep for a million years.”

Mark sighed inwardly. This again? They were all shattered. They all wanted a holiday. But only Jason went on and on about it. To be fair, never when they were in action. But flights back after missions had become one long whinge-fest.

He fixed a sympathetic smile on his face and looked round over his shoulder. “How about a million seconds?”

“Twelve days? Nowhere near long enough.”

“I’d settle for two days,” said Princess unexpectedly.

“You get that all the time.” It was four days since their last mission, for a start.

“I really don’t. Not by the time I’ve done the paperwork, and gone to the regular briefings, and put in enough shifts in the comms centre to keep my cover plausible.”

Keyop groaned. “Shifts? I get assignments.”

“Pass the maths this way,” Jason said. “You have better things to worry about.”

“No such luck. Rigan history.”

“You’re on your own there.” He stretched, shoulders back, hands together reaching over his head. “How long has it been since we had a break?”

“Three weeks?” suggested Mark hopefully. At least, he thought that was when the latest wave of Spectran activity had started.

“Three weeks ago I had…” Jason started ticking them off on his fingers. “Two training flights. Three simulated flights. An afternoon with the G-2 mechanics. An entire day doing paperwork. Three hours of briefings. Two hours telling the jump-specialists what was wrong with their latest bright idea. And, what was it, five martial arts sessions?”

Mark felt himself blush. Those had been at his insistence. But needed. They’d been getting sloppy, all of them.

Maybe more training hadn’t been the right answer.

“No martial arts next week,” he said.

“How about ‘no briefings or training next week’ too?”

“You know I can’t…” Mark let his voice trail off. They did all know. The faces wore expressions of resignation. Even Tiny, flying the ship and who hadn’t said a word, wore that same expression. He, at least, had been on the Phoenix all day, not chasing Spectrans through the maze of catacombs underneath the capital city of Venusia.

He snorted to himself. Amazing how many planets signed up to the Galactic Federation of Planets only when there was something they needed. Why didn’t anyone ever join who had something to offer? A team of five birdstyled teens capable of taking on Spectra for a while. That million seconds would be a start.

Nobody else said anything. They knew he couldn’t. No matter how badly they needed the break.

Maybe it was time he pulled rank.

Maybe it was time he stood up to Anderson.

Maybe it was time to say no.

He’d not promise anything, though. No holiday would last more than ten seconds into the next Spectran attack, and exhaustion was worse when you’d been anticipating a rest.

Ask me how I know.

Behind him, Keyop continued to grumble about his assignment, Princess asked for more details. Compare and discuss three major Rigan political systems. Jason promptly named seven, and a discussion on high school essay writing replaced the grumblings about overwork.

Rigan history. There were no Rigan political systems any more. Only Spectran ones.

Their job was to make sure Earth’s political systems didn’t end up the same way: as part of a history course. And it mattered. They had to keep going.

But they needed a break from the daily grind. He was going to see that they got one. Personally.

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