Lestrade couldn't remember the last time he'd seen anything truly green. Green lights on the airlocks, sure. Green labels on weapons lockers, okay. But green things growing? No. It had been so long that if asked he couldn't have given the number of years it had been since he'd seen so much as a potted fern, never mind what looked to be an entire forest full of trees. Forests were history, and yet...
"They're never real, are they?" muttered Donovan seated next to him in the maglev train compartment. Her expression was equal parts awe and scepticism.
It was a station boffin by the name of Stamford who answered her. "They're all real. We're very proud of the work we've done here. The tunnels not only provide visual respite from the industrial and interstellar images we're constantly bombarded with, but they also functions as part of the base's air cycling system. The lungs of the base, essentially."
"Don't get Mike started," Doc said with an indulgent smile. "He'll talk your ear off about the bio-systems they have in place here."
Stamford shrugged. "We all have our parts to play. This is mine." He grinned suddenly. "That doesn't mean I don't enjoy my job. It's a good thing, too, what with all the extra folks you lot brought us. More people mean more work for the trees."
With the compromise and subsequent evacuation of Lost Comet Base, the cruiser Scotland Yard had been needed to ferry its personnel to the so-far-still-secure Edinburgh Base. Now they were here and the darlings and boffins were no longer Lestrade's problem. That didn't mean he didn't still have to jump through several official hoops before he could get back to real work.
"You trained here, didn't you, Doc?" Donovan asked.
"Until he heard the siren call of field service," Stamford answered for him.
Doc shrugged. "Like you said, Mike, we all have our parts to play."
The green tunnel curved left and soon the maglev train slowed to a stop. Doc and Boffin Stamford disembarked, leaving Lestrade and Donovan alone for the rest of the ride to their debriefings.
"Who d'you think they'll call in first, sir?"
"No idea, Lieutenant. If you're lucky, it'll be you. Get in, get out. Hope you don't get caught in too much crossfire in between."
Donovan offered a tiny hint of a wry smile. "Just like a field op?"
He answered with a matching smile. "Just like a field op."
They soon arrived at Command & Control Halt. Lestrade hated to leave the quiet of the train, the green of the tunnel system. His consolation was seeing Captain Marquardson waiting for them on the platform. He wanted to pull her in for a kiss, but this wasn't the time or the place.
She greeted them formally. "Commander Lestrade, Lieutenant Donovan."
"Captain Marquardson," he replied, and heard Donovan echo him. "Have you been in to see them yet?"
"No, sir. They're saving me and you for the end, I think."
"Rapture," he said flatly.
Marquardson walked with them into the waiting zone, a circular room of seamless, featureless, shining black. Even the benches were formed as if they'd simply grown smoothly from the walls. On one hand, it was a sight cleaner and shinier than the usual gray grimness of the cruiser or the shuttle in which he spent his days and nights. On the other hand, it was about as cheerful as a hole in the ground compared the lushness he'd just left. Not even the full-spectrum lighting could make the place anything but lifeless.
A drudge entered the zone before they had a chance to sit down.
"Lieutenant Donovan?" she asked.
As if she couldn't tell from their uniforms who was who, thought Lestrade. Or if she couldn't, she didn't deserve the one she herself wore. Standards had fallen severely if the Tops were enlisting people before they so much as knew the differences among military rank insignias.
Donovan stepped forward. "Here, Private."
"This way, please." The young woman turned, and Donovan squared her shoulders and followed her out.
Lestrade sat down. He let his head fall back against the wall and his eyes close. It was odd not to feel the constant low hum of vibration he was so accustomed to from so long aboard ship. Even Lost Comet Base had felt more active than here. He wanted to find it soothing or at least relaxing. Instead, it disturbed him on a near-cellular level. Maybe if he were among the trees he would feel different. Maybe there the calm would actually be, you know, calming.
He felt Marquardson sit down. Not close enough to touch, but close enough to feel the warmth of her beside him.
"Are you thinkin' about your upcomin' debrief?" she asked quietly.
He opened his eyes and raised his head. He turned to look at her and felt a small but genuine smile curve his lips. "No, actually. Are you?"
"A bit. I don't like them."
"The Tops? Who does?"
"No. Debriefs. They make me edgy."
He put a hand on hers where it rested on the bench between them. "You do your duty. You're damned good at your job. You've got nothing to worry about."
"I know." She turned her hand under his and laced their fingers together. "I just don't like to have to prove it to a bunch of ribbons."
Lestrade snorted. "Language, Captain," he scolded lightly.
"They don't monitor in here." But she looked wary and changed the subject. "What were you thinkin' about, then?"
She nodded in understanding. "The tunnels are lovely, aren't they?"
He answered her nod and sighed. "I sat under a tree once with my father. I was eight years old."
"I never did. Was it as agreeable as I imagine?"
He turned to her and the urge to kiss her grew. "Why?"
"I'd like to sit under a tree with you."
"Maybe after we win this war, we'll find a nice planet with trees and we can sit under one together."
"I don't want to wait that long."
"I suppose we could spend the rest of the day riding through the tunnels in a maglev train."
"Can we bring a picnic lunch?"
"I don't see why not."
"That sounds wonderful."
They leaned towards each other, and protocol be damned.
The sound of the drudge clearing her throat interrupted their kiss. They broke apart and Lestrade gave the enlisted woman a dirty look. She shrank a little but held her ground.
"Right here." Marquardson rose, and Lestrade gave her hand a squeeze of support before letting go.
"They're ready for you."
"Thank you." She glanced back at Lestrade, who smiled grim encouragement. "See you after?"
"And we'll have that picnic under the trees."
She nodded sharply once, brushed invisible dust from her uniform, and followed the drudge out.
Greg let his head fall back and his eyes close again. Instantly, green leaves filled his mind's eye. Let the Tops do what they would in his debrief. He had something to look forward to besides ops and reps and weapons and war. It made for a nice change.