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Prologue









"This doughnut is stale."

There was no one to hear except the doughnut in question, but Lieutenant Frank DiRigorrio found he didn't much care. The Neutral Zone had remained just that the entirety of his tenure here and one learned to talk to whoever was willing to listen in deep space, and inanimate objects were often up to the task. More so than the handful of other people stationed with him anyway, only one of which was still even on shift with him at this hour.

DiRogorrio leaned back and his chair went with him, reclining comfortably with a gentle bounce as he chewed. He gazed at the plethora of monitors surrounding his station. The beeps and whirs had long since evolved from annoying to comforting, a reminder that everything was not timeless blackness out this far, but rather there were still schedules, other people going about their business, other people in general.

An abnormal beep sounded and DiRogorrio tapped at the keys he was supposed to when that happened, taking another bite. Half the equations on the screens he didn't understand -- programming was Wilson's job -- but he knew the computers in the way the patient knew his own body better than the doctor, every sound, had even learned to catch the occasional twitch in the matrices.

He ran his tongue over his teeth and sat back again, glancing at the time. Only two more hours on shift. He looked to his doughnut and wondered if it would be worth replicating something more palatable.

The monitor beeped almost indignantly again, despite the typed command, and DiRogorrio turned back to it, brow furrowing. He stared, momentarily forgetting to chew.

"... Hello," he said around his bite, watching the blip move further downscreen -- closer.

He swiveled his chair around, toward the open hatch. "Hey, Wilson, get in here," he called, before returning to the computer.

Wilson took his damn time poking his head in the door, sipping at what smelled like coffee from there and looking as listless as DiRogorrio had felt two minutes ago. He made his way over and peered over the lieutenant's shoulder.

"What?"

"Short-range sensors are going off," DiRogorrio told him, pointing. "Look there."

Wilson stared and DiRogorrio watched him stare. Blips on the screen were nothing most of the time -- for the long-range sensors. He saw Wilson's throat work and he set his cup down, reaching across the other to type the commands DiRogorrio had already tried.

Wilson turned his head and their eyes met.

No mistake.
Chapter End Notes:
We know this is pure set-up, guys, please stick with us. And for those here who read The Edge, more is coming and very soon. :)
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