For Neil

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The shuttle ride was painful, oh so painful, but prolonged sitting had been that way for quite a while for Malcolm Reed. He was sixty-five years old but felt far older.

He had been up front with Shelby, but had to go in the back and lie down on the floor. It just hurt too much. Neil ended up sitting up front with Shelby, bowled over by the endless controls and the woman flicking switches and turning knobs and changing coordinates as fast as a whirling dervish.

In the back, Malcolm lay down as well as he could and Norri got off the seat and knelt down and put his head in her lap, "How is it?" she finally asked.

"Pretty awful," he admitted, "I've had about four years of this or so. I'll be, uh, I'll be better once I can get up and walk 'round a bit, Lioness."

"Ha, did you know that that's not what Leonora actually means?" she said.

"Really? Do tell me – anything to get my mind off my wretched back."

"It's Greek, and it means light," she said.

"A light in dark times," he mused, "She – uh, Lili – she always said that all names are meaningful. Not just their meanings and translations but also what they mean to the parents who provide those names to their children. But I think mine just liked names that started with M, seeing as my sister is Madeline."

"Well, let's see," Norri adjusted his head in her lap as she reached for a PADD, "Hmm. Malcolm means devotee of Saint Columbia. Who was, the patron saint of," she checked, "poets and bookbinders."

"Poets, eh? Even sonnets and limericks and doggerel, I suppose."

"And bookbinding," Norri said, "Malcolm is also, uh, a Shakespearean character."

"Yes, King Duncan's elder son in the Scottish play. I don't much care for it. Even the children would call me Mackum, even after they could pronounce it properly."

"Well, I for one can't imagine you being called anything else," she smiled down at him, "Yanno, I don't imagine the bare ground will be any more comfortable for you, my old friend."

"Probably not," he said, "It doesn't matter. We can walk 'round a bit and get more tired if we need to. You have the old bracelet, right?" he asked, fingering the cuff as he lay there, cringing a little. He was so uncomfortable.

"Yep," she said, tugging her sleeve up to show him.

"Approaching the landing coordinates, sir," Shelby reported from the front of the shuttle.

"Oh, good," Malcolm replied.

"Here, and flip that switch and you'll turn on the landing thrusters," Shelby said to Neil.

"This one?"

"Yeah. Now. Good. You can study to be a shuttle pilot, I bet," she said.

"I dunno," he said, "I'm still in High School. I can't join up for another year."

Leonora blanched, "He never told me about joining up," she said quietly to Malcolm.

"Well, maybe he won't," he replied, "There's no sense in the last one hurtling himself in the direction of their phaser fire."

Shelby got up and opened the hatch, "Here we are."

Norri helped Malcolm up and he leaned on her as he got himself out of the shuttle. He made a face as he stepped onto the uneven ground, "Hand me that case, will you, Neil?"

Malcolm opened it. It had phase pistols in it, "Ever use one of these?" he asked.

"He's just a child," Leonora said.

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