Bold formatting is used for the Mirror Universe. Very rarely, its also used for emphasis.
Italic formatting is used for the following situations: titles, ship names, foreign words, emphasis, dream states, thoughts, reports and logs.
Regular formatting is used for everything else.
Also, I spell Commander Tucker's nickname as Tripp (yes, I know it's Trip in canon).
It didn't hurt.
Well, not too much, when Lili was slammed into the wall. The wall gave. It seemed softer, more pliable than whatever the heck starship walls are really made of.
She was spun around, and being kissed, all in pitch blackness.
She went with it, kissing back, a little surprised but not unnerved.
It was hot.
At that very thought, her clothes instantly disappeared but that is what happens in dreams.
The kissing continued.
The man was, who was he?
About her height. Endlessly touching her. Endlessly insatiable.
They fell onto a bed. It felt like her bed, with the slightly harder side on the left.
Rolled around, again and again.
Sweating and grappling.
His skin was salty with perspiration. He had a bit of stubble but was otherwise clean shaven. His forehead was a little high, his arms muscular. She had no idea who he was.
He said absolutely nothing, and she followed suit.
But there was just one moment when she felt she had to cry out in joy.
And that was when she woke up.
"What was that all about?" Jenny asked.
"Huh, what?" Lili was still groggy.
"Roomie, you kinda grunted in your sleep. Actually, it was more like squealing."
"I talk in my sleep? You know that, Lili said, stretching.
"This was different. It was like I could swear you were getting some, Jenny grinned.
"Oh, damn, look at the time! Chef'll kill me if I'm late!" Lili quickly got into chef's whites and left.
"Empress, there's been a slight sensor glitch."
"It's been going on for about an hour. I'd've reported it sooner, but it seemed small."
"An hour? MacKenzie, run a diagnostic. Fix it or figure it out. Now." The Empress was in no mood for incompetence.
"Yes, of course." Ensign MacKenzie said. It was suddenly hot on the Bridge, and his uniform seemed far too small.
"Commander, there's a small sensor glitch."
"Yes, Ensign MacKenzie?" T'Pol said.
"Didn't seem like much but it was going for around an hour or so."
"How interesting. Run a diagnostic and tell Lieutenant Reed when he comes in."
"Yes, Commander." MacKenzie started the diagnostic.
"Get up!" Jenn shoved him.
"What?" he was still groggy.
"Look at the time. The Empress doesn't like it when you're late, Old Man."
"Huh? Oh yeah, I should go."
"Ugh, Jenn complained.
"What? Oh, man. You better get to your shift, too."
"Sure thing. I wonder what they'd say if they knew a Lieutenant such as yourself did such, ugh, things."
"See if I care." He finished putting on his uniform and raced out.
What do you imagine it adds exactly? Or what do you imagine that leaving the actual spelling in place would detract from the story?
The Bridge was its usual somber place when he arrived.
"What's going on?" he asked.
"I'm having trouble with MacKenzie." The Empress said. She looked peeved.
"My responsibility, of course, he said, May I use the Ready Room?"
"Of course." she replied.
"Ensign MacKenzie, if you please." The Ensign walked in with him.
"Look", he said, after the door had safely shut behind them. "I know you came out of a different team, and so did I, but in this team we're cooperative until you prove yourself otherwise. So tell me what happened."
"It was a sensor. It had a strange reading for about an hour or so. I, I still don't know what caused it." MacKenzie shifted his weight from one foot to the other.
"When did it end and when did it start?"
"It ended about eleven minutes ago. And it started maybe fifty-seven minutes before that. I can get the actual numbers if you want."
"That's all right, Ensign." he did a quick calculation in his head. The end more or less matched when his dream about the girl had ended. As for whether the starting times matched, that was tougher to determine.
"Oh, yes, Ensign. Wool gathering for a second there. Here's what we'll do. There aren't a lot of spare working sensors. So let's keep this one and see if the same thing happens in the next, I dunno, forty-eight hours. If it happens again, we'll have someone from Tucker's team swap it out for a working one and do a full diagnostic. If not, then we're good to go. Sound good to you?"
"Oh, and Ensign? Next time, just tell the Empress that I'll deal with it, okay?"
"Yes, of course. Thank you, sir."
They emerged from the Ready Room and the Empress approved of their plan, but not until after she had gotten him to monitor the sensor regularly.
Lili's day went somewhat differently.
Chef had, for some reason, gotten onto an orange kick.
Orange juice, orange chicken, baby carrots with an orange and dill sauce and, for dessert, orange sorbet. Lili didn't question. That was not her job as sous-chef. She just had to follow orders.
So all day long, it was the same.
Zest. Halve. De-pit. Juice. Ream. Discard whatever remained.
Lather, rinse, repeat.
Over and over and over again. By the time it was time to get dinner out, she had about lost her mind with boredom. Her mind wandered while she was wielding the French knife, and she thought of the dream. She ended up slipping and cutting her left hand.
It wasn't that bad, so she finished up dinner and had some herself, but eventually the pain because unbearable. She hustled off to Sick Bay which was where she found herself.
"Tomorrow, Empress, we should be at the Lafa System, he said, after checking the sensor one last time.
"Anything interesting about this one?" she yawned.
"It has four stars, very unusual."
"Not what I had in mind. You know science bores me." she complained.
"Yes, of course. It's also close to Klingon space. A good spot for an outpost, he said.
"That's more like it." she purred. "Shift's over. Bright and early tomorrow."
"Of course." he departed.
"Ensign, what brings you here?" asked Dr. Phlox.
"This, Lili showed him her hand.
"That seems rather superficial. Not that I am complaining of the company, of course."
"I chopped oranges all day long, Doc."
"I see, so you've got some citric acid getting in there. Let's get it cleaned out, shall we?"
"Thanks. I mean, I'm usually good with the French knife. I guess I was distracted, Lili said.
"Oh? Are you getting enough sleep?" The doctor asked, as he scrubbed her hand.
"Yes, but it's very dream-filled. At least last night was. Maybe that's not very restful?"
"Ah, dreams. Human dreams are so interesting. May I ask what yours was about, if you remember it? I am fascinated by your unconscious states."
"Uh, Doc, it's a little embarrassing."
"I am your doctor, you can tell me anything, Phlox insisted.
"It's just, this one was, um, it was rather earthy."
"Then I am even more interested, Phlox paused a moment. "I am of course joking. Not here to intrude on your privacy."
"Do Denobulans dream?" asked Lili.
"We do. But it's not as pleasurable as yours, I'm afraid. We mainly seek to solve problems. Like my most recent one. My Derellian bat was off her feed. I had a dream that I had been giving her too much potassium and, lo and behold, I changed her feed and now she's a happy bat again."
"That's great, Doc."
"All fixed up."
"Thank you. And, happy dreaming, Lili said.
She got back to her room and barely made it into sweatpants before sleep overtook her.
This time, it was different.
She figured out it was him immediately, despite the pitch darkness. They kissed but he pulled back, and put a pillow under her back.
He kissed her again, and again their clothes melted away. She took his hand and guided it to her face, to let him know she was smiling. He did the same.
He kissed, touched and even put his face against everything. He moved slowly and deliberately, and she got the distinct impression that he was somehow mapping her.
Every time she tried to take his face in her hands and bring it to hers, he pushed her back gently. He was having none of it, and continued kissing her.
When her breathing became labored and husky, he finally came back to her, kissing her deeply. He buried his face in her shoulder and inhaled.
He stopped for a second, a little confused. "Oranges?" he asked, breaking their mutual silence for the very first time.
She chuckled. "Yes."
They kissed. He didn't move much, just kept kissing her over and over again.
She brought his hand to her face again, to show him she was still smiling. He did the same, kissing her fingers as their alarms went off and they awoke in far different bedrooms.
"Ugh! Not again!" Jennifer Crossman was in no mood.
"Oh, huh, how strange, he said, Not as bad as last time, though.
"Listen, Jenn, I ..." he paused.
"You what?" she demanded.
"I'm, I'm just tired. I'll take care of it later."
He pulled on his uniform and escaped to the Bridge, the frying pan to the fire.
"Roomie! You were hot and heavy again last night!" Jennifer Crossman joked.
"Huh, yes, I guess I was, Lili said.
"Are we gonna have oranges on everything again today?" Jenny whined.
"I'll make sure we don't. Gawd, I think I'm set for oranges for a while, Lili said, then paused. Oranges. He had said that. She sighed a little.
"Gotta run!" Jenny said, Commander Tucker needs me to test sensor polarities!" She was out the door like a shot.
"The Lafa System is unusual, Captain, said T'Pol. "Four stars. In your own Solar System, Jupiter is almost a failed star, and Saturn possibly could be as well. In the Lafa System, there are three extra stars that probably were initially gas giants, but they became stars instead, as nuclear fusion was ignited."
"That is interesting." Captain Archer said, The strategic position is good, too."
"Captain, if I may interject." Ensign Hoshi Sato said.
"Yes?" he turned to her. She didn't normally have a lot to say unless it was communications-oriented.
"This culture, this language is probably rather telling. See, the four stars are all named. Lo, Abic, Fep and Ub. Now, that's not remarkable in and of itself, but the names have other meanings."
"You mean like Aloha in Hawaiian means both hello and good-bye?" asked Ensign Travis Mayweather as he guided the ship through the outer reaches of the system.
"Yes, exactly!" Hoshi smiled. "And the names have all of these, well, these value judgments attached to them. Lo isn't just the name of the big, white star. It also means sun, light, and goodness. Abic is the second-largest star the yellow one and it means second or two. Fep is the dark orangey one, and it means small. Ub is the red dwarf star and it means, red, dwarf or undersized, and evil."
"Evil?" asked Captain Archer. "The itchy, captivating light of an irresistible dark star, he said, quoting a late twenty-first century poet.
"That's the one, Hoshi said.
"Fascinating." T'Pol replied.
"Oh, sorry, said the Captain. "Other strategic information, T'Pol?"
"The culture has warp drive but they never leave their own system, so far as we are aware. They simply shuttle from planet to planet, depending on temperature, crops, festivals and, perhaps some other purposes."
"Like snowbirds, going to a warm climate when the winter comes?" asked Travis.
"Not a bad analogy, I'd say, said Captain Archer. "Take us in closer."
"The First Officer and I will be in the, uh, Ready Room." The Empress said when he walked in.
"Yes, of course, Empress, he said, taking his post and relieving Ensign MacKenzie. "Mac, wait before you leave. And, Empress, I will assure you are not disturbed."
"Good. You're in charge while I'm ... busy, she said, beckoning to Travis, who followed in eager anticipation.
Once the door to the Ready Room was closed, there was a sound of some thumping and banging.
Ensign MacKenzie looked at him. "Sir?"
"Did we, uh, have any more sensor glitches yesterday?"
The banging was becoming more audible, and it was being matched with rather loud moaning.
"How long this time?"
"Around seven hours."
"Do you have the data that was collected?"
"On the console, sir."
"All right, we'll swap out the sensor. Go to Tucker's team don't send a message, just go straight there and have the sensor replaced. See to it personally."
"Yes, sir!" MacKenzie was audibly and visibly delighted, and fairly well ran off the Bridge.
"What is everyone staring at?" he demanded, as everyone got back to work and the banging got louder and faster.
This time it wasn't oranges and chopping. It was pasta water.
Lili was again distracted, and some of it sloshed on her left arm.
The Chef pronounced it a second-degree burn and ordered her to Sick Bay.
Dr. Phlox tut-tutted and fussed as he bandaged her arm. "More issues with sleeping, Ensign?"
"If you mean more vivid dreams then, yes."
"Well, they may be interfering with your waking life. I don't want you coming in tomorrow with a detached fingertip or anything of the sort."
"Of course not. Doctor, I, I know that one of the symptoms of insanity is being unable to tell the difference between fantasy and reality."
"That is one definition, Ensign, yes."
"Well, I still, I know the difference, all right? But I also, I, like, it's weird. I have, um, my body. It feels like I really did have a visitor last night."
"Oh?" The Denobulan arched an eyebrow.
"I feel, uh, like something's happened. Does that make any sense?"
"Your medical history is that you do talk in your sleep."
"Good thing I don't do anything strategic, she said.
"True. But as I was saying, perhaps you've become more active."
"It could explain some things." The doctor said, And you have rather long nails. It's possible that you scratched yourself." He drew a sheet around the bed she was sitting on. "I can do an examination now, and take a look."
"Okay." she lay back.
"Hmm, now let's see. So you have been having rather graphic dreams of late. Ensign, dreams are a definite window into human psychology. You are not in a relationship now, correct?"
"No, I'm not, and it's been a really, really long time."
"You seem to be a rather lonely woman."
"I don't talk to anyone, really, but my roommate and Chef. And you, right now. I'm older than everyone on the ship except for the captain."
"And T'Pol, of course."
"Yes, of course, Lili said, Doctor, did you find something?"
He frowned at her. "I will have to report this."
"Report? What are you talking about?" She sat up in alarm.
"I have found Ensign, you have been fully asleep during these encounters?"
"And, by definition, consent cannot be achieved from a sleeping person."
"What? I, Doc, this was consensual. Believe me, it was totally consensual."
"You may believe that, but I must intervene as I believe a crime has been committed."
"A, a crime?"
"Ensign, given my findings, I must ask you: have you been assaulted before?"
Ensign MacKenzie fairly well sprinted to Engineering. There she was, in all her be-uniformed glory: Jennifer Crossman.
She was sketching a schematic using a PADD, and didn't see him come up. He grabbed her behind and turned her around.
"Aidan!" she gasped. "What if somebody sees?"
"Then they'll see, he said. They broke apart when Commander Tucker walked by, then came together again when he had departed.
"Why are you here?" she asked, ignoring him nuzzling her neck.
"The old man told me to get you to change out a sensor that's not working, and investigate the failure in the old one."
"Me, personally? I don't think so."
"Well, he said Engineering, so I naturally gave this task to the hottest girl in the Department."
"He must finally be slipping, she said, Why else would he just give you this particular assignment?"
"I think you're right, he is slipping. He coulda really reamed me the other day, but he was actually, I dunno, almost nice about it. Maybe he's lulling us into a trap. You know, a false sense of security, Aidan said.
"Maybe, Jenn admitted. "But I don't know. He's acting weirdly lately. I'll feel him out, see if I can get anything out of him."
"I'd like to , Aidan said, leering at her.
"Please, I'm supposed to be working."
"Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know that. But can't you get away a little?"
"Hmm, the sensor is located inside that Jeffries tube over there. It'll be a tight squeeze."
"That's what I like, he said.
"It'll have to be quick, she said, grabbing a replacement sensor from a storage area. She looked around nervously. No one was coming.
"I can do quick, he said, breathing heavily in her ear.
"Yeah, I know, she said.
"What's that supposed to mean?" Aidan complained.
"Oh, nothing, she said, hoisting herself into the narrow electronics service tube, and pulling him in with her.
"That's more like it, he said, after kissing her.
Clothes weren't removed, just pushed to the side and down, and it was, as promised, quick.
Neither of them noticed the faintest of cracking sounds.
Lili didn't want to hear any more of it, and she pulled her uniform back on and ran back to her quarters. What? It made no sense whatsoever, but nothing did any more.
She took a hot shower and willed herself to calm down.
The Empress and the First Officer emerged from the Ready Room after several hours. Her hair was askew, his uniform was torn slightly. They were both smiling stupidly. "How soon until we get to communications range?" she asked. "I need to get someone to surrender." she grinned.
"Should be there tomorrow, Empress, he said.
"Very well. Dismissed."
Lili was in a large room, standing, as pitch black as before.
There were footsteps.
"Is that you?" she called out.
"Yes!" he said, steps quickening. "Talk to me, I'll follow your voice." His voice was familiar and unfamiliar, all at the same time.
"What should I talk about?"
"I dunno. Whatever you did today, okay?"
"Sure. I was, um, I made Pasta alla Puttanesca."
"What's that? How do you make it?" he asked. "Just keep talking."
"Yes, well, while the pasta water is boiling, you slice a boatload of garlic really thinly. And you cook it and anchovies and capers and a bunch of tomato paste in some extra virgin olive oil, then you toss it all together."
"What are capers?" his voice was closer.
"They're these little pickled flower buds. Very briny tasting. I ran out, and we won't get any more until we get other supplies, so I added more anchovies. It was a little too fishy, I think. Do you know why that dish has its name?"
"No, I don't." he was a lot closer.
"It's supposed to be 'pasta the way a whore would make it'. Possibly because of a strong, alluring smell, possibly because it's quick and dirty. Something like that." She stopped.
His breath was close. "Go on, if you like. I'm enjoying hearing you talking. We didn't talk before."
"Sure we did, she said, You said 'Oranges?' to me last night."
"Yes. Very seductive of me." he chuckled, then kissed her. He came up for air. "What is, what's your name?"
"I, um, I ...."
"Don't tell me you don't know it."
"Of course I know it. It's just, see, I'm a little scared."
"Scared?" he held her. "Of what?"
"Well, I don't want to exchange names or anything really identifying until we've seen each others faces."
"Because, you see," Lili said, "what if you don't like what I look like? Or I don't like you? I know it's shallow, but attraction is built on visuals, like it or not. What if you think I'm hopelessly ugly?"
Dr. Phlox tested and tested the sample. He covered every eventuality. Something was not adding up.
He would have to convene a meeting, a subset of the Bridge crew. The two most senior female officers T'Pol and Hoshi Sato the Captain, and himself. He shook his head. Ensign O'Day had seemed so certain that there was consent. She had even asked for a birth control shot.
"You won't be ugly. I am certain of that, he said.
"How can you be so sure?" she cocked a hand on her hip, but he could not see the gesture.
"Because your features are symmetrical. I may not know the specifics, but symmetry is the basis for attractiveness. You'll be fine. It's just the details right now."
"But, but, I just."
"There's more to it, isn't there?" he probed.
"Yes. I have been, I have been burned before. If you, if you don't like me, I don't want you to feel obligated. And if you, if you reject me, I don't want to have a specific name to curse, And if I, well, if I can't accept you, I don't want you to be able to find me." She trembled slightly.
He took her hand. "It's all right. I can, I think I can accept that. I don't love it, but I suppose that makes sense. Can I tell you about what I did today? Unless you, um, you want to do it. We could dream up the bed again."
"In a little while, yes. Of course! But I like talking to you, she said.
"I like talking to you, too. Feels like, I don't know, like something I haven't felt in decades."
"Decades? Aren't you, like, eighteen or something?"
"I've seen eighteen three times, he said.
"You're, huh, over fifty?" she asked, incredulous.
"Yep. I'll be fifty-five in about six weeks. You? If, um, if you want to tell me."
"I don't mind. I'll be staring down fifty in a little over a year and a half. But you, um, you perform like a much, much younger man."
"Well, thanks." they kissed. "I'm having a really, really good time. And not just between the sheets. Talking to you is good. Smart, pleasant, I dunno. I hope you realize I am going to like you almost no matter what you look like."
"I, I hope that turns out to really be true, she said.
Jennifer stared at the old man's sleeping form. He was really sawing logs. He had muttered something about the number eighteen. Whatever.
Cautiously, she got out of bed. He was still asleep. Good. She dressed and tiptoed to the door. She was safely outside and on her way to MacKenzie's when she heard her name being called.
"It is true. Anyway, my day. I determined that you are real, he said triumphantly.
"You did? Uh, how?"
"There's this sensor. And it's been kicking up for the past two nights. Almost perfectly coinciding to you and me being together. And I bet it'll do it again tonight." he kissed her.
"Hmm, I don't think we have sensors that are that good. Not that I know too much about it; I only know what my roommate tells me about such things."
"Well, we definitely have sensors that can detect it. I mean, maybe we have better sensors than you do."
"I, I feel like I should be defending the fine work of our sensors." she joked.
"I'm not disparaging your, um, equipment, he said, But I digress. As I was saying, the sensor. And the activity is recorded. I managed to isolate it."
"Are you in Engineering?" Lili asked.
"Oh. Um, go on."
"It pulsed. I then counted how often per minute. Started at about 65, then 74, up to 85, down into the sixties again. Up and down for hours. Got as high as one twenty-eight quite a few times."
"What does that mean?" she asked. "I feel like I'm missing something really obvious."
"I think it's a heartbeat. More importantly, I think it's your heartbeat."
"Ensign!" It was Commander Tucker.
"Commander! What are you doing up at this hour?" Jennifer asked, trying to appear nonchalant.
"I was just about to ask you the same thing. And I was gonna ask you about leaving your post yesterday. You were gone for about forty minutes."
"Oh, um, something came up."
"I'm sure it did. Ramirez saw you and MacKenzie go into that Jeffries tube."
"Oh, Jennifer swallowed hard.
"Listen, it's like this." Tucker said, I know all about you and MacKenzie. And so does pretty much everybody else except for the Old Man. But I also know what you're doing with your little toy there."
"Funny you should say all of that, Lili said, Because I've got proof that you're real, as well."
"Oh?" he asked. "Tell me more." His hands encircled her waist.
"You left a calling card last time."
"A calling card?"
"My, uh, my doctor found, er, something."
He figured it out. "Ohhhhh. I kinda had the feeling last night, that that was happening. Do you suppose that I could get you pregnant?"
"I think it's possible, so I asked the doctor to give me the shot. But it would be kinda funny if I did have your child."
"Really? What would be so funny about that? You'd be alone, with no one to help you."
"Well, instead of threatening, 'Wait 'til your father gets home!' I would say, 'Wait 'til your father falls asleep!'"
"We really should meet then, he said.
"I, I know that, I know it intellectually, she said, But you know how I feel."
A light came on, several feet away in the dream room. It shone a small spotlight, like a lamppost.
"What makes you think you know?" Jennifer asked.
"You want what everybody here wants: power. Sex, too. But mainly power. You want to be Head of Engineering, and you want your toy to run Tactical. And then you probably figure you can make a play to overthrow the Empress."
"I want no such thing, Jennifer lied.
"Oh, c'mon, sister! But I want you to understand something. You need me. You need my expertise and my skills. And you need for me to blame if something goes wrong. I am gonna die soon anyway, of this damned radiation poisoning, and you'll have it all anyway. Just don't jump the gun and hurry me along."
"So you're asking me to, what, to protect you? I've got better things to do with my time." she yawned.
"I'm not asking, I'm telling. I keep quiet and you get to keep your post. Plus you learn from me and get a great scapegoat for problems after I'm gone possibly for a few years if you play your cards right. And I also make a dandy human shield for you. And you make a dandy human shield for me (and a far sight more attractive one as well) as anyone looking to overthrow me and take over Engineering has gotta go through you first."
"I don't know, Jennifer said, rolling it over in her mind.
"Think about it. And while you're at it, you might wanna spare the Old Man for a while, for the same reason."
"Well, near as I can see it, if you wanna make a go at Empress Hoshi and her boy toy Travis, you'll both need to be in a strong position. That probably means getting there at the same time, yes?"
"Crossman, I won't be around for more than a few more months. And then if you wanna strangle the Old Man with his own belt, I say have at it. At least, that's the way I would do it if I were you."
"Hmmm. Something to think about." she turned back to her quarters to think it over. Some things were more important than even a good time, and Aidan would just have to wait.
"Did you dream up that light?" he asked.
"It wasn't me." she laughed.
"None of this makes sense, but it's all dream logic anyway, I guess, he said, May I walk you over there?"
"Yes, but slowly. I want to hold onto this for just a little while longer."
"Understood." They held hands, his thumb caressing her fingers. They kissed.
"I want to, I want to go first, she said.
"You mean stand under the light, or look at me first?"
"I want to stand under the light first. That work for you?"
"Of course. Ready?"
"Yes." She took a deep breath and willed herself into her best dress, a sapphire blue number she had picked up while on shore leave on Callisto. She stepped into the light, where it was warmer than in the rest of the room.
"Hmm, mmm, hmmm." he murmured.
"You're staring at me, she said.
"How can you tell?"
"A woman always knows."
"I, well, I am liking what I see. Very, very much, he said, But I bet you're not really wearing that dress to bed."
"No, I'm not. I just wanted to, I wanted to look good for you."
"You look better than good. You look beautiful."
"Oh, c'mon. I've got parentheses lines around my mouth, my lower teeth are crooked and my right side is bigger than my left."
"I know all that. And I think you're a little uneven because you're right-handed."
"How d'you know I'm righ- ? Oh, yeah, from that, I guess."
"Yes, from that." he confirmed.
Jennifer slipped back in beside the Old Man. Not what she wanted to do, but she had to think, and could do that better while he slept than while Aidan pawed at her.
The Old Man said something about a dress. Whatever.
"Oh, Lili said, I guess I walked right into that one."
"But I want you to know," he said, "I don't care about any of that, the imperfections. God knows I've got plenty. I still think you're beautiful."
"You should see my roommate, if you want to see beautiful. She's twenty-seven."
"I've seen twenty-seven-year-old women before, he said.
"I, I don't know how to respond to that, she said.
"No need to think up anything. Can I ask you to do something?"
"I suppose." she teased.
"Could you show me what you're really looking like right now? Whatever you're really wearing to bed. No makeup. Hair doing whatever. Show me that."
"Uh, all right." she willed herself back into a tee shirt, cut off sweatpants and socks, her hair a little stringy from needing a wash.
"Perfect, he said.
"You're not serious." she reddened.
"You look fine. You look like a sleeping person. A real person. I like the blonde hair. Even when you don't comb it." he assured her. "Are you, uh, are you Scandinavian?"
"No, I'm French-Irish."
"You look really Nordic. White-blonde hair, crystal blue eyes, pale skin."
"I stay out of sun and all. I burn really, really easily. Mainly I just cook, eat and sleep, it seems."
"And you dream, he said, Are you, um, ready to see me?"
"Yes, I think so."
He put his hand into the light. It was darker than hers, but pretty much everyone was darker than Lili O'Day. She took it.
"I really want you to like me. I really, really want you to like me. How do you, um?" he asked, but before he could finish his question, she was kissing him.
They kissed for a long time, eyes closed, and positioned themselves both under the light, or at least it felt that way.
They broke away and opened their eyes.
She took one look, shrieked and fainted.
"Wait!" he yelled, as they awoke to different, colder lights.
Jennifer grabbed at him. He was waking up anyway, and there was some time before the alarm went off. Not that she really, truly wanted to do the deed, but it would buy her some time as she thought about what Tucker had suggested.
"Wha huh?" he was still rousing himself. And some parts were rousing faster than others. He blinked several times. "Why'd you have ta go and wake me?"
"You were having a dream of some sort." she yawned.
"Yes. I was." he was getting more angry than aroused.
Jennifer grinned at him. "I like it when you're hot with anger. C'mon. It's been a long time." She tossed her lingerie off and to the floor.
He stared at her. Red hair, red nails, red lips. Peaches and cream complexion. There was no question that she was stunning. He bent over and kissed her.
"C'mon. Let's be like it was. Do it like we used to last year." she beckoned.
She grabbed at him in a way that he used to find scintillating. He swallowed hard and stared at her. "What's bringing all this on?"
"I just wanna do it. C'mon, Ol-, uh, c'mon!"
"You can't even bring yourself to call me by my name any more. Or are you afraid you'll call out 'Aidan' at the wrong time?" he was no longer interested and just glared at her.
"Wait a second. You want me. You know you do. Lots of guys would kill to have me." she bragged.
"Then let them have you. Oh, wait. You already do. Get out. Now. Get your things and leave."
"Why should I leave?"
"These are my quarters, Jenn. Move it."
"I won't have quarters." she complained.
"I hear MacKenzie is looking for a bunkmate. Or maybe Ramirez. Or Mayweather when he's not otherwise busy. Yes, I know about all of them. And Delacroix, too."
"You're gonna want me back. You can't live alone!"
"Oh, spare me the drama and just get some clothes on and let your freckled butt be the last thing I see that's yours."
"Roomie! Are you okay?" Jennifer was solicitous.
"Huh? Oh, yes, I suppose, Lili sat up and hugged her knees to her chest.
"Anything you need to talk about?"
"Um, no. But thanks, Lili got up and dressed. She didn't want to look at messages or anything just get to work and try to think about something else.
"How far away is that ship?"
"Perhaps a full day at best, First Minister."
"And you said there was an interesting candidate?"
"Yes. Our doctors and scientists are working on the arrangements. Almost all of the details have been worked out."
"And we will know more about them than they would ever tell us?"
"That is the idea, First Minister. Plus, of course, the main purpose can be fulfilled. Polloria is in place and the people will accept her if we can get it all to work just right."
"Excellent. And the other ?"
"No change, First Minister."
"How far away is that ship?"
"Less than a full day, First Minister."
"And you said there was an interesting candidate?"
"Yes. Our doctors and scientists are working on the arrangements. Almost all of the details have been worked out."
"And we will know more about them than they would ever tell us?"
"That is the idea, First Minister. Plus, of course, the main purpose can be fulfilled. Polloria is in place and the people will accept her if we can get it all to work just right."
"Excellent. And the other ?"
"No change, First Minister."
Lili barely looked up all day, as Chef had told her there would be an Executive-level vegan dinner in the main conference room. Six people, including the Captain, Dr. Phlox, T'Pol and Hoshi Sato. The other two guests were unknown. She had full rein, and could feed them anything she wished.
This was the kind of challenge that Lili liked, and she threw herself into it with gusto. It also, conveniently, took her mind off other matters.
By eighteen hundred hours, she was wheeling a small cart into the main conference room. Captain Archer and First Officer T'Pol had already arrived.
"Captain! I'm usually early with these things." she babbled as she set the table for six.
"We ended up being really early. Here, let me help you with that."
"That's my job, Captain."
"Um, Ensign, this dinner, this meeting isn't a chance for us to enjoy your cooking so much as it is about you."
"Oh, Lili's face fell.
"You're not in any kind of trouble." he assured her, putting a fork on a napkin. "We just need to have a talk." Hoshi and Phlox walked in. "Looks like everyone's here." Captain Archer said.
"There are only five of us in here, Lili pointed out.
"Well, we were hoping there would be a sixth but ?" Captain Archer's voice trailed off as he saw Phlox shake his head.
"May I make a suggestion?" Phlox inquired. "Let's save the business for after the meal, if that's at all possible. I haven't had a chance to savor the Ensign's cooking before. At least, not when I have known it is only her doing the cooking."
"Actually, Captain, that would be more comfortable for me, Lili said, My not knowing what this meeting is about is my problem for not checking messages. Plus the whole presentation is to tell you about the dishes. Is that all right?"
Everyone nodded. "All right. The theme for this vegan dinner is Halloween, as it is coming up in a few days. It's easy to make orange food."
"Ugh, I don't think I want to see another orange for a while, Hoshi said.
"Not to worry, I'm just talking about the color, not the flavor, Lili assured her. "So, orange is easy. But black is far more difficult, without simply burning everything. So please indulge me and accept dark brown or dark purple as black, okay?"
She took out the tureen and served the soup. "This is a pumpkin curry soup. Normally this soup would be made with a cream base, but in order to accommodate Commander T'Pol, the stock instead is a vegetable one. The pumpkin was roasted before it was purιed. The black in this dish is the dark pumpernickel bread on the side. Bon Appetit."
"Won't you join us?" The Captain asked.
"Uh, okay, Lili sat down.
"Can I ask you something?" Hoshi said.
"Er, I guess so."
"Why don't you wear one of those chef's hats?"
"Oh, whew. Those are called toques. I just don't like them. To me they just separate chefs out from other people. I do need to keep my hair back, so I wear a baseball cap instead."
"Titan Bluebirds, Phlox read off the front of her cap. "Is that a favored team?"
"I grew up on Titan. They're the hometown nine, but I'm actually a New England Red Sox fan. But that cap's a bit worse for wear. Not really appropriate for an Executive-level dinner."
He got permission from the Empress to come to the Bridge two hours later than usual, and spent his time packing up Jennifer's things and getting them over to Aidan's quarters. Then he cleaned and scrubbed everything that she had touched or laid on. He even cleaned the soft bridging foam which attached the two twin beds together to make one larger bed. While everything was drying, he sat down on the left side of the bed. A little harder than the right. He smiled to himself slightly. The dream bed was also a little harder on the left. Strange. An image of Jennifer's body hit him for just a moment, but it was quickly replaced by crystal blue eyes. He shook his head. "You really are slipping, he said out loud, to no one. "Kinda stupid to do this if she won't even look at you." He went back to cleaning.
"And so, after the black sesame seeds in the main dish, and the black seaweed from Europa in the salad, it's time for dessert. Dessert is a sweet potato pie, Southern style, with black Mission figs as a garnish. Anyone have any room?"
"Oh. My. God. Ensign, you're gonna make us all fat." The Captain said, The salad that's from Voracious, isn't it?"
"How do you know about Voracious?" Lili asked.
"When Chef was thinking of hiring you, he had me go with him to your restaurant. And I had the Harvest Salad that night, too."
"Oh, good. Did you have the duck? We really don't do duck here too messy and too heavy, and not really in the budget I used to make Duck Burgers at Voracious. I miss that place."
"What happened to it?" Hoshi asked.
"I sold it when I came on board. I'll probably open another one when I retire."
"Are we ready to start talking about why we're here?" The Captain asked, looking meaningfully at Lili.
"I guess so, she said.
"Let's start with Dr. Phlox's findings. Doctor?"
"I had the occasion to examine the Ensign and interview her. She spoke of feeling, physically, as if she had engaged in coitus. I performed an examination and found something. Due to the Ensign stating that these encounters occurred while she was asleep, the possibility of there being informed consent appeared to be absent."
"Did you perform a DNA test?" Commander T'Pol asked.
"I did, as per standard Starfleet procedures." The doctor replied. "But then it got interesting. I tested the sperm against every single male on this ship. I even tested it against my own sample. The only male I did not test was Porthos."
"Doc, I wasn't doing it with the dog, Lili bristled.
"No, of course not. Just attempting a tiny bit of apparently backfiring humor. But testing Porthos would be futile anyway, as he is neutered. In any event, I found no matches whatsoever. I also checked former crew members and there were no matches. I did this even though we have not taken on human passengers or crew for several months."
"Are you certain that the DNA is human?" The Captain asked.
"Absolutely, Phlox said, And another things. The sample was saturated with testosterone. Far more than any normal human male can tolerate. It was at a level far more typical of a standard Klingon male."
"But you said it was definitely human." Hoshi pointed out.
"Indeed I did. This is some sort of super-male, perhaps. Would probably have a high sex drive and some aggressive tendencies. Oh and one more thing."
"You mean there's more to this?" Captain Archer asked.
"I tested and found that the incidence of Y chromosomes which would indicate the potential for male children was abnormally high. As in, about three-quarters of the sample, if an ovum had been fertilized, would have resulted in a male child. The normal ratio is far closer to fifty-fifty."
"What do you think of all of this, Ensign?" The Captain asked. "Take your time."
"No, I, uh, Doc, you said you looked at former crew members. Did you look at all of them? And I mean every single one of them?"
"I no, wait. There is a class that is missing. I can run the test from here." he punched a few keys on his PADD.
"Wait, you've lost me, Hoshi said.
"Ah, there it is. Ensign, we have a match, although the testosterone level still seems off." The doctor pulled up a service record and a picture. "Ensign, is this your, uh, friend?"
He lay back after a long day. They were in the Lafa system and were getting some communications hails, but it was the Empress's way to ignore hails until they were right on top of a planet or ship, bearing down and looking huge and menacing. Tomorrow would be time to spring into action.
He closed his eyes. He knew there was a possibility and that every day that possibility would grow and grow until it became a probability that he would not survive the night. "Just have to make things right, he said out loud. "And quit talking to myself all the time."
The meeting finally over, Lili crawled into bed. "Gotta figure this out." she murmured as she fell asleep.
He found himself on a roof deck, with assorted small tables and chairs. There were brown cattails in vases on the tables. She was sitting at one. He approached, and tried to remain nonchalant. "I guess I'm hopelessly ugly, he said, swallowing.
"No, no, of course not. Far from it. Please sit down. And, um, it's a little chilly out here, Lili said.
He willed himself out of his normal sleep attire, and into a pair of blue jeans, black boots and a black watch flannel shirt, to go along with her turquoise hoodie, jeans and sneakers. "Good idea. So, um, was it what I was wearing last night?"
"No." she smiled wanly. "Boxer shorts and a tee shirt are pretty standard sleeping clothes for a guy."
"Then, um, please tell me. What is it? What's so wrong? Let me try to fix it, he said.
"I oh, man. Do you not know?"
She sighed. "I, I don't know how to break this to you."
"Direct is best."
"You're, you're dead."
"Oh, get off me, Aidan!" Jennifer snarled.
"I haven't seen you all day. And suddenly you're moved in. Which is, um, great. Very unexpected. So this means we can do it more."
"I gotta think."
"Think later." he commanded.
"Do you even know why I'm here?" she bristled.
"Yes. You can't live without me."
She made a sound and rolled her eyes. "I am here because the old man, well, I got tired of him, she said, avoiding the truth.
"Of course, Aidan said.
"And he's whipped enough that I even got him to move my stuff. But this is gonna change things. Gotta figure out what he's up to."
"Worry about him later, Aidan said, You. Me. Now."
"Dead? Huh? Lemme tell ya, I am not dead. Here, I'll prove it to you." he got up to get closer.
"No, no. Please. It's not that I don't want to. I do. And that's what's so disturbing to me. You're dead, and this cannot be happening. It's all dreams and wish fulfillment anyway, and there's always a catch, and that's the catch." her voice was becoming higher pitched and she was speaking faster as a lump rose in her throat.
"I'm, I'm not, I'm not dead, he said, How can I show you that? What, what kind of proof do you have? What's making you think that?"
"I I saw." she was now really crying, hot tears hitting her face and bouncing off and onto her hoodie.
"Your, your body. I saw them put your body in a big tube and shoot it off into space."
"What? When? And I, I don't get it. Not just this but also, you saw me? I never saw you before yesterday."
"You, you don't remember me?"
"I know I never, ever saw you before. I would have known."
"You and I, we would nod in the hallways. We didn't say much. We were not friends. But you could recognize me, I know you could! The Enterprise isn't a huge ship."
"Enterprise? That ship was destroyed a few years ago."
"Des-huh?" she just started to cry even more, and waved him off when he was all set to bend over her and comfort her. It took her a few minutes to finally get the lump back down to a manageable size.
"So, um," he said, "this is weird. You think I'm dead, and I think the Enterprise is dead. And we have the same kind of proof, eyewitnesses, we're both eyewitnesses. I'm not, I'm not a logical guy. If I were a Vulcan or something, I bet I'd have this all figured out already."
She nodded but did not say anything.
"Hmm, wait. What was the name of the guy who you saw shot off into space?"
"It, it was your name. It was Hayes. Major Jay Hayes."
"Damn, damn, damn!" Commander Tucker was in no mood.
"Something wrong, sir? And, if I may ask, sir, wasn't your shift over hours ago?"
"Ramirez, I hardly ever sleep these days. Oh nine hundred hours, eighteen hundred hours, or oh two hundred hours like now, it doesn't matter. I am always on. The Empress doesn't seem to have a problem with me working myself to death."
"Uh, no, sir." Ramirez fidgeted.
"Check the sensors. None of them seem to be working."
"Sir, I ran a diagnostic four nights ago."
"Then run another one. Actually, better yet. Take every blessed sensor out and check it manually."
"Sir, that'll take weeks."
"Crewman, you've got orders." Tucker walked away, muttering to himself. "Stupid screwed up database."
"Okay, well, that's not me. I mean, my last name is Hayes. But Jay is my middle name."
"Yep. My first name is Douglas. C-call me Doug. And, um, I was a Major for maybe all of five minutes. I'm a Lieutenant Commander now."
"So you're not .... But the doctor said your DNA matched the sample."
"I, I don't think I am. Not that guy, no. I don't think so. But you, um, you said about the Enterprise. Tell me more about the Enterprise. Tell me, tell me something. I've got a feeling I may have an explanation if you can give me enough to go on."
"Hmm. Well, um, today there was an investigation. Or, well, kind of a meeting."
"I told you, you left a calling card and all, hence the DNA test. And the Exec level, they wanted to make sure there wasn't some mad rapist running around, having sex with random sleeping women. Dr. Phlox said ...."
"Yes. My doctor's name is Phlox. He's a Denobulan."
"Yes, I know. And he's also, he's dead."
"Nu-uh, Lili shook her head. "Captain Archer doesn't go around hiring dead doctors or anything like that."
"Archer? Archer is your captain?"
"So, I am thinking I am starting to understand what's going on here. Um, who else was at this meeting, if I may ask?" Doug said.
"Commander T'Pol and Ensign Hoshi Sato, because they are the two most senior women on the ship."
"Huh. T'Pol is also dead."
"And Ensign Sato?"
"We don't call her that anymore."
"Oh?" Lili asked. "I'm getting really confused."
"Do you know what a multiverse is?"
Tucker buzzed the Empress about twenty times before she finally answered. "Yeah, what?" Travis Mayweather lay next to her and glared.
"Empress, I got almost no working sensors anymore."
"So fix them."
"I would, but there is nothing to fix them with, and no instructions anywhere."
"You've been going along fine without instructions. Really, Commander, would you quit calling me at such crazy hours?"
"Empress, this can't wait."
"Yes, it can."
"But that database, it's all messed up. It's like, it's like Swiss cheese in there." Tucker complained.
"Do your usual magic. Bye." She hung up. "Now, where were we?"
"Isn't that where there's, like a million trillion universes? And in one, you and I are talking, and in another I'm sitting and reading a book or whatever?"
"Pretty much. Could even be finer grained than that. Maybe in one you're wearing a red dress, in another you're wearing a green one and in another one you're wearing tan."
"Not tan. It doesn't look good on me."
"Okay." he smiled. "But think of it that way."
"None of that's ever been proven, she said.
"Yes, actually, it has. See, a few years ago, when Forrest was our Captain, ...."
"Forrest? He was an Admiral when he died, Lili said.
"There's another difference."
"Oh, sorry to interrupt."
"That's okay. Um, Archer was the First Officer and he heard rumors of an advanced ship, possibly from a different universe. We investigated and, lo and behold, the fellow was right. It was the Defiant. Took it over and it became pretty useful when the Enterprise herself was destroyed and that was, well, it was about two years ago. There was a power struggle there always is and Archer ended up being poisoned by his lover. She then took over the ship, had a kid, consolidated her power over that year and then wasn't just an Empress in name only. Now she really is the Empress."
"Don't tell me it's my roommate who's the Empress."
"Only if you're rooming with Hoshi Sato."
"How close are we?"
"We have been reviewing every scrap of a record we can find on them, First Minister. We have a truly excellent candidate."
"Let's hail them tomorrow."
"Ha, no. Holy cow. So this is somehow there's a crossing over that's happening again?" Lili asked.
"I, I think so. See, the ship is actually from the future. Your future. I am assuming you're from its own private universe although maybe you aren't. Can't say for certain. But, I mean, right now it's 2157."
"Yes." he smiled. "Thirtieth, right?"
"Well, I think it's the thirty-first by now, she said, I think you and I have been asleep for a while."
"You're, um, you're probably right. Look, uh, is it okay for you to give me your name? I, I feel like I'm at a disadvantage. Are you, uh, okay with that?"
"Yes, of course. No manners here." she smiled. "My full name is Charlotte Lilienne O'Day. But nobody calls me Charlotte and no one calls me Lilienne. They call me Lili."
"I don't think I've heard a more beautiful name."
"Don't be silly, my parents gave me the initials C-L-O-D."
"They probably didn't mean to do that, Lili, Doug rolled the name around for the first time.
"Hmm, I suppose not. Can't ask 'em now."
"They died in a house fire when I was nine."
"Oh. I didn't mean to pry."
"It's all right. Not like you would have known." she reached for his hand, voluntarily.
He touched her hand and they were both taken aback with a spark arced between them. "Whoa!" he said, Even though it's a clichι, it looks like sparks really do fly between us."
"Maybe it's because we haven't touched for over a day." She pulled him close to her the sparking had stopped and kissed him.
He smiled and opened his eyes when they broke apart. "I missed you. I missed that. And I was concern no, afraid. Yes, afraid. I was afraid I would never see you. You remember that sensor I told you about? The one that recorded your heartbeat? It wasn't functioning, or something. No heartbeat today. I was scared that you were gone, or dead or out of range forever."
"I'm right here, she said.
"Let's, um, let's get out of here. Wherever here is, Doug said.
"This is actually my old restaurant in San Mateo. Which I will show you some other time, she said, looking at him intently.
They were back in private quarters. "Hang on, I'll change out of these, he said.
"No, no, let me."
"Well, I've been the one holding back. And I remember how good our second night was together, so I want to do something like that for you."
"Oh, you liked that, eh? It's Tantric."
"Huh, where did you learn to do that?" she asked as she removed his shirt.
"I did basic training in Cambodia. Had my first encounter there, too."
"I, I see. I liked that we faced each other all night. If there had been light, I would have been looking in your eyes, you know."
Doug smiled and steadied himself as he lifted one foot, then the other, for her to take off his boots. "Why would I be with a beautiful girl and not want to look right at her during it? Makes no sense to me otherwise."
She straightened up. "Lie back on the bed, and I'll get your jeans off."
"Yes." he grinned. "You take the right side. The left side of the bed is harder than the right."
"Same's true of my bed. Funny, she said.
"Well, maybe they repurposed the old equipment from the Enterprise and put it in the Defiant. Just 'cause it's old, doesn't mean it doesn't work."
"Oh, I see things are working very, very well, she said.
"C'mere, he said, when he had recovered his voice. They kissed for a long time and stayed together all night.
"Roomie! Roomie! You up?" Jennifer asked.
"Huh, uh, yeah, I guess so, Lili blinked a few times. The alarm was going off. She turned it off.
"What's, um, what's happening?"
"I got a note from Fra-ank!" Jenny exclaimed.
"Oh. The hot planetary geologist?"
"The very same."
"So, how's life on Enceladus?"
"Oh, not the same without me, he's so sweet! He said he sees Saturn's rings every morning."
"Well, I imagine he would, Jenny, seeing as Enceladus is a moon of Saturn."
"Yeah, well, it got him thinking. And he said the ring made him realize he wanted to give me a ring! Roomie, I'm engaged!"
"Ha, that's fantastic, Jenny!"
Jenny lunged at Lili to hug her. Lili had never felt that close to her, but smiled and hugged her back. "Oh, you know, I feel just a tiny bit bad, Jenny said.
"Bad? How's that possible?"
"Well, you don't have anyone. I don't want to make you feel bad or anything."
"That's, that's kind of you. But I'm all right."
"Lili, I know you and I aren't close, but I still don't want you to be depressed. And as I plan the wedding, it might feel like I'm rubbing your nose in things."
"You're not and you won't. It's fine, Lili started to put on her chef's whites.
"Hmm, I should fix you up with someone. Before I become Mrs. Frank Ramirez and all, Jenny thought for a while. "How about MacKenzie? He's kinda smokin'."
"I am old enough to be his mother, Lili said, rolling her eyes.
"And I bet you could teach him a thing or two. Really, it'll be fun, we'll go to Movie Night, and we'll sit together, and then I'll just say I have a headache or something and oops! Suddenly, you're alone with The Mad Scotsman."
"You have been planning this, I see."
"Oh, c'mon, it'll be fun. They're gonna show this movie called Gaslight. It's supposed to be about this guy trying to convince his wife that she's going crazy. It's, uh, mid-twentieth century. I think it's even in black and white."
"No. Thank you. I have to go anyway, Lili checked messages quickly. "Ah, another dinner, I see. I have to plan this today. I can't be thinking about Scottish guys in the Tactical Department."
"Not even just one?" Jennifer teased.
"No. Besides, what if he has Mommy issues?" Lili leaped out before Jennifer could answer.
Doug got to the Bridge right on time. Commander Tucker was talking to the Empress. "Ah, good, you can get in on this." Tucker said, by way of greeting.
"We got sensor problems. Lots of 'em. I am thinkin' at least half of the ones we thought were barely passable aren't any more. We probably stressed 'em too much." Tucker said.
"Can we move them around? Make do, and just not have working sensors in some less critical part of the ship?" the Empress asked.
"We'll need them for targeting, Doug said, Can't have any halfway measures there."
"Agreed, said the Empress. "Surely there's somewhere that we can borrow from?"
"Huh. We can probably get rid of a few of the redundant sensors in Life Support." Tucker said.
"Is that wise?" Doug asked.
"Well, I don't see any other option, Old Man." Tucker said.
"Can't you fix some of them?" Mayweather asked.
"Travis!" the Empress exclaimed. "I am working."
"Actually, can't you fix some of them?" asked Doug.
"A few. Maybe. We have no schematics, nothing we haven't sketched ourselves. This ship didn't exactly come with an Instruction Manual."
"Are we gonna have enough to fly the ship and shoot phasers? That's all I care about. Everything else, we can be blind for all I care." the Empress said.
"Yeah, I think so." Tucker said, But no shooting for at least a few days. We gotta go through all of 'em, see just how bad it all is. So, um, stay out of a war for a little while, okay?"
"Sure." the Empress said, How are your bluffing skills, Old Man?"
"Okay, I guess, Doug said.
Lili got through the breakfast rush unscathed. French toast for almost ninety people and one curious beagle. She'd have maybe a half an hour before the lunch rush would begin. At least the Executive dinner that night would be far less elaborate. She started up her PADD and typed. 'Service record: Jay Hayes.'
The computer pulled up a picture. http://images3.wikia.nocookie.net/__...21J._Hayes.jpg
"There you are." she whispered. "But you're a little greyer now, and your hair's parted on the side."
Chef was coming back into the kitchen. She quickly turned off the PADD.
"That ship is hailing us, First Minister."
"All right. Let us begin."
"This is Captain Jonathan Archer of the Starship Enterprise."
"I am First Minister Chawev. May the light of Lo shine upon you."
The Captain gestured to cut sound for a moment. "How do I answer that?" he glanced over at Hoshi.
"Say something about there being not a lot of light from Ub."
"Okay, sound back on, please." He cleared his throat a little. "And may the light of Ub be diminished."
"That is our wish as well. We are called Calafans, the people of Lafa. I recognize the Vulcan female or rather her species. They have been here before and our memories of them are good ones. You are?"
"We are called humans, Jonathan said, We are from a planet called Earth. We are here to explore and establish peaceful relations."
"And, I suppose, gain a small strategic advantage from our position." The First Minister smiled. He was milky white in color, including long, flowing white-blond hair, with crystal blue eyes and silvery scrollwork markings up and down both arms.
"I am sorry. We are used to plain speaking here. I must show better manners. I would invite you down, but my wife is very ill."
"Maybe we can help. We have a skilled doctor on board, Jonathan offered.
"It is, it is our way to have our people treated by our own. But we appreciate your kind offer. May I speak with you tomorrow? I am also caring for my children while my wife is being treated."
"It must be a lot to do, Jonathan said, Tomorrow is, is good." He cut the communications line. "What was that all about?"
"Maybe he had to go pick up his kids from Little League, Travis said.
"Hopefully tomorrow his schedule won't be quite so full, Jonathan said.
"That ship has been in range for over a day. What are they waiting for, First Minister?"
"I cannot say." The First Minister scratched his arm. It was reddish brown and covered with coppery scrollwork markings.
"Ready?" Doug asked the Empress.
"Let's do this, she said. He opened the Hailing Frequency for her. "This is the Defiant, flagship of the Terran Empire."
"I am First Minister Chawev." came the reply. "May the light of Ub shine upon you."
"Surrender now and avoid damage." the Empress threatened.
"What if my people refuse?" asked Chawev.
"Then we will start destroying your cities, one by one. You have four " the Empress glanced over at Doug who gestured for five. " five days before we start shooting. Out."
"That went well, she said, Travis, you're gonna be busy for a while. Doug, no interruptions unless they surrender."
"Of course, Empress."
Lili wheeled the cart back into the main conference room. Now it was the entire Executive group, including Tucker and Reed. She began handing out sandwiches. "Tuna melt for you, Ensign. Pastrami for the Captain, uh, Ham and Swiss on unseeded rye for Lieutenant Reed. Turkey for the doctor, seitan in a pita for Commander T'Pol, Philly Cheesesteak for Ensign Mayweather and a chicken salad on a croissant for Commander Tucker. Salads, too, help yourselves. It's family style, she said, grabbing her grilled cheese on a bagel and sitting down.
"Ensign, we are back here because of not only what we were talking about yesterday, but we feel this may be becoming a tactical issue." The Captain said, not even waiting for everyone to finish eating.
"Well, sir, I would ask that not everyone on the ship be informed of what's going on. I mean, it's my private life."
"True, but we are concerned." T'Pol said, It is not logical that Major Hayes would be back from the dead."
"No, it's not, Lili allowed. "He tells me he's from another universe."
"That is one possible explanation." T'Pol said, But there are other explanations."
"We don't think it's a time shift, Jonathan said, At least, I don't think it is, because of the, of the doctor's findings."
"Let's not get into too many specifics, okay?" Lili asked. "Brownie, anyone?"
"Oh, those do look good." Lieutenant Reed said, It is, well, there's a possibility that it's an attempt to get some sort of information out of you. I, I don't mean to be indelicate, but by creating a reasonable facsimile of the Major a familiar person making him interested in you and then you could very well be putty in his hands. Or at least that would be the plan, I suppose. Oh, this is rather good. Did you make these, Ensign?"
"Yes, I did. And, um, he hasn't asked me anything tactical. I mean, what would I know anyway? All I do is cook."
"Even if he just asked you where the ship is going, or how fast it's going, those could give him an advantage. We don't know much about the Calafans." Tucker said.
"The very high presence of testosterone seems to indicate that this facsimile may have been created by somehow altering Klingon DNA, Phlox offered.
"You've already decided that Doug is a facsimile?"
"Who's Doug?" Hoshi asked.
"The Major's name was not Doug, it was Jay." Reed said.
"Doug is him. He is Doug. And he looks like, like Major Hayes, because in another universe, he is Hayes. But there are differences. And the name is one of them."
Hoshi typed away on her PADD. "Wait a second, she said. She pulled up Hayes's service record and read from the PADD. "Jay Douglas Hayes. Born December 5th, 2102. There's a lot more of course."
"He said his middle name was Jay. So he's Douglas Jay, and the one from here, he was Jay Douglas, Lili pointed out.
"Ensign, are you being asked to provide compromising information?" T'Pol asked, point blank.
"No. No, I'm not. We don't talk about work. He asks me what food I make, sometimes, to make conversation. And he tells me about his work sometimes. He says they're having problems with their sensors. But I don't know anything else."
"Are you absolutely certain?" Jonathan asked. "I this is an awkward situation. No one here wants to judge. And this is all going to stay completely confidential. We just worry that you're being fed a line of bull."
"I see you're all terribly concerned about me, Lili said, rising.
"No, it's not just for tactical reasons that we are concerned." Reed said, If you were my sister, I would not want you to be hurt. Hayes was he and I were not friends. But we gained a grudging respect for one another, and he died a hero. I know that Jay Hayes would not try to hurt you."
"But nobody knows who or what Doug Hayes is, Jonathan said, This might be as romantic and beautiful as you believe it is. I hope that it is, for your sake."
"Th-thank you, Lili said, looking down. "You, you don't understand. We have a real connection. He is Doug is I can't explain. Not without just spilling everything. And I won't do that unless you can come to me with conclusive proof that he is some, some facsimile, and this is only being done to gain some sort of a tactical or negotiating foothold. And, by the way, if that were the case, why exactly was I targeted? Why not pick even my roommate? I don't run the ship, I don't service Life Support, I don't pilot, I don't fire the weapons or anything. If someone's trying to gain an advantage, they made an awful decision as to who to target, yes?"
While the Empress and Mayweather were otherwise occupied, Doug surreptitiously opened a PADD at his console. He typed: 'Service Record: Lili O'Day'. Nothing. 'Service Record: Charlotte O'Day'. Nothing. 'Service Record: Lilienne O'Day.' Nothing. Hmm. 'All Records: O'Day'. Approximately 77,000 hits. 'All Records: O'Day, last fifty years.' Approximately 53,000 hits. 'All Records: O'Day, last fifty years. House fire.' One record. Cautiously, he opened it. There were pictures of a destroyed home. And the news report was a grim one. 'Titan: June 12, 2118. Four members of a family were killed today when a kitchen fire went out of control. The dead are Peter O'Day, his wife, Marie Helκne Ducasse O'Day, and their two children, Declan, aged 7 and Charlotte Lilienne, aged 9.' He clicked on a picture: http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3267/...520cf2bce4.jpg
"Oh, you, he said softly, and closed the PADD before anyone else could see what he was doing.
When the meeting finally ended, everyone but Malcolm Reed left.
Lili looked up as she put the used dishes back on the cart. "Sir?"
"May I speak with you, Ensign?" he asked.
"Uh, I guess so. But I'm still working. I'm not done until the dishes are out of the sanitizer."
"Can we talk while you go back to the kitchen, then?"
"Long as it's not too private, she said, Make sure the door stays open for me, please?"
They walked into a hallway. "Ensign, I just, I want you to know that I, when we were talking about not wanting you to be hurt, well, I truly meant it."
"I, uh, thank you, Lieutenant, Lili guided the cart along.
"It's just, it, well, may I ask you something?"
"Like I indicated, I didn't know Major Hayes too well. I know nothing of his private life or his innermost thoughts. We always and only talked about work, Malcolm said, What is, what is this iteration like? If that's not too personal a question, that is."
"That's fine, Lili said, He's very attentive, very intelligent. When we talk, he seems to be interested in what I do. Things like that."
"What, uh, what does he do?" Malcolm then visibly reddened. "I, I mean for work. Not other things. I don't mean to offend."
"No, huh, that's okay." They had arrived at the kitchen. "Actually, Lieutenant, he has your job now."
"Oh, interesting." Malcolm kept the kitchen door open as Lili got the cart inside and wheeled it over to the sanitizer. "I wonder what my counterpart is doing there. If I have one, that is."
"Yeah, it's strange, sort of makes you wonder what would happen if things were tipped in some slightly different direction, and circumstances were changed. Would you still be you?" Lili asked, while loading dishes into the sanitizer.
"Precisely." Malcolm started to help her.
"No, wait, um, put it in the other way. See the teacup handle? Down and to the left, Lili pointed out. "There, that's right. Thanks for helping; I usually do this myself."
"It's unfortunate that you don't have any helpers."
"Well, that's just it. I'm the helper, Lili said, You remember, the Xindi War broke out and the ship had to be cleared of redundant personnel. Chef used to have a saucier, a Pastry Chef and a Sous-Chef. Those jobs were all combined into mine when I came on board. And that's when Doug I mean, Jay got here, too."
"I confess I did not care for him much when he first arrived, Malcolm said, smiling wanly. "But I learned that he was very competent and thorough. Well-respected by the men and women under his command. And certainly capable of not only my job but probably most jobs on board, except in Engineering."
"Yes, you have to be a kind of special person to be in Engineering, I think, Lili said, My roommate, when she talks about work, I don't know what she's saying half the time."
"Your roommate is Jennifer Crossman, yes?"
"Yep, the Redheaded Bombshell."
"Oh, I, I hadn't noticed."
"Lieutenant, everyone notices."
Doug walked back to his quarters. Tripp Tucker fell in beside him. "I got news for you." Tucker said.
"Oh? Did I ask for news?"
"No. But this you want to hear, Old Man."
"Funny you should call me that, seeing as you're probably going to go before I do, Tucker."
"Maybe. Anyway, interesting that you tossed the Bombshell out and threw her to the grabby Scotsman. 'Course I wouldn't kick her outta bed myself, but I can see why you might do that."
"You? Tucker, I thought you only had a thing for alien tail."
"Yeah, T'Pol had a nice, huh, bit of allover padding." Tucker admitted. "She's Crossman going around saying she kicked you out and whipped you enough to get you to bring her stuff over to MacKenzie's. But I know better."
"Oh, you do? And this matters to you how, exactly?"
"Not too much. But I recognize a finesse move when I see it. You force her hand and push her to the kid before they've really solidified their alliance. And you win either way, as either they bicker so much that the alliance falls apart, or they do it like bunnies so often that they don't have the time to conspire."
"What makes you think anyone's conspiring anything?" Doug asked, knowing the answer but asking anyway.
"Ha, you're not that naive." Tucker said, Every single person here is on the make, and Porthos would be if he were sentient enough. They're looking to do both me and you in, and take control of two departments. Then they'll bring the power together, bring in any other groups they can Security if they can swing it and make a run at the Empress herself."
"Don't say that about the Empress, Doug said quietly.
"Yeah, yeah, I know everyone is listening. You're too paranoid, Old Man."
"You get paranoid in my position, Doug replied.
"Maybe so. See, when you're like me, you can throw caution to the wind. I just don't give a damn. I'd rather die better, but if I die worse, it's not gonna be much worse and it's not gonna be much earlier, I figure."
"Why are we having this conversation?"
"Two reasons. First, I like learning from a master although the fact that they can conspire in private when not burning up the sheets is a troublesome flaw in your plan."
"Yeah, I've thought of that, Doug admitted. "What's the other reason?"
"Be that as it may," Malcolm said, "I do agree. The Engineers definitely speak a different language than you or I. May I ask, what do you think you will do when this connection with Hayes ends?"
"Uh, what?" Lili turned away. "Damn onions." she muttered although the onions were on the other side of the room and were not what was making her eyes tear.
"Surely you've realized. Oh, my. I have really put my foot in it, Malcolm said, I'm sorry. That was rather boorish of me to inquire."
"No, no, I'm okay, Lili said. She wasn't. "I, uh, I've been thinking about it, and the answer is: I have no idea. I just hope it doesn't end."
"I think I can understand that, Malcolm said, I apologize for bringing it up. That was insensitive of me. You, if I were in your position I suppose I would feel the same."
"No one's been in this position before, Lieutenant."
"Call me Malcolm. And, and let me know, when, uh, when you are ready, uh, afterwards, if you like to talk. I've been told I'm a good listener when I'm not placing my foot in things."
Lili smiled slightly, the half-smile that wasn't much of a smile at all, which she used when she didn't really feel like smiling but it was somehow expected of her. "I, um, I think that's generous of you, Lieu, uh, Malcolm. Look, I'm done here. I need to get to my quarters and get some rest."
"And see Hayes?"
"If I'm lucky, yes."
"Then I hope that you are very lucky."
"Okay, so the other reason is, I got little to lose, but you've got a lot at stake. You could use a friend." Tucker said.
"I don't have friends, Doug said, although that had not been strictly true for the past few days.
"Of course." Tucker said, A bit of protection, then. I watch your back a bit, when I can. I can definitely keep Crossman occupied with endless diagnostics and schematics. God knows they're needed anyway."
"Yeah, I heard about that."
"It was the Empress's decision, Doug said, So by definition it wasn't stupid."
"Yes, yes, I know the Party Line as well as you do, Hayes. But it really was stupid. Erasing all the older records is one thing. I can see not wanting to be able to check out your counterpart in that other universe. But that's as far as it should've gone. Maintenance logs, system specifications, even the recipe for Chicken Noodle Soup! All gone and completely irretrievable. Stupid."
"Swiss cheese database, Doug nodded. "I suppose I can occasionally occupy MacKenzie with a few sensor checks. Can't promise anything though, given that he's on the overnight shift."
"Understood." Tucker said, I'm not gonna be around too much longer. I figure I might not see New Year's Day. So after that, you're on your own. Just, uh, just get it so I can die in my own bed. And without a dagger sticking in any part of me, okay?"
She was wearing a black leather skirt, black boots and a blue sweater that was off her shoulders. Doug ran toward her. "You look beautiful, he said, kissing Lili and instantly changing from a tee and boxers to a black suit he'd once seen in a shop window on Iapetus.
"Thank you." She smiled at him.
"Any place special we're going, all dressed up like this?"
"I don't know. Just thought it would be good to look good. What was your day like? I made apple fritters. Half of them didn't turn out so good, but the dog is really, really happy."
"I bet your screwups are better than most of the stuff I've been eating for the past decade, he said, I didn't do much. You know, sensors and all that. Thought of you all day."
"Oh, really? Well, I thought of you, too. But I think we really should work. At least a little bit." she grinned. "Walk with me?"
"Sure." he took her hand, and the scene changed to a New England autumn in full color. "I, you didn't tell me you had a little brother."
"Probably because I never did."
"Uh, never told me or never had a brother?"
"Well, both. Where are you getting the idea I have a brother?" Lili asked.
"Oh, well, I checked out your counterpart. I hope you don't mind."
"Actually, I did the same today. Go on. But, um, tell me, is she like, in prison or something? You look a little odd."
"Well, no, Doug said, She's got the same problem here that I have over there in your universe."
"When and where did she die? Wait, I'm not sure I want specifics."
"That house fire you told me about."
"Oh. And my uh, her brother? Did he make it?"
"Was he, like, a little baby?" she asked, feeling it despite herself.
"Seven years old."
"Oh, man. I just yanno I obviously could never have known him, but I still feel strange about the whole thing. Uh, can I ask why you were looking at the record anyway?"
"I, uh, I wanted to see if there were any pictures. Didn't want to meet her or anything. She is not you, Doug assured her.
"What did you find?"
"Just one photograph that wasn't from the disaster. You uh, she must have been home from school. A little girl and her mother. Her, uh, her face had a flower painted on the side. The little girl, that is."
"S'funny. That is one of my best, most vivid memories of my mother. We went to a fair and I got my face painted. It was about three weeks before the fire."
Doug held Lili. "Sounds like a good memory."
"Why, uh, why were you looking? Really, Lili asked.
"I, um, I wanted to have a picture of you, like I said. Because when this connection ends, I won't have much else left, he said, burying his nose in her hair and inhaling a slight scent of apples.
"What?" Lili asked, a little alarmed.
"Surely you don't think this is going to go on forever? I figure this is a delicate connection. It's going to break at some point in time, like everything else on this ship. I, I don't want it to. Just want to be prepared for the inevitable."
"Reed mentioned the breaking to me today, too. Or maybe he was hitting on me. I don't know; he never did that before."
"Huh, I'm kind of surprised he hasn't done that before. The Reed I knew really had a thing for blondes."
"Since you have his job, where is he now, Doug?"
"He's, um, he's another one who's dead on this side of things."
"Wow. It's like almost everyone I know is dead there. What about Jennifer Crossman?"
Doug blanched. "How do you know her?"
"She's my roommate. How do you?"
"She was, uh, I should confess something. Up to a few days ago, she was living with me."
"Oh, Lili let that sink in. "What happened?"
"Whaddaya think? You happened."
"That feels really weird to me. Particularly seeing as she's so gorgeous."
"Really? I definitely don't notice. Not anymore." he kissed her.
"Doug, I was thinking, Lili said, after coming up for air. "I, I know this hasn't been happening for a lot of time. We've known each other for a good five days."
"Best week of my life." he smiled at her.
"Yes, and if, um, if this connection is going to end, well, I was thinking, what if if you would have me if I were to somehow come over there? To your side of things."
"Lili, I don't think that's a good idea at all."
"First Minister, we will need to determine whether they are advanced enough to have a transporting device."
"I will get onto their ship tomorrow and check for myself." Chawev said, Don't worry."
"Oh, Lili broke away from his grasp.
"I, uh, wait. I don't mean like I don't want you to be near. I, I do, he said, But this place, this side of things, this is no place for you."
"I'm not as delicate as you seem to think I am."
"You probably aren't, and you probably think I'm being grossly unfair."
"Well, I don't know about that, Doug said, I don't think you'd have a place here."
"I cook for a living. I can work anywhere."
"I'm sure that's true on your, your side of the, of the pond, as it were. It's not work that I'm talking about."
"How different can it be?"
"Lili, you don't get it. I know something about your side. You're gentler, softer, sweeter and kinder than any of us can ever hope to be. Look," he took her hand again, "let me tell you what my typical day is really like. And I mean really."
"I hear the alarm and I get up and I shave and put on my uni. Strap on a sidearm and a dagger and an extra one in my left boot. No one knows about that one except for you Jennifer didn't even know, and she and I lived together for over a year. I get into the halls and look around to make sure nobody's out to bother me. Grab a cup of whatever slop they have for breakfast. Get to the Bridge. Get instructions from the Empress. She usually disappears for a few hours with her boy toy, so I run things. Make sure no one's shooting at us. Work for six hours, then grab another cup of slop and come back for another round of waiting to be shot at. This is all the easy part. Finish a few hours afterwards and go back into the halls, where the chances are a lot higher that someone will take their shot at me. Grab a few platefuls of a slightly less gooey slop, then get back to my quarters, lock myself in and read until it's time to sleep. And then I see you and I put the rest of it out of my mind until the next morning when I get to do it all over again."
Lili looked stricken. "Can't you just quit or something? Or retire?"
"Sadly, no. No one leaves these jobs. Actually, wait, there are exactly three ways to leave a job at my level: you die in battle, you die of some disease, or you're killed by an underling trying to get a promotion."
"I, I can understand the first one. You're a soldier of course it's possible, Lili said, And the second is awful but not unexpected certainly no stranger than how my, my parents died. But the third. Man. You are, you're high-ranking, aren't you?"
"I'm fourth in command. It's just the Empress, her boy toy First Officer, and the Head of Engineering ahead of me."
"So, um, if underlings kill in order to get ahead, that, uh, that means you did that, too?" Lili asked, looking at Doug with shining eyes. "Doug, tell me the truth. Are you are you a killer?"
We can get into position tomorrow or the night after, First Minister."
"Good." Chawev said.
He nodded slightly, a barely perceptible movement.
"Tell me," she said, "how, how many?" she trembled.
"Lili, any, any number is going to be too many, I can tell. I, uh, we both know this connection will break at any time. Let me make things easier for you, and break it myself. Even if I dream about you, I can will myself to dream about something else, just like I willed myself into a suit that I never owned. You, you won't have to worry about me anymore. All I ask is one thing."
"I, oh, let me touch you, hold you, for just a little while, right now. And I'll say the number and I'll just go and you can be, you can be free of this, and go have fun with Reed or whoever." He was a little surprised that she acquiesced to him holding her. She said nothing but he could feel her breathing and it was troubled. He kissed her right temple and then whispered in her ear. "Fourteen."
Her breath caught. "Do you, do you remember any of them?"
"Before I started dreaming about you, I dreamed plenty about them, he said, Donnelly, Harris, Shapiro, Sulu I remember all of them."
"At least you do. Can I, can I tell you something?"
"Anything, he said.
"I don't come in here with completely clean hands, either."
"Surely you aren't this way."
"Doug, when I was in Cooking School, they made sure we learned where all of our food comes from. So we didn't just farm and garden. We also hunted and fished. And we slaughtered barnyard animals. I cut the heads off chickens and used those little laser gun things to shoot hogs between the eyes. I Kosher killed a cow. Do you know how to Kosher kill a cow?" she asked.
He shook his head grimly.
"You slit its throat. And I, I messed up. You're supposed to get the windpipe, but I got the carotid artery. Cow's blood was everywhere."
"Lili, you killing animals is not the same thing. They're not as sentient."
"I know. But there is one time. It was during the Xindi War. You had that, yes?"
"Definitely. I fought in it."
"Well, they boarded the ship once. Insectoids. They were going from place to place. I'm sure they wanted to kill all of us. They came into the kitchen."
"So you used your sidearm?" he asked.
"I had forgotten it. Which was dumb but not a huge problem. Kitchens are loaded with weapons."
"Cast iron skillet. Let's just say I squashed a bug and leave it at that. And I, I felt so guilty that, once we'd made peace with them "
"You made peace with the Xindi? We didn't. We, um, the Empire committed genocide. I doubt there are more than a thousand Xindi left of any species."
"Oh, my, Lili gulped. "I, I contacted her it was a she her family. Can't recall how I found them. I wrote and I apologized. And her daughter wrote back and was surprisingly kind. They, they don't live very long, anyway, so she said it wasn't too long before her mother's time anyway, and her mother was a dedicated soldier and so she went the way she wanted to."
"Apologizing here is a sign of weakness. I, I am finding that I can say to you that I'm sorry. But not to anyone else, Doug said.
"Do you still want to go?" she asked.
"No. I never did. It's about what you want. Tell me if you, if you want me to leave."
"Like I said, I'm not as delicate as you think."
"I can see that. But you still won't really have a place on this side of the pond."
"Then there's only one thing to do, she said.
"You'll need to come here."
This is one of the most unique crossover tales I've ever read. Furthermore, you write very fluidly and think your plot through. I hope you will continue this to a logical conclusion as it's an excellent example of how fan fiction can not only take on a life of its own but equal the original material it draws from. In other words-Good Job!
Wow, thank you so much! And thank you for your vote, BTW.
There's more -- tell ya what, I'll put up the next chapter tomorrow.
"I, um, are you sure?" Doug asked. "Because if anything was going to make me hopelessly ugly to you, it was, it was my, my track record."
"Doug, she said, taking his face in her hands. "You will never be hopelessly ugly to me. Don't ever forget that." her face had flashes of almost anger.
"I, um," he was nonplussed. "It may be a lot for you to forgive, is all I'm saying."
"It's like the number of guys I was with before I met you. You may not love the number, but it's in the past and it cannot be changed now. What's more important is how we move ahead, together." She leaned in closer and kissed him.
He put his hand on her back and drew her close. This kiss, it was somehow sweeter than all the others, and he didn't want it to stop. Finally they broke apart. "So, er, how many have there been before me? Uh, you don't have to answer that if you don't wanna."
"No, it's okay." she smiled. "You are lucky number thirteen."
"Yes, I am very lucky, he said, fingers fiddling with the end of one of her sleeves.
"Let's, can we walk some more?"
"Wherever you wanna go. Uh, where is this place?"
"It's New Hampshire. Over there, see that peak? That's Mount Monadnock. This isn't too far from where the New England Red Sox have one of their parks."
"Do you, do you have baseball on your side of the pond?" she asked.
"Sure we do. Five bases, twelve guys on a team and a lotta fights."
"Uh, you mean four bases, nine guys on a team and, uh, only a few fights sometimes." she smiled. "What do you do for fun?"
"Fun? Huh, well, aside from the obvious," he looked at her meaningfully, "I go hunting. Fish sometimes. I do like sports, play rugby sometimes, but it's hard to get a team together. You?"
"I guess I'm more of a homebody than my job would indicate. I like land. Working it, building on it. I like to fish, too, but a part of that is just being on a boat."
"I mainly fish from piers."
"You should try boats some time."
"I should try a lot of things, I think, he said, Lili, can I ask you, how do you, um, assuming anything could work and I could be there with you, how would it all work?"
"You mean the crossing over process?"
"No, not that. I mean after."
"Well, they always need good Tactical guys, so you should be able to work with no trouble."
"Would we live together?" he asked.
"I, uh, would you like that?"
"I think so. I mean, I know this hasn't been a lot of time at all. It's just ...." his voice trailed off.
"Commander, communications just cut out." MacKenzie said to T'Pol.
"To the planet, or all communications?" she asked.
"Looks like we can talk to any of the planets. And to any ships in the area. But nothing outside the system."
"How very interesting. And perhaps an indication of how welcoming our hosts are. I'll alert the Captain."
There was a large rock in a clearing right in front of them. "Uh, Lili?"
"I think uh, I think this is our destination."
He sat down and patted his knee. "C'mere."
She sat down and faced him. "I like, I like all of this. I don't know if speculating about things is good, or if it's just going to make it all hurt that much more."
"Maybe." he admitted. "It's just, I dunno. I don't think I've ever gotten into a relationship before where I really wanted that to happen. The sex part, sure. But the rest of it? Not so much."
"Look, I don't even know if you're going to leave dirty socks on the floor or something like that."
"I don't, I swear, he said, I like the place to be clean, things put away."
"I have to be really clean for work, she said, But you might find an occasional hair ribbon in the wrong place. I guess I just sorta think I'm going to pick it up later, and then I forget and whatever it is doesn't get picked up."
"I suppose I can make allowances for that."
"You'd have to live under our laws, Doug."
"I know. I could, I would do whatever I could. I get the feeling that, with the pressure off, I wouldn't be looking to do anything like that, like going up to a Number Fifteen or anything."
"That reminds me. Since you have Reed's old job, was his counterpart, uh, Number Fourteen?"
"No, Doug said, Fourteen was Geming Sulu. It was, uh, that was how I got onto the Enterprise in the first place."
"So, uh, how did Reed's counterpart get it? If you want to tell me."
"It's a little fuzzy. A few years ago, when we got the Defiant, the Enterprise ended up being destroyed. Not everyone made it from the old ship to the new one we went in escape pods. I shoved Jenn into one and I got into another. Fought off a kid from Security for it. And I think that happened with a lot of people they were either shot or stabbed and kept from getting into pods, or they were hit and dragged out of 'em. As for Reed, specifically, it was either then or before. He had this, uh, this thing he was testing out, a torture device. I think he was hoisted on that particular petard."
"Oh, my. I'm sorry I asked, Lili said.
"When we got to the Defiant, there was no one in charge of Tactical, and I was the top guy on the MACOs. When the Empress seized power, she installed me as head of Tactical. Funny, I think that was my only actual merit promotion."
"Well deserved, I'm sure, Lili kissed him.
"I don't know about that. I think it was more a case of, everyone's blind, but my blindness is just slightly less bad as everyone else's."
"Don't you know your own system?"
"Not really. But no one does."
"Lili, remember when I told you about your counterpart, and what happened to her?"
"Of course, it was only maybe an hour ago."
"Yes, of course. Well, the Empress didn't like everyone knowing. I guess she was disappointed in how her counterpart's life had turned out on your side of the pond. I never really had that as I didn't put it all together that between me and Jay Hayes, we were the same but with switched names. Anyway, the Empress didn't like it, so she ordered the records destroyed."
"Uh, okay. But that shouldn't take out everything."
"No, it shouldn't. But the deleting was done quickly. I mean, this is the Empress we're talking about. You did what you were told, and fast, fast, fast! So mistakes were made in the deletion coding."
"Not so sure I follow you, Lili admitted.
"See, they deleted not just references to Hayes but any references to anyone named Hayes. Ever."
"Wasn't there a President Hayes?"
"There may have been. I'll certainly never know. And it's even any references to anything with Hayes on it. Like if there's a Hayes screwdriver, or a planet called Hayes."
"Humor me for a second, okay? If there's a Hayes virus or a Hayes vaccine, all of that's wiped. Same for Tucker, Sato, Mayweather, Archer, Cutler every single name. This cascaded through the entire database. So any references to, uh, to Beef a la Mayweather or Cutler Falls or a Tucker's deer were also completely erased. Left us with almost nothing. I have no idea which name or names' removals caused the most damage, but it doesn't matter now. It's all permanently wiped and cannot be recovered. The people who screwed up were, of course, tortured and killed."
"Tortured? To, to confess something?"
"No. They were tortured for the Empress's own amusement."
"Did you, um, have anything to do with that, Doug?"
"I dealt with finding them, but not punishing them. She, uh, apparently it's a thrill for her if she or her boy toy get to do that."
The Captain was roused out of a dream about water polo. Just about to take the final shot of the game! He shook himself awake as soon as he realized what the problem was.
"Let's, um, let's change the subject, he said.
"All right." she kissed him.
"I should warn you if we live together, that I snore sometimes."
"Funny, I've never seen or heard you sleep."
"True. Same here."
"Well, I talk in my sleep, Lili said.
"You give away secret recipes or something? Or do you talk about, about us?"
"I, well, Jenny doesn't say. It's probably just a few random words, although about a year ago she said I said, 'Are you searching for buried treasure?' Pretty funny."
"What were you dreaming about that you said that?"
"Ha, it was sex." she kissed him. "Not as good as this dream. Or any other one with you in it."
"You star in my best dreams, too." he said, "Are you, um, comfortable?"
"Actually, I'm a little, uh, hot." she looked at him intently.
"I think you're very hot, he said.
She broke away a bit more quickly than usual. "I, I think we're both gonna have to do laundry. Not my favorite chore."
"I can do it, he said, Come back a sec."
She got back on his lap. "Of course."
"So pretty, he said. They kissed.
"Y'know, Doug, it would really be stupid if we were to fall in love."
"True." he allowed. "We have no idea if we can be together."
They were both silent for a moment.
"It's too late now, she said.
"Yeah, for me, too." he agreed, kissing her and mussing her hair.
This time, they lay on the ground together, just touching, not saying anything, not kissing.
"I, I don't say it much. Haven't said it in many years, he said, I, uh, it's another stupid sign of weakness. You, you'll teach me to say it more?"
"Yes, of course, she said, kissing his cheek.
"I should say it now, yes?"
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