"I can't finish this,” Hoshi Sato said, staring at the ruined remains of a hot fudge sundae.
"Ugh. I can't eat any more, either,” Tripp Tucker said, “Why'd you have to have that for your birthday?"
"C'mon, it was my birthday! Can't I be Queen for at least one day?" she asked, smiling.
"Maybe we can give it to Porthos,” Travis Mayweather suggested.
"That would be unwise,” T'Pol said, checking her PADD, “Chocolate is evidently toxic to canines."
Lieutenant Malcolm Reed came over, “I see the party is winding down. Sorry I couldn't get off shift earlier."
"That's all right. But there's still a ton of ice cream. Do you want some?" Hoshi asked.
"No, thank you,” he said.
"C'mon!" she wheedled. Reed reddened slightly, “You don't need to lose any weight,” she said.
"Hmm. All right. Just a very small amount,” he said, taking a little vanilla.
"C'mon, if you're in, you're in all the way,” Tripp said, bringing over the dish of hot fudge sauce.
"Oh, my,” said Reed, “All right. But only a little and I mean only a little,” He tasted it tentatively, “Oh, that is rather delightful,” He took more.
The cramping started later. It got so bad that Malcolm went to Sick Bay.
"Ah, what seems to be the trouble?" Dr. Phlox asked when he arrived.
"This damned condition I've got,” Malcolm said, “The inoculation you gave me is wearing off."
"Well, you're not supposed to test out its efficacy by bending things so far that they break,” Phlox fussed and got a new shot ready.
"I don't, I don't love these shots,” Malcolm admitted.
"This will not hurt, Lieutenant. Just a small. Ah, there."
Malcolm winced slightly, but it was the cramping that hurt more.
"Ah, and an analgesic for the pain. And no more dairy products for at least twenty-four hours,” Phlox scolded.
"Yes, I suppose you're right,” Malcolm allowed, “I suppose I succumbed to a spot of peer pressure."
"Really, Lieutenant, you're well aware that you've got lactose intolerance. Say no politely to dairy products and you'll see a lot less of me."
Thank you - just getting started .... :)
It was the morning shift, next day.
Hoshi said, "Captain, there's a message coming in from Starfleet. It's Admiral Gardner."
"On screen,” said Jonathan Archer.
"Jonathan! Thank you for agreeing to host the Nereid Medical Academy's Immunology resident rotation on such short notice,” said the Admiral.
"Yes, well, Phlox was rather insistent that we help the program. I know he'd love to teach a bit, and never gets a chance to,” Jonathan said, “It's just a few students, right?"
"Five, plus their instructor will be with them, but only for the first week. For the other three weeks, you'll just have the residents."
"Very well. Names?" asked Jonathan.
"Students are," the Admiral paused to check a PADD, "Blair Claymore, Pamela Hudson, An Nguyen, Will Owen and Mark Stone. Instructor is Bernie Keating-Fong. Make sure to call them all 'Doctor'. Vulcan ship Ti’Mur will rendezvous with you tomorrow."
"Very well,” said Jonathan.
"Oh and Jonathan, some sort of entertainment is customary."
"Entertainment? Isn't being on a starship entertainment enough?"
"This is a pilot program. Very high protocol, beloved by the Powers That Be. And Stone is the son of, well; I don't have to tell you who his mother is. So find some way of being extra accommodating. A party of some sort is good,” said the Admiral.
"I bet the Vulcans aren't throwing them a party." Travis said under his breath as he piloted the Enterprise.
Jonathan smiled a little, “A party it is. We'll have Chef whip up something, uh, interesting and use the Observation Lounge. Thanks. Archer out."
Hoshi closed the communications link.
"Festivities?" T'Pol arched an eyebrow, “These are serious students."
"Phlox will run them ragged, I'm sure,” Jonathan said, “They'll probably need a party. Travis, lay in an intercept course for the Ti’Mur. Warp Two."
Later, Travis sat down with Malcolm and Tripp in the cafeteria, “Did you try the beets? Are they any good?" he asked Malcolm.
"A bit ... messy,” Malcolm said.
"Hmm. I'll pass. Y'know, I had an idea,” Travis said.
"That can be dangerous,” said Tripp, “Pass the salt, please."
"Those med school students? There are, I'm figuring, three of them,” Travis said.
"Didn't the Admiral say there were five students?" Malcolm asked.
"Yes," admitted Travis, "but three are women."
"And?" asked Tripp.
"So I was thinking. A little friendly competition. A game! There's three of them. And three of us,” Travis said.
"Go on,” Tripp prompted.
"I haven't looked at pictures. Has anyone?" Travis asked, breaking a breadstick. The others shook their heads, “Good. We draw straws. Uh, breadsticks. Short stick picks first. Then draw again, short stick picks second."
"What are we selecting?" Malcolm asked, dabbing his face with a napkin.
"Which lucky lady we go after,” Travis said, “There's An, Blair and Pamela."
"You said this was a game. Anything other than, ahem, connecting that would be what we'd, um, be striving for?" asked Tripp.
"Well, that's the bonus,” Travis said, “The objective is, whoever gets the girl first wins. And the prize is the other two cover for the winner whenever that's necessary, during these four weeks."
"Gets the girl?" Malcolm asked, “What sort of proof are you looking for? I mean, I think it's a bit more mature to be discreet about such things."
"Nothing graphic,” Travis stated, “Just a kiss will be fine. We'll take each other's word for it. Anything more and you're on your own."
"Hmm. Could be fun,” Tripp said, “These girls aren't too young, are they?"
"No, they're medical residents,” Malcolm said, “Mid-twenties or older, I suspect."
"Are we agreed?" Travis asked, grabbing breadsticks, “Draw first, Reed."
Malcolm took a stick, “Long one."
Tripp selected, “Ah, the short one."
"Looks like you get first dibs,” Travis said.
"Then I pick Pamela."
Travis took the short stick back and one of the long ones, “Fifty-fifty shot, Malcolm."
"I am unlucky in love,” Malcolm said, showing the long stick.
"Then I pick Blair,” Travis said, “Looks like you get An."
"Very well. And in the event of a tie?" asked Malcolm.
"I think we'll all be too, ahem, busy to worry about that,” Tripp said, “Oh, hi, Hoshi, wanna join us?"
The subject was quickly changed to Tripp talking about docking with the Ti’Mur.
This can't possibly go well. These guys couldn't even vacation on Risa without getting screwed over.
This will be fun. :D
Pamela's entrance music
They were standing at attention, in the hallway by the docking port. Hoshi, Travis, Tripp and Malcolm were to the right. To the left, opposite them, were Jonathan, T'Pol, Dr. Phlox and security Crewman Deborah Haddon.
"What should we do if, erm, one of 'em turns out to be, uh, not so attractive?" Tripp whispered.
"Be a gentleman,” Malcolm said.
"Maybe a kiss will be a thrill for her. It's just one kiss. Hey, you never know,” Travis added. Hoshi elbowed him.
There was a sound of docking clamps engaging. The door opened, and out stepped Vulcan Ambassador Soval with a middle-aged woman who appeared to be of Asian extraction. She was short and slender, with a dark French braid flecked with a little grey. She smiled as she entered the hallway.
"Looks like that's An,” Travis said. Hoshi giggled a little.
Next came a young Asian man, with a Caucasian man with looks that could only be described as smoldering, followed by some Vulcans. Hoshi gasped.
Travis touched her arm, “Hoshi, you're drooling."
"Huh?" she smiled.
Then a dark-skinned man, also very young. Hoshi gasped again, “Is this a medical program or a modeling program?" she whispered as more Vulcans filed in.
Dark brown hair, worn down, straight, past her shoulders. White, light skin, with just a small smattering of freckles on her nose. Short skirt. Matching short jacket, showing off her waist. Green eyes. Big smile at all three of them.
"Please be Blair. Please be Blair,” Travis whispered.
Hoshi elbowed him, harder this time, “Travis, you're drooling."
"C'mon, that's gotta be Pam,” Tripp countered quietly.
"Oh. My. God,” Tripp whispered.
Travis just stared.
Malcolm squeaked out, “My."
Honey blonde hair, back in a French twist that was coming undone a little. Her skin had a slightly golden cast to it. Blue eyes. Lips, painted, dark reddish-purple lipstick. Matching long nails. Leather vest, held together with dozens of little hook and eye closures that held her in and raised everything. Lacy top under the vest, short enough to show her navel as she walked. Long, tight denim skirt that swished as she walked, slit opening up to show her calves as she moved. Tiny little black leather boots with oh so high stiletto heels. Black leather choker around her neck.
While she walked by, she raised her left hand in front of them to brush a stray wisp of hair from her face. Matching black leather bracelet. And no rings on that hand. She smiled very, very slightly, and then looked them up and down, her eyes lingering for just a second about a meter above the floor.
"Whoa,” Tripp said as soon as she'd safely walked by, “Just as good going as coming."
Malcolm let out a breath.
"The blonde?" Travis asked.
"Please, you're talking about the future Mrs. Tucker there,” Tripp said.
"Well, well,” Malcolm said, “There's a thumb on the scale there. Still, I could get to know An a bit better, I suppose."
Hoshi started laughing, then whispered, “An means Sky in Vietnamese."
"And?" Travis asked.
They were shushed as Jonathan spoke, “I'd like to welcome you to the NX-01. We're pleased to have you here with us. I'm Captain Jonathan Archer, this is First Officer T'Pol and our Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Phlox. The remainder of our Bridge Crew," he indicated, "Communications Officer Ensign Hoshi Sato."
"Hiya,” she said.
"Pilot Ensign Travis Mayweather."
"Hello,” Travis said, grinning.
"Commander Charles Tucker, Engineering."
"Call me Tripp."
"Armory Officer Lieutenant Malcolm Reed,” Malcolm nodded, “And this is Security Crewman Deborah Haddon, who will be showing you to your quarters."
"I am Dr. Bernardine Keating-Fong,” said the woman with the French braid, “But call me Bernie, Captain. Allow me to present my students. First is Dr. An Nguyen. He attended the University of Exeter for undergraduate, and ...."
"Oh. An is a man's name?" Travis asked Hoshi quietly.
"Yes. You should have asked me,” she said, smiling, “Now, listen. I wanna find out about my future husband. Whichever one of them he turns out to be."
"Oh. So sorry,” Travis said a mock apology.
"And this is Dr. Mark Stone, he attended Johns Hopkins for both undergraduate and Medical School,” continued Dr. Keating-Fong, “And next is Dr. Will Owen," she indicated the dark-skinned man, "who comes to us via The University of Western Sydney for undergrad and Oxford for Medical School,” she paused for a second, “Now for the ladies."
"This is what I'm waitin' for,” Tripp said, “C'mon Blondie."
"To my left is Blair Claymore, who attended UCLA undergrad and Harvard Medical School,” she indicated the brunette.
"She's very pretty,” Hoshi said.
"Yes, but the other one knows it,” Tripp said.
"I bet she's stuck up,” Travis whispered.
"Let's be professionals now,” Malcolm whispered.
"And last, but not least," Dr. Keating-Fong said, "is Dr. Pamela Hudson,” That same slight smile as before. Dr. Keating-Fong continued, "She spent her undergraduate years at Dartmouth College and attended Harvard Med School with Blair. I'm sure we'll all get to know more than that about each other as we go along."
"I'm sure you're all a bit tired,” Jonathan said, “Crewman Haddon, if you please,” They left.
Hoshi said, "I've got, uh, I'd better go to the gym. For a week. See ya."
It was just the three of them. They walked a little bit.
"Y'know," Travis began, "it hardly seems fair."
"Oh?" Tripp asked.
"Seems like we should change the rules of the game,” Travis continued.
"You just want your mitts on my Pammy,” Tripp said.
"No, it's just not fair to Reed here,” Travis said.
"Oh, I'm all right,” Malcolm said.
"No. It's not fair,” Travis insisted, “Unless you, uh, go for an older woman."
"I'd be all right with her, I think, but she's got on a wedding ring. Did you not notice?" Malcolm asked.
"Huh. Guess not,” Tripp said, “And, you're right. It is not fair. I'm not, uh, thinkin' with the right piece of equipment right now. How would you change the game? Keeping in mind it should be fair to all of us, even though it turns out there's only two of 'em."
"Hmm,” Travis thought for a second, “No assignments. We each go after both of them. No one gets first crack or anything like that. You try, you succeed. Or you strike out, and someone else gets a shot. Be persistent if you like. Same measure of success and same prize, all right?"
"All right,” said Malcolm, “And I appreciate your changing the rules for, for me."
"'Course, Buddy,” Tripp said, “But keep your mitts off Pammy. She's mine!" he laughed.
Travis's dream that night was a lively one.
He knew it was a dream, for a lot of reasons, but mainly because he was piloting the shuttle. This was not odd in and of itself, except that he was stark naked.
He had two passengers, Pamela and Blair.
He put the shuttle on auto. The two women got up and approached him. They were both wearing little outfits like he'd seen on Orion girls. Filmy, flimsy, leaving little to the imagination.
They hadn't spoken before, so his mind produced voices for them, from the female singing duo, The Sweet Cupcakes. Blair sounded like Annie Sisko. Pamela sounded like Tanya Chekhov. Pamela spoke first, “Are you sure we're safe here, Travis?"
He just nodded.
"I mean, we don't want anything to bump into ... anything,” said Blair, “At least not unintentionally." She leaned over a console and he could clearly see how well her skirt fit her.
"You said we'd be stuck here for ... hours,” said Pamela.
"Y-yes, I did,” Travis said.
"I can only think of one thing to do. But there's only one of you and two of us!" Blair complained.
"That never stopped you before,” Pamela said.
"Ladies! Huh, lots to go around,” Travis said.
Blair said, “Help me get this off."
He lifted her tiny top off her head. Pamela took off her own top. He tore off their skirts, which shredded and melted in his hands.
They were all over him, and he could tell a little bit about who was who, by following blonde or brown hair, both short and long, or pale skin or golden. They outdid themselves with sound.
He eventually woke exhausted and sweaty, alarm screaming in his ear, “Whoa,” he sat up, talking to no one, “I hope the real thing's half as good."
"Huh, it's their Movie Night tomorrow,” Pamela said, sitting in quarters while Blair folded a uniform.
"I know. I got four invitations. Maybe a fifth since we arrived, so that's a good one a day. Haven't checked messages yet today. How many did you get?"
"Eight. No, nine. I bet we got duplicates, some guy hedging his bets,” she smiled slightly, “I've deleted mine."
"Yeah. Nothing imaginative there. Usual stuff, come to the movies with me, I'll share my popcorn with you, uh, it's all so dull. Same, same, same,” Pamela yawned.
"They're sweet. Well, except for the one that wanted to show me the Port Thrusters. Gawd."
"You're not interested in any of them anyway, Claymore."
"Nope. A certain special someone is gonna get lucky tomorrow night."
"Good thing. I keep watching you circle each other like cats. Still, good to know a girl's got options. The suit was a nice touch when we arrived. Got 'em all hot and bothered."
"I can't pull it off like you can, Pam,” Pamela glared at her, “Uh, Pamela. You know, you and I have known each other for two years and you have never let me call you Pam."
"Nobody else gets to call me that, either. As for me pulling it off, heh, it's two things. One, leave a little something to the imagination. That's why I don't arrive wearing anything short or low cut. Let 'em wonder what's underneath all that fabric. And the other thing is – you definitely help out."
"Me?" Blair closed a drawer and sat at a desk.
"Yes. We've got the whole good girl-bad girl yin-yang thing going on. Makes for a great contrast. They look at you and they think 'fresh-scrubbed'. They look at me and they think ...."
"They think 'hot sex',” Blair finished the sentence for her.
"Yep. And that's the idea. Get 'em worked up and wondering, and see if any of them can be imaginative. 'Course then we end up here and they're all engineers and whatnot and they think of screwdrivers rather than other things most of the time."
There was a communications chime.
"It's your PADD, not mine,” Blair said.
"Hmm,” Pamela looked, “Now this is interesting."
"Oh? Can I see?"
"Nope. This is, ha, it's a poem."
"It's anonymously sent,” Pamela shut off the PADD.
"Aren't you going to read it?"
"Not while you're sitting here."
"Very well,” Blair said, “You gonna give that one the time of day?"
"Maybe more, if I'm so inclined."
There was a chime at the door, “Come in,” Blair said.
"Oh, uh, hi, ladies,” It was Travis, “Do you, uh, do you remember me?"
"Pilot, right?" Blair asked.
"Yes,” he said, “And, uh, these are for, they're for both of you,” He held out a bouquet, cut from the Botany Lab's excess.
"Well, that was very, uh, charming of you,” Pamela said, taking them.
"Are you going to Movie Night?" he asked.
"Sure,” Blair said, “What's playing?"
"Something called 'Dirty Dancing',” he said.
"Maybe it's an instruction manual for the party the night afterwards,” Pamela said.
Travis raised an eyebrow slightly. So far, so good, “And, I was wondering if you would, uh, both like to join me, uh, us, for dinner tonight."
"Us? Who's us?" Blair asked.
"You met them the first day. Lieutenant Reed and Commander Tucker. Unless you have to study."
"We always have to study,” Pamela said, “But we blow ..." she paused for just a second "it off whenever something better comes along."
"Uh, okay,” Travis squeaked out, “Eighteen hundred hours in the cafeteria,” He left.
"Oh, that was too cute,” Blair said, “Think he's your poet?"
"Not a chance,” Pamela said, “Plus the whole flowers thing is the very nadir of predictability. If someone brings over chocolates or perfume then I'll just gag."
"I should get ready then. Leave you to your poem and all,” Blair said, grabbing a towel, “Happy reading."
"Captain, we've got interesting readings,” T'Pol said.
"How interesting?" Jonathan inquired.
"Neutron pulses. Emanating from the vicinity of heading 107 mark eight,” she replied.
"A natural phenomenon?" Malcolm asked.
"Possibly,” T'Pol responded, “There are no discernible patterns as of yet."
"Well, let's keep an eye on them,” said the captain, “And if they become a tactical issue, then we'll see what to do next, Lieutenant,” he said to Malcolm.
"Yes, of course, Captain,” said Reed.
"What kinds of unnatural phenomena could explain it?" asked Jonathan.
"Nuclear munitions testing or usage could explain it. The randomization could be intentional, to make it appear as it were a natural phenomenon when perhaps it's anything but,” Malcolm said.
"However, nuclear medical facilities could give off these pulses in a manner that would appear to be randomized,” T'Pol pointed out.
"Hoshi, get me Tripp,” Jonathan said.
"Sure. Go ahead."
"Tripp, we're getting readings of neutron pulses. Will those be a problem?" Jonathan asked.
"Don't think so,” Tripp said, “Keepin' an eye on 'em from here but I think they're just fluctuations. There's no planets out here and stars are a ways away. Could be the remains of a comet trail, too. Tell Travis to steer clear of the worst of it. He should be back soon. Thanks for lettin' me borrow him to do a little testing on Shuttlepod One. Tucker out."
"Ah, Travis, you're back. Take us in closer." Jonathan said.
Pamela read it again, just to see if the poem really said what she thought it did.
A golden lady, a star to shine
A small, shy and elusive smile
Can I ever hope to make her mine?
For eternity, or just a little while?
A stormy sea, a tempest's rage
A thing that cannot be contained
As passion pours upon the page
The knave waited while the Queen reigned
A fire burning, a torrid blaze
A healing thought, a desired touch
As stars turn lonely nights into yearning days
And the knave hopes his feelings are not too much
I know that this is happening very fast
I cannot be your first lover, so let me be your last
She turned off the PADD when Blair came back into the room, “Aren't you going to change?" she asked Pamela.
"Uh, yes, just a sec,” She emerged from the small bathroom several minutes later.
"That's kind of over the top,” Blair said.
"You've seen my 'over the top',” Pamela said, “You know this is pretty normal for me."
"Those pants are too tight on you."
"If I can still breathe and walk, they aren't."
It was pizza night.
The cafeteria was crowded and loud.
"Y'know, I like Chef's cooking and all," Tucker yelled above the din, "but I've had better pizza in Manhattan. Why does everyone line up as if it's the last time they're ever gonna see pizza?"
"I'm sure I don't know,” Malcolm said, scraping cheese off a slice.
There was a slight whistling sound. They looked up. Blair was wearing jeans and a white sweater. Pamela had on menswear-type pants with a grey pinstripe, and a green wrap sweater that was open enough to reveal just a hint of ecru lace.
Malcolm stood up first. He'd always been taught that. Stand in the presence of a lady, “Good, good evening,” he said, pulling out a chair.
Travis just stood there, entranced. Tripp smiled and said, "Uh, ladies? Do we need to reintroduce ourselves?"
"No,” Pamela said, “Mayweather, right? Pilot. Fast-moving equipment."
"And you're Tucker. Engineer. Lots of power."
"And you're Reed,” she paused, “Big. Gun,” Her eyes flashed slightly.
Malcolm swallowed, “Wish I could think of something witty to say."
"That's all right,” Pamela said, “I put you on the spot,” she sat down across from him, “Do we, uh, do we get in line?"
"No, no, I'll take care of it,” Travis said, “Any preferences?"
"Mushroom, please,” said Blair.
"Something with meat,” Pamela said.
"Do you, uh, do you specialize?" Tripp asked, “I mean, Dr. Phlox is kinda a generalist but that's just 'cause he's here."
"Obstetrics,” Blair said.
"Plastic surgery,” Pamela replied.
"Lotsa happy outcomes for both of ya,” Tripp said.
"Or not so happy ones, I'd guess,” Malcolm said, “Stillbirths and the like. And disfigured people."
"Yes,” Pamela said, “Every specialty is like that – you have all sorts of things you can do that are or can be positive, coupled with a lot that can be really horrific. That's a part of what makes medicine so compelling. You have tragedy infusing every triumph, or it can. That depth of feeling can really make you feel alive."
"Two mushroom, two pepperoni,” Travis produced the plates with a flourish.
"Thank you,” Blair said, “You guys were in the Xindi War, right?"
"Yes, we stopped the weapon from reaching Earth,” Malcolm said, “Lost some good people that way."
"And now we've got peace with the Xindi,” Pamela said, “And our classmate, you met Stoney – er, Mark Stone? His mother is the first ambassador to 'em since we made peace."
"We all know about Emily Stone,” Tripp said, “Huge political appointment. I try not to think about politics – give me an engine any day."
"We haven't seen you for a few days,” Travis said, “Lots of work?"
"Oh, yes,” Blair said between bites, “Dr. Phlox and Dr. Keating-Fong are really drilling us. I've barely looked up for the past four, five days. Is it four days, or five?"
"Five,” Pamela said, “Good thing it's break time. Movie Night tomorrow, then the party the next day, plus our instructor heads back to the Vulcan home world for a few weeks of lectures and whatever."
"You're, you're attending Movie Night?" Malcolm asked.
"Oh, sure,” Pamela said, “I just want to look at the old fashions. When is that movie from?"
"Twentieth century,” Travis said.
"They did look pretty funny then,” Blair said.
Captain Archer sat with T'Pol, Dr. Phlox and Dr. Keating-Fong in his private dining area, “The beef stew was really good,” he said to the server.
"I'll be sure to tell Chef,” said Crewman Delacroix as he cleared the plates.
"Captain, I'll be leaving you soon,” Dr. Keating-Fong said, “And while my charges are all grown men and women, they can be a bit, shall we say, sophomoric at times. The party might be a bit out of hand, so be aware of that."
"Well," Jonathan said, "we were all young once."
"So you won't be attending the festivities?" asked T'Pol.
"Me, no. I've seen plenty of them. Everyone bends over backwards to make nice with Ambassador Stone's son. And, I have a rendezvous with your people anyway. I'm going to be giving a few lectures on extinct tropical diseases, like dengue fever and Hansen's disease."
"Dr. Keating-Fong here is a foremost specialist on such things. Don't let her modesty fool you, Commander,” Phlox said.
"Actually, I bet that Phlox here is the only one of us who'll be at the entire party,” Captain Archer said, “T'Pol will be on shift, you'll be gone," he indicated Dr. Keating-Fong, "and I've got a date with a book."
"A book?" Phlox asked, “Surely you can read a novel another time."
"It's a play. Much Ado About Nothing."
"Shakespeare? Captain, I didn't think you were the type,” Dr. Keating-Fong said.
"It's a compelling story."
"At least try to come before the very end of it,” Phlox suggested, “I'm sure Shakespeare can wait."
"You're right. He's been dead for centuries. He can wait another day or so.”
After dinner, Pamela caught up with Hoshi. “Ensign, uh, Sato, right?"
"I'm Pamela Hudson. Mind if I ask you a question?"
"No, of course not. And I met you a few days ago. I remember,” Hoshi said.
"Oh, all right. We all get so caught up in tests and the like; I forget that not everyone is doing that."
"Oh, yes. How do you send an anonymous message? I thought that was somewhat impossible,” Pamela said.
"Ah, you got it."
"Yes, I got it. Did you read it?"
"No. I don't do that."
"Some special Communications Officers' oath or something?"
"I just, I promised I wouldn't. Anyway, to answer your question – I encrypt the message and hide the sender."
"I guess you can't get into details. And that's all right; I wouldn't know what to do with them anyway. God knows I'm no cryptographer,” Pamela admitted, “So I would, uh, go through you if I wanted to send a response to this anonymous person?"
"And you would, uh, assure that the message was delivered to the correct person?"
"Of course. Send whatever you like. I can get to it tomorrow morning."
"Hmm, well I'm not sure I want to send anything. Just want to know my options. And, uh, if another anonymous note is sent, would it be against your ethics to at least tell me if the two messages were from the same person?"
Hoshi shrugged, “I guess not. Look, I'm off for a workout. Like I said, send me a note and I'll take care of it."
Pamela returned to quarters. Blair was already back.
"Good, you're back,” Blair said, “Your damned PADD has been just chiming away."
"Huh,” Pamela looked over the notes and deleted them, “Last-minute invitations for tomorrow. Nothing exciting."
"No more poems?"
"No,” Pamela smiled slightly to herself.
"Do you know who the poet is?"
"I have a few ideas but nothing concrete. I mean, we don't know these people at all. So, assuming it's a man and assuming he's not one of our classmates, there are still some sixty or so possibles."
"Don't forget the doctor."
"Huh. Not into aliens,” Pamela said.
"And maybe there's some interested woman out there. Hey, you never know,” Blair said.
"No, this wasn't from a woman. The writer referred to himself and the reference was definitely male."
"I'm not gonna tell you, so don't even try to get it out of me,” Pamela said.
"All right. Um, I don't normally ask this, but," Blair said, "could you clear out tomorrow night? Please? It's, uh, you know why."
"Yes, I know why. And it's fine. You know I rarely sleep in my own bed most of the time."
"True. You know, two years ago, the first time you disappeared on me, I really worried. I was just about ready to call your parents when you walked in,” Blair said.
"Good thing you didn't tell them. I don't talk to them. You know that."
"I know, although you've never actually told me why. Still, I think they'd want to know if you were lying face down in a ditch somewhere, Pamela."
"But I haven't kissed a ditch so it's all right. And you remember what I told you, back then? I said you should only start to worry if you don't see or hear from me in three days. Have I kept up my end of that deal?"
"Yes, you have,” Blair admitted, “But I can't help worrying a little bit. You are a grownup and can take care of yourself. Still, I mean, isn't it all right for someone to worry about you?"
"I guess it's a little all right,” Pamela said, “But I am thirty-four years old and very experienced with this. I am not going to do anything truly stupid."
"Look, Pamela, I can't say as I can completely go along with that,” Blair said, “I know what happened with Henry."
"Cap'n, looks like it's a comet trail,” Tripp said through the communicator speaker.
"Oh? How do you figure?" Jonathan asked, sitting at the desk in his Ready Room.
"It's not just neutron pulses. There's also some organic material comin' through."
"Organic? Like what?"
"Seems to be carbons, proteins, not too well-organized and probably not alive. Theories suggest that life was brought to Earth by comets. This could be something similar."
"Any danger to the ship?"
"I doubt it. I s'pect these compounds could just pass through the ship and we'd barely know it had happened at all. Probably already has happened."
"Hmm. Well, keep monitoring."
"Sensors are a little tricky with this,” Tripp said, “I'm not so sure we're getting all of the readings we could be gettin'."
"You said this was not a problem,” Jonathan said.
"And it's very likely not. Still, our readings aren't perfect. So far, we're okay, but we might wanna skip away from the worst of it."
"I'll have Travis do that. Archer out."
"Oh, yes, The Henry Incident,” Pamela made air quotes, “And just how much do you think you know?"
"I know you were in trouble,” Blair said cautiously.
"I'm always in trouble."
"No, this was different. I mean, even Henry looked a little concerned."
"Ha, that lummox never worried about anything in his life!" Pamela laughed a little.
"No, he was worried. Sheesh."
"But most likely not about me,” Pamela said, “More likely he was worried about himself."
"Look, right now we're on a starship, right? So unless someone shoves me out of an airlock, you basically know exactly where I am at all times, right? So don't concern yourself. And I will clear out as you requested – don't forget it's my willingness to do sleepovers that's going to clear the way for you and Lover Boy tomorrow night."
Blair smiled, “Yes, I guess so. Just don't want anything bad happening to you."
"I'll be fine. Now, what are you wearing tomorrow?"
Okay, you lost me a couple times in this stretch. First was when you were introducing all the new characters. You weren't clear enough, and clarity is important if you're bringing on important OCs. Pamela's the blonde, right? My first real clue to that was when I read the poem.
Also, at the dinner in Archer's dining room when they were talking about parties, T'Pol addressed - I think - Phlox, but it wasn't indicated, so it actually seemed like Archer was still talking, but the line didn't sound like anything Archer would say.
One more thing: Any organic material contained in a comet would most likely trapped in the core and not even be detectable until the comet impacted on a larger body. Even if there are trace elements in the comet's surface ice you'd have to wait for the comet to develop a tail...the problem is they're detecting this comet in deep space, and one of them said they weren't near any stars. Comets don't break up and develop tails until they're headed toward a sun. No stars, no tail.
Still, you're building up an interesting little romance here, so keep going.
Yeah, Pamela is the blonde. Sorry for the confusion. The comet thing is, it's actually, the error is a part of the story (the characters are losing some of their judgment, which will hopefully begin to make some sense as we go along). Thanks for reading and commenting.
It was the next day, right after dinner. Blair and Pamela were in quarters.
"Not too much of that perfume,” Blair said, “You know it can give me a headache."
"Oh yeah, sorry. It just never seems to last long enough. Ha, story of my life,” Pamela said, putting the bottle down. The label read: 'Toxic'.
"Are you gonna hook up with your poet friend tonight?"
"I'm still not certain who it is."
"It could even be Doctor Phlox,” Blair pointed out.
Pamela made a face, “Not into aliens. Really."
"Oh, I'd've thought you'd like the variety."
"Blair, Blair, Blair, there are plenty of variations that are possible with human males."
"I can imagine."
"I could sketch some for you,” Pamela offered, smiling.
"Huh, no. TMI. Anyway, back to figuring out who your poet is. How are you going to determine that?"
"Collect data. Process it,” Pamela thumped her left temple once, “Reprocess if necessary. Then act. Maybe today, maybe tomorrow."
"Ah. And how are you going to collect this data?" Blair asked, slipping on a bangle bracelet.
"I read a little. Seems there's going to be a discussion about the movie afterwards. So I'll make it a point of staying, and I figure the candidate may very well be among anyone who sticks around."
"Possibly. That's not foolproof."
"Well, of course not, but it does give me an opportunity to lay out some bait and see who," she paused for a second to adjust her lipstick, "bites."
Blair smiled, “I'll probably skip most of that performance. I imagine we'll be outta there right afterwards."
"As you should be,” Pamela said, “Now, ready?"
"There's more organic matter coming through,” Jonathan said, “Can you check, Malcolm, see if it's affecting any of our tactical systems?"
"Of course, sir. I'll see to it personally."
Movie Night was well-attended.
"Ladies,” Tripp said when he saw them, “We got seats right here. Scootch down, Travis."
Blair sat between Travis and Tripp. Then Pamela on the other side of Tripp, “Should I save this other one?" she asked.
"Yeah, I think Reed got caught up with stuff,” Tripp said.
The rest of the medical class sat behind them.
A tall Ensign got up at the front of the room, “Boys and girls!" he called out. People quieted down to listen, “For those of you who don't know, my name is Chip Masterson and I am your Movie Guy. I'd like to welcome our guests from the Nereid Medical Academy. Now, it's customary for me to talk a little about the movie beforehand and then, afterwards, if you like, we can discuss it a bit. I don't normally get a lot of people discussing the films so I'm hoping you'll join me."
"Oh, that sounds interesting,” Pamela said quietly.
"Really?" asked Tripp.
"Sure,” she said, and then indicated the front of the room, “We should listen."
"This film is called 'Dirty Dancing',” said Chip, “It stars, uh," he consulted a PADD, "Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey. The film came out in 1987 but it takes place over twenty years before that. One thing you might not be aware of is that the soundtrack is mixed. Part of it is period music from the 1960s and a part is original works from the 1980s. This was probably intended to both sell more copies of the soundtrack and have the music better play in with the action on the screen. We'll talk about that afterwards, see if you can figure out which is the newer music written specially for the film, and which are the older pieces. A few other things you should know: the Catskill Mountains had a bunch of resorts. And the Peace Corps was a volunteer organization whereby mostly very young people would fly around the globe and do things like teach school in developing countries. It was considered to be a mainstay of idealism, kind of shorthand for being a good person. And that's all I'll say about that. Don't want to spoil it for anyone. Oh and this film is being shown at the request of me and the folks in the Engineering Department, and is dedicated to our guests. And now, without further ado, 'Dirty Dancing'. Roll it, Aidan."
A figure appeared to the side as the lights were dimmed, “This seat taken?"
"Uh, I guess not,” Pamela said.
"So everything is all right?" T'Pol asked.
"Yes, it appears so. Tactical is unaffected,” Malcolm said.
"Very well. Stand down, Mr. Reed."
Travis was the only one to realize Blair had put her hand back behind her and was holding hands with ... someone. It could have been any of her fellow students. He shrugged. Oh, well.
Tripp leaned back, yawned, and tried to put his arm around Pamela. She leaned forward, eluding him for the moment and instead looked at the man on the other side of her. Tripp put his arm back to where it had been.
Malcolm saw Dr. Phlox as he was walking over to Movie Night, “I see you're late, too,” said the doctor.
"Yes. More's the pity."
"I didn't think you were a fan of musicals,” Phlox paused for a moment, “It's not the movie, is it?"
"No, it's not,” Malcolm said, looking down a little as they walked.
"Your mating rituals do fascinate me. Always a complicated minuet of sorts. Mind if I observe?"
The lights came up. Pamela realized who she'd been sitting with, “Captain! I didn't think you would attend."
"Oh, it's good to be out and about at times, Doctor,” he replied, “Got plans for now? Most of the crew leaves and goes about their business, I understand."
She smiled, “There's supposed to be a discussion. I thought I'd hang around for that. Will you?"
"Hmm. All right,” he said, “But don't expect any big insights from me,” he smiled.
"I probably won't have any, either,” she said.
"All right. Ha, this is a great turnout,” Chip said, “Let's put our chairs in a circle. And Captain! I am pleasantly surprised."
"Well, I like to support what my crew is doing,” Jonathan said, “But, uh, don't count my insights any more than anyone else's."
"Come on over Doctor, Lieutenant,” Chip said, “Aidan, get some chairs, yeah, there. Okay."
Tripp sat next to Crewman Haddon. Then Travis, going around clockwise, then Chip, Malcolm, Aidan MacKenzie, Mark Stone, An Nguyen, Captain Archer, Dr. Phlox and Pamela on the other side of Tripp.
Chip began, “Let's start with the music. I'll play a little from a song and you'll figure out if it's 1960s or 1987. Ready?" He tapped a bit on his PADD.
The song went as follows:
Love is strange
A lot of people take it for a game
"Okay, sixties or later, show of hands,” Chip said, “Looks like seven for the sixties, four for later. Sixties is right. Next."
The night we met I knew I needed you so
And if I had the chance I'd never let you go
"Later,” Pamela guessed.
"Nope. Sixties,” Chip said, “One more."
Now I've had the time of my life
No I never felt like this before
This time it was unanimous. Everyone guessed later, “Very good!" Chip said, “Now, what's the difference?"
"The instruments differ,” Malcolm said, “And the recording for the second one, it seemed, I don't know, a lot of sound."
"The Wall of Sound. Phil Spector,” Chip explained, “Okay, now let's talk about the relationship."
"I don't know if it was so, uh, believable,” Tripp said, “It's just, it's really unequal."
"Yes,” Pamela said, “He's like the knave and she's the Queen."
"No, not a Queen,” Travis said, “A princess, maybe. Rich but not in charge. I mean, she's called 'Baby'. That's not what you call someone in charge."
"It's still uneven,” said Deb Haddon, “I mean, she's really sheltered, and he's just some guy. Kinda makes you wonder what they'd have to talk about if they got married. When he's not dancing, he's just kind of, well, he's good to look at but not really that smart."
Pamela laughed, “He's also more of a man of the world than she is a woman of the world, even though she wants to go overseas. Poetry in motion when they move together, and it makes you wonder about how they move together otherwise."
"Otherwise?" Aidan asked. He was dark and very attractive. She hadn't met him before. Could be fun but definitely not the poet.
"Well, dancing is a vertical expression of a horizontal desire. Or am I the only one who knows that?" Pamela asked.
"You're the only one who thinks that,” Mark said.
"No, probably not the only one thinking it. Just the only one expressing it openly,” Phlox said, “Minuets, indeed."
Blair and Will were in her quarters.
Things were getting steamy.
"Are you sure you want to do this?" he asked her.
"Yes, yes, of course! We've been going out for almost a year,” she panted.
"I know. And I love you. But I want to be sure about this. And I want you to be sure."
"Will, I've done this before,” she said.
"I know. Just ... want it to be special."
"It is,” she said, “Because it's with you."
He kissed her, her back bending over the bed as she threw her head back. He kissed her neck and she sighed a little. Carefully, he removed her top. She smiled at him, “It's getting very warm in here. You are definitely overdressed, Will Owen."
He grinned at her and took off his shirt, a lot more zealously than he'd taken off her top.
"Very nice,” she said.
"You've seen this part before."
"Well, it never gets tiresome. Now let me see more."
He didn't need another invitation. “You turn me on like nobody else,” he said, bending his head down and kissing her.
"Even though we're so different?"
"I like the contrast,” he said, “You're not Aussie."
"You know what I mean,” She said, “The visual part, not my accent."
"Yes, I know, California girl,” he said, kissing her, “And I love the color of your skin. The difference means nothing to me."
"Good,” she said, lying down on the bed, “Now come closer and we'll really see contrast."
He moved slowly and carefully, and kissed her, hard, arms around her back, close, close, closer than close. He let her go and she sighed at him.
She finally opened her eyes, “Why did we wait so long to do that, Will?" she breathed.
He smiled at her, “It just had to be right."
"Okay, looks like we're wrapping up here,” Chip said, “Next week is another musical."
"Is the Engineering Department into musicals or something?" Pamela asked.
"We just figured you ladies might like 'em,” Tripp explained.
"They're okay. A lot of fantasy. Not that there's anything wrong with that,” Pamela replied.
"Next week is 'Grease',” Chip said, reading off his PADD, “Starring, erm, John Travolta, Olivia Newton-John and some old pros like, uh, Frankie Valli and Eve Arden."
"I bet that last one's a made-up name,” Travis said.
"Yeah, it's familiar. Arden, Arden. Where do I know Arden from?" Tripp said, not able to put his finger on it.
"Yeah, it's, I don't know,” Jonathan said.
"Forest of Arden,” Malcolm said, speaking for the first time in a while, “It's from 'As You Like It'."
"Shakespeare,” Pamela said, “This film wasn't exactly Shakespearean. I'm guessing that a film called 'Grease' won't be, either."
"Probably not,” he replied, “Low versus high-brow culture, I'd say."
"I gotta go study,” said An.
"Me, too,” said Pamela, “I have data I have to process. Good night."
She followed An out, “Going to the Sick Bay lab?"
"Yes, as if it's your business."
"It's not. But I'm going there, too."
"And then making a conquest?" he asked, annoyedly.
"No. Pulling an all-nighter. And not the usual kind."
"So I'll be treated to your company,” he said sarcastically.
Will and Blair lay together.
"I love you,” she said.
He smiled at her, “Do you want to meet my mum?"
"Oh, Gawd. I dunno. That's an even scarier step than this was."
"I promise she doesn't bite."
Sick Bay at oh three hundred hours was a cacophony of sounds. Phlox was in and out, mostly out, “Rest period for me,” he had explained.
Pamela and An worked through the night.
"That's the third time you've titrated the same sample,” he said to her.
"Yeah, well, I'm kinda tired."
"Why don't you go back to your quarters? You're no good here."
"Don't you know? Claymore and Owen are hitting it as we speak."
"Hot damn. It's about freakin' time,” he said, “Look, uh, don't take this the wrong way,” he yawned.
"What am I taking the wrong way?"
"Me offering you Owen's bed."
"Oh?" she arched an eyebrow.
"For sleeping purposes and nothing more. I got a spare bed and you need one."
"True,” she said, “Don't tell me you play on Stoney's team."
"No. Just because I don't want to make your teeth rattle does not make me a gay man,” An said.
"Yes, you're right. Truce?"
"Truce. C'mon, before you break a beaker or something."
Okay, lot of smoochie romance and not much mystery...
There will be more mystery eventually, yes? Anyone around these parts can warn you I'm not a huge shipper.
Yes to mystery - and not of the romantic kind.
Pamela crept out of An's quarters before anyone could see, and before she'd have to deal with him. It had been kind enough of him to offer her a place to sleep but she had bigger fish to fry. Coffee would be on the agenda that morning. But not until after a shower.
At least the coast was clear at her own quarters. Blair and Will were ... somewhere. Good.
Her PADD was flashing. She picked up a message from Hoshi: "This is from the same anonymous source,” Hmm.
The message was just one word:
Okay, she thought to herself. Tonight it is.
The Ti’Mur had sent a shuttle.
Dr. Keating-Fong was ready. She smiled and shook hands with Dr. Phlox, who was seeing her off, “Oh, I almost forgot! I have a present for you!"
"A gift, for me?" he asked, “Why, that's hardly necessary."
"It's small,” she said, “A token of teaching."
He unwrapped the small package, “This is a box of chalk."
"Yes. Teachers on Earth used to write on blackboards and students would read and often copy down what they had written. Teachers always had chalk on them. You're a teacher, so you should have chalk."
"Thank you,” he smiled, “I wish I had more chances to instruct. These next three weeks should be fun."
"Yes, there's nothing like it,” she said, “Being listened to! People hanging on your every word! I do admit it's a bit of an ego trip. But it's also rather rewarding. If you come to Nereid, can I persuade you to give a guest lecture or two on Xenobiology?"
"Why, that would be a delight,” he said, “Safe journeys."
It was the evening, right before the party was to start.
"What do you think?" Blair asked Pamela, holding up two outfits, “Brown or grey?"
"Um, grey,” Pamela said, “With the drop earrings."
"Good idea. Will likes those."
"Ah, you are going to do everything because Will likes it, now?"
"Not necessarily,” Blair said, “I do like to see him happy, though."
"Well, don't lose yourself in the process,” Pamela picked a piece of lint off her skirt.
"How can you sit down in that thing?" Blair asked.
"Well, you usually don't. You just lean,” Pamela said, “And you wear interesting underwear because if you cross your legs one way, heh, it becomes public knowledge."
"I see you got new fishnets."
"Yeah, the old pair had a hole in them you could drive a shuttle through."
"Are you ready to go?" Blair asked.
"Yes, but let's let 'em wonder for a while. Never arrive to a party early or on time. No one should."
"Uh, there's a philosophical flaw in that plan. How, exactly, do parties get started if everyone is late?"
"It's like the old Steady State theory of the universe,” Pamela said, “No beginning and no end. Or maybe it's just turtles all the way down."
"Maybe. Do you know who your poet is?"
"Not telling you."
"Oh, then you don't know,” Blair said.
"No, wait. You have a good idea, just not 100% confirmed, right?"
"I'm still not telling you,” Pamela said, even though Blair was right.
"Cap'n, those neutron pulses are startin' to get annoying,” Tripp reported via intercom.
Jonathan leaned forward in the captain's chair, “How so?"
"Well, we've got ..."
The sentence wasn't finished because the ship lurched. It took almost a minute to get their equilibrium back. Everyone shook their heads, as if they'd been momentarily knocked out.
"What the devil was that?" Jonathan demanded of the Bridge crew.
"It appears we were scanned,” T'Pol replied.
"Check all systems. This is not just a comet trail. Hoshi, get me Starfleet."
"Aye, sir,” Hoshi tapped on her console, “Go ahead."
"We've got activity here,” Jonathan said to Admiral Gardner, “And this area isn't supposed to have any advanced civilizations. Any word on who might be out here?"
"Nothing,” said the admiral, “Keep an eye on it, so long as you can, without endangering the crew or your passengers of course. But don't do anything big unless you have to. Best for you to stay out of a fire fight. We'll make inquiries. Klingon home world is not so far away – it might be them. Gardner out."
"We should cancel the festivities,” T'Pol suggested.
"No,” Jonathan said, “Not unless this happens again. The crew deserves a break."
She raised an eyebrow.
"I promise, if you call, I will come back,” he said, smiling tightly. It had been a long week. Jonathan just didn't want this to overtake him and kill his mood. He felt a tiny bit funny, a little bit warm, perhaps, but it was nothing so he dismissed it.
"Sir," Malcolm said, "I can set up targeting on automatic. Have it track the source of the scanning."
"Well, the source is probably gone, or has moved,” Travis pointed out.
"Understood,” said Malcolm, “But I can pick it up and have it track the signal if it reappears. I can keep it quiet – it would not appear to be a hostile act."
"Tripp, work with Malcolm on that,” Jonathan said.
"All right, be right there,” Tripp said, “Tucker out."
Chip was pushing chairs against the wall of the Observation Lounge when Aidan walked in.
"I got it,” Aidan said.
"Oh,” Chip said knowingly, “Punch is over there."
"Good. I don't see how anyone thinks there can be a party without a little liquid sustenance,” He poured a fifth into the punch bowl.
"Think those gals will loosen up with the application of a little, uh, social lubricant?" Chip asked.
"I'm counting on it. I'm just dyin' to play doctor,” Aidan replied.
"Okay, looks like we're done,” Tripp said, “This was a good idea."
"And it's all set to let you know if there's any more activity?" Jonathan asked.
"Yes, it'll ping my personal communicator,” Malcolm said, demonstrating, “And then I'll come right back. No matter, uh, no matter what."
"Good. I guess you're going to the party tonight."
"I guess I am,” he smiled slightly to himself. Whew.
The party was in full swing when Blair and Pamela arrived.
"See, I told ya. No early arrival and you're guaranteed a good time or at least a better time,” Pamela said, above the din of music and talking.
"Of course. When it comes to this sort of thing, I defer to you, my friend,” Blair replied.
Will came over to her, “The punch is spiked,” he said, by way of greeting, “Everyone's been keeping Phlox and the captain from having any. The dodges are getting interesting. Better have some before someone from the Temperance Union spoils the fun,” He gave her a cup.
"My God, that's strong,” she said, tasting it.
Pamela made a beeline for it. Chip was there, and poured her a glass, “Remember," he said, "If the captain or Phlox come over, give them this other stuff,” he indicated a smaller bowl, off to the side.
"Aye, aye,” she said, swigging, “Doesn't anyone dance?"
"Dance?" he asked, “We're all science types. Lucky we can dress ourselves when we're out of uniform."
She smiled, “C'mon, you remember the film! Someone should start."
"Y'know, you're right. But there's not a lotta women. Not counting you and Dr. Claymore, there are thirty-four women. And fifty-eight men, not including your classmates. Or, um, Phlox, T'Pol and Porthos,” he replied, yelling above the noise.
"He's the captain's beagle."
"We haven't met,” she called out, “First dance could be ladies' choice,” she suggested.
The song ended. Chip called out to the assembled throng, “I have received a request for some dancing!" People grumbled a bit, “But this one will be – because we have such a skewed ratio – it'll be a ladies' choice. Ladies! Get in the middle. Gentlemen! Into a circle around them."
"You think that's fair?" Tripp asked Travis.
"No more unfair than anything else. You want more women, you'll have to go to Risa,” They got into the second ring of the circle.
"C'mon, Malcolm!" Tripp called out.
"Too much competition,” he said, hanging back, “Too many moths around a golden flame."
"It's time to make your selections. Ladies, be fair! Give us guys a break,” Chip said, getting on his knees in front of Blair.
She smiled down at him, “Sorry,” She found Will.
Hoshi looked around and pointed to Mark Stone. He shook his head, “Hmmpf,” she said to herself, and pointed instead to An.
Haddon paired up with MacKenzie. The rest of the women found someone until it was just Pamela, looking around.
One last confirmation. But where would it come from?
She scanned the remaining men. Her eyes focused on one. His face reddened.
He looked down.
He looked surprised and a little puzzled.
T'Pol checked the logs again. So far, so good. No more scans, at least not for the moment. The festivities could go on.
The music started up again. A fast number.
She put her hand out.
He took it, tentatively.
"Are you sure?" he asked.
"Yes, I am, Malcolm,” she said, “Tonight. Right?"
"Yes,” he said, reddening again, Tonight."
She whipped him around to start the dance. He followed a bit, and then yelled over the din, "I don't know the steps!"
"Improvise!" she replied.
He remembered, a bit, of how the movie had gone, so he repeated some of that. Sometimes he led, sometimes she did. Around and around, dizzy with it.
The music changed. A slower number. He was ready to stop. She wasn't.
"I, I don't know this one,” he said, “I'm not very graceful."
"C'mere,” she said, taking his hand and putting it around her waist, “Just move slowly, in a circle."
"I fear I'll step on you."
"I can get out of the way quickly."
He could smell her perfume. He concentrated on not stepping on her feet. He looked up for a second and saw Tripp and Travis, watching.
Travis said to Tripp, "I do believe we have a winner."
"Yep,” said Tripp, “Lucky dog."
The song ended. Malcolm looked at Pamela, “Do you wish to continue dancing? I think I'm getting the hang of it a little."
"No,” she said.
"Oh,” he was about ready to give up.
She turned to him, “It's too loud in here."
"Yes, I don't normally go for parties."
"Can I ask you something?"
"Outside. I don't want other people to hear,” she said.
"All right,” They left the Observation Lounge and got into the hallway, ducking away from a couple who were kissing.
He led her down the hallway a bit, “It's easier to hear now."
"But not very private,” she said, “Let's go someplace private."
"Oh,” he said. He'd had some of the punch and was feeling it a bit, “There's the Botany Lab over there. I don't think the plants will be listening."
"No, some place more ... private,” she said, “But my quarters are occupied."
"Yes. Blair and Will? The bride and groom for gosh sakes,” she said.
"Then, um,” he swallowed, “My quarters?"
"You should clear your roommate out."
"I don't, I don't have one."
"Then your quarters it is,” she said.
"B deck,” he said, taking her there. When they arrived, he opened the door and asked, "What did you, uh, what did you want to ask?"
"How you knew how to write a Shakespearean sonnet,” she said, “It was a very creative touch."
He smiled to himself, “I just, I thought it would be appropriate. Did you, did you like it, Golden Lady?"
"Yes, I did,” she said, “Did you mean it?"
"Yes,” he squeaked out.
"Then show me."
He put his hands on her waist and leaned forward. He kissed her very lightly.
"I'm not a piece of china, Reed."
"No, no, of course not,” This time he kissed her deeply. When they broke apart, he sighed a little.
"Reed, I'll give you a warning right now,” she said, “I'm only going to be here another three weeks. So don't get too deeply involved."
"I, I see,” he said, “Are you, is this, is it all right?"
"'Course it is,” she said, initiating the kiss this time. She grabbed at his uniform a bit.
This surprised him, “I'm not, I'm not used to women being so aggressive."
"Does that bother you?"
"No, it's, it's rather intoxicating. Are you, are you certain you wish to do what I think you wish to?"
She smiled at him, “Yes,” She kissed his neck, “I,” She kissed his cheek, “Am,” She kissed him on the mouth.
"It has been, uh, a while,” he said.
"It's like riding a bike. You don't forget,” she said, fiddling with his uniform zipper.
"No, I don't suppose you do. May I help you?" he put his hands on her skirt.
"That just pulls down, yeah, there,” she said, then took off her top.
He stood and stared at her for a second. She was wearing a black lingerie and fishnet stockings that were held up by some sort of grippers on her legs and, perhaps, some defiance of gravity. Plus those same little black boots she'd worn when he'd first seen her, “My God, you're stunning."
She smiled at him, “I see you're more or less ready,” She smiled at him and lay back on the bed.
He rolled down her right stocking and took it and the boot off together in one fluid motion. Then he moved to the left one.
And that's when he saw it.
Something he was not expecting.
He touched it, tentatively, an alien thing. He swallowed hard, “P-Pamela?"
"Darling, have you been, have you, that is to say, have you been bitten by a, a wild animal?"
"Not exactly,” she said.
"Oh,” he touched it again. The thread of desire was fading. This was not good.
She looked at him and down at the alien thing, an irregular mark on the inside of her left leg, “Ex-boyfriend."
Travis and Tripp finished up the last of the punch, “And here's to Ruby,” Tripp said, “And her sweet favors."
"Yeah,” Travis said, grinning.
"You, too? I thought it was just me and Reed."
"Reed, ha, it's the quiet ones," Travis said, "who can sometimes be the luckiest."
"I'll drink to that."
The thread of desire was gone, gone, gone. Malcolm sat down abruptly on the edge of the bed.
"My God,” he finally said, “What, what happened?"
"He got me in the femoral artery,” she said, sitting up.
"Did he, did he beat you, Pamela?"
"It's all right."
"No, it's not."
"Yes, it is,” she insisted, “It was a long time ago."
"Look, Reed. If you're not interested because I've got an imperfection, I can leave right now,” she got up.
"Don't go,” he said, touching her hand, “Please. Don't leave."
"All right,” she said, sitting down next to him.
"Still. I, Pamela, I will never, ever do that to you. I can, I can pledge that to you."
"Reed, I'm warning you. Don't get too deeply involved."
"Please,” he said, “Let me at least tell you that you're, you're safe here. With, with me."
"And I appreciate that. Actually, it was a bit of a favor."
"A what?" Malcolm was incredulous.
"Yes. I, uh, it's more sensitive there. Almost like I've got two, yanno.”
The thread of desire was returning. With a vengeance.
"Do you, uh, mind, Pamela, if I, uh, test that theory out for myself? For, for science, as it were?"
"How?" she asked, watching him.
"I suppose I'll just improvise a bit."
Dr. Keating-Fong was tired. It would be good to be away from the kids for a little while.
"Can you, can you turn the heat down a little bit in the shuttle?" she asked the Vulcan pilot.
"Compensating,” he said.
Kissing her, no matter where on her body he did so, was a complete sensual experience. It wasn't just feeling and taste, but smell and texture and sound. The softness of her body, the hardness of her hip bones, the smoothness of her skin, the irregularity of the scar, the smell of her hair, the pressure of her fingertips, the heat and huh huh huh of her breath – they all conspired to lock him in.
When they broke apart, she was back in a flash, kissing him all over, working to get him worked up again.
Finally he lay down on the bed, “Ah,” he said, “I'm spent. You?"
"Not completely,” she said, “Help a girl out,” she said.
He laughed a little, “I'm not in shape for this much ... activity."
"Practice makes perfect,” she whispered in his ear, then kissed it.
"Allow me to, um,” he said, voice trailing off.
"You've just had your hands all over and you can't ask me if it's okay for you to do something?" she teased.
"I suppose I'm too refined. Too much conditioning. Always told to be oh so proper."
"Well, what do you want to do?" she asked.
He whispered in her ear. She laughed, “It's just you and me here."
"I know. It's still not an easy string of words for me to say out loud, and hear myself say. Foolish hangup, I think. Seems very foolish right now."
"Well, don't ask. Just do,” she said.
He didn't have to be told twice.
The next morning, Malcolm was shaking himself awake when he saw her, fully dressed, “Are you, are you going?"
"Well, I need to take a shower and stuff."
"You can take one here. With, with me."
"And then get back into dirty clothes? Honestly, Reed."
"Oh, yes, I suppose that would not be a good thing. Pamela, are you, are you free for, for breakfast?"
"I guess so."
"And all the other days you'll be here?"
"I don't know. I don't normally plan that far ahead. Like I told you, Reed: don't get too deeply involved."
"Well, it's just, I was thinking," he got out of bed and approached her, and put his hands on her waist, "if you're all right with it, then let's be together for your time here."
"Maybe,” she said, looking at him, “You're, huh, ready to go again."
"Yes. See what you do to me?" he said, kissing her.
"There's not a lot of time,” she said, “Still, I am already ... dirty."
He smiled at her.
"I like how you think. I can stick around a bit." She said.
"Well, I feel freer with you,” he said.
"Here,” she said, backing herself into a wall.
Brian Delacroix set out breakfast for the captain's table. T'Pol, Doctor Phlox and Mark Stone would be joining him. He was setting out a few different kinds of jams when he noticed he was getting the beginnings of a sore throat. Probably nothing, he thought to himself as he set the table.
Malcolm got to the cafeteria first, and found Tripp and Travis eating together already.
"Omelets are good. Get the Western,” Travis recommended.
Malcolm brought over a fourth chair.
"Oh?" Tripp asked.
"Yes,” Malcolm said, looking down.
"Congratulations,” Travis said, “You won."
"Now, Reed," Tripp said, "you do not have to tell me anything, of course, but, uh, I just gotta say, I bet she's a hellcat."
Malcolm just looked down.
"You lucky so and so,” Travis said, smiling.
"Who's getting lucky?" Pamela asked, arriving.
Malcolm stood up quickly, “Here,” he pulled out a chair for her.
She thanked him, “So, big plans for today?"
"Checking an anomaly, it looked like a comet trail but then we were scanned. That was a, a bump you may have felt early last evening,” Malcolm explained.
"As opposed to other things that happened later,” she replied, grabbing his leg under the table.
"Could you two just get a room or something?" Tripp asked in mock exasperation.
"We already have one,” She answered, leaning over to grab the pepper. “Boarding house reach."
"Uh, ahem,” Travis said, “Do you, uh, have special things to, erm, do today, Doctor?"
"Yes. Surprise quiz that isn't really a surprise,” she said, “Plus lab and all of that. I've got West Nile virus growing in a dish. Gotta check it; see that it's still going. My little infectious pet, I suppose."
"Porthos is a lot nicer,” Tripp pointed out.
"Oh, the dog! A terrier?" she asked.
"Beagle,” Malcolm said, “Friendly little thing. Phlox likes him; I'm surprised you haven't met the little chap yet."
"I think Doctor Phlox is keeping Sick Bay clear as there's so many of us in there at one time. Are you two also working on this, what is it, an anomaly?"
"Well, I'm steering around it. We don't always have options. Klingon space isn't too far away,” Travis explained.
"Ugh. Klingons,” she said, “Big lummoxes, they are. Do they, I've heard, do they smell?"
"Uh, a bit,” Tripp admitted, “I've shared decon with a few. It was ... an experience."
"I hope I don't have such an intimate …” she paused and looked at Malcolm, giving his leg another squeeze, "experience with them. Ever."
"Not too much chance of that,” Tripp said, “Reed here's got the ship well-defended."
"Nothing to, nothing to worry about,” Malcolm said.
"Good,” she said, finishing the last of her breakfast.
"And you're going into which specialty?" Jonathan asked over breakfast.
"Psychiatry, I think,” Mark said, “But we haven't had that rotation yet. I might change my mind."
"With the use of psychotropic drugs, I'd think that much of that specialty would be pharmacological in nature,” Phlox said, “What I mean, in plain English is, after prescribing, what else is there to do?"
"There's still therapy, still discussions. Freud's old Talking Cure,” Mark said.
"So people can still talk to their doctor and work out their problems, without being medicated?" Jonathan asked.
"Sometimes. But mostly there's medications. It's easier, and it works better,” Mark explained.
"It makes one wonder if all patients desire such a treatment,” T'Pol said.
"Oh?" asked Phlox.
"Yes. There are cultures where madness – or at least a mild form thereof – is considered to be the seat of creativity. Or at least, well, do patients feel, when they are medicated, that they could be losing their sense of self?"
Malcolm got to shift on time. It was already shaping up to be an excellent day. He set to work quickly, checking logs and testing the targeting computer, making sure everything was absolutely, positively perfect. He'd run his third diagnostic by the time Jonathan told him to quit and just work on figuring out the anomaly. He smiled to himself a bit. Always overzealous, he thought. Whatever it takes to keep her safe.
Pamela, Mark and the other students sat on stools in Sick Bay. Phlox announced, "And today we'll be having a quiz. Open up your PADDs and click on the file that I've just sent you. You'll have ten minutes."
"What file?" asked Will, showing Phlox his PADD.
"Oh, that's interesting. I could have sworn I'd sent it,” Phlox said.
"I don't have it, either,” said An.
"Does anyone have it?" asked Phlox. Everyone shook their heads, “Here, I'll just resend it. No, wait,” he said, checking his own PADD, “I don't seem to have it, either. Strange. Hmm. Well, then we'll just do it orally."
Blair glanced over at Will for just a split second, and then looked away.
"All right,” Phlox said, “What are some means for spreading typhoid? Mark?"
"Contaminated water. And, uh, asymptomatic carriers."
"Could we turn down the heat a little?" a crewman asked Tripp.
"Sure. It is gettin' a bit stuffy in here. Better check the environmental controls, see if anyone's been messin' with 'em."
The rest of the week progressed in much the same way. Malcolm and Pamela spent two meals together, and then their nights. During the day, he obsessed over keeping the Enterprise secure or helped Tripp try to figure out the anomaly. The ambient temperature was cool in most of the ship, and Pamela liked it cool, too, so he complied with her wishes when they were together.
The sex was intense and imaginative. He did things he never thought he'd do. He got to know what she liked, but still tried to keep her guessing. During the day, he missed her, and rushed to be with her, mostly leaving his friends behind in order to be close, even if all they were doing was chatting over a snack in the cafeteria, or working out in the gym.
Things altered in his head, and one day he got up and saw her sleeping next to him and realized that there was only one thing to do. It would require another sonnet, but not to be sent anonymously. No. This one would have to be delivered in person.
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