"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
?" 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
. Fep is the dark orangey one, and it means small
. Ub is the red dwarf star and it means, red, dwarf
"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."