Chip sat in front of the Communications console on the Bridge. Transferring to this department had been good for him – he was a natural-born gabber and liked the challenge of translations. Working with Hoshi was good, too, even though he mainly just worked overnight and didn't interact with her as much as he'd like. Overnight was usually quiet, but for some reason his tonsils were a little swollen. Nothing much, nothing to get worked up about, just a little sore. A little less conversation, a little more action
, he thought to himself, and dismissed his concerns as nothing.
For her part, Hoshi was getting ready for shift. Her PADD chimed.
It was another note from An. Hmm. It said, "I know we didn't spend a lot of time together before, but I hope we can now. I've gotten ahead in the class so I'll have the time, if you're still willing. See you at breakfast."
Phlox was fit to be tied. The Nereid Medical Academy students filed in after breakfast, all but Pamela. She finally ran in, a little late.
He cleared his throat, “I am, I am disappointed,” he began.
"I'm sorry I'm late,” she said.
"It's not because of that,” he stated, “Ladies and gentlemen, the entire Immunology text has been erased. It's a clean erasure, with no traces."
Everyone looked around at each other, but said nothing.
Phlox continued, "I am forced to conclude that one or more of you may be cheating. It is, this is not a pleasant conclusion for me to draw. I don't like this. But I cannot see anyone else with a motive to do such a thing,” he paused for a breath, “Since this can be done from outside of Sick Bay, you do not have an alibi if you were not in Sick Bay. And I dislike talk of alibis and motives. I am in Sick Bay by myself a lot. Come to me privately and I will, I will see about having the, the perpetrator fail the class but not lose his or her place at the school. This is my only offer in this matter. If the rotation finishes and the perpetrator has not been found out, your regular instructor will be informed. And I suspect that you will all be suspended. So it would behoove the innocent to implicate the wrongdoer, and for the wrongdoer – if he or she has any sense of justice or fair play – to own up to what they have done. We will only have lab today. I will not be lecturing. This is tiresome and I don't have the time or the taste for such antics. That is all."
The students just looked around at each other.
"Doctor, I'm, I'm sorry that this is happening,” Mark said.
Phlox just glared at him and went to tend to his animals, leaving the five of them alone.
"Whoever did this, you are really screwing it up for the rest of us,” said An.
"Maybe someone isn't doing so well,” Blair said, “You could have come to any of us. C'mon, we're all friends here. It didn't have to come to this."
"This is gonna be harsh, no matter what,” Pamela pointed out, “Whoever you are, you can either take less harsh or really harsh, and drag everybody down with you. I know not everyone likes me, but I bet you all like Blair. That's all I'm gonna say about it,” She went over to tend to her dish of West Nile virus.
"You think you can trust people,” Will said, shaking his head.
"You are not gonna screw up my career,” Mark said, opening up his PADD and busying himself with checking notes.
The discussion was, effectively, closed.
Deborah Haddon stood at attention on the Bridge. It had been beastly hot there for days. She broke attention for a moment. Security was an easy enough detail intellectually, but there was a lot of physical to go with it. And standing at attention all the time was not necessarily good for one's back. She absently scratched her hand, and then her neck. They both felt a little warm, and had small bumps on them. Allergy, she thought. Maybe there were walnuts in the chicken salad sandwich she'd had for yesterday's lunch. Yeah. That had to be it. A little itchy, a little bumpy. Hardly worth getting riled up about.
It was Taco Night.
Malcolm sat with Pamela and Tripp. Hoshi came over and sat with them as well.
"Did you try the guacamole?" Hoshi asked, “It's good, a little more lime-y than usual."
"Limey,” Malcolm smiled a little, “Is it made with avocado?"
Pamela looked at him, catching the reference immediately.
"Of course it is,” Tripp said, “It's about the only way I'll eat an avocado,” he admitted.
Pamela could not contain herself and laughed a little, almost losing her food in the process.
Malcolm coughed a bit. She said, "Are you allergic to avocado, Reed?"
"Maybe a little,” he said, chuckling along with her.
"What's so funny about an avocado?" asked Hoshi.
"Oh, uh, nothing,” Malcolm said, but he was fighting not to squeeze out tears as he laughed.
"It's a, a funny word,” Pamela said, “All words with hard Cs are funny."
"Copper isn't a funny word,” Tripp said.
"No, I, uh, I guess not,” Malcolm said, sobering himself for a second, “But avocado just, just is."
"Kids today, eh?" Tripp said, getting back to his taco.
"Thank you for the replacement unit,” Phlox said to Dr. Keating-Fong.
"Oh, no trouble. Do you know why the unit was wiped?"
"I have ideas,” he said.
"As do I,” she said, “The implication is fairly clear, assuming there's no interference from elsewhere."
"Yes. I don't care for this part of the teaching experience,” he confessed.
"Me neither. But it happens sometimes. This is a pilot program and it was very competitive to get into it. Grades have to remain high for a student to stay. I already had one student drop out due to poor grades. I do wish whoever it was would have come to me! And I agree with your plan of action. I don't want to drum them all out, but we have to take this sort of thing seriously. Thank you for being the point person for that. Keating-Fong out."
Phlox closed the connection and went to his PADD. He clicked on the Medical Database. Crewman Delacroix had complained about back spasms a few weeks previously. Perhaps there was something else he could try, as the Crewman wasn't saying anything but still appeared to be suffering. Phlox clicked and clicked again.
This was not good.
The entire Orthopedics section of the Medical Database was gone, as thoroughly wiped as the Immunology text.
"And it's so warm in Sick Bay,” Pamela said, “Stifling! I guess the animals like it. Or Phlox does. I don't know."
"The Bridge has been warm, too,” Hoshi said.
"Engineering's like an oven,” Tripp commiserated.
"Oh, I hadn't noticed,” Malcolm said. He leaned over and whispered to Pamela, "I've been close to another heat source."
She just smiled at him, the broadest smile he'd seen so far.
"We should, uh; we should go,” he said, “Are you finished?"
She nodded and he escorted her out of the cafeteria. Once they had been walking in the hallway a bit, she said, "Hang on, I need to stop by quarters, get a few things."
He followed her over. Blair and Will were in there already, but they weren't interrupting anything. Blair and Pamela busied themselves in the small bathroom. Will looked at Malcolm, “You're the Armory Officer, right?"
"Yes,” Malcolm said.
In the bathroom, Blair said to Pamela, "So, serious, are we?"
"Not telling you."
"Oh, c'mon. Will wants me to meet his mother. Er, Mum. Gawd."
"So are you gonna do it?" asked Pamela, grabbing some toiletries.
"I suppose I will. I guess I have to. You think you'll ever meet the Brit's Mum?"
"Me, ha, no. I'm not the girl they take home to Mother. Now, if you'll excuse me, I've gotta get some stuff."
"Pamela," Blair said, serious for a moment, "if you're the cheater, you should really come clean."
"It ain't me, babe,” Pamela left the bathroom and went to rummage through her top drawer. She had a colorful handful of stuff when she closed the drawer, and then grabbed her PADD, “Ready?" she asked Malcolm.
"Yes. See you, see you later,” he said to Will as they departed.
Aidan MacKenzie grabbed a cold shower. He was toweling off, and started sweating again. Rather than dry off, he just went back in and showered again, turning the water on as cold as possible, needles stinging his flesh. It was probably something with the water heating system, he figured.
Once in Malcolm's quarters, Pamela presented her treasures, “I was thinking. To put the pedal to the metal a little bit. I have ... toys."
"Toys?" Malcolm gulped.
"Yes. But I can see where they might be of concern to you, at least at the beginning. So I just brought these,” She laid out four silk scarves on Malcolm's desk.
"These are toys? I, I saw you wearing the green one two days ago, Sweetheart."
"Oh, they're used for regular purposes, too. Good little multi-taskers, they are. But tonight, we'll use them for something else,” she paused, “Hmm. No posts to the bed. I wonder where I could tie these."
"Oh,” The light dawned.
"Yes. But this bed of yours has nothing I can tie a scarf to. Not even a headboard."
"It's a good thing there's no headboard, as one of us would be concussed by now,” he said.
"That's true,” she said, smiling, “Hmm. Well, hands can still be tied together. And so can ankles."
"I see you're talking about my ankles, and not yours,” he said.
"Yes. So here's the idea. I can tie your wrists together and then tie your ankles together. Do with you what I like,” she said, “Tease you. Make you wait. A lot."
"Or,” he said, taking his shirt off, “You can bind my wrists and my ankles and then," he took the green scarf and put it around her waist while kissing her neck, "hmm, tie the ends of this one to the remaining scarf and we could bind ourselves together, waist to waist. I'd have to, um, pin you down. I'd be your prisoner and you'd, you'd be mine."
"Huh, let's see how that would work,” she said, tying the green scarf to a purple one, “Good thing you have a small waist. A six-pack, for gosh sakes. Very nice."
"Well, I work at it,” he said, kissing her deeply, “I have a lot of motivation now."
"I guess you do have some,” she smiled and then indicated the tied-together scarves, “These will be ... long enough,” she flashed her eyes downwards for a second.
"Good,” he said.
His breath caught when he saw her completely nude, “That never gets dull."
"That's the idea,” she said, “Now give me your wrists, together like this,” she demonstrated.
"Not too tight. If there's an emergency, I do have to be able to, uh, spring into action immediately."
"I see,” she said, “Sit down; I'll get your ankles."
He did as asked, “This is, I never thought of such things as thrilling. I never, I never thought of them at all, to be perfectly frank."
"Well, they are lots and lots of fun. Now, scootch back a bit. There, that's good,” She leaned over him and pushed his bound hands up above his head so that he couldn't use them. He made contact with whatever she gave him – scar, waist, anything. It hurt a bit to keep his arms up for that long, but he was so busy, he barely noticed.
Then she grabbed the two tied-together scarves and bound their waists together.
All semblance of coherence was gone; he just made a sound, kind of an animal sound.
It was not easy, but it was still thrilling, to be restricted. He kept kissing her over and over again. He was just about ready to start again in earnest when he heard a communications chime.
He shook himself out of his reverie, “I, Pamela, that's an emergency chime, Darling."
"Oh, yeah. I guess it is. Here, let me help you,” she unbound his wrists. He untied his ankles.
He sat up, “Huh. It's not mine. It's yours,” he said.
"Hmm,” she checked, “Visual message."
He got a tee shirt out of his top drawer. She put it on, “I'm gonna stretch this out,” she said. She opened the message.
It was Dr. Keating-Fong, “Pamela, I'm sorry to be calling you in the middle of the night."
"That's okay. What's up?"
"I got news from Vermont. Your father is in late stage renal failure. He probably won't survive the week. If you wish to go back to Earth, the Ti’Mur
can pick you up."
"No, that's okay,” Pamela said, “I'd, I'd rather work."
"Yes. I want to keep my mind off things."
"But Pamela, this is your father I'm talking about!" Dr. Keating-Fong exclaimed.
"It's better this way. Really. My family will, will understand. And thanks for letting me know. Hudson out,” She turned off the PADD and turned to Malcolm, “Do you have any alcohol?"
"Uh, no. And I hardly think that medicating your grief with alcohol is such a good idea, Sweetheart."
"No, no, it's not grief."
"No. It's celebrating."
Porthos shivered in the chilly air as Jonathan rolled over in bed. The dog jumped on the bed and Jonathan ordered him off, “Too hot tonight, Buddy."
"Celebrating his life?"
"No. His death,” She looked far away.
"Tell, tell me only what you, what you wish to,” Malcolm said, sitting next to her on the bed and rubbing his shoulder a little. It ached a bit.
She smiled wanly, “I didn't want to mention this at all, but circumstances are kinda forcing my hand, I guess."
"Well, only share what's comfortable. It's, it's all right if it's not everything. I can, I can wait."
"Thanks. I, uh, well, what was your childhood like?"
"My childhood? Regular, I suppose,” Malcolm said, “I was an Eagle Scout. Thought I'd be a naval officer but the water and me, we don't mix together too well."
"I mean more personal stuff."
"Oh, well, my sister and I didn't always get on, but that's how siblings are. My parents were removed, somewhat hands off in a lot of ways. I suppose that's made me a bit standoffish. Except with you,” he said, taking her hand.
"Mine was different,” she said, and had that faraway look in her eyes again.
"How, how so?"
"My parents were, were very hands on. Too hands on,” she stopped and dropped his hand; “I don't know how to continue. I, I haven't told anyone this."
"Don't force out any more than you wish to say."
"I should say it,” she replied, “I have to say it to someone."
"I'd like to think I'm not just someone."
"No,” she said, a little distractedly, “Remember you said that I'm afraid of people who love me?"
"Yes. I was not being fair and hit you a bit below the belt there. Please forgive me."
"No. You're, you're right. Do you remember I told you that I know why I am the way I am?"
"Yes, of course."
"It's all related."
"How?" he asked.
She put two fingers into the inner corners of her eyes and he could see her flick away the tiniest of tears.
"Oh, Darling,” he said, and put his arm around her, “Don't say any more than you wish."
She got up and tossed off the tee shirt, “It's, it's this,” she began pacing and working herself up, “I have to, I have to shout this, because, well, because this has been quiet for too long and it needs to be shouted."
"These walls are soundproof. Shout all you like. I'll shout with you if it helps,” he got up, too.
"Hands on isn't the half of it,” her voice was rising and she was starting to cry a bit. He moved closer but she pushed him back, “It's not even one tenth of it."
"What is it
?" he called to her, loudly.
"I told you my first encounter was when I was fifteen. That's not strictly true."
"Then what is the truth?" he yelled.
"It was before. It was long before. It ... was ... my father
Malcolm snapped his neck back, “What?" he asked, much more quietly.
"Yes,” she was shaking and crying and screaming, “My father. He beat me and he raped me and he did it for years. It started when I was, I was five years old
"And your, your mother?" Malcolm tried to touch her but she eluded him again.
"My mother watched,” she said, spitting out the last word as if it were poison, “And, and, and I have no idea why, but they didn't do it to my sister, Lisa. Why did they, why did they do it to me? Why?
This time she let him hold her, but only for a minute, “It's so damned hot in here,” she sobbed out, “And you don't, you don't know. And you don't, you don't, you don't deserve this."
"Pamela,” he said very softly, barely audibly, “I am in for a penny, in for a pound. The, the knave is here."
"I'm no Queen."
"You are to me."