Melissa got behind a Klingon as they began to shuffle around.
“You are the pilot?” the Klingon asked.
“Yes, that's right, but I'm not the only one. There's also a male pilot,” she replied.
“Are you paired up?”
“No. I have,” she paused for a second. That was an odd choice of words, “the former Armory Officer. There,” she pointed.
“Fairly tall for a human,” said the Klingon, “I think the mismatches are intentional, at least for the first pairing. Do you have duplicated skill sets or positions?”
“Two Armory Officers – one current, one former. Two engineers. And two pilots,” Melissa said, “Otherwise, nothing matches.”
“And are any of them paired up?”
Melissa thought for a second, “Uh, no. The female engineer is with the male pilot. And the Armory Officers are both male.”
“So a pairing is impossible for them.”
“Why does that matter – particularly for the first pairing?”
“The Witannen seem to have done that – at least this is my own pet theory – they kept similar people apart because, I suspect, they thought there would be more conspiring that way. More attempting to escape. And then as a species stays longer and longer, the attempts to escape become less and less frequent.”
“Huh,” Melissa said, “I wonder if the Andorians saw a lot of that, or if that's a more recent development.”
“Leveqa,” the Klingon asked the Andorian in front of her, “were there a lot of escape attempts in the beginning?”
“Some. No one got very far.”
“Question,” Melissa said, “Have any species been here longer than the Andorians?”
“Well?” asked the Klingon.
“There was one here when we got here. They looked a lot like humans. But they were telepathic. The Witannen did not realize this. So this other species – I recall they called themselves Beta-something-or-others – they conspired, and it didn't matter that they were separated. They made a big attempt.”
“How?” asked Melissa.
“A rush at the guards.”
“So they failed, of course,” said the Klingon.
“I guess – are they in another unit?” Melissa inquired.
“No. The Witannen had the Imvari kill them all. Losing good stock is not preferred, I am sure, but they could not have this kind of behavior occurring. They cannot do anything against telepathy.”
Lili heard some of that – just enough. The Calafan dreams were a little like telepathy. She'd have to tread carefully.
Travis walked in front of a Xindi.
“Are you the pilot?” asked the Xindi.
“Yes. One of them.”
“What were your final coordinates?”
Travis told him.
“I have been trying to figure out course and speed for years now,” said the Xindi, “We never leave the Alpha Quadrant, or at least the Andorians here don't believe we have, and they have been here the longest. We also seem to be skittering along one of the arms of the Milky Way galaxy.”
“Well, our home world is nearly at the end of an arm,” Travis said. He couldn't say anymore as that was still a strategic issue, certainly not to be divulged for nearby Klingons to hear.
“I wonder if we are about to leave the galaxy,” said the Xindi.
Jennifer walked around slowly. Round things. Hoshi had mentioned that the grates were somehow held up with some sort of rounded fasteners. They would have to get the fasteners off, and with something round. But what was round?
The puzzle helped take her mind off things. Fingertips were round. Toes, too, possibly, but the thought of using one – or, ugh removing one somehow – repulsed her. Teeth? Again, she was repulsed. She was running out of things.
What was a typical day like?
They'd wake up and she'd yell at poor Travis or cower in a corner. Then the tubes would be thrown in, they'd uncap them and eat something. Then they'd be brought out, under guard, and go walking around and around. Then a shower and a change, and back for another round of tube food and then – she didn't want to think about that part.
Round, round, round, what was round?
When she realized the answer, she practically jumped for joy.
It was the same as before. They filed back and were cleaned up. Jennifer didn't tell anyone what she was thinking – she just figured she'd try it. No sense in disappointing anyone else if it didn't work.
Information shared – as much as possible – they were led back to their respective cells.
They lay back together, close and warm, smiling at each other.
“I feel a little like a teenager again. But with, uh, better activities.”
“Oh. Were you a good girl, studious and all that?”
“Nope. Got into trouble during the off-season. Nothing really bad, more like joyriding, that kind of thing. You?”
“Chess club, Eagle Scout and football. I was booooorrrring.”
“Oh, c'mon, I'm sure you were – to use your word – devastatingly
“Cute? I was completely awkward. In the dictionary, under awkward
, you'll see a photograph of Malcolm Reed, age fifteen. Go ahead and look when you can, if you don't believe me.”
“You're definitely not awkward anymore,” she said, “You move really
“Oh. Well, I have the perf – a great – partner,” he said, and they kissed for a while, “Say, how does the dream actually work?”
“You'll need to maintain physical contact with me and the bracelet.”
“Oh. Well I can certainly do that. No need to tell me twice. And we simply fall asleep?”
“That's all we've gotta do. If you want out, you just tell yourself to wake up. At a certain point, your body clock will just wake you up anyway. Ready?”
“Yes, I think so. Definitely tired – getting tired is quite delightful,” he made sure to put his hand over her braceleted wrist.
It was the holding center, and they walked along the hallway, hand in hand.
“So, this is it?” he asked, “Feels real, almost.”
“Yes, these dreams feel incredibly real. If I didn't know they were dreams, I'd swear they were an alternate reality. For the Calafans, they almost are.”
“Can we see rooms we don't know?” Malcolm asked.
“That doesn't seem to be possible when it's just us. I did something like that, but it was on Lafa II and of course that's populated with a few billion Calafans. They all, I am guessing, amplify themselves a bit. We can make stuff up, but that's not the point of this particular exercise, of course.”
“All right. So we can't map the area. But we could walk into rooms, yes?”
“Sure, but I think maybe we, uh, shouldn't disturb the people in the cells,” Lili pointed out. She really didn't want to see what Doug and Melissa might be doing, or if she was sleeping in his arms. Her old place. From about a billion years ago, or so it seemed.
Malcolm swallowed hard, “Yes. That would be discourteous. Best leave them some privacy. But we can go into the exercise area.”
They did, and saw the Imvari, filling the tubes with paste. The tube would be filled at the end and then sealed shut with heat, then capped. No one could see or hear them.
“Not very exciting,” Lili said, “Ready to go to the Enterprise?”
“Lead the way.”
It was nearly instantaneous, and no transporter was needed. They were in the cafeteria first. It was deserted.
“I wonder if we could get a sandwich,” Malcolm joked.
“Yes – silly of me. Uh, can I ask my small indulgence, though?”
“On B deck.”
“Well, we're going there anyway. That's where Joss and Yimar are.”
“Yes. And my quarters are, as well.”
It was after, and Travis was about ready to call it a night. Jennifer said, “Think you could hoist me on your shoulders so I could get a good look at the panel?”
“Uh, I guess so. I am a little tired, though. From, you know,” he said, trying to kiss her.
“Understood,” she said, “But we – I need to do this. Hand me that tube, too.”
“Okay. Just a sec. Okay. Step here.”
He was a little shaky but managed to keep everything pretty steady. Jennifer looked up at the panel and found the same holes that Hoshi had seen. She uncapped the tube and tried it. It didn't fit. She turned it around. Now it was too wide a circumference, “Hmm, it doesn't match.”
“I wouldn't expect that,” said Travis, “Can you put something in to wedge it?”
She took a look at the uncapped tube. It was flattened pretty well, “I'm gonna try the end of the tube,” she wedged it underneath, and it seemed to hold. She pulled back and turned sharply.
Travis almost dropped her when they both heard a pinging sound on the floor.
“Something fell!” he yelled.
“Get me down! We gotta find that.”
“Oh. I do want to see my little duck, you know,” Lili said, as Malcolm led her to his quarters.
“I know. I won't take long, I swear. Ah, here we are.”
Inside, she looked at his desk, “Your PADD is really flashing. You must have all sorts of messages.”
“Some other time,” he said, “First, please, this,” he sat down on the bed. She sat next to him.
She smiled at him a little shyly, “Now it's my turn to be awkward.”
“You said that it's possible to kiss in these dreams.”
“Absolutely. We could do a lot more, except there's just no time,” she said, “Your quarters even smell a little like you do.”
“Is that offensive?”
“No, no, not at all. It's wonderful. It's the Malcolm smell. It definitely should be bottled. I know I would buy a case.”
“Now you're just flattering me,” he paused, “Do go on,” he smiled.
“The scent is one way you can tell it's a Calafan-style dream. You can use all of your senses in it.”
“Oh, yes, you had said that,” he said. He took her hand and his hand was shaking just a little bit.
“I've never been in this room before.”
“I know,” he leaned over and their mouths made soft contact. She smiled at him and he was encouraged, and he kissed her again. He put his hand on her waist and brought her closer. This time it was a full-blown French kiss that made them both gasp when it was done. Red-faced, he looked at her, “That was one major fantasy right there. To, to kiss you. In my room. On, on my bed.”
“Just to kiss?” she breathed.
“A lot more than that,” he said, kissing her again. Now it was painful.
“We have to, we have to focus,” she said, “I, I need to tell Yimar what we found out today.”
“I know. I don't want you to go. I'll, um, I may need to, uh ....”
“All I need to do is think of you,” he said. “You had best take care of, of business.”
“You as well,” she said, getting up.
“Well, I'll be damned,” Travis said, looking it over. It was a little nut with a rounded end, silvery in color.
“I think there are six others,” Jennifer said.
“Okay. Hmm. We can't take them all off because they'll notice if the grate is off. But we can probably take off all but one of them,” he suggested.
“We'll need to store them somewhere. I don't know if they go through the rooms while we're in exercise, but they might. They're definitely in here long enough to take out the old tubes and replace them with newer ones.”
“No pockets,” he said, “You got anything?”
“No. I don't even have a bra, really.”
“We could swallow them.”
“They might be toxic,” she said.
“Bring it with you tomorrow, to exercise. Maybe one of the other species can help.”
“Travis, I think this might work.”
“Well, the panel looks big enough. Maybe the crawl space is wide enough for you to go through. But where would you go when you were done?”
“I dunno. And I'd have to come back here for you.”
“Even though you're furious with me most of the time?”
“You're not trying to mess me up,” she said, “I may have a lotta issues right now but I think you're not deliberately trying to mess me up.”
Lili got into the quarters that Yimar and Joss were sharing.
“I thought you were bringing a passenger,” Yimar said.
“Uh, too confusing.”
“Any new info?”
“Yes. It looks like the ship is heading to the edge of the Solar System, and then out of the galaxy entirely.”
“That's T'Pol's idea as well.”
“Ears!” Joss added.
“Yes, she has interesting ears,” Lili said, “But be polite, Joss. Maybe don't point that out to her.”