“Ohh. Now that was worth the wait.”
“Sorry I teased you earlier.”
“It's all right. I've been teased before,” he said.
“Well, I just don't want to be cruel of course.”
“You could never be cruel,” he said, “The simultaneous, uh, thing. When we're all told the facts of life, I don't imagine anyone's actually told the mechanics of that.”
“Probably not,” she allowed, “Even the number makes me laugh.”
“Me too, a little. I am forty-six years old and I still chuckle a bit when I hear it.”
“Does it ever end up as a part of coordinates or anything?”
“Absolutely. And I'll be sitting there at Tactical and minding my own business. The Captain will oh so officially state we're going to some system or another and there's that number, right in the midst of the coordinates. Hoshi blushes, Travis smiles to himself a little and I think T'Pol wonders what the devil it is we're all so amused by,” Malcolm said.
“It is fun, though,” Lili said, “We should have some sort of a name for it,” Not doing math
. That was what she and Doug called the act. It didn't seem right to use the same terminology.
“Hmm. How 'bout a great number
“Yes. I have met a great number
of Vulcans in my life. I enjoy a great number
“I've cooked a great number
of meals,” she replied, smiling.
“Yes, precisely. Maybe don't tell me how many involved sausage, all right?”
“Long as you don't tell me about how many of yours involved oysters.”
“Let's dance again,” she suggested.
“Dance? I thought that you said that was a bad idea, Hoshi.”
“Well, maybe I've changed my mind,” she said, getting up. She held out her arms.
“'Course if we dance it might turn into something else.”
“I am kinda counting on that, Tripp.”
“Oh. Well, ahem,” he began again.
“Longing for you all the while, More and more;
Longing for the sunny smile, I adore;
Birds are singing far and near, Roses blooming ev'rywhere
You, alone, my heart can cheer; You, just you.”
“And now for the big finish!” she exclaimed.
“Let me call you Sweetheart, I'm in love with you
There was no more singing, just kissing, and it would have become a lot more than that but it was time for exercise.
“Quickly, before they come back, I should tell you what I did after you left my quarters,” Malcolm said.
“Uh, I have an idea,” Lili said, smiling at him and glancing down briefly.
“Well, yes, that. 'Twould have been a bit painful otherwise. But after that – I went to the Captain's Ready Room.”
“I saw T'Pol. I suspect she's not sleeping much. She was sitting at Archer's desk, head down, sleeping. There was a PADD next to her, and I remembered you can type on them in these dreams. So I wrote a letter.”
“I wanted her to know that we may be leaving the galaxy soon. I think it's becoming more urgent. Any attempts will need to be made soon.”
“Agreed. I get the feeling that we wouldn't be able to make even Calafan-type contact if we were to depart the galaxy. I want to see my little duck again.”
“I know,” he said. As for going back to the rest of it, he knew what he felt.
Dayah found Lili, “I should tell you, I'm in production again,” she said.
“Oh. Should I congratulate you?” Lili asked.
“A bit. It's mixed, kind of bittersweet. Now I have a bond with Emmiz but that also means the clock is ticking. Ten months' gestation, then two or three with our infant and then I'm back to one of the others.”
“Well, I hope you can make the most of the time,” Lili said. There wasn't anything else to say.
The remainder of exercise passed by fairly uneventfully. At the showers, Jennifer showed off her treasure.
“Hmmm. How are we gonna keep that thing secret?” Hoshi asked.
“And the others?” Deb added, “Five of us, seven fasteners apiece – we'd be pulling off thirty of them and would have to find a home for them.”
“No,” Lili said, “the four of you, only. I can't get onto Malcolm's shoulders. I'm too heavy, and if he dropped me it could hurt my baby. As for the other way, I wouldn't be able to lift him without hurting the baby, too.”
“All right, so there are only going to be twenty-four at most that we have to hide,” Melissa said.
“I think swallowing them is out of the question,” Hoshi said.
“Okay, hmm, how 'bout this?” Deb asked, sticking the fastener into her cleavage. It fell right through, “Hmm, I wish I wasn't so flat-chested,” she complained.
“No, I don't think it's that. I tried to do it, too,” Jennifer said, “But, see?” She demonstrated, “It's because there's no bra there.”
“I have a bra,” Lili said, “Well, it's kind of a shelf. But the front of the dress is more like a supportive stretchy material. It makes it a little easier to get around.”
“Then you try it,” Hoshi said.
“Here goes nothing,” Lili dropped the fastener in and let it settle. Then she walked around and shook herself a bit.
“Anything?” Melissa asked.
Lili fished it out, “Still here. Now, I can't promise that I can fit in all twenty-four without giving myself some problems. But I should be able to handle some of them. At least let me do this, as we can't do the other part of things.”
“You'll have to keep track of the numbers – we all need to,” Hoshi said.
“Yes,” Lili said, “I can keep track of the overall figure, but you'll have to know your own individual ones. So Jennifer has one out, everyone else has none out, as of today.”
“Anybody have an idea of where we would be going, assuming we can get into the vents and go somewhere?” Deb asked.
“To wherever there's Communications, and contact the Enterprise
,” Hoshi said.
“Or to where the cloaking mechanism is,” Jennifer added.
“Anyone got an idea of how we'll be able to do this while or after we're being gassed?” Melissa asked.
“It's really hard to resist,” Deb said, stating the obvious for them all.
“We'll think of something,” Lili said, “Maybe wait until afterwards.”
“In the meantime, though, let's get those fasteners off. And maybe see if we can get some of the other species to help us,” Hoshi said, just as the door slid open.
Lili dropped the fastener back into its hiding place and walked out compliantly – the most obedient prisoner the Imvari had ever seen.
This time was a little bit different. They were placed back into their cells but the lights stayed up. Quellata got into the hallway in between, “I have an announcement!”
“Wonder what that's about,” Jonathan said, standing next to Deb. Across from them – they had never seen inside that cell – was a Klingon couple. The woman was already showing a bit.
“Slime molds, Denebian slime devils, blood worms, whatever you'd like to be called – I have some news. We have completed the collection phase of the process! That is to say, we've got all eighty species that we wanted. We have our supplies and we're ready to depart.”
“Depart?” Jonathan asked, “To where?”
“The nondisclosure has been lifted,” she said, “So I can answer that. The Zetal – my clients – they don't reside in this galaxy. So we'll be out of here in perhaps two weeks. We'll get a few supplies and then be off.”
“What's the purpose of all this breeding?” asked Serin, the Andorian.
“Replacements. It is, as you can imagine, a rather long journey. We might lose some stock. So we need some extras, and we'll be needing more when we reach our destination. And then you – and your descendants – will be ready for your real purpose.”
“What's that?” a Vulcan asked.
“War games. My clients love them – and on a grand scale. So this unit will get its own ship to fight with one of the other units, and so it goes. All in what you call a Round Robin-style tournament. There are – I know you're about to ask this – sixteen units.”
“I bet they won't give us ships fast enough to get back,” Tripp said quietly to Hoshi.
“Will we be able to see the children?” Lili asked.
“Only when replacements are necessary. Don't want to deplete the stock all at once, you know,” Quellata said, “Enough questions. There now, don't you slime molds all feel more informed?”