“I can’t believe you convinced me to do this,” Lt. Juanita Rojas chuckled, feeling very underdressed.
“Oh, come on, red looks good on you,” Lt. Narcissa stopped and twirled in her own golden 23rd century-style uniform. Unlike Juanita, the tall, deep green, violet-haired Orion had the legs for the miniskirt. Completing the twirl, Narcissa said, “Doesn’t she look fetching Loto?”
Lt. Loto, the third member of their trio, hunched his massive shoulders, an anxious look on his face. The bald headed, tanned Arbazan nervously licked his lips and rubbed his ridged forehead, thinking of something to say or deflect Narcissa’s line of inquiry.
“Oh never mind,” Narcissa blew through her teeth. She pinched one of the man’s massive biceps and the gesture startled him. The Orion was unfazed. “Operations red does look good on you too though.”
Juanita couldn’t help but give a sidelong glance, which she blamed on Narcissa’s prompting. Loto’s compact, ripped physique in his crimson tunic was very eye catching. If he had been a little bit taller he would’ve put Juanita in the mind of her beau. And she was certain that Tai Donar would not be pleased that she was eyeing another man.
She stopped immediately and forced her eyes forward. From the periphery of her vision she saw that Narcissa had not. The Orion loved to tease the taciturn Arbazan. They had been at it long before Juanita had joined the crew.
“I can’t believe they have one holosuite dedicated to the missions of the Enterprise-1701-and 1701-A,” Juanita marveled. She also wanted to spare poor Loto.
“Why is it such a surprise?” Narcissa shrugged, “I mean it’s only the most famous ship in the Fleet. Even the Enterprises-D or E haven’t racked up as many achievements.”
“It’s got to be close by now,” Juanita rejoined, thinking of her dream ship.
“Not by a mile,” Narcissa asserted, “Besides Picard is too stuffy. He’s not as vivacious as Kirk.”
“I’m not so sure about that,” Juanita shook her head.
“You’ll see,” Narcissa proclaimed. “Once we’re in the simulation and you see his holographic likeness up close.”
“Okay,” Juanita said, not coating her doubt.
“Which Enterprise captain do you think was the best?” Loto interjected. Juanita was shocked. Not by the interjection but that the man attempted to make conversation at all. He didn’t direct the question to either woman in particular. As it was Narcissa’s wont, she jumped right in.
“Come on Kirk.” Narcissa rolled her eyes as if it were a no-brainer.
“Well, I think Picard,” Juanita shot back. “What do you think Loto?”
“Well, there’s April, Pike, Kirk, Decker,” Loto rattled off the names of each commanding officer, “Harriman, Garrett, Picard, Riker, Picard, Jellico…”
“Seriously, Jellico doesn’t count,” Narcissa interceded. Juanita playfully jabbed the Orion in the ribs.
“Shush,” she admonished her friend. Now that the Arbazan was talking she didn’t want him to wall himself off again.
Loto had continued talking, wrapped in his own thoughts, and oblivious to their offside jibing. “Harriman,” he concluded. That drew surprised looks from both women.
“Harriman?” Narcissa was incredulous.
“Harriman?” Juanita’s tone was more inquisitive but still she was just as puzzled.
“Yes,” the Arbazan doubled down, still oblivious to the shocks he had generated. “It took tremendous courage to first take command after Captain Kirk and then to retain command after the shakedown cruise tragedy,” the man reasoned. “It is not easy to weather public condemnation.”
That brought Narcissa up short. She nodded sagely, an old pain etching across her face. Both she and Loto had served aboard Aldebaran during the now infamous incident. So they knew full well what it was like to keep their heads up while being pariahs.
“Maybe Harriman isn’t such a bad choice after all,” Narcissa conceded, her normal wattage dimming considerably.
“He’s a great choice,” Juanita said with forced cheer. “Good pick Loto.”
The Arbazan looked at her curiously, “You’re…welcome Lieutenant Rojas.”
“While we’re in our costumes, we’re all on a first name basis, okay?” Narcissa said, her clouds dissipating.
“So, what’s going to be the mission for this program?” Juanita asked.
“I don’t know,” Narcissa shrugged, “I think Loto should pick.”
“The mission where the Enterprise encountered the planet killer,” the Arbazan surprisingly had one already picked out. Surprising to Juanita because that inferred that he was actually looking forward to the holosuite program. She couldn’t read that in his stony disposition.
“Ooh that’s a good one,” Narcissa gushed. “I can’t wait to get inside the suit now.”
“Ah, guys, I think we might have to delay our session,” Juanita said, her pulse quickening.
“What’s wrong?” Narcissa narrowed her eyes, perceptive to the serious switch in tone. Juanita pointed across, to the other side of the Esplanade. “Fark!” She muttered as she saw Silane trying to intercede in vain between Dr. Xylia and three angry Klingons. “I see what you’re saying,” she replied. “Looks like someone needs our…”
Before the Orion finished, Loto took off, his sure physical movements speaking a lethal language that Juanita hoped the Klingons heard as loudly as she did.
“I would appreciate it if you would kindly stop doing that sir,” Chief Engineer Silane said, which naturally prompted another poke, this time harder, from the leader of pack of Klingons that had accosted him and Dr. Xylia. His containment sac could withstand the poking, but the constant jabbing was disconcerting…not to mention rude.
“And what are you going to do if I don’t?” The Klingon challenged. Wiry, yet muscled arms sprouted from his rusted metallic vest. His dirty blond hair was pulled back into a ponytail. Surprisingly the man sported no facial hair. His sagittal ridge was also less impressive than his compatriots. The muscle bound heckler with the heaviest forehead ridge had thick metal rings hanging from each ridge in addition to his ears. The third man was heavyset, with his thick hair just as unkempt as his slovenly dress.
None of the men wore Defense Force uniforms, to which Silane was both pleased and slightly alarmed. He was glad that the Defense Force hadn’t stooped so low in their recruiting program, but disquieted by the fact that the Medusan couldn’t fall back on using the shared wartime experience to deflect their anger.
“He’s just going to float away Joqala,” the disheveled one brayed, drawing laughter from the other two.
“Geq might be right,” chortled the pierced one, “Or if you poke a hole in that suit, he might just deflate.” The man added, with a dangerously curious gleam in his eye at the thought.
“And in the process drive you and almost everyone else within eyesight insane,” Dr. Xylia said, seemingly unfazed by their sudden admirers.
“Who said you could speak Romulan!” Joqala, the blond, snarled. “My grandparents died on Narendra III!”
“My apologies for your loss,” Xylia said coolly.
“You don’t sound sorry,” Geq, the thickset one, lumbered forward. “She doesn’t sound sorry one bit, does she Ch’taak?”
“No,” the ringed man shook his head, causing the metal rings to jingle. “But I got something that might make her feel sorry,” he grinned, and made a show for reaching for the large serrated blade at his side.
“What are you doing with that?” Silane asked, floating closer to Xylia. “You were supposed to hand over all weapons upon entry onto this starbase.”
“And what are you going to do about it?” Laughed Ch’taak. “Report me? You’ll be dead before you touch your combadge.”
“And so would you,” a new, familiar and welcome voice entered the fray. The Klingons turned to see Lt. Loto standing behind them. Lieutenants Narcissa and Rojas were bringing up the rear. Silane pulsed with relief. Xylia merely arched one eyebrow.
Loto stood calmly, his arms folded across his muscled chest. His expression was impassive, his voice level. “I would recommend that you gentlemen proceed on your way.”
“No one calls me a gentleman!” Joqala said, pushing past his compatriots to square off against the Arbazan. He glared down at Loto, his nostrils flaring, his lips pulled back in a snarl. “What do you mean by that? Do you think we are soft, like humans?” He gave Juanita a quick glare before returning his gaze to Loto.
The other Klingons moved to flank the stoic Arbazan. Narcissa moved to engage them, but Loto held up one hand, and she stopped in her tracks. Lt. Rojas also stood at the ready, both hands curling and uncurling, her body language taut and anticipating violence.
Joqala placed one thick finger in the center of Loto’s chest. “I asked you a question,” he said. “Do you think we are soft?” He repeated, before pressing an indentation into the Arbazan’s chest.
“Grishnar cat got your tongue?” Geq asked, and Ch’taak guffawed.
“Perhaps this Arbazan is intimidated by real men,” Ch’taak offered.
“Well, he is wearing a child’s garments after all,” Geq declared.
“I heard their kind don’t like seloh,” Ch’taak added.
“Is that right?” Joqala asked Loto, his face contorting in disgust. “Just what manner of ‘man’ are you?”
“One that is about to kick your asses,” Narcissa couldn’t help herself.
“What are you doing here Orion?” Geq’s fat head turned toward her and looked her up and down. “I didn’t know Federation starbases had pleasure mazes.” All three men laughed at that, and Narcissa’s face turned a shade of green he had never seen before.
Almost too fast for Silane’s optic receptors to capture, Loto grabbed Joqala’s pointed finger, twisted it until it popped. Joqala squealed in pain before a thrust to the throat silenced him and a chop to the back of his head felled him.
Loto, not slowing down, moved on to a still smirking Ch’taak. The jeweled Klingon was slow on the uptake. Unfortunately for him, Loto was not. Two kicks, one low, the other high, and Ch’taak joined Joqala.
Next, the methodical Arbazan turned toward Geq. The hefty Klingon backed away, stopping when he bumped into Narcissa. He threw back an elbow, to knock the woman out of his way. The Orion ducked beneath it, and drove her own elbow into his side.
The man crumbled, protecting his side, and left everything else exposed. Narcissa made nearly as quick work of Geq as Loto had of his comrades.
Once Geq had joined them on the ground, all three grumbling an admixture of moans and curses, Loto nodded with satisfaction and Ryse grinned. Loto casually walked over to Ch’taak and extricated his blade. “I’ll be confiscating this. If you want it back, file a report.”
Silane glanced at Xylia. The Romulan’s eyebrow was nearly to the roof, and Lt. Rojas was looking just as stunned. The two Aldebaran security officers had taken down the Klingon toughs within seconds, before the station’s security could respond, or even be made aware of a potential hostile situation. Narcissa was completely nonplussed. “Now, that we got that little warm up in,” the Orion said, “I’m ready for that holoprogram.”