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|February 1 2012, 05:21 PM||#17|
|February 1 2012, 05:40 PM||#18|
That could only mean one person. Well, really, two. He turned around.
"Jun!" he called out, kneeling.
A toddler ran to him. "Unka Duck!"
The toddler was followed by a young, tired-looking woman with a fresh black eye.
"Crewman Cutler,” Doug said, straightening up after the toddler had hugged him.
"Lieutenant Commander Hayes,” she said, “C'mon, Jun." she held her hand out to the toddler, who was bending over to check out some unseen thing on the floor.
"He's getting better with his words,” Doug said.
"Yes. Well, he's the Empress's son. Wouldn't expect anything less,” she said, “Jun, put that down!"
"Nuh-uh!" he called out, holding up a tiny broken-off dagger tip as his prize.
"How'd you get the shiner?" Doug asked.
Cutler nodded her head slightly in the child's direction. "Jun, put that down!" she repeated, getting exasperated.
"You've gotta tell him 'no' more often, I think."
"You don't have children. Unless you're his father." Cutler said.
"Ha, no, I'm no one's father, so far as I'm aware,” Doug said, “Still a mystery, eh?"
"From his mannerisms, I'd say Torres or Masterson." Cutler said, “But you didn't hear that from me. Y'know, I think you're one of the only people Jun here actually likes. You should quit Tactical and become his babysitter. Get me a little peace,” she said the last sentence barely audibly.
"What, and leave all this? Look, I've gotta get to the Bridge."
"We're going there, too." Cutler said, “It's his first birthday."
"Then I'll walk with you. Halls aren't a good place to be when you've got distractions."
"Yep. Big target there." she admitted. "And when the Empress has the next one, that'll only be multiplied."
"She's pregnant again?" Doug asked quietly.
"I don't think so, not yet. I think she's looking for suitable candidates."
"So, not Travis?" he asked.
"Ha, nope. Good for fun, not for breeding." Cutler sniffed.
"Here we are,” Doug said, getting the door to open.
Lunch meeting. Main conference room. Lili was again catering for the Executive Team.
"We have Thai Panang Curry today,” she said, “Tofu for Commander T'Pol, in that smaller bowl over there, and chicken for everyone else, over here. Help yourselves to basmati rice and extra coconut sauce if you like. Enjoy."
"Ensign, why don't you stay. This may concern you a bit." The Captain said.
"Sir, I think Chef needs me to work the regular lunch rush."
"Probably does. But – does Hayes know anything about any loss of communications?" Jonathan asked.
"Um, no. At least I don't think he does. But he and I have not been talking about this much lately."
"Have you been talking about anything tactical?" T'Pol asked.
"Any clues would be helpful,” Travis encouraged.
"N-no,” Lili said, “I don't even know where they are."
"They? Hayes is on a ship?" Malcolm asked.
"Uh, yes. It's called the Defiant."
"There is no such ship in the Starfleet system." T'Pol said, after checking her PADD.
"Well, um, that's what he called it,” Lili said, getting uncomfortable.
"Ensign, we are still concerned,” Phlox said, “This whole situation is well out of hand."
"Yes, it's very out of hand,” Lili admitted. "He – I hope you can find some way to bring him here, to our side of the pond. Because – please – we want to be together."
"Ensign, we will consider that." Archer said. There was a communications hail. He answered it. "Yes, of course. Sending her your way now." he closed the communications link. "You were right. Your boss needs you to serve lunch."
"Very well, sir." she departed.
Once she was safely out of the room, Archer asked, "Impressions?"
"Bringing him over here?" Phlox asked. "Certainly not! Who knows what viruses this man – if he is a human male at all – could bring over. Even a common cold. He could be immune, and no one here would be."
"I don't even think it's possible." Tucker said, “I mean, it's not like transporting. At least, I'm guessing it's not. Where's the bridge between, what did she call it? One side of the pond and the other. Where and how and when is it all happening?"
"It's pretty obvious that it's happening at night,” Hoshi said, finishing the last of her rice.
"What kind of route are we taking through the Lafa System?" Malcolm asked.
"Uh, it's complicated,” Travis said, “There are four stars to duck, plus loads of planets, moons and ships always flying around. Figure eight on top of figure eight and around and around. Like an ice skater, kinda."
"There may be some point where the doorway between one side and another is wedged open, and then another point when it's closed,” Jonathan said.
"Or a septum is breached, like how gases are exchanged in the lungs. And then the septum closes up again upon waking,” Phlox said, “That could almost explain the biological findings."
"This is all speculation that the Ensign's theory about a second universe is at all accurate." T'Pol pointed out.
"It's still possible that this is a Klingon ruse, or has something to do with the Calafans themselves." Malcolm agreed.
"Have we gotten any communications out since last night?" Jonathan asked.
"No,” Hoshi said, “And communications were slow and unreliable before that. There are no buoys out here, so even open lines would take a long time to get through. I'm not so sure that any communications for the past week have really made it all the way to Starfleet Command."
"So we're kinda sitting ducks here." Tucker said.
"We can still leave,” Travis said, “At least, I believe we can. Engines seem to be working just fine."
"Let's see what our hosts really have in mind. Invite them to dinner tonight, get them here and see if there's a way to talk this out,” Jonathan said, “And have the Ensign cater it. Maybe that'll resolve some of this."
"How do you figure that?" Travis asked.
"Well, there's an old military state of mind," Malcolm said, "You dehumanize your foe. Perhaps that's not the correct word here, but the idea is, you treat your enemy as if he is not sentient and just a mass of horror and subintelligence. But once the soldier meets an opponent and actually gets to know them, that kind of conditioning can fall apart. That's why it's discredited these days. We don't train that way anymore."
"Yes, that's my idea,” Jonathan said, “If they see the Ensign – that she's a real person – I do hope they'll do the right thing and free her from this, this, whatever it is."
"Assuming they're responsible for it at all,” Hoshi said.
"Did you miss Mommy?" Hoshi asked, hugging her son. He hit her in the face. "I guess not,” she said, putting him down abruptly. "So, he's one today?" she asked Crewman Cutler.
"I had forgotten." The Empress said, “Hmm. There is no candy. She went into the Ready Room and emerged with a small knife. "This was my first knife,” she said, presenting it to him.
Cutler looked on in alarm. "Empress!"
"Are you objecting, Crewman? I can always get another babysitter." Hoshi yawned.
"Um, no. It's just, Jun's, his, his, ...."
"His eye-hand coordination might not be fully developed yet,” Doug pointed out.
"Then you'll help to develop it." The Empress said, “Start him on the lab animals in Sick Bay. If Dr. Morgan objects, tell him it's under my orders."
"Yes, Empress." Cutler said.
"Now take him out of here and don't bring him back until Winter holiday week."
"Yes, Empress. Come, Jun! We can play with the pretty knife later." she picked up the child and took the dagger out of his hand, all in one swift motion. He started to wail. They quickly departed.
Dinner was again in the main conference room. Lili served the Executive Team and two aliens. One was older, it seemed, with flowing white hair and complicated rococo silver scrollwork up and down his arms. The other seemed younger but was completely bald and almost thoroughly devoid of any hair whatsoever. That one's arms were solid silver.
"Captain, this is my elder son, Treve." First Minister Chawev said.
"Pleased to meet you,” Jonathan said, and then introduced everyone around, even Lili.
They all sat down. Treve looked up at Lili, then down at the fork set down next to his plate. "I, I can understand this,” he said, indicating a knife. "But not this other one. How do you use it? I do not wish to be impolite."
"Totally understood,” Lili said, “This is a fork. It's held, like, well, you're having roast beef so you'll need to cut. You use the fork to steady the meat for cutting, and then you slice it with the knife, then spear it with the fork and eat."
"I, I don't follow."
"No problem. Uh, are you left- or right-handed?"
"I, I use the correct hand. We all do,” Treve said, bewildered.
"Which is?" Lili asked.
He raised his left hand. "This one."
"Oh, interesting. Humans can be dominant on either side, sometimes there isn't really clearcut dominance and those people are ambidextrous. Maybe three-quarters of all of us are righties, and I am one, too, but I can cut with either hand. So, here." she stood behind him. "You hold the fork this way when you're cutting, and just saw with the knife. Then put the knife down and switch hands so you're eating with your left."
"Why do I switch?"
"Well, I imagine it's easier to do the delicate work when you use your left hand."
"The correct hand is always better. And, and thank you,” Treve said.
"My pleasure,” Lili said, sitting back down.
"Captain, you have a fascinating and beautiful ship. We particularly enjoyed seeing your transporting device. And your crew is as courteous as they are professional." Chawev stated.
"Thank you. Best crew in the fleet,” Jonathan said, “We are, we're having some trouble with our communications. Might you know something about that?"
"There are layers of sodium vapor between Ub and Fep. And there are occasional flares between those two suns as well. These pulses can interfere with any number of more delicate systems. This is one of the reasons why we are on the move so much. When the flaring goes down, my people move in closer. When it kicks back up, we move away. This has been our way for generations."
"There is a report of some sodium vapor from when my people were last here." T'Pol pointed out. "But no information on any loss of communications."
"Perhaps the older iteration of your communications devices was less sophisticated. It may have been less vulnerable. You see, we have found that increased technological detail and power can often lead to more likely breakdowns." Chawev assured.
"That's possible,” Jonathan allowed.
The rest of the dinner finished in relative silence. Chawev and Treve asked to be excused briefly, in order to pray in private. Hoshi showed them to a side room and left them there.
"Father," Treve said, "these are kind people. We should not do what we are planning to do."
"It is the only way." Chawev said, “Come, pray with me, or at least we will make it look good. A few moments before we rejoin our hosts."
In the main conference room, Tucker asked, "Did anyone buy that?"
"Buy what?" Travis asked, finishing his second helping of beef.
"The line about the equipment being more sensitive. That's why we build in redundant controls."
"Maybe they don't know that,” Lili said, “Maybe they really don't have ulterior motives,” she said, as she tucked the dishes into her cart.
"Now, let's see. Do we have targeting sensors yet?" Hoshi asked.
"I'll ask Tucker,” Doug said, opening a communications channel.
"Targeting sensors are hit or miss." Tucker said, by way of greeting. "You'll need to fire some practice rounds."
"Okay, you heard the man,” Doug said.
"All right. Practice on one of their smaller cities. On that little rocky moon over there." The Empress commanded, pointing.
"Travis, can you take us in a little closer?" Doug asked, swallowing.
"Sure, Old Man."
Doug set up the forward phaser. He also did a quick analysis, mainly to see if it was working. It was. The city had a population of about 10,000 Calafans. He felt sweat spring out from his palms. War was one thing. He could talk to Lili about that. She would get that. But a massacre of innocents? That was a whole other kettle of fish.
"Uh, ready when you are, Travis."
"That's Commander Mayweather to you,” Travis said, as the Empress busied herself in the Ready Room.
"Uh, sure,” Doug said. Stupid kid.
"In position." Mayweather said.
Doug gently nudged the targeting coordinates over one degree. Let's hope you don't have suburbs, he thought to himself. He fired.
"Looks like you missed, Old Man." Mayweather said, as soon as the damage could be assessed.
"Or maybe you weren't in the proper position,” Doug countered.
"Which one is it?" The Empress demanded.
"I've got working sensors. He doesn't,” Doug pointed out.
"Maybe so,” she said, “Either way, fix it. We'll take out that city as soon as we've got navigation back and working perfectly. If we're gonna conquer these people, we need good navigation so's we don't slam into a planet on our way outta this godforsaken system."
Lili was back in her room. The dinner rush was done and she was early for a change. Jenny walked in. "Ah, you remembered!" Jenny exclaimed.
"Uh, what did I remember? I forget."
"Very funny. It's movie night, Roomie!"
"Look, I got it all set up. MacKenzie will meet us there. Wear something, uh, not something you cook in." she suggested.
"You're assuming I want to do this."
"Well, sure. It'll be fun."
"Jenny, I have someone."
"You have dreams, Lili. It's about time you went out with someone real. And real yummy. C'mon."
"Jenny, I just want to – "
"Go to sleep, right? I hear you talking in your sleep, you know. It's Doug this, and Doug that. And I'm glad you have a really active fantasy life. But don't you think you need an active reality life?"
Lili stared at her. "I, um, I don't wanna do anything I, uh, don't wanna do."
"Of course not,” Jenny said, “Whatever the heck that means. I'm sure Aidan will be a perfect gentleman. Unless of course you decide you don't want him to."
"You better not have given him any expectations,” Lili said.
"Not a one. It's just a movie! Have some fun,” Jenny rummaged in the closet. "Here. Wear this."
It was the sapphire dress. "Uh, no,” Lili said, taking out grey slacks and a purple turtleneck.
"Oh, c'mon. Show the poor guy something,” Jenny said.
"No. If you want me to come with you at all, I wear this. Mmmmkay?"
"Okay. But don't come crying to me if it doesn't work for you."
"Almost ready." First Minister Chawev said, “You collected good data, my son."
"Father, I still object,” Treve said.
"Duly noted." the father replied. "But we are going ahead anyway."
Movie Night was sparsely attended. MacKenzie greeted Jenny and Lili but he was not alone. "Lili, you remember Brian Delacroix, right?" he asked.
"Sure. Security, right?" Lili asked. Delacroix was shorter than her and even younger than MacKenzie.
"Uh, yeah,” he said.
"So, is everything secure?" she asked.
"Yes. The perimeter is secure." he stated.
"Let's sit down,” Jennifer said. She sat next to Lili, and motioned for Aidan to sit on the other side of Lili.
He apparently missed her cue and instead sat on the other side of Jennifer. "Here, Brian,” he said, motioning to his friend. "Why don't you sit next to Lili?"
Brian sat down and fidgeted. "Do you, um, having you been cooking anything lately?" he asked.
"Yes, I cook every day. I made the horseradish sauce and the side dishes tonight,” she said.
"Oh. Those were really good. You should, uh, you should be a chef or something."
"I am a chef."
"I mean like a, like a Head Chef or whatever those are called,” he said, blushing.
"I used to have my own restaurant,” she said, “I've done that before."
"Oh,” he said, and fell silent.
"So, um, baby," Aidan said to Jennifer, "I'm glad you finally agreed to this."
"Well, um," Jennifer squirmed, "it was my idea. To, uh, to get Lili out of the kitchen. She's a very nice girl."
"I'm sure she is,” Aidan said, “And you're a very nice girl, too. A very, very nice girl."
"Oh,” Jennifer said.
There was silence.
Lieutenant Reed came in and waved. "Oh, hi!" Lili said, “Uh, Brian, can you move over one?"
"Uh, sure,” Brian said.
"I gotta stay on the aisle. Quick getaway, yanno." MacKenzie said, “Can ya move in, Lieutenant?"
"Sure,” Malcolm said. He sat down between Lili and Brian.
Lili sighed in relief. "Uh, didn't know you liked old movies."
"They're all right,” Malcolm said, “Just something to do to pass the time. Did you make any interesting popcorn?"
"No, I didn't get a chance to,” Lili said, “Would've made chili corn, or kettle corn, with some honey."
"I'm not much of a candy eater,” Malcolm said, “But I know some people like it. Do you make candy, ever?"
"I can spin sugar but it's usually for cake toppings. I could make rolled sugar, cut it into sticks, flavor it a few different ways. Candy's fun if you've got food coloring, and we don't. We have the flavorings but not the colors, so everything would be clear."
"What kind of flavorings do you have?" asked Malcolm. "I like pineapple, if you have that."
"I think I do,” Lili said, “We have cherry, grape, root beer, stuff like that."
"I like root beer,” Brian said, and then they were all silent for the film, although Lili did notice Jenny pushing Aidan away.
When the movie ended, Malcolm turned to her. "Well, that was strange. Trying to make his wife think she was going mad. I don't suppose any of the women here are that unsophisticated. Ensign, are you off to, to bed now?"
"Yes,” Lili said. Waiting through the film had been torturous, and she had fought falling asleep. She didn't want to be engaging with Doug with so many people around.
"Pleasant, pleasant dreaming then,” he said, taking his leave of her.
"C'mon, girls, the night is young,” Aidan said.
"I have to serve breakfast tomorrow,” Lili said, walking away.
"And, um, I have work to do, too,” Jenny said, “Uh, g'night." she ran after Lili.
When they were in the halls, Jenny asked, "So, uh, what the heck was that all about?"
"Don't you know?"
"Jenny, allow me to explain something to you. Aidan didn't think he was on a date with me. He thought he was on a date with you."
"Huh? I guess that's why he got grabby. Very annoying but I think guys are sometimes just like that."
"Not necessarily,” Lili said, “But, be that as it may, he brought along his wingman and went for it with you."
"Wingman? What's a wingman?"
"That's Brian. The guy who'll distract the ugly girl, so a guy can make a move on the hot one."
"Lili, you are not ugly."
"Well, thanks. But I'm no stunner, either, not like you, to be sure. And I'd've been stuck with Brian all night if Malcolm hadn't come along and rescued me."
"Malcolm? Ha, Roomie, I think you don't need me fixing you up."
"Good, I'm glad you're seeing the light on that."
"Well, no need for me to intervene. I think Malcolm – ha, what a totally cute British name! – I think he likes you."
|February 2 2012, 04:26 PM||#20|
Lili walked along to their quarters, trying not to run, not to get too overly excited. The entire day, she'd been a bundle of excitement and nerves. She heard her name, and turned. "Oh, hi, Ensign Sato."
"Oh, c'mon, you know we're on a first-name basis,” Hoshi said, “Mind if I walk with you a little?"
"'Course not. Did you watch the movie?"
"Only the last half or so. I get the feeling I missed a lot. Actually, um, can I ask you something, seeing as I have you here?"
"Yeah, I suppose so,” Lili said.
"Hayes, um, can you, will you, tell me what he's like?"
"Like, uh, how?"
"Well, just, I didn't know him. Nobody did. Most of us didn't even know his first name until his funeral. He was always kind of a swaggery guy, if that makes any sense."
"Yes, it does. I got that impression of Jay, too,” Lili allowed.
"So, is, um, Doug, you said his name was?"
"Is he swaggery?"
"Even more so. Attentive. Letting his guard down."
"Is he, um, uh, how shall I put this? The doctor said he'd be like this, this super male,” Hoshi said, “Uh, is he?"
"Hoshi, are you asking me if he's good?"
"No one's telling you to ask me this, are they?"
"No, no. I'm just being nosy. Too nosy."
"Answer: he is excellent."
"That's all anyone can ask for,” Hoshi said, “And, um, I shouldn't have pried."
"No, um, it's okay. I guess it looks weird, getting that intimate and involved that quickly. I won't deny that my brain's probably rather sex-addled."
"This is not the worst thing in the world." Hoshi grinned. "These are your quarters, right?"
"Yep. Gotta go."
"Have fun,” Hoshi said, grinning and shaking her head as she continued walking down the hallway.
It was a beach.
Doug was near the water line, standing, wearing orange board shorts. He was waving.
Lili willed herself out of cut off sweats and an old baseball shirt and into a white tankini with little shamrocks all over it, and matching boy shorts. She ran over.
"Been waiting long?"
"Nah. I don't know if we fall asleep at the same time – maybe we don't – but it never seems like a long time. During the day, though, that's another story. Hard to wait all day. And, um, I swear I will say it to you first tonight. I swear,” he said, kissing her.
"Is it hard for you to say it?"
"Yes, it is. I've been conditioned one way for almost 55 years, Lili. But I am determined. I'm gonna say it to you first today. I promise."
There was a blanket, a cooler and a vase with blue flowers in it.
"What have we here?" she asked, sitting down on the blanket.
"I didn't know what kind of flowers you like. But I know you like blue. So I, um, I found these in the database and imagined them colored blue. I bet that's all wrong."
"Daisies aren't normally blue,” Lili said, “But it's the thought that counts."
"The other thing I know a lot better," he said, opening up the cooler. He took out a small bottle of Champagne. "May I pour you some?" he asked, popping the cork.
"Sure. Lemme see. Ah, Grande Siècle. I am impressed."
"I had to look it up. I'm more of a beer man, usually. Is it, is it a good kind?"
"Yes, it's a very good kind." she raised her glass.
"To, to connections,” he said.
"And to dreams." she replied. They drank.
"Y'know, it's strange,” he said, “I normally dream in color, and of course I can hear and feel. But I can smell and taste in my dreams with you."
"Well, they're more than dreams,” she said, “But I know what you mean. I sometimes smell and taste – maybe that's related to being in Food Service – but never anything more than something really simple. I once dreamt I made and ate a salad composed of shredded iceberg lettuce and little green scallions chopped finely. Kind of a mundane vision. I mean, I didn't even add dressing."
"I haven't had fresh vegetable in a long time,” he said, “We get some meat, sometimes, go to planets and hunt. Kind of the alien beef lottery. Never know how it's gonna taste, but it beats the usual junk. But vegetables are such a luxury. We get those vitamins and whatever from this paste stuff. It's mixed in with everything and it's bland."
"I wish I could cook for you. I mean really cook, not just conjure it up this way. What would, uh, what would you like if I cooked for you, Doug?"
"A steak. A real steak, made from an actual cow. Uh, you wouldn't have to Kosher kill it."
"Good. I think I've had enough of that for a while. How do you want it cooked?"
"Rare. Just a little crusty on the outside, inside really, uh, really moist."
"Not really. I just don't want it to be dry."
"I won't make you a dry steak, Doug. Sides?"
"French – no, roasted potatoes. Skin on."
"Huh, hmm. Forget what it's called,” he said.
"Are those like regular peas?"
"Yeah, but still in the shell."
"Zucchini?" he shook his head. "Broccoli?"
"Looks like little trees."
"Um, no, don't think so."
"I know what that is, but it's not what I have in mind."
"Yes!" he said, excitedly. "With a little, uh, softened onions and salt. And real cheddar cheese."
"Okay, so a pan-seared steak, a little garlic butter on that good for you?" she asked.
"If I have garlic, I might offend."
"I'll have garlic, too, and then it won't matter." she smiled.
He kissed her. "And, um, you don't have to serve me like an Emperor or anything. I can put together my own plate. You're not my servant."
"I know. I just want to do something for you."
"You already do a lot for me. Actually, I wonder most of the time what I can do for you. And I keep feeling like I'm lacking and I can't do anything for you."
"You do everything,” she said, kissing him deeply.
"I'm not, uh, not necessarily talking about, you know. I just want this to be, you know, I want it to be equal."
"Me, too,” she said, “And I think it is. You may not realize it, but what you give me is confidence. You make me feel like I'm young and beautiful and desirable – things I know I'm not."
"Don't be absurd. You're all those things."
"No. Really. You know I'm not really sitting here in a swimsuit with you. You know why I'm not wearing a bikini? It's because I don't like my belly."
"I think you have a perfectly good one,” he said, “It's not flat-flat, but it's fine. Don't worry about that."
"See? There you go, doing it again."
"Making me believe in myself."
They kissed again, and he stared at her for a few seconds. "Lili," he finally said, "this is what I want holding against my chest. I want to feel your belly on mine, your chest on my chest. No one else's."
They gazed at each other for a while, not speaking. He took her right hand and kissed it. "This is the best hand."
"Oh, and what of the other one?"
"This," he said, taking her left hand, "is the second-best hand. This is the best belly,” he said, kissing it. "These are the best shoulders." he kissed each one. "These are the best eyes." she closed them and he carefully kissed the lids. "This is the best nose." she giggled as he kissed it. "This is the best mouth."
"No, that one is,” she said, kissing him.
"Your, um, your hip bones jut out just a little,” he said.
"I guess I bang them a lot."
"That's all right. Will you kiss and make them better?" she teased.
"Sure,” he said, smiling. "I was hoping for the invitation. I may take a certain, um, detour."
"Of course I'll have to return the favor,” she said, “Or simultaneously."
"My favorite number,” he said.
"Let's not be crude about this."
"I'm not!" he said, “It's a great number, divisible by two primes: three and twenty-three."
"Well, now that you put it that way, Doug, let's do some math."
"Ready, First Minister."
"Then let us begin. They will not know what happened for at least a few hours."
Spent, she rolled onto her side. "You're like a slingshot."
"I am? Huh, I wonder how I, uh, compare."
"Not to worry,” she said, “And you're not being compared."
"Thanks. You, you treat me well. Let me ask you, would you stay on the Enterprise. If we were, uh, together?"
"Only if you were here."
"Well, they already have a Tactical Officer, right? I don't imagine Reed's going anywhere any time soon."
"Probably not. And the Columbia is already fully staffed, too. I know they're building more ships, but that takes a while."
"Oh. Hmm. We'd have to occupy our time somehow."
"Yes. And not just doing what we were just doing." she reached over and brought his face to hers, and kissed him.
"True. We'd have to earn a living. Dig ditches, or something."
She smiled. "I would just open up another restaurant, I guess. But it wasn't easy the last time."
"I like the creative part: the cooking, the menu planning, even shopping and figuring out what's in season or fits in budget. But the haggling with suppliers, getting the construction done, doing the books? That part was awful. I was doing it all on my own. By the time the Enterprise came calling, I was glad to be done with that."
"Sounds like you need a business partner."
"Are you sure you want to be that kind of a partner to me?"
"I like the current way very much,” he said, kissing her. "But I can't just sit idly by. Plus I bet I could do all that. Strong arm the contractors, get the suppliers in line, make sure you got your broccoli the way you wanted it."
She smiled. "You wouldn't be able to go around breaking arms or anything, you know."
"I know. Lili, I'll sweep the floors if I have to. Let's just be together."
They kissed. She broke away suddenly. "We need a name! And it can't be Voracious II. Sequels are always pale imitations of originals."
"I don't mind pale,” he said, holding her face in his hands. "Your eyes, they're like this crystal blue, almost transparent."
"Not transparent. If they were, they'd be pink, you'd see blood vessels. I guess they're just a really light blue. But yours! Yours are like stones."
"Stones? I don't think that's the most romantic thing you've ever said to me, Lili."
"No, it's good. Really. They're kind of bluish-greenish-greyish. Sort of like pebbles you find at the bottom of a clear stream. The best eyes."
"Hmm. I disagree. Not the best. You have those. But – I think I know the name."
"Oh? Lay it on me." she smiled.
"Yes. This is – you've turned me around. And I guess we turned each other around. I, I dunno. It just makes sense to me, but you've got veto power over it."
"No, no, wait." she counted on her fingers. "Eight letters. First four, R-E-V-E, can be in black on white background, then a forward slash separator, last four letters, R-S-A-L in white on a black background."
"Yeah, you should definitely do the signage. I don't have an artistic bone in my body,” he said.
"Wait, wait, wait,” she said, getting a little more excited.
"Oh, it's ideal. Do you know what rêve means in French?"
"It means dream."
"Ready, First Minister?"
"Yes." Chawev said, “Start now."
"Let's go to the kitchen. Er, dressed,” Lili said, “I want to cook something with you."
"I thought we were cooking just fine here."
"Yes, but, indulge me for a sec. And then, hah, we'll need a shower."
"Oh." He raised an eyebrow and smiled at her slyly. "I see your plan, Miss O'Day."
They were instantly transformed to the kitchen and into clothes: Lili in chef's whites and Doug in a pair of tan pants and a green shirt.
"Here,” she said, handing him a baseball cap.
"New England Red Sox." he read off, before putting it on.
"My favorite team,” she said, donning a West Coast Mariners hat. "We'll make chocolate chunk cookies. Very easy and very fast."
"Here." she gave him her PADD. "Can you write down the recipe while we go? I mean, I know how to make these, but maybe we'll improvise a little."
"Sure. You talk, I'll type."
"Preheat oven to, um, 177 degrees. Combine dry ingredients. Which are, uh, 260 grams of flour ...."
Jennifer walked in late. Lili was dreaming, she could tell. Something about flowers. "Hope you're happy,” Jenny said, as she eased herself into her own bed.
"Oh my God, these are wonderful,” Doug said, eating a cookie. "You were right. This is a fast recipe. And now for a shower."
"Yes!" Lili smiled at him, and vanished.
Doug put his hand out to where she'd been standing. "Wait, wait, wait! I didn't get a chance to say it!"
He looked around, scared. The kitchen was still there. It still smelled of vanilla and sugar and chocolate. The PADD was still in his hands. "Maybe you can see this. I'm, I'm not ready for this, but maybe you can see this." He started to type, and typed for hours until the alarm went off, and he awoke in a pool of cold sweat.
Jennifer woke to an empty room. But in Lili's bed, there was something flashing. She picked it up. It was a PADD.
|February 2 2012, 09:35 PM||#21|
Location: Between the candle and the flame
|February 3 2012, 03:42 PM||#22|
|February 3 2012, 04:23 PM||#23|
And then she disappeared.
He swore loudly, the moment he realized she was gone. "Damn, just when it was getting good." he announced to the empty room.
Jennifer picked up the PADD cautiously. She hadn't noticed Lili holding it earlier. And where was Lili anyway? She glanced at the writing on the PADD.
'My sweetest Lili,
I don't know if you can see this, but I'll type it anyway, just in case you can. You disappeared once before, but you came back. But this time I'm alone on your ship, and I never have been before. It feels different and very, very wrong. And maybe tomorrow we'll laugh at how scared I'm getting but right now I'm just really, really scared....'
She looked away. She threw on her uniform, grabbed the PADD and ran to the Bridge.
Doug awoke to the sound of a general alarm. He got out into the halls, distracted, without putting the extra dagger in his boot. He was walking to the Bridge, very fast, when he felt a hand on his shoulder.
"Travis!" he said, “Let's get to the Bridge. She needs us."
"Not so fast, Old Man,” Travis had a knife in his hand. "That's the last time you make me look bad in front of her."
"Look bad? I'm sure I don't know what you're talking about."
"Oh, c'mon. Yesterday. When we were testing the phasers? You know I was in the right position, in a perfect position. And you missed. Now she thinks I messed up."
"No, no, she doesn't think that. Like I said then, you don't have any working sensors. So how can you be so sure that conditions were perfect anyway?"
Travis mulled that over for a second. "She still thinks I messed up."
"Well, I can't help you with that,” Doug said, “Didn't she say she was gonna have Targeting tested again overnight? Maybe it's all fixed."
"I, I dunno."
"Look, that alarm won't shut off until you and I get to the Bridge. So come on and like I said, maybe it's fixed. And if it isn't, I'm sure we've got a fresh crisis. Yes? C'mon."
"We're not through, Old Man,” Travis resheathed his weapon.
"Didn't say we were." Together, they ran to the Bridge.
Jennifer burst onto the Bridge. She rarely ever went there. It always felt strange. "Captain, Captain!" she called out.
"Uh, Ensign, not now. We've got systems down shipwide. And ...."
"Sir!" Jennifer insisted. "Lili's, Lili's gone. I think she's gone from the ship. And, and I have, I have this." she showed him the PADD.
"Ensign, what are you trying to show me?"
"Sir, this is a letter from him,” she said.
"Might be related, sir,” Malcolm said, looking up.
"Yep." Captain Archer allowed. "Delacroix, Haddon, you'll need to vacate. Hoshi, contact Dr. Phlox and Tripp Tucker and get them up here for a meeting. Ensign," he faced Jennifer, "stick around for this."
"Captain!" Hoshi said, “I have a message from Chef. Lili never showed up to cook breakfast."
"Delacroix!" Jonathan called after him. "You and Haddon, get down to the kitchen and make yourselves useful while we meet."
"Yes, sir. C'mon Deb. Let's go peel some potatoes." Delacroix said.
Falling falling foggy falling pain dark heat cold itching.
"Ensign, why don't you sit in my seat?" Malcolm offered, once everyone had assembled.
"Thank you, sir."
"All right." Captain Archer said, “We have multiple failures on the ship. No targeting, no outside communications, and no warp drive. Am I missing anything?"
"Impulse power seems to be fully operational. And we're still on course around the planets and moons in the system,” Travis offered.
"We still have torpedoes, too, sir." Malcolm added.
"All right. Ensign, show us what you have."
"I, sir, when I got into bed last nigh-, uh, early this morning, Lili was asleep and talking so I know she was dreaming. But she didn't have her PADD in bed with her or anything. I would have noticed something as strange as that. And then this morning, when the alarm went off, I saw the PADD flashing and no Lili. And there's, uh, there's a message on the PADD."
"Do you think she left voluntarily?" Commander Tucker asked. "I mean, well, don't tell me I'm the only person who's thought of this. She's in this, I dunno what to call it...."
"Relationship." Hoshi suggested.
"I, I guess so." Tripp said, “And, well, maybe they got some way to be together and it just took out a buncha systems. Although, while I'm saying that, it sounds like magical, wishful thinking to me. It's, uh, strange the way the failures occurred, all at oh two hundred eighteen hours. This was no accidental failure stream."
"Sir, the message doesn't seem to indicate that they left together,” Jenny said.
"Oh? What does it say?" Dr. Phlox asked.
"Maybe we shouldn't read it,” Jenny said.
"It, it could be a love letter of some sort." Malcolm offered.
"Yes,” Jenny said.
"We need to follow any lead we can get. Ensign Sato, read the letter."
Doug shut off the alarm as soon as he and Travis had gotten onto the Bridge. "Empress! What's going on?"
"Your protégé never showed up for work last night. And now his girlfriend is missing, too."
Doug flipped a switch to send a message. Nothing. He then clicked open a personal communicator. Nothing. "How long have in-ship communications been out?"
"Since about oh two hundred eighteen hours,” Hoshi said.
MacKenzie ambled in. "Well, there's one of them,” Doug said.
"How do you know Crossman's gone, Old Man?" asked Aidan.
"Ahem,” Hoshi said, “Uh, sir, it feels weird reading this."
"Just read it, Ensign."
'My sweetest Lili,
I don't know if you can see this, but I'll type it anyway, just in case you can. You disappeared once before, but you came back. But this time I'm alone on your ship, and I never have been before. It feels different and very, very wrong. And maybe tomorrow we'll laugh at how scared I'm getting but right now I'm just really, really scared.
I couldn't tell you before, and it was stupid of me not to, because I wasted time. And I let my fear and my history keep me from telling you the thing that I really should have told you from the second time we were together: that you are more important to me than anyone, that you are my light and all I want is to bask in that shadow. And that means what you think it means, and it is very scary to know that I may never be able to really say it to you. I will fight waking up. I always do, and this time I will fight harder. All I can think of to tell you is to tell you it so many times that maybe you're covered for the rest of your beautiful life.
I love you I love you I love you I love you I love you I love you....'
Sir, it goes on this way for pages."
"One thousand, three hundred and forty-six, to be exact." T'Pol said, looking at the version on her own PADD.
Jennifer started to weep loudly. "Ensign,” Malcolm said quietly.
"Go on,” Jonathan said to Hoshi. "Skip that, see if there's something at the end."
"Okay. Yes, here it is.
'It is almost time to wake up, I can tell. And if I could sleep and wait for you, I would. I know you wanted to be equal, but I am your faithful and loving servant. And I will never stop looking for you.
"No, no!" Jennifer said, between sobs. "Lili is, is, she's dead. Or at least she might be. And if she's not, I almost wish I was. Because none of us should have ever opened this. It's not, it wasn't ours in the first place!" Her voice got louder and higher as she choked out the words. "It was private. It was theirs. And now we've, we've spoiled it!"
"Jennifer,” Malcolm said very quietly and offered her his handkerchief, which she took.
"We had to know." Tripp said, “At least it doesn't look like Hayes was complicit."
Hoshi looked up, eyes shining. "It feels like we just violated her."
"Look, let's adjourn,” Jonathan said.
Tripp said, "Crossman, take the rest of the day off."
"I'll, I'll escort the Ensign back to her quarters." Malcolm volunteered.
"Yes, uh, let me go, too,” Hoshi said, “I kind of, I need some air." The three of them left.
"I'll do what I can to get communications back on line. I take it that's top priority. See if there's some request for a ransom or whatever." Tripp said.
"Some sort of an explanation is definitely in order." Archer said, “And let's do something where we're not trampling all over someone's private life."
Falling falling foggy falling pain dark heat cold itching.
Doug was out in the halls. Lunchtime. Ugh. At least it was a break from the endless bickering about who was supposed to be on duty, and what they were going to do about Jennifer. The Empress favored a quick strike, but everything was still down. And not being able to communicate within the ship was becoming exceptionally inconvenient.
He heard his name being called. It was the Empress.
"Something I can do for you?"
"Nothing much more than you normally do,” she said, smiling at him. "You keep a cool head, I like that."
"Makes no sense to me to dole out punishments until after we get Crossman back. Take advantage of people's talents while they're still peaking."
"Peaking. Good choice of words." The Empress was close, very, very close.
"Empress, is there something else you wish to discuss?"
"Yes. You may have heard. I am looking for a little brother for Jun."
"And that little brother needs a father."
"How about Tr-Travis?" Doug asked.
Hoshi smiled. "No. Maybe some other time. I am right now looking for someone a little more, uh, seasoned." she ran a finger down the front of his uniform, to just above the belt.
"What about Jun's father?"
"Oh, him? He's dead. Daniels. What an idiot, always babbling on and on about future this, timeline that. Plus, even if he was alive, I'd still pick someone else."
"Some, uh, special reason?" Doug fought to concentrate but she was awfully close and was beginning to touch him.
"All of my children are going to have different fathers. They'll have different factions and when the time is right, they'll combat for succession. No sense in giving them anything to get sentimental about, other than the basic blood tie to me. I'm going to have lots of them. And they need good bloodlines."
"Like a, like a bull?" he asked, voice rising.
"Yes." she grinned. "Castrate or kill the rejects, of course. My, oh my, Old Man. If I'd known you were still capable, I'd have done this sooner."
"No need to speak."
"Um, uh, Empress, what about, uh, uh, Tucker?"
"Tripp Tucker?!" she laughed. "It probably glows in the dark, assuming it hasn't fallen off by now. Still, if it does glow that would make for a very interesting game of 'Hide the –'. Oh, Old Man. Responsive and everything. I bet you have some bullets left."
"Empress, I, uh, I can't, uh, perform the way I used to,” Doug lied.
"I'll see about that." she said.
He stood perfectly still, at attention, glancing around the hallway which was fortunately empty. He dug his short fingernails into the palms of his hands. This was so not what he wanted to have happening. He thought of Lili for a second, and that made it harder for him to maintain his composure. Then he realized that both the Empress and Jennifer were different from Lili when it came to this. He felt guilty for comparing them, and that made him find his voice again.
"Em-press. I. Don't. Think. We." he spoke slowly and deliberately, getting the words out with difficulty as if he were dictating to history's most incompetent secretary. "Should. Be. Doing. This."
"Oh?" The Empress inquired.
"N-no. I, I value our, our current situation. It. Is. Important. To. Me. That. You. Trust. Me. You won't. Trust. Me. After this."
She said, "You're right. Your value is in me knowing you're not trying to get into my pants."
"Y-yes, Empress." he covered himself. "I, uh, I've sweated my uni. Let me, um, shower and change. Be back at the Bridge in less than half an hour."
"Permission granted. Oh, and you passed the test." she waved him off and glared at a few people in the hallways who had been watching.
"Jennifer," Hoshi said as the three of them walked, "I don't want to leave it like that."
"Neither do I,” Malcolm said.
"But what can be done?" Jenny asked. "The Captain said all the communications were down."
"Uh, maybe there's one channel,” Hoshi said, indicating the PADD.
"Maybe he can find her. He's in a dream. Perhaps he can defy gravity and other physical laws." Malcolm posited.
"So what do you think we can do?" Jenny asked.
Doug was in pain. That kind of overstimulus, without release, was downright torture. He stripped and got in the shower and grabbed at himself.
After spending time trying so hard not to react in any way, it was exceptionally difficult to do the opposite. He thought of Lili. That made it happen for him. He whispered while the water ran, "I hope that's the last time I have to do that without you."
|February 3 2012, 09:32 PM||#24|
Location: Between the candle and the flame
|February 3 2012, 10:27 PM||#25|
One is Lili, the other is the MU Jennifer.
Definitely meant to be disjointed.
|February 6 2012, 04:25 PM||#26|
Hoshi and MacKenzie were still bickering. Tucker was pacing.
"At least we took out that city before the systems all shut down,” Hoshi said.
"Who, um, who fired? I was asleep, and Mac here was, uh, what were you doing, Mac?"
"I think it's more who he was doing,” Hoshi said.
"Be that as it may," Doug said, "Tucker, did you run the Tactical station?" There was some evidence on there of him looking up Lili's counterpart's record. He really didn't want that to become public knowledge.
"Nope. It was Cutler."
"The babysitter?!" asked Hoshi. She was incredulous.
"The very same."
"Don't tell me she left Jun alone. I'll take it outta her hide." Hoshi vowed.
"No, no, she brought the kid with her. He wasn't sleeping well and she was bored. She put him down to sleep on the Ready Room cot and he was out like a light. Nothing better to do, so she and I played with the targeting array. And, uh, other things." Tucker said, smiling a little.
Doug looked over the controls. It just looked like the phasers had been recalibrated and aimed, then fired a few times. Nothing else appeared to be disturbed. "Everything appears to be in order, Empress."
"Hmm. I'd say the babysitter did a good job,” Hoshi said, “Oh, and MacKenzie? You'd better watch your back, before you end up as the babysitter." she laughed and waved him away. "Dismissed. Get some sleep and be here for your shift tonight or that won't be such a funny joke."
"Uh, yes, Empress,” Aidan said, departing quickly.
"Are you ready?" Chawev asked the young woman next to him.
"Yes, of course. What about them?" she indicated Treve, a teenaged girl and a small boy.
Chawev knelt down to talk to the little boy. "Chelben, your Mommy is awake now. We are going to go in and see her. She won't know who you are, but don't be afraid. Polloria here will hold your hand."
"I wanna hold Yimar's hand!" the boy said, clinging to his sister.
"Well, I tried." Chawev said, straightening up.
"Everyone, remember," Polloria said, "any words you say to her, she'll pick up on. So choose carefully and don't say much. In fact, just let your father and I do all the talking, all right?"
Jennifer sat on Lili's bed. The mattress was a little harder on the left. Strange. "How the heck do you sleep on this thing?" she asked the empty room. She thought of Frank. "I know I'd miss you terribly. I already do, and I can actually get to you." she whispered. She clutched the PADD in her hands but, despite herself, she ended up dozing off.
The room was white, whiter than white, blinding and glaring. But the woman in the bed didn't know that or, rather, registered the color but did not know its name or even the word color. Five figures came into the room.
"Oh, you're awake!" one of them said.
"Oh oh oh oh." the woman replied. Nothing else.
"The words you are looking for," said another, shorter figure, "are 'who am I? Where am I? And, who are all of you?'"
"Yes, who,” said the first figure. "I am Chawev. And these, these are your children. Treve here is the oldest. He is nearly twenty. Yimar is fourteen. And little Chelben is four. And this is Polloria. She is, uh, a family friend."
"Who?" asked the woman.
"Oh, yes, you." Chawev said, “You are Yipran, the High Priestess of Lo. And you are my wife."
There was someone in Lili's bed. Didn't smell like Lili, but Doug was encouraged. And the fact that he could smell at all told him: this is one of the vivid dreams-that-aren't-really-dreams. He reached out to that person, and his hand made contact with long curly hair. Lili's was straight. He shook his head and pulled his hand back, recognizing the body that belonged to the hair. "Jennifer!" he called out. "What the hell are you doing in my dream?! I thought I told you to get out!"
"Wait, wait, wait!" Jenny responded. "I'm, I'm Lili's roommate. And I'm really worried about her. And you, you must be Doug."
"Yes, uh, okay, you're from Lili's side of the pond,” Doug said. Strange that he should be dreaming this way and talking to someone other than Lili. "I, um, I'm sorry. I think I pulled your hair a little."
"No, you thought I was her."
"I was hoping, but you don't smell like her,” he said.
"Look, Doug, I don't know how these dreams normally go. Or, rather, I guess I know a little,” Jenny said, “So forgive me if I'm not too good at explaining anything or if I tell you things you already know."
"Understood,” he said, “Is she all right? That's all that matters."
"I, I don't know. She's, she's just gone. And we can't communicate outside of the ship so we can't even figure out if someone has her."
"I was, uh, concerned about that." he admitted. "We have, uh, there's someone missing on this end, too."
"Huh, interesting,” Jenny said, “We, um, I gotta confess. We read the letter. Had to, um, had to make sure you weren't the one who'd taken her."
Doug swallowed hard. "That was, uh, it was pretty private." He paused. "I guess at least you know it wasn't me."
"No, no, of course not. Hoshi, um, her and Malcolm's idea, it was for us to write on the PADD, see if you could read it and write back. We figured that might be a way for us to talk. I, I didn't mean to fall asleep here. This bed isn't even very comfortable. It's weird for me to be here. I feel like I'm really intruding."
"You're still young,” he said, “When you get older, a hard mattress is better for your back. Still, I am thinking there is something important about the bed."
"There must be,” Jenny said, “So if I, uh, if we write to you and leave the PADD here on the bed, you can get it?"
"Only one way to test that out,” Doug said, “You'll need to wake up."
"How do I do that?" Jenny asked. "I mean, we're talking and I feel fully conscious but I know I'm asleep. I suppose I could scream in this state and not wake up. I know, um, Lili sometimes does,” Jenny reddened more than usual.
Doug smiled. "I'm sorry if we've ever woken you up. Look, um, maybe you can wake yourself up. You know how like, sometimes, if you're having a nightmare, you can just tell yourself it's not real and break the spell? Try something like that."
"Uh, okay. And Doug?"
"We're on your side."
"How are you feeling, Yipran?" asked a new person in the room. "I am Dr. Baden. You have been asleep for about five years. It's natural to feel bewildered."
"F-five?" the woman in the bed looked down.
"M-mother," said Treve, "your, your arms look like that because you've gotten, gotten older. See how mine are all silver? And Yimar and Chelben's are, too. But Polloria has some white spots and then Father has a lot of patterns like you do. Same with the hair. See how you have hair, and Father does? And Polloria has a little but no one else does? That's another sign of, of aging."
Polloria glared a little at him and then relaxed. "Your legs look all patterned like that, too. Take a look." she pulled back the sheet covering the woman and, sure enough, the legs were also endowed with a complicated Byzantine scrollwork pattern.
"Older?" asked the woman.
"By five years,” Polloria said.
"Yipran, you were pregnant with Chelben when you fell ill. He was delivered right here in this room, over four years ago. Come here, Chelben." Chawev beckoned to the youngster, who didn't want to leave Yimar's side. "Come, Chelben, and kiss your mother."
"She's not my mother." Chelben complained, and hid behind Yimar.
Jennifer disappeared, but Doug's dream did not end. He sat there on the dream bed and held the PADD in his hand. "I guess it works,” he said. He clicked to open the first note.
If this works, and we can communicate this way, I hope you will work with us to get the Ensign back as quickly as possible. I cannot promise any incentive other than her safe return. From what I remember of your counterpart, I believe he'd be more than up for this, at least as a challenge. Let us know.
– M. Reed'
"Ha, Malcolm, all business,” Doug smiled. "Well, the only payment I want is to be with her again." He opened the second note.
I'm sorry we read your letter. We were hoping you could get onto a Calafan ship or planet or moon. Since you're in a dream, maybe you can make that happen. When I was having bad dreams after being kidnapped by the Xindi, Dr. Phlox told me how to do something called Directed Dreaming, where you push your dream into a particular direction. Let me know if you're not sure how to do that. Thanks for helping. I hope we get her back soon.
– Hoshi Sato'
"Much nicer than your counterpart,” Doug said, “Okay, let's see what you have to say, Jennifer."
I don't really know what to write. I'm just really worried. I think if we all put our heads together, we can figure this out. Everybody misses her.
"This is almost quaint,” Doug said, “Let's see." He began to type, much slower than the previous evening. When he was done, he laid back on the dream bed and inhaled Lili's scent, still there. "Come back come back come back" he whispered as he awoke.
|February 6 2012, 09:14 PM||#27|
Location: Between the candle and the flame
|February 7 2012, 04:48 PM||#28|
He rolled over once, no PADD in hand this time.
Directed dreaming, he thought. "I could try that,” he said softly to the darkness.
It was a white room. Whiter than white. Blinding. Not even like a white star, for hot, white stars are bluish.
There was no blue. It was unrelenting whiteness. The essence of white.
He sniffed the air.
There was a scent. Another dream-that-is-more-than-a-dream, Doug thought.
But the odor was acrid, and was making his eyes tear.
"Where are you?" he called. "Where are you? Where are you?"
For the last piece of the dream, he typed a little more on the PADD, but it was getting foggy and fading from view.
This time, when he awoke, he could not get back to sleep no matter how hard he tried.
"That alien is dangerous." Yimar complained, just outside the room.
"Where is Mommy?" asked Chelben.
"She's, uh, um, sleeping."
There was a crash in the other room.
"Chelben! Stay here! Father, I'm coming!" Yimar cried out, leaving the child and running into the room.
Doug pulled on sweatpants and went over to the ship's gym. He hadn't been there in a while. Despite the early hour, Crewman Cutler was there with Jun. "Here, now," she said to the child, "you play with this. Hit it really, really hard,” she said, bringing down a speed bag to his height that was almost as big as he was.
She straightened up and nodded slightly.
Doug went over to the free weights. He was bent over to grab a larger barbell when he heard voices behind him.
"C'mon!" said the male voice. "It's not like you've got any other offers."
"No. I gotta watch the kid. And I already got a man."
"An imaginary one? You won't get any other offers." the man teased.
Doug turned around. "Delacroix," he said calmly, "she's not interested."
"You really expect me to believe that?" Delacroix asked. "You and I both know the only reason any of the women come to the gym is when they're lookin' for some action. And I'm just the right fella to give ya some, eh Cutler?" he got up in her face even though he was shorter than she was.
She turned her face away. "Oh, and the black eye? It is one serious turn-on." Delacroix added. "I could give you a matching one, ya know."
Cutler bent over. "Jun! Stop playing with that, it's time to go."
"Nuh!" yelled Jun. He was having too much fun hitting stuff.
"C'mon!" Delacroix grinned, grabbing her.
"Crewman!" Doug said, “Leave her alone."
"Oh? And whaddaya gonna do about it, Old Man?" He straightened up but was still considerably shorter than Doug.
"I don't fight children,” Doug spat out, turning away and giving Cutler a quick look.
He wasn't braced when Delacroix hit him hard, straight in the gut, and couldn't help but to react. He reeled back, a little surprised.
"You really are slipping." Delacroix said, laughing.
Doug shook his head to shake off the cobwebs and uppercutted Delacroix to the chin. The smaller man fell onto an exercise mat.
Doug turned to Cutler. His stomach hurt something fierce but he knew it wasn't a bad injury. "Your man should be doing this."
"Yeah, but he's on shift."
"He owes me one,” Doug said.
"I, I know. Look, can we go?"
"Sure. Come on, Jun,” Doug said. Delacroix was stirring a bit and he didn't want to risk a repeat.
They walked in the hall, leaving Delacroix back at the gym.
"Um, thank you." Cutler said, “You've, uh, I guess you had owed me and now you, you don't anymore."
"How did you figure I owed you?"
"The other night. The targeting array was fine. And all the Empress wanted was for that city to be taken down. And I did it for you. So you owed me for that."
"Yeah, uh, a little, I guess,” Doug said, “Huh, no breakfast for me today."
"You're probably better off. Well, this is where I go." they were at the door to the Empress's quarters. "Uh, can I ask a favor?"
She dropped her voice to a barely audible whisper. "I, I want to work in Tactical."
"I know you do – and your talents are being wasted here,” Doug indicated Jun, who was smacking the door with his palm to try to get it to open faster. "But, um, I'd need her approval. And I'm not so sure I could ever get it."
"Yeah. It was a thought." Cutler looked down.
"Hmmm. If the time and place were right, I might be able to put in a good word. But no promises."
"I hate promises." Cutler said, “Always making you think something's really gonna happen, and it never does."
"Where are you? Where are you?" asked the woman in the white room.
"First coherent sentence so far,” Polloria said. She walked out of the room with Yimar. "See how it works?" she said to the girl as soon as the door was shut behind them. "The brain was targeted in a very specific way. So if you tell the alien a word, she'll understand it and know it. But if you don't, it's as if she's never heard of it."
"Can the same kind of thing happen to a Calafan?" asked Yimar.
"Of course not. It only happens to them because they're inferior. All species are inferior to Calafans,” Polloria said decisively.
"Treve says they're not."
"Treve is an idealist,” Polloria said, “When he gets older, like your father, he'll see the light. Of, of Lo."
"Father, are you all right?" Yimar burst in to a room that was all red. There was a gouge in the wall and a piece of equipment on the floor nearby.
"Fortunately, I was able to duck in time. Polloria, let's go outside the room and talk. Yimar, stay here a moment."
"But, Dad! What if she throws another drug delivery tube?"
"We'll be right outside. And I'll call Dr. Baden. Just, just be aware."
Hours later, Cutler looked up when the door chimed. "Uh, come in, I guess."
It was Tripp Tucker. "I, uh, I got done with work early."
"Yeah,” she said, kissing him. "You should know, Jun's awake, he's over there." Jun was staring at an on-screen entertainment of some sort.
"Got it. So, um, how are you doing? Shiner gettin' better?"
"A bit, see? But that side still hurts. Can't eat or smile on the left side of my mouth."
"So I'll just kiss you on the other side, then." He did so.
"Charles, why are you being this way?"
"Well, it's not like last time."
"Last time was a good five years ago."
"I know. But, I mean, you're being nice. And you're almost gentle, even."
Tripp was quiet for a while. Cutler cringed, waiting for another shoe to drop.
"Beth, I'm dying."
"Yeah. I, I know."
"And so you shouldn't get involved with a guy like me. I'm liable to go while we're doing it."
"I don't care."
"You, uh, you need to understand. My guts feel like they're made of tar and my lungs feel like they're filled with ashes."
"Not everything is affected." Beth said, smiling.
"Oh, that's affected, too. I can't, uh, can't do it too often."
"Well I can't, either. It's not like I can get away too much. If the Empress found you here, she'd have a fit."
"Still, I'm a bad risk for ya."
"Lemme tell you something. I am the lowest-ranking pers – , no, creature on this ship. Even Dr. Morgan's lab animals are treated better than I am. Everyone feels they can take a shot at me, and they sometimes do. Jun does it all the time. And this morning at the gym, if the Old Man wasn’t there, Delacroix would've, well, he ...."
"You went to the gym?"
"You sick of me already?"
"No. I had to take Jun for conditioning training. I was not there to look for, for another man. Not that anyone would've been interested anyway."
"I should have protected you. That's, uh, you should stay in, mostly. Safer that way."
"Are you, uh, are you a little concerned about my welfare, Charles?" She came closer and kissed him. "Ow."
"Oh, sorry. Didn't mean to press on the left side there."
"Did you just apologize to me?"
"Uh, yeah. I guess I did."
"We are a pair,” she said, “Both falling apart."
"Come back to the Bridge again tonight."
"I can't always get away,” she said.
"I know. But we'll do the same thing. You bring the kid, and put him in the Ready Room, on the cot."
"Charles! I get the feeling we won't always be able to do it in the Captain's chair! Think of all the people who are on the Bridge."
"Well, it's pretty quiet at oh three hundred hours, Beth."
"I'll try not to be late."
The next time he kissed her, he made sure it was away from the swollen left side of her face. And it didn't hurt much at all.
"Don't, don't try that again,” Yimar said to the woman in the red room.
"Try that again." the woman parroted, reaching for another drug delivery tube to throw.
|February 7 2012, 09:37 PM||#29|
Location: Between the candle and the flame
|February 8 2012, 03:54 PM||#30|
"Worth it." parroted the woman.
It was after normal working hours, but Deb Haddon and Brian Delacroix were working anyway. The Empress had ordered the senior staff to the Bridge and, with no internal communications working, they were forced to go out and knock on doors.
"This is boring." Deb complained. "We still can't find Tucker."
"Should switch the lights off, turn on an ultraviolet. I bet he glows." Delacroix joked. "Say, um, once we're done with this, ya wanna ...?"
"I'm with Masterson,” she said, cutting him off. "Where the hell is Tucker? The Old Man, easy. In his room. Dr. Morgan, in Sick Bay like he was supposed to be. Empress and Mayweather already on the Bridge. So where the hell is Tucker?"
"We didn't look there,” Brian said, indicating the Empress's quarters.
"We're not supposed to go in there after Jun's gone to sleep. No one's allowed to wake him." Deb pointed out.
"Hmm. We better knock anyway."
It was a few hours later.
"Thank you for coming to dinner, Dr. Baden,” Polloria said, sitting down.
"Ah, this does look good." The doctor said, “And how are you children?"
"Uh, fine,” Yimar said, “Chelben, wait for prayers."
"Father, may I lead the prayers?" Treve asked.
"Thank you, Lo, for this bountiful spread. Thank you, Abic, for the drinks. Thank you, Fep, for the table. Thank you, Ub, for staying away."
Everyone nodded and they started eating.
"Doctor, how is it going?"
"Well, it's going well,” he said, “This alien has an interesting brain configuration. A lot about some strange things, a lot of memory devoted to things like protein and something called cilantro."
Treve smiled. "The alien is a food preparer."
"Yes, she even showed Treve how to use a knife and fork." Chawev said, indicating with his own fork. "A good way to bring her in close and get better readings. You did well, my son."
"Well, I support the main purpose here,” Treve said.
"What's that?" Yimar asked, looking up from helping Chelben cut a slice of a large purple vegetable.
"Yimar, all aliens are inferior to us,” Polloria said, “And this is how we understand that better. They come here and we pluck one of them out and bring them here for a few days of study."
"Well, there's more to it than that." Chawev added. "We position our sensors so that we know when a ship carrying a new species is coming. And for a few days before they get here, we use those big dishes – remember seeing those when we went to Point Abic last year?"
"Yes, Father. They were huge." Yimar agreed.
"Yes, that's right. Well, those dishes emit a certain complex series of waves. You can't see or feel them or hear them. And neither can the aliens. But it affects a few of them and whichever one is most affected is our best candidate. And then when they come closer to our system, we make contact, go on their ship, and then we transport away our candidate for a few days of study."
"Does that hurt them?" Yimar asked.
"It doesn't hurt to be transported,” Treve said carefully.
"That's true,” Polloria said, “Then we wipe their memories temporarily and see how quickly they can relearn them. And while they're in such a state, we can access everything they know."
"Does, does that hurt?" Yimar asked, a little scared.
"They're aliens. They're inferior. It doesn't matter whether it hurts them." Polloria stated. "Finish your dinner."
"And I told you, you need to start getting used to calling me Mother."
The senior officers had reassembled in the main conference room. Captain Archer began. "Well, I don't need to tell everyone here that we've got a situation. What's our status? Travis?"
"We've got Impulse and nothing else. And the controls are frozen, it's like they're locked in place. I can't change course; it just keeps going through the predefined pattern."
"Communications?" asked Jonathan.
"We can't talk to anyone but ourselves,” Hoshi said.
"Tactical?" asked the Captain.
"Targeting array is completely offline. No phasers. Torpedo bays are fused." Malcolm stated. "It wasn't like that before; that might have been some sort of an earlier oversight, but it's that way now."
"Transportation?" Jonathan asked.
"Transporter is operational but I can't input coordinates." Tucker said, “Shuttles exist but those bay doors are fused as well."
"Where are we on repairs?" Jonathan asked.
"I've got a crew devoted to Communications." Tripp said, “Unless you want 'em working on something else. Frankly, since we're just kind of locked into what looks like an infinite loop, we could technically throw almost everyone at repairs. Don't need a pilot, don't need Tactical, don't need Communications. We're nothing without our machines and devices, Captain."
"That is a logical course of action,” said T'Pol.
"Agreed. Now, what about our other problem?"
"Captain, if I may." Malcolm began. "Hoshi and I, it was perhaps incorrect of us to do this without permission, but we felt – or at least I did – a bit guilty about the incident with Ensign O'Day's PADD message being read."
"And ...?" asked Jonathan.
"Well, we – it was my idea, so any blame should fall on my head alone – we decided to ..."
"It was my idea, too." Hoshi piped up.
"What idea is this?" asked the Captain.
"We made contact. With Hayes,” Malcolm said.
"How?" asked Tripp.
"We wrote back to him,” Hoshi said, “And he's written back."
"What is this correspondence achieving?" asked Dr. Phlox.
"Can't tell,” Malcolm said, “Here, I'll read what he wrote:
'Malcolm, Hoshi and Jenn,'"
"Jenn?" asked T'Pol. "Is that Ensign Crossman?"
"Yes. We figured she'd want to be in on it. And we, we needed access into their quarters for this to work,” Hoshi said.
"Could you finish reading the note?" Jonathan asked.
"Yes, sir, of course.” " Malcolm read on.
'I tried that Directed Dreaming like Hoshi recommended. And I think it worked, but I can't really tell. I just saw a lot of white. Maybe a white room, I don't know. The other thing was the smell. It was like the stuff they used to use in my old school to clean the carpets. Didn't hear any sounds, don't know if I was anywhere near Lili. Will try again tonight.
"That stuff is vile." Tucker said, “It's sodium- and sulphur-based and it reeks until it dries." he explained.
"I remember that,” Travis said, “Nobody ever came to my schoolroom early because the disinfectant reeked so badly."
"Uh, this trip down Memory Lane is all well and good," Jonathan said, "but what is it telling us? And, Lieutenant – next time, come to me with your plans. I don't disagree with this but I am still concerned about trusting Hayes at all."
"His observations could be faulty or not even present,” Phlox agreed. "It would be rather convenient for him if he is the one who has the Ensign, and is merely working to throw us off the, the scent, as it were."
"Maybe she's at a school,” Hoshi said.
"Are there other places where such a disinfectant would be in widespread use?" T'Pol inquired.
"Yes,” Phlox said, “Hospitals."
Dinner finished, Polloria pushed Yimar and Chelben out of the room so that she and the three men could talk.
"Do you think Yimar understands the second purpose?" Treve asked.
"Probably not,” Polloria said, “What good would it do to tell a fourteen-year-old child of our politics?"
"She may understand more than we think." Chawev said, “But the specifics would likely be troubling to her. I mean, she knows that a High Priestess must voluntarily designate her successor. She also knows that her mother is the High Priestess and that her mother is very ill. She is well aware that this alien – despite how we have dressed and tattooed her – is not her mother."
"I just perform surgery,” Dr. Baden said, “Tell me, how will the rest of it work?"
"We are going to have the Festival of Lo and Abic in two days. We will bring the alien out, and say she is Yipran. Only the closest of the close will realize it isn't my wife. After all, Yipran has been ill for years. We have publicly prayed for her health for half a decade."
"And the alien will point to me as her successor,” Polloria said.
"Yes, of course,” Baden said, “And then what?"
"Well, as you know, normally we would just return the alien. We did that with the Klingon we plucked, with the Andorian and the Vulcan. Things didn't work out so well with that – what was that other one called?" Chawev asked.
"Ferengi." Treve reminded him.
"Yes, yes, nasty little grasping folk. Where was I? Oh yes, the endgame. We would return the alien but it's not so simple. It needs to be obvious that Yipran has died before Polloria can take her place. So we will need to publicly eliminate the alien."
"And of the real Yipran? Won't that become messy and inconvenient?" Baden asked.
"Only if her existence is revealed. She stays in the Main Hospital, patient #116. In perpetuity, if need be. Declared dead. No family. No friends. No visitors other than you, Baden."
"Father, it is still wrong. Whatever, whatever problems you had with Mother, I, I don't know if I can condone any of this."
"But you've condoned plenty of it already, Treve,” Polloria said, “Why get morally squeamish now?"
"I – Polloria – I was a child when you, you came into our lives and Mother became ill. I have done my best to accept you. And I am, I am glad that Mother will not actually be killed, although if she were at all conscious it might be something she'd wish. But killing this alien? Cannot we put her back as we usually do?"
"You never saw it,” Baden said. He was older than everyone, including Chawev. "But I did. When there is no High Priestess, there is chaos. The people are – we are the best species in the universe but many of our people are foolishly superstitious. They want to believe in an unbroken chain of High Priestesses of Lo, served by faithful First Ministers dedicated to Abic. The succession law exists to fulfill that very purpose. And it also exists to keep potential successors from simply killing an installed High Priestess. But the whole system falls apart if the High Priestess dies unexpectedly. And this situation – where the High Priestess is comatose – has never happened before."
"So Mother will never, ever recover?" Treve asked.
"No. Her body will probably live on for a few more years and then it will be worn out and the fading life will finally end,” Baden said.
"It was fortunate that the humans came along when they did." Chawev said, “We could have waited longer, I suppose. But this opportunity has been truly stellar. As if this alien were tailor-made for this very purpose. Almost a pity we can't trot her out for some other purposes before elimination."
"So, everyone's got their marching orders,” Jonathan said, “And Malcolm, give me a few minutes. I have a letter of my own I wish to write."
"By all means, sir."
Jonathan began typing on his own PADD:
You know I can't reveal much about our situation and I expect you can't say too much about how things are going on your end, either. All we can think of is to check public institutions. Follow your nose. Keep us informed.
– J. Archer'
The senior officers were assembled on the Bridge, except for Tucker. Haddon and Delacroix walked in with him, late.
"Nice of you to drop by." Hoshi snarled.
"You won't believe where we found him!" Delacroix crowed. Tucker glared.
"Never mind that,” said Hoshi. "What's our status?"
"No warp drive. No control over Impulse." Tripp said, “No transporter. No targeting array. Can't get torpedo or shuttle bays open. All communications are dead, even inside the ship."
"Repairs?" The Empress asked.
"Having no working sensors now, it's even harder to tell if we're making any sort of progress." Tripp said, “I need bodies to fix it all."
Delacroix giggled at the sound of the word bodies. Haddon poked him in the ribs to silence him.
"Take whoever you need. And don't dawdle. Now, what about Crossman?"
"No sign,” Doug said, “And no good way to look or mount a first strike. I can assemble a strike force and get it ready, but we'd be all dressed up with no place to go."
"Hold off for now,” said the Empress. "Double shifts starting tomorrow, everyone. And everyone is on repair detail. Get the overnight crew in here. Dismissed."
"So, we're agreed?" asked Polloria, after clearing the dishes.
"Yes,” said Chawev. "Once you have been designated as the successor, we kill that alien. That beast is hazardous. Next time, I might not have fast enough reflexes."
"You have good enough reflexes,” Polloria said, grabbing at him.
|ent, fan fiction, in between days, rated pg-13|
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