By Christina Moore
October 16, 2378
When Alan Carter at last forced his eyelids to lift, he was relieved at the sight that met them: Dr. Sanai Grayson. She was standing at the bed next to his, examining Rick Parker, the gunner who had flown with him that awful day… He knew not how long ago it was. But he was alive, and Rick was alive. No doubt other flight teams shot down had not been so fortunate.
Alan found himself smiling as his mind turned from the morose back to the woman he stared at. He was glad to be looking at her instead of what he had feared he would see.
“Thank God,” he murmured.
Sanai turned to him, and if he wasn’t mistaken, there was an expression of relief and happiness in her eyes—in fact, he was fairly certain her lips were on the verge of turning up into a smile. “Good afternoon, Colonel,” she said as she moved from Parker’s side to his. “Intriguing that your first words express gratitude to the divine. May I ask why?”
“You can ask me anything,” he replied, attempting a fuller smile and finding it made his face ache. Best wait until he was more recovered, he thought, and spoke slowly when he continued. “As to that particular question, I am thankful that I woke up to your lovely face—I was so afraid it would be that pig-faced fellow.”
He heard Parker laugh from the next bed as Grayson lifted her eyebrow; her lips twitched again before she replied, “No need to fear waking to that particular gentleman’s countenance, Colonel. Dr. Gresh is aboard the Starsong, where he belongs.”
“What’s with that Colonel business, eh? I thought we’d done with formalities.”
This time, a small smile did appear, and there was a pale green flush to her cheeks which he knew was a blush, her blood being green instead of red. Sanai said nothing at first, merely began an examination with her hand scanner. But the small smile remained, and thereafter, she called him Alan.
October 23, 2378
Even when she was not on duty, Sanai would find herself in the medical center at least once per day. She would visit all of the patients to see how they were doing, but always she visited Alan last, and spent the majority of her time there with him. It was not lost on her that the staff had started whispering about it—even outside Medical, there would be sly looks and smiles directed her way, along with subtle and not-so-subtle queries as to how her “favorite patient” was doing.
Sanai decided she didn’t care. Humans were wont to gossip, so she let them. She made no attempts to dissuade their chatter, as she had already determined there was no logic in denying the truth.
Of course, for all her ability to read others, she was still not quite sure in what direction Alan’s feelings lay. She did not doubt he flirted with her, but then he flirted with some of the nurses as well. He flirted with the female friends who came to visit throughout the day. How was she to determine if she ought reveal her own feelings if she could not be certain of his?
On the tenth day of his stay in Medical, the day he was likely to be released and she knew she would have fewer reasons to be in that place when he had been, Alan said words which emboldened her to take the leap her new friends had been encouraging her to take from the moment he’d awakened.
“We’re really going to have to stop meeting like this,” he’d quipped when she stepped up to his bed for the final examination.
“Is that so?” she returned. “Do you not want to be released, Alan?”
“Oh, I do, certainly. But you’ve been here every day when I wake up,” he replied. “A man could get used to waking up to a beautiful woman every day.”
Sanai stopped her movements and found herself staring into his eyes. Alan stared back, his gaze growing in intensity.
She swallowed, and took the leap. “Do you want to? Wake up to a beautiful woman every day, that is?”
“Oh yes,” said Alan, his voice soft and husky.
“Do you have a particular woman in mind?”
“And…who might she be? I could send for her, if you like, that you may tell her of your desire.”
Alan shook his head. “No need for that.”
“Oh? And why is that?”
Having already swung his legs over the side of the bed, Alan slid to his feet. “Because I’ve just told her,” Alan replied, a smile forming. “Or have you not noticed me flirting shamelessly with you this last week?”
She lifted her eyebrow. “You flirt shamelessly with every woman who is not already attached.”
“She’s got a point there, Alan,” said Dr. Helena Koenig, Alpha’s Chief Medical Officer, as she breezed by.
Alan laughed. “That’s plain flirting, I’ll have you know,” he called after her. To Sanai, he said, “Shameless flirting, on the other hand, is something else entirely.”
“Is it now?” she retorted, lifting a hand to lightly push him back onto the bed. From her pocket she pulled her tricorder and at last began the exam. “My dear colonel, it is apparently prudent that I inform you that women do not like the man with whom they desire to spend their time offering the charms they wish to claim to other women.”
He captured the hand that was then drawing the scanning wand down his torso and held it still. She looked up from the screen on her scanner and their gazes met again. “So long as you desire to claim my charms, and call me ‘my dear colonel’, I will never again flirt with another woman, plainly or otherwise.”
Sanai raised her eyebrow again. “Do you mean that? Because I’m not one to play games. If you do not genuinely desire to pursue a relationship…”
Alan took the scanning wand out of her hand, then held that hand between both of his as he said to her, “I may be known ‘round here as a flirt, but those same people who gossip about me and my love of women also know that when I give serious attention to one, she’s my sole focus. I have come to like you a very great deal, and if I’m not mistaken, you like me just as much.”
“I beg your pardon for interrupting,” said Helena softly as she laid a change of clothes and a pair of shoes on the end of Alan’s bed. “But perhaps you’d care to take this discussion somewhere a little more private?”
Sanai could feel herself blushing again. Alan released her hand, but his grin remained in place as he picked up the scanning wand and handed it back to her. She finished the exam in silence, downloaded the results, and then walked over to the nurses’ station to officially release him from medical observation. When she turned around, Alan was just disappearing into the lavatory to change out of his hospital garb.
She took a breath as she turned away from the door. Helena walked up to her then with a smile.
“I think it’s about time you and Alan have a good, long talk,” she said. “Don’t be nervous.”
Sanai drew her shoulders back. “Vulcans do not get nervous,” she said.
Helena raised her right eyebrow in a very Vulcan-like expression. “Is that so? Well, if I didn’t know any better, I’d say you’re an exception to that rule, at least in this moment.”
After a moment, Sanai gave a curt nod. “Perhaps my Human heritage is showing,” she admitted. “It has been a very long time since I have been in a relationship of a romantic nature. In fact, I usually avoid them like I do the Rigellian Fever.”
Helena’s expression softened and she chuckled. “I assume that fever is something everyone should avoid?”
Her fellow doctor reached over and patted her hand. “Well, I can tell you that you don’t have to avoid Alan—clearly you don’t want to. And he wasn’t lying before. When he’s interested in a particular woman, he gives all his attention to her.”
Sanai drew a breath; Alan had just emerged from the lavatory and was heading her way. “That is good to know,” she replied.
“Care to go for a walk?” Alan asked as he approached the two ladies. “I’ve been cooped up in here almost two weeks—I’ve not got to see the grass yet.”
Sanai raised her eyebrow. “Fresh air would do you good,” she said, and with another nod at Dr. Koenig, moved to walk out of Medical. Alan followed close behind, and in the corridor moved to walk beside her.
They traveled in silence toward the nearest elevator, which they rode down three levels in order to get to an airlock that would take them outside. During this time, Sanai found herself wondering what to say, how to act—for that matter, why she even liked the man next to her.
The last, she realized suddenly, was simply explained. Alan Carter had seen her at her weakest, her most vulnerable…and he had not judged. He had not even pitied her; in his eyes the night of her first anxiety attack in more than a year—besides a natural curiosity—she had seen only sympathy and a desire to help her find relief. No Vulcan would have shown her such kindness, that much was certain. A Vulcan was more likely to look down his or her nose at any evidence of weakness in one of their own than he or she was to be sympathetic. Too many other species were very much the same, being surprised by her condition if they witnessed it, showing pity and taking no time to understand or just be kind to her. So she had fought long and hard to keep the truth to herself.
But Alan Carter had seen her at her worst, and shown her only the best of himself. It was a rare thing indeed, at least in Sanai’s experience. And since that day, he had made a pronounced effort to spend time with her, to engage her in conversation or include her in group activities. She’d thought, at first, that he was simply trying to be friendly and draw her out, to do his part in helping her feel like she was a part of the Alpha family as much as her newly acquired female friends were doing. And while she certainly had grown more accustomed to the people around her, the more time she had spent in Carter’s company, the more she had come to realize she was growing attached to him. She’d fought her feelings, not wanting to give in and risk disappointment, not wanting to risk the pain of rejection.
“Penny for your thoughts,” said Alan as the elevator came to a stop on the ground floor and the doors opened.
“A what?” she countered with a frown.
“A penny. Haven’t you ever heard of a penny?”
Sanai shook her head. “I have not. Is it some form of currency?”
Alan laughed as they walked together down another hall. “It is—or it was, back in my time. I suppose Federation society has some other form of money.”
“Indeed—though with the advent of the replicator, currency has not the same significance as it once did. The worlds of the Federation are no longer driven by the pursuit of wealth, though many individuals are.”
“Has the Federation any currency at all?” her companion asked as they approached the airlock doors. “I’ve been wondering, though with everything that’s gone on since we arrived here, I’ve never found an opportunity to ask.”
“Yes. The Federation operates on a credit system, and each person who works earns so many credits for their efforts. Many worlds outside the Federation use different forms of currency, the most notable being gold-pressed latinum.”
Alan nodded as they then came to the exit, and when they had at last stepped outside, he paused and drew a deep lungful of air. “God, but it feels so good to be able to walk outside the base and just breathe in fresh air.”
He looked up. “It’s amazing—you can’t even tell there’s an electric dome overhead holding in the atmosphere.”
“The wonders of modern technology, Colonel.”
He looked to her then and smiled, then looked away toward the yards of green that lay between the buildings. “Grass!” he cried in an excited voice, then surprised her by taking off his shoes at the edge of the gravel path and laughing as he stepped into it, walking around in a circle and curling his toes. A wide smile lit his face as he did this, and then he further surprised her by suddenly dropping to the ground and laying down to wave his arms and legs. Sanai could only stare at the spectacle of Alan laughing and waving his limbs about like a child.
He stopped after a moment and rose up on his elbows. “Sanai, you should join me.”
She raised her eyebrow at him. “I will consent to sitting next to you, Alan, but not to flopping about as though a fish out of water.”
“Spoilsport,” he said with a laugh, then patted the ground next to him. He spoke again only after she had gracefully lowered herself to the ground and crossed her legs. Alan pushed up into a sitting position.
“Perhaps I was a bit foolish just now,” he began, “but it’s been so bloody long since I’ve seen real grass! It’s rather a bit overwhelming to look about and see all this and know that it won’t be snatched away from us. The moon, which we have been stuck on for seven years, is now to be a real home for us. We can build lives here. Have families…”
His voice drifted off. The expression he turned her way then was almost shy. Sanai felt herself blush as he reached over and took her hand in his, twining their fingers together. For a moment she was besieged by images passing in quick succession before her mind’s eye—most she could not focus on, but several did catch her attention: images of her drawn from his memory, from various places he had seen her around the base, the majority from the last ten days in Medical Center. She sensed the emotions he had felt in each of those moments, their strength growing the more he saw of her. She could feel the transition of his regard from mild loathing—indeed, he still felt that way about her kind, repulsed as most were by the Vulcan tendency towards superciliousness—to intrigue and sympathy.
The intrigue soon grew stronger than any other emotion. He was much surprised by his desire to get to know her, to discover if she really could act more Human than Vulcan, as he had heard tell of. And the more he saw her smile, the more he was drawn to that smile. The more he found himself wanting to be the cause of it.
And the more he wanted to be the only man to whom she gifted her most genuine smiles.
Without realizing it, she had jerked her hand from his grasp. How long a time had passed in reality was only about a minute, but she felt as though it had been days. So much she had learned of him in that short minute. Where had been her shields? All her strenuous discipline, learned over many years—even when she displayed her own feelings, they were firmly in place.
His voice was soft. Questioning. Concerned. Forcing the mental shields she had worked so hard to develop back up where they ought to be, she drew a breath. “Forgive me,” said she. “Vulcans are tactile telepaths—thoughts, images, even feelings are communicated in a mere touch. It takes much discipline and training to prevent being overcome by an accidental touch, as I was just now.”
Alan looked thoughtful. “I have noticed your kind have an aversion to being touched, and when you do you avoid skin-to-skin contact. Does this mean I’ll never be able to touch you?”
Her gaze turned out to look over the yard as he had done. “I think, ultimately, it depends on how you wish to touch me. As a friend? As a lover?”
Alan turned to her then. “As both, and much more,” he said, and waited until her eyes were on his again before he continued. “Look, I know I’m notorious for being a flirt, but that’s just who I am. I’ll knock it off with all the other girls, if that’ll make you feel better. I don’t know what you saw just know, what thoughts or feelings of mine might make you wary of me, but I promise I’m not one of those blokes that plays games with a woman. If I like a girl, I go for her.”
Sanai raised her eyebrow, scrutinizing the earnestness of his expression. “And how often have you done so? At my age, Mr. Carter, I can hardly waste time with a man who acts as a boy sowing his wild oats, to use an old Human saying.”
He surprised her by laughing. “You had no idea what a penny was, but you know that saying?” His hands reached tentatively for hers, hesitating to take them until she nodded. His grip was firm and warm, and upon his lips remained a smile. “I have, in my time, enjoyed the company of a number of women. I’ll not lie about that, and since you’re some kind of mind reader, I probably couldn’t anyway. But with you, it’s different. When I first met you I didn’t like you, spoiled as I was by the Vulcans I’d met before you. But you changed my mind. How I feel when I look at you—when I am just thinking of you—I really cannot put it in words.”
Alan’s thumbs began to draw slow, lazy circles on the backs of her hands. The action sent warmth slowly radiating up her arms, from which it spread into her chest and settled not unpleasantly beneath her bosom.
“I’m not exactly young myself, you know,” he continued. “At least for a Human. I’m already forty! If I want to achieve my dream of having a wife and family of my own, I can’t waste anymore time.”
Sanai frowned. “So you want a broodmare?”
“Hardly,” he retorted. “I want a partner, someone to share the rest of my life with—all the ups, all the downs, and everything in between. I’ve often wondered why none of the women on the base could keep my heart from wandering for very long, and I can only assume that it’s because deep down, I somehow knew that they just weren’t the one for me. Look, Sanai, I’m no poet. I can’t make a pretty speech; I can only bumble about like a fool and try to tell you in the most direct way I can that I care about you. I would like for us to be something more, if you are equally as willing.”
She thought over his words, the thoughts and memories she had seen. She thought of her own growing feelings for this man, and confessed, “Your experience with women likely far outweighs my own with men—Vulcan males find me too unlike them to be worthy of their choosing, because I allow myself to feel and express emotion. Most other men I encounter also find me too unlike them, judging me to be too cold and distant due to my application of logic. My few attempts at romance, coupled with other great disappointments in my life, I suppose have made me somewhat cold and distant. I have for many years avoided deep personal attachments so as to avoid being hurt. It is…a most unpleasant experience.”
Alan gave her hands a gentle squeeze. “I can understand that. You keep others at arms’ length—not giving too much of yourself—because if they have a part of you, they have the power to hurt you.”
Sanai nodded. “Precisely,” she replied softly.
“Well, I can’t promise you I’ll never disappoint you,” said Alan then, causing her to look up sharply. “After all, I’m not infallible. There’s no doubt I’ll make plenty of mistakes. But I can promise you I will never purposely hurt you.”
She chanced a smile. “In turn, I suppose it likely I shall make my own share of mistakes. I don’t always say the right thing or display the correct emotion, if I display any at all. And for all my avoidance of closeness, there’s just something about you, Alan Carter, that draws me near. For the first time in decades, I find that I want very much to be with someone. I find that I want to be with you.”
The grin he wore expanded into a wide smile. “That’s bloody good to hear, because I find that I want to be with you, too.”
Alan leaned forward and touched his lips to hers, then raised a hand to hold her head at the nape that he might deepen the kiss. Sanai responded in kind, though the kiss did not last long—but it was long enough to tell her she wanted another.
“There—bet that’ll give everyone watching something to talk about,” Alan quipped.
Sanai lifted her eyebrow. “You assume we are being watched. Besides, they already talk about us, my dear colonel,” she said drily. “Have you not noticed?”
“Not at all, but if there’s talk about us, I’m sure it’s all good.”
“We’ve been taking bets as to when the two of you would quit dancing around one another,” quipped Paul as he and Sandra stopped by them; neither had seen the couple approach. “About bloody time one or the other of you finally made a move.”
“Now Paul, do not be so unkind,” said his wife with a smile. “After all, Alan has been in Medical Center for the last ten days. He could hardly ask Dr. Grayson if he may court her from his sick bed.”
Sanai looked to Alan with her eyebrow once more lifted, though a smile also graced her lips. “Is that what you are doing then? Asking to court me?”
“If you want to call it that, sure,” he replied with a grin. “Will you be my girl?”
His words caused Paul to laugh and Sandra to giggle. Sanai gave in to the urge to smile, and replied, “It would only be logical.”
November 1, 2378
“And last but not least, today is the day we clear out the arboretums,” Maya Verdeschi reported.
“And I, for one, am looking forward to it,” said Victor Bergman. The eyes of his fellow Alphans turned to him. “What? I may be an astrophysicist, but I am as much a lover of nature as the next man. All those trees and plants we’ve been growing down in the arboretums deserve a natural environment rather than an artificial one.”
“I agree with you whole-heartedly, Professor,” offered Tanya Aleksandr. “It may seem like a lot to us in their present circumstances, but outside those poor trees and shrubs will be hardly anything, given the size of the crater.”
“Not for long, Tanya,” said Catherine “Cate” Ross. The lieutenant commander from Starfleet was head of the moon’s terraforming team, on loan from the United Federation of Planets for…well, however long they were granted leave to stay.
Victor smiled along with everyone else as Cate went on to once more detail the plan for “greening up” the Plato Crater. The five largest impact craters within the 101 kilometer Plato depression had already been designated lakes, three of which would be filled with fish in the next few weeks; the others purposely for swimming. A couple of small forests were part of the planning, as was the later introduction of wildlife to those areas, as well as zones for housing once the population expanded more.
He divided his attention then, for the most part paying heed to the conversation going on around him, but another part considering the matter of population expansion. Many of the couples among the Alpha crew had given up their preferred methods of birth control in the six weeks the moon had been in this new universe, and already there were two confirmed pregnancies besides Tony and Maya’s, which had begun before the moon’s dimensional drift. Victor knew also that John and Helena were trying for a child, though their efforts would likely take more time given they were both over 50.
And not only were there soon to be a total of at least six children among the Alphans, but of the 12 refugees who had come to make new lives here so far, there were a further three. There were also two married couples, both pairs of child-bearing age.
Victor smiled again, inwardly as well as outwardly. It brought him much joy to see his friends and new neighbors in high spirits and looking forward to the future. For so long had there been restrictions on Alpha regarding children—now there were none. He was happy for those new families just beginning their journey together. As for himself, at nearly 60 years of age he was long past thinking of children of his own, and had decided he would be content playing surrogate grandfather to all the babies that would be coming over the years.
The staff meeting broke up soon after, and as the crew began to file out through the side doors of John’s office or the door that led into Main Mission, everyone eager to get started on the latest project, Victor found himself brought up short.
Approaching the general’s office was Commander Anwen Rhydderch, wing commander of the starfighter squadron from Starfleet that had permanently been assigned as additional security for Alpha. With her was an older woman, slightly plump, her hair as salt-and-pepper as Victor’s own. She had a shrewd, discerning gaze and a ready smile.
“General Koenig,” began Rhydderch, “may I introduce my mother-in-law, Glynnis Rhydderch. She and my daughter Jennifer have relocated here to Alpha to be with me, seeing as the Wild Angels’ assignment here is indefinite. Mum, this is Brigadier General John Koenig and Professor Victor Bergman.”
Polite greetings were exchanged between them, then John looked to the pilot and said, “What can I do for you, Commander?”
“Well, it’s more what you can do for me, General,” spoke up Glynnis. “I’ve never liked being idle, and especially since my Lloyd passed during the war, I find it helps to keep busy. So I’m hoping you might have some idea of where I might be useful to you all.”
Victor shared a look with John; his friend appeared surprised. “It’s very kind and generous of you to offer, Mrs. Rhydderch—”
“Oh, just Glynnis, please,” she said with a wave of her hand. Her accent, Victor noticed, was the same lilting Welsh brogue that her daughter-in-law spoke with.
“The thing is, I’m not entirely certain what to tell you,” John went on. “Pretty much everyone here has a specific duty to perform.”
“And pretty much every possible position we might have has been filled,” added Victor.
Glynnis looked to Anwen; the ladies shared a grin. “You said ‘pretty much’,” the elder of the two said. “That means there’s got to be something that’s been overlooked.”
The younger woman chuckled. “Mum’s tenacious, I ought to warn you.”
“How do you feed yourselves?” Glynnis asked. “I love to cook—perhaps I can free up one or two pairs of hands from your staff by seeing to the meal preparation. I am a nutritionist by trade, and I rather miss preparing meals for my family. I understand you’ve all not yet taken to replicated food.”
The two men chuckled. “Not quite yet,” said Victor, “though the starships that have stopped by have given us a couple to help what we have go father.”
“I think our Services people could use the help down in the dining hall,” John said then. “Commander, take her out to Sandra—I’m sure she will be able to fit her in somewhere.”
“Thank you, General,” said the younger Rhydderch.
“Indeed, thank you,” said Glynnis, her eyes flicking toward Victor before she turned away and left with her daughter-in-law.
When they had gone, John turned to him. Victor raised his eyebrows at the expression on his friend’s face. “What?”
John grinned. “I think Glynnis was giving you the eye, Victor.”
Victor scoffed. “Don’t be foolish, John,” he replied, even though he had noticed her gaze as well. “If you’ll recall, the lady mentioned having lost a husband.”
“During a war that, if memory serves, ended nearly three years ago,” John pointed out. “While I’m certainly not making light of that or her loss, she was clearly interested.”
A laugh escaped him. “John, really…do not let your being a newlywed make you see romance where there is none. I’m sure the lady was only surprised to see someone her own age here, where just about everyone else is between twenty-five and forty.”
With a shake of his head, he dismissed the knowing smile that formed on John’s face, as well as his own observations, and headed for one of the side doors. The science teams would need help clearing the arboretums.
Glynnis glanced over her shoulder as she and Anwen started down the steps from the general’s office. Her eyes roamed over Victor Bergman once more. He seemed a robust fellow—a bit barrel-chested, with narrow hips, a deep voice, and an aquiline nose. He was near completely bald on top, but that was nothing to her. He was a singular man of age and wisdom among a sea of young pups.
Thank goodness she would not be alone amongst them!
Anwen stopped and looked at her, a grin on her face. “See something you like?”
Glynnis scoffed. “Don’t be silly, An. I am merely pleased to find I am not the only silver-haired person on this rock.”
Her daughter-in-law chuckled. “I am sorry, Mum, that I have asked you to spend the next few who knows how many months among so many who have no gray hair.”
Laughing in kind, Glynnis turned her mind from men with gray hair as she was then introduced to a young lady with black hair and dark, almond-shaped eyes. Sandra Morrow was sweet, and excitedly accepted her offer to assist in the dining hall. When Anwen reminded her that she had a training flight scheduled, Sandra kindly offered to show her down to the kitchens herself. On the way, Glynnis quizzed the younger woman as to how the dining hall was run, how meals were prepared, and how they made sure everyone got the nutrition they needed. Sandra admitted that in the last couple of years, nutrition had taken a back seat to simply having enough to feed everyone, as supplies had become dangerously low, but now that they had made friends with the Federation and been gifted two industrial food replicators, they would be able to make the stores last.
“Fruits and vegetables have never been lacking, due to Science Section’s care of the plants in the arboretums,” said Sandra. “But meat and proteins have long been a commodity, and it was quickly decided that only one meal a day would feature meat of any kind, so as to make it last. And we ran out of eggs years ago, so have had little more than beans, grains, and nuts to supplement our need for protein.”
“Well, my dear,” said Glynnis with a smile, “I think if you restrict the use of the replicators for things like meat and eggs—using them only for those things you don’t already have or cannot produce from existing plants—and keep using the plant products you’ve long relied on, you need not worry at all about making nutrition a priority again.”
Sandra smiled. “No doubt with a certified nutritionist now on staff, our needs will surely be met.”
The morning’s activity of transplanting the arboretum’s stores had put Alpha’s newest resident from Victor’s mind, but she was returned quite forcefully to the forefront of his thoughts when he and several others entered the dining hall to find the little woman confronting two tall, well-built Starfleet officers…
…with what looked to be an iron skillet in her hand.
In unison, Victor, Alan, and Tony all moved toward the three where they stood next to an alien fellow with a wide, scaly neck that reminded Victor of a cobra, who sat across from a blond-haired young woman whose cheeks were aflame—though whether from embarrassment or indignation was not immediately apparent.
“What’s going on here?” asked Tony in a no-nonsense voice.
The taller of the two officers, clad in a red shirt and gray-topped vest, looked to him with narrowed eyes and said, “Bates and I were just informing this spoon-headed bastard he’s not welcome.”
Victor frowned as the other two scowled. Tony looked to them with faux surprise. “Alan, Victor—remind me, if you will, when this became a Federation facility.”
“It has not and will not,” said Alan.
“Indeed,” put in Victor. “As far as I am aware, John Koenig is the commanding officer here, and may invite to the moon whomever he likes.”
“You don’t understand,” said the blue-clad Bates. “We were at war with this prick and his kind only three years ago!”
“Did you fight him?” asked Glynnis angrily. “Did you see this particular lad on the battlefield? On a viewscreen? I’ve yet to hear any evidence that he actually pointed a weapon at either of you!”
She lifted the skillet and shook it at them. “I want the two of you to get out of my dining room,” she said. “You and your bigotry are not welcome here.”
“You don’t have any authority over us,” said the red shirt with a sneer.
Tony stepped forward. “No, but I do. I’m head of security on this base, and I reiterate what the lady said—you and your bigotry are what is unwelcome here. Now get out, before I have you forcibly removed.”
Bates grabbed his friend by the shoulder. “Come one Watts, we can get better food on the ship anyway.”
With disgusted snorts and scowls, the two departed. Tony then looked around at the Alphans and Starfleet officers who’d been observing the confrontation and said, “All right, everyone, back to your food. Nothing else to see here.”
At the same moment, Victor stepped up to Glynnis, who—if he wasn’t mistaken—had started to tremble just a bit. Tentatively, he placed what he hoped was a comforting hand on her shoulder. “Are you all right?” he asked.
She drew a breath and blew it out. “I’m fine, Professor. Thank you. It’s the young man here those clowns were abusing with their nasty words. I know it’s not my dining room, as I’ve only been working here a few hours, but—”
Alan waved off her words. “Don’t worry about it. You were standing up to a couple of bullies. As long as everyone is okay now…?”
Their gazes fell on the couple at the table. The scaly fellow looked up, his expression apologetic. “I am truly sorry, gentlemen. I didn’t mean to cause any trouble.”
The woman who sat across from him reached for his hand. “Stop that, Tryg. You didn’t do anything but sit down to lunch with your wife. Those idiots are just the latest in a long line of idiots who want to continue to live in the past. You didn’t even fight in the damn war.”
“You folks sure you’re all right? Do you want to file a complaint?” Tony asked then.
“No, sir,” said Tryg. “A complaint would only make things worse. But thank you for your intervention.”
Tony offered a nod, then looked to Alan. Wordlessly the two moved away to rejoin the group they’d entered with, which included Maya and Dr. Grayson. Victor shook his head as he watched Alan lean close to the Vulcan doctor and put a kiss to her cheek; he’d been wrong about them, as they’d been a couple now about a week.
His attention was drawn back to the couple at the table as Glynnis moved out from under his hand and sat next to the woman. Victor moved to sit beside the man, earning him a smile from both women. He asked them to introduce themselves; they were Tryg Brenet, a Cardassian, and his wife Reylea, who was Ardanan. Victor then introduced himself and Glynnis.
“When we were offered the chance to come to your moon, Professor, we didn’t hesitate,” said Reylea. “Tryg and I have had so much trouble finding a place to call home, we thought that starting from scratch just might be the perfect way to build a life together.”
“I am despised for my race,” said Tryg with no small amount of bitterness, “and my wife for daring to fall in love with the enemy.”
“Oi, now enough of that, laddie,” said Glynnis. “We’re none of us enemies here. The war ended three years ago, or near enough to it. I lost my husband and my son in that war, and as such I’ve good reason to hate Cardassians and the Dominion—but I don’t. I haven’t got it in me to hate, and it’s not for me to judge an entire species based on the actions of a few. It’s not as if Humans are without sin.”
“Quite so, madam,” Victor agreed. “Though our history here on Alpha is not quite so extensive, what with our being nearly four centuries behind you, what I can say of it is that our greatest transgressions have been against our own kind.”
Glynnis offered a smile and a nod. “Human history in this universe is much the same, my dear Victor. In any case, we’ll never achieve true peace or maintain that peace when we’ve got it if we are not willing to let go the pain of the past and look only toward the hope of the future. And if I understand rightly, although the Federation is lending Alpha Luna assistance in the way of supplies and equipment and protection, this moon is considered neutral territory. Everyone is welcome here, so long as we all play nice.”
Victor’s eyebrows rose. “Alpha Luna?”
“Oh, I do apologize, sir,” said Glynnis with a start. “I heard a couple of the kitchen staff talking about how the moon is to be named soon, and one of them said Alpha Luna was the perfect choice, and now the name is stuck in me head.”
He chuckled softly. “Do not worry yourself, madam, it’s actually a very good name. I shall suggest it to John when next I see him.”
Glynnis smiled as she stood. “Well, now we’re all settled… What can I get you, Professor?”
“Well, if there’s any of that pasta salad left from last night, I shall be glad of a bowl of that and a glass of iced tea.”
“Coming right up.”
She moved away toward the kitchen then, and he followed her with his eyes. When Victor’s gaze returned to his companions, he found Reylea smiling at him. “What?” he asked.
“I’m a psychologist, Professor Bergman. A studier of the mind,” said she. “And if I’m not mistaken, you’re rather sweet on Mrs. Rhydderch.”
Victor laughed. “Now don’t you start, young lady,” he told her as he shook a finger in her direction. “I’ve only just met the woman myself a few hours ago.”
Tryg chuckled. “You must forgive my wife, Professor. Ever since we married, she has looked to see everyone else as happy as she.” To Reylea, he said, “My darling, did you not just hear that she lost her husband during the war? Mrs. Rhydderch may be kind-hearted enough to forgive the folly of my people, but that doesn’t mean she’s ready to move on from such a loss.”
Reylea only shook her head and smiled. “Men. You’re all so very blind to what’s right in front of you.”
Clearing his throat, Victor said then, “You said you are a psychologist, Mrs. Brenet. Are you still licensed?”
“I am, yes. Why do you ask?”
Glancing briefly across the room to where Sanai Grayson sat with Alan, Tony, and Maya, he replied, “I ask because we may be able to put you to work here, if you’re inclined to it. Alpha hasn’t a dedicated psychologist anymore, and while one of our most recent staff additions has a degree in that field, now that we are at liberty to allow for the growth of families, she’s more likely to be kept busy tending to the new mothers and their children.”
It was at that moment, as Glynnis was returning to the table with a bowl in one hand and a glass of tea in the other, that the doors to the dining hall split open and admitted Paul and Sandra.
“We’re gonna have a baby!” cried Paul.
Cries of joy and congratulations sounded from everyone there, and the couple were soon surrounded by friends. Maya was heard to say, “We’re going to have to start a new mothers club, there are so many babies coming!” as she embraced a crying and laughing Sandra.
“What did I tell you?” said Victor with some amusement. “Poor Dr. Grayson is going to have her hands full.”
“And what about you, Professor?”
He looked up at Glynnis’ question with some surprise, then smiled as he replied, “Don’t look at me to go starting a family, Mrs. Rhydderch, I’m far too old for that.”
“Just Glynnis, please.”
He nodded at her missive, then added. “Truly, I’m long past desiring children of my own—in fact, I long ago became something of a surrogate father to many of the staff here, such as General Koenig. I’m quite content in that role, and will be more than happy to spoil any children he and Helena may be blessed with, and all the other children here, as the grandfather they’ll not have otherwise.”
She smiled. “Then maybe, if Anwen’s assignment here is a long one, I can be grandmum not only to my Lady Bug, but also to all the Alpha children. We’re the oldest two here, are we not?”
Victor laughed. “Well, not including Dr. Grayson—who is three-quarters Vulcan and already nearing a century—I think we are.”
“Then it’s settled,” said Glynnis with a grin as she set his lunch before him.
November 14, 2378
Although it was not at all her intention to take control of Alpha’s kitchen, command of it nevertheless fell to Glynnis after only a few days, the staff there almost joyfully following her directions as she suggested new meals or different ways to prepare favorite recipes.
Anwen laughed at her surprise when they discussed the matter, and said in response, “Well what did you expect? You know very well that the shortest route to anyone’s heart is through their stomach, and you, Mum, are the best cook in the whole sector.”
Glynnis, always a humble woman, gave no credit to her daughter-in-law’s words, and simply carried on doing what she had always done: take care of people. Though she could not help feeling tickled by the many thanks and other forms of praise paid her by the Alpha staff over the days that followed her arrival. Even the base commander, General Koenig, had stopped by the kitchen one day to thank her for her efforts and tell her that his lunch had been delicious.
Professor Bergman ate every one of his meals in the dining hall, and every time he did so, he stopped to say a few words to her. She thought it kind of him, as they were the only grandparent-aged people on the moon (Glynnis didn’t count Dr. Grayson as grandparent-aged even if she was 91). It was only natural, she supposed, for two people in the same age group to show an interest in one another.
Without any interest or expectation from the other beyond the possibility of striking up a friendship. It was amusing for the first week of their acquaintance that every single one of the young pups on the base—and on the starship in orbit—teased the two of them about a romance, but it quickly grew tiresome. Their being the same age and single did not automatically mean they should get together. A single woman could very well be friends with a single man without any desire of being more than that, thank you very much. Besides—as Glynnis told many an enquirer—she had not looked at another man that way since she’d first set eyes on her Lloyd, and from her own observations, the professor had long ago contented himself with being a confirmed lifelong bachelor.
So even if she were interested, which she most certainly was not, chances were he did not feel the same.
“Good afternoon, Glynnis.”
She started, not having realized that Professor Bergman had stopped beside her. Glynnis sat on one of the benches that had been brought outside and placed in the shade of an apple tree transplanted into the newly healthy lunar soil but two weeks ago. Marking her place in her book with a finger, she closed it and looked up at him.
“Good afternoon, Professor Bergman. Would you care to join me?”
He moved around the bench and lowered himself into the open space beside her with a smile. “Madam, I thought I made it clear that you were more than welcome to call me Victor?”
She returned his smile, briefly reflecting on the fact that in spite of herself, in spite of the teasing from the younger people, she did enjoy the man’s company—especially when he smiled at her.
“You did indeed, but do not think I have not noticed that even the general, whom I have heard through your own lips that you think of almost as a son, occasionally calls you Professor,” she rejoined.
Victor laughed. “Well, I was his teacher once.”
“You are still his teacher, in many ways. General Koenig still looks up to you as a man of wisdom and insight.”
His expression turned thoughtful, and he gazed out over the lawn. “And I am gratified to assist him in any way I am able. I cannot imagine how hard it was for John to have to go on without me those four years…”
“You feel terrible for his suffering the loss of you when it was not at all your fault,” Glynnis observed.
Victor drew a breath. “I do,” he said. “Well, at least there’s one burden lifted from John’s shoulders—the man in charge has someone to turn to again now I’m returned.”
She laughed. “That statement doesn’t sound ego-centric at all,” she said in a droll tone.
Her companion echoed her laugh with one of his own. “Not my intention in the least to sound self-centered, I assure you. What I meant is that, in my experience, everyone needs someone to look up to—more specifically, someone they can turn to for advice or to get their moral compass checked—and a leader especially so. I certainly never set out to be such a person, but it has been my honor and privilege to serve in that capacity, for John and for others. I suppose I feel some small measure of pride at having been so positive an influence on anyone that they would see me as a mentor. I like to think it means I’ve done at least one thing right in my life.”
“But who do you look up to?” Glynnis asked. “Who mentors the mentor?”
“I’ve had plenty of mentors in my time; intelligent, well-informed, delightful people,” Victor replied. “All of whom had either passed by the time of Breakaway or had been left behind by it, I’m afraid. Besides, at my age, I am hardly in need of such a person.”
“I suppose all of us old folk are,” said the lady with a smile. “I wonder if it is simply our lot in life, at a certain age, to shift from student to teacher. Still, even those of us who guide others or simply lend a willing ear need such a person to turn to.”
Victor laughed again. “Indeed we do, and you have successfully distracted me from my purpose.”
Glynnis furrowed her brow in surprise. “I did? Then allow me to apologize—I had no idea you’d come out here with a purpose. How may I help you?”
He turned from his position of nearly facing her to facing directly ahead and leaning forward with his elbows braced on his knees, and she realized suddenly that he was nervous. Now this was a surprise! Glynnis had not seen a single Alphan act nervous in the entire fourteen days of her residence.
“First, I understand that entertainment mediums in your time are vastly different than ours,” Victor began, “so I must ask if you know what a movie is?”
“Of course I do!” Glynnis cried warmly. “Films are still enjoyed on many worlds—some even still make them. Being in the story on the holodeck is delightful, to be sure, but there’s nothing like being caught up in the narrative of a two-dimensionally recorded story.”
He looked to her then, sitting straighter. “So you like movies, then?”
“Indeed I do,” said Glynnis. “Lloyd never understood why—he was very much a 24th century man—but oftentimes I have found watching a movie to be not only entertaining but relaxing. I’m one of those classical entertainment aficionados that will watch a different genre depending on my mood, though I have never been into horror films or anything where people are being tortured. That’s the one type of film I never understood—why would anyone make something so horrible and disgusting and call it entertainment?”
“I quite agree with you on that score,” Victor said with a nod. “In my time, there was quite enough of mankind being evil to one another in the real world. We didn’t need more of it in the cinemas.”
“So why did you want to know if I know what a movie is?”
Victor cleared his throat and looked down at his hands. “We have a theater in the recreation complex. Movies are shown every week, sometimes daily.”
Glynnis sat up straighter. “And why am I just now hearing about this? I should have liked to know something like this on arrival!”
“I beg your pardon, madam. I assumed you had been told already about our recreational facilities,” Victor replied.
She was nonplussed. How could she not have known? “Well, I’ve seen the library, the solarium, the swimming pool, and the bowling alley, but somehow I completely missed the movie theater. I shall have to see if I can find recordings of childrens’ movies—my Lady Bug enjoys them, I’m sure the few children among you would as well.”
“That is very thoughtful of you,” Victor said with a smile. “I’m sure they would be vastly entertained.”
Glynnis studied the man next to her in silence for a moment, then said, “Let me guess, Professor… You were wondering if I knew what a movie was because one you like very much will be played soon, and you would like someone to go with you.”
He smiled. “Yes, that’s it indeed.”
“So you’re asking me on a date.”
Victor started. “I had not thought of it as a date—I simply thought you might be entertained by a medium you may not have been exposed to, your culture being so vastly different than ours. You’re certainly free to attend without joining me in particular, and of course you are free to do so with Commander Rhydderch anytime—”
“Victor,” she interrupted with a smile, “I was teasing you—as you and I have both been teased mercilessly by your friends and my daughter-in-law. You do understand that if we go to the movie together, people will think it’s a date?”
“A good point. Perhaps you should invite the commander—I’d not invite your granddaughter, however. Alien isn’t exactly a movie for children, even though there’s a child in it.”
“Oh, I like that one! I usually watch it when I’m angry and want to see a woman kick some arse, though,” Glynnis confessed. Seeing that she had startled him, she laughed, then added, “I can see you do not wish to call an outing with me a date, and it certainly doesn’t have to be considered one, no matter what the others think. Two friends of opposite genders can see a film together without it being a date.”
“Indeed,” Victor agreed. “Besides, I’ve literally not been on a date in decades. I’m not sure I’d even know how to go about it.”
“It hasn’t been quite as long for me—perhaps seven years, since before the war broke out,” said Glynnis. “My husband was a very busy man—Lloyd was a structural engineer, you see—and in preparation for an expected conflict with the Dominion, Starfleet was intent on cranking out as many ships as could be put together.”
“You miss your husband,” Victor observed. “’Tis hardly fair that you should be teased as though you were a young lady… Even had I an interest in you in that manner, you have no interest in dating when you are still grieving a man you loved dearly.”
Victor made to stand and Glynnis stopped him when she put her hand on his arm. “Victor, I won’t say I don’t still love him, that I don’t miss him. I shall always do so, because I lived with and loved Lloyd Rhydderch for more than thirty years. What I will say is that I have done my grieving. I couldn’t be a good mother-in-law to Anwen or a good grandmother to Jennifer if I had allowed myself to wallow in despair for the last three years. I lost my husband and my son, they lost a father and a husband. And while it has been painful for each of us, we’ve all moved on with our lives. We’ve had to.”
She sighed then, and looked out over the seemingly endless fields of grass. “I admit I’ve not given much thought to dating in the last couple of years, but when I have considered it, I thought myself unlikely to even meet anyone I might want to get involved with. I figure that, unless you’re married and need to keep things interesting, dating is for the young.”
Glynnis looked over then, and offered a smile. “However, in considering it now, I find that I would actually like to go on a date, and I will with you—if you will ask me.”
For a moment, he only stared, and then Victor’s eyes began to shine as a smile slowly lifted the corners of his lips. “Will you go to see the movie tonight, Glynnis—with me?”