Log Rhythms
By DNash

*****

Special Thanks – I've usurped a moment from the life of a college friend for use in this Log. Don't know if she'll ever discover it, but even if she never knows I just want to say, "Thanks, Noreen!"

*****

Log 17
(Takes place between the events of the episodes Shadows of P'Jem and Shuttlepod One.)
[Rating – PG]

*****

Archer emerged from his ready room with a grim expression on his face. Sato didn't know what the content of the communication he'd just received was, but he obviously wasn't happy about it.

"Hoshi," he said, approaching her station, "open up a line throughout the ship."

"Yes, sir." She opened the comm and gave him a small, tense "go ahead" nod.

He took a deep breath, seeming to brace himself for something unpleasant or even painful. "All hands, attention. This is Captain Archer."

Around the ship, 80 humans, one Vulcan, and one Denobulan stopped what they were doing to listen. Porthos yawned and rolled over in his sleep.

"I've just received some news from Earth that may be of import to many of you. I know it is to me."

Sato and Mayweather exchanged worried glances.

"The final score of the first game of the 2151 World Series was the Vancouver Orcas—four and the San Francisco Giants…three. Archer out." He gave Ensign Sato a sharp nod, and she closed the comm.

Around the ship, responses were varied. Four of the six San Francisco natives (aside from the captain) made disgruntled noises and returned to their work. Three White Sox fans voiced equally disappointed mutterings as their World Series hopes had been dashed when Chicago was swept by the Orcas in the first round of play-offs; the news didn't jibe with their hopes of revenge. In sickbay, the Vulcan and Denobulan exchanged looks, one indifferent, one bemused. Lieutenant Reed shook his head, chuckled quietly, and returned his attention to the simulation he was running in the Armory.

There were others, however, who were celebrating.

"Woo-hoo!" exclaimed Cormack jubilantly. She did a modified "happy dance" where she was seated on the floor of Shuttlepod One. "I do so love good news from home!"

"Ma'am?" asked Griffith.

"Not much for baseball, eh, Ewan?"

"Not a lot of baseball in Wales, ma'am," the tall crewman replied stoically.

"I suppose not. Shame. Best game in the world. Hand me that spanner?" He handed her the tool in question, and she crawled back under the pod's control board. "This is totally random, and you can tell me it's none of my business, but aren't you kind of tall for a Welshman?"

"My mother is Swedish," Griffith said as if that explained it all.

"Ah," replied Cormack, for whom it did.

In Engineering, Lawless's disappointed sigh was overshadowed by Tucker's whoop of glee. "Yeah!" he exclaimed with abrupt and brief applause that garnered him startled looks from half a dozen of his engineers.

"You're an Orcas fan?" Lawless asked him, surprised.

"Nope. I'm a Kansas City fan. But they didn't even make the play-offs this year. When you can't root for your team, you root for your league," he declared. Then added quietly, "Besides, the Captain's a huge Giants fan. It's more fun this way."

"I had no idea you could be so…" She searched for the right word to describe him that wouldn't sound insubordinate.

Tucker supplied one for her. "Petty?"

"No!"

He laughed. "It's okay. I know what you mean. The Captain's an old friend of mine. Don't you enjoy teasing your friends once in a while?"

Lawless's thoughts shifted to the RPG she and Cutler were planning. She grinned. "Once in a while," she admitted.

"There's something behind that comment," said Tucker, eyeing her suspiciously. "Just what are you up to?"

"Me?" She looked at him with false innocence.

"You."

"Nothing that'll disrupt Engineering, if that's your concern, sir," she assured him quickly, guessing at what he might be driving at.

"Who said anything about that? I'm just asking a simple question." His statement was laced with as much feigned indifference as the naturally ingenuous chief engineer could manage.

The ensign considered for a brief second before making her decision. She lowered her voice conspiratorially. "Did you know Ensign Cormack used to play in a band?"

Tucker instinctively followed her vocal lead. "No. Why?"

"You wanted to know what I was up to. Let's just say it involves pink hair and an RPG." She smiled knowingly.

There was a short pause while Tucker considered this new information. "On second thought," he said, "I don't think I want to know."

*****

When the Captain approached her station this time, Sato was far less concerned for two reasons. First, she had a good idea what was coming. Second, Archer was smiling. At his request, she opened up a ship-wide comm.

"Attention, baseball fans," he began. "Last night's final score in game two of the 2151 World Series was Vancouver—five, San Francisco—seven. Archer out."

Sato closed the comm and looked at him, smiling. "You seem to be in good mood today, Captain, if I may say so."

"That's because life is good, Ensign," he replied with a grin. He moved to his chair and sat, asking Travis at the helm, "Mr. Mayweather, are we on schedule to launch Echo Three tomorrow?"

"Yes, sir," the young man said. "We should be at the projected coordinates at 1115 hours."

"Good. Subspace reception is getting choppy. I'm sure everyone will be glad to have clear communications with home again."

Mayweather and Sato simply exchanged subtle and amused looks. Only T'Pol seemed to see a need to confirm suspicions. "Captain, does your desire for a better connection have anything to do with these baseball scores you insist on sharing?" She approached the word 'baseball' as though she'd never spoken it before. It occurred to Ensign Sato it was likely she hadn't.

"As a matter of fact, it would," replied Archer pleasantly, trying to hide a smile. He was sure she disapproved of his use of the ship-wide comm to share such "trivial" information and was curious to see if she would comment further. He found himself almost disappointed when she simply nodded and returned to her scans.

Down in the Armory, Reed looked sidelong at Cormack and muttered, "Do you expect he's going to do that for every game?"

"I expect so," she confirmed equally quietly. "Why do you ask?"

"I find it a bit…disruptive."

"Today I have to agree."

He looked at her more directly. "Why today, particularly?" he wanted to know.

"Because today my team lost."

"Of course." He nodded. Honestly, he hadn't even noticed the score. The announcement had been addressed to "baseball fans." That wasn't him, so he'd done his best to tune out what was being said.

Unaware of his indifference, Cormack was still talking. "Hopefully, when we get the new subspace amplifier running tomorrow, I'll be the recipient of some video mail from my sister-in-law explaining just how we managed to lose to the Giants yesterday. Still," she continued in an attempt to remain positive, "next three games are in Vancouver. That'll be good for my boys. Have the home crowd behind them."

She glanced over at the lieutenant and noticed his expression. "Oh, don't tell me you don't get just as wrapped up in your rugby matches," she accused lightly.

"Of course!" he agreed quickly. "But the scores wouldn't be announced over a ship's comm… Too many fist fights would break out."

"Are you—?" She stopped, eyeing him. "You're serious."

"Absolutely." Then he added with the smallest hint of mirth, "It's one of the few ways you North Americans are more civilized than we Europeans."

Cormack was about to protest when she spotted the tiny smirk at the corner of his lips. "Oh. Oh, you almost had me," she said, laughing.

He chuckled, pleased. "Good."

In Main Engineering, Tucker was mildly annoyed with Archer's announcement for his own reasons. He was supposed to be having dinner with the Captain and Dr. Phlox that evening. He found himself in the rare position of wishing T'Pol would be there. The conversation was less likely to turn to the topic of baseball with the Vulcan present. He couldn't count on that with Phlox. He didn't know if the Denobulan had any views on the sport one way or another, but he was willing to bet his natural curiosity would extend to this—one of the most historical of human pastimes.

Immediately, he regretted the mild bit of gloating he'd done over breakfast that morning. "Should've known better," he told himself softly, shaking his head.

Dillard noticed his movement and asked, "Is something wrong, Commander?"

"You a baseball fan, Dillard?"

"Yes, sir! Go Giants!" he answered enthusiastically.

Tucker briefly considered responding, but decided against it.

*****

Cormack was surprised and somewhat concerned when she got the order to report to the captain's ready room. She gave a quick look to Lieutenant Reed who returned it with an equally quick nod of okay.

"I'll be right there, sir," she replied into the comm. When she heard the connection severed from the other end, she looked again at her C.O. "You don't happen to know what this is about, do you, Lieutenant?"

He shook his head. "Sorry. I have no idea."

She gave a nervous sigh. "Well, if you don't know, then I'm probably not in trouble." She sounded unconvincing even to herself.

"Don't worry." Reed said with a reassuring smile. "I'm sure it's nothing like that. But I'd hurry up, if I were you. You don't want him wondering what's taking you so long."

"Right," Cormack said. She hurried off to meet her uncertain fate.

*****

"Come in," called Archer at the sound of the door chime. The ready room door slid open revealing a nervous-looking Ensign Cormack. "Ah, Ensign. Come in."

She stepped into the room, trying not to appear as if she wanted to run the other way. She'd never been called to the captain's office before, had no idea why she was there now, or what to expect. Curiosity was warring with nerves, but she restrained herself from looking around. Instead, she fell back on the safe familiarity of her Starfleet training; she stood at attention in the center of the room and waited for the hammer to fall.

Archer noticed her unease and smiled pleasantly. "At ease, Ensign. I didn't call you here to reprimand you." Cormack relaxed only minutely at this news. The captain rose from behind his desk and gestured to the soft, comfortable chairs in the corner. "Have a seat?"

Uncertainly, Cormack glanced behind her. She moved cautiously to one of the chairs and sat stiffly on its edge.

"I understand you have family in broadcasting," Archer said, taking the chair opposite her.

Taken completely by surprise, Cormack could only say, "Yes, sir." She couldn't begin to imagine how he'd gotten this information, or why it was of such import that he'd call her here in the middle of her duty shift.

"You're from Vancouver, Canada aren't you?"

Again, she simply said, "Yes, sir."

"Tell me, Ensign. Are you a sports fan?"

Finally, realization dawned on her. "Yes, sir!" she said emphatically. "Go Orcas!"

Archer gave her a small smile. "Yes. Well, we all have our own opinions on that topic."

Cormack clamped down on her tongue and her enthusiasm all at once. She fell back on an old standard. "Yes, sir."

"Relax. All's fair in love and war…and the World Series. And that brings me back to the reason I wanted to see you."

Archer filled her in on his plan quickly and succinctly. Cormack found herself smiling broadly as what he outlined became clear to her.

"It’d be easier if I could talk to Gemma directly, sir," she said a little hesitantly. It wasn't regular for crewmembers to communicate directly with home. There was only so much comm time and bandwidth, especially at such a distance—never mind concerns about security. Communications needed to filter through standard channels.

"I understand," the Captain assured her. "I'll make the arrangements myself with Starfleet. We're launching Echo Three tomorrow. I intend to contact Admiral Forrest as soon as Ensign Sato and her team finish up their tests on the new amplifier. Until we get the go ahead, though, I need you to keep this under your hat."

"Yes, sir! No one will hear a word from me," she assured him.

"Good." He rose and Cormack quickly matched him. "Dismissed, Ensign."

Smiling, she nodded and left the ready room.

Arriving back in the Armory, she quickly descended the steps to the lower level and returned to her post. Lieutenant Reed glanced up at her entry. "Everything all right?" he asked simply.

"Yes, sir," she answered.

"Good. I need to run some tests on the work you and Griffith did on Shuttlepod One. You can give me a hand."

*****

"Captain, we're approaching the coordinates for the launch," said Ensign Mayweather from the helm.

"Slow to impulse. Bring us in and hold position," replied Archer. He walked over to the tactical station. "Mr. Reed, is the amplifier ready for deployment?"

Reed ran one more (unnecessary) check of the relevant systems before answering. "Yes, sir. All systems are showing green."

Archer glanced back to the helmsman. "Travis?"

"We're in position, sir," the young man replied as he brought the ship to a halt.

"Excellent. Whenever you're ready, Malcolm," he added to the Tactical Officer.

Reed gave him a brief nod of acknowledgement, triple-checked the systems, and launched the newest subspace amplifier. There was a moment of silence as the satellite deployed, then Reed smiled in satisfaction. "Another clean launch, sir."

"The amplifier has made contact with Echo Two," said T'Pol from the science station across the bridge.

Archer gave her a nod of thanks before looking to Ensign Sato. "How long will it take for you to run your tests?"

"About forty-five minutes, sir," she answered.

"I'll be in my ready room. Let me know as soon as you're done."

"Yes, sir."

He stepped onto the upper level and paused only long enough to say, "You have the bridge, Sub-commander," before disappearing behind the ready room door.

*****

Several hours later, the call went out, "Archer to Ensign Cormack. Report to my ready room."

Cormack clicked open the nearest comm and said, "On my way, sir." She headed quickly out of the Armory. When she exited the lift onto the Bridge, she garnered curious glances from Sato, Mayweather, and Lieutenant Reed. T'Pol merely noted her arrival and dismissed it.

Before the ensign quite reached the ready room door, Reed gave her a concerned look. "Ensign?" he asked quietly. It was the second time in as many days she had been called in by the captain. He was uncertain what to make of it.

Reading his subtle expression correctly, Cormack said just loud enough for him to hear, "No worries, sir." She gave him a quick smile and rang the chime.

"Come in," called Archer.

Cormack entered the small office more confidently this time. "You wanted to see me, Captain?" she said as the door slid shut behind her.

Back out on the bridge, the human members of the crew had their own speculations. However, all kept their thoughts to themselves. Some exchange of ideas might have gone on had not T'Pol been present. Her Vulcan stoicism tended to make for a quiet shift. Sato had once likened it to the conditioned response of entering a library—the hush was almost tangible.

At that moment, T'Pol rose. She looked over and made eye contact with Reed. "I have business in astrometrics," she announced. "Mr. Reed, you have the bridge." She turned and made her exit.

Hoshi and Travis immediately exchanged looks, their eyes carrying on a quick argument. Travis lost.

The helmsman gave a furtive glance in Reed's direction before asking with feigned nonchalance, "So, Lieutenant, any idea what's going on?"

Malcolm, who knew exactly what Travis was asking, decided not to play along. "Going on, Ensign?" he replied with a better attempt at false casualness. In truth, he had no more idea what was happening between Captain Archer and Ensign Cormack than Mayweather had, but he didn't care to let on.

"Yes, sir."

"In what regard?"

Travis shot another quick look at Hoshi in the hopes of some assistance. All he got was an encouraging "go on" nod. His shoulders slumped a little in frustration, but he tried again. "Ensign Cormack’s not…in trouble or anything, is she?"

"Why would you think that?" asked Malcolm. He put on his best "tough boss" look. "Is there some reason she should be?"

"No! No. Not at all!" the helmsman insisted hastily. "I just meant—well, she's kind of a—friend, so I'm just wondering…" He tried once again to enlist the aid of the comm officer, but Hoshi kept her eyes trained on her instruments. Travis fought back an annoyed sigh at the desertion. "Never mind, sir," he said, feeling discouraged and hoping it didn't come through in his voice.

At the tactical station, Malcolm simply looked at him with an inscrutable expression. Inside, however, he was laughing. Sometimes it's just too easy, he thought.

*****

The Captain smiled as he approached Sato. "Hoshi," he said cheerily, "give me a ship-wide comm."

"Yes, sir," answered Sato as she complied with his request.

"All hands, this is the Captain. There's been a change in this evening's entertainment. Instead of showing 'Casablanca', your movie tonight will be…World Series game number three." He knew it was impossible, but Archer would have sworn he could hear cheering. "I look forward to seeing you there. Archer out."

In the Armory, Reed glanced sideways at Cormack. "So that's what that was all about."

"Yep," she said happily. "I'm really glad Gemma could pull this off. It almost makes up for that damned documentary."

"The ups and downs of having family in broadcasting."

"You said it."

*****

The baseball fans found themselves unconsciously dividing as they entered the Rec. Center. Somehow, all the American League fans sat along the port side by the windows, while the National League supporters were on the starboard side closer to the door.

"Mind if I join you?" Trip said, looking down at the surprised Stephanie.

"No, sir." She shifted over a little to make room for him on the bench. "I didn't know you were a baseball fan, Commander."

"Fanatic is more like it," he replied with a broad grin. "Popcorn?" He offered the tub to her, but she shook her head.

"No, thanks."

"I wonder how the Captain managed to finagle this arrangement," he mused, tossing up a piece of popcorn and catching it in his mouth.

"Dunno." She took a drink of her soda to hide her smile. The Captain hadn't said anything about keeping her part in this a secret; she'd chosen to do that on her own. Of those on board, only she and Archer really knew just how this little coup had been pulled off. It certainly helped that Admiral Forrest was a baseball fan himself. Otherwise, Stephanie doubted even Captain Archer could have gotten him to agree to use Starfleet channels to broadcast what remained of the World Series. But, as luck would have it, he was all for it. All it took after that was a short conversation with Gemma at the CBC, and they were in business.

Yeah, thought Stephanie generously, I think I'll forgive her for that documentary… But only if no one else on Enterprise sees it. Once the initial shock of viewing it had passed, she'd realized that particular eventuality was unlikely and she'd relaxed a little. No one knew about Daughters of Lear except Malcolm, and she knew he'd never breathe a word. She was feeling secure.

*****

"I only have a minute," said Mae. "The game's about to start. What did you want?" She stood in the open doorway, waiting impatiently.

"Oh! Sorry, I didn't know you were a fan," Liz apologized. "Never mind. It can wait."

"You're sure?"

"Sure. It was just a question about the RPG I'm setting up for us."

Mae's eyes lit up. She appeared suddenly torn. "Really?"

"Yeah, but it'll wait," Liz assured her once again. "Go. Have fun at the game."

"If it were any other series…"

"I get it. I live with the biggest Orcas fan this side of the galaxy. Go. I'll talk to you about it tomorrow."

"Cool. See you later." Mae was around the corner and half-way down the corridor before she'd finished speaking.

Liz chuckled to herself and shut the cabin door. She knew she had between two and three hours of uninterrupted time to work on the game she and Mae were planning, and she intended to use it. Should be long enough to come up with the planetary specs at least, she thought, sitting on her bunk and picking up the datapad she'd dedicated to the task.

*****

Despite being outnumber nearly two-to-one, the AL side of the Rec. Center was making enough noise to easily drown out their competitors. It had been a nail-biting three hours, but it was worth every second and every torn cuticle as far as Cormack was concerned. Ishikawa's flying save over the left field wall in the top of the ninth had sealed the Giants' fate. The NL champs went down six to four, and the Orcas were up two games to one.

"Whoo!" exclaimed Commander Tucker. "Now that's what I call a good game." He stood, stretching muscles stiffened by the hours spent on the hard bench. Around him, people were making their way to the door, some slowly and unhappily, others with undisguised glee.

"Don't get too comfortable, Commander," said the Captain from the other end of the row. "We'll tie it up again tomorrow."

Cormack was feeling well pleased at the game's outcome and let her good spirits get ahead of her good sense. She glanced around Tucker to Archer. "Care to make a friendly wager, sir?" she asked with a daring smirk.

Archer raised an eyebrow at her. "Ensign?" he asked.

She realized she'd stepped a bit out of line and he was giving her this opportunity to step back again. She was about to do so when Tucker spoke up. "Yeah. Why not." He glanced down at Cormack who still sat on the bench, gave her a wink out of Archer's line of sight. He turned back to face his old friend. "What do you say, Captain? Just a friendly wager, like the lady said."

Cormack had to choke back a laugh at being called a lady. She figured Tucker was just using the term for effect, but it still cracked her up. At the inquiring look she got from both men, she quickly cleared her throat and gestured to her soda cup. "Went down the wrong tube," she said roughly. Fortunately, neither man realized the cup was empty.

"So?" Tucker continued, eyeing the captain. "What do you say?"

Archer considered the pair of them for several moments. "What are the stakes?"

"A moment to discuss this with my business partner?" Tucker said formally as Cormack smothered another ringing laugh with a brief coughing fit. "You okay?" She nodded, not able to speak. Tucker resumed his seat next to her. "Good. I got an idea for the stakes." He quickly explained what he was thinking, and Cormack nodded.

"Sounds good to me," she replied.

Tucker rose again and faced Archer. Cormack stood next to him. "Here's the deal. Orcas win the series, Cormack and I both get to sleep in an extra two hours a day for the next week."

"And when the Giants win?" asked Archer serenely.

Tucker's eyes narrowed at his choice of words. "If the Giants win," he corrected, "Cormack and I'll play steward for every one of your meals for a week."

Archer smiled. These were terms he could live with. "It's a deal." He shook hands with each of the younger officers in turn. "I'll be looking forward to the outcome."

"So will I," agreed Tucker.

*****

Two games later, Archer was feeling a little less confident. It wasn't over by a long shot, but the Giants were down three games to two. They had to win both of the remaining games to take the series. Fortunately, they were going back to San Francisco for those games, but that was far from a guaranteed win. From the bits and pieces he'd been able to learn over the course of the season, the Vancouver Orcas actually had a better record on the road than at home.

The door to the small private dining room opened and Trip entered. "Mornin', Captain," the engineer said with a smile. He took his usual seat at the table.

"Good morning," replied Archer. "Quite a game last night." The Giants had pulled it out in the eighth for their second win.

"Sure was," Trip agreed. "It was almost over right there." His tone implied that it was sheerest dumb luck that had kept his friend's team from losing their fourth game.

"We'll get you tomorrow. We're on home grass again."

The morning steward entered then, delivering scrambled eggs and toast to the officers. Trip poured himself a glass of orange juice. "Home grass won't do you much good," he said, and took a sip. "Your boys are facing Costello tomorrow. He's 18-4 for the season and hasn't lost a playoff game this year."

"But he's in San Francisco. One of those four regular season losses was there," the Captain countered as he lightly salted and peppered his eggs. Then a thought suddenly struck him. "You're not a Vancouver fan. Where did you learn all that about their pitcher?"

"KC plays them occasionally, you know." Trip didn't want to let on where he'd gotten his information. Better to just look as though he was baseball omniscient. Too bad Archer figured it out on his own.

"Ensign Cormack," he said.

"Beg your pardon?"

"I just figured out where you got your stats—your co-conspirator."

Trip chuckled. "Yeah, well," he admitted, "she's pretty resourceful."

"That's certainly true."

On the other side of the wall behind Trip, the object of their conversation was getting her usual morning beverage from the mess hall drinks dispenser. She took a sip and sighed.

"That's something of a religious ritual for you, isn't it?"

Cormack glanced up at a smiling Ensign Mayweather. "There are worse things to revere than coffee," she replied, returning his smile.

"Join me for breakfast?"

"Sure."

The pair worked their way along the line of breakfast options. Travis selected a plate of eggs benedict and toast while Stephanie spotted lemon poppy seed muffins and happily claimed two.

"That's not much of a breakfast," the helmsman said as they found a table and sat.

"More than usual," replied Stephanie, breaking off the bottom of a muffin and popping a bite into her mouth.

"I meant the content. My mom was a stickler for a balanced breakfast. I couldn't break the habit now if I wanted to." As if to emphasize his point, he picked up his knife and fork and started enthusiastically on his eggs.

"Not me. Food and mornings don't really go together in my world."

Travis washed down a bite with a swallow of cranberry juice. "So," he said, "I hear you're joining us for our new RPG."

Stephanie took another sip of her latté before answering. "Yeah. I've never gamed before though. Any suggestions or warnings I should have before we start?"

"Not really. Just pay close attention and be ready to take notes."

"Sounds like Starfleet training all over again."

Travis chuckled. "Sure. If your instructors are trying to hide things from you and there's the possibility of being attacked or even killed at any moment."

"Oo. Fun."

Travis laughed again. "It is. Trust me. Last time, we had to collect the pieces of a Universal Translator. Only the catch was they were scattered throughout a Martian city."

"So?"

"So the Martians had sharp teeth and liked to attack in large groups. And there were flying lizards, too."

Stephanie considered for a moment. "Actually, that sounds cool," she announced at last.

"Just don't get too attached to your character. Anderson was on his third before we'd even gotten the first piece of the UT."

"Ouch."

Mae approached them at that moment. "Hey."

"Hey!" replied Srtephanie cheerfully. "Have a seat."

"Thanks." She put her mug and cereal bowl on the table and sat.

"So, how 'bout those Giants?" Stephanie grinned broadly and roguishly.

Mae glared at her friend over her cereal. "Do you want to start a riot this early in the morning?"

"I'm just messing with you."

"We'll see who's messing with whom after this weekend."

"Are you talking about the World Series?" Travis asked.

Both women looked at him and replied in unison, "Duh!" At his startled expression, they had to laugh.

"Sorry," said Stephanie. "When you're fans like us, it kind of takes over your world for the few days it takes to play."

"How much longer is it? I know that's why we're waiting to start the RPG."

"Technically, two more games. Hopefully, just one." This earned Stephanie another glare from Mae. "Don't look at me like that. I've got a bet riding on this series as well as civic pride."

"Bet? With who?" the engineer wanted to know.

"It doesn't matter. The point is, you want your team to win just as badly as I want mine to." She hadn't meant to let slip the bet she and Commander Tucker had made with the Captain. She couldn't say exactly why, but she felt it was best if the arrangement were kept just between the three of them. There must be something in Starfleet regs that says wagers between crewmembers are a big 'no', she thought. How much worse when it involves the Captain and the Chief Engineer…and a lowly armory ensign?

*****

The day seemed to drag to every baseball fan on board. With no game to look forward to that evening there was no anticipatory spark to make time pass faster. Reed noticed the lack of this spark in Cormack, but didn't immediately make the connection to its cause. "Everything all right, Ensign?" he asked.

"Yes, sir," she replied, surprised. "Why?"

"You've been unusually quiet all day. Pass me that sonic screwdriver, would you?"

"Have I?" said Cormack, handing him the tool.

"Thanks." He took it and continued working on the shuttlepod's systems. "And yes, you have."

"Sorry."

Reed chuckled. "Don't apologize, please. It's just not like you, and I wondered if there was something wrong."

"No, sir. I think maybe my mind is sort of…elsewhere today."

Reed passed the screwdriver back to her. "I think that's got it," he said. He climbed out from under the control panel of Shuttlepod One where he'd been making further adjustments to the small vessel's targeting scanners. "Ready to try another simulation?"

"Any time," Cormack replied. The two stood side by side at the pod's controls. Reed double-checked that the systems were indeed running in simulation mode before loading in the program. They waited expectantly as the simulation ran.

"Damn," Reed swore softly. "It's off by .03 percent. I'm coming to the reluctant conclusion that these so called 'enhancements' are going to be more trouble than they're worth."

"Are you sure it's .03? We had it down to .022 before."

"One step forward, two steps back," said the lieutenant with a frustrated sigh. He hit several buttons, trying to determine the culprit this time. "All right. It looks like the targeting axis shifted when we tied in the new plasma trigger. Try rotating the axis .6 microns and see where that gets us."

Cormack keyed in the command, waited the brief moment while the axis realigned. "Ready."

Reed ran the simulation again. "Better," he said when the results came in. "Rotate it another .15 microns."

Cormack was just about to comply when they both felt a shift in Enterprise's speed. "Feels like we've dropped out of warp," she said.

The lieutenant's hands danced lightly over the shuttlepod's controls, quickly bringing them into live mode and tying them into the ship's computer. "Looks like we've found a new F-class star system."

"Really?" She leaned in over the screen. "Any sign of a Minshara-class planet?"

"I don't know. But I assume there's something that's piqued the Captain's curiosity or we wouldn't have stopped to take a look." He disengaged the systems, returned them to simulation mode. "Have you rotated the targeting axis?"

Cormack rapidly input the command. "I have now."

"Third time's the charm, right, Ensign?" said Reed with a touch of irony.

"If my calculations are right, this is more like the thirteenth time…today," Cormack replied just as wryly.

He acknowledged the remark with a look, and ran the simulation. "This is ridiculous," he snarled at the result. "Now the new trigger's gone off line. Ah well. 'Once more unto the breach'." He picked up a handheld scanner and crawled back under the control panel, laying flat on his back and scanning the systems above him.

"'On, on, you noblest English'," replied Cormack, kneeling next to him.

Reed glanced over at her and chuckled. "Clearly you did something in college besides play in a band."

"Sure. I tended bar," the ensign quipped. "Where do you think I got my copy of Shakespeare's Complete Works? A guy gave it to me as a tip." Reed glanced away from his scans long enough to give her a doubtful look. "He did! He said he had two."

"I'm still not certain if you're joking," the lieutenant admitted.

"Frighteningly enough, I'm not."

They were interrupted by the familiar chirp of the communicator followed by the page, "Tucker to Lieutenant Reed."

Reed inched out from under the board and sat up. "Toss me the communicator?" Cormack reached back across the pod and picked up the item, lobbing it gently to the waiting Reed. He caught it and opened it. "Go ahead."

"Malcolm, I was wondering if we could reschedule dinner," said Trip. "Would 2030 hours work for you?"

"I don't see why not."

"Great! I want to take advantage of the time we have out of warp to work on the port intercooler."

"Any word how long we'll be at impulse?" Reed wanted to know.

"Haven't heard," answered the engineer. "Maybe a couple of days if this system turns out to have anything interesting in it."

"Understood. See you at 2030."

"Tucker out."

Reed flipped the communicator shut, handed it back to Cormack who smiled. "Dinner, eh? You two seem to be getting on well."

Malcolm couldn't help but smile in response. "You could certainly say that." He laid back again and resumed his scans.

When it became apparent he wasn't going to offer anything more, Stephanie prompted, "And?"

"And?" he echoed. "And what?"

"That's what I'm asking."

"I'm not discussing this on duty, Ensign." Stephanie didn't bother to try to hide her disappointment. Malcolm noticed her expression and had to take the opportunity to tease. "Besides, I've never been one to kiss and tell."

"Kiss? Did you just say kiss?" she asked eagerly.

"I've found where the plasma trigger link has failed. It needs to be repolarized." He sat up enough to find the tool he needed and returned to his supine position.

"You said kiss," repeated Stephanie, refusing to give up. "You don't just toss me a bone like that and expect me not to grab it."

Malcolm realized she was right. He had no one but himself to blame. Amazing the times I choose to shoot my mouth off, he thought sardonically. My mother always said my sense of humor would get me into trouble one day. Who'd have thought it would be today?

Stephanie was still staring at him. She was sitting on her knees, hands on her hips, waiting. "Well?"

He relented. "I'll tell you about it when we're off duty," he promised.

"We're already on overtime," remarked the naturally impatient ensign.

"Later," he said emphatically.

"That's a rotten thing to say to an instant gratification junky like me," she replied, her tone far less petulant than her words suggested.

"You're just annoyed because you don't have your precious World Series to watch today," teased Malcolm in return. "You're taking it out on me."

Stephanie thought for a moment before answering. "You know, there may be something to that. What can I say? I’m living vicariously."

"I'm not sure I like the idea of you vicariously living my love life."

"Don't take it personally. I'm also enjoying Liz's."

Malcolm laughed. "I think you need a new hobby."

"Yeah, but baseball season's over in two days."

"Another hobby."

"Would it make you feel better if I told you I'm joining Liz's role-playing group?"

"That would depend on the type of role-playing you're talking about."

"Ha, ha. It's a game. I don't know a lot about it, but Travis said they had fun with the last one, so I'm joining them for the new one."

"Good."

This time it was Stephanie's turn to laugh. "Don't think that's getting you off the hook. We don't start for another few days. I have plenty of time to hear all about this kiss you mentioned."

"Splendid." His sarcasm was softened by a hint of friendly ribbing.

"Hey," replied Stephanie, equally playful, "what are friends for?"

*****

The champagne was chilled. It was just a question of who would be drinking it. With the series tied at three games apiece, it was anybody's guess how it would end.

"I can't believe we lost yesterday," snarled Stephanie for the nth time. Costello hadn't made it out of the third inning, and the Orcas had gone through two long relievers and two closers before they'd finally lost by a score of four to one.

"Relax, Ensign," said Trip from his seat beside her. "It won't happen again."

"It better not. I'm really counting on being able to sleep in for the next week."

"So am I."

She looked at him out of the corner of her eye, wondering if there was more to his comment than met the ear. Even with the limited information she'd wrested from Malcolm, she still couldn't venture to guess if Trip was planning on having company on those lazy mornings. But how's he going to get around Malcolm's duty shift? she wondered. Then she shook her head slightly. He's right. I do need a new hobby.

"What?" asked Trip.

"Huh?"

"You're shaking your head."

"Oh, nothing. My mind was just…wandering." Where it doesn't belong, she added to herself.

"So is this for professional fans only, or can a novice join in?"

Tucker and Cormack both looked up, startled by the unexpected arrival of Lieutenant Reed. Trip was both surprised and delighted at his appearance. He grinned and was rewarded with Malcolm's own subtle smile.

"Baseball welcomes all comers," said Stephanie, noting the exchange. "Have a seat." She slid over closer to the bulkhead to make more room on the bench. Trip followed suit.

Malcolm sat down beside Trip, saying, "I'm not going to drive you mad if I ask what the hell's going on all the time, am I?"

The engineer exchanged a look with the ensign before replying. "Maybe you better sit in the middle. That way you can drive each of us only half crazy," he said lightly. He stood, gestured for Malcolm to slide over then sat once more.

Sandwiched between the two people he knew best on board, Malcolm felt a little less out of place. He'd never watched a baseball game before, and why he'd decided to do so tonight of all nights eluded him. He put it down to the constant chatter he'd been forced to endure over the past ten days. It was time to see just what the fuss was all about. And when better, he'd rationalized, than the last game of the World Series? It also helped that it gave him an excuse to spend some social time with Trip.

When it came down to it, he didn't ask all that many questions. Much of what was going on was self-explanatory: get to a base, you're safe; get all the way around, you score a point. He found the research he'd done on the All-Star game for Stephanie helped his comprehension. At the very least, he knew which team to root for.

He was unprepared for the Seventh Inning Stretch, however. It made sense when everyone stood, but when they all started singing, he was a bit taken aback. Stephanie nudged him, pointing to the screen where the lyrics were being displayed in time with the ballpark organ music. Trip glanced at him and just grinned, singing loudly and unexpectedly well. With the voice of Captain Archer added into the mix, Malcolm found the short song surprisingly tuneful. Still, he was relieved when it was over.

When the song ended, they all sat again and play resumed. From Malcolm's point of view, little seemed to have gone on for the first six and a half innings. The magnitude of the Orcas' pitcher holding the Giants to a no-hitter was lost on him. Now, the fellow bearing the name "Mayer" and the number "42" on the back of his jersey was finished warming up and the game was under way once more.

The score was 1-0 and that one run had come on what the announcer had called a "bloop single" in the fifth. It had allowed the Orcas' second baseman MacElroy, who'd already been sacrificed to second and then stolen third, to race to the plate. He'd beaten out the throw home by a bare split-second and had sent nearly half the room rocketing to their feet in exultation. Even Malcolm had found himself caught up in the excitement of the moment. Still, he remained of the opinion that baseball was 90% waiting and 10% action.

Tension was high in the Rec. Center as the first batter came up to the plate for the bottom of the seventh. It was the shortest half-inning yet, as best Malcolm could recall. "Three up, three down," as the announcer said. The AL fans all heaved a sigh of relief while the NL fans snarled at being shut out for yet another inning.

"Gettin' worried, Captain?" Trip called across the room to his C.O. with a sly grin.

"Just remember. Serve right, clear left," Archer quipped back.

Trip laughed hard enough to draw curious looks from more than a few people. But then the Giants' reliever was done with his warm-up tosses and the moment passed.

"What was that about?" Malcolm asked him quietly.

"Just a little wager we have going," answered the engineer, his eyes once more glued to the screen. "Tell ya later," he added as the Orcas' hitter took a huge swing and missed the ball completely.

"He's getting over-excited," muttered Stephanie. "Come on, Joey. Relax," she continued as if he could actually hear her sage advice.

"Damn!" swore Trip at the next swing. Malcolm hadn't really seen what happened, but clearly the young man was out as he trudged, frustrated and disappointed, back to the dugout. The slow-motion repeats of the play clarified the story: foul tip into the catcher's glove. Trip shook his head.

"Next to last inning, Commander," said Stephanie reassuringly. "We just have to hang on."

"I know, but a run or two cushion wouldn't hurt my feelings."

Malcolm was finding little exchanges like these almost more interesting than the actual play. The pair continued to converse quietly, neither moving their eyes from the screen.

"Mine either, but Danny's pitched two no-hitters in his career. He can do it again."

"Sure, but has anyone ever pitched a no-hitter in the World Series?"

"Yeah. Once."

"Really?" Trip was surprised enough he actually took a split second to glance over at Stephanie. "When?"

"Nearly two centuries ago."

Suddenly, everyone was on their feet and shouting. The batter had nailed the pitch, and it was flying far and fast. Cries of "Go, go, go!" were overlapped by equally emphatic shouts of "Come on! Get under it! Get it!" Then the starboard side of the room erupted in cheers while the port side sat heavily.

"Damn. Damn, damn, damn," spat Stephanie. "I really thought that was going out."

"It would have if Kuehn weren't so damn good at his job," said Trip. The Giants' center fielder had a reputation for stealing home runs. It was a reputation well-earned. This time, he'd practically climbed the center field wall to snag the rapidly departing ball from the air. They watched the re-play three or four times before the network cameras turned back to the live action.

The third batter hit a double to keep the Orcas alive a little longer, but the next was out on a routine single. Players jogged across the field, exchanging positions with their opponents. Stoically, Mayer trotted once again out to the mound.

"I can't believe their leaving him in," Trip said.

"Why not?" argued Stephanie. "He's held a no-hitter through seven innings, and his pitch count is what? Seventy-two? Seventy-five? He can handle it. I've seen Mayer throw 120 and still complain when the manager pulled him."

"That doesn't mean he can do it here."

"And would you want to be the one to tell him he can't finish the game when there's a good chance he could make history?"

One out and two walks later, Stephanie wasn't so sure. She was all but praying for a double-play. A glance around showed that others actually were. She held her breath as Mayer threw his next pitch. It cracked off the bat and bounced off the infield grass right into the waiting glove of rookie shortstop Joey Stephano. He made the quick transfer and tossed it to Mac for one. The second baseman fired a rocket over to Olshevsky at first for the final out of the eighth. Again, cheers burst forth from Enterprise's AL fans.

Stephanie let out a tremendous sigh of relief. "I think I'm gonna die if we don't get another run in the ninth," she declared. "At least we're back at the top of the line-up."

"Don't look now, but the Giants are bringing in the Big Gun," said Trip with a touch of fatalism in his voice. They watched as the tall right-hander the San Francisco press had dubbed "The Big Gun" strode purposefully in from the bullpen.

Archer happened to catch the comment. "Getting worried, Commander?" he said with a smile.

Trip put on his most confident expression. "Nope. He might be able to shut us down, but your boys still have to score."

"Do you really think your man can throw a no-hitter in these circumstance?" the Captain continued. "It's only happened once before, and that was a long time ago."

"Then I'd say it's about time for it to happen again. Wouldn't you, Ensign?" Tucker looked across Malcolm to Stephanie.

"Yes, sir. After all, a coin can't always land face down."

Three outs later, Stephanie was hiding behind her hands. The San Francisco closer had, indeed, shut down the Orcas in order. "I'm gonna die, I know it," she said. "I'm absolutely not going to live through this."

Malcolm gave her a somewhat worried look before turning to Trip. "Is she going to be all right?" he said under his breath so only the engineer could hear him. He’d seen people just as anxious at rugby matches, but the action went so much more quickly the stress was never so protracted.

"Sure," Trip assured him loudly. "She's just soaking in the drama. Right, Stephanie?"

"So you say," the woman countered. "I say I'm gonna die."

"And miss your team making history? I doubt it. Besides, you die, you don’t get to collect on your bet."

Stephanie peeked up at the screen from between her fingers. It reminded Malcolm of her attitude when watching the documentary footage of her college band days. He started to say so, but stopped himself just in time. "Are they keeping Danny in?" Stephanie was asking expectantly. Her eyes widened as her question was answered on the big screen. There was Mayer, striding once more onto the mound. "Oh my gods," she breathed, watching the slow-pitching south-paw throw what would be, one way or the other, his final warm up pitches of the game.

"Keep breathing, Ensign," teased Trip. "It'll all be over soon."

"Oh now that's a cheery way to put it!" Trip just laughed. "How can you be so relaxed?" Stephanie demanded.

"I figured you're tense enough for both of us."

The first batter stepped up to the plate then, suspending further conversation. Malcolm was pretty sure Stephanie was beyond coherent speech at that point anyway. Stephanie would have agreed, but…

Two outs and still no hits later and Stephanie was about to implode. She'd pulled her feet up onto the bench and wrapped her arms around her legs. At present, her chin was resting on her knees over which she peered nervously. Malcolm glanced around the room. While no one else was quite so demonstrative about it, it was clear tension was through the roof. Whether they were hoping for an out or a hit, every person was strung tight with anticipation as the third batter of the inning stepped up. Stephanie held her breath with every pitch.

Foul off the left field line.

Ball one, low and outside.

Strike two, called.

"Come on," whispered the ensign like it was a mantra. "Come on. One more strike." She wasn't the only one. Several people were making similar noises.

Ball two, low and inside.

One side of the room cheered, the other groaned.

Ball three, low and inside.

More cheers, more groans.

"Three and two?! Could this be any worse?" Stephanie practically squeaked, and then held her breath as Mayer wound up once more.

Foul off the third base line. Still three and two.

The throw, the swing, the crack as the ball flew off the bat. The result was inevitable. Drifting slowly out from second base, MacElroy waited patiently as the towering pop-up arced and began its descent, finally landing with a gratifying thump in his glove.

The crowds both in the ballpark and on Enterprise exploded. The pandemonium in the stands wasn't quite what it would have been had the game been played in Vancouver rather than San Francisco, but the close proximity of the two cities allowed for an extensive number of Orcas fans to be in attendance, and they were certainly making their presence known. On the field, players leapt up and down, hats and gloves went flying into the air. As the heartbroken Giants watched, the Orcas rushed from the visitors' dugout to gather at the pitcher's mound and hoist their conquering hero into the air. The cameras cut to in front of the dugout where Olshevsky was currently pouring champagne over the head of the team's manager, both laughing joyously.

Champagne was also flowing in Enterprise's Rec. Center, although without such wild abandon. A steward (and AL fan) had begun popping open the bottles and pouring out the sparkling pale liquid. Trip laughed as he grabbed two glasses and passed them off to Malcolm and Stephanie, then snagged one for himself.

Archer strolled slowly over to the trio. "Congratulations," he said, trying not to sound as begrudging as he felt.

"Thank you, sir. Champagne?" Trip said, making to reach for another glass.

"No, thanks," replied Archer, the ribbing not lost on him. He turned to Reed. "Surprised to see you here, Malcolm. Did you enjoy the game?"

"Yes, thank you." He didn't want to sound too enthusiastic. He wasn't a real fan, after all, and didn't feel the need to antagonize his C.O. over the matter as Trip clearly did.

"You should be aware that Ensign Cormack here will be coming on duty two hours late for the next week."

"Sir?" Malcolm looked back and forth between the captain and the ensign.

"I'll let her explain." Archer looked at Cormack. "Congratulations, Ensign. And despite how it turned out, thanks for your help getting this set up for us."

"Thank you, Captain. And you're welcome. We can always hope we’ll be doing this again next year."

Archer simply nodded and gave them all a tight, cheerless smile before leaving the Rec. Center. The crowd had thinned considerably in a short time, leaving only the American League fans to celebrate their victory.

Trip raised his glass, saying loudly, "To the Vancouver Orcas, 2151 World Champions!" Another celebratory cheer rose from the remaining folks as they raised their glasses and drank. Trip turned a curious eye on Stephanie. "Not toasting, Ensign?"

"I don't drink, actually, Commander," she replied.

"Well, we have to find you something! Can't let an event like this go un-toasted!" the engineer declared. "Here. Hold this." He handed his glass to Malcolm, who took it reflexively. "Be right back." Trip promptly disappeared from the room.

Malcolm looked down at the two glasses he held, shook his head. "This looks good, doesn't it?" he said with mild sarcasm. Stephanie just chuckled. She looked much more relaxed than she had before the game had ended, but she seemed a little ill at ease. "Here," said Malcolm. He quickly found a place to set down the glasses he held, then relieved Stephanie of hers and returned it to the table where it had come from.

"Thanks," she said.

"So, what's this about you coming on duty late for the next week?" he asked.

"Commander Tucker and I had a bet with Captain Archer. If the Giants won, we were going to have to play steward to the Captain for a week. Fortunately, the better team won, so we both get to sleep in a couple of extra hours for the next week instead."

"Is that so?"

Trip returned at that moment with a drink in one hand and a bottle in the other. He set the bottle down and presented the glass to Stephanie, saying, "Sparkling apple cider."

Stephanie smiled. "Thank you, Commander," she replied, accepting it.

"Now, where's that champagne?" He glanced around. Malcolm retrieved the glasses, handed him his. "Thanks, Malcolm," he said, giving him a warm smile. Malcolm brightened perceptibly, and Stephanie found herself grinning, too.

Gods, he looks happy, she thought.

"Now," Trip was saying, "let's try this again." He held his glass high and repeated his earlier toast more quietly. The trio clinked their glasses and drank. Trip tossed back the last of his champagne and sighed in satisfaction. "I need a refill. Malcolm?"

"No, thanks," the lieutenant said. "I'm fine."

"Well, I have an excuse to celebrate and the okay to sleep in tomorrow. I'm sure as hell not passing up the opportunity. Excuse me." He wended his way through the throng to where the open champagne bottles stood waiting.

Malcolm watched him go, his smile and his glance never wavering. Stephanie chuckled low in her throat. "What?" asked Malcolm, his attention broken by the sound.

"Nothing."

"I know that laugh, and it's never meant nothing."

Stephanie was saved from having to explain herself by Trip's return. He'd claimed a nearly full bottle and was just refilling his glass as he approached. "Here, Malcolm, let me top that up for you," he offered, proceeding to pour without waiting for a response.

"No, really," protested Malcolm. "I don't need any more."

"Come on! Live it up! It's not everyday your team wins the World Series!" Trip conveniently ignored the fact that the winning team wasn't really his or Malcolm's.

"Thank you, but some of us still have to get up early tomorrow."

"Yeah, that's a shame." Trip sounded sincere. Sincere enough, in fact, that Stephanie felt it was time for a tasteful exit. Seeing the look that passed between the two men, she decided she was right…but it was they who needed to make the exit.

"Perhaps you should take advantage of the time you do have," she said, her expression giving more hint of her meaning than her words did. She was amused (and admittedly a little gratified) to see both men blush at her suggestion. Malcolm even glanced around to see if anyone was within hearing range. It wasn't necessary. Stephanie was mischievous by nature, but never malicious. She'd made sure before speaking that no one would overhear her comment.

Trip just stood there, at a loss as to how to respond. He wasn't as familiar with Stephanie's teasing and sometimes devilish sense of humor. He could only hope Malcolm knew what to say.

"Would you excuse us for a moment, Commander?" was the lieutenant's response.

Trip nodded, relieved. "Sure," he said.

Reed looked at Cormack. "Ensign?" he asked politely, gesturing for her to precede him to an empty corner of the room. He set down his drink and followed her.

That was the moment Cormack realized she'd cross the line, and crossed it big time. "Malcolm, I'm sor—"

"Stop."

She stopped, clamping her mouth shut mid-word.

Reed continued quietly but forcefully. "You're my friend, or we wouldn't even be having this conversation. Understand?"

Cormack nodded silently.

"I presume your intentions in making that comment were toward what you thought was my best interest. However, if or when Commander Tucker and I decide to spend the night in one another's company, I will not have it orchestrated by you. That eventuality is between him and me. Do I make myself clear?"

Too upset to even mentally kick herself for her behavior, she could only nod again. She'd seen Reed angry once or twice in the Armory, but it was always a brief outburst of temper. Never this quiet, intense, controlled fury.

Seeing her stricken expression, Reed relented a little. He took a deep breath and let it out slowly. "I know you didn't mean any harm, but I sometimes wonder if you think about the things you say before they actually come out of your mouth."

Cormack gave a contrite shrug. "I do," she said in a small voice. "I just don't always think of the consequences."

Reed regarded her carefully. Once he was past his own initial shock and anger, he could see how bad she felt about what she'd done. It wouldn't help anyone for him to continue to rail at her. "Perhaps," he said more gently, "you should consider thinking a bit further ahead in future."

"Yes, sir."

"It's all right. I'm still Malcolm."

Stephanie gave him a weak smile. "Oh, good," she said, trying to lighten her tone and her mood. "I was kind of worried for a minute there."

"Come on." Malcolm returned her smile with a stronger one of his own. "I'm sure the good commander is wondering just what's up. I say we keep him wondering."

Stephanie laughed abruptly at the unexpected joke. The friendly camaraderie they'd shared earlier was back, despite her foolish behavior. "Right."

They returned to the waiting Trip who looked at them anxiously. "Everything…okay?" he asked a little apprehensively.

"Fine," replied Malcolm brightly. "But I think I'm going to turn in. As I said, not everyone has the luxury of sleeping in in the morning." He turned to Cormack and said, "Good night, Stephanie. Congratulations on your team's win."

"Thanks," she answered warmly.

Malcolm turned then to Trip. "I'll see you tomorrow. Sweet dreams, Commander." The last was said with the barest hint of insinuation. In fact, it was so slight Trip wasn't certain if it was real or if he'd imagined it.

"You too," was all he managed to say before Malcolm simply smiled and left. Trip turned to face Stephanie. "So, what was all that about?"

"Excuse me?" she asked and took a sip of her cider to stall for time.

"That…conversation you two had," he clarified. "Is everything all right?"

Stephanie quickly made her decision. "Actually," she said a little uncertainly, "that depends."

"Depends? On what?"

She was almost afraid to ask for fear she'd only make matters worse. But, she reasoned, best to have it out in the open rather than go to bed wondering. "On you." At his mystified expression, she crossed mental fingers and continued. "Are you…angry…with me? About what I said a minute ago, I mean?"

"What? About taking advantage of the time?" Stephanie nodded, and Trip considered before answering. How had he felt? Was he angry? "No. You sure shocked the hell out of me, I gotta admit," added with a small chuckle. Stephanie joined in the quiet laughter, relieved beyond her expectations. "But, no, I'm not mad."

"In that case, I'd say everything's just fine." She drained her glass and smiled broadly. "Care for another drink, Commander? After all, some of us don't have to get up early—for once."

Trip grinned and finished his own beverage then refilled both glasses from the appropriate bottles. "Let's celebrate!"

"Cheers!" cried Stephanie, and heard the cry echoed by several of the folks still left in the Rec. Center. She and Trip clinked glasses once more and drank to friendship, sleeping late, and the 2151 Vancouver Orcas.

*****
End Log 17
(Completed 28 Feb 02)

Continued in Log 18
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