Pandora's Box #8 & 9 - Letter B?

ON: <<USS Pegasus, Lounge>>

When Ryylar walked in, his innate night vision kicked in as the entire lounge was dark. He could tell from the musty smell that the place hadn't been used in quite a while.

"Computerrrrr. Lightssss." He said and the lights came on, temporarily making him flinch at the brightness. He walked about and found the bar, stepping behind it and grabbing a rag to wipe it down.

Lt. Black wandered down the hallway in search of a cup of coffee. She'd been quite put out to return to her quarters only to find the replicator was offline. She'd heard something about a lounge opening up inside the ship... it was worth a try. At least they might have coffee. It took her a moment to find it, even on this small ship, but finally she walked through the doors, hoping she'd found the right room.

The Bellerophon's Den wasn't much of a lounge. As a matter of fact Ryylar had seen better lounges on a tight fisted Klingon merchant vessels. He simply wiped the olive wood bartop down. It was replicated of course, but he would still make sure it was polished. He heard someone enter and looked up.

"Welcome to the Bellerrrophon'sss Den, what can I do forrrr you?" He asked with a smile.

"The..." She blinked and ran the name through her mind a couple of times, complete with accent, and decided to not attempt it. "I just came looking for a cup of coffee... my replicator is offline." She looked around at the long-unused room and then sneezed.

"Sssssorrrrrrry about the dusssst, but apparrrrently no one hasssss rrrrreally ussssed the lounge beforrrrre." He said with a nod.

"It's alright, really." She smiled, walking over to the bar and brushing a little dust off of one of the seats. She wasn't a pristine example of Starfleet Officer herself... her black hair was in a ponytail, 'out of the way', and she had a couple of dark smudges on her uniform. A lighter smudge on her hands suggested that she'd made efforts to wash them before coming in. "So I guess there's no coffee here either?" she ventured.

"You arrrrived rrrrright afterrrrr me, but if the rrrrreplicatorrrrrssss arrrre worrrrking, then I will get you sssssome. How do you like it? Yourrrrr coffee that isss." He said with a bit of a flirtatious grin.

"Oh, I like it Best with a little bit of milk and a little bit of chocolate in it. But that's my grandmother's recipe, and I've never been able to get it to come out right on personal replicators," the Chief Engineer said thoughtfully. "But if it's got some milk and some sugar, it'll probably be fine."

"Then I'll orrrrderrrr it black and then add sssssome Caitian ingenuity to it." He said with a grin and a wink, turning and walking to the replicators to order her coffee.

"Thank you. I'd appreciate that." She smiled, looking around quietly at the room, taking in all the details.

If someone had said the lounge was spartan, they'd be more correct than they realized. Even a Klingon would note the lack of creature comforts afforded to this lounge. It was obvious that the new morale officer had his work cut out for him.

"Herrrrrre you arrrre." He said, setting the coffee down in front of her. It was black, but piping hot. He turned and examined beneath the counters for some cocoa and he gave up on that, turning back to the replicators to order it.

Lt. Black continued to watch with quiet interest. Not always a ready talker, but good at watching. It was clear she found this feline-ish being very odd, but not annoying.

He started humming Jerry Lee's 'Great Balls of Fire' and doing a bit of a dance as he walked, clearly getting into the song and not much caring one white who was watching as he returned with some of the finely ground cocoa powder and a fresh small glass of milk.

This brought a quirky smile to her tired face. She watched with interest for a while and then, by instinct, apparently unaware of what she was doing, she started to hum a harmony based on the guitar and bass lines in the original accompaniment.

He smiled and started to actually sing it in his best Jerry Lee impression while juggling expertly the cocoa powder and milk, not spilling any of the two while he mixed them in her coffee.

She chuckled as she watched this feat, and then applauded in amusement and delight. "With a talent like that," she said brightly, "What are you doing mixing drinks on one of the smallest starships in Starfleet?"

"With a facccce like yourrrrrssss, what arrrre you doing not sssstarrrring in holo-moviessss?" He grinned and quipped.

"Oh, I'm not That pretty..." She blushed in mild consternation, then chuckled. "I'm just an engineering geekette with a big cello," she replied in utter innocence.

"Bah... I've ssssserrrrved on the Rrrrrhode Island, a diplomaccccy ship and I've ssssseen sssssome prrrretty women, but they'rrrrrre nothing comparrrred to what you could be if you'd let yourrrrr hairrrr down a little." He said with a grin.

"I can't do that..." She smiled, rather enjoying the compliments. "It's too long to let down when I'm on duty." Her hair was very typically Asian as her face. It was pin-straight, very black, and looked as if she didn't have any better idea for styling it than to let it grow, trim the ends straight across, and tie it out of her face at every opportunity.

"I'll bet it looksssss verrry prrrretty when you let it down... Ssssay, do you have sssssome ssssparrrre time? Operrrrrationsssss issss going to have to come in herrrrre and clean thissss messsss up and I'd rrrrratherrrrr not be arrrrround when they do." He said with a smile that seemed to say he had something in mind to pass the time.

"I haven't, no." She saw the smile, but seemed to have no concept of what it meant. "I've got to make sure the engines are operational by the time we're supposed to leave. We took damage in a battle on our previous mission..." She paused for a moment, still coming to terms with everything that had happened there. "And I had to put the warp drive on a very old configuration. It got us here, but it's not up to current safety standards.. by a LONG shot." She fell into the 'engineering talk' with ease, relaxing a bit, her smile becoming less shy and more 'normal'.

"Awwww. That'sssss too bad that you can't ssssparrrre a few minutessss. I wassss going to give the holodeck a rrrrrun for itssss money with one of my favorrrrrite Rrrrrrissssa sssssimulationsssss." He said in a bit of sadness. He was acting of course, but the crestfallen look on his Caitian face had been so practiced and refined that it would fool even an empath.

She answered the crestfallen look with a wry smile. "I've heard of that place, heard the stories other crewmen tell about it. It sounds boring to me, to be honest."

"Rrrrrissssa?! You might be confusssssed. Rrrrrissssa issssn't called the pleassssurrrrre planet forrrrr nothing." He said with a grin and a purr.

"They might Call it the 'pleasure planet', but there's nothing to do but shop and drink and lie around." She rested her elbows on the counter. "It sounds as if nobody every Does anything there."

"Therrrrre'ssss plenty to do if you know wherrrrre to go and what to look forrrrr." He said with a proud smile, telling her that he certainly knew where to go to find it.

Lt. Black brightened at this news. "There are string quartet groups on Risa?" she asked with interest.

"Sssssstrrrring quarrrrrtetssss, Jazz quarrrrtetssss, jusssst about any quarrrrtetssss you could want." He said with a grin.

"Now that sounds interesting. I played in a good group on the station. We didn't have a lot of time to meet, but we made the most of it. I brought a couple of my favorite sonatas," she said cheerfully. She sipped at the coffee and smiled. "Hey.. this is good. Very good."

"Thank you..." He said with a smile and leaned on the bar close to her.

"Ssssso how doessss a beautiful woman like you end up assss a techno geek on a Sssstarrrrship?" He asked her with one of his signature smiles.

"By being very lucky," she responded with a smile, sipping at the coffee. She didn't seem to mind him leaning close. She examined his face with interest. "But I think the Chief at my previous posting just got tired of me suggesting improvements to His engine room."

"Well well well... Brrrrright and beautiful... Sssstarrrrfleet rrrrreally hasss a gem with you don't they?" He said, smiling to her as he paid her the compliment.

"Oh come now." She was clearly beginning to disbelieve all these compliments, thinking he was laying it on a bit thick. "I'm just an engineering geekette, like I said before."

"A prrrretty one assss I ssssaid beforrrre." He said with a smile, reaching up to gently brush a stray strand of hair back behind her ears.

She moved back as he reached towards her face, clearly not used to that sort of close contact in a casual conversation. In fact, she gave off the impression that she was rather used to maintaining a certain level of personal space. "Well... thanks," she said with a mildly wry smile. "But you said that already." That second bit was said in quite amusement.

"I know I did." He said with a smile, pointing now to the hair, not wanting her to be uncomfortable.

"Oh, I'm sorry.." She blinked and reached up to tuck the strand behind her ear. "Uh, I was an only child. I didn't grow up with brothers and sisters taking my toys or pulling my hair."

"That'ssss fine.. I wasssss borrrrn along with dozenssss of otherrrr brrrrotherrrrsssss and ssssissssterrrrsss. We conssstantly werrrre looking out forrrrr one anotherrrrr." He explained.

"You would've been born in a litter, right?" she said contemplatively, then blushed a little. "I'm sorry... I don't know how much your race is just like cats. I don't mean to say anything... awkward. My grandparents are biologists and I learned a lot of it growing up." She never Meant to say awkward things. They just popped out unbidden.

"You don't need to worrrry about offending me. I'm jusssst a lowly Warrrrant Officccerrrr." He said with a grin.

"Still, 'even Warrant officers' have feelings," she replied in quiet amusement. "What was it like, growing up with so many other young ones? Were you all in the same home? Did you share your bedroom?"

"Mossssstly if we werrrrren't the firrrrssst or ssssecond borrrn, it didn't rrrrreally matterrrr much what happened. We ssssslept in two dorrrrrmsssss. Boysssss to one, Girrrrrlssss to anotherrrrr." He explained with a smile.

"How are the first and second born different from the others?" she asked curiously, resting her chin on her hand.

"Firrrrsssst born in Caitian ssssocccciety alwaysssss goessss into the militarrrrry. Sssssecond borrrrrn alwaysssss goesssss into a morrrrre ssssocial rrrrole and getssss an education." He said with a nod.

"I've heard of similar things in other cultures. The first-born inherits some sort of family rank or business.. the younger children would become priests or something. Were you raised by a mother and father? Which-born were you?" she asked curiously. She seemed to find the topic fascinating.

"I wassss thirrrrrd borrrrn of the fourrrrth litterrrr." He said with a bit of an uneasy smile.

"So you could pick whatever career you wanted," she said with a contemplative nod. "Like I'd said, I'm an only child... my parents are both career Starfleet officers. They didn't have time to.. well..." She glanced down and her first impulse was to justify their decision. "It's not easy, trying to get promotions and such when you've got a child tagging along. So my grandparents raised me, my father's parents."

"Well you werrrrre cccccerrrrtainly well rrrrrearrrred." He said with a smile to her, nodding when she noted that he could pick any career he wanted.

"I think so," she said with a smile, obviously remembering happy times in her childhood. "My grandparents love me. They took me with them on their research trips. My grandmother schooled me from old books and distance programs on the terminal."

"Quite the education then." He remarked.

"Would you like morrrrre coffee?" He asked her, noticing her almost empty cup.

"I'd better not... the engines are calling me. I can hear them from here." She chuckled, finishing off the last of it and offering him the cup. "But I know where to come when I want a cup of coffee the way my grandmother makes it. Thank you."

"Well I hope to ssssee morrrre of you ssssoon." He said with a smile, leaving the double entendre out there.

And Lt. Black seemed to entirely fail to pick up on it. "Oh, I'll be back, certainly." She rose, brushing a little bit of dust off her uniform. "Only I bet this place will be pretty busy the next time I get a chance."

"Then maybe we could meet ssssomewherrrre morrrre prrrrivate, like the holodeck." He said with a smile.

"Well, maybe. I probably won't make much use of it," she said cheerily. "Since I was allowed to bring my cello. But maybe a lovely rocky coast in Maine and an old-fashioned sailboat race... Maybe."

He nodded with a smile. She had unwittingly given him the keys to her ideal of a good time and he would gladly give that to her.

"I hope that becomesssss rrreality." He said with her continual mention of maybe.

"Only if I remember to ask my grandparents to send me the program!" she answered, heading for the door.

He watched her leave, smiling as he checked her out and then turned to take care of the coffee cup, his mind drifting back to exactly where he was trying to distract it. Kristiana Petrova, Lieutenant Commander and Executive Officer of the Pegasus. He sighed and wondered now if the Pegasus was going to be home to every impossible woman in Starfleet.


A JP by:

LT J.G. Kathleen Black Chief Engineer USS Pegasus.


Warrant Officer Ryylar Morale Officer Lounge Manager USS Pegasus "Springing more women than Kirk... one letter at a time."