((Starbase 118, Main Dome, Hong Kong Subdistrict, Shari’s Cafe))
Raindrops fell onto the roof of Shari’s Cafe, bathing the intimate meeting place with a pleasant sound, as if a giant cat slept, just outside, purring. A woman as tall as a fashion model, Alastriona De Troyes, looked out a window. A single white dove sat by a fountain while little water droplets fell into the water.
A cold breeze flew through the cafe. The door had opened. A man entered, wearing a tall black leather coat with the collar turned up. His white hair was cut short and he had piercing blue eyes. He cast his gaze around like a predator and noticed her sitting alone by the window. With a mocking smile on his face, he drifted over to her table. His words were gentle, but not kind. “Bonne après-midi.”
Her response was automatic, but without feeling, “Enchantée.”
The man spoke softly, “Thou from the first wast present, and with mighty wings outspread, dove-like satst brooding on the vast Abyss.”
“What in me is dark, illumine,” she whispered. “You’ve read Milton?”
The man nodded and took off his coat. He wore a Star Fleet uniform underneath with officer pips. He placed his jacket over a chair.“May I sit?”
Alastriona leaned back in her chair and looked out the window. Water dripped down the pane of glass. “Of course.”
Taking a seat, the man raised a hand and a pretty waitress came over. She was chewing bubble gum, which irritated Alastriona. “How can I help you two?”
Alastriona noticed that he was staring at her. Brushing a strand of long blonde hair out of her eyes, she turned to the waitress. “A cup of hot J’Sli, please.”
The waitress blew a bubble and popped it. “I’ve never heard of that drink.”
A shadow of a smile slipped into Alastriona’s face for a moment. “It’s a Pyelonian beverage. It’s in the database.”
The man didn’t take his eyes off Alastriona as he spoke. “Coffee, black.”
The waitress withdrew. A moment of silence stood between them. At last, she turned to look into his cold blue eyes.
He had been waiting for her. “Your record states that you were once a Lieutenant on a starship. The U.S.S. Calhoun.”
Alastriona clasped her hands together on the table and nodded.
“I was demoted, silly.”
“Yes, you were,” he grumbled. “Two times.”
Alastriona raised her eyebrows and let out a long sigh. “So now I’m an ensign.” She looked outside into the rain again. “Doesn’t matter. I’m an astrophysicist. I’m here to conduct research.”
“The first incident’s record was sealed.” He raised his eyebrows, waiting.
“It’s classified,” she stated.
The man crossed his arms. “That isn’t good enough for me, not if you want to continue with your little training cruise.”
A flash of lightning lit the sky outside, followed by rolling thunder. The rain came down, in torrents now. It was all artificial, of course, but the effect was real enough. All of the lights went out in the cafe for an instant. Everyone let out a collective, “Oooh!” and then the lights came back on.
Alastriona smiled at the simulation and wondered for a moment at the genius of it all. She turned back to the officer and explained, “My sin was the crime of hesitation. The darkness in my soul had consumed me with hate.”
“That isn’t an answer.”
The waitress returned with their drinks, placed them down and departed. Alastriona took a sip of the spicy Pyelonian beverage, feeling warmth creep back into her chest. She admired the china cup for a moment. Little blue flowers went around the rim. At last, she told him. “I discovered an attempt to introduce a genetically advanced retrovirus into the Klingon population, which would have resulted in the extinction of their species, if it had succeeded.”
“You hesitated?” A frown had slipped into his face. “How so?”
“I didn’t report it,” she whispered. “For a small time, I wanted it to succeed.”
“The Klingons are our allies.”
“Not where I come from,” she mumbled.
“Where is that?”
She placed her hands around the rim of the cup, feeling warmth flow into her fingers. Spicy steam drifted in front of her face.“I’m from the French colonial world of Scylanthia. Its 151 light years from Sol in the Hyades star cluster, towards the constellation of Taurus, past Aldebaran.”
“If I let you continue, this will be your eighth assignment,” he said, “though I don’t understand why you’re repeating your training.”
Alastriona put her cup down. “I have suffered the effects of Einsteinian time dilation from an extended interstellar voyage on an alien starship.”
“As you measure time, I was born on March 12th, in the year 2253, a hundred and forty three years ago.” Alastriona smiled. “So, I’m over a hundred years out of date. I can barely run a tricorder.”
For the first time, he looked away. He took a sip of his coffee and put it down again.
Alastriona bit her lip.
~ He doesn’t believe me. They never do. ~
She continued, absentmindedly, “I suppose, chronologically, I’m143 years old. Biologically, I’m 29, by earth’s time standards, but on my world Scylanthia, where we measure time differently, I’m really 87.”
He raised his hand. “Enough.”
Alastriona raised her eyebrows.
He stood up and put his long jacket back on.
Alastriona held back a grin.
~ He’s going outside into that torrential rain. I guess he doesn’t love me anymore.~
“What did I –”
“You can finish your training cruise.”
“Shall I explain further?”
He shook his head. “No.”
He flipped his jacket collar up and turned to leave. Then, hesitating a moment, turned back to face her. “What was the other demotion for?”
Alastriona winced. ~ I was hoping he wouldn’t ask about that. ~
“I killed the son of the Klingon ambassador while I was visiting earth. It was a fair fight, though it nearly started a –”
He interrupted, “I thought you were going to say something like that.”
Though he didn’t have a hat on, he tipped his hand to his brow. “Adieu.”
As he went outside into the rain, Alastriona realized that he had never mentioned his name. She let out a long sigh.
~ I suppose it isn’t important. He’s just another officer. ~
* * *
Alastriona De Troyes