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William woke up with a start. His eyelids felt weird, kind of gummy and they did not seem to want to open. Even rubbing them did not do much except to let him see the room in a blurry semi recognizable manner. Giving up he just lay there. It took him a few moments to work up the energy to get out of bed. The air was stagnant, hot and his body was already drenched in sweat. With an effort he tossed the thin sheet off. He was only partially successful as it stuck to his body and refused to co-operate. On the third try he final was able to get untangled. Then he sat up and immediately regretted it. His head which had been throbbing to a mild rhythmic beat now exploded into a heavy metal drum solo. He was forced to sit there, hunched over with his head in his hands till the throbbing slowly eased off. Then with a grimace he pushed himself up off the bed. As he did he realized that he was no longer coated in sweat. The dry molten air had sucked up all the moisture. Through partially opened eyes he stumbled to the stand by the window. Once there he grabbed the earthen jug, removed the top and poured out about half the water it held into a wide dented metal bowl. Then he plunged his face into it. As expected the water was brackish and warm. Still it did what he wanted and after rubbing his face vigorously he felt slightly better. He could even open his eyes now. Stretching he glanced out the hole in the wall that was laughingly called a window. The street outside was dusty and even though it was still early he could still see the peculiar effect that extreme heat had on air currents and vision. A kind of hazy shimmer that blurred some of the details which when you considered where he was, was probably a good thing. Finished stretching he walked over towards the bed. As he did he smiled at the sight of the exotic crimson skinned young woman who lay there. She was still asleep and the sight of her nubile naked body brought back a number of very erotic memories regarding the night before. Part of him was tempted to wake her up and relive most of those memories. Unfortunately if he did he would probably miss his shuttle flight and the last thing he needed right now was to [...] off his chief anymore than he all ready had. Especially as he had been warned to avoid Cart’hen III and take his leave on one of the more hospitable worlds near to Starbase 118. As usual he had ignored the advice. Somehow he could just not muster up much interest in visiting New Scotland. Especially as he had been born in London, England and had spent more summers than he wanted to remember up north in that Scotland. As for his other choice, the planet Raskor with its humanoid avian population and pristine tropical environments. Well it just seemed to much like a tourist trap and the last thing he wanted was to relax someplace where he was going to be treated like just another in a long line of paying customers. He stretched again before dropping to sit on the edge of the bed. Then he bent down to grab the pile of clothes from where he had tossed them the night before. As he did he felt the gentle caress of a silky soft hand against his side. It was followed a moment later by a quiet yet sultry voice. “Leaving?” At the sound of her voice he turned to look back at her and felt his resolve weaken. She was obviously still half asleep and yet she looked more enticing than just about anything he could think of right now. “I’m afraid I have to.” “Are you sure?” “I’m sure.” “Too bad,” she mumbled as she rolled away. “Liked you. Gone too soon.” William smiled and shook his head at her words. She wasn’t making any sense but then he wasn’t surprised either. With a grin still on his face he stood and started to wrap himself up with in the loose folds of the robe like garment that he had selected for this trip. He had left all his uniforms behind. As well as anything that might identify him as Starfleet. His research had revealed that the few natives and the more than 90% of the transient, immigrant population were either out and out crooks or individuals who did not like authority figures of any kind. It was a natural destination for smugglers, thieves. mercs, con artists and other dregs of society. Most of them on the run from one law enforcement agency or another represented a wide collection of species from within all three of the nearby empires. Both the Romulans and the Klingons had threatened to eliminate the planet a number of times in the past but with it right on the edge of the Federation as well as their own Empires they had been forced to resort to less drastic methods of dealing with escaped fugitives. Still he had to admit that if anything the reports that he had read had not done this place justice. It was a lot more vibrant and raw than the dull almost clinical reports had revealed. With a kind of wild energy that made you sit up and take notice of the world around you. Yeah, he had no regrets about spending his two weeks leave here and that had nothing to do with his spending the last two days with the lovely young woman now sound asleep in his bed. No it had been a wonderful adventure. What with all the strange new foods, new species and many unusual sights to enjoy. Even the stifling heat and dry, dusty air had been a welcome change from living aboard a climate controlled space ship. True he did end up spending most of his time in one dive or another, but he had loved every minute of it. Now broke and exhausted from too many long nights of drinking, gambling and chasing women he was packing up his few meagre possessions and getting ready to return to space. Picking up his duffle bag he paused before leaving to take another long look at the woman as she slept. He would not soon forget her, that’s for sure. She was burned into his memory. With real regret he left the room, closed the door behind him and walked carefully down the stairs. This time he remembered to step over the broken step and almost before he knew it he was outside. A quick glance around showed the ever present meal cart off to one side. The tantalizing smells of fresh cooked meat tickled his nose and with out thinking he turned to stroll over and wait his turn to order. As he did William was again struck by just how alien some species looked. A good example was the woman behind the cart. She was standing on a small crate and it was a good thing she was otherwise she would not have stood much taller than his knee. Beyond that were her features, so childlike, almost infantile and yet he knew from talking to her that she was at least twice his own age. As the person ahead of him walked off William stepped forward and placed his order. “Two of your specials Me’La.” With quick sure hands she rolled a couple of the wire strings off the grill and handed them to him. Threaded onto the wire were three different types of meat chunks, twelve per wire. As usual the smell had his mouth watering already as he reached to hand her the coins needed to pay for them. Suddenly she spoke. While she might look like a toddler her voice held a certain ageless quality that could be shocking to those who did not know how old she truly was. “Have bag, you travel. Leave now?” “Yes. I must leave.” “You stupid man. Take girl. She go.” “I doubt that Me’La.” “Yes, very stupid man. Just like my mate. Go. Leave.” As she said that she made shooing motions with her hands. For some reason William almost felt like he was being scolded by his nanna. Silly really as there was no similarity between the two of them. Grinning at the thought he turned away with his breakfast in his hand but the old woman was not finished yet. “You go now. Big mistake. Much regret.” Shaking his head and grinning from ear to ear William turned and left. That was definitely not what he had expected. As he walked he ate, tearing each chunk of meat off the thin wire with his strong white teeth. The juices dribbled down his chin but William did not care. It was by far the best thing he had eaten during his whole stay here. Turning the corner he emerged from the alley that he had picked onto one of the slightly wider main streets. As he did he was besieged by a number of street kids, all clambering for coins, food or offering to carry his bag, guide him around or help out in any way they could. He was use to this now and kept a firm grip on his bag as he pushed his way through them. At the last second he stopped and tossed them the second wire which he had not touched yet. Frantic hands plucked it from the air and the whole group swarmed around the lucky one to catch it. All but one boy who from the looks of him was a pure bred Cart’henian. As before William had to wonder at the peculiar twist of fate that ended up developing various alien species. Take this kid for example. In many ways he resembled a terran camel, so much so that William had to wonder if there had been some cosmic entity in charge of creating the building blocks that eventually became sentient species. If not then it was a truly mind boggling stroke of luck that had resulted in this species developing is such a way that not only did they look like a some weird twisted crossing between a camel and a bipedal humanoid but they also had the same built in survival factors that made them perfectly suited to survival on this hell hole of a desert planet. What made it even more remarkable was that in many ways they also had the same sour disposition as a terran camel. Stubborn as all get out and prone to sudden acts of vindictive spite. Keeping that in mind William kept a close eye on the boy as he stood looking back at him. Due to the placement of his eyes he had his head turned slightly to the side and his two huge front teeth were exposed. Suddenly the boy blinked. The clear transparent inner lid acting almost like a shutter as it briefly covered the eye. Then he spoke. As with most of his species his words were harsh sounding, almost guttural with a hint of restrained menace. “You need. I find.” “No thank you.” William replied. “I don’t need anything.” “That’s what you think. I think you need much. This place dangerous, too dangerous for someone like you.” At first William was going to ignore the kid, but something about the way he said it gave him the shivers. Maybe it was the tone of his voice combined with the way he kind of looked right through you. Regardless it still seemed like something more than one of the street kids normal con jobs. “What do you mean to dangerous?” “You an off worlder. Visitor. Anyone can see that.” William relaxed. So that was it. The kid was obviously very observant, nothing more. “I am but I’m leaving.” “Good luck cha’vak. You’ll need it.” With that said the kid turned and hurried over to rejoin his friends. For some reason William could not shake the kids remarks. For that reason he altered his path and stuck to main streets the rest of the way to where he could catch the local version of mass transit. At the thought he had to chuckle. In reality he was rushing to catch a converted ore car pulled by a slow, worn out old mine engine. Like every thing else on this planet nothing got tossed aside. Even garbage could be reused again and again. As he passed another alley he was suddenly struck in the side, hard by something. Before he could react he was hit again and again and he felt himself starting to fall. Instinctively he reached out to break his fall and tumbled to the ground in a heap under what felt like a couple different assailants. He swung wildly throwing one off a lot easier than he had expected and rolled backwards as he did. It was then that he saw that they were kids. For a moment he locked eyes with one that was obviously a young girl. The large eyes, long hair and dirty yet feminine features were a dead give away. In fact she might have been the image of youthful innocence if not for the slight feral gleam to her eyes and the mischievous grin on her face. His surprise was only fleeting but it was long enough for her to grab his bag and yank it away from him before she jumped up and ran off. The other kids with her seemed to be doing the same thing as one moment he felt their weight on him and the next it was gone. Angry at himself for falling for such an old trick William surged to his feet and chased after the girl. She was fast. Very fast but no match for a man who had won a number of track and field awards back at the Academy. If there was one thing everyone could agree about when they thought about Lt. jg. William Hitchman it was that he could run. Then again when you considered that he was 6’1” and thin as a rail it was kind of expected of you. Even if most of his friends would also agree that he looked more like an animated corpse, all skin and bones with out an ounce of fat on him anywhere. So he was not surprised that he was quickly catching up to her. What did concern him was that she had taken to the alleys and he was quickly becoming lost. Skidding to a stop he glared after the girl. He hated to let her get away but the last thing he needed was to get lost among these twisty labyrinth like alleys and streets. Anyway there was nothing in the bag he could not replace so he turned and started to retrace his steps. As he did he heard someone laughing from above him. Looking up it took him a few moments to spot her. The girl who had taken his bag. “Ha, ha, ha, you fast, but Ga’jin faster.” For some reason he could not help smiling back up at her. Any anger he had felt just evaporated away. What a great way to end his shore leave William thought, with another adventure. “Your right. You run like the wind. Keep the bag you earned it.” “Ha, ha, ha. Thank you. Travel light off worlder. Ha, ha, ha.” “You have my bag. How much lighter could I travel.” William responded in an amused tone as he turned to walk off. As he did she called out one last parting word of wisdom. “Take care off worlder. Be careful. Travel can be dangerous. Ha, ha, ha.” Shaking his head William had to smile again as her soft musical laughter followed him for a few seconds before being lost with in the normal chaotic sounds made by everyday people doing everyday things. Then all he had to worry about was weather he had stopped chasing her in time. For a few moments he was totally lost, navigating purely on instinct. It was only thanks to his height and good luck that he spotted a familiar sight and followed it out onto a different street than the one he had started on. Fortunately this placed him with in a few paces of his destination. Even better the battered old engine and its dented, dusty ore car were sitting there, waiting patiently. William walked over, paid his fare and clambered over the low edge into the ore car. Once inside he tried to find a comfortable position to sit. It was a rather futile gesture what with all the small rocks and other random flotsam left over from years of service. Now all he had to do was wait, and wait he did. Suddenly he blinked his eyes, startled awake as the engine roared into noisy life and the ore car lurched under him. Only his quick grab onto the side of the car kept him from falling over. After that it was only a short hour or less before the bone jarring ride was over and the vehicle rumbled to a stop near the shuttle pad out side the city. With more energy than he had expected to have he leapt over the side and stood thankful that this part of his excursion was now over. He stood there, letting the aches and pains from the ride slowly disperse from his body. As he did his mind wandered, a quick video montage of his last 2 weeks playing over in his mind. Suddenly his mind cleared. This was no time for daydreaming. He had a shuttle to catch. A quick glance showed that his shuttle was already loading so he turned back to the ore car to grab his bag. At first he was confused when he did not spot it but then he remembered the girl. Maybe he had over done it last night he thought as he turned and headed towards the shuttle. However before he had gone to far he was stopped by a young man in a dirty uniform. “Shuttle full. Next one in 3 Durs.” William just stood there for a few moments. Then with a shrug he made up his mind. It was a nice day. He would walk back into town. One ride a day was more than enough on that rattle trap he thought. Besides he might as well make the most of it. After all the chief was going to be madder than a Klingon with a toothache when he showed up late. He had just reached the edge of the large crater in which the city was built when he heard the shuttle take off behind him. He ignored it and kept on walking. He had almost reached the bottom of the crater and the edge of the city when a loud noise made him look up. A large fireball in the sky showed where the shuttle should have been. Seeing it made him think about his morning, there had been something subtlety unusual about it. Something different. He consider that for a few moments but the thoughts were quickly pushed aside. Soon he would be back at his room, back with the girl. Maybe this was not such a bad day after all.
Hi all! Once again we had a cracking amount of entries for the Writing Challenge last round - please spread the word around your crew and twist arms/bribe people to take part this time! Let's see if we can go for a record number of entries! Joining us on the judging panel for this round is Ensign Saveron, who has decided on the following topic for this round: "Out of the Mouths of Babes" Once again we have a nice, open topic that allows you a degree of freedom, and the potential for a hidden meaning. How will you work this into your story? Guidelines: To participate, create a new thread. The subject of the thread must be the title of your story. If it is a Work In Progress, denote that at the top of the post itself (in the body text, not in the thread title). As with last round it will be the final draft posted in your topic that will be read and taken into consideration. Any unfinished entries marked as Work In Progress will not be considered for judging and will be moved to the "Character Cafe" forum at the end of the contest. Your work must be entirely your own. No co-authoring. You are welcome to create any character you so desire, but they must be from the Star Trek universe. No "canon" characters allowed. (i.e.- No one who has been on a show.) Length: No more than 3000 words accepted. Beginning Date: Friday, March 4th Ending Date: Saturday, April 30th See Also: the Writing Challenge Website Challenge: “Out of the Mouths of Babes” Break a leg!