Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Your Enemy is Dead Part IV


Your Enemy is Dead
Chapter IV

Rand stood tentatively outside the solarium, peering into the lush rows of flowers, plants, and trees that were behind the glass double doors.  She was unable to see Khobran from where she stood, which suited her just fine in her apprehensive mood.

 “This is good,” Rand thought to herself.  “Maybe I can turn around and run before he sees me!”

Rand’s stomach was in knots and her breathing was rapid.  She rolled her eyes, wondering what the hell she was doing.  This guy would probably end up like all the rest.  She was sure of it.  If she were to escape right now, worse case scenario would be that he’d be put off by her no-show, and would never ask her out again.

“Not a bad idea,” Rand thought.

But, did she really want that?  Did she really want Khobran to be put off by her?  With that discomforting thought, she straightened her posture, smoothed her hair, and checked herself in one of the side mirrors by the entrance doors.  Rand looked at herself in her tight jeans and fitted scoop-neck.  She smiled, liking what she saw, and she was confident that Khobran would like it too.  Then, taking a deep breath, she walked through the parting glass double doors.

The solarium was a stunning achievement of geodome-styled walls and ceilings stretched high and wide, the structure cascading downward and even.  The area was vast, the vegetation from the many planets of the Federation galaxy arranged by various rows, clusters, and slopes.  It was wild, but strangely, there was order in the chaos.

The light in the solarium was whisper soft, its blood-orange hue peeking out from the far corners of the geodome, and weaving its sparkle throughout the grounds.  The lighting was artificial, true.  Nevertheless it was affective, as it thoroughly soothed Rand.  She looked straight ahead of her, at the various trees, flowers, scrubs, and plants that were bathed in this intense sunset.

“Mother of God, look at you!”

Startled, Rand turned to see Khobran, who’d been standing in back of her.  The butterflies in her stomach fluttered furiously, her eyes widening at the sight of this man.

“You should wear your hair loose more often.  You look like a mermaid out of a Celtic myth tale,” he said with a smile.

Rand blushed.  No man looked as good as Khobran did when he smiled, his full, beautifully formed mouth stretched out in a display of perfect, large white teeth.

“He even outshines the captain, hands down,” Rand thought to herself.

She had washed and blow-dried her thick, heavy hair, freeing it from her signature basket weave hairdo.   Her platinum hair shone strawberry blond in the sunset lighting, as it reached down in waves and curls to the small of her back.  She had brushed a light pink gloss on her lips, which shined dewy and moist along with her lightly blushed cheekbones.  Rand’s blue eyes were outlined with a light brown line, giving them a catlike sweep.

Rand looked at Khobran, excited in a quiet kind of way, enjoying the nearness of him though still being unsure of the situation at hand.

“Janice, if the captain tries to make a pass at you, I’ll risk court-martial and kill him,” said Khobran, with a mischievous grin on his face.  Rand swayed on the balls of her feet nervously, under this young man’s gaze.

The light in the solarium made love to Khobran’s green alien skin, giving him a warm reflection that seemed to bend to the slope of his features.  His large violet eyes appeared very dark in the light, and shadows carved out on the chiseled planes of his face, bringing out his high cheekbones and the faint soft clef of his strong chin.  Instead of being harsh, the shadows caressed his masculine face.  It was very becoming.  Khobran raised his large square hand and offered it to Rand.

“Ready to be seated, Janice?” he asked.

Rand smiled bashfully while she placed her hand in his.  As Khobran pulled Rand gently down the solarium path, she observed all of the foliage that came into her view.  Khobran led the way, guiding Rand like a pied piper.  She admired how Khobran’s tapered back molded against the black ribbed top he was wearing, his long sleeves pushed up, revealing the veins coursing up his forearms like rivers on a roadmap.  Rand wondered how they would feel under the tips of her tracing fingers.

Khobran led Rand to an area surrounded by a rich cluster of trees, that shot out of colorful bursts of flora.  They created a canapĂ©, giving the spot enough cover for privacy, while allowing the light to come through.  In the middle of this setting was a large burnt-orange blanket with a gourd-shaped basket, brimming with food, on top of it.  Two  incandescent electric-blue flutes stood atop their own flat, oval onyx coasters.  Lit  candles surrounded the blanketed area, highlighting it in various shapes and colors.

“Wow, I’m impressed, Khobran!  You did all this?”

“Well, the food is from the galley, but everything else is me,” said Khobran, still holding Rand’s hand.

“What do you mean?”

“The blanket and the basket are heirlooms from my family, and the flutes, placemats, dishes, and candles I made myself,” he said, escorting Rand to her spot.

“Really?”

Rand reached over and picked up a candle, examining the intricate geometric design that glowed in her hand.

“These are incredible!”

Khobran walked around the picnic blanket and sat down across from her.  He reached over and retrieved a cylinder shaped bottle of lilac colored wine.  As he pulled out the cork, Khobran gingerly poured a serving in each flute.

“You’re not the only artist on board the Enterprise, you know,” he said with a wink.

“True!  You told me you did some art yourself, but I never imagined anything like this.  I’m jealous!”

“I thank you, but your stuff is pretty impressive too,” Khobran said while he replaced the cork on the wine bottle, and placed the bottle back on its original spot.

“Try the wine.  It’s called miiyala.  It’s from a fruit that grows wild in the Orion rainforest.”

Rand picked up the flute and took a sip of the wine, the sweet and tangy liquid cooling her palette.  The scent alone was tantalizing, like a fragrant flower.  Rand rolled it around her tongue, and nodded her approval.

“I like,” Rand said, smiling broadly.

“Good, I’m glad!  I was able to buy it at a market on Trelus IV that sells items from Federation and non-Federation planets.”

“Well, Thank God for Trelus IV,” said Rand.

They clicked their flutes in a toast before taking another sip.  Khobran and Rand looked at each other from over the rim of their flutes, their eyes unwavering when they lowered their flutes at the same time.

“I have to say, I was really impressed with the painting of the female figure infused in all that light!  I thought that was absolutely magical!”

“Why, thank you.  I actually posed for my own picture!” she said proudly.

“Really, Janice?”

“I used a timed camera and sat myself down on a stool,” Rand said, reaching over for a piece of fruit.

Khobran lowered his chin, his eyes still on Janice.

“Were you naked?” he asked.  The question was soft, gentle.

“Yes, I was,” said Rand uneasily, reaching for her flute.

Khobran looked at Rand steadily from across the blanket. 

“Maybe I could pose for you some time, next time you paint?”  he asked coyly.

Rand nearly choked on her drink, as she placed it back on the stand.

“I, um,” said Rand, struggling to get back her composure.  “I’m not very good at rendering the male physique, really.”

Khobran leaned in from where he was.  “I’m a very good teacher,” he flirted, biting his lower lip, his eyes flashing.

They looked at each other, laughter passing between them.  Her laughter was high and nervous; his was deep, confident, sensuous.

“So,” Rand said, clearing her throat.  “How long have you been making such marvelous works of art?”

Khobran’s mouth curled into a wicked little grin.

“Changing the subject, are we?” he asked, arching a brow.

“No,” Rand said, a tad flustered.  “We’re still on the subject of our artwork.”

Khobran chuckled softly.  “If you say so,” he humored.

He took a deep breath before continuing.  “Well, me and my sister were taught as children, by our mother.”

“You have a sister?”

“Uh huh, a twin.  We’re very close.  Our mother’s an artisan.  Still is, hopefully,” he said softly.

There was a sudden sadness in his voice, as he looked down into his flute absently.  Rand was struck by this change and leaned into Khobran, placing her hand gently on his and holding it.

“Did you want to be an artisan, too?” she asked with compassion.

Rand couldn’t help the need to touch him, to comfort him.  Khobran, in spite of his formidable physical presence, inspired something protective to come out of her.  The first time was when he let his guard down in her quarters, and the second time was this moment.

Khobran looked up at Rand and gave her a sweet smile, absent was the suggestive daring that was present just a few minutes ago.

“No,” he said.  “Me and my sister always dreamed of entering Starfleet!” he said, his voice returning to normal pitch.  “Always, for as long as I could remember.  Me and Hydra even made toys of starships and laser guns!”  He chuckled, shaking his head at the fond memory.

“What I’d like to know is how an Orion was able to become an engineering officer at Starfleet.  Orion isn’t part of the Federation.”

“That’s very true, Janice.  I don’t know if you like long stories, because how I got here is pretty long.”

“We’re here to get to know each other, aren’t we?”

“True again,” said Khobran.  He reached for two Paninis, placing one of them on Rand’s dish, the other on his own.

“Orion is not a member of the Federation, because if it was, all the things that go on there wouldn’t be tolerated by the Federation.”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean that the government of my planet is corrupted to the core.  They stay neutral, so that they can play both sides of the fence.”

“Did that make it difficult to live on Orion?”

“Oh, yeah.  That was courtesy of the Orion Syndicate.  Those bastards had their hands in just about everything, including space travel.  Education, too, which is why my mother chose to homeschool me and my siblings.”

“Jesus!”

Yeah, it’s that’s bad.   Half of the import/export and freight businesses are run by the Syndicate, and the same is true for the tourist trade.

Khobran’s voice had a calm steeliness about it that took Rand a little by surprise.  Here was a man whose good side you wanted to stay on, clearly.

“There is no Starfleet of any kind on Orion.  All space travelers are businessmen, of one type or another.  Some are legit, and others are pirates for the Syndicate.  My father was, no, is legit.”

He said this last statement with determination, holding his body rigidly while he tried to contain himself.

“I will not use the past tense when talking about my parents.”

“Khobran, I don’t understand.”

Khobran looked at Rand, his gaze steady but sad.  “They destroyed my family, Janice.  It’s almost as if Hydra and I are adrift, with no roots.  We were able to realize our dream to enter Starfleet, but our parents aren’t around to enjoy our accomplishments.”

He lowered his head and sighed, a deep quiver coming from within the depths of his being, though he wasn’t crying.  Rand, however, could feel a tear brimming from one of her eyes as she looked at Khobran and experienced some of his pain.

“Oh, God, Khobran.  They really must have hurt you, tell me,” said Rand tenderly, mustering up the nerve to come over to Khobran’s side of the blanket.

Their bodies were now close enough, that if Khobran wanted to take Rand right there, he’d have easy access to do so.  Rand felt her trepidation leaving her.  If Khobran were to make a move, she would accommodate his sexual needs--and hers, willingly.  Khobran turned to Rand and smiled at her assurance.

“You’re very beautiful Janice, and your beauty radiates from the inside as well.”

Rand smiled, placing her hands on Khobran’s shoulders.  She couldn’t get over the sheer power of his physique. Their body heat mingled with one another, creating a charged aura that enveloped them.

“Don’t change the subject, big boy,” teased Rand gently.  “Tell me, tell me what they did to you.”

She rubbed Khobran’s wide, muscular back and wondered how it would feel shirtless.  She wanted very much to take care of him.

“Well, like I said, my father is a very successful businessman,” he continued.  “His company was a cross between import/export of rare goods, and simple freight delivery/pick-ups, which served both businesses and individual households.  That man owned more ships than anyone, and from many different parts of the galaxy.  He was able to take any ship and remodel it, redesign it, rebuild it, for any business purpose.  His was probably the most successful business of its kind on Orion that wasn’t part of the Syndicate, and they wanted his business to be a part of their Syndicate that bad.”

“Was he harassed?”

Khobran snorted.  “Was he ever!  At first, it wasn’t that bad.  Lovely young women would try to charm him away from his docks.”

“Are you talking about the slave girls?”

“Well, yeah.  What people don’t seem to realize, is that many of these ‘Orion slave girls’ are actually women on the high end of the Syndicate.  They come in to infiltrate powerful men, so that they can bring them down from the inside.  So, that’s what they tried to do to my father initially.  Orion women have the power to both hypnotize men to do their bidding and keep female competition at bay.  However, with a wife and a growing daughter having the same powers, these ’slave girls’ were unable to overtake my father and the other males in our household.”

Khobran stopped to take a swig of wine, but only picked at his Panini. 

“I never knew that the Orion slave girls only posed as such.”

Khobran tilted his head while he continued with the events of the past.

“Not all of them, you understand.  The women in the high positions were the ones who infiltrated, manipulated, and brought down.  But the rest of the Orion slave girls are just that.  They are products of trafficking, women from poverty-stricken areas who are deceived by phony promises for a better life by some sleazy recuiter.  Sometimes, these women are flat-out kidnapped right off the streets.  When these women are captured, they’re blindfolded and gagged so that they can’t use their powers on anyone.  They’re also tranquilized.” 

Rand was dumbstruck, as images came to her head of frightened young women being denigrated, forced into sex work.

“Oh, my God!  So, these rumors about these women being all too happy to serve…”

“Total bullshit,” said Khobran flatly.  “The sex slaves are drugged out of their minds with a substance that they inhale just before going on ‘the job.’  It’s like a laughing gas, but much more potent.  When the effects of the drug wear off, the user becomes vicious.  It’s not uncommon for a john to end up robbed and even beaten, sometimes to a pulp.  But if these johns complain, the Syndicate has a way of taking care of complaints.  So, tourists who come to Orion for the sex slaves could end up with broken bones, or worse.  You could say that it’s like gambling, I suppose.”

Rand removed her arms from Khobran, and sat with her legs crossed, her chin cupped in her hands.  Khobran positioned himself so that he was facing Rand, his legs also crossed.

“Well, I was getting off on a tangent, but I also want you to understand what my family was dealing with.”

“I definitely understand, Khobran.”

Khobran took a deep breath before continuing.  “My family is very close.  There are my parents, Tara and Rhollo, me, my sister Hydra, and my brother Mantis.  Mantis was the oldest, by 10 years.  He was to take over the family business when my father retired.  Dad made him a partner.  Mantis was so smart, he knew the business inside out.  My sister and I looked up to him.  All of us were homeschooled.  As a matter of fact, everything that Hydra and I learned about space travel, we learned from taking many trips with my father during his pick-ups and deliveries.  Sometimes, mother would come with us too, actually.  That’s how Mantis learned about space travel, and the business, of course.”

Khobran’s voice trailed off before finding it again.  “He was engaged to be married, you know?  To a beautiful woman named Leelle.  Those two were very much in love.  I can’t tell you how many times I walked in on them, well, you know,” he said, smiling sadly.   

“Well, suffice it to say, I was 13 at the time. My father and I were heading to a ship that Mantis was working on.  My father opened the cockpit of the ship, and all this blood splattered on me and Dad!”

Khobran’s throat catched, and he turned away from Rand, struggling to continue.  Rand reached for him again.

“Khobran, please tell me.  I’m here for you.”

She could feel her eyes sting with tears.  When Khobran was face to face with Rand again, his violet eyes were red and brimming, though ever so slightly.

“They decapitated him, Janice!  You should have heard the wail from my father!  Of course, the Syndicate took full responsibility, and they threatened to strike again--even going as far as to sell off my mother and sister into slavery,” he said with icy bitterness in his voice.

Then, suddenly, he laughed.  It was a strange, wild laugh unlike the deep, throaty ones that usually came from him.  This was high-pitched, almost maniacal.

“If you thought it was hard keeping employees before my brother’s murder, it was near impossible afterwards!  My father didn’t care in the end, though.  He knew what he had to do.  My father didn’t hesitate to take me, my sister and mother to the other side of Orion, literally halfway around the world that very night, Janice!  We took what we were able to, and we ran for it!”

Khobran sighed and looked at the picnic basket, the food in there barely touched.

“Mind if I have another drink?” he asked with a snort. He reached over to pull out the wine from the basket.

Rand said nothing as she watched Khobran pour himself another drink.

“The one problem that arose was how the business was going to be run.  My Dad was not going to let his life’s work fall into the hands of the Syndicate, especially because his family still needed to be supported.  So, it was decided that Dad would stay behind and run the business the best he could.  He’d send us money, while Mom established a small artisan shop while raising us, homeschooling us.”

Khobran stopped and looked at Rand.  “That was the last time my sister and I saw my father.  We heard he had to destroy some of the ships and establish himself elsewhere, but I never really knew.  I guess the less that my sister and I knew, the better.  I don’t really know how it’s possible to move a business that big, without the Syndicate finding out.”

“Khobran, can I ask you a question?”

“Sure.”

“How old are you now?”

“22.”

“So, it’s been nine years since you’ve last seen your father?”

“Yep.”

“My God,” said Rand. 

Khobran shrugged.  “At least we had Mom, until that changed as well.” 

Khobran ran his hands through his hair and sighed.  “When my sister and I were 14, there was word that the Syndicate caught wind of where we were hiding, so it was decided that we would leave Orion for good.  And, since we wanted to enter the Federation Academy anyway, and past planet-wide aptitude tests had proven that we were far ahead of other Orion students in our age group, it was arranged for us to move to planet Kush with a trusted colleague of father’s, who was Kushian.  We lived with his family for a while, until he helped us seek asylum with the Federation in Andor.  While there, Hydra and I took the admissions exam to Starfleet.  We scored the highest of al the test-takers from all the Federation planets that year, and we were the youngest test-takers too,” said Khobran.

The huge smile on his face showed the pride that Khobran had for his own, and his sister’s accomplishments.

“You and your sister scored off the charts while still kids,” said Rand giving Khoban a pat on the shoulder. 

“Yeah.  We were both 15 when we entered the Academy,” said Khobran.  Rand laughed, shaking her head in disbelief. 

“You brainiac, you,” she chided playfully.

Khobran shrugged his shoulders, giving Rand a bashful smile.

“Well, anyway, when asylum was granted to us, we lived in Andor for a short time until we were granted a sponsorship from a professor of Astro-Physics at Princeton University.  So, we took a ship, and ended up in Princeton, New Jersey, on Planet Earth.”

“You stayed in New Jersey?  Really?  I come from New Jersey,” said Rand excitedly.

Khobran smiled.  “Really?  Where in New Jersey?”

“Montclair,” said Rand beaming.

“I’ve never been to Montclair,” said Khobran, shaking his head.

Rand looked at Khobran, and wondered how he and his sister were perceived while they went about the streets of her native state.

“Your mother didn’t come with you and Hydra to Earth?”

“No,” said Khobran, with a faraway look.  “She wanted to stay on Orion with our father.  She didn’t want to leave him alone there.”

“They must have loved each other, very much.”

“Yeah, beyond anything.”  Khobran was quiet before he said, “when Hydra and I left for Kush, that was the last time we saw Mom.  Even when we reached San Francisco, and tried to make contact with her, we were unable to find her.  Hydra and I were probably among the few graduating cadets whose parents weren’t present for the ceremonies.”

Khobran tilted his head, and smiled sadly.  He looked over at Rand’s plate, at the untouched Panini he had served her a short time ago.

“Aren’t you going to eat anything?”

“I have, but I’ve been mostly listening to you,” she said softly.

“Not too depressing, I hope,” Khobran said chuckling.

“Of course not, Khobran!  Your story’s an inspiration!  You’re a survivor--you, and your sister.  And to score off the charts on your exams, and enter the Academy at 15 is incredible!  The youngest cadets usually enter at 18, right out of high school.  And, to be homeschooled as well!”

Rand looked at Khobran, a question in her head that she had wanted to ask him for a while.

“How did you get on the Enterprise, Khobran?”

“I transferred from the USS Ascension after its three year mission ended.  My sister’s been on the USS Mitterand.”

Khobran took a deep breath and shifted his body so that he was lying on his side, his head propped up by his hand.

“So, what about you?  What made you end up in Starfleet?”

Rand looked up at the ceiling of the solarium, with its wide expanse and various rafters, wondering how in the hell her story could ever be as remotely interesting as Khobran’s.

“Well, let’s see.  I was born in Montclair, New Jersey.  I grew up there with my mother, father, and older sister.  I graduated from Rutgers University with a Bachelor’s degree in Cultural Anthropology, and a minor in Library Science, at the tender age of 22.  Enrolled in Starfleet Academy that following Fall, and graduated just this year as a Yeoman First-Class at 26 years of age.  This is my first year on the Enterprise, and in deep space.  That’s about it,” said Rand, shrugging her shoulders.

“That’s it, Janice?” asked Khobran incredulously.  “You didn’t give me your story, you handed me a pamphlet!”

“There’s not much to tell, really.  It’s nothing like your story!  I can’t top that!”

“Janice, I didn’t tell you my story to wow you, I wanted you to get to know me, and to understand what I’ve gone through.”

“I know,” she said, a tad embarrassed.

“Give me details,” said Khobran enthusiastically, while he got up from lying on his side, and sat squarely in front of Rand.  He placed his large hands on her knees, as she was sitting crossed legged, and pulled her gently to him. 

“What was it like growing up in Montclair?  How’s the town like, since I’ve never been there.”

Rand smiled as the memories of her hometown came to her.  Talking about Montclair would be easy for her.

“Oh, it was wonderful!  Montclair is a township, but it’s pretty hip!  Very artistic, very cultural.  You have art galleries, old-fashioned coffee shops, and bookstores that still sell the old-fashioned conventional paper books.  A lot of artists, intellectuals, and activists live there.  Very multicultural, and very liberal.”

“Liberal, and multicultural, huh?  That means no one would object if someone like me were to move into the house across the street?” Khobran chuckled.

Rand looked at the young Orion man and laughed at his wit.  It was amazing to her, that after all the loss he had endured in his short life, that he could still have a sense of humor--especially about himself.

“Honestly, you didn’t have a lot of …”  Rand stopped abruptly before she could say the word.

“Aliens,” said Khobran gently.

Rand looked at Khobran, feeling a tinge of guilt.  That was exactly the word she had initially thought of.

“Well, outworlders, Khobran,” she said, stressing the alternative word for his benefit. 

“There weren’t many outworlders in Montclair.  My father had a Vulcan colleague where he taught, and we had a Tellerite neighbor a few blocks down, but that was about it.  Montclair was still just a town, and not a city, so it was still a tad sleepy in that regard.  It wasn’t like San Francisco, where you see every Federation outworlder walking down the street.”

“You said there were artists, intellectuals, and activists in Montclair.  Which category did your family fall into, if any?”

“Definitely intellectuals.  My father taught Cultural Anthropology at Montclair State University, and my mother was the head librarian there.  They’re both still there,” said Rand, nodding her head.  “Still there,” she repeated softly.

“Still there.  It sounds like there’s some significance behind that.”

“Well, Montclair is a wonderful town, but it’s still pretty suburban.  Beautiful old houses, with magnificent wood surrounding them.  We had our little fairs, but it’s still fairly quiet.   My older sister Stephanie is a schoolteacher who still lives there with her husband and two daughters.  That’s not what I wanted for my life, at all.  I kind of had a hard time fitting in with my family.  I always had a bit of a rebellious streak in me.  Don’t get me wrong.  I love my family, and they were pretty tolerant with me.  But, I wasn’t staid like the rest of them.  Where I got my streak, I have no idea!  I chose to major in Cultural Anthropology and minor in Library Science, because, quite frankly, I didn’t really know what I wanted to do, so I chose what my parents did for my studies.  However, when I graduated from Rutgers, I couldn’t see myself teaching, or being sequestered in a library. 

“So, this jerk I was dating had transferred to Starfleet Academy during our sophomore year in college.  I honestly didn’t think about Starfleet as a career possibility, until the day after graduation.  It was like a light suddenly turning on in my head!  So, I went to the recruitment center at Princeton University, gave them my application, my school records, took the exam, passed it, and got in.  Being an astronaut was something I could get into.  Needless to say, my family had a fit!  When that happened, I knew I had made the right decision for myself,” Rand said with a broad smile.

“How’s the relationship with your family today?”

“Oh, it’s okay.  They’re just worried.  That’s all.  They’d rather I stayed on Earth and be safe.  My family never went farther than Easter Island,” Rand said with a laugh.  “When I told them that I used my librarian skills as a yeoman, and my Cultural Anthropology skills as an explorer, my parents calmed down a bit.  At least they know my education didn’t go to waste.”

“You don’t think you’d ever return to Montclair?” 

“I’d rather live in a big city.  I do miss Montclair, though.  There was a place called Crystals’ where I loved going to.  It was this old-fashioned soda fountain cafe that sold  candies and food that was popular from the 1920’s and 30’s of the 20th Century.  That place was the best!  Me and my friends always went there!” 


Khobran’s eyes brightened while he grabbed Rand’s knees again, shaking them like a child who was trying to get her attention.  “Did they serve a hotdog called the Ripper?”

“They sure did!  I loved those things!”

“Oh, Janice!  Me and Hydra were introduced to the Ripper by Dr. Grimaldi!  He took us to a small, rinky-dink hole in the wall in Wildwood where they served them.  My sister and I were ruined by those things!  We wolfed them down!  I think between the two of us, we ate about eight of those things!  Our sponsor was on the floor cracking up!”

“Oh, God!” said Rand laughing. 

“They don’t make them on the ship,” Khobran pointed out.

“I know. I tried to get one myself.  They know all about generic and gourmet foods, but they’re not much on hometown working class New Jersey cuisine,” said Rand.

“It’s also like that with the music here.  They don’t seem to have any jazz from the 20’s or 30’s from the 20th Century.”

“You like that kind of music, Khobran?”

He nodded his head.  “Another thing Dr. Grimaldi introduced me and Hydra to.  Luckily, I was able to get good downloads before leaving San Francisco.  Dr. Grimaldi also let me copy his own downloads.  Could you imagine hanging out in those smoke-filled jazz clubs in those days?”  Khobran asked excitedly. 

Rand laughed, picturing this Orion hanging out in such a club, dressed in the clothes of that period.

“Twenty-three Skidoo!” sang Rand, reaching over and taking a grape from the picnic basket.

  She traced the grape over Khobran’s lower lip, nudging him to take a bite.  When he did, drops of juice rolled down his lip, which Rand gently wiped off with her thumb.  They sat there very quiet and still while the man-made sunset slowly gave way to a blue twilight haze.

**************************

“So, how about it Janice?  What was all that carrying on in sickbay with McCoy and Chapel, anyway?”

The corridor was dimly lit and quiet.  Only the hum of the ship’s engine, and the echoes of Khobran’s and Rand’s footsteps, could be heard.

“Carrying on, huh?” asked Rand, teasing.

“You know what I mean.  You were even fighting with me, until you passed out,” he said, mercifully leaving out the part of Rand throwing up on him.

“Well, I was raised on alternative medicine.  I never, ever went to an orthodox medical doctor until I entered the Academy.  Talk about culture shock!  I wasn’t even used to the body scans!  I never took a pill in my life!  My family utilized herbs, Homeopathy, Acupuncture, stuff like that.”

“Acupuncture?  Isn’t that the practice from China where needles are placed on different part of the body?”

“Yeah.”

“You mean to tell me that you’d rather deal with a sharp needle than a hypo?” asked Khobran incredulously.

“Yes,” said Rand with her chin up and her arms crossed.  The two of them were silent for a moment while they looked at each other.

“Really, Janice?” asked Khobran, an eyebrow cocked.

“It’s the energy from the needle,” said Rand primly.

“The energy from the needle,” repeated Khobran.

When they reached Rand’s quarters they stood facing each other, both of them trying  hard to keep a straight face.  Then, unable to hold the mirth in, they laughed.  Khobran reached over to stroke Rand’s shoulder, while she took his other hand in hers.  When the laughter subsided, they stood looking at each other for a long moment, seeming to breath as one.

“It should be illegal for you to wear your clothes like that,” Khobran said softly.

“Why, it’s a simple top and a pair of jeans,” said Rand, a hint of a smile playfully forming on her lips.  Rand knew perfectly well how she looked in her clothes.  She was proud of her body, and always found opportunities to show it off.  Her top was snug, and her jeans were tight, and she loved the fact that Khobran took notice.  As she saw how his eyes swept over her body, she wondered if this date would end with a hot, intense fuck.  She sure hoped so.

“Well, Khobran, I had an amazing time tonight.  You really know how to show a girl a lovely time,” she said, leaning against the wall next to her cabin door.

She propped her shoulders against the wall, so that the rest of her body sloped forward.  Her chest jutting out, she stuck her hands in her front pockets.

Khobran smiled, shrugging his shoulders.  “Well, aside from my sob story, I enjoyed myself too,” he said.

“Oh, Khobran.  It’s not a sob story!  Stop saying that,” she urged.

Khobran stood directly in front of Rand, exactly where she wanted him.  She parted her lips, slowly.   He moved closer to her, their eyes locked into each other.  Khobran reached for Rand, his large hands firm as he placed them on either side of her ribcage.  His thumb brushed against the places where her breasts and underarms met.  With an effortless strength that startled Rand, Khobran pulled her to him and parted his lips.

They kissed, at first gently, the sensation of Khobran’s full lips soft and feathery while they brushed against Rand’s.  Then, as the kiss went on, their mouths opened, and the pressure increased.  Tongues explored the caverns of one another’s mouth.  The kiss broke only for a moment when Khobran’s lips moved from Rand’s mouth, down her jaw, to her throat.  Rand threw her head back, her breathing rapid, like she was coming up for air.  Her hands found the planes of his face and neck, and marveled at how smooth his skin was.  She held on to Khobran’s strong neck, moaning as his hands found her breasts.  He cupped them and squeezed them, her nipples becoming hard and alive under his palms.  Rand released one of her hands from Khobran’s neck and reached down between his legs, finding the pronounced bulge of his trousers.  She ran her eager hand over it, squeezing between strokes.  Khobran gasped aloud, putting a devilish grin on Rand’s lips.  She released her hand from his trousers and took his hand, pulling his arm as she lead him into her quarters. 

When Khobran and Rand were inside they started kissing again, their hands searching each other, touching, groping.  Khobran grabbed Rand’s buttocks and picked her up, her legs wrapping themselves around his waist.  His searching hands caressed her rump and the space underneath it, sending shivers throughout her body.  Rand never in her life wanted any man as badly as she wanted Khobran, her body growing hotter with each knowing stroke.  She wanted this beautiful alien man in her bed, on top of her, penetrating and pumping between her open and willing legs. 

“My bed, Khobran.  It’s over there.”

There it sat in the semi-darkness, waiting for their bodies to warm its mattress and toss its covers.  Khobran carried Rand to the bed and lowered himself on its edge.  He held Rand by her bottom while he pushed his crotch against hers, making Rand gasped loudly.

“Feel how badly I want you, Janice?  Do you feel that?”  Khobran asked in a horse whisper.

As he pushed Rand’s hips towards him, he raised his own.  Rand’s jeans were so tight, and his bulge so big that she responded with a sweet dampness between her legs.  Janice ran her tongue under her top row of teeth as she reached for Khobran’s fly, unbuttoning the top buttons of his trousers.  He reached over and unfastened the buttons of her scoop- neck top.  When it was fully unbuttoned Khobran stretched it open, exposing Rand’s bra, her encased breasts straining against the lace fabric.  He kneaded first one breast, cupping and squeezing it with both of his hands.  He did this for a while, before he moved on to the other breast.  His hands were firm, as he then squeezed both breasts together, pulling at her nipples.  Rand drew in her breath, while she frantically unzipped Khobran’s fly, and attempted to reach down into his pants when something happened.   He abruptly released his hands from her breasts and grabbed Rand’s wrists, holding them so that she couldn’t go any further.

“Janice, I’m so sorry,” said Khobran, embarrassed.

“Sorry?  I don’t understand.  What’s wrong?” asked Rand confused, her head reeling from the rising heat of their intimacy.

“I have to get up early tomorrow to fix the computers in the laser chamber.  It’s very delicate work, and I need to rest,” he said, looking guilty over this new, undesirable development.  “I’m really sorry, Janice!  You have no idea…”

“What?  Are you kidding me?!” asked Rand, the reality of the situation finally hitting her.

“I’m not kidding.  Don’t you remember the turbulence we experienced, and how it wreaked havoc on many of the ship’s workings?  Scotty assigned me, so I have to be there,” he said, gently placing Rand’s arms back to their sides, and lifting her off his lap.

Rand was speechless while Khobran stood up and refastened his pants.  Rand could feel the anger rise up in her when she saw that the evening was not ending the way that she’d hoped.

“Why the hell did you plan this date, if you knew you had to wake up so early?!”  she said, her voice edging into a yell.

Rand plopped down onto her bed and crossed her arms.  She was fuming and horny-- not a very good combination.  Khobran came over and kneeled down in front of her, balancing himself on the balls of his heels.  He looked squarely at her, his eyes near level to hers.

“Janice,” he began softly.  “I had no idea that this date was going to last longer than two hours.  We spent five and a half hours together.  It was more than I had hoped for.  Time flew by so fast, and we were so intuned to each other.  You’re the most extraordinary woman I’ve ever spent time with, Janice.  I want to spend time with you again.  I’ll make it up to you.  I promise.”

Janice set her jaw, so angry that she felt she could chomp on cement blocks.

“Look, Janice.  If things go well, I should be finished by 0800 hours.  You’ll be up by then, right?  I’ll have a couple of hours off. Maybe we could meet then, if you’re free?”  he said hopefully. 

It actually turned out that Rand’s shift tomorrow didn’t start until 1030 hours, but it wouldn’t matter if Khobran wasn’t finished before then, would it?  Rand looked up at Khobran, saying nothing to him.  Khobran made a weak attempt at a smile.  He rose up, kissing Rand on the top of her head, and turned to walk out the door.

Khobran turned to Rand one last time, and said, “I’ll be in the tunnel for a while, but I’ll make contact with you as soon as I’m finished changing out of my jumper, okay?”

“Whatever,” said Rand sarcastically.

“Janice, don’t be mad,” he said hurt.

Khobran stood there for a short time, before turning around and walking through the doors.  After his exit, Rand got up from her bed and pulled off her clothes, leaving a trail behind her while she headed for the bathroom.


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