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Where No Yeoman Has Gone Before

Written by julievelor :: [Thursday, 27 March 2008 15:52] Last updated by :: [Monday, 29 April 2013 18:27]

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Where No Yeoman Has Gone Before

 

by JulieVelor (a.k.a. AK)

 

 


WRITTEN FOR SGI WORKSHOP 1.11


 

Prologue

On the bridge of the Constellation-class starship Enterprise, James Kirk prevented himself by force of will from tapping his fingers on the armrest of the captain's chair. The last thing he wanted was to let everyone else know just how nervous, aggravated, and upset he felt.

This morning he had bid farewell to his mother and brother, at such great length that when they finally did depart, they departed with relief. He hardly blamed them. He felt too worried to make intelligent conversation or even to exchange family gossip, and after all, only a finite number of ways exist to say goodbye.

He had given the ship a complete inspection, he had conferred with Lieutenant Uhura about the communications network and with Commander Spock over data analysis systems. Mister Spock answered all Kirk's questions emotionlessly, in detail, and in terms Kirk had mostly never heard, much less understood. Despite his stoic exterior, the Vulcan seemed to suspect that Kirk was testing his competence, that Kirk was seeking an excuse to displace him from the position of first officer.

He even asked Amelinda Lukarian if her vaudeville company needed extra equipment or supplies before setting off on their tour of the Phalanx. "Jim, all I need is a good juggler," she said. "I don't suppose you can juggle, can you?"

As it happened, he could, in a manner of speaking, but he hardly intended to admit it and find himself on stage at the next starbase, clutching two beanbags and trying to keep the third in the air. The only time he could get all three bags simultaneously airborne was when he dropped them.

Lukarian was too keyed up by the Starfleet commission, too excited over going into interstellar space for the first time to pick up on his hint that what he really wanted was an excuse to stay in port another day or two before setting off for their first stop, at Starbase 13.

On reflection, he could hardly blame her. She might be persuaded to conspire to delay the Enterprise, but she would do it reluctantly, trying to balance the assumption – unjustified, he hoped – that to refuse to help him would damage their working relationship, against the assumption – entirely justified, he felt – that insisting on a delay would win the company no points with Admiral Noguchi. The admiral had already called Kirk once, wondering in an elaborately casual fashion just when Kirk intended to set out with his new command.

In short, Kirk had kept the Enterprise in the docking bay as long as he could, and far longer than he wished to. He could not delay any longer. He took a deep breath and then started issuing orders to get the ship under way.

 


 

That evening at the captain's table, the chief medical officer had finally gotten tired of making excuses for their host's absence. After all, it had been Captain James Kirk's idea to invite the vaudeville company to sit with him tonight, the first night of their three-month tour of the Federation Phalanx.

"Pardon me just a moment," Leonard McCoy said to the others, rising from his seat. "I'll be right back."

Just over a minute later the turbolift let him out in officers' territory. He headed toward Kirk's cabin and, reaching it, knocked on the door.

"Come." The voice hardly sounded like Jim Kirk's: tired, aggravated, impatient. In the past, his mood had always skyrocketed when he returned to space.

"Your guests are waiting," McCoy said, taking a step inside.

"My guest?" Kirk looked up.

"Your guests. The company. Dinner."

"Oh, lord!" Kirk jumped up. "I lost track. I don't believe it – I'm already behind in my paperwork."

"What is all this?"

"It's, you know -" He waved his hands. "Paperwork."

"Why are you doing it?"

"It has to be done," he said, then defensively, "I always do it. But I never had quite so much of it before."

"Where's your yeoman?"

"I don't have one."

"You don't have one?" McCoy said with disbelief.

"I've never had a yeoman."

"You were never captain of a starship before."

"I don't want a yeoman. I don't need somebody fussing over me and sticking things under my nose to sign and being sure the synthesizer put the right stripes on my shirt."

McCoy drew up a chair and straddled it. "Jim, permit your old Uncle Bones to give you some friendly advice. You're commanding twice as many people as you ever have before. Starfleet paperwork increases in geometric – maybe even exponential – proportion to the size of the crew."

"It'll be all right as soon as I get caught up."

"You'll never get caught up. What's more, you know you'll never get caught up. This isn't your job anymore."

"I suppose you have a magical solution." Kirk's voice dripped with sarcasm.

"You could send out a press gang -" At the change in Kirk's expression, McCoy stopped. If he wanted Kirk to follow his advice he had better stop teasing him. Otherwise Kirk would never do it, no matter how sensible his suggestion. "Jim, go down to quartermaster's office, pick out a likely clerk, and promote him."

"It'll take more time to train somebody to do this than it would to do it myself."

"Not in the long run. Not if you pick somebody with more than half a brain."

Kirk muttered something under his breath.

"What was that?" McCoy asked.

Kirk sighed. "I said – I'll try it. On a temporary basis."

"Good. Now come on. If you think a feeble excuse like work will save you from what the synthesizer has laughingly billed 'dinner,' you have another think coming."

Kirk accompanied McCoy to the mess hall.

 


 

Blood flows in strange patterns in zero gravity -

Jim Kirk cried out and flung himself forward, reaching -

"Gary, no -"

As Gary Mitchell collapsed, Jim struggled forward, fighting to see, fighting to stay conscious despite shock, fighting to move through the pain of his crushed knee and his broken ribs, fighting to breathe against the blood in his lungs. If he lost the fight, his closest friend would die.

A scarlet net drifted across the image before him, and he thought that he was blind.

Kirk bolted awake, gasping. He had been dreaming. Dreaming again. "Carol …?" He wanted to hold her, to reassure himself that he was right beside her, not back in the disaster of Gioghe.

Then he remembered, almost as if he were waking from a second dream, that he no longer lived in Carol Marcus's house, he no longer slept in her bed. He was alone.

As his cabin's computer sensed that he was awake, it lightened the darkness around him. He wiped cold sweat from his face and touched the scar on his forehead. At Ghioghe, before the gravity went out, blood from the gash flowed down into his eyes and obscured his vision.

He wished he could go back to sleep; he wished he could sleep without dreaming. Bu the knew he could not. Besides, in fighting the recurrent nightmare he had left his bedclothes twisted and sweat-damp and clammy. He started untwisting them.

Someone knocked at his door.

"What ---? Just a minute!"

Bleary-eyed, he struggled out of his bunk and groped for his robe. He found it and fumbled his way into it, somehow getting the heavy silk twisted till he had one arm in an inside-out sleeve.

"Come."

The door slid open. A young crewmember stood on his doorstep. Her big blue eyes widened even further and then quickly looked away.

"Hello," he said.

"Hello." She was looking everywhere but at him.

"What's the matter?"

"Uh, nothing, sir. I … I'm sorry, sir. Quartermaster said to be here this morning, but I must have misunderstood -"

Kirk rubbed his eyes and yawned. Then he saw the chronometer.

"Good lord, do you know what time it is?"

"Yes, sir. It's morning, sir."

"This isn't morning, this is the crack of dawn!"

She started to turn away, her eyes somewhere in the vicinity of her feet. "I'll come back later, sir -"

"No, no, it's all right, come in. I just need a cup of coffee." He turned to the synthesizer.

"I'm here to help with your files?" Her voice rose in an uncertain question. She'd turned back toward him, but her eyes still weren't on him.

"Right over there." He gestured toward the comm unit. His coffee arrived. He sipped it and made a disgusted noise. "This is bad even when the synthesizer works. Whoever designed the template got their idea of how it ought to taste from a third-generation reproduction of whatever they found in a wardroom coffeepot."

She moved around the periphery of the room, staying as far from him as possible and keeping her gaze down.

First day on the job, he thought. It gets to everybody.

"Oh!" she said at her first view of the comm unit. "That's not right!"

He had spent half of yesterday trying to get the damned thing to make sense. His reward was a comm screen with eighteen overlapping message blocks connected by color-coded lines and arrows whose significance he had already forgotten; and now he got criticism from a wet-behind-the-ears crew-member.

"All right, you make sense of it."

She stared at him, her eyes wide. "I -" she whispered. "I -"

It's too early for this, he thought, and he fled into the bathroom.

The sonic shower and the coffee, which though it tasted terrible, also was too strong, began to wake him up.

Did I snap at her? he wondered. He tried to convince himself he had not, but failed. Embarrassed, he dressed and returned to the cabin.

She sat at the comm unit with her back to him, her shoulders hunched as if she were trying to make herself even smaller than she already was. He tried to remember what she looked like, but recalled only huge blue eyes and close-shorn blond hair.

He cleared his throat.

She started and jumped up to her feet, facing him, her eyes on the floor midway between them.

"As you were," he said. "I didn't mean to startle you." He gestured at the comm. "Looks better already. Yeoman, did I snap at you a minute ago?"

"Oh, no, sir," she whispered, sitting back down without meeting his eyes.

"I think I did." He smiled. "I apologize. I'm not at my best before I'm awake. Let's start over. Good morning. I'm Jim Kirk."

"Rand, sir," she whispered, more to the comm unit than to him.

"Can you get me out of the hole I've dug, or will you have to start all over?"

She fumbled the commands. He wondered what was wrong, for she appeared to be doing what needed to be done. She stopped, dropped her hands to her laps, and clenched her fingers.

"Is it that bad, Yeoman?" Every time he spoke to her, she flinched. He wished she would stop.

"I'm sorry, sir, it will take a little time to …" She stopped and began again. "I'm sorry, sir, I – I'm not too experienced …" Her voice trailed off.

He realized she was trying to figure out how not to tell her superior officer that he had made a horrible mess. He wanted to tell her it was all right, but considering his reaction to almost the first thing she had said, she would hardly have any reason to believe he took criticism well. As, in fact, he often did not. Probably the best solution was to go away, let her calm down, and come back later.

"I'm sure you'll do fine, Yeoman," he said, heading for the door. "Lieutenant Uhura on the bridge will know how to reach me, if you have any questions."

"Yes, sir," she said, obviously relieved. "Thank you, sir."

 


 

The doors of the turbolift made a fluttery noise as they tried to close against an obstruction.

Lieutenant Uhura looked up. A young crewmember – the communications officer had seen her once or twice – stepped forward timorously, as if all that forced her onto the bridge was the knowledge that computer would chastise her if she stayed where she was.

Uhura thought, as she had before, that the young woman would be awfully pretty if she did not always look so terrified – and if she did not cut her hair so short and ragged. It would look quite nice if she either let it grow or shaved it completely, but this unkempt in-betweeness did nothing for her.

Suddenly, as if starlight dispersed her fears, the crewmember stared in wonder at the viewscreen. The small ports and screens in crew quarters gave only a hint of the powerful beauty of space at warp speed. Seeing it on the viewscreen astonished the young crewmember. Her gaze made Uhura see anew the steady glow of stars in all the colors of the universe.

Uhura crossed the bridge. "Are you lost?"

The crewmember jumped. The pretty little moonstruck girl vanished and the terrified young woman reappeared.

"I don't bite," Uhura smiled at her. "Are you lost?"

"I … I'm the captain's yeoman. I'm supposed to meet the captain …?"

"Welcome to the bridge. I'm Lieutenant Uhura." She waited for the yeoman to introduce herself.

The yeoman looked down. The mug's lid rattled – the child's hand was shaking!

"I mean – I'm not really a yeoman yet, but they said …" her voice trailed off.

"What's your name?" Uhura asked gently.

"Rand. Janice Rand."

"Come with me, Janice. I'll introduce you around."

"I don't want to bother anybody -"

"It's no bother. They'll be glad of the chance to stop having to look busy." Uhura gestured at the mug. "Would you like to put it down?"

"It – it's the captain's."

"He'll be back in a minute. His place is over here."

Taking the mug from the girl, Uhura placed it on the arm of the captain's chair and then took Rand's hand. She led the Yeoman first to Mister Spock.

"Mister Spock, this is Captain Kirk's yeoman, Janice Rand. Janice, this is Commander Spock. He's the science officer and second in command of the Enterprise.

"How do you do, Yeoman." He gave the barest inclination of his head before returning to his work.

Uhura led Janice to the lower level of the bridge. "Mister Spock is very private," she whispered. "Don't take it personally."

"Is it true … is it true he can read minds?"

"Yes, in a way," Uhura said, softly, then, at Rand's reaction, hurriedly added, "but he has to be touching you, and it's hard, and I don't think he likes to do it. He surely wouldn't without your permission. He only did it that one time because it was a matter of life and death." Captain Pike had omitted the incident from the official report and from the captain's log because of Mister Spock's reticence. But everyone who had been on board at the time knew what had happened and what he could do.

Uhura did not think she had eased Rand's fear.

Hikaru Sulu, the helm officer and Pavel Chekov, the navigator, made Rand more comfortable. They showed her the displays on their complicated consoles and were nearer her age – but how old was she? Uhura wondered. She did not look even eighteen.

"Of course, nothing interesting is going on now," Sulu said. "It's pretty boring, going from one starbase to another."

Rand glanced at the viewscreen. "But it's so beautiful! And you see it all the time." The expanse of stars held her.

As Uhura had earlier, Sulu and Chekov followed her gaze.

Suddenly becoming aware of her own rudeness, Rand tore her attention from the viewscreen. "I – I'm sorry, I -" Her fair complexion colored.

"But you're right, Janice," Uhura said. "It is beautiful. Somehow we get used to it and we forget to look at it the way you do. It's good to be reminded." She squeezed Janice's hand.

"Ah, Yeoman Rand, you're here."

Startled, Rand jerked her hand from Uhura's. Captain Kirk strode onto the bridge.

"Uhura's introduced you around? Thank you, Lieutenant. Yeoman, let me show you what I need you to do."

Rand gave Uhura the look of someone about to be eaten by lions.

Uhura returned to her station. She did not envy Yeoman Janice Rand the job of keeping the executive paperwork, arranging the captain's schedule, reminding him of appointments and changes, and handling problems or referring them to the proper departments unless they would only get worse without Captain Kirk's authority. A list of the duties made the job look trivial. But Uhura had served on a ship with a disorganized yeoman. The captain had lived a life of chaos and everyone considered the subordinate incompetent. A yeoman who coped with the responsibility received little: no notice, few compliments. She decided to try to keep an eye on the kid, at least for the remainder of the watch.

Kirk showed Yeoman Rand to the open console on the port side of the bridge. "It's traditional for the captain's yeoman to use the environmental systems station," he said.

She inspected the daunting display panels.

"Don't be concerned about the complexity," the captain told her in an apparent attempt to ease the doubt and fear in the girl's expression. "Computer runs all the environmental systems. But you can use this console as your work station on the bridge."

"Yes, sir."

"As soon as you can, put together an appointment schedule for me. I want at least half an hour with each person on board. Spread the meetings out during the transit time between starbases. Don't bunch them up into one or two weeks. Try to arrange it so no one will have to visit me in the middle of their sleep cycle – or mine. Be sure not to conflict with staff meetings or inspections. Make it clear that it's informal, that it's just a chat. But don't take no for an answer. Understood?"

"Yes, Captain."

Kirk nodded. "Make yourself familiar with your station. I'll need you in a moment – one of your duties is to register the log and bring me the seal to sign."

"Yes, sir."

"Carry on."

"Yes, sir." Rand dived into the console as if seeking to hide.

Instead of going to his chair, he gazed at the viewscreen. He thought he smelled coffee – good coffee, too. He wondered where the smell was coming from.

The turbolift doors whooshed open to admit Amelinda Lukarian, the manager of the vaudeville company. She carried a roll of paper under one hand and a folder under her arm. She wore a suit of soft white leather. Her iridescent black hair streamed behind her, long and loose, unstyled.

"Jim, have you got a minute?"

Kirk realized he was grinning foolishly at her. He composed himself. "I'm at your disposal."

"I could use some help with this poster." She showed him what she was working on.

He had neither graphics experience nor drawing ability; he failed to cobble up a believable excuse for helping her himself. He decided to give the job to Rand to see if she could handle independent work.

"Yeoman Rand," he said.

She flinched at the sound of her name. "Yes, Captain?"

Impatient with Rand's terror, he let the poster roll itself up against his hands. "Lindy, Yeoman Rand will help you with whatever you need. Yeoman, you have my authorization to call on the ship's resources within reason in order to carry out Ms Lukarian's wishes. For starters you'll need to find a graphics-capable comm unit. Understood?"

"Yes, sir," she whispered.

"Thanks, Jim," Lindy said.

Lindy and Rand left to find a graphics terminal. Kirk watched them go, wondering what he had done to frighten Rand so badly. He did not understand her terror. He wished to know how to alleviate it. He wished he could think of a good reason to spend time with Lindy. He wished he could figure out where the smell of coffee was coming from.

When he took his seat he noticed the mug. Fragrant steam escaped from the vent in the lid.

"What's this?" he asked the bridge in general.

"Yeoman Rand said it was yours," Uhura said from her station.

He lifted the lid and was rewarded by the smell of coffee. He tried a sip. The covered mug had kept it hot and, to his amazement, it tasted the way good coffee was supposed to taste. More than that, it tasted the way good coffee smelled.

Captain Kirk glanced at the turbolift doors through which Yeoman Janice Rand had just disappeared, bemused.

 


 

Yeoman Janice Rand found the design room, having only taken two wrong turns along the way. She took a seat and its enormous graphics screen glowed to life.

"Please show me what you have in mind, Ms Lukarian."

"What I have in mind, ma'am, is something attention-getting," Lindy answered, taking a seat beside Rand.

"You mustn't call me 'ma,am'," Rand said. "I'm just a petty officer, and that isn't even registered yet."

"What should I call you?"

"Umm … Yeoman, if you want. Or Rand."

"How about Janice, and you call me just Lindy?"

"If that's what you'd like."

"It'd be easier, don't you think?"

"All right … just-Lindy."

Lindy giggled.

"We'd better do your poster," Rand said, serious again.

Lindy opened her folder. She obviously enjoyed showing off the flamboyant designs. Even more obviously, whoever had painted them really enjoyed their work.

"These are playbills – reproduction, I mean – from classic vaudeville companies." She unrolled her new poster and flattened out the curling corners of the paper. "I'm not happy with the design … It'll have to do, it's the best I can come up with. My daddy used to design a new one for every city. They were all different, but you could tell a hundred meters away that they came from our company. Unfortunately," she said, "that's one talent I didn't inherit." She scowled at the paper again. "Maybe the computer could fix it up a little?"

Rand flashed the scanner at Lindy's design.

Lindy groaned when it appeared on the screen, larger than life-size. "I wanted it to look classic but modern at the same time, but all it is, is awful."

"It isn't that bad," Rand said. She stroked the touch-sensitive screen. The letters straightened and fancied to a sort of neo-deco style.

"It never looks the way I imagine it."

"We could adapt something. One of your father's posters, maybe?"

"No!" Lindy's vehemence surprised Rand. "I mean it has to be different. We have different acts."

Rand glanced again at one of Lindy's reproductions. "I'm sure it's fine the way it is," she said. "But if you move this from here to here, and slide this over to this corner …" She rearranged it. "And make the background look like brush strokes, and clean up this line a little …"

Lindy gazed at the new design in silence.

She knew she'd gone too far. "I'm sorry," she said. "I'll put it back the way it was." She reached to delete the changes.

"No, wait!" Lindy said. "Janice, that's beautiful. How did you do that?"

"You had all the elements already. There is one other thing – I don't mean to keep butting in."

"No, go ahead."

"Different beings see different kinds of light. So if you widen out the color range -" She made the change.

"It looks awfully dark," Lindy said, doubtful.

"It wouldn't, if you saw ultraviolet or infrared. But I can brighten the middle colors." She did so. "Before, if were a Corellian, say, it would look like this." The computer performed the transposition. The poster darkened almost to black. "Now it would look like this." It brightened in a different way from the original."

"I wouldn't even have thought of that," Lindy said. "How did you find it all out?"

"I've lived a lot of different places. It wasn't anything I did anything special to learn."

"Want a job?" Lindy said.

"What?"

"I need a designer. You could join the company. I don't suppose you can juggle, can you?"

"I though you were the designer."

"No, I'm the manager, among other things. What do you say? Do you want the job?"

Rand dropped her hands to her laps, hiding them from sight. "I can't juggle."

"That's okay! I mean, that part was a joke. Will you join the company?"

"No. I signed on with Starfleet for two years."

"Oh," Lindy said, obviously disappointed. "The offer holds, if you change your mind." She admired Rand's poster. "Hey, have you had lunch? Do you want to go get something?"

"No – I mean, I'm sorry, I can't. I left papers all over Captain Kirk's desk. I'm sorry, I have to leave."

"Okay."

I guess I don't know Jim well enough, Lindy thought as Yeoman Rand hurried away. I wouldn't have guessed he'd get mad if she took a lunch break.

 


 

Yeoman Janice Rand returned to the captain's cabin. She sighed. Helping Ms Lukarian with the poster had put her awfully far behind. She had to admit she enjoyed the work, until she realized she had been talking to the manager almost as if they were equals. Lukarian had not seemed offended, but sometimes people covered up their anger for a while and then let it boil out all over you.

She envied Lukarian her freedom – freedom to choose how she would act and how she would dress and how she would look, unhampered by regulations and laws and proscriptions and rules. She allowed herself a moment to wonder if, now that she was in Starfleet, far from the world she had escaped, she might let her own hair grow a little. Then she shook her head at the frivolity.

She set back to work on the executive files. Captain Kirk really had made a botch of them – she wondered why he had tried to do all the work himself – but with computer's help she got them straightened out and in a form that made them comprehensible and compatible, rather than awkward and unique.

She had access to far more computer power at the captain's comm unit than she ever had with quartermaster. She had the freedom to design her own work; she could speak directly to computer. Quartermaster only allowed his subordinates to work within a narrow frame that he designed. He disliked it if someone tried to suggest a quicker or more efficient method.

She did not explore the system too aggressively, afraid that she might somehow stumble onto something she was not supposed to see or know about, and set off an alarm.

She paused to stretch and rub her eyes.

"Yeoman, are you all right?"

She leaped up, alarmed by the unexpected voice.

"Yeoman! It's just me." Captain Kirk gazed at her with a bemused expression.

"I'm sorry, you frightened me, I didn't hear you ---!" She clutched the edge of the desk. "I'm sorry, sir, I -" she had been daydreaming; she had no excuse. "I'm sorry."

"You're working late – the files must have been a mess."

"Oh, no, sir." She could hardly tell him the truth. She was glad she already knew how much this one disliked criticism. The ones who were the most dangerous encouraged you to say what was wrong, then punished you for being honest.

"You've done enough for today. You run along. Come back tomorrow."

"I'm – I'm sorry I'm not finished, sir, but really, it will only take me another few minutes. Sir." She set back to work, wishing he would not watch over her shoulder. Soon he wandered away. A leather chair squeaked and sighed when he sat down; the pages of his book rustled as he found his place.

"Yeoman, I don't remember calling the steward – did you straighten up around here?"

She looked up, feeling her face pale with apprehension, then turn red with embarrassment. Her fair complexion shouted her emotions to the world, and she hated it.

I was afraid of this, she thought. He doesn't like people touching his things … or suppose he can't find something and thinks I stole it. I knew I should have put everything back where it was.

But she had not memorized where everything had been. If he had noticed the difference, he would have thought she had been snooping. "I'm sorry, sir, I didn't think -"

"Yeoman, stop apologizing for everything!"

"I'm sorry, sir. I mean, yes, sir."

He scowled. "I didn't intend to criticize. It wasn't necessary for you to clean my cabin, that's the steward's job, but thank you anyway."

"Yes, sir. You're welcome, sir."

She tried to work, but he shifted in his chair, cleared his throat, rustled pages. His impatience frayed her nerves. If he would only let her alone -"

"Yeoman -"

"I'm almost finished, sir, honestly!"

"This isn't emergency duty – it isn't necessary for you to finish it tonight."

"It … it isn't?" she said, amazed. "Sir?"

"No, it isn't. I thought I said that already. Shut things down and go get yourself an early dinner. Rest your eyes. Relax. Have a swim or a game of jai alai or whatever you like to do in the evenings. Finish this tomorrow."

"Oh. All right, sir, if that's what you want." He probably wanted to check her work so he could get he could get someone else if she was putting things in a muddle. She hoped he did not notice that she had barely started on his schedule.

She shut down the system. She would prefer to work. She didn't like to swim – it meant taking off her clothes and putting on … less. Her roommate played jai alai in the intramural league, but the dangerous game terrified Rand. People always started classes on the ship, but if she joined one everybody would wish she would go away. As for an early dinner – she preferred eating late, with no one else around. She hoped she knew table manners now, but she might make another mistake. Then everyone would laugh at her again.

An early dinner meant a long lonely evening in her cabin. If her roommate was there with her friends, they would not talk to her. She evaded questions, so they thought she was stuck-up and creepy. Too late, she'd learned that the way to divert attention from her background was to ask other people to talk about theirs.

"Yeoman, how old are you?" Captain Kirk asked.

"What? Sir ---?" Her knees trembled. She collapsed at the comm unit, pretending to have one final task. She wondered frantically if it were he, not the Vulcan science officer, who could read minds. If he could, he knew her secrets. She ought to break down and confess. But if she did, they might be lenient with her and send her back. She would prefer a reformation camp or even prison. They let you earn money in refo, didn't they? A little? She would have to pretend to be tough and mean and unrepentant so they would think she was unfit to be returned.

"How old are you?"

"I – I'm almost twenty, sir. I forget exactly. I always have to convert to Earth-standard years."

"You don't look twenty," he said.

She distrusted his smile. She tried to laugh. It came out faint and false. "People always say that, sir."

"Decided young to go to space, eh? So did I. A family tradition? Or did you choose it on your own?"

Her carefully invented details vanished in her fear. "I decided on my own, sir," she said, hoping she had never told anyone the opposite. Before he could ask her another question, she plunged ahead. "What about you, sir?"

He spoke about his background and his past, about his parents and his brother, about his best friend very ill in the hospital. At first her fear deafened her, but her ruse had worked, so she calmed a little and heard what he was saying. He had done fascinating things and visited fascinating places, and he told of them with wit and charm.

The charming ones were even more dangerous than the thoughtless ones or the cruel ones.

He stopped. "I didn't mean to go on like that, Yeoman. You run along. I'll see you tomorrow."

Yeoman Janice Rand fled.

 


 

Jim Kirk flung himself into a chair in the sickbay office and put his feet on the desk, taking considerable pleasure in the solid thud of boot heels on wood.

"Do come in," Doctor McCoy said. "Sit down. Make yourself comfortable."

"The good news is, Gary's awake."

McCoy sat up straighter. "He is! That is good news, Jim."

"I just got off the comm with him. He's still pretty groggy – but he's going to be all right, Bones."

"I never doubted it for a minute," McCoy said. "What's the bad news?"

"The bad news is, I took your advice -"

"And you've come for your medical appointment without my having to send out the hounds! Hallelujah, brothers!" He rose. "Into the coverall with you!"

"No, no – I don't have time for an exam. I mean I took your advice about a yeoman."

"And ---?"

"And every time I speak to her, I scare her. She's a real case. She apologizes continuously."

"Continually," McCoy corrected.

"No, dammit, continuously. Every time she says anything, she starts out with 'I'm sorry'."

"Sounds pretty neurotic to me, all right."

"If that's true, how'd she get into Starfleet?"

McCoy laughed. "Jim, are you kidding? If Starfleet turned people down because of a major neurosis here or there, it'd have enough personnel for … oh, maybe one cruiser. A small cruiser."

"But -"

"We've all got our neuroses. I do, you do. Everybody."

"With the exception, I'm sure, of our Mister Spock."

"Spock!" McCoy snorted. "Spock worse of all! He represses all of half his heritage and most of the rest of it. Vulcans' worst neuroses is they really believe they're sane!"

"What do you mean, half his heritage?"

"His human half, of course. On his mother's side, I believe."

"I thought he was a Vulcan."

"So does he," McCoy said dryly.

"What else do you know about him?"

"He isn't much for idle chatter. I've heard of him, of course. Then there's the usual stuff in the medical record. Incredible education the man's got, and he's taken advantage of his opportunities – he's worked with people most of the rest of us would be lucky ever to meet."

"What do you mean, Bones? That he's well connected or that he's bright?"

"Bright? Bright hardly begins to describe him. He's brilliant, Jim. As for the other … he's only well connected if you count the relatives who are top-ranked diplomats or senior research scientists." McCoy grinned. "To tell you the truth, I never heard of a Vulcan whose family wasn't well connected."

Kirk felt in no mood to be amused. "Is that why he got promoted over Gary?"

"Because he has family connections and Mitch doesn't? I don't know. Why don't you ask him?"

"I can see that: 'Say, Commander Spock, is your success due to nepotism?' " Kirk shook his head. "I'm not being fair. I know it. I haven't given him a chance. It's only …" He changed the subject. "What am I going to do about Yeoman Rand?"

"Is her work poor?"

"Not at all. She made noise about her lack of experience, then pushed two buttons and the files made sense."

"You aren't looking for a graceful way to demote her and send her back to quartermaster?"

"No, I just want her to stop flinching when I talk to her! I hope she doesn't turn up all bright-eyed at my cabin two hours before breakfast anymore, either. That much enthusiasm is hard to take at dawn."

"Hmmm," McCoy said.

"She has to use the comm unit," Kirk said defensively.

"Why does she have to use your comm?"

"She has to work someplace – she can't spread my papers out all over the bridge."

"Is the yeoman's comm broken?"

"What yeoman's comm?"

McCoy sighed and gazed in supplication at the ceiling. "Jim, you're still thinking in cruiser terms – and you need a grand tour of your own ship. Including the yeoman's cabin, which is down the corridor from yours." His voice trailed off. "Jim, you didn't promote her out of seniority, then leave her in crew's quarters?"

"She's who quartermaster sent, so she's who I promoted. As for the other – I never thought about it."

"That's hard on morale. Have her move. Then one of your problems is solved. Maybe two – she flinches because the promotion's gotten her some heavy hazing."

"I doubt it. She flinched from the beginning."

"Then the flinching may take longer. I'll talk to her during her exam and see if I can find out what's wrong."

"Look, if she's seriously disturbed -"

"Jim! Half the time our neuroses are what allow us to function as well as we do in the circumstances we pick. I could give examples, present company included, but I don't have time to psychoanalyze you today. Though I would have had time to give you your physical, if I'd started when you got here."

Kirk grinned. "So you would."

"But I don't now. So buzz off. I've got another appointment in five minutes."

"Buzz off? Is that any way to talk to your C.O.?"

"Buzz off, sir,"

 


 

When Jim Kirk arrived on the bridge in the morning, he felt great. He had slept the night through without a recurrence of his persistent nightmares of Ghioghe. Gary Mitchell was on his way to recovery, the Enterprise was purring along without a hitch, and Kirk had won last night's game of chess, nearly managing to crack Commander Spock's taciturnity in the process.

Kirk felt pleased with himself. He was also sleepy. He wondered where Yeoman Rand had gotten the incredible coffee she'd given him yesterday. He wondered if there might be more of it somewhere.

Today it was not Rand's fault that he got too little sleep. McCoy's advice appeared to have worked. Kirk had seen nothing of her this morning.

No, his sleepiness was his own fault, and he did not care. He had traded half the night's sleep for the hard-played chess game with Commander Spock. He had won with a flamboyant, some might even say reckless, series of moves. Spock had been winning until Kirk's final, exhilarating rally.

The Vulcan, already at the science officer's station, showed no evidence of having been up till all hours.

"Good morning, Commander Spock."

"Good morning, Captain."

"I enjoyed our game last night."

"It was …" Spock hesitated, "… most instructive."

Kirk supposed that was as close as a Vulcan was likely to come to admitting he had enjoyed himself.

Kirk thought back, trying to recall a moment when he had been on the bridge and Commander Spock had not. The Science Officer came on early and stayed late. Maybe he wanted to demonstrate his devotion to his position as both science officer and second-in-command, to prove Admiral Noguchi had made the right decision.

Or maybe, he thought, the two jobs are too much for any single person. Maybe Noguchi should have let me make my own choice. And maybe Commander Spock shouldn't rub in the fact that I wasn't allowed to.

Kirk received the reports of the bridge stations, which all boiled down to "nothing to report." Engines and systems functioning normally. On course and on schedule. No urgent communications from Starfleet. No emergencies.

At times like this, space travel could get downright boring. He wished something would happen.

He wondered if Rand had begun setting up his meetings schedule. And where was she? She should report here first every morning, but he had neglected to mention that to her.

He tried to reach her at the yeoman's cabin. Though he had left orders for her to move into it immediately, computer registered no occupant.

He checked his schedule. Computer showed one appointment today and nothing thereafter. He sighed, wondering if he had gotten himself stuck with a yeoman who did everything in a hysterical flurry at the last minute.

Then he noticed whom his first appointment was with: Doctor Leonard McCoy.

The turbolift whooshed open. Yeoman Rand sidled to the environmental systems station and started to work.

"Yeoman Rand," he said stiffly.

"Yes, Captain?" she whispered.

"About my schedule."

"Yes, sir, it's right here, sir."

"But you made an appointment for me with Leonard McCoy," he said. "Doctor McCoy and I have served together for years. Didn't you notice that we both came to the Enterprise from the same ship?"

"No, sir. He didn't say – I'm sorry, sir."

Dammit, she was flinching and apologizing again. He started to say something. He suddenly became aware of her appearance.

Her uniform easily two sizes too big, her hair rumpled – though how hair that short could contrive to rumple, he did not know – and her eyes watery, she huddled in the seat as if she could make herself disappear.

"Yeoman Rand, are you all right?"

"Yes, Captain," she said in a small voice.

"What's your excuse for your disheveled appearance?"

"None, sir."

"Did you get my message about the yeoman's cabin?"

"Yes, sir, a few hours ago."

"Why haven't you moved in?"

"I'm sorry, sir. I … I just haven't." Her voice grew even smaller.

"Do it now. And don't ever – I repeat, ever – show up on my bridge in anything even hinting at your current state of disrepair."

She looked at him, stricken, fighting back tears. She leaped to her feet and bolted into the turbolift.

Uhura looked down at Captain Kirk. She found it hard to believe that anyone, under any circumstances, could speak to a child like Janice Rand in such a harsh tone. The communications officer put her station on standby.

"Excuse me," she said coldly. "I have a break coming." She left without waiting for Kirk's dismissal. The turbolift closed. "Take me wherever you took your last passenger," she told it.

The turbolift let her out into a deserted corridor, nowhere near crew quarters or officers' territory. Uhura wondered what Rand was planning to do. In her current emotional state, maybe she was not planning anything. Maybe she just wanted to go somewhere, anywhere, away from the bridge.

In he second briefing room she checked, Uhura found Rand crying uncontrollably with her head pillowed on her arms.

"Janice, don't cry. There, there, it's all right." Uhura sat beside her and put her arm around Rand's shoulders.

Rand flinched away, huddling in on herself, trying to stop crying and only making it worse.

"Everything's all right. It's going to be all right," Uhura patted her shoulder and stroked the irregular fuzz of her hair.

"I couldn't help it!" Rand whispered, he voice shaky and broken. "I understand why Roswind hates me now, but she hated me before when she didn't have any reason to, and it isn't my fault."

"Of course it isn't," Uhura said. She had no idea what Rand was talking about, but she kept on offering reassurance until the child calmed down.

After ten minutes or so, Rand cried herself out. Her face was red and her eyes swollen with tears and she sniffled occasionally. With her rough-chopped hair and her baggy uniform, she looked a mess. Uhura got a towel from the steward's station in the corner and gave it to her.

"Better now?" Uhura said. "Wipe your eyes. Blow your nose. There. Take a deep breath. Good. Now. Tell me what happened."

The words came out in a tumble. Rand had no conception of hazing. Sometime in her life she had decided, or had it demonstrated to her, that sticking up for herself was more dangerous than submitting to humiliation. This troubled Uhura; she wondered if Rand's spirit had been crushed beyond recovery.

"And then this morning," Rand said, "I went back to the cabin to get my things and move, and I just lay down for a second, only I was so tired I fell asleep and when I woke up I was late, and I put my uniform on only it was the wrong uniform. I know I ordered the right one but it isn't the one that was there when I lay down, and I didn't know whether to order another one and wait, or put it on and go to work and Roswind laughed till I could hardly think." Her lips quivered. She hovered on the brink of tears again. "She's so beautiful and I admired her so much at first, but all she ever did was make fun of me and laugh."

"Why didn't you just laugh, too?"

Rand stared at her, uncomprehending. "I had to go to work."

"She was teasing you, Janice. Maybe she let it go farther than she meant – I hope that's all it was – or maybe she's the sort of person who likes to see how far she can push you. Usually all you have to do is push back."

Rand said nothing. She sat very still, neither agreeing nor disagreeing, giving every indication of listening to what Uhura said to her. But the expression in her eyes was lost, distant, hopeless.

"Where are you from, Janice?"

"What? I'm sorry, I mean …"

"Where's your home world?"

"Oh," she said, her voice rising into a brittle false cheer. "I'm from all over, we moved around a lot."

"Who's we? Your family, your community? Where did you go?"

"Why are you asking me all these questions?" Rand cried. "Why should you care, what do you need to know for?"

"I care because it hurts me to see anyone as frightened as you are. I care because we have to work together, and we can't if you act like a scared sixteen-year-old."

Rand gasped and her fair skin paled. Uhura feared she would faint. The child flung herself on her knees at Uhura's feet.

"How did you find out? Oh, please, please, don't tell, don't tell anyone -"

"Janice -!"

"Please, I'll do anything! Just don't tell!"

"Janice, get up!" Embarrassed, horrified, Uhura practically dragged Rand up. "Stop it, now, stop it!"

Rand jerked herself away from Uhura. "How did you find out?" she cried.

Uhura realized what Rand believed. "Like a shared sixteen-year-old," Uhura had said. Without meaning to, Uhura had discovered Rand's secret.

"That doesn't matter," Uhura said.

"If you tell, I'll kill myself! I'll kill you! I'll -"

Uhura could not help but smile. She drew the terrified child into a hug. "Nobody's killing anybody. Don't be silly."

After a while Rand's sobs subsided. She huddled against Uhura as if she were starved for comfort.

"However did you get into Starfleet at sixteen? They're pretty strict about that." Starfleet would send younger cadets, officer candidates, on heavily supervised training cruises, but regulations permitted no human under seventeen to join the crew. Safeguards and double-checks prevented children of any sentient species from running away to join Starfleet on a lark.

Whatever Janice Rand's motives, she had not run away on a lark.

"When I was little, my family moved," Rand whispered. "The warp engines blew, and we had to travel through normal space. We accelerated almost to light-speed, so it only took us a few weeks of subjective time. But objective time, it was three years."

"Nobody ever corrected the records?"

Rand shook her head.

"I don't see how you got away with it." To Uhura, Rand did not look anywhere near twenty. She looked like a sixteen-year-old. But no one ever thought about her, no one ever asked.

"I lied," Rand said. "I'm scared to, because when people find out you've done it, they – they don't like it. But I had to. People believe a big enough lie. They figure you'd never dare say it if it wasn't true."

Uhura laughed, then sobered. "What are we going to do with you?"

Rand's eyes widened. "You are going to tell!"

Appalled by the prospect of Rand's falling on her knees again, Uhura tried to reassure her. But she was unwilling to promise not to send her home. "Don't be so frightened. We need to talk. Would going home be so bad? You're just a kid, Janice. You should be going to school, back with our family -"

"No! I'll never go back! You can't make me!"

"Don't you think they're worried about you? Wouldn't they want to know you're safe, no matter what happened, no matter what you did?"

"I didn't do anything!" Rand said. "But I will – I'll make you put me in prison before I go back to Saweoure!"

"I'm not putting anybody in prison, Janice, and I never heard of Saweoure."

"It's where we ended up after the ship lost its warp drive. We didn't have enough money to get it fixed. We had to sell it and stay there. But you can't just stay there if you don't have any money. You have to be under somebody's 'protection'." Quite calmly, Rand told her the rest of it.

When she finished, Uhura felt near tears.

"Janice …" She took a deep breath. "What you're describing is nothing more than slavery! How is this allowed to go on? Hasn't anyone tried to stop it?"

Rand's voice turned bitter. "How should I know? Maybe it's easier for the Federation to think everything's all right. Maybe everybody likes it that way so they keep it a secret."

Uhura welcomed Rand's bitterness and her anger, for it proved her spirit still existed. "How did you get away?"

"After our parents died I sneaked me and my brothers on board a cargo shuttle. We were too ignorant to know it was impossible. Once the shuttle got back to its mother ship, we stayed hidden. It wasn't too hard. Then we hid in a crate of relief supplies, and when we landed we snuck into the Faience refugee camp -"

"You snuck into Faience?" The camp was a horror story of mismanagement and malice in the middle of a system-wide disaster, and many people had died needlessly.

Rand shrugged. Uhura felt a certain awe at the coolness with which Rand faced her past, if not her present.

"It was better than where we'd been," Rand said. "Then Starfleet came to relocate us, and that's when I found out I was legally three years older than I really am. I don't have any records except my birth certificate."

"What about your brothers?"

"They didn't even have birth certificates. The officials at Faience patted us on the head and said, 'Oh, you poor children,' and registered Ben and Sirri. Since I was of age, I got their guardianship. I found them a good school and I joined Starfleet so I could pay for it."

Amazed that anyone could go through what Rand had endured and survived, Uhura tried to think of some words of encouragement.

In the few seconds of silence, the young yeoman's steadiness evaporated as she waited for still another person with complete power over her to determine her fate.

"I'm almost seventeen," Rand whispered. "I mean I'm almost really seventeen. I think, as near as I can figure. I do my job, Uhura." She hesitated. "I guess you wouldn't know that from today, though."

"I think you should tell," Uhura said.

"No!"

"I think you should testify before the Federation of Planets Rights Commission. I think you should try to stop what's going on."

"I can't."

"Janice -"

"Uhura, you don't understand! I committed a crime by sneaking on board that cargo ship."

"It's illegal to prevent citizens from moving freely -"

"But it isn't illegal to charge a lot of money to get from one place to another, and I didn't pay for a ticket. Stowing away is the same as hijacking, on Saweoure. If I testified, the officials would call me a criminal and a liar and a thief. And they'd be able to prove what they charged me with. I did all those things. Please don't tell. Please."

"You should tell – you should tell the authorities what you told me."

"The authorities?" Rand said angrily. "Like who, for instance? Like Captain Kirk? He wouldn't listen to me. He'd think I was just making something up."

Uhura hesitated. If she had found all this out while Captain Pike still commanded the Enterprise, she would not have hesitated to urge Rand to confide in him. But she did not know Kirk well enough to have any idea how he might react to Rand's story. Rand certainly had little reason to have any confidence in his sympathy. Not after what had just happened on the bridge.

"Please, Uhura," Rand said again. "Please don't tell."

Uhura replied with great reluctance. "All right, I promise. My word still means something to me. I don't break it."

"Thank you, Uhura."

"I still think – at least consider talking to the Rights Commission," Uhura said. Before Rand could react with fear again, Uhura changed the subject. "Now let's get you fixed up and back to the bridge. The sooner you forget about this morning, the better."

"I have to … to go back to my cabin. I left my things on my bunk. Roswind will be there, I guess."

"Forget about your roommate. You move into the yeoman's cabin. Wash your face. Put on a fresh uniform. I'll get your things for you."

"Oh, Uhura, would you?"

"Leave it to me," Uhura said.

If either of them saw anything wrong with a lieutenant fetching things for a yeoman, neither woman said anything.

 


 

On the bridge, Jim Kirk sat stiff and angry, his arms folded across his chest. Blast Rand anyway, she had wrecked his good mood. Everyone pretended they had noticed neither Rand's embarrassment nor Uhura's anger. No doubt they all thought he had been too hard on his new yeoman.

They could think what they liked. He could be as easygoing as anyone, but if people took advantage, things would have to change. He loathed having anyone play on his sympathy, especially with tears.

The turbolift returned. Amelinda Lukarian bounded out. Kirk wondered why Janice Rand could not take Lindy or Uhura as a model; and how had Rand managed to persuade the synthesizer to give her a uniform in the wrong size, anyway? That took real talent.

"Hi, Jim, I came to give Janice the first-off-the-press poster." Lindy unrolled her paper. "She did a terrific job. You've got a treasure, Jim. Even if she can't juggle. Think Starfleet would come after me if I shanghaied one of its people?"

He restrained himself from telling her that she could have Yeoman Janice Rand right now. He looked at the poster. "It is eye-catching," he admitted.

"Janice designed it practically from scratch," Lindy said. "I brought one for you, too, but the first one is for her. Where is she?"

"She … er … she had some work on another deck. She'll be back." He felt a good less certain than he sounded.

"Okay, I'll wait. And I have one more small favor to ask -"

The turbolift doors whooshed and Yeoman Rand returned. She had changed her uniform and combed her hair; she looked fragile and unhappy, but she had retreated from the brink of tears. Without a word she took her station.

"Speak to my yeoman about any problems you have with your company, Ms Lukarian," Kirk said. "Or your pets. Now, I do have work to do – even if nobody else does."

Lindy smiled at him and jumped up all the steps at once to join Rand. Kirk wondered if she ever just walked anywhere. And he wondered what he could do to get her to smile at him again.

"Captain, excuse me." Yeoman Rand spoke almost too softly for him to hear her.

"Whatever Ms Lukarian needs, within reason, please take care of it."

"I will, sir. But you asked me to arrange your schedule, too. Computer has it now, if you want to review it to give me any changes." She hesitated. "I'm sorry for the misunderstanding about Doctor McCoy. He expects you in ten minutes. Should I call him and cancel for you?"

"No, Yeoman, never mind."

Pretending to be busy, he brought the schedule up on his tablet and glanced through it.

At least she had done as he asked this time. The appointments stretched over the next three months. He thought it important at least to meet everyone on board.

He stood up. "I'll be in sickbay for the next half-hour," he said to no one in particular.

 


 

When Uhura arrived at Janice Rand's old cabin, the crew member who had admitted her glanced up with disinterest, then noticed the officer's stripes and jumped to her feet.

"Lieutenant!" she said. "Umm -" She was very tall and extremely beautiful, and Uhura could understand why Rand felt overwhelmed by her.

"You are ---?" Uhura said, deciding to let her stand and sweat.

"Uh, Roswind, ma'am."

"Roswind, I believe Yeoman Rand left some of her belongings behind when she moved."

"Uh, yes, ma'am. They're right over there."

"Thank you." She collected the possessions, thinking, Well, Roswind, you're not such a bully when you're outranked, are you?

"How is Janice doing, ma'am?"

"Captain Kirk is obviously impressed with her," Uhura said, reflecting that, from one point of view, the claim was no stretch of the truth. "Oh, by the way, Roswind, do you have any allergies? Hay fever, particularly?"

"No, ma'am, not that I know of. Not hay fever."

"Excellent." Taking her own good time, she rearranged Rand's belongings and tied them up in a scarf. She regarded the parcel carefully, picked it up, and started for the door.

"Uh, ma'am?"

"Yes, Roswind?"

"Why, ma'am?"

"Why what?"

"Why did you want to know if I had any allergies, ma'am?"

"Because of your new roommate."

"I don't understand, ma'am."

"Some human beings react adversely to her species, but the reaction correlates almost a hundred percent with hay fever, so you needn't worry."

"What species is she, ma'am?"

"Why? You aren't -" Uhura lowered her voice. "You aren't xenophobic, are you?"

Since xenophobia could get one dishonorably discharged from Starfleet, Roswind reacted most satisfactorily.

"No, ma'am, of course not! I get along with everybody! I was just – curious."

"I see. I'm sure you'll get along with her, too. Her people are intelligent and soft-spoke. Just one thing."

"What's that, ma'am?"

"Their planet rotates about every sixty hours, so their circadian rhythm is different from hours. She'll stay awake longer than you do, and sleep longer, too. Her people are known to react badly if they're awakened, so you'll want to be cautious."

"What do you mean, 'badly,' ma'am? You mean she'll jump up and bite you?"

"No, no, she'd never hurt you. Her people are quite timid. But shock might put her into hibernation. If that happens, she'll sleep for weeks. That wouldn't do her career any good."

"Oh," Roswind said. "I see. I'm sure we won't have any trouble, ma'am."

"Good. Well, Roswind, thank you for your help." She started for the door again.

"Lieutenant?"

"What is it, Roswind?"

"What does my new roommate look like, ma'am? Just so I'll recognize her, I mean."

"You won't have any trouble recognizing her," Uhura said. "She's green."

 


 

"How do you do, Doctor McCoy. I'm James T. Kirk, your captain," he said as he strolled into the sickbay office. "How nice to meet you, and what a surprise. Are you having any difficulties? All your supplies in order? What do you think of the ship?"

"How do you do, Captain?" McCoy said. "Everything's fine, just fine." McCoy tossed him an examination coverall.

"What's this?"

"Examination coverall."

"I know that -"

"Transparent to diagnostic signals -"

"I know that, too -"

"And you've got a free half-hour -"

Kirk frowned. "This is a setup, isn't it? Between you and Yeoman Rand."

"It's a setup, but she didn't have anything to do with it. She said you'd wanted to chat with everyone on board the Enterprise -"

"And you conveniently forgot to mention that you've known me since I was a lieutenant."

"If you didn't want a get-acquainted appointment with me, you should have told her."

"She might have noticed we've shipped out together before."

"Oh, I see." McCoy nodded gravely. "Aside from learning a new job, and making sense of that mess on your desk, and spending the next week setting up your appointments, she's supposed to memorize all the Enterprise personnel service records. And do it all overnight."

"No, of course not. It would have been convenient if she'd made the connection, though." Then something McCoy had said made a connection in Kirk's mind. He swung McCoy's comm unit around.

"Make yourself at home," McCoy said dryly.

Kirk started when he read the screen, for McCoy had been filling out a requisition form for a package of regen starter culture.

Kirk pretended he had not noticed the subject of the requisition. He called his own schedule from the files. He paged through it, noting its regular progression, day after day. In the last twenty-four hours or so, Rand had set up several hundred appointments for him; she had put them in clusters of a few each day, and though many members of the crew worked middle or low watch and slept odd hours, and some people worked on a schedule that had nothing to do with the twenty-four-hour circadian rhythm of the human majority on the Enterprise, Rand had somehow managed to keep his early mornings clear.

"It didn't take her a week," he said.

"What are you talking about?"

"I didn't think how long it would take to arrange that complicated a schedule until you mentioned it. Somehow, she's nearly done. She must have gone back to the bridge and worked all evening. Maybe all night."

McCoy looked over his shoulder. "You know, Jim, you're not supposed to work yeomen so hard they don't have time to sleep. I think it's against regs or something."

"I was really rough on her this morning." Kirk tossed the exam coverall on McCoy's desk. "I'll see you later." He headed for the door.

"Jim, wait! You've got to have your exam." McCoy followed him into the corridor. "If you get it over with now, you won't have to worry about it anymore."

"Who's worried?" Kirk said without slowing down, determined to put off giving McCoy a look at his knee just as long as he could.

 


 

Uhura managed to keep from laughing in Roswind's face, but as soon as turbolift doors closed safely behind her, she dissolved into giggles.

Halfway to officer's territory, the turbolift paused.

Captain Kirk joined her.

"I could use a good laugh, Lieutenant," he said. "You wouldn't want to tell me the joke, would you?"

"No, sir," she said, coldly, still angry with him for the way he had treated Rand. "Captain, people are sometimes under pressure that you don't know about."

He raised his arms as if to protect his head from a blow. For one awful moment Uhura feared he, too, would fall to his knees at her feet.

"I confess! Mea culpa!" Captain Kirk's voice and actions seemed part mocking, yet part serious. He lowered his hands. "Doctor McCoy read me one riot act about Yeoman Rand, I can't say I'd blame you if read me another. If I promise to apologize, will you spare me?"

"I think you should apologize in public," Uhura said.

That brought him up short. He paused, considered, and nodded. "You're right," he said. "I chewed her out in public, so it's only fair. Now will you forgive me?"

"Yes, sir," she said. "Gladly."

"And now will you tell me the joke?" He looked like a little boy who realized for the first time that his mischief had caused grief and pain. He looked like someone who needed reassurance. If he had been anyone but the captain of the ship, she would have let him in on her plans for Roswind.

"No, sir," she said. "I can't. It's personal."

Lieutenant Uhura got out of the turbolift in officers' territory. Captain Kirk returned to the bridge alone. Yeoman Rand glanced up from her conversation with Lindy, then looked away, afraid to meet his gaze.

"Lindy, would you excuse us?" Kirk said. He spoke loudly enough for everyone on the bridge to hear him. "Yeoman Rand, I spoke to you in an unpardonable manner this morning. I criticized you when I should have been complimenting your dedication. I apologize."

She stared at him in silence.

"Would you come with me, please?" He had no particular destination in mind; he simply found a corridor in which they could walk. "Yeoman, when's the last time you any sleep?"

"I … I …" She took a deep breath. "I'm sorry, sir. I overslept. That's why I was late."

"Maybe the question I need to ask is how long did you work." She remained silent. "All night?"

"I'm sorry, sir. I tried to finish -"

"Yeoman, I appreciate your enthusiasm, but you aren't very useful if you're too tired to get the right size uniform out of the synthesizer -"

"I didn't ---!"

He heard protest and anger in her voice, but she cut herself off quickly.

"You didn't what, Yeoman?"

"Nothing, sir."

He sighed. She was still flinching. "There's such a thing as being too conscientious. There's such a thing as wearing yourself out before you've even gotten started."

"I'm sorry …" she said.

He felt like cringing himself. He could not figure out how to talk to her. "You don't need to apologize for being conscientious. I don't think I'm a tyrant – I don't try to be. But sometimes you'll have to work two watches straight. Maybe even work around the clock. I won't apologize when I ask that of you. I'll hand you troubleshooting jobs that I expect you never to mention again, and like as not I'll forget to give you credit because I'll forget I gave them to you. Is that understood?"

"Yes, sir," she said, her voice feathery.

"There are times when you'll have to work harder than you've ever worked before." He noticed her ironic smile, which she repressed almost instantly. "But outside those times, you're going to have to use your judgment."

"I did use my judgment!" she said, flustered.

"Your judgment told you to stay up all night working on a job that didn't have to be finished for three months?"

"You said, 'As soon as you can, put together an appointment schedule for me.' My judgment told me that I have to answer to your judgment. Whether it's poor or – I mean, I'm not familiar with your judgment."

"I see." They reached the observation deck. Kirk idly opened the shield to reveal the stars.

Rand gasped.

"It is quite a sight, isn't it?" he said. "Sit down, we'll talk for a few minutes." He gestured toward a chair where she would be able to see outside.

"But your schedule -"

"I still have a good fifteen minutes left of my appointment with Doctor McCoy. I shouldn't have snapped at you about that, either." He grinned. "He thought he'd found a clever way to get me in his clutches long enough to make me take my physical. Sit down."

She obeyed.

"I was thoughtless yesterday," he said, "and I was … unnecessarily harsh with you this morning. I apologize, and I hope you'll forgive me."

"There's nothing to forgive, Captain."

"I think there is – and I think you ought to convince yourself that you have the right to be treated as a sentient being. Your feelings matter, too."

"I'll try, sir." She answered quickly, firmly: he suspected she was saying what she thought he wanted to hear.

"Did you make an appointment to talk to me?"

Her pale face burned. "No, sir. I … forgot."

"Tell me a little about yourself."

She gazed at him, straightforward, deliberate. Then she looked away and said quickly, "There's nothing to tell, sir. I got out of school. I joined Starfleet."

"Your family?"

She hesitated briefly. "My parents are dead. They were just ordinary people, with ordinary jobs."

"Sisters? Brothers?"

She said nothing.

"Pet goldfish?"

She nearly smiled.

"That's better. Well, Yeoman, you're an enigma. Too bad the Foreign Legion was disbanded."

"I don't understand what that means," she whispered.

"It was a military organization, several centuries ago. People joined it who … didn't want to be asked questions."

She looked away, partly to avoid his gaze, partly to see the stars. The orientation of the Enterprise turned the galaxy into a great diagonal slash, eerie against the blackness.

"Never mind, Yeoman," he said. "You're an adult; you have a right to your privacy. But if you ever feel you need someone to talk to …" She did not reply. He rose. "We'd better get back to the bridge."

She followed him out, pausing to glance back one last time as the shield closed over the viewport.

"By the way," he said, "Lindy complimented your work in the strongest terms. Where did you learn design?"

"Here and there." About Ms Lukarian, sir -"

"What did she want this time?"

"Dirt, Captain."

"Dirt ---?"

"Bridge calling Captain Kirk."

He hurried to the nearest intercom. "Kirk here."

"Sir, there's a subspace communication -"

"Starfleet ---?" His adrenaline level rose. An emergency …? What would he do with the civilians? Or perhaps it was a message about Gary Mitchell.

"Not Starfleet, sir. It's a private craft. He says … he's a juggler, sir."

Kirk stared at the intercom. "A juggler?" He laughed. "Is Ms Lukarian still on the bridge?"

"Yes, sir.

"I think it's safe to assume the communication's for her. Let her take it. I'll be up in a minute." Still chuckling, he entered the nearest turbolift, gesturing for Rand to follow him. "You were saying, Yeoman. Dirt?"

"Yes, sir. The deck is too hard for Athene's hooves, and the corral doesn't give her enough room to move around. She'd like to put a layer of dirt on the shuttle bay deck -"

"We don't have any dirt!" Kirk exclaimed. "What does she want me to do, deplete molecular storage to synthesize – dirt? No, it's out of the question. A layer of dirt – on the shuttle bay deck? It's ridiculous!"

"I've spoken to Commander Spock and Lieutenant Sulu and Lieutenant Uhura. We could do it." She outlined the proposal as they rode toward the bridge.

"No," Kirk said. "I want to stay in warp drive."

"But Athene -"

"Athene will have to wait. A starship is no place for a bunch of animals in the first place." The turbolift doors stood open. His voice had carried all the way across the bridge.

Lindy, sitting in his seat, glanced back at him.

 


 

Still half asleep, Roswind dropped her robe on the floor of the bathroom. It was great to have the cabin to herself for a while. Sharing it with that wimpy little Janice Rand had been just about more than she could stand. Roswind smiled, thinking about how Janice had looked in that oversized uniform. That would teach her to get promoted over people with more seniority and more skills. Roswind wondered when the new roommate would move in. She wondered what the new roommate was. If she was green … maybe a Vulcan? That might be interesting. But, did Vulcans hibernate? They surely were not timid.

Roswind stepped into the shower and onto something warm and slippery. She shrieked and leaped back, shocked awake.

A large lumpy green creature nestled sleeping in the sonic shower. The mark of Roswind's toes marred the faint pulsating sheen of its translucent skin. Roswind could see its – her – internal organs moving and working.

"What are you doing in the shower?" Roswind asked, indifferent to the possibility of scaring her new roommate into hibernation. The being – Roswind had not asked what her new roommate's name would be, or even whether she had a name – lay quiet and silent. "You're worse than Rand – she just didn't know what a sonic shower was. But you – you think it's a bed!"

Feeling grumpy and badly used, Roswind went to the rec deck locker room for a shower. The place was packed with people getting ready to go on duty. Whenever a starship set out on an extended voyage, practically everyone on board signed up for some kind of exercise class: tai chi or yoga, martial arts from several worlds, beginning fencing (that was a new one), and even an obscure and esoteric practice whose name translated as "deep breathing" but which sounded to Roswind like nothing more than an excuse for people to shriek at the top of their lungs for an hour.

Within a few weeks half the people would have dropped out of classes and gone back to their usual sedentary ways, but for the moment the locker room was one big traffic jam.

Just how long am I going to have somebody sleeping in my shower? she wondered. If she's going to do this all the time, can I get away with filing a complaint?

Personnel looked askance at any frivolous – or bigoted – objection to a roommate of a different species. If the roommate emitted methane or some other noxious gas, if two roommates required widely different temperatures, or if one were allergic to the other – Roswind wished she had not assured Lieutenant Uhura that she had no allergies – then Personnel would grant a transfer. But a complaint that a new recruit had mistaken the shower for a bunk would bring nothing but a reprimand and a lecture on tolerance. So she grumbled, took her shower in the locker room, and snapped, short-tempered, at everyone who spoke to her all day.

 


 

The small theater on the recreation deck was nearly full. Captain James Kirk tried to accept his reserved front-row seat as a courtesy, but he felt on display. Turning around in his seat, he scanned the audience for Yeoman Rand, who he knew had put him here.

He found her in the back row, looking forward toward the stage – and him. As soon as she saw him looking at her, she flinched and averted her eyes.

The rustle and hum of conversation increased. As he turned around to the front, Kirk made out disconnected bits: expectation, laughter, curiosity.

Commander Spock entered the auditorium. The shadows accentuated the angular planes of his face.

He took the seat beside Kirk's that had been reserved for him. He sat straight and stiff, his hands resting on his thighs, his expression one of studied neutrality. Kirk glanced at him, quizzically.

"Commander Spock."

"Captain."

"I didn't know Vulcans went in for frivolous entertainments."

Spock arched his eyebrow. "I was under the impression, Captain," he said, "that you had issued an order to attend."

"What? Certainly not. Where did you get that idea?"

"From your announcement, Captain."

Kirk thought back over his wording. He had not ordered anyone to attend. Neither had he thought to specify that attendance was optional. He had to remember that the officers and crew needed time to become familiar with him. They might all assume, as had his new yeoman Janice Rand, that he was a martinet who expected them to treat his most subtle hints, his offhand whims, as unbreakable orders.

"Commander Spock, when I give a direct order, I'll make it clear that it's a direct order."

"Very well, Captain." Spock remained in his seat.

"That means you don't have to stay," Kirk said.

"Is that a direct order, sir?"

"No, it is not a direct order."

"In that case, I will remain. I am most curious about Ms Lukarian's profession. Perhaps I misjudged her character. I wish to observe her performance. As well as that of the rest of her company, of course."

"By all means, then, observe."

"Thank you, Captain." The Vulcan glanced around the theater. "Though I would prefer to have been assigned a seat in the back. That way, I could observe both the performers and the audience."

"Why don't you relax, Mister Spock?" Kirk said. "You can observe the audience at the second show."

If Spock realized Kirk had made a joke, he gave no sign of it. "An excellent suggestion," he said. "Humans have so many quaint and contradictory beliefs. It is interesting to observe them under unusual conditions. Are you aware, Captain, that branches of the Flat Earth Society have sprung up on several worlds colonized by human beings?"

"No, I wasn't aware of that." Kirk wondered if Spock was pulling his leg, but that seemed rather out of character. "But I don't see how you can equate a vaudeville show with believing that the Earth is flat."

"Not the show itself – the magic. Magic has been used to defraud, to engender a belief in the supernatural -"

"Mister Spock," Kirk said with some asperity, "this is an entertainment, not a conspiracy. Are you expecting Lindy's company to set up a séance? To help you – for a suitable fee, of course – contact your dead great-aunt Matilda?"

"How did you know, Captain, that my mother's deceased aunt was named Matilda?"

"I -" Kirk started to say that he and half the other adult human beings he knew had a great-aunt named Matilda; it have been a very popular name two generations before. Instead, he grinned. "Psychic, I guess."

The house lights flickered again. The audience settled. A spotlight flashed on center stage.

Amelinda Lukarian – Lindy no longer – gazed out, silent, aloof, somber. She wore a decidedly feminine version of an old-fashioned man's tuxedo: a white bodice, black fishnet stockings, a black coat, and topped off with a black top hat.

Kirk would have sworn the stage had been empty, even when the house lights dimmed. Amelinda had simply appeared – as if by magic. He wondered how she created the illusion.

You're beginning to think like a Vulcan, Kirk told himself. Take your own advice: sit back and enjoy the show.

"Honorable members of the crew of the starship Enterprise." Onstage, the magician's voice took on a low and powerful timbre that sent an extra thrill down Kirk's spine. "Welcome to the first interstellar performance of the Warp-Speed Classic Vaudeville Show." She tipped her hat. "I am Amelinda, and I am a magician. I will show you illusion – or I will show you a deeper reality. Only you can judge which it is."

She plucked a glittering object form the air. The audience murmured in surprise. The transparent blue disk caught the light, concentrated it, and flung it out again.

"The people of Tau Ceti II possess great mineralogical expertise. They crystallize their currency from pure sapphire," Amelinda said. "Jewels have transfixed the imagination of sentient beings since before history – but some would say that jewels have powers of their own, powers that transcend even the imagination."

She held up the sapphire coin, grasped it with her other hand – and it disappeared.

"My daddy used to tell me, a fool and her money are soon parted," Amelinda continued. "But you know how aggravating children can be. I always replied -" She reached up and plucked another coin from nothingness.

Kirk found himself applauding along with the rest of the audience, except, he noted, for Commander Spock.

Spock leaned forward, intent on the stage. Two narrow parallel furrows creased his brow. Then, as if he had become aware of Kirk's scrutiny, his forehead smoothed and his expression regained its impassivity.

The applause stopped. The audience waited expectantly.

"It is, of course," Spock said in a normal tone of voice, "the same coin."

Kirk glanced sidelong at the Vulcan. Amelinda hesitated so briefly that Kirk was not certain she'd heard.

"It came in handy, my 'magic money', as my daddy used to call it," Amelinda said, "when I was little. There was a bully in school who stole money from anyone smaller than him. Whenever he tried to steal mine, I made it disappear."

She reached for the second coin; like the first, it vanished from her hand.

"The coin is still in her hand," Spock said.

"Commander Spock!" Kirk whispered.

"Yes, Captain? No evidence of phaser or transporter dematerialization. Therefore, the coin must still be in her hand. Unless," Spock said in a thoughtful tone, "it was a holographic projection."

"Shut up, Commander. That's a direct -"

"House lights," Amelinda said.

Kirk looked up. Amelinda stood at the edge of the stage, glaring down. Her heavy iridescent hair gleamed, shoulder-length around her face, falling below her hips in back.

"House lights!" she said again. The power of her voice came from her alone, without the aid of amplifiers.

The house lights brightened.

"Commander Spock," Amelinda said, with perfect composure, "would you care to repeat your comment so the rest of the audience can hear you?"

"I said that the coin was a holographic illusion, or that it was still in your hand," Spock said.

"A holographic projection? That would be cheating." She held out her open hand. "And the coin is not in my hand."

"Your other hand," Spock said.

"The coin isn't in my hand – or in my hand." Amelinda extended her other hand, open and empty.

Spock raised one eyebrow.

"We're lucky – aren't we?" Amelinda said. "If my birthplace were Tau Ceti II, and I were one of its octomanual inhabitants: 'It is not in my hand, or in my hand, or in my hand …' Why, we'd be here all night."

The audience laughed with her.

She offered her empty hand to Spock. "I usually ask for a volunteer later on, but since you're so eager, Commander Spock, you can help me now."

Spock rose from his seat and sprang onto the stage.

Amelinda regarded him with a smile, accepting him as a worthy opponent. "You claim that I have only one coin."

"I said you plucked the same coin from the air both times," Spock said.

"I don't blame you for thinking that. Air is so barren. I wonder what we might find in more fertile fields? Hold out your hands."

Spock complied. Reaching up to his left ear, Amelinda plucked a coin and dropped it, glittering into Spock's outstretched hands.

The audience loved it. Jim laughed, impressed by Amelinda's audacity in inviting a Vulcan to watch her illusions at close range.

Amelinda plucked a coin from Spock's right ear. One after another, she pulled coins from Spock's ears and dropped the sapphire disks into his hands until there was no question of their being holographic projections. Each crystal hit the next, ringing with high, piercing tones. Spock watched, nonplussed.

"So much more to work with than air," Amelinda said. Then she blushed. "Sorry," she said, the only break in her stage presence. "Cheap joke."

Spock tried to hold all the coins, but one slipped from the double handful. It spun on the stage and rolled into the shadows. Ignoring it, Amelinda scooped coins from Spock's hands and pitched them into the audience until Spock stood empty-handed once more.

"Now they've disappeared for good," Amelinda said, "and even I can't make them return."

The audience erupted into applause. Amelinda swept off her hat and bowed low. Her hair fell forward, nearly touching the floor. When she stood again she flung it back, like a dark, iridescent cape and replaced her hat.

Spock started toward his seat.

The magician stopped him with her voice. "Not so fast," she said. "I have more work for my volunteer."

Two felinoids pushed a great box onto the stage. Clear glass molded in an open filigree pattern formed all four sides. The assistants spun the box and stopped it at stage center.

Amelinda opened it and rapped her wand against its solid inside. Kirk wondered where the wand had come from.

"An empty box." Amelinda waved the wand beneath it. "It stands high above the floor, it has no hidden escapes, no electronics. Mister Scott!"

Amelinda made a sweeping gesture. The spotlights flashed onto a circular mesh plate, which had till now hung unseen in the shadows over the stage.

"If you would be so kind as to explain this device."

"Aye," Scott said. "Tis a transporter-beam shield. No transporter can operate near that wee device."

"And it is fully functional?"

"I installed it myself," Scott said.

"Thank you. Doctor McCoy!"

McCoy joined Scott onstage.

"Do you have your tricorder, Doctor McCoy?"

"I do."

"Check the magic box – for electronics, for anything suspicious."

"My pleasure." McCoy fiddled with the tricorder, causing it to emit beeps and whines. "Nothing," he said. "It's a perfectly ordinary box."

"Do you think so? Please set your tricorder to signal the use of a transporter beam, and place the instrument in from of the box."

McCoy did as she asked, then stepped back beside Scott.

Spock looked as if he wished he were somewhere else.

"And now, Mister Spock, if you would enter the box -"

"Why would I wish to do so?"

"Because -" By her second word, she had smoothed the edge from her voice. "Because, as before, I have nothing up my sleeves." She pushed her sleeves to her elbows. The muscles of her forearms were clear and well defined. She turned her hands over to show that they were empty.

She reached toward Spock, offering to escort him. He pretended not to notice her hand, but he did climb inside the box. He wore an expression of bemusement.

Amelinda closed the box. Spock stood within the transparent latticework walls. The lights shifted and changed, reflecting from the glass, obscuring all but the vague outline of Spock's form.

"Now I'll secure him."

One of the felinoids loped forward with a carrier full of swords. Amelinda chose one, placed its tip against the floor and leaned on it till it bent like a fencing foil. She released the tension and it sprang straight.

She thrust it through an opening in the filigree.

The audience gasped.

"Silence, please," Amelinda said. "You mustn't disturb my concentration. It could be … dangerous."

At the level of Spock's chest the sword's point protruded from the far side of the box, plainly visible when the assistants spun the box. The changing lights sparkled on the sharp metal. The magician chose a second sword and slid it through the lattice. Soon a dozen swords penetrated the box and the science officer's shadowy shape.

"By normal means, no person, nothing, could escape. Some would say no one could survive."

The assistants spun the box a third time. The changing lights washed over their fur and over the glass, dappling them like light on water.

Amelinda withdrew the swords from the box and flung them clattering onto the stage. She reached for the latch, hesitating, letting the tension build.

She flung open the door. In the same instant the lights steadied. Kirk blinked, dazzled. A figure stood inside the box. Amelinda reached in and took his hand.

Leonard McCoy stepped from the magic box and into a moment of stunned silence. Kirk glanced to the side of the stage, where Scott still stood watching. Cheers and applause crashed over the stage like a wave. Amelinda and McCoy both bowed.

The lights faded and they were gone.

 


 

All of Roswind's friends had gone to the vaudeville show, but she had to wait for tomorrow's performance because she had not been able to get a seat for either of tonight's shows. It was all the fault of her new roommate; if Roswind had not had to take her shower in the locker room, she would have had plenty of time this morning to reserve herself a place in the theater.

She returned to her cabin. Her new green roommate showed no sign of coming out of the shower. Roswind got angry, and then became concerned. Lieutenant Uhura had warned her not to scare the being into hibernation, so what had she done first thing? She stepped on her. Then she yelled at her. Roswind tried to convince herself that she could claim not to have bothered the strange being, but the marks of her toes remained.

The being's superior was bound to call soon to ask why she had not reported for duty. Perhaps by then the bruise would have healed.

 


 

Roswind hurried to her cabin to get changed. Not only had she gotten shore leave at Starbase 13, she had finally gotten a ticket to the vaudeville show. It was about time she got her turn.

She opened the door.

She shrieked.

Green slime covered the floor, and the nauseating odor of decomposing regeneration gel permeated her cabin.

She spent the next several hours cleaning up the residue of the green "roommate," while other people enjoyed themselves at the show.

Roswind knew she had been had.

 


 

Uhura sat in the darkness of her cabin, her old harp in her lap though no sound came from it. She put the harp aside and sank down into the silence.

At first she did not reply to the knock on her door. But it sounded again, and then a third time. The harsh noise broke into the quiet she sought.

She activated the lights. How could she explain sitting alone in the dark to any of her shipmates? They would think her ridiculous.

"Uhura?" Janice Rand said. "Uhura, please let me in. I'm worried about you. Are you all right? Are … are you mad at me?"

"Come," Uhura said. The door slid open. "Of course I'm not mad at you, Janice."

Rand remained in the corridor, watching her.

"Come in, please," Uhura said. "I was thinking about something. I didn't hear you knocking at first."

Rand stepped gingerly across the threshold. "I didn't see you at Lindy's show."

"I didn't go."

"Are you all right?"

"Yes," she said, wishing Rand would stop asking. "Why were you looking for me?"

"I wanted to tell you," Rand said. "I've been thinking about what you said. I've been thinking about it a lot. And I've decided you're right."

"Right about what?"

"About the commission. About testifying."

"That's wonderful, Janice," Uhura said sincerely. "You should be very proud of yourself for making that decision. It took bravery."

Rand blinked. "I don't think I'm very brave."

"Why did you change your mind?"

"Because of you. No, that's not quite right," Rand said quickly when she saw Uhura's expression. "I don't mean I'm going to testify because you think I should. I mean I'm going to testify because it's the right thing to do. You stuck up for me, even though you could have gotten in trouble. Nobody ever, ever stuck up for me before. Nobody ever stuck up on Saweoure for people like me, either, but now I can. And I'm going to. I want to be as strong as you are. Someday. I'll start by telling Captain Kirk what I told you. Every other place I've ever been, people used their power to make things easier for themselves. Even if it hurt someone else. But Captain Kirk is different. He's like you. He does things because he thinks they're right, even if they might hurt him."

"You're much stronger than you think, Janice," Uhura said.

"It's funny. I'm scared – but I'm happy, too. I feel like I can do anything! She spread her arms as if to take in the universe and did a quick pirouette. "Know what else?" she asked in a conspiratorial voice.

"What else?"

"I'm going to let my hair grow. And then I'm going to do something fancy with it. I was never allowed to, on Saweoure. But now I will."

Despite herself, Uhura smiled.

 

Chapter 1

"Entering standard orbit, Captain."

"Anybody else here with us?" The man in the pedestal seat barely glanced at him, everything was routine thus far and the helm officer had long ago earned the trust of his captain and his shipmates.

"No, sir. Sensors show clear."

"Very well, Helm. Steady as she goes."

As Lieutenant Hikaru Sulu started to turn back toward yet another M-class planet and its large cratered moon swimming on the big viewscreen at the front of the bridge, the turbolift doors whooshed open and another crewmember entered the bridge.

Now this was a much more interesting sight, from the top of her elaborate basket-weave hair, the beautiful face, the gorgeous red-clad body, all the way down every inch of her long shapely legs to her black boots. Not for the first time, he wondered how long it took her to do her hair every morning. Surely, she didn't sleep with it like that, did she? He didn't think any man on the crew could say for certain; while she certainly wasn't icy, indeed, quite friendly and popular with almost everyone onboard, everybody knew she had eyes only for the captain.

As for the captain, well, he seemed to have eyes for any and every humanoid female who wasn't in a Starfleet uniform, preferably in nothing at all …

Still, Sulu could enjoy the view as the female yeoman quickly glanced at the viewscreen as she always did whenever she came onto the bridge and then strode to the middle of the bridge, just a hint of sway in her hips, naturally drawing his eyes to the black-stocking-encased legs. There was something – though we wouldn't be able to put it into words even if someone held a phaser to his head – she did to her uniform that no other female crewmember seemed to be able to do, though he supposed he might admit – again, if someone held a phaser to his head – that Lieutenant Uhura sometimes came close.

Beside him, Sulu could sense the navigator also turning to follow the sight as Yeoman Janice Rand handed her tablet to the captain. James T. Kirk glanced down at it without really reading it, then signed it, implicitly trusting his yeoman to have checked and double-checked the figures before presenting them to him. Kirk handed back the tablet and then turned to his science officer.

"Any signs of the dilithium, Mister Spock?"

The Vulcan looked up from his screen, its glow making his face look greener than usual. "Ypsilon Gamma Three has a particularly powerful and wide-spectrum radiation belt, Captain, accompanied by violent ion storms. While the radiation belt is harmless to us in orbit or to the natives on the planetary surface, it attenuates and diffuses sensor signals by over eighty-seven-point-two percent. Sensors register the presence of dilithium but cannot locate it with any degree of accuracy."

"Where are the natives?" Kirk asked. "The ones who use dilithium as jewelry?"

"The Indefatigable did not determine the source of the dilithium, nor the quantity available. The dilithium obviously comes from this planet, but again the sensors cannot locate the source with any degree of accuracy."

"Where did the Indefatigable make contact with them?"

"The Indefatigable was here approximately one-point-three-four-seven planetary years ago, Captain. Since the Gammans have a nomadic culture, it is highly unlikely they would still be at the same location. I would estimate their annual migration to cover approximately three-thousand-two -"

"Mister Sulu," Kirk cut him off, turning toward the helm officer, "program two probes, spiral search pattern from the Indefatigable's coordinates."

"Inadvisable, Captain," Spock said. "The radiation belt would affect the probe's communications the same way as the sensors. Even if the probes found the Gammans or the dilithium, they would not be able to relay that data to us."

Kirk turned back to his science officer. "Suggestions, Mister Spock?"

"Since the radiation belt also renders the transporters ineffective, the landing party will have to go by shuttlecraft. Logic would suggest having the landing party perform a low-level reconnaissance from the shuttlecraft, below the radiation belt. That way only one sortie would be required."

"Very well, Mister Spock." Kirk stood up. "You and Doctor McCoy will accompany me." His eyes surveyed the bridge crew and came to rest on the helm officer. "Mister Sulu, you'll pilot the shuttlecraft and act as security chief."

Kirk's eyes returned to his science officer. "Mister Spock, would you consider this a dangerous environment?"

"No, Captain."

Kirk's eyes turned back to the helm officer. "Mister Sulu, I believe two men should be adequate." His eyes then continued to sweep the bridge, coming to rest on the dark-skinned communications officer.

"Lieutenant Uhura -" he began, then his eyes moved to the other woman, standing behind Uhura's chair. "Yeoman Rand," he began again, "communications. Work out a set of short signals with Lieutenant Uhura. Something that can get through the radiation belt."

"Yes, Captain," both women replied in unison. They had done this before; the two of them worked well together.

"Okay, people. The shuttle bay in one hour. Mister Spock, Doctor Grigs, if you'll join me in my ready room," Kirk finished, turning toward the turbolift. He then turned to his chief engineer. "Scotty, you have the conn."

"Aye, Captain." The engineer replied without looking up from his console.

Kirk took another step toward the turbolift and then turned back, glancing first at his yeoman, already huddled in conference with the communications officer, then at his science officer, and then finally at the helm officer. "Mister Sulu, make sure your security detail is humanoid." He glanced again at Rand and then back to Sulu. "And for balance it might be better if one of them is a woman."

"Yes, Captain." Sulu had already been running down a mental list of candidates for this – What did the old-timers call it? he thought. Oh yes, a "milk run". He'd been wanting to give some of the younger ones some field experience, and this looked like the perfect opportunity. Yes, he quickly decided, I know just the right people. One rookie and one veteran, just in case things – what was that phrase? Oh yes, just in case 'things go south'. He made a mental note to ask Pavel Chekov where that phrase came from – if anybody knew, it would be the navigator. Though he'll probably claim it was an old Russian phrase, just like "milk run"…

Making his decision, he keyed it into the comp, confident that computer would find them and deliver the message.

A large brown-striped furred form followed Kirk and Spock off the bridge. Normally the Enterprise's chief geologist would have been part of the landing party. However, someone at Starfleet headquarters had somehow managed to overlook the fact that Doctor Grigenstennaj was a two-hundred-kilogram – downright petite by the standards of her race – carnivorous felinoid. By the time the oversight had been discovered, the Enterprise had left Starbase 7 and it was too late to get another geologist.

Everyone had agreed that it would be best if Grigs stayed aboard the Enterprise while the landing party made contact with the natives, instead of immediately introducing the carnivore to their herds – and vice versa. Spock would take on the additional duties.

Hopefully, the Vulcan's pointed ears would prepare the natives somewhat for the felinoid's even more pointed fangs and claws.

 

Chapter 2

The Federation Constellation-class starship floated in space, oblivious to the presence of any other vessel in orbit. Watching the image on the viewscreen, fuzzed out as an unavoidable side-effect of their own cloak, was about as exciting as watching a Remusian stonebush grow. The starship had done nothing since appearing in the system an hour earlier and entering orbit inside that of the planet's large moon.

Suddenly the image altered as a smaller object, barely visible in the fuzz, detached itself from that of the starship and began to move off.

Commander M'Tel whirled around in his command chair. "Weapons! Target the shuttlecraft!"

"Commander, we cannot fire without uncloaking," the weapons officer reminded him, without even bothering to look at his console. "Even with the planet's radiation belt, the Federation ship could not help detecting us. We must remain cloaked."

M'Tel muttered an oath under his breath. So close to the Neutral Zone – and on the wrong side of it, at that – his orders were very explicit, and he knew them well, without needing a junior officer to remind him. He was to avoid detection at all costs until the dilithium mine was established. Then, and only then, would he be able to claim self-defense if the Federation interfered. Thus, they'd cloaked as soon as they'd detected the approach of the Federation ship and, despite the increased energy requirement, would remain cloaked until it left.

But if the shuttlecraft were to be destroyed inside the planet's radiation belt, or even on the planet's surface, the Federation would have no way of knowing it was not an accident …

He whirled the other way in his chair. "Inform Centurion S'Ken he has company on the way."

"Impossible, Commander," the communications officer said. "Federation sensors would detect any signal powerful enough to penetrate the planet's radiation belt. They would know there was a cloaked ship in the star system."

Muttering another oath under his breath, M'Tel watched helplessly as the Federation shuttle began its descent toward the planet.

"Centurion S'Ken's party is fully armed, Commander," the weapons officer reminded him, causing M'Tel to swivel around in his chair again. "Unless the Federation is sending a full combat team, which would be against their so-called Prime Directive, Subcommander S'Ken should be able to eliminate any exploration party on the surface."

"True," M'Tel mused aloud, clenching his fists in his lap. "And any deaths down there could be attributed to the natives. Some of them are quite warlike. Almost like us." Letting out something that was not quite a chuckle, he straightened in his chair. "Very well. Centurion S'Ken knows his orders. We can leave the Federation landing party in his hands. Maintain Alert Condition Three."

 


 

Sitting in the passenger compartment of the shuttlecraft Copernicus, Lysette Jourdain looked out the window and the dark storm clouds streaming past. Less than six months after joining Starfleet, and look where she was now! Going down to an alien, unexplored planet! Well, practically unexplored – the survey team from the Indefatigable had barely touched down.

And going down with – she glanced forward – Captain Kirk himself! The youngest man to command a starship in Federation history! The hero of Axanar and Gioghe! Why, the man was practically a legend in his own time! And Mister Spock, the best science officer in Starfleet! Well, he is a Vulcan, so what'd you expect?

And the rest of the landing party? Well, if they're going down with Captain Kirk, they have to be the best, she told herself. So does that make me one of the best? she wondered, glancing around the cabin.

Her immediate superior, at least for this mission, Mister Sulu was up front, flying the shuttlecraft. The chief medical officer, Doctor McCoy, was with Mister Spock, hunched over an array of instruments. Williams, the other security man on the mission, was sleeping in his seat, a seasoned veteran conserving his energy. Jourdain envied his calmness and wondered how many away missions she would have to go on before she could sleep on the way down. And the captain's yeoman … Jourdain didn't know much about her, but she appeared awfully young for such a responsible position. If anything, she actually looked younger than Jourdain.

As if sensing Jourdain's eyes on her, Janice Rand got up and moved to stand beside her, bracing herself on seats on either side of the aisle.

"This is your first away mission, isn't it, Jourdain?" Rand said. "Nervous?"

"A … a little," Jourdain admitted. "You're right, it is my first away mission. But I expected to beam down, not riding down in a shuttlecraft." Just then a jagged bolt of lightning lit up the sky outside, and she flinched involuntarily, clutching her armrests.

"Don't worry," Rand smiled reassuringly, sitting down beside her and drawing one knee up to her chest just as another bolt of lightning lit up the sky, casting dancing shadows inside the shuttlecraft. "Mister Sulu hasn't crashed a shuttlecraft in, oh, it must be at least two months now."

"Really?" Somehow, that didn't sound very reassuring, especially as the shuttlecraft chose that moment to lurch and rock from side to side. Jourdain's hands instinctively tightened on the armrests.

Rand's smile widened and she patted Jourdain's hand. "Actually, I don't think Mister Sulu has ever crashed anything. And that's going all the way back to his first tricycle."

Jourdain managed to smile. "Thanks, Yeoman Rand."

"The name's Janice."

"Lysette." Jourdain could feel herself relaxing – a little. "Yeo … Janice, do you mind if I ask you something?"

"Ask away, Lysette." Rand smiled disarmingly. "But I may not answer."

"What was it like for you on your first away mission?"

"Hmmm … My first? I don't know if I can remember that far back." Rand settled back in her seat, crossed her legs, and pulled down the hem of her uniform. "But I am glad we're going down in uniform this time. Some planets have strange dress habits, and some of them itch. Or worse," she wrinkled her nose, "they smell. The ones made from cured animal hides, I mean."

Jourdain smoothed out her own garment. "Yeah, I read about some of those." She gave a little shudder. "I mean, killing animals just so we could wear their skins, and -" she shuddered in her seat "- and eat their flesh!"

"Oh, even our own ancestors did that," Rand said, giving her uniform one final adjustment. "before the invention of the synthesizer. And it's still done on many planets, even within the Federation." She looked past Jourdain at the clouds streaming by the window. "If we stay with the Gammans, we'll probably have to do that here. But don't worry, Doctor McCoy won't let us eat anything that might be harmful. And we've got you and Sleeping Beauty over there -" a nod of her chin indicated Williams "- to keep anything harmful from eating us."

The two women shared a quick laugh, though Jourdain, still nervous, patted her phaser to ensure it was still on her belt.

"Was it like that, Janice? I mean, on your first away mission. Were there any wild beasts?"

Rand sighed inwardly. The kid just wasn't going to be deterred. "Well, the food was better than what we can probably expect here," she began, brows furrowing as she thought back. "And as for wild beasts, well, wild might describe them but I wouldn't call them beasts." Her brows furrowed in thought as she took a deep breath. "We'd found a remarkably Earthlike planet. Captain Kirk, Mister Spock, Doctor McCoy, and I, along with two security guards, beamed down. The planet was almost deserted, except for a group of three-hundred-year-old children …"

 

Jim Kirk listened with half an ear as Spock and McCoy engaged in their favorite pastime – arguing. Sensing movement behind him, he turned his head to see his Yeoman moving to the back of the shuttlecraft cabin. Watching her sit beside the young security guard to put her at ease, a small smile came onto his face as he thought about how far Janice Rand had come herself. He could still remember her first day as his yeoman, a scared little girl who started at shadows and flinched at his every word. He'd only been in command of the Enterprise less than a week and, in a way, they'd grown into their jobs together. He now relied on her as much as he did on Spock and Bones.

 

"Captain!"

The Science Officer's voice brought Kirk back to the present. "Yes, Mister Spock?" he asked, leaning in to peer at the screen.

"The biggest band of Gammans on the continent are gathered in this valley." The Vulcan indicated the spot on the screen just above the confluence of two rivers. "From the numbers I estimate there is approximately an ninety-eight-point-one percent likelihood that this is the tribe the Indefatigable contacted."

Kirk looked at the map on the screen, then at the scale beside it. "They apparently haven't gone as far as you estimated, Mister Spock." He then looked past Spock at Doctor McCoy. "Bones, it appears our Vulcan science officer is not as infallible as we thought."

McCoy made a minor production out of getting his medical tricorder out. "Well, Jim, he is almost due for his annual physical," he said, stretching his drawl out even more than usual.

"Once we are back aboard the Enterprise," Spock said, "I will endeavor to make time in my schedule to accommodate your primitive and barbaric rituals."

"Mister Sulu!" Kirk called up to the cockpit. "Do you see Mister Spock's coordinates?"

"Yes, sir. That small clearing to the east looks like a possible landing site." A blue dot flashed into existence on the map.

"Agreed, Captain. The intervening ridge separates it from the main encampment, yet it is close enough to be convenient."

"Very well. Mister Sulu, put us down." Kirk swiveled in his seat as the shuttlecraft made a gentle bank to starboard. "Yeoman Rand!"

She looked up immediately from her discussion with the other woman. "Yes, Captain?"

"Inform the Enterprise we're about to land and send them our coordinates."

"Yes, Captain." She got up, said a word or two to Jourdain, and returned to her station.

As Yeoman Rand contacted the Enterprise, Captain James Kirk looked about the cabin of the shuttlecraft and the members of the landing party. Everything and everybody looked ready but … Have I forgotten anything? the question nagged him, as it always did.

"Yeoman," he said when she had finished her communication, "you wouldn't have by any chance brought any coffee with you?"

"Certainly, Captain." She reached under her seat and retrieved a thermos, passing it across to him with a smile on her face.

He uncapped the thermos, filled a cup, drank deeply, and sighed even more deeply. "Someday, Yeoman," he said, replacing the lid, "you're going to have to tell me how you make this coffee."

"Now, now, Captain. A woman has to have some secrets." She gave him a wicked smile. "Otherwise, you might decide you could do without me."

"Hardly likely, Yeoman." Looking toward Rand, Kirk missed the wide smile on McCoy's face.

Chapter 3

"Brrr! It's freezing out here," Janice Rand said as she stepped down from the shuttlecraft, wrapping her arms about her body and stamping her feet, before turning up the thermal control on her uniform.

"That is incorrect, Yeoman," Spock said, looking down at his tricorder. "The air temperature is eleven-point-three-two degrees above the freezing point of water."

"Chekov would call this a nice spring day in St. Petersburg," Sulu remarked conversationally to cover the adjustment of his own uniform. Kirk and McCoy chuckled, while turning up their own thermal controls. Spock merely raised an eyebrow as he looked up from his tricorder to Sulu, apparently having adjusted his uniform before coming outside. The Vulcan normally kept his thermal control turned up aboard the Enterprise when he was not in his own quarters.

As the heater in her uniform began to take effect, Rand looked around. Mister Sulu had set the shuttlecraft down precisely in the center of the clearing, which was covered in knee-high grass. The two security guards, Jourdain and Williams, were still making a perimeter check. On opposite sides of the clearing, they were both circling in the same direction, like the hands on an old-fashioned analog clock.

Something just beyond Jourdain caught Rand's attention. Seeing that the officers were still occupied with officer things, Rand walked toward it for a closer look.

Despite the chilly air, the flowers appeared to be in full bloom. She moved even closer for a better look.

Rand had never seen flowers quite like these before. She bent close and took a sniff. She certainly had never smelled their like.

She wondered whether they would make a nice addition to the little flower garden in the arboretum aboard the Enterprise. When the head botanist had learned Rand had an eye for colors and patterns, he'd drafted her into helping there. Even though it meant putting in time in addition to her regular duties, she enjoyed the colors and patterns of the various exotic flowers, and she always tried to collect something from every planet the ship visited.

Not only did she like the flowers, they seemed to like her. There was one in particular which wouldn't let anybody other than Rand or Sulu feed it. That wouldn't have been a problem with most plants, but this particular one, a Weeper plant she called Beauregard, happened to be carnivorous. It had a nasty habit of trying to take the hand off anyone who tried to feed it, but it always knew when she was there, and greeted her with a soft purr.

The same plant, which Sulu for some inexplicable reason of his own insisted on calling Gertrude, had had actually identified the salt vampire, which had come aboard the Enterprise when they had visited M-113, though neither she nor Sulu had known it at the time.

Rand had actually been the first one to see the creature when it came aboard wearing the form of a crewman, though of course she hadn't known it at the time. Taking on the form of a crewman, it'd followed her into the arboretum, before Beauregard scared it off. Shortly afterward she'd been the one to find the first of its victims aboard the Enterprise. She remembered being terrified at the time, unable to do anything more than stand petrified, staring down at the body while Sulu got on the intercom to report it.

"Yeoman Rand!"

The voice broke into her reverie, causing her to start. Taking a deep breath to calm herself, she turned toward the voice. "Yes, Doctor McCoy?"

"Are you here on a sightseeing excursion?"

"No, Doctor." Rand felt her cheeks reddening. Behind McCoy, Sulu had an amused look on his face. He was as much interested in exotic fauna as she was, but he hadn't been caught dawdling.

"Then come along. We're not here to smell the flowers."

"Right away, Doctor McCoy." She hurriedly finished scanning the flowers with her tricorder, recording the readings for further analysis when she had the time. If there was nothing harmful then she might be able to come back and grab some samples to add to her garden. Snapping shut her tricorder, she half ran to catch up with the others as they walked down a trail into the forest.

"… kilometers away from the main encampment," Spock was saying as he read his tricorder. "Small work parties in all directions, the nearest four-hundred-ninety-one-point-four meters to our left and closing slowly."

"Phasers on stun!" Kirk hissed under his breath. "But don't fire unless attacked!"

The trail opened onto another small clearing in the forest. On the far side, a small party of Gammans were doing something to the trees. Some of them held woven baskets while others plucked something from the trees and deposited them into the baskets. A pair of sentries stood with wooden bows, but their casual attitude suggested that it was a mere formality.

Despite their seemingly casual attitude, they spotted the landing party as soon as they emerged from the trees, bringing their bows up. At their shouts the other workers dropped their baskets and brought up their own weapons, bows or short wooden spears.

The contact team from the Indefatigable had done their job, however. With their tricorders doing the translations, they made friendly contact and were soon invited back to the main encampment. Word of the visitors quickly spread, and they were joined by other work parties returning to the camp.

The trail they were on sloped down until it met a river and then followed its meandering path until it opened up onto the broad alluvial plain where the Gamman tribe had made its winter camp.

The camp was not what any of the Federation people had been expecting. The Indefatigable's recordings had shown crude tents made from the hides of the Gamman's herdbeasts. Instead, they saw the beginnings of a village, comprised of crude but stout wooden huts, surrounded by fenced-in pastures for the herdbeasts, animals roughly the size and shape of Earth cows. A knacker's yard was set a little apart and a tannery was even further away, presumably downwind most of the time. About the only thing missing were cultivated fields.

There was more building going on. There was a pile of logs along one side of the big clearing, some of them still with branches attached, though people were at work removing them.

The Gamman men were only somewhat shorter than the human norm – only the very tallest equaling Lysette Jourdain, the taller of the two Starfleet women – though quite a bit broader in the chest and shoulders. Despite the chill, many of them were stripped to the waist. The women were shorter still and quite slender, rather well proportioned except in the chest. Rand thought she'd had more in that area when she was thirteen and still on Saweoure.

Despite their shorter stature and slimmer build, the women were working alongside the men, working just as hard, apparently doing an equal share, though none of them were stripped to the waist.

"I thought the Indefatigable said these people lived in hide tents," McCoy remarked.

"You are correct, Doctor," Spock answered, bending over his tricorder. "For a nomadic culture, fixed buildings are impractical. However, this seems to be the beginnings of a winter camp." An eyebrow rose. "Fascinating. I am detecting evidence of previous structures in this area. The most recent ones date to last year."

"They build a camp every winter?"

"The evidence would indicate so, Doctor."

"Why don't they just stay here all year round?" Rand asked, then regretted it a moment later as the Vulcan science officer launched into a lecture about nomadic cultures needing to follow their herds from one seasonal grazing area to another.

She wasn't the only who didn't need the lecture. "That's enough, Spock," Doctor McCoy snapped. "I think we've got the picture."

Spock raised an eyebrow at the interruption. "I don't believe I've presented any visuals, Doctor. However, if you would like -"

"Gentlemen," Captain Kirk broke in. "I believe the official welcoming party is here."

 


 

Even though much of the food preparation was done in a single communal kitchen, the entire tribe did not eat the evening meal together. That would have been impossible in any case, as some people had to stay with the herdbeasts while others were on sentry duty, watching for both wild carnivores and marauding tribes. The away team managed to stay together, eating with the tribal chief and his extended family at a long trestle table set up outside his hut.

Most of the Gammans sported simple pendants or bracelets holding rough-cut clear crystals resembling quartz.

The Gammans were good hosts, plying the away team with various dishes. Despite her comment aboard the shuttlecraft about eating animal flesh, Lysette Jourdain found herself enjoying the meal. Spock, on the other hand, stayed away from the animal flesh, restricting himself to the vegetable and fruit dishes even as his eyes seemingly catalogued every piece of the quartz-like crystals adorning their hosts.

Teela, the chief's daughter, seemed to be particularly attentive to Captain Kirk's needs. She was a pretty girl – young woman, Rand quickly corrected herself. By human standards, Teela looked like a preteen girl, with hardly a hint of breasts mounding her leather garment. By Gamman standards, she was a young woman, old enough to know what she was doing. And judging from the way many of the Gamman men looked at her, apparently quite attractive.

Watching – and listening to – "Jeem, try this," and "Jeem, have more of this," memories of Miri came pouring into Rand's mind.

Miri was one of the three-hundred-year-old "children" on the planet Rand had visited on her first away mission. The "girl" had developed a crush on Captain Kirk and had considered Rand a rival for his affections. Eager to please, she'd done anything Kirk had asked her to do.

And, Rand was ashamed to admit, at the time she'd also considered Miri as a bit of a rival, though she'd tried hard not to show it.

As a result of an experiment gone awry in human life prolongation, aging had been slowed down tremendously for children but the disease killed the adults. Puberty brought on the onset of the disease. The away team – with the exception of the Vulcan science officer – had all contracted the disease and had but days to live.

That perhaps had been the most frightening incident in her career, when Miri's jealousy – as a young woman, she'd known of Rand's feelings toward the captain, even if none of the men had been aware of it – led to the "children" stealing the communicators and then kidnapping Rand. And when Captain Kirk had come to rescue her, they had beaten him, drawing blood. Rand had feared almost as much for him as for herself.

Eventually, Kirk had convinced Miri and the others that they – the Enterprise personnel – were trying to help. He got the communicators back, Doctor McCoy found the cure, and everyone lived happily ever after.

Had they? Rand wondered how Miri and the others were doing. She made a mental note to try to find out, as soon as she got back to the Enterprise, though she also realized she might have to wait until they reached a starbase.

Of course, there really had been nothing between Captain Kirk and Miri. When Rand had remarked to the captain as they were leaving the planet that Miri really loved him, he'd responded that he never got involved with older women. Unfortunately, that didn't mean that Rand had the field to herself …

"More silar?" The Gamman man to her left showed her a large gourd, and then started to reach for the wooden cup beside her plate.

"No more, thank you," Rand said, leaning back as the back of his hand threatened to brush her breast.

She'd already had enough of the fruity beverage to know she shouldn't have any more. She hadn't really been paying attention, but Doctor McCoy had seemed impressed with the way they fermented berries inside the gourd and then distilled the result. While both the doctor and the captain seemed to like the drink, Rand didn't. It wasn't the taste – the berry juice was quite tasty – but the alcohol was beginning to do things to her head, and stomach.

Sometimes, Rand thought that the discovery of alcohol was a necessary step toward civilization, at least for carbon-based lifeforms. More likely, it was learning how to produce alcohol. After learning how to do that, stuff like harnessing electricity was probably child's play, eventually leading to space travel and warp drive. She would have to ask Mister Spock about that, one of these days.

She realized she had to be drunker than she'd thought, if she was contemplating discussing with Spock the rôle of alcohol in civilization.

Or perhaps it wasn't just the alcohol. There was a bit of an uneasy feeling in her stomach, and she hoped it wasn't her stomach swelling against her uniform. Still, she'd had enough and she merely toyed with the food remaining on her plate.

"Captain, I believe I've had enough," Jourdain said, pushing away a half-filled plate.

"Same here, Captain," Rand said, glad she hadn't been the first.

Kirk, with Teela all but sitting on his lap, waved a hand in dismissal.

After a little discussion, the chief detailed one of his sisters, if Rand remembered the family relationships properly, to show the two women to where they were to spend the night. Jourdain was a little unsteady on her feet, and Rand ended up putting an arm around the taller woman's waist to keep her steady.

Fortunately they didn't have to go very far, as the Gamman woman took them to a smaller hut behind the chief's. The hut was surprisingly warm, considering that it was constructed of wood and had no apparent source of heating. Bedding consisted of thin mattresses of woven reeds and cured animal hides. Much to Lysette Jourdain's surprise – and more importantly, to her relief – they didn't smell too bad. But they were a little scratchy, something she hadn't considered before. After making sure the two Federation women had everything they needed for comfort, the Gamman woman gave a small curtsy and took her leave.

Rand sat down on one of the pallets. "You know, I'm feeling a bit queasy myself."

"Do you think it was something we ate?" Jourdain stretched herself out on the other pallet, on her back. "Or drank?"

"I don't know," Rand said, unslinging her tricorder and carefully setting it down beside her pallet as she thought about it. None of the men seemed to have shown any signs of discomfort, and she had seen Doctor McCoy surreptitiously scanning all the dishes with his medical tricorder as they were served, before diving into the nonsynthesized food with gusto. "I saw Doctor McCoy checking everything before we ate it. And if someone wanted to poison us, why wouldn't they target Captain Kirk first?"

"To get rid of his escort?"

"Then why me and not Williams?" Rand lay down and stretched out.

 

Chapter 4

Lysette Jourdain couldn't sleep; her stomach was still feeling a little queasy. Rolling over onto her side, she saw that Janice Rand also seemed to be having a similar problem. Throwing off her covers, she got up to her feet. "I think I'm going to go for a little walk," she said, gathering up her uniform and putting it on. "You want to come with me?"

Rand merely made a noncommittal noise but made no effort to get up.

The temperature had gone down during the evening; Jourdain didn't need to use her tricorder to know that it was now nearly freezing. Raising the thermal control on her uniform and making sure her phaser and communicator were on her belt – one could never be too careful on a strange planet – she stepped outside.

She'd initially planned on walking around the entire compound but the cold, despite her uniform's heater, soon proved to be too much. After walking past two quiet huts, she was just about to turn back when she heard laughter. Heading toward the sound, she found two Gamman males sitting beside a small fire in front of a hut, half of a bird still warming on a spit.

The Gammans spotted her when she came into the circle of firelight, coming to their feet. They were of a height, neither one coming up much past her shoulder. The Gamman on the other side of the fire invited her to join them, picking up the spit and offering it to her.

Her stomach lurched at the thought of eating anything else, even if it was the same type of bird she'd enjoyed at dinner. Perhaps, especially if it was the same type. She was still politely declining the offer when the nearer Gamman held out a liquid-filled gourd.

She hesitated a moment, feeling her stomach continue to churn. But then she remembered their mission to establish friendly relations with the natives. And what could be more friendlier than sitting down and sharing a drink?

Accepting the gourd and taking a cautious sniff, she hesitated. It was silar, the same potent beverage that had been offered at dinner, distilled from berries fermented in the gourd. It wasn't the most potent drink she'd ever sampled – her friends had chipped in for a bottle of Saurian brandy on her last birthday, just before she'd enlisted in Starfleet – but it definitely would make her top five. After tasting it she'd left her mug unfinished. However, deciding that she couldn't upset her stomach any more than it already was, she raised the gourd to her lips and took a big swig.

It went down her throat like liquid fire, making it abundantly clear why the Gammans weren't cold sitting outside. They probably didn't even need the fire at all. She coughed and sputtered as she lowered the gourd, which seemed to amuse the Gammans.

The drink had a totally different effect when it hit her stomach, settling it as instantly and effectively as anything Doctor McCoy might have in his hypospray. Lifting the gourd to her lips again, she took another swallow, slower this time. It her stomach and she could feel its warmth spreading over her body. And something else, a tingling warmth that had little to do with temperature. She passed the gourd to the other Gamman as he moved off the rock he'd been sitting on and made a minor production of offering it to her.

She sat down and turned on the tricorder's translation function as the Gammans resumed eating, again offering her some of the bird. The Gammans were startled when the box hung over her shoulder made noise, and even more startled when it translated her reply into their language.

Once they became accustomed to the tricorder's translations, the Gammans included her in their conversation, asking questions and answering hers, though she had to frame her answers in terms they would understand, explaining that she lived on a big ship that sailed from place to place. Some Gamman tribes used small sailing ships, though they never sailed out of sight of land. She continued to decline offers of food, though she seldom passed up a drink when the gourd came her way.

She learned that Vonz and Tark were half-brothers, a year apart. Their mother – who had died two summers ago – was a member of this tribe, while their fathers were men she had mated with during the various summer intertribal meetings. Though many women found permanent mates from within the tribe, this was not an uncommon practice and the progeny of such unions were taken in by the mother's tribe with no stigma attached to what some cultures still considered bastardy. Sometimes the woman would later form a permanent bond with a man in her tribe, who would then rear the children as if they were his own.

As she took another drink and passed the gourd to Vonz, his hand brushed against her breast, his fingers cupping her mound as if to verify that there indeed was something there under her uniform. It had been clear from the way they had been looking at her as they ate and drank that both Gammans were intrigued by her breasts. Jourdain had always considered herself merely average in this department, but she had noticed that she had more there than any of the Gamman women. The potent drink had started to loosen her inhibitions and she decided there was no harm in satisfying their curiosity. That is, if they would satisfy hers in turn.

Both Gammans laughed when she made her proposal, or rather, when the tricorder translated her proposal into their language. When they saw that she was serious, they rose to their feet. As Vonz began to undo his trousers, Tark gestured her inside the hut. In the light spilling from the fire, she could see that this hut was even more sparsely furnished than the one she'd been given to share with Yeoman Rand, barely containing anything more than their weapons, a change of clothes, and two rough straw-covered pallets.

Starting to have second thoughts, she turned back toward the door but Vonz was blocking the way. Then Tark was behind her, his arms around her as he cupped both her breasts with his hands. Not hard, but in an exploratory way, as if trying to determine how much was her and how much was her unfamiliar garment.

Vonz moved in on her from the front. Capturing one of her hands, he brought it to his manhood, holding it out in front of him.

 

Back in the women's hut Yeoman Janice Rand was also finding it difficult to sleep. Having removed her uniform, gotten onto the pallet, and pulled the covers over her, she was tossing and turning, trying to get comfortable.

 

Even though her eyes were closed, Janice Rand was finding it difficult to sleep, her stomach still churning from dinner. She probably shouldn't have drunk so much of the native fermented fruit beverage. Maybe she should go see Doctor McCoy; surely he would have something in his hypospray to counteract the effects.

No! He'd just think her a silly little girl. After all, he and the captain had drunk more of that potent brew than she had, and they hadn't seemed to be affected by it. Rolling over, she tried to make herself comfortable.

Through closed eyes, she imagined herself working with the captain. Once her duties were done and she prepared to leave, he stopped her.

"Yeoman, there's one more thing I need for you to do."

"Yes, Captain?" She turned back and was surprised to see him holding a bottle of something.

"An effort like today's deserves a little reward," he said, coming toward her.

Was he offering her a drink? As flattering as it was, she also knew it was totally inappropriate for her to have a drink with him, alone in his quarters. "Captain?"

"Sit down, Yeoman. It's Saurian brandy, and I dislike drinking alone." He got two glasses and started to pour.

She'd heard of Saurian brandy, of course, but never had the opportunity to sample it. But the professional part of her mind kept telling her that it was inappropriate. "I'm sorry, Captain," she said, "but I think I should be going."

"Sit down, Yeoman," he repeated. "Do I have to make it an order?"

It might be inappropriate, but what could one little drink hurt? After all, how long had she been wishing that their professional relationship could blossom into something more?

She sat.

He handed her a glass, and sat down beside her. His thigh touched hers, and she slid a couple of centimeters away.

She relaxed a little when he didn't seem inclined to pursue her. She looked at the glass and its contents, took a careful sniff, and then an experimental sip. The drink was everything she'd heard, and more. It went down smooth, without burning like some other drinks did. And it tasted better than she'd expected, much better. It warmed her from the inside, and she felt the tiredness starting to evaporate.

She drank the rest of her glass.

"The night's still young," he said, offering to refill her glass. A corner of her mind noted that he'd only taken a sip of his own brandy.

"That's okay, Captain," she said, setting her glass aside and getting up to her feet, somewhat slowly.

"The night's still young," he repeated, also rising to his feet. He seemed to have no trouble controlling his limbs, as he added, "Janice."

She couldn't remember him ever calling her by her given name. At least, not when he was himself, not split into good and evil parts by a transporter malfunction.

The professional part of her mind was still fighting to keep control. "I really should be going, Captain," she heard herself saying even as her legs tried to move her toward the door.

The brandy caused her legs to stumble.

He caught her before she could fall, lifting her back to her feet even as she clutched him for support. Then he was pulling her toward him, pressing her lips against hers. She felt her breasts flattening against his chest.

Against his manly chest.

The professional part of her mind told her she should be resisting him. Her body, influenced no doubt by the brandy, told her mind to shut up.

The body won. Her arms tightened about his body as she savored the feel of her breasts flattening even further against that manly chest.

Then he was lifting her, carrying her, then laying her down on his bunk.

The professional part of her mind made one last attempt. "Captain, no!" she said, attempting to push him away, though her voice came out barely more than a whisper. "No!"

He was too strong for her, pinning her arms to the bunk as he threw his body atop hers. "You know you want it, Janice," he said, before again pressing his lips against hers.

Her body did want it. "Yes, Jim!" the words came from her mouth. "Oh, yes!" She stopped struggling and concentrated on responding to the kiss. One leg worked free from under his body and twined about his.

She was pretty sure he started undressing her first. She did remember hoping she wasn't betraying her inexperience as she fumbled a little with the unfamiliar seals of a man's uniform.

Then they were both completely naked and his hands were exploring her body even as her hands returned the favor by exploring his.

"Janice," he murmured into her ear, then kissed her again. He then began working his way down, kissing her chin, throat, collarbone. "Janice, oh, Janice," he repeated, then kissed her left breast. He repeated her name before kissing her right breast. Then he drew the nipple into his mouth, suckling and nibbling lightly.

"Oh, yes, Jim!" she all but screamed out, wrapping her arms around him and holding him as tightly as she could.

He bit down harder. After working on one breast for a while, he switched his attention to the other one.

 

Jim Kirk was also finding sleep hard to find. He'd known Leonard McCoy for years, sailed with him, and knew no finer doctor. He'd trust Bones with his life, and had done so more than once. If Bones said the women were suffering nothing more than indigestion, there was no reason to doubt it. But Kirk wasn't sure that's all it was.

They'd all eaten the same food, drunk the same drinks. So why wasn't everyone sick? Why just the women? Why just the two youngest, least experienced members of the away team?

 

Things had definitely gotten past mere curiosity. Even though Lysette Jourdain had never considered herself xenophobic – xenophobia was cause for an instant dishonorable discharge from Starfleet – but she wasn't exactly a xenophile either. While she had what she considered normal curiosity, she had never been intimate with any alien, male, female, or otherwise. Now she didn't remember who had pushed whom down onto the straw pallet – she vaguely remembered removing her uniform when the sealers had bewildered the half-brothers, though she distinctly remembered making sure her communicator, phaser, and tricorder were secure – but here she was, on her back, with a Gamman at each breast, their hands all over her chest as they examined in detail the largest pair of breasts they had ever seen even as they tasted her, licking and suckling her nipples. It wasn't a rough examination by any means. She couldn't remember a lover ever being this gentle with her – let alone two of them. Their big hands were like silk on her breasts, their bites on her nipples barely more than nibbles.

She found the gentleness intoxicating, even more so than the drink, making her want even more. Pulling the two Gammans off her, she rolled Vonz onto his back, sitting astride his thighs and taking his manhood in her hand, finding it had grown bigger and harder than when she'd first examined it. Like the rest of his body, it was shorter and thicker than the humans she'd experienced.

Wanting to experience this, she moved up his body and lowered herself onto him. The breadth of his manhood was initially daunting, and she was pleasantly surprised when she found she could take him in all the way without any pain. And it obviously wasn't painful for Vonz, judging from the encouragement he gave her amid other sounds of pleasure when she began a slow rhythmic pumping with her legs.

Tark squatted beside her, catching her breasts and fondling them as she rode his half-brother. It seemed the most natural thing to do when she reached out and picked him up to cradle him against her chest so he could suckle at her right breast. She didn't even wonder about his lightness as she sped up her pumping.

Jourdain was still climbing toward her peak when Vonz screamed and climaxed, arching his back as he shot his seed into her sex. Lifting herself off him, she laid Tark down beside his half-brother and mounted him, his manhood fully erect from suckling at her breast. Picking up the gasping Vonz, she cradled him to her chest until his mouth closed on her left breast and then her legs resumed where they'd left off.

Jourdain and Tark reached their climaxes nearly simultaneously. But as pleasurable as that was, it wasn't enough to satisfy her. Pulling Vonz away from her chest, she was delighted to see that he had gotten erect again from suckling at her breast. Laying him back down on the pallet, she quickly mounted him, picking up Tark and holding him to her chest again.

She discovered that by tightening her inner muscles she could delay Vonz's climax until she was ready, and she was rewarded with a second climax, more pleasurable than the first. But as delightful as that was, she still wasn't ready to call a halt to the proceedings. Upon dismounting Vonz she was disappointed to discover that he, however, had had enough, barely conscious after his second climax. Leaving him on the pallet she laid Tark down beside him and mounted him.

With nothing to obstruct him he reached up and cupped her breasts, gentle caressing and fondling them while her legs again resumed their rhythmic pumping. Wanting a little more stimulation than his soft ministrations, she moved one of his hands so that both hands were on her left breast and then cupped her right breast with her right hand. Lost in the sensation building up inside her, she didn't wonder why her dainty hand was fondling her soft mound harder than both of Tark's big hands were fondling the other, indeed, harder than the Gammans had done all night despite their obvious fascination with her breasts.

Jourdain let out a scream of pure joy as her third climax hit, far more pleasurable than either of the first two. Raising herself off Tark, she collapsed to the pallet between the two Gammans, completely spent. And quite sated, as she had not been in quite some time.

 

Janice Rand's hands were now moving under the covers, stimulating her most sensitive parts. "Oh, Jim," she murmured, imagining – not for the first time – that it was Jim Kirk's big strong hands caressing her, fondling her breasts, stroking her thighs. The difference was that tonight, for the first time, her dainty feminine hands were stroking her body harder than Kirk's strong masculine ever had – or could – stroke a woman's body. "Oh, yes, Jim," she murmured again, sliding a hand between her thighs and into her damp sex. "Oh, yes, Jim!"

Thirty minutes later she slumped back onto her pallet, completely exhausted. She was sound asleep when Lysette Jourdain returned and slid under the covers on her own pallet. A minute later she was also asleep.

Chapter 5

Dawn had found both women awake and alert, showing no ill effects from dinner the previous evening. Or from their other activities. Of course, that didn't keep Doctor McCoy from running his medical tricorder over both of them before allowing them to sit down for breakfast.

Breakfast that morning turned out to be much the same as dinner the previous night, though both women were somewhat relieved not to see any more of the silar, the intoxicating fermented berry beverage from the evening before. There was plenty of unfermented berry juice though, as well as another beverage that seemed to be sort of a cross between tea and coffee.

Looking across the table, Lieutenant Hikaru Sulu couldn't see a hair out of place on Rand's elaborate basket-weave. Not for the first time, he wondered how she did it, and how long it took her to do it. And how did she do it down here? He hadn't seen anything that looked like a mirror, and he'd had to depilitate by feel.

For her part, Rand pretended not to notice how attentive Teela, the chief's daughter, was being to "Jeem," just as she'd been at the meal the previous evening. None of the other women attending them were quite as attentive as Teela, though one of them, perhaps emboldened by Teela's example, was beginning to cozy up to Frank Williams, the tallest of the humans.

Rand had been somewhat amused last night, thinking back to Miri, one of the three-hundred-year-old "children" she'd encountered on her first away mission. But now, seen in the light of a new day, Teela's actions were more annoying than amusing.

What was even more annoying was that Captain Kirk apparently didn't find Teela's attentions annoying in the least.

 


 

"Yeoman Rand," Captain Kirk said as they were finishing breakfast, "I believe it's time for you to check in with the Enterprise."

"Yes, Captain," she said, wiping her lips with an almost clean cloth before getting up from the table. "I could use some fresh air and exercise after that." She glanced down at the remains of the meal, feeling no ill effects, as Jourdain also began to get to her feet.

"Mister Williams," Kirk continued as McCoy chuckled, "you look like you could use some fresh air and exercise, too. Why don't you escort Yeoman Rand to the Copernicus?"

Jourdain glanced at Rand and then sat back down as Williams extricated himself from the girl's arms and got to his feet.

The activity led to a flurry of speech and gestures among the Gammans, the gist of which boiled down to the clouds building on the horizon and the cold rain they portended, probably before midday.

"Try to get a long-range weather forecast for this area from the Enterprise," Kirk told Rand. "And try to get back before the rain."

"Yes, Captain," Rand said, picking up her tricorder.

Williams followed Rand as she slung her tricorder over a shoulder, felt her belt for her communicator and phaser, and set off. But as the trail left the clearing holding the village, she stopped to look at an exotic-looking bloom. Bending closer, she inhaled its fragrance. Then, plucking one and putting it into her elaborately done hair, she turned around for his inspection. He didn't think she needed any embellishment, especially in her elaborate basket-weave hair, but he fed her a standard compliment anyway, which she accepted graciously before setting off again.

Rand walked at a brisk pace, then broke into an easy jog. Williams stayed with her, enjoying the chance to stretch his legs. While the Enterprise boasted excellent recreational facilities, there was no substitute for actually being on a planet, with its wide-open spaces. Resisting the urge to run on ahead, he instead contented himself with matching Rand's pace, jogging along at her heels.

She apparently also enjoyed the opportunity to stretch her legs for, giving him a smile over her shoulder, she began picking up the pace. Returning her smile, he picked up his own pace. She countered by speeding up even more.

 

Janice Rand had never considered herself to be particularly athletic. It wasn't as if her job required it; she was, after all, nothing more than a glorified clerk. The few times she'd used the gym aboard the Enterprise, she'd done nothing more than spend a little time on one of the treadmills. The treadmill let her be by herself, without competing with anyone else.

Nor was she all that comfortable with the phaser on her belt. She'd been trained in its basic use like all Federation personnel, of course, and she'd had additional training since being assigned as Captain Kirk's yeoman since the job involved accompanying him on away missions like this one. But she'd never fired one except on a firing range, and wasn't sure whether she could actually fire it at a living person.

Somewhat to her surprise, she found herself enjoying the little jog. She'd been afraid that some of last night's ill effects might have lingered, but she felt fine. Better than fine. Maybe it was just being down on a planet, with its wide-open spaces, the view changing with every step, the wide-open sky above. It was easy to imagine that she was in a park, not on a strange, mostly unexplored planet.

Glancing back over a shoulder, she saw Williams keeping pace with her. Well, of course, he'd be keeping pace with her. Security people trained hard; she'd seen some of them in the gym every time she'd gone there. Knowing that he'd be able to keep up with her no matter how fast she ran, she still picked up the pace, enjoying the opportunity to stretch her legs.

 

Frank Williams had always considered himself to be in good physical shape. Beyond the norm for Starfleet, which was one reason he was in security. But now he was finding it took all he had just to keep up with the young female yeoman as she ran down the trail just ahead of him. As good a shape as he was in, he knew there would always be some women who could outperform him in any given physical contest, and running was not his strongest suit.

He swallowed the impulse to ask her to slow down a little, instead resolving to enjoy the view as she ran before him, her long shapely legs flashing, her tricorder bouncing at her side, her short skirt flapping up and down over her …

Distracted by the sight in front of him, he didn't see the projecting root until his foot caught it and he stumbled. His arms flew out wildly as he struggled to keep his balance but he was running too fast and wordless cry escaped his mouth as he started to go down. The ground was coming up fast and he tried to catch himself but his arms were too far back for him to bring them forward in time.

His face was less than thirty centimeters from the ground when it stopped. His arms continued their forward swing, and his palms slapped onto the ground. His knees came down a second later.

"What ---?" On his hands and knees, he looked around.

Yeoman Rand was standing – or rather, crouching – in front of him, one hand on his shoulder.

"Are you okay?" she asked, pulling him quickly back up, her slender arm seemingly exerting itself no harder than if she was merely pulling up a blanket. For one brief instant his feet were completely off the ground before he was standing once again on firm ground.

"What ---?" he began again.

"I … I heard you shouting and I turned around to see you falling down. I … I stopped and caught you."

"You … you caught me?" He looked again at the hand on his shoulder and the slender arm connected to it. He had to outweigh her by at least twenty-five or thirty kilograms, and she had caught him with just one hand? Not only caught him, but pulled him back up to his feet?

"Well, you weren't all the way down." Observing his gaze, she removed her hand, looking briefly at it before letting it drop to her side.

He noticed that she wasn't breathing hard, as if she hadn't just run a couple of kilometers at nearly warp speed. "Maybe we should slow down," he suggested after a moment, having caught his breath. "It's not as if Lieutenant Uhura's waiting for us, and I'd hate for you to have to report a casualty because some clumsy idiot tripped over his own big feet."

"Okay, you can set the pace." She laughed. "That way if we run into a wild animal you can be first to know."

"Yeah, right." Laughing, he set out again, this time at a more sedate yet still brisk walk.

They reached the clearing holding the shuttlecraft without any further incident.

"Go ahead and report in," he said. "I'll keep watch out here."

"You sure?"

"Yes. It's my job. Now go on."

"Okay." She crossed the clearing, opened the hatch, and stepped inside.

Williams had almost regained his breath, but he was still feeling the effects of the earlier run. As soon as Rand had disappeared into the darkened interior of the shuttlecraft, he sank down onto a fallen log, stretching his legs out in front of him to work out the kinks.

A flicker of movement out of the corner of his eyes drew his attention to his right. Turning his head, he looked straight at it, but the movement was not repeated. Still, he was sure he'd seen something moving. Something more than just leaves and grasses in the breeze. A wild animal? Hostile natives? Easing himself off the log and into the shadows, he eased his phaser from his belt.

There it was again. No wild animal, but a humanoid head, standing erect. At first he thought it was a Gamman, but then the figure emerged out of the trees and into the clearing, and Williams saw its clothing.

The uniform of a Romulan centurion.

Even as Williams watched, another Romulan appeared behind the centurion.

While Williams was certain he could knock off two Romulans from where he crouched in hiding, he didn't know how many more there were. That there were more he was certain, since the centurion was issuing orders to somebody still hidden in the trees.

Ducking behind his log, he replaced the phaser on his belt, snatched his communicator, and flipped it open. "Williams to Jourdain," he spoke into it. "Come in, Lysette."

The only reply was a crackle of static, courtesy of the planet's radiation belt.

He turned up the gain. "Williams to anyone, come in. Lieutenant Sulu, Captain Kirk, do you read me?"

Nothing but more static.

"Anybody, come in! This is Williams."

Static.

Williams had been aboard the Enterprise when she became the first Federation starship to encounter a cloaked Romulan Bird-of-Prey. Or more correctly, the first Federation starship to encounter a cloaked Romulan Bird-of-Prey and live to tell the tale.

The Enterprise had received a distress signal from one of a string of outposts strung along the Federation side of the Romulan Neutral Zone. Even at full warp speed the Enterprise had been too late to save the outposts, but had managed to intercept the Romulan ship, pursuing it into the Neutral Zone. Deducing that the Romulan's cloak interfered with their sensors, had played a dangerous game of cat-and-mouse with the Romulan, mimicking its maneuvers, pretending to be nothing more than a sensor ghost, until the final combat.

Of course, Williams had only learned the details after the fact. However, he remembered that Rand had also been aboard at the time. But she'd been up on the bridge as the captain played his deadly game of cat-and-mouse with the Bird-of-Prey while Williams, like the rest of the lowerdeck crew, could only speculate about what was happening outside the hull.

What had made it even worse for Frank Williams personally had been the knowledge that his younger brother was stationed on one of those outposts. Only later had he learned that Fred had been on one of the outposts that hadn't been attacked and thus had survived.

He wasn't sure which was better, being terrified and wondering what was happening, not knowing when you were going to die, or knowing exactly what was happening and being terrified, seeing death come straight for you. If he ever got the chance, if they both survived this, he would have to see if he could talk about it with the yeoman.

Right now, he needed to talk to Yeoman Rand about something else, something more immediate. Snatching his communicator from his belt, he flipped it open. "Rand!" he yelled into it without waiting to verify the connection. "Stay inside! Don't come out!"

She obviously didn't hear his warning, for a moment later there was a flash of red and gold in the doorway as the yeoman appeared and started to step down.

Williams wasn't the only one to see the motion. Before he could shout another warning into his communicator, at least two phasers buzzed from the trees to either side of him. There was a brilliant flash of light as the beams converged in the doorway, and Rand's red-clad body tumbled out, crumpling onto the drive nacelle.

As her body slid behind the drive nacelle, another beam shot out of the trees. Accompanied by a deeper roar than that of the phasers, the blaster struck the drive nacelle. There was another, more brilliant flash of light as the drive nacelle casing cracked, releasing some of the power contained within the dilithium, forcing Williams to shield his eyes.

When he could look again, the shuttlecraft lay on its side, the broken nacelle pointing up into the sky. Of Rand there was no sign. Even though Williams knew no human could possibly have survived the explosion, he broke cover and rushed out into the clearing, heedless of his own safety.

He didn't get very far. He never heard the buzz of the phaser as it caught him in the back before he'd taken a dozen steps, and he fell to the ground, unconscious.

 

Chapter 6

It was the jostling that brought Frank Williams back to consciousness. It took him a little longer to understand what was jostling him, where he was. Eventually he realized he was draped over someone's shoulder as that someone walked at a brisk pace.

Trying to get up and away, he realized that his wrists were bound behind his back.

The one carrying him said something in a guttural language Williams couldn't understand. There was an answer in the same language, and then Williams felt himself falling to the ground.

He hit the ground with a grunt. Rolling over onto his back, he blinked up into the sunlight. Just what was going on here? The Romulans didn't take prisoners, so why hadn't they just killed him instead of hauling him off to wherever they were taking him?

A head moved into his vision. Silhouetted against the sun, he couldn't quite see its mouth move. Nor could he understand the words. But somebody apparently could, for another Romulan – whether it was the same one who'd been carrying him or not, Williams couldn't tell – bent down, grasped him by an arm, and lifted him to his feet. He stood swaying for a moment, the painful grip on his arm the only thing keeping him upright, as the apparent leader of the Romulans leaned in closer.

"How many of you are here on this planet?" the Romulan asked in heavily accented Federation Standard.

So, they wanted information from him before they killed him. Well, since they were going to kill him anyway, there was no point in disclosing anything. Clenching his jaws, he looked the Romulan in the eyes without saying a word.

"Speak, human!"

Williams worked his throat, opened his mouth, and spat in the Romulan's face.

Nonverbal communication takes many forms and not all forms have the same meaning among the various races in and out of the Federation. But not even a Romulan – especially a Romulan – could mistake the defiance in Williams's action.

Nor was there any mistaking his response, as he drew back an arm and cuffed Williams's cheek with the back of his hand. It wasn't a particularly hard blow by Romulan standards – he had struck his women harder than that – but it staggered the human. Only the viselike grip on his arm kept him on his feet.

As that grip brought him in front of the Romulan leader, Williams expected either another question or another blow. Instead the Romulan barked another order and the Romulan holding him swung him around and pushed him down the trail. Apparently he was going to be kept alive a little longer, to be questioned by a superior. Or tortured at leisure. Or both.

And they weren't going to waste energy carrying him when he could walk.

As he walked, the grip on his arm forcing him to keep up with the brisk pace the Romulans set, a part of his mind envied Yeoman Rand and her quick clean death. At least she had been spared the terror and pain – and probably worse – the Romulans could inflict on her.

 


 

Despite Frank Williams's belief, Yeoman Janice Rand had not died a quick clean death at the hands of the Romulans. However she did take longer to regain consciousness, which perhaps was forgivable since she'd not only been hit by two phasers but was also caught in the leakage from the destruction of a dilithium-powered warp engine.

Opening them, she discovered she had eyes. She slowly pushed herself up to her hands and knees, and looked around.

Everything was misty, obscured by a golden haze. It took her a few moments before she realized she was looking at her own hair. Bringing a hand up to her face to brush her tresses aside, she realized her long hair had come completely unbound from her meticulous basket-weave, falling loose about her face and upper body in a golden tangle.

Even after pushing the long locks of her hair behind her shoulders, it took a few more moments before she realized where she was. Above her was the shuttlecraft. It was on its side, which had made recognition more difficult. Around her was the clearing, the grass near the shuttlecraft charred as if there had been a fire of some sort.

There was no sign of Frank Williams, or of whatever had done those things to her and the shuttlecraft.

Her limbs obeyed her as she got up to her feet and took stock of herself. Her uniform was in shreds, hardly more than tatters of synthesized fabric. Her tricorder, phaser, and communicator were no more than lumps of melted metal and plastic.

It didn't cross her mind that she should have been no more than a lump of charred flesh, since she obviously wasn't, standing on her feet. Nor did it occur to her to wonder why she wasn't feeling the chill despite the fact that the thermal control in her uniform was no longer functional. In fact she felt no pain, not even discomfort, despite the state of her uniform and her equipment.

"Williams?" she called out.

There was no answer, just the rustling of leaves and grasses in the wind.

Orienting herself, she walked toward the trail she and Williams had taken to get here. There was no sign of the security man himself, but the grass had been trampled down by multiple pairs of feet. A beaten path went into the trees at an angle.

So, he wasn't alone, she thought. But why did he go off without at least calling me? Since there was no answer to be gotten here, she started following the trail.

What she would do when she found him, she didn't know. She had no weapon, no means of calling for help.

She started out at a walk, then switched to an easy jog when the trail widened. As her now nearly bare legs ate up the ground, she didn't realize that her "easy jog" was actually quite a bit faster than the fastest she and Williams had run on their way to the shuttlecraft.

 

Chapter 7

Frank Williams was exhausted and still in shock as the Romulans shoved him roughly along the trail through the trees. It had been more than an hour since these Romulans had destroyed the shuttlecraft and killed Yeoman Janice Rand. Choking in anguish once again as he thought of it, he began shaking in anger, desperately hoping he could find a way to at least avenge her death. With his eyes filled once again with images of that explosion, it was all he could do to stay on his feet.

Closing his mind, he tried to narrow his consciousness to focus on his sore legs: they ached now as he tried to walk, his knees collapsing from pain every few steps. Staring blankly at the ground in front of him, he concentrated his entire being on just completing the next step, his view of the world narrowing to the few feet on either side of him. Feeling the dark despair returning as his anger left him, he was also certain that he was going to lose his own life once these Romulans got what they wanted from him. He felt only the numb hopelessness of the half-dead and the damned as he stumbled painfully along as the trail opened up as it entered a large clearing.

They had nearly reached the far side of the clearing when the Romulan behind him suddenly pulled him roughly to a stop. Turning weakly to stare back at him through glazed eyes, Williams saw that the Romulan centurion was peering over his shoulder with a surprised look on his face. Turning to follow the centurion's gaze, he felt a tiny and irrational surge of hope as he wondered what could have surprised them.

While it was still hard to focus his eyes, Williams was able to barely make out something that looked like a mirage. He saw a vision of a blonde woman running across the grass toward them. Blinking his eyes furiously in an attempt to dispel the mirage, it did the opposite, coming into sharper focus. His heart suddenly began to beat faster, a tiny ray of hope taking life inside his head as he turned his head to listen to the way the Romulans were talking excitedly among themselves.

Yet seeing that the girl was apparently alone, his brief moment of hope was dashed as he felt the phaser jabbing painfully against his back, a reminder to stay quiet, or else. His feelings turning black once again, as he knew with all certainty that she would be just one more victim of these Romulans.

Yet despite the events that he knew were about to transpire, a probable rape and an inevitable death, he couldn't resist staring at her. She was slender and stunningly beautiful, her long golden hair blowing wildly in the wind of her passage. Her stride was loose and surprisingly powerful, her body clearly athletic as she moved much the same a long distance runner would run at the beginning of a race. Yet she seemed unusually strong even for a trained runner, each step taking her much further off the ground than was normal for anyone needing to preserve their strength. He was even more surprised when she got close enough so that he could clearly see the movement of her long tanned legs, the powerful musculature of those long legs very visible as she slowed to a walk as she came ever closer.

Despite the Romulans' obvious weapons, she didn't hesitate to approach them, walking briskly toward them. At the same time, the graceful movements of her body truly startled, Williams, in fact, he couldn't remember ever seeing a girl – or any grown woman, for that matter – with so many muscular curves on her body. Each movement of her legs or arms seemed to send a ripple of animalistic power through her lithe body.

The Romulans seemed to overcome their initial surprise at seeing the girl, the phaser digging harder into Williams's back as he was pushed forward again, the small group of men walking cautiously toward the girl as she neared them. Fascinated by her appearance, Williams watched how her eyes coolly met each of the Romulan's, studying their faces for a moment before finally pausing to stare directly into his own. Her sparkling blue eyes momentarily mesmerizing him, they were so big and so brilliantly blue that he suddenly felt his knees growing even weaker than they already were, the beautiful features of her face stunning him as she broke into a dazzling smile. Her bright eyes, glowing white teeth and cute dimpled cheeks, all framed by her golden golden hair, were enough to make his already weakened legs collapse, for he suddenly recognized her.

He'd never seen Yeoman Janice Rand with her hair unbound.

Falling to his knees yet again, he couldn't help but sigh quietly in response to her beauty and her smile, eventually realizing that he had been staring dumbfounded at her for nearly a minute. Struggling against the hypnotic pull of her beauty, he was finally able to blink his eyes and look at her body.

Her red skirt was in tatters, barely enough to be considered decent, the view of her long legs as they rose upward to disappear under it tantalized him with what he couldn't see. The top was equally tattered, her midriff almost completely bare, the bottom edge barely covering her nipples, revealing the lower curves of her perfectly circular breasts.

My God, she's beautiful, he breathed to himself, his pain and loss momentarily forgotten. But beautiful in such an exotic and powerful way! But what is she doing here? She's dead. I saw her die.

Williams couldn't help himself as his eyes swept upward once again to dwell on her dramatic breasts. They were the firmest and most perfectly rounded breasts he had ever seen. Her ragged top was daringly tiny, the fabric so thin that every rounded curve of her remarkable breasts was visible as they jiggled ever so slightly as she walked. They seemed to be set unusually high and were widely separated as they sat on top of what appeared to be a strongly muscled broad chest, at least for such a young woman. Looking down her body further, he admired her flat stomach and tiny waist, the grid of her abdominal muscles flexing visibly as she walked. Overall, she projected a stunningly sexual and athletic image, one that made her seem dramatically more powerful than any woman he had set eyes on before.

Like her chest, her shoulders were surprisingly broad and strong looking, the tendons of her neck standing out in bold relief against her upper chest and shoulders. Sweeping his eyes way down to her legs again, Williams felt a surge of arousal sweeping his body as he found that he could see the outline of every major muscle flexing as she walked toward him. He had never seen so many smooth hard curves on a woman's legs, nor ones that danced in rhythm to her steps like hers did. Overall, she looked like an immensely strong and agile gymnast graced with the height, beauty and fluid physique of an exotic dancer.

His eyes finally rose back to her face as she reached the men, her hands confidently resting on her hips as she came to a stop, her deep blue eyes focusing on each of their faces in turn until her eyes once again returned to dwell solely on Williams's. Dwelling on his as he saw a hesitant look in her eye, the look no longer that of a confident woman, but instead, she looked like a young and confused girl.

 

The centurion stepped confidently forward to meet the Earther female.Her eyes were like cool sky-blue lagoons as she looked into his. Yet despite her calm look, his eyes were anything but polite as he quickly glanced up and down her body, his weight shifting from foot to foot as his body language communicated how "impressed" he was with her figure. He was genuinely impressed with the female, and surprised that she didn't seem particularly concerned about his appearance or the weapons his men were openly displaying.

 

His thoughts racing, Frank Williams unconsciously gestured slightly with his head as he tried to subtly motion Janice Rand away, hoping she would flee before the Romulans took her prisoner as well. Yet she simply moved her gaze from the centurion's face to his once again, turning her head slightly to stare directly at him with those incredible blue eyes of hers. Smiling this time, her broad reassuring grin slowly crinkling the corners of her eyes as she gently shook her head, telling him that she understood him, but that she wasn't going to take his hint.

Yet somehow, he knew that she knew what she was doing. Perhaps it was the confident way that she carried herself, combined with the movements of her strong athletic body, or maybe it was just the frank look in her eyes, but something made Williams think that she could even handle herself in this crowd. That she was some kind of super girl. Unfortunately, this ridiculous fantasy lasted for only a moment, the pain from the phaser jabbing into his back forcing him back to his feet. He felt that sick sinking feeling in his stomach again as his momentary fantasy evaporated, realizing that there was really no way that she could handle these Romulans. She was too close to them and they were far too well armed for her to now have any hope of escape.

 

Yeoman Janice Rand saw Frank Williams motioning her away as some strong emotions twisted his facial expressions. She instinctively understood what he was trying to communicate and realized that he must have had an extremely rough time with these Romulans. Nevertheless, she simply gave him a warm smile while slowly shaking her head. He didn't understand that she wasn't really in any danger here. At least she didn't think she was. She didn't consider why she knew that – it just seemed right.

However, the bound crewman himself clearly was in danger since the Romulans were obviously using him as some kind of hostage. Although everyone was facing her, her eyes had not missed the phaser being held against his back, the man's body momentarily becoming transparent to her, a vision of white bones and a dark ugly weapon pressing against his backbone filling her vision. Various thoughts swirled through her mind as she struggled to figure out a plan to ensure that she could distract and disarm these Romulans before they could hurt him. She had no idea if she could move fast enough to take their weapons away before they could use them. No, she decided, she would have to do this some other way.

Given the way their eyes were roaming lecherously up and down her body, she suddenly had an unusual idea. Turning her attention back to the lead member of the party, she saw how he was standing proudly and confidently in front of her. Her stomach lurched a little as she saw the way he was grinning at her, teeth visible as he slowly scanned her body from head to toe, his eyes dwelling often on her breasts.

 

Smiling at her, the centurion glanced back at the other men. "My men could use some of your kind of company and I don't think you'll last long enough to go around all by yourself."

His men laughed lecherously, enjoying their leader's rough humor while they gawked openly at the stunning Earther female.

The men now began to make rude male noises behind his back as they each envisioned what they would do with this Earther female. Meanwhile, the centurion displayed his teeth again as he smiled broadly, reaching down behind the female to casually lift up the back of her ragged red skirt. Exhaling appreciatively, he saw that she wasn't wearing anything under it. Staring in amazed arousal at her tight and very bare ass, he suddenly yanked her skirt up high enough to show her cute butt off to the others, stepping grandly aside to bow while he let them leer.

 

Yeoman Janice Rand felt a wave of disgust wash over her as she felt him intruding between her legs, his rough fingers even trying to penetrate her as he attempted to lift her upward. She had never liked anyone, especially a man, forcing himself on her or groping her in any way, especially this crudely. The anger that had started when he had pulled her skirt up grew much stronger as she turned her head to glare back over her shoulder at him! How dare he violate her like this?

Yet despite her disgust, her body almost betrayed her for a brief moment. She gasped softly as his fingers touched and penetrated her nether lips, a wild tingling sensation reaching deeply inside her. Yet this was hardly the touch of a lover, this was little more than an intrusion, the foreplay to rape, certainly not a lover's touch. Feeling him trying to force his rough fingers further into her sex, she instinctively tightened her muscles, squeezing her thighs against his hand. Flexing very hard to stop him, she was immediately rewarded with a slight crunching sensation, one that reminded her of eggshells breaking. Her momentary surge of arousal turned into a satisfying tingle as she was pretty sure that some of the bones in his hand had been crushed against her sex.

 

The centurion grunted in surprise, the waves of pain from his crushed hand radiating up his arm so strongly that he was rendered speechless. Finally opening his mouth, a screaming groan escaped him as he felt and heard his bones continuing to crush and splintering between the Earther female's duranium-like thighs. This Earther female was breaking his bones with just her pussy muscles.

 

Yeoman Janice Rand heard the Romulan groaning loudly as he strained to pull his hand back. Yet she angrily continued to hold him even tighter yet as she felt more crunching sensations vibrating against her sex. It took her nearly another half-minute to regain sufficient control of her emotions that she could force her muscles to relax. Meanwhile, the Romulan continued to struggle helplessly, pulling on his hand while screaming in pain.

 

The centurion had never felt such excruciating pain as he had stared dumbly at her gorgeous ass, unable to comprehend how the Earther female's muscles could have turned as hard as duranium, his hand completely crushed between her powerful inner thighs. Truly shocked by her strength, he had desperately tried to pull his injured hand back, his shock becoming even greater when he had found that he couldn't budge it from between her strong beautiful legs. This Earther female had legs like a vise.

 

Finally turning her head around to look coldly into his face, Janice Yeoman Rand saw his eyes staring up under her skirt as he slumped onto his knees behind her, his teeth tearing at her ass as he tried to get her to release him. Relaxing her muscles just a bit, she allowed him to remove his ruined hand, quickly turning around to face him.

Looking up at her face now in shock and pain, he seemed frozen in her cobra-like gaze. Taking advantage of his shock, she reached down to grab his wrists, her grip easily overpowering him as she lifted him bodily to his feet.

 

Damn, the centurion thought to himself, what's this Earther female made of anyway? He was a strong man, and proud of his work-hardened muscles, but no matter how he strained to release himself from this new embarrassment, he felt her hands holding him fast, her arms seemingly flexing only slightly as she lifted him upward until his feet were dangling. He felt completely helpless in her grip as she smoothly and easily set him back down on the grass, almost as if he was just a little child.

Despite the pain, a mask of dark anger clouded his face at the humiliation of being overpowered by a mere female! A young one at that. Pulling himself backward with all his strength, he finally managed to jerk his hand free of her grip, quickly balling up his good hand to deliver a smashing blow against the side of her face.

 

Yeoman Janice Rand saw the blow coming long before it arrived, and her quick reflexes allowed her to brace her neck and head against it. The sickening cracking impact of his fist striking her face was a completely unequal contest of human flesh hitting duranium, his blow failing to move her head so much as a single millimeter. The sound of the bones breaking in his other hand now filled the air as his fist crunched against her cheekbones and jaw. Screaming in pain, he fell backward to land on his ass, doubling over to now hold both hands gingerly against his stomach.

 

The subcenturion had been watching this all in amusement, at least until he saw the centurion trying to punch the Earther female out. Seeing his hand trapped between those gorgeous thighs had been almost funny, but the way she shrugged off his roundhouse punch was something else again. This Earther female was definitely strong. Quickly running up to help his centurion, he grabbed the Earther female's long hair with his right hand while pulling downward, trying to painfully throw her down onto the ground. Shocked at how firmly she held herself, he momentarily felt his entire weight hanging from her long hair, pulling with all his strength and weight, while she remained perfectly still. Pulling harder and harder, he grunted and strained like a madman, yet he could do no more than move her silky hair around. Finally, grabbing her hair with both hands, he yanked backward with all his strength, his entire body weight hardly managing to do no more than to pull her hair from side to side. Her head had not moved so much as a millimeter.

Amazed and angry and puzzled, he finally let go of her hair and grabbed her face, one hand across her mouth and another behind her neck. Gripping her cheeks cruelly with his fingers, he used all his strength to try and twist her head down toward the ground as he jammed his knee hard upward into her stomach. Yet she didn't even seem to know he was there, her body remaining completely immobile, her hands resting calmly on her hips, the little smile on her face growing broader. Growing more and more enraged, it finally began to sink in that she was very strong, and that he hadn't caused her any pain.

 

Yeoman Janice Rand calmly gazed at this second Romulan as she felt him using all his strength and weight to try to move her. She was surprised at how easy it was for her to resist him. The Romulan's straining muscles told her that he was using a lot of force against her, yet her muscles were hardly even flexing, let alone straining, as she easily resisted his efforts. She felt a surge of warmth filling her body as she began to appreciate how powerful her body had become, thrilled as she discovered the huge difference between her strength and the puny strength of these Romulans. Smiling excitedly to herself, she casually reached up with a flick of her hands to push her tangled hair back behind her shoulders.

 

Standing in front of the Earther female, the subcenturion had been surprised as he had caught a glimpse of her rounded biceps flexing when she raised her arms to straighten her hair. This was one strong Earther female, he thought. Maybe the reason that he couldn't hurt her was that she was actually stronger than he was? He shook his head as he dismissed that thought almost immediately. He knew that no Earther had ever even come close to having a Romulan's strength, male or female. However, he really had no idea how she was managing to resist him. Maybe it was some Earther martial arts trick?

Despite his growing anger, he felt his pants getting tight for this Earther female. She was so young and so incredibly beautiful. Her golden hair and her big blue eyes, her strong shapely body – she was really turning him on. She was going to be a lot of fun and, based on what he had seen so far, maybe even strong enough to last for a few days before they used her up.

But first he needed to show this Earther female who was really in control here, she seemed way too sure of herself. Besides, he always got a real thrill from hurting his females before using them. Once they were softened up, he would convince them that their only hope of survival, their only long-shot chance, was to be really good in bed, and give him more pleasure than any female before her. Once they understood that, they would usually do anything to please him, trying hopelessly to keep him from causing them any more pain, trying desperately to stay alive. He loved the feeling of the strength and nearly unlimited power that this control over their life and death gave him.

His thoughts came back to the here-and-now as he smiled sadistically at the Earther female. Jumping forward without even thinking, he gave her a powerful kick with his heavy boot right up between her legs, up under her skirt, trying to bruise the pussy that he knew his men would soon be pounding away on. Yet despite his vision of hurting the Earther female, his foot came to a jarring stop as the duranium-tipped boot struck her pubic bone, the strong impact jolting his leg painfully while it threw him backward and off balance. Staggering to fall on his ass in the grass, he desperately grabbed his sore foot, his big toe hurting so bad that he was afraid he had broken it.

Looking back up at the Earther female as she stood calmly over him, he saw that she still had that cute little smile on her face. She didn't even seem to have noticed his kick until she casually reached down with her hands to smooth out her ragged skirt. Staggering back to his feet, he limped sideways a few steps before violently jerking his phaser from his belt.

Aiming his weapon at her stomach, he felt a sick calm coming over him, waiting eagerly for her pitiful pleading to start, preparing to revel in the emotions he enjoyed so much in his victims. He already knew exactly what he was going to do to "allow" her to make it up to him. He was getting so hard just by thinking about the fun he and the others were going to have with her tonight, he decided that they would start right here in the clearing, and right now.

Lost in a blur of violently sexual thoughts, sinking into the depravity of the damned, he was surprised, when she calmly put her hands back on her hips and threw her golden hair back, her smile growing broader and sexier as she looked directly at him, her eyes seemingly mocking him.

Realizing that it was time to break through her stupid overconfidence to show her who really was in charge here, he decided that she would be nearly as much fun to use when she was unconscious as when she was awake. Limping back up to her again, he smashed the handle of the heavy weapon across her face, pistol-whipping her with a violence that should have broken her cheekbones. Yet instead of the very familiar smack of duranium against soft yielding flesh, there was a sharp impact and an almost metallic ring as the hard duranium handle of the weapon crashed against her cheekbones. Cursing in shock, the subcenturion almost freaked out as the weapon bounced off her so strongly that it sent another painful shock back up his arm.

Once again, Rand had held her neck muscles so rigid that her head remained completely immobile under the force of the blow. The Romulan might as well have smashed his weapon into a duranium or granite statue. Or something that, unbeknown to the Romulans, was actually far harder than either of those materials.

"To hell with you, you're going to pay for that. Nobody hurts me and lives!" Pointing the phaser at the middle of her stomach, he pressed the actuator while snarling evilly.

 

Chapter 8

Everything seemed to move in slow motion as Yeoman Janice Rand saw the Romulan activate his phaser. Concentrating on keeping her body completely relaxed, she felt the beam strike her just above her bellybutton, with no visible effect.

Her reflexes returning to normal as she blinked her eyes, she looked down at her bare skin while gently rubbing her stomach, relieved that there wasn't any mark on her. No real discomfort either. In fact, it had actually left a slight, but pleasant, tingling at the spot of the impact.

 

Staring at the Earther female's response, her smile making it appear as if he had given her a simple love tap, the subcenturion swore loudly, assuming that the phaser had misfired. He knew that he had to end this confrontation now before the rest of the men started razzing him. He could already hear them snickering in the background as they commented on his lousy aim. Well, he would end this and he would end it now. Raising the phaser, he pointed it directly at her chest while starting to triggering the actuator as fast as he could.

 

Yeoman Janice Rand watched as the Romulan fired at her, adrenaline surging into her bloodstream. Glancing down at herself as the next phaser beam struck her left breast about two inches below and outside her nipple.

The phaser beam had an astounding on the young woman, a surge of excitement filling her body as she felt her body more than matching the power of the Romulan phaser. Now very impressed with her new powers of invulnerability, shocked that her normally sensitive breasts could resist the violent force of a phaser beam, she was pleased to discover that her breast simply acted like some kind of a crazy energy absorber, soaking up most of the power. The initial force of the beam caused a huge shock wave to run through her body, the impact lifting her breast a couple of inches higher on her chest. And the tingles … God, she had never felt anything like that before! Her nipple was suddenly tingling and burning in such a pleasant and funny kind of way, almost like she was getting turned on.

She suddenly had a really wild idea. Moving her upper body around slightly, she began to guide the beams closer and closer to her rapidly firming nipples. She found that the closer they came to them the stronger that wild tingling in her nipples grew. Watching each blast with fascination, she was careful to move her breasts so that the backblasts would not fly toward her fellow crewmember. One of the beams finally landed directly on her now very erect left nipple, the impact sending a quick fiery tingle through her entire body. The backblast also bounced off this far firmer flesh so strongly that it hit the Romulan with the phaser squarely in the chest, the impact making him stagger backward while he rubbed his badly bruised chest and swore loudly.

 

Dropping his hand from his painful chest, the subcenturion dropped his phaser in the grass while pulling out a the blaster from a holster behind his back. Quickly aiming it at the female's bared stomach, he fired off a shot from this much more powerful weapon. Phaser-proof chest or not, nothing living could withstand a blaster, he thought to himself.

 

Seeing this much larger and faster weapon, Yeoman Janice Rand instinctively tightened her abdominal muscles – this was obviously a much more powerful weapon than the earlier, smaller one. The force of the heavy blast rocked her backward and sent a huge shockwave across her body, bright sparks exploding across her stomach and under her breasts.

Swearing in apparent frustration, the Romulan aimed his weapon higher, up toward her now nearly bared chest. The next blast struck directly on her slightly aroused nipple, a wild flurry of sparks momentarily lighting her deep cleavage, the torn fabric of her uniform top floating down to cover the grass in front of her. Staggered by the force of the blow, Rand gasped as the more powerful impact set off a new wave of wonderfully fiery tingles that spread from her nipple, moving across both breasts and even down between her legs. The blast was so powerful, in fact, that it depressed her breast inward until her hard nipple was smashed up against one of her ribs.

 

The subcenturion was amazed beyond words now, gawking at the Earther female with his mouth hanging open as he saw her breasts bouncing wildly around under each impact, each powerful blast tearing another hole in her already ragged uniform, the impacts spreading huge ripples through her soft flesh, some so powerful that her large breasts flew up to nearly touch her face. Stalking closer to this incredible female, he reached out with his hand and roughly ripped the remains of the right side of her uniform top downward to fully expose her tit. Surprised that she didn't resist him, she was licking her lips, her nipple fully engorged and moist. Her eyes followed his down to stare at that beautiful mound, both of them shocked when they saw that there was hardly a mark on her soft flesh. He couldn't understand how the thin torn fabric he was holding in his hand could have protected her from the powerful blasts.

Fortunately, there was nothing between the blaster and her bare skin of her chest now. Stepping back a few steps, he fired several more times directly into the soft flesh of her bared breast, more amazed than angry now. Gasping as he saw her big tit flying around wildly under the impacts of the powerful blasts, she stood there with her hands on her hips, acting as if this was just some kind of weird alien foreplay. In fact, she was smiling at him as she reached up now to cup her breasts, pressing them together while lifting them up higher on her chest to give him an even better target. Noticing that her fingers paused briefly as they caressed her hard nipples, he saw those hard points growing remarkably larger as her fingers caressed them. Without even thinking, his mind completely overwhelmed by the impossibly erotic scene that was unfolding in front of him, he unconsciously shoved the blaster roughly toward her as he tried to figure out what was going on here.

 

Yeoman Janice Rand was absolutely fascinated with the power and invulnerability of even this softest part of her body by now. Lost in her own pleasures, she was surprised when the Romulan jabbed the blaster barrel forward, jamming it firmly against her chest. Sliding her fingers downward to grasp the hot barrel, she moved her breast slightly to the side so that one firm nipple slid inside the huge open end of the blaster. She didn't really know why she had instinctively done that, but was immediately rewarded with a wildly erotic sensation as the smoking hot barrel slid over her tingling nipple. Holding her breath while concentrating on her expanding nipple, willing it to get even harder, she felt her nipple engorging further as it tightly squeezed the inside of the barrel.

 

The sudden engorgement of the Earther female's nipple put enough upward force on the blaster that it was almost torn from the subcenturion's hand. Gripping the handle tighter, he tried to pull it back with all his strength, but was stunned when he realized that her nipple was actually stuck in the barrel. Roughly jamming the barrel against her chest as hard and as fast as he could, he twisted it from side to side, trying to free it from her chest. With his amazement turning to anger once again, he really wanted to hurt her.

Yet on each powerful shove, he felt her large breast dimpling inward far enough to bury half of the barrel of the blaster. In fact, when he leaned his whole weight against the blaster while pushing it and twisting it as hard as he could, her eyes got a little misty, looking almost as if she was getting turned on. Feeling the back of his hand pressing against the warm soft flesh of her tit, his body instantly responded in a similar way, his unbidden erection pressing painfully against his tight pants. Yet he was too shocked and angry to dwell on such pleasures as he tried to violently twist and pull the blaster free again, the Earther female's big nipple staying infuriatingly wedged in the barrel.

 

Staring down at the blaster and the straining muscles that were so apparent on the Romulan's arm, Yeoman Janice Rand could not believe how good the rough twisting forces felt against her nipple. She especially liked the sensation of the sharp energy directors inside the barrel as it grabbed and twisted her. Enjoying the sensation of the Romulan using all his strength in an effort to free the blaster, she smiled softly at him while holding herself perfectly still, her hands on her hips again, flexing her chest muscles as she found she could almost lift the Romulan off the ground with just the rise of her breasts.

Finding that she was really starting to get off on this feeling of absolute power, she suddenly wanted the man to do impossible things to her body, enjoying each new "assault" that he inflicted on her. The more he tried to injure her, the more she shrugged off the blows, the stronger, and more confident she felt. Breathing excitedly, she began envisioning herself as some kind of ancient Norse goddess as she stood proudly before these weak pitiful men.

 

The subcenturion's face was now a mask of anger, pain and embarrassment now as he tried to get his blaster back. He glared again at her large round melon-sized breast as it infuriatingly refused to release his blaster. The Earther female was still smiling sweetly and innocently, as she looked down at herself, lifting her hands from her hips to run them sensually over her breasts, her fingers tracing the outline of her other nipple. She was breathing faster and faster as her fingers fondled her breasts ever more firmly as she tried to stroke the blaster across her nipple. He was shocked as he suddenly realized that she was actually getting turned on by the struggle, watching in amazement as the nipple of her other breast grew much larger between her fingers, the hard point straining outward against the thin fabric of her uniform. Suddenly, with her other nipple growing impossibly large, he heard and felt a loud crack radiating up through his arm.

Almost screaming in shocked surprise, he saw the heavy barrel of his blaster splitting open simply from the force of her expanding nipple. He was so startled that he convulsively jerked the actuator to send another powerful blast racing down to impact her now harder-than-duranium nipple. Something clearly had to give, and wasn't going to be the flesh of this young Earther female's breasts! The powerful blast instead rammed against her super hard-nipple before heading in the only direction it could, racing back up the blaster. The blaster exploded in the his hand, hot fragments of duranium flying all directions. Screaming in pain, he crumpled over as he held his shattered hand against his stomach, his legs finally collapsing as he fell sideways onto the grass.

 

Equally shocked but completely unhurt, Yeoman Janice Rand gasped at the burst of pleasure that the explosion brought her. Despite the pleasures the blaster's explosion had brought her, she understood that these Romulans were dangerous and that they would injure or kill anyone who crossed their path. They had already tried to kill her several times, and had only failed because of her newly gained invulnerability. She knew she had to stop them before they injured anyone else, but had no real idea about how to do it. While she was obviously some kind of super woman now, she had never deliberately hurt anyone before and had no training in any kind of fighting skills beyond the basics. Acting naively, she stepped closer to the Romulan while attempting to pull the remains of her torn uniform top back up to cover her breast. Somehow she knew she would figure out what to do with him once she actually laid her hands on him.

 

While the Romulans were trying to blow Yeoman Rand away, Frank Williams had simply stood watching in awe as the blaster shots had bounced off her body. Astounded beyond words, he saw her large breasts bouncing around wildly under the strong impacts of the blasts, each shot tearing a huge hole in her uniform top until it looked like a ragged fishnet, unable to comprehend how she didn't seem to be injured by the powerful blasts. With his mouth hanging open, he had been flabbergasted to see her smile becoming ever broader as the blasts kept striking her amazingly firm chest without causing any injury. It was unbelievable, but she actually seemed to be enjoying having her tits shot up this way.

Having no idea how such a gorgeously feminine chest could absorb such powerful blasts, especially considering the way her breasts were jiggling from the force of the blasts, he knew that the fabric of her uniform top was not what was protecting her. Each blast tore a new hole in her uniform top. Besides, the first blast had definitely hit the smooth flesh of her breast that was well inside the moderately dished top of her uniform. Continuing to stare at her beautiful chest as it became more and more revealed as the fabric was shredded by the blasts, he was still surprised when the Romulan pulled her top down to fully reveal one gorgeous tit. Gasped in surprise a moment later from the huge report, he watched as the man fired his blaster at point-blank range directly into that sexy bare mound. Then, when the Romulan shoved the blaster barrel against her breast and it got stuck with her nipple inside it, he had realized that he was seeing something that was completely impossible, at least outside of his wildest midnight fantasies. Despite the obvious violence of the young woman's encounter with his captors, he could not help but become very aroused as he watched the superwoman casually using her invulnerability and strength. He had no idea how she was doing it, but this incredible woman was defeating these Romulans with nothing but her soft tits and her sweet smile. He had a sudden wild fantasy about what would happen if her hard nipple continued to expand inside the barrel of the blaster – the realization of this fantasy coming only seconds later when he saw the barrel split open; his impossible fantasy somehow incredibly fulfilled. The resulting explosion that knocked the Romulan down only confirmed what he had been imagining – this woman was so strong and so invulnerable that the powerful blaster could not hurt even the softest and most delicate part of her body.

 

Unconsciously brushing the residue of the exploding blaster from her cleavage, metal shards tinkling to the ground in front of her, Yeoman Janice Rand looked back at the bound Williams again as she smiled to reassure him that she hadn't been hurt. Unconsciously rubbing the blackened residue from her nipple before pulling the tattered remains of her uniform top back up, she noticed how closely that man was watching her now. Smiling confidently, she focused her attention again on the man with the blaster, calmly reaching down to twist the weapon out of his shattered hand. Turning the warm blaster over in her hands several times while she looked closely at it, she was surprised to see how primitive it appeared in comparison to equivalent Federation equipment. Still, it could easily kill the crewman these men were holding prisoner. She had to prevent that.

Feeling all of the men's eyes on her, she smiled sensually while reaching her fingers around the middle of the device while beginning to squeeze it. The rough edges of the hard duranium shifted under her fingers at first, forcing her to turn the phaser slightly to get a better grip. Gripping it hard, she was pleasantly surprised to feel the metal starting to give slightly under her fingers. Raising her hand so that the men could all see what she was doing, she looked at the strong tendons that were now so pronounced along the back of her hand, noticing that they were standing out like duranium cables. Feeling a burst of warmth rushing down her arm, she gripped the blaster harder still, the duranium suddenly feeling soft and squishy as it began to slowly bend under her grip, her fingers squeezing deeply inward until the entire blaster collapsed in her strong grip as if it were made only of warm wax. Squeezing her hand completely closed, the blaster was now crushed into two pieces as the duranium squished out from either side of her hand. Raising her other hand, she cupped one end of the blaster while slowly pressing her palms inward against it. Her breasts now pushed strongly up against the thin fabric of her uniform as her underlying chest muscles strained, the blaster slowly bent in half between her palms. With the hard duranium groaning and creaking loudly under the incredible pressure from her chest, she simply kept increasing her strength until her hands were nearly touching, the blaster now folded completely in half.

Looking up with a girlish smile at the Romulan who had shot her, she casually cupped both of her hands around the crushed duranium remains of the blaster like she was making a snowball, squeezing it in her fingers several more times as she gradually collapsed the duranium down to the size and shape of a baseball. A teasing smile crossed her face as she turned to stare at Frank Williams's amazed expression, winking playfully at him. Sensing the full capability of her body as she grew more and more aroused, she lifted up the torn fabric of her uniform top to place the now warm ball of duranium between her large breasts. Pressing her hands together again, this time squeezing only the soft flesh of her breasts, the duranium ball was immediately swallowed into her generous cleavage. With her breasts tingling wildly in anticipation of what she was going to do, she felt the duranium ball flattening as she squeezing them together, her hands pushing harder and harder against the soft flesh.

It wasn't long before the hot duranium started squeezing out of her cleavage like melted wax, her fingers buried so deeply in the soft flesh of her body. She was shocked when she looked down at herself, noticing that some of the duranium was actually turning white hot as it melted from the extreme pressures between her now invulnerable super-breasts. Watching as several small rivulets of molten duranium began to snake their way down the middle of her flat stomach, she was amused by the way it traced along the strong rippling contours of her abs.

Suddenly shocked at what she was doing in front of these men, she relaxed her grip on her breasts as the molten metal began to flow freely now, having been heated to tremendous temperatures by the incredible pressures she had exerted on it by the softest flesh of her body. Slipping her hands beneath her breasts, she collected the half-molten duranium as it flowed from her cleavage, casually watching the warm metal flow across up her wrist before she threw the glowing remains of the blaster far out into the forest.

With her breasts now tingling from the incredible sensation of crushing the blaster, she was surprised to find that her entire body was glowing with a pleasant sensual feeling. She knew that she was going to get turned on whenever she really used her remarkable new strength. Looking back at the small group of men, she was secretly pleased by their startled reactions, their wide-open eyes staring at her glowing breasts, their jaws almost touching their chests as she pulled her uniform top back down again. Barely able to suppress a soft giggle, she realized that she was the one who was really getting turned on by displaying her strength to these men; strength that must be thousands of times greater than any man or woman they had ever heard of before.

 

Frank Williams had been totally astounded as he had watched Yeoman Rand's muscles flexing so unbelievably large as she took the blaster away from the Romulan. He had never before seen such an incredible display of strength and power. Yet her arms and body were so beautiful. She looked incredibly strong as her flawlessly supple skin stretched tightly over her impossibly sculpted muscles. The tendons on the back of her hands and wrists stood out so prominently as she rotated her wrist to bring the blaster up to chest level. He thought he was past being surprised by anything this woman did when he heard the duranium starting to squeal and saw the blaster deforming in the strength of her grip, the weapon looking more like it was made of a softy putty as opposed to hard duranium. Somehow he had known, just by her appearance and her invulnerability to the Romulan's blasters, that her muscles would also be incredibly strong. The sight of the blaster crushing slowly in her strong hand made his head, and something else, feel like it was going to explode.

He had always been fascinated by tales of well-endowed women possessing fantastic strength, yet he could not truly believe that he was standing next to the incarnation of his wildest fantasies. This was a real flesh and blood human woman, and she was defeating these Romulans without even working at it. Forgetting to even breathe, he almost passed out as he compulsively watched her while she went on to lift her uniform top up before squeezing the blaster to molten duranium between her gorgeous tits. He could barely comprehend what she was doing as her strong arm and chest muscles pushed her soft breasts so tightly against the duranium. Surprisingly, she seemed just as amazed as she was obviously experimenting with her body. In spite of his early deductions about her powers, he was still astounded when he saw the rivulet of hot molten alloy flowing from the bottom of her cleavage. Tracing it downward with his eyes, he felt a thrill as he saw it run over her flat stomach, a white-hot glow lighting up the entire front of her body as the remaining hot duranium made her beautiful skin glow so brightly. He could only stare in slack-jawed disbelief as she then relaxed her grip, watching a glowing rivulet of duranium flowing around her wrist before she casually tossed the glowing remains of the blaster into the forest.

He was in such shock that he hardly noticed it when she reached down to pick up the phaser the Romulan had dropped, her hand closing effortlessly around the weapon. She quickly and effortlessly squeezed her hand completely closed until the energy pack exploded loudly, yet harmlessly, in her grip, finally throwing the crushed remains of that phaser into the forest alongside the blaster.

His eyes – hell, all parts of his entire body – now exploded with wild arousal, his eyes rapturously traveling up and down along the steely curves of her body, his imaginary hands and lips following close behind them. He could not get enough of this amazing young woman, her gorgeous fair skin and beautiful blond hair making her look like some kind of goddess. Finally gasping for air, suddenly realizing how long he must have been holding his breath, his eyes rose back up to her chest, his body growing even more aroused as he saw how huge her erect nipples had grown, as he saw how they were sticking so far out from the holes in her torn uniform top as she pulled it back down to cover herself. A thrill coursed through his body as he realized that she was getting as turned on by all this as he was.

 

Yeoman Janice Rand felt an incredible tingling sensation that seemed to home in on her nipples as she cleaned the remnants of the glowing metal from the softness of her chest. Closing her eyes for a moment, she tried to force herself to relax, forcing herself to control the arousal that was racing out of control. Slowly reaching up to cup and lift herself, she felt just how large and hard her nipples were truly getting, her fingers playing gently with them. Despite being too young for the Romulans who surrounded her, she knew it was useless to try to ignore the growing power of her strongly erotic impulses, her newfound strength and confidence overcoming any girlish hesitations. Blinking her sparklingly clear blue eyes, she stepped forward to gently wrap her arms around the Romulan who had been shooting at her, holding him tightly against her body, pressing herself against his chest to try to calm the wild tingling that filled her breasts.

 

The subcenturion felt a pleasant sensation from the Earther female's warm hands as she ran them across his back while pressing her body so closely against his own. At first, her warm soft breasts felt incredibly good as they pushed so firmly against his hard muscled chest, her silky hair falling across his face and shoulders. Feeling himself starting to get really hard, he also was so very aware of the amazingly firm points of her nipples as they pressed against him, the pressure of those long nipples almost painful as they dimpled his own powerful chest. Sliding his leg up between hers, he pressed his knee against her crotch as hard as he could. Unsure how to hold her, he decided to not hold back at all, the vision of her crushing his blaster in her hands and then between her breasts still stunning him.

Maybe this is how the Earther female gets turned on, he thought to himself. Maybe she needs a strong male like me to satisfy her young body. He got even harder as he felt his manhood pressing against the softly rippling muscles of her flat stomach. Reaching down, he ran his hands up under her ragged skirt to grip her tight ass in his hands with all his strength.

 

As the Romulan held her, Yeoman Janice Rand felt her breasts beginning to flatten very slightly against his strong chest as she started to hold him more tightly, his knee rubbing against her crotch and his hard cock throbbing insistently against her lower stomach, both sensations sending thrills through her strong body. She also felt the firm grip of his fingers under her skirt as he held her bottom so tightly. Pausing for a moment, her senses full of these wonderful feelings, she found herself getting very aroused, her arms instinctively holding him more and more tightly, the tiny muscles under her soft skin tightening as her breasts became so much firmer.

With her mind floating in bliss, she began to react simply as women have always reacted to being turned on. Without thinking, she soon found she was holding him so tightly that her now breasts had stopped compressing, the Romulan's ribs bending slightly inward under the firm pressure of her no longer soft mounds. Sensing the erotic contrast between her strength and the Romulan's, a feeling of tremendous power surged through her body. Yet despite that awareness, she was completely unaware of how strongly she was holding him, his body bending around her firm chest. A thrilling tingle started between her legs and ran up across her stomach until it reached her breasts, unconsciously compelling her to began to use her breasts in a way she had never imagined possible, using them to completely overpower this man. A distant part of her mind knew she could just as easily use them to destroy him if she wanted.

That hidden part of her mind suddenly rushed forward, relishing the sensation of his ribs bending further inward as she flexed her biceps more strongly. She suddenly remembered what this Romulan had tried to do to her. Without truly understanding where it was coming from, she felt a sudden wave of righteous anger flowing through her as her subconscious mind resolved to stop this man from ever hurting anyone else.

This wildly forbidden thought, that of using the softest part of her body to completely overpower this man, suddenly excited a young woman's libido to new heights. Fleeting thoughts of how her best friend back on Saweoure had been overpowered and raped by a man that one time now flitted through the back of her mind, her frequent fantasy of having the physical strength to right that wrong moving closer to the forefront of her consciousness. She had always known that it was a normal part of many cultures for men to physically, and sometimes painfully, dominate women, although outright rape on was strongly punished on all Federation planets. Yet she had always secretly hated this aspect of her culture, this concept of male dominance and female subservience, and had exercised her body for years to make her muscles hard and strong enough to hold her own against any man. And now those impossible dreams had been more than fulfilled on this far away planet as she realized that no man could ever again force her to do anything she didn't want to do.

That exciting thought, one that was strangely erotic, the thought of totally overpowering a man with just her physical strength, was enough to cause her body to become totally aroused again. Her nipples, now as super as her muscles, grew until they were more than an inch in length as they pressed firmly into the Romulan's chest. Yet because her breasts were already compressed to the point where they were in equilibrium with the Romulan's strongly muscled chest, the increase in pressure gave them no place to go except through the soft masculine body that she held in her arms. She was barely conscious of the man's final gasps as the air in his lungs was forcefully expelled by her expanding chest. She knew only that her nipples were burning and tingling strongly, and that she needed to stroke them across his strong chest. She suddenly loved the little thrills she felt as each of the Romulan's ribs bent her nipple downward slightly before they would slip free and snap upright again, his chest growing wetter, the slippery warmth helping her nipples slip smoothly over his ribs.

"Mmmm, heavenly!" she sighed as she rested her cheek on his shoulder, her long silky hair draped luxuriously over his upper body. Without realizing that she was doing anything but indulging in her own sensual pleasures, her steely nipples slowly ripped through his heavy uniform tunic and into his chest muscles themselves while she simply basked in the wonderful sensation of rubbing her nipples against his hard ribs. Her powerful hands held his upper arms as she started lifting his body up and down across her body, her embrace so forceful that her now duranium-hard nipples began creating two huge deep furrows down his chest. She continued to hug him tighter and tighter as she slowly reached her arms further around his back, his ribs painfully and slowly bending inward around her inhumanly erotic breasts as she pressed them more and more firmly against his chest.

 

The subcenturion reacted by painfully reaching up to grab the sides of her chest while frantically trying to push the distracted Earther female away from himself. Yet he was terrified when he found that he couldn't make the slightest difference in the pressure her breasts were exerting against his chest, her eyes closed as she seemed to be indulging in some private fantasy. Struggling like a man possessed, his vision started to grow darker as he found he couldn't breathe any more either, the pain of his torn skin and muscles becoming more than he could bear. Finally, with one last gasp of strangely erotic agony sweeping through his body, he felt his ribs passing the point of no return, his fragile bones collapsing noisily under the inexorable pressures exerted by this super female's beautifully firm and now completely lethal breasts.

 

Meanwhile, lost in a fantasy that was beyond human comprehension, Yeoman Janice Rand continued to dreamily hug the Romulan even tighter to herself as she unconsciously bent his spine further and further under her hands until it too snapped in half, her hands effortlessly pushing his shoulder blades into the remains of his chest as his body collapsed in her tight embrace. So lost was she in her erotic reverie that she still had no idea what she was doing to this Romulan. Her eyes remained closed as she enjoyed the tingling feelings that coursed through her young body. Smiling dreamily, her soft lips gently kissing his ear, she leaned her head on his shoulder while letting her long silky blond hair flow gently down his back. Dreaming of Captain Jim Kirk, of embracing him this strongly, she ran her hands luxuriously down this man's strong back, imagining it was the Captain's body she was holding so tightly against her own, her thoughts momentarily lost in the rapturous sensations of that frequent fantasy.

At the same time, the immense and uncontrolled strength of her hands continued to crush the remainder of this Romulan's ribs, fracturing his lower spine while she gently ran her fingers across his torso. Squeezing her thighs together to try to push his knee more firmly up against her hungry crotch, she was frustrated when she felt his leg suddenly dissolving softly between hers, a muffled snap barely audible before all the resistance of his leg faded away. Captain Kirk's body had never felt this way to her in her dreams.

Growing more and more frustrated, she ran her lower down his back until she finally held his hips, a sudden irresistible urge to press his body even more firmly against herself. Tightening her abdominal muscles, she suddenly felt several very sharp cracks, totally unaware that his hips had just shattered against the wet duranium of her hard pubic bone, guarding as it did her suddenly needful sex. Completely lost in the overwhelming sensuousness of her passion, she pressed him ever more firmly between her legs, the remaining bones of his thighs bending the little they could before they also shattered loudly.

Never in her young life had Rand felt herself this turned on or had she felt this strong and vital. Her passion grew so great that she never noticed what she was doing to this Romulan until she finally felt her own fingers reaching unobstructed between her legs. Until she felt the wonderful sensation of her wet fingers sliding gently between her swollen labia, as she felt the electric tingles as she touched her clitoris, as she felt her body now becoming fully aroused. Adrift in a feeling of wild sexual power and pleasure, she slid her fingers faster across her sex, her entire body vibrating with desire, her fingers overcoming the growing frustration she had been feeling.

Yet at the same time, another part of her mind was awakening. That part of her consciousness quickly noticed that the Romulan seemed much smaller and softer in her arms now, his body now far too soft in fact to be interesting to the 'other' part of her anymore.

It was at this moment when that part of her mind screamed, the flash of realization of what she was doing to this Romulan causing her to suddenly snap her eyes open. Overcoming her hazy sensual daze, she looked down to see the Romulan's distorted and crushed body hanging in her arms, horrified as she suddenly realized that she had broken nearly all of the bones in his body as she had hugged him to herself so passionately. Gasping in horror, as she opened her arms and stepped backward, the crushed body of the now dead man falling into the formless heap of a rag doll on the grass.

The sudden realization that she had actually become sexually aroused while crushing the life from this Romulan crashed in on her. While one part of her mind exulted in her new sexual and muscular powers, a larger part of her was nauseated that she could kill a man so easily and unconsciously with just her bare hands. Even if he had been a dangerous Romulan. And all the while feeling such wild and forbidden pleasures.

With her passion escaping her as fast as it had come, she brushed her tousled blond hair from her face to reveal her eyes, looking up at the two remaining Romulans and their captive, feeling a little ill as she saw their wild eyes filled with a strange combination of desire and unspeakable horror. Staring back at them, the intensity of her gaze making their clothes smolder as their hair lifted from their heads, the young woman in her did not understanding what to do or say now.

 

Frank Williams had watched in awe and righteous anger as Yeoman Rand had crushed the Romulan's chest with nothing but her beautiful breasts, all the while running her hands slowly and sensually up and down his back. He could see the warm distant smile on her lips as she rested her head softly on his shoulder, her eyes finally closing as she enjoyed the sensuous feeling of his body against her own. Yet despite his vengeful anger, he was shocked when he saw her hands pressing deeply into his back while his body flattened against her own, his back taking on the molded mirror shape of her own dramatic physique. He could see that her hands were actually cupped in the shape of her firm breasts as she pushed those remarkable contours completely through his hard body, her hands firmly holding them again! Even though Williams was nearly ten meters away, he could hear the loud crunching of the man's bones as she extended her strong passionate embrace down his back until his body was crushed to just a silhouette of her own.

Yet he couldn't help but stare at her huge erect nipples after she finally dropped the Romulan's body to the ground. To his credit, he also sensed her horror, a look of anguish crossing her face while she looked down at the Romulan's formless carcass, and then back at herself. He wasn't sure of all the emotions she was feeling now, but he could clearly see that she was very sexually aroused, but also totally appalled at what she had just done to the Romulan. She seemed bewildered as she looked back and forth between her hands and the crushed remains of the Romulan at her feet, and then directly into his own eyes, a look of confused vulnerability very clear in those incredibly blue eyes. His mind was suddenly filled with conflicting emotions of his own as he watched her hands suddenly behave very shyly as they reached up to cover her erect nipples, her breasts protruding so far outward from the thin fabric of her top.

Williams was nearly thrown from his feet by the sudden explosive flurry of bright sparks that impacted across Rand's back, the explosions against her bare skin as each powerful impact threw her body forward a meter or more. Her long golden hair flew up into the air as beams struck the back of her head and neck, her skirt flew wildly as a further stream of death flew up under it, her body flying forward like a rag doll as the Romulans kept firing away at her.

With her gorgeous body encased in a fiery ball of blaster explosions, she staggered to her knees, the powerful blasts pounding against her ass before blowing the back of her skirt off, exposing her tight bare ass for all to see. The impacts reaching between those gorgeous cheeks that were on such display, she was finally thrown painfully forward to land on her face in the grass.

Yet despite the powerful fury of the weapons, Williams could see that she still lived, slowly shaking her head as she tried to raise it from the sand. Yet she had barely begun to rise when the Centurion ran over with a blaster in each hand, obviously so furious and so afraid that he hardly noticed the fumbling of broken bones. He fired them rapidly into the back of her head at point-blank range, the impacts of the powerful blasts smashing her head back down into the sand, her golden hair flying about her. Eventually, after struggling to get up several times, she collapsed limply as another Romulan rushed up with his blaster and began firing blasts into her back and head, the smashing her head even further into the ground.

They did not stop shooting at her until they ran out of charges, her body now lying face down and still, her chest no longer rising with her breathing, one leg twisted under her, her golden hair splayed wildly across the grass.

With that final image in his mind … Williams felt his legs shaking beneath him, his vision going dim as he passed out.

 

Chapter 9

The Romulans did not stop shooting at the Earther female even as her body collapsed and became still. Reloading their weapons, they stepped back up to her defenseless body, firing again and again into the back of her head until their energy packs were emptied for a second time. Her beautiful golden hair was a tangled mess now, the long strands of her hair having flown wildly under the impact of each beam as they had driven her head deeper into the ground. Yet they were amazed when they could still see no marks on her fair skin.

But all was not lost. They could clearly see that she clearly wasn't breathing any longer, so she had to be dead. But just to be sure, one of them reached down to lift her wrist, checking for a pulse. He visibly paled when he felt a strong calm pulse beating under his fingers, the pulse of a young female who was sleeping peacefully. Knowing that they were in the quiet before the storm, it didn't take a genius to figure out that if she recovered now, they would have to face this powerful Earther female's anger, emotions that were likely to be absolutely storm-like in their intensity.

As his men shouted at each other in a near panic, the centurion quickly decided to end this once and for all. Sending the gunner back to the groundsled to grab the disruptor, the centurion began to plan how he was going to end the threat of this female once and for all. If that thing could destroy a small spacecraft, it should work just fine on this young Earther female. At least that was the plan. But like most of his plans, it was flawed from the start.

Waiting anxiously for the gunner to return, the centurion saw his worst fears being realized -- the Earther female was struggling to regain her feet. While she was clearly conscious again, she looked dazed and unsteady as she stood up and looked around with a blank hurt look in her eyes. Turning to grab the weapon as he heard the gunner running breathlessly up behind him, the centurion quickly unfolded the sight, the disruptor feeling so familiar and comforting as it rested on his shoulder. His broken hands hardly slowed him now as he knew he was fighting for his life against what he now understood had to be an alien super-being of some kind, unknown to the Romulan Empire.

Aiming the weapon at her dramatic chest, he watched out of the corner of his eyes as the gunner, the man who had been holding the Earther male, ran to the right and began firing his blaster at the female as fast as it could cycle. All three men, the Earther horribly included, could see and almost feel the bright beams staggering her as each powerful impact against her duranium-hard body pushed her backward a few more steps, the blows keeping her from totally regaining her balance. Meanwhile, the sights of the disruptor settled into the middle of her deep cleavage as he tried to steady his aim.

 

Initially convinced that Yeoman Rand could not possibly have survived the impacts of the blasters, Frank Williams had been sickened as the beams had thrown her body around as if she was weightless. He guessed that at least ten shots had struck her across her back before she fell face-first into the grass. He was thoroughly sickened, screaming at the Romulans as he saw them walking over to fire their blasters into the back of her head. Falling to his knees as he saw the powerful impacts of their weapons driving her head into the sand. He felt so sorry for her, her young life ending so quickly and so unfairly.

Giving up in despair, knowing his own fate would eventually be the same as Rand's, his eye was drawn to her back as he noticed something very strange. Even though her uniform had been completely destroyed by the blasters, her fair skin still didn't seem injured at all. Apart from the dried blood stains from the first Romulan and the numerous patches of mud, there was no sign of her own blood or any other injuries. Even more interesting, the Romulans looked really scared after they had bent down to check her pulse, their excited whispering making it clear that they thought she was still alive.

Thrilled beyond belief, Williams saw Rand slowly staggering to her feet a few moments later, her eyes not quite focusing right as she tried to get her bearings again. She looked disoriented and dizzy, but he still couldn't see a mark on her beautiful and now completely nude body. Turning his head as he heard some metallic sounds from behind him, he was horrified to see the Centurion standing while readying the heavy disruptor. Aiming the powerful anti-vehicle weapon at the woman, he watched as another Romulan drew Rand's attention away from the Centurion by resuming his phaser fire. The killing beam made a wet slapping noise against Rand's chest, the force of the impacts shoving her backward and off balance once again.

Struggling painfully back to his feet, Williams saw the centurion drawing bead on Rand. His fears for himself were momentarily forgotten as he began to stumble across the grass to try to protect her. Unfortunately, the other Romulan had anticipated his intentions, his attention quickly moving from the young woman to him as he started to fire the blaster again. He was on his third shot when Williams felt one of the blasts right below his right foot, sending searing pain up his leg.

God that was close, his thoughts screamed. Yet he merely dodged to the left and continued to run forward without thought of his own safety, ignoring the pain in his leg which threatened to buckle at any moment. His only thought now was that he had to reach the centurion before he fired at Rand, convinced that not even her incredible body could survive the powerful force of that awesome weapon. He had to save her.

He was nearly in reach of the centurion when he felt a stunning blow and was knocked violently sideways, an explosion from the blaster showering him with dirt. With his head spinning, he barely managed to stagger to his feet, diving toward the centurion just as he pressed the actuator.

Williams was still in midair when he saw the glow of the disruptor, his shoulder hitting the man's knees just in time to spoil his aim. Barely deflecting it, he was able to disturb his aim enough to cause the disruptor to miss its target by a scant meter or two. Passing over Rand's shoulder, the disruptor hit the forest, making a large portion of it disappear in a cloud of steam.

Falling spread-eagled across the centurion, Williams quickly rolled painfully onto his back, struggling to untangle himself and get back to his feet. He looked up just in time to see the other Romulan aiming his blaster at his head, a wild look in his eyes as his finger pressed down on the actuator!

"This is it!" he thought as his mind silently screamed. The Romulan was much too close to miss this time.

 

Meanwhile, standing forty meters away, Yeoman Janice Rand had little idea what was going on around her. She was aware only of the powerful and painful impacts that had hit her in the back, the blows many times stronger than the ones that had hit her earlier. They stung terribly wherever they had struck her, several in fact had hit the back of her neck and head with such force that they had thrown her hair over her face and caused bright stars to begin swimming before her eyes. The force of the heavy beams had been almost more than she could bear, the repeated blasts throwing her body forward and knocking her so far off balance that she stumbled and fell onto her knees in the grass. Another burst of incredibly painful impacts had smashed into her legs as she kneeled down, some blows striking something much softer than her flexed muscles, painful tingles exploding through her body as one hot beam violently worked its way between her soft nether lips. It was this new and intimate pain that had finally made her head swim and caused her to fall forward to land face first in the grass.

Thinking back now over the previous minutes, she knew that she must have blacked out for a moment, her mouth and eyes full of dirt. Finally gaining enough control over her arms to begin raising herself back up, she had barely lifted her head from the grass when she had felt the impacts of more beams from more weapons smashing painfully against the back of her head and neck. Bright stars exploded inside her head as her mind started spinning, a wave of blackness quickly descending over her. She collapsed back onto the grass, the shock sufficient to stop her breathing.

Lying unconscious and unbreathing for nearly five minutes, her eyelids eventually started to flicker, her moist eyes quickly filling with dirt as she tried to open them. Struggling to raise her head, she found that her face was deeply buried in the ground, the back of her head stinging wildly from the impacts of the blasters. Collapsing weakly on her face again, she lay still for a few moments while regaining her strength, slowly gathering her bare legs under herself to raise herself up onto her knees, her head racked with blinding pain every time she tried to move it.

"What have they done to me?" she thought angrily as she slowly and painfully gained her feet again. Her back was in terrible pain as she looked around to see the Romulan leader aiming some kind of tube at her as his cohort resumed firing the blaster at her again. The heavy impact against her chest pushed her backward and threatened to knock her off her feet again.

She also Williams staggering across the sand toward the Romulan leader who was aiming a large weapon at her, the Romulan with the blaster turning away from her to start firing it at Frank Williams. She glanced over just in time to see Williams's body stumble as he nearly got hit by one blaster blasts. He fell down face first on the grass only to awkwardly struggle back to his feet before desperately diving toward the Romulan leader. She saw his shoulder hit the Romulan's legs just as a huge flash lit up the front of the weapon. Then there was a tremendous explosion behind her, bits of shattered wood and rocks and clods of dirt splattering against her back and legs.

A surge of renewed anger filled her now, more that the Romulans were shooting at the defenseless Williams than at herself. Turning her head to look at the Romulan with the blaster, she saw that he was now aiming it carefully at the bound man from nearly point-blank range. Started to run toward him, Rand quickly realized that she wasn't going to be able to get close to him before he fired again. With a sudden burst of anger welling up inside herself, she felt her eyes burning as she glared angrily at the Romulan, desperately hoping to find a way to stop him.

That thought had hardly crossed her mind when, her eyes still on the Romulan instead of the ground directly in front of her, her toes found a rock and sent it flying, thirty yards to the left of the Romulan. Immediately lowering her eyes, she searched for another, anything she could use as a distraction. Finding one about the size of an old-fashioned soccer ball, she gave it a deliberate kick. But she knew she had missed as soon as her foot made contact, the rock sailing at least two meters above the Romulan's head.

Searching for and finding another one, she bent down and picked up a rock about the size of her fist. Planting her feet and drawing back her arm, she let fly.

 

Frank Williams had closed his eyes while resigning himself to his fate, knowing that a blaster shot was about to vaporize his body. Yet he was glad that he had at least saved the remarkable yeoman's life – even if it was now going to cost him his own. However, he wanted to take one last look at the stunning blonde before he died, so he opened his eyes again.

His eyes first found the Romulan, looking at his blaster in disgust, his mouth working. Williams didn't need to know the language to know the Romulan was swearing at the blaster for having run out of charges, having expended it all on Rand.

Something streaked over the Romulan's head. Before Williams could begin to wonder what it might have been, the Romulan threw away his blaster and drew a dagger from his belt. Bellowing a battle cry, he stalked closer and raised it over his head for the killing strike.

As the Romulan took a final step, his head suddenly disappeared in a green explosion. Williams rolled aside as the headless corpse toppled and fell, the dagger stabbing into the ground less than a meter from his body. As he completed his roll and struggled to sit up, he felt more than saw something whiz past, well over his head.

Jerking his startled eyes back to Yeoman Rand, he saw that she wore an equally amazed expression, apparently just as surprised by what had just happened to the man as he was. Even as he watched, she opened her hand and something fell to the ground.

Instinctively feeling as if he should duck as her eyes met his, he instead stared boldly back into her clear blue eyes, noticing that her facial expressions had now covered a complete gamut of emotions – starting with those of a confused young woman, moving to those of a terrible and vengeful goddess, and finally back to those of a young woman discovering something new and amazing that she could do with her body. Surprisingly, he found he wasn't at all fearful of her. However, that sentiment was not shared by the one remaining Romulan as he again grabbed Williams's bound arms.

 

Yeoman Janice Rand stared back at the last Romulan, his fear and his fascination with her clearly displayed on his face. He stared back at her for a few seconds before he suddenly panicked, releasing Frank Williams to run toward the waiting ground vehicle. Jumping in, he started the motor with his injured hands, and accelerated down the meadow with huge rooster tails of dirt and broken grass spraying upward from the rear wheels.

Watching him ride away, she walked calmly over toward the bound crewman, a warm smile now lighting her face. Pausing halfway to him, she glanced at the escaping vehicle, the expression on her face changing as if to say "this one is playing hard to get." Suddenly making a decision, she spun around and sprinted down the meadow after the vehicle, her legs blurring as she easily closed the distance. The vehicle was moving at more than a hundred kilometers per hour when she reached down to grab the rear fender, her feet skidding in the grass, her bare legs kicking up clouds of dirt as she tried to brake the vehicle to a stop. Leaning back, her long gorgeous legs dug a deep trench into the damp dirt as the momentum and power of the vehicle buried her nearly up to her waist, the vehicle finally shuddering to a stop with the rear wheels still spinning. Flexing her arms with amazing strength, she effortlessly lifted the rear end of the vehicle off the ground, experimentally lowering it back down until the wheels again dug into the sand. The force of the spinning wheels seemed to surprise her, the vehicle jerking out of her hands as she tripped over her buried legs.

 

Frank Williams stared at Yeoman Rand in astonishment, shocked and amazed by her athletic abilities. Watching her standing in the trench her long gorgeous legs had created as she held the rear of the vehicle up in the air with only her arms, he stared at her strong biceps. She seemed to be enjoying herself, looking down to admire her powerful muscles as they flexed far larger than Williams had ever before seen on a woman. He finally saw her set the spinning wheels back to the ground and the vehicle jerked forward out of her grip.

 

Meanwhile, the centurion was breathless with astonishment from the way the Earther female had brought his groundsled to a shuddering halt, effortlessly lifting it up and down with just the strength of her arms. Racing along with the throttle pushed fully forward, he was so confused now that he barely realized that this end of the meadow was ending. Suddenly paying attention to where he was going just before he drove into the dense trees, he twisted the tiller desperately to skid the groundsled around to head back down the meadow directly toward the female. Seeing her standing in the grass, her hands on her hips with her legs spread slightly apart, he decided to show her his power. Gloating, he floored the accelerator as hard as he could, suddenly determined to run this Earther female down.

 

Chapter 10

Yeoman Janice Rand simply held her ground as the vehicle roared toward her, her heart beating almost painfully in her chest. Her first reflex had been to leap aside, at least until she remembered the extent of her new abilities. Her second instinct was to violently stop this vehicle using nothing but her bare flesh. Closing her eyes, she visualized herself becoming an immovable object, slowly and deliberately flexing every major muscle, every square inch of her gorgeous body now turning into curves that were far harder than the mere metal-and-ceramic alloy of the vehicle that raced toward her.

 

Frank Williams had a brief image of powerful muscles flexing dramatically as muscle opposed muscle, Yeoman Rand's entire body turning into a fantastic sculpture in duranium. His arousing view was short lived, however, for her image was instantly erased by the mighty crash of the vehicle as it smashed into her at more than a hundred kilometers per hour.

 

Yeoman Janice Rand's reflexes were in warp drive again. Feeling the way the vehicle folded violently around her body, the enormous impact shoved her backward little more than a couple of centimeters as she concentrated on holding her ground. The hard duranium of the fender and bodywork collapsed against her thighs until the drive mechanism struck her slightly protruding pubic bone and flexing thighs, the vehicle coming to an immediate stop against these totally immovable yet very feminine features, the drive mechanism tearing from its mounts as the vehicle crushed clear up to the windshield. Finally collapsing in a burst of steam, the vehicle was now folded nearly completely around her slim body. And at the same time, the Romulan was thrown over her head, tumbling head over heels to land in the grass about ten meters behind her.

Amused by the sensation of the vehicle smashing against her lower body and angry because this man had tried to kill her with it, she reached down to grab the red-hot drive mechanism, lifting the vehicle over her head with a burst of her superhuman strength, flexing her chest and squeezing her arms together while gripping the steaming mechanism in her strong hands. The glowing mechanism started to bend and buckle under her immensely strong grip: the muscles of a superwoman proving to be far more powerful than mere duranium.

Holding the crushed remains of the vehicle high over her head, she released her left hand while continuing to grip the drive mechanism with just her right. Her fingers squeezed the duranium so hard that she felt it bending and flowing between them, continuing the pressure of her grip until her fingers were embedded to their roots into the hot metal. Simultaneously, she reached her left arm out as far as she could, forcing herself to balance and hold the entire weight of the vehicle in her right hand for a moment. Suddenly impressed with herself, she was surprised at how easy it was to hold this much weight over her head with just one hand.

Reveling in her new power, she reached her left arm outward to grab the frame along the bottom of the vehicle. Even though she had little leverage on the vehicle in this position, the duranium frame shrieked in protest as the muscles of her young body proved to be far stronger than the metal-and-ceramic alloy. Enjoying the feeling of the yielding duranium, exulting in her nearly unlimited strength, she kept up the pressure until the vehicle was folded nearly in half, carefully lifting the crushed remains of the vehicle high over her head with both hands, trying to balance it in the air.

 

Frank Williams couldn't believe the extent of the beautiful woman's strength as Yeoman Rand effortlessly held the vehicle high above her shoulders. He could see her muscles flexing as she used her powerful legs to support it, her back now sharply defined, her very prominent muscles flexing to reveal deep clefts between them. In fact, the muscles of her shoulders and arms flexed larger than he had ever seen on any woman, bodybuilders included.

 

Yet while Frank Williams was ogling her so enthusiastically, his fantasies racing ahead of him, Yeoman Janice Rand was actually having trouble balancing the heavy vehicle over her head. The slightest movement off-center and she would have to scramble to get her legs back under her before she completely lost her balance. It wasn't that the vehicle was too heavy for her, it was just very awkward and badly balanced. It had been a lot easier to hold it when she was bending it in her arms, but now that her muscles were not working as hard, she was having trouble keeping it steady.

She suddenly knew how to solve the problem. Starting to squeeze the vehicle between her arms again, she heard the duranium groaning and bending once again, her breasts tingling as they seemed to grow warm.

Leaning slightly forward, she began to run across the meadow with the crushed vehicle over her head. Cocking both arms far behind her head, she unleashed a burst of super strength from her incredible arms, throwing the vehicle over fifty meters up into the air. Flipping end over end, it finally landed upside down and exploded into bits and pieces of flaming wreckage that were quickly scattered among the damp grass. Turning away from the violent explosion, she focusing all her attention on the driver. He had finally gained his feet and was painfully limping toward the forect. Sprinting after him, her gorgeous legs flexed powerfully as her feet threw up clouds of dirt.

Yet the Romulan had a long head start, enough to allow him to get to the edge of the meadow before she did. There lay some of the trees the Gammans had been cutting down. Partially stripped of their branches, they were laid out not quite side by side. Leaping up onto the first one, he began limping across the carpet of logs, leaping from one to another. He'd almost made it to the other side when he stumbled. Or perhaps a log shifted under him. In either case, losing his forward momentum, he came down astride the log, only his natural athletic ability saving him from serious injury.

Rand continued the pursuit, her gorgeous legs flexing powerfully as she hurdled over the logs, taking two or three with each long stride, reaching the winded Romulan before he could scramble back up to his feet. Not even breathing hard from the chase, she quickly reached up to grip the shoulder of his uniform tunic to effortlessly lift him up and off the log. A dark look of fear was visible in his eyes as he looked up into the beautiful face of this stunningly beautiful and now clearly angry super woman! Holding onto his tunic tightly, she held him beside the log while throwing her bare leg over it.

 

Meanwhile, the centurion just stared at her, clearly stunned by her appearance and strength as he looked down at her beautiful legs as she sat on the log. He realized that despite enjoying the charms of a lot of beautiful females over the years, he had never before seen a female with such beautifully strong legs.

 

At the same time, Yeoman Janince Rand noticed that the Romulan was staring down at her legs with more than just professional interest. This didn't bother her as she'd always been proud of her legs, and she was more than a little thrilled to know that they were good by Romulan standards as well, at least by the standards of this particular Romulan. Exulting in her new physical powers, she heard herself gasping softly as he ran his hand gently up and down her smooth leg, a wave of tingling warmth filling her as she enjoyed the way he was touching her.

 

The centurion was equally surprised, astounded really, as he sensed the smoothness of her skin and the soft fullness of her muscles. He had assumed, after her incredible displays of strength, that she would feel like she was made of duranium or something like that. Yet he could feel with his own hands how her gorgeous legs could be immensely strong one moment and so softly feminine the next. There was just no way that an ordinary female could be both this beautiful and this strong.

While he may have been cruel and murderous warrior, he was still a brave man, and he was usually pretty clever. While most men – Romulan or Earther – would be terrified of this female, and rightly so, especially after seeing what she had done, he simply took a deep breath and began to explore the infinitely strong muscles of her thighs. Tracing his fingers across her wonderfully smooth skin, his libido raced out of control as he sensed the awesome power that was contained in the curves that his fingertips were now tracing. Breathing fast, his heart pounding excitedly, he knew that for the first time in his life, he didn't have to be gentle with this female. Unleashing his most violent fantasies, he also unleashed his full strength to press his fingers into the flesh of her incredible thighs, sliding his hands up and down them as he marveled at how firm her muscles felt, at how soft her skin truly was.

 

Staring down at the contrast of his dark gnarled hands against her smooth thighs, Yeoman Janice Rand was surprised to find that she was actually enjoying his touch, suddenly feeling an irrational desire to show this Romulan how hard and strong the muscles he was holding really were. She knew that he had seen some of her strength, but the thought of his hands actually holding her muscles while she used the super strength they contained was incredibly exciting to her. Without thinking about it further or even worrying about where it might lead, she began to gradually flex her inner thighs as she decided to show off a little for him.

 

The centurion immediately felt her long gorgeous legs flexing larger and larger under his hands as the compliant yet firm muscles he was holding suddenly began to turn hard as duranium. Yet he could not believe how soft her skin remained as he felt it stretch over the growing duranium-like contours of her thighs. He was thrilled as her thighs flexed to nearly twice their normal size as her legs became sharply defined. Despite having an active imagination, he had never imagined that any female's muscles could become this hard or flex this large.

 

At the same time, Yeoman Janice Rand felt the log starting to compress between her legs, a wave of pleasure rushing through her body as the wood began to bend upward, a crease forming in the wood as it pushed upward between the lips of her labia. She flexed her legs and felt an even stronger tingling between her legs as more of the wood was pushed up against her sex. She felt the man's hands running faster and even more firmly over her legs as his hands were stretched wide open by her still expanding muscles. Yet she knew that he still had no idea how strong her legs really were; but she knew she was about to show him.

The wood began to crack and splinter between her legs. This was followed by a loud crackling sound as her knees and her steely calf muscles continued to squeeze inward. Gasping softly as the sharp splinters pressed even harder against her sex, she felt and heard the log continuing to crack and splinter as she crushed it completely flat between her gorgeous legs. Keeping the pressure up until she could feel her knees touching each other, she was conscious of her rounded calves, both of them far harder than duranium, barely straining as they bent and crushed the log until it was squashed into two pieces.

 

The centurion's mouth was hanging open and he was having trouble breathing as he stared down at her beautiful legs. He had continued to run his hands over those sexy curves while she had used them to crush the log, the feeling of her powerful muscles flexing under his hands while she had used them to totally crush the hardwood was the greatest turn-on he had ever experienced. He finally understood the full magnitude of the power and strength of this Earther female's body. He also now knew that she could not possibly be truly an Earther; yet she was somehow sexier and more desirable than any female – Earther or Romulan – could ever be.

 

Sitting astride the sundered log for a few more moments, Yeoman Janice Rand found that she was beginning to breath faster, the Romulan's hands feeling so good as they slipped upward and between her legs. Swinging one gorgeous bare leg off the log, she flipped her long golden hair behind her shoulders while letting the sundered log fall to the ground, her legs again so slim and beautiful. Just like before, she felt incredibly powerful and, also like before, really turned on from using a sizable portion of her new strength. It was now pretty clear to her that she was going to get aroused every time she used her new strength to this degree.

Standing before him, her legs slightly spread, she began to move her head slowly from side to side, her long golden hair covering her face. The Romulan was still exploring her, his fingers gently tracing across her bush, his fingertips gently opening her, exploring the growing wetness of her own arousal. A part of her knew that she shouldn't be letting a stranger, let alone a Romulan do this to her. But this was different somehow and she felt so hot!

It was nearly a minute later when she felt something hard and cold replacing one of the Romulan's fingers. Suddenly concerned, she glanced down, suddenly shocked to see that he had a blaster in his hand again, the barrel slowing disappearing into a place where it shouldn't have. Flexing her love muscles, the weapon was nearly jerked from his hand as it suddenly froze in the viselike grip of a young woman's pussy. A super woman. Suddenly attempting to pull it back, he didn't budge. But his finger did, pressing the firing actuator by mistake.

A fiery blast exploded inside Rand's body, the explosion filling her until it ran out of places to go, finally dampened against flesh that was paradoxically so wonderfully soft yet stronger than the most powerful starship shield. The blow was enough to lift her feet off the ground, an explosion of almost painful tingles making her legs shake so badly that she fell on her butt, her legs spread. Looking angrily up at the Romulan through her tousled hair, she reached down to pull the blaster from herself, a quick squeeze of her fingers turning it to scrap.

Angry and humiliated, she also realized that she was wildly turned on. Knowing that she was losing control again, she didn't care. Her arousal was so strong and undeniable this time that she suddenly decided she wanted to feel the Romulan's face against her breasts, she wanted him to try to satisfy her growing sexual desires. She felt so powerful and dominant now, she knew that she was strong enough to make this male do anything she wanted him to.

Grabbing the shoulders of the Romulan's uniform tunic, she ripped it off him with a single strong pull. Reaching down to grab his belt, she gave it a quick twist that also broke it in half, following that up by tearing his trousers off by pulling her hands effortlessly down each leg from his waist to his ankles. He was instantly naked before her. And obviously very aroused.

Staring down to see a Romulan's erect manhood, seeing it in the flesh for the first time, possibly the first human female to see it, she found that the sight of it made her feel strangely tingly and warm, especially between her legs. Acting from simple instinct now, she stepped back while reaching up to run her hands up her stomach and over her breasts. Wrapping her arms around his neck, she pulled the Romulan's face into her bared cleavage while running her hand firmly down his stomach until her fingers closed around his large hard manhood.

He felt incredible! So hard and throbbing and warm, big enough to fill-up her whole hand. The sensation of holding a Romulan male's warm moist sex suddenly sent strong shivering waves of pleasure of a type she had never felt before through her whole body. Exploring the pleasant throbbing sensation in her hand, she ran her hand up and down the length of him while intimately exploring a Romulan for the first time. Trying to be careful, she had thought she was squeezing him gently until she heard him gasp and felt the hard flesh starting to collapse under the enthusiasm of her grip. Quickly relaxing her hand slightly, she started to slide it smoothly up and down him again.

 

The centurion was all but purring with delight, his manhood having gotten even harder as he had felt the Earther female's incredible hands running over it. She apparently had no idea what she was doing, yet he was thrilled as he felt her hands firmly stroking the length of him. Knowing full well how strong her hands were, he was still surprised by the softness of her skin. Yet he could feel her fingers exploring him curiously: as if she was doing this for the first time. Maybe the Earther really was younger than she appeared to his Romulan eyes?

Despite her apparent inexperience, the feeling of her hands, combined with the feeling of his face rubbing against her huge soft breasts, was almost too much for him. He was both thrilled and fearful, a part of his mind reminding him that he was but a toy in her strong arms.

At least one of his fears was suddenly fulfilled, his eyes filling with tears she started to grip him too strongly. Fortunately she heard his gasp and relaxed her grip immediately. He was impressed! This Earther female just might be fun after all, he thought with a chortle.

Returning her touch by running his hands up over her back and down across her ass, he was amazed as by the contours of the powerful muscles he found there. He suddenly gasped as she twisted slightly and began forcing one of her hard nipples insistently into his mouth. He sucked and bit down on the huge nipple with his teeth as he ran his hands up over her arms, trying yet failing to fully surround her biceps with his large hands. Even though she was an alien, she was gorgeous … he had wanted to feel her biceps ever since he had seen her flex them while she was lifting the groundsled.

Recognizing that he was starting to get off on her muscles, his manhood growing even harder as his hands touched her biceps, the Earther female flexed them fully for him now, showing off more than a bit, his large hands soon becoming completely inadequate to surround her. Yet he held her tightly with both hands, enjoying the exotic sensations he felt as her muscles flexing larger and harder than he had ever imagined possible on a female. Yet at the same time, feeling the warm rounded duranium of her awesome biceps, he was suddenly afraid again as the realization hit him that this Earther female was far too powerful for him to even begin to physically satisfy.

That fear was instantly replaced by a pleasurable one as she pulled her nipple from his mouth and began brushing her soft breasts back and forth across his face. He instinctively ran his tongue and teeth over her nipples each time they moved across his mouth, pleased at the sound of her gasps each time he caught one of her nipples between his teeth, holding her as tightly as he could with his teeth while she used her superior strength to pull herself free each time. Suddenly feeling a surge of impossible desire from this breast play, she pressed herself forward to shove one mound and nipple deeply into his mouth as she buried his entire face in her large breast.

The smothering softness of her breast made his body want to explode, at least until he suddenly realized he couldn't breathe. Trying to push her away, his puny efforts made no difference at all to her strong embrace. Biting down as firmly as he could on her soft flesh, cruelly even, her hard nipple caught between his eyeteeth as he tried to let her know that he was in trouble. But her earlier responsiveness to his discomfort had disappeared this time and he found that his desperate bite only made her nipple grow harder still. In fact, he could now feel her huge nipple starting to vibrate slightly as it grew amazingly large under the pressure of his strongly clenched teeth, a response he had never before felt from a female.

Trying to scream with the last air in his lungs, he found he could barely make a sound, the Earther female's smothering breast was pressed so firmly into his mouth. He felt his knees starting to collapse under him at the same time as she pressed down on his shoulders with tremendous force, the ligaments of his knees threatening to tear apart. Yet even that pain was momentarily overruled by a new and wonderful sensation as she pulled him upward between her gorgeous wide-spread legs, his manhood sliding an inch or so into her very wet sex. He felt her vagina yielding so softly before him, at least at first. Sliding in a couple more inches, he suddenly found that he couldn't push against her hard enough to continue the penetration, realizing with a shock that this intimately feminine part of her body was probably just as strong as her muscles. After all, the miniblaster he had pulled out of his boot had only turned her on further!

Keenly aware of her urgency and her passion now, he felt her hands running firmly down his back, painfully grabbing his ass as she added her strength to his own; lifting his entire body up against hers in an effort to push him deeper into herself. His muffled scream of panic and fear was inaudible as she used her incredible strength to press his body tighter and tighter against her own. Pushing back against her with all the remaining strength in his arms, he found he couldn't make the slightest difference in her strong embrace. He was but a helpless rag doll dangling between a super female's long powerful legs. Feeling himself on the verge of blacking out for lack of oxygen, he struggled one last time to overcome her incredible strength. Using every ounce of strength in his body, he was finally able to move his head slightly away from her smothering mound to take a gasping breath of fresh air.

 

Yeoman Janice Rand was aware enough of what was going on to know that she had to relax her inner vaginal muscles to be able to have sex with this Romulan. Closing her eyes, she concentrated on doing just that, finding that she had more control over that part of her body than she had previously realized. Deliberately relaxing her sexual muscles, she bent her legs even further apart while holding him in her arms, pressing his body upward between her thighs. She gasped in pleasure as a surge of electric passion filled her body as he shifted enough in her arms to press himself strongly against her clit, her arms flexing even more strongly in response, lifting him bodily from the ground while forcing him deeper into her body. Gasping as the last vestiges of her self-control left her, she cried out as she felt the amazing sensations of having a Romulan entering her for the first time in her life. He was throbbing so warmly and so wonderfully inside her as a hundred new and wonderful sensations spread outward from between her legs, a wonderful painful exciting electric surge of tingling that made her whole body explode in pleasure.

Those new sensations removed the last of her self-control, the inner muscles surrounding him starting to contract in sensuous waves as she grabbed his hips more tightly in her hands while pulling him in and out of her. Since he obviously didn't have the strength to move his own manhood in her tight embrace, she used the vastly stronger muscles of her own arms. Muscles that were far, far too strong for an ordinary man, human or Romulan, to withstand. Doing what her body demanded that she do, lifting his body up and down in her arms, using his entire body as a fantastically huge dildo, stroking him increasingly faster and deeper into her body.

Getting more and more excited, she flexed the super muscles of a super woman harder and harder as the urge to take him deeper into her flowing vagina now became more powerful than she could resist. The last vestiges of her self-control left her now, her vaginal muscles contracting like a duranium vise to trap him within her with such force that it could no longer move. Yet she wanted more, she needed so much more – her gorgeously strong arms now lifting his body upward so hard in her passion that his entire pelvis collapsed against the duranium of her own, a sickening crunch audible from twenty feet away as her sex crushed into his lower body.

By this time, Rand had completely lost control of her new strength. She only knew that she had to get some sexual relief, yet it was clear that the Romulan had been far too fragile to help her. The male body was obviously too soft and came apart way too easily. She could even now feel her inner muscles contracting strongly, crushing his still erect manhood. Suddenly feeling disgusted with the Romulan's soft weakness, she dropped his crushed body while reaching over to grab the duranium baton he'd been using to prod Williams along. The strong tendons on her hands stood out dramatically as she bent her wrists upward, using her amazing muscles to tear the solid duranium rod in two.

Dropping half of it to the ground, she stood holding the other half in her hand, sharp duranium splinters sticking out from one end of it. Staring at the rod in confusion, she closed her eyes while lowering it between her legs, quickly using it to replace the weaker stimulation of the soft man.

Crying out sharply in pleasure as she felt the duranium splinters tangling in her pubic hair, she stabbed it impatiently against her labia, finding that it was too big to enter her. At least at first, her frustration and passion were now such that she was not going to let anything get in the way of her pleasures. Flexing her powerful biceps, she felt the duranium splinters bending backward against her skin. Crying with satisfaction and indescribable pleasure, she felt the rod deforming as it entered her, the splinters flattening along the sides of it as her newly empowered muscles proved that even this intimate part of her young body was far stronger than duranium.

Her impassioned cries grew stronger and came faster and faster as she finally felt something inside her that was large enough and hard enough to fully expand her sex. The sharp splinters on the side of the duranium rod tickled and tingled so wonderfully as they sometimes ran across her hard erect clitoris, each touch making her gasp as her moist inner sheath pressed so strongly against the sides of the rod that her protruding clit started to actually wear a groove into the hard duranium. Squeaking softly in pleasure as the duranium groaned and screeched as it endured strains it was never intended do, the rough splinters continued to excite her as they traveled deeper and deeper while she smoothly pushed it into herself.

Twisting her hands on the exposed end of the duranium rod as it was buried inside her, she tore off a ragged section as large as her hand. Rubbing this freshly torn edge firmly over her breasts, she gasped with heightened pleasure as she felt the rough edges and duranium splinters scraping against her hard erect nipples. No longer having any sense of her own strength, totally out of control, she pressed it against herself so strongly that the ragged edges began to bend backward.

Her strength growing without bound now, the duranium rod slowly deforming under her fingers, she stroked it faster and faster as her strong biceps flexed so huge and round, her arm blurring from the superspeed of her powerful thrusts. A burst of wonderful tingly and needful warmth filled her each time the rough torn and ragged edge of the rod scraped along her clitoris, the thrills running through her entire body as she then thrust it more than ten inches inside her most intimate folds.

The intensity of her passion grew far beyond the wildest experiences of any ordinary human woman, her body becoming more and more aroused until she completely lost control of her strength as she began to powerfully climax. She was now obsessed with only the primal thought of pouring more and more strength into her vagina and against her breasts, the friction of the duranium inside her body so great that it began to turn red-hot. Rivulets of newly molten duranium also began to flow down between her engorged breasts as she held the other piece against her breasts too firmly, thumb and forefingers holding and squeezing soft half-molten alloy over her nipples.

A wonderful warmth began flowing along the length of her vagina as the duranium rod inside her also moved from red- to white-hot under the incredible pressure and friction of her tight sex. Despite her copious pre-cum, the moisture vaporizing into steam as it rose above her body, the muscular powers of her now clearly superhuman vagina were too much for even duranium to withstand. Far too much! Literal clouds of steam now rose from her sex as she felt her vaginal muscles rippling along the duranium rod, reaching down now to grab it with both her hands. A tiny cognizant part of her mind knew she was losing the last vestiges of control over her strength, the remainder of her mind desiring only a blessed release from her passion. Her full strength now finally unleashed, the rod deformed effortlessly between her fingers, her hands gripping it so hard that her fingers tore right through the duranium itself.

Her legs shook with uncontrollable passion now as she flopped backward to land in the soft grass, her knees bending upward and thighs spreading far apart, the immense strength of both her arms thrusting the duranium dildo into her sex at superspeed. Finally crying out in pleasure/pain when she felt it push against an even tighter and more sensitive part of her sex, each of her powerful thrusts now bent the rod slightly as she stroked it ever harder and faster. Lifting her head as she cried out in her passion, she looked down between the towering mounds of her soft breasts to see a bright glow from the now white-hot duranium rod each time she withdrew it from her steaming sex. Her legs started to shake so violently that her feet threw dirt in all directions as all the muscles of her body joined in the sprint towards her final climax!

She finally screamed with an unearthly sound as she squeezed her now glowing thighs together against her hands so powerfully that they flattened the rod between them. Her screams of pleasure turning to cries of frustration as she felt even this duranium rod failing her, the glowing metal becoming softer than she needed now. Yet her release was so close, so unstoppable!

It seemed like her building climax would go on and on forever as she arched her back while panting and screaming out her pleasure, the duranium now feeling as soft as butter under the incredible strength of her hands as her fingers pressed right through it, the super strength of her fingers now stroking directly up and down along her huge hard clitoris. Her entire world shrunk down to one thing, that of enjoying the wonderful pleasure coming from her body, the intense burning and tingling sensations surging from her head to her toes, a white heat filling her entire mind.

 

Frank Williams had watched with growing astonishment as Yeoman Rand had crushed the log between her gorgeous legs. He still could not believe how easy it had seemed for her to bring her beautiful legs together as the wood groaned and bent between them, once again seeing her nipples growing so erect, even larger than before. She was clearly getting turned on by this incredible feat! And then, swinging her bare leg off the log, she hadn't even paused before leaning over to rip all the clothes off the Romulan as he stood beside her!

He had felt his own body responding wildly, his own passion nearly uncontrollable now as he saw Rand try, and fail, to use the Romulan's body to satisfy herself, clearly sensing her growing frustration as he proved unable to meet the extreme demands of her gorgeous body. His groans and weakening whimpers mercifully stopped as Williams saw her biceps flexing strongly, her muscles passionately crushing his pelvis against the duranium of her own!

Emotions of something more than simple passion filled his body, emotions he could not even define, his mind exploding in lust at the screaming of tortured duranium as she tore the baton apart with her bare hands! She had turned to face him from about twenty feet away, her eyes looking downward as she started to use the ragged tube as some kind of giant dildo! Her beautiful blue eyes looked up to meet his for a moment, a funny and needful smile lighting her face, a look of passion and embarrassment combining with it. Yet she made no apology – such a goddess needed none – her eyes holding his for only a moment before she lowered the rod down between her long legs, her face dissolving in wild erotic pleasure as she then seemed to forget that he was even watching her, her own wild passion overruling all other concerns!

He had been both thrilled and horrified by the power that she had exerted against her delicate sex as she had thrust that duranium rod between her legs so strongly! Despite that, the ragged end of the rod obviously brought her tremendous pleasure, the beautiful muscles on her arms and chest flexing strongly as she appeared to be applying even more power against her own body than she had earlier used to lift and throw the ground vehicle. His impassioned response grew and grew as he watched her every movement, yet he was so riveted on the sight of this powerful superwoman, his hands bound behind him, that he was powerless to react to his own passion!

He could only stare, fascinated as she massaged her breasts faster and faster with the ragged piece of duranium in her hand. He heard her high pitched cries and her panting desires as she finally started reaching the climax of her orgasm, his own arousal soaring to new heights as the duranium turned white-hot against her breasts, melted rivulets of glowing alloy flowing down into her deep cleavage. The molten duranium slowly flowed across her flat stomach, the glowing rivulets finally disappearing into the golden blond bush to join those between her legs!

He was almost delirious with shock and passion as he saw her fall backward onto the grass, finding he was now staring right between her beautiful outstretched thighs, almost as if she was daring him to watch! Lifted her pelvis high into the air, all the muscles of her legs flexed and rippled, her hands turning to a blur as an incredible white-hot glow lit up the insides of her gorgeous thighs. The glow was almost too bright to look at, forcing him to squint his eyes – he just had to see! – to gaze in fascination at the way her muscular powers were now concentrated against the duranium dildo. That very alloy itself soon proved completely inadequate for this superwoman's body as he saw the white-hot metal flowing down between her legs and pooling on the grass beneath her. The incredible glow was so intense that he could barely make out her fingers as they pressed around the half-molten duranium rod. Squinting his eyes even more tightly, he stared raptly as she gave up on using the overly soft duranium and began using the touch of her far stronger fingers to finally reach her climax, her pussy lifted high up in the air as her loud screams finally tore the air across the clearing as she climaxed again and again. For nearly ten minutes, her body seemed to be at the peak of arousal, surging effortlessly from one incredible climax to another as he stood riveted to the sight with amazement!

 

Finally, the wild passion escaping her, Rand's arms and legs collapsing backward onto the sand, the remains of the glowing duranium tube falling from inside her. The glowing metal had been nearly completely melted, deformed by the pressures that her tight young body had been exerting on it. Dropping the melted tube between her thighs as her orgasm finally faded away, her eyes closed as she slumped unconscious onto the ground.

 

Frank Williams finally looked down at himself and saw that his own pants were soaked! He had been so transported by her beauty, her strength, her unbelievable eroticism, that he had climaxed right along with her for the entire ten minutes! Yet he had been so transfixed by this passionate goddess that he had not lifted a finger to touch himself!

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