Subject: FRONTIER: Eating up those four hours

SD 80621

Timeframe: just after Joanna Houston leaves 2-Backward (yes, it's a back 
Location: main corridor, Deck Two

        Joanna strode down the corridor, not knowing quite where she was 
going but not really interested.  If anyone had got in her way, she could
have mown them down quite nastily.

        "You're Houston," a voice said off to her left.

        She turned to faced the speaker.  "Yes," she affirmed.

        "Heard about you," continued Kief, slouching lazily against the 

        "Heard what about me?" she asked, somewhat snappily.

        "Just generally, about your essential history.  You're quite an 
achiever."  He smiled thinly.

        "I am flattered," she replied.  "Sorry, I do not believe I caught 
your name," prompted Houston.

        He pushed himslef off the wall, walked toward her extending a hand, 
"Kief Sampter.  I'm a paranormal investigator."

        She shook the hand warily, maintaining eye contact.  "What brings 
you here, Mr. Sampter?"

        "Number of reasons," he began.  "Firstly, couple of clients of mine 
wanted to find their kids out in Kzinti space.  Secondly, happens my 
sister's on the same ship and I haven't seen her in a while.  Thirdly, I 
heard you were posted here as well and I figured I might get round to all 

        Joanna shifted her balance to one foot, leaning against the wall.  
He seemed interested in her.  *Why?* she wondered.  "What is it that 
interests you in me?" she asked, cutting to the point straightaway.

        "Quite frankly, I'm curious as to whether you have a soul."

        She laughed, quite unabashedly.  His expression was serious, 
unmoving.  Her own became a downcast grimace.  "The answer to that is a
yes.  A very tortured and unhappy soul.  Anything else?"

        "Yeah, are you doing anything tonight?"

        Before Houston had fully absorbed the meaning of his words, he was 
suddenly a lot closer, his hands cupping the backs of her arms gently.  She 
let him kiss her, giving in to the experience, her own hands rising to
press him closer.

        He broke off for an instant, leaned round to plant small kisses on 
her neck, and whispered in her ear, "I could take you back to Epsilon on my 
shuttle.  Just the two of us."  He returned to kiss her on the lips.

        She could feel his hands roaming over her back, making rhythmic 
circular motions that soothed away the headache that had been threatening
to dawn.  At once she felt happy and relaxed, and *loved*.  She started to 
loosen her jumpsuit at the top, giving him a better view.  His mouth sank 
down from her mouth to her chin, and then to her chest.  The urge to just 
throw off all her clothes there and then was tempting but she knew this 
could be saved for a less public moment.  Joanna pulled him up by the chin 
to her mouth once again, refastened her top, and raised a hand to his
cheek, caressing it with her fingers.

        He was just about to break off when he felt her nails gently rake 
the side of his face, leaving four angry red weals.  Joanna stepped back, 
"That would be great.  Just the two of us... and how long will it take to 
get back?"

        Kief raised a hand to his throbbing cheek, she hadn't done any 
serious damage but she had sharp nails.  "Well, because the other shuttles
can't move so fast, it'll take a couple of days."  He smiled wickedly.

        "Mmmm.  I wonder what we could do to fill the time," she purred.

        "Oh, I'm sure we can think of something," he grinned.  "I'll see
you in four hours then."  He turned around, walked off towards Sickbay.

        Joanna's positronic net buzzed with anticipation as she headed to 
her quarters.


        "Hello, anyone here?" Kief called out.

        "Yes," said Sykes, appearing from out of the laboratory alcove.  He 
noticed the raw skin on the side of Kief's face, "What happened to you?"

        "Oh, I had a run-in with Houston.  Say, is she, uh," Kief cleared 
his throat, "taken?"

        Sykes looked at him curiously, wondering just what the Betazoid 
meant by 'a run-in'.  "No, not at the moment.  She's just split from her 
long-time boyfriend, and she's expressed an interest in our chief engineer. 
He flatly refused her even after last night's events."  He gave a lot of 
between-the-lines information in that small statement.  "I'm not sure if 
you've come at the right time.  You want that treated or what?"  He 
indicated the four red marks.

        "No, thanks anyway, they'll probably be gone in a couple of days."  
Kief didn't mention that they might well be replaced by new ones in that 
same time period.  "Say, aren't you the one Ruth's seeing?"

        "Sure am.  Oh, you know her?"

        "I'm her brother."

        "She never mentioned you.  Ruth talked a lot about her family back 
on Betazed, but..."  He shrugged, "You keep in touch regularly?"

        "I'd have to admit I've been a bit busy.  For a few years."  Kief 
began to assess Sykes as a part of Ruth's life, and what he saw was 
promising but he didn't have the full picture.  "What about you?"

        "I've a younger brother and older sister.  I've heard from my
mother and sister as recently as before the start of this mission, but as
for my father and brother..."  He paused, thinking back to the bitter rows
his parents had, mostly about his father's rather infamous career which his 
brother had been coerced into.  He still remembered the stacks of exotic 
weapons stowed in a secure closet, then the door closing shut after a brief 
second's viewing.  "It's been almost ten years since I saw either of them."

        Kief nodded, coming to the conclusion that he and Ruth probably had 
a good future together, given similar family stories that would give them 
plenty to talk about in the years to come.  He was intrigued by Sykes' 
presence, insofar as he was on a psychic level that most humans never 
reached, although of course Sykes had no idea how to use what new talents
he possessed.  Kief had a feeling Ruth would be an excellent psi-tutor.

        "Well, I'll be back later to do Ramsay's psi-test, call me if he 
makes it back here before I do."

        "Got it," replied Sykes as he watched Ruth's brother leave.  He 
shook his head, wondering just what Houston might get up to next.

FRONTIER 2-Backward

        Keanu Maren watched in fascination as Neil Festore downed glass 
after glass of alcohol, the real stuff.  There was a man drinking to
forget, he thought.  He glanced round at the rest of the bar, noticing as
well that Ruth was sitting next to Patrick instead of opposite, and she
seemed enraptured by his every word.  It was uncanny how the Tolstoyan
managed to attract near enough every woman on board.

        "What's on your mind?" asked Joanne, who'd been sitting with him
for an hour.  She nuzzled into his shoulder affectionately; nobody in
2-Backward batted an eyelid, there wasn't much surprise in their open show
of love.

        "Joanna," he mused after examining what was bothering him.  "I
can't help but feel like I've done something wrong.  But she was expecting
too much from me.  And besides," he said, putting an arm round her and
holding her tight, "I love you.  Not her."  He leaned in, kissed her
briefly, mesmerised for an instant by her violet eyes.

        "I hope you're right."

        He frowned.  "What's that supposed to mean?"

        "It's bad enough giving the brush-off to someone who's that 

        Keanu interrupted, "She's not my type."

        "When you're drunk Keanu, you don't notice.  As I was saying-"

        "Joanne, it was a mistake.  And although it was a very pleasurable 
mistake, it's not one I'm going to repeat."

        "I don't know about that.  If it were me, I'd have both of us on a 
string."  She hesitated, "Where was I?"

        "You were about to say that it would be worse to find out you
really did love that person and couldn't get them back," he finished.

        "Took you long enough," she remarked, pleased he understood her 
meaning.  "I don't know about you, but last night is going to be etched in 
my mind for a while."

        "Oh, that's going to be with me the rest of my life," he grinned, 
"just like the time when I kissed my ALB holdeck instructor."


        "I didn't know it was her at the time, she'd disguised herself 
using the holodeck."

        "Oh, that would be Lt.Cmdr A'Rel.  I saw her briefly before I came 
out here.  You have a thing for women with pointed ears, Keanu?"

        He started to get a little hot under the collar.  "Really, I prefer 
mine with spots."  He kissed her again, a bit longer than before.  "You
want to go to my quarters?  We're going to be on those awful shuttles for a 
couple of days at least."  He briefly glanced over to where Patrick and
Ruth were sitting, they seemed to be getting on like a house on fire,
judging by the way she was sitting on his lap.

        "Keanu, you're so impatient," she scolded, slapping his hands away. 
Then she relented, taking his hand in hers, "Alright.  Just remember we
have to go in less than two hours."  She got up, he followed, and they left 
2-Backward passing a loudly-snoring Neil Festore, his head resting on the 

        Ruth still wasn't sure why Patrick was so charming, but right now 
she could practically eat him.  She gently worked her way round to his ear 
and huskily whispered, "My quarters.  Now."

        Patrick gave one of his watermelon grins, "Now's hardly the time,
we leave in two hours and that's barely enough time for me to get warmed

        She smiled up at him, "How long does it usually take?"

        "You'll have to wait to find out."

        Her expression was at once one of feigned shock, "But Patrick,
it'll take two *days* to get home."

        "Yeah, tragic isn't it."

        Ruth stretched to make her lips meet his in a light kiss.  "I'll 
be waiting," she said softly.

        Patrick lifted her off his knee and sat her on the table, "I'm 
looking forward to it." he said, "And now if you'll excuse me, I have to go 
and pack." With that he stood up and walked towards the door.

        She looked after him longingly as he left, then got off the table, 
brushing down her jumpsuit.  The next thing she did was get a cold drink 
from the replicator, downing it almost in one go.

        "He's some man," said a voice over to her right.

        Ruth turned round, couldn't place the face.  "You can say that 
again," she mused, sitting down opposite the woman.  "I don't believe we've 

        "Ensign Lynne Smythe.  I was in the fighter you brought aboard."

        "Oh.  Nobody mentioned it."

        "It's a real shame, I just got here and I'm moving on again."  She 
looked at the snoring Festore, nodded toward him, "What's his story?"

        "Girlfriend dumped him.  What's worse, she dumped him for someone 
who doesn't love her," Ruth commented, cramming the morning's main story 
into a couple of sentences.


        Ramsay entered Sickbay apprehensively.

        "Will, take that seat over there, and I'll call Mr. Sampter," said 
Sykes, looking up.  He tapped his wrist-com and after a brief moment
reached Kief Sampter.  "He's here.  You'd better hurry, we've only got a
couple of hours left."

        [On my way.]

A little later

        "No time to waste, let's begin the first test," Kief said as he 
walked in.  He looked distinctly happy about something, but whatever it was 
he kept it to himself.

        Ramay looked across, into the man's eyes.  He returned the gaze and 
said, "Each time I look at a card, I'll concentrate on the symbol, attempt 
to transmit it.  If you can, you must try to receive and visualise that
symbol.  When you think you've got it, log it and we'll go on to the next 
one.  Ready?"

        He nodded imperceptibly, there was a clicking noise as he made his 
first entry.

        Kief smiled, "I haven't started yet."  Then he turned over the card
he'd been holding and looked at it.  He didn't hear Ramsay change the
entry.  He added emphatically, "You can change it as many times as you like
before we move on."

        "I'm happy with it, thanks," Ramsay replied.

        Kief shrugged and said, "Next," again hearing him make the entry 
before he turned the card.

A bit later

        "That's everything then, if you would like to leave your voiceprint 
with it, for authentication?"

        He nodded and said, "Computer, recognise Ramsay, Captain William."

        [Voice print confirmed.]  There were a number of bleeps as the 
computer added the security to the test logs.

        "You can go now, it'll take about thirty minutes to process the 
results - it's normally done on a large scale basis."

        "I'll be in my quarters," he replied.  "Tell me when it's done."

Joanna Houston's quarters

        Joanna watched in the mirror as she removed her jumpsuit, 
remembering where Kief's hands and lips had been, and shuddering with 
pleasure at the very thought of seeing him again.  She studied every inch
of her body, looking for the slightest flaw or break.  Satisfied, Joanna 
slipped back into the slinky black dress she'd been wearing the night 

        Memories of the night before spewed forth, she recalled both of her 
lovers' caresses and touches.  It had not been a very long time, but it was 
one of the most intensely satisfying nights she'd had.  Every encounter 
she'd had with Neil paled into insignificance next to last night.  At once 
she began feeling guilty about giving up on Keanu so soon, but then the
more recent and sensuous encounter with Kief played out in her mind, and
again Joanna was faced with a difficult decision.

        Keanu's words came back to her, angry harsh words spoken with great 
meaning.  She grabbed a brush from her cabinet, applied a little styling
gel to her hair, and began to work it into something which matched her new 
self-image, scraping it back harshly into an arc.  As she gazed at herself 
in the mirror, she suddenly felt she looked younger.  It was really that
she didn't look so conservative, so stuffy.  She smiled, revealing a set of 
perfect teeth.

        She looked to her bed, which had two modest-sized cases packed with 
the essentials on it.  There was something she had forgotten, Joanna 
thought, but she couldn't remember what.  She stepped out of her quarters,
a puzzled look on her face.  It wasn't like her to forget something.

        Walking down the corridor, she abruptly remembered what it was she 
had forgotten when Keanu and Joanne turned the bend in the corridor,
walking hand in hand.  A smile touched her lips.

        "Hi," she said, waving to them.

        Keanu stopped, baffled by what he saw and heard.  When he'd left 
Houston she'd been miserable; now she looked bright and happy and... almost 
younger in a sense.  "Hi," he mumbled nonchalantly.

        "Keanu, please tell Captain Ramsay I will not be travelling with 
the rest of the crew."

        Now he *was* baffled.  "You're not going to Epsilon?"

        "Oh, I am still going, however I will be on Mr. Sampter's shuttle. 
We will fly a parallel course with the rest of the shuttles," she replied
in a dreamy-sounding voice.

        "Joanna, are you feeling okay?"

        "Never felt better," she smiled unnervingly at them, continuing on 
down the corridor.

        Joanne turned to Keanu.  "Well, she certainly seemed to get over 
*you* pretty fast.  You thinking what I'm thinking?"

        "Yes.  I think Mr. Sampter also has a way with the women.  There's 
too many people around who're like that."

        "Not including you of course," she grinned.

        "Of course not," he said as they came to his quarters.

Ramsays' quarters

        Will walked in to see Caroline bottle-feeding Christopher.  He 
walked over, embracing her warmly.  "How is he?"

        "He's been noisy for the past hour, then a couple of minutes ago he 
just shut up and took his milk," Caroline murmered as she felt her
husband's gentle presence, his head on her shoulder. She turned round,
looked him straight in the eyes, "I really want to thank you for this.  I
never realised what it'd be like to be a mother, but I'm enjoying every
precious moment."  Her green eyes twinkled, moist with tears of joy.

        "I'm glad," he said finally.  "I feel the same way, it's just 
so..."  The words eluded him, but he managed to convey that he was
captivated by the experience.

        She didn't reply, but caressed his cheek with the back of her free 
left hand before kissing him gently on the lips.  He kissed her back
hungrily, his hands reaching for her sensitive back, but she tore away. 
"Mmmm we are *full* of desire today, aren't we?"

        "No kidding," he smiled, reaching to pull her back.

        She swatted his hands away cheekily, pulled a face and said, "Wait 
until I've put the baby to sleep."

        He obediently shadowed her to the cot, teasing her spine with a 
single finger as she tucked Christopher in.  She laughed ticklishly, her
back responding to his touch.  "Wait," she protested.

        After lulling the child to sleep, something which seemed almost too 
easy to do, she turned back to her husband and pulled him towards her,
passion flaring with the first kiss and each and every one after that.  She
felt a hand travelling slowly up and down her spine, so gently she could
barely feel it.  She tried to lean into it, but he avoided her, teasing her
to the last.

        Caroline pushed Will down onto the bed, and slowly removed her 
casual dress, as he looked on in excitement.  It was always different, but
always it was hot enough to melt duranium.  Now Ramsay's hands met the bare 
flesh on her back, the stimulus no longer dulled by cloth.  She shivered
not from the sudden exposure but with pleasure, her skilled partner finding
that soft spot in her back every time.

        The excitement and anticipation building to unimaginable levels, 
they made love with wild and energetic passion.

        After that charged encounter, they lay there for a minute in each 
others arms, breathing rapidly.  Ramsay got his breath back first, "That
was... wonderful.  We *really* needed that."

        "No kidding," she replied, running her hand idly through the hair 
on his chest.  "I don't-"  She was cut off by a bleeping from their
computer terminal.

        He sighed, "Gotta go.  That'll be the test results."  He kissed her 
lingeringly for a few moments, then hurriedly threw his uniform back on and 
headed over to the terminal.

        His wife sat up, absently gazing at him as he answered the call. 
"What test results?"

        [Sampter here.  I have your results... and I think you want to come 
over here and look at them for yourself.]

        "On my way," he replied, and blanked the screen.  For a moment he 
sat there unmoving, then he turned to Caroline and asked, "You coming?"

        "One minute," she said, still wondering what was going on.  She 
shrugged her dress back on, then grabbed a deospray from the bedside.
After freshening up both herself and Will, they left for Sickbay.


        "There you are," remarked Kief, looking up as they entered.

        "What's this about?" asked Caroline curiously.

        The Betazoid hesitated, then replied, "My sister requested your 
husband sit a psi-test.  Here's the results."  He swivelled the screen 
round to show them.

        Both leaned closer, and both gaped.

        "It has to be a mistake," commented Ramsay.

        "It isn't.  I rechecked the results, twice.  You couldn't have 
cheated, I would have picked up on it.  According to this you have a
psi-quotient of eighty-four, which is indicative of pretty strong psionic
ability.  In particular the test showed you have a gift for precognition -
knowing what hasn't yet happened.  Remember you were logging answers before
I'd started?  That's not all, you've got other abilities including 
telepathy.  What concerns me is where these abilities came from.  Your last
psi rating, back when you attended Command school basic training, was only
twenty-six.  Somewhere along the line, something *must* have happened to
you to cause this."

        It took a while for it to all sink in, then Ramsay said, "It's 
probably recent, that's for sure.  I only started getting these feelings a
day ago."

        "Mmm-hmm," said Kief, taking notes on a PADD.

        Sykes asked, "Could it have been when you were on the planet?"

        "No, I don't think... wait, yes!  Of course, it wasn't anything 
major, but I remember distinctly that I saw my Caroline's mirror swing at
me before she really did.  I blocked it instinctively."  He noted
Caroline's expression, and added, "You haven't read the report yet?"

        "Will, have you told her about... you know?" asked Neil tensely.

        Ramsay sourly shook his head, "No, I didn't get a chance.  Now
would be a good time."

        Neil gently took Christopher from Caroline, who was a little dazed 
by what was developing.  Christopher Ramsay looked up at the strange man,
gurgling sleepily.

        Ramsay told Caroline about Katie Braun, and what had happened.  It 
made him feel bad, right to the core, but he felt so relieved when Caroline
reached over and held him tight, "I'm so sorry Will.  You didn't have to
hide it from me, I would have understood."  She reclined in her chair,
sympathetic tears rolling down her cheeks, "I love you."

        "I didn't want to lose you.  I couldn't bear it."  He recovered a 
little, then asked Neil, "What's the connection?"

        "Well, when Ruth tried to touch Katie's mind, it was as though she 
wasn't there.  She guessed at the time that it was the drug that did this,
and it was a side-effect," explained Neil.

        "So how come my psi-abilities went up and not down?" he asked.

        "It's not clear, but it seems it could affect different people in 
different ways.  I've already had a test to see how I've been affected," 
Neil replied.
        "Now, I can't say whether this will be permanent or not, but while 
you have such a strong ability, it would be a good idea to get some sort 
of training," noted Kief.

        "I see," replied Ramsay.  "Well, I am busy but I think I can manage 
once or twice a day, once I get back to civilised space."

        "Fine.  I'll forward your details to the psionic development 
program, they'll probably assign you a tutor in a month or so," replied

        Neil smiled as he handed the baby back to Caroline.  "He's a 
wonderful baby.  And he picked up the McMirren green eyes... how many
hearts will he melt with them, do you think?"

        "I think it's a wee bit early to speculate about who my son's going
be getting involved with," remarked Ramsay dryly.  "After all, they're 
probably no' born yet."  He smiled at that last point.

        "That's typical of the Ramsay mentality," remarked Caroline, 
"'Never go for older women'."

        He grinned, "Ah thought it was the McMirren mentality, 'Never go
for younger guys'."  Ramsay put his hand on her shoulder, "C'mon, we've
still got some packing to do."

        They left, leaving Neil and Kief with the distinct impression that 
they'd been listening in rather than participating in a conversation.

Ramsays' quarters

        Will walked idly over to the terminal which he'd forgot to dim 
before leaving, and noticed an insistent flashing.  It turned out to be an 
intraship communication.

        ***                                                             ***
        From: Lt. Keanu Maren, CEO
        To: Captain William Ramsay, CO
        Subject: Joanna Houston, not going with us?
        Priority: urgent

                I thought Joanna was assigned to fly one of the shuttles 
        back to Epsilon.  When I saw her last, she looked as if she was 
        walking in a trance.  She said she wouldn't be flying home with the 
        rest of the crew, instead she'd be going with Ruth Sampter's
        brother in his shuttle; the implications of which I won't go into.

                I'd strongly recommend having a word with her about this, 
        far be it for me to judge what's acceptable behaviour on this ship 
        but I think she's backing out of a commitment she should be

        [END OF MESSAGE]
        ***                                                             ***

        *Strange*, mused Ramsay, but of course he'd been expecting
something like this ever since he'd heard about the incident in 2-Backward.
Just then, his terminal bleeped.  An incoming video call.

        "What is it?" he asked as he hit the button.

        Luther Murray's expression was one almost as steely as one of the 
androids.  [We just detected a transporter signal on your ship.  And that
shuttle your parents came in has adopted a heading toward Starbase Epsilon. 
Is there something I should know about?]

        "Well, one of my officers has probably just eloped with the owner
of that shuttle.  It's nothing serious; they're headed for home anyway.
But she was s'posed to fly one o' our shuttles back.  I'll have to find
someone else, that's all.  As well as having a wee *chat* with Houston."

        [Very well.  You said, Houston?  I thought she-]

        "We thought so too, but evidently something's no' totally kosher 
here.  I'll get back to you once I've raised them."

        [Murray out.]  The screen faded to black.

        Ramsay hailed the shuttle, when they didn't respond after a 
minute he hailed again, he waited another minute, hailed them yet again, 
finally after a good ten minutes of hailing he got a reponse.

        Houston appeared on screen, clad in what appeared to be a
nightgown, her hair dishevelled.  [Can I do something for you, William?]
she said.

        "Yes, you can tell me why you're disobeying a direct order."

        [What order?] she asked curiously, a smile touching her lips.

        "I told you to pilot one of the shuttles back to Starbase Epsilon."


        Ramsay was incredulous, "Oh *what*?"

        Houston giggled, [Oh, *sir*.]

        Ramsay could see the funny side of this... but not today.  "Dammit 
Houston, if you dinnae get your sweet ass back here right now I'm going to 
report you to StarFleet for disorderly conduct."

        She looked not a touch bothered.  [So report me.  Houston out.]
The screen dimmed away.

        "She's flipped," commented Ramsay to Caroline.  He sat down at the 
terminal, started tapping away furiously.

        "What're you doing?" she asked.

        "I'm reporting her," Ramsay replied, smiling with satisfaction.

FRONTIER Shuttle bay
Time to go

        Ruth boarded her shuttle as if in a trance, seriously preoccupied.

        "Ruth?"  It was Ramsay, jogging after her.

        "What is it?" she asked.  He seemed a bit nervous.

        "It's about Houston..."

        Ruth frowned.  "What about her?"

        "She's... run off with your brother," he said, the words coming out 

        She considered it a moment.  "Well, I had a feeling there was 
another reason why he came here.  Now I know."

        He nodded, turned to leave.


        Ramsay looked back.

        "It's been good working with you," she smiled, entering the

        "Thanks," he replied, heading for Mania.  Caroline was already in 
the cockpit, waiting for him to close the doors.

        He sat down opposite her.  "Take us out of here, Caroline."

        Her fingers flew across the console, the shuttle lifted off the 
deck and gently accelerated forward into the dark void.  Then as the warp 
engines engaged, the stars elongated into long multicolor streaks 
throughout their field of vision.

        They were on their way.

                          Respectfully submitted:

      S            [Captain] William Ramsay, CO FRONTIER             S
    D   A          [Cmdr] Caroline Ramsay, rodXO FRONTIER          A   D
  R       M        [Lt.Cmdr] Joanna Houston, aXO FRONTIER        M       R
A       M                                                          M       A
  W   E       "He said, `You're too late.  We're everywhere'."       E   W
    D                       Odo, Star Trek: DS9                        D

                              Allan MacLennan
                               Patrick Simony

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