o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o
Here we go again. Right, I guess you'll be wanting to hear some more. Don't look at me like
that, either. My colleagues…
o o o o o
"Ready to lose, Loo-tenant?"
"That's rather wishful thinking, isn't it?"
"Yeah, but a guy's gotta have some hope, don't you think?"
Malcolm Reed grinned and reached out to the board in front of him, and moved one of the wooden
counters. "We'll see, Commander. We'll see."
Charles "Trip" Tucker also leaned forward and moved one of his own counters, forward and
diagonally, to the left.
Malcolm buried his head in his hands and groaned. Not again. "Trip," he said, his voice muffled,
"you do that every time."
"So?" he asked defensively.
The head reappeared. "Every time you move that piece there, you lose it and the game."
Trip held up a finger. "Ah, I've gotta plan this time. Got it all figured out."
"Heaven help us," Malcolm replied acerbically, rolling his eyes. "Trip Tucker has it all
figured out." He moved another counter.
Feigning offence, Trip slid the same piece to the next available space. He did have a plan,
as it happened. It was really incredibly simple; hope like hell Malcolm was having an off day and pray for a miracle. The
fact that something like this never happened was completely beside the point. Trip lived in hope.
This weekly game had become something of a ritual, of sorts. Every Tuesday evening at nineteen
hundred hours, without fail, Trip would have his rear end well and truly trounced at draughts.
"Got any plans for the weekend?" Trip asked. Again, this was part of the ritual.
Malcolm raised an eyebrow. "Perhaps. You?"
"Nothin' worth gettin' your knickers in a twist over." Dramatic pause. This got him every
time. "I forgot, didn't I?"
"I don't wear knickers," Malcolm smirked.
"Nope," Trip acquiesced. "Like I said, forgot. You military types like goin' commando." That
said, he poked his head under the table, made some much-exaggerated grunts and mumblings, then resurfaced. "Yep," he commented
offhandedly, "definitely commando. F'you're not careful you'll have every woman on this ship chasin' after ya!"
Malcolm blushed, despite the fact that he was subjected to this every Tuesday. There was
a brief pause, and the game resumed, occasionally interrupted by snarky comments from Trip, or equally acerbic contributions
from the lieutenant. Business as usual for two friends.
o o o o o
That was last week. I may not have told you this, but a lot can happen in a week. Seven days.
One hundred sixty-eight hours. That's a long time for something to go to pot. And even longer for you to lose something forever,
something that you thought would be around for a lot longer than it ultimately was. But enough of this sap. It's getting me
Come to think of it, though... no. I'm going off on a tangent again. I seem to be doing that
more and more lately. Gee, I can't imagine why…
o o o o o
Enterprise crewmen who usually ate meals around nineteen hundred on a Tuesday evening had
grown used to the sight (and sounds) of their chief engineer and armoury officer engaged in a battle of wits, however one-sided
the battle turned out to be. Therefore it came as quite the surprise to them when they saw one half of the "dynamic duo" hunched
over the table in the far corner, head buried in one hand, and aimlessly pushing wooden counters around a small board with
the other. A plate of food was beside him, but clearly untouched.
"He's really hurting, isn't he?"
"Wouldn't you be in his place?"
"Mmm. They were close, weren't they?"
"As two guys can get."
"You think they were...?"
"Don't envy him one bit, though."
"Well, he's got to be feeling pretty helpless. I mean, there's not a lot he can do about
"Think we should tell the captain?"
"Tell him what? Sorry sir, but we think one of your officers is too upset to eat?"
"What about the doctor, then? He can deal with this sort of thing."
"Maybe this is just his way of coping."
o o o o o
Here we go again. In it goes, no point complaining, we all know what happened last time I
tried to yell at you people, don't we?
Sometimes I don't know why you bother. I didn't talk the last three times you did this, and
I sure as hell won't go a-gushing this time either. Surely you must know this by now.
What do you mean, "What do you do?"
I assume you're talking about my position on my ship, but who wants to know about that? I
could always tell you about that game of strip poker we organised for this guy's birthday. He really likes this ensign down
in engineering, not that he'll tell anybody, but we all knew, and so did she. She liked him too, not that she made it public,
but we all knew, except him. The poker thing was her idea. She's a brilliant player most of the time, but the other four of
us who agreed to participate, she managed to persuade us to help her lose. And that night she was absolutely appalling. Lost
almost every hand, we had to make it look authentic, you see.
Took us two hours, but there was Senne in her knickers and bra, chatting with Kev like nothing
was out of the ordinary… Kev who we had managed to get down to a shirt and boxers, looking as though all his birthdays
had suddenly come at once. The rest of us then left quietly, taking the cards with us.
Of course that's relevant. It's very relevant. Matchmaker is my middle name. They're still
a couple, as far as I know.
Oh. Bye, then. Sure you don't want to hang around and listen to what happened a couple months
ago? Ah, come on. You pumped this stuff into me, wanted to make me talk. This what you get.
o o o o o
Captain's personal log
I'm fast running out
of options. We've been searching for a week, and we've managed to cover a lot of ground. We've checked planetary logs, contacted
passing ships, mostly on trade routes in this sector, but so far we've come up with nothing. In all honesty, I have no way
of knowing if he's still alive, if he's been killed, and I know it's getting to the rest of the crew. It just isn't the same
around here without him, and everyone knows it, most of all the people closest to him.
I haven't contacted Starfleet or his parents yet. Most likely Admiral Forrest would advise
me to leave him behind, having searched this long for him, and his parents would almost certainly blame me. I'm responsible
for him, they'd say. I'm his commanding officer, the captain of the ship, and no matter what they think of me, or what they
know about the hazards of doing something like this, in their minds I'd be the one at fault for their son being listed as,
"Missing in action," and don't I know it.
I don't want to place blame on anybody for any part of this mess. I just want to find him.
o o o o o
The following Tuesday at nineteen hundred, he was still there, still playing a game of draughts
o o o o o
Maybe you're right. Maybe I can't keep this up forever. But if I can, what are you going
to do about it?
Two weeks, and still nothing. Jonathan Archer had hoped it wouldn't come to this, had hoped
with every fibre of his being that they would find some - anything - to bring some closure to what had happened.
But it had. They had finally found the shuttlepod, half-buried underneath a snowstorm at
the south pole of a small planet nearly seven light-years away from its last known position, having been directed there by
friendly inhabitants of the neighbouring planet. The computer systems had been damaged beyond repair, and the pod itself was
In some ways, finding the pod had made things worse, for the simple reason that there had
been no body. No human biosigns, no alien signatures registering on the scanning equipment. But in the eyes of Starfleet,
that meant very little. He was dead, they told the captain. Collect what information you can, salvage the pod if you see fit,
but you have to accept he's gone. Not coming back.
o o o o o
I can still play this game. Anything you can do, I can do better. Maybe someday I'll get
out of here. After all, I owe my friend two games of draughts, at least.
And no, I don't care if he whips my ass every time we play. I'm holding out that someday
I'm going to find him, and play that game he forced upon me. Hell, maybe I'll even win someday.
o o o o o
The draughts board was still there. He kept it, refusing to believe his friend was dead,
a part of him waiting for his friend to come bursting through the door to his quarters, demanding to know why he hadn't showed
up for the game. Malcolm Reed lived in hope.
o o o o o
Are you listening to me? My name is Charles William Tucker, the third in my family by that
name, and I live in hope.