Chris took a deep breath and let it hiss out between her teeth, she pinched the bridge of her nose in a vain attempt to relive the ache beating out a staccato rhythm in her head and ran the program again. The error was still there, any minute the head of astrometrics would be screaming “Why haven’t you fixed the problem” at her over the con-again. She leaned back in her seat and looked around. The cavernous space around the warp core was almost empty, quiet aside from the thrum of the engines and the lights dimmed for the ‘nightshift’. She was pretty much alone, which was exactly how she liked things.
“Come on you bastard where are you” she muttered and scanned the data again. A recursive error in one of the sub-processors was mangling data from a long distance probe. So far the one tiny error had deprived the astrometrics lab of a front row seat at the collapse of a dying star and herself of a good nights sleep. Squinting at the rapidly blurring lines of code, Chris leaned forward and rested her chin on her folded arms. The head ache was getting exponentially worse, she blinked and yawned. Her eyes were starting to become to heavy for her to hold open, ‘it wouldn’t hurt to shut them for a moment would it?’ A very tired part of her mind suggested her. ‘just to block out the painful light for a single blessed second-”
There was a golden beach, either side of her it stretched off into the distance, it’s limits lost in the summer haze. In front was the sea, small blue waves breaking eternally into lacy white spray. She knew without looking that behind her lay dunes and beyond that a gentle slope of soft springy turf that led to the village. Home, she was home and part of her knew she dreamed. The heat of the sun was making her drowsy and soon Mamma would call her for dinner, but for now she had time to lay on the warm sand, watch the clouds and listen to the Tatsu-birds call.
She was sleeping, dreaming a dream within her dream when something slithered and hissed in the sand by her shoulder. She jumped to her feet, a nightmare from childhood stood a few feet away. It’s reddish brown fur was covered in sand, though it’s coat was more scale than fur, the head though had peeled back revealing a huge mouth studded with wickedly pointed teeth. Chris turned and tried to run, the thing launched itself at her; she jerked awake and found herself staring into a startled pair of blue eyes.
“Fuck” she muttered, dragging a breath into a chest gone suddenly tight.
“Are you alright” The interloper asked, a stupid question really. Chris shook her head trying to clear the cobwebs.
“No I’m fucking not! I can’t believe I fell asleep!” she thumped the arm of her chair, “How long was I asleep?” she demanded.
“I really don’t know, I was on my way back from the party and I heard you snoring” He was grinning, clearly enjoying her discomfort for some perverse reason. The grin got wider as Chris felt her cheeks start to burn.
“I was snoring?” she groaned. When she finally looked at the guy properly, her mortification grew worse. The red blur she had taken as a generic command uniform was edged with gold piping-a dress uniform. Chris’ heart sank to her knees as she noticed the bearded man also had three solid gold pips on his collar.
“Are you Commander Riker?”
“Last time I checked” he wiggled his eyebrows at her, Chris didn’t notice her brain was too busy screaming ‘you said fuck to the first officer-twice’ over and over again like some god awful mantra. He was giving her an odd look like he was waiting for something.
“I’m sorry that I swore, Commander it won’t happen again.” she tried to sound professional, but to her own ears the apology had a note of childish stupidity about it.
“It was my fault, I startled you. Lieutenant?”
“Garrick sir, Christine Garrick.”
“Geordi’s new senior systems engineer?”
“Yes sir, that is correct.” Chris assumed he would leave then. She wanted him to go and leave her to deal with both recalcitrant technology and her own mortal embarrassment. She was wondering if she could transfer somewhere else, the delta quadrant might be far enough. Instead of going away, Riker leaned himself against her work station and folded his arms.
“You know it’s nearly three in the morning,” Riker said after a moment, “And I’m not sure engineering is the best place for a nap.”
“I have work to do, there is a processing problem with a probe I need to sort out.” Chris was starting to get annoyed, why wouldn’t he just go the hell away?
“ah yes the collapsing proto star, Commander Tegara is so excited about.”
“I promised I would have it fixed by tomorrow, so if you will excuse me” she sat down and then added a respectful “Sir”. He still didn’t move, just leaned there entirely at ease, with an amused smile tugging at his bearded lips.
“You should go to bed.” he said quietly.
“Sir!, please I have to get this finished.” Chris gritted her teeth, her patience was starting to wear out.
“I could order you, I am the first officer.” She glared at him as he stroked his chin.
“Lieutenant Garrick, you look terrible go to bed” he raised an eyebrow at her, for emphasis she supposed. Chris smiled and stood up.
“Sir thank you for your concern, but I have to get this done. You should go to bed, like you say you are the first officer. You need your beauty sleep more than me.”Chris had meant to sound conciliatory, but sarcasm wound it way into her words. She saw Riker had heard it too, his expression went stony for a moment.
“I was escorting Ambassador Lenas back to her quarters, she is an old friend.” It was Riker’s turn to look annoyed, Chris took a little delight in that. She heard the gossip of course, it was hard to avoid it. She had been on board less than a month and barely socialised, but even she had heard about Will-the- thrill Riker. The man flirted as naturally as breathing with everybody, faced with someone he couldn’t charm, he didn’t seem to know what to do.
“Commander what you do in your free time is your own business, as is mine. Right now I am choosing to work.”
“Is Tegara giving you a hard time about this?” Chris didn’t answer him, maybe if she just ignored him he would leave or at least shut up. Riker though seemed to take her silence as confirmation, “ I could have a word with him, tell him to cut you some slack.”
“I can cope with Tegara” Chris growled ‘how bloody dare you’ .
“Really? Cause the evidence says otherwise” he held up his hands encompassing the empty room, “Or do you always spend your evenings in here.”
“If I need help, I’ll ask for it” the suggestion she required help had raised her hackles, “but not from you!” she added with vehemence.
“we seem to have got of on the wrong foot here, I didn’t mean to upset you.” Riker at least had the decency to look contrite.
“well you did ‘upset’ me.’ Now kindly go away.”
“Alright I’ll go, I am sorry” he still didn’t move though, he just stood there looking at her with an odd expression,“Will you at least have dinner with me?” he blurted out after a couple of seconds of uncomfortable silence.
“What?”the suddenness of the question caught Chris off guard she gaped at him.
“Will you have dinner with me?” He repeated.
“You just insulted my professional ability and now you are asking me out?” Chris stood up, Riker took a step back holding up his hands and flashing a wide grin at her.
“I take it that’s a no then?”
“of course it’s a no!” Chris sat back down and pretended to bury herself in the data scrolling across her monitor.
“you might want to check adjacent systems, that looks like a hard ware problem. Probably a blown optical chip.” Riker leaned over her shoulder and pointed. His breath tickled her neck for a second, sending an unwelcome, but enjoyable shiver down her spine. “But you don’t need my help, goodnight Lieutenant.” He was gone, Chris shook her head and then turned back to her work, she was feeling a little discombobulated. ‘he is pretty’ she admitted to herself, ‘pretty arrogant’ and then she saw the problem, ‘Pretty, arrogant and right about the sensor problem’. Chris let out a frustrated groan “fuck.”