1. Chapter 1 by Voyfan
I make no money from this. Kathryn and anything pertaining to Voyager belong to Paramount … or is it CBS? The other folks (and Bartley) belong to me. I just like to get them out of Rerun Land.
Kathryn kept a tight leash on her dog as they threaded their way down the sidewalk. Bartley was a bit rambunctious — unless he was stopping to sniff every lamp post on the street.
She was hoping the morning walk would lift her spirits a bit, but no such luck. “It’s not like you haven’t had a life since you came back,” she scolded herself. In fact, she’d been out the night before, meeting some of her former crew for a concert at the Marina.
The concert was great; she enjoyed the company. But this morning, she definitely was feeling the letdown.
She steered Bartley toward a coffee shop. Might as well pick up a coffee and some food; lunch in the park sounded like a good idea. Maybe she’d even stop at the dog-treat bakery.
Kathryn ordered and slipped into a spot near the outside tables to wait. She idly glanced at the other patrons as she sipped her coffee, till her gaze stopped at the man seated practically next to her … and her heart jumped.
Could it be? Of course not … but for a fleeting moment he reminded her of Gotana-Retz, the astronaut from Kelemane … whose life was defined by Voyager … the beloved Sky Ship.
Obviously, this man was not from Kelemane, she told herself. He was human, of Asian-European ancestry. And he was certainly attractive, though maybe a bit young. Mid-30s she guessed, with a somewhat messy thatch of dark hair.
He looked up from the PADD he was reading to catch her staring at him, and she started.
He just looked at her for a long moment and smiled. “Can I help you?” he finally asked, sounding more curious than annoyed.
Kathryn laughed self-consciously and shook her head. “No, you just reminded me of someone I knew long ago,” She realized, with a pang, that by now Gotana-Retz would have been dead for generations.
“Well, I hope it’s someone you liked,” he said, and she noted a twinkle in his dark eyes.
“I didn’t know him for long, but I did like him,” she said sincerely. “He was a good man.” She started to turn away. “Anyway, I’m sorry to have interrupted you.”
“I’m Ben, by the way.”
She turned back, surprised. “I’m Kathryn,” she replied.
Bartley, who’d been quietly sitting next to Kathryn, decided that he should get acquainted with this fellow, too. He trotted over to Ben and started to sniff his shoes.
“Who’s your friend?” Ben asked, leaning over to let the dog sniff his hand.
“That’s Bartley,” she explained as the dog jumped up, planting his paws on Ben’s knee. “We’re still working on commands, like ‘Down,’” she said, tugging on the leash for emphasis.
“It’s all right,” Ben said. “Say, would you ...” Whatever he was going to say was interrupted by the beep of his pocket vid. He pulled it out and frowned. “Sorry … I need to take this.”
Kathryn put up a hand. “No problem,” she said as he turned his attention to the call. She led a reluctant Bartley to the counter, where, thank God, her order was ready. She took it and beat a retreat. No sense in embarrassing herself even more.
Kathryn stopped for a moment to admire the architecture of the newly built Daystrom Center for Advanced Research. She didn’t remember what building had been in its place; then again, she’d lived in Berkeley the last time around.
She was whisked into a conference room so she could take a few moments to go over her presentation. A quick refresher, then she opened the program PADD; one look at the keynote speaker and she damn near dropped the device.
The image smiling back at her was that of the fellow from the coffee shop … Dr. Benjamin C. Imada, one of the phenoms in Federation science.
The CV was impressive: At 17, he won the prestigious Cochrane Prize in Physics. Graduate of the Daystrom Institute of Technology and the University of Alpha Centauri; post-doc at Cambridge. While she was gone, he joined the Daystrom Institute, then became associate dean of Tech’s Physics Department. And last month, he was named to the Q’gur Chair in Theoretical Physics here at the center.
Well, with any luck, she decided, he’d forgotten about her ...
She breathed a sigh of relief after the presentation; she still wasn’t comfortable with these things. It felt like she was defending her thesis again. She headed for the hors d’oeurvres, only to find her path blocked by a couple of researchers from the Vulcan Science Academy. Mercifully, it was a brief chat, and she managed to snag a few pieces of fruit.
“Would you like something to go with that?” asked a voice behind her. She turned to find Ben … rather Dr. Imada … offering her a glass of white wine.
It would have been rude to refuse … besides, she was thirsty. So she took the glass and thanked him. She had to admit, he looked very nice in a suit.
“I was impressed by your presentation … and how you held your own against Dr. Seguhil in the panel discussion,” he said.
She laughed. “I’ll be happy to send him to the Delta Quadrant to test his theory.”
He chuckled. “I know folks who would buy the ship,” he said conspiratorially. He paused and shoved a hand in his pants pocket. “I should apologize … when we met, I didn’t know you were, Admiral. I wasn’t paying attention to the news when you got back.”
“No apology necessary. I was the one bothering you. And I didn’t know you were, either, Doctor,” she teased.
He smiled sheepishly. “You weren’t a bother. And by the way, I’m still Ben.”
She couldn’t explain why, but those words lightened her heart. “And I’m still Kathryn,” she said, silently adding that she’d lost track of that more than once in the Delta.
“At the coffee shop, I … I started to ask if you would join me.” What he didn’t say was that when the call ended, he was nearly panic-stricken to discover that Kathryn had left. He looked through the shop, then went to the counter, where the clerk helpfully pointed out the direction she’d taken. He’d jogged to the corner, but she and her dog were long gone.
Kathryn, for her part, didn’t quite know what to make of Ben’s admission. But he seemed slightly embarrassed by it, which she found endearing.
“Well, thank you,” she said sincerely. “I might have taken you up on that.”
He brightened … and decided to go for broke. “Well, since we’ve been somewhat introduced, would you … and your dog … have dinner with me? There’s a new Italian place in North Beach that I’ve heard good things about.”
Well, this she hadn’t expected … but why not? “We’d love to. When?”
She said yes?!! Ben restrained the urge to whoop, though he couldn’t hold back a grin. “Are you free tonight?”
“As a matter of fact, yes. Does 1900 work?”
“That would be … 7 p.m.?”
“Oh, yes,” she laughed. “Sorry, Starfleet habits.” She handed him a chip. “That’s my office vid number. Would you send directions? I’m still finding my way around.”
Ben practically ran up to his office suite. He dropped the chip on his office manager’s desk with instructions, then retreated to his office, where he ignored his messages and punched in a vid number.
He patiently waited through the greeting, then … “Colleen, it’s your brother, The Hopeless Romantic. The woman I was telling you about … I found her, Coll! We’re having dinner tonight.”
B’Elanna Torres stuck her head in the door of Janeway’s office suite. “Hi, May,” she greeted the office manager. “The admiral back from that conference?”
“She was, but she’s left for the day.”
B’Elanna raised an eyebrow. “Is she sick?”
May just smiled. “No, I believe she has a date tonight.”
B’Elanna raised both eyebrows and slipped inside, making sure to close the door behind her.
“All right, May, give … who is it?” she gently commanded.
May just smiled again. “I believe it’s Dr. Imada over at Daystrom Research. His office sent directions to a restaurant … with a reservation at 1900.”
“Well, terrific,” B’Elanna began, then stopped. “Wait a minute … isn’t he rather young … like 20?”
May gave her a look. “No, he’s 35. I looked it up. Can’t accuse the admiral of cradle-robbing.”
“Guess not,” B’Elanna laughed. Not like some people I know, she added silently. Then a thought came to her. “You know, it could be business. She was just at the conference over there.”
May shook her head. “Nope. She hates those conferences. She comes back in such a mood that I have to hold her calls for an hour. But this time, you should have seen the grin on her face. Trust me, Commander, this is a date.”