by Mylochka

(Standard Year 2249)

Return to Valjiir Stories

Return to Valjiir Continum

“How ‘bout now?”

Sulu pressed a few buttons on the console before him. “Nothing,” he called back.

“Bastard!” came a displeased reply from the bowels of the Henderson.

This experimental vessel had a considerably deeper draft than the typical shuttlecraft. Floorplates spanning the length of the Henderson were thrown open, stripping a good portion of its inner workings bare.

Chekov frowned down at the man submerged in the shoulder-deep channel that allowed access to the shuttle’s humming mass of machinery. “Was that directed at me?”

Normally such an inquiry would reveal a certain amount of paranoia, but since Noel DelMonde was the engineer assigned to accompany the Enterprise’s helm team on this small vessel’s shakedown cruise, the navigator’s flaws – both real and imagined – had been commented on as liberally as the Henderson’s shortcomings.

“I think that’s just a technical term engineers use,” Sulu soothed.

“When they don’t know what they’re doing,” Chekov finished peevishly.

“Chekov,” DelMonde called. “C’mere.”

The navigator reached for the ship’s toolkit and prepared to search for whatever instrument the temperamental engineer was about to ask for. “What do you want?”

The Cajun’s head and shoulders appeared above the decking. “To show you how far this laserwrench be inserted inside the human anatomy.”

“I think you should just leave him alone and let him work,” Sulu advised his helmpartner as the engineer descended back into the Henderson’s belly.

“He better if he value his dumbass Russian mutha-fuckin’ life,” DelMonde muttered loudly.

“In fact, I do value my life,” the navigator retorted, crossing his arms discontentedly. “And I dislike being forced to risk it on a dangerous and highly unnecessary mission like this one.”

“A good deal more dangerous than we thought, I must grant,” Sulu said, clicking out the commands that would initiate another diagnostic sweep. “But unnecessary – no. Starfleet has to have their warp-powered shuttle.”

“We already have a warp-powered shuttle,” Chekov insisted, retrieving the handful of photon meters that DelMonde had tossed up onto the deck.

“Ah, but there’s the rub,” Sulu replied. “Just because we on the Enterprise have the Chuztpah does not mean that Starfleet has the warp-powered shuttle that they need.”

“Surely the design principle is the same.” The navigator hooked the meters into their recharging ports on the toolkit.

“Not as much as you’d expect,” Sulu said, keeping his voice light and pleasant despite the preliminary readings he was getting from the diagnostic program. “You see, when our girls designed the Chuztpah, they had a clear and well-defined problem to solve. They needed to get from point A to point B very, very, very quickly.”

“Yes,” Chekov dodged a length of wire that came suspiciously close to hitting him when it was tossed up from below the decking. “I remember.”

“Well, for Starfleet, point A to point B is only one of many problems. For example, they have to decide if this…” Sulu picked up a discarded piece of metal. “…uhm… widget connector should be made of a material that will throw a big defense contract to a developing planet -- thus solidifying their relationship to the Federation. Or should these photo-electric displays be constructed using Professor Endowed-Chair’s pet theories – thus bringing prestige to Starfleet Academy – or should they use the method suggested by Dr. Know-it-All from Planet Beta Disgruntled Allies IV– and thus smooth feathers ruffled by the fact those guys didn’t get the widget connector contract? And so on.”

“I see,” Chekov said, retrieving the “widget connector” and placing it with the other spare parts. “So we wind up in this….”

“…Jacked-up, committee-designed, mutha-fuckin’, non-functional piece o’ mutha-fuckin’ shit,” DelMonde supplied adamantly from below.

“…To use the technical term preferred by professional engineers,” Sulu glossed helpfully.

“…Stranded in space with a malfunctioning experimental warp drive for at least the next 76 hours,” Chekov concluded.

“Or ‘til I get the mutha-fuckin’ comm system workin’ again,” their engineer said in what passed for optimism at this point.

“About that ‘in space’ part…” Sulu said, looking at the newest malfunction indicator on his panel. “Del, you might want to come up here.”

“What the fuck for?”

Sulu rotated his seat to one side so the engineer could see the readings on the life support system. “To help us pick a planet to land on before we suffocate and die.”


“I certainly hope that’s only a technical term as well,” Chekov said, packing up the toolkit.

*** ** ***

“The seals are intact,” Chekov reported from inside the overturned shuttle.

Sulu had managed to land it…or rather achieve a controlled crash into a clearing in a forested valley. “Are they still under pressure?” the helmsman asked, using his tricorder to catalogue the damage to the hull.

“Uhm…I can’t find the monitor.”

“Del?” Sulu turned to the engineer, who was sitting on the trunk of an uprooted tree using a subdermal regenerator to repair the remaining bruises from the shoulder he’d dislocated during landing.

The Cajun shook his head. “Don’ look at me, mon ami. I ain’t goin’ near that piece o’ shit again.”

Sulu could hardly blame him. They’d scarcely had time to crash the shuttle before the cascade of system failures became super-critical.

“Got it!” Chekov’s voice echoed within the small craft. “Uhm… What would be a normal reading?”

“Keep your day job, son,” DelMonde advised sourly as he began to sort through the medikit’s meager selection of painkillers.

“Come back out, Chekov,” Sulu ordered wearily.

“The readings are constant,” the Russian reported as the top of his head began to reappear through the shuttle’s open doorway. “No matter what they’re supposed to be. So I don’t think there’s any leakage… although there did seem to be a small amount of fluid on the instruments.”

DelMonde gave a short laugh as soon as the navigator’s face became visible. “I t'ink I figure that one out.”


“Your nose is bleeding,” Sulu said, offering him a hand up.

The Russian groaned. “Not again,” he said, disappearing back down into the ship.

“Chekov, I don’ know how long that re-gen unit gonna hold up,” DelMonde warned. “So don’…”


“So don’ make yourself another shirt.”

The Russian reappeared holding a fresh tunic in one hand while he staunched the flow from his nose with the old one. “Sorry.”

DelMonde rolled his eyes. “Get over here an’ stop tryin’ to blow us all up ‘fore I hafta smack you.”

“I re-initiated a systems shut down,” the navigator informed Sulu as the helmsman helped him out of the wrecked vessel.

“It’s probably best to get rid of that thing,” Sulu said, indicating the stained uniform top. “Won’t be a good idea to be walking around in the woods smelling like fresh blood.”

“We’ll have to rig a pulley system to upright the vessel,” Chekov said, speculatively eyeing the number of downed trees surrounding the shuttle as he joined DelMonde.

Sulu shook his head and sat on one of the shuttle’s upturned legs. “I don’t know if it’s worth it.”

“Access would be less difficult if it were upright,” the navigator argued as the engineer ran the subdermal re-gen unit slowly across the bridge of his nose.

“I don’t know how much I trust those seals.” Sulu ran his hand over the warped metal of the ship’s belly.

“The pressure’s constant,” Chekov assured him before looking back to DelMonde to ask, “Does it say why my nose keeps bleeding?”

The engineer obligingly studied the tiny diagnostic display on the small instrument. “’Cause you hit your head on the console real hard,” he pretended to read.

“If we’re in any danger of popping those seals,” Sulu was saying, “Flipping this baby is only going to make things worse.”

“I didn’t see any indications that we’d lost internal structural integrity in any critical systems,” the navigator argued.

Sulu frowned as he stood up and experimentally kicked at the leg on which he’d been sitting, “Would you care to offer an opinion, Del?

“On what?” the engineer asked, turning Chekov’s head to one side so he could work on the navigator’s beginning to blacken eye. “Your irrational desire to go campin’ on an unexplored alien world or his irrational fear that if he not surrounded by metal when he sleeps the creepy-crawlies gonna get him?”

“That’s ridiculous,” his patient protested.

“Oh, is it?”

“I can’t speak to the rationality of Sulu’s preference to make camp outside the vessel, but I am certainly not giving an opinion based on my feelings about…”


“I don’t even know what that is,” the navigator scoffed. “And I’m certainly not afraid of it.”

“Hell,” Del said, turning Chekov’s head back into the proper position. “You afraid of a dog.”

“No, I’m not,” the Russian replied with a little less force than usual.

The engineer said nothing.

“…Although I was badly bitten by one as a child,” Chekov admitted.

“It was a poodle,” Del informed Sulu.

“Poodles,” the Russian rebutted, “can be quite large… and vicious.”

His companions graciously refrained from commenting.

“Okay,” Sulu said, boosting himself up onto the shuttle’s hull. “So we make camp in the grove.”

“But…” Chekov protested.

“Sorry, pal,” the helmsman replied. “But a commander’s irrational desires always trump the crew’s irrational fears.”

*** ** ***

Despite the number, variety, and severity of malfunctions aboard the experimental craft, by that evening all three officers were in complete agreement about the one that they were each going to mention most prominently in their report. The primary source of their collective displeasure with the vehicle and its designers was that the emergency supplies had been stowed in a compartment next to the coolant tanks. Although the damage control system had almost immediately sealed the container that was ruptured during the crash, fluids had sprayed the storage compartment, contaminating or dissolving most of the emergency rations and melting a latticework of holes in the collapsible shelter.

“Junk,” Del pronounced taking the solar cell Sulu had just carefully cleaned out of the tester and tossing it into a depressingly full bin.

“How many good ones?” Chekov asked, handing him another.

“Five,” the engineer replied putting the cell into the tester. “No, six….” He then sighed as the readings faded. “Nope, five.”

Instead of returning to wiping solar cells with the shreds of the two tunics he’d bled on, Chekov picked up a nearby stick and poked at their campfire. “If only we had a Briggs surge collector…”

“Why you want one o’ those for?” Del asked, tossing yet another coolant-corroded cell into the bin.

“Then we could power the food processor.”

“If you gonna wish,” the Cajun said, laying aside the tester and stretching. “Why not just go ahead an’ wish fo' some good food?”

"Or that we'd landed on an inhabited class M planet with plenty of restaurants?" Sulu suggested, putting down his cell and cloth too.

“Better hope you remember to wish fo’ a big pile of native currency,” Del said, taking out the flask of bourbon that he’d managed to coax out of the shuttle’s food processor as a “test” before the unit completely died. “I not eatin’ at no cheap place.”

Chekov used the gold-braided sleeve of a tunic to carefully lift the pot of coffee they’d been heating off the fire. "If I wished us onto an inhabited planet, I’m sure Noel could make more than enough money for us working as a fortune teller."

"An’ if I had my guitar, we could set T-Paul up on a street corner an’ he could tap dance fo' credits."

Although the two tossed these comments off casually, they had the smell of long-running jokes or insults. The fortune telling one Sulu could figure out, but the other... "Tap dance?"

Chekov got an "oh, no" look in his eyes that was in direct proportion to the amount of "oh, goodie" look that came into his roommate's.

"He not know, do he?" DelMonde said delightedly.

"There’s nothing to know," the Russian said, shrugging the issue off.

"You tap dance?" Sulu repeated.

Del grinned at his roommate. "’Cept that."

“In most Russian schools, they teach dance.”

The engineer nodded. “Not tap dancin’, though.”

Sulu paused, but had to ask again. “You tap dance?”

Chekov sighed in defeat. “I took lessons – very briefly – when I was very young.”

“An’ was jus’ cute as a button,” the engineer assured the helmsman.

“How do you know these things about him?”

“Noel likes to use his so-called 'mental powers' to…” Chekov began accusingly.

DelMonde smiled like a cat. “His mama told me.”

“You’ve met his mother?”

“Oh, yeah.”

“Unfortunately.” Chekov scowled. “At the Academy, one afternoon, I forgot she was coming to visit.” An expression of pain crossed the navigator’s face. “They talked for almost two hours.”

Sulu winced in sympathy. Two hours with even a non-telepath was plenty time to arm a roommate with blackmail material for a lifetime.

The Cajun nodded. “She hot.”

“Don’t speak of my mother that way,” the Russian growled.

“Why you upset fo'? All I say is she a fine lookin’ woman fo’ her age.”

“Well…” Chekov began grudgingly.

“I not say anyt’ing ‘bout her bein’ hot fo' me.” Del turned to Sulu and mouthed “...which she was.”

The navigator pointed an accusing finger at the engineer as he informed the helmsman. “Can you believe that he tried to pick up my mother?”

DelMonde raised an eyebrow. “She tell you that?”

“No, but I knew you had when she said you were charming and polite.”

“Well, I not sayin’ not'ing,” Del said with exaggerated gentlemanly decorum. Which didn’t prevent him from adding a moment later, “But if your papa should pass or do your mama wrong…”

“Don’t you dare…” Chekov warned.

“I not said not'ing,” Del protested, but then couldn’t resist adding. “But if I do end up as your stepdaddy, I promise we gonna work on that attitude o’ yours…”

“Guys,” Sulu interrupted. “We still haven't come up with anything to do about food for tomorrow.”

“Well, now, didn’t I see us almos’ crash into a lake on our way down?” the engineer asked.

“Yeah. It’s about a mile to our west.”

“Then we can fish, non?”

Sulu looked to Chekov, who nodded. “Readings indicate a respectable number of aquatic lifeforms that should prove edible. I would wish to scan for toxins before we ate anything though.”

“Sure. You can come wit’ me. You been fishin’ before, ain’tcha?”

The navigator shrugged. "In a manner of speaking."

Sulu blinked. "Pavel, how can the answer to that question possibly be ‘In a manner of speaking’?"

"When I was a child, my parents and I lived near a....” The navigator paused and frowned when the right word didn’t come to him. “What is that you Americans call a very small lake?"

“A very small lake,” Del muttered.

"A pond?" Sulu guessed.

"Yes," the navigator acknowledged, ignoring DelMonde’s comment. "And I had a small one-person sailing craft… which is what I suppose you would call a..."

"Rich kid's toy," Del drawled contemptuously.

"At any rate," Chekov continued to the helmsman. "I developed an interest in the sport, obtained the appropriate equipment and researched the proper technique, however..."

"No fish?" Sulu said, interpreting the Russians shrug.

"No fish," his friend confirmed.

Del snorted. "Like a fuckin' computer teach you to fuckin' fish..."

"I am sure that the tutorial was perfectly sound," Chekov rebutted, "it was simply that..."

"There were no fish in the pond," Sulu concluded when the navigator let the sentence trail off. "It was just a man-made, decorative thing?"

"Yes," the Russian admitted. "I suppose."

"Musta gotten...oh, two or three feet deep, I bet," Del speculated unkindly.

"As much as five," the navigator rebutted defensively. "In spots."

The Cajun rolled his eyes. "Sweet Jesus."

"There were quite a few frogs," Chekov asserted as if that strengthened his case.

"Catch many?" Del asked with acid amusement.

"Not by fishing," the Russian replied stiffly.

“You know what your problem is?” the engineer asked seriously, leaning forward. “You jus’ not have no good role models. You need a strong father figure in your life, mon fils.”

“Stop calling me that. I’m not your son.”

“An’ never will be,” DelMonde confirmed.

The Russian gave a grunt of agreement.

“Biologically,” the Cajun added.

Chekov gave a long-suffering groan as he rose. “I think I should go to sleep while I still have a last name I’m not ashamed of.”

“Like I adopt you,” the engineer scoffed, as the navigator selected a stick with some cloth wrapped around it. “Though I s’pose your mama would insist… An' it be less confusin’ for all your li’l brothers and sisters.”

Sulu was afraid for a moment that the navigator planned to use the stick to brain DelMonde. Instead the Russian just rolled his eyes and lit the wrapped end of the makeshift torch on fire.

“Sure you don’t want to sleep in the tent?” Sulu offered. Despite the holes, the helmsman had insisted on putting up the collapsible environmental shelter.

“Sulu,” the Russian replied, shaking his head as he looked at the ragged fabric hanging from a precariously leaning frame. “I’m not even sure that it is a tent.”

“Sleep tight, mon petit brave,” Del wished the departing navigator. “Don’ let the bedbugs bite…’specially since they have three inch fangs an’ can suck out your colon.”

Chekov snorted as he held his torch aloft. “You are the one who should be worried about the… creeping crawler creatures.”

“Me?” Del shrugged. “I not scared o’ not'ing.”

The navigator looked at him for a moment calculatingly. “Oh, yes, you are,” he asserted, then departed without further comment.

“What was that about?” Sulu asked, when the Russian’s makeshift torch disappeared from view.

“I dunno,” the engineer said, leaning back and taking a long pull from his flask. “But no man ever won no money bettin’ on what his roommate not know ‘bout him.”

Sulu made a noise of agreement as he looked back at the emergency shelter. “You’re going to sleep in the tent, aren’t you?”

“You need to face the facts, mon ami,” Del said, very seriously. “That there not so much a tent as a collection of rags waitin’ to fall on somebody.”

The helmsman sighed as he rose to retrieve the bedrolls. “You know, I don't think I've ever been alone with just the two of you.”

“Really?” The Cajun nudged one of the logs on the fire into a better position with his foot. “Then we gotta plan more of these li’l crash landin’s.”

As Sulu re-emerged from the dilapidated shelter he commented, “I didn't know the two of you were so...”

“So what?”

“Well...” The helmsman paused with Del’s bedroll in his hand, not quite able to verbalize what he was thinking. “You talk to him.”

The engineer scowled. “What am I, a mute?”

“I did know you for around three months before I found out you could put together sentences that didn't begin with "fuck" and end shortly thereafter with "off," Sulu pointed out as he tossed his friend the roll of bedding.

Del made a dismissive noise as he caught the roll.

"But you talk to Chekov."

"Sometimes I can’t avoid it.”

"It's more than that though.” Again Sulu was stuck for a way to capture the roommates’ odd relationship in words. “You two seem to have jokes, running insults... You sort of have... banter.”

The engineer shrugged. “You live in a li'l metal closet wit' someone, you get to know ‘em.”’

“It's almost like you like him, Del.”

The Cajun narrowed his eyes. “What that s'posed to mean?”

“I don't know.” It was Sulu’s turn to shrug. “You just normally don't like people.”

DelMonde stared at him for a moment before saying, “You a possessive bastard. You know that, doncha?”

The helmsman blinked. “What's that mean?”

“I don't know,” Del imitated him. “Depends on whether or not I th' only one not s’posed to have any other friends, or if he is too.”

Sulu decided this was dangerous territory to explore. "So you do think of him as a friend?" he re-directed.

"All right.” The engineer sighed as set his bedding aside. “Since you obviously not gonna let this go an’ are determined to pester me till I admit somet’ing to that effect, I tell ya the extent to which I do like him. When we at the Academy, I foun’ – to my everlastin’ surprise – that when one was able to put up wit’ the agony an’ inconvenience of goin’ to a bar t' get drunk an’ laid, Pavel Chekov the perfect companion.”

Sulu blinked. “Really?”

“Yeah.” Del took Sulu’s cup, dumped out the remaining coffee and poured in a little bourbon from his flask. “Well, bein’ Russian, the lad has, from birth, been drinkin’ at a semi-professional level an’ can do so for hours on end wit'out feelin’ th' need to engage in odious amateurish habits such as talkin’...”

“...Or even taking deep breaths in between drinks,” Sulu agreed, gratefully accepting the bourbon. “Yeah, I’ve seen that and can see how that might appeal to you…. But about the getting laid part…?”

“Oh, yeah,” The engineer assured him. “He was my huntin’ dog, my retriever.”

The helmsman shook his head. “That I can’t picture.”

“Son, it was a beautiful thing to behold,” Del said, converting the bedroll into a backrest. “We’d set up at a table in the corner of a bar an’ if a couple o’ likely lasses sashayed in 'fore he got too shitfaced to stand up – which was a race some times -- I’d say, ‘Them two are for us. Go get ‘em, boy.’”

“And he actually would?”

“Well, you know, it him, so it be like…” The Cajun assumed a surprisingly Chekovian manner. “Scowl. Roll them eyes. Noise o’ disbelief in my arcane powers. Shake that head. Noise o’ contempt fo’ scandalous uses to which I put my said powers that he not believe in in the firs' place. Finish his drink as if he not gonna go. But in the end, if both them gals is pretty, he trots his young ass up to the bar.”

That Sulu could picture.

“I will admit,” Del said, raising his flask to his lips, “his approach was perfect. Dead drunk or stone sober, he never got cocky, never got cute, never try to mix it up jus’ to see what happen. Every time it be – Put himself next to them girls at the bar. Look down an’ take a deep breath as if he never before been so forward in his life. Li'l side glance. Shy smile. Look down at the bar again. Bite the lip. 'Nother deep breath. 'Nother li'l side glance. Bump it up to the cute smile. Then, “Good evening, ladies.” And you know he got that funny accent an’ all them girls eat that up. Then, gesture to me, an’, ‘May ve buy you a drink?’”

The impression was simultaneously so accurate and so unlikely to be coming from Del, Sulu had to laugh.

“Now that the only place he occasionally mess up,” the engineer remembered. “If he said, ‘May I buy you a drink?’ he blow the whole t'ing. But I able to train him out o’ that pretty quick.”

“You were able to train him?”

“Well, I have to buy the first round o’ drinks so as to remind him he an’ I partners in this venture. But he ain’t dumb, you know. He can tell what work and what don’t.”

Sulu had to laugh again. “And that worked?”

“Oh, hell, yeah. A little amiable chatter till the drinks come, then a good, ‘Vould you care to join us?” and that was all she wrote, son. The rest o’ the evenin’ was a foregone fuckin’ conclusion. Sometimes I not even need to talk to ‘em ‘cept to stand up when I was ready to go an’ say, ‘Okay, girlie, it you and me. Let’s hit it.’”

“That’s romantic.”

“Well, I not exactly lookin’ for true love in them days,” Del said, taking the bedroll from behind his back and untying it. “An’ to tell the truth, sometime the girls were almos' beside the point. Goin’ out to the bar wit’ him was like huntin’ wit’ a good dog. I not t'ink I even bothered sleepin’ with half them gals we pulled.”

“And did he?”

“Who knows? After I left, he on his own.”

For a few moments there was no sound other the crackle of the fire as the engineer spread out his blankets.

“Del,” Sulu finally had to ask, “did you really come on to Chekov’s mom?”

“Lieutenant Commander Sulu,” the engineer replied reprovingly, “You actually t'ink a sophisticated, mature, proper, Russian, very, very married lady like Mrs. Chekov would even consider doin' anyt’ing other’n chattin’ pleasantly wit’ a boy almost exactly young enough to be her son?”

“Well, when you put it that way…” the helmsman began apologetically.

Del held up a warning finger. “’Cause that kind o’ talk ‘bout my future wife not gonna get you no invite to the weddin’ from either me or my stepson.”

*** ** ***

The next morning when Del went back to the shuttle to see if he could persuade the re-gen unit into giving him something he could use for a hook or line, Chekov was already up. The Russian had the ship’s navigational beacon in five different piles that looked like they had no hope of ever fitting them back together.

“You could simply stun the fish with a phaser and gather them in a net,” the navigator said in the sort of sullen tone that usually meant he wanted help but was too proud to ask.

“Why the hell I wanna do that?” Del asked, loading the tackle he’d been able to make into his newly minted bucket.

“It would be faster and more efficient,” Chekov replied with Vulcan-y diffidence.

The Cajun shook his head. “You not have no fun, do you?”

“Only when you're not present,” the Russian said sourly, then seeing that his roommate was on the verge of leaving, he tried. “I am surprised that you are not even going to attempt to replace the relay assemblies on this unit.”

“After yesterday, I wash my hands o’ this piece o’ shit.”

“I would think,” the navigator began, in a broad stab at reverse psychology, “that your professional...”

“Listen, T-Paul.” Del reached down, took the tool out of Chekov's hands, and turned it around. "I not take kindly to havin’ my professionalism questioned first t'ing in the mornin’ by someone who not even know which end of a adinotronic probe to hold."

“I know how to hold it,” the Russian rebutted indignantly before admitting. "I was using it as a very small hammer."

DelMonde shouldered his poles. "Good luck wit’ that."

"Noel, wait." The Russian rummaged around through his scattered gear and then held out a tricorder to the engineer. "I’ve set it to give appropriate perimeter alerts for each of the seventeen predator types we’ve scanned in the area… Try not to be eaten."

"Oh?” The Cajun smiled as he put down his fishing paraphernalia so he could sling the tricorder over his shoulder. “Wassa matter, T-Paul? You not wanna break in a new roommate?"

“That would not be nearly as bad as all the paperwork I would have to file if you suddenly became fish rather than fisherman,” the Russian replied.

“Yeah,” Del conceded, as he re-shouldered his poles. “But t'ink o’ all them thank you cards you get...”

*** ** ***

“Where’s Del?”

Chekov was still puzzling over the navigational beacon more than an hour later when Sulu finally got up. “He went to the lake some time ago.”

Sulu yawned. “What’s this? A jigsaw puzzle?”

“It was the navigational beacon.” The Russian sighed dejectedly. “I was attempting to repair it, but…”

“Well, look at it this way, Pavel,” Sulu consoled, handing him a cup of coffee still warm from the embers of last night’s fire. “You can’t break something that didn’t work in the first place.”

The Russian nodded. “That is a good point.”

The helmsman watched his friend work in silence for a few moments, enjoying the cool, fresh breeze and the sheer pleasure of being outdoors in the morning. “Shouldn’t that go there?” he suggested.

“One would assume so.” Chekov picked up the two indicated pieces and tried to interlock them. “But, as you see…”

“Let me see that.” Sulu put down his mug.

“I do not think that I am missing a piece either,” the navigator said, trying to bring his fellow officer up-to-date on his lack of progress. “It should connect.”

The helmsman frowned at the two mechanisms. “Maybe there’s an adaptor.”

“I haven’t found one…”

“I wonder if we could make one?”

“Perhaps.” Chekov reclaimed one of the components and began to turn it over in his hand.

Seeing that this was exactly the way the Russian had been drawn into obsessing over this non-functional piece of equipment, Sulu handed the other half back as well. He picked up his coffee again and watched the navigator try different pieces in the oddly shaped sockets of the two components. The helmsman’s mind began to drift towards the story Del had told last night. Instead of coming up with brilliant solutions to Chekov’s engineering problem, his brain kept creating pictures of the Russian out at a bar, obediently bringing girls to the Cajun like a well-trained hunting dog. Finally curiosity finally got the better of Sulu. “Del says that you used to go drinking with him.”

“At the Academy?” Chekov rummaged through a pile of metal tubes with short prongs on his left. “He was my roommate. It would have been rude not to.”

Sulu took another sip of coffee. “He says the two of you used to pick up girls.”

The navigator looked up. “Upon occasion,” he admitted guardedly. “Why? Did he tell some story about me last night?”

“Are there stories about you?” the helmsman asked innocently.

The Russian sighed. “Much has been made of the fact that I dated more than one woman with whom Noel had broke off relations…” The navigator cleared his throat guiltily. “…almost immediately after he had broken off relations, in fact. But it’s all exaggeration. You should know how these rumors and silly nicknames get out of hand.”

“The Collector” nodded with rueful sympathy.

“It was all a long time ago now.” Chekov picked up tube with a slotted end. “And I was still very young at the time.”

“Yeah, I guess so.” Sulu took another sip of his coffee.

After a moment, the navigator turned back to him. “He didn’t tell you the story about the clothes, did he?” the Russian asked, making a visible effort not to appear anxious.


The navigator’s cheeks grew a little pink. “About the wrong clothes?”

“No,” Sulu replied slowly, his curiosity piqued.

“Good,” Chekov replied a little too quickly. “It was not very interesting, really. I’m glad he’s forgotten about it.”

This item immediately moved to the head of Sulu’s “Things to Ask Del” list. “He said you were really good at picking up girls.”

“Did he?”

“That surprises you?”

“At the time,” Chekov informed him as he tried to force the two tubes in his hand together, “I believe he was more in the habit of saying I was a ‘fucking moron’.”

Sulu shrugged. “That sounds like something he’d say.”

“He said that my idiocy was such a burden on him and everyone around us that I literally constituted a drag on the planet's rotation.”

The helmsman nodded. “He says things like that.”

“And that the only reason I would ever be graduated from the Academy would be in hopes that sending me to space would make days go by a little faster.”

Instead of commenting, Sulu diplomatically picked up a coil that had been lying behind the navigator’s foot and fitted it into one of the slotted tubes.

“He kept a chart above his desk in our cabin which displayed calculations he'd made of the exact amount of drag I constituted on the planet,” Chekov reported, taking this combination from the helmsman and fitting it into one of the pronged tubes.

Sulu tried not to smile. “Oh, he did, did he?”

“Updated periodically to reflect the increased burden of what he considered to be any instances of outstanding idiocy on my part.”

“Well, you know what you should have done? You should have just done a chart on him.”

Chekov suddenly needed to look at a component very far away from the helmsman. “That would have been childish, though,” he said. “Wouldn’t it?”

Sulu couldn’t help but notice that the Russian hadn't said ‘no.’ "What was yours?"

The navigator shrugged. "It didn't stay up long," he temporized.


The navigator took in a deep breath before confessing, "I did a statistical analysis predicting the likelihood of Noel having sexual relations with some of our less attractive instructors...”

Sulu raised both eyebrows. “Oh?”

“... And several varieties of domesticated animals...” the Russian continued. “…And a few non-bipedal alien lifeforms.”

The helmsman couldn’t help laughing. “And I bet it was updated too.”

“Of course,” Chekov said, as if they were talking about a report he’d prepared for Mr. Spock. “Depending on information added to my data set concerning the demonstrated proclivities of the subjects.”

“Of course,” Sulu agreed. “Sounds like you had to put some work into it..”

“I was taking a xenobiology course,” Chekov explained. “I almost considered turning it in as my final project.”

“Del made you take it down, though?”

“Indirectly.” The Russian put aside the components he was working with and picked up a solar cell to test. “I found out that Noel had invited one of my instructors in Hydrometrics over for a drink…thankfully before it happened.”

“And she was on the list?” Sulu guessed.

Chekov nodded. “The chart was rank-ordered in ascending order of likelihood.”

“And she ranked…?”

“Somewhere between pigs, sheep, and Denebian Slime Devils.”

Sulu whistled. “That would have been awkward to explain.”

“And worse still if he actually slept with her,” the Russian added.


“Oh, yes,” the navigator agreed seriously. “The data set would have been hopelessly skewed.”

*** ** ***

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