A Perfect Note

Striking out has a more permanent effect on a crewman than would normally be expected. Takes place on October 28, 2153.

"Before the dying of the light," Lucas Donnelly muttered, tapping on a PADD. "Night. Light. White. Right."

"Plight," Lili O'Day commented, looking over his shoulder as she cleared the otherwise deserted mess hall on the NX-01 Enterprise.

"Do I need to move?" he asked.

"Uh, actually, Luke, just stay where you are. But I'll need you to lift your feet when I clean the floor."

"Got it," he replied, getting back to it. "Slight. Bite. No, definitely not bite."

"What are you doing, anyway? Everybody else finished dinner and vamoosed a long time ago," she commented as she wiped down the tables.

"See, it's like this," he explained. "I'm trying to write the perfect note. It's going to include a poem, so that I can impress someone special. It's got to be perfect, and I just can't get the poem right."

"Huh, well, write also rhymes. You know, like to write a note, or a poem." She took a break and sat down on one of the chairs. "Who's the lucky gal? Er, guy?"

"Guy," he said. "Dave Constantine."

"Oh, he's cute. Uh, I'm not so sure if he is, yanno."

"He is definitely gay," Luke said. "Same as me, Frank Todd, and Preston Jennings."

"Huh. This is for our upcoming Movie Night, I bet. So, a poem, eh?"

"Yeah," Luke confirmed, "and a perfect note has to go along with it, too. Eh, who am I kidding? Poem or no, it is just not gonna happen."

"Why are you saying that? You've got a lot to offer."

"I'm too damned old." He sighed, running his fingers through auburn hair that was beginning to be salted with grey flecks. "Yanno, Lili, sometimes I just wanna chuck it all. You ever feel that way?"

"How do you think I ended up here? And for the Xindi War! Not my smartest decision, I sometimes think. Then I remember how much I hated doing the books at my old restaurant, and how the oven didn't always work right."

"I can see where that would be something you'd want to put in your rear-view. You know what I would do, if we weren't in the Delphic Expanse, and I could just bug out any time I wanted to?"

"I have no idea," she said, getting up and walking to the back. "Keep talking, but speak up so I can hear you, okay?"

"Sure thing." He cleared his throat a little and then increased his own volume. "I would quit; yanno? And I'd go into training or something like that. I'm tired of wars and everything that goes with 'em."

"Training?" Lili asked, returning with a carpet sweeper. "Now's when I need for you to lift your feet, Luke."

"Oh, uh, yeah." He complied.

"So, Mister Donnelly, you like teaching?"

"Not so much."

"I hate to break this to you," she remarked, "but your career in training is gonna be cut kinda short if you don't do any teaching."

"Nah, Lili," he said, "It's the writing of the problems. That's what I wanna do."

"Ah, you mean like Math, and stuff like that?"

"More like Tactical, like I do now. Your mind wanders, know what I'm sayin'?" Luke explained. "It's the sort of, uh, can I put my feet down now?"

"Oh, sorry, of course you can. Do go on," she encouraged.

"Right, well, it's scenario problems. You know, if you and, say, Major Hayes, if you were captured by Klingons, what would you do? That sort of thing."

"Got it, I think. Confidentially, I'd probably fold, with apologies to the Major. Except for the pumpkin pie recipe. That one I take to my grave."

There was an urgent chime. The intercom came on. "All hands, this is the captain." It was Captain Archer's voice. "We've just spotted a pair of Xindi vessels dropping out of warp. Go to battle stations. This is not a drill. Repeat: this is not a drill."

They dropped what they were doing. Lili went down a nearby corridor, remaining on E Deck. Her destination was Sick Bay in case she was needed to assist. Chef William Slocum arrived soon; he was there for the same reason.

Luke went to F Deck, to where there were torpedo magazines. He was ready to help launch the torpedoes, manually if necessary, if any of the firing mechanisms failed. He joined Ethan Shapiro, a fellow Tactical crewman.

Despite the excitement going on just outside the ship, the wait by the torpedo magazines was, Luke had to admit, a bit dull. His mind started to wander. "Luke, I said," Ethan's tone was a tad critical, "we gotta be on alert. No daydreaming." Ethan wasn't senior to Luke, but he was right.

"Uh, right. Ethan, do you think you were trained properly?"

"What? Of course I was." Ethan, who was considerably younger than Luke, shifted from foot to foot.

"C'mon, you weren't even out of the Academy and you got thrown into the deep end with the rest of us. The Xindi attacked, and we barely had the time to scramble together. Don't you think you shoulda had more preliminary training?"

"There was no time for that, Luke." As they watched, a torpedo automatically fired. "Everything seems to be working okay."

"Right, uh, I know there wasn't a lotta time for preliminaries when they hit Florida and South America. But what if there was?"

"That's kinda moot right now." Ethan went over to a torpedo magazine and looked it over as they remained on alert.

"Point taken," Luke conceded, "but consider the next war."

"I'd rather not be fighting it," Ethan declared.

"You, me, and everybody and his brother feels that way. Maybe it'll happen anyway. Don't you wanna be ready?" Luke went over to a station where they could monitor matters. "We're in good shape here; everything's performing at peak efficiency, far as I can tell."

The intercom came on again. "All hands, this is Captain Archer again. We were lucky that time; this one wasn't so bad. Good work; Archer out."

"I guess we can stand down," Ethan said. Sure enough, there was a short, written communication on their PADDs, from Tactical Officer Malcolm Reed. They were done for the time being. "You gonna go to Movie Night? I hear Chip's showing the original Night of the Living Dead. I'm gonna ask Karin."

"Oh? Uh, well, maybe I'll go. You think Stellar Cartography is going? I mean guys like Dave Constantine – you know if he's going, uh, with anybody?" asked Luke. They began to shuffle out and headed to E Deck. Luke glanced at his PADD, remembering the unfinished note and the equally unfinished poem. Both of those had to be absolutely perfect.

"Luke? Earth to Luke! I said, actually, I think he's going with Preston Jennings."

"Oh." Luke's tone was one of some disappointment. "I'll, uh, I don't feel like a movie, I don't think."

"Suit yourself," Ethan shrugged, not noticing Luke's tone of voice, as he spotted Karin Bernstein walking down one of E Deck's corridors.

They ran into Lili. Ethan greeted her and then departed to go after Karin and ask her to Movie Night. Lili looked at Luke. "Something wrong?"

"Looks like I missed the boat with Constantine."

"I'm so sorry." She patted his arm awkwardly.

"Yanno," he said, "I just want a damned perfect note. Something that, that takes care of everything. And if I couldn't get one, dammit, I wanted to at least send one."

"I've never gotten a note like that."

"Me neither," Luke admitted.

"Maybe they don't exist," Lili sighed a little, "I'm still sorry that this happened."

"It's okay. It was a long shot, anyway. I'll, um, I gotta go. I'm gonna talk to my friend Ko about this. And I've gotta do my log, that sorta stuff."

"Well, okay, but don't be a stranger."

His quarters were on E Deck, so the walk there was a quick one. Once he'd closed the door, and was satisfied that his roommate was nowhere to be found, Luke turned on his desktop unit and set it to voice recognition mode. "Personal log, October 28th, 2153."

He paused a moment to gather his thoughts. "The more I think about it, the more I wanna go into training once this war is over. I'm sick of this whole business. There's no organization, and no control over anything. It's all, I dunno, there's nothing predictable. I realize that life generally doesn't work that way. Uh, stop recording a sec." The cursor flashed, signifying that the system had paused.

"Like with Constantine, dammit. That was nothing predictable, and it sure as hell wasn't something I had any control over." He paused and rubbed his eyes with the heels of his hands. "I don't, I don't begrudge Preston. He's a good guy. And maybe this is nothing; maybe Ethan was wrong. But I don't, I don't wanna go to Movie Night and, and maybe take a chance that he's right. I guess that's my sure thing, only it's not so sure at all, to, to not confirm it, one way or the other. I just, man, I just don't want the hurt to be confirmed. I don't even know any more if that makes any sense."

He took a deep breath. "Resume recording." The cursor flashed again. "For, for after this war is over, I wanna go into training. And I wanna talk about, about scenarios, that sort of thing. Good ones, bad ones, impossible ones, all of that stuff. My life and my note may not be perfect, but maybe I can, maybe I can write a, a perfect problem, one that recruits will never be able to solve. Heh, they're gonna hate me." He paused for a second and chuckled a little. "Maybe erase that last sentence, computer."

The cursor flashed a little as the machine responded to his command. He thought for a while. "I think it's an area that's been severely neglected in our training. I've been mooning over Constantine, trying to write him bad poetry and otherwise not facing the fact that he is completely uninterested. And I, well, maybe the best thing to do is call an old boyfriend, and take my mind off things, and scrap perfection for the time being. Ko will snap me out of this. It may be long over between us, but he's always been good at doing that, keeping me from feeling sorry for myself."

He swallowed before continuing. "Uh, Computer, end log entry."

Luke thought a bit and finished his poem, which was a Shakespearean sonnet. "I should share this with somebody. Computer, get me Starfleet Headquarters. I wanna talk to, uh, Ko is gonna be assigned to the Columbia once it's built."

The computer screen automatically typed out an inquiry – specify the party connected to the Columbia who you wish to contact.

"He's in Communications," Luke paused, "Ensign Kobayashi Maru."

Before the dying of the light

All I wish is to hold you near

You would be such a wond'rous sight

Allow me to whisper in your ear

Within the vastness of deep space

Anyone can feel so small

Yet I just want to see your face

Well, I admit, that isn't all

So far apart, and yet nearly beside

But still intrudes this nasty war

A kiss could start a wild ride

And isn't that what starlight's for?

Yet after all this contemplation

It's just a no-win situation