"Julie, wait up!" Travis Mayweather called to the wiry blonde MACO, who was rushing down C Deck on the NX-01 Enterprise.
"Hmm?" She turned around and waited for him to catch up to her.
"What's the rush?"
"I always walk like this."
"I see," he commented as they began to walk again, although more slowly. Julie McKenzie looked like she was about to break into another run.
"You're, you're a live wire, it seems."
"I dunno," she mumbled.
"If you got somewhere you gotta be in a hurry," Travis said, "It's okay; I won't be offended."
"Can I tell you a secret?"
"It's how I escape," Julie admitted, stopping in the corridor for a moment, but looking for all the world like she was about to bolt again.
"And leave all this?" His sweeping gesture encompassed the nearby turbolift.
"You know what I mean."
"Yeah, yeah, I suppose I do."
"Everybody else seems depressed, even the captain," Julie observed, "except for you, Travis."
"Yeah, really! Everybody else on board is either obsessed with finding a mate, or harping on the fact that we're stuck here, in the 2030s, when we should be in the 2150s."
"Yeah, that damned Kovaalan particle wake. But you said I was the exception."
"Yes," Julie confirmed, "you just seem to be cheerful all the time, despite everything."
"I got my moments. I'm not always happy, yanno."
"But you're not depressed though, right?"
"No, definitely not."
"Don't tell me you're in the tribe of people who are desperate to find a spouse." She eyed him cautiously. Such were typical issues on a generational ship, which had been the case ever since the Enterprise had been kicked back in time over a century. That Kovaalan particle wake had stranded them in the Delphic Expanse. Afraid of damaging the correct timeline, they had stayed in the Expanse. A ship of exploration and defense had turned into one that flew around a small area of space, over and over and over again. With no thoughts of space exploration, exploration had become internal.
"A little," Travis admitted, "I got my eye on someone."
"Oh? Starfleet or MACO?"
"MACO," he replied.
"Ah, hmm. There's Nan Myers, Susie Money, Amanda Cole, and Christina Parsons."
"It's none of them," Travis said. "And it's not one of the guys."
Julie stood there for a second and then turned on her heel and fled. "I'm not ready for this."
Travis stood alone for a second and blinked several times. "Well, that sucked," he muttered aloud to no one.
She avoided him for nearly a month. The ship was small, but their schedules rarely truly coincided. Julie volunteered for additional duties, and Major Hayes, her commanding officer, was more than happy to give her added responsibilities or workouts or arms training.
They were alone in the Armory, putting a pair of phase rifles away. "What's going on?" Hayes asked.
"Corporal, I'm not normally the kind of guy who looks a gift horse in the mouth. But you are volunteering way too much. People aren't normally as eager as you seem to be."
"I like my job, sir."
"No, it's something else," Jay Hayes insisted. "Don't bullshit a bullshitter, McKenzie."
"I, um, please don't take this the wrong way, sir, but I'm not too comfortable confiding in you."
"Uh, that's all right. Just find someone, all right?"
But they really wasn't anyone. Julie lived with Nanette Myers, but the two women weren't close. She barely knew any of the Starfleet women – or men, for that matter. Wandering around D Deck one evening, she stumbled into the mess hall after hours. The sous chef, Lili O'Day, was cleaning up with Engineering Crewman Craig Willets.
"Am I intruding?" Julie asked.
"Oh, no," Lili said, "Craig here was just explaining how the refrigeration unit works."
"It's a fascinating piece of machinery," he said. "I could start back from the beginning."
"Please, no," Lili countered.
"Oh, am I boring you?"
"No comment," Lili said diplomatically, "so, what brings you here?" she asked Julie. "I think we're out of lemon bars."
"Oh, no thanks," Julie replied. She glanced around. "I can, uh, I don't need to stay. I'll only keep you."
"Craig," Lili asked, "can you check on the sanitizer?"
"Sure thing." He went into the back.
"Do you wanna talk?" Lili asked.
"Yeah," Julie admitted, "but not with an audience."
"Say no more. Craig!" Lili called.
"When you're done, you can go, okay?"
"You sure you don't need any more help?"
"I'm good," Lili answered, "we got girl talk."
"Oh," he came out briefly. "I can't help with that. The machine's not done with the dishes yet."
"That's okay; you don't have to wait." When he had left, Lili turned to Julie as they sat down, "You and I don't know each other at all, not really. So what brings this on?"
"That's just it," Julie explained, "nobody knows me, and I don't know anyone."
"Not even Nan?"
"Especially not Nan. We just sorta coexist. We get along but it's not a friendship, not really."
"You do realize that you and I are no closer than that?" Lili asked the younger woman, who nodded. "Be that as it may, I'll do what I can to help out, but I can't promise perfection."
"That's all right," Julie allowed, "I just, I need someone to talk to right now."
"And not Phlox?"
"I don't think he'd understand. See, Lili, it's Travis."
"He's kind and he's sweet – I mean, everybody knows that, right? And I've been watching, as everyone either grabs partners or, or …."
"... or retreats into depression." Lili finished the sentence for her.
"That, too," Julie agreed. "He, um, he approached me today."
"And I just don't feel ready for anything," Julie admitted.
"Okay," Lili allowed, "you have every right to want to take your time, yanno. Or if there's someone else you'd prefer; there's nothing wrong with going after that person, too."
"I don't prefer anyone over him, Lili."
"Then what's the problem?"
"I, I dunno," the younger woman admitted. "He's nice. He's good-looking. I have little doubt that he would be attentive and charming and sensitive, all of those things that everyone says they want."
"Do you want those things, Julie?"
"I just want life to be, to be normal. And it's not normal. I was brought on board by Major Hayes to do a job, nothing more. I wasn't brought here to go husband-hunting."
"Can I tell you a secret?"
"Chef hit on me."
"Oh. What did you do?"
"I deflected and deflected, and now it's getting problematic. I agree with you; I'd love for life to be normal, too. But we live on a generational ship. Normal left the station a long, long time ago."
"Yeah," Julie smiled a little. "How are you gonna leave it with Chef?"
"See, the problem is that I work under him, egad. And that is, confidentially, the only way I wanna be under him. Know what I mean?"
Despite how lost she was feeling; Julie chuckled at that. "Oh, God. I can't, I just can't imagine." She hid her face a bit with her hands. "Is that bad? Oh, God, I mean, it's, it's not like, I, uh, I can't say it."
"Promise you won't be mad, Lili?"
"I will do no such thing," Lili pretended to be indignant.
"I just, it's kinda like thinking about, about your father doing it." Julie wrinkled her nose.
"Eek, yeah, and Chef is actually just about the same age as me. But I am totally not feeling it. See, there are other guys on board, I could see it, yanno? And it wouldn't feel so weird and awkward. Except everything is weird and awkward these days."
"I guess it is. But who is, um, less weird and awkward to you?"
"No comment! We are not talking about my problems, Corporal – we are talking about yours."
"Right, that. I, um, this has helped, Lili."
"Absolutely. I, uh, I just needed to get some perspective, I think. Thanks."
"Uh, don't mention it." Lili shrugged as Julie departed, wondering what she had said that had helped in any fashion.
As before, Julie rushed down the hallway. But this time, she had a destination in mind. She hit his door chime a few times until he answered. "Hey," he said when he saw her, "what brings on this visit?"
"Travis, I, uh, promise me you'll go slowly."
"I, um, yeah, of course."
"No, no, promise!"
Travis gazed at her, and crossed his heart. "I do so promise, on my word, on my honor, on my mother's life, my father's, and my brother's, even though none of them have been born yet. I swear to you, Julie McKenzie, that I will be careful and slow. I swear that I will listen. I swear I will not be pushy or anxious. I do so promise. I do so swear." She stood there looking at him and so he added, "And I will start by, by waiting. I will wait one month from today before I ask you out, for real."
Julie nodded. "Then it'll be November the twenty-third."
"Of 2037," Julie confirmed.
The appropriate moment arrived just after an outing on a small planet they were claiming within the Delphic Expanse and using for agriculture. They had returned to the ship with others – including Hayes – and Julie, as usual, had hightailed it out of there as soon as possible.
"Julie!" Travis called after her. The month-long waiting period was up.
"Thanks for coming along today."
"Oh, it's no trouble," she told him, "the outings are kinda fun."
"I was, uh, wondering," he said, "do you like looking at star maps?"
"You know, the maps and stuff."
"I prefer looking at the stars themselves," she replied.
"If you, uh, if you like, maybe I could show you on a PADD a map of where I've been, and we could look out the window of the Observation Lounge and I could point some of those places out to you tonight."
"Are you asking me out, Travis?"
"Is that a bad thing?"
"Not at all," she smiled, "I think it'll be fun. In fact, I'm sure it will be."
"I didn't forget my promise," Travis assured her, "On my word, Julie, on my honor."
"Thank you for honoring it."
Julie McKenzie's Personal log, November twenty-third, 2037
Travis and I are going to go look at the stars soon, if yanno what I mean.