David Kano & Victor Bergman discuss their unrequited loves over a game of chess...
It was David's move and Victor knew how much he hated to lose. They were evenly matched so the game often continued to the limits of their endurance and was only lost by the first person to succumb to his fatigue. Even so, David had been staring at the board for over fifteen minutes contemplating his next move, which was odd at this early stage in the game. There were as yet limited options and none of them would be catastrophic...but Victor was acutely aware that his opponent's mind was not really focussed on the board in front of him.
He sighed and and tapped David on the shoulder "A penny for them?".
David Kano jerked his head up and blinked as if trying to bring his mind back to the present situation "Sorry Professor, I was miles away." He reached forward to move his pawn but Victor gently but firmly grabbed David by the wrist to stop him in his tracks "Let's take a break, I have a bottle of '79 McAdam Whiskey gathering dust in my quarters. How about a nightcap whilst we brainstorm whatever has been so distracting you for the entire evening."
David Kano just nodded, hoping the whiskey would induce the Professor's usual ebullient verbosity to manifest itself sooner rather than later, thus affording him the opportunity to say little or - the Gods willing - nothing at all. David Kano was a man of few words and those he did speak were most often directed at the computer. He understood Computer and 'she' understood him. They both had logical minds that thought alike. If only Computer had a woman's body and a warm touch. If only he could transplant Computer's mind into her body ! He dared not think her name out loud, even in his mind. After all, she was as good as spoken for and she was completely unaware of his existence in any context bar that of a valued and useful colleague. Oh she was kind enough to him, but then she was to everyone in Main Mission. She was kind; gentle; beautiful and had a very ordered and efficient mind. His dream woman...but that is all she would ever be and the sooner he stopped dreaming about her the better. Especially if it was distracting him from his game enough for the Professor to notice and call him on it. Just imagine what the Professor would think of him if he knew the truth! He had no idea whether Victor Bergman's first reaction would be to laugh; pity him or recoil in disgust but he had no intention of finding out.
Meanwhile Victor had headed along the corridor and down one level to his quarters to retrieve the last of his '79 whiskey. It was ironic that he was now going to share it with David Kano of all people. The truth is that he had been saving it, planning to open it with her on her birthday...after all he would need all the 'Dutch Courage' he could muster if he was ever going to admit to her how he felt. Well they had been adrift in deep space for sixteen months now and she had had two birthdays in that time. One just after Breakaway and the other almost four months ago now and he had chickened out both times. On the first occasion she had marked it with a few drinks with her colleagues in Medical Centre and this year he strongly suspected she had spent it quietly dining with John. Which was, of course -he admonished himself - as it should be. He was too old for that sort of thing and besides he had a mechanical heart that allowed him to live on borrowed time. No : romance was for the young and fit, but had he met her ten years ago then he may just have given John Koenig a run for his money. So perhaps this last bottle would be of some comfort after all. Unless he was very much mistaken, young David Kano was struggling with matters of the heart too...
Fifty minutes later...
By mutual consent they had resumed their game just as Victor poured the last shots into their whiskey glasses. Somehow, in the last hour he had morphed from 'The Professor' into his friend Victor through silent collusion. They had toasted to friendship; exploration; new discoveries and to brinkmanship. This latter had brought their attention back to the chess board in front of them. Victor had suggested that they clear the decks and start their match afresh with their newfound 'decluttered heads'. Bizarrely, although he could feel the full effects of the early stages of intoxication, David Kano did feel as though a weight had been lifted. Why, he must be feeling bold, as Victor had given him the choice - black or white - and for the first time ever he had chosen white. David Kano always preferred to go second, reacting to the Professor's opening gambit and trying to deduce his game plan move by move. To select white would place the ball, or more accurately the pawn, (he mentally chastised himself for the faux pas) firmly in his court : and he hated taking centre stage. Victor merely raised a sardonic eyebrow and nodded. Kano's move it was.
Within a couple of moves Victor spotted David's elementary mistake and managed to capture his first knight of the match. He saw the realisation hit in his friend's eyes the moment Victor moved his pawn. To lose a knight to a pawn this early in the game...mortifying and inexcusable in David's eyes. More fool him for letting that alcohol induced bravado override his innate caution and common sense.
Victor could see David's internal berating of himself and decided it was the perfect time to crack the door open on their 'impossible' conversation. "It would seem my bottle of '79 is helping focus our attention elsewhere than on our game. I got lucky David, had you chosen black it is I who would be staring at a gaping hole in my defences instead of you."
"Nonsense Professor. I know you are trying to make me feel better but you would never have made such a novice's mistake. Even after an entire bottle of whiskey."
Victor just smiled and studied David intently for what seemed an age before replying " Much as I am tempted to hold my counsel and allow your belief in my infallibility to stand, it would be wrong of me to do so. You see, I can make an educated guess at what is distracting you, or rather, should I say who...a certain young lady that you hold in high esteem perhaps?" Seeing that he had hit the nail on the proverbial head by the expression in the younger man's eyes before he rapidly looked down, pretending to concentrate on his next move, Victor strove to alleviate his pain. "It's not rocket science, or indeed intellectual observation my friend. Just knowledge born of experience and fellow feeling."
David Kano felt his world shifting under his feet. The Professor had feelings for her...his own fantasy woman?! As if reading his mind Victor chuckled as he downed his last shot. "No not Sandra. Helena." Victor could not believe he had actually said those words out loud. And in company ! Perhaps he had better retract...make a joke of it before Kano realised he had voiced his deepest desires. As Victor Bergman struggled to make his usually razor sharp mind form a believable punchline David squeezed his shoulder and as he looked up he could see the suppressed tears in his young friend's eyes. "And she will never know, Professor. Will she?"
"Any more than Sandra will have an inkling from you. We both care for them too much to spoil their obvious happiness with the partners they have chosen. You have Computer and I have..."
"You have the admiration, respect and friendship of all the senior staff on Alpha AND the satisfaction of whooping my butt on a regular basis : even without the help of your vintage '79."
The two men regarded each other warmly as their camaraderie reached a new depth.
Then David Kano suprised Victor Bergman by getting up and retrieving a small rectangular box from deep within his toolbox. It contained the last three on the Moonbase. He had personally salvaged them after the fire in the Science Research Laboratory block that had almost destroyed Alpha during the Deltan/Bethan battle of the sexes. Opening the lid just a little as he passed it over to his new best friend "I presume you have a light?"
Somehow the aroma of burnt coffee and toast with just a hint of cinnamon put everything into perspective. "Checkmate" Victor exclaimed, somewhat in surprise, and for once David Kano did not mind losing at all.