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Out in the Open

Chapter 1 - Pirates and Mutiny ... It Must Be a Monday

Below the remnants of the firefight still suspended in the sky, the small craft screamed toward the planet's surface, ripping through the dense foliage before skimming along the ground and coming to a halt, overturned, its passengers hidden beneath its battered surface.

With groans and muttered curses they slowly climbed out, each looking at one another, assessing the damage to their craft and themselves.

Delbert Doppler envied Jim Hawkins' youth and seemingly effortless ability to more or less shake off the effects of the crash they'd just endured. Turning, he watched as Amelia, Captain of the RLS Legacy, stood, only to clutch at her side as she collapsed to her knees.

"Captain!" He reached out to steady her, placing a hand on her hip and his arm circling around her waist to keep her upright.

"Oh, don't fuss! Slight bruising, that's all, Doctor. A cup of tea, and I'll be right as rain."

She brushed an errant lock of hair from her eyes. "Mister Hawkins," she began, but broke off, suddenly finding it difficult to focus. "Mr. Hawkins," she tried again, regaining her bearings. "The map, if you please."

But there was no map. Only a playful Morph and one very agitated band of castaways. With the treasure map still on the ship, there was only one conclusion. Go back to the ship. But first they needed to find shelter. The mutinous band of pirates wouldn't be far behind, and staying out in the open, vulnerable to any attack, was not an option.

" We need a more defensible position, not to mention shelter," Amelia stated flatly. "To stay out here would be suicide."

"I agree," Doppler nodded. "But where?"

Amelia started forward and stopped, her eyes closing in pain.

Delbert placed a steadying hand on her arm. "Captain, you're in no condition to go anywhere. We need to assess your injuries and see how badly you're hurt."

"I'm fine, Doctor," she growled.

But both Jim and Doppler could easily see she wasn't.

"I'll go," Jim volunteered, hoping to ease the obviously tense situation. "Morph and I'll scout ahead and find a good hiding place and then come back for you two."

"Good plan, Jim," Doppler agreed, a little too quickly.

Amelia knew she was being played, but realized there wasn't much she could do about it. She really was in no condition to argue.

"Very well, Mr. Hawkins. Scout ahead, and take this." She tossed him a plasma pistol. "Be careful. We have no idea what this planet is home to."

"Aye, Captain." He glanced pointedly at Delbert. "I'll be back shortly, Doctor. Let's make sure our patient is ready to go."

Delbert nodded in understanding. Both watched the young man head south, letting his profile disappear before finally turning back to each other.

Amelia gave him a withering glare. "Be about your business, Doctor. I'm fine," she scowled.

"Nevertheless, I must insist we take a look at it, Captain."

"Really, Doctor. This isn't necessary," she protested, once again rising to stand, only to quickly drop back to the ground.

"Hmm, yes. Definitely not necessary," Doppler snorted. He laid a gentle hand on her shoulder. "Now come. Lie still and let me have a look."

Amelia held his gaze for a moment, silently debating. Her training screamed for her to maintain a Captain's decorum. Show no pain. Be in absolute control. But, truth be told, she was hurting ... rather badly, in fact. The dull ache in her left side had transformed into a piercing throb. Besides, Delbert ... Doppler, she quickly corrected herself, was looking at her with such concern in those warm, brown eyes of his. She felt her resistance crumbling. Perhaps it wouldn't be so terribly awful to let her guard down. Just this once.

"Very well, Doctor," she relented. "Examine the area, if you must."

Not giving her the chance to change her mind, Doppler quickly knelt down beside her and began unbuttoning her waistcoat. A moment later, his mind registered what his fingers were doing.

Amelia watched as a dull blush crept across the Doctor's face. "Why, Doctor," she teased, gritting her teeth against the increasing pain, "I do believe you're blushing."

"Yes, well, I can't imagine why. Undressing the Captain while stranded on a jungle planet - it's not exactly something they taught at the University. Ah! There we are."

The waistcoat unbuttoned, Delbert slowly pushed it off, allowing only a moment's glance at the graceful, lithe arms now revealed. Without the high gloves and a coat covering them, they looked very different. Not at all as he'd imagined. He was pleasantly surprised. But, he reflected, now was not the time to dwell on such things.

"I'm going to have to, um, lift a portion on your shirt," he stammered. "Please realize it's stripping ... strictly," he quickly corrected, "professional."

"Noted, Doctor." The reply was squeaked out behind the tight set of her mouth.

Delbert focused on the injured side and slowly raised the white blouse. His eyes were glued to the gossamer fur that was revealed. No blood. Most assuredly a good sign, he thought.

"I'm going to feel the area now and try to determine if anything's broken."

Amelia nodded and watched as he gently laid a hand against her side. Gingerly touching the area, Doppler moved his fingers around, searching for anything amiss. The sensation of the soft fur beneath his touch made it difficult to concentrate.


He pulled back quickly. "I'm sorry! Did I hurt you?"

"A little," she growled. "It's extremely tender there."

"Hmm." Delbert frowned from behind his glasses. "It didn't feel broken, but that doesn't mean it couldn't be fractured." He stroked his chin in thought. "I'm hesitant to move you for fear of causing more damage."

Amelia snorted. "Well, we certainly can't stay here. Those blasted pirates will be here at any moment."

"I agree with your assessment, Captain, but I also know that aggravating your injury will make you even less useful."

"Less useful?"

Sensing the dangerous ground he was treading upon, Doppler quickly changed the subject. "As soon as Jim returns, we'll find a place to hide and decide how to get off this planet. But for now, I think I should rig some sort of sling for your arm. The less movement, the better."

Amelia narrowed her eyes at him, knowing full that he was avoiding the topic. But, a sling would provide better support, she reasoned, and so she glossed over his earlier verbal transgression.

"I would have to agree with you, Doctor," she conceded. "A sling would be most agreeable at this moment."

"I can't believe you actually agree with me," he muttered as he began looking around for material.

Amelia laughed. "Neither can I. But they say there's a first time for everything, Doctor."

Doppler looked at her silently for a moment and then, in a soft voice, "Yes, I suppose there is."

Flustered by his rather-frank admission, Amelia used the throbbing in her side as an excuse to look away for a moment and collect her thoughts. The man sitting before her was bumbling, book-learned, had no practical knowledge of sailing and sometimes, she wondered if he had any practical, common sense. But this was also the man who had, at a moment's notice and in time of need, risen to the challenge, helping them escape the Legacy. This was the man who, even in all his bumblings, had shown tender concern for her injuries, taken charge and not let her get away with the impenetrable facade she commonly projected.

God love him, for all that Mr. Arrow had been for her, at this moment, he was nothing compared to Delbert Doppler. As she pondered these things, the astrophysicist finally gave up on finding suitable material for a sling and settled for the most obvious, not to mention available, choice. She turned at the sound of material being ripped in two. "What are you doing?" she questioned as he tore the elegant, silk scarf that he'd carried in his pocket since leaving port.

"Making a sling," he muttered. "What does it look like I'm doing?"

"Doctor, I distinctly recall you mentioning that was to be a gift."

"It was," he shrugged. "I'll find something else to replace it."

"But it's Thorekian silk. You cannot simply replace it. I know, for a fact, how expensive a Thorekian scarf is."

"It was a Thorekian scarf," he corrected. "Now, it's a sling. If it will make you feel better, consider it a Thorekian sling. Only the best for the Captain." He smiled and gingerly placed her arm in the sling.

Amelia was touched, to say the least. Thorekian silk did not come cheaply. Whomever Doppler had purchased it for must be quite special. She frowned realizing, suddenly, that thought didn't set well with her. Not at all. Was it possible that there was someone back home waiting for him? True, they hadn't spent much time together. Perhaps she had misread his sudden bouts of shyness when around her, his slips of the tongue being a mere effect of being flustered by her presence as a captain and not as a ... woman. The frown deepened. Not a pleasant thought at all.

"I'll reimburse you for the silk, Doctor," she said quietly.

"Really, Captain, that's not necessary. I --,"

"I insist upon it, Doctor. After all, you'll want to replace the silk with an equally beautiful gift." She sighed. "She must be very special."

Doppler looked up from tying the sling and gave her a perplexed look. "She?"

"Whomever you purchased the scarf for."

"Sarah?" His eyes widened. "Well, uh, I never really ... yes, yes she is quite special. Most extraordinary woman," he babbled. "Hard working and caring."

Amelia's features fell. "I see."

Doppler stopped and took in the suddenly subdued spacer resting before him. A slow recognition dawned in his eyes. It was difficult to believe, but reviewing their conversation in his mind, it was the only logical conclusion. His heart skipped a beat. Upon first meeting the rather forceful spacer, he had been shocked, to say the least. Not all what he expected, as he had expected a male captain, he was initially put off by her no-nonsense, take-charge attitude. But during the past month, he had come to respect her. It had also not escaped his attention that she was quite beautiful. The trim waistcoat and sleek, white gauntlets that hugged her form only drew attention to the fact.

Even so, it had come as a great shock to the poor astrophysicist to realize how very attracted he was to her. But this new revelation was even a greater shock. Never in all his wildest dreams, and he'd had a few since the voyage began, did he ever imagine the straight-laced, disciplined captain would even be the least bit attracted to him. And now, here she was, thinking his heart was taken by another. He'd have to remedy that.

"Yes, Sarah is a very special lady," Delbert sighed. "Jim's very fortunate to have her. She is an excellent mother."

"Mother?" Amelia's ears perked up.

"Yes. An old family friend. Her husband and I were friends before he left rather unexpectedly, and after that, Sarah and I forged a friendship."

"Oh, I see." Amelia's face brightened. There wasn't anyone else. For some reason, that pleased her ... extremely so. She shook her head and scolded herself. Really. She was acting like a wet-behind-the-ears cadet, fresh out of the Academy. And over an astrophysicist! But, it was too late, she realized. The gentle, bumbling doctor had quietly captivated her attention from the start, and maybe ... dare she think it ... captured her heart, as well.

To be continued ...

Join our fearless Captain and bumbling doctor in Chapter Two. Will Amelia confess her true love to Doppler? Will Doppler reveal hitherto unknown canine tendencies? Will Jim meet Tommy from Third Rock? Probably not. But more will be discovered in Chapter Two, the final chapter in this lovely, little "Treasure Planet" story.