"I beg your pardon," Saavik said and slammed Captain Dannan Stuart to the ground.
Stuart gasped hard, trying to breathe and swear at the same time and not managing to do either.
Hoskins groaned and dropped down out one of the trees. The red foliage blocked Starfleet uniform colors well, but apparently not well enough that Saavik hadn't found and neutralized Stuart. "Time out!"
Warfield sighed. She climbed out of her hiding place in the bushes and began dusting herself off. "Well, you'd better finish her off now."
Saavik's brow furrowed, confused and she straightened. "Why would I intend deliberate harm to a superior officer?"
Warfield shoved dirty, dark hair out of her face and grinned. "Call it survival instinct. Come on, Saavik, it's not the first spar or war game you've ever been in."
"No, it is not. However, the captain is down--"
Stuart's leg snapped out and caught Saavik entirely off-guard. The First Officer actually hit the ground on her back.
Hoskins whistled through her teeth. "Damn, captain, that was good!"
Warfield snickered at Saavik. "You're getting soft."
"I'd say." Stuart grinned wickedly and rolled painfully onto her side. She tossed the rock that she had landed on and glared at the equally guilty tree root.
Saavik had a decided flare to her eyes as she got back to her feet. She looked down at her captain. "I withdraw my earlier question."
Stuart laughed and then grimaced and held her side. "You deserved that, you damn Savage. Now help me up." She held out a hand.
Saavik's eyes glinted.
Hoskins winced. "This is going to involve Security, isn't it?"
Stuarts' smile became sweetly dangerous. "There is some minor debt of cell time, as I recall." She pursed her lips in pretended thought. "Now how many days was that?"
Saavik's brows lowered. "Obviously an insufficient amount."
Stuart laughed. "Help me up."
Saavik bent and gripped the other woman's hand.
"Be nice," her captain warned.
"Civility statistically lowers a projected life span." Saavik noted dryly.
"Well, that certainly explains a few things about Vulcans," Stuart growled. "Now, up!"
Saavik pulled her captain to her feet. "In point of self-preservation, Captain, it was not a Vulcan statement. You did say physical contact was required to nullify an opponent's progression."
Warfield grinned. "She has a point there, Captain."
Stuart gave Lauren a deadly look. "Want to be walking back to the ship?"
Warfield arched an dark eyebrow over a blue eye at Saavik. "Here's our idiom exchange of the day. You do know what the term 'a sore loser' means, don't you?"
Stuart's skin visibly darkened.
Saavik studied Warfield. "You do know what 'disembowelment' entails, do you not, Lieutenant Commander?"
Stuart couldn't help it, she laughed. And then winced terribly. "Let's head back to the shelter. We had enough refresher training for one day." Her border patrol days made her serious about brushing the rust off the crew's hand-to-hand and bivouac skills now that they served in regular Fleet duty. But she didn't want war game conditions.
Lynne Hoskins frowned. "Shouldn't we get you to Sickbay?"
Stuart's grin was wolfish. "Hell no, Engineering packed our meal crate. That means I got a much better painkiller in there than what Sickbay would give me."
Saavik shook her head in open disapproval. "Captain, the alcohol content in the liquor Engineering would pack--"
Stuart sighed. "Don't lecture me."
Warfield snickered. "Yeah, just buy her something better."
Saavik's eyebrow lifted. "Given the quality—or rather the lack thereof—of the ship's still, that would not be difficult."
Hoskins snorted. "Don't tell Engineering that or your sonic shower will suddenly blow enough decibels to cave a bulkhead."
Warfield laughed. "Or your clothing replicator will only produce lingerie. In pink."
Stuart grinned. "Knowing those boys, red." She shook a warning finger at Warfield, "And if they suddenly get this idea, I'm coming for you."
Saavik frowned ever so slightly. "Deliberate sabotage of ship systems is a court martial offense."
Lauren Warfield elbowed Lynn Hoskins and grinned suggestively. "Yeah, but the chance to see you in something silky and lacy? You know some of them'd risk it."
"No kidding," Hoskins added.
Saavik stiffened. "I would not so abuse public propriety."
Stuart made a face. "Another fine example of cultural divergence." She probed her back gingerly. "It's not an insult, it's a compliment. A lot of humans would be flattered."
Saavik's eyes widened. "For what reason?"
Warfield shrugged. "Who wouldn't want to be thought attractive enough to warrant the attention? I mean – not necessarily them actually breaking into our systems and reprogramming our underwear, but the sentiment part."
Saavik looked at Warfield then back at Dannan Stuart. After a long moment, she slid a suspiciously assessing glance at Hoskins. "Is this . . . so?"
"Hey!" protested Lauren.
Stuart growled. "Now that is insulting."
Lynn grinned. "Entirely deserved, though." She nodded once to Saavik. "It's not a joke. Unfortunately."
Saavik tilted her head thoughtfully. "How very . . . intellectually primitive." The shadow of a frown crossed her lips. "I must reevaluate my human behavioral assessment levels."
That made all three women grimace.
"Great," snorted Warfield, "the species is going to get a collective nosebleed from the sudden altitude drop."
Stuart grinned. "Still going to associate with us tree-swingers?"
Saavik's eyebrow lifted. "I have observed your vegetative maneuvering abilities, Captain, and swinging is most markedly outside of your skill perimeters."
Stuart's eyes narrowed.
"She's got you there, Captain," Warfield snickered. "I saw you on Treb Four."
"That tree knocked me out!"
Hoskins grinned, throwing a wink at Saavik. "Of course, Captain."
Saavik cocked her head. "Although, that does not explain the other seven--"
Stuart laughed. "Vicious." Then she sobered and looked at the other two. There was a long uncomfortable moment. "We got other business to take care of. And I should take care of it before we beam out tomorrow morning."
Warfield sighed. "Might as well get it over with." She plunked herself down on the ground and glared at the dirt darkly.
Hoskin's proper posture flinched and then sagged. "Might as well." She turned away to stare out at the distance and spoke under her breath. "Bullocks."
Puzzled, Saavik looked at Stuart.
Dannan took a deep breath and wiped her face of all emotion. "Starfleet Command has sent a promotion list." She looked Saavik in the eyes. "The rank of captain has been extended to you. And a ship." She forced a grin. "You'll like it, it's a helluva compliment. They're giving you the USS Intrepid. And its all Vulcan crew."
Saavik studied her captain a long moment and then looked away. "It would be an honor . . . for one . . . of my . . . heritage."
Warfield picked at the grass. Lynn Hoskins nodded even though she didn't turn around.
Saavik looked at each of the humans, studying them. Then she tilted her head. "However, unless you would prefer another first officer, I decline the honor."
Warfield's jaw absolutely dropped. "What?" She scrambled to her feet. "Are you insane?"
Saavik appeared to contemplate the thought earnestly. "My mental facilities appear to be in cognitive order." She tilted her head. "Although, if I do suffer from such an affliction, I calculate a seventy-four point three five percent probability that I might not be aware of such an impairment." Her eyebrows lifted. "Fascinating."
Stuart stared at her in complete disbelief. "You're . . . serious?"
Saavik's brows drew down.
Stuart groaned. "About the declining!"
"Ah. Of course, Captain."
"Maybe she hit the ground harder than we thought," said Hoskins uneasily, eyeing Saavik.
Warfield leaned forward to peer into Saavik's eyes. "Her pupils are normal. She's not concussed."
Saavik tilted her head curiously. "You prefer I accept?"
"Hell no!" said Stuart firmly.
"Are you kidding?" Warfield made a face. "It's just that it isn't, well--"
Hoskins frowned, crossing her arms. "Logical."
Saavik's brow arched stiffly. "Indeed?"
"It's the perfect move for your career," said Hoskins, narrowing her eyes. "Not to mention that Vulcans picked you to lead them!"
"There are more dynamics to logic than--"
Warfield's eyes lit. "I'll be damned."
"What?" demanded Stuart.
Lauren stabbed a finger at Saavik. "You're afraid."
Saavik's eyes went wide. "I . . . am not."
Hoskins frowned. "What?"
"Lauren," growled Stuart, "what in hell are you talking about? She'd be perfectly fine on board Intrepid!"
"Tell me, Savage," demanded Warfield mercilessly, "is it the chair or the Vulcans?"
Saavik's eyebrows snapped together over narrowed eyes. "I do not--" She stopped, and the others could almost hear her dissecting her logic ruthlessly, subjecting it to an internal interrogation almost as brutal as an ancient Inquisition. Then, just like that, she was calm as Mount Seleya and a knowing glint was in her eyes as she studied Warfield. "Most clever."
"What?" demanded Stuart.
Hoskins crossed her arms. "You are going to drive me insane—now, what the bloody hells just happened?
Saavik inclined her head to Warfield in honor, making the other blush furiously. "She wished to confirm the motive behind the logic. That it was not mere rational reaction."
The others looked at Warfield.
"And?" demanded Stuart.
"My motive is not fear."
Hoskins narrowed her eyes. "That is the biggest avoidance of an answer that I've ever seen."
Stuart studied Saavik carefully a long moment. After a moment, she shook her finger at her first officer. "I think your Vulcan side is betraying you."
Saavik's eyebrows lifted high.
"For some reason, Vulcans have a weakness for Humans." She grinned slowly.
Saavik folded her arms. "You believe so? And may I ask the reason for this . . . weakness?"