Because newest_gloss asked for introspection, thought processes, and a mention of Roger Korby . . .
I'm not sure that it is really introspective, at least if you considered the dictionary definition of introspection. An actual sequel is still in the processing process
As usual, I don't own any of it. Never have, never will. Doesn't mean I don't want to own it. Who would not want to own a long-lived, richly rendered universe filled with compelling characters, and limitless stories that appears to be set for another fifty years of popularity. Too bad, though. I could sure use the money for house payments right now.
Unbetaed again, so you really can blame any errors on my proofreader. She can be pretty sloppy at times.
***Additions to the story arc now available. There's Busman's Holiday in the Star Trek 2009 movie section and Busman's Holiday Prelude in the Star Trek The Original Series section. Sequel in Process. ***
It would take at least ten, maybe twenty, thousand years at impulse speed to make the journey back to Earth. The Enterprise limped along at sublight with no warp cores and too much damage to travel at warp without repairs even it if had the glowing cylinders in place and powered up. Fortunately, the cracks ran around skins only. The internal super-structure flexed during the battle and the escape from the newborn singularity, but survived intact and sound as the designers had intended. A huge hole, space held back by bulkheads and force fields, gaped in the side of the craft where sickbay had mostly been. The back-up systems, fully charged, would keep the great ship going until help arrived from Starfleet to speed its return to Earth. In the meantime, Engineering worked to repair the ship and Medical worked to repair the people.
Christine Chapel, Doctor Lauren Patterson. Your name is Lauren Patterson, she reminded herself, sat in the mess hall with Nurse Christine Chapel across the small gray table from her. They'd worked until well past 2300. Lowered, the mess hall lighting reflected an artificial night, a necessity for the psychic wellbeing of a diurnal species. Just that day Kirk had approved pulling back the blast shields that would normally cover a huge bay window of impossibly thick transparent aluminum. Engineering checked the integrity of the window and Spock verified it was safe. Lauren, I'm Lauren, agreed with Mr. Scott that it was better when you could see the wee, far stars twinkling at night.
Christine watched her younger self, for a moment, eating a bowl of red beans and rice with a side of cornbread, while she pushed around a less appetizing, but healthier, blackened chicken breast and cole slaw with a tall glass of sweet tea to drink.
"You like Louisiana-style cooking, Doctor Patterson?" Chapel asked her. Christine didn't remember having that faint drawl in her voice, but it must have been there once, long ago.
"Absolutely. Gumbo, beignets, red beans, shrimp, and the fried okra – yum! I spent some time there and fell in love with the food!" The chicken did have a nice bite to it, after all.
"Fried okra? Another fried okra fan?" Chapel responded enthusiastically. "Are you sure we're not related? I haven't met another soul that really liked fried okra since I left home!" The girl laid her spoon down next to the beans and broke an end off the piece of cornbread, then handed it to Christine.
"It's based on my Momma's recipe. She makes the best cornbread in six planets."
Christine took the warm bread, biting off about half the piece. Her Momma did make the best cornbread in six planets. And at least two timelines. "It's wonderful, Christine."
"Isn't it, though," Chapel smiled. "She makes it for me every time I get home."
Suddenly Christine, not Lauren, missed her long-dead mother.
She finished the bread, "So what brings you to Starfleet?" she asked. "An urge for adventure? Educational opportunities? The chance to see the galaxy?"
Chapel looked down into her red beans, and then pulled out the ring she wore around her neck. Christine, Lauren, knew immediately what it was, what every bump and crevice, corner and smooth metal surface on it felt like.
"My fiancée left. He was one of my professors, a medical archaeologist named Roger Korby." Chapel freed her ring and slipped in onto her left hand. "I was hoping to forget him." Christine could see the tears welling in Chapel's eyes, her eyes.
"I'm so sorry, Christine. I know what it's like to lose the people you love." The image of dark hair and warm, brown eyes she'd never see again flashed through her mind. The memories should have hurt, but instead she felt oddly comfortable with them.
"I'd just finished defending my PhD thesis in biochem and picked my topic for xenophysiology when I heard." More tears fell from the bright, blue eyes. "And not from Roger, either! His research partner, Brownie, uh Doctor Brown, commed me and told me that Roger had taken off on an archaeological jaunt to some planet called Exo III." Young Chapel frowned. "He took his new lab assistant, Andrea," she elaborated, undisguised snarkiness in her voice. "I got to keep the ring. He told me it was his grandmother's, but I'm not at all sure about that."
The young woman took a drink of something Lauren assumed was sweet tea, also. It was always her favorite when she was feeling stressed, just like the red beans and rice, just like her mother's cornbread with corn kernels and crispy bits of bacon. Chapel continued. "So I went down to the local Starfleet recruiting office and signed up. They took me as brevet ensign and nurse on the Enterprise. My graduate degree is in Nursing, with emergency ops and space medicine for my emphases. Didn't take much to talk them into taking me on and getting me the Enterprise," she said, her soft drawl more pronounced. "Starfleet is always looking for talent, Doctor Patterson."
"And they certainly found it with you. You've been an amazing charge nurse for me to work with," Christine said the same words to her younger self that someone had said to her, early in her Starfleet career.
"Thank you, Doctor Patterson. That's a terrific compliment coming from you. "
"It's not a compliment when it's just the truth." Christine replied. The girl's expression started to shine.
Lauren-Christine remembered how those same words made her feel when she heard them from McCoy years before. She didn't add the part from when he said "and if you ever tell anyone . . ."
"And about the other thing, Christine. I once fell in love with a man who wasn't what he seemed. Then I fell in love with one that, well it's a very long story. It's just. I do understand," she said, "maybe better than most."
They finished their meals in companionable silence.
"It's funny, Doctor Patterson," Chapel said as they bussed their table. "I've never had anyone I could talk to like I can you. You really seem to be able to understand me."
"I've had a lot of years of practice in understanding people, Christine," Lauren Patterson's face took on the expression of the older, knowing aunt that always loved you best. She turned to put her things in the recycler.
"Come on. I know where the doctors hide their stash," Lauren said. She raised both eyebrows and shrugged at the unasked question. "Professional courtesy. There's a partial bottle of something blue and illegal I want to liberate and I think you could use a drink. I know I could after the day we just had."
A couple of hours later, Christine Chapel and Christine Chapel finished off the last of the something blue and illegal. Christine Chapel, the older, was looking through the refrigeration unit of her room. They settled in the tiny guest quarters over disturbing Chapel the Younger's roommate who'd just come off a 12-hour shift herself and just wanted to sleep.
"Starfleet didn't stock these rooms very well." Chapel the elder pushed aside the liquor placed for minor officials and the aides to diplomatic aides and found a single bottle of Laphroaig, though by the time she pronounced the Gaelic name it sounded more like poorly anglicized French, and a single bottle of a tolerable French pastis. "Better choices than what's in front. Whaddaya think? Pazteesz or the Frog"
"Pastis, mon grande dame," Christine replied, her southern accent overlaid with echoes of a Cajun ancestry. She'd slid comfortably into the heavily cushioned blue chair.
Chapel turned Lauren poured two cloudy glasses of pastis, handed one to the younger woman, then lifted her glass. "To the Vulcans. May they survive their le Grand Dérangement as well as the Acadians survived theirs."
"To the Vulcans!" and both Christines downed their small glasses. Lauren-Christine fell back onto the matching Starfleet blue sofa. "Whee! Pour another!"
Another hour or so later, Doctor Lauren Patterson sighed loudly, "You want some advice, Christine," she slurred her words and nodded he head as she spoke, "It'll be reee-ally goood advice, cause yer right. I do know you better than you know yourself."
"Sure," Chapel replied, taking up her cadence, the head-nodding version of the electrical 60-cycle hum, "but I already know what it is." She started counting on her fingers. "One. I'm a fool for still being in love with a man who "broke my heart. I'm better than that. Right? That's what my mom says. That's what my older sister says, too." Christine stared at the other woman with a very drunken expression. "Too. Two. I don't know 'two.' Y'know, it's amazing how much you look like my mom and my older sister," Chapel said, shaking her head ever so slightly and having forgotten what she was counting.
Through her own drunken stupor, Lauren sensed the girl was on the edge of recognition again. She spoke quickly only slightly slurring her words this time, "Young lady, you are never a fool for being in love. It's a wonderful, precious thing. And you are no fool anyway. I followed both those men I mentioned around half the galaxy, almost literally, because I thought I was in love and I am not a fool. "
"Were you? In love, that is." Chapel suddenly sounded sober.
"I thought I was," Christine frowned, "Doesn't matter anymore. One of them is dead. The other, well, let's just say I couldn't find him now even if I searched both halves of the galaxy."
"My other piece of advice . . ." It was one that Lauren –Christine knew well. Her younger self should know it, too. It has been a part of her existence for her entire life and one of which her mother reminded her constantly until the woman died.
"Get your second PhD. Get your MD. You have the talent, the persistence and the ability to achieve anything you desire. Don't let you go to waste. "
Chapel sat up straight, the inebriated perkiness in her posture caused her to waver back and forth slightly.
"One last thing, please, Christine, Chrissie, call me Lauren." Lauren said as she curled up on the small sofa in the room.
Christine started slightly at Lauren Patterson's use of the nickname given to her by, and only used by, her older sister, but she was too sleepy now to care. She got up, found a couple of blankets and a pillow, and covered her counterpart.
"Good night, Doctor Lauren," she whispered, and then lay down on the floor to go to sleep, "When I grow up, I wanna be just like you."