He combed his hair again, a second time, and then a third, until it was just so.
He ignored communications hails. They did not matter, in light of his main mission for the day – to meet Sandra Sloane. He had been ordered to guard T'Pol, and he had, but he really didn't want to go down to a Xindi Insectoid hatchery afterwards. "It's disgusting down there," he said to his own reflection. "I'm fine with guarding T'Pol, and I'll guard that Vulcan bitch again once I'm on duty but until then? Nah, I got what to do. That is, I got who to do."
He smiled to himself, and glanced at the reflection of the Corporal's patch on his uni, with its two chevron-like stripes. And then just above it was the patch with his name – D. Chang.
He walked out into the hallway. Ah, sweet freedom.
He was almost at her quarters and could practically taste the sex when he heard his name being called.
"I said, Chang!" barked Major Hayes.
"Yes, sir!" Dan Chang answered.
"You were AWOL. We went to the hatchery and we needed you to help guard the captain."
"But everything worked out, right? I guarded T'Pol like you asked."
"Right, and you did. But you should know better than this," said Jay Hayes, "you know you have gotta follow my orders."
"And I did," Dan said.
"Not all of them. You'll report to the galley for KP duty tomorrow at oh seven hundred hours. In fact, no. You'll report to the galley now."
"But Major!" Sandra was close. So close.
"You heard me. You're lucky I'm not throwing you in the Brig for insubordination."
There was a sound of footsteps. Light, delicate treads – women.
It was a little blonde, middle-aged, in a white uni, and her roommate, a taller, striking redhead. They were Chef's assistant, Lili O'Day, and the Redheaded Bombshell – Jennifer Crossman. They saw the exchange. "Uh, Jennifer," said Lili, "maybe we'll go this way instead."
When they had turned, Chang stared at them. "I'd like to get me a piece of that." Sandra forgotten, he couldn't help but to stare at Jennifer.
"Pay attention," Jay said sharply. He didn't look at the women. He didn't look at any of them. It wasn't through a lack of interest. It was more that he was just hurting. It had all ended, what, a decade and a half ago? Two decades, was it? But it had been a bad breakup, between him and Susan Cheshire. And although she had not been a great beauty, and she had not even been Jay Hayes's great love, he felt awful just the same, and still could not look at another woman without feeling a pang, or without generating guilt in his heart.
"Oh yeah, I forgot," Chang said, "You never look. I mean, I would give you the blonde. Nobody wants her anyway – she's just old and ugly. But you aren't interested in the Bombshell, either." Jay swallowed a little and Dan moved in for the kill. "If this was a hundred and fifty years ago, I wouldn't be allowed to ask. And you wouldn't be allowed to tell. Right?"
Jay just glared and before he knew it, his hand was on Chang's uni patch, the one with the Corporal's chevron stripes. He pulled down on it, hard, and the air was filled with the sound of ripping.
The two women came back; perhaps they were alarmed by the noise. "You saw it!" Chang exclaimed, "He assaulted me!"
"We just heard the sound of fabric tearing," Lili said, "you should go to see the Quartermaster. You know Sekar Khan, right?"
"Lili, we should go," Jenny said.
Jay nodded very, very slightly at the women before they departed. Once they were gone, he said to Dan, "You go to Khan and get a new uni. And tell him no Corporal's patch – you get the uni for a Private. Do you understand?" Chang was silent, so Hayes added, "And you're docked two pay grades. One is for being AWOL and the other is for harassment."
"Yeah, harassment. You bother those girls or any of the other women on this ship and, well, there aren't a lot of ways I can go with this. But the Brig would be one step."
Chang stared at him, weighing his options. He was about to open his mouth when a nearby door opened – the door to Sandra's quarters. She took one look at him and the torn uniform sleeve and sniffed haughtily and then closed her door again.
"To the galley, Chang," Hayes said, angry and more than a little weary. There was a communications hail. "On my way, Captain."