Since the roads around the city had been rendered unfit for travel, Centurion Corvinus flew Evelyn and Amber to the dig site. His lack of enthusiasm for the assignment was by now hidden beneath a mask of indifference.
When they arrived, it was just as Evelyn feared. The ancient city was completely destroyed. She wanted to cry. This was the greatest opportunity she had ever been offered. But it, like her career, was now no more than a pile of rubble. Evelyn bit her lip. She refused to give the priggish centurion the satisfaction of seeing her in tears.
Amber, on the other hand, didn't possess the same amount of self-control. "I can't believe this!" she whined, "It's just wrong!"
Corvinus rolled his eyes. "What do you wish to do now, Dr. Frost?"
"We'll salvage what we can, of course," she responded with a confidence she didn't feel.
After sifting through the debris for the entire day, Corvinus insisted that it was time to leave. "I'll bring you back tomorrow," he offered begrudgingly.
Evelyn and Amber gathered the handful of small objects that had survived. They got back into the shuttle, and Corvinus flew them away in the opposite direction of the setting sun.
Amber sat in the co-pilot seat, tapping her feet anxiously.
It was driving Corvinus crazy. "Why are you doing that? It's not like you have anything important to get back to."
"How do you know?" she shot back. "For your information, I'm expecting a message from someone special."
He smiled back mockingly. "Who?"
"Terry," she said with a sigh.
The Romulan blinked. "Who's Terry?"
"My boyfriend," she informed him haughtily.
"You have a 'boyfriend'?" he asked, astonished. Then he laughed. "Is he as much of a weakling as I think he is?"
Amber childishly stuck out her tongue.
"Ok, you two," said Evelyn from the back seat, "Enough, please." She was sick of hearing about Terry. He and Amber had been dating off and on since high school, and they were always arguing during the times they were "together." For as long as Evelyn had known her assistant, it had been a long-distance affair. She would have broken it off a long time ago. But then again, she wouldn't have dated a loser like Terry for starts.
Evelyn laid her head on her desk in exhaustion. What a day! There was still much to be done in the way of reports and cataloging, so she got to it.
She was so absorbed in her work that she almost didn't hear the quiet knock on the door.
"Come in," she said, after suddenly realizing that her caller had knocked twice.
It was Subcommander Lokal. Whatever could he want? "So...how did it go?"
Evelyn almost scoffed, but caught herself in time. Her nerves were about shot. "It was all destroyed."
Lokal blinked. "How unfortunate..."
"Yes," she said patiently.
He smiled. "My dear Miss Evelyn—may I address you in that way?"
"That is what we do in the South," she shrugged.
"How quaint," he remarked with obvious interest. He sat on the desk. The way in which his head was turned made his already less than desirable profile even more unattractive. "What else do you do in the South? I mean, what do the men of the South do to impress their women?"
Evelyn wanted to laugh. "Oh, I wouldn't know," she said, waving for him to get up. "I'm too busy with my research for that kind of nonsense."
"You've been wasting your life with that research, Miss Evelyn," he said candidly, after getting back to his feet.
"Oh really? What should I be doing, then?"
"Why," he explained, "a woman with your abilities and intelligence could go far in the Empire."
"As a second-class citizen?" she returned with a hint of sarcasm.
Lokal was already prepared for her skepticism. "Not necessarily. You wouldn't be a second-class citizen if you were to..."
Evelyn narrowed her eyes. "What?"
There was the slightest flicker in his eyes, which she almost didn't catch because of his bushy eyebrows and protruding forehead. "I'm going to be promoted soon..." he began with obvious relish.
"What is that to me?" she shook her head, hoping this wasn't going where it seemed to be going.
His crooked smile grew bigger. "I think you know."
Enough was enough. There went her last nerve. She was about to give him what for, when a deep, commanding voice sounded on his communicator.
"Lokal, report to my office," said Galan. Evelyn's heart fluttered. Her secret crush had once again unwittingly saved her from an unpleasant situation.
"Yes, Commander, immediately." He smiled at her suggestively. "I'll see you at dinner, my dear Miss Evelyn."
Suddenly, Evelyn realized she had lost her appetite.
Now that power was restored on Benzar and the recovery efforts were off and running, Prime Minister Benito elected to return Commander Galan's courtesy by inviting him and his officers to a dinner of his own.
That evening, as Evelyn approached the dining room table, she noticed that Subcommander Lokal appeared to be waiting for her to sit next to her. After he favored her with another crooked grin, she locked arms with Amber and rather hastily took the seat next to Meldoch.
This little evasive maneuver didn't escape the seasoned officer's notice, but he was far from discouraged. He simply smiled even wider and sat directly across from her.
As the Prime Minister and Commander Galan began the usual state small talk, Lokal leaned forward and said to her, "My dear Miss Evelyn, you look splendid this evening."
Yes, this evening she had selected the teal satin gown, which complimented her blue eyes beautifully. In addition, her wavy brown hair had been swept up into a lovely twist, with a few long strands left out and curled. At first she was hesitant to dress up, since Lokal would be there, but Galan would be there as well, and after tonight the dinners were likely to be much less formal.
"Thank you," courtesy forced her to say. She reached for the carafe to pour herself a small glass of wine.
"Oh, permit me," said Lokal. As he stood up and snatched the carafe his chair loudly scraped the floor, drawing everyone's attention. She reluctantly held up her glass and he filled it up to the very top. Then she nodded politely and he sat back down.
"Miss Evelyn, how did the expedition go today?" asked Benito. Galan turned his attention toward her as well.
"I'm sad to say that there was very little left," she replied. "We did manage to collect a few articles, but as for the city…" she shook her head.
"The structures were completely destroyed by the bombardment," supplied Corvinus with blunt indifference.
Benito's countenance fell. "I'm sorry to hear that. Another time, perhaps, when the war is over, and the university is rebuilt..."
"Yes, perhaps," she said.
"Commander, how is the war going? Do you think the allies stand a chance against the Dominion?" asked Meldoch.
"Indeed, more than a chance," replied Galan. "Now that we've joined the war, the tide has turned in our favor. The Dominion may have greater numbers, but we have superior leadership. It was a fatal mistake to incur our wrath." A short silence followed as a ray of hope brightened the non-Romulan hearts in the room.
"We were the first to launch an offensive against them," bragged Lokal. "We've destroyed over 20 Dominion bases, along the Neutral Zone and beyond."
"Truly?" Meldoch was astounded by the Subcommander's statement, and the fact that he uttered it with his mouth full.
"Ha, yes. You see, the Founders lack the strategic ability to compete with us, and the Jem'Hadar are little more than mindless followers. It is only a matter of time before we cripple them," he declared.
Despite the fact that Lokal was directly across from her, Evelyn somehow managed to avoid eye contact with him. The disagreeable man had no table manners.
At first Amber could only stare at him in disgust, but then she amused herself by mentally counting the times he came dangerously close to knocking over his own glass. He'd only been at the table for five minutes, and already he was up to four. She was dismayed for a moment when he gulped the entire glass down like spring water, but when he refilled it and set it even closer to the danger zone she stifled a snicker and started counting again.
"So, my dear Miss Evelyn," said Lokal again. "Tell me more about the region you're from. What distinguishes it from the rest of the Earth?"
"Here we go again," mumbled Amber to herself. People were always raving about Evelyn, her accent and how brilliant and ladylike she was. What am I, chopped liver? she thought. At least there was one person in the universe who appreciated her. She hadn't been able to reach him earlier, but as soon as dinner was over she'd try to call him again.
"Oh, if you don't mind, I'd rather not talk about it right now. It makes me homesick," said Evelyn. Amber silently thanked Heaven.
"Oh, the Old South? I can tell you all about it, Subcommander," said Benito excitedly.
"Please do," said Lokal, with a smile. He would rather have heard it from the lady, but since she wasn't inclined to talk old fish face would have to do.
Benito chattered away, and at first Lokal listened closely and asked questions, but after 15 minutes or so he lost interest and directed the conversation back toward the war. He was in the middle of describing the fight for Benzar when he finally toppled his wine glass, right onto Corvinus's lap. Amber grabbed her napkin and proceeded to laugh and cough at the same time.
Corvinus set his jaw. "May I be excused?"
"By all means," said Benito.
After Corvinus left, Commander Galan said, "Subcommander, I'd like you to make a sweep of the system and scan for any sign of Dominion retaliation."
Lokal blinked. "Now?"
"Yes, now," said Galan sternly. He had been watching his first officer for the last few minutes and determined that his behavior toward Dr. Frost was neither welcome nor appropriate. He deemed it best for Lokal to remain onboard the Devorax until further notice.
"Yes Commander." He saluted, then left.
Evelyn breathed a sigh of relief.
ByaSouthernLady and I were discussing character theme songs the other day, and we decided that Evelyn's theme is Holding Out For A Hero by Bonnie Tyler. The other character themes will be revealed later on. Thanks to everyone who reads, and special thanks to TheAfricanAmericanQueen and BewilderedFemale for the reviews!