_Smooth Seas _by Trilan Napeague & Rosemary Le BeauThough it was probably unbecoming an officer, Rosie was unable to suppress a shudder of disgust when she approached what was traditionally the XO's quarters. Men were men and they did what they did but the late occupant of the cabin had taken the term 'Peeping Tom' to an entirely new level. Just walking by the place made her want to wash her hands. When she'd told Nathaniel what happened there, she had a moment where she thought his head might actually explode. Nathaniel, ever such a calm and controlled absolute gentleman, had actually proposed reanimating the XO just so they could kill him properly. Now, though, they'd been reassigned a new XO and he (Rosie assumed it was a he but it was hard to be sure from the name) required some special adaptations that made her and her staff dig deeply into their creative engineering. The PADD she held contained the results of their brainstorming. She was now at the infamous cabin so that she could visualize how things would look before they fitted the place for their very first aquatic officer. "I don't think I've ever worked with a fish before," she said aloud as she tapped open the door.
"I have," said an odd voice from inside the cabin. "They're really very interesting people."
Rosie gave a startled yelp. "You scared the hell out of me!" she accused before she caught sight of the speaker. A slight flush touched her cheeks as hazel eyes caught sight of the rank pips on his collar. "Sir," she added quickly.
When she was a child learning to swim, Rosie blew bubbles in the water. That was the only thing she could later compare to the sound that came from the man standing there. There came the flash of sharp white teeth against greenish skin and broad shoulders shook beneath the uniform. For God's sake. she thought, I think he's laughing!
"Trilan Napeague," he said as he held out a hand, "and you would be Lieutenant Commander Le Beau."
"Yes, sir," she said stiffly even as she shook the proffered hand. She was absolutely mortified. She, of all people on that ship, should have never made a remark like that. "I apologize completely, Commander. What I said was completely uncalled for and totally out of line"
Trilan regarded her with dark green eyes that, when he moved or blinked, seemed to iridesce. "Do you have something against fish?" he asked curiously.
"No," Rosie said slowly."So, unless I missed something, you've got nothing against fish, which is what you said I was, and, that being the case, nothing against me." Those odd green eyes blinked again. "Do you?"
"Ah, no, sir, not unless you count killing me from absolute embarrassment," she said frankly. There it was again: that odd bubbling noise. She stared at him, hazel eyes narrowed. "Are you /laughing/ at me?"
"Yes, Lieutenant Commander. Yes, I am." Trilan grinned again, flashing the razor sharp teeth again. "Apologies if it offends you but that has to have been the politest mortification I've ever seen from a complete terrestrial."
"I really didn't mean to offend, sir. I would never do that," Rosie repeated, albeit in a more relaxed tone.
Broad shoulders shrugged easily. "While there are oceans full of us at home, we Skateraw are rare off planet. No doubt," Trilan told her as he waved an odd shaped hand at the room in general, "because of the climactic challenges. I've endured but, sadly, few of us have been able to and thus returned to Skateraw's shores."
He had, Rosie thought again, the oddest voice. It seemed to her that if you listened closely enough that you could hear it waver, as if he were speaking in the water itself. It was a nice voice though, even if it was odd. "Well, that's why I'm here, sir. My staff and I have looked over all the specs that were sent ahead of you and I think we've come up with an excellent plan," she said as she held out her PADD. "If you'd like to take a look..."
"By all means. I'm not an engineer but it's a wise person who knows what effort is being put into his own welfare," Trilan said with a soft chuckle. Rosie stood at his elbow, reading along as he did. He watched her out of the corner of his eye as he did, amused by the fact that she was trying not to look at him, at his fingers. "Yes, Mr. Le Beau, they /are/ webbed," he said without looking up. "So are my toes."
"Isn't wearing boots uncomfortable?" It was a question of sheer curiosity, one that sprang from growing up among people who, because of their mutations, faced the occasional physical challenge. "I would think..."
"Oh, it is," he admitted, "but injuring the web surfaces is /more/ uncomfortable." He lowered the PADD and held up his other hand, offering up for inspection. "Go ahead, You may look if you'd like."
Whether it was her own curiosity or the curiosity of an engineer, Rosie took the opportunity, especially when it might never come again. She expected cold, slimy, and scaly--like a fish in the supermarket--but the hand was as warm and dry as her own, with no scales as far as she could see. He stood patiently, amused she told herself, as she turned the hand over to inspect its features.
"Same sort of cuticles as..." She didn't want to say Humans because a lot of species had fingernails.
"Terrestrials," he offered. "It is what we call those who lively solely on the land. And, yes they function just as yours do."
She nodded, almost to herself. The question bore asking simply because it might have looked like a fish but it obviously wasn't. She released the hand with a nod of approval. "You've got beautifully evolved hands, sir. I see where it'd be easier to mind manual webs rather than pedal ones."
"Gloves are an issue but that's it exactly." Then came that sharp toothed smile again. "I accept the compliment on behalf of my people." He handed back the PADD and added, "This is, by far, the best set of specs I've seen in my time in Starfleet. I am not only impressed by your efforts, I thank you."
"Thank Chief Lynley for getting us the original plans and you're uite welcome, sir. I'd like to run them by one of my new engineers but, as soon as we're ready, we'll let you know but, ah...where're you staying in the meantime?" she asked.
"Oh I can spend up to twenty-eight hours out of water without deleterious effects but much more than that can be uncomfortable to put it mildly." He offered her another easy shrug. "I've set up a holodeck program that simulates home oceans in the meantime."
"We have to make sure you have some redundancies in power backups then," Rosie mused. She looked around the cabin. "In here, too."
"Have you any more questions, Mr. Le Beau?" Trilan asked.As odd as the XO's voice sounded, it seemed to Rosie that it was the voice of a very patient man, an old one who had seen and done it all. "No, sir, and thank you for not letting me die of embarrassment."
"My pleasure. I would hate to have had to explain that to any one." Trilan offered her a friendly nod then headed for the exit. "I prefer smooth seas."
-- "...and I had done nothing...but shoot an unarmed Cardassian in his underwear."-Li Nalas