A Slice Of Heaven
by Laura GoodwinStar Base Two is a drab place: a practical space dock facility, where federation ships of various classes can receive service and supplies, and not much more.
There is one large mall on the main deck of the starbase, with a spacious but plain promenade. A dozen shops of various kinds are there, adorned with brightly colorful signs, that offer ordinary, overpriced goods for sale. There are three small restaurants, all of them offering common Terran cuisine.
Usually, only people of Terran origin ever came here, and they were usually on their way to somewhere else more exciting.
Sometimes, weary space travelers who had just been somewhere more exciting fell back here to lick their wounds, and maybe do a little shopping. This was one of those times.
On this particular day the famous deep-space starship U.S.S Enterprise docked for minor repairs, and to receive fresh recruits, and cargo. The repairs and upgrades would take a couple of days, so Captain James T. Kirk approved limited leave privileges for his hard-working crew. Only a few hours were allotted to each of them, to take a break from the ship's cozy and too familiar corridors.
The residents of this sleepy small town in space came alive when news of the Enterprise's arrival got around. Deep-space people are very well paid, and it was a certainty that they would all be big spenders. The ladies in particular always loved to buy new jewelry and clothes, and the men were sure to all be in the mood for food, drinks, and festive company. The mall woke early and was all abustle before the first leave party hit the decks.
This was a happy emergency. Approximately four hundred visitors were expected. The year-round population of the base averaged 1500 souls, so another 400 all of a sudden was quite a swell.
Deirdre Ryan was awakened early that morning by electronic summons. Her boss explained the situation, and asked her to come in early - to help set up for what was destined to be a very busy day.
Deirdre is a waitress at the most popular restaurant on the starbase: Paisan's Pizza. She is also a young lady with strange luck. She was destined to enjoy a unique experience, but she didn't know it yet.
Miss Ryan rushed through her usual morning preparations: She stripped off her nightdress and showered quickly, careful all the while to keep her long, wavy, dark brown hair dry. She brushed her teeth and quickly dabbed on the little makeup that she needed to feel confident: mascara, rouge, a natural pink lipstain. She quickly braided her hair and then slipped into her usual daily costume: Bra and underpants, a slim pair of rust-colored slacks, and a fitted beige button-front tunic. She spritzed on a bit of light cologne, and finished with a bead necklace, and a pair of dangling earrings - for a touch of personality.
She liked her uniform. It was comfortable, and it flattered her top-heavy figure. She liked the fabric: a polished cotton blend with a silky sheen. A pretty and practical costume for a hard-working waitress.
She stepped into her slip-on shoes and walked quickly to work. Her heart was racing with eager anticipation. The last time a Constitution-class vessel had poured forth a crowd of crewpeople, her tips at the end of the day totaled more than a week's salary would have. Deirdre had many small unsatisfied needs, and the bonus income she expected was very welcome.
She tied on an apron immediately, and joined her comrades in the cool morning kitchen. She chopped vegetables - bushels of crisp green peppers, hundreds of pungent onions - for nearly two hours, until it was time to repair her frazzled appearance and prepare to greet the first wave of customers.
She'd been through this before, and knew what to expect. She was ready.
There were ten empty tables in Paisan's. They opened the doors at eleven o'clock, and by eleven-oh-one, every seat was taken. It was a little overwhelming at first, but Deirdre soon hit her stride and was fine. The fleet people, all clad in their colorful uniforms, were patient, happy, and unfailingly polite. Deirdre thought at one point that she could easily serve four thousand, if they were all like that.
By two o'clock, Deirdre was becoming anxious for her shift to end. She took a short break just to hide in the bathroom stall and do nothing. Then she rebraided her hair, refreshed her makeup, and steeled herself for her last hectic hour.
The fleet folk completely filled the restaurant, many were standing, and therefore getting in the way. Some men volunteered to sit women in their laps, and several couples were sitting two to a chair. They were a very friendly group - perhaps a bit too friendly. They all knew each other well, so even though Deirdre was on her own turf she felt like the odd one out. Because most of them had washed their pizza down with beer, they had become hilarious and rowdy. Everybody was talking loudly and laughing. Everybody was a big, jolly joker. Deirdre was struggling to convince a fresh foursome of merry, flirtatious, red-clad bachelors to agree about toppings, when she sensed a shift in the mood of the room. Suddenly, everyone sat straighter in their chairs, and their manner became more subdued.
Finally! A little cooperation! The young woman turned to carry her hard-won new order to the cook, and saw why everyone had become quiet.
A tall, slim man with short, satiny black hair was standing near the door, and he was definitely not human. Absolutely not. Deirdre was stopped cold with sheer astonishment. She couldn't help but stare. He had large, pointed ears, a greenish complexion, and his slanted black eyebrows seemed fixed in a permanent, furious frown. Naturally, Miss Ryan felt intimidated.
His bearing was regal; his manner was mild; his movements were gentle and graceful. Just as she was beginning to think her first impression had been wrong, two glittering obsidian eyes greeted hers and challenged her amazed stare with a baleful glare.
Deirdre gasped, as a tittering wave of nervous laughter rippled around the room. Clearly, he intimidated everyone present. She felt completely disoriented. The man was wearing a fleet uniform, yet he was clearly not human at all. The stunned waitress's mind spun its wheels. What to do?
Then from behind that strange creature, another man appeared. He didn't wait to be welcomed in. He boldly walked around the alien, touching him on the shoulder as he passed, smiling happily directly at Deirdre, as if she were a dear old friend.
This man was very human...and he was very much a man. A handsome, broad-shouldered, confident man - who solidly placed a friendly hand on the frightening alien man's shoulder and fearlessly passed him, directly into the center of the room.
And the alien let him.
The new man was a caucasian with short, light brown hair and bright hazel eyes. He wore a fleet uniform: boots, black trousers, a gold tunic. As he approached, he met Deirdre's curious gaze with a direct but friendly expression in his eyes. Then his gaze flickered downward, and up again, and Deirdre sensed that her body was being assessed... and appreciated. When he met her gaze again a split-second later, the friendly warmth of his smile was palpably warmer.
The impact that this new man had on her animal senses now rang a loud bell in her consciousness. Hello, sailor!
Just as she opened her mouth to speak, several other voices were raised in greeting. Someone called him "Captain", and a previously rambunctious party of four who had just finished their meal rose, and respectfully offered him their table.
The waitress now understood, but could hardly believe: this latest arrivee was Captain Kirk, from the starship, and all the others were his people.
As Deirdre hastily picked up the plates, and wiped the table clean, he seated himself. She stole a couple of quick looks at him. He caught her doing it and winked, which embarrassed her. She hurried away with the plates, gave the cook her latest order, and rushed back to confront her most interesting customer.
What an impressive man! He was the most spectacular male that Deirdre Ryan had ever encountered. He was beyond handsome, he radiated masculinity and virility. He seemed supremely self-confident, but not belligerent at all. He seemed completely fearless and utterly at ease. His manner seemed to invite approach, and promise a kindly welcome.
Silently sitting at the opposite side of the Captain's table was the alien. He now appeared to be equally dominant, and magnetically attractive, in his own exotic way. These two men seemed to be friends. This reassured the nervous young woman.
Captain Kirk smiled up from his menu. "I've been told that a piece of your pizza is a slice of heaven!"
All heads nodded in reply.
"It's good!" Deirdre agreed, nodding emphatically, stylus poised at the ready.
"Well!" Kirk continued brightly "...we'll need to order two separate pizzas. My friend here is a vegetarian. So, one of your personal pizzas with vegetables only, no cheese..."
"...and uh, go easy on the garlic."
Kirk threw a glance at his inhuman friend. The alien nodded slightly.
"Me, on mine, I want everything! And coffee to drink." He held his menu up for her to take.
"Do you want anchovies?"
"Did I say everything?" Kirk grinned, but his eyes were serious.
"Some people, when they say everything, they don't really mean everything", she gently explained.
"I understand" he replied evenly, still smiling. "When I say everything, I mean everything. Anchovies too. I *love* anchovies!"
Deirdre quickly brought two coffees. The Captain raised his cup at once. The alien didn't budge. He remained still and straight in his chair, with his hands clasped before him on the table.
A few minutes later, when Deirdre brought two small pizzas to their table, she noticed that the alien's coffee remained untouched, but the Captain was ready for a fill-up.
"Here you go", she said, presenting the food with a flourish.
"Wonderful!" Captain Kirk enthused, clearly delighted. "Wow! Sizzling hot! Look at that!" He smiled into Deirdre's surprised blue eyes. "Beautiful!"
Deirdre flushed with excitement. When Kirk said "Beautiful", it seemed as if he was speaking of her, not the pizza. She felt unbearably flattered.
The strange greenish man received his meal with no comment, and with no obvious enthusiasm.
"More coffee?" Deirdre asked.
"I'll just drink this one." the Captain replied, taking the alien's untouched cup.
"Would your friend like something else to drink?"
Kirk replied, "Ask him!" as he raised a slice of pizza to his open mouth.
The young woman hesitated, then, addressing the blue tunic, she shyly asked, "Is there anything else that I can bring you?"
"I will be content with only this", the Captain's odd companion replied, in a deep, melodious, cultured-sounding voice that took her by surprise.
"Your English is perfect!" she blurted, approvingly.
"Undoubtedly", he retorted, dryly.
She took the empty coffee cup.
"How did you learn it?" Deirdre asked, feeling a bit bolder.
He folded his arms across his chest, raised both eyebrows and pleasantly replied in a conversational tone, "By listening, while seated in my mother's lap."
Their gazes locked. She noticed that his lips and his nose were normal. He's not bad looking, she thought.
Kirk interrupted. "Miss? That table needs your attention." He gestured with his pizza slice.
"OK! Enjoy your lunch!" She smiled, and turned to patrol her section.
As busy as she was, she only managed to catch quick glimpses of the peculiar pair as they ate. She saw the Captain demonstrate for his friend the proper way to hold a slice of pizza. That amused her. A minute later there seemed to be a jocular dispute over how much red pepper was the correct amount.
At one point she saw the Captain sampling the vegetarian pizza.
The alien ate daintily, taking his time. The Captain wolfed his pizza down with gusto. Because the green man didn't stop to make conversation with others around them like the Captain did, they both finished eating at the same time. She was thrilled to note that they both managed to clean their plates. Like most of their customers did, they even ate the crusts.
Of course, for the illustrious Captain and his remarkable companion, the pizza was "on the house". Kirk gave Deirdre a lavish tip, flirting quite obviously all the while. Deirdre quite helplessly flirted back, and everyone but the alien smiled.
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