by Lance Hartcort and Zanh Liis
Following Something Amiss
-=Afterthought Café, USS Serendipity=-
It didn't take Captain Zanh long to identify Lance Hartcort from his profile picture.
She spied him sitting in the Afterthought, chatting to Ensign Withers; a young engineering officer who had come aboard from the USS Gauntlet to assist with the repairs.
The doctor's good looks and medical knowledge were only overshadowed by his legendary charm, which, by the dreamy look in Withers' eyes and the way she hung on his every word the good doctor had turned on full-blast.
Zanh knew that this was her man.
He just didn't know that she was his Captain yet.
She went to the counter and accepted a cup of coffee from Wren Elton,thanking her and standing there a moment to observe Hartcort in what seemed to be a amazing display of poise and grace resembling a big cat slowly stalking its prey. Zanh considered the description Paxton Briggs had given her of Hartcort as she watched the man in action. It seemed the good doctor's reputation was well earned; she only hoped his medical skills held up to their hype as well.
She shook her head in disbelief. He seemed even younger in person.
*He looks like he should be in the Academy, not a CMO. But then I've never been one to judge a book by its cover.*
She moved toward the table and Hartcort, deep in the middle of a story and with eyes locked on Withers, mistook her out of the corner of his eye for their waitress.
Without turning his head, he held his cup up and out toward her, sloshing a little of the contents which had long gone cold as he regaled Withers with the story of his exploits on Bajor, raining down onto Zanh's boots.
"So there we were...stuck in the middle of an epidemic and watching things go downhill fast when...Oh, thanks hon, can I get a refill?" He addressed Zanh, who watched with great amusement as Withers, who could fully see her standing over Hartcort's shoulder, went stark white.
Lance thought the change in the pretty engineer's expression was a testiment to his storytelling skills, but it was in actuality due to the fact that he had just asked the infamous Zanh Liis to bring him another cappuchino.
It took him a moment to realize that the young woman was staring past him at the waitress. He frowned, wondering what could possibly be more interesting than he was.
At last he turned to stare almost directly at the four gleaming pips on Zanh's collar.
His eyes drifted from the pips to Liis' eyes then back to the pips.
He smiled warmly. “So I guess you won't be getting me that refill will you?” He gulped. “Sir.”
“Um, I have to go.” Was all Ensign Withers said as she skillfully slipped out of her chair and quickly left the cafe'.
Lance looked longingly after her before turned back to the woman with the captain's pips.
Her voice was deep and her tone even as she introduced herself. "Zanh Liis. Pleased to meet you, Commander Hartcort."
“Let me start off by saying sorry, Sir.” He recovered quickly. His eyes skillfully took in the full sight of the woman standing before him; his attention locking only for a split second on one specific item adorning her features.
“Might I also add that you husband is a lucky man to have married you. Looks and power, awesome combo.”
"Wow. And he goes right into suck-up mode with consummate skill, ladies and gentlemen. Very nice, doctor. You'd better hurry to pucker up though if you also plan to kiss my ass today, because I've got a busy schedule."
“I can do that if so ordered.”
"Saints above," Liis borrowed one of Keiran's pet phrases without thinking. "He respects the chain of command! Good to know. But before you also pull out your handkerchief with an aim to polishing up my boots for me, Commander, excuse me for a second. I'll be right back." She gestured toward her sling with the mug in her right hand. "Forgive my lack of efficiency, but I am working with only the one arm."
She set her cup down on the table, took his half-empty one, and actually went to the counter and retrieved a new cup of cappuchino for the youthful physician, giving him a moment to gather himself before she returned
After handing his beverage over, she grasped hold of and spun the chair across from him backward and moved to straddle it. "So. I hear you've been a busy boy in my hometown of late. That makes you a very popular guy in my book."
Before he could answer her expression altered, conveying deep concern. "How is the Vedek?"
"Timal, Jariel, or did you have another in mind? Place was swimming with people in robes."
"Well, I did mean Timal," Liis' eyes focused on the top of the table for a moment. "He raised me, you know."
“Timal will make a full recovery. He is a tough old bird but it was touch and go for a little bit. I expect the man to outlive me.” He smiled.
"You and me both." Liis picked up her coffee cup and stared down into the liquid inside for a moment as she spoke again. "And Jariel?"
“Jariel is also fine, or will be once they retrieve his little girl.”
Liis stopped mid-sip and sat up straight, blinking repetitively though the rest of her expression was blank. "His what?"
"Gillan Tress. The little orphan girl from the Plains that he and Fleur Le Marc want to adopt."
Liis' expression changed at least ten times in as many seconds, finally settling upon a gaze of concern, only one question on her mind. "Is the child in danger?"
Lance looked into his own cup now. "Physically? I don't think so. Emotionally? Absolutely. She had already bonded to both of them and views them as parents. Another loss of a mother and father might be unrecoverable. On top of her hearing loss following the fever, it could be deadly in a very real way."
"I'll need to speak to Samson and Cristiane about the situation too. If any of you believe there's any string I can pull to help the situation, I want you to say the word. I'm fully prepared to start yanking."
"Start yanking." Lance shifted his gaze. "No one in power should be allowed to abuse it in this way. I feel partly responsible. We really, rightfully, turned the screws on certain goverment officals so they are lashing out and hitting WAY below the belt." He paused a moment before going on as Liis mutely considered his words.
"I've already sent my very long, very detailed report to Starfleet Medical." He held up his cup. "Here's to hoping they do something fast. People need to pay for this."
"What a universe it would be," Zanh mumbled absently, "if the guilty were always made to pay in full for their crimes."
Silence settled between them for a moment, and a moment was about all Hartcort could take.
"So, what's with the busted wing?" he indicated the sling her left arm rested in.
"Oh, this? Nothing. I just took some shrapnel on a Romulan ship just before we were beamed out at the very last possible second."
"Yeah. Well, was my own damn fault I was in such bad shape. I broke rule number one of being stabbed by a pointy object. Never pull the offending article out on your own."
Lance shook his finger at her. "That's right. You should always leave that to a well trained professional.” He smiled. “Like me.”
His expression turned serious. “Make sure that your photoelectronic CMO puts you one a exercise routine ASAP. We don't want that bicep to atrophy."
"Oh no, we don't want that," Zanh droned, clearly unworried. She took to swirling the coffee in her cup in circles and watched it spin. "Would slow down my impact and reaction time when I need to smack Dane around."
"Seriously," Hartcort insisted. "It'll make your recovery take twice as long.”
"All right. I'll look into it as soon as I get to finish my honeymoon. Which was most rudely interrupted by the Romulans."
"Honeymooning could be considered a form of exercise in and of itself," Lance grinned, taking a sip from the steaming cup in his hand.
Zanh cleared her throat.
"Too much?" He asked, still smiling.
"Almost." Zanh smiled. "But not quite." She set her cup aside and looked at him directly once again. "Doctor Hartcort, I hate to bring up what may likely be a sore subject for you, but I heard tell that the Rev is going to be in dry dock awhile."
Lance nodded as he took another slow sip from his cup. “Oh that's not a sore subject. Boring, but not sore. Well, maybe my backside will be sore from sitting on it. But yes, it'll be stuck in one spot for some time.” His brow furrowed. “Why do you bring it up?”
"Tell me something. Where do you see yourself in five years time, career-wise?"
"Running Starfleet Medical." He smiled then his expression became serious. "Or dealing Blackjack at a Ferengi casino. Whatever comes first."
"Given what you've accomplished on Bajor, I have no doubt that you have a bright future and can go anywhere you want. But before you become the youngest Director of Starfleet Medical in the history of the Federation, you've got to kill some time working your way up the food chain." Zanh twisted the chain of her earring and then adjusted the cuff affixed to the top of her ear.
"I'm thinking that you could find plenty to do around here to challenge you in the meantime. You've already met some of my crew, though Cristiane is hardly what I'd call typical of my...staff..." Liis' words trailed off as she watched Dabin Reece jog past, juggling three small, round donuts into the air for no reason other than the fact that he was Dabin Reece.
"O...kay, so maybe Dane is the one you want to think about when you consider making your decision..." She looked at him squarely in the eyes. "Look. I've read the reports, I've reviewed your record, and I'm impressed." She paused. "I am not a woman who is easily impressed. That being the case, I'm offering you a job."
Lance's eyes widened. “To do what? You short a nurse or something?”
"Nurses, I've got. What I want is the youngest CMO in all of Starfleet. 'Cause I don't already feel old enough on a daily basis anymore. I need someone around to remind me of just how truly decrepit I am becoming in my golden years." She locked piercing steel-blue eyes on his. "Care to give it a shot?"
Lance stared at her for a long moment. "I don't know. I mean there is the Thursday Poker game I'd be missing, and laundry." He frowned. "Oh and stock reports, I'd hate to miss those."
"They play Poker on this ship." Zanh replied, intentionally sounding bored. Her voice became humorously and momentarily muted by the cup as she tilted it to her lips to finish the last sip of her coffee. "They think I don't know. I know." Her eyes never left his for a second, and he continued to return her stare.
"I think I could use a change of scenery." He paused. "OK, I'm in. On one condition."
She set her empty cup down and arched a single brow. "Such as?"
"I get to redecorate Sickbay and run it my way."
She nodded once. "Fair enough. Just as long as you also remember one thing."
"That your Sickbay is still located on my ship."
Commander Lance Hartcort
Chief Medical Officer
USS Serendipity NCC-2012
-=/\=- Zanh Liis
USS Serendipity NCC-2012