984: Women Have Wiles and Men Have Needs

by Dabin Reece and Vol Tryst
After Across the Pond

-=Tug-of-war pond on Sibalt=-

Things appeared dire indeed. As Vol crossed his arms, with an obvious frown on his face, he eyed the other team as they prepped. It took most of his conscious effort not to just forfeit right then and there, but Vol was feeling a particular burning sensation in his gut. That was unusual for him, but the Betazoid wasn't altogether too surprised. Vol worked tremendously well under pressure, even more so when the odds were stacked up against him. Judging from the team alone, Vol felt the battle cry within him rest just behind his lips. Indeed, perhaps the Sera team would undoubtedly win, but they'd have to bleed and bruise to do so.

Vol half listened to Salvek and Briggs discuss strategy, but was much more concerned in tapping the un-obvious Achilles heel of Keiran and the rest of the Sera team. He saw Dabin and February speaking amongst themselves, with TC and Keiran taking on leadership roles though stopping every once in awhile to tell Dabin to shut up.

And maybe that was it. Vol was now subconsciously biting his thumbnail as he slowly raised his eyebrows as an idea stuck him. Dabin was an invaluable crewmember, but as a teammate he seemed to be more or less distracted at the moment. Vol could almost feel the horns grow on his head as his plan evolved. He concluded that the only chance the Alchemy team had to win relied on the basic humanoid condition. If Vol could somehow ease the way for the opposing team to slip into human error, and for his own team's human instinct to boost their dexterity and strength, this would be very interesting indeed.

Vol quickly analyzed the situation on both teams: Keiran's weakness would be Zanh of course, but both were mature and Vol actually thought Keiran would be quick enough to see through any ploy Vol would attempt. Dabin on the other hand, well it wasn't that he was immature; he was just the good ol' Reece that Vol had learned to love and adore. He was also a recent father.

*That's evil,* Vol slyly smiled to himself.

Vol then concentrated on his own team. Surely, Cristiane could be taunted into giving his all in the hopes of impressing a crush of his. The young man was foolish enough to fall for it, and foolishness could work if manipulated correctly. That still left the teams at one potential advantage against two potential susceptibilities. Vol was aware of the fact that things may not occur as he prayed for them to, but he still rather preferred an even playing field in the absence of fairness in physical prowess.

“What are you smiling about?” said a voice, approaching Vol from his left.

Vol crashed out of thought as his eyes landed on Trev Sterling.

*Then again…* Vol perked up almost immediately.

“I'm just picturing what Salvek's going to look like all muddy and soaking wet,” Vol responded convincingly, gazing back at the other team as if Trev was not Vol's main focus at the moment.

“So sure we're going to lose, are you?” Trev stood shoulder to shoulder with Vol, jokingly challenging Vol's apparent hypothesis.

“I cannot deny what my sense of sight tells me.” Vol made a gesture to the other team with a wave of his hand.

“I thought Betazoids had the ability to rely on senses beyond what they could see.” Trev grinned, moving to stand right in front of Vol.

“True,” Vol replied curtly.

“What do those senses tell you?”

“That we may have a shot in hell.” Vol coyly smiled, leaning on one foot as he crossed his hands again. Vol could read this man like a mid 20th-Century newspaper. It was almost too easy.

“Trust that.” Trev softly and playfully punched Vol's arm as he moved past Vol towards the side of the rope belonging to the team.

“Such a shame,” Vol said loud enough so that Trev could hear him, though Vol did not turn around from where Trev left him. “Salvek wasn't the only one I was imagining dripping wet.”

Vol sensed Trev's mind almost hiccup in response and Vol used every ounce of willpower not to burst out laughing. Instead, Vol looked up at the sky, the rain falling on his head and he inhaled deeply. This, figuratively speaking, drowned the laugh within him. The hybrid also took the opportunity to juice up his secret weapon just a little bit. Since Vol was wet already, uncomfortable because of his body's humidity and sweat, and because it was likely he would be mud-ridden everywhere soon enough, he slowly took off his rain jacket and peeled off his shirt.

The rain was nice on his hairless torso and back and as he approached his position on the rope. He could feel Trev's eyes on him. What was more rewarding however, was Trev's new found determination. Vol almost hopped for joy.

“Counselor, we've been discussing an alternate strategy,” Salvek began as Vol took up the rope right in front Briggs, who was in front of Salvek.

“Way ahead of you boys,” Vol smiled.

Vol took a brief moment, to find the inner strength he would need for this challenge. Fueled by his desperation to not do any more work beyond this challenge, he gripped the rope firmly before waiting patiently for the game to get underway.

Vol's stance on the slippery wet ground seemed to almost fasten immediately, as per the new strategy the team was implementing via Salvek and Briggs’ counsel. This was due to the frustration Vol felt when Ashton Ledbetter gave up after a number of microseconds.

“C'mon Dane, stay put and she won't fall in.” Vol encouraged Mr. Cristiane. As Ashton settled himself on the sidelines, Vol glanced over to him, seething through his teeth as he spat out at him.

“Whatever critter it is that has crawled up your rear-end Ledbetter, I hope for your sake it remains there before it nests and eventually dies.”

“Why would that be for my better sake?” Ashton inquired, disappointed that the Counselor wouldn't think an insult through before laying it on him.

“Because if it doesn't remain there, it would have made enough room for me to shove my boot so far up your…”

“I beg your pardon?” Ashton's jaw would have fallen to the ground if it could. As it was Paxton Briggs stepped in, asking Ledbetter to just let it go, before he proceeded to lecture him a smidge on how entirely uncooperative he was being on this special assignment.

Ledbetter looked across the pond and caught the eyes of Zanh Liis.. She was scowling with her arms folded over her chest, as was Dalton McKay for that matter. Liis was wishing this event had a few extra twists, such as the first person to lose contact with the rope must lick the deuterium injectors clean. Ashton just smiled and waved through the raindrops, which only served to infuriate her more. The Alchemy team may have been her opponent today, but they were still her crew, and Ledbetter had left them hanging literally on the end of the rope.

Their strategy seemed to be working, for the moment. Neither team was moving all that significantly and Vol wasn't even exuding all of his force, just enough to remain in one place without having to lift his feet.. Trev was in front of Vol, and Vol thought that perhaps the man needed a small reminder of his audience.

“Come on everyone, we're doing superbly.” Vol said through a clenched jaw.

It was then that Vol thought it appropriate to even out the teams a little bit.

*Hey Reece.*

Reece didn't reply.

*Reece!* He thought with a little more force.

*What?* Dabin asked, sounding annoyed.

*You didn’t really leave your kid with a Parisian, did you?*

Dabin was silent for a few moments. Vol looked out over the pond, and saw Bru’s eyebrows furrow. They exchanged a glance, then returned their focus to the task at hand. Dabin looked straight across the pond at Vol and snickered. Zanh Liis was watching them both like a hawk and her eyes now darted back and forth between the Reece family and Vol Tryst.

*Nice try.*

*Did you?* Vol asked, his thoughts sounding intentionally shocked.

Dabin clenched his eyes shut and shook his head, as if attempting to stifle Vol’s voice. There was silence for several more moments. Then Dabin cracked.

*Why, is there something about Fleur you’re not telling me? She’s been different since she and Gregor Mendel got together. Happy. A little too happy.*

*Dabin! Don’t let him get to you!* Bru pleaded as she held onto the rope with all her might.

*No, Vol’s right. This is one of those Hand that Rocks the Cradle deals isn’t it? While we’re down here unassuming, she’s probably up there hijacking a shuttle. Two kids not enough for you eh?*

Vol grinned, and Zanh Liis was now on her feet, watching Reece wince in what appeared to be pain. “Reece? Talk to me. What’s going on? Are you hurt?” McKay was right at her side, ready to render aid the moment Reece needed it, if he needed it.

*Dabin! This is your wife! Get a hold of yourself, and the rope!*

Reece’s knees began to buckle, and his thoughts spun out of control. *None of this ever would have happened if the Vedek hadn’t lured her in with his quiet gentle nature and chiseled good looks. Damn him.*

Dabin spun around and looked straight at Jariel.

“This is all your fault!” He shouted to the stunned Vedek. As soon as he did, he lost his stance and was dragged straight through the mud into the water. The Alchemy team gained three steps, but lost their rigid stance at the same time.

With a roar from Keiran O’Sullivan and a lurch from the other anchors Jariel, Tubman and Blane in front of him, the Sera team gained back four, before the Alchemy crew could regain their footing. Gira Lassiter was left flat-footed, right at the edge of the water, mere inches from joining Dabin Reece for a swim.

“Doctor, see if he’s all right, please.” Liis sighed. McKay stepped effortlessly into the water to help Reece up.

Vol grinned. *One down,* He thought to himself. From somewhere close by, he felt an incredible sense of satisfaction. Pure unadulterated pleasure as to what had just happened. It wasn’t any of the competitors. They were far too busy trying to avoid Dabin’s fate. The Captain’s demeanor certainly was not that of a woman who had enjoyed watching one of her oldest friends dragged through the mud, and whatever pleasure Ashton Ledbetter had experienced for a moment had already eroded back into boredom.

Not being able to find a clear and precise answer immediately, Vol shook his head in an attempt to re-concentrate his thoughts on where he was at the moment. Bru, on the other side of the mud puddle, took notice of this and decided that it was time for pay back.

*Distracted by the grease monkey in front of you?* She thought, trying to sound teasing but with some strain given that she was in the middle of a strenuous activity.

*No.* Vol shot back.

*Oh, I think you lie, Mr. Betazoid. I think you wish it was him half-naked right now.* Bru was pulling out all the guns now

*No, that would be your husband.*

*Huh?* Bru almost coughed.

*I love a respectable man all wet and dirty, so irresistible.* Vol licked his lips as he held firm in his stance and grip. He soon heard Bru laughing in his mind.

*Nice try you cheat, but you won't sway me that easily. He's not even your type.* Bru trailed off at the end, uncertain.

*Right, because you know my type. Let's go back shall we? To my reaction to your generous set-me-up with Mr. Sterling.*

*Yeah, but you were just horsing around. Playing hard-to-get.*

*But he doesn't have Dabin's spots.* Vol wagged his eyebrows.

“I think we un’dra’estimated Salvek’s secret weapon, Thomas.” Keiran said, loud enough for his intended target of February to hear, despite his use of TC’s name. He had taken note of Zanh Liis, who was taking note of Vol Tryst, and Keiran had put the pieces together.

February harrumphed and thrust her chin into the air. She wasn‘t going to listen to Vol anymore. This was the thanks she got for trying to set him up? Vol was going to have to be punished. Next time they had coffee out, she would make him pay for his own.

*Who am I kidding? I can’t make you pay. But I’m still done listening to you, Vol.*

Jariel turned around, looking at Tubman through the sweat and raindrops pouring down his face. “They aren’t even trying to pull!”

“Nope.” Tubman answered, with his usual degree of loquaciousness.

“There are playing for a stalemate, making it as difficult as possible to for us to move them.” TC added.

“I’s workin’.” O’Sullivan finished. This had Paxton Briggs written all over it, and with Vol Tryst playing head games from across the pond, their task was getting even more difficult than it already was.

From his position over on the Alchemy side, Vol was trying to get back into February’s head, so to speak, but was distracted by the voice of Trev Sterling.

“Watch out, Vol!” Tryst looked up just in time to see a large mudpie streaking through the sky between the raindrops towards his face. Vol shifted his upper body just enough to allow the mudpie to fall harmlessly beside him. He looked across the pond and saw a filthy and sopping wet Dabin Reece shaking his fist, then making the I’m watching you motion with his fingers by pointing at his own eyes, then at Vol’s.

“Thanks,” He said to Sterling, but before Trev could answer, there was a shriek as Gira Lassiter, who had been battling the slippery mud at the edge of the pond, lost her footing and was pulled into the water.

“GIRA!” Dane called, and dropped the rope to jump to her rescue. He pulled her to safety and neither appeared to be the worse for wear from their brief journey into the muck.

“Brace yourselves!” Salvek warned, to draw everyone attention back to the task at hand, and Vol knew why immediately. Despite everyone holding as fast as they could, the loss of Gira and Dane resulted in their stalemate being broken. Vol was now sliding. He was moving only an excruciatingly slow fraction of an inch at a time, but he was sliding nonetheless, across the surface of the mud.

“I hope you enjoy your pond water cold and filthy,” Ledbetter said to Vol, with a chuckle.

No matter what anybody on the team did, they couldn't stop themselves from losing ground. Vol wasn't quite giving up yet, but he did submit himself to his ultimate fate. However, he would get in the last word as far as Ledbetter was concerned.

"We may soon become wet Ashton," he said through clenched teeth, "but the only real loser here is you."

And with that, Landry Steele fell in the pond, impressing all those around her by actually taking the fall, and so the domino effect ensued. Ryn, Lair, Halliday and Samson, who had no intention of being outdone by Landry, all held on until the bitter end. Trev Sterling spun at the last moment, an altogether unsettling grin flashing on his face, and he grasped Vol's forearm and dragged the Counselor in with him.

The Sera team eased up a bit as each successive person fell, not wishing to harm anyone as it became clear the rest of the competition was academic.

“Release the rope Mr. Briggs, I do not wish for you to injure your back.” Salvek instructed. Paxton’s back seemed to agree with the Vulcan. He let go, and proceeded to dive on his own into the pond, eliciting a cheer from the rest of the Alchemy team.

Keiran bellowed for his team to hold up, leaving Salvek dangling on his own as the last man on the Alchemy team. He was not about to pull the First Officer in when the respectful thing to do was allow him the chance to retire from the game on his own. With a tug that jolted the Sera crew, Salvek made it clear that he stood with his team.

Keiran gave the order to pull, and Salvek slipped through the mud into the pond with the rest of the Alchemy crew.

In the spirit of good sportsmanship, the Sera team immediately dropped the rope and circled the pond to help their opponents to their feet and out of the muck. Vol was actually hoisted up by both Bru and Dabin.

"My thanks."

"Uh huh…" Bru said in a ‘you better be thankful’ tone.

It didn't take long for Vol to begin shivering, his teeth chattering against themselves. The hybrid was quickly regretting his stunt where he showed off his body, because it left him with nothing dry to now drape himself with. A fact that left him unable to properly react when Trev approached him and started rubbing his hands up and down his bare arms.


Teeth clattering away, Vol simply nodded his head.

"Funny, I was going to describe you using an antonym of the same word." The grease monkey smiled.

Vol's brows furrowed, as he could've sworn the man just winked at him.

Alchemy team!” Jelca’s voice bellowed over the assemblage. “Follow me. You have a camp site to build!”


Commander Dabin Reece
Chief Science Officer
USS Serendipity NCC-2012


Lt. Vol Tryst
Ship’s Counselor
USS Serendipity NCC-2012