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Log of the Month for March, 1998
CPA Muse Award Winner

Basic Math
Posted on March 15th, 1998 by Brooke Dolan

Part One

“Michael. Michael! Pay attention when I’m talking to you, dammit! You’ve gone and fudged the bloody data for the lab, haven’t you? Michael, answer me! I’m not failing this assignment just because you couldn’t get the results you wanted to, d’you hear me?” Michael continued walking, managing to stay a few steps ahead of Brooke, ignoring her completely. Irate, she grabbed his shoulder and yanked hard, pulling him around to face her. Breathless and fuming she yelled, “Dammit, Michael! My bloody chemistry scores are low enough as it is, I don’t need you bumping me to the bottom of the bloody class! I never asked to be your bloody lab partner in the first place!”

With a look of irritation, Michael simply replied, “Why don’t you swear a bit more, Brooke? Maybe if you’re loud and obnoxious enough, Professor Sepak will give you full marks for theatrics, even if your data is corrupt.”

Brooke’s eyes widened in disbelief. An indignant flush crept its way up her cheeks. “How dare you,” she began. But before she could go on, Michael cut her off.

“You can blame me all you want, but we both know that the results of the lab were off because you’d incorrectly calibrated the spectral analyzer.” He paused, then continued quietly, “Basic math, Brooke. Any cadet oughta be able to do it in her sleep.” With that, he removed the hand Brooke hadn’t realized she’d kept on his arm, and walked off in the direction of the science complex, leaving her astounded and speechless.

Applause thundered through the auditorium. Nearly deafened by the roar, Brooke stood, beaming triumphantly at the cheering audience. The debut of her one-woman show was a wild success. The masses loved her, the critics adored her, the — “Bravo, Brooke.” She whirled to face the uninvited guest.

“Computer, end program.” The crowd winked out of existence, their enthusiastic cries of “Encore!” giving way to the sterile silence of the gray holosuite. “Michael Bennet! Just what the hell do you think you’re doing here?”

“I knew you’d be practicing, and I wanted to watch. Seeing as how you haven’t invited me to a performance in the two years we’ve known each other, I took it upon myself to come see what you’re all about.”

Brooke could barely contain her fury. “You have no right to be here, Michael! Intruding upon someone else’s holoprogram is an invasion of privacy, and you know it! How did you get in here, anyway?”

Michael simply shrugged. “I picked the lock, so to speak.” Brooke silently glared at him. He only looked quietly back at her. “I overrode your security code. It wasn’t very difficult . . . Basic math, Brooke.”

Slowly, deliberately, quietly, Brooke began her reply. “For two years, Michael, I have had to be in the same classes as you, I’ve had to be partnered with you on more occasions than I care to count, and I’ve had to put up with your annoying inanities. If I’d wanted to be friends with you, I would have done so long ago. So unless it’s absolutely crucial that we interact with each other, for academic purposes, I would appreciate it if you never spoke to me again.”

The quiet, undefined expression on Michael’s face never changed. He merely shrugged a second time and strode out of the holosuite, leaving Brooke to collect her scattered thoughts.

“Senior Creative Arts Project. Talented actors wanted. Auditions today.” Brooke read aloud from the notice outside the tryout area. “Well,” she said, taking a deep breath. “Here goes nothing.” She opened the door and strode purposefully into the small room. Facing the table where the director sat, she focused on a spot halfway up the wall and belted out “God Save the Queen,” a cappella. Silence ensued.

At long last, the director said, “Well, this isn’t exactly a musical, and I’m not exactly an anglophile, but if you’d care to do a cold reading, perhaps I could assess your dramatic capabilities.”

Swallowing, Brooke finally broke her focus and looked at the young man behind the table. Her heart sank. Oh . . . my . . . god. Why is Michael Bennet directing a theatrical project?

Looking down at the sign-up list, Michael said, “Ms. . . . Dolan, is it? One thing I’ll say, you certainly have spunk. Here, try this.” He handed her a padd of the script. Why is he acting like he doesn’t even know me? she thought. Then she remembered the time she’d told him to — Oh, no. Oh no, oh no, oh no. How do I get myself into these things? Sighing, Brooke took it from him. “I’ll be reading the part of Doran, the male lead. You’ll read Sara opposite me. . . . They’re lovers.” His voice lowered, “Think you can handle it?”

Forcing her lips not to tighten into a snarl, she smiled sweetly and replied, “I am a professional, Mr. Bennet. Now read.”

“Oh, Brooke! Wonderful job!” Nadine, her roommate and best friend, hugged her tightly.

“Thanks, Nadine. I’m glad you could make it.”

“Are you kidding? I wouldn’t have missed it! And Michael! I mean, for a guy who you’ve so often said is such a cold, scientific jerk, he certainly played a romantic lead exceptionally well, don’t you think?”

Brooke forced a small smile and nodded. She couldn’t remember ever having mentioned Michael to Nadine once, let alone frequently enough to leave any kind of impression. “Excuse me, Nadine. I’m going to go change.” Walking away, Brooke rounded a corner and collided with her director/costar. She was about to swear at him in her usual fashion when suddenly he thrust a bouquet of roses toward her. Puzzled, she asked, “What’s this for?”

“For my leading lady. . . . I mean, it’s tradition for the director to give his leading lady flowers on opening night. And closing night. And since we’re only having one performance, I guess I get to kill two birds with one stone.” He smiled.

“Well, yes, but . . . Michael, I . . . I don’t know what to say. I . . .”

“Say thank you.”

“Oh, god! I’m sorry! Yes, of course, thank you, Michael,” she said, accepting the roses. “They’re beautiful. Thank you.”

“And say you’ll have dinner with me . . . to celebrate.”

Brooke’s brow furrowed in confusion. “I . . . I don’t understand, Michael.”

“Oh, forgive me,” he grinned. “You Brits say supper, don’t you? Would you join me for supper?”

“What?” Brooke still wasn’t quite catching on.

“Tea, then?” he offered hopefully. “How about just a biscuit, maybe? Or a . . . whaddyacallit . . . scone?”

Utterly lost, Brooke just started laughing. “Oh, Michael, it isn’t that! I just thought that you . . . I mean that we . . . well, things were a bit . . . Yes, I would love to join you for dinner.”

Michael’s grin widened into a smile. “Of course, you realize,” he went on, “it isn’t proper for a director to date his star.”

Brooke laughed again, “Oh, don’t be so Victori — What did you say?” She stopped laughing. “Did you just say — date?”

There was an awkward pause. “Um . . . yes, I . . . I suppose I did. I mean, would that be so awful, a date with me?”

“No, I just thought that you’d said dinner, to celebrate, you know. That’s all.” Brooke bit her lip.

“Well . . . dinner and a date, I think that’s what I meant to say. Would that . . . would that be alright? Or do I have to take back my roses and give them to some other leading lady?”

The uncomfortable moment past, Brooke raised an eyebrow. “Is there another?” she teased.

The half-mirthful expression disappeared from Michael’s face, replaced by that quiet, undefined look she’d seen many times before, after each one of their confrontations. She’d never been able to label it exactly, and that had always unnerved her, especially since it usually meant he was about to turn and walk away, leaving an unfinished feeling hanging in the air. But this time, instead of turning from her, Michael only gazed at her, more intently than anyone had ever looked at her before. She felt, in that moment, that she was being analyzed, sized-up, and judged from the inside, even to the very center of her being. She had never cared before what he thought of her; she assumed he often found her lacking when it came to lab work or social graces, but his opinion was of no concern to her. And yet, suddenly, she wanted very much to not be judged harshly; she found herself secretly longing for his approval.

Finally ending the agonizing silence, Michael spoke, very softly, very enigmatically. “No . . . no other.” He paused. “Basic math, Brooke.”


Part Two

“Ssh! Brooke! Shut up!” Michael hissed in a furious whisper. Brooke covered her mouth with her hand to stifle her incessant giggles. “Brooke, I mean it! Shut up, or we’re gonna get busted!” Brooke snorted behind her hand, and then giggled even harder at the sound she’d just made.

“Oh, Michael, no one’s gonna catch us! We’re safe!” Brooke’s speech was slightly slurred, and the Manchester accent that was usually imperceptible had been given new voice by the liter or so of alcohol she’d consumed. Michael turned to her and took her firmly by the shoulders.

“That’s the last time I’m letting you drink so much. I thought the English were supposed to be able to hold their booze!”

Brooke giggled again. “No, Michael, that’s the Irish! Don’t you know anything, you Yankee bast –”

He clapped a hand to her mouth. “Quiet, Brooke!” he whispered. “If we want this to work, you’ve got to promise to keep quiet. Can you do that for me? Because I’d really like to graduate, and I think an incident like this just might be looked upon as a small setback, don’t you?” Brooke stopped giggling and nodded very solemnly. Michael removed his hand and sighed. Then he turned back to the security pad he’d been working on. After a few moments, he was able to key in the correct code to bypass the system’s protocols. The two of them crept inside and ran down the hall, ducking into a storage area.

“Made it!” Brooke whispered triumphantly. Michael shot her a warning look, then took her by the hand and led the way down the corridor. Reaching a computer access panel at the hallway junction, Michael programmed a complex set of recursive algorithms into the main database, and then covered his tracks with an encrypted program that wiped out any traces of tampering. Brooke, of course, just stood there and watched, too inebriated to be of much use.

“Okay, finished! Let’s get the hell outta here!” Michael turned to her and they began walking towards the building’s entrance. They managed to exit without incident, and made it all the way across campus to Brooke’s room without being apprehended. MIchael let out a sigh of relief. “Do you realize what we just did? We just pulled off what’s going to be the most famous senior prank in the entire history of Starfleet Academy!!! The entire central computer system is going to be so screwed up for the next two days that they’ll have to cancel classes!”

“You’ll be a hero, Michael!” Brooke giggled at the thought. “It was a brilliant plan!”

Michael glared at her. “We’re just lucky your giggling didn’t get us caught, Brooke.” His expression softened somewhat. “If that accent of yours comes out every time you get drunk, maybe we should get you smashed a bit more often.” Brooke only continued to giggle. Michael rolled his eyes. “Alright, that’s it. You’re going to bed. Now.”

Brooke put one hand to her mouth to cover her giggles, and hiccupped, which only made her giggle harder. She raised a hand to the keypad by the door and entered the sequence to unlock it. Nothing happened. “Well, that’s odd,” she slurred, and tried again. “Whaddya know, Michael? I forgot how to unlock my door!” She burst into a fit of laughter. “Computer, unlock my damn door!”

“Voice authorization not recognized.” came the reply. “Authorization restricted to Brooke Dolan and Nadine Troub.”

“How could it not recognize my voice?” Brooke giggled.

“Oh my god,” said Michael. “You’re drunk, Brooke! You suddenly have an English accent and the worst case of giggling hiccups I’ve ever heard!”

Brooke only laughed harder than ever at hearing this. She was doubled over, barely able to breathe, yet still hiccupping and giggling insanely. Michael picked her up and slung her over his shoulder, then carried her to his own quarters.

Entering his bedroom, he gently placed her on his bed. She was already asleep. He drew the cover up over her and then pulled a chair up next to the bed. He sat down and watched her; he intended to stay awake all night, watching her, to make sure she was alright. He leaned over and brushed a stray curl back from her face. Brooke stirred slightly and mumbled something unintelligible. “Silly girl,” he said with a soft smile. “Way too much wine for someone your size.” He let his fingers graze her face lightly. “Basic math, Brooke.”

Brooke sat upright in bed. “Oh my god!!! What time is it?”

“The time is 1300 hours,” replied the computer.

“Bloody hell!” she cursed. “I slept until one in the afternoon? I can’t believe it!!! And I’m late for Michael’s graduation ceremony!” Jumping up, she grabbed the closest clothes she could find and dressed in record time. She had promised Michael she’d be there this afternoon, and she had overslept! Swearing under her breath, she dashed out the door and sprinted to the auditorium where the ceremony was being held. She managed to make it inside just as his name was being called.

“Michael Bennet.” He stepped forward to shake hands with the dean and receive his diploma. Brooke cheered and applauded. He looked out at the audience and saw her, standing in the back by the door. Their eyes met, and they smiled at each other.

After the ceremony she rushed up to hug him. He picked her up and swung her around, laughing. “Oh, Michael! Congratulations! I’m so proud of you!”

“Thank you, Brooke. I’m glad you made it,” he smiled.

“Of course I made it!” she said, matter-of-factly. “I wouldn’t have missed it for anything!” Quickly changing the subject, she asked, “So do I finally get to meet your family?”

“You sure do,” he replied. “Why don’t you come out for lunch with us?”

“I’d be delighted,” smiled Brooke.

That night, Brooke joined Michael and some of his recently graduated classmates for drinks. As usual, Brooke had one too many, and as usual, Michael offered to walk her home. Turning to him, she said, “How many times have we gone through this same scenario, Michael? I get smashed, you walk me home and put me in bed . . . except for that one time, of course. When I couldn’t — ” she started to giggle. “Couldn’t open my door,” she finished.

Michael only smiled at her. “Well, do you think you’ll be able to figure it out tonight? Or should I call security this time?” Brooke laughed at him, then when her giggling had subsided, they remained quiet for some time as they walked.

Entering her building, Brooke broke the silence. “Michael,” she began, somewhat subdued. “Why didn’t you ever ask me out again after that one date we had? After the show.”

He shrugged. “I dunno, Brooke. I guess I figured we’d make better friends than . . . well, than anything else. You know?” She nodded, thoughtful. A moment later, they reached her door.

“Michael . . . that night I was drunk, when we broke into the main computer . . . you had just pulled off one of the most impressive displays of . . . well, of breaking into a computer that I’d ever seen. . . . And you’ve picked locks before . . . why didn’t you try to unlock my door yourself?”

Michael looked intently at her and thought for a while before replying. “I don’t know, Brooke. I guess maybe I thought it wouldn’t be so bad if I had to take you home with me. It’s not like I was thinking of trying anything. I mean, you were passed out anyway.”

“Have you ever thought of trying anything, Michael? Or has it always been “just friends” between us?”

“Brooke, you’re my best friend. You know that as well as I do. But you’re drunk, and I don’t think this is the kind of conversation we’d be having under normal circumstances.” Brooke nodded slowly and turned to unlock her door. She walked in, and he followed. “Are you going to be okay?” he asked. “Is there anything I can do for you?”

Brooke turned to face him. There it was, once again. The expression she’d never been able to pinpoint. She hadn’t seen it in a long while, but it was something she wouldn’t have forgotten. What is it, Michael? What does it mean when you look at me like that? He looked away, breaking their eye contact. “Yes,” she suddenly said.

“Huh?” He turned back to her.

“Yes, there is something you can do for me, Michael,” she continued. “You asked, so I’m taking you up on it.”

He smiled softly. “Of course, Brooke. Anything, what is it?”

She stepped toward him until she had crossed some invisible line. They had only been this close to each other once before, and that was acting, so it didn’t really count. But Michael didn’t back away. Somehow she had known he wouldn’t. “You can . . .” she found that she’d lost her voice suddenly, and was only able to whisper. She swallowed nervously. “You can spend the night with me.”

There was a painfully long silence, in which Michael’s face reverted to that expression. “No, Brooke,” he said softly. “No, not now, not like this. Not when you’re drunk. You might regret it afterwards.”

Brooke looked quizzically at him. “What do you mean, Michael? No I wouldn’t. I mean, look at it this way. You want me, I want you, and we’ve known it in the back of our minds for almost three years. You’re leaving, I have one more year left. Who knows when we’ll run into each other again? And I may have had a few drinks, but I’m thinking more lucidly than I ever have before.” She wrapped her arms around his neck and leaned in to kiss him, but he pulled away.

“Brooke, please . . . please just go to sleep. I’ll see you tomorrow, okay?” He untangled himself from her embrace and began to leave. Then quietly, simply, he was gone. Brooke stood, silent and pensive. Michael . . .

The transport site was bustling with activity. People were milling about, getting ready to go home, or be beamed to ships waiting to take fresh new ensigns onboard. Brooke stood off at a distance. One more year, she thought. One more year . . . without Michael . . . and then med school, and then an assignment, and then who knows when we’ll see each other again? If we’ll see each other again . . . She sighed. These thoughts weren’t helping her at all. She checked her chronometer. Five minutes. He’s leaving in five minutes. She spotted him just then. She hadn’t spoken to him since the night of commencement — how was she supposed to simply say goodbye now, after all that had happened between them? Steeling herself, she started walking toward him. He saw her and managed a smile. “I didn’t think you were going to show.” She smiled back, though it was forced.

“Of course, Michael. I came to see you off.”

“Brooke, about the other night. I — ”

“Forget it, Michael. You were right. I would’ve regretted it anyway.” Ouch, she thought. That wasn’t quite what I meant to say. She cleared her throat. “So . . . where are you off to?”

“Home, for the time being. I’ve been assigned to the Artemis, science department. I report for duty in a week.”

“I see,” Brooke nodded. Silence.

“Well, uh . . . I suppose I’ll be off now.” She stared silently at him. “You know where to find me.” She nodded. There was a strange lump in her throat which wouldn’t let her speak, even if she knew what to say. Michael extended his hand, and she shook it, somewhat awkwardly. He stepped onto the pad, and the transporter sequence engaged.

As he began to dematerialize, Brooke finally snapped out of her reverie and called to him. “Michael! Michael, I love you!” But she was a split second too late. He was gone, and hadn’t heard her . . .


Part Three

Artemis. The name resounded in Brooke’s mind. Artemis, twin sister of Apollo, goddess of the hunt, keeper of the moon . . . an eternally youthful virgin who was known for her vindictive anger. It was said that she was responsible for sending the scorpion that killed the hunter Orion, after he had tried to ravish her. Both Orion and Scorpio were then placed in the sky as constellations, the hunter becoming the hunted for all time. She was also said to have changed Callisto into a she-bear, who was then placed in the sky as well. Artemis, the huntress, the warrior, protector of the Amazons, a woman completely independent of men . . . just like me, thought Brooke. She and I will be perfect together . . . Brooke took a deep breath and set her bag down in her new quarters.

My first ship. Brooke was a young doctor, fresh out of Starfleet Medical, on her first assignment, but she couldn’t have recited the Hippocratic Oath at that moment if her life depended on it. All thoughts of duty and assignments had flown out of her head, replaced by one single, constant thought — Michael. This was his ship as well, and had been since he’d graduated the Academy. He was an assistant science officer, if she remembered correctly. She hadn’t seen him since the day she’d said goodbye in San Francisco. They’d corresponded a few times; however, their friendship had all but ended that night she’d. . . . Oh, god . . . don’t even think about how badly you screwed that one up, Brooke. She took another look around her quarters and set off to find sickbay so she could report for duty as the ship’s second assistant medical officer.

It wasn’t until she’d been onboard for over a week that she finally ran into Michael. She hadn’t been avoiding him, exactly. She’d certainly thought about him enough in the past several days, but she hadn’t actively sought him out. However, he came into sickbay one afternoon with a sprained wrist — holodeck accident, he’d claimed — and she had been the one who treated him. Never in her entire life had she found herself in a more awkward position. They made small talk for a few minutes, then lapsed into painful silence. Finally, she finished up and dismissed him. He nodded his thanks and walked out. She closed her eyes to block out the flood of memories that threatened to inundate her, and turned back to her work, letting go of every thought, every feeling, every remembrance that had to do with him.

That was how their relationship went, for an entire year. They would occasionally see each other, spend a few awkward moments in idle conversation, and then continue on their separate ways. Eventually, Brooke received her first promotion. She was still an ensign — Michael’s probably a senior lieutenant at this point, he always did well, quickly — but she now bore the proud title of First Assistant Medical Officer. With her new job came new responsibilities, and new privileges. She was allowed to begin research on a psychoimmunological study she’d been wanting to do for some time, and she even applied for a Starfleet Medical research grant. But less than two months later, the course of her life was irrevocably altered . . . .

“Reports of wounded coming in from all over the ship!”

“Decks nine through fifteen breached, heavy casualties!”

“Emergency site-to-site transports being initiated shipwide!”

“Bridge to sickbay, prepare for wounded crew!”

Brooke’s mind raced as she heard snatches of conversations and reports from all corners of sickbay. She was terrified — she’d trained for all sorts of emergency medical contingencies, but she’d always hoped she’d never need to use any of them. She was a doctor, and she was used to seeing injuries, diseases, pain, and death . . . but when her own ship and crew had taken such a beating, she found it hard to detach from the personal aspects of the situation and remain strictly professional. The doors opened, and thus began a steady stream of crew into sickbay. Most of them were walking wounded, with only minor injuries, and these were quickly shoved to one side to make room for those who had to be carried or were beamed directly to sickbay.

“What happened? What happened?” A young lieutenant whose face had been half burned off asked repeatedly, in a daze. He’s in shock, thought Brooke.

“Come with me, sir. Lie down here, you’re going to be fine.” She covered him to preserve body heat and began treating his burns.

“What happened? Where am I?”

“There was an accident, in main engineering. There was extensive damage to that entire section of the ship. You’re in sickbay now, you’re going to be alright.” Sedating him, she quickly moved on to another patient, then another, and another.

Hours later, the flow finally ebbed. All the most critical cases had been treated, as well as most of the minor ones. Bodies had been removed from the scene of the accident and transported to the morgue. Brooke did not look forward to helping the CMO fill out their death certificates. Details about the accident were still somewhat sketchy, but there had apparently been a giant explosion in engineering, from what she could gather. The blast also hit the nearby science depart — Oh, god. Oh, dear god . . . Science? . . . Michael! . . . Where’s Michael?! Her professional composure crumbled and her mind reeled. She tapped her communicator. “Sickbay to Lieutenant Bennet.” She waited an agonizing moment, but there was no reply. “Computer,” panic inched its way into her voice. “Locate Michael Bennet.”

“Lieutenant Bennet is in sickbay.”

Brooke whirled around and scanned the room frantically. Where is he? Oh, god, where is he? She grabbed the arm of a passing nurse. “Have you seen Michael Bennet? Do you know where he is?” The nurse quickly shook her head and continued walking toward a console on the far wall. Brooke began looking in every bed, in every room of sickbay, desperately searching for Michael.

Finally — oh, god, finally! — she saw him. He was lying on a biobed in the very rear of the department, sleeping. She approached cautiously and scanned him with a med tricorder. Internal bleeding . . . damage to liver and spleen . . . hemorrhaging . . . dammit! She didn’t want to wake him, so she only stood and watched him. His breathing was slow and relaxed; were it not for the bruises and cuts on his face and arms, it wouldn’t have appeared that anything was wrong with him at all.

“Brooke! Dolan! Get over here!” She turned at the sound of her name. Dr. Zeven was calling her. Trying to forget about Michael for the moment, she approached the CMO. “Listen very carefully to me, Brooke. As you know, the ship’s counselor is on a leave of absence. You’re the only person on my staff with a background in psychiatry. I’m going to need you to pull double duty for me, as my AMO and as counselor. There are going to be a lot of people who will need you both during and after this tragedy. Can you do it?”

Brooke nodded and tried to smile. “Absolutely, sir. Count on me.”

And so began the most arduous seventy-two hours she’d ever endured. She didn’t sleep for the next three days, despite the protestations of both her body and soul. The work she did to help get the Artemis back on her feet eventually earned her Starfleet Medical’s “Official Recognition for Outstanding Service in Medicine,” and helped to hurry along the approval of her research grant. But it was a hollow victory. Eleven crewmen had died, and twenty-six more were injured, fourteen of them seriously. Brooke spent a majority of her three day vigil at Michael’s side. Her initial scans had proven inconclusive. In addition to his internal injuries, he had also sustained brain damage, and had not yet recovered consciousness.

“Brooke.” A gentle hand was placed on her shoulder. “Brooke, you need to rest.” Zeven tried to nudge Brooke to her feet. “There’s nothing more you can do for him right now.”

“No,” whispered Brooke defiantly. “I’m not leaving him. I’m going to be right here when he wakes up. I want my face to be the first thing he sees. I want him to know . . .” Her voice cracked.

“Brooke,” Zeven continued softly. “You’ve studied far more of the brain than I have. You’re researching psychoimmunology . . . you know better than anyone what the chances of his regaining consciousness are. And even if he did revive, he’d suffer permanent brain damage.”

Hot tears stung Brooke’s eyes and threatened to spill over. “No. I will not leave him.”

With a sigh of resignation, Zeven turned and began to walk away, then stopped. “Brooke,” he said, without turning back to her. “Lieutenant Bennet’s abdomen was crushed by a 200 kilogram container, and his skull was bashed against the floor with an impact equal to twice the normal –”

“Shut. Up,” Brooke commanded, quietly.

Ignoring the borderline insubordination, Dr. Zeven only said, “You know the odds better than I do, Brooke. You do the calculations . . . it’s basic math, Ensign.”

The only thing Brooke remembered of the memorial service for the eleven — twelve, she silently corrected herself — dead crew members was that it was achingly beautiful. The captain and commanding officer had both spoken eloquently about each man and woman who had died in the tragic accident. And in her assumed role as ship’s counselor, she had also played a small part in the service. After it was over, there was a reception in the officer’s lounge. She had chosen to seek out the quiet solace of her own quarters, however. Lying on her bed, she let her mind replay every memory she could summon of the three years she’d spent with Michael at the Academy. How could I have let him walk out of my life like that? she berated herself. I never even got the chance to tell him . . . he never knew how I felt. And I’ll never know how he felt, either. I’ll never know what might have been . . . if only I’d . . . She cut off that line of thinking, and tried to focus on one of the happier moments she’d shared with him. The week before he’d graduated . . . that had been one of the best times of her life. After three years of the strangest relationship she’d ever known, they had finally coalesced into something solid, a wonderful friendship unsurpassed by anything she shared with another soul. She remembered one of their last, long conversations.

“Michael, will you still love me when you’ve graduated?” Brooke was sprawled across his bed, pretending to study Klingon anatomy.

“Of course, Brooke! Don’t be ridiculous! You’re my closest friend, I’ll never stop loving you, no matter how far apart we are.” Michael didn’t look up from his book.

“I dunno, Michael.” She rolled onto her back and looked at the phosphorescent stars he’d put on his ceiling. “The galaxy is a pretty big place, and serving in the Fleet can take people pretty far away from each other — and I don’t just mean physical distance. People change, y’know?” She turned her head to look at him, and their eyes met and locked.

“I know, Brooke. But usually for the better. Like the way we’ve changed each other. We’re both better people because of this friendship.”

Brooke looked away again. “Why do you think we are friends, Michael? I used to despise you. I thought you were — ”

“Cold and scientific? I know, Brooke. And you were probably right. But you were a fiery, untamed shrew.” He smiled, amused at his description of her.

“Perhaps . . . ” she ignored the laughter behind his voice and continued. “So what ever brought us together? We’re total opposites in so many respects!”

“Well,” he said, finally closing his book and giving up on working, as she had done some time ago. “Everyone knows it’s a basic law of physics that opposites attract. It’s — ”

“Yeah, yeah, I know. Basic math.” She groaned at the overused phrase. “We’ve been over it a hundred times, Michael.”

“Actually, Brooke . . . ” He gazed at her in that intent way of his. “I was gonna say chemistry.”

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