The sound of soft music filled the large conference room turned banquet hall as the USS Enterprise orbited high above Ardana. It was the Starships second visit to the planet in less than a week. The previous visit had been on an errand of urgency, the need to transport the valuable ore zenite from Ardana to Marak II in order to combat a botanical plague on that world.
A simple transport mission had instead turned into involvement in a small-scale civil war between the Cloud Minders of Stratos who lived in the airborne city and the Troglytes who lived and worked in the mines beneath the surface. The root cause of the conflict was the Stratos dwellers belief that the Troglytes were inferior beings who didn’t have the intelligence to appreciate the beauty of their cloud city.
The Troglytes were mentally inferior; at least most of them, but it only took Doctor McCoy a short time to discover that the cause of this retardation was the constant exposure to the gas produced by unrefined zenite ore. A gas whose resultant effects could be countered by the simple introduction of protective breathing filters.
Captain Kirk had effected a temporary truce between the two warring factions long enough to complete his mission. The Enterprise had then returned to help work out a more permanent understanding between the two parties. The impromptu dinner party was to celebrate the signing of that arrangement.
Droxine, daughter of the High Advisor of Ardana, watched with a measure of displeasure as her father, Captain Kirk and her now former servant, Vanna traded casual remarks where only days before they had traded deadly blows.
She was quite angry with her father for signing the new Accord of Unity with the Troglytes. Normally, politics bored her and the less she had to do with it the better. She would much prefer to spent her time enjoying the finer things in life such as works of art, music and the company of interesting men and women.
The only reason she even took note of the new Accord was that from what she understood of it, she would now have to take a turn at mining zenite while some lowly Troglyte lived on Stratos in her place. Imagine her, the cream of Stratosian society, laboring in the mines.
As angry as she was with her father, she reserved a larger measure of her displeasure for Vanna. The dark haired Troglyte had been, until only a few days before, both her servant and lover. It galled the blond haired woman to discover that Vanna was one of the Disrupters and had only shared her bed to be in a position to the spy on the government.
“I’d like to get that little bitch in a new position,” Droxine thought to herself as she took a long sip of her wine. “One that I’m sure she wouldn’t find as pleasurable as the one I had her in last week.”
The image of Vanna spread naked across her bed filled Droxine’s thoughts as the memory of the Troglyte’s skill with her tongue produced a warm feeling between the Stratos Dweller’s legs. Even if she was unwilling to admit it, it was a feeling that Droxine was going to miss the most.
The ungrateful wench hadn’t even had the decency to compliment her on her new gown, Droxine said to herself. And after she had spent so much time picking it out. A two piece silver gown, the top half was made up of barely enough material to cover her breasts, leaving both her mid-drift and back totally bare.
“There’s an old Earth saying,” a soft melodious voice from behind the blond unexpectedly interrupted. “If looks could kill...” The slimly built Ardanian slowly turned to face whoever had interrupted her most private thoughts. Even if the speaker had not made reference to an Earth saying, she knew it had to have been someone from the Starship. No one from her world would be so familiar.
It was only because of her father’s continued insistence that Droxine had even come to this intolerable celebration. Even before Captain Kirk had negotiated the pact between Stratos and the Troglytes, she had lost all interest in the Federation visitors.
True, she had entertained a brief desire to try and seduce the Vulcan First Officer into her bed, having heard tales of the virility of Vulcan men. But that desire had faded when she learned that despite his beautiful words, Mr. Spock proved to be as unemotional as the other stories she had heard of Vulcans claimed them to be. After all, how else could he have resisted her incomparable charms?
Completing her turn, Droxine was prepared to give her coldest rebuff, but instead found the words stillborn in her throat. The woman now standing less than two feet before her literally took her breath away.
Five foot five with jet back hair done up in an elaborate style, the ebony skinned woman was dressed in the mini-skirted uniform that Droxine had seem worn by most of the Enterprise’s female crew. In this case, one the bright dark red of engineering and system services. Few of the women she had seen on the tour of the ship they had been taken on, however, filled out the uniform like this Lieutenant.
“Nyota Uhura,” the beautiful thirty-year-old smiled in way of introduction.
“Droxine,” the lithe woman replied. “We don’t have last names like you do. I’m the daughter of Plasus...”
“The High Advisor,” Uhura completed her sentence. “Yes, I know. I’m the ship’s Communications Officer.”
Still at a loss for words, a situation that was quite rare for her, Droxine searched her mind for something else to say. Something that would keep this captivating woman from walking off in search of more interesting conversation or company.
“What did you mean, if looks could kill?” she finally asked.
“The way you were looking at the pretty brunette over there,” Uhura explained. “The one talking to Captain Kirk and your father. I’m pretty good at reading facial expressions, you have to be in my line of work. The expression on your face could only have been described as hostile. As if she had taken something you wanted, or done something to hurt you. Could that something be the Captain’s company?”
“Me and your Captain?” Droxine laughed. “I’m sorry but he’s hardly my type. No, if he wants Vanna, he’s welcome to her. Although I think he might do well to remember that the last time she was in his bed, it was with a mortae in her hand and murder in her eyes.”
“I’ll still put my faith in the Captain,” the lady in red grinned broadly as she sipped at her own wine. “He’s come through many a battle unscathed.”
Droxine smiled back at the double meaning of the reply. The Lieutenant was intelligent and witty as well as beautiful.
“So what was it that Vanna, that’s her name isn’t it, did to make you so angry at her?”
“Yes, that’s her name,” Droxine answered. “We used to be lovers.”
“I see,” the Federation Officer replied in a noncommittal tone.
In the few seconds of silence that followed Uhura’s brief reply, Droxine wondered why she had admitted that. True, same sex relationships were common enough on Stratos as not to draw any stigma, but who knew what customs these off-worlders practiced.
The answer came to her in the realization that she had been instantly attracted to this particular off-worlder. A fascination that made her need to know if there could be any reciprocation of that allure.
“She is quite pretty, if you go for that type,” Uhura said in that same noncommittal tone, leaving Droxine unsure of the answer she sought.
Uhura took another long pause as she drained the last of her Altairian wine. Leading Droxine to believe that she was giving her a way to make a graceful exit.
“Personally, I’ve always been attracted to blondes myself,” the older woman unexpectedly added, the image of a certain Yeoman filling her thoughts.
Droxine’s eyes lit up and her heart skipped a beat. Positively beaming, she asked Uhura if she would like another glass of wine. When she replied that she would, the Ardanian decided that perhaps this celebration wasn’t going to be as uninteresting as she’d originally believed.
The conversation after that touched on a number of topics, but seemed to skirt the one that most interested Droxine. She wasn’t used to having someone else control a situation and normally would’ve terminated this encounter by now. But this was anything but normal as she had to admit to herself.
There was a strength and passion in this woman that rivaled her beauty and the younger blond found herself willing to go to great lengths to share in that strength. How far that journey might actually be was beyond her imagination.
Over the next half-hour, Droxine learned a great deal about Uhura, but few of the details that she really desired. She learned that the Lieutenant had served twice on the Enterprise, first as a new Ensign assigned there when the ship was under the commander of Christopher Pike. Then later as, first assistant, then Chief of Communications when James Kirk took the helm. In response to attempts by Droxine to discover if she was in an relationship of any kind, the Officer merely gave a warm but ambiguous smile.
Uhura, in turn, learned little of Droxine’s life that seemed to interest her. At least that was the impression that the Stratos dweller seemed to get. Still, she considered the fact that the conversation was still going on a good sign.
Shortly after, Droxine noticed that people where beginning to slowly leave the party, some of them in pairs. She also remembered her father mentioning that the Starship was scheduled to leave Ardana soon after planetary dawn over Stratos. Droxine mentally did the calculations and realized that would be in less than ten hours. Not much time at all.
“I was hoping that we might be able to spend some time together,” she said. “That maybe I could show you some of the wonders of Stratos.”
“I’m back on duty in eight hours,” Uhura replied. “I have to run a systems diagnostic before we leave orbit.”
“Oh, that’s so soon.” Droxine said in disappointment. “We could only cover a small fraction of all the things to see. Just the works of art would take more time than we have.”
“I seem to have heard that when your father introduced you to the Captain and Mr. Spock, he referred to you as one of the planet’s incomparable works of art,” Uhura smiled. “Perhaps I only need to see one particular sample to appreciate them all.”
Droxine looked deep into Uhura’s eyes. Reflected in them, she could see the hunger of her own.
“My cabin is two decks below,” the Communications Officer finally said as she gave Droxine the room number. “If you wish, give me ten minutes to change and then join me.”
“Ten minutes,” Droxine repeated, as if the short time span represented an eternity.
Uhura turned and walked across the room to the exit without another word. As the door slid open at her approach, she turned and smiled back at Droxine. A smile filled with a promise of gratification.
Less than eight and a half minutes later, Droxine exited out that same door. After what seemed an intolerable wait for a turbo lift, she found herself standing in front of the door of the Lieutenant’s quarters. Her heart beating with a long absent expectation, she pressed the buzzer on the wall.
“Enter,” a voice from the small intercom next to the door said, a half moment before it slid open to admit her.
As Droxine stepped inside, Uhura was nowhere to be seen, but she could definitely be heard. The sound of song filled the sitting room, carrying over from the adjacent bedroom.
“Beyond the rim of the star-light,” Uhura sang. “My love is wandering in star flight. I know she’ll find, in star clustered reaches, Love, strange love a Star woman teaches.”
The Ardanian paused for a few moments, listening to the words of the song as Uhura continued. They were as beautiful as her voice.
Shifting her attention to the cabin around her, Droxine was impressed with the décor. Physically, the two-room suite was no different than the one she’d been assigned to freshen up in when they’d transported aboard earlier in the day. In this case, however, every inch reflected the personality of the occupant. The room was full of color, bright hues and dark accents. Artifacts that Droxine assumed were from Uhura’s homeland occupied places of honor, mixed in with a few that were obviously not of Earth origin.
The most telling artifact was a very old spear hanging on the center wall. The spear also appeared in a holo-photo on a dresser beneath it. An image of a much younger Uhura wearing some sort of primitive garb and holding the weapon. The older man and woman beaming at her in the picture wore modern clothing, giving the impression that Uhura’s outfit was ceremonial in nature.
There was an inscription on the photo that read Nairobi, Kenya Province, United States of Africa - 2254. If Droxine had to guess, it would seem that the image commemorated a rite of passage of some kind. It added to her initial appraisal of Nyota Uhura. She was no mere technician as her position on the ship might suggest. This was a warrior.
That thought sent a warm flush through Droxine’s slim form. There were few on Stratos with a warrior spirit. That was one of the things, she now realized, that had originally attracted her to Vanna. Even if she hadn’t realized it at the time.
There were a few other holo-images resting on the dresser top. Two of them caught Droxine’s attention because of Uhura’s earlier comment about “preferring blondes herself”.
The first was of Uhura and a woman the Ardanian recognized from the earlier tour as the Medical Department’s Head Nurse. The tall blonde looked to be about the same age as the Communications Officer and Droxine remembered from the brief introductions that her name was Christine.
The two women where wearing swimsuits and sitting at the edge of a large lake. The twin moons in the sky behind them marked the setting as some alien world, but Droxine barely noticed that aspect. Her interest was more centered. From the warm look each of the women in the photograph seemed to have for the other, Droxine wondered if their relationship went beyond just friendship.
What Droxine couldn’t know was that her observation was right on the mark, at least when that photograph had been taken. It had been a shore leave right after Nurse Chapel had finally had her one and only sexual encounter with Mr. Spock during his time of Pon Farr. As satisfying as that experience had been, Christine wasn’t willing to wait another seven years for a repeat performance and finally opened herself up to other avenues and opportunities.