CAPTAIN HELENA BLACKTHORN sat on the rim of a fountain in the early morning sunlight, feeling a strange mixture of emotions. She looked to the sealed area in the shrubbery and what it represented. It irritated her beyond belief. She assumed the uprooting of the tree and the death of its residents, the bees, were Cairns’ doing somehow. But now, knew otherwise. She mourned their loss. She mourned something else too. Something that had been awakened deep inside her, feeling that had lain dormant for so long, unfulfilled, which were probably about to die too.
Running a hand through her hair, Blackthorn recalled how it had only been three weeks since she, along with Bryce and Hamilton, had arrived at Central for Cairns’ witch-hunt. She was still trying to assimilate all that had transpired despite having spent the last three days being debriefed, in Jamison and Warshawski’s company. There were still gaps that needed filling in, but neither Jamison nor Warshawski would be able to help her there.
She needed Cassandra. She needed… something.
Only her enigmatic Captain Cassandra Jones seemed to have become non-corporeal. It was a trick she wished she could employ in space when facing down an enemy. There was a certain tactical advantage to a Captain who could make their ship simply vanish, only to reappear elsewhere.
Where the hell was the woman?
When she had turned up at the medical centre the following evening after the fracas, the bed Cassandra had been occupying was empty. In less than twenty-four hours the IAB Captain had disappeared into the depths of Central. What was unsettling was no one was speaking, and just as annoying, the two messages she’d directed to her fellow captain had gone unanswered.
With a disconsolate feeling, Helena stared at the water in the fountain. All she had to go on was a few brief conversations.
‘Oh, it was only a flesh wound. Nothing serious. The Doctor only wanted to keep the Captain in over night, you know, just in case.’ No, she didn’t know. Just in case what?
Then there was. ‘Captain Jones? No, I am sorry, I am not at liberty…no I don’t know her whereabouts…I’m sorry I can’t help you but maybe if you spoke to—’ and so it went. As far as she could ascertain, and Jamison had all but confirmed this, Cassandra was taking Cairns apart, piece-by-piece, in a secure unit somewhere in the bowels of Starfleet Command.
Damn the woman!
Helena stood and stretched to her full height and, with hands on hips, looked one last time at the shrubbery with a mixed sense of longing. The reality was that by the beginning of next week, she, Bryce and Hamilton would be back topside and making preparations for heading back out to their respective assignments. A round trip that would mean they would be gone for at least six months. Or, in the case of Hamilton, almost eighteen months in space.
Six months. It didn’t bear thinking about. Her heart ached with something she’d never felt before—longing.
Turning to leave, her com-link beeped a short sharp succession of insistent notes.
Helena slowly sank back down and, without much thought, pressed a tiny button with a fingernail to receive. A stream of numbers began to parade across the tiny screen momentarily baffling Helena, as she tried to read them.
Then she saw the pattern. It was actually two groupings of three sets of numbers, repeated at interval. She stopped the message and isolated the two groupings. She then keyed in a response. There was no accompanying message tag or identifier. Nothing. Just the sequence of numbers that were, as it turned out, a set of coordinates. Degrees, minutes and seconds of longitude and latitude, but for where? And who had sent them, and why? There was only one possible answer.
A wry smile lit Helena’s face, while a flicker of something deep within, a wonderful warm feeling, brought a rush of adrenaline. With consummate ease Helena pressed a number of tiny buttons one after the other, on her com-link, and lifting her hand to shoulder height, she directed a signal to a point in the northeast sky. She then pressed a final button that sent out a radio-pulse to call her air car.
Blackthorn waited patiently, till, safely strapped into her Sky Hawk 359, she keyed-in the set of coordinates on the auto-navigation pad. She then sat back for the ride without so much as a clue as to where she was going, except, she thought she knew who would be at the other end waiting for her.
The sleek silver air-car took her out across verdant parkland, a large stretch of open greenery that marked Central and the Space Port boundaries, before swinging out across Whalen’s Sound and open water, which was dotted here and there with small sail boats. She noted the three fairly large distinctive islands nestled amid the dark-blue water and realised, after a couple of minutes, that the car was heading for the largest and most southerly of the group. She knew it was privately owned, but not by whom. It was easy to make out all the features of the terrain, including one small low-slung building, as she had the air-car cruising at the lowest standard flight-level available to her.
The Sky Hawk corrected its approach and began a slow, measured descent. Helena was tempted, now she knew this was her destination, to switch to manual and bring the car in herself, but she resisted and instead, enjoyed the view.
The air-car’s landing gear absorbed the slight bounce, while a final hiss of pneumatics told Helena she could alight. She keyed a number of switches and locked down the computer’s central board before she cycled the hatch.
She took a single step down into a swath of long grasses. It swayed about her, thigh high. Reaching out both hands, and turning slowly in a circle, she caressed the tops of a bewildering array of plant life.
A number of colourful flowers, red, blue and purple, dotted the flowing field of grasses. Nowhere was there a sign of a path, track or, as a matter of fact, a sign that anyone had even walked hereabouts recently. With a momentary frown, Helena gave a shrug and walked around the air-car taking in not only the view, but while breathing deeply, the smells that assailed her senses. The air was heavy with unidentifiable scents you didn’t normally get to smell in space, from the continually recycled air. It was heady.
With a slight shake of her head, to clear it, Helena stopped short when a familiar sound reached her on the breeze. The sound of humming. This wasn’t the sound of just any insect life but specific insects.
Helena cast about her and then saw it. It stood just off to one side of an outcrop of rock and fronting a strand of deciduous trees, some thirty feet to her right. A dead tree-stump with a very distinctive cleft just below a splintered crown. As a warm smile spread slowly across her face. Helena strode out amid the waving sea of grasses and made her way to the stump. When she reached the rocks she sat and watched something that, for the moment at least, warmed her heart. The sight of a myriad tiny black and gold bees going about their business. With a deep sigh she caught sight of something else that flashed brightly in the sun’s light, a butterfly. How was it that such simple things could evoke such a feeling of complete contentment? She didn’t know. All she knew was Cassandra was absent.
Was this it then? God, she hoped not. Helena ran a hand through her hair as she stared longingly at her booted feet, remembering another time and place.
Helena nearly jumped out of her skin at the all too familiar honey-tones, lost in thought as she had been. She stood with as much decorum as she could muster, as Cassandra emerged from behind the tree flashing an enigmatic smile.
The diminutive woman walked towards her, as she found herself breathing deep calming breaths trying to subdue the sudden rush of adrenaline that made her heart race.
“Don’t you ever wear civilian clothing?” The diminutive Jones asked, her eyes dancing with some hidden mischief.
“What?” Helena heard her self say, and winced. She eyed Cassandra, who was dressed in a sleeveless white blouse, open at the neck, and, to Helena’s surprise, an old pair of very faded blue jeans whose knees had long since frayed into holes. The woman was also bare foot as was her style.
Helena laughed a deep and melodious sound, an unexpected release of tension.
“Hello yourself and, in answer to your question, no I don’t…” and, straight-faced, added, “In fact, I have no idea if I actually own any other clothes, other than my uniform.”
Cassandra looked up at her and, with a barely perceptible shake of her head, let a broad grin consume her face.
“By the way, I saved our tree.” The wave of a hand indicated the stump.
Helena nodded, only half listening, never taking her eyes off the face before her. She had some unaccountable need to commit every detail of it to memory. She also had some other need that was beginning to take her sense of reasoning.
With half a step, Helena came to within a hairs-breath of Cassandra and bending, scooped the woman up from beneath her arms, surprising them both. She felt a pair of well-muscled legs snake about her waist as she brought Cassandra to eye level.
Their eyes locked for a heartbeat before Helena felt her breathing betray her. She watched then as Cassandra moved her head toward her own, moved soft, pale pink lips toward her own. And knew the woman was going to kiss her. Helena felt the rush of blood and the sound of her own heart pounding in her ears.
“This is for you.” Cassandra’s soft velvet voice whispered.
Helena felt the lightest brush of lips against hers, as a mere hint of contact was made. She also felt the electrifying rush of adrenaline as some internal meltdown occurred. Then Cassandra’s mouth was on hers again, and she lost it.
With each brush of lips, another heady rush brought out a response that had waited a lifetime for expression. She lost herself in the passion of their kiss, as something exploded in her chest and then melted her insides. All the while Cassandra’s mouth continued to take her breath away.
It was some long moments later that Helena found herself lying in the grass, on her back, her jacket discarded and her utility belt missing, and her clothing in total disarray. All the while the small but amazingly well muscled body of Cassandra lay atop her. Their faces a mere breathe apart.
With clarity, Helena registered how she knew Cassandra’s body was so soft and deceptively well muscled. Her hands were beneath the woman’s blouse, which she knew from memory she had cheerfully undone at some point.
Helena moved her hands down Cassandra’s back in delight, and was rewarded with an insistent kiss on her mouth.
The sun having moved through its course in the heavens, Helena slowly opened her eyes to a face that wore a large very self-satisfied smile. Helena asked in a husky voice. “Do I know you?”
Cassandra blinked, flashed a look of surprise then roared with laughter. “No. No, I don’t think so…I think I would remember if we had been formally introduced.”
“Somehow I think it’s a little late for formal introductions, don’t you?” Helena smiled happily, as she looked at the face before hers. She then moved to place a tiny kiss on the end of the freckled nose, which duly wrinkled.
“You’re beautiful.” Helena breathed.
“What?“ It was Cassandra’s turn to look surprised before snorting, suitably abashed. Helena found a teasing smile, and rolling Cassandra over onto her back, bent to place a kiss on the still angry red scar that was all that remained of the needle-gun’s damage. For some reason she couldn’t quite fathom, Helena felt responsible for it. Maybe if Cairns hadn’t become so obsessed things might have been very different. But then again, maybe she wouldn’t have met Cassandra. Somehow that didn’t bare thinking about.
“So sad already?” Cassandra caressed her face with a gentle hand, watching her.
Helena looked down at the woman she’d fallen in love with, knowing her face betrayed her thoughts. In three days time she would be going topside. There was so little time.
“I…” She began, but didn’t finish.
“We still have the rest of the weekend.” Cassandra seemed to read her mind and smiled up at her. Helena thought about her cramped apartment in the officer’s block back at Central, not the best place to entertain a lover.
Cassandra again pre-empted her and, with a shy smile, added, “I have a house, here, on my island.” She paused before continuing, “Well, it’s more of a log cabin really.”
“You own this island?” Helena blurted out, as she sat upright.
“Yes.” Cassandra admitted, moving to sit cross-legged, and added, “this is my retreat, my hide-out. It’s where I’ve been these last few days.” Her eyes begged, ‘please forgive me.’ A hand tugged at a stem of grass. Helena reached out and took it and offered Cassandra a reassuring smile.
“So you haven’t been near the basement at Central, then?” She asked straight-faced. Cassandra glanced up then grinned sheepishly.
“No.” She wrinkled her nose at Helena. “Nor was I taking Cairns apart. She did that quite publicly, all by herself. No, Jamison and I were only there to make sure you, Bryce, and Hamilton survived intact to fight another day.” Adding, “For the honour of the Fleet.”
“And…everything else?” Blackthorn asked, not willing to release Cassandra’s hand as the woman looked away for a second time. Helena continued to let her eyes linger.
“I needed to get inside your head.” Was the softly spoken reply.
“Get inside my head?” Helena’s voice was pitched low. “What happened?” She looked deep into the blue eyes that now regarded her, thinking about how the woman had in fact punched a hole in her chest, and then? Stolen her heart.
“I fell in love.” Cassandra ducked her head suddenly finding something interesting about another blade of grass. “All that pent-up passion…”
Not sure just whose passion Cassandra was referring to, Helena picked up the thread, “…when I tasted the honey on your fingers.” That was the moment it had happened for her. Cassandra looked up her eyes flashing a rejoinder. Yes.
“Damn stupid thing to happen to a professional.” Cassandra added quietly, her face betraying her inner turmoil.
“Maybe, but I for one am not sorry at the final outcome.” With her free hand, Helena reached out and took Cassandra’s chin and searched the woman’s eyes. “Are you?” She had to ask.
The woman before her suddenly seemed unsure which, Helena thought, was quite startling seeing how they’d just spent the last hour fooling around amid the grass.
“No… and you?”
“No.” Helena added as a rejoined. Then found she couldn’t help herself, she laughed softly. “Hell, you have to ask that after what we’ve just… you know?” She let go the woman’s chin.
Cassandra looked suitable abashed and then smiled. “This is all new territory to me.” The small woman admitted.
Helena snorted. “Well, I’m no expert either, as you must gathered by my reputation.” Known by many within the Fleet simply as the ‘Ice Maiden.’
Cassandra’s eyes smiled. Helena continued. “I do have to say one thing, though?”
“What?” Cassandra’s brow furrowed.
“You certainly seemed to know what you were doing.” Helena moved to scoop Cassandra back up into her arms as she stood. The other woman’s legs found her waist again and squeezed.
“I think I read a manual somewhere.” Cassandra joked as she put her arms round Helena’s neck. “Lassiter’s guide to fundamental biochemical changes in nematode worms. At least, I think that was what it was called?” The smile returned like brilliant sunshine dazzling Helena. She let it wash over her before she found anything she might have said taken away, along with her breath, as Cassandra kissed her again.
“I haven’t a clue what I’m doing.” Cassandra confessed at length as they broke the kiss, but Helena saw the mischievous glint in the woman’s eyes. “…I am sure, however, that I’ll get the hang of this… eventually.”
“Maybe with a little more practice?” Helena volunteered.
“You may be right. What do you suggest, we retire for the duration to my—” But before Cassandra could get another word out, Helena kissed her softly, slowly, making her own explorations. Reminding her, who needed a cabin when they were out here, amid the tall grass, under blue skies.
“And?” Helena asked.
Cassandra opened her eyes “And map into abstraction some quantifiable data?” She heard herself say, out of breath. Lips touched and teased while tongues played.
“Only if there is honey involved.” Helena managed to get the last word in, as they both lost themselves in yet another long, deep kiss.
The bees, seemingly oblivious to this ardent activity, quietly went about their business bathed in the warmth of the early afternoon sun, content on making honey.
— THE END —