ASTRO 110 Stellar Cartography ---Ten Years Ago ---

Posted Sept. 20, 2019, 12:21 a.m. by Lieutenant Alexandra Garfield (Xenobiologist) (Kate O'Neill)

Lexi pulled the edge of her turtleneck up over the tip of her nose. Fieldwork was always fun and a nice change to get you out of the humdrum existence of the classroom but some work was far more appealing than others. Lying on a blanket in the Owyhee Canyonlands, Oregon could have been fun if you had a case of beer, some smores and a bonfire to keep one nice and toasty. Instead, Cadet Garfield was lying on hardpan cushioned by a thin itchy wool blanket freezing her keister off trying to find what she assumed was something everyone but her on the planet could find.

“God it all looks the same to me,” Lexi said gazing up at the sky. This class was mind-numbingly dull and pointless to her field. She didn’t give two hoots about dust and ice floating in the cosmos. Sure it was this dust and ice that seeded planets with a myriad of life forms but it was not real life. Just organic soup with a small percentage of actually doing something in the right conditions. “And I don’t see the red,” she banged her binoculars against her palm. Everyone is always like ‘you can see the red and that is how you find Mars but it ain’t red. Not that I can see. Maybe mine are broken,” she whacked the small handheld device against the ground she was laying on trying to see if that would help. “Trade with me,” she said to Chris who was lying next to her. She didn’t need to look at his face. She had known him long enough to tell what his expression was. He wore this mesmerized expression for two things and two things only. One was when he saw the perfect ten body and negative two intelligence girls that always seemed to be preening about like peacocks on the prowl. The other was when he was gazing at the stars.

Cadet Lexi Garfield

“I most certainly will not trade with you… this is mine. There are many like it, but this one is mine. You need to just get better at this, if I can figure out biology and get a B+ out of it when I clearly had no clue what I was doing a third of the way through you can figure out the location of planets and stars in our solar system. It’s not like I am asking you to map the stars from the surface of Vulcan or Orion… it’s OUR planet.” he said with that last part with an emphasis on the last part as he looked over at her as if she had just insulted his family heritage.

“And I am the one that always asks for directions regardless of where it is to make sure we are in the right spot. Last month in Switzerland with the ski club, the bar in the middle of the Outback, the kiosk in front of the fine arts building on campus,” she rattled off a few of the thousand places she had asked for directions in the past month. It was not that she got lost that easily. It was more that Alexandra Garfield hated wasting time milling about when someone could simply point her in the right direction. “Chris, start pointing it out because I swear to god,” she put the binoculars over her eyes, “there is no Mars in this sky!”

“Besides you are looking at the wrong location doll, it’s that way.” he said pointing the other direction from where she had been looking as he couldn’t help but shaking his head. “Did you flip the coordinates again? What happens if you need to take over and help on a bridge one day? We are expected to be jack of all trades in many ways in situations of emergencies.” he said chastising her as he put down his pair and moved over to his bag as he put it between the two. Unzipping it it seemed to be a mix of books, equipment, and what seemed like a butt load of candies and snacks.

“I’d just flag someone passing by in warp and ask for directions or go down in a firey hunk of twisted metal,” Lexi said peering into Chris’ bag. “Me however I am going to be Violet Jessop but the rest of you guys....I’d make sure someone is always more senior than me on the bridge at all times. Did you bring anything good? Correction, did you bring anything I like,” she moaned seeing mounds of chocolate but not what she liked.

Settling back she waited and then found something else to complain about. “What time is it,” she pulled the collar of her coat up tighter around her neck. “Aren’t we almost done here?”

“Where is Professor Harlen? She was here earlier?” Chris asked as he looked around, he saw other students spread out but didn’t see their professor at all. “Or what about… what’s his name… that boy toy of yours… Schmidt, Schmity, Schmitten? The way too Jewish sounding name even for you… you do remember your boyfriends name right? I am gonna need some help here Lexi doll.” he said as he finished digging from the bottom of the bag and found the Recces cups as he handed them over to her.

“Stein,” she propped herself up on one elbow as she unwrapped the candy.

“Stein yes… that’s it, Norah Stein…” he said as he moved over to her as he picked up her binoculars as he helped point the direction of Mars so she could see it and take down the notes. As she finished he slid over a few more pieces of candy, knowing she couldn’t stop at just one.

“Um Noah not Norah. I am dating Noah Stein,” she corrected him. The dig wasn’t intentional or mean. Chris just never worried about getting his facts straight half the time when he felt it didn’t matter.

“How hard is it to remember Noah Stein? I remember your doxy dollies,” she said popping a Recee’s cup in her mouth and there are a lot of them. Heidi, Priscilla, Margo, Dianna, Rochelle, Tianna not to be confused with Tatiana, Stacy, Becky,” she started to punctuate each name with a valley girl accent. “Daniella who rhymes with Stella and my most favorite is Sierra. She was a real piece of work there bucko. Madeline, Allessandra, Cassandra,” she paused and gave him a quizzical look. “Do you scan the registrar list and group them by rhymes because I am seeing a pattern cowboy.”

“I mean, in all fairness I don’t really try very hard. In all my years I have been close to… three women to a point that I really got to know them… unless we count relatives and then there is maybe five.”

“Eww, no relatives. That is a whole branch of genetics that has its own section titled if you are in the first row of the Punnet Square Beware. Let’s not count relatives,” she took another bite of her candy and opened up another piece. “Besides there has to be at least one girl that has broken ol’ Pooh bears heart.” Lexi couldn’t help but snicker using that nickname. It had zero to do with romance and everything to do with the fat teddy bear from the Hundred Acre Woods. Why his parents settled on the name was still a mystery to her.

I don’t have time for a lot of the stuff, either they want the jock, or the pretty boy which I like that… play some football or rugby have a good time… mountain climbing all the stuff they like. Then I get bored of just that, I always had far more varied interests.” he said as he stopped to take a bite of a baby ruth as he began to get caramel a nougat stuck at the roof of his mouth.

“Yeah like a blonde with highlights, blondes without highlights, redheads, brunettes, brunettes with red highlights,” she poked fun at the type of women that always seemed to fit a mold. It was like they were Stepford Wives all with the goal to land one Cadet Christopher Robin.

“Sad truth is of the three, you are one of them and we never even dated… and the other is Paul’s wife cause he found an amazing girl when he married her. He got lucky, middle school sweetie. How the hell do you know someone is the one at twelve?” Chris said as he threw the wrapper in the bag wondering if maybe she had a bit of a point, he didn’t mindless the endless supply to an extent but it did somehow feel far more exhausting than rewarding at times.

“There is the couple Shaun and Kate. I have heard they have known each other since they were like five and live next door to each other. They are from West Virginia or something so I guess for them it is not weird but sometimes you just know when you know,” Lexi shrugged it off and pulled another Recees Cup from the wrapper.

“Half the time as long as their assets are big enough to offset their clear lack of any moral fiber I get past it for a bit. I mean you mention Sierra, that chick was beyond irritating. Always had a story when you did, never seemed to shut up always tried to mimic those around her.”

“She just liked you and who couldn’t. I mean you are rather amusing at times,” Lexi tried to find something nice to say but couldn’t help at shake her head the polar opposites of her and Chris’ type. Noah was tall, skinny as heck, and at times could lull you into a coma with the tone of his voice. Still, he was a science major so the hunk factor was not expected as it was with those in the security school.

“She was insufferable blow hard, but she had 34 Es so I put up for it for… at least two weeks wasn’t it?” Chris said as he nodded as if in agreement with himself.

“Two weeks, six hours, and ten minutes. I remember that day in the mess hall vividly,” Lexi shook her head. Chris was an amazing guy but when the current woman left him it was rarely through tears begging to stay and more like direction on where he could go.

“Then after three weeks I get bored of their idiotic, I mean Sierra started correcting me on the proper day to celebrate holidays and I just lost it. I don’t care if first contact is in the spring if I wanna wish a Vulcan a nice day and thank them for their work who bloody cares if I did it in the Fall?” he said as he reached into the bag as he grabbed another piece, pausing to look at it before just shoving it back into the bag.

“Chris I am not sure Rumarie is exactly the type of day you wish someone the best on,” she let out a belly laugh. “God how you and Ian manage at times is a wonder. I mean sure that guy was a bit stiff but wishing he had a happy ancient pagan festival day where barely clothed Vulcan men and women, covered in slippery Rillan grease, chased one another s not something most Vulcans want to remember or admit to. I mean it is like that kegger we went to last weekend. I am pretty sure we were celebrating Rumarie three bottles of Romulan Ale in,” she broke into a fit of laughter. “I will swear on my future career that you and Ian did streak across the parade field later that night.”

“Least you make hanging out easy, you know I can be cocky but you don’t hold it against me, challenge me yet don’t patronize me. You can be loose and easy but you know how to buckle down and do things the proper way, it’s why we make the best Dynamic Duo”

“Wonder Twin powers activate,” Lexi stuck out her hand in a fist. The action was silly and no one would ever understand it but them. It came from a holoshow about two friends that shape-shifted and saved the world when it needed it. Lex decided after a night of way too much study and way too little sleep it would be a thing between them. She was still trying to sell Chris on it so every time she got the chance, she gave him the opportunity to partake in it.

Chris paused as he looked at her, he liked Lexi sure but she came up with some lame ass things for them to do. Still it made her happy, and he liked to make her happy as he formed a fist and wimply pressed it up against hers as he rolled his eyes and looked the other direction to see if someone was watching them.

“You know,” she said raising one eyebrow with a mocking expression on her face. “One day you are so going to beg me to do this and I will be here and you will do that little happy dance inside when I pound your hand, Christopher Robin.” Lexi promised acting stern and silly at the same moment. “You know the dance I’m talkin’ bout. Ungh,” she said a made two fists with her hand as she punched the air and did a little wiggle dance not caring who saw her, for the moment. “Ungh. Ungh. Ungh. That’s right,” she repeated it a few more times even though Chris would have known what she was imitating with the first ungh. It was his seat dance of victory. She had heard it enough at the end of a comm call and witnessed it enough when Chris felt he had triumphed over…anything. To her, it was his trademark move or motto.

“Yeah, one day when we wonder twin it you are gonna publically ungh ungh ungh it and I am just going to laugh and shake my head. Mark my words. Besides its the reason why you are gonna be my partner.” Lexi would have finished her sentence but Chris deftly cut her off finishing the sentence the way he wanted it to end.

… and it’s why you are gonna be my partner for this event, Norad can just team up with… oh look Sierra he can have her, she can stare into his soul with those listless soulless eyes… that’s if the professor ever shows.” he added, and is if on cue he could hear the sound of a throat being cleared as foot steps behind them began to walk near the front of the hill as Professor Harlen appeared.

“I will do all you biology homework next term if you can even tell me what color her eyes were,” Lexi winked at him. Chris was complex but also exceedingly simple. He enjoyed the verbal repartee but also wanted someone who saw him for more than a piece of eye candy.

“She has eyes?” Chris asked, smirking slightly as he saw Noah coming towards them. “See Norm is coming… he can rescue you from all the stars, though I get an impression he maybe just as lost as you when it comes to finding them. Why you dragged him along this class is beyond me, he is an xenoarchelogist… this is literally never going to help him.” Chris said as he leaped up from the ground offering his hand to steady Lexi as he began putting all his gear into his bag.

“You never know. He might get stranded on an archaeological dig somewhere and need to find his North Star to bring him to me. The North star led the three Wiseman to Jesus. Vikings used it to sail the along with countless other mariners and Lewis and Clark calculated where they were and how to get back home. It’s kinda romantic when you think about it. So many people used it to find their way back to the people they love. Space is vast so anything that is there to anchor you to what you know is a good thing right,” Lexi said in a soft voice. Right after the words left her mouth she blushed a bit and looked at the ground. She and Chris talked about their significant others but it was rare when Lexi shared thoughts like this. Thankfully the professor spoke before she or Chris did next.

“Wait… I told you that… I took you up that first week we meet to the planetarium… I was trying to ask that waitress from the sandwich shop out and thought that would be a good pick up line… you are reusing my sap for real feelings? That’s kind of gross…” Chris said as he shook his head in mock disgust. Truth be told at first he may have been telling that story for her, and he might have even meant it if he could focus on one thing long enough to realize how he felt. The truth was Chris didn’t really try and think too hard on the sappy and romantic, but Lexi had caused some moments of pause in his two years of friendship. Granted he would never tell her such things, he would ruin what they have and in every way he felt what they had he needed more than to find out what was under the sweater she was wearing.

“It’s not sap when you really mean it and feel that way,” Lexi shrugged him off. Chris might have found the sentiment silly and a pickup line but for some reason, it spoke to her.

“All of you should have found the planets in question,” Harlan said stepping around all the students lounging about stargazing on the ground. “Now is your turn to see who gets the A tonight. Everyone will randomly be assigned to a partner based on their academic standings. If you are passing stand on this line. If you are not you are on the other line. Now just like a country line dance, doe see doe right up to the person with the A you want as your partner.

“This feels a lot like arranged marriages…” Chris said under his breath as he and Noah faced off to each other.

Well at least this doesn’t make it so awkward, she thought as Lexi looked at Noah. “Guess we need to do more studying nights,” she smiled at Noah. There was only one person she was going to team up with tonight. It was an unspoken rule between them. She passed Chris in Biology and he got her to the passing mark in anything stellar related.

“I don’t know. I mean we don’t have to get an A in every class do we,” Noah looked at her.

“You didn’t really just say that… to her? How long have you dated her now? My word man you can’t joke about that, what kind of Jew are you… not going for grades… we have stereotypes for a reason!” he said as he looked over at Lexi seeing the terse look on his face he quickly walked away for a second so they could talk. His Jew jokes had always been in jest and she often liked them, but others sometimes found Chris to have gone a tad too far.
Lexi covered her face with one hand scratching her eyebrow hiding the smirk. She had known him long enough to know he was just joking as did Noah; however, even though half the Federation seemed to be practicing atheists, that never stopped the few that always seemed to be within earshot to grab their tube of Destin and lube up for the righteous indignation butt hurt speech that surely would come. Luckily everyone seemed focused on other matters.

Noah let out a half laugh and shrugged both Lexi and Chris off. “She is a bit intense at times and you just need to remind her to take a step back not and then,” Noah laughed.

“Why would we not want to stay at the top of our class. I mean the top one percent gets to pick their placements after graduation and if we have a snowball’s chance in hell of being stationed together we need to be in that one percent right. Besides Chris has the best snacks. You know the way to win me is snacks and coffee and sadly you are a bit thin on both baby,” she teased Noah. “That is why I am going with him,” she pointed at Chris. “So I can be with you after graduation,” she winked at Noah.

“Where do I sign up if my partner eats all my snacks for compensation and recompense?” Chris said as Lexi began to make her way over to him. He wasn’t smirking so much but he did have a very soft small smile as she made her way to him.

Coming back to the pair he looked as Noah slinked away, finding Sierra as he looked back over to Lexi.

“You going to trust Nick”

“Noah,” Lexi let out a half laugh correcting him in the middle of his sentence.

“to not get swept away…” he said looking over at the line up as Noah’s pickings began to be slim. “In this pretty.... grey eyes?” he said with a small shrug as he get his eyes to move above chest level from Sierra.

Cadet Christopher Robin

“I am pretty sure he can handle her. She is your type, not his. He likes sweet sincere types. Not the type that is only going to get to know you to get an A,” Lexi dug through Chris’ bag until her words processed in her own mind. “Except for me. I’m not like that,” she playfully hip-checked Robin.

“I’m not sure she’s my type… I don’t know… maybe I have the wrong type.” he said as he let a small smile come across his face. Chris may have self doubts at times but the curves on the Vulcan woman that was teaming up with the young Bolian across them did give him pause. “You know I really need to research ponfar more…”

Lexi was only half listening to Chris as she dug in his bag for another piece of candy. “You couldn’t keep up and some woman in ponfar would snap you like a twig,” she said. “Or a Twix,” she laughed amusing herself once she noticed the candy bar she was holding in her hand. Snapping it in half for effect she offered Chris half of her candy bar.

Across the world at Kathmandu

“Oh my god I thought Oregon was cold,” Lexi bounced around a bit staring at the twilight sky in Durbar Square. The buildings were so ancient. The air reeked of scents not typically experienced by those in the Federation. This small slice of the Earth was protected as a cultural and heritage site which meant life here still resembled the archaic ways from the past. “Are you sure we are going to find the Aurora Borealis here,” she looked around blowing on her hands.

“Wait… wait what?” Chris stopped dead in his feet looking back at her. “Aurora Borealis… do you know where we are?” Chris said as he looked at her, this was a common trait for Lexi, if the it wasn’t a field she was passionate about she often let the details slide. She was an enigma in some ways, some might find her to be a grade hound going for top of her class but so many times he found himself dumbfounded how she let so many smaller things slide all the same.

“We are hunting for the Corona Borealis love… Corona… like the beers we are going to have if we finish this up in time? Now put some ass into it and keep going I am not going to miss the barbecue.”

Cadet Christopher Robin

“Are you sure,” she looked at him skeptically. “I have never heard of the Corona Borealis. I think we should call Ian,” she pulled her comm out of her pocket and immediately began to place the call to his roommate. If anyone was an astorphysist she would have walked over and asked them but Nepal was not a hotbed of stargazers. Ian, on the other hand, was a walking encyclopedia of sorts and also a polygot. Even if he hadn’t heard of the Corona Borealis, he probably knew the origin of the word and the context it should be used in.

Starfleet Academy Dormitory

Candles lit the tub as Ian began sliding into the bath, bubbles rising as he nestled in as he had sounds of the ocean playing as he began to unwind. This was something he would never do in while Chris was home in fear of mocking. Still, Kylie had recommended some of these bath beads with lilac and summer juniper to relax and unwind after the test they had. He was not a fan of Peloponnesian history of Earth as much as most, prefer more recent history but he tried his best to answer the essays he had on the aftermath of Sparta conquering Athens in 530bc.

As he began to let the sounds of the waves dull over him as he drank the scotch, his one twist to the recommended pinot the Kylie insisted would be the perfect drink, he heard the sound of the com coming through. “What the hell…” he said to himself as he sat up a bit straight as he debated, he wasn’t quite sure who would contact at this time. While it wasn’t late, it wasn’t necessarily the hour he would expect people to be calling him.

“Computer, who is this call coming from?” he asked, in pre WW III Earth there was something called Caller ID, a concept that seemed to vanish with cold calls of today. Ian though found the practicing of screening one’s calls to be most pertinent, and something more people should want to bring back.

“Com call is coming from Alexandra Garfield.” the reply came from the computer as Ian raised an eyebrow. He liked Lexi, she, him and Chris had become very close over the years. He often wondered what took Chris so long to ask the girl out, everyone but he could see how much he loved her it seemed but Chris being stubborn and unable to see hindsight at times seemed to stay in the firm friend’s department with the young perk brunette.

“Fine… computer open call.” Ian said looking around, feeling a sense of self-consciousness coming over him. This wasn’t a visual call, but somehow answering nude in bubbles as sounds of the ocean played on made him feel like he needed to be doing something more mainly like skinning a gator or riding a bull. “Lexi… what do I have the honor of your call sugar?” Ian said with a smile coming over his lips as he answered.

Cadet Ian Bordeaux

“Okay so Chris and I are stuck in Nepal and I am freezing my ahhh,” Lexi paused talking about her frozen derriere and immediately changed topics. “Where are you,” she asked as her forehead furrowed in a series of wrinkles showing her confusion.

“Where am I … I’m just enjoying myself that’s what… so Nepal sounds fun…” Ian said ignoring the question as he hoped to get to the chase.

“Are you out with Kylie at Fisherman’s Wharf,” she pressed the conversation. This was in no way what she was calling about but the ambient sounds in the rooms had piqued her curiosity.

“No no no… I’m not… no not there.” Ian said cursing the damn music, he couldn’t very well turn it off now as it would give it all away but he was also beginning to get stuck between a rock and a hard place.

“Then why do I hear waves crashing and seagulls? Are you at the beach? You know you can’t be out after curfew or they will nail you,” Lexi began to sound very mom-like and responsible. Ian was fun as hell but at times but he and Chris seemed to live by the saying rules were meant to be broken. Yes both of them were big boys but even big boys needed someone looking out for them from time to time.

Cadet Lexi Garfield

“Dude just answer her so we can hurry on…” growled Chris as he looked over at Lexi as he stuck his tongue out at her with a small wink.

“Chris,” Lexi said putting her hand over the comm. It didn’t do anything but muffle and even the muffle probably let Ian hear every word. “I think he is having a dalliance with that Kylie,” she said in a loud whisper. “He is acting so defensive and now I don’t know how to get out of it. I mean there are birds caws and you can clearly hear the sound of waves breaking on a beach but he is denying it. So that means he is with her and we are breaking in on who knows what.” It was then Lexi announced quickly. “You talk to him. Find out what he is doing?”

“Fine fine fine… I’m… taking a bath… it’s not important just what… what how…” Ian paused unsure what to say next as he got out of the bath, blowing out candles as he grabbed his bottle of scotch. “You surely didn’t call to ask how I take a bath now did you?”

Cadet Christopher Robins

“You take a bath,” Lexi said sounding as if she was just told something of paramount importance. “Why would you do that? Showers are faster and well you are a…guy,” she could not help but sound stunned. Shaking her head as if she was removing a terrible thought from her mind, Lexi got back on topic for now “Okay wer are looking for the Corona Borealis but I think Chris took a left turn at Al-be-kwirky,” Lexi joked using the voice belonging to a long-gone cartoon character. “So back to this bath thing,” Lexi leaed against a wall.

“Yes well… Kylie recommended it. You have no idea how much pressure I have been in lately. Did you know that the word for meet and sex are very close in Romulan, so you can imagine when I told the Romulan ambassador that Lieutenant Calin had set up for us to meet as part of our diplomatic training using native tongue went when I said ‘Hello Praetor Yuvik, it is a pleasure to meet you today.’ went by.” he said as he flopped down on the sofa as he began pouring a drink slowly before bringing it to his lips as he let out an audible sound of relief as he let himself wind down.

Lexi’s eyes got wide hearing Ian’s story. “Oh my god you did not,” she said. It was rhetorical of course but Ian had two things going for him. One was that he was a cadet. The other was that the man seemed to be able to sweet-talk his way out of anything.

“Yo Robin you stuck,” Joel Schmalter taunted Chris as Joel’s partner took the necessary reading to complete the assignment. “I can help you figure it out just say pretty please. The professor said it shouldn’t take us more than two hours. Tick tock.” Joel was the one guy in every class that grated everyone’s nerves.

Lexi shot Joel a disgusted look and rolled her eyes. Joel and Chris were among the top ten percent of the cadets in the astronavigation department and their rivalry was well known throughout the department.

“No, I’m fine… can you tell Tiffany I said hi for me… she really helped with the command course studies last week.” Chris said as he moved over to Joel, circling him slightly as he went to snag the PaDD from his hand.

“I mean… you do have to make certain you are facing the right direction first before you at least take the readings too.” he said as he shoved the PaDD back into the others chest as he patted him on the back as he walked back to Lexi as he gave her a wink as he looked at her like he always did with this mix of swarm and care that seemed to be something he only gave to her.

“God Ian you should see this. It’s like some nature documentary with the two of them. Joel is pushing Chris’ buttons but Chris is just jabbing him right back. Why can’t you control your boy,” Lexi joked. Her tone sounded reprimanding but her mouth was sporting a half-smirk that was threatening to become a full smile.

“What… he was already getting the right setting if I didn’t throw him off a little he would beat us.” he said as he looked back subtly as Joel could be seeing arguing with his partner as he pointed in the other direction.

“Speaking of directions is there such a thing as the Corona Borealis? Chris is saying yes but I am positive he is wrong and he won’t ask for directions. You know how he is,” she sighed.

Looking back at Lexi he grabbed her com as he took over the call.

“Hey pal, thanks and all… I will get back to you later about your new woman hood status but for now we need to get going.” Chris said as he closed the com giving it back to Lexi.

Cadet Christopher Robins

“Yes we do,” Lexi said taking the PaDD from Chris as he took the comm from her. “Okay let’s beat Joel. I got this,” she winked. Glancing at the coordinates she quickly made a single adjustment to the location Chris had selected and pressed the submit button. The moment she hit submit, small flashes of light began to appear around them as the site to site transporter started to dematerialize the pair to send them to the indicated location.

Cadet Lexi Garfield

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