Posted by Lieutenant Nathan Harland (Counselor) in Graduation Week - Earth 2383
Posted by Ensign Chloe Harland (Nurse) in Graduation Week - Earth 2383
“We have so much more to see… I need to get you to the mound.” he insisted in an excited tone as he looked back, his eyes seeming to smolder as he looked back at her knowing she probably wasn’t expecting anything he had thrown at her so far.
“See,” she said quizzically. “Its pretty much pitch black. Like the Schemes of Royalty finale. Did you see that,” there was pure disgust in her voice as she walked with Nate. “Eight years of my life I spent on that show. All my high school Sundays and all four years of the academy wasted,” the ire in her voice was getting more pronounced. Her body was also becoming more rigid and her steps more purposeful. “You know what happened in the finale? I don’t because they shot it here…in the dark…the entire hour-long thing. Hell, I could have been blind and enjoyed the show more than I did watching it. Why,” she asked rhetorically, “because they shot it in the dark. Thought it would create suspense but it only created hostility. I mean what did they have against torches. The entire series was shot in a time set without electricity but I can tell you how Catelynn Blark died. She was killed at the Red Wedding. I can you how Jamie Bannister lost his hand. He lost it when Rooster Bolton chopped it off. I can even tell you where they kept the dragons. In the House of Undead in Marth. What do all these things have in common? You could see it. So why did I sit for an hour waiting for the battle to end all battles only to get eye strain and have me on the edge of my seat bobbing back and forth? I was waiting along with ten billion other viewers to get one torch lit to see Saria leap from the shadows to kill the Deathwalker only we didn’t get a torch. We got the death, but we didn’t see it. No, we had to remember that Brian was sitting under the weird tree from the previous episode to know where the heck we even were on the set and we only know that because Brian was in a wheelchair and said leave him there.” It would not take much for anyone to see Chloe was livid. Her palms were even sweaty in Nate’s hand but she didn’t care. They had crossed her point of no return.
Turning to face her stared at her for a long moment. She hadn’t shut up once about the show as he walked up to her forcefully as he pulled her in and kissed her like he had just came back from war and he hadn’t seen her in ages as he let every moment of the kiss melt and twist and form a perfect moment before slowly letting go of her as he put a little bit of space between them so he could look directly into her eyes.
“I mean why wou,” she continued until she was not able to talk. Oh she tried, for a few seconds but the words were a muffled mess. The muffled mess soon turned into a soft whimper and then silence as she kissed Nathan for the first time. The setting was exactly like she planned it: in the dark under soft moonlight with a gentle breeze. It was the moment she hadn’t expected: on an angry tirade about an imaginary story that ended a show she later didn’t care a hill of beans about.
“Oh look you can shut up… come on you dork.” he said with a wink as he kissed her once more but more playfully so as he got her to the middle of the mound before leaving her a for a few second as he went into the dugout. Moments later there was a hum as lights came on as spotlights illuminated the night as night became day for Chloe up on that big dirt mound.
Chloe let out a small giggle realizing she had forgotten she was in public. The Schemes of Royalty anger still ran deep in its fans but tonight was about making new friends and nothing about a holovision program.
“If they had just hired me I could have giving them all the light they needed, you can even see how cute you are as you blush under the night sky.” came Nathan’s voice echoing in a boom as he came from the dugout back onto the field, pulling behind him a hovering machine with one hand, as the other held a bag over his shoulder as if it was bootcamp.
“And Nathan said, “Let there be light and there was light. Harland San Franscisco 6:12:83,” Chloe wasn’t sure if he was the religious type or might take offense at the joke but if he ever got past the tight collar of her cadet uniform, he would find the small gold cross she always wore around her neck. It was a topic they could discuss later if the situation arose. For now, she let the topic change abruptly.
“If you can hit a ball I will let you tell me more about how awful it was, if you miss I will come up with random punishments that will make you blush and squirm and say to yourself ‘this isn’t baseball, it’s love making.’” Nathan said with a playful wink as he teased her as he tossed the bag at her feet. Inside as she opened she would find gloves, bats, and helmets for them to use.
“And if I want both options to happen. What’s a girl to do,” she laughed kneeling down to pull out a ball and a glove. “So I assume we are teaching me to pitch? I played softball like every girl when I was eight but I was never a pitcher. Right middle fielder,” she tossed the ball up and caught it in her hand. “What do I do,” she turned her body so that her toes were on the white stripe of the pitching mound. Adjusting her feet so that they were slightly hip-distance apart, she wiggled a bit and held the ball in both her hands close to her chest. “Holy smokes you can throw it hard enough to get to home plate,” she dropped her stance looking at Nate after sizing up the distance between her and home plate.
“Well yes… I mean every player has to be able to. How else can you throw someone out at home plate?” he asked her with an arched eyebrow at her statement as she got on the mound. He couldn’t help but find her adorable as she stood on top of the mound trying to look like she knew what she was doing. “I take it you didn’t play pitcher, even in softball.”
“Shut up,” she laughed and readjusted her body to what she thought was the perfect pitcher stance. After taking a deep breath, she brought her knee up to her chest. This was a move she had seen a million times only each time the ball flew over its intended target. This time, Chloe realized raising your leg to throw was harder than it looked. It was not that she was ungraceful, but by raising her leg, it did take her off balance. The flew but only halfway between her and home plate. “Wait wait wait lemme try again,” she said pulling another ball out of the bag.
“I mean… it left your glove, that’s progress.” Nathan with a smirk as he watched her get ready for the second pitch. “Maybe try not to rotate your arm so early.”
“Oh okay,” she took his advice and this time she added the rotation later in the throw. If she was being scouted at this moment, anyone watching would be wearing a corkscrewed expression as even Chloe had no idea what she did to make the ball act the way it did. By twisting her arm the way she did, it caused the ball to bounce on the hard ground. This allowed the ball to not only cross a longer distance but ricochetted from the ground, up into the seats between home plate and first base. A slight ding rang out in the stands as the metal from the chair vibrated. “Sorry,” she grimaced. “I think we need less rotation but I did get it over the trail line to first base.”
“Yes, the trail lines. The ones that connect the bases so you know where to go an which direction to head. See there is one from home plate to first and then from third to home plate. Since I got it over the trail that has to count for something,” she smiled at him picking up another ball.
Nathan’s comment made Chloe’s face wrinkle up in deep thought. “Huh, I never realized that,” she said now looking at the fact there was no line from first to second or second to third. “Learn something every day. Next ball…I would stand back,” let out a full laugh knowing that throwing a ball could be dangerous.
This time she wound up but did not bring up her leg. The ball left her hand and traveled farther but nowhere near its intended target of the batting box. “Cheese and crackers,” she growled pulling another ball from the bag. Before she assumed her stance again, she marched up to Nate and began to frisk him slightly. “You don’t have some inertial dampener on you do you,” she asked looking up at him.
“Then there is no reason I should not be able to get the bah…ellll,” she over hand threw it letting out a small grunt. Chloe also took not one but two steps forward as she lobbed the ball towards home. It was an extremely ugly pitch but even so, still did not reach home plate.
“Well… I may be just a simple country doctor, but I think maybe we should switch to the pitching machine…” he said as he made a thumbs up jab as he pointed behind his shoulder.
“Pitching machine. Why would we need a pitching machine,” she cocked her head to the side looking at him.
“Because I am a shortstop love, not a pitcher. While I can throw to home plate I excel at fielding and hitting… so maybe we try that before you get yourself hurt and I have to try my main profession out on you… but then again I would get to play doctor on you so honestly this might just be a win win.”
“You’re not the pitcher,” she replied with a truly confused expression on her face. “Number eight. Nathan Harland the North Paw Bazooka,” she repeated looking for some validation.
“Eighteen… my number is eighteen.” Nathan said as he couldn’t help but smirk, she was the one from the games, the bracelet he knew matched but it seemed she didn’t watch him nearly as much as he suspected.
“Okay this is awkward,” she started laughing. Scratching her forehead Chloe glanced up at him with a sheepish grin. “But do I at least get a few brownie points for knowing your nickname is the North Paw Bazooka because you can get the ball anywhere you need it to go? And besides,” she began to backpedal as she talked, “it’s not like you have your names on your shirts. That would be too easy,” she winked at him.
“No one ever has called me that… like… no… no one on the team is the North Paw Bazooka, unless the game program’s say it and I just don’t know.”
Oh you have no idea what we call you Mr. Harland and the program is not always correct at least in our minds, Chloe thought hearing Nathan talk about how dumb his name was. The problem was men had no idea how sexist women could be. The reason was women were much more quiet about it. They didn’t go whistling at some guy as they walked down the street. No women kept is seedy and secret only whispering among themselves. This is what happened Saturday afternoons at Oracle Park when Chloe and her baseball groupie friends showed up never missing a game. They had custom t-shirts made that matched the color of the Admiral’s uniforms exactly with a blue base, gold piping, and a gold accent stripe that ran under the sleeve from the waist to the armpit. Across the front was the Admiral’s logo just like the team but the back was what defined the shirt. Instead of the player’s number under the name was a picture of a baseball diamond. On the back over a number, each girl had selected was the Monogram DRAGBF. To anyone out of the group, it was explained as Drag your Best Friend to the game because they were always there. To members of Chloe’s girl group, DRAGBF actually stood for Diamonds R a Girls Best Friend. Each and every one of Chloe’s clan had a player they daydreamed would marry one of the Admirals and be whisked away to a life of lap and luxury. They were all between the ages of eighteen and twenty-two so the fantasy seemed completely legitimate.
“That’s a stupid sounding name, I don’t even have to throw the farthest, that’s Kyle Park our Right Fielder… he has to throw the farthest.” Nathan said wondering just where she had been getting all this information.
For the first time tonight, Chloe was totally zoning out at Nathan talked. She only got every other sentence as her inner thoughts overlapped his like the noisy conversations in the bar. Looking at Nathan, Chloe nodded like she was listening to every word only Chloe was replying verbally in her head with her own comments. Oh baby North Paw Bazooka is not a bad name. If you only had a clue at what we call all your brothers at-bat behind your backs. There is Hal, Open the Overbay Doors, Olstein who does that sliding catch move where he is sitting almost Indian style on the ground as the ball falls in his lap. Sabrina came up with that one and always remarks she dreams of being the ball and landing in that position on him.
There is Don’t Ask… Dotel, Davidson** who is not the sweet southern gentlemen on first you see holding doors open but someone who likes to keep his activities quiet. Julia Martin and he have had a thing going since freshman year. You would never know it but we do. John, Safe at Home, Cooper is your man at home plate. Ever wonder why scoring with a girl is referred to by first base, second base, and sliding into home? If you hang out with old Johnny you are never safe at home but the trip around the bases to get to him is worth the effort or at least that is what Maegan Murphy says. Ivan, Jerkin his, Kurkjian** is probably the basest nickname but he earned it over his tenure on the team.
A Long Walk off a Short Pierre DeSaul is that guy that can knock the ball over the wall into the bay at least once a season. You Down with OBP? is in reference to Obediah Billy Peters. He is a really nice guy and a great friend when you get to know him. There is nothing seedy about him and our chant of ‘You down with OBP…Yeah, you know me.’ It’s just because he is really a great guy to get to know. I have found that always to be true about catchers. They typically are the comedians of the team.
Now Leggo my Lugos** is that new freshmen on your team. He is up for grabs and currently, it is Becky and Physlis target who are trying to steal his second base from each other. Leo Whipp is Whipps and Chains** because he can tie up a game if he gets the ball to first Davidson then the Lugos. There is another connotation to his name but that is all Brenda Barkley’s overtime game not mine.
So now back to you. Nathan North Paw Bazooka Harland is not as bad as it could be. I mean listen to all the other names. They all are things that would give us improper conduct demerits if we screamed them across the quad as you passed by on the way to class. You throw with your right hand and are from the North so how is North Paw not doubly appropriate. That jump turn thing you do when you fire the ball from up the middle or in the gap is freaking amazing. Also for the record up the middle is between you and Lugos. In the gap is between you and Whipp so I do know a bit of the terms thank you very much. We have both taken small arms training so everyone knows the bazooka is a powerful rocket. When you do that jump twist thing to get your body back around to sling the ball where it needs to go is pure arm strength. You are not touching the ground but hovering like some God-like being that descended from Mount Olympus. I digress but it takes nothing but pure arm strength to launch the ball to where it needs to be from that position. With all that being said, you Nathan Harland are going to be my North Paw Bazooka even if I only call you that in my head. Looking at Nathan, Chloe realized she might have been daydreaming a bit longer than expected. For the second time this evening, she abruptly changed the topic.
“So batting it is. Do I go to the mound and hit them to you or are we both batting,” she began to pepper him with questions. It had been years since she had hit a ball with a bat. As dates went, this one was going to be a hard one to beat. Most men took you for coffee and maybe breakfast from a bar. No one had ever taken her to play baseball in a real stadium under the stars.
“Come to me sweetie I will get the pitching machine on the mound… ” he said with a wink as he grabbed the handle of the machine and pulled it to the mound as he set everything up. “Okay, this thing has several style of pitches and speeds, but I am going to start you on a change up, 70 mph. That’s a fairly slow ball, but it whizzes past you like a blur I can adjust it.” Nathan said as he walked back and with the PaDD that was attached to the machine as he let it calibrate. The technology of now could have the pitching machines do far more than when baseball was invented. It could change angles, velocity, pitch types… all while calibrating the perfect strike zone for each player that goes to hit in front of it.
“Okay, lemme see your batting stance…” he said as he put the PaDD down for a second as he came over to her, coming behind her he placed his body directly behind her as he waited to see just what kind of stance she thought she should have.
“You just want to see my butt,” she rotated the bat a few times using her wrist while giving Nathan a wink. After removing her coat, slipping off her heeled boots, and pulling her hair back into a ponytail, Chloe took her spot in the batter’s box. She then attempted to square her body up trying to remember the position. Her toes touched the edge of home plate…check. She bent at the waist slightly leaning over letting her body take a forty-five-degree angle to home plate…check. She held the bat three-quarter of the way up on the shaft flexing her fingers several times to get a good grip…check.
“I mean who wouldn’t… but that isn’t the only reason to get you in this position.” he said with a wink as he ran his hands down her arms softly and slowly as he he cocked his head as he looked over the position she was forming.
Chloe felt his hands close around hers on the bat. She closed her eyes feeling the pressure as he adjusted her choke. The scent of his cologne was so strong with him this close. He smelled of musk and oak with a hint of rosewood undertones. In a reminded her of the ocean. Chloe concentrated on the scent letting him move her body into whatever position he needed for her to bat. She fought the urge to shift around to make him stay this close longer.
“Okay legs apart, grip needs to be tight with wrists firm…” he said as he helped adjust what he saw right and wrong as she stood before him.
Shifting her weight several times she then announced, “ready,”. If anyone was watching they would get a huge laugh as the poor pitching machine looked like it was short-circuiting as it continuously made adjustments to find her pitching range.
“Okay… but first you need a helmet… safety first doll.” he said as he went back to the bag as he began sifting through it as he pulled out a helmet as he looked over it.
“But it will dork up my hair and the machine is set for my batting zone. That shouldn’t include my head unless you don’t know how to calibrate the thing. Besides no one wears a helmet in a pickup game,” Chloe looked at him rolling her eyes.
“Fine,” she said sliding the helmet on. The girly part of her loved the fact that is was his helmet. Lame and stupid but at times that all girls were. They loved men’s coats and sweatshirts and if you were a baseball junkie, his hat and glove. After placing it on her head, Chloe assumed the batting position and prepared for the ball. Unfortunately, the bill of the hat slide slightly covering her eyes. Letting go of the bat Chloe adjusted it and took up the position again only to have the hat slip that inch to block her vision once again.
Looking over at her he cocked a head as he placed the helmet aside. “Give me just one second puppy…” he said softly as he saw her looking back just briefly as he turned his back to her as he went back into the dugout and into the ball club area.
“No No No its fine,” Chloe called out. I love this hat. You don’t know how long I have dreamt of this. Me. Your hat. Batting. It is all like my dream so it okay, she whined mentally.
“Hold your horses buttercup, you’ll like this…” came back a shout from the tunnel as Nathan reappeared, with what looked like an entire ensemble of gear, jersey, cap, helmet all seeming to have very subtle changes yet very similar to what Nathan wore. “Safety is always important, but doesn’t mean you can’t have something that also fits…” he said as he handed her the helmet, which instantly seemed different from Nathan’s own he had set aside. While the overall shape seemed the same, it was smaller with the Admirals blue and gold but there was some new feminine highlights of pink through out that made it clear it wasn’t meant for just any other player.
“Oh my god,” she said looking up at him holding the items to her chest. Chloe felt like she was a sixteen year old with all the butterflies in her stomach.
On the back when she turned the helmet around she would find it wasn’t just smaller with subtle pink changes, no it even had her name “Kenrdick” and a number “6” on the back in pink with gold highlights that made it clear this wasn’t something Nathan just did for any random girl he meet. Many would call this playing it on thick but so far the past hour had felt electric and perfect, his stomach was fluttering with butterflies and his heart seemed to keep skipping as he tried to keep up with all that was going on.
“What do you think? Now you can be part of the team… oh and this too.” he said as he tossed one last items at her, a Jersey that had the same subtle pink alterations along with the number 6 to match. “I even have a cap but for now you can’t wear it and the helmet so that’ll wait later.” Nathan said as he placed the cap on top of the bag he brought out as he looked up at Chloe, hoping the gesture would be something she would appreciate.
A smile crept onto her face as she spun around giving him her back. “Don’t look,” she said then broke out laughing. “Okay so maybe there might be one reason the series finale of Schemes of Royalty had for being black,” she commented pulling on the jersey. It fit her perfectly hugging exactly where it needed to but flowing enough for modesty. Lastly, she placed the batting helmet on her head. It fit extremely tight like it should. “Well how do I look? The DRAGBF,” she spelled out, “is never going to believe this,” she beamed.
“So now… I guess I need to give your very own nickname too, hot stuff.” he said as hit bit his lower lip as he couldn’t help but smile widely at her as she put on the Jersey and helmet.
“What about Chloe the chaos from Connecticut Har…Kendrick. Kendrick,” she rapidly fixed her error as she set the bat down and leaned on the top. Unfortunately, it was not level and bobbled making Chloe stumble about like she was drunk. Finding her feet, she looked at Nathan with a dazzling smile. “Just testing the fit of the hat,” she tapped her helmet. “Perfect fit. It is not coming off for anything,” she spun quickly waiting for the ball to come.
“Good, I wouldn’t want anything to hit that pretty noggin of yours. Now… I need you to stand right there…” he said as he pointed at the center of the batters box for her to step in. “Let’s see what you got Ms Chaos”
Several moments later the soft pah chunk of the ball leaving the machine sounded along with a pop of it landing in leather. “What the,” Chloe said looking behind her as Adam Watson stood up lobbing the ball back to the machine. “Where did he come from,” Chloe looked at him confused.
“We made holographic players for training purposes. It matches replaces the players as needed. To let people be able to train even when no one is here.”
“So there is a virtual model of you,” Chloe bit her lip.
“You wanna take a copy home doll face?” He said with a smirk and wink as the field became field with players.
Nodding at his reply with a sly smile, Chloe took up position to bat again. This time she was ready and still, the ball sailed past her like she wasn’t there. A growl escaped her lips as she choked up higher on the bat. Pah chunk pop swish. Pah chunk pop swish. Pah chunk pop swish. By the third time, she had swung and missed Chloe looked at Nathan. “Kinda sounding like a bee bop,” she laughed waiting for the next round of balls. This time however she did a dance spin with jazz hands after her swish. “Yep. Total dance routine. I am gonna bring it into style,” she winked at him.
“Can this thing go slower?” Pah chunk pop swish. Pah chunk pop swish. The sound was soon going to either put Nathan to sleep with its rhythmic quality or become white noise he tuned out. “I’m just looking for a crack,” Chloe began to sing. Pah chunk pop swish. “One crack.” Pah chunk pop swish “A single crack.” Pah chunk pop swish ” A crack that will make my nig… ight peerrrr fehhhh kaht,” she put sounds to the rhythm. It didn’t matter how many times she struck out. She was spending the night with him. Okay, that was not exactly true. It was irksome that she could not nail the ball once.
“Can you hit this,” she asked him breaking the rhythm to only a Pah chunk pop.
“I can… you sure you don’t want to do it first? Wouldn’t you feel better to hit a ball before I do?” Nathan said with a smirk. He was enjoying his quiet moment with her as the balls came swinging.
“Oh I didnt say I was giving up. Pffff,” she lip trilled him as she used the bat to knock non existent dirt from the cleats he replicated for her. “I was just asking if you can,”. Pah chunk pop the ball wizzes by her again. “I mean,” Pah chunk pop,” it cant be that hard.” Pah chunk pop “You have knocked it out of the park twice last game”. Pah chunk pop “I mean you didn’t have the pressure of a hot guy watching you form the entire time,” Pah chunk pop, “ which is making it harder for me.” chloe was broaching they borderline line of frustration with each Pah chunk pop of missing the ball. Still there was no way she was giving up. This was becoming a matter of principal. Two more swings Howe’s her she had to think outside of the box she was standing in. Moving five steps closer to the autobot she took her stance again. There was no way she couldn’t hit it closer
“I mean you did just spend like half an hour telling me how hot my entire squadmates are… so evidently I did play with hot guys watching my form,” Nathan said with a smirk as he pushed a putting to turn off the machine. Pressing another button the machine remote-controlled moved behind them as he smiled. “Maybe we can do better with this,” he said as a version of the famed pitcher Noah Syndergaard appeared, an early 21st-century legend nicknamed Thor due to his ability to hit for yard as much as he could strike them out. Much like the famed God of Thunder, from whom his nickname derived from, Noah was known as a strong handsome man with long blonde hair and an intimidating stance of 6‘6 as he took the mound.
“And Thor descended Mount Olympus himself,” Chloe said letting the bat slide slightly in her hands. “I have not seen you in the roster,” she felt her cheeks redden slightly as this holographic pitcher smiled at her. Yes he was holographic so to make something out of thin air cause a girl to turn this coy with a side glance only spoke the attraction this man was emitting just like the photons of light that made up his illusion.
“Hey, Nate, who do we have here?” Nolan asked as he looked Chloe over with a smirk as he began to look Chloe up and down.
“I’m Chloe,” she tucked a lock of hair behind her ear looking away for a second before letting her eyes slow trail up his body until they met his gaze head-on. “Oh my god,” she half mouthed the words biting her lip. Okay so if I couldn’t hit a ball with an autobot pitching what makes you think I am going to have my eye on the ball any better with that staring at me, she thought.
“Hey hey hey… eyes up top Blondie.” Nate said as he threw a ball at Noah as the giant pitcher caught it. “We are trying to teach her to hit, we may have our luck cut out for us.” Nathan said as he looked over at Chloe and winked at her. “But I got a feeling she might be worth the struggle.”
“No its not a struggle keeping my eyes on the ball,” she snapped quickly not hearing anything but the last word Nate spoke. Seeing the expression on his face she shook her head as if to clear it. “What,” she said looking at him confused?
“Oh, I am sure you can keep those eyes on the ball as long as he is throwing it,” Nathan said with a smirk as he helped to put her back on the batter’s box.
“Never mind. I am batting,” she held up a hand to Nate as she ended the conversation before it started and looked at the pitcher. “So could you come a little closer,” Chloe asked the pitcher in a soft tone. Letting out a small laugh she balanced on the bat talking to Thor. One leg was bearing all her weight allowing her to stick her hip out some and bend one knee. It was the classic girl flirt position women assumed knowing if you stood at the right angle, it lifted your south forty and enhanced your north forty. The bent leg allowed you to pivot the free leg on your toe enhancing the tone and length of your leg. “I think that bot was too far away. If you were closer it might help me some. Please,” she said in almost a singing tone tossing her hair over one shoulder.
“Don’t listen to her, she has to learn to handle you at your best… we don’t give her any shortcuts cause she is pretty,” Nathan ordered Thor as he looked back over at Chloe. “You need to focus, feet separate, hands gripping tight elbows lose… I want you to focus on the ball. He is going to throw some change up’s, slowest pitch in his repertoire… and you are going to follow through and rip it… and rip it you will doll face.” Nathan said with a wink as he placed his hands on her sides as he looked at her form carefully.
Chloe took a deep breath and blocked out everything but her bat and the ball. Her gaze focused on the tall blonde pitcher before her. The rise of his knee to his chest as his arm rotated to the correct position to launch the ball from his grasp was almost like a dance. A split second later Chloe began her swing. Her aim had been off several times before yet right now Chloe wanted something more to hit the ball. She wanted to impress Nathan with her ability to play the game he so dearly loved. It was silly and childish but Nathan seemed to have all the faith in the world she was going to be able to do this. Chloe would not let him down. The shadow of the ball sailed in a black line, over the green turf until the very edge crossed the white line of the batter’s box. Keeping her eye on the ball, Chloe swung until the loud crack of cork met maple careening the ball from home to center field. The holographic player snatched it up easily enough but Chloe didn’t care. “I hit it,” she turned smiling to Nathan. “Did you see that? I mean I had to just have hit it like a thousand feet,” she beamed raising a hand to her eyes as if it were a bright, sunny summer day. “Proud of me,” she asked rocking on her heels. “Your answer should be yes. I mean what other girl can hit it that far?”
Nathan watched as the ball popped high but short. The infielder didn’t have to go very far to reach it from there starting shift.
“No no no no don’t catch it,” Chloe appeared to be willing the ball to not fall in the outstretched glove of the player. “Drop it,” she bounced from foot to foot not running to first but watching each excruciating inch as gravity pulled the ball down.
Looking over at Chloe Nathan gave her a small wink as he looked at his PaDD that controlled the field’s holographic teammates as suddenly the player vanished in a shimmer of light as the ball fell to the ground.
Chloe put a hand on her helmet as she turned to give Nathan a winning smile. “God I love you,” she said in a playful tone with a smile that lit up her face. She had seen Nathan on the field. When he was playing, the man treated the game like a war exercise giving no mercy to the ball when he hit it or the person catching the ball when he threw it. The fact he bobbled the game for her had to mean something.
“I know… and would you look you at that, you got a hit… guess that means you gotta run to first… wonder what I can do with this to get you home,” he said with a wink as the players looked at Chloe before reacting as they remaining ones began to go for the ball in shallow center. One by one Nathan made all the players begin to run and quarter speed. “Well… run doll face, you got a hit,” he said with a large playful smile as he began to wave her on to run down the base path.
Not waiting for a second longer Chloe began to run as fast as she could to first. A step or two before she arrived there the base the couch on first began to rotate his arm in a circle indicating for her to head towards to second. “Dig it in Kendricks. Go go go,” he yelled at her as Chloe rounded the bag pushing towards second with one hand on her batting helmet. There was no need for this because it was a perfect fit, yet somehow she did it out of instinct. As her foot hit second she paused to take a breath.
“Why are you stopping? Move move move,” the third base coach yelled throwing up his hands.
Chloe was taken back for a second until she realized the couch meant for her to continue running. Pushing off the base she ran hard to third. Chloe had no idea where the ball was but took off for third like she was being chased.
Nathan couldn’t help but smirk as she ran, the second baseman had rematerialzed as he picked up the ball. Normally he would have thrown it to the next base but Nathan to the side of the chalk line put his hand up to indicate a throw to him. Tossing the ball Nathan pocketed it as he moved over to the home plate as the catcher stepped aside for him.
“I got this Buster…” he said with a wink as Chloe began to head towards third base.
“Why you gotta always get the first pick,” he gestured to Chloe running towards third. “What do you think this is....baseball,” he laughed shaking his head as he walked away from the home plate. The comment was not normal for a hologram but the holograms were based on the team’s personalities and everyone knew Nathan had a way with the ladies.
“Round it round it round it,” he yelled seeing Chloe heading towards him but also scanning the field. “Right here. Look at me. Don’t look at them,” the coach pointed at her eyes and then his indicating she only had one thing to focus on. She wasn’t sure she had ever seen that coaching maneuver during a game. Maybe what he was doing was normal and why they always told you to focus on the direction of the base coaches instead of making decisions for yourself. “Round hard, round hard, round hard,” the coach made the same rotation as the first base coach as she past him.
Chloe started down the line heading towards home only her stride slowed slightly seeing the catcher. Nathan never played that position that Chloe could remember yet here he was with one eye on her and one eye on the field. In the seconds as she sped down the field towards the white diamond, Chloe realized Nathan was probably testing her. This was one test she was not going to lose; however, she had few options.
The art of the slide was well known in baseball. It was taught using slippery cardboard or plastic slip and slides so that young ballplayers could learn how to achieve the correct position without getting hurt as they coasted onto a base. Nathan undoubtedly learned the technique as a young kid. Chloe had no idea how to do this which left her only one option. Halfway down the stretch she put on as much speed as she could get, leaned into the run, and prepared to knock Nathan off the pristine white diamond. If she didn’t knock him off, the impact of her body into his just might make him drop the ball. This maneuver she had seen plenty of time in a game so what did she have to lose.
Chloe waited until she was almost on top of Nathan and the plate. Just as she was within reach to tag with the ball, she jumped superman style to slide to the base. How she did not hurt herself could only be attributed to adrenaline, alcohol, and years of belly sliding on slip and slides.
Nathan smiled as she came barreling down, but did a side step right as she came to the plate as she leaped over. Her momentum he knew would make her forget one important thing, she needed to touch the base. As she flew past him as she hit the grown she came to a skid as he couldn’t help but smirk a little.
“And what do you have to say about that little maneuver,” she taunted looking up at him from the ground.
Moving towards her he stood on top, posing and large as he pulled the ball from his pocket as he pressed it against her chest. “Tag… you’re out,” he said with a smirk as he offered his hand to her.
“Shut up,” she said ready to protest his play. It was then she saw the skid marks in the dirt and knew he was right. She did slide but the slide started after home plate and not before it. She was out far and square as much as she may not have liked it. That didn’t mean however that she had to play completely fair. Taking his outstretched hand, Chloe jerked hard leaning back at the same time.
Pulling he felt his balance slip as he fell on top her as he made an oompf as he laid on top. Laughing he rolled to the side as he couldn’t help be find it all a little crazy. “You know… I was looking fairly graceful till then…” he said as he tilted his head to the side as her own laughter made him feel such warmth at that moment. “Maybe we call this a draw and we do it again, this time you can be on top of me.”
Wrapping her legs around his waist Chloe twisted hard to the right. In no way was she strong enough to move Nathan past a bobble but for the first time since they started playing this game, they were on the exact same team. Nathan rolled to the side pulling Chloe over so that she was now straddling his midsection. “So question. Is this how you steal a base,” she made a swirling motion at his chest with her finger? “I know the object is to get on a base but could I use this to say distract a player and take one for the team for the win?”
Growing quiet, Chloe looked at the man on the ground. She had thought this was going to be like any other date this last semester of school. She would have fun, maybe they would talk for a few days after but then they would drift apart. Too much was uncertain about their futures. Starfleet Academy was not a normal university. You did not get a choice to move in with someone after graduation, pick your town where you would pursue a career, or even stay in contact with the friends you just spent four years of your life with. Starfleet owned you. The first day when you arrived they told you they did not pack a spouse or a child in your duffle bag her so don’t expect to leave with either upon graduation. It was a joke they all laughed about until now. As the smile slowly slipped from her face, it was replaced with a more solemn expression denoting the struggle she currently was having with herself. It was only a few hours, but Nathan Harland was someone Chloe wanted to get to know better. Graduation ceremonies three days from now would end any hope of that for her.
“I was thinking two things I still don’t know about you,” she said letting out a huge sigh.
“The first is that I have no idea what side of the bed you prefer to sleep on but more importantly,” she turned her once solemn expression back into a happy smile, “what is your middle name?” There was no point worrying about the future. She could not control that no matter how hard you wish or try. She could control the present and right here, right now there was no other place in the universe Chloe Kendrick wanted to be.
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