My room was dark, but there was an unaccustomed sliver of light shining from under the closed door; and an echo of movement beyond.
I felt my body vibrating, like a kid on Christmas morning.
Sure, sure, so sure. The feeling echoed through my head, vibrating deep down into my bones.
Every fantasy, fairy tale and futuristic film I’d ever seen, they all tumbled together in my head; the sum of them didn’t come close to representing this awakening, into a day that promised to take me someplace new, someplace that, this time yesterday, I would have sworn didn’t exist.
Pure science fiction, really, except it wasn’t. I felt the reality; heard, faintly, the very real sounds of people stirring in my home, felt the inevitability of it all; wondering, in a way, why no one had thought to tell me before now that this was my destiny.
But wait. I thought back to the few times I’d had interchanges with my teacher, what he’d said to me, talking about places I would go. I thought about how I was leaving him, too, but I couldn’t feel regret. Or doubt. It felt more like I could feel his hands at my back, gently nudging me forward.
What was awaiting me…out there? Up there? Who would I be? Surely that Future Perfect world didn’t need anyone to champion the rights of women? Not from what I’d picked up from Uhura, a woman who definitely didn’t need anyone else to champion her. But even saying goodbye to what had been my life’s work felt like a natural progression, a joyous and inevitable completion. Whatever was out there, I was, well, sure I’d find my way. I always had.
Nothing in this world ever felt more natural to me than this.
So natural, I poured myself out of bed without another thought and stumbled down the hall, into the light, unable to wait another second to get visual confirmation of the new world awaiting me.
Yep, there they were. Testosterone filled the room, and I realized I hadn’t even considered my appearance, which was hardly the stuff of male fantasy, hair un-brushed, the worn t-shirt that was oversized even on Bob, and cartoonishly so on me; bare feet and bleary eyes.
I didn’t really care. My heart leaped up, just knowing I wasn’t alone. These new friends were going to save me, and take me away.
Not exactly a rational attitude, but damn, even for a woman about to be murdered, in that moment, I felt on top of the world.
Jim and the doctor were deep in conversation over by the windows. They both looked up and greeted me with grins that made me aware my half-dressed state might be more appreciated than I imagined, but it was the alien Mr. Spock’s look that unnerved me. Brushing past me on his way back to his array of technological toys spread out on the dining table, he greeted me with that flat voice; then his gaze went straight to my chest. I reflexively looked down to see if somehow I was revealing more than I thought, but that was hardly possible; the old black t-shirt reached almost to my knees and was so baggy my body was only a hint beneath.
So I self-consciously assured myself even a…a Vulcan couldn’t find me indecent, though my quick downward gaze did remind me I wished I’d gotten a pedicure.
“Interesting,” said the alien. “Not strictly accurate, and predictably Earth-centric, but one might say, suitable to the occasion.”
This guy was so freaky. What the hell was he talking about?
I guess I was just a little slow on the uptake. I realized the other two were smiling at me. I followed their collective gaze again, and finally got it. I was so used to it, I’d forgotten. My worn and faded t-shirt was the one with that famous image on it; the picture of the Milky Way, a big arrow, and the words, “You Are Here.”
I was glad that Uhura chose that moment to walk through the door, a large paper bag in her arms that smelled deliciously of fresh pastries. Now there’s a gal with initiative, I thought, as I noted she was carrying my purse, which answered one question. My next question, which I figured would be answered all in good time, was whether they had croissants in space.
My spiritual high didn’t exactly desert me, but other realities quickly intruded. Like the fact that our carefully laid plan called for me to face down Lester Worsham in person. Last time I did that, I ended up bolting in panic, and that was in the middle of a Georgetown cocktail party, and when my threats toward him were vague and insubstantial.
Now, I was being asked to let him into my apartment, with only a cocky space dude, a doctor, and Mr. Eyebrows standing between me and Worsham, a man who now scared me even more than he had 24 hours ago.
I just had to believe that these guys could truly protect me, that they were somehow going to be faster, stronger, smarter than a man who, by their own account, had already devastated an entire civilization. In order to get to that hazy Future Perfect, whatever it was going to be, I still had to survive the present for a few more hours, and that meant trusting them with my life.
Then again, considering all the bridges I’d burned last night, it wasn’t any longer a question of wanting to believe. I pretty much didn’t had a choice anymore.
We’d decided I should go about my usual Saturday morning routine. Steeped in TV police procedurals, I figured we shouldn’t leave any possibility that people could say I was depressed or irrational or otherwise suspect myself. That meant attending my Saturday dance class, the one I never missed.
Jim refused to let me go alone, given yesterday’s threats. He decided that he and Mr. Spock would come along. I admit I felt mixed emotions about this, but the main one was relief. The idea of walking my old familiar neighborhood alone was now slightly terrifying. Beyond that, well, I admit my thoughts were all over the place. It wasn’t really like they could just sit and observe; it wasn’t that kind of thing at all. I cast my mind’s eye on the two of them, projecting how they might handle the expressive, even cathartic, aspects of the dance. Captain Jim, I’d already decided, hadn’t met the situation he couldn’t handle – at least in his own mind.
I didn’t think that unkindly, really. I’d not only picked up on the trust and deference the others clearly held for him, but I’d begun to feel the effects of his, shall we say, command presence, myself. It’s just that I had so much riding on that confidence being legitimate, and the ultimate proof was yet to be seen.
As to the strange Mr. Spock, I just had to trust Jim’s call on that. I couldn’t imagine this robotic guy flinging himself around a dance floor to a lot of New Age music, but I was beginning to think maybe he was generally handy to have around.
Strangers did drop in on the class from time to time, men included (though surely none stranger than these two). One thing was sure, if witnesses were needed later, no one was likely to forget that I’d shown up with a couple of guys in tow. Off the top of my head, I decided we could say (if anyone asked) that Jim was a cousin of mine, a naval officer. Well, he was a captain, right, in somebody’s fleet? And he’d brought his visiting colleague from Belarus. People in D.C. wouldn’t blink at a story like that.
I had to dig a little in the spare room to find some of Bob’s old exercise stuff for them, but we made do, and the Vulcan lightly improvised with a bandana to hide those tell tale ears and funky eyebrows, as if he’d done this before.
While we were gone, McCoy and Uhura would set the scene in the apartment.
We’d be back by 10:30.
Worsham emailed me just after 2 a.m. to say he would be at my place at 11.
After that, it was just a question of rounding third and sliding toward home.