Trial By Fear
The most significant adverse effects of long-term weightlessness are muscle atrophy and deterioration of the skeleton, or spaceflight osteopenia.
It hadn't hurt. Indeed, the ensign -- a pretty young human female with large, doe-like eyes and deeply tanned skin -- was so tiny he had barely felt her. At any other time he might have enjoyed the collision. But not tonight.
"Ensign!" McTavish barked.
"Sir! I'm so sorry!" the young officer stammered. She had dropped one of the bags she was carrying and McTavish bent to pick it up ... at the same time she did.
This, McTavish felt.
Both were rubbing their foreheads when both stooped again to pick up the parcel. This time McTavish noticed in time. "Ensign! Don't move." The girl froze as if petrified, and McTavish carefully bent to pick up the parcel.
"I am so very sorry, sir." the girl apologized again, taking the parcel from him with a shaking hand.
McTavish was about to say something but when he heard the tremble in the girl's voice he thought better of it. "Good night, Ensign," he said quietly and deliberately.
McTavish stepped aside to allow the girl to enter the turbolift. Then he made his way toward Quark's bar. He noticed the older woman who fell into step beside him, but he didn't acknowledge her.
"So, what's got you in such a foul mood?" the woman asked.
She was about McTavish's own age, somewhere in her late sixties. And while she appeared to be human, her pure black eyes said otherwise. She was dressed in civilian clothes, comfortable and flowing.
"Not tonight, Enelya."
"Not tonight, what?" the woman said, smiling mischievously.
"I'm not in the mood for your Betazoid probing," McTavish grumbled.
"Oh, come now," Enelya laughed. "It doesn't take an empath to sense how upset you are."
"I am not upset!" McTavish almost shouted.
"Really?" Enelya said. She knew Angus McTavish well. He just hoped she knew him well enough to know when to stop pushing. Sometimes she didn't. Or, she knew, but she pushed anyway. "Then why did you almost bite the head off that poor ensign?"
"I didn't," McTavish insisted. "Young people today should watch where they're going. When I was that age --"
"You were in the stockade more often than not. I should know, I was with you."
Those memories seemed to calm him somewhat. He let a faint smile flit briefly across his face. Then he scowled again. "Just ... not tonight."
"Does it have anything to do with your meeting with Admiral Ross?"
McTavish shot her a dark look.
"Late night meetings with Admirals are never a good thing."
"I'm not at liberty to discuss it," McTavish grumbled.
"Then does it have anything to do with the fact that we're losing our civilian scientists?" Enelya asked.
McTavish stopped and turned to face her. "What do you know about that?"
"Doctor Lanstrom, the biologist, told me. Hildegarde said the whole lot of them have been assigned to other ships. We're getting a few others, some Vulcan astrophysicist named Sovor and his team. But nowhere near the forty we were suppose to have. My God, Angus, the ship's going to be half empty!"
"We'll manage," McTavish assured her.
They had reached the entrance to Quark's bar. Even at this late hour the place was still busy. McTavish surveyed the crowd, trying to decide whether he was in the mood for this or not. "Yes, you are," Enelya said, apparently sensing his feelings again. "And so am I." She took him by the arm and led him in.