by E. L. Zimmerman
"I don't like the sound of that one bit."
Yawning, wiping the sleep from his eyes, Jean-Luc Picard sat up slowly in bed listening to the rumble of low atmospheric thrusters obviously powering a transport only a few meters over the roof of his home.
Careful not to wake his companion, he slid out easily of the bed and crossed the room as silently, as catlike as possible. He reached the window and pulled back the curtains. There, hovering clumsily outside in the sky, flared the wake of afterburners. He recognized them immediately as belonging to a G Class Mining Conveyor. The craft sputtered low across his field of vision, dipping dangerously close to the other houses in the district. He guessed that the Conveyor, like so many others operated by the Voronina, was drastically overloaded, taxing the engines unnecessarily and endangering more than just the lives of its pilots. The ship carried the freshly excavated soil culled from the nearby caverns by the night work crews. It bobbed even lower, trembling out of control, and he gasped, watching as the airborne vehicle nearly rammed into the upstairs floor of Quentin Overley's home ...
... then the craft thankfully found the proper propulsion eddy, and it lifted easily over the rooftops and into the oppressively gray clouds. Seconds later, it disappeared completely from his sight.
Relieved, he sighed heavily. The last thing this district needed was another Conveyor disaster. He made a mental note that, in the morning, he would speak with Tussaun Xavius. Despite the danger to himself and the risk of his reputation, he would demand assurance that the mining ships would be placed on alternate flight paths ... courses away from the living districts. It was, after all, the only humane thing to do.
Startled, he inclined his head back toward the bed.
"Nothing," he answered. "Everything is all right."
"What is it, then?"
He returned his gaze to the window. As he should have been, the city was asleep. In the distance, he could make out the blinking of lights from the traffic near the dig sites. He wondered how many people were hard at work, at this late an hour, while he was nestled in the comfort and warmth of a welcome bed.
"Nothing," he repeated finally. "The noise woke me. It was just another low flying Conveyor."
"Did it crash?" she asked.
"No," he told her with confidence. "It appeared as if it were going to for a second, but, thankfully, it didn't. At the last minute, the pilot must've found his bearings. The craft lifted into the sky. It's gone now."
"Oh. That's good."
"Yes," he agreed. "Yes, it is."
"No matter how hard we work, the Voronina refuse to learn from their mistakes ... and they refuse to listen to you."
He smiled at her sentiments. "Oh, come now. They are, after all, the Voronina. Galactic law awarded Earth as their planet. Why should they listen to me, of all people?"
"You know what I mean."
Frowning, he admitted, "Yes, I do."
Realizing he was still standing with the curtains drawn, he glanced down at his hand clutching the fabric. The floral pattern was pleasant, he decided after arguing against them so long, so adamantly. He didn't care to have soft blue flowers with silver trimmings hanging from the windows of his house ... but she had convinced him to compromise. Still, he smiled to himself at the thought, she had clearly cheated, using her feminine charms on him, to which he had never possessed a suitable defense.
He glanced at his hand. For reasons he would never understand, he admired the twinkle of light that winked at him from the wedding band he faithfully wore on his left hand.
Growing up, he could never imagine being married, much less being so deeply in love with one woman that he felt his life revolved around hers. But then she had come along and changed his mind, almost instantly, and his life had never been the same. He found love, he welcomed it, and he felt what it was like to have another human being completing his existence.
Despite slavery to the Voronina, Jean-Luc Picard was happier than he could ever imagine.
"Are you coming back to bed?" she asked.
After one more look out the window, he released the curtains, and they fell obediently into place.
"Of course," he said, turning and heading in the direction of her voice. "A few more hours of sleep will do me a world of good."
"Who said anything about sleep?"
As he neared her, her features suddenly came into focus, eclipsing the darkness in a way only possible through unconditional love. With his eyes, he traced her graceful frame lying under the pale blue sheet. With his eyes, he started at her feet, stretched up her legs, across her strong hips, around her full chest and demure shoulders, under her strong neck, and stopping with the smile on her red lips. Even in the pale light, he saw the fiery color of her hair. Its shade reminded him of the Conveyor's engines, blasting their heat across the rooftops.
Inside, he welcomed a much different kind of heat.
Smiling back at her, he climbed into bed. He slid under the sheet and wrapped himself in her embrace, leaning into her and kissing her on the neck, smelling the faint trace of a perfume that lingered on her from earlier in the day. She was beauty, in every sense of the word he could imagine, and he couldn't calculate what living a life without her would possibly be like.
Giggling sexily, she whispered, "I hope that work hasn't monopolized all of your energy." With that, she cradled the back of his head with her hand, forcing his lips to stay just under her chin.
Playfully, he kissed her neck some more, listening as she moaned pleasurably in response.
"I'll always reserve a bit of my energies for you, ...
"...my sweet Beverly."