Ming awoke, his head pounding. Echoes
of Arabian music and laughter still rung in his head.
He looked down at himself to find himself in a signifcant state of undress. Suddenly he jolted to awareness. *Oh my God! if any of the others wake up and find me here I'm dead!!* Ming thought.
"Computer! Time!" Ming snapped.
Stumbling around, Ming gathered what he thought were the various parts of his uniform (the pants didn't quite fit) and, after three attempts to determine which boot went on which foot, exited the holodeck.
Fortunately this was not a busy day for Ming; all of his equipment had already been transferred from DS11 two days earlier. Ongoing experiments could be monitored by his staff. With the exception of a few routine personnel matters and a request from Engineering to verify a statistical analysis of engine performance, Science was a quiet department.
Ming spent his time going over what the previous science officer aboard the Ronin had done in the way of research--which wasn't much. A storage area contained dozens of artifacts from various worlds visited by the Ronin that hadn't been catalogued beyond what the away team who had collected the artifacts had done. One artifact looked suspiciously like an ancient circuit board, complete with transistors, diodes, resistors, and capacitors. The corroded remains of a battery were attached by a thin, almost completely rusted wire.
Carefully, Ming carried the tray containing the artifact over to a lab bench. He removed a small sonic cleaning instrumen from a drawer and, setting it on its lowest setting, began cleaning the centuries of accumulated grime and sediment from the circuit board.
A loud buzzing sound pierced his eardrums. "AAAAH!" he yelled, then looked down at the cleaning instrument. Ming had, in his hangover misery, turned the selector to the *highest* setting! He quickly shut off the instrument, noting the crystalline sculpture from Alphatz II that was on the next bench. It was at least 100,000 years old, and one of a kind...and just barely saved from being shattered to atoms! *Who left this out?* Ming thought as he erected a containment field around the scuplture. *I'll have to talk to that person; something this rare should be handled in an isolab!*
Paying more attention, Ming set the cleaning tool to the lowest setting and began working on the circuit board. The accumulated ages sloughed off the circuitry effortlessly, revealing a pristine board with recognizeable electronic components. *Physics is physics no matter where you go,* Ming thought as he noted the similarity between the board and similar boards from mid-20th century Earth.
Most archaeology consists of either backbreaking work or mind-numbing tedium. Both help to concentrate the thoughts. As Ming examined the board with a magnifier, his thoughts turned to the night before...a pub crawl unlike any he'd been on since the Academy. He remembered the jokes, the flirting, the horrendous amount of money he'd spent at at least four bars, the flirting, an adventure in a holodeck program patterend after an Arabian sultan's court...
...and a feeling of being completely overpowered by something, followed by a wildly passionate encounter with--no!!! *And in front of the Captain, too! My career is ruined!* Ming thought.
*Wait a minute--he was there, too! And so were Hancock and O'Neil! And he was in the holodeck this morning too! If anything happened, it was by her consent and with everyone's participation!*
As he worked on the corroded lump that was once the battery that drove the circuit board, revealing it to be an old-style direct current dry cell, Ming thought about Karissa. She seemed intriguing, but as both the ship's counselor and a ranking officer she was off limits to the likes of a newly-minted Lieutenant Junior Grade in his first week on the ship. *It would be different if either of us were a civilian, or if we had the same rank. I could never hope for that again! If I told her anything she'd probably think I was lying, or be so revolted I'd be put off the ship!*
Ming entered the components of the now-pristine circuit board into a computer. "Computer, identify most likely function of this device, based upon inputs," Ming requested.
Ming made a catalogue entry for the artifact: "Computer, catalog Artifact Ronin-03792 as possibly being a radio receiver, approximate age 1,500 standard years."
*Acknowledgement. That's all I really want!* Ming thought. *Maybe a counseling appointment would help; standard procedure dictates I have one at every change of posting--what am I thinking? How can I tell the counselor I'm having problems with possibly having taken advantage of her???*
Putting away the artifact and his instruments, Ming decided it was time for lunch. He needed company anyway.
In the mess hall, he saw Karissa briefly and ruminated on the notion of talking with her. Then he decided against that. Instead, he went to sit down with another lieutenant he'd noticed from Engineering, who promptly got up and left as he sat down. She didn't appear to be anywhere near finished with her meal.
*Like I was expecting anything else?*
Ming thought to himself, sadly.