“The time is zero five hundred hours.”
The computer’s perky voice abruptly pierced the silent air, immediately waking Alan Christopher from his dreamy slumber. Even though the computer wasn’t officially classified as a sentient entity, Alan couldn’t help but think that it took some perverse pleasure in waking him from his sleep—because it sounded way too happy given the early hour.
But instead of hopping out of bed to begin his day, Alan pulled the warm covers over his head and hoped that some magical spirit would allow him to forever melt into the flowery sheets. And he held onto this hope for a good thirty seconds, before the computer presented him with yet another wakeup call: “The time is zero five hundred hours and thirty seconds.”
Again, the stridently pleasant voice failed to inspire Alan from the covers. He only grumbled at the summons, and then dug himself deeper into his warm, comfortable domain; a very large part of him was content to remain there all day—and in light of the recent Romulan crisis, he certainly deserved a day to sit around and laze. But the computer would hear none of it, and would tirelessly pester him to arise until he finally complied with the order. Thus, Alan tossed aside his blissfully warm covers and rolled out of bed like an Alverian cave sloth after a long slumber.
He sat perched on the edge of the bed for a moment, desperately fighting his better judgment, which insisted he return to the warm sheets. For a moment, Alan almost dove back into the pillow, but the sound of Cleo’s pathetic meows kept him awake.
The little cat meandered around Alan’s feet, gently rubbing his face against the bed and Alan’s leg before carelessly flopping onto the floor. He rolled around for a moment before springing to his feet and launching onto the bed. “Meow!”
Alan glanced briefly at Cleo, and then to the crinkle of empty sheets on the opposite side of the bed. “Didn’t Erin feed you?”
The cat promptly seated himself beside Alan. “Meow!” he insisted, peering upward with a totally pathetic kitty gaze.
Alan smiled. “I guess not,” he mused, gently running his fingers through Cleo’s soft fur. The two of them sat silently on the bed for a moment longer while Alan contemplated moving his legs—and the rest of his body—toward the replicator. Typically, Alan made such decisions in a matter of seconds, but this early in the morning, even the simplest of tasks required some serious brainpower—but before his sluggish brain could get around to processing that request, the bathroom doors slid apart amidst a whoosh of steam.
Erin spent a moment fixing her hair at the sweltering threshold, and then emerged into the main living chamber with a wide smile on her face. She playfully tossed her uniform’s jacket onto one of the chairs near the replicator and then sat down beside Cleo on the bed. “Good morning!” she chirped.
The pleasant tone nearly made Alan’s head implode. He grunted some sort of guttural greeting and then rolled back onto the bed. The sudden movement struck terror into Cleo, and the cat darted away at the speed of light. Alan, however, was still moving quite slowly. “I hate mornings…”
And if Erin actually cared, she showed no sign of it. She swiftly curled up beside Alan, grinning pleasantly. “So… do you have anything you want to say to me?”
As he considered the question, a monstrous yawn briefly parted Alan’s lips. “I’ve got a bad case of dragon-breath,” he grumbled, suddenly realizing the utterly unpleasant taste in his mouth. It was like something died in there overnight…
Erin quaintly backed away. “Anything else?” she prompted.
“Are you done in the bathroom?” In light of his dental situation, the response was immediate—but moments later, Alan’s sluggish brain kicked in, and he realized that Erin was probably pining to hear something else. Unfortunately, that which has been said, cannot be unsaid…
…and Erin’s grin faded away. She slowly climbed off the bed and strolled over to collect her jacket from its resting place. “Don’t forget to do your hair,” she said. “I’ll see you at breakfast.”
“Right,” said Alan wearily. He remained motionless for a moment longer, waiting to hear the doors hiss open and closed before sliding off the bed—and the moment his feet hit the floor, it dawned on him.
Moving with speeds that almost seemed unnatural, Alan bounded across the living area—again striking fear into the panicky Cleo—and nearly clipped the still-opening doors as he stormed into the corridor shouting “Happy Birthday!”
Alas, his efforts were too little, too late; Erin was already long gone. The day was still young, and already, Alan had managed to screw it up. He sighed, and meandered back inside his quarters. “This is going to be a long day…”