Chapter 6 - Amber Alert
Tora had always rather liked the innately intimate, relaxed atmosphere of a crew lounge. Lounges meant ranks left at the door (mostly), a chance to dress down and let your hair loose for a bit and most importantly, they were full of people. In her eyes she could not ask for anything better – except, well, trips to the holodeck. Tonight she’d chosen to go for a snugly fit dark gray t-shirt and shorts as she mingled with her few friends on board; they were few for now, but she was sure that she could make more in time.
Across the tongo table, Ensign Rey’s cerulean eyes met Tora’s amber ones. There was a playful glint in them, a silent challenge. Her attire tonight was a sleeveless top that left her midriff bare, showcasing her athletic build. Rey’s lips curled into a playful smirk, her fingers caressing lightly over her growing pile of latinum as she sized up her options. The Bolian junior operations officer had a reputation for being a formidable tongo player, and Tora was quickly finding out why.
“Acquire,” Rey decided, her voice smooth with a hint of mischief. The other players at the table exchanged glances, some hesitating, but Tora was cool, calm and collected and very much in control.
Tora had seen Rey around the ship several times. She’d always thought the Bolian was pretty hot, with a personality to match – though it’d always slipped her mind to go up to her and say hello. Entirely her own fault, of course. But the Bolian had approached her entirely unprompted tonight, and simply challenged her to the Ferengi game of cards – not that Tora minded the directness at all, or the chance to get to know her better over it.
“Confront.” Tora smirked as one of the players, a redheaded human male, tossed his hand on the table, stood and retreated from the table, muttering something about having better things to do anyway. She wasn’t surprised. He’d been bullied by all of them all night – luck simply hadn’t been going in his favor. “You prepared to give me that prize, Rey? Because I don’t plan to lose tonight,” She taunted the Bolian girl.
Rey chuckled, unfazed, her sapphire eyes dancing with amusement. “I like the confidence, Tora, but don’t count your profits before your transactions.” She spread her cards on the table with a flourish.
A wave of shock went around the table. A full consortium was one of the rarest hands in tongo. It was clear that Rey had just taken the lead.
The Andorian, Ithahl, just shook his head, chuckling. “I should have known better than to play against the two of you.”
“Cool it, blue boy. You did fine. It’s just Rey here who’s merciless,” Tora replied, patting his arm while shooting a glance at the Bolian and smirking. “Oh, by the way. Speaking of finishes.” The Cardassian laid her hand on the table, elliciting a collective gasp from the table. “Total monopoly. I think I can back that confidence up.” She shot back at Rey, amber eyes gleaming. “You want the honor of rolling the dice, or do you want me to?”
As the next round began, the other players, sensing the need to cut their losses, began to make their excuses and leave. Ithahl was the last to go, clapping Tora on the shoulder. “Good luck,” he grinned, nodding towards Rey.
With the table now empty save for the two of them, Rey leaned forward, her eyes locked onto Tora’s. “How about we raise the stakes?” she suggested. “A personal wager, just between us.”
“Oh, it’s on!” Tora grinned back at her. “Name it.”
Rey intwined her fingers, resting her chin atop them. “If I win, I get to ask you any question I want. And if you win… you can name the price.”
Tora’s amber eyes glittered. “Deal.” She decided, picking up the deck and shuffling it with practiced motions. Clearly she knew her way round a tongo deck as well as Rey did. “My prize is… to take you on a date. To a place of my choice, on the holodeck or elsewhere if need be.” She looked the other dead in the eye, smirking. “How about it?”
Rey’s eyes widened ever so slightly, a slender eyebrow arching as she processed Tora’s response. Of all the possible wagers she might have expected from the Cardassian, this was one she hadn’t seen coming. It was a bold move, considering they barely knew one another, and Rey couldn’t help but admire the audacity.
For a moment, her mind wandered back to her own time at the Academy, where she’d always been seen as the daring one, the one always pushing the boundaries. Now here she was, possibly outmatched by the seemingly flirtatious yet sincere challenge of a Cardassian ensign.
Her eyes shone with a rush of adrenaline. “Bold. For an ensign. But I hope you don’t expect me to go easy just because I wanted that anyway.”
For a second Tora stared at her, amber eyes gleaming, in stunned silence – she’d never expected Rey to actually reciprocate her feelings, not that she’d ever spoken to the Bolian much. Then she blinked, and began to deal out their hands with a sly smile on her lips. “I don’t intend to,” She retorted, smirking as she placed the deck between them on the table and laid out her hand in a neat, sweeping fan. “Now. May the best Ferengi win.” Tora declared.
The crew lounge seemed to shrink to the tongo table between the two officers, bystanders being pulled in by the gravity developing. There was a palpable tension, mixed with excitement that tingled through Rey’s fingertips as she picked up her cards.
As they played, Rey became acutely aware of Tora’s charisma and how it made her feel. It was unusual that she found herself playing for anything but latinum or bragging rights. The playful ferocity with which the Cardassian had declared the terms of their wager only stoked Rey’s interest further. She found it increasingly difficult to keep her mind on the game.
Tora was cool as a cucumber throughout. Every so often she glanced up from her cards, fixing the Bolian with a playful amber-eyed glance, savoring the reactions she received in return. Oh, Rey. How cute she could be when a little bit flustered, she thought. Twenty minutes of intense gameplay and stunned oohs and ahs from the crowd later Tora out laid her hand on the table. “Total monopoly.” She announced triumphantly, to raucous cheers and clapping from the crowd. “And you, Rey?”
Rey took a deep breath, the corners of her lips curling into a playful, conceding smile as she gracefully laid out her cards, revealing a very strong hand, just short of a monopoly. The onlookers erupted in excitement as they realized Tora had won the game, and the wager that went along with it, in one of the most remarkable games they’d yet witnessed. Ithahl clapped the triumphant Cardassian on the shoulder as the crowd clustered around the two women.
“Looks like you’ve got me,” Rey admitted, her tone light, a glint of admiration in her eyes. “You played a great game. And you certainly know how to make it interesting.”
“I learned from the best.” Was all Tora had to say on the matter as she gathered up their cards, shuffled the deck with practised ease and placed it back down. “Well! To the winner her spoils – tomorrow. 1830 hours. My quarters.” The Cardassian smiled. “Dress comfy. It might be a pretty long night.” She flashed the Bolian a coy smile. “I hope you like Risian food. I don’t mind making some of our dinner by hand…”
“Oh, and about that prize of yours? I’m happy to let you have it, actually. Ask away.” Tora grinned and leaned back in her seat, arms folded under her chest.
Rey’s eyes shimmered with excitement and a hint of something hard to place. “I think I’ll hold onto that question for now,” she replied, her gaze never leaving Tora’s. “Consider it… a pending transaction. For our date. But I’ll be there, Tora. I’m dying to see what kind of night you have planned for us.”