Pandora 1.0

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My scans were good and my headache was clearing up, but Doctor Marsten wanted me to stay in the med bay for twenty-six hours, so she had a full day to observe me. This was, she assured me, standard procedure with patients she had never treated before, and she did the same for everything from gunshot wounds to stubbed toes. I wasn't sure I believed her about the stubbed toes thing, but I got the drift.

What I didn't know was what I'd do with myself for that long. I did have my wristlet—it sat on the table beside my bed—but the quiet of the quarantine room was almost too much to bear, and I couldn't focus. Not that being out in the med bay proper with other patients would have helped much.

I was just wondering if a very long nap might be feasible when someone knocked at my door.

"Special delivery," came Diver's voice, singsong and lilting.

"Oh! Uh, come in."

The door swung open and in he came, a lunch tray balanced on one hand and a holo-slate tucked beneath his arm. He presented me with the tray and I took a curious peek. There was a chicken breast on a bun, and arrayed around it all manner of toppings and condiments, from lettuce to some weird stuff that looked like it might be a type of mustard.

"Wasn't sure what you liked, so I figured I'd let you choose," Diver explained.

My heart thudded more loudly than I liked. More than ever, I was sure I was developing a crush on him. "Thanks. That's perfect."

"I also may have dropped the nutrient-bar down the nearest garbage chute. I know, I know, I'm supposed to make sure you eat them, but you're recovering from a concussion. You shouldn't have to add insult to injury."

Did I say developing? Nope, I was a goner.

"My hero," I said, hoping my tone came out teasing. "And you brought me coffee this morning. Do you slay dragons, too?"

"Just point the way, princess." Diver grinned and dropped into the chair on the other side of my bed. "Admittedly, my dragon-slaying skills are a bit rusty but!" He put the holo-slate on my bed and activated it. "My boredom-slaying skills are top notch."

"Oh, thank god. I was getting ready to climb the walls."

"Amusing as that would be, I don't think the good doctor would be on board. You ever heard of an ancient Earth game called Scrabble?"

I eyed him suspiciously as I began stacking tomato and lettuce on my sandwich. "Scrabble? Like scrabbling over rocks or something? Because I've done enough scampering around like a panicked hermit crab to last me a life time."

God only knew what I'd said. For some reason Diver started to laugh and couldn't stop. Not that I minded entirely, because he had a wonderful laugh. So full and carefree, like it didn't matter to him at all if he brayed like a donkey or revealed that he had something caught in his teeth. I could have just closed my eyes and listened, but that would've looked weird. Besides, I really couldn't figure out what I'd said.

"Sorry," Diver wheezed, wiping at his watering eyes. "Just...the imagery. I...yeah. Anyway, no, Scrabble is a word game."

"I like words," I declared, possibly the most inane thing I'd ever said.

"Good. I'll explain how it works."

It seemed simple enough, and thus we settled down to a game while I polished off my chicken sandwich and the cup of buttery smooth chocolate pudding that had come with it. I wasn't entirely sure what to expect from Diver, but it didn't surprise me that he was good. What did surprise me was how many obscure words he knew. He won the first round on his knowledge of Shakespearian literature and when I challenged him to a second, he utterly nailed me to the wall.

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