2. Lazzaro.

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First Officer Eric Lazzaro was strolling down the hallway on his way to the daily gripe ‘n’ groan session that was his esteemed captain’s morning meeting, when there was an ear-splitting crash, followed by the shrieking of tortured metal and one final BOOM!!!

Then silence.

“Uh-oh, that didn’t sound good.”

A siren briefly sounded, then died as abruptly as it had started.
Suddenly Lazzaro was plunged into darkness and he stopped, listening.
Then the back-up circuit cut in, bathing the corridor with a soft glow that was broken by the rhythmic flashing of emergency warning lights and then the return of sound, as if the ship had been holding her breath.

First the hum of the life support systems restarted, usually just at the edge of hearing but shockingly obvious in its absence.
Then the human sounds of the ship returned and the first one of those was a scream.

Eric started running, coming almost immediately upon the source of the scream as he rounded the corner.
He only avoiding running headlong into a young girl with her hands clamped to her face, blood seeping between her fingers, by extending his arms straight out in front of him to fend off the collision.
Despite saving them both from any further injury, his defensive move also rewarded him with a couple of awkward handfuls of female chest, followed swiftly by a rather sticky slap in the face.

Strangely, the reflex action of slapping Lazzaro seemed to instantly calm the girl down, she stopped screaming and lowered her other hand from her face, looking down at her chest, then back up at Eric, who hurriedly removed his own hands and muttered an apology before turning his attention to the cause of all the screaming.

The girl, quite pretty from what he could tell through all that blood, had what looked like a mascara wand, complete with sparkly cap, sticking straight out of her right eye.
He knew he was staring, he couldn’t help it, so he looked away, but not soon enough for the girl – Carli, according to her uniform name tag – who now caught him looking back up from staring at her chest and rolled her eyes at him.
Not a good move, she screamed again.

Eric’s stomach lurched as the sparkly mascara wand described a graceful arc across Carli’s face, then lurched again when she tried to screw her eyes shut in pain.
He caught her arm as her legs buckled and she fell against his chest, gently lowering her to the deck, leaning her up against a bulkhead and watching as the colour slowly returned to her face.

Too late, he found himself staring again (she really was very attractive, he thought, even with blood soaked hair stuck to her cheek and a temporary optical protruberance) but this time she stared back, then actually spoke to him.

“Well, are you gonna pull it out or not?”

That was three for three in the stomach lurching stakes.
Eric’s mouth opened to reply, then snapped shut.
He tried again.

“Pull it? Pull it out?”

“Well it’s not going to come out on its own is it? And I’m sure the med teams have plenty to keep them occupied right now, don’t you?” She raised an eyebrow, something that, under different circumstances, might have been sexy, but was at this point it was just creepy.

Lazzaro crouched in front of the calmly staring girl, leant toward her and looked closely at the protruding, glittery stem, trying to assess the damage.

“Well get on with it then, I expect you’re needed somewhere important aren’t you?”

“Shit”, he realised what she meant. There had been some sort of emergency after all and he was the First Officer. “Ok, hold still,” her took hold of the wand as carefully as he could, “I’m guessing this is going to smart a little.”

Then, without giving her – or himself for that matter – too much time to think about it, he put his hand on her forehead and gave the wand a sharp tug.
It came free surprisingly smoothly, with an audible pop from her eye, and a gentle sigh from Carli, who looked at him with her one good eye, quietly said, “Thank you…sir“, smiled and passed out.

Lazzaro stood up, bent over to pick up the unresisting girl and hurried off down the corridor just as the lights came back on, pausing only to punch a com panel and tell Captain Toes he was going to miss the gripe ‘n’ groan.

“Life in deep space”, he shook his head and grinned, “never a dull moment.”