Karl loves it too. It brings a lot of people into Starboard-7 that might not otherwise have come, making it the centre of the Earhart's social scene. We've also become friends. Karl finds it refreshing that he can't read me. It reminds him of what most others have to endure: the uncertainty of another's true feelings. He has to rely upon my body language, voice tones and micro expressions to gauge my emotional state.
I, too, have been learning about Karl. I had assumed that he was a civilian, but he's not. No one on board the Earhart is a civilian. Karl is a Lieutenant and holds the position affectionately referred to as the TensO. Responsible for morale and crew entertainment, the Tensions Officer can often be found in casual clothing aboard a Starfleet ship, creating a relaxed atmosphere and ensuring that downtime is quality time for the crew. So, despite his attire, his position is just as important as any other officer on board the ship. It's just that his office is a little different to most. I have a desk. He has a bar!
Anyway, I'd just made him leap out of his skin for the forty-billionth time and was in the process of apologising yet again.
"It's not your fault," he insisted. "I'm just not used to people sneaking up on me, without me sensing them first."
We both laughed at that, but then he read my face. It had fallen very serious.
"What?" he asked.
"Karl, can I ask you something?"
I scowled as I formulated the question in my mind.
"Do you ever ... sense anything ... strange?" I asked tentatively.
To my surprise, he took my arm and led me off to one side.
"Define strange," he instructed.
I gave him one of my killer derisive looks.
Strange, weird, unusual, hinky, call it what you will. You don't need to define strange. Strange is strange! Again, he read my expression well.
"Well, now that you mention it, I do keep getting this odd feeling that there is someone there when there isn't. But ... I don't think it's an entity. I can't feel any emotion, just a ... presence. Like a ghost maybe. Why? What do you sense?"
Eek! Should I tell him the truth?
"Something similar, but like you, it's not tangible enough to report."
"No. I know what you mean."
"Has anybody else mentioned anything—I mean, as the barman, people tell you stuff. Anybody mention anything else?"
"No, but I'll keep my ears open seeing as you've mentioned it too. In the meantime ... how are you bearing up?"
"Ship's shrink now?" I asked, a little spitefully if I'm honest.
"Now now. Play nicely. I'm asking out of concern. Remember, I too am a bit out of my comfort zone these days."
"Sorry," I apologised. "I have been a little edgy of late and I've already spooked Rosie—"
I tutted at myself for that clanger again.
"I mean Dr Roosevelt."
"And you call him Rosie?" he scowled.
"Yes. Apparently, it was a nickname he had at the Academy. Don't ask me where I heard it. Anyway, as I was saying, I've already spooked the doctor with my telepathic cloaking device and my weird DNA, so I'm just keeping my head down at the moment."
"Ah! And that's why you wanted to know if I had felt anything. Seeking a comrade?"
I grinned. He was right. I didn't want to feel alone in this. Safety in numbers and all that.