Title: Lunch Break
Author: Kim Q
Rating: PG
Length: vignette
Flavor: humor
Summary: working at N.I.M.R. does have its perks

Author's Notes: This piece of hormonal fluff was inspired by an old Diet Coke commercial which is linked below the story. Set in April of 1978.  Slightly modified from its original posting on the Sub Pen.


"...and this is the main Institute dining hall," Miss Katie Doyle, former ONI operative and Director of Administration and Special Projects for N.I.M.R., brushed an errant strand of honey blonde hair from her forehead and waved her hand around the bright, airy space. "There is also a smaller, upscale restaurant, The Grey Lady, that's open in the evenings or for special events." She gestured to one side where velvet ropes and a "Closed" sign indicated an entrance to a darkened room. "The food here is much better than many fancy restaurants. Admiral Nelson believes in taking good care of his employees." She smiled at the tall, dark-haired woman walking beside her.

"It's easy to see that he has an eye for the dramatic as well!" replied Lt. Commander Kaia Winters, newly hired head of N.I.M.R.'s Computer Systems department. "The view is breathtaking!" The officer's blue eyes were wide with amazement. A huge, curved bank of floor to ceiling windows graced one side of the hall, providing a panoramic overview of a verdant lawn, crisscrossed with paths leading to various parts of the Institute, ending in a short bluff past which one could see the majestic submarine Seaview rocking peacefully at her main dock below. A multitude of Institute personnel were scattered around the room, enjoying their lunch break. Their cheerful chatter added a busy hum to the soft background music playing through the hall's speakers.

Turning her attention back to her patiently waiting guide, Dr. Winters continued, "I really appreciate your giving me the grand tour, Katie!"

"It's my pleasure to help you get settled in, Kaia. I'm just glad to have another female in a leadership position here at the Institute. Despite Admiral Nelson's egalitarian hiring practices, we're still in the minority," she said with a wry grin.

Kaia's crystal blue eyes sparkled. "Believe me, Katie, after nine years as an Engineering Duty Officer in the Navy, I am quite used to being outnumbered by men."

"I can imagine!" Katie responded as she quirked an eyebrow towards the gold engineering dolphins* Kaia wore on her khaki uniform. The two women traded grins as they crossed through the sunlit room.

Their attention was caught by a sudden flurry of activity towards one end of the windows, in the area where the secretarial staff usually congregated. Kaia was puzzled at the sight of several women getting up from their seats and staring fixedly out the window. "What's going on?"

The blonde director just grinned wickedly. "Kaia, it looks like you're about to experience one of the many perks of working at the Institute."

"Perks?" Kaia was completely confused as her guide grabbed one of her arms, hurrying her over to the little group of entranced women. As they approached the gathering, the dark-haired officer could see two forms engaged in some sort of activity on the other side of the windows. Her eyes widened in shock as the forms turned out to be Commanders Morton and Crane engaged in an intense game of one-on-one basketball!

All of the ladies' eyes were focused on a tiny concrete court that had been carved out the green grass of the lawn towards one end of the building that housed the dining hall. A single basket was being viciously fought over by the two command officers who had traded their usual sharp-creased khakis for shorts and t-shirts. Kaia quickly understood why the men had the total attention of the female staff.

The raven-haired captain wore crisp white tennis shorts that gleamed above his long, slim legs. His GO NAVY t-shirt was also white, stretched tight over broad shoulders, providing an exquisite contrast to his dark good looks, winning complete approval from the bevy of ladies that watched his every move with avid interest. From the smug, proprietary look on Katie's face, Kaia thought that there might just be some substance to the scuttlebutt she'd heard on Seaview regarding an on-again, off-again relationship between the Administration Director and the Captain.

While Kaia could easily appreciate the many sterling qualities of the handsome Crane, she found her own eyes kept wandering towards the captain's executive officer - and current basketball nemesis - Lt. Commander Morton. She struggled to keep a professional veneer despite the delicious vision of snug, dark blue gym shorts that clung in such spectacular fashion to the commander's noteworthy posterior. It just wouldn't do for her to be seen openly drooling over a fellow officer! Even if that officer's blond hair gleamed bright gold in the light of the noonday sun while a blue, form-fitting "Property of NIMR" t-shirt perfectly highlighted a well-defined chest and precisely matched stunning cerulean eyes...

No, no, NO! Kaia shook her head, ruthlessly pushing such disturbing thoughts from her mind. She'd promised herself that she'd never fall for another Navy man after she lost Tom. Last month's mission aboard Seaview had forged a comfortable friendship between her and Chip that was fueled by a common interest in computers, nothing more. Momentarily closing her eyes and taking a deep breath, Kaia turned her attention to the quietly whispered comments of the other ladies, hoping desperately that they would distract her from the tantalizing sight outside the windows. But the ladies were not being very helpful.

"Oh my... look at those legs!"

"You can have the legs, honey; I'm looking at those broad shoulders..."

"Hah! It's those arms and chest..."

"Look at them move....!"

"Man, what a great butt...!"

As the hushed hormonal babble continued, Kaia slowly gathered her composure and carefully opened her eyes. The traitorous orbs immediately turned back towards the windows and the athletic competition framed therein. Struck by a truly horrific thought, Kaia asked, "They can't they see us...can they?"

"No," was Katie's smug reply. "For security reasons, the admiral put one way tinting on all the modified herculite windows used throughout the Institute. We can see out, but no one outside can see in."

"Thank you, Admiral Nelson!" was the heartfelt reply from a blonde C.P.A. from Accounting.

"Amen, sister!" giggled a brunette R. N. from the Med Bay.

"I'm just glad it's been unseasonably hot this month," chortled a redhead Ph.D. from Marine Biology.

"Yes, we might get lucky today." laughed Katie, sky blue eyes gleaming with anticipation.

"Lucky?" wondered the confused Kaia.

Before Katie could explain her comment, its meaning was made quite clear by the sight of both gentlemen halting their game long enough to gulp some water and shuck their sweat-soaked t-shirts. The simultaneous cessation of breath by the watchers was thunderous in its silence. Not a single woman moved...as if afraid the wondrous sight before them would vanish away like a delicious daydream ended too soon by the harsh light of reality.

While both men were tall and broad of shoulder, the physical differences between the two were now more evident. Crane was slimmer than his fair-haired friend, with wiry strength, quicksilver speed and amazing agility providing a challenging combination for his worthy opponent. His sweat-slicked olive skin shone with a warm, honeyed glow, while disheveled black curls, a wicked grin and laughing hazel eyes provided a challenging combination to the hormone levels of the watching women.

Morton's lithe, lean build showcased sleek muscles that rippled smoothly beneath fair, peach-toned skin glistening from his exertion. Hair burnished to a shimmering gold by the unusually sultry spring sun, his striking blue eyes reflected the deep azure sky above while his predatory smirk promised trouble on the concrete arena below. Strong and bold with incredibly accurate shooting, his explosive power and supple grace attracted his own share of the ladies' rapt attention, including one completely captivated computer engineer.

Kaia mentally chastised herself. Where was her professionalism? She'd seen these men strip down to swim trunks for a dive aboard Seaview and never had a problem!  Why in the name of the fire goddess Pele should this be any different?

The look of total abandon on the officers' faces gave her the necessary clue. Unlike a mission aboard the boat where absolute commitment and focus was required, this was one place where Seaview's command team could briefly lay aside the demands of duty and behave with the unrestrained enthusiasm of a couple of teenagers. There was no rank. No responsibilities. Nothing critical depending on the outcome of this conflict except for perhaps a beer. Their controlled military façade had given way to the teasing antics of very good friends. To the watching women the officers were quite simply two gorgeous, athletically gifted young men fighting gleefully over a bright orange ball on a clear spring day.

Puffy white clouds pulled a soft cover over the glare of the sun as flagging energy finally called a halt to the men's impromptu competition. Sighs of regret filled the corner of the dining hall as the laughing men pulled on their shirts, gathered up their gear and headed off to shower and change back into their sober, restrained khakis. The gathering of women reluctantly dispersed, though they did head back to work with a new level of enthusiasm.

Kaia grinned at her new friend. "You know, Katie. I think I'm really going to enjoy working here at the Institute."

"Yes, the perks are unbeatable!" Laughing, the two lovely ladies headed out of the dining hall to finish their tour.

Neither of them saw a certain auburn-haired figure lurking in the darkened interior of The Grey Lady. Sapphire blue eyes sparkled with mischievous mirth as they watched the ladies head back to work. While he occasionally felt a twinge of guilt at using his friends as unwitting morale boosters by putting the small basketball court directly outside the dining hall, the benefits of having a happy Institute staff were undeniable. Besides, the exercise did insure that Seaview's skipper would eat more than his usual cookies-and-coffee for lunch, and gave the controlled and proper exec an acceptable way to blow off some steam.

Yes, Admiral Harriman Nelson prided himself on taking very good care of all his people.


*Engineering Duty Officer, Qualified in Submarines insignia.

The wearer is qualified to repair and refit nuclear submarines, having demonstrated engineering knowledge in submarine design, operations, and maintenance. They are NOT qualified to serve as part of a boat's regular crew, though part of their requirements is completion of Diving Officer of the Watch Qualification while serving 13 weeks aboard a boat.

Kaia Winters was inspired by Capt. Mary Townsend-Manning, USN, the first woman to graduate from the Submarine School at Groton, the first female Engineering Duty Officer to be qualified in submarines, and the first woman to serve as repair officer on a submarine tender. However, I have NOT made Kaia *first* at any of these, out of respect for the real women who earned the honors. I do have Kaia as the daughter of a widowed Ava Winters, the naval architect from "Death Ship" who helped Nelson design Seaview, so love of submarines is in her blood.

Here is the commercial that inspired this story.

© 2007 Kim Q. All Rights Reserved