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We Never Go Out of Style

“We Never Go Out of Style”

Anastasia Poldara



After the transmission from the Einstein ended and Ja’Lale and Rinax had disappeared into the Captain’s Ready Room, Anastasia slumped in the chair at the science station, hoping her initial reaction had gone unnoticed. It was just … she hadn’t expected to see him here, of all places.


Anastasia thought back to the first time she saw Brett Kincaid…


The man’s swagger entered the room before he did. When he offered her his hand, it was far too warm. She avoided grimacing as she shook it.


“Kincaid,” he said, obviously turning on the charm.




“Ah, yes—the computer scientist.”


“Cyberneticist, actually. BCI and quantum logic gates.”


Kincaid shrugged. “Whatever. Look, I know these group assignments aren’t supposed to be competitive, but I’ve got a couple of wagers going with some of the other cadets. I want to win this. So do you know any real science that could help us out?”


“Oh, you want real science? Hmm … I think I made a volcano using acetic acid and sodium bicarbonate once. Would that help?”


They did go on to win the competition, naturally. Kincaid was a self-absorbed, offensive jerk, but he was the second-best scientist in their year. What the two of them produced was far ahead of the other groups, their instructors had to admit. And so it came as no surprise to anyone when she or Kincaid invariably topped the charts in one science class after another. Their alternation in the top spot was almost rhythmic, with Kincaid having an edge in the physical sciences and Anastasia’s highly analytical, statistical bent serving her well in other areas.


Yet this was not the cool, intellectual rivalry Anastasia had known in her formative years. There was a more bitter edge to her interactions with Kincaid, and almost always that smug lack of respect for what Anastasia did. He didn’t just set out to beat her. It was as if he wanted to show her that she was no scientist at all. There was a hunger to him that poisoned their rivalry, because he knew she was better than him.


Anastasia knew this, because she recognized that hunger. She had felt it herself, twice before, when she met people who were just better scientists than her: smarter, cleverer, more open-minded or thoughtful or any of the qualities one needed for success in such endeavours. Whatever it was, Kincaid had it—but Anastasia had more of it. This was borne out when she graduated top of the class, Kincaid a close but forever second.


Of course, observers mistook their sparks for attraction. Many remarked that it was inevitable they should become a couple—opposites and all that. Anastasia was, for her part, relieved she had never felt it, and if Kincaid had, he had certainly never sent any signals to that effect. Theirs remained purely a rivalry, no romance, doomed or otherwise, included. Anastasia had that, at least, to be thankful for.


After distractedly responding to a report from Matheson, Anastasia pondered the last time she had seen Brett Kincaid…


“Poldara! Wait up!”


Anastasia turned, saw Kincaid quickly closing the gap between them with long strides. An athlete, like her, though he had never seen fit to take her up on that offer to teach him anbo-jytsu. “What?”


“Off so soon? A bunch of us are going down to the bar for drinks.”


“I’ve work to do, Kincaid.”


“What work? We just finished our last exam. We’ll be Ensigns next week. Come celebrate.”




“Why not?”


“No, I mean, why celebrate with you? Why keep up this charade? You don’t have to pretend you like me.”


Kincaid’s smile faltered. He never failed to insinuate, but that was a far cry from the confrontational tack Anastasia now took. “I don’t know what you mean. I’ve always thought we challenged each other … made each other work harder, be better.”


A snort escaped from her despite herself. “You, make me better? In your dreams. I would have been top of the class with or without you nipping at my heels.”


“Is that so? Well, if you are such a hot scientist, why am I the one being posted to the Lexington while you go off to Jupiter Station, hmm? They’re about to embark on a six-month survey mission in Beta Quadrant.”


“And Jupiter Station is doing cutting-edge work in the fields of nanotechnology and isolinear pathway engineering. I’m glad we’re both happy with where we’re going.”


“But you’ll never make captain if you stay in the solar system all your life, Poldara.”


“Why the hell would I want to be captain? So I can write reports instead of designing lab experiments? No, thanks. Climb the ladder all you want, Kincaid. I have more important things to do.”


They didn’t stay in touch. Anastasia could vaguely recall hearing about his promotion to captain, his posting to the Einstein. But she hadn’t paid it much attention; Brett Kincaid was no longer a part of her life.


So she had thought. Then she had rejoined Challenger, and despite it being a big galaxy, it obviously wasn’t big enough.


Anastasia did the math. He was the same age as her, so he made captain extremely young. That was probably considered impressive. Mind you, captain of an Oberth-class vessel didn’t exactly have the same prestige as an Excelsior- or Constellation-class cruiser. It was barely a step up from a Miranda. But it was perfectly respectable for a science-track officer looking to command. Maybe he had changed, mellowed, become more tolerable.


No, Anastasia had seen his demeanour on the viewscreen. That same smirk. Captain Brett Kincaid had not changed one bit.


She could feel it, then, deep in her gut. The rumbling of the monster, the antithesis to Kincaid’s hunger. He made it easier, in some ways, because when she went up against him, she didn’t have to prove she was better than everyone else. He was better than everyone else, so by transitivity, all she had to do was best him, and QED. Hence the feeling, the exhilarating certainty. Every time they went head-to-head, every competition or collaboration. It didn’t matter how many times they settled the score in either’s favour: they always knew there would be another round. That’s the thing about rivalries. Even the ones that don’t end in romance are still like a candle flame: quick to gutter, but oh so difficult to extinguish.

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