Space: Above & Beyond; written for a LJ challenge
"Hey, guys, how would the weather on Earth be different if it were a cube?"
Vanessa Damphousse rearranged the cards in her hand. "Huh?"
"It's a weather question. Anyone know the answer?" Paul Wang pulled up a chair and looked at his friends expectantly.
"Why do you want to know?" West ventured.
Wang shrugged. "Just curious." A few beats of silence. "Okay, what's sidereal time?"
"I actually know this one," Damphousse said, laying her cards down so she wouldn't get distracted. "Sidereal time is measured according to the positions of the stars in the sky. A sidereal day is the time it takes for a particular star to travel around and reach the same position in the sky."
Cooper Hawkes stared at her across the table.
"Sometimes useless bits of trivia get stuck in my head," she explained.
"That's great," Wang said. "Now, how are planets affected by the Hot Ionized Medium? Does it like create a greenhouse effect? Boil the atmo? Cause -"
"Stop!" Shane Vansen was winning and didn't want her momentum stalled because of Wang's out-of-the-blue questions. "What's with all the questions?"
"Why isn't the summer solstice the hottest day of the year?"
"I hate it when someone answers a question with a question," Hawkes muttered.
Nathan West patted him on the shoulder. "Come on, Wang, give. What's with all the questions?"
He blushed a pale rose. "There's this weather service officer --"
"And you're trying to impress her," West finished.
"Something like that."
Damphousse smiled. "That's sweet, Paul, but just be yourself. You don't have to learn obscure facts about her job to win her over."
"Yes you do," Hawkes argued.
"No you don't." Vansen joined in. "Phousse is right: just be yourself."
West leaned back and shook his head.
"You don't agree?"
"I think a guy has to show some interest in the same things a girl likes in order to, you know."
"Showing an interest is one thing, obsessing over obscure facts is another."
"How do you know they're obscure, they could be --"
Wang interrupted what could have turned into a fistfight: you never knew with Marines. "Hey, could we get back to my problem?"
"Just be yourself," Damphousse repeated, "but Nathan's kind of right, too. It wouldn't hurt to show a little interest in what she likes."
"Mainly I just nod and pretend to be listening," Hawkes volunteered. Both women looked at him as if he'd announced he was a Silicate in disguise. "What?" His brow wrinkled in confusion. He looked at West for help. "What's wrong with that? It works."
Vansen snorted in disgust, then asked Wang, "So who is the lucky woman?"
"Lieutenant Summer," Wang answered.
"Summer? I think I've seen her around," West said. "Red hair, green eyes, freckles?"
Hawkes sat forward. "The red head that works on the weather stuff?" He held his hands out in front of his chest, like he was going to grab it. "The one with the big who-ha's?"
Damphousse threw her cards at him. "You're disgusting!"
"Weather balloons!" West laughed hysterically.
Wang blushed an even deeper crimson.
Vansen shook her head, eyeing the straight flush in her hand. "Can we get back to the game?"