Robert sheckley — the laertian gamble

The Laertian Gamble
Robert Sheckley

CHAPTER 1

Dr. Julian Bashir was sitting alone in the little lounge just outside of Quark's Place. The lounge wasn't part of his gambling den, but Quark served drinks there anyway, and treated it like his annex. With its com fortable chairs and small tables, it provided a quiet place in the crowded space station to sit and think.
Bashir sat with a half-finished cup of coffee in front him, playing a solitaire machine. The machine took standard Bajor coins, and Bashir had a pile of them in front of him. Julian didn't expect to win; just to pass some time. He was playing in a bored, inattentive fashion when Chief O'Brien came by.
“A good morning to you. Doctor,” O'Brien said heartily.
“Is it morning?” Julian said. “How can you tell?”
“By the clocks, of course,” O'Brien said. “And the station's lighting is set to a twenty-four-hour cycle to spare our old circadian rhythms a lot of readjust ment”
“Maybe my circadian rhythms have adjusted,” Jul ian said. “But I haven't.”
“No? I don't understand why not. You've been out here long enough.”
“For what?”
“To get used to life on-station, of course.”
“Maybe I've been out here long enough to get fed up.”
“That would be the other possibility,” O'Brien said. “What's the trouble? You look like your best girlfriend just walked out on you.”
“If only that were the case,” said Julian.
“What? I don't get it.”
“If I had a girlfriend to walk out on me,” Julian said, “at least I'd have a girlfriend. Maybe I could get her back. As it is, I don't even have a girlfriend to lose.”
“What about that cute little Bajoran student you met last week?”
“You mean Leesha, the redheaded one who came through with the tour? She was very nice indeed. But she had to go back to the university. And dating is not convenient with one of us on Bajor and the other on Deep Space Nine.”
“You'll find another.”
“But when? And how? Lately there's been a short age of females who might be of interest to a human male.”
“Of course, being a married man, I never so much as notice another woman,” O'Brien said, sarcasti cally. “But you're not so bad off, Julian. The light of your life is still here.” Bashir nodded in understanding. “It's true. I'm crazy about Dax, but I'm finally getting it through my head that it's not reciprocated. Maybe it has something to do with her having been a man. Chief. That cramps my style.”
“At least you've got your work to keep you busy.”
“Recently, not even that. Everybody's been disgust ingly healthy, and we haven't been visited lately by new species with interesting problems.”
“Yes, it is a little quiet,” O'Brien admitted. “But be thankful for it and get some rest while you can. Things always blow up again around here.”
“Hah,” Bashir said. “I'll believe it when I see it.” O'Brien slapped him on the shoulder and strolled on, whistling. He and Keiko, who was on an all-too-brief hiatus from her botanical research on Bajor, had just had an extremely pleasant breakfast together. At the end of it, he'd gotten a call from one of his assistants wanting him to look into an unexplained energy outage. It didn't sound like much, but O'Brien was grateful for it anyhow; it gave him something to keep him occupied.
He went into one of the elevators, and after punch ing the button, he thought briefly about Bashir. The doctor wasn't the sort to give up on the opposite sex for very long.