She stepped out of the darkness with slow but determined steps, exuding a kind of confidence which could have been called alluring.
The effect was without a doubt only enhanced by the elegant, crimson evening gown she wore and which sparkled brightly under the spotlight as if it was covered in diamonds.
The dress, of course, wasn’t the only reason she commanded attention. It would have been difficult not to take notice of her golden locks flowing over her perfect shoulders or those intense and gleaming purple eyes seemingly focused on no one, accompanied by a smile that seemed to speak to everyone.
She just stood there a moment, moving hardly a muscle, as if she was the center of reality itself, allowing the universe to gaze at her and her magnificent beauty and be in awe.
Then the up-tempo, jazzy tune began and it had her quickly snapping her fingers in perfect rhythm as her smile widened. When she began to sing, her voice was low and husky but no less alluring than her appearance:
“Times have changed,
And we've often rewound the clock,
Since the Puritans got a shock,
When they landed on Plymouth Rock.
Any shock they would try to stem,
'Stead of landing on Plymouth Rock,
Plymouth Rock would land on them.”
She took a quick step forward in line with the song’s diminuendo to reveal one of her long, bare legs through the almost provocative slit running up her dress and just before the music swelled once more with the brass instruments kicking in.
“In olden days a glimpse of stocking
Was looked on as something shocking,
But now, God knows,
As the music picked up she too became more active, beginning to pace the stage, her smile turning into a wide and bemused grin.
“Good authors too who once knew better words,
Now only use four letter words,
The world’s gone mad today,
And good's bad today,
And black's white today,
And day's night today,
When most guys today,
That women prize today,
Are just silly gigolos.
Though I'm no great romancer
I know that you're bound to answer
When I propose,
When grandmama whose age is eighty
In night clubs is getting matey with gigolos,
When mothers pack and leave poor father
Because they decide they'd rather be tennis pros,
If driving fast cars you like,
If low bars you like,
If bare limbs you like,
If Mae West you like,
Or me undressed you like,
To molest at night,
Nobody will oppose!
When every night,
The set that's smart,
Is indulging in nudist parties in studios,
The elegant red dress came off her with a quick tug, revealing a skimpy white and blue bathing suit she was wearing underneath even while the stage was being invaded from all sides by cheering male and female dances, all dressed in naval inspired costumes.
The music once more sped up and the group of dancers quickly fell into line with the singer remaining center stage and together they broke out into an elaborate tap dancing routine which had them flying all over the stage, the rhythmically tapping sounds of their shoes complimenting the song flawlessly.
For a full five minutes, legs and arms were swinging left and right, there were twists, spins, jumps, shuffles, and kicks every which way, all while staying in perfect tempo with the music and tapping away in concert.
The big number concluded with the singer being picked up by two large men and being thrown clear a few meters up in the air, only to be caught easily just above the stage where she continued to pantomime the tap dance in midair for a brief while until her shoes made contact with the stage once more and she finished the dance with an increasingly faster set of moves as if in competition with her background dancers.
The music cut out and for a while, all that could be heard were the rhythmic taps of a dozen dance shoes moving in unison until every last dancer froze on the stage in mid-step.
Then the entire group began breaking up again, cheering loudly while the singer roamed back and forth in-between the dancers and playfully kissing a few of them on the cheek.
The music began anew and the group jerked forward to continue their song in a loud and rapid chorus:
“Just think of those shocks you've got
And those knocks you've got
And those blues you've got
From those news you've got
And what pains you've got
If any brains you've got
From those little radios.”
She continued solo for the next verse as she returned center stage and the dancers arranged themselves around her.
“They think he's gangster number one, so they've made him
The favorite son, and that goes to show.”
The chorus stepped back as she moved forward and they belted out the final lines of the song together.
Anything, Anything, Anything Goes!”
The act ended to modest applause from the small number of spectators and the clearly exhausted performers took deep breaths as they congratulated each other.
Michael Owens continued to applaud as the singer walked over to him. He offered DeMara Deen a beaming smile and then quickly passed her a towel which she gratefully took off his hands. “Bravo. That was one breathtaking number.”
She returned his smile as she began to wipe the sweat off her face and arms. "Breathtaking is right," she said, still drawing big gulps of much-needed air after her performance. "But I still think we're going slightly out of sync in the third verse."
“Well if you did, I certainly couldn’t tell. And I’m sure nobody in the audience will either when you perform this in the concert next week.”
She shook her head. “I’m not so certain. We have a few Vulcans on board who are quite sensitive to this kind of thing. They’re known to have a very acute sense of rhythm,” she said and hung the towel over her bare shoulder.
“Something tells me this type of performance may not exactly be in their wheelhouse,” Michael said and handed her a bottle of water next.
She took that one too. “I don’t see why not.”
“I for one don’t recall Cole Porter being quite so racy.”
She gulped down the water and then pinned him with a scowl. “You call this racy?”
He looked her up and down.
“Oh please, so I’m showing a little bit of skin. What’s wrong with that?”
“I didn’t say that there was anything wrong with it.”
“Right. You just would have preferred if I had stuck to that Rossini aria you’ve been talking about, wearing a stuffy costume Earth women used to wear five hundred years ago. I told you, I don’t have that kind of range.”
But Michael Owens disagreed. While he had known DeMara Deen since she had been a child and had never really considered her as a singer, he and the rest of Eagle’s crew had been pleasantly surprised to discover just a year earlier that she had an amazingly beautiful, not to mention powerful singing voice when she had performed a small part in another shipboard performance. She had also turned out to be incredibly versatile, something she had clearly already demonstrated while performing an old Broadway standard which required her to simultaneously execute a challenging dance routine.
“I think you would have made a great Zelmira,” he said. “I’ve heard you hit some of those high notes and I’m still convinced you’d be a fabulous coloratura soprano if you applied yourself.”
“Not everybody shares your fondness for Earth opera, Michael.”
“Plenty of people do. And if you gave it a try, I think you could really move people with your voice instead of getting a rise out of them by ripping your clothes off,” he said and regretted those words the moment they had come over his lips and he saw the darkening frown on her face.
“That’s what this is really about, isn’t it?” she said, her voice taking on a sharper edge. “You don’t like seeing me this way. Michael, I’m not a child anymore.”
He quickly shook his head, trying to dispel any notion that that’s how he still saw her. “Of course not. But you have to admit that this isn’t really you.”
“Why not?” she said pointedly, demanding an answer.
And he didn’t have one.
“Because it doesn’t fit the image you have of me?” she said, answering her own question. “Because you, and many others have come to expect me to look and behave in a certain way and if I do anything that doesn’t fit that mold, I’m suddenly no longer myself? But that’s not true. I’m still DeMara Deen. I’m still that same person you first met when you visited my planet all those years ago. But I’m also older and there is more than one side to me.”
“I ‘m not denying any of that, Dee.”
She crossed her arms in front of her. “I think sometimes you have a hard time seeing me as anything other than that small girl I once was. Like a little sister you need to protect or worse, as the daughter you’ve never had and for whom you are responsible. I don’t need a father figure in my life, Michael. I would think of all people, you would understand that.”
Those words hit harder than he would have expected.
Deen, of course, knew well of his troubled relationship with his own father which had mostly been the result of early childhood neglect which he had overcompensated for in later years by getting heavily involved in his life to such a degree that it was rumored within Starfleet that Admiral Owens had pulled various strings for his son to make it to the captain’s chair.
He had never been able to confirm or deny those rumors to his own satisfaction and now he would never get the chance since Jonathan Owens had recently passed away suddenly and just days after Michael had visited him on Earth.
Deen winced ever so slightly as if she had realized that perhaps she had aimed a little too low but then quickly shook it off as she apparently moved passed it. She returned the towel and the water bottle to him. “We still have plenty of rehearsals to do here and little time until the premiere.”
He nodded. “Of course. For what it’s worth, I still think it will be a rousing success.”
“Thanks,” she said, but her smile wasn’t quite as brilliant as it had been before. She turned back towards the stage to confer with her performers and crew.
Michael watched her for a moment longer before he dropped off what he was holding and left Eagle’s cargo bay which had been converted into a rehearsal stage for the upcoming performances which would be put on once Eagle had finished its current assignment. He was unable to completely shake her words and the conflicting feelings they had aroused within him.