58: Mouse No More

Mouse No More
by Lt. February Grace

Following "Everybody's a Comedian" by Dabin Reece

-=Starfleet Command: San Francisco, California, Earth=-

February felt her hands shaking as she moved into a room down the hallway from the one that Dabin had been escorted into. It seemed as if the Admiral was conducting his debriefings in three separate adjoining rooms, differently furnished, depending on whom he was speaking to at the time.

Some of the people coming out mentioned that the room had been empty, others described a standard Admiral's office. Others didn't mention the decor at all, in a hurry to get a shower and some food, before finally falling asleep.

The mission had been grueling, for everyone.

She hoped she'd be able to see Dabin before she went in- for some reason she'd lost contact with his thoughts while he'd been in the room.

She wondered if he was doing this on purpose, or if there was another explanation. At any rate, she made a note to mention it to him so that he could include it in his documentation of their experiences so far.

"Lt. Grace, if you'll just wait in here. The Admiral will be in momentarily." The Admiral's assistant said, before moving back through the doors.

"Thank you."

February wandered around the room, taking in the plant life scattered in small pots all along the built-in bookshelves. The plants were healthy and green, leaves overgrowing their containers and brushing up against the spines of the books.

The sight made her wonder how her friend Jariel Camen was faring. She had worried about him most of all on the last mission, even more than the Captain. She knew that whatever happened, Jariel was going to have a lot to work through after it was all over, no matter the outcome.

February tried to sit down, but she was too nervous. She paced back and forth before a leather couch, and she jumped nervously when she heard the door slide open, and saw the man she'd been waiting for.

"Lt. Grace." Admiral Vox had an extraordinary speaking voice. Low and calming, she had a feeling he could be giving you marching orders to your death and somehow, it wouldn't seem quite so bad.

"Sir." She snapped to attention, and Vox smiled gently.

"At ease, please. Sit down, February."

February sat.

"Would you care for something from the replicator? I know that you've been on a medically supervised nutritional intake schedule since your. . ." he paused, "illness. I would hate to think that we've put you too far off your program."

"No, Sir. Thank you Sir, I'm not hungry, Sir." February stammered.

"Well, if you change your mind." Vox moved to casually sit on the edge of his desk, and folded his arms over his chest as he spoke.

"I have a lot of respect for the Trill, as a species. Especially the joined ones." he volunteered. "It takes something unique in a person to be able to live with so many lifetimes of memories, all at the same time. I would think it would get rather confusing. Have you found it to be so?"

"I did in the beginning," February answered honestly. "But I was ill. Grace, I mean, was ill. I didn't know it at the time."

"They did quite a number on you, didn't they?"

February's cheeks turned bright red, and she didn't answer.

"You see, I have had access to many classified files, including your medical records, Lt. Grace. And I would like you to tell me now, exactly, in your own words, why I should see fit to let you stay in Starfleet with all the problems that you've had."

"Sir?" February's hands clenched, and she sat up straighter. "I don't understand. My health has never been cause for any of my previous CO's to consider relieving me of duty permanently."

"That was before you showed that your judgment was impaired."

February blinked quickly, her mouth falling open.

"Excuse me, Sir? I don't understand."

"You and Reece."

February turned absolutely crimson now. "Sir, my personal life has not effected the performance of my duty. If anything, the guidance and support I have received from Lt. Commander Reece have helped me to become better at my job."

"He has been teaching you flying techniques?" Vox asked facetiously. "I didn't know Reece was a pilot."

"He's not, Sir, but that's not what I mean. I. . ." February paused. She hesitated. Grace was railing inside, telling her that she needed to speak up and lay it all on the line. But her sense of respect for authority, combined with her past experiences with domineering men made her shrink back, for an instant.

"Spit it out, Feb." Vox used the nickname she hated, the one tied to the abuse she'd suffered as a child, to antagonize her. "I'm a busy man, I don't have all day and if you want to save your ass here when it comes to your career, little girl, you'd better start talking."

Hearing Vox refer to her by the name she loathed so vehemently shredded the last of February's self-restraint. She launched off of the couch and toward Vox, stopping mere inches from his face. Her steel blue eyes locked on his, and she stood tall, standing nose to nose with him. She was nearly his height.

"Permission to speak candidly, sir?"

"It's now or never, Lieutenant."

"I went through a really rough time not too long ago. Decades of the hard living of a previous host caught up with Grace, and I had to pay a price for that. But we have been healing. I have learned so much, and I am only just beginning to prove myself when it comes to why I deserve to wear this uniform.

"I assure you, any decisions I've made in the past year have been entirely my own, and I do not regret my decision to Reassociate with Reece. We're pushing the envelope. We're trying to drag our species into the next stage of evolution kicking and screaming, if we have to. But we have to live our lives, and we are going to be happy together with or without the blessing of the almighty Symbiosis Commission, the same people who nearly killed me, I might add!"

February's voice had risen a great deal in pitch and volume, and she consciously made an effort to lower both now.

"I would be happiest as a Starfleet officer, and I know that I'm a damn good pilot." She insisted. "You ask Commander Salvek, he'll tell you that when the Alchemy was careening toward the unforgiving surface of Yensul V that I stepped up. My actions saved the ship, and the crew. I don't like to blow my own horn and I know I'm no more important than any other member of the crew. I owe them all my life, more than once over."

She paused, still glaring at him.

"But you don't know me, Sir, and I would request that if you are seriously considering ending my career, that you speak with my previous Commanding Officers and give them a chance to at the very least, speak up on my behalf. Assign me where you will. I'd prefer you assign me with my husband. But I will go where Starfleet sends me, and I will do my duty to the best of my ability. I give you my word."

By this point Vox was grinning from ear to ear, which really added fuel to the fire burning in Bru's heart. How dare he patronize her that way. . .Grace was serving in Starfleet before he was born. . .

"Outstanding, February!" Vox crowed, unable to contain a small laugh. "I knew you had fire in you somewhere. They told me that you were this timid, shy, gawky mouse of a girl. That must have been before your Zhian'tara."

"It was, and I was."

"Well," Vox said with a laugh, "No more."

"No more, Sir. Never again."

Vox nodded and stepped away. A moment later, he handed her a PADD. "I did talk to your previous CO's, February, and they all told me the same thing. That you are the woman to sit at the helm of this new ship. Your orders, Lt. Senior Grade, Grace. You and Reece are assigned to the same ship, don't worry."

"Thank you sir. . .wait." February looked at him sideways, confused. "Wait. Did- did you just promote me?"

"Yes, I did. Now go on. Go meet up with your husband. I hear that the two of you have yet to have a honeymoon, and if you hurry, you'll have forty eight hours of shore leave before you have to report to the Serendipity."

"Thank you, Admiral." February extended her hand, and Vox shook it firmly. "For everything."

"I will see you aboard ship before she leaves. Dismissed."

February stopped as the door opened and looked back at him. "You already knew that Reece and I were married, didn't you? Before I said it?"


"Did someone on Alchemy's crew tell you?"

"No, Lt. Grace."

"Then, how, Sir?"

"I have my sources, Bru. Congratulations, by the way, to you both. Reece has a fine service record, he seems like a very good man."

"Thank you, Admiral. He is."

The Admiral turned his attention to the PADD containing information on his next victim: a civilian woman called Fleur Le Marc.

February, for her part, hurried off down the hall before the Admiral changed his mind about anything. Especially the shore leave.

Lt SG February Grace,
Senior Flight Controller
USS Serendipity NCC-2012

57: Everybody's a Comedian

Everybody's a Comedian
by Lt. CDR Dabin Reece
Hours Before "The Third Degree"

--=Starfleet Command: San Francisco, California, Earth=--

"Dabin Reece! How the hell are you!" Admiral Vox popped out of his seat and grabbed the Trill's hand, shaking it vigorously.

"Well I'm fine Admiral, thanks for asking."

"Dude, you want something to drink?" Admiral Vox went to the replicator. "Two club sodas with lime."

The replicator hummed and produced two bubbling glasses. He handed one to Reece and took the other for himself. "Computer says you love these."

"I sure do! Thanks you Admiral."

"Please, call me Jonas. Ranks are for stiffly stiffersons."

"Sounds like a plan to me. So what info can I offer you today Jonas?"

"Oh yeah." Vox frowned and set his drink down, and picked up his Dabin Reece PADD. "They make me ask all these dumb questions. Debriefings are such a waste of time."

"We could just blow it off and play video games." Reece joked, punctuating his suggestion with a chuckle.

Vox pondered his PADD a moment more, then threw it back over his shoulder onto the floor. "You've had a great career and no one has anything bad to say about you. So you know what? Screw the PADD. Let's play video games."

"Seriously?" Dabin asked, having not expected that kind of reaction.

"Damn right. I've got a version of Shuttle Racer on this computer you can't get anywhere for another year. I pulled some strings with the programmer." Vox pulled open a drawer and flipped a controller to Reece.

"Wait! Just one second there before we start doing laps around Saturn. My next posting, I was a kind of wondering..."

"Relax dude! I've taken care of all of it. You'll be assigned to the Serendipity. You and all your buddies are going to be there. Liisy and the Vedek, Pointy and Kellyn, TC, that crazy French chick, yeah even little Arie. The whole gang. There's a PADD over there with all the details of the mission but who gives a damn right now. I want to race!"

"Well that's great but.... who will helm this ship?"

Vox leaned across his desk, looking genuinely hurt. "Dabin, baby, I took care of you. How can you call a ship Serendipity and not have it guided by Grace?"

Dabin grinned. "Then I guess the only thing left is for me to blow your nacelles off."

Vox started the game, and the two laughed as they zipped their shuttles through the asteroid belt. Dabin nipped at Jonas' heels but figured letting the Admiral win was probably the better part of valor, so he took care not to pass him. As they approached the edge of the belt and the finish line however, the power in the office suddenly winked out.

"No, I had you!" The Admiral protested.

"Yeah you had me. Good game anyway."

Vox tapped his com badge. "Vox to security, what happened to the power in my office?"

[[Not sure yet Admiral. We lost all power on your level only. They rest of the complex is running fine.]]

"Dabin, there is a tricorder in my cabinet over there. I never use the damn things. You are the scientist, see if you can figure it out."

Reece grabbed the tricorder and flipped it open. There was a small energy source coming from the corridor outside the Admiral's office. The stepped to the door and pulled open the access panel to operate the manual control. The door slowly slid open, and Reece stepped into the darkened corridor. He turned his scanner to the right, and saw the source of his energy reading. A device about the size of a medkit sat on the floor, glowing softly.

"It's a bomb!" Vox declared. "Let's get out of here!"

"No! Wait a minute." Reece said. "I don't think its a bomb. It looks like a dampening field emitter." Reece kneeled right beside the device, scanning it closely. "It's giving off all kind of electromagnetic interference. That's why the power flow is disrupted. It's probably booby trapped somehow."

"Then let's beam it out of here. I'll call Security."

"You can't. The field is also dampening transporters. We can only use handheld devices that have their own power source, like a tricorder or a phaser." Reece continued to scan, his tricorder picked up a faint signature coming from behind one of the doors. "What's in this room Admiral?"

"My personal server."

"Well I'm picking up a data stream. Someone is transmitting information from your server."

"What? No! That has Starship assignments for half the sectors in the Federation. If that fell into enemy hands..."

"Well its falling Admiral, like the nighttime temperature on Yensul's North Pole."

Dabin released the manual controls for the door and again the door slid open slowly. The room was dark except for the large cylindrical computer server sitting in the middle of the room that flashed with green indicator lights. Reece squinted into the soft green glow trying to make anything out.

Suddenly a large brown tendril shot out of the darkness, catching the Admiral square in the jaw and throwing him backwards. Reece dove away from the door.

"Admiral? Are you all right? Admiral?" Vox lay motionless on the floor. Reece reached up to the door control and cranked it closed. He consulted his tricorder reading to see what the hell had just happened.

"A changeling? Are you kidding me!?" There hadn't been a changeling on Earth since the Dominion War, and they had not been heard from since their surrender. This type of espionage could have been the prelude to a new offensive from an old enemy.

"All right Aquaman, it's you and me." Reece said to himself. "How are you running that computer and your dampening field at the same time? I'm betting you've got a shielded power source in there that you are using to repel the dampening field and power the computer." Reece examined his reading more closely, and found that there was indeed a power source the changeling had set up in the room.

"I'm going to use your dampening field against you. How does that taste? I'm going to wish I had a phaser when you come out of there all ticked off, but as Fleur would say, c'est le vie."

He examined the energy frequency of the power source in the room, and set his tricorder to emit an opposing wavelength to cancel out the shielding the changeling was using to protect his power supply. Reece closed the tricorder, which began to beep to indicate it was emitting the signal. Dabin opened the door just a crack, enough to pitch the tricorder into the room, then snapped the door shut.

"Of course you realize." Vox stood up from the floor, "That once you foiled the changeling's plans, he would most likely come out here and kill you." Vox flipped over the dampening field, tapped in a code, the device shut down. The lights in the corridor returned to normal.

"Wait? Huh! Hold on just a damn minute. How did you do that?"

"You are a fine officer Mr. Reece, but I questioned your ability to take things seriously, and make hard decisions."

"The changeling? I did see that thing smack you upside the grill didn't I?"

"Hologram. I know you've served as Chief of Science before, but your upcoming post is going to potentially be far more dangerous then anything you've done before. You are going to be working closely with technology and information that could destroy the Federation if it fell into the wrong hands."

Dabin pondered what Vox had said moments before, that the changeling would have killed him if the scenario was real.

"And I'll be expected to sacrifice myself to protect it, if the time comes."

"I'm glad to know there is a Starfleet officer who appreciates how serious this career can be, underneath your whimsical exterior. Now that we understand each other, let's talk a little more about the Serendipity."

"Oh hey, that was a dirty trick by the way! You had me scared to death!"

"I know, Mr. Reece."

"And I want a rematch at that shuttle game!"

"I'll set it up, Mr. Reece."

Lt. Commander Dabin Reece
Chief Science Officer
USS Serendipity NCC-2012

56: The Third Degree

The Third Degree
by Lt. CDR Lair
Before Grilled

--=Starfleet Command, San Francisco California, Earth=--

Lair Kellyn was at wits end.

She was about to lose her last tenuous hold on her temper, when Micah Samson returned from the med-station down the hall with a small glass of water and a tiny white pill.

"Here, Kellyn, try this." He offered. "I think it'll help you feel a lot better."

"What's in it?"


"But I'm Bajoran, think I can take it?"

"Database had it listed way down at the bottom of drugs that are safe for Bajorans. It's very old, it's never used much anymore because usually hypo anti-emetics are so much more effective."

"Not on me, apparently." Lair hoped she could keep the water down as she took the tiniest sip of it and swallowed the pill.

"If I keel over, they'll have to take me to Sickbay. This is ridiculous. I've been waiting and the rest of you have already all been-"

Before she could finish her sentence, the assistant to Admiral Vox finally reappeared in the doorway.

A very tired looking Fleur Le Marc emerged from Vox's office, and Lair thought once again that it was very odd that a Starfleet Lt. Commander would be kept waiting while a civilian who had been on the ship and not involved directly in the mission was interrogated- rather, debriefed- first.

But that was how this situation had played out, and Kellyn was only grateful that Arie was sleeping quietly in a large chair in the corner of the waiting area, oblivious to the passage of time.

Arie herself had even had her own form of 'debriefing', which had occurred in the presence of two Starfleet Counselors while the Admiral, supposedly, asked questions into an earpiece and the counselors relayed them in terms Arie could understand.

Kellyn had thrown a fit when they said she could not be present, but they promised her that she would be advised of the outcome of the evaluation and that Salvek would, as well.

Lair wondered what they'd done with Salvek. He'd been isolated from the rest of the group the moment they had arrived at Command, and she was getting anxious to know what was really going on here.

"Lt Commander Lair, if you please."

"About freaking time," Lair muttered, as she caught Fleur by the sleeve on her way by. "Keep an eye on Arie while I'm in there?"

Fleur nodded, and sat down on the chair beside the softly snoring child.

Lair strode into Vox's office as quickly as she could, considering she still felt as if she were riding the tide aboard a large ship on a very angry sea.

She really hoped Micah's miracle pill would help soon.

"Lair Kellyn," The man's voice was almost a purr, it was so soft and resonant. "I am Jonas Vox. Please, sit down." He stood in the middle of a room that was empty, save one chair for the person being interro- debriefed.

"Thank you, Admiral, Sir." Kellyn's tension showed in her voice, making the 'sir' at the end sound a bit less respectful than she had intended.

"You don't look well, Commander Lair, are you ill?"

"Yes, in fact, I am." she said, grateful that the pill finally seemed to be kicking in. "I had a really bad reaction to something served at dinner last night. . .something called. . ." She could hardly say the name without having to gulp back the lump in her throat, "Gingerbread."

"You became ill from the cookies?"

"Fleur, she. . .made a big house out of it, for dessert at the end of the meal you so graciously requested for us. And don't get me wrong, the rest of it was great. It's just that as soon as I smelled it baking, I felt queasy. By the time it came out of the oven and she put it on the table. . ." Lair sighed. "I had to make a quick exit from the room so everyone else's evening wouldn't be spoiled."

"Did you go to Sickbay?"

"They tried everything they had in their arsenal. They just said in the end it had to be my particular Bajoran body chemistry. It's peculiar."

"Like you are." Vox said simply.

Lair's hackles rose, but she resisted the urge to take the bait. "If you say so, Sir."

Vox pulled out a PADD and began to scroll through it. "Well let's get down to business and get this over with, then, since you're not feeling well."

"Yes, sir."

"Your career has been," He searched for the right word. "Colorful, Lair Kellyn."

"Could say that."

"You've been promoted and demoted so many times it's hard to keep track."

"Yes, Admiral, but if I may,"

"Go ahead." He said with a wave of his hand.

"Only one of those demotions was for misconduct, and it was a very long, long time ago. The other reductions in rank have been voluntary and enabled me to serve where I was most needed."

"By Starfleet or by Salvek?"


"Where you were most needed to serve Starfleet and the interests of the Federation?" Vox stepped away and turned his back on her as he peered out the window. "Or your husband's?"

"I don't serve Salvek. We both serve Starfleet."

"Were you serving Starfleet when you jumped ship, brought a Borg drone back to the Federation Flagship and risked the entire crew by doing so?"

"That drone was Salvek, and his assimilation was not complete, it had just happened. He was more a danger to himself than anyone else. There was no danger to the rest of the crew."

"That's debatable. But you admit that you did this of your own free will."

"Yes, and what's more," she stopped.

"Go ahead, Commander. You're in up to your neck, might as swim to the deep end of the pool."

"What's more, Admiral Vox, I'd do it again."

He made a couple of notations on the PADD, which really irked Kellyn, and she clenched her hands into fists against the arm rests on the chair.

"You are responsible for burning out the Alchemy's transwarp jump drive."

"I am? All by myself?" Kellyn laughed a little. "That's an interesting perspective on the situation."

"Your EMH, whom we have already spoken to, told us that he gave you a choice, quote, your Captain or your Warp Core, end quote. " Vox peered at her through narrow eyes. "You chose to sacrifice the equipment and risk the lives of the whole crew for the life of one person."

Kellyn's blood boiled even harder realizing now that even the hologram had been debriefed before she was.

"The life of the person we were sent to rescue, Sir. To do anything less than follow the order I was given would have been desertion of duty."

"So you were ordered to do it?"

"Salvek made the final decision."

"Do you always agree with all of Commander Salvek's decisions?"

Lair's lip curled up into a lopsided smirk at one corner. "Do you always agree with your wife's decisions, Admiral?"

Vox glared at her, and her smirk vanished.

"I'm not married." He replied. "Not anymore, at least and I'm not the one answering the questions here Commander do remember that."

"Yes, Admiral."

"You have been reckless with sensitive equipment. You have shown in the past a disregard for safety protocols, do I even need to bring up the temporal rifts that your prototype cloaking device caused on Deep Space 23?"

"You can bring them up if you wish, Sir. All I can tell you is that experimentation is just that. We were following our orders to pursue a certain kind of research. We did it to the best of our ability, and Sir if I may be so bold, might I remind you that if not for that research there wouldn't even be a USS Alchemy?"

"That's the only reason that you're sitting here today, Lair Kellyn. Because you did do the work and there is a USS Alchemy. She needs you, and you will be assigned to keep on working on her and bringing her progress forward. You can start by repairing the transwarp jump drive. Do you think you can do it?"

"Oh, I can do it. But I'm not the one you want. You want Salvek. He's the brains."

"Salvek will be reassigned elsewhere." Vox said without hesitation. He watched as Kellyn's eyes lit up like Times Square on New Years Eve.


"You heard me, Commander. Your husband is being reassigned elsewhere. There's more."


"You will be required to place your daughter in a Starfleet boarding school instead of taking her along on future Alchemy missions."

Lair Kellyn stood up from her chair, and with one swift tug, she removed her combadge and held it in her hand. "Admiral Vox, I hereby inform you that I am resigning my commission as a Starfleet officer."

"Just like that?" He said, allowing her hand to hover in mid air, not reaching out for her badge.

"Just like that." Kellyn replied. "Permission to speak freely?"

Vox nodded.

"Sir, I am a loyal Starfleet officer. If you read my record right, you would see that at one point in time and space I even died in the performance of my duty. Then that. . .that. . ." she shook her head, "Temporal sorceress Zanh Liis came into my life, and there I was, back on duty. I have continued to do my duty to the best of my ability through loss, sickness, mourning, and during times of war. I have been a researcher, a designer, and engineer. But that does not define who Lair Kellyn is. Not anymore."

"What does define who Lair Kellyn is, then?" Vox pressed.

"I'm an individual. I'm a wife, and I'm a mother, in addition to being a Starfleet officer." Kellyn continued. "I will not sacrifice my family for the sake of furthering the research that I already gave a decade of my life to and that is safe in the capable hands of others from this point on. If you force me to choose, I will choose to keep my family intact and help Salvek with his work in an. . ." she smiled gently, "unofficial capacity."

"So you have no intention of giving up the work?" Vox asked.

"If I give up my work, then I wouldn't be Lair Kellyn anymore, either."

Vox paced around her in a circle.

"Your daughter has had some emotional problems."

"Don't a lot of Starfleet kids?"

"Granted. But I hear that she went through a delusional phase that lasted months."

"Delusional?" Kellyn's anger grew exponentially and she once again clenched her fists. "She wasn't delusional. She wanted to be a Klingon, to emulate them because she had been afraid of them. Counselor K'Raye said that it was because if she could be like the thing she feared, if she could best it somehow in her mind, then she wouldn't be afraid. This situation arose after a long separation from her father. So you can see why I am in no hurry to separate her from her father again."

"She's a point of weakness in you."

"Do you have children, Admiral?"

He ignored the question.

"I choose to turn that 'weakness' as you put it, into a strength. Being a mother has made me a more compassionate person, and much better able to handle crisis in the other areas of my life. Mothers have to be ready for anything."

"You would raise her on a Starship when she would have much greater stability at a school on Earth or Bajor?"

"She wouldn't have her parents at a school on Earth or Bajor. That is the stability that she needs."

"And if you were to get separated from her?"

"It's happened before." Kellyn answered honestly. "I can only hope that if anything befell us that her Chosen Ones would care for her."

Vox saw that Lair had managed to hold her temper back the entire time, and was impressed. From what he'd read of her record, he expected she'd have thrown the chair at him by now. She had apparently, come a very long way in the past several years.

"Again, I ask you, you think this is the way to raise a child?"

"It's better than the way my parents raised me," Kellyn replied flatly. "And I've done all right."

Kellyn was still holding her combadge in her hand and once again extended it toward the Admiral. "My resignation, Admiral Vox. I wish you would accept it so that I can go claim my daughter and find my husband. Please."

Vox smiled at her, his eyes suddenly twinkling. "Put your badge back on, Commander Lair. You're going to be needing it."

He moved to a bookshelf built into the wall and retrieved another PADD. He activated it and held it out toward her.

"Clearance codes, granting access to the Chief Engineer of the USS Serendipity to all areas. Every system on the Sera has redundant security protocols, so there are a lot of alphanumeric commands to memorize. You'd better get started. You are to report first thing in the morning."

Hesitantly, she accepted the PADD. "Commander Salvek?" she asked softly.

"Manifest, Lt. Commander Lair."

Kellyn scrolled to the right screen, and saw Salvek listed as XO. The space above it, CO, was still empty.

"Our Captain?"

"You will find out," Vox replied, "Soon enough. Dismissed."

Lt. Commander Lair Kellyn
Chief Engineer
USS Serendipity NCC-2012

55: Grilled

by Commander Salvek
About twelve hours after "Liis on Earth, Good Will Toward Camen"

--=Starfleet Command, San Francisco California, Earth=--

"Please Commander, have a seat. I'm sorry for the short notice, but I know you and your crew are anxious to get this over with, so you can find out about your new assignment." The Admiral shook Salvek's hand and smiled warmly.

"You have me at a disadvantage, Admiral." Salvek said. The Admiral perched himself on the edge of his desk, one foot on the floor and the other one dangling. He chose to rest his wrists on the dangling knee and clasped his hands together.

It had not even been an hour since they had arrived at Earth and quickly ushered from the Executor to private rooms at Starfleet Command. He had not even seen Kellyn since then, but had been assured Arie was with her and in good spirits.

"My apologies. I am Admiral Jonas Vox."

"If I had to wager a guess..." Salvek said, his suspicions confirmed. The Admiral's office was fitting of one at Starfleet Command. Elegant and functional furniture, the standard issue Ficus, and a view of the bay that would lead one to believe Admiral Vox held a position of significant power.

"I just had a few questions here," Vox said, retrieving a PADD from his desk. He studied it intently. Intently enough that Salvek wondered if anything was even on it. "And we can get this nasty business out of our way."

"Then by all means Admiral, proceed." Salvek said.

"That's quite the little ship you designed there, the Alchemy. How did you come up with...." The Admiral consulted his PADD, "Transphasic shields, and a transwarp jump drive."

"Research, and as I'm sure you know; we did the basic research but Starfleet actually took the step of incorporating it into the Alchemy."

"But still," Vox said, setting the PADD down and crossing his arms, "An impressive array of technology it is, from bow to stern."

"When you speak to Commander Reece he will no doubt beg to differ on the matter of the sensors."

"No doubt," the Admiral replied knowingly. "So where is all this research going, Salvek? Is Alchemy the end product of your work, or merely one stop along the way to something bigger?"

"That matter is classified, Admiral."

Vox considered ordering Salvek to answer the question, but saw no point in it, since the question was rhetorical in nature anyway.

"Speaking of Mister Reece, and sensors... didn't he express some concern about them, before you took out the Alchemy for your little war game?"

"Indeed he did."

"And your action, Commander?"

"We proceeded with the transwarp jump."

"The result?"

"We crash landed. Mister Reece's concerns came to fruition."

Vox stood up from the edge of his desk, and walked around behind it. He sat in his chair and looked across at Salvek between the two miniature Federation flags that adorned his desk.

"Soon after that, the Captain was abducted during a staff meeting, right in the conference room of her own ship."

"That is correct."

"You had a visitor aboard the ship. That visitor simply took Captain Zanh, right before your eyes. What kind of security screenings did you order the guests go through?"

"I requested no check, Admiral." Salvek replied plainly.

"Were they any searches performed? Any checks for foreign objects in the transporter buffer? Any security officers assigned to escort the outsiders?"

"No, sir."

"Who is ultimately responsible for making sure precautions are taken when dealing with outsiders aboard Federation Starships?"

"The First Officer, Admiral." Salvek began to wonder where this was heading. It was true that the First Officer was ultimately responsible for making sure all departments were coordinated, especially when it came to matters concerning the safety of the Captain. But, Starfleet hardly made a habit of searching every person who came aboard ship.

Vox studied him, with his head resting in his palm and his index finger tapping his cheek.

"You were once assimilated."

"Yes, sir. That event is well documented."

"The Borg use transwarp, is it possible they influenced you?"

"To what end, Admiral?"

"Perhaps you are developing transwarp technology to help them set up a gateway to Earth, to facilitate the planet's assimilation."

"You believe me to be a traitor to the Federation?" Salvek asked.

"I never said you were doing it consciously. Perhaps you are not in control of your actions."

"I assure you, I am in complete control of my actions. I believe my own case history and the history of others shows that once one is removed from the collective that they are fully capable of carrying on with their lives as they did prior to their assimilation."

"I was afraid you would say that." Vox said. He leaned back in is chair.

"I do not understand." Salvek said, genuinely confused by the statement that seemed to imply the Admiral was hoping Salvek was still under the influence of the Borg.

"If you were under Borg control it may help explain these lapses in judgment, Salvek. The crash on Yensul, the abduction of Zanh Liis, and, am I reading this right, your DAUGHTER discovered a stow away on the Alchemy? Not you, the officer in charge, but your child?" Vox again consulted his PADD, and shook his head with incredulity. "What do you have to say for yourself?"

"Those incidents could have happened to anyone, Admiral." I never took any actions contrary to Starfleet procedures."

"No, Salvek you did not." Vox sighed, reluctantly admitting he was right. "But... you are Vulcan. Your people have a well established pattern of being... meticulous."

"Indeed." Salvek replied.

Vox sighed again, and rose from his set. He came back around the front of his desk and again sat on the edge.

"Tell me about your relationship with your wife." Vox stated bluntly.

Salvek snapped his head up to meet Vox's eyes, genuinely startled by the question. "I will not." He answered succinctly.

"She, gets to you, doesn't she Salvek? She cracks that cold Vulcan exterior." Salvek sat quietly. Vox slammed his hand down on the desk. "ANSWER ME COMMANDER!"

Salvek rose from his seat, and stared straight ahead out the window. "You may remand me for a psychological evaluation if you wish, but with all due respect, Admiral, your rank does not entitle you to the information you are requesting."

Jonas considered him for a moment, and appeared to quickly set aside his anger. "Withdrawn." Vox said, "Please, sit back down." Vox returned to his seat once again. He opened his drawer and removed another PADD. "The truth is, Salvek, the work of Lair Kellyn and yourself speaks for itself. Both of your service records are, exemplary. Starfleet wants to keep you and Lair Kellyn together on your next assignment."

Salvek was relieved to know that even if the fate of his shipmates was still in question, that at least he would not be separated from Kellyn and Arie.

"May I ask the purpose of your line of questioning?"

"I had my own concerns about any Vulcan that is as forward with his emotions as you are. Nothing personal."

"I understand." Salvek replied.

"I felt the need to see for myself how far you could be pushed. The results in situations where Vulcans falter in their emotional control are usually.... unpleasant. I had to make sure that you could be depended to not lose your faculties in a stressful situation. There is a lot riding on your next assignment, and you will need to be up to the task."

"Your assessment?"

"While you are correct that your relationship with your wife is none of Starfleet's business, I am confident in your ability to carry out your Starfleet duties. The liberties you take with your emotions appear to be confined to your personal life. Be sure they stay there, Salvek."

"Of course, Admiral."

Vox handed him the PADD across the table. "Your next post will be serving as Executive Officer aboard the USS Serendipity. Starfleet wants you and Lt. Commander Lair to continue your work, and she will be Sera's Chief Engineer. This ship has been specifically designed to house the Alchemy. They say the best place to hide something is in plain sight, so your ship will be assigned a crew and you will carry out missions of diplomacy, rescue, and exploration just like any other vessel. Any work you do on the Alchemy will be classified, and your crew will take an oath to that effect before being allowed to serve."

"What of my shipmates?"

"Reece and Grace will be assigned to the Serendipity as well. They know the Alchemy as well as anyone at this point, so they will be a great asset in the future. As for Zanh Liis..." Vox paused, and began to fiddle with the flag on his desk. "I understand your existing relationship. She has been your guardian in the past, and once again she will be assigned to protect you and make sure your work is a success."

Salvek was impressed with exactly how much the Admiral appeared to know about Zanh Liis' presence in the here and now. "Admiral Vox, are you affiliated with Temporal Investigations?" Salvek asked bluntly.

The Admiral ignored him. "Zanh Liis has done well in her task and we so no reason to break up a functioning group. For that reason, when she arrives on Earth, I will be assigning her to Captain the Serendipity.

Commander Salvek
Executive Officer
USS Serendipity NCC-2012

54: Home Sweet Home

Home Sweet Home
by Zander Blakeslee

--=USS Serendipity=--

“Wow.” Was all that Zander could say to sum up the sight of his new quarters. He dropped his bag onto the floor as he surveyed the room.

Room would not be a proper description. It was closer to a small two bedroom apartment. Starfleet had come along way in improving the living conditions of its crews.

The quarters consisted of basically three rooms. A large living space with a couch and love seat located centrally, a dining area with a table and chairs off to the side near the replicator and a desk and chair with the standard computer accesses to the opposite side of the space.

Two bedrooms were set to either side of the living space. Both were the same size but the décor varied. One held two small playpen/cribs as well as a bunk-bed setup. A closet and two dressers were also in the room. A single window looked out into the starlit sky.

The second bedroom was obviously for the adults. A rather comfortable looking queen bed sat under the window; two dressers and a closet were also in this room. Each bedroom had its own ajoining bath.

Everything in the quarters was the typical Starfleet sterile royal blue and grey color scheme, including all of the bedding and toiletries. Zander smiled as he knew that Sam would quickly make it their own with her personal touches.

He made his way back over to his belongings, which had already been beamed into the center of the living room. He rooted through the pile of boxes until he pulled out a long, onyx colored wooden cylinder. He quickly inspected it to make sure that there was no damage to its mirror surface.

Satisfied that it had arrived as he packed it, he popped the end cap off and withdrew a long, ornately decorated Oriental bag. He untied the bag and slid it down and off of his most prized possession, a katana.

He carried it over to the wall and proceeded to hang it over the main video monitor in the living room. This sword had been given to him by his father, as it had been handed down to him. The weapon had been in the Blakeslee family for generations.

The story of how the rare Japanese sword came into the Blakeslee family had been lost though out the years. The best anyone could remember was it had something to do with a long lost relative being stranded on a remote island in the South Pacific during the Second World War on Earth.

The stories varied, according with of his relatives told the tale. In some versions, the aforementioned relative was stranded on the island with a Japanese soldier and after trying to kill each other for weeks, they both found out the only way to survive was to work together, and eventually, they became friends. When they were finally rescued they exchanged gifts; his relative receiving the sword and the Japanese trooper.

Another version told of his relative fighting though numerous soldiers on the island and then taking the sword from the body of the last officer to fall before him.

Zander did not really care about the true history of the sword. All that mattered was that it was his to care for, and then to hand down to his eldest when the time was right. Even considering that the sword was as priceless it was razor sharp, and fully functional. In fact Zander was quite good with it, and he owned several trophies as proof of this.

He stepped back and surveyed his handy work to make sure that it was centered and level. Satisfied, he turned his attention back to unpacking the remainder of his belongings.

=^= Bridge =^=


“Oh come on.” Zander tapped a few more keys on the tactical console. He looked at the results and sighed.

He tapped his badge. “Lt. Blakeslee to engineering.”

[Lt. Hayden here. What can I do ya fer’.] Came a strong southern accent.

“I am still having issues with the long range array up here. You guys still working on it?” Zander asked, as he folded his arms across his chest.

[Aye chief. Sorry ‘bout that. We’re still ‘aven issues with the conduits. We’re ave er up fer ya in a bit.]

“Just let me know when I can start my preliminary long range scans. I need to calibrate the weapon systems before we go anywhere.” He rubbed his eyes. They were still waiting for their chief engineer. He really hoped that the situation would improve once she got here.

The Serendipity was not only a new ship but a new variant with systems specialized to support the even newer design, Alchemy. As with most new vessels she had some growing pains. Unfortunately these were magnified by the special design of not only her configuration but also her systems.

She was in desperate need of a shake down.

Unfortunately it seemed that any shakedown cruise would have to be wait. Word had come that the Alchemy was on her way so the bulk of the staff would be committed to getting her back online. The good news was that the senior staff would be arriving with it, or at least very soon afterwards.

The help was very sorely needed.

He sighed. This was going to be a interesting adventure, indeed.

Lt. Zander Blakeslee
Chief of Tactical
USS Serendipity NCC-2012

53:. . .And Shine

. . .And Shine
by TC Blane and Zanh Liis

(. . .continued)

"Thomas," she refilled her coffee cup from the nearest carafe, and looked up at him from beneath her bangs, "If I may call you Thomas,"

Blane rumbled with laughter. His mind flashed back to the first time she had asked him that question. He had not reacted well.

How far they'd come.


"We're nowhere near anything to do with Starfleet now," she sipped the cup and sighed contentedly. "Matter of fact, after all we've been through, it seems only right that you start calling me Liis. I know you, you're all procedure and regulation. But at least when we're off the clock, hm?" She ate a couple bites of her Kava roll and then continued. "You did it once or twice already, you know. Back on the other ship. I noticed."

He sliced a bite from the round purple fruit that Zanh had suggested first, stuck his knife into it, and pulled it from the tip of the blade with his teeth. "As you wish." He chewed and swallowed it as she poured him a cup of coffee and slid it across the table. "Delicious." he nodded and took the cup. "Thank you. How are you feeling Cap-" he paused, "Liis?"

"Pretty well I think, for a woman who tried to shish kabob herself."

He glanced up from his plate. “Aye.” He shifted uncomfortably, the subject obviously bothering him.

"And you," she gestured toward him with her fork, "I thought you were supposed to keep to the code?"

"The code?"

"You're the history buff. During the seventeen hundreds, pirates on your planet used to have a code of behavior. I seem to remember one of those rules was "He who falls behind is left behind." She held a bite of food suspended as she finished her thought. "You weren't supposed to come after me."

"Do I look like a pirate to you?” He asked, frowning.

"Still, I can't imagine that Starfleet is happy with what you did. Taking 'vacation' and all. Jariel told me."

He shifted in his chair once again, knowing he was not allowed to talk to her about this now. "Please, don't give it another thought. You're alive, and everyone who was on that mission is happy considers it a complete success because of that. Whatever happens now, we'll deal with it one step at a time."

Liis realized that he already knew his fate- but she also knew he likely couldn't discuss it and let it go. "I thank you," Liis said honestly. "I really am grateful for all you've done."

"I know." He smiled, "I also know you'd have done no less for any of us. The best part is now you owe me one."

She smiled back and saluted him with two fingers. "Aye."

He wondered now if she'd heard anything about the fact that she was also due to leave for Earth before the day was out. "I've been ordered to report to the Atlas, at 2100 tonight. To head back to Earth."

"So have I," Liis replied. "The orders were waiting for me when I-"

They heard a noise and the doors to the enclosed porch opened. Jariel stood there, wearing only dark colored pajama bottoms, and in bare feet.

[[Liis? Who are you,]] He signed, then he looked over and saw TC and smiled. [[Good morning, Mr. Blane. It is good to see you.]]

"TC came by to see how we were doing, and I insisted he share some of this. Are you hungry? Or do you want to get some more sleep?"

[[No, I'm up. I'm going to shower and dress and pack up our things. You two go on, enjoy the food.]]

"I might show Thomas around a little bit after we're finished here. Keep your combadge with you, OK?"

Jariel lowered his eyes and pressed his hands together, tilting them toward TC. [[Keep an eye on her. She's trouble, this one.]]

TC didn't fully understand the signs Jariel was using, though as time had gone on he'd started to pick up a good basic understanding of the language. He got enough out of the Vedek's last comment to laugh at it. "Understood."

What he didn't understand was why the man was using that language of signs again now. Last time he'd seen him, Jariel had been speaking vocally as normally as anyone.

After the doors had closed, TC stared at Liis, his utensils hanging motionless; knife in one hand, fork in the other.

"What happened?" TC stopped, seeing the obvious pain in Zanh's eyes.

"They happened." She pushed her plate away and stared into her coffee. She sat in quiet contemplation for a few moments while TC finished his meal.

When he also pushed his plate forward to indicate he was through with it, he looked over at her. "Feel up to a walk? I need to work off some of that bakery."

"Yes, definitely. Let's go."

--=On the grounds of the Sanctuary=--

TC observed the many kinds of plants and trees here, all sleeping quietly tucked into their beds for the winter. He imagined that this place must be magnificent in the spring.

"Normally all of this would be covered in snow," Liis explained. "But we've had unseasonably warm weather this winter. In the central provinces, especially."

"Is this anything like where you grew up?"

"This place? Oh, no." Liis shrugged. "This is the showpiece of the Bajoran government now. Massive restoration has taken place here since the end of the war. Tons of money has been funneled into restoring the. . .opulence of this sight. It's a bit much, if you ask me, especially considering the fact that so many other places and people on this planet need those funds so desperately."

"That's politics."

"Yeah." Liis replied as they came up to the Temple. "Politics. The Federation wants to shine Bajor all up on the surface like a bright, brand new strip of latinum. But they forget the people from the Plains who still need to rebuild, and the children in the child protection system."

"But you haven't."

"I was one of them," Liis explained, "I can't forget." She put her hand up and grabbed a hold of one of the metallic posts on the fence that surrounded the Temple. "I will always be one of them."

TC stared through the fence at the Temple itself for a long moment.

"Would you like to go in?" Liis asked. "You're welcome to. It's not against the rules or anything."

TC looked into the temple and shook his head. “Nah. I am not one for architecture.” He folded his hands behind his back as he gazed up to the top of the temple. “Or self reflection. I am what I am and I determine what I shall be, nothing more or less can I be.”

"That's the most sensible personal outlook I have heard in a very long time."

"Is it far from here?" TC asked, after a moment had passed in silence.

"Is what far from here?"

"The orphanage where you grew up."

"Not really. About an hour by shuttle at maximum impulse. Altaan has a transporter hub newly built, but it's an hour's walk away from the orphanage, so flying there would still be most expedient." She raised an eyebrow. "Why?"

"Sometimes, the best way to lay ghosts to rest is to look them in the eye." TC offered. "How long has it been since you've been there?"

Liis' expression changed, her stare completely vacant of detectable emotion. "A long, long time."

"Maybe you should consider visiting before we head back to Earth," he advised. "Might help." He watched as her hand moved upward, her fingers twisting the chain on her earring nervously.


"I'll go with you." he volunteered. "In fact, I have an idea. Something that I think that you and Jariel would both like, very much." She waited for him to continue, her expression expectant. She could hear the gears turning in his head.

"Do you think that you could use your station to secure the use of a shuttle for the day, and to gain access to several powerful replicators?" he asked.

She tilted her head to the side, intrigued. "I'm certain of it." She knew that if she ran into any trouble in either area, Jariel's connections here would certainly grant them access to anything they needed.

"Good. Let's go fetch the Vedek." TC led the way. "We've got work to do."

As they walked back toward Zanh's temporary quarters, he asked her one final question.

"How many children live at the orphanage at Altaan these days, Zanh Liis?"

"Last I heard, there were about thirty. There were a hundred and ninety two when I lived there," her voice trailed off, "and we were the lucky ones."

"I know that the Gratitude Festival is over," Blane concluded, "But I think that it's time to introduce those children to the spirit of a holiday from my world."

"What holiday is that?"


Lt. Commander TC Blane
Chief of Operations
USS Serendipity NCC-2012


-=/\=- Captain Zanh Liis

52: Rise. . .

Rise. . .
by TC Blane and Zanh Liis

The morning after Reckoning Part Three

--=On Bajor=--

TC stood gazing out the window of the hotel where Starfleet had set him up. It was a magnificent view of the sweeping hills and temperate forests of Bajor.

It had been several days since his encounter with his former CO and he was still not at ease with the event.

He had wanted to go back to the hospital to check in on Captain Zanh, but the orders on his PADD were very specific. He was to report to this hotel and stay in isolation until transportation back to Earth was arranged. He could only assume that this had something to do with keeping the details of the Alchemy and her most recent adventures under wraps.

Starfleet had seen to it that TC received a ton of information to keep him busy during his incarceration. Since he would be taking on the role of Operations chief on the Sera they sent several unclassified technical white pages on the ship for him to read.

Like a studious school boy, he dove into the information and began to absorb it. He already was getting duty logs set as well as standards and procedures for his department. But that was days ago, and now he was going stir crazy and he still had no word about the captain other than she was "recovering".

Just then the communication panel beeped. Pulling his attention away from the view of his window, TC made his way over to it. He tapped the accept button and was greeted by the spinning Starfleet logo. The screen then switched to a face of an older gentleman wearing the standards of an Admiral.

[Lt. Commander Blane I am Admiral Vox.] The face explained.

TC, who up to this point had only seen the man's name on his newest orders, was pleased to know that there was an actual man that belonged to the name. “Yes, sir.”

[I must apologize for the delay in contacting you directly. It takes a while to verify a truly secure connection.]

“I understand, sir.”

[I knew you would. I also am sorry for keeping you cooped up like this.] He smiled. [I am sure you understand the reasons for that as well.]

TC nodded. “Affirmative.”

[Well I have good news. You will be leave there tomorrow evening, along with Captain Zanh. The USS Atlas will arriving in orbit to transport you both back to Earth for debriefing and new orders.]

TC nodded again. “Aye, sir.”

[During your trip you are to avoid any discussion about the Alchemy or the Serendipity as well as the recent events. Understood?]


[Good. Now since it is Christmas, why don’t you get out of that room and stretch your legs. I think that is the best gift I can give you right now.] Vox grinned.

TC returned the smiled. “Aye sir, and thank you.”

The screen blinked out and TC stood stretching, happy to have been freed of his confinement. The only question was, what to do with his freedom.

=^=Central Vedek Assembly Sanctuary=^=

It had not been easy to track down where the captain and the Vedek had gone once the captain had been released from the hospital but it had not been impossible. Not for someone with TC's talents.

He was truly impressed with the Sanctuary, but also just a little uneasy. TC was far from a religious man; he had never been comfortable with the idea of a greater power meddling in the affairs of men, either directly or indirectly.

History was riddled with the disastrous tales of the horrors committed by men in the name of their god. Not just on Earth but across the universe, it seemed. TC had a distrust for organized religions in general, and always found he became tense when entering into places like this.

It wasn’t that he did not see the importance or the good that most of the major religions did, it was that he feared the damage that blind faith could cause. One should always question authority, and most religions always asked for unquestioned obeisance.

It didn't take long for him to find the guest quarters where Jariel and Zanh were staying. Soon, he found himself standing at their door. He knocked softly, hoping that he would not be disturbing them.

He heard the sound of rapid footsteps approaching in reply to his knock, and a grumbling voice emanated from the other side of the door.

"I already told you people three times!" Zanh's voice was angry, but hushed. "Vedek Jariel is not attending the prayer service this morning, he is fast asleep and if you try to wake him one more time-"

TC's eyes widened as he heard the lock release and the door creaked open a crack.

Zanh caught sight of one crystal clear blue eye through the opening, and stopped speaking. She pulled the door open the rest of the way, and she looked him over, up and down from head to toe once.

"You are not Prylar Antira."

"Not last time I checked." TC whispered back. "Look, if my timing is bad,"

"No, no. I'm eating breakfast and they sent up enough food for ten people. Please, come in."

TC stepped through the door and Zanh led him into what appeared to be a very well appointed guest suite. There was an elaborate settee and pair of wing chairs in the main room, situated in front of a roaring fireplace. There was a door off to the right, which he guessed was the bedroom where Jariel was sleeping.

Liis motioned with her hand toward a pair of sliding doors. She slid them open and she and TC stepped out onto a small, glass enclosed porch. She closed the doors behind them- they could talk here without risk of disturbing the slumbering occupant of the other room.

TC's eyes lit up as he saw a table spread with all manner of baked goods, fresh fruit, and various fruit juices as well as two carafes of Zanh's beloved coffee. Still, he didn't like the idea of eating another man's breakfast, and hesitated. "Are you sure? The Vedek-"

"The Vedek." Liis said with a sigh, the sadness of which surprised TC. "Is exhausted. Hopefully he'll sleep through lunch. He needs the rest. Please, have a seat and help yourself. I certainly can't eat all of this alone."

TC grinned and took his place across the table from her. "If you insist."

This was, he realized, the first time he had seen Zanh wearing anything other than a uniform, a hospital gown, or the Halloween costume that was now a thing of legend. This morning she wore a simple outfit, black pants with a long sleeved shirt in white. A heavy belt was slung low over her hips. Over it all she wore a brown leather jacket and boots of matching materials. Her attire was something that reminded him of the sort of clothing that aviators wore back on Earth in the early days of flight.

It suited her.

She looked for a moment like any Bajoran woman- not a starship captain who had barely survived her last on-the-job incident.

"I don't know where to begin." He said with a laugh, trying to form a plan of attack on the food. “Oh well, as good old General Patton once said. ‘In case of doubt, attack'."

Zanh pointed to some of the plates one at a time. "Those are Kava rolls. They're sweet and sticky, you'll like them. That purple fruit over there, kind of tastes like a pear. These little things are the Bajoran equivalent of grapes. Over here, the closest thing we have to pineapple." She handed him an empty plate and the pair of silver tongs that rested next to the fruit. "Don't be shy."

"Thank you, Captain."

Zanh smiled wistfully as TC loaded his plate. She didn't know if she even had any right to that title now as things currently stood, but she appreciated him using it just the same.

Lt. Commander TC Blane
Chief of Operations
USS Serendipity NCC-2012


-=/\=- Captain Zanh Liis

51: No Good Deed

No Good Deed
Ensign Dane Cristiane
Concurrent with Cloak and Dagger

--=Outside The Officer's Club, San Francisco, California=--

"AND the horse you rode in on, ass***e!"

The tall young man who was shouting stopped short of using the gesture that had already formed on his fingertips, lowering his arms back to his sides.

This was only because two large Starfleet security officers had him by the scruff of the neck, and were quickly going about the business of subduing him as an identical team of law enforcement officers dragged the guy he was screaming at off in the opposite direction to prevent them from killing each other.

"State your name." The first security officer demanded.

"Dane Cristiane."

"Have you been drinking tonight, Mr. Cristiane?"

Dane exhaled a long slow breath in the man's general direction. "You tell me." He'd been drinking very expensive Russian Vodka tonight, actually, so his breath was clean.

Unfortunately, his slightly swaying gait told the rest of the story for him.

"Drunk, and disorderly," The officer smirked.

"Getting into a bar fight with another guy over a woman. Could there be a stupider reason to get yourself arrested?" The second, shorter security officer added.

"Well if that woman is a server at the bar, and the cretin in question is grabbing at her all night. If she tells him to back off and he gets sick of it, and finally decides to drag her into the stock room against her will. If he objects when I step in to intervene," Dane growled, "Yeah, there could be a stupider reason. Like trying to abduct a Federation citizen from her place of employment!"

"Maybe she wanted to go with him."

"I guess that's why he had his hand over her mouth?"

"He says he didn't."

"Did you see the bite marks?"

The two security officers exchanged looks. "We didn't really-"

"Here's an idea, genius. Why don't you go arrest the real criminal and let me go before you are sorry you ever met me."

"Too late." the first officer complained. "What were you doing in that bar anyway? It's for Starfleet personnel only."

"And slimy guests of Starfleet officers. Like the guy who was going to assault the barmaid."

"Must be how you got in." The second guard said, as he and the first broke into laughter again.

It took every ounce of restraint that Dane had to hold back on using his martial arts training and bring both of these idiots to a kneeling position in a split second, begging for him to either let them go or put them out of their new found misery.

"If you let me go a minute, I'll show you my 'fleet credentials." Dane promised. Reluctantly, they allowed him to retrieve his wallet.

"Move very slowly."

"I got in because I work for them." Dane produced an encoded ID badge, and the two men burst into laughter.

"You're with Temporal? Yeah, right. Even they don't scrape the barrel that far down the bottom."

"You want me to make it a priority to go back in time and make sure that your mother never conceives you?"

Truth be told, Dane had consumed two or five drinks too many, he was not thinking entirely straight, and he was risking getting himself into a whole lot of trouble.

Still, he wished that they'd just arrest the four-armed pervert who had accosted that nice woman and leave him the hell alone. Or maybe give him a commendation as a good Samaritan.

No such luck.

The taller security guard pulled Dane upwards by the front of his shirt, and was prepared to venture over the line into the territory of 'police brutality' when his partner stopped him.

"Hey, Seth, it's not worth it over one stupid drunk. You're getting promoted soon," The shorter guard cautioned, and very slowly, the taller guard set Dane back down on the ground.

"You are under arrest, smart-ass." The man called Seth concluded.

"No good deed goes unpunished," Dane muttered softly, as they cuffed him and led him to their vehicle.

"You have the right to remain silent." Security Guard Seth continued. "If you're as smart as you want us to think you are, you're going to take full advantage of that right and shut your yap right now, before you say anything else about my mother."

Ensign Dane Cristiane
Apprentice TI Agent
On his way to a drunk tank on Earth

50: Reckoning, Part Three

Reckoning, Part Three
by Zanh Liis
After Part Two

--=Central Assembly Sanctuary; Guest Quarters=--

Camen returned after hours that had passed to him as merely seconds.

The first thing Liis noticed was that the color in his face had drained away.

"Jariel?" She rose from the bed and wrapped a gauzy white shawl around her shoulders, over her nightgown. "You were gone so long I was about to come looking for you. What happened?" She put her hands on his shoulders, her expression one of pure worry. "What's wrong?"

He tried to dismiss her concern, anxious to safeguard the progress she had made in her recovery. He smiled weakly. "It is not important."

"You know that you can't hide the truth from me," Liis touched his face softly. "I've known you too long."

"It doesn't matter, Liis."

"What did they say to you?" She recognized the singular, trouble expression on his face. "They must have said something."

Jariel turned away. He didn't want to burden her with the truth, yet she would accept nothing less.

"They told me that if I am to have their blessing that I must stay here, on Bajor. After you leave." He held her gaze steadily as he spoke, not averting his eyes, as he would have done during this sort of conversation in the past. "They demanded that I return to my post within the Vedek Assembly and re-dedicate myself to doing their will alone."

"Oh." Liis’ heart plummeted. She knew how these discussions ended. Previous trials of this case had never been decided in her favor.

She tried to fathom how she was going to resign herself to being without him once again, after all. She was unable to stop the disappointment from showing in her eyes. "I understand." She offered, though in her heart of hearts, she didn't, not really.

"Wait, Liis, do not misunderstand what's happening. Listen to me carefully." He held her firmly by the arms, needing her to really hear him. "I said no."


"They told me that they would give me the span of one night. Thirteen hours to make up my mind," he whispered. "If I do not agree to do what they ask of me, then by morning," he paused, wishing he could soften their judgment, somehow. But it was what it was, and she needed to be prepared for it. "In the morning, I will once again be without speech, and will remain so until I stop resisting their will for my life."

"Oh, Camen," Liis sank back down onto the bed and covered her eyes with long, slender fingers. "They thought I was going to die. That's the only reason they gave you back your voice."

His silence was all the confirmation that she needed that she had discovered the truth.

"It's not fair. What more can you give them? You've given them everything."

"Everything except the thing they want most, and I won’t, Liis." Jariel sat beside her and took her hands. "I won't let you go. Not ever again, even if it meant my life, not just my voice. I," he reached out, running his hand through her hair. "I can't."

The expression in his eyes changed as he considered how lucky he was to be where he was. He decided that nothing was going to detract from his happiness over the fact that she was all right, and they were together. Vocal speech, what did it matter to him, really? He had learned how to live without it before he could do so again.

Losing what he believed to be their favor and blessing in his life?

He could learn to live without that, too.

He wouldn't waste tonight worrying about what might come tomorrow. He would be sure that he told her exactly how much he loved her, so that she could always remember the sound of him saying the words even if he was destined never to speak them aloud again.

Liis sensed that his mood was changing, and dropped the shawl from her grasp, revealing the soft skin of her neck and shoulders. She took his face into her hands, and tilted it up gently.

"I know, I'm selfish, I'm sorry," her lips hovered mere millimeters from his. "I can't help it. I want you, Jariel. I have always wanted you, and if they want you too, they're going to have to share you."

"Please, be selfish."

She leaned forward and pressed her mouth to his. Jariel inhaled deeply as the room started to spin. When her kiss ended, he buried his face in her neck, breathing in her scent.

He had missed this so much.

The weather had turned unseasonably warm as soon as Peldor had ended. A mid-winter thaw melted the snow. As Jariel and Liis held each other, kissing slowly again and again, she heard a familiar sound and pulled back. A smile crossed her face. It was a smile tinged with sadness, but a smile, still.

"What is it?"

Her eyes gestured toward the roof. "It's raining. In the middle of winter. Just like it did-" She stopped. He wouldn't remember.

Jariel's eyes came alive with recognition. "Like it did the first night?"

Liis' lips fell open in shock, and he pressed his mouth against her ear. ”I remember," he breathed softly. "I remember everything." He laughed softly. "I can't believe Timal actually bought the story about the tac hiding under the bed."

She searched his eyes, finally accepting that he really did remember. Her expression of pure wonder stole his breath away.

"I would make that bargain again, Liis, at any cost," Jariel murmured as he kissed her neck, "To know you, really know understand all we've been through. My voice is a small price to pay, and I don't regret it. I don't regret anything."

She felt the same way about the deal that she had made to sell her soul to Temporal Investigations, all those years ago. Here and now, with him safe in her arms, she'd have done all she'd had to a million times over, just for this night.

He put his arms around her and pulled her nearer. "I can give up anything, or anyone, I swear it, Zanh Liis-" Jariel vowed, "But never you. Never again.”

“I love you.” She declared, before adding a second, rare admission. “I’m afraid. What if they take more than your voice?” She didn't know how either of them could recover if the Prophets took his Orb experience memories, too.

For his part, Jariel no longer feared their wrath at all. "They can do their worst in the morning, all I need is here with me now.”

The woman who seemed to all outsiders to be so fearless and jaded felt completely vulnerable, wondering how she could possibly be enough to make him truly happy. "Tell me what I should do."

Jariel let his actions answer for him, and he kissed her again. He was shaken senseless by the feeling of her body against his as he pressed her into the bed. He needed her, and he was willing to give anything to have her- for the rest of his life.

Consequences be damned.

--=Hours later=--

As they lay together in the disheveled bed, Liis' rested her head against his chest. Jariel ran his fingers through the strands of her silky dark hair and watched as the dawning of day outside the window began to illuminate the room.

Time was short now, whatever the Prophets were planning to do to him, if they kept to their promised schedule, they'd be doing it soon.

Liis looked up at him, her lovely face marred by sorrow.

"I can't let you do it, Camen."

"What?" He sat up, and back in surprise. His lips parted, but he didn't ask her what she meant. He simply stared at her in confusion.

"I can't let you give them up for me." Liis tapped his earring gently. "They have been a source of great strength to you, your peace, and your center. You would not be the man that you are if you did not believe as you do," she whispered, "And I love you exactly as you are. I don't want to change you." She felt her heart breaking all over again, but she loved him so much that she was willing to let him go.

"I've asked you to choose in the past, that was wrong of me. I was jealous. I admit it. I am jealous." She looked away, but then up into his eyes again. "If they want to keep you here, I can't be the reason that you leave. That you lose them."

"You just have no idea how much you mean to me, do you?" He leaned forward and rested his chin against the top of her head. "I love you for saying that, because I know what it would do to you to lose me now," he wrapped his arms around her and clung to her for dear life. "I love you, Zanh Liis, but this is not your decision. It's mine and I won't leave you. I can't-"

He stopped speaking suddenly, staring straight ahead of him as if seeing something that she could not. Liis shook him gently, but he did not respond.

She was terrified; she knew that they were speaking to him, and all she could do was wait and watch and see what their final judgment would be.

In his mind, Camen stood before his tribunal again, and they stared at him with angry, burning eyes.

"Did you hear what I said to her?" He shouted at them. "I will not give her up. I will not EVER give her up again!"

"Then you have chosen your path, and your consequences." The Prophets replied in unison. "Jariel Camen, you are silenced. Our judgment stands. Until you attain enlightenment, you will be our voice, no more."

When Jariel finally blinked and returned to where he truly was, he looked at Liis and saw tears silently falling down her face. He reached out and wiped them away with his fingertips, automatically opening his mouth to speak.

He could not.

For a moment he felt panicked, wondering what else he'd lost, what else they had taken besides his voice and promised favor. His memories seemed to be intact, and he and Liis were still in the same time and place.

He felt he could ask no more than that.

"Jariel, say something. Please."

He closed his eyes a moment, and breathed in deeply. He suddenly felt as if the weight of the world had been lifted from his shoulders, though he could not have explained why.

When he opened his eyes and gazed on her once more, his hands gracefully began to move, speaking for him as they had done before.

[[The Prophets have spoken.]]

"No." Liis shook her head. Could they really be that exacting, that cruel to someone who had given them so much? "It's my fault. I'm so sorry."

Again he shook his head. [[Do you love me, Zanh Liis?]]

In the past, she would have replied defensively; "of course I do," or "how can you ask me that?" or "don't you know the answer by now?"

This time, she went straight for the most honest, heartfelt answer she could give.

"I have always loved you, Jariel Camen," she whispered. "I will always love you."

[[That is all that I need. Don't you see?]] He hugged her tightly a moment before continuing.

[[You've saved me, Liis. After all the ways you've tried in the past,]] He leaned forward and kissed her softly. [[This time, you've helped to truly set me free. In doing so, you've saved me in the way that mattered most, all along.]]

-=/\=- Captain Zanh Liis
Recovering on Bajor
USS Alchemy NX-53099

49: Reckoning, Part Two

Reckoning, Part Two
by Zanh Liis
Following Part One

-=Inside the Temple, Central Assembly Sanctuary; Bajor=-

Jariel knelt before the altar. His robe pooled around him on the floor. As he closed his eyes he held his hands out at his sides, palms turned upward toward the Celestial Temple. Softly, he began to chant.

"Jia'kaja, tre'nu'tol'a rem. La'por i'lanu kos. I'nar tan'a'tali nor."

Suddenly, a strong draft swept through the room. Within an instant after he first felt the breeze brush against his face it changed, turning into a definite, strong gust of wind. Shocking, considering the fact that he was completely secluded in this sealed room, doors closed, and none of the leaded glass windows had the ability to open.

This was not a naturally occurring phenomenon, he decided quickly. This was something intentional.

Something malevolent.

The surge of air whipped past him and made the altar fixtures rattle as they clanged against each other. The small glass chimes just inside the doors sounded louder than he had ever heard them before, then they actually smashed into the stone of the wall next to which they hung and shattered.

All the candles on the altar and around the room were extinguished, leaving Jariel in total darkness.

He instinctively directed his vision toward the Orb on the altar before him. The doors of its case burst open, his eyes blinded by piercing, intense light.

This was the Orb of Destiny.

He was forced to close his eyes, unable to withstand the glare.

"Speak, Jariel Camen." A voice demanded.

Jariel opened his eyes and found himself once again within the realm of the Prophets.

"You will answer to us for your actions."

This time instead of appearing to him as people he loved and trusted, the Prophets chose the appearance of different figures from his past to speak for them.

Authority figures; teachers and mentors. People he respected and had learned from, but also people who intimidated him, some still to this day.

"Answer for my actions?" Camen exclaimed, at a loss. "I have done only what my heart told me to do."

"That," the image of Vedek Timal replied, disapproval etched into his face, "is why you have failed us."

"Failed you? How? I don't understand."

"You have followed the course dictated by your emotions," 'Prylar Chem' replied. "This is not the path of the Prophets."

"You told me to bring Liis to Bajor," Jariel objected. "I brought her to Bajor."

"Yet, still she lives," 'Vedek Shamira' spoke out now, emerging from the shadows. Her anger evident, she glared at him. "This was not the anticipated outcome."

"You mean it wasn't the desired outcome!" Camen grew livid. "Are you really so set on tearing me away from her that her death would be preferable to you than her survival?"

"Her death would have freed you, in what you refer to as 'time'." The Prophet answered. "We were prepared to allow you that 'time' in order to heal. Then you would have looked inward once again and realized that you are meant to serve us alone, without thought of joining your life with another."

"That is where you are mistaken," Jariel whispered. "Time would never free me of her. We are. . .entwined, Liis and I. Our Paghs are one. No amount of time or space between us could change the way I feel about her. Not even death."

"We could terminate the life of Zanh Liis," 'Timal' said to 'Shamira'. "Test him out, as to whether he can be freed of her influence."

"That would turn him away from us forever." Shamira warned. "If we were the reason she was taken from him, he would never accept it. No. She will be allowed to finish out her natural corporeal existence. We will not hasten her exit from that plane." She turned to Jariel again. "We will expect your devotion, however, to be strengthened by this act of mercy."

"Let me get this straight," Jariel was unable to believe what he was hearing. "You expect me to be grateful that you're not going to kill Liis to free me of her?"

"You are enslaved, Jariel Camen. You are tied to corporeal matters, and worlds, because of this female. We would free you from this, if you would only allow it to be so. You have much to accomplish, and much work to do."

"For whom?" Jariel growled. "For the people? Or for YOU?"

"Silence!" 'Timal’ raised his hand, and for a moment Jariel felt as if he were choking. He tried to inhale but he could not. "You are insolent. Disrespectful. This is unacceptable." The Prophet released his hold, and Jariel slowly rose from his knees and looked each being in the eye, in turn.

"Two of your linear years you spent in silence as penance for your transgressions.” ‘Timal’s’ displeasure was obvious.”Still you refuse to yield."

"Yes, I refuse." Camen had never been so angry with the Prophets in his life, as he was in this moment. "It is unacceptable to me that you wanted me to let Liis die so that you could have me entirely. That is not kind, that is not just, and that is not right."

"You have never belonged to us entirely. That is what we desire."

"I'm sorry to disappoint you." Jariel whispered. "I have given you all of myself that I can. More than that, I have tried my honest best to minister to the people of Bajor. Somehow, they always found my efforts to be enough. You never have." He shook his head sadly. "You must know that until I am dead, there will always be a part of me that will belong only to Zanh Liis. Nothing you could do to me will alter that."

"He is flawed." Timal complained. "Linear. Limited."

"It is the nature of his corporeal being." Shamira replied.

"He will not change," Chem warned. "He will never surrender her voluntarily."

"Then he will suffer the consequences." Shamira decided. "Jariel Camen, we have judged you, and found your Pagh to be lacking. You have a choice to make, and a limited amount of this that you call 'time' in which to make your decision."

"What decision?" Jariel was undaunted. He was ready to face whatever he had to now, secure in the knowledge that whatever happened to him, at the very least, Liis was alive. "State your terms."

Captain Zanh Liis
USS Alchemy NX-53099

48: Reckoning, Part One

Reckoning, Part One
by Zanh Liis

-=Location: Bajor: Eight days after To Light the Sky at Night=-

Jariel refused to let go of Liis' hand.

Wherever she went, whatever they were doing; when it was physically possible to be in contact with her, he was.

Finally she'd been allowed to leave the hospital, and they had two days left to spend on Bajor before they were to be transported back to Earth.

Liis still hadn't been debriefed yet regarding her experiences after her abduction. However, the need for Starfleet to get her statement in person was not the only reason she'd been summoned back to Earth.

There had been some indication from Salvek via subspace that they may be reassigned- herself along with the whole lot who had gone on the mission to rescue her.

When it came to her own position, she wasn't surprised by reassignment. She had never intended to sit in the command chair of the Federation's most opulent showpiece. She preferred a position where she felt that she could really make a difference in the long run to the sensation of spinning her wheels in endless political debates and diplomatic nightmares.

As far as the rest of the crew went, though, they were definitely the very best that Starfleet had within its ranks and she had no doubt that they did belong on the flagship. She didn't want them to face any negative repercussions because they had been dedicated to her, and chosen to help her. Their careers should not suffer because they were loyal to the woman they considered 'their' Captain- whether Starfleet called her only 'Acting"- or not.

She planned to make that point clearly and unmistakably as soon as she had the very first opportunity to do so.

Liis was anxious to thank them, too, each of the loyal men and women who had come rushing to her defense. They were the best friends, and crewmates, anyone could ask for.

Her doctors demanded she stay planet-side another fifty two hours before they'd release her for travel, and knowing that she had to wait anyway, she was truly looking forward to sleeping in a real bed, eating real food, and holding close the only man she had ever loved.

--=Central Vedek Assembly Sanctuary=--

The change of scenery was definitely welcome as Camen led her through the gates of the extensive Central Assembly gardens. He was being careful to watch her, to see if she was getting tired. She wouldn't be quick to volunteer such information, and he knew it.

She hadn't required a new heart, thankfully. Hers was repaired with a new aorta and some creative surgical techniques. The doctors promised her that with the continued dermal regeneration, in a month you would barely know she had ever had a wound on her chest.

The mental scars of her traumatic experience, they cautioned, would take a lot longer to fade.

Doctors had also taken the time while they had her under anesthesia and on the operating table to bring in a secondary surgical team, to replace the tritanium implants in her spine that had been giving her so much trouble, as well. While they told her that her back would never be what it was before the combat injury all those years ago, they could promise that it would certainly be an improvement over the repairs she had suffered with for so long.

The best guest accommodations at the sanctuary had been reserved for them. Camen enjoyed finally introducing Prylar Chem, his old friend from his own time spent recuperating here, to the woman without whom he was like "a kicked puppy" according to the old man.

When Chem met Liis, his only comment was, “I can see why you would be so lost without her, Camen."

Camen took Liis to their room, wanting her to rest awhile. As he tucked her into the bed piled high with pillows and handmade quilts, she sighed. She sank easily into unfamiliar bliss- knowing that she could fall asleep here in complete safety. She thought that she had no need of a heaven later on, living a moment like this.

She glanced over at Jariel. He looked so much healthier to her, now that she was out of the hospital and they were in a place where he felt so much at home. She knew that this scare had taken a lot out of him, and she hoped that she would be able to convey to him properly, in time, just how grateful she was for all he had done.

He was so handsome, and she admired him now as he continued to fuss over her blankets and pillows. He had taken to wearing his robe again as soon as they reached Bajor, which didn’t surprise her. What would have surprised her, had she known the truth, was that he did so with a dual set of intentions.

The secondary reason was to show respect for the other Vedeks and for the title that he himself carried. His primary motivation, however, was that people seemed to move a lot quicker, and perform their duties a lot more thoroughly knowing that Starfleet Captain Zanh Liis was the beloved of one of Bajor's most respected and well known members of clergy. If wearing the robe helped people remember that his Liis deserved the best of all possible care, then he'd wear the robe.

His eyes were regaining their brightness it seemed, at last. He had managed to get some real sleep the past few nights when she did, as she recovered in the hospital. But only after she'd been disconnected from the last of her support equipment, and allowed to lower the railings on the bed, and he was able to settle into it beside her.

That arrangement suited her fine, too. After all that she had been through trying to hold on so she could get back to him, she wanted to spend as much time in close physical proximity to him as she could. They way she figured it, between their two careers, it could be years before they ever got so many uninterrupted days together again, if ever.

The fact they had so much time alone while she recovered was only surpassed in her mind by one more amazing event that had come out of this whole mess.

The return of his voice.

She didn't pretend to understand why the Prophets had chosen to give him his voice back now, and Jariel was reluctant to give her any specific reasons.

She believed that he was trying to protect her from something by withholding the information, and for once in her life she decided to let it go, at least for now. She trusted him implicitly, and knew he'd never keep anything from her that she absolutely needed to know. She chose to let him protect her this time, just as he saw fit.

Since she'd regained consciousness, they talked, and talked, and talked some more. Every waking moment she had questions for him about the things he'd remembered, and he for her about the things that he still didn't understand.

Conversations lasted until their throats were sore, their voices nearly gone from overuse, and they both fell into exhausted sleep wrapped in the safety of each other's arms.

Liis was absolutely astounded by all the things that he remembered, about time lines in which he had technically never lived. The Orbs had filled his mind with so much information that he still had not processed it all, and she believed that it would take him years, if not the rest of his lifetime to make sense of all the random images that were buried in his mind.

"Is there anything else you require, Soshara?" He asked now, sitting beside her on the bed and leaning in for a long, slow kiss. Her heart sped up, and she was relieved to find that that was all it did. She felt no pain in her chest, which was a very good sign. It seemed her recovery was well on its way. In fact, the doctors said they were astounded how quickly she was healing once she'd been started on the proper course of treatment.

Liis had replied that Vedek Jariel’s presence was the very best medicine of all.

"Only your company," Liis answered. She returned his kiss, holding his face in her hands tenderly. She touched the chain on his earring, and felt sadness for a moment. Hers was gone- the earring he had given her years ago so that she would never feel parted from him, physically. Her eyes grew distant, and Camen noticed immediately.

"What's wrong? Are you in pain?"

"No, it's just." She hesitated. "My earring, and my silver ring. When I woke up, they were both gone. I guess the Ferengi got to them. Probably sold them or put them in a trophy case." She looked away. "It's stupid, I know. I'm lucky to be alive. They're just possessions. But they were both tied to you so tightly. I will miss them."

"I forgot!" Jariel said, and he reached into the inner vest pocket in his robe and pulled out a small pouch. "The Doctor took them off of you, when you were in stasis on the Alchemy. Here they are, my Liis." He smiled. "I took the liberty of having the chain repaired. It looked as if it must have been damaged during your,” he chose his next word carefully, “adventure." He clipped the earring into its proper place, and gently slid the ring onto her finger.

"They must have left them on me as proof of my identity," she whispered, tilting her fingers and looking at the ring. Her hand felt complete again, with it restored. "Romulans are big on proof. They'd surely have scanned and blood typed and DNA sequenced me the moment they got their hands on me, to be sure I really am Zanh Liis."

Jariel shuddered as they shared an expression of dread.

They both knew those were the very least of the things that the Romulans would have done to her.

"Shhh," Jariel kissed her forehead and then held her gaze a long moment. His eyes were so warm, and deep and honest, they could make her forget everything else within an instant of meeting her own. "No nightmares here. Only dreams, Soshara. You need to rest, you've had a busy day."

"Mmmm." Liis closed her eyelids, which were heavy. "I am exhausted."

"I will return in a little while and then I will see to your supper," he kissed her again, determined that he wouldn't waste a single chance to do so during this precious, rare span of uninterrupted time alone. "Rest well, my Liis."

For some reason as he moved toward the door, Liis became nervous. Her words surprised him, catching him off guard as he pulled the door closed.

"Be careful, Camen."

Captain Zanh Liis
Recovering on Bajor
USS Alchemy NX-53099