184: Making Our Stand

By Commander Blane
and -=/\=-Zanh Liis

Five Hours and Forty Five Minutes after Drafted

Captain's Log, Supplemental.

The stations on Sera's bridge are once again populated, for the most part, by my most experienced officers.

Due to the extended hours and difficult conditions of the Alchemy away mission, I insisted that as many of those who served on it leave their stations and allow replacements to fill in for them, while they get a hot meal and at least four hours of sleep.

Thankfully, our journey has thus far been uneventful, but I expect that is about to change sooner rather than later.

I have contacted the authorities at Gibraltar Depot and advised them that there may be trouble brewing- they have temporarily suspended all docking privileges and remain on red alert status.

I have also requested that Starfleet dispatch another ship to meet us there and take on the Executor's displaced crew.

Unfortunately, I had no choice but to make Command aware of the fact that this is now a situation which must be contained, and both crews- Executor's and ours- are going to have to be debriefed. Likely also required to give depositions as to what happened so that when they combine the information that we procured from the Alchemy by way of those 'appropriated' isolinear chips, that the truth of what has happened and who is behind it can be determined, once and for all.

Whether or not we will be privy to the outcome of that investigation remains to be seen- right now my main concern is getting the Executor's crew to safety, recovering the Alchemy, and licking our collective wounds.

End log.

-=Bridge, USS Serendipity=-

"Captain, Gibraltar Depot is now within range of long-range sensors," Micah Samson announced.

"On screen, then."

The image of the spindly, skeletal looking supply station appeared.

"Not much to look at is she?" Blane observed.

"She's our silent witness," Zanh responded. "To me that makes her the most beautiful sight I've ever seen. Helm, all stop. I don't want to get any closer, that way if anyone decides to blow us up, we won't take Gibraltar with us."

"Captain?" Nimue Andraste raised a pert eyebrow at Zanh as she looked up from the helm position. She was unaccustomed to hearing any commanding officer talk so directly or casually about their ship's potential destruction.

"I'm just saying." Zanh replied.

TC had been hovering around the bridge for the entirety of the trip. He had politely refused to go to his quarters and relax as the captain had wished and Zanh, expecting him to do just that, had allowed him to stay on the job.

He did relinquish the Ops station to a subordinate for the time being and had concentrated on helping Lt. Blakeslee prepare the Sera for the inevitable altercation.

He glanced at the Captain and nodded his approval. “A wise tactic. They will not be so gung ho to come in weapons blazing within site of the station.” He looked back at the viewscreen. “I’m worried about what other tricks they will use. Blunt force is only one of the tools at their disposal.”

“Really? What makes you say that?” Nimue asked.

He glanced down at the newly drafted helmsman. “Experience.”

He looked back at the captain. “We should discuss strategy.”

"We can discuss it all you want," Zanh reached up and began twisting the chain on her earring as she spoke.

Experience was whispering in her ear as well, and she knew that they could try as they might, but it was going to take a hell of a lot of good luck to get them out of the fix that they were in without sustaining terminal damage.

"They're not going to want to fold their hand. But the bottom line is that unless they are willing to destroy two crew's worth of Starfleet officers in front of a live audience, they're going to have little choice but to let us go in the end. Now, whether or not they try to make us suffer first," Zanh sighed. "Will depend on just how much of a maniac this Admiral Spangler is. Which reminds me," Zanh tapped her badge, "Zanh to O'Sullivan. I need an audience with your friend. Please escort him to the bridge?"


Soon, Zanh Liis was standing face to face in her ready room with Jonas Vox.

"You shot me." He remarked casually..

"Yeah," Liis replied emotionlessly. "I did."

Vox wasn't reacting at all as Liis' expected him to- and that bothered her. He didn't seem to be the man she'd known so many years, and she wondered exactly who he had become in the interim.

"Don't ever do it again." Vox rumbled authoritatively.

"Understood." Zanh replied, her eyes holding his gaze all the while.

"No one else was present," Vox added, addressing O'Sullivan now. "The matter dies here. It will never be spoken of again. Understood?"

Keiran nodded. "Aye Admiral."

"Thank you, Keiran." Zanh remarked, giving the security officer his cue to leave. The man inclined his head toward her, and then left.

"I need to know, Jonas," Liis said softly, her eyes imploring him. "Spangler. Just how much trouble will he be?"

"He's our worst nightmare, Zanh Liis," Vox admitted reluctantly. "He believes that he answers to no one, he has powerful backers. . ." His eyes betrayed a sense of quiet desperation. "He has no conscience."

Meanwhile back on the bridge TC and Zander were looking at the tactical console.

“Well, what do we know about the Gauntlet?” Zander asked no one in particular as he pulled up the Starfleet starship registry database. He glanced it over. “According to this she’s not all that much different then any other ship of her class.”

He glanced at TC and saw the look on his face. “Yea, I’m not buying it either.”

“Pull up our sensor logs from when we first encountered her.” TC suggested.

Zander nodded and did as told. “OK here we go. Remember the sensors were being hampered by the star so I don’t know how much data we would have.”

TC nodded his understanding. “Even a little bit will help.”

As Zander looked over the logs with TC he asked. “So, I am surprised that you don’t have some sort of prior knowledge about the Gauntlet. I mean, since you are Special Ops and all.”

TC glanced at the lieutenant from the corner of his eye. “I am merely a grunt for them. I have one assignment and one only for special ops. As far as I am concerned the Gauntlet is standing in my way of completing that assignment.”

Zander frowned. “Even if it is a special ops ship?”

“Special ops, temporal investigations, even the president's own ship would not change my orders as far as I am concerned Mr. Blakeslee.” TC pointed to the screen. “What’s that?”

Zander stopped the scrolling information and zoomed in on the item that TC had pointed out. “It looks like the sensors were able to get a life scan of the Gauntlet. Seventy five souls according to this.”

TC stood up and crossed his arms in front of his chest. “What is the crew compliment of a Nebula class starship?”

Zander thought for a moment. “About twenty three hundred peop…” His eyes lit up. “Wait a second!”

TC nodded. “Bravo, Admiral Spangler. That was one hell of a bluff.” He was truly impressed by the move from the admiral. He had only a skeleton crew, probably because of the secretive nature of this whole ordeal, and he used the massive size of his ship to intimidate the smaller intrepid class vessel.

TC shook his head. “Stand to and prepare to be boarded.” He said out loud.

Zander eyebrows rose at the off beat comment. “Pardon?”

“We’ve just become pirates Mr. Blakeslee.” He grinned and tapped his badge, he knew the captain was in her ready room but he did not want to disturb her. “Captain to the bridge.”

"On my way," Zanh responded, from the other side of the ready room door.

"Admiral," She turned back toward him, wanting to do something more, to say so much more, but knowing now was not the time for it.

She didn't have to tell him that her faith in him was shaken to the foundation, and that foundation was cracked down to bare earth. He had betrayed her- he had betrayed them all. She didn't know his justification for this- and right now, the pain of that betrayal was too fresh to want to know. She just wanted him to understand that as far as level of trust went, with her, he was starting from scratch.

"I know. And I'm sorry, Liis." Was all Vox said. "We'll talk about this another time?" He offered.

"If there is another time." Zanh said grimly, and she turned and left him behind as she returned to the main bridge. A moment later, he followed and stood behind her as she took the command chair.

"Speak to me, Thomas."

He looked at her and then smiled slightly. “The right eye.”

“What?” Liis questioned.

“The patch, I think it’ll look good over your right eye.”

“What patch? Thomas, your not making sense at all.”

TC nodded to the screen that displayed the scan and the cross reference to the crew complement. Liis leaned in close as she read the information displayed on it.

TC leaned in next to her as he saw that she had found the information. “With the people that we pulled off the Executor, we outnumber them at least three to one. Ever boarded a ship before?” He smiled. “Ahoy me hearties.”

"Been awhile," Zanh replied, adding a low whistle. "But I think I remember where I left my compass. It doesn't point North, you know." Zanh glanced at Salvek. "You have the bridge, Logic. O'Sullivan,"

She gestured toward Keiran, who had been keeping close watch on Admiral Vox from the corner. "Dengar. Blakeslee. Blane. Cristiane,"

She nodded to each as she spoke their name. "We're taking a little trip. Pack your hooks and swords. Let's go."

"Captain," Salvek made the obligatory attempt at objecting, though he knew already that there was no logic in it because his words would surely fall on deaf ears.

Zanh simply grinned at him, her eyes sparkling with a light that he had not seen since well before she had been abducted from their last assignment.

She leaned close to him. "Make sure that the Admiral is kept company, at all times. "Don't let him out of your sight."

The newly formed Away Team congregated in the turbolift, and Zanh noticed the puzzled expression on the face of young Rada Dengar and she smiled at him warmly.

"Ensign," she began, turning to face him directly, "I hear you've taken a shine to diverting anti-grav units into haywire conduits and saving every one's lives in the process. Or something to that effect?"

"Sir?" Dengar couldn't believe that news traveled so fast.

"Yes, your deeds proceed you. I'm proud of you. And what's more, it's given me an idea, at last, for what I really want to call you."

"Sir?" Rada was worried now. While he knew that Zanh was only given to nickname people she was fond of, he was concerned what her actual choice would be.

"Yes, that's right and I can't believe this didn't occur to me before," Zanh laughed as the lift doors opened and they headed off to arm themselves to the teeth. "The a and the e. All this time it was right in front of me!"

She reached out and patted him on the back, giving him just the first of the many 'atta-boys' she knew that the crew had earned while on the Alchemy's mission. "Yes, this is it." She grinned at him anew. "Come on, Danger. We've got a ship to commandeer, and you're going to help."

"Do we get any rum? Cristiane smirked, as he analyzed the phaser rifle that TC Blane had just handed him.

"Maybe when we get back," Zanh said, giving him a sideways glance. "If you behave, Mr. Cristiane."

Commander TC Blane
Second Officer/Chief Ops Officer
USS Serendipity NCC-2012


-=/\=-Zanh Liis
Commanding Officer
USS Serendipity NCC-2012

183: If Love Was Enough

by Lt. February Grace
A few hours into the journey to Gibraltar Depot
Soundtrack: If Love Was Enough by Graham Colton

-=Sickbay, USS Serendipity=-

Dabin Reece was quieter now than he had been in a long, long time.

Perhaps quieter than he had ever been in his life.

He stood, eyes glazed over with exhaustion and worry, staring blankly at the blipping lights on the monitors displaying his wife's current condition.

He glared at them, unblinking, attempting to somehow change them with the sheer force of his will until his eyes lost the ability to focus. Halos appeared around each blip, as they all began melting together into a rainbow wash of artificially created, neon colored light.

In the past few hours those readings had taken a turn which frightened him.

February's white blood cell count was dangerously elevated. He was becoming concerned that the symbiont, already showing great strides toward recovery itself, might now be the least of their worries.

They were doing all they could to clean and purify her tainted bone marrow. If the treatments were going to be successful, they should see signs of improvement soon.

Otherwise. . .

Dabin refused to even entertain the possibility of 'otherwise'.

He gently took February’s left hand into both of his.

*So soft.*

He tilted it slowly from side to side, watching the diamonds in her new wedding band catch fire in the light. He turned her hand over as he caressed it, and when his fingertips brushed her own, he noted how hers had built up resistance in the skin there, from years of pressing sharp, unforgiving guitar strings against the neck of the instrument to create music.

A fresh wave of despair overtook him, and Dabin closed his eyes.

Who could have imagined the day that he met this woman, this innocent, other-worldly February, and been so angry with her initially for the sins of one of her symbiont's previous hosts, that he would end up standing here? Ready to do anything, give anything, suffer anything to take her place, if he only could.

Anything. Just to see her open her eyes and smile at him.

He'd come too far- they'd been through too much- for everything they had to come to such a devastating end.

He had come so close to losing her before he even realized that he was falling in love with her- he couldn't imagine now that he could face any future except one where she was happy, whole, and at his side.

He bent down, pressed his lips to her ear, and softly sang the words of one of her favorite songs.

As deeply sedated as she was, the sound of his voice somehow resonated in February's mind, and she sighed dreamily, unmoving. The delicate, breathy sound set off a rapid-fire cascade of memories in the mind of the man beside her.


-=Runabout Hiawatha: Summer, 2387=-

"So this is it then? I've waited years for this and you won't even be able to look me in the eye when I tell you what you've done?"

"What Deveral did," February reminded him. *Deveral the rock star.* She thought. * Deveral the genius. Deveral the incorrigible, irredeemable bastard.*

"Yes, what Deveral did. In this case, ruin my life. Or, should I say Tuli's life."

"Tuli?" The attending physician asked softly, thinking she needed a piece of paper and pencil at this point to keep score of who did what to whom.

"Reece's host before Dabin." February whispered. "She and Deveral were. . . acquainted."

"If you call having a torrid affair acquainted!" Dabin snarled, pacing back and forth with his arms folded angrily. "I was young and naive. He used me up and threw me away and then when he was done, nothing. I waited by the view screen for three years for him. But did he once try to contact me? Did he once try to do anything?" Reece moved closer and put his hands on February's shoulders, shaking her gently.

"Step off, Reece," the doctor warned. "She's in no condition for this."

"Well I'm in no condition to let this go." Reece replied. "You said we'd be together forever. Why didn't you call?" He seemed to be speaking as his former host Tuli now, and February responded in kind.

"Well you know, there was that whole tour of the Alpha quad thing going on. . . we went through three drummers that summer. It was a tough gig, sweetheart." She said, suddenly sounding very un-February.

"But you didn't even send me a postcard- or concert tickets! You told your security guards not to let me come backstage anymore!"

February reached out and touched Reece's face with the back of her hand gently. "I'm tellin' you baby, there was nothing I could do about it. But you know our time together was very special to me, there was nobody else like you."

February thought she might gag from the sheer size of the lie that the symbiont was feeding her to say, and her hands shot up to her mouth. "My god. What did I just say?"

"Yeah, well, I'll have you know a little something else, you worm." Dabin continued, poking February in the stomach, in the vicinity of her symbiont.

"Jazen Deveral Reece is an unjoined Trill and he plays guitar in an alternative rock tribute band on Risa! I figure that YOU owe ME about forty-three thousand bars of latinum in unpaid child support!"

February thought she might pass out. She was only grateful that her eyesight had failed her completely by this point and she was not forced to look Reece in the face.

"Jazen... Deveral. . .Reece?" She stammered "My son?"

"Congratulations," Reece growled. "It's a boy!"

After his little outburst, Reece realized he was being unfair to the unsuspecting young stranger whom he had just met- and that he wouldn't want to be called on the behavior of several of his own past hosts, that was certain.

He relented, and felt bad for the way he'd allowed Reece's years of pent-up hostility to get the better of him.

"Sorry about that, Reece just got away from me for a moment there." Dabin confided, "I'm sure you have had moments like that in your time as a host."

"You have no idea." February replied. "It's okay, Dabin, I understand."

She was being so nice about it, that it made him feel even worse. He tried to think of something he could do to redeem himself.

"Well, another of my previous hosts was a doctor. And, it so happens that my significant other is one of the brightest medical minds in Starfleet. She's currently taking up residence on a patch of beach at the Amethyst Ocean Resort and Spa down yonder. I could get her on the horn, we could have a confab." He offered. "Maybe if your doctor show us what she's got in the way of findings so far, we can give her some input."

"You'd do that for me?" February was surprised. Obviously this was, by far, the kindest of all Reece's hosts.

"Yeah. 'Cause that's just the kind of guy I am."

"Thank you." Dr. Trind said with a nod. "I'll take all the input I can get before we get back to the Symbiosis Commission. I'll go gather some data for you, be right back." She moved out of the room, and Reece plunked down onto the bed next to February and patted her on the hand.

"I'm dying, you know." She said matter-of-factly.

"Hey, don't talk like that. It'll be okay, kid." He took a moment to really look at her now, and he couldn't imagine someone as mild as she was getting stuck with the Grace symbiont.

"How old are you, February?"

"Twenty five."

"A baby."

"So I'm told. Reece, I want you to know something."

"What's that?"

"That I'm sorry, for everything." Her chin began quivering. "That not only am I disgusted by the lack of discretion that Deveral showed in his personal life, but so was our last host, Wen. In fact, I believe that was a big part of what happened to her, why she did what she did."

"Why?" he was becoming concerned. "What did she do?"

"Promise you won't tell anyone? 'Cause it's classified."

He was worried by the request, but he knew the answer was important and was ready to promise her anything so she'd tell him. Instead he chose to remain silent, and she took that silence to indicate agreement.

"She killed herself."

"Oh." Reece sighed, thinking that suddenly there was an entirely new dimension added to the problems that this young, inexperienced woman was dealing with. Dabin wanted to be of some comfort to her, but Reece was still screaming at him in his head. "Hey, you're done talking now, it's my turn." Dabin poked himself in the stomach in the vicinity of his own symbiont.

"What?" February asked, confused.

"Nothing, never mind. Listen, kid, you made a very good point before. What previous hosts did is not your fault." He held her hand, still, and gave it a gentle squeeze. "I know what it's like to inherit a symbiont that can get pretty out of control at times. It's something you just have to learn to reign in, take control of. You've had problems since your joining, because you were sick afterward, right?"

"I almost died."

"Well, it's time to show the slug who's boss." Dabin said, "and if I can help you at all, well, I guess it's the least I can do for a fellow host stuck with a symbiont from hell. And the father of my favorite of all of my children." Dabin blinked a couple times. "Did I just say that out loud?"

February shook her head in disbelief. "I can't believe that after our past. . .after everything, you'd do that for me."

"If I didn't, I wouldn't be able to look in the mirror tomorrow and live with the devastatingly handsome face staring back at me."

-=Hours later- The Symbiont Caves at Mak'ala, Trill=-

After convincing the presiding Trill symbiont Guardian, a twig-like man called Rigin, to see if he could determine why February and Grace were both perilously close to perishing, Rigin had tenderly taken February by the hand and led her away from her two doctors and Reece. The trio had accompanied her down to the caves, and Rigin insisted everyone must go while February was in the pools.

"Someone has to wait for her," Dr. Jaine Hood insisted. From the stories Dabin had told her in the past, she believed that they had no reason at all to trust the Symbiosis Commission, or their appointed Guardians, for that matter.

"I'll wait." Dabin announced. "He likes me a little, but he likes you too much." he nodded to Dr. Trind. "You'll distract him. You two wait outside, just beyond the caves. I'll watch over Grace, and we'll find you as soon as we're done."

A moment later, February reappeared.

Her hair was free of its braid now, wavy and long over her shoulders and down her back. She was dressed in a simple white frock, Her feet, bare.

"OUT!" Rigin demanded again, pointing to the exit. "Get!"

"We're getting, we're getting." Dr. Trind retreated but Hood hesitated, and looked back at Dabin with concern.

"Be careful."

Dabin Reece nodded, and watched as Hood finally disappeared from view.

Then he sat down on a rock, averting his eyes politely from the young, and now surprisingly beautiful blonde girl who was taking her first slow, tentative steps into the milky water of the symbiont pool.

He drew a deep breath. He only hoped that his instincts were somehow off this time and it wasn't the symbiont itself that was responsible for her suffering.

Way the hell off.

-=End Flashback=-

She'd gone through a horrible ordeal on Trill before all was said and done. Reece, Blane, and the rest of the small band of crew mates and friends entrusted with watching over her had been forced to literally kidnap her from the Symbiosis Commission hospital in the end.

"I have so much research to do on our link, still, February. We'll do it together." Dabin whispered now, observing how slight and frail her long fingers seemed- like those of a porcelain doll, as he lifted her hand to his lips and kissed each one in turn.

"So I can tell the Commission where to go when all is said and done. So I can tell them what I think of their Reassociation banishment and all the garbage they forced onto us along with it." He pressed the back of her hand to his cheek.

"We will get it back. Somehow. I promise."

Dabin heard the sound of the curtain surrounding her bed rustling, and looked up. He saw an arm poke through, where the two halves of the curtain met, offering a wave.

He knew that arm.

"Entrez Vous." He said lightly, trying to put on a brave face. "Ah look, it is Monsieur Le Vedek. Can I offer you a bowl of soup?" He imitated Fleur's accent, and a startled look crossed Jariel's face for an instant at the sound, but it disappeared once more as quickly as it had appeared.

While Jariel knew Reece far too well to buy into his act, he allowed the man the comfort of believing he had succeeded in the attempt.

He smiled gently and approached. He reached out and patted Bru on the head, and before moving his hand away, he closed his eyes a moment and bowed his head, seemingly in prayer.

Dabin wasn't sure if he was blessing her, or begging any Powers That May Be to look out for her. Either way, seeing Jariel's care and concern brought him a renewed sense of calm, one for which he would be eternally grateful.

The Vedek had been keeping vigil beside Kellyn, but moved out of the way when her fellow engineers Breaux and Dengar had come to visit, to allow them a moment's reflection alone by her bedside. Then Salvek and Arie had appeared, and Camen knew that his presence was not needed there any longer.

He had offered Arie a hug, Salvek a pat on the shoulder, and then come over to see how Bru was faring. [[Any change?]]

[[Symbiont toxicity is improving, but her blood work is cause for concern,]] Reece replied, channeling the removed, stoic bedside manner of previous host Rilan to get through it.

[[Her leukocyte levels must return to normal soon or.]] He stopped and sighed. [[I want to talk to her, so badly, but they had to conk her out pretty good. She was frantic. We didn't want her to hurt herself,]]Dabin signed sadly, the lump in his throat seeming to preclude the possibility of vocal speech. [[Jariel, I hate this.]]

With those last three words, Reece expressed the obvious clearly and with wrenching emotion.

[[You have not rested, Dabin,]] Jariel placed a hand on the Trill's shoulder a moment, supportively. [[You must. If you make yourself sick as well then when,]] Jariel paused, and he placed his hands with the tips of his fingers on his shoulders, brushing them outward gracefully, as though dusting off freshly fallen, powdery snowflakes from the shoulders of his coat.

In doing so he created the sign for the word 'angel' which was his special, personal nickname for February and known only to a few of their closest friends.

[[When the angel wakes up, you won't be in any condition to be there for her. Believe me, I know what I'm talking about.]]

[[I know you do,]] Reece conceded, knowing that only weeks ago that Jariel had been in a situation very similar to the one he found himself in. [[You're right. But I can't be away from her. Not now. Not with everything so uncertain.]]

Jariel nodded, raising his hand to show Reece that he didn't need to say anymore. He made a 'just a second' motion with his index finger, and disappeared. A moment later Jariel returned, the LMH at his side.

"I don't see why not, Father." McKay said softly to Jariel as they moved closer to February's biobed. "You want to do it or shall I?"

Knowing that the LMH had a better chance of accomplishing the desired task without disturbing any of the monitoring leads attached to Bru, Jariel made a sweeping motion with his arm. [[Be my guest, Sir.]]

"What's?" Dabin asked, but Jariel's confident nod to him silenced him.

[[When I couldn't sleep anywhere else, I could sleep beside Liis.]] Jariel explained, as the LMH carefully slid his arms beneath Grace and moved her over on the bed, making just enough room for the thin and wiry Reece to slide onto it beside her.

Dabin looked at them hopefully, but was hesitant. "You're sure it's okay?"

"It'll be fine, Reece. And if they need you to go charging back to the bridge like the cavalry, I'll wake ya up. Don't worry."

Jariel vanished again as Dabin wedged himself into position, then reappeared with a second pillow and blanket in hand. He offered them to the Trill, whose eyes conveyed the gratitude that he couldn't properly express in words. Not now.

The two men shared a look born of understanding, one of having walked the same path, as they prayed to reach the same destination.

McKay nodded to the Vedek and Reece then vanished behind the curtain again.

Jariel watched as Reece's eyes slipped closed the moment he settled in, with his head resting not on the small triangular pillow, but against February's soft, inviting shoulder instead.

[[Bless them as they walk this path together, dear Prophets,]] Jariel signed prayerfully. [[They are too much a part of each other, to ever be parted now.]]

Lt. February Grace
Senior Flight Controller
USS Serendipity NCC-2012

182: Drafted

by Ensign Nimue Andraste
-=/\=-Captain Zanh
Following Roomies and Guide

-= Bridge of the USS Serendipity =-

Zanh Liis had just told her current helm officer, Ensign Toby Ellison, for the tenth time what she expected of him.

For the eleventh time, he did it wrong.

He had managed to follow her instructions well enough to move them to a safe distance from 626 before long range sensors indicated it had dragged Executor, in its death throes, to its fiery destruction. Still, he just couldn't seem to grasp the concept she was now trying to relay to him.

Zanh glanced at TC Blane, and placed her fingers on either side of the bridge of her wrinkled nose in the manner which told Blane for certain she had a headache. After a moment of silence, she stepped forward and bent down, speaking softly to Ellison.

"Perhaps you're not feeling well, Ensign. I think that you should go to Sickbay and have them look you over." He nodded and, cheeks crimson with humiliation, left the bridge.

Zanh gestured to Blane and he came near, as she sat at the helm once again, her fingers tapping the console impatiently.

"No chance we're getting Grace back from Sickbay today, right?"

"Sorry, Captain. No chance."

"Well, we have a problem. I don't know who qualified the pilots that are assigned to this ship, but I would like to wring their neck about now." Zanh analyzed their options as she spoke in hushed tones into Blane's ear. "Ah, here we go. This is where we're going to make our stand."

She indicated the navigational display, and the size of Blane's pupils expanded considerably. "The Gibraltar Trade and Supply Depot?"

"Yep. If they're going to take another swipe at us, they're going to do it in broad daylight. At the most crowded shopping mall we can find. The location of this outpost is perfect. It's only 6 hours away at top Warp, and it's between us and the last direction that Spec Ops was headed in. It's a station standing alone in space with no inhabited planets around it, so no one else will get hurt should Spec Ops decide to go stupid on us."

Once she'd laid in the course, she stood up and gestured to the chair. "She's all yours, Mr. Blane. I am going to try to find us another reliable pilot by drafting someone from the Executor."

"Just remember," Blane cautioned, "Whoever was sitting at their helm allowed the ship to get pulled into the atmosphere of that star."

"Point taken. If you need me, I'll be nearby. I hope for a quiet ride between here and Gibraltar." She moved into the Ready Room, and sighed. "Computer, begin playback Zanh musical list thirty-two gamma. Twenty percent volume level."

As the music began to play, Zanh approached the replicator. She couldn't remember when last she had eaten, but what she needed more than food was a straight shot of caffeine. She ordered a cup of strong coffee, black, and sat down at her desk already sipping the boiling hot contents as she did so.

She activated the viewscreen and sent out a hail to guest quarters. She found to her satisfaction that Keiran O'Sullivan had followed her last orders to him to the letter.


"Is the Admiral. . .feeling better?"

[Aye. He's sitting right here. Do you wish to speak with him?']


A moment later, a very irritated looking Jonas Vox filled the screen. He made no mention of the fact that she'd shot him- knowing that they had more immediate problems.

Zanh wished he had brought it up now, knowing that the conversation that would occur later would become exponentially more awkward the longer it was delayed. How do you start that discussion with your personal CO? You can't just say; 'Hey, funny story, remember the time you were refusing to leave your ship and the star was about to eat it and I had to shoot you to kidnap you because you wouldn't listen to reason? Good times. . .'

[What do you need, Captain?] Vox spun the last word tightly, conveying his aggravation.

"I need to know who was flying your ship when you got pulled into 626's atmosphere."

[That would have been,] his tired eyes rolled upward toward the ceiling in thought. [Lieutenant Grant.]

"Thank you. Now tell me the name of every other flight controller that you had with you aboard the Executor. I need to borrow one."

[I could give you that list, but if you want a pilot who will be more fashioned to your own peculiar tastes, Zanh Liis," he said softly, "Then you want to talk to the girl who was sitting in my brig.]

-=Personal Quarters of Ensign Dalca=-

Ensign Andraste sighed despondently as she attached her new ensign pip to her uniform's red collar. A few minutes ago, she had been summoned to the ready room by the Serendipity's commanding officer. The young woman had no doubt that this was going to be about the disaster aboard the Executor, which had almost cost Captain Zanh her life.

Of course, Nimue had really done nothing wrong – or, at the very least, she had not intended to do anything wrong. That, however, had never kept anyone from blaming her when a problem arose. True, she did have a tendency to be around when things went south, but Nimue was certain it was not her fault that Murphy's Laws had developed an unfortunate affection for her.

Going over to the full-length mirror in Warren's quarters, Nimue examined herself critically. She pulled her wavy brown hair back into a ponytail, tugged at her uniform jacket and straightened her combadge slightly. Satisfied that everything was in order, she nodded at her reflection to acknowledge a job well done and made her way up to the bridge.

A few moments later, she ran – quite literally – into Dane Cristiane outside the turbolift doors. Being considerably lighter and shorter than she was, Nimue took the worst of it and stumbled backward while he stood still and scowled.

"Hi," she greeted him cheerfully once she had regain her balance.

Dane grunted something under his breath that was inaudible.

Nimue stepped into the 'lift and held the door open for him. "Well?"

"I'm going to wait for the next one."

She blinked. "You can't be serious."

Dane simply cross his arms across his chest and growled.

"Whatever," Nimue decided with a roll of her eyes. "Bridge."

-=Captain's Ready Room=-

The person standing outside her door was, like Dabin Reece, a bell-leaner.

Zanh gulped the last sip of coffee from her mug and killed the musical playback. She hoped that Vox knew what he was doing, suggesting this very young, inexperienced Ensign to take the conn for the rest of their journey to Gibraltar Depot, and perhaps through the battle that could be waiting for them once they got there.

She would really hate if she had to tackle a total stranger and wrestle the helm away from their grasp at the last critical moment. But she would do it if she had to.

"Enter." Zanh called, raising her voice to be sure she'd be heard over the continuously sounding door chime.

The chime, however, did not stop when the door opened. Nor did Andraste come in. Instead, Zanh heard some fierce whispering. A moment passed. Then a young woman stuck her head in the door and, before promptly disappearing again, said, "Just a minute." This was followed by the sound of someone slapping the bulkhead. Finally, the door bell gave Zanh some peace.

Finally, the Serendipity's would-be helm officer walked into the ready room, with a sheepish look on her face. "The bell got stuck," she explained, rather unnecessarily.

"You don't say." Liis replied, suppressing a smile, "Why don't you have a seat?"

"Can I just say," Nimue volunteered at she meekly took the chair being offered her, "That the whole thing with the Executor was not my fault. It was totally Vox's fault."

"Oh?" Zanh raised an eyebrow, her index finger working a lazy circle around the rim of her empty cup as she sat behind her desk. This girl had what the Humans called 'cojones'. Barely out of the Academy and she was putting the blame for what happened aboard a Federation starship onto the shoulders of the commanding Admiral? That took nerve.

Even though Zanh knew deep down that the young woman was entirely correct in her bold assertion. What happened to the Executor, and the Alchemy, and what may still happen to the Serendipity was Vox's fault entirely. That was not, however, information that she would sharing with the spritely youth before her.

"How do you figure that, Ensign?" Zanh narrowed her eyes intentionally. She waited for Nimue to respond, turning up the heat setting of her stare to maximum.

"Well, you know, we had a...misunderstanding. So he locks me in the brig for two weeks – which is fine, I mean, it isn't like it's the first time that's ever happened. But you wouldn't have been in danger if he hadn't left me in there to fry when he evacuated the ship." Nimue paused thoughtfully, then continued. "Come to think of it, I wouldn't have been in danger either. Then he thinks it's a good idea to send the Great Dane after me – who is, by the way, more pit bull than anything else…."

"Me." Zanh interjected evenly.


"I would be the one who sent Ensign Cristiane after you." Zanh's expression did not alter. "Please, continue."

"Um…right. Okay, well – you know was pretty much done. Oh – if you really want to blame someone, I think it's only fair you blame Starfleet. I mean…they're just handing out broken combadges now? Where is the quality control there? I'm just sayin'."

Zanh tilted her head to the side and fiddled with the chain of her earring as she spoke. "What do you do well, Ensign?"

"Ma'am?" Nimue observed the flash in Zanh's eyes, and adjusted course. "Sir?"


"Sure." She agreed. Then, noticing that Zanh was looking at her expectantly, added, "Captain."

"Well, you seem to be having some issue with taking responsibility for the fact that you would not have been on the Executor to begin with if you had not broken the law. You choose instead to blame everyone else for the sad situation that you got yourself into, including speaking ill of the man who followed my order to risk his life to rescue you and the man who was commanding that ship and could have had you immediately stripped of your diploma, ending your career in Planck time."

Zanh scanned Nimue for any sign of understanding -any hint that this mere child got it that the road she was traveling was not one that would win her any points with the older, higher-ranking woman before her.

"So." Zanh continued. "Since you've done so poorly at accepting the consequences of your own reckless, disrespectful and let's not forget, because this is my favorite part, illegal actions, I was wondering what is it that you do well, Nimue Andraste?"

Nimue stared at her hands for a while, then took a deep and calming breath before offering Zanh a sad little shrug. "Not much, I guess." She took another moment to think about it and seemed to wander off. "I mean…I'm pretty funny. I have good taste in clothes. I play a decent game of tennis. I'm told I'm fantastic in bed…."


"What?" Nimue shook her head, "Oh…right. Sorry. Well…the only thing I do well that Starfleet cares about is flying, Captain. If your engineers could slap an impulse drive on your desk, I could make it do the cha-cha-cha all the way back to Earth. Not that, you know, I like to brag or anything. And...can I say something in my own defense?"

"That is where you just got in trouble, Ensign."

"Yes, Si…Captain."

Liis considered this for a moment and then nodded her assent.

"I just...I'm sorry if you think I was disrespectful to Dane. I honestly didn't mean to be – but, you know, he really is kind of an angry douche bag. And Vox...well, I don't know what his problem is but he's just mean. I did make a mistake but it was for a noble cause…."

Zanh gave her a skeptical look. "Noble cause?"

Nimue paused. "Okay, so it wasn't a noble cause – exactly – I was just trying to have some fun. But that's important too, right? All I'm saying is that I am not the reason you almost died. If you still want to throw me in the brig for it," the Ardanan/Betazoid hybrid shrugged, "Well...it's your ship, Captain."

"Yes, it is. I'm overjoyed that you accept that fact so willingly, Ensign." Zanh's tone softened just barely as she looked at Andraste once more. "Bottom line? Here's the thing. Sera is my ship, and if I had an extra pair of hands, I'd be flying her myself right now. But I don't, and I need to focus on doing my own job. My senior flight controller is in Sickbay, and well, Ensign, to put it bluntly,

Zanh leaned forward and folded her hands on the desktop. "Welcome aboard the USS Serendipity. You've been drafted."

Ensign Nimue Andraste
About to take the helm
USS Serendipity


-=/\=- Captain Zanh Liis
Commanding Officer
USS Serendipity NCC-2012

181: Roomies

By Ensigns Dalca and Andraste
Following House Guest

= Dalca’s Quarters =

Warren had kept the shirt. He had actually had it framed. It hung now behind his desk, where people usually put up rare memorabilia, like expensive paintings or exquisite weapons. How he explained to visitors why a torn and ragged yellow shirt, the part of an ordinary Starfleet uniform, deserved so prominent a place in his quarters, Nimue could not fathom. It was the first thing that had caught her eyes, however, when she had entered his room and she stood before it for a few moments, smiling.

Then she took a deep breath, stretched her arms to the side and spun around. The rest of the quarters seem rather drab. There was a shelf with all kinds of books sitting on it. Nimue recognized a few of them...in the sense that she knew she had once been required to read some of them for courses on philosophy or literature. Somehow, she had never quite gotten around to them.

And there were pictures. Not of his mother, father or some other family member, but of a human male of Asian descent. One of the pictures was had a caption that read: Bruce Lee. In fact, the image of this Bruce person appeared enough times in the otherwise relatively barren quarters that Nimue began to wonder if Warren had decided to pursue a different vein of romantic interests in the four years since she had seen him....

Part of her was tempted to keep looking through the quarters, but Nimue felt a little like an intruder here. This was his space and while the two of them had been intimate – repeatedly – they had never really been intimate.

So she unzipped her uniform jacket and tossed it onto a sofa, heading for the replicator. All of the possessions she had were aboard the Executor, and it seemed unlikely she was going to be allowed to recover them. That meant she had, quite literally, no wardrobe. That was just wrong – it was like a rip in the space-time continuum and it simply had to be addressed.

With a determined look on her face, Nimue Andraste went to work.

= Later =

There were pivotal, tragic moments in Warren Dalca's life. Not many, but they came to mind quickly. When he broke his arm learning kung fu, it had taken weeks to heal before he was allowed to jump back into it. When the Borg killed so many near Earth, he watched the invasion by sneaking into his uncle's holo-lounge, a terrified boy of five years old. When he first learned how his mother had gone crazy, he spent much of his time trying to understand how his father could have left.

But no amount of hardship could have prepared him for this moment.

He discovered it in an expanding moment of awareness where time had no meaning. He recognized the shadow of what had once been his quarters, but where there had been order, now there were splashes of clashing color, foreign clothing scattered over furniture that had been moved or even replaced.

Then the music hit him, loud and sure to get his own fellow security officers involved. A dance song he remembered from his Academy years that had been fun at the time, but not exactly something he cared for. And laced with the tune was a voice.

His eyes followed the disaster, and his ears guided them. A streak of flesh jumped out from the bedroom and slid on a discarded silken garment, brown hair thrashing about. Naked save for a scarlet tank top and panties, she spun around, singing to the music in a halfway decent voice, her hand holding a chocolate bar like it was a microphone.

She swung her hips to one side, then the other, taking small steps back, to the side, and forward. Her body dipped gracefully as she bent at her knees, and came back up, dropping her arms to the side. The music quieted, and Warren took a step forward. Then it hit again, and she jumped on the couch, nearly losing her balance. Her arms circled out as the music reached a crescendo, and she threw back her hair, eyes in his direction.

She stopped when she saw him, one foot on the back of the couch, the other against the cushions, and commanded the music to end. The room fell silent. And when she smiled, the tragedy was forgotten in an instant.

Nimue Andraste.

Warren smiled right back at her, the shock still sinking in, and with warmth and disbelief in his voice, he declared, “What the hell?”

Nimue remained where she was for a moment longer, like a gazelle startled by some unexpected event. Then she hastily wiped at her mouth with the back of her hand and held out the candy she had been eating towards him. “Chocolate?”
He took another step in, and the door closed behind him. He took the chocolate bar from her, but simply held it. There were a hundred questions he wanted to ask, but one encapsulated many of them. "What are you doing here?"

“You know…hanging out, having lunch, trying on….” Nimue paused, looked down at her state of relative undress and reached for a pair of khaki slacks that were lying nearby. “Clothes.”

He nodded. "Okay. Now let's expand on that a little. Like, why are you on Serendipity, and why are you in my quarters? Did you break in?" Warren set the candy bar down on a clear surface, and took another step, looking at her intently. "Are you in trouble?"

She gave him a mischievous grin as she began putting on her pants. “What kind of trouble could I possibly be in?”

"I'm not going to answer that." He sat on the edge of the couch, watching her dress in what felt like a dream. Most of his memories of her were distinctly lacking in clothes. "Almost four years," he said quietly. "And you look even more... troublesome," he recovered. "Kill any cats lately?"

“I’ve picked up other hobbies,” she answered, stepping back to perch herself on the edge of a coffee table across from him. “I’m not in trouble. Exactly. I was on the Executor and its having mechanical difficulties, so I figured I’d hitch a ride with you guys. Not happy to see me?”

"I've seen amazing things in just a few years, Nimue." He leaned back against the couch, paused, reached behind himself, and pulled out a sequin shirt. He tossed it aside. "But next to you..." he paused, gave it some thought, and smiled wryly, "Their color fades."

“And you like color?”

Warren shook his head. "Even when it's bad for me."

“Great. ‘Cause people are getting assigned roommates – you know, while the ship is nearly overflowing. I’m rooming with this really cute guy from Ops, so I thought I’d tell them to put my mother with you. Since you two already know each other.” She paused at stricken look on his face. “What? She’s colorful.”

"I like earth tones."

“You’re saying you want me to stay here?”

"Even if your story doesn't check out." He paused. "Not that I’m easy.”

"Yeah," she joked, "You are. Anyway, the mom thing was a joke. I'm crashing here though. If you don't mind."

"We should sit down and establish some ground rules. I'm in the midst of a crisis right now, and the more I think about it, the less this roommate idea sounds good." He held up his hands. "I'm sweating."

“Hey,” Nimue said with force cheer, “It isn’t a big deal. I can go somewhere else, really. Especially if it’s going to make Bruce uncomfortable.”


"Bruce. Bruce...Lee. Your boyfriend?"

His mouth hung open. "Are you..." He barked out a laugh. "Nimue... he's my Master, not my lover."

“Whatever you’re calling it is fine. As long as you’re happy, I’m happy.”

Warren stifled his laughter as best as he could. "My Jeet Kune Do master. You know. 'The Way of the Intercepting Fist'?" He blinked a few times, and decided that explanation may not be enough for her. "Kung Fu, Silver Spoon. Kung Fu. Hiiiyah?" He chopped his hand, eyebrows raised, searching for the look of understanding in her quicksand eyes.

Nimue mouth formed a silent 'O'. Then she looked around the room once again, seeing the pictures of Mr. Lee almost everywhere. "Yeah,” she decided with a shake of her head, “You really need to get yourself a girl. And maybe a few throw cushions."

"Is that decorating advice?" He glanced around. "By the way, I like what you've done with the place. Very work-in-progress. Chaos theory du jour?"

“I was trying a few things with the replicator and I…got just a little carried away.” Nimue shrugged, “Girl’s gotta do something with her time.”

"You sing well."

She glanced to the side, smiled and then looked back at him. “I’ll clean up before I leave.”

Warren stood up. "Alright. I need to make a stop at sickbay if this arrangement is going to..." he turned back. “Leave?”

“Yeah – you’re being really weird. And, you know, you’re apprehensive, uncomfortable…distant. Half Betazoid, remember? Obviously, you don’t want me here – that’s fine. We don’t have to make this a thing.”

"I'm being weird? You sing into chocolate bars." He smiled, walked up to her, and lifted her chin with a hand. Kissing her lips lightly, he tried not to shake at the euphoria and confusion of four years’ time. "I don't know what to make of this. It's been a very long time. I'm not going to run away from… but I'm also not going to let my... heat, get in the way of..." He let his hand slide across her cheek. She scared the hell out of him, and he didn’t know why. "I’m not the same man I was..."

Nimue was quiet for a moment. Then she raised a pert eyebrow at him. “Heat?”

"I told you. I'm sweating. There are complications due to the radiation I was exposed to, and they're getting in the way of my treatments. So my Deltan physiology is rearing its ugly head unless I can find a solution." He inhaled. "Hence, sickbay."

She wasn’t sure what radiation he was talking about – she just assumed it was the current situation with the star going all kaplooey – and even if it wasn’t, it didn’t really matter.

“So if you don’t go to Sickbay, you’re gonna jump me?”

"That's putting the situation.... very mildly," he breathed.

“Promises, promises,” she murmured. Then she ran a hand through her wavy brown hair and chuckled, “Yeah. Okay. You really should go take care of that. I mean, you know, I’m a big fan of the jumping. But stars are dying and…things are crappy, so you have to focus. Right?”

It was almost has if he didn't hear her. A spark danced in his eyes like fire. "It could be dangerous, Nimue. You could get hurt. The effects can shatter human minds permanently. They have."

"Guess it's a good thing there are no humans here. But...."

He stood tall, looking down at Nimue's brilliant gaze, her eyes an open book. He felt a desire that had nothing to do with the warmth in his chest or the tug of his loins. A quiet one. "I'm... sure there are tests that can be done. If it's safe..."

She put a hand against his chest, over his furiously beating heart. "You have to go."

He smiled sadly. "I have to go."

"I'll clean up," Nimue nodded in the direction of the clothes scattered all around them. Then stepped back, stuck her hands in her pockets and shrugged her shoulders slightly, adding with an impish grin, "And maybe run a cold bath for you."

"It would help." He stepped away from her and walked to the exit. A walk would give him time to think. "I'm not myself, lately."

“You know...I’ve never had that problem.”

He turned to her, his expression warm. "Good."

“So – if you aren’t yourself – who are you?”

Warren scratched his chin, glancing at the mirror on the wall. "You'll be the first to know, Nimue. Promise."

“Okay,” she answered cheerfully, her attention returning to her half-eaten chocolate bar. “Toodles.”

Stepping through the door, he wiped the sweat off his brow. He stood in the hallway for a moment, getting his bearing, then moved towards the turbolift. The corridor's vibrant grays and blues accompanied him along the way.

Ensign Warren Dalca
Security Officer
USS Serendipity NCC-2012


Ensign Nimue Andraste

180: Guide

By Commander Salvek
Following Walk On and Any Advantage

-=Bridge of the USS Serendipity=-

[I have them.] Came the call from the transporter room.

"Prepare to disengage the tractor beam." Salvek said. Around him was a sense of relief from the crew, but Salvek felt no such comfort. The last few minutes he became increasingly aware that he was needed in Sickbay, and the urge to leave the bridge only grew as time passed.

"Captain." Salvek bolted up out of the command chair as Zanh Liis entered the bridge, her hair clinging to her cheeks, matted with sweat.

"If I'm not too mistaken, that's everyone." Zanh said. She looked like she was in desperate need of a shower and a nap, but she knew her First Officer had a desperate need as well.

"Go. I'll handle it." She said.

Salvek entered the lift. "Sickbay.” Salvek instructed the computer. Then, he tapped his badge. “Ensign Sten, please bring Lair Arie to meet me at Sickbay immediately."

The lift around him seemed to dissolve, and all he could see was her. She was not suffering, indeed she seemed to be reaching out to him to share a great sense of relief and peace, as if the weight of the world had been lifted off her shoulders. However, that relief was tempered by a sense of longing.

Salvek's mind focused once again on his surroundings. The lift had stopped, and Arie was waiting for him, as he had requested.

"Honored father."

"Come Arie." Salvek took the girl by the hand. "Your mother needs us."

They entered sickbay together, and saw Kellyn still sleeping serenely on the biobed.

Terasha set down the PADD she held in her hand and approached Salvek. "Commander, she is making progress. I am glad you returned, I think your presence can help."

"I must have her thoughts now, Doctor." Salvek strode past Terasha to Kellyn's bedside, Arie obediently and courageously followed, despite the fear she felt about seeing her mother in her condition.

"I'm not sure she is ready for such an invasive procedure." The doctor protested.

"Please remove the neural stimulator." Terasha could tell Salvek was not going to relent on the issue, and accepted that as her husband he had a right to speak for Kellyn on her treatment.

"All right." She said after a moment. Her antennae expressed her reluctance, even if her voice was agreeable. She deactivated the device, and released it from Kellyn's face.

Salvek raised his hand, and let it hover over Kellyn's cheek.

"Arie, please join me."

Arie's lips parted, and her face flushed. She had never received such a request from her father, and she shook her head slowly. "But, Father, I don't know how."

"You have the ability, and I have faith in you. I will be there to help you." Arie nodded, and placed her hand on her mother's face. Salvek joined her, and began chanting softly.

"Kashkau, Lair Kellyn, Lair Arie and Salvek wuhkuh eh teretuhr" (Minds, Lair Kellyn, Lair Arie and Salvek, one and together).

Sickbay vanished, and Salvek found himself on a train rumbling through the desert. "Are you here Arie?"

"Yes father, I am here with you. Where are we?"

"This is your mother's soul. Her katra. What you see is a train, but where you really are is on a journey she is taking."

As Salvek spoke he steadied himself as the movement of the car beneath his feet threatened to take his balance. He placed his hand upon one of the simple wooden benches that served as seating in the car. Carefully, he leaned down to look out the window. As far as the eye cold see was a vast desert.

"Look, L-K. It's mother's initials." Arie pointed to the gold trim that went around the edge of the window.

"Indeed." Salvek focused his gaze inside the train car. The edge of the carpet, the backs of the benches, the trim of the ceiling were all emblazoned with Lair Kellyn's initials.

"Pardon me, tickets please." Salvek was caught off guard the voice from behind him and spun on his heel.

"Mister Breaux. How did you get here?"

"Why does everyone keep calling me that today?" Avery studied Salvek face for a moment, his lips parted and he shook his stack of tickets gently in Salvek's direction. "Wait, I've seen you. You are here with her."

"I'm sorry sir, but we do not have any tickets." Arie said honestly, a trait she had learned from her father.

"Oh, don't worry young lady, she arranged for your tickets already."

"May I ask, where is she?" Salvek inquired, figuring he could only be referring to Lair Kellyn.

"May want to try two cars up. Have a nice day friends." Avery tipped his cap, and walked towards the rear of the train.

"Come, Arie." Salvek once again took her by the hand and proceeded to the front of the car. He took notice of the pattern etched into the ornate glass door, which also featured the letters L-K written in script. Salvek grasped the brass knob, and turned it slowly, the door creaked open and the roar of the tracks below filled the car. The incessant clanking and clacking was too loud for Arie and Salvek to hear each other without shouting.

Salvek regarded the gap of about two feet cautiously. Directly across from him, the next car shimmied back and forth on the track. Below him was the hitch connecting the two cars. Below that, nothing but a blur of gray and brown as the ground beneath him hurtled by at a blinding pace.

He stretched his leg for the next platform and extended his arm to the handle bar. Grasping it tightly, he pulled himself across, and opened the door to the next car. He looked up at Arie, to see she was grasping the handles with both her hands, and staring down at the ground rushing by below.

"I'm afraid, Father." She yelled over the roar of the tracks. "It's so far."

Salvek held the handle in one hand, and leaned forward to extend his other to Arie. "It is all right, just hold my hand, and step across."

Arie slowly released one hand. It shook as she reached for his, and grasped him as tight as she could.

"You promise you will not let me fall?"

"I do not need to, Arie. Your mother is here with us. She will protect you."

Arie looked down at the ground below one last time, and pushed off of the car. Salvek pulled her towards him, onto the platform beside him. He held the door for her, as they entered the next car.

"Well done, Arie." He said simply. "Come."

They walked together across the car and again navigated the leap to the next car. In the fore of the next car, was one lone soul, dressed in a Starfleet uniform, sitting on one of the benches. Lair Kellyn sat peacefully, with her legs crossed at the knees, hands folded neatly atop them, and her single bag lying on the seat beside her.

Salvek and Arie approached her quietly from behind.

"Lair Kellyn Etek 'ka halovau le kakhartau tu" (We have journeyed here to guide you.)

Kellyn felt his soft gentle hand land upon her shoulder. She turned slowly to look up at him.

"I knew you would come to see me the rest of the way." Kellyn gathered her luggage up into her lap, and slid down the bench. Arie slid in next to her, and Salvek sat down on the edge.

"Mother, are you coming home with us?" Arie asked expectantly.

Kellyn slid her ticket out from the pocket on her bag, and handed it to Arie. "Of course, Arie."

Arie read the destination. Satisfied, she slid it back into the pocket from whence it came. "Best to not lose that." She said.

"Never." Kellyn said with a smile. Her hand reached behind Arie's, and found Salvek's. She squeezed it tightly three times, a silent "I love you". He squeezed hers back.

Arie yawned, and her head began to slump onto Salvek's shoulder.

"Are we almost there mother?"

"Almost, Arie." Salvek tucked Arie under his arm, against his chest, leaving a space clear for Kellyn to lean in against his shoulder. She closed her eyes and sighed in contentment.

"What is in the case?" Salvek asked.

"This." She said simply, "And anything else I truly need."

Salvek sat in silence for several minutes. Suddenly, he was startled by the sound of the engine's bell ringing, and a squeal as the train's breaks were applied. The bell continued to ring as the desert around them slowly dissolved, and was replaced by a corridor from the Sera.

"Come Arie, Kellyn, we are here."The train continued to slow, as the corridor passed by outside their window. As the train ground to a halt, Salvek saw himself, Arie and Kellyn as they were in the outside world, in Sickbay aboard the ship.

Salvek gathered up Arie, Kellyn, and her suitcase. They stepped down off the car, and onto the deck of Sickbay . . .


Lair Kellyn's eyes fluttered open. She felt the touch of Salvek and Arie upon her face. As their eyes opened, the slowly released themselves from the meld.

"I'm dizzy." Arie said, as her hand reached up to her forehead.

"This disorientation will only last a few moments. Be seated." Salvek said. Terasha took the girl by the hand and led her to the nearest bed to rest.

Kellyn still looked weak to him. She still had much physical recovery to undergo, but he could not remember the last time her eyes had appeared so bright and full of joy.

"I love you." He said simply.


Commander Salvek
First Officer
USS Serendipity NCC-2012

179: Any Advantage

By -=/\=- Zanh Liis
Concurrent with Keeping A Weather Eye on the Horizon

-=Aboard the USS Executor=-

Zanh Liis was descending, as quickly as she could, down the rungs of the emergency ladder inside a seemingly bottomless turbolift shaft on the USS Executor.

Perspiration streamed down the back of her neck and soaked her hair. Her uniform tunic clung to her body; her cheeks were flushed and felt as though they were on fire. Her pulse was up, and she was certain that her blood pressure was probably off the charts.

She hated to think what her doctors were going to say to her when she got back home.

*I'm getting too old for this.* She thought, but as she contemplated the fact that she might not live to see her thirty-seventh linear-year birthday this Spring if things turned out badly today, she realized it wasn't the number of years passing that accounted for her feeling so ancient. It was all those damned time jumps, all that cheating the clock by stealing from one time line to meet the demands of another. It wasn't how old she was. It was how hard she'd been on her poor body.

What was it a famous Terran adventurer once said? 'It's not the years, it's the mileage?'

She had been lucky enough that the doors to the shaft were already open to the bridge, malfunctioning as were many other systems on the frying Executor. Cascades of minor electrical failures ran rampant, warning of much more serious defects to follow.

At this moment all Zanh could hope was that she could stack up enough of the malfunctions in her favor by taking advantage of benefits that they never intended to offer her- such as the fact that the lift doors were already open to an empty shaft on the bridge- and by doing so, she could get both herself and Dane back to the Sera in one piece.

She grasped and released the rungs inside the shaft, moving down three decks and thinking that she was pretty lucky that the cascade failures hadn't caused the activation of the deck by deck isolation fields yet.

Just as she considered this bit of incredible good fortune, she heard a loud crackle and hum. She stopped her foot mid swing, disrupting the rhythm she'd fallen into during her descent. Her palms were slippery and she lost hold of the rungs with one hand, nearly slipping down onto the freshly activated isolation force field beneath her.

She growled in frustration and pulled the tricorder from her belt. Scanning, she learned that she had another deck to go before she reached the lift where Dane was trapped. As the tricorder sputtered and fizzled in protest, readings blinking on and off due to the intensity of the atmospheric conditions around her, Zanh stopped herself just short of forming the complete thought that she was grateful the damned thing was still working.

*Oh no. I'm not spelling it out that easily for the Fates this time. If they want to figure out how to screw up my day, they'll have to do it on their own. I'm not giving them any conscious help from here on out by being grateful for anything.*

As angry as she was at Dane for all the trouble he'd been causing, all the temper fits, all of the punk-ass brat behavior that he was far too old to be indulging in, she knew even as she stood, one leg dangling free over the abyss in this Prophet's forsaken turbolift shaft aboard a dying starship that she had made the right decision to go after him. Even if she died in the rescue effort, that would be preferable to trying to live with herself if she'd given in and allowed her crew to take her back without making an attempt.

Dane's problems, in her opinion, stemmed mostly from a deep seeded belief that in the end, anyone he cared about or trusted would leave him behind. That he could afford to be vulnerable to no one, and that being angry and keeping everyone at a distance was better by far than letting them near, and getting hurt.

She had, herself, lived for years by the same unfortunate and mistaken code of conduct.

That was why Zanh had been determined from the beginning of their rocky relationship that she would not add any merit to his misguided theory by giving up on him, come Hell or high water.

That was why she couldn't abandon him on DS23. That was why she had accepted taking him on, aboard the Sera.

That was why she would not leave without him today. She would not desert him now.

It occurred to her that soon, the men currently commanding the Sera may just lock on to her and beam her back without asking first. Salvek, she suspected, had known her so many years that this would be his absolute last-resort course of action. Blane, however, she pictured with an itchy finger on the trigger, ready to yank her back from the flames before she got roasted whether she wanted to go or not. She had little doubt that Blane would beam first, answer to any consequences later.

She needed to get Dane out of that lift, and she needed to do it now.

As she paused for just a moment to catch her breath and consider her next move, she became aware that the same sickening crackle and hum sound she'd heard beneath her before was resonating above her now, as well. That meant she was trapped in the shaft at the level she was on- there was no going up or down from here, not any longer.

She climbed back up several rungs until she was even with the doors on deck four, and pushed with all her strength down on the emergency hydraulic door release handle. The doors sighed a weary complaint as they were forced open by the release, just enough that she could wedge herself through.

She knew that the transporter rooms were located on deck four, and that gave her an idea. She hoped that because he was only trapped a deck beneath her, that she might be able to take any available energy still existent in the system and beam him from the lift to her location. Then Sera could lock on to them both.

Her first attempt to achieve a stable lock failed, and Zanh cursed, sweat dripping from her forehead down into her eyes and burning them as she struggled to see. Her thick bangs were stuck to her forehead in jagged, matted strands, and she pushed them back and out of her eyes.

Her fingers flew across the transporter control panel in a frenzy as she fought the rising wave of anxiety within her- knowing that if this attempt failed, the very last thing she would see in her life would be in the inside of a very boring, sterile transporter room.

She was not going to die that way.

And Dane was not going to die trapped inside a turbolift.

She scrambled to increase power to the pattern buffers, rerouting it finally from the life support control matrix, which was still functioning at near peak efficiency on this deck. Seconds ticked past slowly as Zanh watched the available power readings climb on the panel before her. A small green line. . .creeping across from left to right with one maddeningly unhelpful, flashing word displaying above it as it progressed on its own, tortoise-esque timetable.


"Buffer this you son of a bitch," Zanh slammed her hand against the panel, and finally succeeded in routing all power on the deck, even from the lighting system, into that console. The room dimmed to near blackness, the panel now its primary source of illumination.

The green bar jumped to 'full' and she locked onto the one human lifesign inside the frozen lift. A very surprised looking Dane Cristiane stood before her seconds later.


Zanh marched over to him and stood beside him on the transporter pad.

She held up a finger to silence him. "Later."

She slapped her badge, leaving a smear across it as her sweaty palm contacted the shining surface. "Zanh to Sera, party of two. Energize!"

As she stepped down from the dias in Sera's transporter room and ran out the door toward the bridge, she didn't even cast a look back at Cristiane as she offered him one remark in parting.

"That's two you owe me, Junior."

-=/\=-Zanh Liis
Commanding Officer
USS Serendipity NCC-2012

178: Keeping a Weather Eye on the Horizon

By Commanders Blane and Salvek
Following My Immortal

-=Bridge of the USS Serendipity=-

TC paced back and forth across the bridge, his hands firmly and securely positioned behind his back, his fingers interlaced. He gazed was transfixed on the forward view screen where he and the rest of the Sera bridge staff were watching the slow demise of the Executer.

They watched helplessly as the ship was slowly pulled towards the massive star behind it.

As depressing as the event was, it was made inconceivably worse by the fact that its commanding officer, one Admiral Vox, had resigned himself to go down with the ship. That decision had forced Captain Zanh to make a trip over to the dying ship to attempt to instill some rationality to the man, much to the chagrin of both her first and second officers.

[Bridge this is transporter room two. We have the Admiral and O’Sullivan but Ensign Cristiane and the Captain are still on board.]

TC’s pacing stopped and he turned back to exchange a knowing look with Commander Salvek.

“What was the problem with transporting them back?” Salvek asked calmly.

[We lost our lock on the ensign, who is apparently trapped at his current location. The Captain has not yet requested to be beamed back.] The transporter chief explained.

“She’s going after Dane.” TC surmised. Salvek nodded his agreement.

TC stepped closer, lowering his voice. “You have to beam her out of there.”

Salvek considered his words. Beaming the Captain back would certainly upset her, but he wasn't under any specific orders not to do so. Technically, she had nothing to hold against him, but he knew she would.

"What is the status of the Executor?" Salvek asked.

"She's got maybe five minutes left." Reece replied.

"I will give the Captain four more minutes, then beam her back."

"I said maybe five minutes, Salvek. She might have two seconds." Reece explained.

Blane rocked back on his heels, trying to urge Salvek on with his body language. Salvek took up the Command chair. "Bridge to transporter room."

[Transporter room here.]

"Keep a lock on Captain Zanh and energize as soon as you hear from her, or myself."


TC walked up beside Salvek and leaned a hand on the Command chair.

"How is she?" Salvek took note of the concern in his voice. TC no doubt was feeling guilt over the fact that Lair Kellyn had come close to dying under his command.

"I have faith in her ability to weather this event. She is a remarkable woman. You need not feel any responsibility for her injury."

“Hard not to.” TC commented.

He glanced back at the forward screen and sighed. “You know, pulling our good captain’s gluteus maximus out of the fire is a full-time job.”

He looked back to Salvek. “We’re running out of time. It’s not just the Captain’s situation. The Gauntlet will be back, it will not take long for Spec Ops to find out that they have a big hunk of scrap metal.” He glanced back at the screen and shifted his weight. “They’ll pull a big u-turn and be back here with a whole lotta attitude.”

“Best if we are not here when they get back.” He added.

"Agreed." Salvek raised his voice so that Ensign Ellison could hear him at the helm. "Plot a course for the nearest Federation facility. Maximum Warp." Salvek again lowered his voice once more to speak to Blane. "If Special Ops is going to attack us, they are going to have to do it in front of other Starfleet officers, not out here, where their misdeeds go unseen."

"Yeah, look how having the Executor here slowed them down." It sounded like sarcasm, but Blane was giving him a sincere warning.

"Perhaps, Commander Blane, a review of our weapon and defense systems are in order." Salvek replied, knowing soon enough they may need them.

Commander TC Blane
Second Officer/Chief of Operations
USS Serendipity NCC-2012


Commander Salvek
Executive Officer
USS Serendipity NCC-2012

177: Walk On

By Lt. Commander Lair
During All That You Can't Leave Behind and All We Can Do

-=Sickbay, USS Serendipity=-

"There's only one thing we can do now," said Breaux softly with a moment of pause. "We can wait...and you and I...we aren't going to make that damned mistake of not getting to know each other...first opportunity...we have a long dinner and talk."

Rada nodded slowly. He reached out and patted Kellyn on the hand, thinking back to all the times they had spent working together, and how many more he hoped were ahead of them. "And first chance we get, we invite Lair Kellyn to join us for dinner, as well."

"Absolutely," Avery said with a smile, "I'll even buy her beer."

The two men shared a smile at the thought of Kellyn, at the celebration dinner the night of the ship's christening, during which she had nursed the same bottle of beer, carrying it around in her hand all night, gesturing with it, drinking from it just like one of the guys.

She was one of the guys, one of their guys, and they were both renewed in the hope that she would pull through this.

Dr. Terasha approached.

"I'm sorry, gentlemen, but visitation must be restricted. Besides, I am sure that you are needed at your posts," Her eyes gestured toward the door, as did her antennae.

"We're going, Doc," Avery replied. "We just had to take a second to come down here and wish Lair Kellyn well."

At the sound of her name being spoken, suddenly Kellyn's hand twitched. She moaned softly.

"Did- did you see that?" Rada's eyes flew open wide. "Did you hear that?"

"Move," Terasha ordered, and Rada stepped out of the way toward the foot of the bed. Terasha scanned Lair for brain activity. "Say her name again, Breaux."

"Kellyn, can you hear me? It's Avery. Open your eyes." Lair's eyes seemed to flutter beneath the still closed lids, almost as if she were lost in deep REM sleep. "What if you hyperstimulate the hippocampus," Avery blurted. "You might activate her episodic memory and,"

"We've been stimulating her entire brain," Terasha replied, "Perhaps it is overwhelming her. Perhaps if we focus on the one location," She nodded and set to work, removing several sets of neurostimulators from Kellyn's head, beneath her hair. "Thank you. I will let you know if she wakes up,"

"When she wakes up," Rada responded softly.

Avery nodded to the younger man. "Yes. When."

Terasha called out one last request as the two men reluctantly left.

"Tell Commander Salvek that the sooner he returns and resumes speaking to her as well, the more likely it is to stimulate memory recovery and brain activity." Terasha adjusted the focus of the remaining piece of equipment after she'd removed the others, and she nodded, antennae turning up curiously. "Now, Lair Kellyn, we will see what you remember."

-=Inside Lair's mind=-

"That seriously cannot be all my baggage." Kellyn was prepared to argue, but when she tried to protest, Avery shook his head.

"Has to be yours. Nobody else here with those initials. You can't keep it here, you know. They'll want us to charge you storage fees, or transport fees to take it on the train whether you go or not and we both know that you don't have any money."

"If it's mine, how did I bring it all here?" She pointed to the luggage and then back at him accusingly. "I don't have a vehicle and I certainly couldn't have crossed the desert with all of that on my back!"

"We sometimes don't realize how much the baggage we've accumulated is weighing us down," Avery replied, checking the time on his watch again. "It piles on piece by piece, over the years. Sometimes we think we've let it go, but truth is most times we just keep dragging on, with all of that stuff holding us back." He surveyed her compassionately. "Makes us tired."

"I am tired," Kellyn said in all honesty. "I'm exhausted."

"Well, if you can free yourself up from some of this, and you can find a way to trade it for train fare," Avery suggested again, "Then you'll definitely be headed in the right direction, won't you Lair Kellyn?"

Kellyn tilted her head to the side, straining to hear. As he said her name, she heard it echoed by another voice. A female voice this time. But in an instant the female voice faded, and she shook her head.

"Losing what is left of my tiny mind." Kellyn exclaimed. "Well, I am curious what could be in them. Let's have a look shall we?" She dropped to her knees beside a large trunk, and she frowned as she observed the lock. "Not this again."

"You have the key," Avery answered, sitting down to rest on top of the trunk beside her. "Even if you don't think you do, you do."

"What could the key be? I don't," Kellyn reached up to wipe the sweat-soaked bangs back from her forehead, and her fingers brushed against her skin. She pulled her fingers away and looked at them, and then rubbed her hand against her forehead again.

It was flawlessly smooth.

"My scar," Kellyn's voice rose. "Where is my scar?"

As she felt the intense emotions associated with how she'd gotten that scar, Kellyn felt as if a jolt of electricity was charging through her brain. Her mind flooded with memories of the unintended, accidental Away Mission she'd been trapped into, in the wrong place at the wrong time, and the man who had taken advantage of the situation, until finally he had no more reason to keep her around and sent her careening off into the depths of space in an escape pod. The trip so long back to their base ship, that she had barely survived the journey.

"You have many scars, Kellyn. That was just the only one you could see." Avery commented, patting her on the hand. As Kellyn relived the memory and realized that she had done all she could for the person involved and that it was time to let it all go, suddenly, the large trunk disappeared. In its place sat a handful of gold coins.

"You see? What did I tell you?" Avery chuckled, picking up the coins and tossing them into the air. They jingled as he snatched them out of the air and then tucked them into his vest pocket. "You're well on your way to raising that fare already. All you have to do is unlock the baggage, and let it go."

Kellyn began focusing, intently, on people and places that had caused her pain, especially over the past decade.

One by one, the trunks and cases surrounding her evaporated, along with the power of those dark memories to hold her suspended in their grasp any longer. She realized that she didn't have to carry the burdens put upon her by others anymore, least of all those put on her by people who had claimed that they loved her but proven themselves false to the sentiment.

The time had come to truly put the past where it belonged- behind her. One thought, one person, one memory at a time, that is exactly what Lair Kellyn did.
After she thought that she had weeded through all of the things she hadn't faced, she turned to Avery, puzzled. Between the two of them and resting on the train platform, was one small, square suitcase.

"I don't understand what could possibly be in that one." Kellyn insisted. "The past is over. What is left?"

"The things you want to take with you, and the people who really matter." Avery answered. He pulled a key from his pocket and handed it to Kellyn. "Open it, and see, Lair Kellyn, just how loved you are."

With tears in her eyes, Kellyn turned toward the suitcase, her hands shaking as she turned the key between her slender fingers.

As she opened the lid, her mind was overwhelmed with happy thoughts and memories, and the faces of people who had been there for her, just as they said they would. Those who had stood beside her through good times and bad, and who didn't understand why this surprised her, since she had always tried to do the same for them too, to the best of her ability.

She saw Avery and Rada, smiling at her as they did every morning when she walked into Engineering. She saw Jariel, and Reece, and Grace. She saw TC Blane and Zander Blakeslee and Micah Samson. She saw Zanh Liis.

She thought about all the new faces aboard the Sera and the life she was just starting to build there, and was determined that she didn't want anything from the past to interfere with the full realization of her future.

Finally, she saw Salvek.

He was holding Arie's hand with one hand, and the other he extended toward her.

"It is time for you to come home, Kellyn." He entreated her softly. "We are waiting for you."

The images grew transparent, and as they faded, Kellyn heard the sound of a train whistle blowing loudly in the distance.

Tears spilled and streamed down her face as she closed the suitcase again, and looked up at Avery. He was already standing, and he offered her his hand. He pulled her up, and she picked up the last suitcase with her free hand and gripped it tightly.

"This one I want to keep."

"That one, you must keep." He smiled, brushing a tear from her face.

"Miss, I have your ticket here, all ready for you." Rada reappeared behind Avery, and he smiled at her. "I'm sorry for the mix up, I didn't realize you had so much that you could give up to pay the fare. This is an express train, it'll take you all the way back."

"Back to-?" Lair dared not speak the name of her desired destination, for fear she wouldn't hear him say what she needed him to say.

"See for yourself," Rada grinned, handing her the ticket, which was now fully filled in with that one word destination.


Lt. Commander Lair
Coming home from Nowhere
In Sickbay aboard the Serendipity

176: All That You Can't Leave Behind

By Lt. Commander Lair
Following The 3:14 From Nowhere

-=Location: Inside the unconscious mind of Lair Kellyn=-


With that one word, Kellyn tucked the ticket into her pocket, and turned to head out of the booth. Being in the small confined space creeped her out, and she figured it was better to fry out in the open air than feel like she was suffocating by remaining here.

"Put that ticket back!"

An imploring voice caused her to jump backwards. Lair screamed with surprise, the sound so shrill that it caused the person speaking to her to scream as well.

They both regarded one another for a long moment before either one of them attempted to speak again.

"You have to pay for that, you know. You can't just take it and walk onto the train, just like that. The Conductor will ask to see your receipt. But you won't have a receipt and he'll be forced to put you off the train and call the authorities."

Kellyn analyzed the face of the young man before her. He was wearing a uniform of some sort, but it definitely was not Starfleet or any military uniform she had ever seen before. There was something about the eyes. . .even though they were hidden mostly by the brim of his unusual hat.

"Rada?" Kellyn blinked, and looked at him. "Rada! Am I glad to see you!" Kellyn slapped the image of Dengar on the back, and looked back at her without a glimmer of recognition detectable on his features.

"I'm sorry, Madame. Have we met?"

"Yes, we've met, we serve together! On the same ship!"

"I've never been to sea. I'm sorry, you must be confusing me with someone else. Now, please give me that ticket or kindly tell me how you intend to pay for it."

Kellyn sighed and handed the ticket back to him. "I'm sorry, I don't have any money. We. . .don't carry it where I come from."

"Must be a most unusual place, where you come from. You pay with precious metals then? Gold? Silver?" He looked her over, analyzing her earring. "That thing might be worth something."

"Yes, it's worth quite a lot to me." Kellyn replied, her hand reaching up and stroking the earring that Salvek had given her. He'd had it cast for her especially by a Bajoran artisan as a wedding gift, crafted out of gold, after hers had been destroyed when she used it to interrupt the light transmission signals on that detonator. "I'm sorry, it's not for trade."

"As you wish." Rada replied. "But you could get a ticket clear across country with that, if it's made of pure gold as it appears to be." He reached up to touch it, and Kellyn slapped his hand away.

"Hey. I told you, already, it's not for sale or trade. Back off."

"You're the customer," Rada replied indifferently. "And the customer is always right. But I suppose if you don't have anything to use to pay for your ticket then you're not really a customer, are you? You're a vagrant, and I shall have to ask you to move along from my station."

"I'm not a vagrant. I'm lost. I don't even know how I got here."

"Same way everyone gets here," Rada replied, pushing up on the brim of his hat and wiping perspiration from his brow with the cuff of his sleeve. "You chose to come here."

Lair laughed.

"I chose to come to the middle of freaking nowhere and spend what seems like eternity here? Not bloody likely."

"More precisely, you chose to come her in order to spend eternity here," Rada replied, a faraway look in his eyes. "Some do, you know. Some people come and go, but others do stay an eternity."

"Well, I'm not going to." Kellyn pointed to the ticket that he still held in his hands, just out of her reach. "Can you at least tell me where that train is going? I couldn't read the destination but I have a feeling I'm supposed to go there."

Now Rada was the one who laughed. "You couldn't see the destination? It's stamped on the ticket, plain as day. Really, Madame, you have been out in the sun too long."

"You're telling me."

For the first time now, he observed that the door had been ripped off of his ticket booth. "Oh, no! This really is terrible. It takes so long to get the handy man to come round to fix things, I don't know what I'll do in the meantime without my door. Everyone will be trying to steal tickets."

"I didn't mean to steal it, and anyway, do you have any tools? Kellyn asked, thinking she may be able to barter her services for the ticket he was withholding. "If you do, I could fix it for you. In trade for the ticket."

"Since you're the one who broke it that hardly seems fair to me, does it?"

Kellyn's shoulders slumped. "This is true."

She sighed again and put her hands on her hips. "Is there anyone else here I can talk to? Anyone at all that I might be able to explain my situation to, so we can work something out? I'm sure that I can find any manner of payment you wish, latinum, gems, food or water, anything once I get back to my family. To my ship. My friends will help me."

"The ocean is very far away from here." Rada declared as he began trying to reattach the broken shade to the booth's window. "Besides, your friends have all given up on you."

"Don't say that!" Kellyn turned on him angrily. She jabbed an angry index finger into his chest. "Don't ever say that. They wouldn't do that."

"But they've done it before, haven't they?" Rada's voice turned melancholy.

Kellyn shrugged. "I don't know what you're talking about."

"You mean you don't know who I'm talking about. But you do know, Lair Kellyn. You know." Hearing her own name spoken by someone else's voice brought the crippling pain back to Lair, and she cried out.

Holding her head in her hands, she almost fell over. Her eyes clenched shut, she heard her name being spoken repeatedly, along with other words and sentences, but she couldn't make out their meaning.

"Lair Kellyn, are you all right?" She opened her eyes and looked around for Rada but he was gone. It was not his voice that was addressing her now.

"It seems that you're having some difficulty. Can I be of assistance to you?" A handsome man with dark skin and beautiful, soulful eyes was standing before, dressed smartly in the uniform suit of an old-time train conductor.

"Avery!" Kellyn exclaimed. She was trying to throw her arms around him to hug him, but he stepped back a pace and out of reach. "I'm so happy, you recognize me?"

"No, Ma'am, the young ticket seller told me your name. I'm to replace the current conductor on the next train out, but if you want to take the journey, as he told you, you will have to pay for your ticket."

"I already explained to the ticket seller," Lair protested, "That I don't carry any currency but I promise you that I can obtain whatever payment you require as soon as we get where we're going."

Avery's broad smile and hearty chuckle conveyed his amusement at the thought. "I'm sorry, Ma'am but do you know how many folks try to ride the train that way? Why, if we allowed it, the rail line would go broke in no time."

"But I don't have anything of value to give you," Lair was beginning to worry that arguing with people who should know her had now replaced endless pacing as her eternal fate.

"That is very interesting," Avery indicated her earring.

"No." Kellyn repeated defiantly. "You can't have that. I'm sorry."

"Suit yourself." He raised an eyebrow and shrugged. "It's none of my nevermind. I'm getting on that train either way, with or without you."

"Sir, would you at least tell me where the damned train is GOING?" Lair sputtered with desperation. She realized that her hands and feet were beginning to feel numb for a reason she couldn't ascertain, and the sensation frightened her.

"Not until you pay for your ticket." He said. "I'm sorry, it's company policy."

"Why does this not surprise me." Kellyn said with a weary groan. "Well, thanks anyway. I guess I'll go and pace some more." She turned away from the booth and back to the train platform, and he hurried after her.

"I'm sorry but you can't loiter here. It disturbs the paying passengers."

"THERE IS NOBODY ELSE HERE!" Kellyn screamed in angst-riddled protest.

Avery blinked, and shook his head. "There's no reason to shout."

He peered beyond her now, eyes fixed on something in the distance that only he could see. He took a shiny gold pocket watch from his vest and flipped the lid open, observing the time. "She'll be coming along soon. It's really a shame you can't be on her, there isn't another one coming for a long, long time."

"How long?" Kellyn asked weakly, already dreading the answer.

"I'm sorry, that information is only available to paying passengers, it's. . ."

"Company policy." Kellyn spoke the last two words in unison with him. "I get it."

"Did you check your baggage? You might have something that would be of value to us in there that you could trade for your ticket."

"Baggage?" Kellyn was puzzled. "I don't have any baggage."

"You mean to tell me that all those aren't yours?"

Kellyn turned, and saw that stacked precariously behind her, there was a huge pile of trunks and suitcases. Each had a lock on it, and each also had the initials LK emblazoned on the side.

"My. . .baggage?" Kellyn said skeptically.

"We all have baggage," Avery answered softly. "The question is, Lair Kellyn, what do you intend to do with yours?"

Lt. Commander Lair Kellyn
Engineering Officer
USS Serendipity NCC-2012