245: The Trap Snaps Shut

By Avery Breaux and Keiran O'Sullivan
Following Tears of the Prophets

-=New York City, Earth=-

Avery circled his destination several times along the outside perimeter before attempting to enter the building.

It was an old habit, one that cost him a little in terms of time and convenience but one that had paid off often enough in the past that he still chose to employ it in a situation like this one.

Observing from the shadows, O'Sullivan watched and as Avery rounded the back of the building, and took that opportunity to walk into the establishment through the front door.

Now sitting in the corner booth farthest away from the bar, Keiran waited for the waitress to return with his Guinness. He tilted the glass slowly to his lips and took several swallows before setting it down once again.

The hood of his jacket hid his face, the dim lighting helped as well and what could be more natural, he thought, than an Irish human male in a place like McSorley's enjoying a pint?


Breaux, certain he hadn't been followed, confidently made his way into McSorley's and was immediately seen by the bar staff...the ancient decor, complete with sawdust on the floor, brought a smile to his face. He threw a look over his shoulder toward the door as he took a seat at one of the bar stools.

Seamus immediately placed a napkin in front of Avery and began drawing a beer, "Good to see you lad...it's been longer than I'd hoped! You've just missed Angela I'm afraid."

Breaux's mind began running through the scenarios...

Seamus continued, "So no doubt you'll be makin' short work of this fine elixir." He set the elongated glass with rich, dark brown liquid down on the napkin. Avery nodded, and began working on the beer, dabbing at the bar top with the napkin. As he worked the napkin, Breaux saw that an 'R' had been written in one corner on the backside of the napkin.

*Russian Tea Room* Avery thought. He took another sip and then yet another. Breaux asked about several of the regulars that drop in and caught up with Seamus. Breaux found himself missing simpler times on shore leave from the Erasmus.

Avery said his goodbyes, and soon made his way toward the front of the bar, scrutinizing patrons as he walked toward the front of the establishment. Once outside, he quickly made his way uptown to the Russian Tea Room.

Keiran allowed Avery a head start, not wanting to attract any attention for leaving right after he did since he was apparently well known to the man behind the bar.

Stealthily, he activated his communications device. He had told Dane to transport separately after contacting Dalca and telling him to take the shuttle and meet them in New York, and he hoped that by now the boy had carried out his orders.

"Aodhan to Ethos,"

[Here,] Dane replied softly from his vantage point across the street.

"He's moving again. Follow him, and I'll be coming along soon."

The waitress, who had come to give O'Sullivan his check, caught the last sentence and tried to mask her worry.

O'Sullivan caught just a hint of panic in her eyes, and cursed himself internally. He'd gotten too careless.

"Another?" She asked nervously.

"No, thank ya, love. I'd like to, but I've got an appointment."

"Well, then, you best not be late," She replied, trying not to glare at him but at the same time, conveying her displeasure. "Ready to settle up?"

Keiran tossed several strips of latinum onto the table top- including a far too generous tip for her. "Have a lovely evening."

"Same to you." She said. As soon as he'd gone, she scooped up the money and headed toward Seamus.

"Is there a way you can send someone to wherever Avery was going?" She whispered hurriedly.

"I could." Seamus replied, "Why?"

"Because the tall, soft-spoken Irishman who just left was not here simply to enjoy a pint."

Seamus nodded, as the waitress went back to her chores...He was torn as to whether to send word to the Tea Room, or if Avery should know immediately in the event the stranger meant him harm along the way.

"Jasus, nothing is ever easy with those two," he bemoaned about Avery and Angela.

Seamus looked toward the supply room where his son was dutifully unloading case boxes and bringing bottles to the bar room. He put a hand on his son's shoulder, stopping his progress, "You know Avery is headed uptown, he's only just left...I forgot to give him a message, can you be a good lad and use those quick feet of yours and track him down...let him know 'it looks like rain afterall'.

His son, knowing his father's involvement in the Maquis, didn't give it a second thought and was out the back door in record time. Darting and dodging between the city-goers the boy had sight of Avery in no time-however, he did not see anyone following him.

The boy decided since he'd been in back and was not seen by anyone, he could 'bump' into Avery and make it look like a chance encounter, giving him an opportunity to pass along the message. He quickly moved across the crowded street and clipped Avery in the shoulder as the youth moved toward a door of an establishment. Breaux had only seen the lad at the last moment and reached out to steady both of them.

It was then that Avery recognized the boy, but didn't let on. The son took his cue perfectly, "Sorry sir...looks like rain...begging your pardon." The boy straightened Avery's jacket, smiled and continued into the business.

*Rain, good Gods* Avery's awareness was now heightened knowing he'd been followed, but had missed it. Then, of course, the next thought was that Angela might have been followed as well-no way to get word to her, he would have to make his way to the Russian Tea Room, and they would make their play from there.


Arriving at the Tea Room, he entered the familiar red storm doors that kept the cold out of the foyer to the restaurant.

He passed the booth that rested beneath an oversized golden clock that hung from the ceiling and made his way past the bright red booths toward Angela's figure, seated in a booth at the far end of the magnificent dining room. Avery took note of the many paintings that hung ceremoniously on the green walls

Avery stopped dead in his tracks-the woman awaiting him was somehow familiar, but it was not Angela Nolan.

Breaux wasn't carrying a weapon, but his right hand flinched instinctively, wanting to head toward inside his jacket. He calmed his hand.

Her eyes were fixed on him, and as Avery came to a halt, two Starfleet Security officers stepped from the side alcoves and faced him. It was then the woman spoke. It took him a moment to recognize her, as her appearance had been altered- and where her nose normally displayed the ridges characteristic of her people, it was now smooth, appearing human.

"Doctor Breaux," Lair Kellyn's blue eyes seemed even larger without the ridges between them. Avery noted the sadness in them as she gestured for him to sit down.

"I really wanted to believe that you weren't mixed up in this. That somehow, what I found was all a mistake," Kellyn gazed at him, wanting so much to believe this was only a bad dream. Somehow, she had to make him see what he had to do now, she had to help him.

She owed him so much.

"We may be joined by another of the Sera's crew soon, and he's going to be as surprised to see me as you are. But in the meantime, we have to talk, and talk quickly. Starfleet has authorized me to make a proposition to you."


Lt. Commander Avery Breaux
USS Serendipity NCC-2012


Lt. Commander Keiran O'Sullivan
Chief of Security
USS Serendipity NCC-2012

244: Tears of the Prophets

By Avery Breaux and Dane Cristiane
During and After The Game

-=Bajoran Temple, San Francisco, California=-

Kieran O'Sullivan was a man who did his homework. He'd managed to get them into the same city as Breaux, now it was just a matter of picking up the trail where it had momentarily gone cold.

As O'Sullivan scoured the local pubs and restaurants, Dane was told to stay here, blend in, and keep his eyes and ears open.

He had not been happy about the physical alterations to his appearance, but he supposed that if he were going to be any other being besides a human one, that Bajoran would likely have been the best choice.

Besides, given the Bajorans' history and passionate personalities, he figured that if he had to put on a show for anyone who may be involved with anyone in the Maquis, he'd have the best chance giving a command performance as a Bajoran.

Especially since he had a very good story all ready for them- about growing up in the child protection system, about how his parents had been murdered by Cardassians at the very end of the occupation just after his birth. It was a very convincing story, because it was all true.

It was just someone else's truth. With a few dates adjusted.

He never imagined when he'd had occasion to talk with Zanh Liis on the trip from the unstable space station in the Klingon outback all the way back to Earth and she'd told him a little of that history, that he would someday be ready to take it on, by her command, as his own.

As he entered the temple, he was approached by the attending Vedek.

"Welcome, my child," The old man said, instinctively reaching out for Dane's ear. Dane sidestepped the gesture gracefully, much to the surprise of the Vedek, worried that if the spiritual leader got a handful of cartilige he would proclaim for all to hear that Dane was a fraud and kick him to the curb.

The man was puzzled by Dane's action. "Do you seek guidance from the Prophets, child?"

"I seek. . .forgiveness." Dane blurted. He couldn't believe the words that came out of his mouth. *Where the hell did that come from?*

"The Prophets are wise, and loving. They will forgive us for all of our mistakes, if we but humbly ask Them and then strive to do Their will more fully." The man said. "Go. Pray. Be at peace."

"Walk with the Prophets Vedek. Thank you." Dane answered, grateful that the man had moved away to attend to adding fresh candles to the main altar to replace those that had consumed their wicks and wax, dimming until death.

Dane knelt before one of the shrines, the hood of his cloak obscuring all of his features except for the ridges of his nose which peeked out from beyond it. . .and he waited.


Avery said his goodbyes to Shadeen and she led him through a door and watched as he left through the back door of the Buena Vista...he then circled around to come out on Hyde Street...he saw no one along the many sidewalks, save the obvious tourist, some naive Starfleet types and patrons of the bar...

He moved quickly and stepped into the receiving alcove of the unobtrusive Bajoran Temple...he leaned back against the wall and thought for a moment about what must have been in this location over the centuries...Avery loved his native New Orleans, but San Francisco was a very close second.

The dimly lit temple was adorned with an enormous amount of candles, the Bajoran symbol being the centerpiece of the actual worship area. The grayish table that was designated for orbs, in this case held numerous shards from B'hala, the ancient, and once lost city of Bajor. Avery sat down on one of the cushioned benches and allowed himself a few moments to collect his thoughts. His feeling for the Bajoran people and their religion was deep and earnest.

"Jia'kaja, tre'nu'tol'a rem..." Dane Cristiane chanted, paying special attention to his syllabic emphasis. He tried to repeat them just as they'd sounded in the audio recording Zanh Liis had given him to practice with, saying that he may need the ability to utter the prayers properly at some point so he could avoid detection as an imposter.

She had been right.

He hadn't had long to learn them, but luckily, one of the few benefits Dane reaped from assuming so many roles in his past life in order to please his clients was that he was a very quick study.

It was a shame, Zanh had also told him, that Vedek Jariel couldn't give him a crash course in Bajoran syntax, because 'no one had ever spoken the prayers more beautifully than Jariel had, when he had the ability to speak them aloud.'

How the Prophets - whoever they really were be they gods or wormhole aliens-could ever have taken the ability from him, she had confided, was something she would never understand.

The only thing that Dane understood about the Bajoran Temple or its enigmatic deities was that he couldn't wait to leave.

Avery looked down at his simple civilian clothes and was glad he hadn't burdened himself with baggage...*baggage*...*damn, what the hell was that?*...the word had triggered something but it was intangible...he couldn't make sense of it and so he decided to continue and allow himself time for worship...

Dane prayed as softly as was possible to do and still blend in with those around him, just in case he screwed up the accent or sense stress along the way, hopefully the people around him would be too wrapped up in their own cares and concerns to notice.

Avery moved into the central portion of the temple...he found three people in various states of worship...there were still several altars available and he moved quietly to one on his left...he knelt before the candlelit shrine and extended his arms, palms up...internally he recited several Bajoran prayers and thought of friends and those he wished to receive the gifts of the Prophets...

"La'por i'lanu kos," Dane continued repeating the words he'd learned by rote- devoid of any true meaning to him though sacred to all around him.

He looked to the center stand, bereft of its intended contents but there just the same, and wondered what an Orb experience would be like. These Orbs, the so-called Tears of the Prophets were missing here- with so few of them none had made it this far away from Bajor, Zanh had explained.

But the tears of the Bajorans assembled around him were all too real to Dane, as was their trust in their beliefs, which amazed him. Despite all they had suffered, these people still found a way, somehow, to believe in something greater than themselves. They saw with eyes of faith, and Dane realized now that in that sense, he was a man stone blind.

He shifted uncomfortably, hoping that he wouldn't have to stay here much longer.

A sinner of his sort, with his history, had no business being in such a holy place.

He looked around, and his eye caught a familiar form, lowering himself to the floor before one of the shrines near by. Dane fought the urge to hold his breath- and just kept on praying aloud as he watched to see what Breaux would do now.

Avery resisted the urge to look about the temple...but within minutes he found himself necessarily looking about-everyone in the temple was in the midst of prayer...Avery returned his focus to his own shrine...and let his thoughts ramble from his early days in Starfleet to his dealings in the Maquis to the present...he reflected on Lair's recent recovery...he thought of Rada's troubled family life...*baggage*...he gave thanks...he quietly stood up and cared for two candles that had dwindled...

"I'nar tan'a'tali nor." Dane concluded the chant, and at the appropriate time, he extinguished the candles before him.

He wondered as he did so about the truth of the life that Zanh had led, and he asked himself once again why the hell she had bothered with him at all. In this moment, he considered how different his life would be now, if she hadn't. Most likely scenario was that he'd have long since been dead.

He was brought back to the moment by the realization that Breaux had finished praying, and was on his way to the door.

Across the temple, Avery Breaux took another look at the Bajoran symbol before heading to the entry alcove, and finally exited into the fog...

Dane gratefully rose from his penitant position and moved toward the door. He did not follow Breaux out into the street, certain if he did, that Breaux would discover that he was being followed and might very well end up turning violently on a man he didn't even know was his crew mate.

He hovered in the darkest corner of the entryway and pulled a small, non-Starfleet communications device from his sleeve.

"Ethos to Aodhan," Dane spoke softly and used the code names which O'Sullivan had assigned to them. "He's on the move from the temple. Where the hell are you?"


Ensign Dane Cristiane
Communications Officer
USS Serendipity NCC-2012


LT. Commander Avery Breaux
USS Serendipity NCC-2012

243: The Game

By Avery Breaux
Concurrent with Earth Bound

-=Buena Vista Cafe, San Francisco, California=-

His original agenda showed him heading directly to New York, but at the last minute, in the event that he was followed, Avery requested transport to Los Angeles, then detoured to San Francisco.

The Hyde Street Pier in The City was a welcome sight. Avery rode the mini public transport from Columbus to the foot of Hyde Street. Avery smiled and filed off with the large crowd that had been aboard the transport. From the corner of his eye, he saw a Bajoran Temple and would stop there before departing. But first...he passed through the doors of another familiar locale that he and Angela and countless others from the Academy had frequented...

"Do the Prophets know of your whereabouts?...Don't we have rules anymore?...how did you get in here?" Shadeen was beaming as she rushed to the end of the bar to shake Breaux's hand.

"I wish I had a credit for every time I rented out that New Orleans holoprogram of yours," whined the attractive barkeep.

Breaux laughed, "You know as well as I do, you have TWO credits for every time it's been run...and THREE for ..."

"...my friends!" Shadeen finished the sentence, as they both broke into laughter.

Avery slid up to the bar and allowed his eyes to scan outside the bar area. Shadeen immediately brought him a Stargazer. "Don't tell me...Angela...can she be far off?" Before Avery could answer, Shadeen began again, "Wait!...the pips!...your markings!...a Lieutenant Commander...AND a doctor?!...now you have to listen to that drivel that Starfleet Medical publishes I imagine...it can't be worth the raise."

They laughed again. Avery began, "Actually...I'm meeting Angela in New York." Shadeen gave a sly look, "Well give my best to her and if you see Alessa...say hello to her and her mother...there's nothing quite like family."

Avery took a sip, "Watered-down, some things never change."

The din of the crowd made it easy for Shadeen and Breaux to talk, that is, in between her waiting on customers at her third of the bar. She handed out six of the fastest Irish Coffees anyone had seen and made her way down to Avery. As a Deltan, she stood out and garnered the attention of most males that entered. Deflecting their advances was just one of her many sordid skills. She leaned against a small stool that rested behind the bar. She surveyed the bar from her vantage point.

"So, Doctor," she accentuated the doctor in a manner which alerted Avery that no good could come of this, "how does a hard-working girl like myself get the meds I need?" She smiled and ran her fingers across the top of one of his hands that rested on the bar.

Avery grinned, "Yes, a hard-working girls can be prey to all sorts of maladies."

She leaned forward, "Do you still dabble?...'T' would do me just fine...you seemed to like it as I recall."

Breaux became stoic, "Deen, there's days where I don't know if I'm coming or going. . ."

She sat up at the mention of her nickname, "So is that a yes?"

Breaux took in her fetching smile, "Deen I need a favor."

Her eyes worked Avery over, "Finally, it's been ages for us."

Breaux took her hands in his, "This is serious,"

"Ohhh, Angela, is it? Be right back," she moved quickly handling what seemed like a dozen rapid-fire orders for a varying assortment of drinks. Breaux continued to look over his shoulder through the large windows that looked out on the sailing ship, Balclutha. He saw no one of interest.

Shadeen returned, "So if I handle a favor for you,"

Breaux nodded.

She sipped at her ice water, "Let me guess, once you're gone, I make sure no one followed you?"

Breaux quietly offered, "You're good."

She smiled again, "Oh no, I can be. . .really bad."


Lt. Cmdr Avery Breaux
USS Serendipity NCC-2012

242: Earth Bound

By Keiran O'Sullivan
Hours after A Tessipate in Her Boots

-=Aboard a small ship called Caliburn=-

The surveillance party of three had beamed from the Sera and onto a dock at Utopia Planetia itself, where Keiran was able to call in a favor or two from the Chief of Security of the USS Lionheart, also docked for repairs.

Lionheart was a Special Operations ship- and as such they had in their possession several unmarked shuttle craft. While these ships were all Federation technology under the hood they did not in any way appear to be Starfleet vessels outwardly.

One of these small ships would provide O'Sullivan and his team the nondescript, forgettable transportation they required.

As the ship began final approach to Earth, O'Sullivan had hit his wits end already with Dane Cristiane's whining.

"Say your prayers, Bajoran."

O'Sullivan turned from the helm and glared at Dane. "I mean it. Captain wanted you to keep reading that PADD out loud until we get there."

"I know. Then I'm supposed to destroy it." Dane glared back at O'Sullivan, stressing several words of text as if they were profanity as he read from the PADD. "Jia'kaja, tre'nu'tol'a rem."

"Same to ya." Keiran rumbled with soft laughter, making Dane even more irritated. "So, Dalca. You sure you're feeling all right? The doc never did tell us what it was that caused her to advise us we should leave you at home this time."
"I'm fine." Warren said uncomfortably, wishing to change the subject as quickly as possible. "Don't you worry about me. So what's the plan, Chief?"

"The plan is this. You will keep the shuttle available to us, ready to move on a moment's notice. We'll set down at the closest commercial landing site like any tourists, and then Dane and I will walk to the nearest hub and transport right into downtown." He drew a breath before continuing.

"You, Mr. Dalca, will keep an eye on things from here. If at any time you believe that you are in danger of discovery despite the anonymity this ship should provide, I want you to abandon it and arrange for other transportation back to Utopia Planetia as covertly and quickly as possible."

"You're not serious!" Dalca objected before he could stop himself. "You bring me along and in the end I just get to. . ."

"Mind the boat." O'Sullivan concluded. "For now. But you're doing much more than that. You will be our back up, and if you get a call for help from either of us, you will have to sweep in and save the day."

Behind them, Dane turned off the PADD and frowned.

"Wait a damn minute. Walk to the transporter hub? We can't just beam straight from the shuttle?"

"No." Keiran offered no more of an explanation than the one simple word.

"O. . .kay," Dane was still unclear as to why exactly, but he remembered what Zanh Liis had said, and knew he had no choice but to trust that O'Sullivan knew what he was doing. "How do you know for sure that we'll find him in San Francisco?"

"Good old fashioned detective work, boy," O'Sullivan declared, adjusting their flight pattern slightly. "He asked for transport to Los Angeles. But Mr. Breaux has old friends in San Francisco. It is my bet that he will try to meet up with some of them there." He turned and glanced at Dane, explaining further.

"I'll be going by one name, and one only. That name is Aodhan. I am hoping that you and I can maintain our distance and not be tied together by anyone who may be observing. But, if we are asked, the story is this. You and I are looking to trade for...shall we say, medical supplies to aid those that the Federation has forgotten after the Takesian Plains disaster on Bajor last year."

"Very believable for him given his appearance, but you're Human. Why would you be so invested in the Bajorans' plight personally?" Warren asked.

"Allow me to show you a picture of my missus," O'Sullivan replied. He handed a Bajoran PADD to Dalca, and Dalca whistled softly. The man was good.

Though some of her features had clearly been digitally altered, the image was definitely that of Zanh Liis.

"If her family lands had been devastated, you would bet that a human man would want to do all he could to help her." Keiran added, tucking the PADD into his jacket pocket after Dalca handed it back to him.

Dane and Dalca exchanged a look as they observed the tone of O'Sullivan's voice, which had changed somehow in a way that captured their attention. Neither dared question it.

A few moments later the computer began to beep.

"We're coming up on the landing site." Dalca advised from the co-pilots position.

"Turning the controls over to you now." Keiran replied, securing his panel. He got out of his chair and Dalca moved into it.

Keiran removed Dane's PADD from his grasp.

"Hey, I was still reading that."

"You're finished." O'Sullivan declared. He took it and withdrew his phaser. He set it down on to the deck, adjusted the beam of the phaser to its finest containment, and fried the PADD.

"Dispose of the remains of this will you?" He kicked it across the deck toward Dalca, who nodded as he put the shuttle into its landing cycle.

"Right away."

"Come on, you." Keiran put a strong hand on the Dane's shoulder. "Here's where we find out if Zanh Liis' faith in you is somehow strangely justified."

Lt. Commander Keiran O'Sullivan
Chief of Security
USS Serendipity NCC-2012

241 Resume on File

By Zanh Liis and Ensign Tryst
About an hour after Pleased to Meet You

-=Guest Quarters, USS Serendipity=-

By now Vol had finally managed to have his shower, after his swim in the holodeck it was well needed. At the moment he was back in uniform, all packed and ready to go. He paced the length of his quarters, going over his report that he had just finished in his head, but speaking aloud from time to time.

"...and therefore.... and in conclusion I..." He mumbled to himself.

[Bridge to Ensign Tryst.] Vol blinked, wondering if the XO wanted a rematch from earlier. He certainly hoped not, he tapped his comm badge.


[Subspace message coming in for you Ensign. It's on a secured channel.]

*Oh really?* Vol thought to himself. He bit his lower lip as he pondered on who it might be.


"Yes, yes, acknowledged. Patch it through to my quarters, if you will."

Vol sat down in front of the small communications console. Pushed a button, and up popped the Federation's insignia. Then who should appear on the screen other than. . .

"Admiral Vox."

[Ensign.] said the Admiral, apparently not surprised at Vol's... surprise.

"Didn't expect to hear from you Sir. I was just about to disembark..."

[You're finished your report then?]

"As ordered, Sir."

[Would you care to summarize it for me?]

Vol perked an eyebrow. He sensed that the Admiral had a vested interest in his report, one that went beyond Starfleet duty.


[The Captain and I have a very. . . long history. . . and as her direct supervisor on the Alchemy Project, I am concerned to know if she's alright. I'd hate to have to order you Ensign.]

"Admiral, I have an oral contract with my patients which states that I cannot--" The Betazoid was cut off.

[Not the details ensign. Just the final verdict.] Vol was glad the Admiral wasn't here in person. He knew this was a losing battle. He sighed as he looked down at his report, reading the page of data over quickly so that he might shorten it into an abstract. He sat up straight and looked at the Admiral.

"The Captain is stable, fit, and fully capable of maintaining her post. That doesn't forego any future... obstacles for her however."

[Obstacles? How do you mean?]

Vol bit his lip, as he searched for the right words. How to adequately convey his meaning without breaching his confidentiality agreement.

"There were captains who were never the same after Wolf 359, or after the Dominion War as a whole. But many went on to continue in command of their vessels, or commanded different ones afterward.. They have all undergone the same mental and psychological evaluations as Captain Zanh just has with me. They were found to be fully capable of continue to be in Command of a Starfleet vessel, and that is exactly the same conclusion I have reached with the Sera's Captain. The safety of this ship, its crew, and of the Captain herself are as certain as they've ever been despite all Captain Zanh has been through in the past several months. Her abduction and near death. . .despite it all. Despite whatever happened on the last mission, which unfortunately is classified and I am not privy to the details."

Vol watched as the Admiral shifted uncomfortably in his chair. He, apparently, was up to speed on all that had occurred.

"I must stress, and repeat myself however, she has not fully recovered. But that will only come with time. I have made a number of recommendations Admiral, for some trained and experienced Counselors to be permanently posted aboard the Sera. I think it would do the Captain some good to have someone to turn to every now and again who isn't entrenched into her personal life." There was a pause before the Admiral responded.

[Very well Ensign, I will trust you on this matter. Can you name any of these recommendations of yours?]

"Certainly. First and foremost I suggest one--"

[Ensign Vol Tryst, this is the Captain] The sound of the Captains voice over the intercom was a mild shock. Vol excused himself from the Admiral, as he tapped his comm badge to reply to the Captain.

-=Captain's Quarters=-

Zanh paced around her living room. Still off for the rest of the day, she was dressed simply in monotone black pants and shirt, communicator clipped to her chest, just in case. She stopped for a moment and stared at her reflection in the mirror.

Somehow, the Betazoid had gotten to her.

Usually, her mandatory counseling sessions and or evaluations ended with the counselor in question nodding politely, making a quick remark about the time, and then backing carefully and quickly out the door before writing up a report stating that she was completely bats, but right for the dangerous job they'd assigned her at the time, whatever that was.

But this one was different. Maybe she was different.

She thought about Tryst's comments about her relationship with Jariel, and the crew, senior staff especially. How relaxed could they be, really, knowing that she and Jariel were for all intents and purposes of common law, married- and that even though he respected counselor/patient confidence and would never repeat anything that they said to him to the Captain unless it was deemed vital and legally necessary to do so- that all the time, every time they considered voicing any kind of concern or question about the way she did her job or commanded her crew, they were doing so to the man who shared her life and her bed.

That had to give them pause.

She had also realized that given the stressful and secretive nature of the work going on in The Alchemy Project that there would be a greater need than anticipated for her crew to be able to open up completely to someone- someone with whom they could discuss such classified information without fear of reprisal. One man could not handle that job alone.

She thought, somehow, that if anyone could truly be a help to the crew in this manner, the unusual and spirited Vol Tryst was the man for the job.

She'd have preferred his rank to be a little higher, to be sure, but she knew that medical officers had a way of being delayed as far as promotions due to the longer course of study they were forced to undertake. If he'd had been in any other position with his age and experience he would likely be a Lieutenant senior grade by now. But he was a doctor, and an officer, and the issue of rank would resolve itself naturally in time and damn it, if she had to put up with someone aboard having the ability to shrink her brain, and sense her thoughts- she wanted it to be this inventive, quick-witted kid.

She reached up and tapped her combadge. "Ensign Vol Tryst, this is the Captain."

A surprised Tryst responded from the other end of the line. [Yes, Captain?]

"Are you in a big hurry to get back to Command?" She inquired, "Or do you have time for me to offer you a tour of our Arboretum?"

[I'm not in any hurry at all Captain. I'd be delighted to take you up on that offer. Thank you.]

"I'm heading over now. Meet me there when you're free. Zanh out."

She checked her reflection one last time in the mirror, and nodded.

This was the right thing to do.


Striding into the arboretum, she smiled.

Jariel had one of her music files playing again, something that he had grown quite accustomed to doing while he was gardening. This time it was Sarah McLachlan keeping him company as he worked, her voice echoing softly through he expanse around him.

Her smile faded when she examined his visage more closely and realized that her suspicions were correct- given the circles under his eyes, there is no way he had gotten any sleep at all last night.

He looked up at her from his kneeling position and smiled, but the expression was as weary as he was. [[Captain.]]


Liis leaned down, and knowing they were alone, kissed him softly. [[Need any help?]] Somehow, she always persisted in using signs to speak to him lately, even though he could hear her voice just fine.

[[I am almost finished with this bed, then I am going to prune the roses,]] He answered. [[Would you like me to take some back to our quarters?]] He knew that as tough as she insisted that she was, she did have a weakness for fresh cut roses.

[[Thank you. Jariel,]] She reached out and stopped the motion of his hand, as she sat down on the grass beside him. [[You're worn out. How can I help?]]

[[I don't think it's anything you can help with. I just need. . .time.]] He replied.

[[You've been working too hard, and I'm not the only one who knows it. Listen, Starfleet sent someone to conduct my mental fitness exam today and...]]

Jariel's eyes flew wide open. He couldn't believe she was speaking of it so calmly. Usually anything to do with counselors or mental health exams would have her speaking much more quickly and at a much higher volume.

[[No, it's okay. It went well. Anyway, they're recommending placing a Starfleet counselor aboard, because you and I are,]] She wanted to be sure that he knew it was no reflection on the way he'd done the job so far. [[Well, we are. And to take the pressure off of you, and,]]

[[Liis,]] He waved for her to stop. [[This is welcome news. There are so many members of the crew seeking spiritual as well as secular counsel these days that my schedule is overbooked. I would welcome an official Starfleet counselor aboard.]]

[[Oh, I am glad to hear it. Then you'll have time to actually get some sleep yourself, and some down time.]]

[[Time is what I need.]] he repeated, eyes far away.

Liis touched his face softly. [[If there's anything at all I can do,]]

[[You'll be the first to know. I promise.]]

She nodded, and stood as she saw Vol approaching. He seemed to hesitate, recognizing Jariel from his file photo and not wanting to interrupt, but Zanh motioned him over for the official introduction.

"Ensign Tryst, this is Vedek Jariel Camen, Ship's Chaplain, and one hell of a gardener."

Vol didn't chuckle at the joke because he was racking his brain for what little he could remember of USL.

*Was it with the left, or right hand? Oh please don't make yourself out to be a fool in front of the Captain.*

[[Pleasure to meet you...c-h-a-p-l-a-i-n.]]

Vol realized halfway through signing he didn't know how to say 'Chaplain.' So he resorted to spelling it out. The Captain had to resist dying of laughter, a feeling read all too well from the Betazoid.

*What was the score again?*

"Don't over exert yourself Ensign, he can understand speech just fine. He just can't speak."

"I-I apologize." This time it was Vedek who chuckled to himself.

[[There's no need.]] He signed back to the Ensign. [[My name is Camen, and I'm pleased to meet you.]]

"If you'll excuse us now, Jariel," Vol noted Zanh's tendency to call the Vedek by his surname and not his given name, which was curious considering how close they were. "I'm going to give the ensign a tour of your pride and joy."

[[By all means. Enjoy your stay.]] The Vedek knew that the Captain was not in the habit of conducting personal tours of any part of any ship she had commanded, even for visiting dignitaries- let alone visiting ensigns. So to see her doing so gave him pause. She must have some other purpose in mind than showing the ensign his handiwork.

He also knew that she was in the habit of interviewing new officers in the arboretum. He hadn't expected the Captain to have found a suitable recruit for the position of Ship's Counselor so soon. He'd ask her about it later, for the moment he bowed slightly to Vol, then to the Captain, and returned to his gardening.

"He has such a gentle spirit." Vol remarked, sighing softly. Being in the presence of the Vedek's mind was a steadying experience, it was no wonder that the man was so good at his job. He stopped short of mentioning to Zanh that he also sensed some sort of conflict within Jariel- more so than one would expect from a man of the cloth.

"He's a gift to us all." Zanh replied honestly. "So, Mr. Tryst, you've had time to walk around the Sera a bit, take in some of the sights. What do you think of her now?"

"She's a fine ship Captain, worthy of your supervision." Vol looked about the room that he was in. He had no real interest in plant life, but they found things to look at and admire. His gaze went from one side of the room to the other, before calling upon his discipline and looked directly at the Captain. After all, she had summoned him for a reason.

"Anxious to return to Command, Ensign?" Zanh began to spin her web, plotting on trapping the Betazoid as he had done to her earlier. Vol pondered the question before continuing.

"Anxious is not the word I'd use Captain. It's a simple matter of returning to my post, now that my mission here is complete."

"Can you ever see yourself giving up your desk job and taking to a life aboard ship?" Zanh paced slowly in between the various plants and vegetation surrounding them, as Vol followed. The Betazoid clasped his hands behind his back and followed slowly behind the Bajoran, sensing a small inkling of some kind coming from within the complicated workings of her restless mind.

"Certainly Captain, in fact that is my ultimate goal. Unfortunately, as I graduated from the Academy at a typically older age than expected, my rank is not nearly as advanced as most would like it to be. Including myself..."

"Yes, I discovered just a short time ago as I went over your records. You were lucky Ensign, in light of your grades in Stellar Cartography the Academy had every right to expel you. Due to your impressive grades in your complimentary courses, however, they simply put you on probation instead. It would appear you did quite well for yourself with that second chance."

*She went over my records?*

Vol blinked. Was she being sarcastic again? No, he didn't sense that she had meant to be insulting... at least he didn't think so. There was something else, he got the distinct impression that she was an animal on the prowl almost. She was being stealthy with her words. His lack of a response gave a large enough window for Zanh to jump in with yet another question.

"What do you think the worst part of serving on a starship would be?" This time Vol stuttered, as his focus was divided at the moment.

"S-Sir, with all due respect, the meaning of the words you speak is something difficult for me to quantify. I do not believe there is such a thing as a 'worst part' to permanently residing, and serving, aboard a starship. It's simply a different way of life, one in which a perfectly normal life is easily obtainable. If nothing else, I'd wager that life aboard a starship would be even more gratifying to some. Adventure, experience, and a lifetime filled with opportunities that are unlikely to arrive to any individual aboard a planet or star base. To each their own Captain, but I've known for a long time where I'd like to be."

A pause, and then Zanh responded slowly.

"I don't know if I would ever call life aboard ship normal. Especially not aboard this ship," She stopped where she stood and turned toward him, eyes locked on his. "The Alchemy Project is seductive, it is dangerous, and life aboard the Serendipity is anything but ordinary even for the most seasoned of starship dwellers." Zanh lowered her voice. "On our last mission, among the less dangerous threats we encountered were these," she rocked from heels to toes and began to twist the chain of her earring as she formulated a list in her head.

"We were shot at by another Starfleet vessel. Our prototype was cut right out of its bay and stolen, and the now-former Starfleet Admiral responsible also tried to commandeer my ship."

Vol's eyes widened. "I thought the last mission was classified."

"It is. Those are just a few of the highlights- and I trust they are safe with you under doctor/patient privilege?" Zanh waited, and Vol nodded.

"The point of all of this is, Ensign, that I was listening to you earlier, and you were right. Someone has to help my crew with the aftermath of it, and to prepare them for what likely lies ahead." She looked away. "I couldn't live with it if they were holding back from seeking the counseling they may need because of the position that the Vedek holds in my life. Neither could he."

She took a few steps forward and then spoke again. "We are treading in very dangerous waters with this project. I have seen the strain beginning to wear on the crew already, even on some of my senior staff," a sadness washed over her mind, and Vol wondered whom exactly she was thinking of at the moment. "People I also count among my closest friends. I have found you to be a unique individual, and curiously qualified for the position, I believe, of looking after them. You came through your assignment with me without a hair out of place, and I've seen much more experienced people choose to leave the mental health field entirely after giving therapeutic counseling to yours truly." She paused.

"So I would ask you, Vol Tryst," she looked at him side ways. "Do you feel that you're ready to grow into such an assignment? Because I do think you would have to grow into it to fit it entirely. But I also believe that the potential is within you, and I am ready to make a leap of faith, and request your reassignment here if you feel that you would make the proper addition to my crew yourself. Of course, if you would recommend someone else in your place, I would welcome your suggestions as well."

Vol couldn't suppress a smile, he couldn't believe his ears. Perhaps there was such a thing as fate, maybe he was destined to come here, meet the Captain. Here he was, given an assignment that suggested that Zanh needed someone like him, and now it seemed that not only was that true, but she also wanted him. There was no doubt in his mind however, that things would turn out much differently. Vol would need the Captain's guidance, as well as anything the rest of the crew could offer, to grow and mature himself.

"I humbly accept, Sir!" Vol said enthusiastically. The smile still clear on his face, he resisted hugging the lady.

"...and before you ask Ensign, the answer to that question would be 'no'. You will not be permitted in any way to...force me into taking up real estate upon your couch myself unless it is absolutely necessary and signed in triplicate by our CMO and the Admiral himself." Zanh then cracked her own smile.

Vol was speechless, he could only extend his hand whilst grinning like a fool.


Ensign Vol Tryst
Ship's Counselor
USS Serendipity NCC-2012


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

240: Sacrifices

By Lt. (jg) Rada Dengar
Hours After Foraging

-= Melbourne , Victoria , Earth=-

Rada materialised on a platform in what was still referred to as Flinders Street Station; it was the type of building which had clearly spent centuries in perpetual combat with father time. The walls were that sort of off yellow clearly popular with the Terran craftsmen of its time. They were once supported by what appeared closest to concrete pillars, now those pillars remained as purely decoration. They were here just to maintain the illusion of what had been whereas Rada was here to see if what had been was more than just a mere illusion.

He had been given the option of being beamed to various major stations and he had found that their Southern Cross Station was in fact closest to where he was heading but upon realising that the Terran engineers at the time couldn’t even put the roof on straight he had decided that it was probably safer to travel this way.

^Attention Passengers. The Next Train to Depart from Platform Three will be the Twelve Thirty Eight City Spiral. Stopping All Stations to Cochrane Street ^ The Station’s Computer announced loudly before repeating itself. Rada could only assume this repeat was for those few people who had been deaf enough not to hear the first time and who had been able to survive the ordeal without becoming deaf for the second time. It was unusual to hear Terran time spoken with out the term hours being included but Rada found nothing usual about this place. Rada had been to the Earth many times before but every time he went somewhere new he found it strangely unique. This was a relaxed city. Though the platform was crowded, people did not fight to be in the front line ready to jump on the train but instead preferred to fill up the various seats throughout the middle of the platform. Strangely, many people who did not get seats had actually chosen to sit down leaning against the walls. This was a terrifyingly relaxed city to Rada.

The train eased quietly into position in front of them and the doors whooshed open. A small crowd ambled out towards the archaic stairs and after their passing, those located on the platform made their way towards their respective entrances. Rada did his best to match their speed and eventually found himself wedged into the corner between the door on the opposite side of the train and a barrier placed behind a nearby seat. How this city had been once considered to have one of the Earth’s best public transport systems Rada couldn’t imagine. Little did he know that things hadn’t really changed that much in the last four hundred years as these trains had been modelled on their ancestors as a tourist attraction. This vehicle seemed to lack an adequate inertial dampening system causing Rada to almost crush a nearby small child when he lost his balance. He looked around for some type of handle to grab onto but in lieu of that had to push his hand as against the roof, as he observed others doing, for some degree of balance to be possible. He was glad that he wasn’t any shorter or else he didn’t know what he’d do.

The short trip gave Rada an unfortunate space of time for him to think. The shuttle trip to the Earth had been quite a bit longer but the situation had only really just begun feeling like a reality. He felt a definite sinking feeling as he looked down at his civilian clothing, realising that he may never wear the uniform again. By this time tomorrow he could be an unemployed engineer living on Earth with his family. He didn’t know how he would face Zanh Liis with his resignation. His heart rate became rapid as he reminded himself that everything could be about to change. His life could be about to simultaneously end and return.

He steadied himself as he realised this was his stop. He was wondering how he was going to make his way to the door as he was currently quite squashed against the other side when the door on his side rapidly slid open. This caused him to almost fall out onto the platform but he was luckily able to maintain his composure and to move slowly towards the exits.

It was a quick walk to the school, not that Rada realised this. His mind was far too full of trepidation and hope about what he would find to consider something as trivial as time.

He realised that it would be a couple of hours before the children would be released from the school. He wanted to run into the school and to demand to see Tam Dengar but knowing that the child would see him as a stranger decided that such an introduction was not desirable. He decided that it was best to wait. He found a café just across the street called Castro’s. This city was full of them. He walked up to the counter, slowly absorbing the atmosphere; it could best be described as loud with a hint of painful. He didn’t much care for coffee but he needed to order something.

He examined the menu on the wall in order to ascertain what constituted medium here. He had observed that no one on Earth seemed to be able to decide on which names to use for their cup sized. Some places used a simple ‘small, medium and large’ system, some used a ‘regular, medium and large’ system, others used a more realistic ‘small, regular and large’ system and others used a strange ‘regular, large and extra large’ system. Strangely though they only ever used the same three cup sizes. Rada concluded that medium was indeed medium here.

“Medium cappuccino, Two sugars, thanks,” he told the girl behind the counter.

She smiled that persistent smile typical of many people working in café’s. Rada always wondered what made their job so satisfying.

“Medium Cap with Two coming up,” she announced as she typed the order into the screen in front of her.

Eventually Rada’s coffee was prepared as a tall Terran woman with a shaved head practically sang “Medium cappuccino. Two sugars!” and placed the beverage on the counter. Rada smiled at her as he took it. He made his way to a bench on his own by the window so he could watch the traffic. He took a sip, he actually quite liked this coffee; it wasn’t too hot or too strong. He smiled to himself as he heard the rather loud complaints from a large Terran male behind him about how his coffee was far too weak and not nearly hot enough.

He spent a good two and a half hours sitting there in that café, it was actually quite enjoyable. The chairs were comfortable and thanks to some ear plugs he couldn’t hear the music. His mind kept wandering back to what was about to come but that combined with the caffeine was dangerously overstimulating his heart and he began to lose feeling in all of his extremities. He distracted himself by reading the local news on a PADD he’d brought with him. He concluded that he was glad that he had not been raised here upon reading about the restoration of what was called the Royal Exhibition Building and discovering that many school based examinations had actually been held there. He had felt like he was on show enough when he was participating in any kind of examination but it seemed here they took it to a greater degree.

His mind was quickly distracted by reality. There she was outside. She still looked as beautiful as ever. She looked a little sad as she stood alone outside of the school gates. Dressed in loose black clothing, she was not as he remembered her. At first Rada could barely stop himself from running over to her immediately. Then he couldn’t stop himself.

He deserted his cup and PADD where they stood, completely forgetting about their existence. As Wren spotted him, she immediately was at a loss of what to do and just turned around to face away from him. When Rada put his hand on her shoulder she was forced to face him but she was still at a loss for words.

Rada what was almost fear in her eyes and he just did the only thing which came to mind. He embraced her.

“Rada…” she stumbled “I….”

“I know,” replied Rada, releasing her from his grasp “I know about Tam, I know about our child.”

Wren looked away now. She couldn’t look him in the eyes. He didn’t understand.

“I know you think that I wasn’t ready back then but I am now. I’m ready to be a parent….I love you Wren,” he spoke openly those words he had waited so long to say.

Rada noticed that she was suddenly crying.

“What’s wrong?” he asked, handing her a cloth from his pocket to wipe away her tears.

“You can’t be here, Rada. I’m…it’s…” she couldn’t finish.

“It’s okay,” said Rada soothingly.

“No, it’s not okay.” Wren protested, regaining some composure as she dried her eyes “It was never that I didn’t think you were ready. You were always so much more organised than I was…but you had a life to live. You were going to be a Starfleet Engineer and now you are.”

“That doesn’t matter.” Rada assured her “I’ll resign in the morning. I just want us to be together again.”

Wren started to cry again. She couldn’t do that to him. She had been dreading this day for so many years.

“No, you don’t understand,” she protested “Tam isn’t…”

At that time the child walked up to them and immediately began hiding behind his mother. He seemed so scared. He had his mother’s eyes.

“It’s okay…” said Rada, reaching a hand out to touch the child on the cheek, but Tam didn’t believe him.

“He’s already developed some empathic ability and he’s scared because he can’t read you,” replied Wren, realising that seeing that Rada had made her cry was probably not instilling too much confidence in the child either.

She got down on one knee to look Tam in the eyes. “I’ll be okay, honey. You just run back inside and I’ll come get you in a couple of minutes,” she said, lifting Tam’s hat off of his head.

It was then that Rada saw his ears. They were pointed. If this child’s mother was Betazoid then his father was certainly not Angosian. Rada felt literally as though his heart was breaking and that was one emotion he couldn’t hide from Wren. It hurt her so much.

Tam didn’t stop to collect his hat and instead ran back inside as quickly as his tiny legs would take him.

“So Tam’s father…?” Rada asked.

“A Half Vulcan Half Betazoid who came into the Tavern one night when you were out. It was a stupid mistake, a one night thing and I’ve regretted it everyday since.”

Rada was angry but not about that stupid mistake. He was furious that she left him because of it.

“I would have forgiven you though. We could have been a family all of these years,” he protested.

“That’s why you couldn’t know.” Wren replied “I could never let you give up on your dreams then. Just like I can’t let you give up on them now.”

Wren stared into Rada eyes and saw that he didn’t care that Tam wasn’t his child. He still wanted to be a part of his life.

“You gave him my name. Why would you if you didn’t want me in his life?” he asked.

“He needed a father figure,” she explained, the tears returning “I tracked his real father down once but he decided that it wouldn’t be logical,” she spat that last word “for him to look after his own child. That’s why when anyone asked I told them that you were his father. Obviously I told them that you were half Vulcan but everything else I told them about you was true.”

“None of that matters. If you don’t want me to leave Starfleet then you can join me.” Rada objected “At least let me help out with money or…”

Wren sighed and kissed him. She knew he wouldn’t settle for not being part of Tam’s life.

“I’ll let you help but I can’t come with you. I have a life here. You can come and see Tam and I, you can help with money and send gifts for holidays and we can even talk over subspace on one condition.”

“What’s that?” asked Rada, knowing that whatever it was he would do it.

“Don’t resign.” Wren stated “If you stay in Starfleet then you can be part of Tam’s life but if you abandon your dream for us then you can never see either of us again.”

Rada reluctantly agreed, then asked, “Do you think that there could ever be a future for us?”

“I know there could.” Wren smiled that smile he had so sorely missed then asked, “How isn’t there someone else already in your life?”

“I’ve never found anyone else like you.” Rada explained “I thought I had once, but it turned out she was just a hallucination caused by a severe mental breakdown.”

They laughed although he was quite serious. He lent in and kissed Wren once more. He had one day here on the Earth and he was going to make the most of it.

Lt. (jg) Rada Dengar
Assistant Chief Engineer
USS Serendipity NCC-2012

239: Pleased To Meet You

By Zander Blakeslee and Zanh Liis
Following Captain in Headlights

-=Deck 8, USS Serendipity=-

As Zanh Liis stepped into the turbolift, she saw that it was already occupied.

"Deck three." Zanh instructed the computer, and the lift began to move once again. "Mr. Blakeslee."

"Good afternoon, Captain," Zander Blakeslee nodded to her. "Enjoy your swim?"
"Spent awhile dog paddling in the deep end, that's for sure," Zanh answered enigmatically, thinking of her experience with Vol Tryst.

Zander tried to make sense of the statement, but decided that it was probably better to just let it go without directly answering as the doors opened to his destination a deck below. "Yes. Well, I have a few things to take care of before punching out for the afternoon. See you later, Sir."

"Bye, Zander."

As he walked away and the lift continued, she thought about the party last night and how much she had enjoyed meeting his lovely wife. . .

-=Flashback: Mardi Gras Party=-

Zanh looked around and saw Zander Blakeslee and his wife, whom she had not officially had the chance to meet yet, standing by the fountain. She ambled over for an introduction.

Zander was standing close to his wife as they chatted quietly to each other. Both were impressed by the party. That was saying a lot from a couple that had partaken in one of the most sacred Deltan ceremonies. Zander happened to catch sight of the captain as she approached.

"Captain." He smiled as Samthia turned to faced the captain. "This is one nice shindig." Zander smiled.

"It's. . .festive. . ." Zanh's eyes widened as she watched several crewmen stagger by and placed bets in her mind that they would all be nursing hangovers come morning.

"Loud. But everyone seems to be having a good time,"

Zanh's eyes traveled over to a corner of the holodeck where Salvek was struggling to be heard by Kellyn over the din; it seemed that his sensitive ears could only take so much of the ruckus. He finally took his wife by the hand, and as she followed behind him, for some reason in bare feet, Zanh noted, they disappeared through the arch and into the corridor.

She realized she had been stunned into silence by the sheer amount of noise in the place and like a rinta in the oncoming lights of a vehicle, she froze. Finally she nodded to the lovely Deltan woman before her. "Zanh Liis. We're pleased to have you aboard."

Samthia smiled warmly which caused a passing ensign who was duly distracted to collide with a waiter. Both men fell to the floor in a heap as the the glasses he was carting fell to the ground in a loud calamity of breaking glass. The ensign blushed and turned to help the assaulted waiter pick up the mess. "Sorry, sorry Captain." was all the man could mutter.

"Accidents happen," Zanh reassured him. She prepared to assist. "Need any help?"

The ensign was horrified at the thought. "Oh, no Sir. Thank you sir. We'll have this cleaned up in no time, Sir." he glanced one more time sideways at the woman who, with her lovely smile, had managed to stop traffic.

Zander grinned and slowly shook his head as he glanced at his wife. He had grown used to such things happening around her, especially to the males of many species. Samthia on the other hand seemed not to notice at all.

She bowed slightly to the Captain. "Thank you, Captain Zanh." Her voice was thick with the accent of her home world. She spoke in Federation Standard, preferring to use her own voice in favor of the Universal Translator when meeting someone for the first time. It was only proper, in her mind.

She smiled. "I am happy for this, how do you say it, chance to be with my One as a family again."

"I can understand that." Zanh said, glancing across the room at the Vedek, who was engaged in an animated conversation with Avery Breaux; half signed, half typed onto a PADD, and with a just little bit of the game of charades thrown in, it seemed. But it seemed to be working, both men were smiling so she figured Jariel was getting his point across all right.

"It's a pleasure to have you aboard at last, Zander tells me that Stellar Cartography will be in excellent shape with you there."

Samthia glanced back at her husband with a smile. "His confidence in me is overflowing I think."

"I understand that you have small children, are they settling in aboard ship all right?"

Sam turned back to Liis. "It is new to them as they have never lived on a starship before. But they are, adapting."

Zander laughed. "That is the polite way of saying that they have found ways to amuse themselves at our expense." He smiled as he took a sip from his glass. "The kids have never been off world for any real length of time, either they were at the family compound on Delta IV or at my family home in Alaska. They are used to wide open spaces with plenty of room to explore."

"And to find trouble." Samthia added quickly. "They are good children just..." She searched for the word that she wanted to use.

"Curious." Zander finished her sentence. Samthia nodded her approval of the word.

"Well my hat is off to you. I am not a parent myself but in watching what Salvek and Lair have gone through with just the one child, trying to keep twin toddlers amused scares me more than the idea of any warp core breach or diplomatic conflict." Zanh joked. "Speaking of young Miss Arie, if the boys are lonely for the companionship of other children,

I'm sure that she would be happy to spend some time playing with them. She is rather fond of Commander Blane's dog, Sunshine, and I am certain that they could, the three children and the dog, get Ensign Stenn into more trouble than he could imagine with the right holodeck playground program. If you need help in arranging appropriate playtime for the boys, let me know and I'll...take...care of it...myself," Zanh's words trailed off as she watched another near-collision among the waitstaff, this time between a man carrying a tray of hors d'oeuvre and one carrying champagne in glass flutes. They managed to veer away from each other at the last minute, but Zanh shook her head.

"That happens all the time?"

Zander smiled. "Not normally. Samthia has not been among the crew for very long. Over the next few weeks they will build up a sort of immunity to her pheromones." He explained. "As long as direct contact is kept to a minimum I don't think there will be any fatalities." He joked.

"I have suffered some side effects from the radiation but I feel that I have everything under control." Sam explained. "That is why I have kept myself confined to our quarters."

Zander smiled. "Of course the side effects were not all bad, at least not from my point of view." He grinned at his wife his mind drifting back to the last few days. He suddenly remembered the captain. "Umm, sorry captain. That was probably in poor taste."

The captain, who seemed to be somewhat distracted herself, as she continued to watch Vedek Jariel signing away across the room. She opened her mouth as if to speak, but stopped. The edge of her lip curled up into something between a smirk and a grin, and she nodded to Zander.

"Carry on, my good man. Carry on. Samthia, it was a pleasure to meet you and I look forward to working with you. If you'll pardon me,"

Zander grinned, knowing that he wasn't the only one in the room who was happy to be in the company of their significant other tonight.

"Of course, Captain."

-=End Flashback=-

As Liis entered her quarters and prepared to change out of her swimsuit, she reached for her badge and tapped it lightly.

"Zanh to Lieutenant Wej,"

[Yes, Captain?] Samthia sounded surprised by the hail considering that she was off duty.

"I was wondering if you," Zanh paused, smiling as she heard the sound of the rambunctious pair of little boys vocalising in the background. She laughed. The sound of happy children playing was, after all she had seen in her lifetime, truly glorious.

". . .if you and the lads could do with a few hours of holodeck time this afternoon. I have holodeck one reserved in my name until seventeen hundred, but it's yours if you want it."

[Thank you, Captain.] Samthia responded gratefully. [I think the boys could do with an outing. Thank you again. Wej out.]

"So could their mother, I'll bet." Zanh laughed again softly as she grabbed a change of clothes from the dresser and headed for the shower.

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


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

238: Captain in Headlights

By Ensign Tryst and Captain Zanh
Immediately Following Moving Target

-=Location, Holodeck One; Polynesian Village Resort program of Zanh Liis=-

She lay on a lounge by the pool, stretched out on the beach towel in a one piece, solid black tank style swimsuit.

Plinky Hawaiian guitar music mixed with the sound of the breeze in the palm trees above her, creating a most soothing soundtrack for her afternoon.

In the past few months, she had really come to love this program.

As holographic water dried on her skin in the holographic sunshine, Zanh Liis felt about as relaxed as was possible for her to be without being unconscious. Especially considering that there was much more going on aboard ship at the moment- or more to the point off of the ship, than purely vacation for her crew.

She wondered how Rada was faring on his journey. She wondered if Keiran's team had tracked down Avery yet. She wondered if Dane would make it back without getting himself killed by shooting off his mouth. She wondered...about a lot of things.

She had been forced to take the day off by the ship's LMH Dr. McKay, who, after conducting her routine weekly post-surgical check up noted that she had been skipping her hydro therapy sessions and warned that she was going to "snap in half like a twig" if she didn't get back into the habit of making the time for the exercises.

So McKay had summarily dismissed her to the holodeck, warning her that if he didn't see her wet beach towel or something else as proof she'd been swimming today, he was going to make the decision as acting CMO to pick her up and 'chuck her into the swimmin' hole himself.'

She'd had a swim as ordered, followed by a mandatory physical therapy session and therapeutic massage, and now she was half asleep in the sun, contentedly allowing herself the luxury of forgetting, just for a moment, all of her troubles.

She became aware a moment later that someone was blocking her sunlight. She looked up and saw an unfamiliar young man in a medical uniform hovering above. He was rail thin, with intense dark eyes and a complexion so fair it was almost ghostly.

"Hi there." She said, throwing her sarong over her legs, which felt suddenly very exposed, "Can I assist you. . ." she looked at his collar. "Ensign. . .?"

"Tryst, Captain. Reporting from Starfleet, it's a pleasure to meet you."

"Likewise..." Said Zanh with a fair amount of uncertainty. She fastened the sarong around her waist and spoke again. "...I repeat the question Ensign; can I assist you?"

Vol could tell that the Captain had still not figured out who he was or why he was here, and for the moment the Ensign decided he'd use that to his advantage. He moved slowly, positioning himself between the Captain and the exit to the Holodeck.

"Quite a program you've got running here." Vol held his hands behind his back much the same way he had done in the ready room with Salvek. He jerked his chin towards the pool and then looked back at the Captain. "Do you swim?"

"Do you?"

What they said about the short temper was apparently true- Zanh was getting testy already and seemed to be wondering if he'd float if she tossed him in, or if he'd sink straight to the bottom like a rock.

She seemed anxious to finish up this business, whatever it was, so she could return to her sunbathing in peace.

Vol merely blinked at her.

"Ensign, I asked you a question and I don't care to repeat myself." The Captain perked a brow and made her irritation even more evident. Vol would've preferred continuing under an untruthful pretense, but he rather not outright lie to a patient and right now he was stuck in a corner with no other alternative.
He sighed in defeat, but was interrupted by the captain before he could strip of his ruse. He could sense the Captain's temperament fade almost instantly, and it was replaced with embarrassment.

"Oh, wait," Zanh shook her head, chuckling softly at herself. "Must have turned up the heat too high on the temperature setting and it's gone to my brain. I forgot. They were going to send someone to fill in our Sickbay roster temporarily until my crew gets back aboard and we sort a few things out. That must be you. My apologies, doctor."

Vol blinked once, then twice. Then quickly pulled himself together. Sometimes when you let the trout go, a whale comes to take its place.

This was on heck of an opportunity, risky as it was, to trap the Captain into cooperating without her realizing.

"There's no need to apologize, Sir." Vol said convincingly. "If anything I should apologize, for disturbing your peace during your time off to come by and introduce myself. Enjoy your afternoon, and the sunshine." Vol turned on his heel to move towards the exit.

"Ensign." The Captain called to him. She felt really silly now for having blown up before.

If he'd been in any other department she would likely have let him leave, letting him believe that if careless Ensigns interrupted her rare and precious holodeck downtime, unless the ship or someone important on it was on fire, she might serve them up with a side dish and eat them for lunch.

But this guy was a doctor, and that gave her pause. She had to rely, sadly, on the medical department far too frequently for her liking to deal with her continued recovering from the whole Ferenginar mess- she had better not burn any bridges there, not even with a new, temporary ensign.

She tried to back peddle and start over. "I know you're probably not going to be here long, but would you like a quick holopic tour of the ship?" She emphasized the word 'quick'.

"Of course Captain. Thank you, Captain." Vol smiled sheepishly, and followed the Captain as she summoned the Arch.

"Computer, display pictorial representations of the major areas of the ship, starting with the bridge. Change location every ninety seconds."

^Acknowledged. Beginning now.^

-=Fifteen minutes later=-

"And the last stop, this is a quick look at the Arboretum." Zanh smiled, thinking about Jariel tending to his beloved roses in the real thing, which was likely how he was spending his free time this afternoon.

For a moment, she worried as she thought of him- he had not slept well at all last night after the party and seemed to toss and turn continually. Something was on his mind, but she had come to trust that when Jariel was ready to tell her something, he would.

Vol took in the slideshow of emotions going on in Zanh's head mutely, as he also viewed the image of the Arboretum.

"Lovely. Well tended, it appears." he offered

"By gentle hands. You should see the real thing, if you get the chance while you're here. It's my favorite place aboard."

"I will try to do so. The Sera is quite a ship Captain." Vol exclaimed.

"That she is Ensign. She's still going through her paces, finding her stride, but she's coming along. I'm glad to call her mine."

"Grown fond of each other have you?" Vol smiled, making the Captain do the same.

"Not sure if the feeling is mutual," Zanh joked. "I've put her through a hell of a lot in her infancy. But a Captain grows for her ship, learns lessons that only her ship can teach."

"Do you mind if I inquire as to what kind of lessons?"

Zanh paused, the Ensign was getting a bit personal. However, she had pretty much bit his head off before, and perhaps he was just curious about the life of a Captain. She'd indulge him- for now.

"I used to think that home was a particular place. A particular ship, or location. I had never really felt that I had found... it."

"It, Sir?"

"Yes. It. The place where I was meant to be, in the right place at the right time, with the right people. Often, it just felt like no matter where I went I would always be searching for something," She thought about her time in Temporal Investigations, and Vol sensed the hints of memories in her as a physical chill.

"But there is something about this ship, about this particular project and crew. Alchemy is a living, breathing thing. It changes, every day, it grows, as her crew grows and the experience of serving with them so far has been. . ." Zanh smiled and he felt the coldness replaced by a sentimental streak that surprised him about the no-nonsense woman before him. "It's been extraordinary." She rocked her weight from heels to toes, something that Vol did not know her well enough to know that she did when she was nervous, but he sensed the tension in her without that knowledge.

"Last mission was rough." She said out loud, more to herself than to him. "But we're resilient."

She offered him no more, and he felt the sentimentality fading back into her normal, resting emotional state.

"Do you think that experience has hindered, or enhanced your skills as a Commanding Officer?" Vol seemed genuinely interested. The two of them still standing in the holodeck, with no program running now. Liis began to realize that without the artificial sun she was starting to feel cold in her current attire.

"Well, I..." Zanh began to say, until a loud screeching alarm rang within her skull. Her eyes widened and her piercing blue eyes carved into Vol's features as she visibly became angry. Next to barring her teeth, she proceeded with; "Wait a damn minute! Suddenly I get the feeling that you are not my new on-call physician."

Vol suppressed a grin. It was fun while it lasted, and he was glad the Captain was not Betazoid, as he fully believed that if she were, he would likely now have to live out the rest of his life without the benefit of his testicles.

Looking at her again, however, he realized that she was so angry that unless he could diffuse her temper quickly, he still might have to.

With all the seriousness he could muster, Vol began to tell the truth.

"I am here by order of Starfleet. Captain, in light of your recent endeavors, the Federation has ordered me to assess your psychological and ment-- Captain!" Vol's eyes widened as Zanh quickly gathered up her things and made her way right past him and called for the exit. Vol could tell immediately that she was walking away likely because it was easier to resist bashing someone's head in when they were further away from you.

"I'm fine." she said through gritted teeth as she approached the exit. "Thank you for stopping by. Have a nice trip and give my best to Admiral Vox."

"Then why are you running away as if you have something to hide?" Vol had been deceitful before, so he decided to try the most polar opposite approach now. Being blunt, the kind that didn't put up with any bullshit. He thought it would be most effective method when dealing with such a headstrong Captain, and an especially stubborn Bajoran.

"I'm not running, or hiding, Ensign. You are dis-"

"Zanh Liis!" Vol raised his voice. The Captain whirled about and her eyes once again shot daggers into the Betazoid's forehead. She walked back slowly, to look at Vol straight in the eyes. Even in a one-piece bathing suit and a towel, and bare feet, as tall as she was, Zanh still managed to look intimidating when she needed to.

"You will address me with the proper title Ensign, is that understood?"

"Yes, but I will not do so."

Zanh roared. "Excuse me?"

"I am not a resident of this vessel, nor am I part of your crew, and thus I am certainly not under your command. My orders were issued directly from Starfleet Medical and Admiral Vox, and thus if anyone has the authority in this particular situation; it is me. I have the go-ahead to relieve you of duty if I deem it necessary, but I'd hate for that to be the outcome of our first encounter."

*I'd like to see you try, you little. . .* Zanh thought, but she simply pasted a smile on her face, too pleasant a smile to match the thoughts that were swirling through her very clear and readable mind at the moment.

A deep silence followed. Vol stood firm, and Zanh had now cocked an inquisitive brow. She stepped one foot forward and he almost jumped back when she did- thinking again about that potential future as Eunuch- but she stopped and posed- her hip forward and her hand perched upon it, not looking nearly as defensive as she had before.

She then asked, quite plainly: "The dark eyes, the whiter than death complexion, tell me Ensign: you are Betazoid?"

"I am."

"Interesting, yet not surprising. Tell me, can you sense what I am thinking now?" She stepped closer again, and this time he did involuntarily step back a pace. Vol had the distinct impression that the tables were now turned and he was being toyed with.

"I, you. You are feeling certain of something." Vol gulped. "Y-you can tell that I'm lying."

"Impressive, Doctor." Zanh continued. "What else can you tell?"

"That you aren't going to try and get away again."

"Brilliant. Stick a little gold star to his forehead." Zanh smiled triumphantly. "Computer, reinitialize Zanh program twenty-seven alpha."

The Polynesian Resort reappeared around them, and she lazily strolled back to her lawn chair and sat down. A baffled Vol stared at her, unable to make heads or tails of what had just happened.

Zanh couldn't help but think of all the times she had chosen to set her new officers off guard by changing out of uniform and introducing herself to them for the very first time in the Arboretum. Often, it took a few moments before they realized she was the Captain.

She found that it gave her a unique perspective into their personalities- whether they were resistant to shaking her dirt-covered hand as she pretended to plant flowers, whether or not they took an interest in the living things around them- whether they wanted to run the moment they realized they'd been, well, had.

*Karma.* Zanh thought. *If there was ever any sort of supernatural or divine belief that I could really buy into, that would have to be it. I've seen it once too often- and this is definitely payback.*

"Well...?" The Captain was impatient. "You're here to shrink my head. So, I'm a busy woman. Start shrinking."

He raised a finger in question, still confused until she finally just blurted out her standard motivational response. "Go!"

The Betazoid smiled. "I'll take that as permission to proceed, I--"

"Oooo, clever one aren't we Doctor? Nothing gets by you." The words were coated with sarcasm as they left Zanh's mouth. Vol could only smile, thinking that he deserved that. His gaze wandered over the holographic pool, then looked back to the Captain.

"Permission to go for a--Oh wait! I don't answer to you." If she were any other person, he would've stuck his tongue out and winked at her. For now however, he resisted the urge to act in that childlike manner.

"Computer, one male bathing suit please..." Vol paused, and then remembered something. "...and a partition of some kind."

A long partition came to be, and upon it hung a pair of navy blue trunks. He headed over behind the partition, so that the now fuming Captain could not see him get changed. Among Betazoids, being naked was not something to be hidden, but Vol had remembered that amongst most other species it was quite different. The Captain would probably not appreciate it in the least had Vol just stripped and gone skinny dipping.

"Well make yourself at home, why don't you." She laughed a little at his nerve. "I tell you to hurry up and shrink me, and instead you're going for a swim?" Zanh was gritting her teeth again. She was irritated, but there was something about this man that kept her where she was.

"I think it only fair Captain..." Vol said from behind the partition as he got his uniform off and his trunks on. "...that since you are more than comfortable at the moment, that I be the same." The Betazoid stepped out from the false wall and approached the edge of the pool. He wasn't particularly muscular or built, and his skin looked even paler now in contrast to the dark trunks. He had little to no body hair. He bent down and touched the water with his hand, causing Zanh to almost laugh out loud.

"One too many mud-baths, Ensign?" Zahn couldn't tell if all the 'comfort' talk was mumbo jumbo, but she could definitely tell that the Doctor just really wanted a swim. As if to confirm her answer, Vol grinned as if he was a child and just offered some candy, and in the next moment he'd jumped into the pool.

As he came back up, he shut his eyes and shook his hair. "Aaah..."

"Comfortable?" Zanh asked.


"Happy to hear it." A waitress appeared with a tall drink, complete with small paper umbrella. "I ordered it before you got here." Zanh explained.

"One Virgin Strawberry Daiquiri," The waitress said, setting it down. "Anything else Captain? Anything for your friend?"

"I'll have some Allira punch please. A Virgin Daiquiri, Captain?" Vol was amused. "You're off duty all day- relaxing and you aren't indulging in the real thing?"

"I never drink the real thing." Zanh replied, while trying to figure out how to get to the straw past the umbrella. "I'm sure that must be in my file too. Somewhere."

"So you aren't here for the fruity drinks. Are you fond of swimming at all?" Vol asked, "Or are you just here for the glowing artificial sunshine and ukulele music?"

"I'm here by doctor's orders. Far as swimming. . .it's water. You swim in it. End of story." Zanh tried to make short of the question. Vol propped himself up with his arms by the edge of the pool and stared at her. Knowing that being sarcastic would not end this evaluation any faster, she decided she'd indulge the Doctor... for now at least.

"Alright. I suppose I've grown fond of it. It's physical therapy for my spine, which is held together with chewing gum and chicken wire." She thought for a moment, "But also, it is relaxing, in some way."

"What way is that?" Vol pushed again. Zanh sighed, clearly annoyed but fighting with herself to maintain some form of composure.

"It helps me to center myself. I can think more clearly and things aren't so jumbled."

"What kind of things get messed up?"

For a moment she was going to keep it to herself, but then realized that there was no need.

"I'll mess you up good if you don't get to the point." There was a slight grin on her face, but she was dead serious. Vol chuckled.

"Prefer that we skip to the serious stuff?"

"Please, easing me into it will just make me... unhappy." She plastered a painfully obvious fake smile on her face.

"Very well." Vol scratched his wet nose, as he rested his chin on his overlapping hands. "Summarize for me the last mission. I read your log, but I'd rather hear it from you again, if you don't mind."

Zanh perked a brow. "I do mind, actu-"

"A formality Captain, I don't care if you mind. You're telling me anyway."

"Ensign, I've been very cordial to you so far," she stated clearly, then she mumbled under her breath. "You have no idea how cordial," she straightened up in her lounge.

"But I'm sorry. I cannot tell you anything more than was in the report." Zanh stood her ground. "It's all classified by Special Operations, Temporal Investigations, the Judge Advocate General and half a dozen Admirals at least. I don't care if the Prophets themselves sent you to interview me, you don't have the clearance to hear the details and if you want, I'll be happy to remind your boss of that."

*Round goes to the Captain.* Vol thought to himself.

"Well, then, tell me how you feel about the mission. Your feelings aren't classified."

"If only it were that easy." Zanh said sadly. "Tag them 'classified', stick them in a file cabinet in a basement somewhere, and bury them forever."

He knew how she felt about the mission already, conflicting emotions were now emanating from her like a dark force of nature. He felt the discomfort in her spirit over the outcome as a wave of nausea. Suddenly, he felt as if instead of floating in a calm and inviting swimming pool, he was being tossed about atop angry, stirring seas.

A pause, and the Captain huffed and puffed before she submitted to answering his questions.

*What was it again? Zanh, 1. Tryst, 2?*

"It was. . .dirty." Zanh said at last. "It left me wanting to take a long, hot shower. But the problem is no matter how long I stayed in, the film on my skin would not wash off." She shook her head. "Lives were lost. More were risked, and three members of my senior staff almost died. But the worst part was that with the way it ended."

Vol waited patiently for her to continue.

"It didn't end." She sighed. "So now I am left with the sinking feeling that it will all come back again on us, one day." She set down her drink, untouched. "Sooner rather than later."

Vol studied the Captain as she spoke, and when she was done he had another question for her already.

"What was the most difficult part for your crew during this mission?"

"If you want an individual list I hope you've got a lot of time, Counselor." She said, shrugging. "But if you will settle for the overall sentiment, I believe that the loss of their innocent trust that Starfleet is always the good guy was the hardest thing for them to accept." She looked away, eyes fixed blankly somewhere on the water beyond him. "The hardest thing to give up."

"What about you? What was the most difficult part for you?"

"The look in their eyes when they turned to me from their stations," Zanh whispered, "And realized that the cavalry wasn't just coming- it was shooting at us."

Vol sighed as he studied the Captain, both with his eyes and his mind. Perhaps she was afraid it would all happen again, that a string of circumstances would occur once more in which she had no control. Her own opinion, and faith, in Starfleet didn't appear changed. Perhaps she wasn't as naive as her crew, as she had implied, to believe that they were always the "good guys." Vol sensed what he thought was loneliness, but from her speech earlier, he believed she was in denial of that.

The aftermath of the mission had undoubtedly manifested into some demons for the Bajoran. Demons that had gotten away, but that would return one day to haunt the Captain. However, she showed composure, she still had a sense of humor, and ultimately functioned as if nothing was wrong.

"The current ship's counselor," Vol began slowly. Zanh knew what he was going to say and rolled her eyes. "Vedek Jariel. I have read many of his reports on the crew, and he is an incredible man. A fine counselor and caring chaplain. However," He knew he had to tread lightly- he was walking on sacred ground now.

"Yes, he is all those things and more and yes, I am romantically involved with him." Zanh cut to the chase. "And you have a problem with that. But you should know that it's much more than that, though, he," Zanh shook her head, and alluded to her earlier remarks. "I have loved him all of my life," she said softly. "He is home."

"A little too close to the Captain to be objective, wouldn't you say?"

"No." Her response was automatic; knee-jerk. She was silent a moment, and then she had to concede defeat on this topic. "Yes."

"Who counsels the Captain objectively, then?"

Zanh laughed. "Have you met our LMH?"

Vol blinked, and titled his head slightly. "No..."

"He does pretty well." She already knew what Vol was getting at though. "Yet, you would recommend a permanent Starfleet counselor be stationed here. Someone with whom I am not. . ."

"Involved." Vol nodded.

Zanh nodded slowly. "All right. I would be open to the idea of adding another counselor to our roster. Make your recommendation and I will start looking at resumes. But I can't promise you that I'll be spending a lot of time on the counseling couch."

"You won't spend any voluntarily and we both know it."

"Damn straight."

Vol climbed out of the water as the waitress approached with his drink. He took a few quick sips, and Zanh handed him a spare towel from the lounge next to hers.

"Thank you," he said as he set down his drink and began to dry off.

"Satisfied?" She was not referring to how he was enjoying his beverage.

"I'll make my report and forward it to Starfleet." Vol said with a smile, sensing exactly what the Captain had meant.

Zanh lounged backward onto the chaise once again and put her hands behind her head, closing her eyes. "Should I start packing my bags?"

"Well..." Vol pretended to give the matter some thought. "What do you think?"

The question was rhetoric, and the Bajoran returned his smile with one small one of her own. Somewhere, between the sarcastic jabbing, the witty banter, and the risky behavior, the two had earned a lot of respect for each other. Zanh cracked one eye open and watched as he headed for the arch.


He stopped and turned, suddenly aware he was still dripping water from his hair down onto the ground.

"It was nice meeting you."

Ensign Vol Tryst
Starfleet Command, Medical Division
Currently aboard the
USS Serendipity NCC-2012


Captain Zanh
Commanding Officer
USS Serendipity NCC-2012

237: Foraging

By Commander Dabin Reece
Hours after The Enemy of My Enemy, Early morning

-=Quarters of Grace and Reece=-

His assignment was simple. To locate provisions, secure them, and transport them back to his quarters.

Dabin and February had taken what was understood to be a de facto second Honeymoon. They hadn't really asked for the time off, they just... took it. With the ship docked and nothing important going on as far as Dabin and February knew, the rest of the crew simply accepted that they would make their presence known when it was needed.

This morning Dabin had rolled over in bed and looked into the groggy eyes of one February Grace.

"Cinnamon tea and sugar cookies, and more cinnamon tea." She managed to mumble before pulling the blankets up around her face in a little maneuver Dabin referred to as "cocooning".

Dabin bounced up out of bed and threw on some civilian clothing. Black pants and a dark red shirt. He pulled on his boots and checked his hair in the mirror, to make sure he didn't look like a total slob. He admired the way the red looked at him, and pictured himself on the bridge, sitting in the command chair.

"First officer Zanh, I believe its your turn to polish my boots."

"But it was my turn last week!" Dabin said back to himself in a high pitched voice.

"You just don't get it? Do you?" Dabin said, as he smoothed out his red shirt.

"Hmmph?" February grumbled from under the blankets.

"Nothing, go back to sleep."

Dabin then left his quarters... their quarters, headed for the Afterthought Cafe. It was still quite early, and the cafe would not be jumping for another half hour at least, before the day shift began. With most of the crew taking leave time the crowd was likely to be minimal.

The cafe was empty as he entered, and quiet. Too quiet.

"Fleur?" He said tentatively. "Come out come out."

He tiptoed around the room, looking for any signs of life.

"Computer, full illumination."

The computer chirped cheerfully before bringing the lighting up to maximum. From the seating by the window, a deep painful groan emanated, with a notable French accent.

"Computer, turn off lights before I kill you." Dabin recognized the unique voice of Fleur Le Marc. The computer, always happy to oblige even when spoken to in such a rude fashion, chirped once again and plunged the room into darkness.

Dabin rolled his eyes, as he waited for them to adjust to the darkness, and made his way carefully across the room to where Fleur was sleeping.

He judged by the fashionable dress she still wore, the empty bottle at her side, and the smell of her breath, that Fleur had never made it back to her quarters after Rada and Avery's party.

"Fleur. Hey. Wake up." Dabin set about poking her on the bare skin of her forearm. Fleur did not respond for a moment, but the nagging sensation finally got her to crack an eye open.

"Oh, it is the Trill. Wonderful." She said sarcastically.

"Can I get you a glass of water? Or mouthwash?" Dabin asked. Fleur drew herself up into a sitting position, and blinked her eyes to get them to focus.

"You can help by getting whatever it is you need from replicator. Cafe is closed today." Fleur's head rolled back and her eyes closed again.

"But Fleur! I'm on a mission for fresh brewed tea and cookies! You know Bru prefers yours to the replicator."

"Mister Reece, it must be so horrible for you, knowing your true love will be subjected to replicated sugar cookies. I feel for you and assure you that is much worse than anything going on in my life. Now please, Cafe is closed."

Reece shook his head, and walked over to the replicator. He ordered a hypo for the hangover and a glass of ice cold water, which he would either let her drink, or throw in her face, he hadn't decided yet. In the past, people had frowned upon the water in the face thing.

"Fleur!" He shouted to get her attention. He tilted her head to the side to expose her neck and raised the hypo. "This will help with the hangover."

"No! No drugs!" She said groggily, as she swatted at Dabin's hand, knocking the hypo onto the floor.

"But its all natural! No drugs. Come on you look like you've gone ten rounds with a Gorn who didn't like your soup."

"No." She insisted. "The water." Fleur took the glass, drank most of it, and drizzled the last few drops onto her eyelids.

"Aww, I could have done that for you." Dabin said, sounding disappointed.

He regarded her for a moment, his expression one of concern.

"What's the matter? Have you never seen woman hung over in cafe wearing evening gown from night before?"

"Fleur," He asked sincerely, "How long are you going to let this go on? I've seen the way many of the guys on this ship look at you. You can practically have your pick."

"Mister Reece, what if I told you, you could have your pick? Would you leave February?"

"Why would I? As far as I am concerned we are perfect for each other.

"Congratulations, you answered your own question, you get gold star." Fleur replied.

"But, Fleur, he's so happy with the Captain. Maybe he's perfect for you in your own eyes, but, there are lots of symbionts in the pools as they say on my world. Is it worth maybe giving someone else a try?"

Fleur considered his words and found it ironic he suggested giving another man a try, without knowing she had kissed Dane Cristiane mere hours ago in a drunken haze. It was a move she regretted the moment she made it.

"The Prophets themselves..." Fleur considered spilling the beans on the vision she had had from the Prophets, that encouraged her to pursue Jariel Camen, to save him from himself and Zanh Liis. She also considered that Dabin Reece would likely have her committed for claiming she was in contact with the Prophets. "Mister Reece, the Prophets would encourage each of us to pursue our true love I am sure."

"Right." Dabin said, shaking his head.

The door to the Cafe opened, and two crewman from engineering entered. They halted as they realized the lights were out.

"Anybody here?" The first called out, squinting to see.

"Sorry gents, Cafe is closed today. You'll have to settled for replicated. Or a bowl of isolinear potato chips if that's what you engineers are into." Dabin said.

"I don't think so." Fleur said. "I can whip up batch of cookies in ten minutes at the very least. Please be seated!" Fleur called out. The crewman and his companion sheepishly took a table in the dark, and waited for Fleur.

Fleur retrieved the hypospray, and pressed it to her own neck. Immediately her headache began to subside. Duty called. She straightened her gown, and headed into the kitchen. Reece followed her.

Fleur grabbed an apron off the hook.

"Are you sure you are up for this? You aren't exactly dressed for it."

"No am I not." She thrust the apron into Dabin's chest. "That is why if you want bakery and fresh brewed tea for Mrs. Reece, you will take frozen dough out of freezer and put into oven while I get a quick sonic shower and change of clothes."

"What? Me? No, I protest. I'm a scientist, not a baker."

"Fine, then you can explain to February why she must drink replicated tea."

Dabin admired Fleur's negotiating skills. Perhaps she missed her calling as an ambassador or prosecutor. He answered her by throwing the apron on.

"Sugar cookie dough is in refrigeration unit. Cookie cutters, in drawer if you insist on cutting the dough into those little hearts that so inexplicably delight your wife." Fleur pointed to the jars on the counter. "Loose tea. Sugar. Over there, is tea kettle. Also put on pot of coffee. Strong coffee. I will be back in ten minutes. Detailed instructions for timing and temperature for baking cookies are on the paper card clipped to the inside of the cabinet door. Yes, I said paper. Try not to burn my Cafe to the deck."

Dabin Reece
Temporary Baker
USS Serendipity NCC-2012