272: Guardians and Angels

By Keiran O'Sullivan
A short time after At the Top of the Tracks and Class is in Session

-=The Afterthought Cafe', USS Serendipity=-

The Sera's top law enforcement officer slowly swirled the last of his morning dose of caffeine in the bottom of his cup.

Fleur had brought this variety to his table especially- knowing that he liked his coffee so strong that it bordered on what others would consider pure acid.

She had procured a supply of especially dark roasted beans while they'd been in reach of Earth, and she had ground them fresh and then presented the beverage in a small press pot- the kind that allowed just a few tantalizing grounds to mingle in with the liquid as he drank it.

Most would just set the grounds aside with the last sip and leave them to go cold- but not this man. He whirled the cup in a quickening circle to be sure to get every last, bitter molecule mixed into the remaining brew, and then downed it all with a swift motion of his wrist before they could settle on the bottom again.

He set the cup aside, and then picked up the PADD he'd been staring at for half an hour already.

The slow hiss of a sigh escaped from his lips, as he ran a hand over his bearded chin.

Finally, his fingers began to tap words onto the PADD.

Personal Log, Stardate 80502.7.

It's interesting to note that the word 'guardian', though pronounced differently in the local languages, exists in the life and lore of so many otherwise dissimilar species. I've found in fact, that the concept has some sort of meaning for almost every culture I've encountered in the course of my travels.

Of course, there is the Catholic idea of guardian angels and patron saints, as I was taught along with my Hail Marys and Our Fathers as a but a boy. Then there is the Trill idea of the symbiont Guardians, which that curiously amusing, wisp of a man called Rigin
enthusiastically schooled me about that night at the Mardi Gras party.

That night that seems to have happened a lifetime and a half ago, by now.

Parents are considered guardians of the welfare of their children. . .but even-

He stopped and looked up as he heard a small giggle from across the way, and observed Lair Arie propped up on a high stool beside Fleur's counter.

The child was laughing, as was her mother, as Arie had bitten off an extraordinarily large chunk of powdered donut and had ended up with most of the powder on the ridges of her nose, and somehow, even in the chocolate colored locks which framed her face.

Lair Kellyn took a napkin from Fleur and whispered something to the child, as she brushed traces of the confection from her features. A moment later Arie's father, Commander Salvek joined them at the counter, and they were apparently now holding intensive negotiations as to whether or not Arie was going to finish her orange juice in addition to eating the pastry.

For an instant, something inside of Keiran stung- the reopening of yet another tiny wound that was much more painful than it should have been for its size, because it was part of a much deeper, larger underlying injury.

He poured the very last drops of the almost solidified coffee from the press pot into his cup and downed it quickly. Its bitterness jolted him back into his previous frame of mind.

He erased the previous sentence he'd typed, and then tapped upon the PADD once more.

Then, there are the Guardians, in a Temporal sense.

This is what she has been to Salvek, and this she remembers.

This I have been to her- but she does not know and must not remember.

Myself, I was not supposed to remember. But then I suppose that some people, some places and times can so change a man, burn so deeply into his soul and flesh and bones that he has no choice but to live with the scars that they leave behind.

She was meant to protect others.

I was meant to protect her.

Somehow, in the 'now that was', I failed her.

Somehow, in the now that is, I must never fail her again.

There are those who are asked to make great sacrifices to protect what most spoiled citizens of the Federation have come to consider their barest acceptable standard of living. They do not realize that they live like kings and princes in comparison to those of so many worlds.

In comparison to those of her world.

She would tell them, make them understand. Lord knows, the woman has tried when she could. Somehow, so few of them ever grasp it.

Even if they could know all the work that entities like Temporal Investigations put in, every hour of every day behind the scenes of their everyday lives to make their extraordinarily ordinary existences possible, they still could not, would not accept it.

So where does that leave me- now that I know what I have been to her? What we have been to each other- in that 'now that once was'?

It leaves me repeating to myself in the dark of sleepless nights, the empty regulations and codes of conduct becoming an officer and an operative.

Reminding myself continually that some are called upon to make the ultimate sacrifice for their duty.

For some, like me, that ultimate sacrifice is not the giving of the lives that we have.

It's the giving up on the lives that we know we might have, if we could but stretch our arms wide enough to outreach the grasp of the Fates, just once.

End log.

Keiran typed his security encryption code into the PADD, and then shut it off. He had to go; he had an appointment to keep soon, and there was some last minute set up required for it per orders of the she that he never dared name in his logs, just in case anyone ever stumbled upon them and was able to retrieve the data.

For his own sake, he did not need to use her name. Even if he knew for certain that it was safe to do so- it would be far too painful to have to look at it in connection with feelings that could only be released as words on a screen in cloaked, vague sentences which could never do her - or what they had been- justice.


Waiting patiently in Holodeck One, Keiran checked the time again. Finally, his student came rushing through the door.

"I'm sorry, I'm so sorry that I'm late, Sir." February Grace tripped over her own toes as she caught the edge of the training mat with her boot. "Counselor Tryst is still trying to corner me. I told him that I had to reschedule because the Captain wanted me to modify the training sim for our new conn officer, and,"

"No need, Miss Bru. Please, take a moment to gather yourself, and then we'll begin."

He watched as she twisted an out of control head of tri-colored hair, lightest blonde on the top ranging to darker tones beneath in the back, up into a knot on the top of her head and secured it with a pin to keep it out of the way.

A moment later, the doors opened once again and his second pupil, the one he least looked forward to having to work with, appeared before him.

[[I'm sorry that I'm late, Lt. Commander,]] Jariel signed, as Bru translated for him. Keiran was quick with languages and had picked up a good basic understanding of USL by this point, but he was still working on his vocabulary. [[Services ran over- I lost track of the time. Everyone had a lot of questions.]]

"No problem, Vedek. Get ready and we'll start with some simple blocking and sparring techniques."

Knowing that there was no way that he could expect the mild mannered priest to ever take a swing, even in training, at the young Lt. Grace, Keiran walked to a panel in the wall and began to program a few potential threats for the Vedek to defend himself against. He didn't think that the man would have the. . .confidence, to take him on personally.

"I'm not going to have to hit him, am I?" Bru asked nervously, biting her lip. She jerked a thumb in the direction of the Vedek. "Cause, I can't do it, you know? I mean, look at that face. Those big brown eyes. He's like a little deer fawn. You couldn't harm a hair on his head."

Jariel blushed, and Keiran smiled politely, thinking *Hunters do. . .duck season, rabbit season. . .Vedek season. . .* in his head as he considered the metaphor. Then, he internally condemned himself.

Jariel was the man Liis loved in this life and time- he was going to have to come to terms with the fact. There was nothing he could do to change it, and he certainly couldn't let it keep him from doing his own job.

Today he was going to make his first honest attempt at learning to exist with it. This was imperative, especially since (unknown to his superiors) every day his memories of Zanh Liis grew clearer and more difficult to set aside.

[[I don't mean to sound like I'm boasting,]] Jariel began shuffling his feet, as he waited for O'Sullivan to begin their 'test'. [[But I do know how to defend myself, hand to hand.]]

Now, O'Sullivan was intrigued. He had a good four inches on Jariel in height- and he also outweighed him by quite a bit.

Then he began to wonder if perhaps, like the ancient orders of monks and priests of his homeworld, the Bajorans didn't implement some sort of physical training into their daily routines. Liis had never mentioned it, at any point, but he supposed that if the average Vedek on the streets did know how to rip your own arm off and then beat you to death with it in no time flat, it is not the type of thing they would widely advertise.

"Do ya, now." Keiran raised his brows. He surveyed the stance of the man, and Jariel glanced at Bru. Her eyes sparkled with affection as she looked at Jariel, leaving Keiran to ask himself "Why couldn't he go for spotted blondes instead of . . ."

[[Yes. So, if there is some sort of exercise by which I could prove it to you, perhaps by sparring with you personally, and then move on with the rest of my day, I am interested in ending this exercise as expeditiously as possible.]]

Camen couldn't have said why, but he didn't like the way that this man looked at him- or the way that he looked at Liis. It wasn't a dark motive that he sensed in him- but it was something that Camen had a healthy dread of- and that fostered a desire to give the man as wide a berth as possible.

"Very well. Gracie, if you'll just stand aside a moment,"

February nodded emphatically, blonde strands flopping free of her up-do, and moved to the edge of the gymnasium mat.

"Defend yourself," Keiran raised his arms and Jariel assumed an appropriate counter-posture.

The larger man approached, throwing a punch squarely at the Vedek's sculpted, unbelievably symmetrical face, something that was far too satisfying for him to admit to himself honestly.

Jariel caught the punch, deflected it deftly and a moment later, without knowing quite how he got there, Keiran was lying on the mat, looking up.

His cheeks took on a slight ruddiness beneath his prickly beard. "Congratulations, Vedek Jariel. You graduate."

The Vedek pressed both hands together and tilted them toward O'Sullivan in a gesture of gratitude, before offering the man a hand up off the floor.

Keiran waved him away and Jariel, wanting to spare the man's pride further injury in front of the lady, stepped back. He wiped at his brow with the cuff of his shirt sleeve, and he nodded to February.

He signed something quickly to her that Keiran didn't quite catch, but the remark elicited a giggle from the willowy Trill, and she waved at him as he nodded to O'Sullivan once again, and then went along on his way.

February caught the look on O'Sullivan's face, and stifled her laugh as she repeated Jariel's words again in her mind, "The bigger they are, the harder they fall, little Angel. Remember that."

"Now, what about you? Are you in a hurry to get this over with, as well?" Keiran asked, getting to his feet. "Shall I give you a holographic opponent and we'll give it a go?"

February bit her lip again and shook her head. "I barely passed self defense class in the Academy, Commander."

She threw her hands up into the air hopelessly. "Hell, I almost killed myself in a freak punching bag rebound accident when a friend tried to teach me to kick box once. I'm a pilot, not a fighter. Can't you just give me a phaser and send me on my way?"

"Sure," O'Sullivan moved over to a nearby bench, where he had left his phaser after removing it to prevent anyone's accidental injury during their exercises. "Here you go."

He held the weapon out, handle first, toward her.

"Thank you," Bru said curiously, unsure even as she accepted it. She looked at him sideways as she fingered the controls. "But what was the point of,"

Keiran whipped around behind her and suddenly the phaser went flying across the mat, as he knocked it out of her hand and in one more motion had her in a headlock.

He grabbed her by the hair, and held her fast. "Now what good is your phaser, Lt. Grace?"

February's heart began to race. She saw the image of another man's face transposed over his in her mind in a flash of light and memory- and she was frozen.

"No one can help you, now. It's just you and me, what do you do? Do you let me win?"

Still unable to move or respond, February whimpered softly as Keiran grasped her hair more tightly. He didn't want to hurt her, but he did want to teach her this lesson well because it might save her life one day.

"Don't be afraid to hurt me, come on! I'm threatening your life, or the life of someone you care about! I'm what's between you and safety. Others are counting on you to save yourself- Bru, for god's sake, do something!"

February began to shake, and Keiran suddenly realized that she was no longer with him in the moment- she was somewhere else, very far away.

He released her, and February backed up as far as she could go until her back was against the wall and he couldn't possibly get behind her. She continued to tremble, and she wrapped her arms around herself even as Keiran heard the sound of her teeth rattling together.

His fatherly instinct kicked in, and he kept a distance from her, but held his arms open in surrender. "February," his eyes reflected both an anger, and a sadness as he took another step closer and she winced. Someone had obviously mistreated her in times past and like a pup smacked on the snout by an abusive owner, she bristled even at the slightest wave of a hand in her direction.

"Feb, darlin', what in the name of,"

"Don't call me that." She snapped, rubbing her hands up and down her arms. "Don't ever call me that."

"Why not?"


He waited patiently, even though it took a moment for her to find the words, and enough trust in him, to continue.

"Because that was what he always called me right before he hit me."

Keiran felt his blood begin to boil. He had gained enough of a hatred for Grace's parents through the communications he'd stumbled upon between her and them, now to find out that violence may have played a part in her family life as well. . .he asked himself how some men were ever allowed by the universe to become fathers.

"Lieutenant," he moved very slowly, gesturing for her to sit down on the bench, while he made a few adjustments to the holodeck controls and then gestured again to ask if he could sit beside her. She nodded.

"Any man who has to prove his power by committing acts of violence against a child, is neither a real man, nor a real father. You understand that, don't you?"

She shook her head, still very much looking like the wide-eyed child whose picture he had seen in her Starfleet profile.

"You know. In your head, and your heart, and for heaven's sake, inside of that ancient being called Grace, you know how to defend yourself, February. You've survived more already than most people could begin to fathom. You just have to believe." He stopped, noticing that she had finally ceased looking at the floor, and was now looking him in the eyes.

"Believe what?"

"That when it comes down to it, that February deserves to be saved, and she can save herself."

Keiran rose from the bench and tapped the controls once more. "I think we're done for today. Why don't you,"

[Security to O'Sullivan! Intruder alert! Deck 8, replimat!]

"On my way!" Keiran called, and without looking back at Grace, he sprinted into the hall.

When she heard the sound of a small scream, she followed.

"Help me! Mr. O'Sullivan, help me!" Lair Arie screamed and kicked as an alien in armor that February didn't recognize held her by the arms, trying to affix a transporter device of some sort to her neck. "Don't let them take me! Please!" She was trying to bite and punch the man, but his armor protected him.

"Release her!" Keiran shouted. Suddenly the intruder was joined by a companion, who pulled out a weapon and fired. In a split second, he was down on the deck, and Bru realized that if she didn't do something, that no one else could get to the child in time.

She screamed, an ear-shattering, guttural scream, and charged both aliens. With a roundhouse kick she disarmed the one who had shot O'Sullivan, grabbed him by the arm and slammed him head first into the bulkhead.

Next, she turned on the being holding Arie and within a second she had grabbed him by the helmet. Without a thought, she twisted his head backward until he went completely limp. His arms released the child, and February gathered Arie up into her arms, and ran.

As she rounded the corner, she was stopped by a security detail- including the real Keiran O'Sullivan. "Computer, end program."

"WHAT?" Grace shouted, as the vision of Arie vanished from her arms.

"Bru, listen to me. This has been your test," Keiran waved the rest of the detail off, and waited for February to finally lower her arms to her sides. "After you heard the intruder alert, I ran out, then ducked down around the corner. The image of me you saw shot was a hologram, just like the Arie you saw taken captive."

"What the hell was the point of that?" February gasped, as she tried to remember how to breathe.

"I wanted you to understand, young one, don't you understand?" Keiran approached her and gently put a hand on her arm. "You couldn't protect the little girl that you were. But you're grown now. You can protect yourself. You can protect anyone on this ship, including that little girl you love, if you have to."

He stepped back, allowing her to process his words. "You are worth protecting. So use what you know. You can do it." He backed away from her slowly, and he nodded to her before leaving. "Well done, Miss Bru. Well done."

February's heart continued to pound so hard she thought it might leap from her chest.

She began to realize that perhaps it wasn't such a bad thing she had that appointment rescheduled to talk with Vol Tryst this evening, after all.

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

271: Remedial

By Blakeslee, Reece and Grace
Concurrent with At the Top of the Tracks, Looking Down

-=Quarters of the Blakeslee Family: USS Serendipity=-

"I don't know why they want me to work in Science." Zander lamented, as he read the Captain's most recent orders once again. "I mean, I know next to nothing about science stuff. The height of my scientific achievement was learning how to make those cheesy volcanoes in primary school." He continued as he worked to dislodge one of his sons, who was hanging from the arm of his chair.

Samthia smiled at him from across the room as she was setting the table for dinner. She knew he was exaggerating mightily. All Starfleet officers had to have a good working knowledge of at least the specific scientific rules of law which governed the operations of a starship. But she played along. "That is why the Captain is asking you to do this. So you will know something."

He set his son down before he looked back to his wife. "Your right of course, like always." He smiled. "Hey, no, no. Put that down!"

He jumped up from the chair and retrieved a glass ornament from the hands of Thomas. "Is this yours?" He asked, faking an irritated voice as he held up the glassware.

Thomas shook his head in a negative fashion.

Zander nodded his approval of the answer. "Do we touch things that do not belong to us?"

Once again the boy shook his head and also added softly. "No play."

Zander placed the ornament back onto the coffee table and tussled the boys short hair. "Very good, now go and play with you brother." Happy to have not gotten into to much trouble Thomas took off after Johannes, who, seeing him coming fled into their room.

"No jumping on that bed!" Zander called after them. He walked over and sat down at the table. "For the life of me I do not know how you handled them by yourself."

Samthia walked over and plopped into her husband's lap. "You forget how large my family is. Help was not in short supply."

He kissed her. "I prefer to believe that you are superwoman." He got a far off look. "Now if a can get you to wear a cape."

She laughed. "Go to work."


Zander walked into the main science laboratory. He looked around for Commander Reece and found him in his office in the back of the lab.

He knocked on the door frame. "Morning, Commander, I'm here for the cross-training."

"Hmm?" Reece looked up to see who it was.

"The cross-department training? That the Captain ordered?"

Reece's mind was immersed in his current task, so much so that he was having a difficult time even processing the words Zander was speaking to him. That, and the fact this was his first full day back on the job didn't help either.

"Captain..." He said slowly, as if the universal translator were broken.

"Zanh Liis?" Blakeslee said incredulously.

"Liis... Liisy! Right! The training thing! Come on in, dude." Reece looked back at his computer. "Computer save current project."

"What are you working on there, Commander?" Blakeslee looked at the screen, which seemed to contain the instructions and necessary tool list for the installation of a sliding glass window.

"Uh..." Reece stammered, not wanting to give Zander any information that may find its way back to Lair Kellyn. "Something for the arboretum."

"Of course. So where can we begin?"

Reece accessed the current short range and long range sensor scans on his computer, and turned the screen towards Blakeslee. "Science, Chapter one. Sensors are your friends!"

"Sensors? Like the Gateway system I designed? You know, the one that integrates the Serendipity and Alchemy's arrays?" Blakeslee asked.

"Ah, yes of course. But the ship has just entered a class four nebula, the ship can't make a stable warp field, and you are dead in the water. NOW what do you do? The Captain is screaming in your ear for a solution and all you've got is a pile of data. The most important part of my job is interpreting all that data that comes in. I want to go over the basics of astronomical phenomenon you may run into in your travels, so you are ready to deal with a problem when you do not have a Science guru, such as yours truly, around. . ."

Just as Zander had resigned himself to a boring morning spent pouring over dry sensor data, he was saved.

His combadge chirped.

[Operations to Blakeslee.]


[I need your help with a little project. Can you meet me in cargo bay three?] TC Blane inquired.

"Sure, Commander, on my way." Zander grinned, then he mocked an expression of disappointment, thinking, *Sorry, Reece, we'll have to build that volcano another day.*

"Duty calls," he shrugged, as if there was nothing he could do about it no matter how much he wished there were.

"Okey dokey. You just stop back by before I have to turn in my paperwork, so I can convince Crinkles that you know the difference between a White Dwarf and a Yellow Giant! And here's a clue for you Chief, the first has nothing to do with Snow White and the second has nothing to do with the Brute Squad!" Reece admonished, wagging his index finger at Zander in a way that made him seem like a rumpled old schoolmarm. "Mind you, don't forget!"

Zander didn't realize this resemblance was due to the fact that one of Reece's previous hosts had been just that. A rumpled, spotted old schoolmarm.

"Yes Sir!" Zander saluted, making his escape.

As he headed into the lift on his way to seek out Blane, he realized that he didn't know what he'd been thinking- he had a much more attractive, if distracting, tutor available to him on the subject of Science than the Trill. Perhaps he could ask the Captain if there was some sort of proficiency test he could take instead of returning to Reece, and then he could ask Samthia to help him cover the necessary materials to pass it. *Yes,* Zander thought, *My day is looking up.*

"Cargo bay three."


The doors to Reece's lab slid open once more just after he had re-opened the schematic of his planned window into Lair's world- and he was so engrossed in completing the design so he could get to cutting the hole through the wall that it took him a moment to hear the voice in his head.

*Hey, I'm talkin' to you!* February thought again, but it was the sound of her laughter that got his attention. "Yeah, you." She added aloud. "You're up to something."

Reece switched off the display, out of habit, forgetting again just for a split second that he could have no secrets from her. "Me? No. Whatever do you mean?"

"Dabin Tristran Linas Reece!" She exclaimed, reaching out to tickle him. "You're so bad! Poor Kellyn. She's going to wish her office was adjacent to waste reclamation instead of your cave if you go through with this."

"Yeah well I'm only looking out for the safety of the ship. You have no idea what the madwoman is capable of. I've seen it!" He insisted. He reached out to grab her hand as she walked past. He continued speaking aloud- they were trying to work on remembering to do that in public and especially while on duty, having realized recently that when they just stood there silently having conversations that no one else could hear, it tended to put people off. "What are you up to today?"

"Psych eval." Bru frowned.

She didn't really want to get into much with the new Ship's Counselor- she had hashed and rehashed so much of her past with Jariel in recent times- and with the medical staff where needed, she felt there was nothing more to be gained from introspection at this particular moment. She was just finding her footing again- she did not want to allow the past a chance to creep back in and risk upsetting the applecart.

"This Ensign Tryst is a very interesting man. He didn't want to conduct the evaluation in his office. He asked where I feel most comfortable, and suggested we go there. I wanted to take him to the Magic Kingdom but the holodecks are all in use for training exercises." She continued. "So, I'm going to give him a crochet lesson instead."


"No." Bru shuffled her feet. That was a space a little too dear to her heart- a little too personally sacred- for her to allow herself to be psychoanalyzed in it by a complete stranger.

Reece had not yet had his evaluation either, and was not particularly interested in getting to it in a hurry, either. "Well have a good time. Then you can think to me what you think of our new shrink tonight." He winked at her and squeezed her hand before releasing it.

"I may be home a little late," she advised. "In addition to finishing up the Defensive flight courses after my evaluation, I am supposed to get re-certified in self-defense and then introduce our new CONN officer Hok to the Alchemy via simulation. Too much to do, not enough hours in the day."

"Don't worry, I'm swamped too." Reece sighed. "I'll come find you at some point. To say goodnight, at the very least."

*See that you do, Dabin Reece.* She thought to him. *And behave yourself!*

"Oh I will," Reece mumbled softly after she'd gone. He turned back to the schematics of the window, and put on the finishing touches on. "In my fashion."

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


Commander Dabin Reece
Chief Science Officer
USS Serendipity NCC-2012


Lt. February Grace
Senior Flight Controller
USS Serendipity/Alchemy

270: At the Top of the Tracks, Looking Down

By -=/\=- Captain Zanh
Concurrent with Class is in Session

-=Captain's Ready Room- Bridge of the USS Serendipity=-

"But Captain," Vol objected, "My orders were to review the mental health of every member of the senior staff as well as all bridge officers and those in especially sensitive positions, among even the junior officers,"

"I am aware of that, Ensign. I am the one who issued the order." Zanh Liis rose from her chair and moved over toward the replicator. "Tullu Leaf."

Seconds later the miniature head of bright green lettuce appeared, and she took it into her hand, tossed it up and down and caught it once or twice as one might do with a baseball, before she finally lifted the lid of Bob's terrarium and dropped it inside.

Hearing the familiar sound of his breakfast being delivered, Bob scampered out of his favorite hiding place and began to eat without looking up at her. "You're welcome." Zanh laughed slightly. The tiny lizard never paid her any mind- maybe that was why she liked him so much. No matter what she did, to him, she just didn't matter. Getting his attention eventually continued to be something to strive for.

"So, Lt. Commander O'Sullivan has really been issued a free pass this time?"

"Admiral Vox and I discussed this and I can't get into specifics, but the short answer to your question, Vol, is yes."

"That troubles me. I can't be expected to manage the mental health of a person whose records remain to be classified."

"In this case, you're not." Zanh moved over to the corner, to the adjacent private lavatory and activated the sink to clean her hands. "Activate." She instructed the sink, and she returned a moment later.

"You have to understand, this is unlike any assignment that you've ever had. At times, you will be cut off from access to an officer's files, without explanation, and you will just have to trust me when I tell you that there are reasons. In this case, the Admiral assures me that Keiran has already spoken to someone before returning from his Away mission, and Vox is satisfied that the man is fit for duty. That will have to do, for the both of us, for now."

"I still respectfully disapprove, Sir."

"I hear you. Note your objection in your log," Zanh refilled her coffee cup from the thermal container on her desk. "I'll be happy to pass it along. Is there anything else, Ensign? My schedule is quite full today."

"Yes, in fact. One more thing. I did as you asked, I had a session with Lair Arie."

Zanh's blue eyes slowly rose above the steam radiating from her cup. Once again, Vol had her full attention. "And?"

"She's precocious. Brilliant. Her IQ is off the charts. I would dare even to call her a prodigy in mathematics and physics. But more than that, she is wise beyond her years. Most surprisingly, there is none of the sense of superiority beneath the surface that one often finds in such gifted children. It's quite astonishing. The child displays no manner of conceit. She's very humble, without any grasp of the concept of her uniqueness."

*Not at all surprising given her parentage,* Zanh thought. She could tell that Vol was hesitating now, and even though the pause may only be intended as momentary, for the sake of her schedule she urged him on. "Continue."

"There's something more to this child, though. Her. . .well. . . what we psychologists refer to as Emotional Intelligence- is astounding. She has such a rare spirit. . .I sense so much coming from her that it's almost like visiting an amusement park. You cannot believe upon walking through the gates for the first time all there is to see and hear."

Zanh laughed softly, and Vol could read that she was touched by the sweet, very apt description of the girl. Though the more they talked about Arie, the more Vol sensed a shift in Zanh's emotional state. She was growing anxious over the subject.

"She's something all right. Did you have any specific concerns about her emotionally at this time?"

Vol shifted posture. "Only one."

Zanh sat up straighter in her chair. The emotions radiating from her were, Vol thought, not unlike someone who was in fact in an amusement park; climbing slowly to the top of the steepest hill of the largest roller coaster. She was poised on the edge of that precipice and looking down. She knew what was about to come, but just the same, felt trepidation over the reality of how far the drop was between her feet and solid ground.

"Can you be more specific? I know there are confidentiality issues, and if you prefer, I can certainly speak to Salvek directly."

"That won't be necessary in this case only because this concern directly involves you, Captain and you need to know it."

"Me?" Zanh feigned puzzlement. "That's interesting. I hardly know the child, really." She busied her hands suddenly with the stack of PADDS to her left.

"Ah, but you are a key player in what she considers to be her deepest secret." Vol announced softly. He had not had any luck getting Arie to explain to him exactly what this "important secret" involving the Captain was, but he could sense from the child that it was not something that caused her to be frightened of Zanh in the least.

On the contrary, the child trusted Zanh with her life, and the lives of all she held dear. He sensed only gratitude and respect for the woman radiating from the girl- but as with any secret, it fashioned a dim shroud that hung over Arie's pretty little head- and he was anxious to free her from it. He thought of an old Earth psychiatry maxim, derived from a method of recovery that they had called a "12 Step Program."

That saying was, 'You're only as sick as your secrets."

Zanh Liis felt a knot forming in the pit of her stomach. She didn't like where this was going.

She had known- ever since they had been on the flagship last year and Kellyn and Salvek had finally been ready to accept the truth about Arie- that eventually the child would have to be told.

The truth was, that Arie was the biological child of Salvek and Lair- not of others as they'd been told upon adopting her as an infant. That she had been rescued by Zanh under orders from Temporal Investigations from another timeline because she was so valuable to the future of the Federation.

Yes, Liis knew this day would arrive. But she had hoped that Arie would be told by her parents when she was perhaps a little older- not that the child would figure it out on her own before she was ready to handle it.

*I should have given her more credit for the brain that she has,* Zanh rebuked herself. *I should have known that there would be no keeping such a truth from the daughter of Salvek past her earliest childhood.*

"Captain?" Vol tried to stir Zanh from the silent reflection which had overtaken her. "Do you have any idea what this secret might be?"

"Ensign," Zanh sighed, and began to fidget with the spyglass that sat in the center of the desk, unfurling it and then closing it back up again several times in quick succession. "I need for you to arrange a time where I can sit down with you, Salvek, Kellyn, and Arie so that we can discuss this matter more fully."

Vol was intrigued. "At your convenience, Captain. Is there anyone else who should be in attendance?"

"Yes." Zanh replied. "Vedek Jariel." Zanh set the spyglass down finally. "The sooner, the better, I believe."

"Should I clear my afternoon schedule?"

"No. Just." Zanh had taken to speaking in one word sentences as she did when she was trying to figure out the best way to handle a delicate situation. "Find us your first opening."

Vol nodded, and knowing he was dismissed, headed off on his way. His day was shaping up to be very interesting indeed. His first appointment on his list today was someone he had yet to make acquaintance with- Lt. February Grace, and now he had this Lair Arie mystery to unravel. . .

As the door slid shut, Zanh heard the chime almost instantaneously. "Forget something?" She asked, thinking it had to be Tryst.

"I don't think so," TC Blane grinned at her, holding a PADD in his hands. He looked up and down at his boots, his pants, his tunic. He felt for his pips in dramatic fashion and then tugged on his collar. "My head on straight?"

"Straighter than anyone else I know, Thomas." Zanh replied, sipping her coffee. She gestured with the cup toward the object in his hands. "I take it that is your suggested list for the next round of cross-training?"

"Yes, Captain, only I am thinking we should put a twist into this." Blane thought of his work with Jariel in the holodeck as he spoke. "I think that some may be. . .how can I put this. . ."

"Don't ever mince words with me, of all people. Just speak your mind, Thomas. You know you can." Zanh gestured for him to take a seat, and moved to pour him a cup of coffee as well. He held up his hand to wave her off.

"No coffee, thanks. If you give this idea your blessing, I would really like to get going on setting it into motion as quickly as possible."

He was so serious about this, Zanh set the cup aside. "Shoot."

"I think that honestly, some of the senior officers are bored to death by this point with proving that they have the required level of knowledge in other departments. As a result, it's hard to cut through that snowballing boredom to find out what they really need to learn- and what they're already capable of."

"They're phoning it in?" Zanh frowned.

"Not all. Some." Blane replied honestly, scratching his chin.

"You have a solution?"

"Yes. Drills. Only, they are not to know that they are drills."

"They have already been told that drills may be part of the exercises," Zanh countered. "How do you propose to get around that?"

"Site to site transport, during which only those running the drills, namely you, and Salvek and I, know that the crew is in fact being transported onto the modified training holodeck. We haven't really had a chance to put it to full use yet, and I'd like the opportunity to try."

"Lab rats in a maze?" Zanh grimaced. She hated the idea of putting her officers into drills they thought were real- after all they had been through on the 626 mission.

"It's for their own good, Captain. Remember the Kobayashi Maru? The psychological testing they did at the Academy to allow admission? They didn't announce that those were the actual drills before beginning. The students only knew after it was over."

Zanh considered.

"Very well, but make them short. Scare the hell out of them if you must- but don't drag it on. Set limits." She cautioned him. "I want to approve the scenarios before you implement them."

"Understood." TC rose from his seat, moving toward the door. "I'll get to work on it right away."

"One specific request," Zanh raised a finger into the air, "Don't separate Reece and Grace- and please, don't make either of them think that the other is dead or injured. They've been through too much lately- they don't need," Zanh didn't have to say that with their lifetimes of knowledge from past hosts, if there was anyone on the ship who did NOT need departmental cross- training, it was the pair of Trill. "Besides, you know as well as I do that they have both been through that scenario for real and never once neglected their duties."

"That's a fact." Blane nodded, and as he vanished, Zanh sighed.

Drills were a necessary evil, she knew, but she just hated manufacturing crisis for her crew when it seemed that they were never too far away from the real thing.

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

269: Class is in Session

By Avery Breaux and Jariel Camen
The morning after Essence

-=Deck 5, USS Serendipity=-

[[Good morning everyone.]] Camen entered his office, a smile on his face as always. He carried a large leather bound text of the Prophesies of the Emissary that he had asked everyone to select a passage from for discussion. The book was marked with ribbons of various colors and well worn, being that it was one of Camen's favorite books. His pupils were punctual to the minute, even if Camen himself lagged a few moments behind.

Seated in his office were Avery Breaux, Fleur Le Marc, Lair Kellyn and Lair Arie. Camen was pleased that Kellyn and Salvek were taking a more active role in exposing Arie to the Bajoran culture, and not just Vulcan.

Fleur sat up straight and respectfully on the couch, holding a small paperback version of the same book Camen had, with her own bookmarks dangling out from between the pages. No doubt she had been thorough in her research and had many questions she wished to ask.

This exercise was meant to provoke many questions. Camen had found that the best way to communicate the words of the Prophets was not for him to stand in front of the room and do all the talking, but to allow his students to ask the questions. Each question would lead to another and another and the answers he gave would give a more clear understanding than any long winded sermon of his own could.

"Good morning." Everyone answered him back in unison.

[[I hope to have a free form discussion this morning, that's why I asked each of you to read a passage in the text for us to discuss.]] Fleur cheerfully waved her book, and the ribbons between the pages streamed back and forth, as her indication that she was indeed ready to discuss for as long as the Vedek was willing to listen.

[[Thank you all so much for coming. Avery, perhaps you would like to start us off?]]

Breaux nodded, and straightened in his chair, "I have two actually...after having read a great deal and spent a number of hours pondering the meaning of the prophecy having to do with essence...I came across these two and had some observations about them...but I'd be interested in hearing what the others think about them..."

He opened his book and looked over the words before beginning, "But then a shadow blocked out the sun. We looked up and saw a cloud filling the sky. It was a swarm of locusts. Billions of them. They hovered over the city, the noise was deafening... but just as quickly as they came, they moved on." Avery let the others digest what he had shared..."I'm not sure I understand the process here...it seems that each of us would interpret the prophecies differently...given our backgrounds, experiences and teachings...I can't imagine that was the intent of those who shared the prophecies..."

Avery continued, "But then, it may be wrong to assume that a prophecy has one strict meaning-although my background has told me that things of this nature relate to one particular instance...if I may...I'd like to share the second one that intrigued me..."

For this prophecy sharing, Breaux sat down to indicate that he wasn't attempting to monopolize time, "The emissary will face a fiery trial, and he will be forced to choose between..." Avery looked around the room and saw several people nodding their heads. "This one had some meaning for me, yet it specifically states 'the Emissary', so I'm not sure how it would have meaning for someone else...unless there are lessons to be learned from someone else's endeavors."

Breaux sat back anxious to see how the meeting would proceed.

Camen had his own thoughts, but waited a moment to see if anyone else was willing to offer an opinion. In the Bajoran faith there was no right or wrong interpretation. Each person's view of a Prophecy could be correct, for them.

"Perhaps the locusts are a sign of a drought about to come, a famine or some sort." Fleur smiled politely as she offered her opinion, but not so politely that it would look like she found a famine upon the Bajorans amusing.

Lair Arie cleared her throat, and with no prodding offered her opinion. "On Vulcan they speak of the bishau, the gathering of insects. They take the bishau as a sign that the innocent will soon be overrun by the guilty, with logic and justice being the true victim. Sorry I know that's not Bajoran..." Arie sat back down.

[[Excellent, Arie. That sort of discussion is exactly what I am looking for. We can understand the Prophets by looking at their teachings from many angles, even the Vulcans'.]]

Camen leaned back against his desk, choosing his next words carefully. [[It is true, that each Prophecy, we believe, has or will play itself out and have an effect on the Bajoran people. But is important, in our effort to touch the Prophets, that we not just derive truth from these words, but wisdom as well. Notice that the locusts came, hovered, and moved on without harming the city. This is meant to be a warning, that following the wrong path can have its consequences. We don't know what became of the village in this Prophecy, it was never mentioned, but we pray that they heard the call of the Prophets and heeded their warning.]]

"So the Prophets will try to guide us, when they feel we have gone astray, and it is our duty to let them steer us back to the path we are meant to follow?" Fleur offered. Immediately Camen was taken back to his visions of Fleur.

[[Yes, that is certainly a valid explanation.]] Camen offered uneasily.

Lair Kellyn sensed his uneasiness, and spoke to move them along. "Vedek, what of the Prophecy of the Emissary, the fiery trial he must face?"

Kellyn offered no indication that she knew why Avery would choose such a passage, but she knew the interpretation of it would help him come to terms with recent events in his life that she had shared with him.

[[Indeed, one of the more well known Prophecies, and one we have seen play itself out. We have seen the truth here, but we can still see the wisdom of it in our own lives. To do that, Avery, I would like to know why this Prophecy struck a chord for you.]]

Breaux hesitated...something he wouldn't have done ordinarily if pressed in such a situation. He had become more open after listening to his crew mates. He didn't feel as if Kellyn were putting him on the spot. She was genuinely interested in seeing him through this-she wanted him to be her crew mate.

"I think it speaks to all of us," Avery began, "...we have all faced ordeals, crossroads...where we've had to make decisions...fiery trials, being the metaphor...I've had my share. It's more than facing the horns of a dilemma, it could be something hideously unpopular." He paused. "What's more interesting is what we do when we face the trial, and perhaps err...how do we recover?...What do the Prophets say about redemption? Maybe our choices are viewed as wrong by those in power, and yet, we followed our own moral compass to arrive at a decision. We...interpreted the 'locusts' differently than someone else. It's all very subjective I would think. For example, the Bajoran Resistance...the Maquis...the Colonial Patriots in early America...how do they find their place if they are judged sinner instead of saint in society?"

Camen looked at the floor and thought about everything Avery had asked. [[I apologize for the simple answer but, the Prophets will know. You've asked a lot and we will need many hours of study to find clarity of these views.]]

"I think what the Vedek is trying to say is that redemption is a difficult concept. It will take time and patience to understand the teachings." Kellyn said, the double meaning of her words were not lost on Avery.

Avery nodded in appreciation and wondered what fiery trials the others had faced-the trials he didn't know about.

He felt very much at home.

Doctor Avery Breaux
Chief Medical Officer
USS Serendipity NCC-2012


Vedek Jariel Camen
Ship's Chaplain
USS Serendipity NCC-2012

268: Essence

By Doctor Avery Breaux
Time: Current

-=Breaux's Quarters, USS Serendipity=-

Breaux sat in his quarters, candles the only illumination. He sat on the floor near the view portal, a large array of candles spread out randomly on the table adjacent to him. It was the first time in ages he'd really had an opportunity to reflect on what had gone on.

The business with Angela had created turmoil for Starfleet and of course, Breaux as well. Now Avery had spent time with Vol and some of the other crew and was able to take two cycles off, and he had spent the time reflecting.

He considered just disappearing at the first opportunity. He knew the consequences that would bring-being on the Federation's wanted list, and eventually being apprehended.

He enjoyed his post on the Sera, and he appreciated, and had come to like the crew.

His thoughts ran to Angela and he had to force himself to meditate and find a peaceful place. He had resolved not to force some type of absolute with regard to his feelings on all of these matters.

Starfleet was going to want him to work. The Sera needed him. He had feelings for his Maquis brothers and sisters. Starfleet had decided to allow him to continue with his existence, they were simply going to call in markers.

He decided to let it flow. It was the most sensible of all of his options.

Breaux read the verse aloud once again,

"There's a tree that existed before the woods,
In age twice as old.
Its roots suffered as the valley changed,
Its leaves deformed by wind and frost.
People all laugh at its withered aspect,
Caring nothing about the core's beauty.
When the bark is stripped off,
Only essence remains."

"Essence," he said aloud. Candles flickered. He watched one of the flames, entranced. He'd found the verse he wanted to discuss with the Vedek. Perhaps in the process he'd found his essence.

Doctor Avery Breaux
Chief Medical Officer
USS Serendipity NCC-2012

267: Tough Decisions

By Lt. JG Rada Dengar
Concurrent With Opportunity Knocks

-=Office of the Chief Engineer, USS Serendipity=-

Rada couldn’t believe that it had come to this. It felt like just yesterday that he had received his exam results from the Academy and been sure that his passing was somehow attributable to either a computer error, a long drawn out conspiracy in which the administrators had been drastically over inflating the results of students they knew weren’t honest enough to point out their mistakes the purpose of which he could only assume was to establish a reputation for the select few as exceptional educators or simply the result of someone in power hating him enough that they’d rather pass him than risk him repeating the year and being stuck with him again.

Now all of a sudden he was the Chief Engineer on a starship, sure that his accomplishment was somehow attributable to either a malfunction in the performance evaluation process, the result of a complex conspiracy by the enemies of the Federation to mutilate the Serendipity’s Crew Roster which he could only assume was intended to bring the ship to the point where they wouldn’t have to bother attacking because it would simply fall apart on its own with him as Chief Engineer or that it was simply the result of someone in power hating him enough that they couldn’t wait any longer for him to crack so they decided to speed things along by turning up the pressure. Things had changed so much.

He didn’t know how he was going to do this. He had at first been so glad to have his own office, somewhere he could simply lock himself away, but that had quickly transformed into a disaster. This was his current dilemma, what should he do about his office door? Leaving in unlocked was out of the question but unfortunately so was locking it.

Obviously leaving the door unlocked would be ridiculous, aside from the obvious fact from letting people enter and hence negating what was to Rada’s mind the entire purpose of having a door, the real problem that arose was that people would inevitably come to expect the door to be unlocked. If ever anyone were to come knocking and find the door to be locked then they would inevitably assume that some kind of closed door conspiracy were taking place and that could only lead to distrust and descent within the department to the point where a rumour or miscommunication would lead to mistakes being made and warp cores overloading. The only way to avoid this would be if people who found the door to be locked were aware of the goings on within the office to the point where they could conclude that its being locked were an act of kindness not malice or conspiracy.

The slight problem with this would be that closing a door to be kind would be something Rada believed a person would only do if it could be reasonably concluded that the consequences of a lack of privacy would be detrimental to good name of the party involved. Such as if Rada had to give someone a poor review of their work. Inevitably of course this would mean that were Rada to take the kind action under these circumstances and lock the door then rather than protecting someone’s good name he would be dragging it through the mud because best case scenario; anyone who happened to knock on the door and find it unusually locked but who didn’t assume a conspiracy due to their understanding of how it being an act of kindness would have to be aware of someway which letting the news out would damage the good name of those involved and would therefore have to assume that such news were to exist, would naturally spread the word that such news existed resulting in the immediate destruction of the person involved’s reputation which was something Rada couldn’t risk.

Having the door constantly locked on the other hand was just as bad. Aside from the fact that it could encourage the same accusations of conspiracy including all of their ship destroying consequences it would also risk creating a rumour amongst those too trusting to blow up the ship that Rada simply kept the door always locked because he was some kind of foul tempered old ogre who loathed being disturbed, exactly the type of bloke who would be murdered by the older brothers of a series of disgruntled young recruits who felt that their siblings had been unfairly treated by their contemptuous Chief Engineer. Alternatively of course the distrust and fear evident in having a door always locked risked revealing Rada for whom he really was; to his mind a much worse fate.

The only other option would have been a system whereby Rada kept alternating between locked and unlocked but it occurred to him that someone with his history of mental illness probably wouldn’t instil too much confidence in those around him if he were to start demonstrating symptoms of a split personality. He was at a loss; the decisions a Chief Engineer had to make really were hard.

To complicate matters of course were these new departmental cross-training exercises. Rada wasn’t sure what he would end up having to do. He would have to participate in Defensive Shuttle Piloting exercises; to put in lightly if some people can be considered to be strong pilots then Rada considered himself to be a ‘frail one to the point of not being able to stand up’ pilot. He thought that in all probability if he ended up at the helm of a shuttle that he would fail miserably and possibly crash into the ship. Whilst that was most likely and in many ways the best case scenario it was by no means certain, there was always the risk that Rada would actually in a moment of desperation prove himself to be very good at defensive shuttle piloting, so good that he would if he were lucky be sent to fly on some kind of suicide mission through the heart of the Romulan Empire in a ship without shielding to avoid drawing attention by using a Federation shield configuration, that was of course only if he were lucky.

If he were unlucky, which Rada considered much more likely, he would be so good that his defensive piloting would cross over to the offensive and he would destroy another shuttle, be deemed an enemy of Federation and be incarcerated until such time as a Galactic famine forced the Federation to hand all of their prisoners over to the Ferengi, as they could no longer afford to feed them, whom would use them as slave labour until such time as they could be no longer of any use to them and they would be sold to the Cardassians to practice torture techniques upon. It was possible that Rada would simply have to undertake training in the holodeck but considering the number of malfunctions he’d seen in his time this was not all that comforting. Even if he managed to avoid all of this then he would go through the almost exactly the same thing learning self defense.

Of course it didn’t stop there. He would have to work as a medic which could, in Rada’s opinion, lead only to him accidentally killing every patient he came in contact with, even the ones only in there complaining of a sore toe which was actually the result of wearing the wrong size shoes.

As horrible as it would be working in departments where Rada didn’t have a clue what to do, it would be even worse to work in departments where he did; departments such as Science. Engineering and Science covered a lot of common ground; both required a high degree of knowledge in theoretical sciences and an ability to predict the consequences to this ship of any external phenomena. This posed the greatest problem that there were two different ways of doing the same things; an Engineering was and a Science way. A single instance of Rada doing things the Engineering way instead of the Science way and BAM you have an inter-departmental war for supremacy where only one department can survive intact. Rada was certainly not looking forward to the concept of butting heads with Dabin Reece, aside from being a senior officer, Reece also has seven life times on Rada as well as half a dozen more years in this life time which means that if Rada is seen to be trying to say that his way is somehow the best then he could end up seeming like the smart arse of the two. A fate he considered worse than death, ironic as he felt he’d probably die of embarrassment if it happened.

Adding to this was that Rada would have to be giving instruction to whoever needed it in engineering duties. He didn’t know how to teach. To teach you have to first know how to learn, to learn you need to be able to ask for help and to ask for help you need to admit what you don’t understand, and whilst Rada constantly admitted what he didn’t understand to himself even when he did understand it he had never been able to this with anyone else. Ironically an inability to ask for help meant that people assumed he always knew what he was doing and meant that much of his time at the Academy was spent tricking people into believing he’d taught them how to do things which he didn’t even understand himself. He hoped that these skills would be transferable and that he’d be able to trick people into believing he’d taught them things that he actually knew.

Still this would all be irrelevant if no one was talking to him. This was what Rada considered to be an almost inescapable result of his lessons in Universal Sign Language, half way through a class he’s sure that he will be thrown out when he tries to say a friendly greeting but messes up the position of his hand and accidentally makes a highly offensive remark about the fatalities during the Dominion war. He was not looking forward to this. He wouldn’t mind learning the language in isolation but as long as there were people who understood the language around, Rada had no desire to learn it.

He had been racking his brain for a way out of this, many of which involved jabbing of himself with white hot pointed sticks or injecting himself with some kind of flesh-eating nanites but whilst these would have been much more pleasant than what he was expecting to go through already; he did still have to worry about at least appearing sane.

He sighed in frustration before finally relenting. He realised that he would have to step up and do what was necessary, he had to face up to what life on a Starship meant. It would be tough but he knew that the time had come. There was only one thing he could do. He slowly rose from his chair. He exhaled deeply to the point of wheezing and ordered “Com…” he stalled for a moment before regaining his composure. He then spoke more surely and in defiance said “Computer… Lock Door”.

He then quickly sat back down and asked himself *Now, how do I get out of these training exercises?*

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

266: Let Go

By Ensign Palahna
(This post takes place a few days before the Sera left space dock)

-=M-Class planet Saturna, Beta Quadrant=-

"Do I take everything too seriously?"

No answer.

"Do I have unrealistic goals?"

No answer.

"Do I have to prove myself to the entire universe?"

No answer.

Palahna's brilliant green eyes passively surveying the smattering of light fluffy pure white clouds, the powerful red sun, the expansive depths of the green-blue sea and the bright blue sky. She leered over the World, soliciting it, begging it, daring it to reply. In all of it, there was no acknowledgment, no indication that her words had been received.

Nature was apathetic; it was steady, constant and she was but a dwindling flame before it.

But inside of her, a fire was building. Her next words barreled off her tongue, reverberating outward and disturbing tranquility into the distant horizon. She screamed, uncontrollably, her whole body convulsing around her violently contracting vocal chords as they birthed the sounds with reckless abandon - like a caged Kardan razor bull roaring out of the pen.


For more than 50 meters below was a jagged rock face, carved out over centuries of wear and tear, and beneath that a succession of tumultuous waves and sea that engulfed over half of this planet. She stood at the edge of the cliff, at the edge of the ocean. A delicate breeze sailed around her body. Behind her was a vast, rough field of dried yellow and brown grasses, burnt over the course of the long, scorching Saturna summer. It had a population of only several hundred thousand - there was not another intelligent lifeform for a hundred kilometers.

She was -




Palahna shrunk down on her weakening knees.

"Three years..." she cried. "I gave everything. I more than did my duty to Starfleet - better than anyone could, better than anyone expected. I just wanted to prove once and for all... I worked hard every day, every shift and every hour. What good is a little recommendation? Is that all I have now? Tour of duty's over... Life on the Endeavour's over. I have no friends... nobody's looking for me. Nobody will miss me...

"What could life on the Serendipity bring?..."

Palahna picked herself up to her feet, breathed in a long deep breath and peered hesitantly into the abyss...

Two days earlier...

The euphony of Science Lab 1 was slowly winding down around her, minute-by-minute, experiment after experiment, terminal after terminal. With each step Ensign Palahna of the USS Endeavour heard a dial turn, a workstation power off, a sensor pack put into storage. The science team's work was quick and efficient, as the starship's arrival back at Earth drew closer and closer. The young Orion hovered slightly, hesitating, and then strode decisively forward and into the office of the chief science officer.

"Ensign," welcomed Lieutenant Jonathan West, with a practiced grin. "Please sit down."

Palahna nodded and assented.

"Your orders finally came through," the 32-year-old human reported, leaning slightly backward, casually, in his chair. "USS Serendipity. Intrepid-class..."

"Brand new ship. Total crew complement: 255. Under the command of Captain Zanh Liis. Currently tasked as a mobile logistics craft, at least, that's what official record indicates." Palahna interjected. "Is Starfleet certain that this vessel will be the best fit for me?"

West's fake smile returned. He remarked, "You've done your homework. As always."

"No reason to stop just because the assignment is ending. Just because the Endeavour will be put into dock for a year of upgrades is no reason to be unprepared. Besides, I have found it useful to memorize basic information on all Starfleet vessels."

"That's a lot of ships," West said succinctly. His eyes glanced off, scanning the barren room that was just days earlier filled with assorted paleontology tools, a replica of Salvador Dali's The Persistence of Memory, a selection of rare Earth flowers and a 1:100 scale model of the old Earth bark HMS Endeavour. The lighting in the room was warm and radiant, standard work-environment setting. Aside from the ever-so dull playing of a violin concerto in the background - which Palahna believed was originally written by Venetian composer Antonio Vivaldi - the office was isolated from the outer laboratory. "As for your unique talents, given my recommendation, Starfleet had a devil of a time finding an appropriate assignment for you. I believe that you will find that you have a lot to learn on the Serendipity."

"Perhaps, sir, they will find they have a lot to learn from me." She retorted.

West frowned and shifted tack. "Frankly speaking, you take everything too seriously, Ensign. You have unrealistic goals - it's as if you are single-handedly trying to prove yourself to the entire universe."

Palahna sat silently, words escaping her.

"I had the pleasure of meeting your future superior, Mr. Dabin Reece, on an occasion once on Deep Space 23 - though I am sure he wouldn't remember. He's damned smart, intuitive as can be, and has a great sense of humor... let's just say he has a very unique energy. The experience should be a good one for you."

The last sentence came out with a hint of sarcasm that Palahna wished she hadn't heard.

[Lieutenant West to the Bridge. We are entering the Sol System, sir.]

Tapping on his communicator, he replied. "Aye, I'm on my way." West turned back to the green-skinned Orion and said, "Listen, Palahna, we didn't always see eye-to-eye on things, but I respect you. You're a good scientist, maybe one of the best on board, but you've got to lighten up. Let go. I have arranged for you to take a few days off. I strongly recommend that you get away from it all, and for once, do NOT take any science journals with you. This is time for you to relax, decompress, de-stress. Report to the Serendipity in four days." He rose to his feet with resolution, clasping a PADD in his left hand. "If you ever need anything, feel free to contact me."

Palahna stood up and met his extended hand in a firm shake. "It has been a pleasure serving for you, Lieutenant."

"He would be proud of you."

She smiled; he didn't need to say who.

Palahna could only hope that her father indeed would be happy with her work.

"Thank you, sir."

They walked out into the science laboratory - they were the last ones to leave. As they exited into the main corridor, the lights flickered off.

Two days later...

"What could life on the Serendipity bring?" Palahna asked herself as she looked down into the depths below. "...Another chance?" In the far sky, her eyes detected the dark silhouettes of a small group of squawking seagulls. In the ground below, she felt the course, dry grains of sand grating between her fingertips. From the depths below, she heard the slow crashing waves.

And suddenly, all around her she felt as if nature - in harmony - itself replied, acknowledged, accepted her, transforming into kindling to her raging fire.

"Never, never, never give up. That's what Dad would say. Never give up.

"Bring it on!"

She breathed in and, with a running start, vaulted herself over the edge of the rock facing. Her body soared as a bird, arms outstretched, embracing the world. Palahna smiled broadly, straightened her line and pierced the water with near perfection, leaving behind a piddling splash that was all too readily erased by the sea. The water - icy, intoxicating, seductive - engulfed her.

Ensign Palahna
Science Officer
USS Serendipity NCC-2012

265: Opportunity Knocks

By Captain Zanh and Ensign Hok
Following Starship Bound

-=Captain's Ready Room, USS Serendipity=-

Zanh Liis was anxious to get out of her office, but it didn't seem as though that was likely to happen any time soon.

She had heard rumbles when she'd poked her head out onto the main bridge an hour ago that Vedek Jariel had been seen walking the halls in a Starfleet uniform, and wondered if it was part of the command training exercise that TC Blane was to conduct with him.

Liis wanted to catch a glimpse of him in that uniform, thinking it would be quite a sight to see and perhaps even, a holocam moment to cherish forever. . .

The door chime indicated she had another visitor, and she waited a moment before answering, lifting her coffee cup to her lips for a much needed mid-afternoon jolt of caffeine.

Sadly, the cup was empty.

Her eyes scrolled through her appointment list for the afternoon to see who it. . .

*Oh.* She got to the next name on the list, and her eyes widened. She looked at the profile. She had thought when Vox said yesterday that her newest CONN officer was going to be a Ferengi that he was having a bit of fun with her.

Apparently, his twisted idea of fun was not simply jesting about it- but actually sending her a Ferengi CONN officer.

It wasn't that she generally disliked- oh hell. It was.

Maybe dislike was too strong a term- but the truth was that her previous experiences with Ferengi- one and all- had not been good. The worst, of course, being nearly been sold to the Romulans by a group of Ferengi just a short time ago. The memory of her time on Ferenginar. . . lingered.

She was curious though, to meet a man who would deny the traditions of his people in favor of a career in Starfleet. Of course, she thought, noting his age, maybe he had tried his hand at business on Ferenginar and spectacularly flunked out. Still, he had to have tenacity, otherwise he would never have made it through the Academy- and with good marks to boot, from what she was reading.

She liked to think she was nothing if not a fair woman- and so she was determined to let this "Ensign Hok" rise or fall in the ranks of her crew by his own actions.

It didn't matter what species he was, it mattered what his heart was.

That was what she kept telling herself, for a long moment until she realized that poor Hok was still ringing the doorbell.

Hok was carefully watching the officer that was currently piloting the Serendipity. He especially noted the ease with which his fingers moved over the console, making a minor course adjustment, or a recalculation because of something in space that would cross their path. It was like a miniature dance across a lighted dance floor.


Enter? Enter! The captain had actually told him to enter. Shifting his weight from foot to foot, Hok quickly ran his hands down the front of his uniform, then stepped into the ready room.

Captain Zanh Liis was standing behind her desk, and Hok noticed immediately that she was tall for a female, and even more attractive in person than her picture revealed. Staying on the captain's good side, so he would be safe on the ship, was his primary concern, and with a captain that looked as nice as she did, that would be a pleasant task.

"Ensign Hok reporting for duty, sir!"

"At ease, Ensign. Before you hurt yourself." Liis noticed his lingering smile, and she smiled politely in return.

Hok kept right on smiling, and after a moment or two she began to feel uncomfortable. She cleared her throat, moved from behind her desk and over to the replicator.

"Coffee, hot, double cream." She ordered. She waited for the cup to appear and then turned back to the Ensign. "I don't usually like to meet my new officers here. Usually I pick a much more. . . creative setting. Sadly, my day is packed and so this will have to do. I apologize for the. . . mundaneness of our introduction." She sipped her coffee and then set it down.

"It is a pleasure to meet you, Captain, no matter the setting."

*He seems eager to please. . .* Zanh thought. *Perhaps even a little too eager.* She'd have to keep an eye on this one.

"Thank you. Tell me, Ensign. Know anything about transwarp?"

"Starfleet doesn't have any transwarp ships," said Hok. There was a moment of silence between them, then it struck him. His eyes widened and he gasped with excitement. "Unless Starfleet does..." Hok's voice trailed off and he eyed the captain expectantly.

"Take a walk with me, Ensign." Zanh said, deciding that she would make the time to see the look on his face when he caught sight of the Alchemy. She glanced sadly at her coffee as she abandoned it- only the one sip taken, and then led the way through the doors and out onto the main bridge. "Salvek, I'll be back. We're taking a walk."

"As you wish, Captain."

A moment later they were on the turbolift, and Zanh commanded it cheerfully. "Alchemy bay."

In the turblift, Hok tried to read the captain. On Earth, there was always a rumor here or a rumbling there, about some mysterious and classified program Starfleet had, and occasionally. the name Alchemy would be heard. Hok had always dismissed them. Rumors weren't good for business, and often caused one to waste resources. Better to have facts than gossip and scuttlebutt.

The thing was, when Admiral Vox assigned him to the Serendipity, he had strictly emphasized the importance of keeping anything Hok did, saw, heard, and learned, as classified.

Was this secret project a reality after all, and he was now part of it? Would he get to pilot this new ship? What a great way to start his new career!

When they had arrived at the bay, Hok was not prepared for what he saw, when the doors to the bay opened and Captain Zanh gestured for him to take a look.

"How would you like to try flying that?" She waited for his reaction before continuing.

Hok's eyes shined brightly. He looked up at the captain, anticipation and excitement radiating from him like plasma leaking from a warp nacelle.

"I would be honored, Captain."

"It is a transwarp capable ship. But you're going to need some additional training before we let you fly it. That means," Zanh said, thinking that the pairing of the two officers she was about to propose would be highly amusing to observe, "that Lt. Grace is your new best friend."

"Whatever training is necessary, Captain, I'll do," said Hok. "Whatever you need."

What a break. Hok had gone from joining Starfleet just to stay alive, to being one of the pilots of a top secret ship that was probably the most advanced in the fleet. After so much tragedy in his life, things were beginning to take a turn for the good.

"You may regret wording that sentence so vaguely," Zanh said with a hint of a smile. "It will take dedication to learn to handle the vicissitudes of the Alchemy. Hell, I haven't even gotten to fly her myself yet, and. Well." She gestured to her pip count.

"I'm a Ferengi, Captain. Vague is part of my DNA," said Hok proudly. "Besides, after Lieutenant Grace teaches me, perhaps I could teach you."

Zanh shook her head. As ambitious as this guy was, she didn't doubt that he could.

"Let's get you acclimated to the Sera's helm for starters. I warn you though, she's a bit temperamental."

"All females are temperamental." Hok froze as he realized he had said that aloud to a female captain to whom he was trying to ingratiate himself. He gave a quick smile, hoping the captain would take it as a joke.

"Some much more than others." Zanh Liis replied, widening her eyes purposely as she gave him another stare.

Hok gulped. He had done so well making a good first impression. It was possible he had just sent it into a black hole.

*I'm probably next,* thought Hok. He sighed inwardly.


Captain Zanh
Commanding Officer
USS Serendipity NCC-2012

Ensign Hok
Conn Officer
USS Serendipity NCC-2012

264: Starship Bound

By Ensign Hok
Years Ago. . .


Hok was staring at the digital clock on the wall. The white numbers were oddly-shaped, perhaps in some ultra-modern style, instead of the traditional manner in which Ferengi numbers were written. Many traditions had changed over the last ten or twelve years, ever since the reformations that were started by Grand Nagus Zek, and continued by his successor, Grand Nagus Rom.

Hok was a teenager when Zek created the reforms that changed Ferengi society, reforms that were not well-received. He wasn't sure what to make of them; his father had railed against them in public, but how could anything that would increase the profits made by Ferengi, all Ferengi, be a bad thing? The reforms would even give his moogie a chance to earn profit.


Hok sighed and looked at his moogie's face. Her eyes were closed, and her color was almost white. It scared him to look at it, but he felt ashamed to look away. How could he not look at his wonderful moogie when she was in a coma, likely because of his father, his brother, and now him?

Hok gently ran his fingers across the back of one of her hands.

"I wanted to tell you, Moogie, that I'll be leaving Ferenginar for a while, maybe for a long time," said Hok somberly. He felt guilty saying it, though he knew his
business license being revoked was his father's doing and not his.

"I'm going to try to get a fresh start so I can care for you better. Until then, Glosh will be looking after you. You remember Glosh, don't you?"

Glosh had wanted to enter into a marriage contract with Hok's mother, but Hok's father made a better offer to his moogie's father, so he was awarded the contract instead.

Hok grew silent, not knowing what else to say. Lovingly kissing his moogie's hand, he patted it softly and got up. Looking at her face one last time, Hok left her room.

-=Earth, Months Later=-

Hok sat in the chair, rocking nervously. He stared at the light blue walls covered with citations and awards. He admired the achievements, but they intimidated him. Why would such a man approve a Ferengi that had his business license revoked?

Hok turned his attention back to the Starfleet Admissions Officer, Commander Lee Travis, as he finished reading Hok's file. The man was a Hew-mon, tall and well-built, with dark, curly hair that had tinges of gray on the sides. His brown eyes were serious and showed a confident and efficient man. Hok knew he was doomed.

Turning off the computer console on his desk. He looked directly at Hok just by moving his eyes, and without moving his head.

Hok swallowed.

"Well, Mr. Hok, your file isn't something I normally see. Your background check took a long time. It seems some of your relatives were suspected of associating with
undesirable people."

Hok didn't say anything. He didn't know what to say. What could he say?

Travis studied Hok for a moment before continuing.

"Your test scores are high enough for you to be accepted."

Hok felt hope inside, but he held his grim expression.

"But there are just some things in your background, that cause me to be concerned."

Hok's shoulders slumped.

Travis drummed his fingers on his desk. Leaning back in his chair, he crossed his arms over his chest.

"Are you willing to work hard and accept the ideals and beliefs of Starfleet and the United Federation of Planets?"

"Yes, sir. I am," said Hok.

"Because your citizenship papers have arrived. You've been accepted as a citizen of the Federation."

Hok began to feel hope.

"All right, Mr. Hok, you're in. It's against my better judgment, but you're in. Don't make me look like a fool."

Hok smiled.

-=4 1/2 Years Later: Stardate 80409.11: Just before the USS Serendipity leaves orbit of Earth=-

Hok thought back to when this journey had first begun. He had joined Starfleet so he wouldn't be killed by the Orion Syndicate. Now, he had just materialized in the transporter room of the USS Serendipity. He still felt like he was doing the craziest thing he could have ever imagined.

"Welcome aboard, Ensign," said a security officer that was there to meet him. "You can leave your belongings here and follow me to meet Captain Zanh. We'll see that your things are sent to your quarters."

Hok stepped down from the transporter and placed his travel bag on the floor. Greeting the security officer, he followed him into the corridor. Hok was so excited and nervous, the trek through the ship had been a blur. Before he knew it, he was on the bridge, standing outside the captain's ready room. His escort rang the chime.

"I'll leave you to the captain."

As the officer walked away, and as he waited for the captain to tell him to enter, Hok noticed the stares from some of the bridge crew. He ignored the stares and looked at the conn. That's where he'd be. That was his post.

It suddenly struck Hok, that he really was a Starfleet officer now, serving on a starship.

The Great Material Continuum could certainly be unpredictable, to say the least!

Ensign Hok
Conn Officer
USS Serendipity NCC-2012

NRPG: Welcome aboard, Mr. Hok! I think you're going to make an excellent addition to our happy little band. Make Hok feel welcome, everyone! And good luck with the Captain, Hok. I hear she can be a bit of a. . .

LOL ;~) ~ZL

263: All Jazzed Up and Open

By Avery Breaux & Vol Tryst
Hours after Breakthrough

Breaux tapped on the door chime of the Counselor's office, and then looked down the hallway out of instinct in case the Counselor was approaching from that direction again. Avery had insulted the Counselor by behaving in a churlish fashion and he was hoping to work past that this time. Avery didn't have to agree with the Starfleet stance in his situation, but he was...in his own way...Starfleet. All the years working with his comrades was evidence of that. It was a split existence, to be sure, but there was some merit there. Breaux had resolved to take a different approach with the Counselor.

The door opened and the doctor was already nose to nose with the Counselor. The Doctor was taken aback slightly, but judging from the grin on Vol's face, the Betazoid looked like he had planned it all along.

"Just on time Doctor Breaux."

"C-counselor, I want to.. on time Ensign?"

"Yes. Follow me if you will." And the man side stepped around the Doctor and marched through the ship's hallways. The Doctor took a moment, blinked a couple of times.

*Maybe I should make a recommendation to Zanh Liis. This nutter needs a Couselor of his own.* He then jogged to catch up to Vol.


Vol was dressed quite simply. He had a dark brown body suit which had a pointy collar, and a v-neck which exposed the front of his collar bone. Vol marched with his arms waving alongside him, the Doctor, clad in his uniform, was right behind him. It took a moment for Avery to realize it, but he eventually asked:

"Ensign, are we heading toward the Holodeck?" Vol looked over his shoulder, smiling genuinely.

"Indeed. and here we are." Vol approached the small computer console, tapping a few buttons.

"Computer..." Vol looked at Avery, as if scrutinizing something about him. "...Earth, early naught century. Montreal, Canada. Summertime, early July to be exact. On the corner of Ste-Catherines and Jeanne-Mance." Vol was apparently apt at French.

^Specify time^


^Program Complete. Enter when ready.^

Vol turned to the completely confused Avery Breaux,

"After you Doctor." Vol politely gestured to the door.

Breaux entered to the sounds of some type of goings-on...people everywhere and there were tents and stages and...jazz.

Breaux whirled around to the Counselor. "Either you've done your homework or you're a fan of jazz like myself." Avery caught himself smiling, and then remembered everyone wasn't against him-he'd let go of his enmity for Starfleet...he questioned the Counselor, "What? Why here? Not that I'm complaining."

Vol stood behind the Doctor, with his hands held behind his back. What was more, he wore a smile on his face, glad that his patient enjoyed the scenerio.

"So many questions my good Doctor, and I thought I was the Psychiatrist." Vol chuckled. "Why not here? Oh, come. I think Norah Jones is about to perform."

Vol walked and side stepped between the large crowd of people, walking towards a favorable vantage point from one of the nearby restaurants, which had a terrase overlooking the streets and the stage. The city was alive with amusement and entertainment, rose and purple colored lights danced every which way. A man on the stage making some kind of speech, commemorating the 50th anniversary of Montreal's International Jazz Festival, and introducing the famed Jazz artist.

Vol sat down at a table, Avery sitting opposite him. For the moment, Vol wanted to just enjoy himself. All the more, he wanted to observe the Doctor in what might very well be a veritable smorgasborg of sound and sights for the Terran.

Breaux didn't care that the technique was a warm-up, to make him feel comfortable,he went with it and was enjoying the sights and sounds. He saw the various people wandering about with drinks and knew that pursuing that was going to be a taboo, so he ignored them and continued to focus on the music.

Jones opened with a song entitled, "Don't Know Why" and the crowd was immediately won over. "She's amazing...a voice like an instrument," Breaux said aloud, totally absorbed in the festivities.

"Oh?" Vol began to playfully disagree. "But isn't that the fascinating thing about the human voice? I know that we've developed formulas for the sounds emitted by voice box of most species, but setting that aside, there's nothing formulaic about it. It's pure, unique to each individual, a diamond in the rough if you will. Wouldn't you say that about any recording artist of this era? Each have their own distinct sound, and yet each of them proclaim to have the same talent. I believe that is true with each person, with each field. One doctor's successful surgery could be made parallel to anothers, but each came to success in their own way, no?" Vol smiled at Avery.

Avery smiled, "You're good...really good. Come on, let's wander." Avery was totally lost in the overwhelming atmosphere...perhaps the good Counselor was right. *What the hell,* thought Avery.

Avery heard a saxophone off to his right, but he decided not to be pulled in by the familiar. He continued to wander, the Counselor at his side. They meandered from one pavilion to another...the assortment of performers was amazing...Hoenig, Hekselmen, D'Tor, Pilc...Breaux walked wide-eyed, like a child...

The crowd was good-natured and many were eating, drinking, and some had taken positions on grassy knolls so that they could watch the entertainment.

Breaux, not wanting to be selfish, turned to Vol, "What type of music do you like Vol?...do you care for jazz at all?...is there someone you want to see?"

The Betazoid chuckled at all this. Very interesting indeed.

"I find you quite a remarkable individual Mr. Breaux." The Betazoid began to show his species' nature. "The other day you would not say a word about yourself 'less I gave you a run-down of who I was. Even then you only told me what you thought I wanted to hear. Now, in your element, with all the joys around you to take in. The first things that come to your mind, still, are matters that do not pertain do you." Vol flashed a smile. The Counselor clearly wasn't being sarcastic, if anything he was complimenting the Doctor, which was odd to say the least.

"Tell me about Avery Breaux. Tell me why you love jazz, and why you think it's better than other forms of music. Give me you opinion why it has it's own International Festival, whereas all other genres of music in this era do not any such annual festivities. Rant all night Avery, please. I love to listen." Vol sat back in his chair, quite sure of himself in his friendly manner. He sipped at a drink that he had ordered beforehand, waiting for Avery to respond.

Avery felt that this was fair and so he dove in, "Well...I was raised in a place called New Orleans...on Earth...jazz is like breath there...it's the pulse of the city...and one doesn't live there without feeling the pulse. This music reaches out and touches people...it's fluid and it's real."

Breaux looked around and took in the music, a young saxophone player was playing a Sonny Rollins song, "New Orleans is special...it's dirty...it's corrupt, even to this day...but...It's also a giving city, and I come from a caring family-so I suppose that my inclination to make those around me comfortable...is from that upbringing. I don't like to see people uncomfortable or abused, or taking advantage of." Breaux slowed himself.

"So it's in my nature to act on matters that need attention or care...hence the desire to become a doctor."

Avery continued, "It's been quite a journey for me Counselor. Fifteen years on Erasmus serving with the same people, developing bonds...understanding issues and problems and serving in a way that will help ease the pain of others. I've been blessed to have such an existence...and now, this crew...this place...another family...a new phase in my life."

Avery stopped and turned his head toward another pavilion, and then looked back at the Counselor, "I've never done a lot of counseling sessions Vol...I'm not really sure where to go. I'll stop trying to 'drive' if that will help...I'm afraid it's going to take a lot of sessions to get me to relax and share whatever it is I'm supposed to share. Maybe I shouldn't have preconceived notions about our interaction...I apologize for that."

Avery stopped, "I'm doing it again, aren't I?"

"Doing what? Who said that this was a session Doctor?" Vol smiled as he finished off his drink. The crowd was winding down as the sun began to set. It was a beautiful sight, as if the music were calming the skies into a cranberry sleep. Vol looked back at his patient.

"I would take the time Avery to try and determine what it is you think I'm expecting of you. Because the truth is, you're fullfilling everything I'd like of you. The expectations you think I want from you, are really your own expectations of yourself. You think I don't like it when my patients 'drive,' on the contrary; I encourage my patients to take on the natural role they feel comfortable in. You naturally like to be in control, but you resist."

Avery nodded, "I can offer no defense."

"This is the part where you're supposed to ask me 'why do I do that Counselor?'" Vol joked. Picking up on the Betazoid's humor, Avery went along with it.

"Why do I do that Counselor?"

"Now I say: My job isn't to give you the answers, my good Doctor."

Now Avery was confused.

"It isn't?"

"Nope. Rather, I'm simply supposed to show you that you already know the answer, and remind you of it."

Avery thought he understood, but he still couldn't shake the feeling that he could be completely wrong. Evidently so did the Counselor, as he patted the Doctor's shoulder as they walked the now-less crowded street's of Montreal in search of the exit. The sky had now been purged with violet and navy hues, the music still didn't die around them though. The sound of Jazz still surrounding the two as the summoned the exit.

"You never did answer my question Counselor. Are you a fan?"

"No, never cared for Jazz that much." Vol shrugged. "No melody."

The two men chuckled as they exited the holodeck.

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


LT. Commander Avery Breaux
Chief Medical Officer
USS Serendipity NCC-2012

262: Breakthrough

By Avery Breaux and Jariel Camen
After A Command Performance

-=Deck 3, USS Serendipity=-

Avery activated the door chime for Camen and stepped back from the doorway.

Jariel set down the text he was reading. An enlightening book on the philosophy of the Breen. Their writers and thinkers were apparently as cold and unforgiving as their homeworld. On a world where equatorial temperatures approach freezing during the "summer", it was only natural their people would be as harsh as the climate. Still, Camen found their teachings facinating and worthwhile in his endeavour to understand all the alien species Starfleet came in contact with. He considered anthropology one of the most important factors to being an effective Chaplain.

He walked to the door to personally greet whomever was there. Upon seeing Avery Breaux, Camen wondered if he was here to see the Chaplain, or the Captain.

[[I'm afraid Zanh Liis isn't in, or are you seeking me?]]

"Actually, I would like to speak with you Vedek."

Camen gestured towards the corridor. [[Walk with me then, we can sit in my office and talk.]]

Avery considered the alternative of sitting in Camen's quarters, not knowing when Zanh Liis would return, and decided to accept the offer. As they walked towards the lift, Avery watched the Vedek sign.

[[So, what is it I can do for you?]]

"Well, actually we're in the midst of our cross-training, and I'd be willing to share any facet of the medical field you might be interested in...but...I'm interested in pursuing some spiritual studies. I've spent time at a Bajoran monastery...and for a time became deeply immersed in the culture. I miss the exchange I use to have with the Vedeks and those in and around the village."

Camen smiled softly, almost nostalgically. He stared off into the distance for a bit as Avery awaited his reply.

[[I have not conducted services in some time, except in here.]] Camen tapped his finger against his temple. [[But I would be more than happy to walk you through the rituals, and discuss the teaching with you.]]

"I would appreciate that."

[[Besides I am sure others would take the opportunity to join the service if it were held. Lair Kellyn for example.]]

Avery stiffened just for a moment at the sound of her name, then immediately regained his composure.

"And you? What can I teach you of the medical field?"

[[I have always been interested in basic nursing and triage care. As Vedeks, we are called upon to be among the first to arrive when tragedy strikes. It would be good to have some knowledge of field medicine for that reason, and perhaps with some nursing instruction I could take a shirt or two a week in Sickbay. It is in my nature to help the sick and wounded.]]

Avery nodded in understanding, as they turned off the corridor, and entered Vedek Jariel's office.

"I'm willing to learn whatever you care to impart...I was always amazed at the way the Vedeks would share a prayer, and the history behind the prayer, and suddenly...we went from altar to garden and had been immersed in a philosophical discussion for hours."

Breaux continued, "I suppose part of my fascination with the culture is the fact that the Bajoran seem conflicted to some degree..."...he caught the Vedek's eyes,"...and I don't mean that disrespectfully. It's just that they are such a deeply spiritual people and had to endure the Cardassian regime. Many had to make decisions that were unpopular...that has always fascinated me." Breaux had been assured that the circle of people who knew about his Maquis dealings was miniscule. In his own minor way he was seeking understanding of his own journey through the Vedek.

[[No offense taken. The Prophets ask of us our love and our devotion, but they do not expect us to sacrifice our lives. That is why we do not chain ourselves to notions such as celebacy or ritual sacrifice that you find in so many cultures. It is also why we did not punish those who took up arms in defense when the Cardassians came.]]

Camen walked behind his desk to the bookshelf that contained the hard bound books of religion and philosophy that Liis had provided for him in his office. She knew he preferred studying with ink on paper, not on a computer screen.

He took down one of his Bajoran texts. There were many, and they were all well worn.

[[Our teachings are deeply seeded in prophecies.]]

"How appropriate." Avery observed.

[[The Computer has the text of this book on file. This entire book is Prophecies of the Emissary. Some are fullfilled, some are not. You are no doubt aware of events in the recent past regarding a man from your own part of Earth who fullfilled many of these Prophecies.]]

"Of course. The events taking place on Bajor during those times were the difference between the Federation winning and losing its war with the Dominion."

[[It has just become apparent to me that there are a few others aboard...who would like to hold services.]] Camen chose his words carefully. Just like he had no knowledge of Avery's Maquis ties, Avery did not know about Fleur Le Marc's recent desire for conversion. Teaching Fleur one on one was a task that unnerved Camen to say the least, and if he could bring Avery into the fold, so much the better.

With some luck he may even be able to talk Kellyn and Arie into attending, perhaps even February Grace would desire to take some study in the Bajoran faith. The more people Camen had to attend service, the less he would have to deal with Fleur and the visions surrounding here. Not the least of which was the Prophets suggestion that his path was to be bonded with Fleur.

[[I'd like you to pick a passage fom this book at random, and using the historical database as a guide, discuss with the group how the Prophets fullfilled your particular prophacy, or how they may do so in the future.]]

Avery nodded, taking mental note of the title of the book, so he could bring it up later on the library computer.

[[Is there any specific guidance you need while the two of us are here?]]

Avery thought for a moment..."Yes, in confidence of course..." Breaux thought for a moment and then realized what he'd always know, and he forged on, "I have the normal everyday material ties to my existence, but I feel there is a higher purpose...I have a great many things I'd like to discuss with you...the least of which is my past."

[[I sense you have come here not to just learn of the Prophets, but to relieve your conscience as well. Choose a passage from the text, and we will meet soon with anyone else who wishes to join. Then, my friend, we will discuss your past.]]


LT. Commander Avery Breaux
Chief Medical Officer
USS Serendipity NCC-2012


Vedek Jariel Camen
Ship's Chaplain
USS Serendipity NCC-2012