421: Catalyst: One

by -=/\=- Zanh Liis
Hours after The Letter
Soundtrack: Viva La Vida by Coldplay and The Night Sky by Keane

-=Crew Quarters, USS Alchemy=-

She'd read his words so many times by now, but still she could barely accept them.

At last, she folded the sheets gently over into three sections, just as he had before placing them in the envelope for the first time.

She put the letter into her suitcase, uncertain she should keep it long, but not ready to part with it just yet.

What was happening to her?

Her mind spun so fast she could barely identify the images it was revealing. Could it be that his letter had such a profound effect on her that the last of her memory resequencing was now breaking down?

She could think of no other explanation as she slipped, once again, into the trance of remembering days gone past.

-=Alternate Timeline- 2376=-

Despite months of meticulous planning and calculations, Liis’ very first Jump for Temporal Investigations had gone as badly as it possibly could.

Salvek: Missing and presumed dead.

Jariel: Dead.

After the cursing and breaking of furniture had ended, Keiran O'Sullivan had shadowed his young, inexperienced Jump partner after she had insisted that she now needed to be alone.

As he had suspected she did not end up alone, and also, just as he'd imagined, she gravitated to a dive on the darker side of town. It was small, and thick with stenches he didn't even want to try to identify.

She sat at the bar, hunched over her glass as she made herself a dangerous new acquaintance- a gentleman by the name of Jack Daniels.

As she and Jack got to know one another better, she began to sway in her chair, humming along softly to a song that only she could hear.

O'Sullivan watched sadly as she sank into intoxication. He had seen many agents seek comfort at the bottom of an empty glass and truth be told, he'd been guilty of the offense himself on more than one occasion. But this was not expected behavior from this woman. She was a Starfleet veteran. She had survived combat injuries that made even the most grizzled old dogs of war weak in the knees to hear described.

She was tough.

He was discovering, though, not quite as tough as she wanted the Universe and everyone dwelling in it to believe.

As he nursed a single pint of Guinness all night, he kept a close eye on her. He knew if he tried to dissuade her from her current course of action that she'd only dig in her heels. It was something that every agent had to learn for themselves, it seemed, otherwise the lure of substance would become a snare that they could never truly get free of.

This was her time to learn and prove to herself that this was not the answer to the pain inside of her. He felt he could do nothing but watch over her- and let her drink.

As the evening dragged on, and he himself tried to process all that they had seen on the Jump. Eventually, he realized that morning would be coming all too soon.

If left to her own devices not only wouldn't she be on time in the Admiral's office for her first post-Jump debriefing (a terminable violation for an agent still on probation) but even if she did make it physically, she'd be in no condition to give her report.

Finally moving to the bar, he summoned the man behind it with a wave of his hand.

"How much does she owe you?"

"I don't see that's any of your business, friend." The bartender barked, not wanting to see her spending for the evening come to an end.

"Ah, but it is. See, the young lady is under my jurisdiction, friend," Keiran replied, flashing a calm smile...and a Starfleet Security badge.

The man's eyes widened. The last thing he needed was Starfleet Security poking around his establishment.

"She owes me for the whole bottle."

O'Sullivan didn't have to ask what the going rate was for a bottle of authentic Jack Daniels- he knew too well.

He took the credit pass out of his pocket and authorized payment, including a tip for the greasy barkeep.

"Did she say an'athing to ya?" Keiran asked, as he attempted to rouse Liis by whispering her name in her ear. She was too far gone to hear; passed out now with her head down on the surface of the bar.

"Something about time. History being out to get her, I think it was. Didn't make any sense to me."

"Course it didn‘t make sense, right? She's drunk." Keiran answered as finally, he shook Liis gently. She groaned, and when she looked up she growled.


"Come on, Lieutenant, time to go."

"O'Sullilliivannnnnnn," she drawled, "I am not sufficiently drunk. I am still conscious."

"Yes ya are, and no y’er not." He sighed, braced his knees and planted his feet firmly against the floor before hefting the dead weight of all six feet of Zanh Liis up over his shoulders like a sack of potatoes.

"Goodnight." Keiran bid the bartender, turning toward the exit. He swayed a little as Liis tried to right herself and failed.

"Ikeephearing that song, doyouhearit, O'Sullllivannn?" She declared loudly, still slurring her words together, garnering stares from those having quiet discussions at the darkened tables in the corners.

"What song would that be, Lieutenant?" He humored her due to his own curiosity as to exactly which song Zanh Liis would hear in her head when she was drunk.

She sang of 'Jerusalem bells and calvary choirs', taking a deep breath and then shouting even more loudly...and more off key.

"Good God, you'd think for all the tryin' she'd be findin' a note in there somewhere." Keiran grimaced, his own finely tuned musical ear offended by her caterwauling.

Liis continued on a bit before finally passing out again.

"Rule the world, indeed." Keiran shrugged, shaking his head and referencing the last line of the song. "Yis can't even hold yer liquor."

Feeling he had no choice but to protect her in her dangerously drunken, vulnerable state, O’Sullivan did the only thing he could do.

He took her home.

Soon he was calling for the lights to come up, amazed at how heavy she was getting as he finally flipped her gently over and set her down upon his unmade bed.

He pulled off her boots and then went to the med-kit he kept in the bathroom. Procuring a hypospray, he injected it into her with the purpose of neutralizing at least some of the alcohol in her system.

With any luck at all, hopefully it wasn't too late to keep her from tossing the contents of that bottle of Jack Daniels- and whatever else may have been in her stomach before it- all over his apartment before the night was over.

As the hypo began to take effect, she came out of her stupor just long enough to softly ask where she was.

Keiran pulled the sheets back and, leaving her fully clothed, covered her with a quilt.

"You're safe, Zanh Liis, that's where ya are. Go to sleep."

She began humming softly again as he tucked her more tightly into bed, hoping the tightness of the blankets might preempt any night-time wandering on her behalf.

This time, it was a song that he had never heard before. He imagined that it had to have its origins on Bajor, as she somehow finally seemed to find the diatonic scale and sang mostly on key.

Her voice faded out, silenced again by loss of consciousness.

Keiran stood at the foot of the bed, silently staring at her.

She was so young.

She had so much to learn, and so much heartache ahead of her.

He felt an unfamiliar, longing sensation tugging at something situated deep inside his chest. Quickly, he knew he should dismiss it.

Still, no matter how he tried, a voice inside of his head warned him with two specific messages of doom concerning the woman passed out cold before him.

She was troubled, and she was trouble.

He moved to the door, whispering for the computer to kill the lights as he prepared to force his huge frame onto the couch for the night. No doubt, his body would make him pay dearly for it by morning.

Still, his conscience would have made him pay if he'd taken her to her own place, left her alone there and anything bad happened to her because of it.

Of the two choices, he'd take physical pain over guilt of the mind any day.

-=/\=-Zanh Liis
Commanding Officer
USS Serendipity/Alchemy