546: A Bond Unbroken

by Keiran O'Sullivan
Following Second Chance
Soundtrack: You'll Be In My Heart by Phil Collins

-=Transporter Room One, USS Serendipity=-

As activity swirled around him, Keiran was a man very much in suspended animation.

He hovered over the gurney where Zanh Liis lay, watching her chest rise and fall with every breath.

*She's alive,* he kept telling himself, *No matter what else has to happen, I can face it, as long as she is here and not...*

His thoughts came to a grinding halt the moment he saw her stirring.

His breath deserted him, and he thought inexplicably of fairy tales as he watched Snow White open her eyes.

It was only then he realized that he wished he could have collected on the kiss that usually preceded such awakenings...

She opened her eyes and the moment she remembered where she was, her expression reflected her profound confusion.

Before she could speak he leaned down, resting his forehead against hers.

There were no words sufficient to say what he wanted to say to her; and there were none she needed to hear to make her feel any more than seeing him standing there already did.

Years of time and memories collided in each of their heads. He leaned back and sighed slowly, still holding her gaze. Too stunned to cry, Liis could only stare back.

It was then that she spoke, managing three short words as the medical support staff prepared to take her to Sickbay.

-Three words that made him love her even more than he ever had before.

"Go to him."

He lifted her hand to his lips, and gently placed a kiss upon it.

They needed to talk, that much he was certain of, but right now the only thing that mattered to her was making sure that he was reunited with his son, because she knew how much it mattered to him.

"Thank you," he whispered, "for everything."

Reluctantly, he left her side for the time being and approached the Sera's current Commanding Officer.

"I'd like to go to the Alchemy bay," Keiran asked Salvek, "If I may."

"If you feel you are well enough to walk there," Salvek was not certain that he should let O'Sullivan wander far without being checked over as well. But as a father himself, he knew that there was one thing on the man's mind, and that was finding his lost child.

"Walk? I've been waiting twelve years for this," Keiran replied softly, "If you asked me to, I could fly."

"I will notify you when the team from the Planck arrives."

Without another moment's hesitation, Keiran exited the transporter room, and tread the familiar halls of the Serendipity in the direction of the Alchemy's bay.


As soon as he walked up the boarding ramp to the Alchemy, his heart began to pound.

The closer he got to Sickbay, the more shallow his breathing became.

All at once panic gripped him, as he realized he didn't know how to begin making up for all the years that he and Carrick had lost.

This was, he remembered vividly, not the first time that he'd been left wondering if he had what it took to be the father his son needed.

That was something he had worried about from the very beginning.

-=Flashback: 2371, Current timeline=-

"He won't stop cryin'. I don't know what to do but I swear I'm gonna go out of my mind!"

The baby's wailing nearly drown out the frustrated words of his sleep-deprived, still recovering from the blessed-event, young mother. Tears streamed down her face as she shrugged helplessly.

"I tried everything your mother told me to try. He's fed, he's dry, he's warm. I don't know why he won't stop." She frowned deeply. "Maybe there's something wrong with him, no?"

"No. He just saw the doctor this morning, right? He's fine," He tried to gently reassure his wife, but his attempt to calm her backfired, producing the exact opposite effect.

"He's fine, is he? He's SO fine? LISTEN TO HIM!" Maggie threw her hands into the air and stormed out of the nursery. "I can't do this. Maybe I'm not meant to be a mother. I can't take that sound another minute!"

She slammed the door behind her, leaving Keiran standing over the cradle, looking down at the tiny, red-faced, screaming being it contained.

He contemplated picking the baby up, but when he prepared to do so, his gigantic hands began to shake.

"I'll have you know that Starfleet training does not cover this, young man." He rumbled softly, comparing the size of a single one of his fingertips to the baby's entire hand.

By way of reply, the baby screamed even louder.

"KEIRAN!" Maggie shouted, banging on the wall between the nursery and the bedroom next door with her fist. "DO SOMETHIN'! I have GOT to get some SLEEP!"

"I'm workin' on it, yeah? Give me a minute!" Keiran shouted back, shaking his head. How in the world had his mother, tiny powerhouse though she was, managed to do the job of parent seven times over?

Yesterday, Keiran O'Sullivan thought he was a man quite on top of the world.

His career was going well, he had saved up his shore leave to be here for the birth of his son. He had a beautiful wife, a wonderful family, and a lovely home in God's Country.

He was a professional; a Starfleet Officer. An Officer of the law. He could handle any situation, he had thought. He knew it all.

He realized now as he contemplated his first full day and night of fatherhood that he knew absolutely nothing.

Keiran had held his son only once briefly in the twenty-four hours since he'd been born. Anxious sisters, two sets of grandparents and seemingly everyone from the local parish had pushed their way past him, demanding their moment to size up the latest, and littlest, member of the O'Sullivan family.

*He's so tiny. What if I break him?* He fretted as finally, he took a breath and tried to remember what his sisters had told him.

He took a receiving blanket and put it down onto the changing table. Nervously, he repeated their instructions which somehow seemed far too simple and straightforward to actually be the correct ones for handling such a fragile, flailing little creature.

"One hand under his head, one under his bottom." Keiran intoned. "Always support the head." He stroked the baby's cheek gently once before proceeding. "All right boy, here we go."

He managed to lift the baby up and transfer him onto the changing table without causing any apparent injury, that was a relief. Unfortunately, the act had failed to stop the baby's crying.

He frowned, and gently unsnapped the baby's sleeper. With the delicacy of a Spec Ops expert trying to diffuse a bomb with mere seconds left on the timer, he tugged at the elastic on the leg of the baby's diaper to determine if a new one was needed.

Much to his surprise and delight, it was not.

He was very pleased about this, considering he had just passed his first test with flying colors in lifting the baby up, he didn't want to have to try for a repeat performance on the diaper changing lesson just yet.

He remembered how his mother had told him that new babies miss the womb and like to be wrapped up securely, so after snapping the baby's sleeper back up, he folded the corners of the blanket inward, and snugged Carrick inside of it.

He made sure that tiny hands and feet still had room to move, and nodded with satisfaction as for the first time, the baby's crying dropped a small amount in volume.

"All right, lad, let's see what we can do for you, yeah?"

He picked the tiny bundle up and moved toward the large wooden rocking chair that his brothers had built in anticipation of the baby's arrival.

Two of them were already fathers themselves, and as such they had the foresight to make the chair large enough to accommodate Keiran's hulking frame.

He told them it wasn't necessary, but his brothers had both smiled at him wistfully and told him that he'd be logging hours in that chair before he knew it, rocking in place as he watched his world change overnight.

He'd had no idea how right they were.

"Let's see now, there's a boy," Keiran slowly settled into the chair. He planted his bare feet on the ground, and held the baby against his chest.

It was three o'clock in the morning, and Keiran had forgotten to grab a shirt as he'd followed Maggie out of the bedroom.

The second that the baby came into contact with his skin, the infant began to calm. The warmth he felt with his father's arms around him seemed to be working some kind of magic that Keiran couldn't possibly begin to understand, but he was amazed by it just the same.

As he rocked to and fro in the chair, he began to remember a lullaby that his own mother used to sing to him when he was but a boy.

Now, it was his turn to sing.

The baby stopped crying and tried to focus blurry, newborn vision upon his father's face. Keiran could only wonder what, if anything, he was thinking as he blinked large, inquisitive blue eyes and sniffed the air like a curious puppy.

At that instant, Keiran felt something he had never imagined he would in his life. It was a mystical, Divine connection that he couldn't possibly have believed in a day, an hour, or even a moment ago. He leaned down and kissed the top of Carrick's head, overwhelmed with the sweet scent of it.

The baby was content and calm now, and Keiran was glad that he was alone, and so didn't have to try to conceal the tears that were filling his eyes.

"It's going to be different for us, Carrick, I promise you," he whispered into the baby's ear, as the infant puckered and unpuckered his lips, making the most adorable sound that Keiran had ever heard in his life.

"It won't be like it was... like it is for me and my father."

His tears fell down onto the blanket as he again kissed Carrick's head. "I promise you."

The stone battlements that he'd built up around his heart over his lifetime thus far crumbled. The fearless, unstoppable giant was felled with one blow in the form of the overwhelming honor, responsibility, and love that accompanied parenthood.

"I love you, Carrick," he whispered, continuing to rock in the chair. "No matter what happens, I will always, always love you."

-=End Flashback=-

"You can go in now," The Emergency Nursing Hologram informed Keiran with a pleasant smile. "He's awake."

"Aye," Keiran was as terrified by the thought as he'd been by the idea of holding Carrick that first night after he was born. "Thank you."

On the other side of the curtain, Carrick O'Sullivan propped himself up and shifted his blanket.

He ran his hand through his hair and over the stubble on his unshaven chin.

He wondered what kind of impression he'd make upon his father, in the state he must certainly be in. After considering it an instant, anger welled within him.

*What the hell do I care what he thinks of me,* Carrick thought bitterly. *He's the one who walked away.*

But even as he heard his mother's voice echoing in his head with every unkind remark she had ever made about the man who had fathered him, Carrick had another vision appear in his mind, one just as strong.

It was the memory of Zanh Liis, standing so silently beside his father's grave.

Whatever manner of dream or vision that had been, it sure felt real to him, and he remembered the way that he felt when she spoke of how good a man his father was. Of how hard the elder O'Sullivan had tried to reach out to him.

He didn't know what to think of the man, who was honestly a stranger to him. But he realized that if he didn't at least try to give him a chance, he may someday regret it just as he had when he thought that Keiran had died.

"He's been through a lot," Dalton McKay warned Keiran, "They took an awful lot of blood out of him, and injected an awful lot of things into him."

"But he's going to be all right?"

"He's young." Dalton replied. "He'll bounce back." He put a hand on O'Sullivan's broad shoulder. "We should move him to the Sera's sickbay as soon as we can. But I'll give you two a minute alone first."

"Aye, thanks Doc." Keiran nodded gratefully.

"Don't mention it." The LMH paused as he headed out. "Good to see you again."

"Thanks. Good to be here." He couldn't stop his hands from shaking as he pulled the curtain back, and for the first time in more than twelve years, laid eyes on his son.

He tried to greet the lad by name, but couldn't find his voice.

Carrick, for his part, did not know what could possibly be said. "Hello," he ventured, his hands fidgeting nervously. *God, I'd love a cigarette about now...*

As soon as Keiran's eyes locked on Carrick's, it was as if all the years were but an instant and in that face, as different as it was, he saw the boy that he had read to every night at bedtime.

The child he sang to sleep, to scare the monsters away.

Keiran took his son into his arms and gathered him to his chest, saying what he'd wanted to say to him for twelve long years.

Words that in all his years of life, Keiran had never heard his own father say to him.

"I love you, son," he placed a kiss on top of the young man's head.

Carrick found, much to his dismay, that instead of wanting to run from the embrace, it felt like home. He missed his mother so much he could barely stand it, and he rested his head against his father's shoulder and closed his eyes.

As Keiran hugged his boy, his mind returned to that tiny, powder blue nursery where he had sat in the rocking chair, holding Carrick all night so soon after he had been born into this life.

Captain Keiran O'Sullivan
Temporal Investigations

545: Mad As Hell

by Vol Tryst and Landry Steele
Following More Than Meets the Eye

-=Transporter Room One, USS Serendipity=-

Sitting in the corner of the transporter room and shaking like a leaf, Landry Steele could not believe what had happened to her.

She remembered it, each and every moment of it, but still she could not believe it.

-=Flashback: The Farm, Klaestron IV=-

"I found him!" Dane called as he saw Zanh and the rest of the Away Team approaching.

Upon seeing that the man at the end of the hall had the Human male known as Carrick in his custody, Atien decided that now was her best chance to make a run for it, and took off.

TC Blane bolted, but Zanh called him back.

"Let her go," she instructed, "We don't need her anymore and maybe she'll give them something else to chase..."

"Liisy!" Another voice spoke up now, and the sound of rapid footfalls echoed in the corridor. "I found the dampening field generator! I took it offline, we should be able to execute that remote beam out now."

"God I hope so," Landry pleaded, uncertain still how she even got drafted for this crazy mission to begin with.

"We had better get out of here," Blane cautioned, as they heard shouting at the opposite end of the hall. Blane knew that once the security people discovered they had only found their fellow Klaestron, they would quicken the pace of their hunt.

"Go." Zanh urged. Blane activated a small device, and the next thing she knew they were back aboard Rixx Rewards.

Zanh slid into the pilot's chair and brought the engines online while Blane helped Dane secure the still unconscious Carrick into a seat. "Is he alive?" She feared the answer but had to ask the question just the same.

"We need to get him back to the Sera," Blane advised grimly. "The sooner the better."

"Understood." Liis took the ship out as quickly as possible. So quickly that Landry was certain that the bucket of bolts would not hold together.

She was berating herself vehemently for ever joining Starfleet to begin with when suddenly she heard a voice inside her head that was not her own.

*We mean you no harm,* the voice intoned, in a soft, breathy voice. *We are only here to help,*

-=End Flashback=-

"Ensign Steele? Can you hear me?"

Landry looked up and saw the piercing eyes of Vol Tryst focused upon her. "What?"

"We've been trying to get your attention for the past four minutes," Vol announced. "Are you all right?"

"No," Landry replied, her eyes completely devoid of emotion. repeating the same words she'd spoken earlier. "They used me."

The look in her eyes, the tone of her voice, the combination made Vol feel like someone had just dropped a brick into his stomach. By her own words, it appeared that Vol and Landry now had at least one thing in common.

"Would you come with me, please, Ensign?"

"Where to?" She shot at him, whether it had been her intent or not was unclear.
Vol was about to say Sickbay, but caught his tongue just as he was about to voice the first syllable. Literally, he bit the tip of his tongue. He may have even winced.

"Where would you like to go?"

Instead of answering, Landry began to look around them frantically.

"Reece," She panicked, "Where is Reece?"

"He was beamed aboard the Alchemy with the O'Sullivan boy,," Salvek responded, keen Vulcan hearing allowing him to hear her question from across the room.

"Is Reece alive?" Landry's voice trembled.

"Yes, he is expected to recover."

Landry nodded, the terror in her eyes turning to relief.

"Ensign," Vol prodded gently. "Is there a reason you were so concerned with Reece's well being?"

"Yeah," She droned. "They wanted me to kill him."

Again, Vol heard words that clearly painted a very different picture than he'd expected. His eyebrows furrowed, as he turned to look over his shoulder at Salvek.

Everyone in the room had gone silent at hearing Landry's incredible statement.

"Still advocating their healing ways, it appears." TC Blane shook his head, his voice dripping with sarcasm as the medical staff led him and Dane out the door, destined for a full examination in Sickbay.

"What? I don't..." Vol licked his lips as he looked back at Landry, sitting himself down a few steps below her current perch. This wasn't making sense to the man, he himself had been taken over by one of the Sylph. They were extreme to be sure, but after their last altercation, he had thought some lessons were learned.

Far be it from them to be violent or wish cruel harm against someone they sought to heal, or so he thought.

In the end, it appeared that some of the Sylph deemed certain individuals beyond healing, or believed that the only way to live at peace was for them not to live at all.

But that theory didn't answer all one's questions. Upon further consideration, the only reason he could imagine for the Sylph to make such a desperate decision was if Dabin had been unwilling or unable to cooperate with them.

He knew that no Trill had been effected by the Sylph during their prior appearance. Perhaps the Sylph felt he was such a threat to what they were trying to accomplish that they believed they had no choice but to remove him from the equation, and tried to use Steele as a means to that end.

Before bringing himself back to the present, Vol thought to himself that he could not wait until he would hear the Trill man make one of his lame jokes again.

"So, the Sylph took control of your..."

"Yes." Steele cut the Counselor off.

"But, obviously the Commander is far from a fatal state. So, something must not have gone the way the Sylph wanted..."

"I didn't go the way that they wanted." Landry announced, clenching her jaw defiantly. "They wanted me to keep jamming that hypo into him again and again. They were having a hard time keeping him 'out of the way' as they put it while they did their thing to the others."

"What was that thing that they were trying to do to the others?"

Now, Landry hesitated. "I don't know if I should talk about that yet, before I talk to someone from Temporal Investigations."

Apparently Landry had been too out of it earlier to hear Salvek's remarks that such a team was on the way to their location now.

"Why? Did it involve time travel? Memories of other timelines?"

Again, Landry hesitated. She looked at Vol with a tilt of her head. "Have you ever heard of an Alternate Continuity Paradox?"

Salvek's eyebrow shot up so high it almost seemed to be suspended in air, independent of his forehead.

He stepped between Steele and Tryst.

"I do not know if the Counselor has," Salvek replied, "But I have. Ensign Steele, I believe that you should reserve further comment until after you are debriefed by Temporal Investigations. For now, I would like you to accompany the Counselor to Sickbay and undergo a complete physical examination. Counselor, could you please see to it?"

"By your leave, Commander."

"Am I allowed to say anything to him?" Landry asked Salvek before walking away.

"If you do, choose your words carefully, Ensign. At least for the time being." Salvek admonished.

"Fun." Landry muttered, as she and Vol headed out into the hall and towards the lift.

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


Ensign Landry Steele
Operations Intern
USS Serendipity NCC-2012

544: More Than Meets the Eye

by Jack Hubbard and Keiran O'Sullivan
Following His Worst Nightmare

-=Transporter Room One, USS Serendipity=-

Keiran felt lightheaded again, and resumed sitting upon the deck beside the transporter pad.

He lifted Zanh Liis gently, wrapping his arm around her. He marveled at how perfectly she fit, her hair spilling over his shoulder as he rested her head there.

*God, how I've missed you,*

Hubbard moved quickly down the corridor

"Coming through!"

Keiran looked up again as he heard a booming voice and the sound of footsteps entering the room.

A tall, well built man in Medical blue, the top of his tunic undone, approached. On his heels, two nurses with an anti-grav gurney. "Is she the emergency?" Hubbard asked indicating the captain.

"Aye," Keiran felt a sudden surge of strength and lifted her up and onto the gurney.

"What happened? Were any of you present?"

"She was in contact with the Sylph," Keiran explained, hoping that this new doctor had been briefed as to their past encounter with the aliens upon his arrival. "She was standing, and speaking, but then she lost consciousness."

"What happened just before that?"

"She saw me."

Hubbard, taking vitals, looked up at Keiran,

"Well you're handsome, but I doubt you could actually take women off their feet."

He took stock of Zanh's status. "She's passed out, but I don't see any indication of physical trauma," he administered a mild hypo.

"This should bring her around," he looked back to Keiran, "...but you might want to avert your eyes, lest you launch a thousand ships." Hubbard smiled as he continued checking over Zanh Liis.

Keiran did something now that he hadn't done for quite some time; he actually laughed. Out loud.

"So you're the famous O'Sullivan I have heard so much about." Hubbard continued, recognizing Keiran from the picture in his Starfleet profile. As he spoke, he rotated toward Salvek and gave him a wave, indicating that the Captain was not in any imminent peril.

"Infamous, perhaps," Keiran shrugged. An expression of amazement played over his features. He was just beginning to process the fact that everything, and everyone, that mattered most to him was safe and his very last Jump was over. "I didn't catch your name, Sir?"

"Hubbard. Jack Hubbard."

Across the transporter room, TC Blane was still trying to stop the world from spinning him right off of it.

He'd taken to leaning against the wall, and Hubbard noticed out of the corner of his eye that Salvek seemed to be concerned about him.

"I'll be back to see to the Captain momentarily, I think that I should have a look at the Commander,"

By the time Hubbard reached Blane, he noted that Dane Cristiane was also looking dizzy and a little green now that his initial adenaline rush at seeing O'Sullivan alive had subsided.

"Whoa," Dane mumbled.

"Whoa, indeed," Hubbard replied. He was more concerned at the moment about Cristiane and Blane than he was about Zanh. "Let's get you two to Sickbay."

"Wait," Dane inquired suddenly, "What about Steele? Is she all right?" He realized he hadn't seen Landry since they had returned.

"Over there," someone said, and Salvek moved over to the corner, where he found Landry Steele curled up into a ball.

"Ensign," Salvek extended his hand, "Are you all right?"

"They...USED me..." Landry droned, her expression blank, but her hands balled into tight fists as she began rocking back and forth. "They used me."

"More than meets the eye, I'm guessing," Hubbard offered as the group was attended to quickly.

Lt. CMDR Jack Hubbard
USS Serendipity NCC-2012


Captain Keiran O'Sullivan
Temporal Investigations

543: Second Chance

by TC Blane
Following His Worst Nightmare

-=Transporter Room One, USS Serendipity=-

The voices were distant, muffled and abstract as if he was underwater listening to someone at the edge of a pool talking.

It was dark, but TC realized that his eyes were shut.

He cracked them open slightly and bright blurry light streamed in causing him to close them again. He mind reeled as he tried to figure out what was going on. So he lay where he was, on his back.

Slowly his senses began to align. Touch, sound, and smell finally began to work in unison to put together a complete feeling of where he was. He could tell that he was laying on a hard and cold yet smooth surface. They were other people near him, he could her them talking. His hearing was starting to clear now and he could make out the voices more clearly.

He opened his eyes again to add sight to the equation and squinted against the light as his vision came into focus. Slowly he recognized that he was staring at the upper transport emitters of a transporter pad.

There must had been a problem when they transported him back from Cork. He grunted at the thought that his various body parts may have been misaligned though a freak transporter accident.

* That would just make my day. * He thought.

He lifted his head slowly and took stock of his physical stature, everything seemed to be in its proper place. Well, everything that he could see. He frowned as he noticed that his clothes were different from what he was wearing only moments ago.

He sat up slowly as pain, a racking headache suddenly beset him. He reached up and rubbed his face feeling the rough facial hair on his cheeks and chin.

“What the hell?” He asked out loud.

TC always did have a problem with fast growing facial hair but never within a few hours of shaving. He was just a few hours ago dressed to the nines and high and tight for Keiran’s funeral service, now he was a homeless beggar.

"You're alive! I can't believe you're alive. Keiran...we buried you." Dane’s excited voice rose over the din of the other voices in the room.

TC’s head whipped around towards the voice and found the young man embracing a bear of a man, a man that was supposed to be dead and buried.

“O’Sullivan?” TC barely whispered the name as he tried to contemplate the meaning of what he was seeing before him.

His eyes scanned the room and fell upon the unconscious captain who was being lifted onto a medical hover cart by Commander Salvek and medical staff. Instant concern for her prompted him to move. He attempted to get up quickly sending the room into a frenzied spin. He closed his eyes and was forced to admit that he was in no condition to rush to the captain’s aid. Salvek and the medical team were there so he allowed his concerns to be eased and he decided to take it slow.

Slowly TC stood up using the wall of the transporter pad as support, his head was ringing so bad the room continued to spin. He quickly stretched his arm back over his head and slid his hand under his shirt to touch the skin between his shoulder blades. He was expecting the familiar burn of freshly tattooed flesh that has been touched to come. But there was nothing there. No swelling and no pain. No tattoo.

He looked again at his clothes and those of Dane and the captain. But it was Landry’s outfit that tied it all together. It was hard to forget the heels and short skirt that she had worn for their undercover rescue operation for Carrick.

* What happened? * He thought once again.

Realizing that he had not verbally expressed his thoughts he tried again.

“What happened?” He asked a little louder. He voice was harsh and his mouth was dry.

Commander Salvek turned away from observing the captain who was now being examined by medical staff and approached TC lending a strong, helpful hand to steady the ships Second Officer.

“You have been under the influence of the Slyph.” Savek explained pointedly.

“How long?”

“Since you made your escape with Carrick O’Sullivan.” Salvek explained as he waved over a nurse. “You are still suffering from the effects of their influence.”

TC pushed the nurse back as she approached with a medical tricorder. He looked back to Keiran. “So he is alive?”

Salvek nodded. “His injuries are relatively minor.”

It looked like he would get a second chance to get to know the big Irishman after all. TC glanced at Zanh Liis’ unconscious form on the gurney. They all would be getting a second chance.

“Sometimes good things do happen to good people.” He concluded to the ships First Officer just before the room started to once again swirl.

Salvek looked back at the Captain and O’Sullivan.

“So it seems Mr. Blane.” He continued to stare. “So it seems.”

Commander TC Blane
Second Officer
USS Serendipity NCC 2012

NRPG Note from the CO:*singing* Have I toooold you lately that I love youuuuuuuu...


Luckiest. 'Captain'. Ever. Seriously. ~ZL

542: Who is Here Now?

by Zander Blakeslee
During His Worst Nightmare

And following The Very Big Chair

-= Main Bridge , USS Alchemy=-

“Status?” Zander asked as he stood up from the command chair on the Alchemy.

There was what seemed like a moment lost in time as he waiting for the status of the eleven souls that the Alchemy was responsible for transporting through the crack in the Slyph subspace bubble.

“Transport is complete.” Came the melodious voice of his wife whom he had chosen to man Ops. “We have all eleven onboard.” Samthia turned towards him and smiled warmly. “Sir.”

He returned the smile and did not mistake the hidden message in her voice. While she was the most serious of people while performing her duties she also was a Deltan, a Deltan in love with him. The combination of those two factors almost caused him to shudder with joy. He knew that he might be cashing in on a favor to have Commander Salvek family watch his kids this evening.

He put the personal feeling aside for the moment as there was still work to do.

“Inform the Sera that we have our cargo and make sure the medical staff is ready.”

“Aye sir.”

He noticed that Lt. Grace was looking at him with concern on her face. Zander simply nodded giving her silent permission to go and find her husband. She wasted no time in rising from her chair and making her way off the bridge. Ensign Lash quickly took her seat.

Zander touched the comm. control on the arm of the captain’s chair and rang up engineering. “How are we doing down there?”

[We are doing great. We are well within operational limits.] Kellyn replied.

“Excellent. Let’s get ready to..”

“Sir, we have another ship that just came out of warp.” Lt. Wej-Blakeslee reported interrupting Zander.

“One second commander.” Zander put Kellyn on hold.

“It’s registry shows it to be the USS Planck. She is hailing us and the Sera.” Samthia reported.

Zander stood up. “Let’s hear it.”

[This is the Temporal Investigations starship Planck. We require you to lower your shields and allow an investigation team onto your ships.]

Everyone on the Alchemy turned towards Zander who quite honestly was not sure what to do.

“Helm set a course for the Sera.” He ordered Ensign Lash.

He then nodded to Samthia. “Open a channel to the Planck.”

“Channel open sir.”

“This is Commander Blakeslee commanding the USS Alchemy. Do to the sensitive nature of this ship I am afraid that I do not have the authority to allow you access to the ship. We are however in route back to the Serendipity. Once aboard our commanding officer will make the determination to allow your investigators access.” He nodded to Samthia to cut the channel.

He sat back down and turned his attention back to Kellyn who had been patently listening through the comm. of the captain’s chair.

“Think they will buy the line of crap?” He asked his fellow bridge officer.

[I don’t think they have much of a choice. Your right not allowing them access considering what we have seen from this group in the past.] Kellyn surmised.

[We’ll be ready to dock when we get back to the Sera. Engineering out.]

Zander turned his attention back to the forward viewscreen and waited for them to dock.


Zander made his way back up to the bridge to find Lt. Dengar seated in the center chair.

“How are we looking Lieutenant?” Zander asked.

Rada practically leaped out of the chair. “Fine, just fine sir.”

“Um, we are just waiting for the team to beam over from the Planck. Commander Salvek is still attending to the captain and away team.” He filled in Zander quickly. “I guess I head back over…” He turned to leave.

“Na, you keep the bridge. You seem to have everything under control here. I’m going to see if Commander Salvek needs a hand with our visitors from the Planck.” Zander quickly replied having had his fill of the big chair for a day.

Rada slowly sat back down not entirely unset by the prospect of returning to the chair. Zander smiled as he leaned in and spoke in a low voice. “Kind of comfy ain’t it?”

He turned and walked off the bridge before Rada could reply.

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

541: The Very Big Chair

by Rada Dengar
During The Force Behind it All: Two

-=Main Bridge, USS Serendipity=-

"You have the bridge Mr. Dengar."

Those words sent what was more than a chill down Rada’s spine, you knew a chill would eventually pass. Sure they’d just broken a hole in the fabric of subspace in a battle against a species with the capacity to alter their perceptions of reality itself but now this was truly dangerous; they were letting Rada near a very big chair.

He felt like all eyes were locked onto his position asking if he were going to sit down. He knew that he could avoid making a decision as long as he still appeared to have something to do at the Engineering console…checking…checking *Damn it,* there was nothing wrong. If only there were an antimatter cascade in place then someone would have take over here while he hurried to fix it and then everyone would be safe.

*Calm down, you can just call the Captain at the first sign of trouble* he told himself before it occurred to him that there may be a problem with their communications. He rapidly began verifying them with the computer and breathed a sigh of relief that they seemed to be okay.

This was crazy; surely someone on the bridge out ranked him. In fact he was certain that it must have been a mistake that Salvek said his name; Dengar does just sound like so many other names. He realised that this was crazy but still what if he were right. What if Salvek had actually said someone else’s name and Rada took command in an emergency? They’d call it mutiny and he’d be before a court martial in a second, that’s if he was lucky.

He knew that there was a connection between The Alchemy Project and Temporal investigations and realised that he’d pay heavily for attempting to steal their favourite little project here. Who knows if they’d even give him a trial? He might not be too familiar with their work but what if they could just travel backwards in time a few decades, take a trip to Angosia III and tell his father about how his mother’s didn’t like animals that much. He’d never ask her out, they’d never fall in love, they’d never get married and Rada would never be born. He could wake up tomorrow never having existed. This starship command thing was much riskier than anyone had warned him.

He’d have to ask someone if he was the one in command. The problem was that Dengar didn’t really sound like anyone else’s last name and if he asks someone if that was what Salvek had said then they’d think he’d been going deaf. Half of his job here involved taking orders which he couldn’t do if he didn’t hear them. Endangering the ship like that by allowing himself to be the only Engineer on the bridge in his condition was tantamount to the most extreme case of negligence. When they heard at his trial about how he’d risked the lives on four different ships including those of his own family he’d was sure that they’d throw away the key. He’d never convince them that he could hear. He was sure he’d come to regret having existed at all if he had to spend the rest of his existence in prison.

He knew he would just have to call the Captain if something happened but those Turbolifts could take so long to get her here that he might destroy the ship in the mean time. He knew he could always just use the transporters to get her here quicker but realised that it had been several seconds now since they were last successfully used. He rapidly verified them as well. They were fine, everything was fine.

He noticed that his checks had drawn the attention of Sue Tenney and realised that he’d have to move now. He rose from his seat and began to move slowly towards the chair, taking the long route around so that no one would notice if he turned away at the last second.

What was he going to do when he got there? If the Captain caught him sitting in her chair then she might think that he’s trying to take the ship from her, he did try to kill her once and so she probably wouldn’t put stealing past him. Still, what if she caught him not sitting in her chair? He was one of the senior staff and if she thought that he couldn’t step up in an emergency then that would quickly end.

Yes, he’d shown his ability to take command in a simulation once where he thought that almost everyone else was dead but that hardly counts when you consider the question of really, if almost everyone else was dead, who was he commanding? He could try to explain to her how sitting in her chair was just such a big role to fill, win her over with flattery, but what if she thought that he was calling her fat? That wouldn’t be flattery at all.

Maybe it wasn’t that bad, maybe the Sylph had made good on their threats to capture the ship and this was all part of their therapy technique. Rada had done some reading on therapy techniques, know thy enemy and all that and he remembered that it was supposedly very important to confront their fears however ridiculously unlikely. That could be just what was happening here, the Sylph were making them all confront their most ridiculous fears.

Rada’s fear was something that could never happen, him being given control of the bridge. Somewhere out there Dabin Reece was probably settling down into a nice accountancy position, February Grace was throwing out all of her pink clothing, Salvek was hugging everyone in sight and the Captain was probably naked in front of the whole crew. Actually he thought he’d heard something about that last one, how long had they been in here?

No wait, he realised by patting his pocket that he still had his toffees; obviously they weren’t confronting all their fears today. Besides, the incredibly traumatic experience that was the Sylph encounter had no real affect on him last time and so it seemed his mind was safe from them, he really felt unlucky about that now.

He reached the chair and cursed himself for not walking slower. This decision had come too soon. He ran a hand along on the arm rest and reminded himself that he could still get out of this; he could just claim that he’d walked over to check the chair was in good working order, do the whole Engineer thing and then return to his post. He looked around the bridge and saw that no one was actually looking at him, he could just walk away.

He stopped for a second and properly looked around the bridge, this place was…beautiful. He’d never noticed it before but the view from here was just beautiful. A seat lined up to watch the stars pass them by in the middle of the room where it all happened. This entire ship; all controlled from this spot. He saw all the constant little adjustments were being made around him that kept it all running so well. Never before had he considered just what all those repairs he’d done actually meant to the ship, they all came back to giving control to this chair. He had to see what it was like.

He slowly lined himself up, threw a toffee in his mouth and lowered himself down. It was much more comfortable than it looked.

Lt. SG Rada Dengar
Chief Engineering Officer
USS Serendipity NCC-2012

NRPG: Damn! You guys keep making me cry this week LOL though I was laughing at the same time.

Classic Rada Dengar logic: "He could wake up tomorrow never having existed." ROFLMAO

Douglas Adams is smiling in heaven. The torch is carried on.~ZL

540: His Worst Nightmare

by Keiran O'Sullivan
Following Stardust
Concurrent with The Force Behind It All: Two
Soundtrack: Indiana, by Jon McLaughlin



The door chime rang incessantly.

It was far too late for a social call, still no one had hailed him to tell him that he was needed in his role as captain, so it had to be something of the kind.

He rose slowly from the chair, where he'd been watching the stars of Perseus fade into the distance through the view port as they traveled at Impulse.

He'd instructed February Grace to maintain course and speed until they were out of viewing distance of the constellation; after that, she had his permission to finally take the ship to Warp.

The Serendipity was once again on her way, and this time she was leaving someone behind.

Keiran knew that he was leaving his heart behind as well.

He ambled to the door and found a very tired, pale Bajoran man standing on the other side.



"Apologies. I know it's late."

Keiran shrugged. "I wasn't asleep. Can I help ya somehow?"

"This belongs to you." Jariel said simply. He held up a small, leather bound book and without hesitation, thrust it into O'Sullivan's hand.

"I don't believe so," Keiran regarded the book with confusion. "I've never seen it before."

"Well, I've been going through the few things that she considered to be her important possessions," Jariel answered bitterly, "And believe me, when you see what's inside, you'll know that it belongs to you. Goodnight."

Without further explanation the man turned to leave and O'Sullivan sighed. He could not fathom how, even though Jariel had been the one that Liis had chosen again in the end even after regaining her memories of her alternate past, that he was still jealous of the fact that she'd ever cared for Keiran at all. Now, Zanh Liis was lost and neither of them could call her their own.

*What purpose does bitterness serve?*

"Good night." Keiran mumbled, retreating.

Just after the doors closed the chime rang again, and Keiran took one step forward to release them again.

"I want you to know that I only read the first three words," Jariel declared, intent that O'Sullivan understand. "I didn't read anything more." Without awaiting a response, he hurried on his way.

"Thanks," Keiran said to the empty hallway, shaking his head and returning to his chair.

He sighed heavily as he sank down. Everything seemed to take such effort for him these days. Nothing came easily, and aside from grief the only thing he could feel was ambivalence toward everything. Not good for himself, to be sure, but would be disastrous for the crew if he didn't find a way to pull himself together soon.

He'd been working so hard to shove it all down- staving off his emotional response to her death was taking every ounce of strength that he had. He knew all too well how it had destroyed him in previous timelines. How he had to submit to all manner of medical manipulation just to try to stop the pain. In the end those means had failed, and he had no such option open to him this time.

He worried that if he gave into the unrelenting anguish now that he would be swallowed up by it and never emerge again.

He rotated the book in his hands, looking again at the front cover, and back. It had no title or author showing, not even on the spine so he could only imagine it was a one of a kind, whatever it was.

Finally he opened to the first page, and he felt a searing pain in his chest as he saw those 'first three words'that Jariel had mentioned.

They were written by hand in familiar script, and they were wrenchingly simple:
Letters to Keiran.

He dropped it instantly, the book seemingly burning his hands as he held it.

After countless moments passed, he drew as deep a breath as he could manage and picked it up again. He flipped through it aimlessly, wondering just how many pages of the blank book she had filled with such personal, unsent correspondence.

He found that with the exception of the last three, every page in the book, front and back, was full.

"Oh, God." He dropped his head down. "Liis,"

He didn't know if he had the strength to learn what hidden emotions and unexpressed confessions the book may reveal.

It had been hard enough, wrestling the memories that he'd regained during their Sylph experience and knowing that though she remembered them too, they had to be apart. Then, there were additional memories which had continued to return with detail that both amazed him and dissolved his soul, a piece at a time.

He didn't know how there was, honestly, anything left of him at this point. He only knew that once Starfleet had asked him to take command of the Serendipity in her stead, that it was the only reason he had to try to get out of bed in the morning. He would do it, one day, one hour, one moment at a time if that was what it took.

He would do it for her.

He called for the computer, and it beeped its ever-irritating, cheerful tone in reply.

"Begin playback of O'Sullivan play list twenty-four alpha. Song three."

The computer beeped again, and the sound of a melancholy piano refrain, accompanying a single male voice filled the air.

He sighed deeply once again and returned his attention to the book. It may shatter what was left of him to know what it contained, but not knowing would only erode him. A slower and more torturous way, he imagined, to arrive at the very same destination.

He turned the page, blinking several times as just seeing his name again in salutation written by her hand reduced him to tears.


Vol says that the only way I will ever be able to sort everything out is to get it out of my head and down...somewhere. He said he didn't care if I used a computer, pieces of paper, or a stone tablet and chisel. Just so long as I 'do the work' as he so eloquently puts it.

How does one ever 'do the work' of accepting that they've lost the one thing, the one person, who ever truly made them happy?

"God," Keiran whispered, "I'm hopin' you found the answer and wrote it somewhere in here, because that is the very question that is killing me."

He read on.

If this book should ever, by some miracle somehow find its way into your hands, then I have a request to make of you.

Before you continue past this point, I want you to do something for me.

I want you to take it with you to the holodeck, and bring up program Zanh twenty-two beta. The computer will tell you that it's restricted, so use this access code to get in...

A series of numbers and symbols followed, and Keiran recognized it immediately. It didn't take him long to decipher the familiar coding and come up with her security access code for the program.

I wrote most of these letters while hiding out in that program, and if you should ever end up seeing them, I want you to see that before you read them.

It'll explain so much that I just can't find the words for.

I love you.


He rose and slowly buttoned the plain white shirt that hung loosely untucked over his jeans. He pulled on his boots and addressed the computer once again. "Which holodecks are currently unoccupied?"
^Holodeck two is currently unoccupied.^

"Suspend current musical playback and resume in holodeck two, upon activation of the next program." Keiran tucked the book under his arm, and with long, quick strides, made his way toward his destination.

He stood in the middle of the black and yellow grid and did just as she'd requested.

He accessed her program and provided the necessary security code to initialize it.

The moment that the scenery filled in around him, the wind was knocked out of him and he dropped to his knees. Holding the book of her letters to his chest, he began to shake violently, sobbing.

He could barely hear the music as it began to play again as he'd requested.

He simply could not believe what he was seeing. She had recreated home, and not just home, but the night of the Perseids.

How often had she come here, alone, to think of him?

He knew that it had to be often enough to fill that book with words meant to try to heal her broken heart. He wondered if any of them could possibly help rescue him from drowning in similar heartbreak now.

The music continued as he sank into the grass, lay down on his back, and watched the streaks of light bolt across the imitation of heaven above him.

-=Transporter Room, USS Serendipity=-

His head ached but that was to be expected, he reminded himself.

That was always a side effect he suffered when he cried until there were no tears left and he finally succumbed to sleep.

Everything spun around him; his ears rang louder than church bells on Sunday morning.

He couldn't make sense of the voices.

There were just too many voices.

Their words all seemed to combine and become nothing but gibberish as he slowly attempted to open his eyes.

He must be dreaming. He heard her voice for an instant, and that wasn't possible.

*She's gone, remember?* He scolded himself sadly, the way he always did whenever he heard a voice he thought was hers, or saw a tall, dark haired woman from afar and hoped, somehow, maybe...

Finally the roaring in his ears died away and a single, familiar voice became clearly audible. This one he was certain he was hearing in the here and now- it was absolutely unmistakable.

He clenched his burning eyes tightly shut. When he released and opened them again, things began to come into focus.

Why was he lying on the floor in the transporter room?

Last thing he remembered, he'd been on the holodeck; missing her more with every page he read of her letters...

"I'm sorry," Salvek was saying. "You and your rescue team never made it back from Klaestron, and I am certain Keiran O'Sullivan did not die."

*Died?* Keiran was baffled. *They think that I...* He struggled to reacquaint himself with the sequence of actions necessary to overcome gravity so that he would be successful when he attempted to stand. *Feet firmly on the deck beneath you O'Sullivan, then up. Slowly.*

"How can you know that?" Zanh Liis' voice was hoarse and high pitched, betraying her fear.

The pain he heard in her, so deep and akin to his own, was too real to deny.

He tried to execute his plan for getting to his feet, but quickly found he was too unsteady. Salvek, observing his movements, offered a hand to assist and Keiran at last rose to his full height.

*She doesn't realize I'm just over her shoulder.* He couldn't find his voice to speak as he watched her. She was focused solely on Salvek, desperate for answers.

"Because, Captain." The Vulcan explained. "He is standing right next to you."

Liis quickly turned toward him, and just as quickly, she went completely limp, passing out cold.

Salvek and Keiran both reacted, gently lowering her to the deck before she could injure herself. "Salvek to Sickbay. Medical emergency in Transporter room one."

[We're on our way.]

"God in Heaven," Keiran whispered, dropping to one knee beside her. He leaned in close to be certain she was still breathing, and then simply stared at her in disbelief. He couldn't stop himself from reaching out and touching her face with the back of his hand, just so he could fathom the fact that she was really there.

"Captain O'Sullivan, are you all right?" Salvek inquired of the man, who was now a ghostly shade of pale.

"I don't understand," Keiran's blue eyes reflected the depth of his confusion. "Salvek, we were," he paused. "Wait," Suddenly, dozens of images replayed in his mind, layering one atop another as he began to get his bearings and realized that there was still a critically dangerous situation in progress. "My crew?"

"We beamed every member of your crew to safety."

"The Sylph?"

"Their ship was destroyed."

Keiran's jaw set as he nodded slowly. "Salvek," he fought the urge to hyperventilate. "I can't believe she's alive. I swear, we were just at her funeral."

"Funeral?" Salvek's eyebrow elevated sharply. "Did you say, you believe that you were just at Zanh Liis' funeral?"

"I'm certain of it. It happened only hours ago. Why?"

"Because she was just as certain that she had attended yours."

Salvek paused, unsure if he should reveal what she had really been doing when the Sylph intercepted her. "In truth, Captain O'Sullivan, she was part of an Away Team, and they were sent to rescue your son. They were returning from Klaestron when the Sylph intercepted their ship."

"My..." Keiran found he no longer had the power to string words together into long enough strands to form sentences. "Is he,"

"He is alive." Salvek assured him, "We will bring him to you as quickly as possible."

"I need to,"

[Bridge to Salvek,]

"What is it?"

[Sir, we are being approached by a ship identifying itself as the USS Planck. They are insisting that they be allowed to beam a party aboard.]

Before Salvek could request further information, Keiran held his hand up in silence, seeking his attention. Salvek tipped his head to the side in curiosity.

"Let them board, and be sure to tell the medical staff that no one should talk to anyone who has been effected by the Sylph until the Incident Response Team from the Planck does." Keiran instructed, his mind falling back on his training and clicking into Temporal Investigations Agent mode.

Salvek nodded serenely, knowing O'Sullivan well enough now to feel that he could trust his judgment in this matter.

"Tell them that we must clear the transporter rooms first, and then beam them aboard. Inform me as soon they arrive," Salvek commanded, "I will be returning to the bridge shortly."

Keiran had resumed staring at Zanh Liis, holding her hand tightly in his own. He looked up as he heard a frantic, jubilant voice calling his name a moment later, and he found himself nearly knocked to the deck by an emotional Dane Cristiane.

"You're alive!" Dane exclaimed, throwing his arms around O'Sullivan as if he were his long-lost son, instead of Carrick.

"I can't believe you're alive. Keiran...we buried you."

Salvek's eyes widened as he realized that Dane was under the same impression that Zanh had been. This could not be mere coincidence.

Keiran accepted Dane's embrace, slapping him on the back. Then he grasped him firmly by the arms, looked him dead in the eyes and asked one desperate question.

"My son?"

"We did it, Keiran," Dane assured him. "He's in rough shape, but he's going to make it."

Captain Keiran O'Sullivan
Temporal Investigations
Currently aboard the USS Serendipity

539: Stardust

by Keiran O'Sullivan
-=Soundtrack: At the Stars by Better Than Ezra=-

-=USS Perseids, Inside the Sylph Bubble=-

Slumped over in the command chair on the bridge of the USS Perseids, Keiran O'Sullivan was in an altered state of consciousness.

Not truly unconscious, but, because of the manipulation of the Sylph, he was far removed from his actual surroundings and living a nightmare entirely too real, he believed, to ever wake from.


-=USS Serendipity=-

The crew milled around the arboretum.

In recent days, there had been heated discussions in more than one meeting of the senior staff as to whether or not this should be the location chosen for the viewing of today's ceremony.

Some had insisted that it made sense because it was the only place aboard that could hold the majority of the crew all at once; others had argued that it was too unkind to force the crew to associate this place they loved so well with what was about to happen.

In the end with Salvek as the voice of reason, practicality had won the day.

So, here they would wait.

Hushed voices carried on a multitude of different conversations simultaneously, as people tried to keep from getting claustrophobic as more and more people packed in.

They tried their best not to step into the flower beds, but this was easier said than done. February Grace noted with frustration that there would be repairs to be made to the gardens.

She wished, however, that it would be as easy to put back together the broken pieces of the heart of the gardener.

"I still can't believe this is how they're going to do this," Dane scowled, folding his arms over his chest.

"Well, she didn't leave any specific instructions. Jariel refused to make the decision, and so Salvek did some research and this was what he decided upon." Kellyn explained.

She glanced over at Arie, who was seated beside Tam Elton beneath one of the taller trees. She was glad, at least, that they were keeping each other company, and were both on their best behavior.

"She should be taken back to Bajor." Dane insisted.

"No," Kellyn countered. "Bajor was a place she tried all of her life to escape. Taking her back there would not be appropriate." She sighed sharply with frustration.

"Look. I know that this isn't a good time for you, Dane, but you have to trust that this resolution is the best answer to a question that none of us ever wanted to have to answer."

"Got that right." An unusually subdued Dabin Reece stepped forward. He rested his chin on Kellyn's shoulder, giving her arms a quick hug from behind. She reached back and patted him on the top of his head. "She was supposed to live forever."

Dane rocked from foot to foot with increasing frustration. *How the hell did we end up here?* He closed his eyes, clenching his jaw as he replayed in his mind the final moments in the life of Zanh Liis.

-=Flashback: Days Ago: The Farm: Klaestron IV=-

"They're all around us," Dane realized that their potential escape routes had now dwindled from few down to none, and he searched frantically for a last-ditch option. They'd been cut off from Blane and Steele, and who knew where the hell Reece was.

"I'm working on it!" Zanh hissed. "Just hang on to him, will you?"

Dane had the unconscious body of Carrick O'Sullivan slung over his shoulder, and the more they ran, the heavier he got. Liis turned to the Klaestron woman beside them. "Is there any other way out?"

"We're completely cut off."

"Then choices are going to have to be made. Dane, get behind me."


"GET BEHIND ME!" Zanh shouted. "HEY!" She shouted to the guards at the end of the hall. "OVER HERE!"

Now she had their undivided attention, and she grabbed the unsuspecting Klaestron woman, Atien, by the throat. "If you don't let us leave, your employee dies!" Liis pressed her phaser to Atien's temple.

Atien tried to wrestle her way out of Zanh's hold, but the Bajoran was running on pure adrenaline, and her strength was remarkable.

"Don't do anything stupid," One of the guards called back. "We have you surrounded, you can't get out. Surrender."

"I am a Starfleet Officer," Liis announced. "Dane, put Carrick down." She knew she was blowing her cover, but at this point she could only hope that if anything might buy them some time, it would be that these people may be smart enough to hesitate to kill someone claiming to be Starfleet.

"And I'm the Klingon High Chancellor. Lunatics." The guard complained. "Give it up. It's over."

Suddenly, Carrick groaned loudly, beginning to come out of sedation. The noise distracted Zanh for a split second, and that was all that was needed to allow the worst to happen.

After Atien stopped fighting to free herself, she began to try to formulate another way to escape. She saw the hypo tucked into Dane's belt, and though she didn't know what was in it, she figured that it was the only chance she had.

As Liis looked down at Carrick, Atien managed to break free from her grip. Dane, who was still on his knees after lowering O'Sullivan to the ground, was easily taken off balance as Atien kicked him in the jaw. She grabbed the hypo, and the moment that Liis recovered and grabbed hold of her, she jammed the hypo against Zanh's leg.

Liis stopped cold.

She staggered backwards several steps, and collapsed to the deck.

"NO!" Dane shouted, as Atien took off running toward the guards and he dropped to the floor beside his Captain.

"Zanh Liis, open your eyes. Look at me." He shook her, and her head lolled to the side.

Her breathing rapidly became shallow, and she used the last of her remaining strength to look up at Cristiane as the life drained from her body. "Get Carrick home."

"Zanh Liis, stay with me,"

"Don't give up," Zanh mumbled softly, "...on yourself. I never did."

"Liis, no,"

"Tell him..." Liis closed her eyes as Dane cradled her head in his hands. "...that I love him."

Then, she was gone.

-=End Flashback=-

It had all happened so fast. Dane had no way of knowing that Blane, Steele and Reece had regrouped and were bringing the local law enforcement to their rescue.

They had arrived only moments too late to save Zanh's life.

The Away Team had returned, having accomplished their mission, but at a price that seemed to them to be way too high.

"Hey." Dane heard a voice behind him and turned.

"Hey." He nodded to Landry, who frowned.

"You okay?"

"I guess so." He shrugged.

"Are you going to go to the dinner? You know, after? I can save you a seat at the Junior Officer's table."

"No thanks."

"Look, Dane," Landry bit her lip. "I know I didn't know her as well as you did, and I don't really know you that well but, you shouldn't, you know, blame yourself. For any of this. She knew what she was doing."

"If I'd known what I was doing, she wouldn't be dead now." Dane insisted, before turning his back on her and walking away.

"Don't take it personally, kid," TC Blane appeared over Steele's shoulder, having witnessed the exchange. "He hates everything right now. Most of all, himself."

-=Across the room=-

Salvek worked his way through the crowd, which was no easy task. With only a skeleton crew left on the bridge, he had to be sure that all was taken care of before he could attend to this obligation of honor.

He stepped up to the gazebo in the middle of the arboretum, and tapped his badge twice. He had rigged it to patch him through the ship's main comm line, so everyone could listen even if they could not watch.

"Please come to order." He requested, and the chatter surrounding him died down. He was about to shock the crew, which was not an easy thing to do considering they'd been in something of a state of shock for days, ever since they had been told that their Captain had perished in the line of duty. "If you would, please, clear a path to the doors."

Security assisted Salvek in making the request a reality; ushering the large group into two halves and creating a narrow path up the middle between them.

Once everyone settled again, Salvek cleared his throat. He was a man who had spent all of his life attempting to suppress his emotions, but today one one of those days when he'd had to struggle against a panic that reappeared after every intermittent, hard-won moment of control.

"Captain on deck." Salvek announced, and everyone turned expectantly toward the doors.

No one knew who was going to take command in Zanh's place; everyone had simply assumed that it would be Salvek.

Salvek, however, had revisited his priorities in light of recent events, and decided that it was time for him to return to Engineering Research as his primary focus. He would remain on the Serendipity in that capacity but he would no longer serve as her Executive Officer, let alone her Captain.

"By the Prophets," Lair Kellyn gasped, unable to stifle the words as she caught sight of the Sera's new Commanding Officer.

"Dane," Landry fought her way through the crowd to get to Cristiane, who was sulking in the corner farthest from the windows. "LOOK!"

Dane didn't want to look.

He stared at the floor until he heard another voice speak up in astonishment as well. This voice belonged to TC Blane.

"I'll be damned."

It was then that Dane looked up and instantly recognized the man before him who was wearing four pips.

"My god," Dane leaned back against the wall. "I don't believe it."

A few paces behind Captain Keiran O'Sullivan, a woman with gray hair and the rank insignia of an Admiral walked with purpose toward the podium situated inside the gazebo.

As she and the man she'd accompanied reached it, she leaned in to him and asked him one final question.

"Are you certain you don't want to do this, Captain?"

"Aye, Admiral," O'Sullivan replied, honestly amazed he was able to maintain an upright position considering what was going on. "I can't."

She patted him on the arm gently, and then nodded respectfully to Salvek.

"Admiral Lassiter." Salvek announced, and he removed his comm badge, indicating for the Admiral to put it on so she could address the crew.

"I'm Gem Lassiter, and I am the newly appointed Director of The Alchemy Project," she began. "I would like to begin by thanking TC Blane, Dabin Reece, Dane Cristiane and Landry Steele for their dedication to duty, and for seeing their mission through to the very end,"

She grasped the edges of the podium as she spoke, glancing quickly over at O'Sullivan, who was now standing toward the back of the gazebo with his son at his side.

"Even though that end was bittersweet." She drew in another long breath.

"Captain Zanh accomplished her task, surrendering her life in the attempt to bring Carrick O'Sullivan back to his family. A family," Lassiter paused once again, "which has asked me to convey that they will never forget her sacrifice."

At the back of the arboretum, a man dressed all in black walked slowly through doors held open because people were standing in the doorway, trying to see in.

As each person present recognized him, they did their best to move out of his way, allowing him the chance to get closer to the windows, which had been cleared of the greenery which normally obstructed them.

He only proceeded about ten steps, however, before he stopped. He could bear to go no further.

He turned, prepared to retreat. Coming here was something he had thought long and hard about, not knowing if he could stand to watch. At the last moment just when he was about to bolt, he felt a gentle hand tugging at his and looked up to see February Grace, tears in her eyes, grasping his hand.

She held him fast where he stood, and he leaned against her for support as he stared blankly ahead of him.

"You may be wondering why the decision was made to come to Perseus on this solemn occasion. I know that several of you have theories, and I am now able to share with you, the crew, really the family of Zanh Liis, why we have brought her mortal remains here."

Jariel glanced upward, feeling that he was being watched. His eyes met those of Keiran O'Sullivan, and they nodded slowly to each other in understanding before once again looking away.

"Captain Zanh was very fond, I am told, of the annual Perseids meteor shower. This was something she only shared with a few of those who knew her best. The reasons as to why it was such an important event to her may remain forever a mystery."

Keiran bowed his head. He knew the answer to that question. But it was an answer that belonged to him, and Liis, alone.

"Captain Zanh specified only one thing as part of her Starfleet regulation Last Will and Testament. That was that she be cremated. Under the 'additional comments' section of that will, she wrote, quote, "Do not bury me whole. The very idea creeps the living hell out of me. Of course if I'm dead, I guess I won't care anymore."

Soft laughter rose from a few in the crowd, who knew Zanh well enough to know that certainly no one else could have made that remark.

"Those closest to the captain were asked to make their suggestions as to where her ashes should be scattered, and in the end, there was one suggestion, from someone who wishes to remain anonymous, that it would be best to bring her here, to Perseus, not only so that she would always be among the stars she loved so well, but so she would be here, and would be remembered, every year when the Perseids fall."

Salvek glanced sideways at O'Sullivan, noticing that the man seemed to be swaying slightly from side to side. He discreetly stepped up beside him, ready to act should he lose the ability to stand.

Carrick reached forward and put a hand on his father's shoulder.

"So we commit the body of Captain Zanh Liis to space. I did not get the chance to know her well, but I do know one thing about her from reading her logs,"

Lassiter looked directly at several individuals in the crowd, holding their gaze for a moment before moving on.

"She loved her job, and she loved each and every one of you."

Lassiter stepped back, and nodded to TC Blane. Blane whispered softly into his combadge, and everyone shifted their focus to the windows.

A small probe was launched and all watched it go past, even though they were unable to clearly see the probe split apart and scatter Zanh's ashes among the stars of Perseus.

The crew of the USS Serendipity stood in mute observance of a moment of silence before finally, they were dismissed.


"What's goin' on?" Keiran strode across the bridge as soon as he exited the turbolift, noticing that the doors to the Ready Room were propped open, and that people were inside.

"We're just clearing the room for you, Captain," The ensign from Security explained. "We had orders to,"

"Don't touch anything." Keiran insisted. "Just as she left it, you hear? I want the room to be preserved just as she left it."

"Aye, Sir," The men glanced at each other in confusion. "If that's what you want,"

"Is precisely what I want. Dismissed."

Once the doors had closed, he moved slowly from object to object, taking each one in.

He knew already that he would always think of this as her room. Her ship. He could never take her place, he could only watch over the Sera, and her crew, for Liis since she could not.

The door chime rang, and he sighed. "Come in, then."

TC Blane stood at attention before him. "You wanted to see me, Sir?"

"Aye, Mr. Blane. Please, have a seat."

"I'd rather stand, Sir."

"All right." Keiran gazed out the window. "Have you considered that promotion, Mr. Blane?"

"Yes, Sir."

"Will you accept it?"

"I'd like to consider it a little while longer, Sir. Just..." he relaxed his stance just a little. He knew that if anyone could understand that he didn't want to make any final, major decisions today, it would be O'Sullivan.

"Tomorrow. I promise you an answer in the morning."

"Very well. Thank you. You can go."

As he turned to leave, something caught TC's eye. Still in the center of her desk, just as she'd left it, was the sailor's spy glass that he'd given her last Christmas.

He closed his eyes a moment, clearly able to see Zanh Liis, coffee going cold before her as the cup sat on her desk untouched, as she opened and closed that glass, in deep contemplation of some important decision she had to make.

"You should have that back," Keiran picked it up, and held it out toward Blane. "She loved it, you know. I hope that you'll keep it safe, and remember her when you see it."

"I couldn't."

"Thomas," Keiran took the liberty of addressing Blane in the manner that Liis would have, if she'd been standing there instead of him. "Take it."

Blane nodded, and slowly accepted the glass before quickly exiting the room.

On his way out and in his haste to depart, he nearly barreled right into Vedek Jariel.

"Jariel, are you," Blane knew it was ridiculous to ask the Vedek if he were all right; everyone aboard knew that the answer was no. "Do you need anything?"

"Just a moment of the Captain's time." Jariel replied. "Thanks, TC."

He didn't want to wait for the doors to close again just so he could ring the chime, instead he strode right into the room and addressed O'Sullivan directly.


"Why what, Vedek Jariel?" Keiran was in no mood for any kind of emotional exchange now. He knew that his taking command here would be awkward for the Vedek, but he also knew that doing so was the right decision.

"Why Perseus?"

"I should know the answer to that?"

"Yes. You should. After all, bringing her here was your idea." Jariel declared, folding his arms over his chest. "Don't even attempt to deny it."

Keiran forgave Jariel his short temper; if anyone could understand how the Vedek felt right now, it was him.

"How do you know?" Keiran was not ready, or willing, to divulge this information.

"Why. Perseus.' Jariel demanded again, glaring through him.

"Not today, Jariel." Keiran turned away, back towards the window. "Someday. But not today."

Without another word, Jariel retreated.

As he made his way through the halls of the ship, he didn't know where he should go. He couldn't go back to their quarters, he couldn't go to the arboretum.

He found himself moments later at the door of Salvek and Kellyn, though he could not even have explained why or even how he got there.

Kellyn offered him a cup of tea, and he sat quietly down on their couch. She told him that Salvek was meditating in the bedroom, and would speak with him shortly.

A few moments after Kellyn had disappeared to fetch Jariel's tea, he felt a slight tug on his sleeve.

"Are you going to be okay?"

Camen opened his eyes to see a very concerned Lair Arie sitting beside him.

"You know that Zanh Liis is in the Celestial Temple now. Safe, with the Prophets."

Jariel thought of all the times he had tried to comfort himself with the thought already, and how every time it had been no consolation in the end.

"I know. Thank you, Arie." He patted her on the hand, and stared at the floor.

"I...lit a duranya. For the Captain." She stood up, and tugged at his hand again. "Will you pray with me?"

"Will you pray for her, for me?" Jariel asked, his faith unable to carry him far enough tonight to do what she asked of him.

"Of course, Esteemed Vedek." She leaned over and placed a gentle kiss on his cheek before disappearing into her room.

When Kellyn returned, she found Jariel with his head in his hands, silently weeping.

"How..." he asked her as she put her arm around him, "...what do I do now?"

"You do what Liis would tell you to do, Camen," Kellyn whispered. "You just keep putting one foot in front of the other."

Captain Keiran O'Sullivan
USS Perseids NX 57871

538: Movie Night

by Jariel Camen
After Stop the Falling

-=Takesian Plains, Bajor=-

“We should get her to the medical tent, so she can rest. Just to be safe.”

The medic closed his scanner, and reached for the bandages. Fleur’s wounds were not deep, but they would need to be covered to prevent infection.

“Let me help you.” Camen requested. He reached for the bandage

-=Flashback: Years Ago: Alternate Timeline=-

“Ah, you see my darling. The young lady has the crush.”

Camen laughed, as he watched the young woman, by the name of Amélie try to work her way into the heart of the man whom was the object of her affection, while simultaneously attempting to overcome her own shyness. Fleur had insisted he watch this movie, and he understood why.

Much like the young woman in the film, she had had to work her way into his heart, though she was not as shy as Amélie. He marveled as he watched at the simply beauty of the French architecture and landscape. It was romantic and peaceful, like his own homeworld that he adored so much.

“What is Moulins?” Camen asked, looking that the awning above the café. Of course, in Standard the pronunciation was butchered.

“No no, like this.” Fleur turned his face towards hers, and mouthed the words very slowly. “Mou… lins.” Her voice was low and sultry as she spoke, holding his gaze with hers.

“Well I suppose the meaning is not important when you say it like that.” Camen smirked.

“Windmills.” She whispered, then stole a kiss upon his lips. “It means windmills. Your next required viewing will have windmills as well. I must get my tea, Camen.”

Fleur attempted to rise, but Camen stopped her. “I’ll get it, you’ve been on your feet all day, let me.”

“So have you.”

Camen ignored her comment, paused the film, and rose from his seat. Fleur merely shrugged. If he was determined to spoil her and serve her tea, then so be it. He spoiled her so much they had to take turns, so she could be sure she got to spoil him as well.

She laid back into the cushions of their love seat, and wondered how she had ever been so lucky to share this home with him. Her influence was everywhere, because she knew he liked it that way. Every decoration perfectly placed to provide him a reminder of their love at every turn.

Her reverie was interrupted by a cry of pain from the kitchen. In a flash, she was off the loveseat and at his side. He was cradling his wrist.

“What happened?” She asked, looking at his arm.

“Nothing, I’m fine, just a little hot water splash.”

“Let me see it, my Camen.” Reluctantly he removed his hand. The burn was small and superficial, but still her concern for him was anything but small and superficial.

“Oh, no no, zis will not do at all.” She opened the cabinet, and retrieved the dermal regenerator.

“It’s really not a big deal,” He said, as he sat down on the white hardwood chairs in the kitchen.

“It is a part of you, and that makes it ze biggest deal in all ze Universe. My Camen can have no pain, inside or out.” She ran the device over his arm, and soon all traces of the burn were replaced by healthy skin.

“Now, let’s finish our movie, so we can move onto the other entertainment, no?”

Camen smiled, running his hands over his skin, and feeling no pain. It really was not a bad wound, but he knew when she wished to treat his pain, there was nothing to do but indulge her.

She moved to the counter, and stirred the tea he had poured her. Always fresh strained with real leaves. No bags, no replicators. She felt his gaze upon her, and turned around, and grinned.

“What?” She asked.

“It’s nothing Fleur. You’re just, lovely.”

“Thank you, Monsieur Camen.” She said, blushing. “You are not correct, but you are sweet.”

He picked up her cup to carry it for her. “Come,” He requested, and brought her back to the living room. He set her cup down, and curled up next to her. He turned the film back on, and she rested her head upon his chest.


“Yes, Fleur?”

“Will you always hold me like this? It is so safe here.”

“Of course.” He promised. “Je t’aime.” His French was only beginning to take form, but he easily remembered her first lesson.

-=End Flashback=-

Camen unfurled the bandage, and set it down. The medic handed him an alcohol wipe, and Camen ran it over the scrape on her arm. He was glad she was sleeping, because no doubt this would have hurt if she were awake. He held her arm, and wrapped the bandage around it, attaching it with a piece of tape. When they got her proper attention, a dermal regenerator would clear up the wound, but he wished for no infection to even have the chance to set in until then.

“Is she all right?” Prylar Delle asked, sticking her head into the room.

“We think so,” Camen said. Delle watched as he wrapped each of her wounds with great care.

“Do you know her?” Delle asked, noting how familiar Camen seemed to be acting with Fleur.

“Yes, I do.” He replied.

“Oh, how well?”

“Very,” was all Camen said. He honestly was not even sure how to answer that question. He knew only as he looked at the progress around him, and her dirty, bloodied skin as she extracted Tress from the well, that this Fleur was truly the woman whose affections he had been blinded to for so long. A woman of the people, who had done so much for the land he loved, and, his memories told him, for him as well.

“I’ll get the stretcher,” The medic said, as they prepared to move her.

“That will not be necessary.” Camen said. Again he gathered her up into his arms. He swore for a moment that perhaps there was a smile on her face. The medic opened the door and he cradled her head as they left the building for the walk to the tent which posed as the infirmary.

As they walked, she awoke for a moment, and once again saw his face, and felt his arms around her.

“Vedek Jariel, did I die?”

“No Fleur. Rest.”

“Tress?” She asked, remembering the child.

“Healthy and comfortable.”

“Why are you here?” She asked, finally.

She was still groggy, and he knew she was barely aware of her surroundings.

“To find what I’ve been missing.” He said. Her eyes once again closed as they approached the medical tent. Jariel set her down on the bed, and saw the Doctor working still on the child Tress.

“How is the baby?” He asked.

“Doing well, but I need to keep an eye on her lungs. She inhaled a lot of dust in the well collapse. How is Ms. Le Marc?”

“Vedek Jariel treated her wounds himself. Fleur will be fine until you can treat her with the regenerator.” The medic said.

A young man near Tress approached Jariel. “You helped her?” Gillan Pace asked.

“Yes I did. Why do you ask?”

“I am Tress’s brother. I just wanted to thank you for helping Ms. Le Marc. Without her none of us would have anything, and I wouldn’t have my sister. Any friend of hers is a friend of mine.”

“How much of this is she responsible for?” Jariel asked, indicating their surroundings.

“All of it.” Pace said. “She just dropped out of the sky with supplies and money and spirit. She builds all day and then makes evening meal for everyone. She sleeps with one eye open, watching over all of us. What more can I say?”

“You’ve told me all I could ask to know, thank you.”

“How do you know her?” Pace asked.

“I’m an old friend. Don’t worry, you have my word she’ll be looked after. Tend to your sister.” Pace nodded, and left to check on Tress and the Doctor.

Jariel once again sat beside Fleur. She was resting comfortably for now, exhausted from the day’s work.

“Pace, what was Fleur doing when the emergency happened?”

“Preparing the evening meal.”

“Well, if she was preparing evening meal, who finished it?” Camen asked.

“No one. I guess we skipped the meal amidst all the panic.”

Camen nodded, and looked down at Fleur. He patted her hand, and promised to check in on her later.

“Can you show me the kitchen, Pace?”

“Of course, Vedek.”

Pace led Jariel to the kitchen, where several workers and civilians milled about.

“Where’s Fleur?”

“Hurt, but doing ok.” Jariel said. “Give me an hour.”

He was determined that Fleur’s kitchen would be manned, and feed the people tonight. He knew she would wish this above all else. As he stepped into the kitchen, he saw the remains of a large pot of soup, which had long since gone cold.

He looked into the pot, and breathed the scent in. How familiar this soup was. How many times she had set it on the table for him, with a piece of bread on the side, without him ever needing to ask for it? All she had ever wanted in return was a smile and a thank you to brighten her day and quicken her heart.

Unfortunately this pot had been a victim of the day’s activities, and had to be set aside.

He cleared the pot, and filled new with fresh water. He turned and entered the pantry. Camen was not ambitious enough to try and recreate the soup, and if Fleur were consistent in her organizing techniques, the noodles would be kept in the third cabinet.

He opened the cabinet door, and found a large supply of jams and jellies. He smiled, thinking no two people were exactly like, even if those people were the same person living in alternate timelines. Behind the fourth door her found a supply of noodles and a large jar of sauce.

He poured the noodles into the pot of boiling water, and the sauce into an empty pan. Feeling somewhat ambitious after all, he also attempted mixing cream and cheese together to make an alfredo sauce. Fleur had taught him how, in another life, but his memory was fuzzy at best of the exact directions. This would either wow the crowd, or he would kindly be asked to never set foot in Fleur’s kitchen again.

He stirred and wiped the sweat from his brow. How Fleur managed this after a day of construction work in the hot sun was beyond Jariel, but he did understand why she enjoyed it. The hard work gave him a sense of accomplishment and a knowledge he would sleep soundly tonight. Perhaps, he thought, it also kept her mind occupied and away from other thoughts she did not dare to entertain.

He heard voices from outside the kitchen, and knew the smell of the food was getting to those who waited.

He stepped to the doorway, and looked out over the small crowd.

“Whomever volunteers first to help me drain the noodles gets the first bowl of food.” Camen declared to the crowd.

A man jumped forth waving his hands, as did several others.

“This gentleman wins. The rest of you, please form a line.”

Camen and his volunteer hefted the pot over the large colander, and drained the noodles. Using a pasta claw, Camen hefted the first portion into a bowl, then showed the man the Delavo and Alfredo sauces.

“Your choice.”

The man raised his hand. “You will serve me last Vedek, thank you. That is how we do things here.”

Camen smiled warmly. “As you wish. You have my word the food will be warm when you get it. Please send the first person in line in.”

Camen served everyone in line, and by all accounts, the alfredo sauce had not made anyone ill, and was to be considered a success.

He scrubbed every pot and pan till they shined, and cleaned every surface till they squeaked. Fleur’s kitchen would be spotless the next time she saw it, because she would expect no less from someone watching over her space in her stead.

Satisfied at last, he took one last bowl, still full of noodles and sauce, out of a warmer he had used to keep the food from getting cold. He covered the bowl, and stepped out into the night air. The town was quiet now, as everyone had retreated to their own space for the evening.

He walked alone back to the medical tent, and looked up at the stars. They were all still there, burning bright and true. He entered the tent, and saw Fleur still sleeping. Her bandages had been removed, and the Doctor had dozed off in his chair, with Tress sleeping nearby him.

He sat beside her, and uncovered the plate of food. Camen let the smell fill her senses, and she began to awaken.

“Vedek Jariel?” She asked, as if she were seeing him for the first time. “I thought I dreamt you were carrying me. Am I still dreaming?”

Camen chuckled. “We’re a long way from Serendipity. Please call me Camen.”

“Where is the Captain?”

“On the ship, as far as I know.”

“Then why are you here?” Fleur asked.

“Zanh Liis and I agreed to go our separate ways. I am here to find myself, and what I’ve been missing.”

Fleur managed a smile. “Now I know I am dreaming. How could zis ever be?”

“No more questions tonight, Ms. Le Marc.” Camen said. He spun some noodles onto a fork, and raised it to her lips. “Eat.”

Fleur turned her head to the side, and nodded across the room. “The Doctor, feed him. I saw him caring for Tress earlier, and no one has brought him a meal.”

Camen hesitated, but knew her mind was made up. He divided the bowl in half, and placed an equal portion for Fleur in several small paper cups near the supply of drinking water, as they were the only containers available.

“Sorry, I know it isn’t exactly the Two Windmills Café.” Camen said, as he looked at the underwhelming arrangement of four cups, each filled with noodles and sauce.

She attempted to protest, but her rumbling stomach won out. “All right, Monsieur Vedek, you win. I will share, but only if you promise to get more food for The doctor if he iz still hungry.”

“Agreed.” Camen brought the rest of the bowl to The Doctor, and woke him gently. The man thanked him, rubbed the sleep from his eyes, and took the food. Camen checked on Tress, who was sleeping peacefully, and decided it was best to leave her be.

He rejoined Fleur, who was doing her best to navigate around the cups to eat her food. He sat beside her bed in silence, allowing her time to enjoy her food, such as it was.

“Vedek Jariel, one question.”


“How do you know of the Two Windmills Café?”

“Oh. I believe I saw it in a movie once.” He answered honestly, despite not volunteering any information. “Your hand is trembling.” He observed.

“Yes, it has been a very trying day, no? Many surprises.”

“I don’t think you need to stay here, does she doctor?”

“Not at all, she can leave at any time.” He replied.

“Come, Fleur, let me walk you to your tent.” Camen offered.

“I know the way,” She said, jumping off the bed and heading for the exit.

“Not in the pitch dark.” Camen insisted.

He followed her out the door, and walked beside her. “Thank you very much,” She said. “When are you leaving Bajor?”

“When I am ready. I’m staying at the orphanage in Altaan province right now, and taking a few engineering courses in the city. I think I would like to spend some time here as well, and help with the work being done."

“Help is never refused.”

Fleur walked beside him, but dared not look at him. Dared not even entertain the idea that any of this was anything more than a dream or another vision from the Prophets.

That he was supposedly, so suddenly, here near her, and uninvolved...

Camen, however, could not help but look at her as she walked. Her love for the people of Bajor was as completely sincere and unconditional as what he now understood, after all this time, was her love for him. He could not help but regret, having ever broken her heart.

He could not help but feel that he wanted to mend it. Not just for her sake, but for his own as well.

“This iz it.” She said, upon arriving at her quarters. “Thank you for seeing me home, Vedek Jariel. How will you get back?"

“I’ll send a message to Vedek Timal at the orphanage, tell him not to expect me. It’s too late for that trip. I’ll sleep in the medical tent, unless I can find a bed elsewhere.”

She knew she could have offered him a cot for the night, but she simply could not have him under the same roof. Not after how long her day had been.

She bid him good night, and walked inside. Worry overcame her, and she looked out, watching his every step until he reached the medical tent, far in the distance. She nearly lost sight of him in the darkness, but a light seemed to find him every time, until he was safely there.

Only then, could she allow herself to go to bed.

Jariel Camen
On Bajor