827: Go-Directly To Jail

by Ashton Ledbetter
Concurrent with the events of The Summit

-=The Grand Opera House of Vulcan=-

The preview show was an extravaganza like no other. An event so grand in scope that the Vulcans had seriously debated moving the venue from their own world to a place more suited to handle such a gathering of off world dignities, like Ferenginar.

T’Lara had insisted on remaining on Vulcan, however. Her performance was carefully tailored to every last nuance, right down to the acoustics for The Grand Opera House and how her voice interacted with it.

Though the official opening night was still several weeks away, the preview show served as sneak peak of what was to come, and pseudo-intergalactic goodwill event between Vulcan and its neighbors.

Tickets were nearly impossible to come by, unless you were a Starfleet Admiral, sat on the ruling counsel of an alpha quadrant planet, or perhaps misappropriated a Temporal Investigations timeship to travel back in time and surreptitiously acquired two tickets before anyone knew they were gone.

If your method of attending the show was the latter, then it was highly unlikely your name was Gemini Lassiter or Keiran O’Sullivan or Zanh Liis, or, yes, even William Lindsay. It was quite possible however, that your name was Ashton Ledbetter, and after seeing Commander Salvek and his wife safely to their destination, you slipped into a tuxedo, straightened your black bowtie, and were now waiting in line for entrance to the galaxy’s most anticipated revival.

It was also quite possible that a series of well intentioned and harmless gifts sent repeatedly to the star of the show, T’Lara of Vulcan, was somehow mistakenly construed as stalking, and a restraining order was taken out against you.

The show however, and T’Lara, were not to be missed. From a young age T’Lara had taken an interest in the study of ancient Earth culture of the former nation known as Japan. She wrote papers, went on archaeological digs, and even taught classes on the subject on Vulcan after her own graduation. It was the life and times of former Empress Go-Sakuramachi however, that led her into a career in theater as the lead in the opera Chrysanthemum.

She found the opera to be the most effective realm for disseminating information about the life of her muse to the most people. It turned out that the show would be an intergalactic hit, so much so that even after a nine year run, the public demand would force T’Lara from retirement for one final series of shows.

Needless to say, for an event of this magnitude, security would be tight. With that in mind, Ledbetter had come prepared with a disguise, befitting of the name he had printed on the tickets he had appropriated.

As Ledbetter reached the front of the line, he looked up and up at the incredibly massive Vulcan who was admitting guests. He smiled at the man, from beneath a thick black fake moustache and from behind thick dark glasses. Had he been paying attention, he may have replicated something that actually matched the dirty blonde color of his hair, but when one’s mind was on the great T’Lara, how could one think of anything else?

“Jose Cuervo, of Earth.” The Vulcan said, reading the name and glancing sideways at Ledbetter.

“Si!” Ledbetter replied, nodding his head quickly and eliciting a bob from the perfectly shaped tuft of hair atop it.

The Vulcan’s eyes narrowed in thought, and Ledbetter began the gruesome task of calculating just how many furlongs the hulking man could throw him if he discovered who Ledbetter really was. With any luck, if he were thrown high enough in the air, he’d be able to call the Alchemy for transport before crashing back down onto the ground.

There was a murmur from behind Ashton, as impatient theatergoers began to wonder what the hold up was. Anxious to resume moving the line, the Vulcan handed Ledbetter his ticket back.

“Enjoy the show, senior.”


As Ledbetter entered the theater, he scoffed at the dignitaries seated high above in the balcony and private boxes. From where they sat, you could hardly even make out the subtle color contrasts in the makeup T’Lara would wear for the show. From where Ledbetter would sit, fourth row dead center; there was not a single nuance of the performance that would be missed.
As the lights dimmed, the certain lifted, and the murmur of the crowd stopped, so did Ledbetter’s heart. For nearly three hours, he did not move a muscle, as T’Lara escorted him personally through the life and times of the Empress. The sheer lack of humidity on Vulcan causing him to involuntarily blink was the only thing that made him take his eyes off her.

As the final curtain fell, Ledbetter leapt to his feet, sending his inhibitions and Jose Cuervo’s moustache flying.

“Brava! Brava, T’Lara!” He called over and over, as she took her final bow at the head of the company.

As she receded into the darkness, his heart once again began to beat. A tear formed in his eye, as he realized it was over, already. Soon he would be back to playing chauffer for the Salvek family, and then return to life under the black cloak of Zanh Liis.

He gathered up his tuxedo jacket and moustache, and was about to leave, when an usher addressed the family whom Ashton had shared a row with this evening.

“T’Lara will have a brief receiving line set up just outside. Follow me. Please, no holo-photography.”

Ashton did not know why the people sitting next to him deserved to see T’Lara, nor did he particularly care. He lowered his head and followed closely behind the group.

For once in his life, fate actually seemed to be smiling on Ledbetter, as he soon found himself only a few meters from the great T’Lara, in a small alcove at the rear of the theater. He wanted nothing more than to simply shake her hand, and touch the hand of the woman with the most magical voice he had ever heard.

He found himself uncharacteristically lacking words, as the line shortened. For a moment, his eyes locked with T’Lara’s, and there was a spark, a semblance of recognition.

That was bad.

T’Lara immediately glanced at her guard, the same brute that had admitted Jose Cuervo to the theater.

“Wait, where are you taking me!” Ledbetter demanded, as the Vulcan hoisted him into the air like a rag doll. “I’ve done nothing wrong, I merely wanted to shake hands with the great T’Lara.”

Unbeknownst to T’Lara, or her bodyguard, a more sinister presence was in their midst. The disgraced and honorless Klingon had been watching from the shadows, waiting for the right moment to make his move, and the distraction to the bodyguard was exactly what the coward needed.

With a roar, he leapt into the alcove, brandishing a rusty d’k tahg, with which he cut the chain of T’Lara’s necklace. The priceless piece, containing some of the rarest jewels of ancient Japan, fell from her neck, and into the awaiting hand of the petty thief.

The Klingon laughed with self-satisfaction. It was short lived however, as T’Lara’s bodyguard, having heard the commotion, tossed Ledbetter aside and ran back towards his charge. The Klingon spun, just out of the Vulcan’s reach, and ran directly at Ledbetter.

Ashton squealed, and instinctively covered his face with his hands. T’Lara stood, still somewhat surprised at what had just happened, as events unfolded before her.

Knowing he could not outrun the Vulcan, the Klingon grabbed Ledbetter, placing him in a headlock with one arm, and pressing the blade of his d’k tahg to Ashton’s throat with the other.

“Stay back, Vulcan! Or the little human dies!”

“Little?” Ashton protested with a wheeze, as he fought for air under the crushing hold of the Klingon.

The Vulcan stood his ground, neither advancing nor retreating, as he waited for the Klingon to act. Ashton pondered his next move. He couldn’t just stand here like a fool, not with T’Lara watching his every move.


“Are ya even payin’ attention Ash? It’s yer turn ya know.”

Ledbetter rolled his eyes. “This looks more like a circus then a self-defense course. Flipping each other around like a bunch of clowns. What exactly does this do for me that a phaser cannot?”

Keiran O’Sullivan slowly lifted himself up off the mat, having just been slammed down into it by the significantly smaller Gira Lassiter.

The lesson for the day, aboard the USS Perseids, was escaping from an attacker who had you held firmly from behind. Keiran had stressed the point of hitting a male attacker in their weakest point, because no matter what size, there was a spot that was guaranteed to make any man fall. For the sake of a training exercise, Keiran was of course wearing adequate protection, which didn’t make getting kicked to the ground feel any better.

“You may not always have a phaser on yer hip, then yer gonna wish you had listened to me.”

“Will it make this end any faster?” Ledbetter offered with a sigh.

“If that’s what it takes to get ya to do it then, yes.”

Ledbetter rolled his eyes again, and assumed the position. Keiran wrapped his arm around his throat from behind, and pressed the fake knife up to Ashton’s neck. Ashton quickly lifted his right hand, and knocked the arm holding the knife away, then spun halfway around, and slapped Keiran upside his head. The headgear deflected the blow, not that Keiran felt like he needed the protection for how half-hearted a slap it had been.

“No, Ash, you got it all wrong. Doctor Adams, come back here please.”

Azalea Adams swallowed hard, visibly, and slowly moved back into the center of the mat.

Keiran wrapped his arm around her throat, and Adams, who seemed as anxious as Ledbetter for this to be over, quickly executed the escape routine.

A quick blow with her right arm, knocking Keiran’s knife away, followed by an elbow below the rib cage. Once Keiran was stunned, she spun away, and delivered a high kick directly into his kitchen, as Keiran referred to it.

Keiran rolled back onto the mat. “Thank ya Doctor.”

“Not a problem, Captain.” She said, before resuming her place next to the other students.

“Let’s try it again, Ash.”

Ledbetter, who had been paying attention for no other reason than that it seemed the best way to get this over with, took up his place, and executed the moves exactly as Azalea had.

Keiran sat up on the mat, unfastening his headgear as he spoke. “Someday you’ll thank me for that, Ash.”

-=End Flashback=-

“This better work or I’m a dead man, O’Sullivan.”

“Shut up human!” The Klingon growled.

Ledbetter measured exactly how close to his throat the knife was, and hoped he knew enough about Klingon anatomy to know where their rib cages ended. He snapped his right arm up, and knocked away the Klingon’s arm, which held the blade. Before the Klingon could even respond, an elbow to the stomach loosened his grip. Ashton spun away, and delivered the crucial blow to the man’s tenders.

The Klingon’s eyes crossed, and he moaned in agony as he slowly dropped to his knees. Before he even hit the ground, a nerve pinch from T’Lara’s bodyguard mercifully knocked him unconscious.

“Ha! Take that you cro-magnon brute!” Ashton laughed, eyes wide and grinning from ear to ear, as he pointed at his fallen foe. He had managed to amaze even himself with that maneuver. Ledbetter snatched the necklace up off the ground, approached T’Lara, and kneeled before her.

“I believe this belongs to the lady,” he said chivalrously.

T’Lara nodded in thanks. Her Vulcan expression never changing, as she accepted the necklace.

Ashton’s moment of triumph was short lived however, as the Vulcan’s hand clamped down on his forearm.

“You’re still arresting me?” Ashton huffed in shock.

The Vulcan merely nodded.

-=Later On=-

Ledbetter sat with his arms crossed, behind the forcefield in the holding cell.

The Vulcans had demanded a fine be paid for his violation, but with no money available, a week in the cell was his only recourse, along with an order not to ever return to Vulcan.

Salvek and Lair Kellyn were nowhere to be found, but the Vulcans had promised to try and contact Ensign Lassiter, to see if a fund transfer could be set up.

That was three hours ago.

“Is it not logical to at least feed your prisoners?” Ledbetter shouted out to the empty cellblock.

There was a hiss of a door opening in the distance. Ashton hoped that meant Lassiter had come through with his bail and he was free to go.

A woman approached, wearing the long simply gray tunic and floor length skirt of a Vulcan civilian. Ledbetter’s jaw slowly fell towards the floor as he realized whom it was.


“That is correct. I apologize for your arrest, but the law is the law.”

“You are Vulcan, it is your way,” Ledbetter said, holding his head high and proud.

“However, I did wish to thank you. The necklace that the thief attempted to steal contains jewels that have been passed down through the history of several Japanese royal families, including that of Go-Sakuramachi herself. They posses a value to me that Humans may refer to as sentimental.

“Studying the people of Japan and their culture has been my lifelong work, and were a priceless artifact on loan to me to be stolen while under my care, that would tarnish the legacy of a people I have devoted my life to understanding.”

“Sort of like setting fire to your own artwork?” Ledbetter mused.

“Similar. Your actions this evening, and the gracious manner in which you returned the jewels to me were,” T’Lara paused, searching for the correct word. “Heroic.”

Ledbetter had been referred to as heroic many times in his life, however this was the first time he had ever actually performed one of the deeds he had taken credit for.

“And,” She continued, “I suppose in the oftentimes barbaric nature of your people, you expect some sort of crude reward for your deeds. Possibly of a physical nature?”

Ledbetter was actually offended by her comment, even if it were true. He squared his jaw.

“Your thanks is reward enough, T’Lara. I will accept my fate for what I have done by violating Vulcan law.”

“Very well,” she replied. T’Lara then tapped the control panel on his cell, and lowered the forcefield.

“What are you doing?” He asked.

“This is your fate. I have had the order against you removed. I have seen your Starfleet file and you seem to be a hard working and harmless man. Perhaps I took your incessant gifts a little too seriously. You are free to leave at any time.”

Ledbetter stood in his cell, far too surprised by the sudden turn of events to move.

“There is another matter, Mister Ledbetter,” T’Lara began.

“Go on.”

“Go-Sakuramachi never took a mate. There is virtually no information about her personal life. I have played this part for many years, and accepted the expression of emotion, in the context of the Opera, as a necessity to accurately portraying the character.”

Ledbetter was using all his might to suppress the grin attempting to form at the corner of his lips.

“However, I cannot help but feel, with the revival of the Opera coming soon, that my performance is still lacking the key element of an understanding of what love and passion meant to her.

“Surely she loved someone, even if that love had to be suppressed due to her position. I would like to explore these emotions with someone of Earth, as a Vulcan would lack the necessary ability to express love in the way a Human would. If you would care to retire to my chambers with me, to assist in my research for this role, I would be forever grateful to you for improving my performance, as well as my understanding of Go-Sakuramachi.”

The grin could no longer be suppressed. Ledbetter stepped out of his cell, and within inches of T’Lara, whose expression never changed.

“My dear T’Lara, have you forgotten one of the most important rules of show business?” He lifted her hand and placed a gentle kiss upon it. “Always leave them wanting more.”

Aston released her and left her standing alone in the cellblock, as he walked from the room. He nodded with a self-satisfied smile at the guard by the entrance, as if daring the man to try and stop him.

He paused at the doorway, and came to the sudden realization of what he had just done. Ashton spun on his heel, and ran as fast as he could back towards the cellblock.


Ashton Ledbetter
USS Alchemy NX-53099

NRPG: This post receives a special writing credit to our resident black belt daughter, Lair Arie, who actually choreographed for me the Keiran O’Sullvan escape training session and subsequent escape from the Klingon by Ashton Ledbetter.

May I also add that I am afraid of her.