947: By Her Own Hand

by Wren Elton
After While Horse and Hero Fell

-=The Personal Quarters of Rada Dengar; USS Serendipity=-

Wren was seated one last time in Rada’s favourite chair taking in the view of a room where even after all she’d done she could still feel him with every sense but her sight. Up to this point she’d managed not to cry. She still could not believe she was really doing this. She should never have had to do this. It was one thing to find yourself simply wiped out from the mind of someone you love; it was one horrifying chilling thing no one should ever have to live through. Yet to be here was like the knife had been pulled from her chest and then been thrust back into her heart narrowly missing the previous still bleeding wound. What she was now doing stung both just the same and in an entirely different way.

They were making her wipe herself out from his life. The knife was being thrust by her own hand though someone else held her wrist. She bitterly recalled how no one had forced her, no one had ordered or threatened her. All they’d done was to gently remind her of the consequences if Rada’s resequencing were to be undone.

*The bastards.* she’d thought at the time. There could have been no crueler coercion. There could have been no better way of taking her choice away.

They’d said the forgotten memories in whatever form they still existed were separate now from his mind. That they were like a ship floating above the ocean and that for a single memory to escape it would have to tear a hole through the hull. Soon and inevitably the vessel would begin to sink and its contents would start to spill. No matter what they did, like a drop of venom in a glass of water the memories would soon spread to poison the entire sea.

She’d felt so numb as she’d packed it all away. Others had offered their assistance but she had adamantly almost viciously refused. She was the only one who could know just what here would remind Rada of her.

‘The only one’ She still couldn’t quite believe that could be true.

Her life was being dictated by forces much larger than herself. Forces she’d found herself wondering, for Rada at least, could have been stronger than their love. She felt a cold chill pass through her with that thought and for a moment simply couldn’t move, it’d been a long time since she’d felt such doubt.

Those forces may have been able to rip apart his mind, to crush their family underfoot, but they would not dirty what once they’d had by making her justify to them the significance of the tokens of their love.

There was a small creature from Earth, she couldn’t remember the tiny thing’s name, but it lived in the ocean and its often discarded shells were decorated with a mesmerizing intricate mixture of vibrant purples and blues. Sometimes when the wind was right and the seas were kind they would float to the beach where they would promptly be crushed by the people passing by. Rada however when he encountered one chose to step around. She’d not seen the shells at first and when she’d asked him what he was doing he’d picked one up to show it to her. They were beautiful and she was amazed that without him she’d have not even noticed. That’s why for every home she’d taken since that time she’d always carried one of those shells along as a sign of the change he’d made on her life even when he wasn’t there. She’d have to take that shell away from here now.

They weren’t just her things either. There’d been a time when they were both younger; she was perhaps even a little wilder. He was working on some small engineering project but the piece of equipment he needed was nowhere to be found. Apparently there were only a few available to them and the other students were using them more than their fair share. Rada of course decided he’d just have to wait, Wren however, did not. With the description that they looked sort of like a small back ball she’d tracked down the young man who was most frequently overusing them and with perhaps a little hint of flirtation talked her way into his home. He went to get drinks for them and she located the device then grabbed it and ran like hell.

She’d never forget the look on Rada’s face when she’d presented it to him, abject terror would perhaps be the best description. She’d stolen the wrong little black ball and apparently he’d just learnt that security was already on the look out for the thief. If they found out she’d taken it, even if she was in the process of returning it, he was scared of the trouble that for her could ensue. Ever protective, he insisted on keeping it himself and that she should just try to ‘lie low’. She’d thought he’d have just thrown it out the first chance he’d get to do so safely but he’d held onto it for all of these years.

For just a moment that knowledge had made her smile until she remembered it’d hold no such special meaning for him now. It’d never have that meaning again and she probably should have just gotten rid of it now. She couldn’t do that though and she knew she couldn’t leave it here. Anyone else would have left it. An engineer keeping a piece of engineering equipment, no one else would consider any significance to that; not even Rada anymore.

It was these things she’d packed first because it was these things she trusted herself with the least. Many times she’d found herself asking if she couldn’t just leave some small reminder, something not to force him but to let him remember on his own. As she’d held every single one of the items in her hands, knowing the others could miss them, she’d been always tempted for a split second to just pretend to have forgotten all about it. Then she’d always realized the horror that could follow and had packed them immediately away.

Then there’d been the things it was obvious to anyone would need to be taken away. She’d thought they’d be easier but it was just more painful to struggle not to think about something when it was so clear to the world what it meant.

First it was the pictures, no images could remain to suggest there’d once been a family here. Every one of them had featured his smile, a smile an empath couldn’t find in the forced expressions on those pictures that were left.

Then it was the clothing and not just that for the woman and child. There was a jacket she’d ordered for him when there’d been a small miscommunication with the measurements; it was exactly his style and exactly tight enough to seriously counteract his ability to breathe. She’d realized that as soon as he’d put it on, but he’d sweetly pretended not to mind and wore it for her, he'd always put her happiness before his own. She’d planned on having it let out when she’d get the chance. That chance now would never come. As a gift he’d have cared for it. If he thought it were something from himself he’d have just scalded his stupidity and thrown it away.

There were toys, games and even furniture that would have to be gone. That was how she was thinking of it now, never that it was to come with her but just that it would be gone. How much could be taken, she’d found herself wondering. Was this like a glass from which one could take as much as was contained or was it with quarters and indeed was it with men that like enough bricks being taken from the structure of a house that it’ll eventually all fall down?

She’d expected it to feel like an eternity as she took all of their former life away. Yet here she was, with what seemed like no time having passed, sitting in a room stripped bare, surrounded by boxes full of their empty memories. Soon she would have to relocate it all to an area of the ship reserved for the civilian crew.

Up to this point she had managed not to cry. However, with the realization it was all finally over; that their love was finally over, all self control seemed to melt away. Her head fell into her hands as tears streaked down her cheeks and she quietly sobbed as she prayed to whatever gods may be listening that it couldn’t all end like this.


Wren Elton
Manager, Afterthought Café
USS Serendipity NCC-2012

946: Life Line

by Mellice Cem & Sub-Commander Antok
Following From One Predicament Into Another

-=Aboard the Romulan War Bird=-

To Subcommander Antok, everything in the universe could be broken down into two categories: opportunities and hindrances. It was his goal, no, his mission, in life to see to it that the former always outweighed the latter. It was how he had achieved all that he had achieved and would continue to achieve.

Today had afforded him such an opportunity. Truth be told, he had first thought it was a hindrance, but Antok had not made it this far in the Tal Shiar without being able to turn any situation into a golden opportunity...

...including a distress call emanating on Federation channels.

Antok had no love for the Federation. Not before the Dominion War, nor during it, and certainly not after it. But the war itself had been a valuable experience. It was not everyday that one was afforded the opportunity to inspect one's enemies so closely.

That time was a lesson that Antok had remembered every day since, and from time to time, it was something he could put to use, as today when what had first appeared as a useless distress call had turned into an opportunity.

"Tamar," Antok said to his navigator, "the situation."

"The lead ship is straight ahead and approaching us on a collision course. His pursuers are close behind and will be victorious once their prey's shields have collapsed."

"Very good. You may drop the cloak."

Tamar carried out his order, and Antok watched as the other ships became aware of his warbird decloaking.

"Shields?" Tamar asked.

Antok wanted to snap, 'Do you really think those ships could harm us?'But he knew better. Such careless thoughts had gotten his predecessor killed. Or had it been the disruptor that had discharged into his belly during that battle which had done that to him? No matter. This was no time for recollection, but action.

"Open a channel to the other ship."


"This is Subcommander Antok to the Federation-commandeered ship. Might I be of assistance?"

-=Aboard Mellice Cem's stolen raider=-

Upon seeing a D'deridex class warbird decloak in front of them, Mellice brought the stolen Raider to a halt while the pursuing Marauders advanced towards their location. Upon hearing the comm and the message from the Romulan Subcommander in charge, either he and Ms. Harris were in deeper trouble than they knew, or the Romulan commander was actually going to help them out.

If he chose to turn the ship around and face off against the Orions, both he and Admiral Harris' daughter would surely die without the shields in place. If he took the Romulan commander's offer for help, then he'd more than likely owe him a favor, one he may not be able to pay back in full, but he'd damn sure give it his best shot to do so.

With very little in the way of options left, he opened a channel to the Romulan warbird now hanging in space before his much smaller ship. "This is Lieutenant Mellice Cem of Starfleet, your assistance would be greatly appreciated Sub-Commander. Our situation isn't looking very good at the moment."

That statement alone was putting it mildly, as they were right now up the preverbal creek without a paddle to row with. Any life line thrown their way, even if by an enemy of the Federation, would be better than facing certain death at the hands of butchers, and he knew that first hand. He, like Sub-Commander Antok, knew this now turned into a game of 3-D chess. All the pieces were in place and moving smoothly, as they should.

Was Mellice making the right move by accepting help? Or was this all part of an Orion ruse to get him to drop his guard so they could finish both he and Kelly Harris off in one swift move? If this were a ruse, it was a cleverly disguised one as the ship hovering before him was indeed a Romulan D'deridex Class War Bird and as far as he knew, the Orions hadn't figured out a way to get their hands on such a prize, let alone a Klingon vessel or one of the Federation's starships. Each was too heavily guarded and that was a fight not even the Orions wanted on their hands.

[Very well,] came back the reply before the signal went dead.

-=Romulan War Bird=-

"Tamar, what weapons do we have at our disposal?" Antok asked.

"Standard Romulan disruptors. Klingon bird of prey torpedoes. Federation photons," the pilot replied.

"That will do."

"The final option?"

"Yes." Antok sat back in the command chair and let Tamar do his work. There was no need to give the Orion pirates any warning. Tamar simply programmed the computer to fire a spread of torpedoes, one per ship to finish them off completely. All in all, it took less than one minute to complete the task.

When it was over, Antok turned to his security chief, Borov. Between the officer's bald head and the vicious, puffy scar running down his right cheek from his eye socket to his jaw, Borov looked every bit the menacing security chief. And he was most decidedly good at his job. But today, he would only be needed for a small task. "Borov, is the third docking port clear of all goods?"

"Sir," came the curt reply. It was Borov's answer for almost everything, which is part of what made him so good.

"Tamar, signal the Federation officer and provide him with instructions for docking at port three."

"Yes, sir." Tamar quipped.

"Borov, meet our guests and bring them here."

"Sir." This time Borov nodded his head slightly before leaving the bridge.

Yes, Antok thought to himself, today's escapade was indeed going to be an opportunity.

-=Aboard the stolen Raider=-

[Proceed to docking port three. Once aboard, an escort will bring you to the bridge to speak to Sub-Commander Antok.]

"Acknowledged, Mellice out." Was Mellice's short reply after the pursuing Orion's had been taken care of by the Romulans. He looked beside him to Kelly, as he shrugged his left shoulder some.

"What? Did you really think I was just going to turn around and get us both killed? Though it may still happen, I believe this Sub-Commander Antok has his own agenda for us. What that is I haven't quite figured out yet, but we should see what he wants since his ship did just save our collective butts from being scattered across space." He told her while piloting the crippled Raider towards the awaiting docking port they were told to dock at.

Maneuvering the ship into position for docking procedures, Mellice carefully aligned the small ship with the docking bay doors as they began to open.

Lieutenant (jg) Mellice Cem
Assistant Security/Tactical Chief
USS Revolution NCC-71605-A
Discovered Federation Spy within the Orion Syndicate


Sub-Commander Antok
Tal Shiar Operative
NPC As Played by
Lieutenant (jg) Lara Valera Ryn

945: While Horse and Hero Fell

by Salvek and Zanh Liis
Following Work to Get Done and Entitled to the Appellation


-=Glasgow Scotland, Earth=-

Salvek stepped outside of the Iron Horse, taking the time to acknowledge the curious stares of the locals on his way out. The air was cool and filled with mist, much like, he imagined, nearby Cork.

If his knowledge of Terran Geography was correct, and of course it was, Cork was only 626 kilometers from his current location in Glasgow. It seemed a waste to travel several thousand kilometers up to the ship then back down to the surface, yet the transporter was by far more efficient than traveling by any sort of ground transportation.

When he materialized, just outside the O’Sullivan homestead, he noted immediately that the weather was indeed the same, except it was slightly warmer here. The clouds appeared to be moving all around him, instead of overhead, as one would normally expect.

Truth be told it was a sensation he found particularly fascinating and calming. The cool damp mist of this place simply didn’t exist anywhere on Vulcan. It was a welcome departure from the blazing sun on endless remorseless expanses of red clay that covered his home world. Salvek could completely understand why one would wish to call this place home.

“Good morning!”

Salvek snapped out of his introspection at the sound of the voice nearby. It could him off guard in that it was neither female, nor did it carry an Irish brogue.

“Commander Blane. How was your visit?”

“I think I pissed her off good and plenty. So, it went well.”

“O’Sullivan?” Salvek asked.

“He is out, on some sort of personal errand. She said she was going to change clothes.” Blane said with a jerk of him thumb towards the door. “I’m going to get Dane to warm up a shuttle.”

“Change, into a uniform?”

“One can only hope.” Blane replied.

Salvek extended his hand, and shook Blane’s. “Thank you.”

The appreciation for TC’s efforts was plain on Salvek’s face. Blane shook Salvek’s hand back and slapped him on the shoulder with his free hand. He then stepped away and called for transport up to the ship.

Salvek stepped up onto the porch, and through the door that Blane had left cracked. He shut the door behind him and the latch clicked. He heard the sound of footsteps coming from the floor above, as the Captain zipped back and forth from room to room. She was prone to doing that when she was in a rush, typically recalling upon her arrival in each new room what she had forgotten to do in the one she had just left.

Salvek decided to wait rather than announce his presence, figuring she must have heard the sound of the door closing. He lifted a candle from its perch on an end table and examined the religious glyphs upon it.

Having heard the door close, Liis imagined that Blane had thought of
something he'd forgotten to say and called to him from her office.

"Forget something Thomas? Your sanity perhaps? ‘Cause I think you left it here when you decided to try to talk me into..." She came out of the office holding the spyglass that Blane had given her, which she was about to tuck into the pocket of her jacket. “…going back.”

Salvek analyzed her and nearly frowned.

She was not in uniform.

Instead she was wearing her standard off-duty attire as he'd come to know it over the years. A simple, monotone combination of black pants and shirt with a wide leather belt, matching jacket, and boots. It was her 'uniform' out of uniform, and seeing her in it now made him worry, even if only a little.

She wasn't jumping back into this without looking, it seemed. For once in her life, of all times, Zanh Liis had to pick now, he thought, to become cautious.

If Vulcans believed in luck, Salvek would have thought that this was about par for how his was running lately.

“Captain.” She said, snapping him a cavalier salute with two fingers against her forehead. “Are you Starfleet people forming a line out there on my lawn or what? I’m seeing more of my former Senior Staff now than I did on the ship.”

Liis put the spyglass into her pocket and took up something else from the desktop. She looked at it with a great sadness, and instead of putting the earring on, she placed it in the breast pocket of her jacket before looking up at him. “Did you take a number? Because I have a feeling that if this keeps up that Reece and Cristiane will be right behind you-“

“Commander Reece is too upset by recent events.”

Zanh drew out the spyglass again, holding it by the wide end and flipping out the narrow end towards him to point at him. “Nice try.” She closed the glass and stowed it away again.

“Captain. You have never been one to deal with an issue anything but directly, so I will not waste your time. The crew needs you.”

“Oh?” She said, folding her arms over her chest. “Really.”

“Did Commander Blane not tell you? Admiral Lassiter has made sweeping changes to the crew complement already. I believe she is doing so simply to unravel the work we have done.”

“Why not let her make her changes? The Federation survived before there was a Zanh Liis and it will go on afterwards. The Sera has a captain now, and a hell of a good one at that if you’d just give yourself the chance.” She took a few steps away from him and sighed slowly. “Stability. That’s what they need. Stability is you, Salvek. Not me.”

“But Captain. The crew functions as it does because of you. Your leadership is what binds us together, even if you cannot see it.”

Zanh dropped her head. Her hair swept forward, concealing an incredulous half-grin and the doubt in her eyes beneath her dark bangs. “So Blane came here to kick my ass, and you to stroke my ego. I've got to hand it to you, Salvek. You’ve covered all the bases. Only thing you didn’t do was bring me a gift-wrapped bag of gourmet coffee beans.”

Salvek ignored the comment, rather than analyze the truth of it, and continued on.

“I will serve as your first officer if assigned or Captain if I must, but my place in The Alchemy Project, and my ultimate mission is to complete the work Lair Kellyn and I have started. Your place however, is on the bridge. I think you believe that as I do, or I would not be here. If I am wrong, and you and Captain O’Sullivan truly wish to remain here, then you certainly have earned an early retirement, and I will go in peace.”

“Damn you, you would wouldn’t you?” Liis shook her head and laughed a little. “Go in peace. I truly envy you that ability, Salvek, at times like this. Don’t you understand, I.” She stopped, and she hurried past him, out of the room. The air within it suddenly felt stifling, the weight of recent events permeating it and overwhelming every molecule of oxygen until it was just too heavy to breathe.

Salvek folded his hands behind him as was his custom and walked slowly after her, allowing her the chance to put the distance she felt she needed between them for a moment before once again demanding that she pay him attention.

He found her standing beneath the tall Poplar that sheltered the land with the shadows of her conflicting memories. Times good and bad were woven together in and outside of it, alive in every limb, every branch, every leaf of the tree and she leaned her arm upon the trunk and her head down atop it.

She heard his footsteps as he approached but did not look up at him. He simply waited in silence for her to speak, knowing that eventually, she would.

Seconds turned to minutes, and it was a long time before she finally looked up at him. Her eyes burned as dry as the deserts of his home world though she wished that tears would come to quell the pain. It added to her frustration now that not even sorrow would come easily to her through the wall she had built around herself. The barrier was tall and stretched on far beyond the ability of the mind’s eye to see, blocking everyone she cared about from reaching her and her from helping them.

Eight hundred and seventy-one people, Salvek.” She whispered in a hoarse, haunting rasp. “And do you know what the first thing on my agenda is tomorrow morning?”

Salvek did not answer.

”Do you?” She shouted, stopping herself just short of bashing her left fist, wedding rings and all, into the bark of the tree.

Just before her hand made contact with it she froze, and painfully she uncurled her fingers in slow motion. She stared down at the symbol on her signet ring, and ran the index finger of her right hand over it.

She closed her eyes, and then slowly wrapped her arms around herself to try to fend off a chill that came from inside of her, not from the atmosphere around her.

“No.” Salvek said at last. “I do not.”

“I have to walk into a lecture theater at Starfleet Academy, filled with representative members of the surviving families of those eight hundred and seventy-one people who died serving aboard the Zenith. Then I get to try to tell them something that will bring them peace. But there is nothing.” Her voice broke as she leaned her back up against the tree and stared into the sky. Suddenly, she just wished that Keiran were here. “There is nothing I can give them that is going to mean a damned thing.”

“Then why are you going?” Salvek asked.

“Because.” She answered quickly and with conviction. “It’s the right thing to do.” She stared off at the horizon, and even though Keiran was not there she could visualize his figure rising over the hills and into view.

None of the families of those eight hundred and seventy-one lost souls would have any such satisfaction. She remembered experiencing the pain that they would have to now endure, with the critical difference being that theirs would see no end with a correction of the timeline later.

This was the new reality, for all of them.

“There will be speeches, and candles. Holographic tributes and medals awarded in velvet boxes from white-gloved Admirals.” She droned. “Then everyone there will go home and the beds of their spouses or children or parents will be just as empty as when they left.”

“But they will have the chance to share the grief with each other, and feel strength in knowing they are not alone, and their loved ones are not forgotten.” Salvek knew from his experiences with emotional races that loneliness was often the must crushing emotion during times of loss. “They will look into your eyes and see the character of the woman who did everything in her power in the attempt to save them.”

“Everything in my power wasn’t enough! I failed!” She cried, shivering again and turning away. Her words echoed in the vast space around them, and then her voice dropped so that he could barely detect it, even with his especially keen hearing.

“I should have done more.” She whispered into the mist.

"Did Captain O'Sullivan also fail?"

“No.” Liis shook her head, completely convinced of what she was saying. “He did everything he could.”

”What about Lair Kellyn and the crew of the Alchemy? Did they fail as well?”

”Hell no, Kellyn should get a medal. If they hadn’t come back there would be several hundred other families in mourning right now.” Liis thought of the O’Sullivans and how much they all loved Keiran. “Mine included.”

“Then how is it logical to apply the term failure to yourself if the two other commanding officers who were also at work during the crisis did not fail in your eyes?”

“Because it was MY JOB to bring them home!” Liis dropped down to the ground, and pulled her knees up to her chest. Her arms and head rested upon them and Salvek was now beginning to wonder if there was anything he could possibly say to her that would change her mind.

He also lowered himself down, feeling the dampness of the thick grass soaking into his clothing immediately upon contact. Suddenly, he realized what he needed to do.

He moved to stand almost as quickly as he’d sat and he grasped hold of Zanh gently by the arms. Effortlessly, he lifted her in one swift motion back to her feet. She looked at him and blinked, confused for a moment as to exactly how she had come to be in a standing position once again.

He focused his gaze on her with an intensity that she’d rarely seen. He held her eyes to his, and he spoke words she knew like the back of her hand.

*"While horse and hero fell,
They that had fought so well
Came thro' the jaws of Death
Back from the mouth of Hell,
All that was left of them,
Left of six hundred. “

She was too stunned to move, too moved to speak, and too angry at everything and everyone to do anything but cry out. It was a wordless, shouting wail that wasn’t exactly one of sorrow but carried too much of it to be called anything else.

She broke free of his hold and stumbled a few steps forward, back to the trunk of the tree.

Salvek watched her closely as he continued with his recitation. Finally she looked up at him, eyes brimming with unshed tears.

”Honor the charge they made,
Honor the Light Brigade,”

Her teardrops silently fell down her face and to the earth, as she simply continued to stare at him.

“If you would honor the lives of service that they lived and gave in the performance of their duties, Zanh Liis, then you would do best to show it by continuing the work that they cannot themselves now do.”

In this moment she both loved, and hated the way that Salvek’s mind worked.

She loved it because of the way that it could make things seem so clear and simple, and she hated it for the fact that it knew exactly how to get to her.

“And there’s more than that.” She said softly, rubbing her raw, red eyes. “Keiran. Vol. Kellyn. Dane. Dwan. Gira.”

She thought of those who had served on the bridges of the other two ships that had survived the battle and knew that they too would have residual issues to cope with.

“Most of all Dengar. I, I thought that it’d be best if I,” she stopped, knowing now that her absence wouldn’t serve any greater purpose than her presence might if she just continued to try.
”Speaking of Lieutenant Commander Dengar,” Salvek said gently, knowing that this would be difficult for Zanh to hear. “I am told that he remembered Lair Kellyn upon seeing her, however,” he paused, and Liis’ head snapped up toward him.


“He does not remember Wren and Tam.”

Now, Liis felt the last of the air she had been barely able to force into her lungs crushed from them, expelled without the possibility she would be able to replace it enough to truly catch her breath. “No.”

“It is true, Captain.”

Liis mind began to spin to the point she felt absolutely sick from the motion. “Someone has to talk to him. Someone has to talk to her. There are going to have to be…precautions taken, otherwise,” she stopped. “Salvek.”


“Are you really saying that you think it’s best if I don’t let Lassiter win?”

He considered carefully the words he would say next.

“I am saying it is best if you do not allow all of us to lose.” He answered thoughtfully. “Lassiter is a battle you will not fight alone. Between myself, Director Lindsay, Commander Blane, Counselor Tryst and Doctor Hartcort, it is my desire for you to be spared any part in the task of countermanding her orders. If we do this without you, there can also be no claims of a vendetta or impropriety on your part. Allow us to fight this battle for you, Captain.”

She tried to speak, but was again too emotional to find her voice. How could she possibly begin to explain to him what it meant to see her crew, her friends, her family, fighting for her this way?

They were unwilling to give up on her, even when she was ready to give up on herself.

She owed them more for that loyalty than she could ever repay.

After a moment, she cleared her throat. “Then I’ve got to get up there, I have to see for myself if,” she paused. “I have to talk to Keiran. But before I can go back to the Sera, you have to make certain of one thing.”

“That being?”

“That Gem Lassiter is not still aboard that ship when I set foot upon it again.”

“Very well. I will see to it.” He tilted his head, inclining it toward her. “Tomorrow, when you speak, I intend to be in the audience.”

“That’s really not necessary, Keiran will…”

“Be at your side, as a husband should. And I will be at your side as I should, as the Serendipity’s First Officer.” He was as calm as ever, but stubbornly insistent. “We are not a crew, Zanh Liis, if any of us stands alone.”

“All right, Captain.” She said, coyly calling him by his current rank to indicate she realized the matter was not up for debate.

The already gray skies grew darker with a gathering storm. Salvek took her by the arm, and escorted her back to her porch before the rain could fall and soak them both.

“Tell Reece not to be upset.” She said, as he stepped clear of her to call for transport.

“I will. I am, pleased, you are at least considering a return.”

I?” She asked with an eyebrow elevating, intrigued by his choice of pronouns. Salvek, however, was gone in the glow of the transporter before he could hear her question.

Captain Salvek
Commanding Officer
USS Serendipity NCC-2012


-=/\=- Zanh Liis O’Sullivan
Currently Unassigned

*Text taken from The Charge of the Light Brigade by Alfred, Lord Tennyson

944: Entitled to the Appellation

by TC Blane and Zanh Liis
Concurrent with Work to Get Done

-=The O'Sullivan Residence, County Cork, Ireland=-

Plan? There is no plan, Thomas." She finally sipped her coffee, not even reacting as she discovered it was now far too cold to be palatable. "It's finished. My Starfleet career is over and done with."

“Hmm.” TC replied as he tilted his cup to his lips and drank. “You can’t do that.” He replied in a matter-of-fact tone.

Liis did not look up from her gaze, which remained fixed on the last of the morning fog in the distance. “I think I just did.”

TC shook his head in disagreement. “That’s just it, you ‘think’ you have, but not really.” He took another sip.

“Brave man, telling a Bajoran woman what she thinks before she's finished her morning coffee." Zanh tried to joke, but the unchanging expression in his eyes told her that humor was not wanted and would not be accepted at a time like this. She shifted and turned her attention to him directly.

"Thomas, look, I appreciate what you are trying to do, but I have put a lot of thought into this and,”

“Have you?” He interrupted her as he turned his own gaze back towards the horizon.

She snapped her eyes first away from and then back to him in irritation at being interrupted and opened her mouth to respond, but TC continued before she had the opportunity.

“Have you even put together a puzzle?” He asked, as he continued to stare forward.

Liis blinked in dismay at the sudden change in subject. “Only if made to by force.”

He ignored her and continued.“Have you ever found yourself in a position while putting together a puzzle that you find a piece that looks like it fits, the shape and the colors are almost a perfect match, but when you put the piece together it just does not perfectly line up?” He closed one eye and held up his hand like he was putting a piece into a puzzle.

She set her cup aside, folded her arms and huffed a sigh, her eyes encouraging him to get to the point.

“You know what I mean. Here you are, you’ve got seventy-five percent of this stupid puzzle completed that you’ve been working on your whole life, you been working to find this missing piece so you can get the rest of the others hooked up. You find this one, it is darn close, so you put it in where you think it goes, it does not fit but you try and shove it in anyway because it is close enough.”

Now he turned to face her. “So you step back and look at it from a distance and say to yourself 'that does not look bad’. So you leave the piece in there and continue with the puzzle. But as you add more and more of the rest of the pieces the overall picture begins to look more and more wrong. More and more pieces start not to fit right.”

He took another sip from his mug. “Suddenly you realize that the one piece that you forced to fit was not working in the long run and you have to tear apart all of the pieces that you assembled since that one to correct the problem.”

He took another long drink from his mug as he stared at her with calm, clear ice blue eyes. “Ever have that happen? Cause l’m here to tell you, it sucks.”

"That's why I only ever put puzzles together under duress." Liis droned, and Blane growled softly and launched himself off of the swing. The motion caused Liis to rock backward, and she stomped her feet to the porch to stop the momentum.

He plunked the coffee cup down onto the tray and took a few wandering steps away from her. He ran a hand back through his brush cut hair in frustration, and he muttered something under his breath she couldn't quite make out before he turned back to her.

"The puzzle will have to be torn apart if you don't see the mistake you've made. The question is, are you willing to let the other pieces be forced out of place because you are willing to wave the white flag and say 'close enough'?"

The tone in his voice set Liis on edge. She felt a chill and rubbed her hands up and down her arms. "What do you mean?"

"I didn't want to do this. I didn't want to tell you what she's done." Blane shook his head and looked down at his boots. "I didn't want it to factor into your final decision about what you should do with the rest of your life. But the thing is that you're leaving me no choice. You may never believe that you're needed to serve aboard the Sera and not just wanted. You think that you're only there because no one else was crazy enough to take the job. But the truth is that you're there because this crew needs you to watch out for them and if you don't," He shook his head. "You can say and do what you want, Zanh Liis O'Sullivan. But the woman I know wouldn't just..."

He sighed heavily and rubbed his eyes a moment before going on. "She wouldn't watch a woman on a personal vendetta tear her crew apart."

"Thomas, will you just say it already? What is happening to the crew?"

"What isn't happening to the crew!" Blane barked, his voice rising in pitch and volume. "Lassiter's really lost her mind! She's ended Lair's career. She's given Ledbetter Keiran's old job."

Liis actually laughed at how obscenely ridiculous that idea was. Not only wouldn't the crew want it but Ledbetter would lay an egg thinking that he'd been once again cheated out of a rightful return to a command of his own. "Oh, that'll go over well. Next you're going to tell me that she's made Dabin Reece the new Starfleet Ambassador to the Nausicaan delega..."

"No." Blane interrupted again, and Liis noted the expression on his face had finally changed to one that was quite grave. "But she has reassigned Dane Cristiane to the relay station at Starbase 212 and for an encore, she just decided that Rada Dengar is no longer fit to serve as Chief Engineer of the USS Serendipity."

There were more changes in store too, especially the vast reduction in amount of civilian crew and family members of crew allowed to stay aboard, but Blane didn't have a chance to get to those before Zanh reacted to what he'd just said.

Her eyes widened and rage twisted her features as she immediately jumped up out of her seat.

Dane's reassignment would be easy to fix with the help of Will Lindsay, as the boy belonged by rights to TI already so she quickly dismissed that minor problem.

Chief Dengar, however, was another matter entirely.

"She can't do that. Rada saved everyone and had to pay a very high price for it. She can't."

"He didn't save her son." Blane added regretfully, making sure Liis understood completely Lassiter's motivation. "She's run amok, Zanh Liis. So it's my duty to ask you, are you going to lie down, play dead and let her get away with this or are you going to do realize that the puzzle can't be completed without its missing piece and do your job?"

Liis roared deep within her throat, turned away and pounded her fist against the heavy front door repeatedly in frustration.

"You're so sure I'm the missing piece!" She hit the door once more and then spun away, rolling up the sleeves of Keiran's pajama top again as they fell down over her hands. "Maybe it's meant to be Keiran who fixes this. Maybe William Lindsay." She turned back toward Blane and they shared a long, knowing glance. "Maybe it's you, Thomas. Maybe you're meant to be the one to come to their rescue this time."

“Me?” TC shook his head. “All I do is slash and burn. I am the hammer that strikes the anvil not the hand that guides it. I have no touch when it comes to this. Plus she has kept me as far out of the circle as much as possible, she’s just waiting for me to step a hair out of line so she can ship me off to a deep space listening station and with my Starfleet record…it would not be a hard sell to anyone I would bitch to.

“I can’t fight this one. She is hiding behind rules and regulations and her position. Hartcort says that he believes that she is suffering from post traumatic stress disorder.” He threw up his hands in frustration. “Whatever the hell that is!

“I suggested that he remove her from duty, he has the power to do so, but he informed me that he was not willing to offer up his neck to the wolf. He knows she’ll just get Starfleet medical to overturn his decision. Then he’ll be in the line of fire and we can’t afford to lose a CMO of Lance’s skill."

He paused and sighed before going on. "Keiran had an inside track with his relationship with Lassiter but I know he already tried talking to her and besides, this is not his crew. The same goes for Lindsay. It is yours, always has been always will be.” TC rubbed his chin.

Liis didn't move or speak, she simply stared, straight ahead of her. Her hand elevated to the place where her combadge would normally be if she were in uniform, and her fingertips came to rest against the spot which felt to her now almost intolerably empty.

"The bottom line," Blane continued, "is that you were never meant to resign your commission as Captain of this ship to begin with." He felt she'd made a grave error in judgment, and he couldn't count himself as her friend if he didn't try to get her to see that as quickly as possible.

"You don't know, Thomas!" Liis raised her voice, something she rarely did when speaking to Blane. He stood at his full height and so did Liis, looking him straight in the eyes as she poked a finger at his chest. "What these people have done to me."

"Don’t try to feed me that bull! You know damn well that I understand more then most!” He barked back. “Your running with your tail between your legs, it’s that simple! You're going to take yourself out of the fight and let them do it to the people you care about instead? The people that you swore to protect and lead no matter-"

"Go to Hell!" Liis raged, stomping into the house and slamming the door shut between them.

Immediately, she regretted her words. She closed her eyes, fighting to maintain her composure.
After listening for a moment to see if Blane was simply going to leave, she realized she should've known him better.

She opened the door again, shoulders slumping heavily. She winced, glancing at him contritely. Her eyes spoke the apology that she wished she could find the strength to offer in words.

"If I'm going to Hell maybe you can draw me a map or give me some directions Zanh Liis," TC said tonelessly, as he calmly stood at parade rest on the porch where she'd left him. "Seems to me you're already there."

I could certainly point you in the general direction, Zanh thought, still unable to speak.

“But if you need a co-pilot, here I am.” He smirked. Then his honest, piercing eyes focused upon hers once again. “Don’t do this to yourself or every time you close your eyes you’ll see them. You’ll find no peace here or anywhere.” He analyzed her features, noting the exhaustion that was evident in them, especially the dull weariness of her eyes. “Like last night it seems.”

He took a deep breath and expelled it slowly as he once again sat down. “Look, Maybe I am wrong, would not be the first time. I guess if you are positive that walking away is the right thing for you. That you can live with it, that you are truly ready to do this, then you know that I will support your decision. Lord knows you and Keiran deserve to be happy.”

Liis walked away from him, into the house. She didn't tell him to go or stay, but she left the door open behind her and Blane followed through it. He saw immediately that they hadn't touched any of the crates containing their belongings, everything was still packed. That made him wonder if she hadn't been struggling with accepting that she was really finished with the Sera and its crew.

He closed the door behind him and followed her into her office. He found her standing before the windows, as she often had stood before the viewports in her Ready Room, opening and closing the spyglass he had given her. He stood quietly and waited, knowing that she was deep in thought.

She finally put the glass to her eye, and first looked out at the hills of Cork beyond the glass, then turned and looked at him through it. She slowly raised and lowered it, sizing him up from head to toe to break the tension in the air. TC almost perceptibly smiled. The seriousness of the situation at hand was too heavy to be lifted by her gesture, however, and finally she lowered the glass, rotated it in her hand a moment, and then raised it, clutching it to her chest.

"The crew. They." She struggled, finally forcing herself to speak beyond her emotions, "they are entitled to the appellation, Thomas. None more than you." Her voice threatened to break, and she averted her eyes.

"So what happens now?" Blane asked.

"Well, first," Zanh said, clearing her throat and looking down at her bare feet, "I have to get dressed."

Blane's eyes sparkled as he felt hopeful for the first time that perhaps this situation could be salvaged yet. "And then?"

"Then we find out if this jagged, jaded piece of work is what it takes to put the puzzle back together." She stepped to the spiral staircase that led to the bedroom in order to change. Halfway up, she stopped and looked back at him. "You may regret this, you know."

Commander TC Blane
Second Officer
USS Serendipity NCC-2012


-=/\=- Zanh Liis O'Sullivan
Currently Unassigned

943: Beyond All Reason

by Michael Blakeney and Gem Lassiter
Concurrent with Work to Get Done

-=USS Serendipity=-

At last, Gem's work was nearly finished here.

With the changes she'd put into place she could begin to hope with some confidence that the Project could get back on its feet. With Salvek as steward watching over it instead of that Bajoran train wreck known as Zanh Liis, perhaps they could actually get some research and development work done between times that the Sera had to limp back to port to be glued back into one piece.

The only thing that Zanh had managed to do right was to keep the Sera's crew alive during the battle, but she hadn't been able to do that on her own. It'd taken O'Sullivan and even Lair in her way to get the job done.

Why Jonas ever thought she was up to this job, I'll never know. Gem thought.

Just another one of his more spectacular failures. Tucker Brody was right about her. After her paradox experiences, she had no business commanding a shuttle craft on an Away mission let alone one of the most important ships in the fleet.

As Lassiter sat at the desk in Captain Salvek's ready room, she heard the door chime and called for her visitor to enter. She found Ensign Dane Cristiane on the other side of the divide, and as he got closer it was clear to her that he was scowling even more than usual.

"I have no time for you, Cristiane. Get out." She snapped, continuing her work of finalizing transfer orders. There were so many, and she was anxious to get them over with and get the hell off of this ship.


"Not a word. The decision is final, Ensign. Dismissed." She didn't even look up at him, and Dane turned back toward the door. He was about to leave, realizing that there was nothing he could do on his own and that the people who may be able to help him were not in this room but something stopped him.

"It's not going to help." He whispered.

"Why are you still talking, Ensign?" Lassiter growled.

Dane turned around. Maybe he was about to end his career but better, he figured to go out with the hard-won respect for himself he'd just begun with the help of officers like Keiran O'Sullivan than to build than to take this lying down.

"Yes, Sir, I am speaking to you." He said evenly. "You are destroying the very thing you want to save, doing all this. Lair and Salvek are The Alchemy Project. And they need someone to keep everything else going around them while they do what they do. The people who have done that, Zanh, O'Sullivan, Dengar...they need to keep doing it."

"Get out, Dane."

"I will, but I'm not,"

"Get OUT!" Lassiter stood from the chair, pushing herself back from the desk. "You're finished here."

"You can't keep me away from Gira." Dane stated plainly, changing the subject and getting to the heart of the matter when it came to why Lassiter was transferring him so far away. "I'll find a way to stay in contact with her. I don't care what it takes. If I have to send handwritten letters by way of courier in an operation rivaling the French Resistance during World War II, so be it. You can't change how I feel about her by sending me off into the middle of nowhere."

"How you feel is irrelevant." Lassiter informed him in a slow, controlled hiss. "It's the way she feels that concerns me."

"Her feelings matter to you? Really? This is news. You won't even talk to-"

"That's it." Lassiter reached up and violently tore Dane's combadge from his uniform. "Your Starfleet career is now over. Get out."

"If I'm done then I've nothing left to lose by saying this." Dane stepped back, staring at her intently. These were not new feelings for him. He had been holding back with all his strength against saying these things to her ever since the night of the party with the Perseids crew just days before the Captain's wedding.

The night he'd first truly understood just how badly Gira's mother could hurt her.

"I don't know what happened to you in your life that has turned you into such an unholy, insufferable bitch, Gem Lassiter," he railed, "but I'd revisit that if I were you and try to make peace with it because you're going to spend the rest of your life as bitter as you are vengeful and die alone if you don't wake up and see that your daughter loves you."

Lassiter grabbed him by the tunic and with surprising strength, hauled him to the door and physically pushed him from the room.

Her hands shook as she turned back. She didn't want to accept it, but the truth was that what he'd said had rattled her.

What had happened to her?

When did she become the nightmare that she never wanted to be?

-=Flashback, 2357, Current Timeline=-

Gem shivered the moment that she had rematerialized in the beam of the transporter.

That had just been too damn close.

She immediately looked beside her, where she found to her relief that Blakeney was still standing. He quickly moved away, began tapping on a panel on the wall, and it was only then that she truly got her bearings and took in her surroundings.

The instant that she did, any relief she felt at having escaped the intended ambush in their previous location went down in flames and was replaced by the realization that she may now be forced to attempt to escape one of a different sort at this secondary location.

"You have got to be kidding me." She scoffed, folded her arms and a snarl changed her face from something most agreeable to look at to something Michael imagined could be truly frightening, even in the dark. "What the hell do you call this?"

"My bedroom. Welcome to it." Blakeney said curtly as he continued his work, not looking over at her.

"You can't be serious!" She laughed in disbelief. "You bring me here, now, in the middle of-"

"Yes, Gemini, I brought you here, now." He finally glanced over at her and shook his head. "It was the default location programmed into my transponder. I apologize if you'd have preferred a penthouse at the Ritz Carlton, they were booked tonight."

Default location? Gem's mind spun faster and faster with each passing second. "Your default location. On your emergency transponder. Is." She sighed and her head dropped into her hands. "Your bedroom."

"One never knows." Was all he said, as he quickly scanned data on the screen. He was reading as fast as he could, but now he realized that she was just over his shoulder and he quickly cleared the screen. Gem folded her arms and gestured toward the blank panel with her eyes.

"Want to share?"

Now that easy, and all too easily charming grin returned to his face. "Share? I've been trying to share with you since the night we met, darling, but you're just not-"

"Damn it, Michael,"

"A-ha!" he clapped his hands together once and laughed, trying his best to distract her so he could switch the panel back on and read the last paragraph it contained. "I am getting to you. You just called me Michael."

Gem scowled. "Whatever. Don't tell me what you found then. I know you know a hell of a lot more than you're telling me Blakeney and I"ve had it. I'm done with this charade. You're wasting my time. I am going to finish this investigation on my own."

She hurried toward the door but stopped abruptly when she discovered that it would not open. For just an instant her eyes flashed apprehension, and then fear before both emotions disappeared again behind the mask of professionalism that she had worked so hard to acquire through years of practice. "You're going to keep me here against my will?"

"You can't just walk out. Our location is...secluded. It's dangerous out there. They'll be after us now, they know that we know Braylan was a fraud."

"He's not the only one." Gem, in her frustration, spoke her thought aloud and immediately wished she had not. He looked truly insulted, and angry.

"Fraud?" He frowned, and she found that the effect of his evident unhappiness unraveled her more, and even more quickly, than outward signs of any other emotion he'd shown her. "You still don't believe I'm what I say I am? You don't think I work for Temporal Investigations?"

Gem was now faced with a difficult decision. Since by definition she now seemed to be his captive, the best should could hope to do was keep him talking and try to cause him a moment's distraction so she could get a hold of his transponder, or figure out another way out of this place. The best way to do that would be to lie to him, to tell him what he wanted to hear. Sadly, her nature just wouldn't allow it this time. "No." She answered honestly. "I don't."

"Why do you doubt me? Is it my lack of skills? Lack of intelligence? Lack of fashion sense?" Now it almost seemed that he was the one trying to throw her off balance. "Because darling if you're basing credentials as an undercover agent on chosen manner of dress, you're the one who has cast aspersions."

"You've been lying to me!" Gem shouted, beyond the point now of looking for a way out that may or may not exist. She just couldn't hold back any longer. "You knew that Braylan wasn't what he said he was. You knew the moment you saw the blood. You knew exactly where and when to show up to keep me from getting killed by his murderer and you," she paused, "you just know a little too well how to," she stopped.

He stared at her now, his expression quite difficult to read.

"How to what, Gemini? How to wear you down until I could convince you to forget that you had an investigation underway that could mean millions of lives being saved or lost depending upon the outcome? Did you think that I could be so egotistical that I'd just beam us up here from a murder scene, sweep you off of your feet, take you straight over there," he nodded toward the large bed in the center of the room.

"...and risk all those lives just to spend one night with you? And you think that I'm conceited."

She suddenly felt very ashamed of herself. She didn't want it to but reason interfered. While she had no doubt that, before they'd gotten this far into the investigation he'd have jumped at the chance to spend the night with her, now it was different. And even given their unexpected surroundings, he was trying to keep working. Yes, he had locked the door, there could be any one of a hundred valid reasons why and she was sure he could offer them all if just given sixty seconds to explain. She also knew just how much she would want to believe every single one.

The only thing that still bothered her was why he was holding so much back if he was really who he said he was.

Her silence infuriated him even more than her frustrating refusal to believe his cover story.

He became so angry that he forgot himself and his neatly clipped, perfectly polished British accent began to morph into something that sounded quite different.

"Ya know, yer really somethin'. At first I thought you were just sexually frustrated. But no, no darlin' i's so much more than that. Gem Lassiter doesn' have feelings! She doesn' need romance or excitement. She's more highly evolved than the rest of us poor Neanderthal, bipedal primates who are strugglin' just to keep on standin' upright! She's got i'tall figured out. She can work alone, live alone, sleep alone, save the world all alone. She can do it all by noon and still have the rest of the day all to herself to make up lists of ways she could've done it more efficiently!"

"Michael," she stammered, her mouth hanging open as he continued his rant.

"She doesn' want an'a'one's help, or need an'a'one, ever. Nothin' and no one can touch the great Gemini Lassiter? Well maybe nothin' SHOULD!" As he stormed away, over to another panel in the wall, she heard him mutter one last remark under his breath. "I'm certainly done tryin'."

She stared at him in shock; his accent had just changed countries of origin, right before her eyes.

"Michael," she stuttered again. He hadn't even realized what he'd done, and was still so angry with her and with the ridiculously complicated situation he now found himself in that he swiftly moved back toward her, took hold of her arm with one hand and then pulled the transponder from his pocket again with the other.

"This is yer stop, Gem. I'm sendin' ya back. You are ta stay where I'm sendin' you, 'till you receive word that the investigation is over and the murderer has been apprehended. Do you understand exactly what I am telling you?"

Slowly his accent returned to its original inflections, and she simply nodded. She didn't want to stay here if he was going to keep her from searching for more answers, and so the best thing she could do was play along and then as soon as she was free...

For his part, Michael was convinced that she was not understanding just how much danger her life was really in. "Listen to me very carefully." He began again, as he grasped her firmly by the shoulders, his eyes burning into hers. "You are not to leave the place where I'm sending you. If you do, they will find you and they will kill you."

"Who? Your people?" She hurled the words at him and Michael was wounded when he felt the blow.

"Your people are my people." He retorted angrily, as he tapped coordinates into the transponder. "If you knew anything about me at all by now, you'd believe that." He stepped back. "Goodbye, Gem."

A moment later, she found herself standing inside of a small but well appointed apartment.

Panic began to course through her, panic that would never have been there before. It didn’t make sense but her breathing was becoming heavier.

She wasn't sure where she was, exactly, but she knew one thing; it wasn't where she needed to be.

A thousand spoken and misspoken words since they’d met played through her mind not with the calm constructed manner they should but the disarray of a ship’s log leading to the moment of its destruction.

The anger she’d felt mere seconds before seemed to be washed away by the utter, unwelcome feel of regret about how she’d come to be here. She knew she should never have made him angry, she should never have left his side. Whatever he was or wasn't telling her, something inside of her knew that this investigation was one thing that neither one of them could complete successfully on their own. If they'd given up and tried at any point up until this one, one or the both of them would have already been killed.

Slowly she began to take in her location with tentative, tiny steps in a circle around the center of the apartment where she’d just arrived. Her body seemed to fight her for every centimeter of progress; as if it knew how afraid she was to move away from this one point in such a large world where she still felt somehow connected to where she’d just been.

She tried to slow her breathing, to make sense of everything she was feeling and to react to everything as calmly as she needed to. Yet she couldn’t be calm, not yet. She needed to find him. She needed, she wanted to get back to wherever they'd been together a moment before, so they could finish what they started.

But there was more than that to this and she knew it. As desperate as she was to deny it, even stopping herself several times to start her analysis all over again when she was sure she’d made a mistake, there was more going on in her head than worry over the investigation.

This wasn’t sensible, this wasn’t reasonable. She knew not what it was so strong in her thoughts and in the absence of real definition something ceased to be a reality. At least, it was supposed to.

Her eyes seemed to probe into every corner as she attempted to map out her surroundings, her tangible literal surroundings. This was her reality, the here and the now. Where she’d just left was already the past.

Yet even from her central location in this place he’d chosen; so functional, so perfect for her, she was utterly incapable of really taking it. This couldn’t be reality; the furniture, the walls, all felt entirely two dimensional all of a sudden. Where she perceived shadows and their depth, she really saw just colors cast in grayscale to serve this illusion of a world as real as she’d once ever known.

This was crazy, she knew it was; it was just that she couldn’t concentrate on seeing it now. She felt adrenalin pumping through her, her heart going far too fast without purpose or reason. Her breathing was still too heavy, she was feeling still. Infuriatingly still. She should be moving but she had no idea to where.

Suddenly, very deep down and rising up fast Gem felt a sense of something that she'd never experienced before. She scanned the list that she kept in her mind to try to help her identify and classify her emotions, as unpleasant it was to try to do so, when she was faced with them.

She did it quickly, she did it efficiently but roughly; almost desperate to find what she was searching for. But nowhere on that mental checklist did she find a suitable label to affix to the rising rush of fear that overtook her when she watched him disappear in the glow of the transporter's light as it swept her away.

She focused on the alien feeling with curiosity and a vicious intensity. She studied it as a scientist examines the results of a failed experiment- with a self-loathing and fierce determination not to repeat the mistake ever again.

This feeling was something she feared was terrifyingly out of her control. She couldn't stop the grasping, choking hold the emotion had on her, whatever it was.

Damn it, she mentally slapped herself, she was not supposed to feel like this. She was a woman of thought. She should be able to control emotion, not the other way around. Yet just like the building frustration within her this feeling refused to be suppressed.

Suddenly she found she was walking rapid steps around this place, trying to burn off what ever the hell it was taking over her. Moments passed uneasily by as she processed near impossible thoughts. It was only when she finally truly contemplated the reality that she may never see him again did she realize what that feeling was. Immediately she stopped walking.

She shook her head, shook herself, but she couldn’t shake out what she was feeling.

She missed him.

She felt a sudden frozen weight dragging down upon her heart. The ache in her chest was a longing to be near him again, to hear his voice, and see his smile. To listen to the maddeningly fascinating, though not totally logical, pattern of his thoughts.

In his own way, though, he had a rationale for everything that he did. He was, in his fashion and in his own estimation entirely logical.

It was quite frightening and quite indescribable that it seemed to challenge every belief she’d ever had. To see such a different way of thinking and to see it actually work when she’d always lived her life knowing there was only one.

Yet she really didn’t care about that as she closed her eyes and tried to picture again a million little things about him before they were forgotten.

There was more than enjoying his company to this, though, and that bothered her even more than the knowledge that he had the power to make her miss him, simply by leaving her sight.

It was a sense of knowing that when he was not there, that a void was created that she'd do almost anything to fill. But none except him, she knew, could fill it.

She knew for the first time in her life how it felt to need someone.

Whoever the man really was, she needed him now and she cursed him for it. She cursed herself even more.

As she stood, she realized her hand was still in suspended animation in mid-air as it had been in a gesture asking him to just wait, she felt as if, in realizing she needed him, she had just in an instant both gained and lost her clarity, her sanity, and whatever it was that may constitute the matter and substance of her soul.

In the moment she was frozen or otherwise would have likely lost her footing as she grasped that he mattered to her. In that instant she gained, held for an immeasurably small increment of time, and then lost the entire world.

She'd always been fine until now, living in her own head. No one could touch her there; her thoughts were her own and that was how she wanted it. It was so safe, so comfortable; it was who she was.

Only now, as she considered what it was like when they combined their talents and worked together, she understood that living in isolation inside her own mind was not what she wanted anymore.

She wanted his thoughts to be there too. Challenging hers, inspiring ideas she'd never even considered and making the Universe itself seem to be glistening with hope and endless possibilities.

She knew that if she never did see him again, no matter the outcome of the investigation and especially with so much left unfinished between them, that it was going to haunt her for the rest of her days.

Lt. Commander Michael Blakeney
Temporal Investigations


//// Gemini Lassiter
Former TI Agent and
Director, The Alchemy Project

942: Work to Get Done

by William Lindsay and Captain Salvek
A Short Time After Faulty Logic

-=Bridge, USS Serendipity=-

Salvek took a moment, upon entering the ready room, to trace his hand along the bare wall. Zanh Liis’ things had been gathered up and taken away, but every hook on the wall and coffee ring on the desk where her decorations and mementos had been remained right where they were when she had left.

Salvek just hadn’t been able to bring himself to place any of his own personal belongings in here. It didn’t feel right. This was her ship, and her ready room. In his mind he could see the room exactly how it had been, with the hooks on the walls holding her hangings and each trinket adorning her desk.

He tilted the screen on the computer up, so William Lindsay could see him standing, and opened a channel to the Director’s office. The voice of a young female answered him.

[Director Lindsay’s Office, how many I direct your call?]

“The Director, Please.”

[May I ask who is calling and what this is in regard too?]

“Captain Salvek, and Zanh Liis.” He answered both her questions with two names, in the hopes the current conversation would be expedited to a conclusion quickly.

[Are you Salvek calling about Zanh, or Zanh calling about Salvek?] She asked, followed over the comm by a snapping sound that was most likely bubble gum.

“I am Salvek.” He answered calmly, despite the inane nature of the question.

[One moment please.]

The was a pause of about a minute, presumably the time necessary for the young woman to inform Lindsay who was calling, and for Lindsay to get himself some privacy to answer the call. When his face finally replaced the swirling Federation logo, Lindsay was wearing his usual dashing grin.

[Captain Salvek. How may I help you?]

“Admiral Lassiter has been making several unusually changes to this ship, not the least of which is the change in Captaincy. I need to speak with you in person immediately.”

Lindsay sighed. [Well, TI isn’t really the best place for ya at the moment.] will didn’t even want to think of the security precautions he’d have to implement just to have Salvek allowed in the building for a ten minute conversation. [Meet me at The Iron Horse in ten minutes.]

The Iron Horse?”

[It’s a pub is Glasgow. Believe me, it’s in yer transporter records.]

“Then, I will see you in ten minutes.” Salvek closed the channel.

-=The Iron Horse Pub, Glasgow, Scotland

Salvek materialized near in the entrance of the Iron Horse Pub and as he took note of his surroundings he briefly questioned whether he had in fact been sent to the right coordinates.

It was not that he doubted the abilities of Crewman Parrish; Salvek had complete confidence in the man’s professionalism, but this did not appear to be the type of place one would conventionally meet with the director of an important Starfleet agency. Of course from what Salvek knew of William Lindsay both from his own personal experience with him and what he’d been allowed to see of his Starfleet records it was entirely possible that that was exactly why he’d chosen it.

It was quiet here and lit only by the afternoon sunlight which was able to pass through the darkened windows. Empty tables existed in abundance whereas conversation did not.

Though it appeared well kept, much of the décor was reminiscent of times several centuries prior. Oak paneled walls were decorated with photographs of sporting victories and a trophy of some significance was prominently displayed within a glass case. Just the slightest hints of modern convenience gave away the illusion, such as the Replicator tucked discretely behind the sharply polished wooden bar where only the more perceptive of people would even notice it.

Though Salvek could not speak to the overall perceptive abilities of the local patrons at least two large men sitting at the bar clearly had taken note of the entrance of a uniformed Vulcan Starfleet Captain. Which one of those characteristics about held their attention he was uncertain. Their conversation had halted mid-sentence as they apparently wished to avail themselves of the opportunity to study him further, their eyes suspiciously passing him up and down.

Before Salvek could offer any response to their evident interest he recognized a voice calling out from behind him.

“Salvek. Over here.” Came William Lindsay’s familiar brogue.

Salvek turned to where Lindsay's voice was coming from and quickly located the man at a table discreetly tucked into the corner apparently having been here long enough to order himself a drink of what appeared to be beer though Salvek was incapable of identifying a specific brand.

Salvek nodded to acknowledge Lindsay as he swiftly moved over towards his table, fully aware that even now Gem Lassiter was likely coming up with new ways to erase Zanh Liis’ legacy and that the sooner they were able to acquire Lindsay’s assistance the better.

“Your speed in meeting with me on such little notice is appreciated, Director.” Salvek started as he lowered himself onto the seat across from Lindsay, intending on getting to his point as quickly and efficiently as possible.

“Ah, there’s no need for the official title.” Lindsay interjected. “Call me Will. Whatever job they’ve got me doing we’re both captains now, after all.”

Though Salvek preferred a certain amount of formality, he saw little reason to argue the point right now and simply nodded that it would be acceptable before he continued.

“Will, to be blunt, Admiral Lassiter has made several distressingly rash changes to the crew of the Serendipity recently.”

“Other than the change in captaincy?”

Will took a long sip of his beer after his question. A barmaid set a pint down in front of Salvek without even having been asked, and Salvek took a sip for the sake of being social, since he was a visitor to Will’s homeland here.

“I did not bring any form of payment or gratuity.” He informed Lindsay regretfully.

“Forget it. I have ya covered lad. Go on.”

Salvek took another, longer sip of his beer. He could see why the locals found it to be refreshing, even if he had no use for the concept of refreshment.

“The Admiral has reassigned several members of crew to different positions on the ship, and some are being sent off the ship altogether. Her reasoning is dubious at best, and I believe her judgment to be impaired by the recent trauma she has endured following the loss of her son, and subsequent medical episode.”

“What specifically do ya find distressing about her actions?” Will traced his finger around the rim of his glass.

“She relieved Lair Kellyn of duty of her own accord. Such an action should have required a hearing first, at the very least. She declared Rada Dengar to be a threat to the Federation, which I find to be an emotionally charged statement, and she has made Ashton Ledbetter Security Liaison to The Alchemy Project. I cannot justify that decision with any sort of logic. There are other moves as well I can share with you if you wish, but suffice it to say I believe all these changes, along with making myself Captain, have all been designed to punish Zanh Liis for the death of her son.”

Salvek concluded his speech with a sip of his drink. Will blew out a breath slowly and leaned back in his chair.

“That’s quite a mouthful.” He observed. Will chuckled slowly to himself. “And ya’ve come ta me why?” Will asked. He knew the answer, but he wanted to hear Salvek say it.

“Because I alone cannot move against the Admiral. I know Doctor Hartcort and Vol Tryst can speak to the medical grounds, but I do not carry the political clout necessary to countermand the Admiral’s orders, even with the medical evidence. The Serendipity needs its crew to survive, and the crew needs its Captain. That is Zanh Liis.”

This was exactly what Will had expected Salvek to say and also what he’d feared. The grin he’d previously worn fell from his lips before Salvek’s eyes. Will looked primed to speak but paused for a moment as he took a swig from the glass before him, seeming to savour the familiar flavour when all he was really doing was willing the liquid to contain the solution to his problem. He exhaled slowly in appreciation, for just a second looking down upon the drink before turning his eyes back up to Salvek.

When Will once again spoke his tone was markedly less enthusiastic than it had been just seconds before.

“I’ll talk to Gem about undoing the changes with the crew.” He said slowly, taking a brief moment further to consider what he was saying because he sure as hell didn’t want to say it. “But I don’t think I can bring yer Captain back.”

“It will not likely be without challenges but I do believe it is in your abilities to have her position reinstated.” Salvek objected, perplexed as to why a man he knew to be a friend of Zanh Liis would not wish to help her get back to where they all knew she belonged.

“Don’t get me wrong.” Will replied, slowly dragging out his words. “I could surely convince the people in power to at the very least reconsider accepting Liis’ resignation.”

Lindsay could quite easily think of more than one high ranking female officer he’d known over the years who’d be more than willing to help him get any legal technicalities pushed through. He was still on good terms with many of them and as for the rest he saw nothing that a little charm couldn’t cure.

“Yet, you will not do so?” Salvek questioned in a tone that, were he not Vulcan, could quite easily have come off as annoyed.

Lindsay couldn’t have blamed him for being quite a lot more than annoyed. He had just told him he could do what he’d asked and so he knew Salvek must have been thinking that he’d simply chosen not to do it.

Will picked up his beer as if to take another drink before putting it down, deciding against it and looking back up to Salvek, asking simply, “Do ya not think that was me first response upon learning what had happened? Ta try ta get Liis reinstated back on her ship where we all know she should be?”

Though they say Vulcans were not especially skilled at reading people’s tone, Will could see Salvek understood perfectly that he was serious about wanting to help. What hint of annoyance there may have been was replaced with traces of curiosity as he efficiently prompted Lindsay for a further explanation.

“I gather that the situation has changed.”

“That is has.” Will replied, deciding now that the decision of another swig was the right one. He took no time to savour the taste this time. “It changed the moment O’Sullivan asked me not ta do it, said Liis didn’t want it. I might think they’re mad for it, the pair of them, but I’ll not go behind his back or against either of their wishes.”

Many other men in his position would have begun to protest against Will for not fighting for his cause when he knew was right. Were their positions reversed then that’s certainly what Will would have done.

Salvek however had an ability that was far too unique to view a situation objectively rather than just considering personal benefits and objectively he knew why Will couldn’t do what he was asking.

Were Zanh Liis to ask Salvek to stop this fight then as much as he may have objected to her decision he would still have stopped. Respect and indeed loyalty could override what personal preferences he had.

Salvek took a small sip again from his own drink as he considered his position. He was certainly grateful that he had not been asked to stop just yet.

“Captain O’Sullivan is undeniably focused on what he believes to be Zanh Liis’ best interests,” Salvek evenly acknowledged. “When she decided to accept her removal he therefore supported her in that decision. However I do not believe that resigning was what she truly wanted.”

“She’s always struck me as the type of woman who knows exactly what she wants.” Will replied, not trying to be unhelpful but realizing he may have come off that way. If he had, then Salvek offered no sign he was bothered.

Salvek had never doubted that the Captain had understood what she had wanted. Indeed, her ability to make the right decisions was one of the reasons not just that he held her in such high regard but that he wished to return her to command of her ship. It made it difficult to explain then how he so doubted her decision here. He thought that perhaps it would be best explained by analogy.

“After a trying day one may feel as though they wish to sleep indefinitely.” Salvek replied. “The next day however one will still be glad to have woken up.”

“Is that why you think she accepted her removal?” Will asked almost offended at how easily it seemed Salvek was suggesting Liis mood could be swayed. “Because she was tired?”

Salvek had never thought that, fatigue was far too simple a reason. He had thought of little else recently than to consider why the Captain had chosen not to fight. She’d told him it was ‘time’, that she needed to just be and to sort out many lifetimes in her mind. He had understood her decision and at the time he’d accepted it. Yet the more he thought about Starfleet and Zanh Liis the more he realized that the two simply were not supposed to exist without each other.

“No. What I am saying is that what seems like the best idea at the time can often be open for reconsideration a short time later. The most difficult part of this is that, of all the orders the Admiral has given, Zanh Liis’s removal is the only one that was agreed to by the officer in question. All our efforts will be futile unless she agrees to return, which I believe Commander Blane is already working on.”

The barmaid returned to the table. She had been hovering nearby, waiting for a break in the conversation to approach. She didn’t know what the two men were discussing but the Iron Horse what not exactly a haven for Vulcan Starfleet Officers so she was guessing it was probably in the realm of “I’d tell you but then I’d have to kill you,” type information.

“Anything else for ya lads?”

Will gestured to Salvek, indicating he should place his order first. Salvek required nothing else, and was aware that he was already drinking on Will’s tab.

“No thank you.” He replied.

Will slipped his middle and index fingers around the base of his glass, and pushed it towards the barmaid. “Another, please.”

“I understand your desire to not go against either of their wishes,” Salvek continued after the woman disappeared behind the bar. “Neither do I. However, I owe Zanh Liis my life many times over and though she would probably scoff at the notion, I consider her my closest friend. I believe she will wish to return, especially when she hears what has become of her crew during the short time of her absence. If you agree to assist me, you should do so knowing you will not be betraying the trust of either O’Sullivan.”

At that moment Will found he was smiling again. It was not quite the devilish grin he’d had when he’d come here but hearing something close to passion in Salvek’s tone had him quite touched. Lindsay didn’t think Liis would scoff at all at the notion of her being Salvek’s closest friend. Only very few people and exceptionally few Vulcans would willingly and openly challenge the orders of a powerful Starfleet Admiral and Will didn’t believe any of them would for someone who didn’t mean something very important to them.

Slowly Will leant back in his chair, pretending to muse, as in a near O’Sullivan like gesture, he rubbed his fingers along his chin.

“Well, when ya put it like that…I don’t see anythin’ wrong with a little preliminary work to ensure her position’s open if she still wants it.”

Vulcan or not there was still a distinctive gratitude that passed through Salvek with that remark. It remained there as he watched a now more enthusiastic Lindsay rising from the table and began to rise along with him.

“Never mind about the drink.” Will called to the barmaid before turning back to Salvek with a smile. “It looks like we’ve got a bit of work to get done.”

He looked back at Salvek, as he fumbled in his pocket for a few strips of latinum to put on the table. “Where will ya start?”

“I will start by seeing if indeed she still wants it.”

Captain William Lindsay
Director, Temporal Investigations


Captain Salvek
Commanding Officer
USS Serendipity NCC-2012

941: From One Predicament Into Another

by Mellice Cem
Following Out of the Frying Pan...

=^=Aboard a stolen Orion R-4 Raider, Somewhere In Space=^=

Mellice knew that he and his 'guest', Admiral Harris' daughter couldn't stay in the asteroid field for much longer as one of the three pursuing Orion Marauder pirate ships cruised dangerously close to their hiding spot.

Without thinking of the consequences of his actions, after the larger ship passed them by he gunned the engines for all they were worth towards the only Class M planet that was relatively close by.

Kelly Harris looked over to him with a raised brow and a bewildered look upon her fair features. "What in the name of god are you doing? Trying to get us both killed? My father won't approve of your actions in the least bit Lieutenant, at best you might get court-martialed and sent to the Federation penal colony on Antares 6."

He didn't answer her as the small ship was suddenly rocked off kilter by a disruptor blast off the starboard shields. Somewhere in the back of the ship sparks flew as another conduit blew out, this time they were in serious trouble as the shields gave out entirely. *Great, now how am I going to get us out of this fine mess?* He thought to himself, while checking to see how much further they still had to go before they reached the unknown planet.

Something caused the ship's sensors to trigger an alarm as Cem and Kelly tried in vain to reset the blown out shield emitter in the hopes the shields would raise and when they didn't, that just made their day even more depressing.

"I've got something on short range sensors, not sure what it is." He told his passenger, as they both then looked up and out the main viewer to see what had caused the short range sensors to set the alarm in the first place.

"We're in serious trouble." Was all he said to her, while doing his best at keeping the Orion ships off their six.

Harris only sat there, staring in shock at what she was seeing on the main view screen and nodding her head a few times in agreement with his statement that they were indeed in trouble.

Lieutenant (jg) Mellice Cem
Assistant Security/Tactical Chief
USS Revolution NCC-71605-A
Discovered Federation Spy within the Orion Syndicate

940: Soul Searching

by Zander Blakeslee and Keiran O’Sullivan
Following Here and Now

-=Blakeslee Homestead, Alaska, Earth=-

Zander let the heavy sledge fall again onto the wedge; the force of the blow easily driving it into the log and splitting it with a rending, tearing sound as the two halves fell away.

He leaned the sledge against the large stump that he was using as a base to split the logs into more manageable pieces and then bent down and grabbed the two halves and added them to the growing stack along the tree line.

Despite the Alaskan coolness in the late afternoon air, sweat beaded on his forehead as he walked over the other side of the stump and hoisted another large log onto it. He shifted it into position to be split by standing it up on its end.

He again retrieved the wedge and the sledge. He took a deep breath as he used the sledge to tap the wedge into the log before stepping back to take a good swing as he had done at least a hundred times before over the past four hours.

The view of the outside was something one would expect to see in a storybook, Keiran O’Sullivan thought, framed as it was by the frosted, snow-speckled window. He peered out through it as best he could, his eyes focusing through the haze on the man in the distance so intent on completing his task. Only problem was, Keiran knew that task had nothing to do with accumulating firewood, and Zander wouldn’t find the answer he was seeking with a sledgehammer.

“How long has he been doin’ that?” He asked Samthia, as she stopped fussing about the kitchen for a moment to look outside again as well. No matter how many times she’d done that today, her husband, it seemed, was never on his way back inside.

Keiran surveyed her features, easily reading her concern as he warmed his hands with the hot mug she’d given him earlier. His eyes shifted back to the window and he watched as Zander again brought down the heavy sledge splitting the wood with one efficient, telling swing.

The Blakeslee cabin was fairly remote and private so the transporter station did not have an exact address. The closest they could get was the town. So Keiran walked up to the cabin, a walk that he truly enjoyed as the scenery was spectacular but a bit chillier then he was expecting. Samthia added more tea to his cup and then at last, moved to sit down.

She took a seat at the large, handcrafted wooden kitchen table. She was dressed in a heavy sweater to fend off the summer coolness. Coming from a planet with a tropical climate she still had not grown used to the Alaskan weather. She took her own cup of tea into her hands and stared into it for a moment before answering.

“All afternoon.” She noticed that the large man was still holding his steaming cup rather tightly and her features softened apologetically. “I am sorry they could not have beamed you closer. I did not think to provide exact coordinates.”

“Tis alright Lieutenant. Good for the circulation.” He turned away from the window and pulled out the chair at the table across from Samthia.

She looked over at him as he sat down, and smiled. “I thank you for coming, Captain.”

"I see you've picked up the bad habit of the crew, not lettin' go of my old title." He smiled at her gently.

"It just shows how much we respect you, Sir." Samthia replied. Her voice was as vacant as her eyes, but Keiran took no offense at her distraction. Her thoughts and emotions were fixed upon one man and one only; the one for whom she had summoned Keiran in a desperate attempt to help.

"Been like this the whole time, no?" Keiran asked gently, before taking another sip of his tea.

"Yes." She sighed. "He's so far away even though he's right outside. Even with the boys, there's just," she reached up and pulled the hood of her sweater, draped over her smooth, hairless head to protect her from the cold, closer around her elegantly sculpted face. She couldn't get warm, no matter what she tried. It was a coldness of heart that plagued her, O'Sullivan observed, more than of climate and it was sadly a feeling he understood all too well.

"Well, if ya think my bein' here could get him talkin' I'm more than willing ta try fer it."

"At this point, if you can't help him, Captain O'Sullivan, then I don't know who can."

Keiran finished his tea and set the cup down as he rose. He pushed the chair back in up against the table and patted Samthia's hand reassuringly. "Name's Keiran," he smiled at her compassionately. "Give you my word, I’ll do what I can.."

He steeled himself against the icy breath of the biting wind as he walked out the door, pulling the collar of his coat up more closely around his neck. He felt his eyes begin to burn, his beard the only thing protecting his face from the plummeting temperature as it continued to dive with the waning of the day.

He exaggerated the fall of his steps upon the crunchy, untrodden snow between Zander's blows of his sledge so that he would know without looking over his shoulder that someone was approaching.

Immediately, Zander bristled. The footsteps were too heavy and noisy to belong to Samthia or even to his mother. He was about to have company he hadn't expected, and whoever it was, they were not wanted here.

"Can I help ya with that?" Keiran asked, as he took off his gloves and put them into his pockets. He always found that he couldn't chop wood wearing gloves; he needed to be able to grasp the hilt of the instrument in his hands in order to feel in proper control of it. "Looks like yer quite outta breath."

Zander knew the voice immediately and did not turn. He stared down at the sledge handle, his chest rising and falling rapidly as he tried to slow his breathing in a vain attempt to prove O’Sullivan a liar.

A sudden feeling of concern gripped Zander and he turned around. “Captain O’Sullivan? What brings you to Alaska? Is everything alright, is the ship OK?”

"Ship is in one piece, as is her crew with the exception we're missin' somebody important." Keiran paused as Zander's fingers relaxed and then tensed against the sledge handle again. "Nothin’ else’ta do with the ship really matters right now."

Zander wiped away the beads of sweat on his forehead with his hand and nodded. “OK, so not to be rude, but why are you here?”

He saw that Keiran’s hand was still extended in expectation, and sighed as he finally handed over the sledge. He rotated back towards the large stump, picking up the freshly cleaved pieces of wood and tossing them onto the stack before retrieving another un-split log from the opposite end of the pile and placed it on the stump in front of O’Sullivan.

The Irishman swung the sledge easily a few times to get a feel for its weight in his hands and then nodded for Zander to put the wedge into a flaw in the log. Once it was placed, Keiran raised the sledge and in one fluid motion the log was split.

They continued on this way, with Keiran letting Zander settle into the idea that his solitude was being intruded upon, until several more logs were divided at which point Keiran finally paused. He laughed a little as he fought to catch his breath. "Not quite as...young as I...once was." His smile faded as he took in the sight of Blakeslee’s face. "As young as you are."

Zander grinned weakly. “Yeah, well young in body anyway.”

"Ya asked me why I'm here Zander Blakeslee and the answer can only be this. 'Cause you're not."

Zander frowned. “Funny, if I was not here I would not be as cold as I am. Sure feels like Alaska to me.”

Keiran ignored his remark and continued; making sure his tone was that of a friend and not that of a father figure or worse, a ranking officer. "You weren't truly on the Sera when ya left, and ya haven't been here with your family since. You've been off somewhere on your own, locked away in an ever-shrinking prison cell of your own making. I know the location well. I spent many years of my life living in it."

Zander opened his mouth to respond that he did not know what Keiran was talking about. But he quickly closed it again when the words sounded like lies even in his own head. Instead his shoulders slumped slightly and he slowly sat down on the chopping stump.

For the first time, Keiran felt that Zander looked worn out.

“Sam called you then?” It was a question but it sounded more like a statement.

"She's worried about ya is all. Wives, they do that, ya know. They worry. Part of why God gave 'em to us, because sometimes they see the things that we just can't."

"Or won't." Zander replied.

"I don't mean to pry into your business, Zander. But we've worked together a good long while now. And... I've come to respect you a great deal. As a fine man, and an great officer. As an outstanding husband, and father. And as I would offer to any man for whom I hold such regard, I'm offerin’ an ear to listen."

He paused, inhaling and exhaling slowly. "I've, seen some things in my time, Zander. I know you have too. I think," Keiran's blue eyes glinted in the low, lingering sunlight and his breath made slowly billowing clouds in the air with each word he spoke. "That is what makes truly good friends. When a person can understand what another has been through. Is at least a place to start."

Zander looked up at the man in front of him and then back at the house. He could see Samthia walking past the window in the kitchen. She would be in the midst of getting dinner ready about now.

He slowly stood up and retrieved a dark colored coat from its place hanging on a low branch nearby. He slowly put it on as he considered Keiran’s words, as well as the concern of his wife. Concern that ran deeper than he thought; deep enough to call for help.

He wife and children were his entire world. The realization that his own confusion about his feelings was causing them pain struck him like an arrow, causing a pang of guilt which cut through his own haze of self-doubt.

Maybe he needed help.

He glanced back at Keiran who was standing patiently by. “Take a walk?” he asked. “We still have plenty of daylight. Sun does not really set this time of year, kind of a constant twilight.”

Keiran simply nodded for Zander to lead the way. The two men took a path that led up the mountain behind the log home and through the thick groves of pines. The path was easy to travel and ascended slowly.

O’Sullivan continued to wait without a sound, and after a short while, Zander began to talk.

“Captain I’ve been many things in my life. I’ve been angry, sad, happy, and vengeful.” He glanced over at Keiran. “But I’ve never been as scared as I am now.”

Keiran listened intently, his features conveying an understanding that words never could.

Zander sighed. “Not for myself mind you, but for my family. I nearly left my boys fatherless and widowed Sam at the age and time when they need me the most.”

"Hate to be the one to tell ya this, Blakeslee, but they'll never need you any less." Keiran answered thoughtfully. "Needs will change, to be sure. But just wait until the boys are seventeen and runnin' headlong into a world they only think they understand. They'll need you even more then than they do now." Keiran thought of recent letters from Carrick, and made a promise to himself to be sure that he saw his son before he started his next assignment.

Zander shuddered as simply the thought of what could have been chilled him to the bone. He zipped up the jacket as they continued to walk. The trail now had turned north and was beginning to descend.

“I, I’m confused about what to do. For the first time in my life I simply am too afraid of the future. Do I leave Starfleet? I love what I do, I live to get up and serve. To try and make the universe a better place.” He looked down at his hiking boots. “At least I used to.”

Keiran let Zander's words hang for a moment as the merest traces of a memory came together, congealing in his mind. It was an image frozen in time; the sight of the newly formed Serendipity crew before the ship was even launched from space dock for the first time.

They'd gathered for a party, and Keiran, a man much different at the time as he was still existing under the veil of his last resequencing, playfully spoke words that he chose to repeat now, in a very different tone of voice than he'd originally spoken them on that night lifetimes ago.

"Tell me, Zander Blakeslee, about yer soul."

Zander's eyes darted to Keiran's now. He, too, spoke the same words he had at that party but also in a much different way this time. "My soul? How do you mean?"

Keiran sighed and walked a few paces away, to allow Zander more physical space in which to think, uncrowded. "Your soul, Blakeslee. I asked ya, if you remember, what it was that motivated you. I rattled off a short list, 'the adventure of space' 'the tactical challenges of a fight...'"

Keiran's voice lowered to the point where Zander had to move closer once again to make out his words over the sound of the increasingly stirring winds. "...the love of a good woman. Do ya remember what'cha said to me?"

"I said," Zander replied wistfully, "all of it." He wondered what had become of the idealistic man he'd been that night.

"Aye. All of it." Keiran began to twist the ring on his left hand. He had been, at different points, asked to face the sort of choice that Zander was setting out before himself now. He'd never been quite sure, until recently, that he'd gotten it right.

"But men change over time. And time has changed you more than most twice your age. I say that again with only the utmost respect for how ya've handled it all." Keiran's voice warmed, and he held his hands up into the air at his sides. "After half of what you've been through an'a'one with a brain in their head would stop to rethink his priorities. But the time comes, Zander, when thinkin' isn't what is gonna help you get to the next step."

"It's not?"

Keiran shook his head. "No, is not. Time comes when ya have to stop thinkin' and listen to what yer heart is tellin' you to do, right? Then, when ya end up later on lookin’ back to this day, then you'll always know, at the very least, that ya did your level best. For her," he gestured back toward the direction of the house, "for your boys." He paused, knowing he was now treading onto dangerous ground. "For your father, but most of all, for yourself, Zander. Because in the end, you're the only one who has to, and can, live with the decisions that you make."

Zander did not respond, instead he slowly continued to walk the trail as Keiran’s words sunk in. Suddenly the trail broke out of the pines and the two men found themselves standing on the dark gravely sand of Lake Kenai’s shore.

The water was so calm that it acted like a silver mirror, reflecting back the image of the clear blue sky and white-capped mountains to the heavens.

Keiran took a moment to offer a silent prayer, in thanks and appreciation of the beauty surrounding him; perfect as it was, painted by God’s own hand.

"So, tell me about yer soul, Zander Blakeslee. If ya can do that, then you'll know whether you're meant to stay here in Alaska for the rest of your life, or if you're meant to go back. To wear the uniform again."

“I need to serve my family. In every way possible.” Zander replied as he stared out over the water. “More then that, I need to make sure that I prepare them for what is to come, good and bad. I truly believe that my uniform is part of that.”

He looked at Keiran, knowing that he understood. “Most importantly I need to do that while being who I am. If not I will leave part of myself in hiding, and they will not know the whole of what I am.

“I won’t be happy unless I am in Starfleet. I’ve tried leaving once, it did not work out. I need to know that if I should be killed…to know those who I call my friends will ensure that my children know the man I am or at least aspire to be. I am sure, now, that I can rely on that.” He held out his hand to Keiran.

“Thank you.” He smiled. “My friend.”


Lt. Commander Zander Blakeslee
Chief of Security
USS Serendipity NCC-2012


-=/\=- Captain Keiran O’Sullivan
Currently Between Assignments
Temporal Investigations/ The Alchemy Project