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