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