by Zander Blakeslee and Zanh Liis
The Morning After Picking Up the Pieces
The Morning After Picking Up the Pieces
Zander Stepped off the transporter and walked down the two steps to stand in front of the chief, leaving a large duffel bag sitting on the pad adjacent to him. “Permission to come aboard.”
“Granted, Commander Blakeslee.” Andrew Parrish smiled. “Welcome home.” Parrish looked around. “Where are the wife and kids?”
Zander walked back to the transporter and heaved the heavy duffel over his shoulder then turned back to answer. “They’ll be joining me in a day or two. Have to close up the house and we wanted to give the kids some more time in open spaces.” He explained as he turned towards the door.
Parrish nodded. “Very well, again, welcome home sir.”
Zander headed out the door and into the hallway.
He felt that it had been a lifetime since he last walked the corridors of the Serendipity. He reflected back to the days before he and his family left for earth. Days spent in Sickbay healing from the injuries he sustained from the explosion on the bridge.
He found he was still having nightmares about it; still wondering if he would ever leave his children without a father. But those nightmares were only a result of his drive to be a good father, husband, and officer. O’Sullivan had helped him to see that.
He owed the man a mug of ale at the very least.
Reaching the Blakeslee family quarters he entered the darkened room and dropped the duffel onto the floor. The expected thudding noise of it hitting the deck was punctuated by the unexpected sound of crunching glass.
Zander frowned. “Lights.”
As the lights came up he was greeted by what could only be described as chaos. The room was in shambles. Pictures were off the walls, plants knocked off of tables, lamps felled to the floor.
He glanced down a located what had made the crunching sound. He had unknowingly dropped his bag onto one of the displaced pictures, shattering the glass and breaking the frame. He moved his duffle and gently picked up the picture so as to not damage the photo under the broken glass.
It was a photo of his wedding day; specifically of the ceremony that had taken place on Earth. He was dressed in his Starfleet dress uniform and Samthia in a translucent blue dress. Zander smiled as he carefully placed the shattered picture onto the end table.
“Looks like the fight was worse than reported to the news channels,” he commented, as he went to look for a broom.
=^= Later =^=
The doors to the lift opened and Zander stepped out onto the bridge for the first time since the explosion.
It was different.
It had been remodeled after the fight that caused Zander’s injury and then once again, after the encounter with the alien species that he still needed to learn so much about. Zander could not help but think that it looked better.
“Welcome back.” A voice jarred him back from his thoughts.
He looked down at the center chair to see Commander Blane looking up at him.
“Thanks.” Zander smiled. “The captain?”
TC nodded towards the Ready Room. “Right where she should be.”
Zander nodded and walked to the Ready Room door. He stood tall, checked his uniform and hit the chime.
“C’mon, with ya, then.” Came the gritty, familiar female voice from the other side, and Zander couldn’t help but think that Zanh was starting to sound more like her husband every day.
The doors released and Zander stepped into the room.
Captain Liis O’Sullivan, as the members of crew who were closest to her had taken to affectionately referring to her these days; was seated behind her desk half hidden by a pile of PADDS and discarded coffee cups. She stared at the screen of one PADD on her desk as she held another in her hand.
Zander approached her desk and stood in front of it at attention, his eyes staring forward. “Captain, Commander Zander Blakeslee reporting back to active duty.”
"Is he now?" She feigned indifference, but only for a second before she slowly lowered the PADD from her face revealing a broad, warm grin.
She stood up from her chair and reached her hand out across the desk toward him. "It's about damned time. Welcome home, Zander. We’ve missed you."
Zander wondered, but only for a moment, if Zanh knew of his conversation with Keiran. Since she didn't immediately bring it up, that led him to believe that she did not; and it just went to show that O'Sullivan was a man of his word.
If there had been anything that Keiran felt compelled to tell her as Captain for the safety of the crew and ship as far as Zander was concerned, Zander was sure that Keiran would've handled it as carefully as he could.
But since it was simply a conversation about life and responsibilities of fatherhood between friends, O'Sullivan had, it appeared, seen no need to share it or the fact he'd even been to Alaska at all.
"I know that there is still damage, scattered around the ship. Most of it, teams have already been sent in to clean up but your quarters..." Zanh paused, walking across the room to replicate another cup of coffee, hers long since having gone cold as she worked to try to finish up all the reports she had to turn in before their next assignment.
She’d heard 'assignment' and not 'mission' from Command and immediately, been intrigued. It turned out that what they were supposed to be doing next was actually something they were supposed to have done before the situation with the Domox put everything else on hold. She couldn’t wait to see how her senior staff was going to take the news. Some would, she bet, a lot better than others.
"Have a seat. Can I offer you something?" Zanh asked, pausing before ordering her beverage.
“No thank you, Captain.”
"Suit yourself.” She addressed the replicator without hesitation as to her own order, which was the same as it always was. “Hot coffee, medium blend, extra cream." Zanh instructed. The cup appeared and she quickly retrieved it, took a sip and sighed contentedly before turning her attention back to her Chief of Security. "As I was saying, your quarters...I hope they're not too bad, but I hesitated to let anyone in to survey them. I thought you'd rather do it yourself."
Zander nodded. “Yes, thank you. Things were pretty messy, but I got it mostly taken care of.” He scratched his chin. “Looks like you were in a good fight, things were jarred around pretty bad.”
"Yeah,” Zanh said sadly, her eyes taking on an absence that bothered Zander as he'd rarely seen it before. “We were in a fight.”
"Captain," Zander shifted in his chair. "I know that there is are lot of rumors and much speculation going around about what actually happened with the Zenith. I understand that this information is classified as strictly need to know but as your Chief of Security as well as Tactical, I feel that I simply cannot perform my duty to protect the crew as we go forward unless I know what really happened."
Zanh inhaled slowly, and wearily. She held the breath as she sat suspended for a long moment, captive of her own thoughts. She had known this was coming, and in fact she couldn't blame the man. She would have made the very same request of any CO she'd had, if she were in his shoes. “Some welcome home this will turn out to be…” she muttered softly to herself.
"I need to know the truth." He concluded, with absolute certainty that he also wished he didn't have to hear it.
"I know, Zander. I know." She set her cup down and plunked down into her chair with a heavy sigh. Her hands sought out the spyglass she always kept nearby. She opened and closed it several times, seeming to study the inscription engraved into it again before finally putting it back where it had been. "I wish I didn't have to burden you with this."
Her eyes darted over to the picture of Keiran that she kept on the corner of her desk. It was small thing, almost lost among all the rest of the seemingly random items that were always piled upon her workspace. One wouldn't even notice it unless they specifically looked for it.
She specifically looked for it now just so she could see the smile upon Keiran’s face.
It was a truly happy smile, the one that she’d seen him wear on their wedding day when this image had been captured and a few rare times since. It was one she only hoped would return to replace the sadder version that was currently all he could manage. Thinking of all he’d seen and gone through on the Zenith, she clearly understood that it might take a long time before she saw that particular smile again.
"I wish no one had ever had to be burdened with it.” She told him regretfully, finally taking her eyes away from the photograph. “But what happened could happen again for all we know, though all evidence points to the fact that the enemy was completely destroyed."
"Completely destroyed as in..." Zander sat up straighter now, trying to grasp what she seemed to be implying. "…their invasion force was stopped? Or as in their way to come back here was destroyed?" He waited now for her to fill in the details.
"As in the race no longer exists."
Zander blinked but did not offer any other reaction. “I see.”
Zanh rotated her chair to the side and lowered her eyes, fussing needlessly with the PADDs before her while gathering her composure. She really hated that anyone else had to know what really happened, but she knew that of all people left who did not, if anyone must know it was Zander.
“So, in that case we need to be concerned about reprisals from any remaining members of that species that might have been able to avoid their extinction.” He said plainly. “I’d like to set up security measures for when we are in unknown territory or docked at any station that allows access to civilians. Would it be possible to have access to any information we have on the…whoever they are…were…so I can setup a security profile?”
“Yeah, I’ll, um, see to it that you get that. You…might find it helpful to speak to Counselor Tryst about them. He has insights into the way that they think…thought,” Zanh brought her fingers to the wrinkled bridge of her nose, and held them there, fighting off the return of the previous day’s headache. “That the rest of us don’t even though we were there too.”
He paused and looked at his captain. “It was that bad huh?”
"It was as bad as it can be with one exception."
"That there is still a Serendipity for you and I to be having this conversation on.” She returned her full attention to him, and for the first time Zander noticed deep, dark circles under her eyes that told of just how little rest she’d had recently. “There very nearly wasn't."
Zander's lips parted and he blew out a long, slow breath. Suddenly he was very glad that he'd taken his wife and children off of the ship when he had.
The insecurity about bringing them back to this life returned to him for an instant and nearly took over. He closed his eyes, and Zanh sat up straighter in her chair, taking note of the fact that he was now clenching his fists without realizing it and his shoulders were taut. His expression was one of deep concern as he tilted his head to look at her once more. Though his eyes were again open, he really wasn't seeing her.
He was seeing the pile of logs and the handle of the sledge.
He was thinking of sticking the wedge into the flaw in the bark and smashing the hammer down onto it until the cracking noise echoing up into the mountains was all he could hear.
At least there, he knew that they were safe...
...but were they really if they ended up losing him a piece at a time instead of risking him being lost one day to duty?
Zander returned to the moment. "I'm sorry, Captain." He offered her no explanation for his distraction, but it wasn't like she needed any.
"Are you sure that you're feeling up to this?" She asked him softly, with genuine concern. "You're an excellent Chief of Security, Zander and I'm anxious to have you back on the job but you're an even better man, and if you need more time to-"
"No." He answered hastily, adding much more softly, "sir." He sighed and hand his hand through his short hair. "I just need to keep reminding myself of the advice of a very wise man we both know."
"Well, it so happens that we have a couple of wiseguys around here, which one are you referring to?" Zanh tried to ease the tension in him with the small joke, and Zander did relax just the smallest amount.
"No wiseguy, this one." He replied. "You know him pretty well. You happen to be married to him."
Suddenly, Keiran's 'visit to a friend' made sense. So that's where he'd gone...to Alaska. "Oh, you mean O’Sunshine? Yeah, we’re acquainted. What did he tell you?"
"Nothing I didn't already know. I just needed to hear it from a voice outside my own head." Zander answered. "I am more than ready to return to duty, Captain. I am anxious to do so."
Zanh gently clapped her hands together once. "That's what I wanted to hear." She smiled at him genuinely, warmly, and rose from her chair. He did the same and she extended her hand to him. "It's good to have you back, Zander."
"Thank you, Captain."
"I'll see to it that the necessary information about our encounter with the Domox and the loss of the Zenith's crew is turned over to you. Be advised though that it's best that you only discuss it with myself, Salvek, TC Blane, Counselor Tryst or Keiran because he..." she was saddened just the same every time she was reminded of all Keiran had gone through. "He was in command of the Zenith during the fight."
Zander's eyes widened. He respected O'Sullivan already, but that respect took on a whole new dimension given what he'd heard just through rumors about the battle. "Understood."
"Before you go," She held a hand up to beg a moment more of his attention. "One more thing. You've met Paxton Briggs?"
"In passing..." Zander wondered where this was going.
"Well, to put it bluntly, given all the man has done around here lately, I want to keep him. So I need to know where you think we should put him."
Zanh put a hand on her hip and considered her options. "I would love to make him a member of Sera's crew outright but I'm thinking that if I recruit him into The Alchemy Project directly instead that he'll have more options later on. It'll be a nice little thing to have on anyone's Starfleet resume, this project, in a few years time. Your thoughts?"
Zander thought for a moment. “I have seen Commander Briggs dossier, as chief of security I checked him out when he first arrived. He is a man worth keeping. Second officer of the Indigo station is no small assignment.” He smiled. “Literally.”
"Tell me about it. I've seen the plans of that monster. Made me wonder if they have the equivalent of Shirpa out there to keep you from getting lost trying to find your way to the turbolifts."
“If I may be so bold, we technically have two starships here. The Alchemy is practically a entity unto herself and has often operated on it’s own, independent of the Sera. I think it would be beneficial for her to have her own, on-call command staff, dedicated to her operations and ready to crew her on a moment’s notice. A dedicated team of officers who know her capabilities inside and out. A team that is always in certain roles when the Alchemy is needed rather then pieced together from the Sera’s command staff. Commander Briggs would be perfect to act in a first officer role.”
He shrugged. “But that is just an observation.”
“Well, I was considering granting him the title of 'High King of All Starfleet' if that’s what it took but if you think he’d be satisfied with that instead it would require a lot less paperwork.” Zanh joked. She had, since the battle, actually been thinking along lines not dissimilar from Zander’s. It had occurred to her that the Alchemy needed it’s own command structure in place in advance of the next crisis, whatever that turned out to be.
"You know, you’ve got a point." Zanh paced around the room, nodding slowly. Her hand swept over the desktop and caught up the spyglass and she began to open and close it as she walked.
"We've always thrown a crew together for the Alchemy at the last minute when needed, depending on who was where. But given what just happened with the Domox and how fast it happened, and also considering that the Alchemy has more and more often been sent off out on her own and will be with greater frequency as further experiments and tests are run on her..."
She snapped the glass up to her eye, looked through it a moment and then rocked her weight from her heels to her toes before closing the glass and turning back to face him fully. "I think you're absolutely right, and that we should have a set command staff for the Alchemy when she goes out. People can be swapped out, of course, as needed and when the inevitable comes up which it always does..."
"If you place Paxton Briggs as First Officer, then he can focus his energies on making sure she’s always ready to fly the second she’s needed. He can also work closely with Commander Blane and Commander Salvek, Sera's XO in order to be certain that supplies and components are obtained from Command for the Alchemy's continual upgrades..."
"Instead of making Lair Kellyn arm wrestle the people in Procurement for them? Sounds like a plan to me." Zanh laughed softly at the mental image, knowing that Lair would always win any contest of that sort. “I heard she broke a few wrists in the last round of ‘we need it more than you do, so hand over the friggin’ part already’.” The more she thought about this idea, the better it sounded. "It'll also be convenient for him to work alongside Salvek in coordinating with the Sera's needs for another reason.”
"What reason would that be, sir?"
"The Alchemy is Salvek's project. So there is no one else to whom command of that ship should rightly be assigned. Not even his arm-wrestling champion wife." Zanh now laughed a little more enthusiastically, puzzling Blakeslee.
"Something amuses you, Captain?"
"Yes. I was just anticipating the look on Salvek's face when I tell him that his work load just doubled."
Zander smiled. "Funny, somehow I don't think he’ll mind." Zander’s eyes moved toward the door. "And if you don't mind, captain, I'd like to get back into the swing of things."
"By all means get out of my sight, you slacker. You've been off the clock too long already. You might start thinking we're going to go easy on you from here on out." Zanh teased, knowing she could because the idea of Zander ever giving a single bit less than his best to his ship and crew was so utterly ridiculous. He smiled even more broadly, even as the smile on Zanh’s face slipped away. She spoke softly as he headed for the door.
"I'm sending those reports to your office now, for your review." She didn't sit down again, rather just leaned over the desk and tapped at her computer, triple checking to make sure that the encryption was still firmly in place to protect the sensitive files.
The far away look returned to her eyes as she hit the final 'send' command.
"I warn you, Zander," Hearing her tone, he turned back to see what look on her face could possibly accompany it. Both the tone, and the expression, could only be called haunted.
Her deep blue eyes his stare for only a moment, and then returned to the screen. "This is not light reading."
LT. Commander Zander Blakeslee
Chief of Security/Tactical
USS Serendipity NCC-2012
-=/\=-Zanh Liis O’Sullivan
USS Serendipity NCC-2012
LT. Commander Zander Blakeslee
Chief of Security/Tactical
USS Serendipity NCC-2012
-=/\=-Zanh Liis O’Sullivan
USS Serendipity NCC-2012