1130: Into the Sea

by Zanh Liis O’Sullivan, Dabin Reece, TC Blane and Rada Dengar
101213.1300
Immediately After Black Ice

-=Main Bridge, USS Serendipity=-


“You heard me! We’re going in after them, unless you can find them and bring them back from here. So unless you want to try swimming in the quicksand, I’d suggest you all get back to work. Go!”

The crew jumped into high gear as they prepared the Serendipity to follow in the footsteps of the Alchemy and into the unknown.

Liis turned back towards the main screen and stood with her arms folded in front of her, her brow furrowed in determination that accented her nose ridges.

TC glanced around the bridge to make certain all were doing their jobs then stepped forward to stand next to his captain.

“Captain.” He spoke softly so that only she could her. “It might be prudent to drop a sensor beacon warning other ships away from the area and to launch a deep space transmitting probe to Starfleet.” He looked at her. “Just in case we don’t get back, no other ships will be lost.”

She gave a firm, wordless nod of her head and TC spun on his heels, ordering the Trill to action.

"Done." Reece replied a few moments later after he'd carried out the orders. He was uncharacteristically quiet now, and that fact did not help Zanh's mood in the least.

"All stop, Gira."

"Answering all stop."

The turbolift door opened and Rada Dengar and Lair Kellyn emerged, Liis immediately turning to them.

"Something came out of that rift, which means something is in there, alive. Whoever it is has probably been working all this time to get a message out. If they could live in there, so can we. Rada, I need you to do whatever you feel is necessary to protect the ship. You have two minutes." Zanh turned her back, once again looking to the viewscreen but unable to just sit right now.

The two engineers quickly approached the Engineering station and the terrified ensign manning it gratefully stepped away.

With the passing seconds, of which she had no intention of offering her engineers any more than the promised one hundred and twenty, Liis realised that the Alchemy could be getting farther and farther away.

Not even entirely consciously, she stalked behind Reece, Blane and O'Sullivan, listening to their every word as the three men discussed the situation. She could see they were already attempting to form a plan, but the success of this endeavour was another matter.

"I need something gentlemen," she prodded.

"There's just no way to navigate this, Captain." Blane said. "It’s like a radioactive maze. We have no idea where exactly the entrance is, where the road leads, or where the exit is."

Reece growled in frustration. "Even if we go to the Alchemy's exact coordinates, if this, region, whatever it is, is anything like a wormhole it could by shifting and changing. We could enter and come out on the other side of the Universe from wherever they are, even if they are in the Universe which..." Reece's voice trailed off.

"Is an'a'thin but a sure thing right now, Captain." Keiran finished. He had his apprehensions, but no hesitation. Wherever she ordered the ship, he would follow.

"Are you telling me we shouldn't go Reece?" Zanh asked.

"Oh heck no, I'm ready to grab the helm and take us in myself. It's just..." Reece sighed.

"He wishes he could tell you for sure we're going to end up where the Alchemy is." Blane said. Reece just whimpered to affirm TC's statement. Zanh moved back to the center of the bridge in front of her Command chair, and she turned expectantly to Rada and Lair.

It felt like their time must surely be up, and her patience had long since run out.

After quietly uttering the final words of a hurried conversation and nodding to one another to confirm their agreement, they approached.

“What have you got?” Liis asked.

“An idea,” Kellyn answered.

“Well, it’s more of a theory,” Rada added.

Liis’ countenance said that she needed much more than either an idea or a theory right now.

“Okay…what is it?”

“We haven’t had much time to study the data,” Rada admitted. “But other than the extremely high levels of tetryon radiation this area of space doesn’t seem to display any unusual properties.”

“Whatever happened to the Alchemy, we think it’s only caused when ship comes into contact with the tetryon field itself,” Kellyn added.

“Grace would have known to stay back from that,” Liis replied, shaking her head.

“It’s not that easy.” Reece span around on his chair and chirped in. “Not with tetryons. They’re very tricky to track with sensors. You can end up on top of them before you even realise it.”

“How does any of this help us?” Liis asked abruptly, how tired she was evident in her speech.

Rada and Kellyn began quickly finishing one another’s sentences in that way engineers were famous for.

“Tetryons are subspace particles,” Rada started. “If we modify the shields to create a large enough subspace field around the ship…”

“At a reverse of the tetryon’s polarity…”

“Then that field would form a barrier to effectively sweep the bulk of them away from an area before the ship reached it.”

“Keeping the area directly around the ship clear.”

“And allowing us to navigate the field relatively safely.”

“How long will this take?” Liis asked.

Rada and Kellyn exchanged a glance.

“That depends how carefully you want to do it,” Rada answered. “We could set the polarity in a minute and that would be reasonably effective, but to fully calibrate the shield generators for the task could take at least an hour.

The looks on everyone’s faces said what they thought of that particular option, especially Reece’s.

“If the Alchemy is bein’ subjected ta radiation at this level, Captain…” Keiran started, not even needing to finish his sentence.

Kellyn and Rada exchanged another glance and both could see they agreed.

“One minute,” Rada said, and before Liis even had time to say ‘Go’ the two engineers already had.

Liis turned quickly back around and began issuing her last minute orders, including instructing sickbay to prepare to treat any radiation exposure that may soon occur.

Finally she turned to Vol.

“Counsellor, when we’re in there we may end up operating basically blind. If that happens then we may have to rely on you to try to locate the Alchemy.”

“Understood, Captain.”

“There, that’s as good as we can get it.” Rada added, clearly wishing they had time to do a lot more.

Liis nodded that she understood, then drew in a deep but entirely uncalming breath.

“Helm, set a course to the Alchemy’s last known coordinates. Ease us in. Very slowly.”

“Taking us in,” Gira replied, as the ship began to move at a crawl; almost seeming to be a physical representation of its reluctance to step a toe in this sea of radiation where so many others had drowned before.

“Entering the field now, Captain.”

“The subspace field’s holding,” Rada called out from the Engineering station as the ship rocked violently to the side.

“It’s not working,” Gira answered. “The helm’s slipping.”

“It is working, partially,” Kellyn answered. “The field’s approximately 98% effective in blocking the radiation.”

“Gira, can you compensate?” Liis asked.

“I don’t think so,” Gira replied, as her hands continued working rapidly to pull the ship under her control, even as it began to shake like a rusty gate in a storm.

“Sensor range is down to a few hundred metres,” Reece reported, doing all he could to try to increase that. “The Alchemy could be right next to us and we wouldn’t see them.”

“Counsellor?” Liis asked, before turning to find Vol appeared to be in physical agony.

“Pain…Captain…” he managed to cringe out as the ship jerked again like it’d just been hit.

“The controls are slipping again,” Gira advised desperately. “I’m trying to compensate but it’s no good.”

“There’s nothing we can do to strengthen the subspace field,” Rada answered before Liis even had the chance to ask.

Liis’ lips passed a Bajoran word that almost none of them had known before, but whose meaning most could easily guess.

“Get us out of here!”

“I’m not even sure which way is out,” Gira objected.

“Red alert!” TC called and the klaxons began to wail.

“Wait, something’s happening!” Reece called. “There’s an opening in the radiation. It’s just big enough for us to fit inside.”

“It could be a trap,” TC warned, knowing that when something seemed too perfect it was because it was.

“We don’t have much choice,” Liis answered. “Gira, take us in!”

Struggling valiantly with the controls, Gira managed to knock the ship further to the side than the corresponding shove from the radiation knocked them the other way as they cruised into this tiny pocket of air in the sea.

Suddenly the shaking stopped.

“Radiation levels are dropping,” Rada announced.

“Sensors are becoming a little clearer,” Reece reported. “It looks like we’re in some sort of corridor in which the radiation has been cleared.”

-=/\=-Zanh Liis O’Sullivan
Commanding Officer
USS Serendipity NCC-2012

Commander Dabin Reece
Chief of Sciences
USS Serendipity NCC-2012

Commander TC Blane
Second Officer
USS Serendipity NCC-2012

Lt. Commander Rada Dengar
Chief Engineering Officer
USS Serendipity NCC-2012

1129: Black Ice

by Dabin Reece and -=/\=- Zanh Liis O’Sullivan
Stardate 101205.19
Two Weeks After The Rise and Fall of Silence

-=USS Serendipity=-


Captain’s log, supplemental.

No rest for the weary.

After repairs and a considerable journey, what has so far been something of a pleasure cruise ends and the real work begins.


We have arrived at an area of space the big wigs at Starfleet have given the dubious nickname "The Quicksand Expanse". A garbled distress signal was recently received in the vicinity, and the USS Kaku informed Command that they were responding.

The ship and its crew have not been heard from since.


Starfleet is hoping the Gateway sensor system shared between the Sera and Alchemy can shed some light on this long mysterious region and the disappearance of the Kaku, only the latest in a series of ships that have vanished in this sector over the last fifty years without a trace.

They want answers as soon as possible, so we've dispatched the Alchemy to immediately begin taking readings and mapping the area.

I have a very bad feeling about this.

-=Bridge=-


Dabin Reece tilted his head to the left as he analyzed the sensor readings coming in through the Gateway. Then he tilted it to the right, hoping they would make more sense when viewed from that angle. They had positioned themselves several million kilometers from what was believed to be the perimeter of this phenomenon, an area mapped out by previous explorations of the region. The Alchemy was off the port bow and moving away steadily, sharing sensor readings as Reece looked for any sort of gap in the information that may indicate a pocket of space where their sensors could not penetrate.

Next to him, Sue Tenney was listening for any repeat of the distress call Starfleet received weeks ago, while Dane Cristiane was doing the same on the Alchemy.

“Anything, Reece?” Zanh asked, as she stared at the small blip on the viewscreen that was the Alchemy.

Dabin had now turned his head completely upside down and had his eyes crossed as he read the sensor data. “No nothing! This is like looking for a needle in a haystack except the haystack is invisible and the needle is made out of hay. All I see is perfectly normal space.”

“Keep listening." Zanh kept her eyes locked on the tiny spec that was the Alchemy, like a parent who had just let their child pedal away on their tricycle towards the end of the street alone for the first time.

"I'm listening, I'm listening. Remember, my baby-mommy is out there, I'm not gonna let anything get past me."

"I needed her at the helm of the Alchemy, Reece. You know for all its tech it's a little ship, and it needs her right now. She's doing the equivalent of driving on winter roads here. One small slip..."

"Don't remind me." Reece went back to his sensors a moment, and Zanh rotated away in her chair, trying to stifle a yawn and conceal it.

"Another late night, Captain?" TC asked as he emerged from the turbolift and took the seat beside her.

Zanh shrugged.

TC leaned nearer, lowering his voice. "You haven't slept well in weeks, Captain,"

"It's a phase." Zanh waved his concern away and turned back toward the viewscreen. "I'm sure in another forty years, it'll be entirely over with."

"Yeah, well it's no wonder you can't sleep. After what happened to you guys while I was on Earth suckin' down Slurpees, I'd have bad dreams too." Reece commented. "The next time I hear that Captain Lindsay is in town, it better be to announce that he and the singing O'Sullivan brothers are starting up the thirty-fifth revival touring company of Celtic Thunder."

"From y'er lips to God's ears, Mister Reece." Keiran O'Sullivan replied, as he exited from the turbolift. He nodded to Zander at the Tactical station, and Zander nodded back, quickly returning his focus to his work. "A word with ya, Captain?"

"Thomas, you have the bridge." Liis rose from her seat and Keiran waited for her to lead the way to her Ready Room before falling into step behind her.

“These readings are unlike anything I’ve ever seen,” Gira Lassiter said nervously. “The helm’s responses are different. It’s like…”

“Like we’re not totally in control here.” Blane said, and with a sigh, he turned back to Reece. “Figure it out, Reece, as quickly as you can. We don’t want to be here a moment longer than we have to.”

-=Ready Room=-

Liis folded her arms and sighed the moment that the doors closed behind them. “What?”

“Whaddaya mean, ‘what’?” Keiran sighed. “Liis, I’ve waited weeks, and you still won’t tell me what’s really goin’ on in that head of yours. You’re not sleeping. You won’t eat. If you keep up like this…”

“I won’t.” She moved toward the replicator, avoiding his eyes. “Kona coffee, hot. Double cream.”

She sipped from the mug and then set it down before finally turning to face him. “I’m sorry. I know I haven’t been in the most talkative mood.”

“No. But you’ve sure cried out enough in your sleep,” he moved closer, and reached out a hand to touch her face with the back of his hand. “Am worried, is all. Just want ya to remember that I’m ready to listen, to an’a’thin’ you have to say.”

Liis closed her eyes, allowing herself just an instant to take in the sensation of his touch. “Soon, I promise. I just…” her eyes rose to meet his now, and she shook her head. “I really don’t want to have to go back to the families of the people on the Kaku and tell them that they’re never coming home. It’s too much like…” her voice trailed off.

“Like what happened with the Zenith.”

She nodded.

“Aye, then we’d better go an’ find ‘em.”

Her eyes took on a grateful expression, and without another word she moved back through the door and climbed the stairs toward her chair.

Keiran picked up her half-empty cup from where she’d left it, and followed.

Blane quickly moved out of the command chair and Liis sat down, gesturing to Keiran that she didn’t want her cup when he tried to hand it to her. He rolled bright blue eyes up toward the ceiling, and then finished the contents himself, in one quick gulp.

“Sue, open a channel to Salvek.”

“Channel open, Captain.”

“Salvek, what’s your status?”

[Our status is the same as previously reported, Captain. We are scanning.]

“Nothing new to report? Not anything at all?”

[Mister Samson has indicated we are approaching an area with greatly increased tetryon readings, but we are having difficulty determining where the increase actually occurs.]

“Well, tell Grace to steer good and clear of…” Zanh began, only to have her words cut off by the sound of the channel closing. She spun toward Tenney. “What happened?”

“Trying to reestablish the channel, Captain…”

“Um, Captain…” Reece suddenly sounded sick to his stomach.

“What?”

“This is bad.”

-=USS Alchemy=-

“Captain Zanh will not appreciate us terminating the conversation, Ensign Steele. What happened?”

“I don’t know, Sir. Trying to reestablish communications with the Serendipity.”

“Micah,” February Grace’s voice rose anxiously as her hands began moving more quickly over the helm controls.

“Hold on, I’m …” Samson replied, as he too began working frantically to take in the sudden spike in data coming into his station.

“Micah, I need to know!” Grace shouted, an uncharacteristic action for her, but one totally justified by what happened next.

The ship lurched and heaved, and all those standing were knocked to the deck by the violence of the change in direction.

“Report!” Salvek demanded, attempting to get to his feet.

“Inertial dampeners are offline!” Dane hollered over the red alert klaxons.

“Helm is unresponsive!” Grace added, “We’re going down.”

“Down where?” Salvek called, trying his best to hold onto the command chair after battling his way back into it.

“That planet that just appeared from absolutely nowhere.” Micah yelled.

“Black ice…” February said, trying her best to wrestle back control of the ship, but it was no use. “Just like black ice back at home. The kind you can’t see on the road until it’s too…”

^Warning. Warp Drive is offline,^ the computer informed emotionlessly.

“How long?” Salvek shouted.

”Sixty seconds!” Samson answered.

February felt all emotion drain out of her as she imagined the possibility that she was about to leave Dabin, and Sophie to live a life without her…

“All hands, brace for impact!” Salvek called out over the ship-wide address system. “Brace! Brace! Brace!”

-=USS Serendipity=-

“What do you mean, you can’t find them?” Zanh Liis jumped out of her seat and rushed from Tactical to the Science station. Keiran stood just over her shoulder, taking in the readings as well.

“I…” Reece stammered. “I don’t know. They just disappeared!”

Zanh snapped her head around to look a Vol Tryst. The Counselor just shook his head slowly. “Sorry, Captain. I can’t sense anything around this ship. They were there, but like Reece said… they just vanished.”

“Like the Kaku…” Gira whispered, “Or the Zenith…”

Zanh Liis growled, audibly. “Oh no, Lassiter, NOT just like the Zenith, and NOT like the Kaku, either..” She spun on her heel and turned back toward Keiran, and Zander as she slapped her combadge. "Bridge to Dengar! Get up here! Bring Lair with you!"

[Acknowledged.]

Liis' eyes darted from person to person on the bridge. "There’s got to be a way we can reinforce the shields and go in after them.”

The command crew stared intensely at Zanh, disbelieving what she was saying.

“You heard me! We’re going in after them, unless you can find them and bring them back from here. So unless you want to try swimming in the quicksand, I’d suggest you all get back to work. Go!”


---

Commander Dabin Reece
Chief of Sciences
USS Serendipity NCC-2012
and

-=/\=-Zanh Liis O’Sullivan
Commanding Officer
USS Serendipity NCC-2012

1128: The Rise and Fall of Silence

by William Lindsay and -=/\=-Keiran O'Sullivan
Stardate 101201.12
Soundtrack: Brothers in Arms, as recorded by Celtic Thunder, featuring Ryan Kelly
During and after Here, There, and Everywhere

-=/\=-

-=The O'Sullivan Residence=-

The previous murmurs of conversation were all but inaudible now. The farther their steps drew them from the porch, the more the silence between the two men became painfully obvious.

It was not one of their usual, comfortable silences; the simple kind that partners in work and the closest of friends can share and exist in and find it restorative. Instead this was the most difficult and painful variety. It was that silence that settles like a dense fog between two people wrestling tiredly with emotions they'd rather not deal with at all. It was the kind that can sink a friendship, no matter how strong, straight to the bottom of the ocean if someone didn't find the courage to first attempt to break it.

As stubborn as both men could be, neither one of them was willing quite yet to make that first sacrifice of pride. The only sound that filled the air was the pattern of their footfalls, as boots again and again struck the soft Cork ground.

They walked side by side, step by step, but neither man looked over to see the other’s face. Keiran’s eyes looked dead forward, occasionally falling to watch his feet strike the ground, but his mind was clearly far away.

Will glanced around the surrounding land a few times but ultimately his eyes never strayed far from the area directly in front of them.

Will only stopped to look around again as O'Sullivan paused to take in the view of the house in the distance. Just barely, Keiran's eyes could make out Liis' shadow as the porch light shone down upon her. If he focused very carefully, he could see her earring glinting in the light and, as she reached up to twist the chain of it, the refracted colors emanating from the facets of the stones in her wedding band.

He had no doubt that she was the single reason that Will had come to dinner tonight- had to be, because Keiran had never invited him.

As difficult as it would have been, a large part of him, perhaps the best part of him, still felt guilty about that fact now. Here he'd opened his home to the crew of the Sera, specifically those of the command crew; those who were family, this night. Yet he'd neglected to include the man who was closer than his family could ever be- that troubled, wayward younger-brother figure that he could never quite figure out if he wanted to protect or strangle with his own two hands.

That choice however would have to be made later, as that younger man’s patience for this silent walk ran out, and in deference it seemed to the position Keiran had always held in their partnership, he spoke first.

“Tis a beautiful garden ye’ve got here,” Will finally volunteered, though he was unable to hide the effort in his tone.

“Thanks,” Keiran mumbled, not angrily but with the speed of a man not encouraging conversation. He began walking again, slow steps that never changed to the long and rapid strides of which he was so easily capable, suggesting that even if he didn’t want to be here he knew he should be.

“Yeah,” Will muttered tiredly in agreement.

As they continued to walk once more in silence, out the corner of his eye Keiran then glanced over to Will for a second, wondering whether looking at him would feel different this time than all the last. Finding it really didn’t, he quickly returned to looking forwards again.

"Time for a question." Keiran decided, forcing himself to stop walking and truly look William in the eye.

Will simply nodded.

"Are you here of your own accord or did she insist upon it?"

"She asked. She did'na insist."

"Ah." It wasn’t that it was his intention to make this difficult on William, but at the same time he just didn’t know what he expected of him. Keiran let out a deep and sullen sigh. "I know how Liis 'asks' for things. Has a way of gettin' under yer skin and ya just can't say no to her."

"I could've said no to her. Unlike you, O'Sullivan, I'm not under the impression that all the worlds love Zanh Liis. I for one could take her or leave her." For just an instant, the spark returned to Will's eyes, and when it disappeared again it became all too clear to Keiran just how much this past mission; this assignment at TI, had taken out of him.

"You nearly did."

The words were spoken before Keiran could stop himself, and he could tell by the change in Will's posture that they hit harder than any physical blow could have.

"I may not have looked before I leapt, Keiran, and gotten her in deeper than I ever intended, that's true, every word of it. Whatever mistakes in judgment I made, I swear, never in a million years of time linear or otherwise did I ever intend upon leavin' her behind. Not to save my own ass, not to save yours and not to save anyone else's!"

"To save the timeline, then."

"Hey, now." Will raised his hands in a defensive gesture and out of habit, used Keiran's signature 'stop there and not another step' turn of phrase. "She's TI as much as you or I will ever be. She knows that we're expected to give our lives or the lives of those dearest to us to save the timeline. She would have died if that was what it took, and willingly."

"For the timeline, yeah. For Brody's revenge? Hell, no." Keiran folded his arms and gave a truly irritated sigh. “What d’ya want from me, William?"

Will was surprised by the directness of the question, and had to think for a second to really know what to say.

Keiran continued. "Is there somethin' specific, or are ya just here to lecture me on codes of conduct that I taught ya to begin with?”

“I don’t really know what I want,” he answered. “Forgiveness would be nice but I know I’ve no right ta expect ta get it. What I don’t want though is fer things ta be like this between us forever.”

The suddenly new expression on Keiran’s face, reflective and almost absent, said that he didn’t want that any more than Will did. He just wasn’t sure how to change things back.

“Forgiveness is a fine thing,” Keiran acknowledged. “I know yeh don’t believe in it, but I was always taught the Lord can forgive us any sin. God knows I’ve been glad many times mehself ta know that’s true.”

“Well, maybe the book makes some good points now and then,” Will offered with as much respect as he could ever muster for Keiran’s faith, though it was clear that Keiran couldn’t simply change how he felt no matter the book that said he should. He opened his mouth to make a flip remark about how maybe he should retrieve the copy Keiran had given him as a gift years before from beneath the wobbly coffee table where it balanced out uneven legs, but quickly bit the words back, thinking he liked his teeth in his mouth and knowing Keiran was beyond the end of his patience already.

“I know I’m no saint, William,” Keiran muttered, shuffling his massive weight from foot to foot as his boots began to leave indentations in the soil below. “I do want to forgive ya, but it’s just it’s not as easy as it ought ta be.”

There was a pause as Will wondered whether there was even any point in asking the next question.

“Why’s that?” Will finally said, with neither anger nor curiosity but with simply acceptance that he wouldn’t be able to change it even knowing the reason. "Why is this time any different from before?"

“Deciding on forgiveness is easy. Something they never really covered in Sunday services was how you were supposed to make the anger go away. Men tryin' to follow the example led by Christ are supposed to be better than that. Better than this. I swear, I could be, if it were different. I'd keep turning the other cheek until Kingdom come. But she...what this did to her.” He exhaled sharply. "I'm angry at you, William. Am really, really angry and I don' know just how ta let go of it."

Despite the tone of Keiran's voice, Will's mood lightened for the moment. He knew O'Sullivan could never hang on to anger very long. Bitterness had been another thing, but the Irishman's anger usually burned hot and fast and then soon dissipated. "Ya know, this isn’t the first time I’ve done something ta really piss you off.”

“I know that ta be sure,” Keiran answered. For merely a second a slight smile crept to his lips, before falling completely away to leave only his previous unhappy expression. He looked down at the ring upon his left hand and then back to the house, and Will knew the reason that he was having such a hard time this time around. It wasn't that he had to forgive Will now for anything he'd done to him, it was the pain and suffering Will's decisions had caused Liis that Keiran still fought with.

"It’s different this time,” Will finished the thought without Keiran even having to.

“Is always different with Liis. You know that.” Keiran rotated now, head, shoulders, then his entire form, at last, toward the man who, aside from Liis, had been for years his closest friend and confidant. "She's tough, is true. She's been through things that leave grizzled old soldiers cringing and sick ta their stomachs to hear about. But she has a limit, William. She can be broken, and you and I have both seen how close Brody brought her to that. If you'd told me, or her...if we'd known-"

"Aye I know, Keiran. For all it’s worth I really am sorry." Will's expression was devoid of any sense of irony or sarcasm now- he was entirely sincere. "If I could turn back the hands and do it over, I would, you know that. But I can't. So I'm askin', if I told you that, upon my word, I'd never let anything like it happen again, then, do you think that in time you might find your way to look me in the eye and shake my hand just the same as you've always done?"

Keiran stared at him, unflinching, as he considered. After a moment his eyes flashed from rage to sorrow and he closed them as in that instant he relived, not at all by choice, many of the times they'd saved each other's lives, fought with each other and for each other, and always managed to come out of any struggle closer friends than they'd been before.

Will seemed to read his mind, and spoke to the memories playing out in it. "Am not askin' for any favor based upon anything we've been through in the past," he clarified. "I'm not askin' for it today. Not even a year from now. Hell, I know it's gonna take a long time before you can look at me and see anything but the interior of that holosuite on the Poseidon, and Liis suffering in it." He looked away now, struggling against things he did not care to even stop pretending weren’t there.

"If you want'ta know the truth of it, Keiran, is gonna be a long time before I look in the mirror without seeing that, myself." He let his words sink in before going on. "I have no right to expect your forgiveness, and if it turns out that you can't give it at all, is not gonna change the way I look at you. You're the best man I've ever known, Keiran. Even if I can't have your friendship now, am willin' to wait for it."

Keiran shivered suddenly, and as he looked back toward the house he saw the last of the shadows surrounding Liis fade away in the haze of a transporter. It was getting late, and he hadn't really had a single chance to talk to her since she'd been back to Medical. He was anxious for this to be over, just as he knew Lindsay was. Though he knew himself better than to believe that it would be completely over tonight or even in the days immediately to come, he also knew that he'd hate himself if it never ended at all.

He started walking back towards the house without saying another word, and William dutifully followed.

Just before they reached earshot, Keiran spun on him. "You're leavin', on a Jump. Aren't you?"

Will nodded. "Jonas is back, Keiran, that's my cue. There's a ship waiting for me."

Keiran blinked. "Soon?"

"Yeah. Soon."

Keiran reserved his reaction about Jonas Vox' return to the director's chair for another time, and focused on the man before him. "You're gonna come back to us in one piece, aren't ya?" He said, with just enough of a pause before he spoke the words to confirm he really meant any concern that could be read into them.

At hearing the question, Will's shoulders finally relaxed. "Aye, I am." He didn't give Keiran his trademark, wise-ass grin now, but his eyes did light up with the mischief of which only he was truly capable. "I rather like all my parts where they are. I'd hate to disappoint all the ladies waitin' upon my return to this timeline."

Keiran turned an about face and continued to walk, a slight worried smile on his face in the knowledge that he didn’t know whether it was a good or a bad thing that Will never seemed to change. They reached the foot of the porch and Liis slowly descended the steps to meet them. Both men inclined their heads toward her in greeting.

"Gentlemen." She folded her arms and rocked her weight from her heels to her toes. "Have a nice chat?"

"Yeah." Keiran said, his eyes unable to leave her face for a moment now to look at anything else. "Did. William?"

"We did at that. Now, I," he stepped closer to Liis and offered his hand. "I'd best be goin'. You know how I feel about early mornings."

"Yes. Like me, you prefer to hear from others how they went after they're over." Liis finally looked at Will directly, and then she did something neither man was expecting.

When she took his hand, she pulled him closer and clasped him into a hug. She held on for a long moment and when she drew back, she placed a quick kiss upon his cheek. When she drew back, tears glimmered in her eyes but did not fall. "Safe journeys, William."

Unsure what he should do or say, Will simply nodded. "You too, Captain." He turned then and looked at O'Sullivan. Very slowly, he extended his hand. "Keiran."

"William." Keiran grasped on, and shook it once, firmly. "I don't have my compass an'a'more, mind? Can't come and bail you out this time."

“Aye,” Will acknowledged, with an understanding in his eyes that Keiran found truly surprising. “I know ye’ve other things that ya need ta be doin’ anyway.”

Keiran could tell that in his own way, Will was supporting his attitude that the timeline and all else in it could be damned before Liis ever became any less than his top priority. Feeling her hand now tightly grasping his, Keiran realised Liis could tell that too.

“Besides,” Will added, a smile creeping onto his features, “the trouble ya get into when yer getting yerself outta trouble is often when you have the most fun.”

“Mind you don’t have too much fun, yeah?”

The smirk now thoroughly settled onto Will’s face. “And you mind you don’t have too little. Otherwise I might have ta come back ta make things interestin’ again.”

The look between both men’s eyes said that for however things may have been between them now, they both hoped they would be seeing one another again soon. Liis squeezed Keiran’s hand tighter again, as if to say that in her opinion they would.

“Lindsay to Vanguard,” Will said, finally hailing the vessel in orbit. “Beam me up.”

The moment the last of Will's transporter signature faded, Keiran immediately grasped hold of Liis, once again pulling her into his arms and holding her so tight that her feet no longer touched the ground.

Captain William Lindsay
USS Vanguard
Temporal Investigations

and

-=/\=- Keiran O'Sullivan
Security Liaison for The Alchemy Project
Stationed aboard the USS Serendipity NCC-2012

1127: Here, There, and Everywhere

by TC Blane and Zanh Liis
Stardate 101204.19
Following Constant Beauty

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

“Liisy better hurry home or she’s gonna miss her entire shindig.” Dabin Reece said, settling back onto the porch swing and planting his feet onto the ground. He set the swing into motion and February’s eyes begged mercy.

“Ugh. No moving. Ate too much.” She rested her hand on her stomach as her feet hit the ground and she stopped their forward motion.

“Me too.”

“You two look about as overstuffed as Mama’s Thanksgivin’ turkey.” Dalton McKay said. He, of course, hadn’t needed to eat anything but he was happy to put his mobile emitter to good use tonight. Rarely did he get the chance to observe the crew interacting in such a relaxed setting, and he made mental notes on the appearance and mental status of each member of the command crew and found, for all they’d been through, that they seemed to be in pretty good shape overall.

With two obvious exceptions, women both obviously missing from the event: Landry Steele, and the Captain, herself.

“It’s getting late, and poor Fleur has been on tot-squatting duty for a long time. We really should go up there and liberate her.” Dabin said.

“And return her Vedek to her.” February added. “Where did Jariel get to, anyway?”

“Last I saw, he was holed up in a corner in the Captain’s office with Kellyn.” Dane volunteered. “Looked like they were deep in conversation so I didn’t interrupt to tell them that the party was starting to break up.”

“Yeah.” February slowly rose from the swing. “It really is getting late, do you suppose we’d get into too much trouble if we,”

“No, Bubbles. By all means, go home,” a low and weary female voice now spoke and all heads turned in the direction it issued from.

“Captain, I didn’t mean to sound like-“ Bru stammered. For some reason, to this day being in Zanh’s presence, especially in social settings where she was already out of her element, unnerved her.

“Go home, Bru. Take him with you.” She jerked her head toward Reece, who sprinted with surprisingly renewed energy to her side.

“Liisy, if I didn’t know you loved me so much I’d take that as an insult.” He leaned forward and did something few people in the universe could get away with. He gave her a peck on the cheek, and she almost, but not truly, smiled.

“Go before I change my mind and put you on clean-up duty.”

“Laters!.” Dabin took Bru’s hand and the two of them wandered down the porch steps, and soon disappeared in the glow of the transporter beam.

“I…think I’ll see if Gira needs help in the kitchen.” Dane said. “She had volunteered to help with clean-up duty, last I checked.”

“Don’t ‘help’ her too much, Cristiane.” Zanh warned.

Dane nodded to her and gave a half smile. He moved toward the door and as he grasped the handle in his fingers, he turned back to her. He never would have admitted this six months ago, and a year ago he’d have laughed at the very notion- but yet, he found he was really glad to see that she appeared to still be in one piece.

“You have something to say, Dane?” Zanh asked, slowly lifting leaden feet up the steps one at a time.

“Just…glad you’re back, Sir.” Dane replied, and then he moved on before he could see her reaction.

“Boy has grown a hell of a lot in the past year.” Dalton observed.

“Been a hell of a year for us all.” Liis replied, rubbing weary eyes. “Everyone else gone back?”

“Crowd’s thinned out like a bad comb-over, that’s for sure.” McKay replied. “Commander O’Sullivan said-“

“It’s okay, Dalton. I know how late I am. I didn’t expect them to wait on me all night. I’ll…owe everyone an apology and a make-up party on the holodeck at the Adventurer’s Club when we’re in a more…festive mood.”

“How is your mood, Captain?” McKay asked, not really needing her to answer.

“Go home, Dalton.”

“Aye, Sir.” In a moment he too, was gone.

The door to the house flew open just as Liis was about to grab for the handle, and she jumped back, startled. “Liis,” Keiran rushed forward and wrapped his arms around her, squeezing her so tightly her boots left the porch. He set her down and drew back only long enough to look her in the eyes.

When he saw the expression there, he immediately took a step backward. Her eyes spoke words that her lips couldn’t currently form- and they were asking him to give her a little time to process all she’d seen and been through this day. She couldn’t risk showing her real reaction in front of everyone that remained here, and so he knew patience was the wisest path to take.

“Look who’s here.” William Lindsay stepped out of the house behind Keiran and gave Liis a wink. “We were just about to take a walk around the grounds. Care to join us?” Will offered, knowing she’d decline.

“You two go ahead.”

“Won’t be gone long, yeah?” Keiran leaned forward and placed a kiss on her forehead, and Liis nodded.

“Cristiane, keep those hands where I can see them otherwise I will use my good arm to dismantle you limb from limb.” Another male voice spoke up from the house now, and TC Blane emerged. He read Zanh’s expression in an instant and nodded to her. “Captain.”

“Thomas.”

“Well, c’mon, Keiran. Let’s go.” Will gestured toward the steps, and Keiran reluctantly followed him, casting a single glance back at his wife.

“Right, then.”

TC ducked back into the house and returned a moment later with a hot cup of coffee in his good hand. “Double cream,” he said, handing the mug over to Zanh.

“Commander, I’d promote you again but there’s nowhere left to put you but my chair.”

TC’s eyes sparkled, but he said nothing.

“Seems to me,” Zanh lowered her weary body down onto the swing and held it still so Blane could join her. “You’ve spent a good deal of time in that chair lately. How did you like it?”

TC thought for a moment before responding. "It's a little too comfy for me, and not enough lumbar support."

“Tell me about it, I have to have somebody look into that. Seriously though, you did a fine job, Thomas. Believe it or not, you got a glowing report to Starfleet from someone you’d likely least expect.”

“Oh? Who would that be?”

“Captain Lindsay.”

TC simply grunted. He was shocked but he refused to show it.

“So TI isn’t so bad after all.” Liis sipped from the mug and was surprised how bitter the contents tasted to her tonight. Maybe it was still the lingering impression of the place where she’d spent the better part of her day, poisoning everything she tried to take in to rid herself of the sights, sounds and smells.

“Captain,” TC began, rubbing his chin thoughtfully where the shadow of five o’clock stubble had begun to form.

“Don’t.” Liis’ warned, putting the cup to her lips again and gulping down the liquid so quickly her eyes began to water and her throat stung. “Please.”

TC looked down at his boots and clicked his teeth together in an obvious attempt to resist asking the questions that his soul told him to ask of his captain, his friend.

“I seem to remember once, in a location not too far away from here, you had me cornered at a table in that pub and I wasn’t in a talking mood. Someone wouldn’t take no for an answer.”

“Someone didn’t want me to take no for an answer,” she observed, setting the empty mug aside. “Not really.”

“And you do?”

Her eyes slowly rose to meet his, and she half nodded, half shook her head.

“Could you be a little more evasive, please?”

“House of cards, Thomas,” she said softly, reaching up and twisting the chain of her earring. “Take one away, they all fall down.”

“You know you can’t run from this forever. Eventually you’re going to have to talk to someone. Or the Counselor…”

“Ah, the Counselor.” Liis’ lip curled up at the corner. “Looks like I managed to dodge him tonight. I know I won’t be so lucky come the morning.”

“So why not start now?” TC asked. “Why not test-pilot what you’re going to say on someone with a foolproof bullshit detector?”

“And the Betazoid doesn’t have one?”

Blane laughed, a rare, deep laugh. “I’d go head to head with him in a Zanh Liis mind-reading contest any day of the week and twice on Sunday.”

“That’s a meeting of the minds I’d love to see. But why don’t you do something challenging, like try to read Salvek instead?”

“Why would you say Salvek is more of a challenge?”

“Hello? Vulcan.”

“Yes. Vulcan.” TC looked at her sideways. “Male, and Vulcan. Pretty much an open book. Bajoran women, however…”

“Tread lightly, Thomas. Very, very lightly.”

He laughed more deeply now, but then his eyes took on a new and more vibrant intensity. “If nothing else, you have to talk to Keiran. The man is…” TC shook his head, his eyes following off into the distance along the path that O’Sullivan and Lindsay had taken. “All night, he had his eyes on the horizon, no matter what was going on around him his mind was clearly otherwise engaged.”

“I really pity that man.” Liis shook her head and her earring jingled. “I wouldn’t wish his lot on anyone.”

TC grew silent for a moment thinking of another conversation with his captain not that long ago and wondered if it would indeed be such a bad thing. Sure, at times he could understand the liability of such an emotional attachment, in fact he had convinced himself on several occasions of how much of a liability it was. But now, as he continued to age...

He shook his head and returned back to the matter at hand.

“It’s becoming clear to me,” Blane said, slowly rising from the swing, “that you’re really not in the mood to talk much tonight, are you?”

“No.”

“Well, then I suppose there’s no point in badgering you any more, and I had better go get Cristiane out of your kitchen before he…well.” He shook his head. “That kid is hormones with legs attached.”

“At his age, can you blame him?” Liis asked, suddenly feeling very, very old.

“No but I can’t trust him either.” Blane gave her a grin, and nodded. “Goodnight, Captain.”

“Goodnight, Thomas.” As he walked away, she held up a hand and called him back.

He turned and tilted his head, waiting.

“Target practice tomorrow? Holodeck two?”

Blane chuckled. "You must be feeling better. Sure, five credits a target?"

"Very well. Best of five rounds. Loser has to walk the winner's dog for a week."

---

Commander TC Blane
Second Officer
USS Serendipity NCC-2012

and

-=/\=- Zanh Liis O'Sullivan
Commanding Officer
USS Serendipity NCC-2012

1126: A Wonderful World

by Rada Dengar
101128.2200
After Constant Beauty

-=A turbolift, USS Serendipity=-


Having beamed back on board the Serendipity, Rada naturally had only one place he wanted to be. That place was at Wren’s side and he wasted no time in ordering the turbolift to take him there. As it arrived on her floor however he stopped, immediately remembering that there was somewhere he wanted to stop off first and something he wanted to collect.

“Main Engineering.”

As anxious as he was to get to see her, Rada wasn’t complaining about this slight delay. In fact as the turbolift drew him back to his Engineering department, he wasn’t complaining about anything. As the door parted, once again immersing him in the beautiful sounds of a functioning warp core, he actually drew in a slight breath in awe of its magnificence.

Whereas his previous pace had been a hurried one, stepping inward his steps were slow as his hand passed along the smooth texture of the wall, just proving to himself this was real. As he felt that it was, and saw that he really had returned, he couldn’t prevent the joy from flooding his features.

In this moment, he felt like he could out-smile Jamie Halliday, though he still thought it was better not to try. It’d require bearing a lot of teeth at one another in a way that he’d often seen Klingons doing as a preparation to mating. It’d be just his luck that a Klingon officer who’d been recently transferred over would just see that, then ever so casually comment to the Captain how he’d been flirting with his officers and seemed to be very much enjoying it.

In ship’s time, much as with Cork’s, it was late here and wonderfully quiet, so Rada was able to take his time moving towards his office without anyone noticing he was there. So he continued moving slowly, his eyes moving backwards and forwards just taking this all in, like he was seeing it all for the first time.

Finally arriving at his office door he ordered it to open, finding to his luck that had there been any order to prevent his access it must have been revoked already, as it slid open and let him in.

He didn’t bother to call for the light. He once again moved with purpose, now towards his desk. Then his smile almost seemed to double as he pulled open the top left hand drawer, to find the item he was looking for was exactly where he’d left it.

Not even realising he was doing it, Rada actually found himself singing a very old song he’d recently heard when he was on Earth, as he examined the item in his hands.

“I see trees of green…Red roses too. I see them bloom, for me and you...”

He chuckled slightly to himself, thinking about how unlike him singing this song was. He knew his voice wasn’t nearly deep enough to do it justice but he really didn’t care. Being back here was so intoxicating it was like being drunk, except without the inevitable fear that you’d be called upon to repair the shields in a crucial moment and end up being sick on them instead.

The item in his hands was really just a small trinket and probably wouldn’t mean a thing to most. In fact for an unfortunate amount of time it didn’t mean a thing to him. It was just an utterly insignificant golden coloured metal ball whose top was similar to a bottle cap. It was used as part of a join in many of the areas when power conduits need to be redirected and there were probably hundreds if not thousand on board the ship exactly like it.

This one however was special. Tam had given him this one. One day they spent together the boy had discovered it lying around on the deck, and he’d decided that it looked like a really small trophy. He then proceeded to hand it to Rada, explaining that it was a trophy for the best day ever.

Since then, though Tam probably didn’t even know this, Rada had taken to keeping it in his quarter by his bed. Only when he came across it after losing his memories he forgot what it meant, and so he brought it Engineering intending to put it to use when it was required. Somehow he never thought to mix it in with all the rest though and now he was very glad he hadn’t.

Slipping it into his coat pocket, he was about to leave when he noticed a single PADD that had been placed on the desk in his absence. Figuring he should just take a look to make sure there’s nothing here that can’t be handled later, he eased himself back into his chair.

Then he moved about, finding the most comfortable position, and that position was exactly where it’d always been.

Leaning backwards, again the emotion flooded his face.

He had no idea how much he’d missed this chair.

Maybe it was just how he was feeling today, but it really did feel like one of the most comfortable chairs in all the worlds. It was the type of chair that was so comfortable that you felt like it deserved a chair of its own, then genuinely considered trying to sit it on top of one, before you realised that if someone walked in they may conclude you were some sort of megalomaniacal madman, attempting to assert your superiority with a flimsy self-made double throne. Worst of all, given it would have probably quickly fallen over that would likely have reflected badly on his engineering abilities, and not just his general intentions regarding galactic conquest.

Content to not conquer anyone right now, Rada picked up the PADD and began to read what id displayed. As he slowly took in the reports of the damage the Sera had undergone in his absence, his eyes widened in concern.

It was that sort of fear born of an impossible hypothesis that dug into your very core with bladed manifestations of what almost could have been. This ship had undergone such damage and been at such risk that he was certain if only he’d been there; were it just for that one small turn of fate, then he’d have beamed up to discover everyone was dead, and himself as well.

He was very relieved that hadn’t happened. Forgetting about everyone else, just coming across your own corpse really had a rather disconcerting quality to it, and it could be just generally disappointing as well. Luckily Rada was very much alive today and he truly appreciated that fact.

Well, he had to appreciate it now. A wise man had once told him you could tell the people who left appreciating life until after they were dead because they’re the ones in the coffins complaining.

Drawing in a deep breath, Rada simply considered how amazing his life really was. He was so happy he didn’t even think about the risk of finding himself in a coffin while he was still alive, though he had thought of it often before.

Of course, he would never accuse a member of the medical profession of acting improperly, but the fact did remain that when you were misdiagnosed as dead they tended to beam you into space or shoot you into a star, which does rather make the misdiagnosis part a little moot. Yet historically speaking misdiagnosing someone as alive and sending them back on duty had almost never had the equivalent effect. Mostly you just got a reputation for being lazy.

It wasn’t that Rada thought it was a particularly likely this would happen to him. Most of the ways he feared he would die didn’t involve a whole lot of chance for misdiagnosis, unless amputation from the neck up could be mistaken for a really bad head cold. Even still, unless and until his head had actually been cut off, he’d rather his doctor err on the side of caution.

Though he’d like to think otherwise, he had to admit that assuming he were buried alive then he probably would be one of the ones complaining. However assuming he were dead, then he was confident that they wouldn’t hear a peep out of him. When it came to appreciating life he certainly didn’t plan on waiting.

For as comfortable as this chair was, and it really was so comfortable that he swore he could never let Commander Reece sit in it lest it go the way of Kellyn’s Kava rock candy, there was some place that he’d much rather be.

Just once more while he was still here he smiled and let out a little laugh, looking around and remembering this really was his life.

Quickly placing the PADD back down on his desk, and patting his pocket to confirm the required item was still contained there, Rada rose from his chair.

Then just softly as he walked, he once again continued to sing.

“And I think to myself, what a wonderful world…”

Lt. Commander Rada Dengar
Chief Engineering Officer
USS Serendipity NCC-2012

1125: Constant Beauty

by Rada Dengar
101109.2200
After Nothing Left Unsaid

-=O’Sullivan Residence: County Cork, Ireland, Earth=-


It was quiet in County Cork tonight, save only for the crackling beat of the flame that danced before his eyes. It was not a sad sort of a quiet that seemed to have overcome the rest of the world, but merely a subdued one. There were faint murmurs of personal conversation that travelled far on the stillness of the air. Every so often you could even hear a little laughter, which somehow always achieved a greater volume than the joke that had inspired it. It wasn’t really loud laughter though.

This was the type of night where those willing and able to listen could really hear how Mother Nature felt. Tonight, she was in a quiet mood too. There was only the odd distant sound of the local animals; Rada lacked the experience to say exactly which ones, but they weren’t the sounds of animals in conflict. They were just all tending to the communicative matters of their daily lives. Rada meanwhile tended the fire.

There really wasn’t much to do with it. A sufficiently large branch at its core ensured it’d burn well into the night, regardless of their involvement. A log had been placed here nearby which he was using as a makeshift seat. To his left and just behind it, he placed a cup of water. To his right a pristinely kept wooden handled rake rested against a nearby wooden stump and every now and then Rada would use it to sweep stray embers into the centre to keep the flame neatly contained.

Throughout the evening many people had and would keep an eye on it and now Rada took his turn. It gave him an excuse to be alone, to just appreciate the moment, after others had earlier left the fire for more comfortable positions to be seated while they dined.

It wasn’t that he wanted to be alone because he was sad. It was true that he was worried about Kellyn but that was an area in which he knew he’d just have to wait. It was just that for so long his mind had been clouded and muddied by mistakes in his memories; which he knew he had to sort through still, that now it was finally as clear as the sweetly natural air around them he had a lot of thinking to catch up on.

Perhaps he should have been pondering the great mysteries of existence, or his place in the vast galaxy. Tonight however he found himself simply admiring the continued waltz of the flame.

At first, he didn’t even notice the footsteps on the soft ground of the approaching Keiran O’Sullivan, here to check that everything was alright. When he finally arrived though, Rada did not startle. Here merely turned his head to look upward to speak, revealing an understated but content smile.

“It’s beautiful, isn’t it sir?”

“The countryside, yeah?” Keiran asked, questioning what Rada had meant.

“The land is beautiful,” Rada acknowledged. “However I was referring to the flame.”

“’Tis warm,” Keiran mused as he lowered himself onto the log next to Rada. “Will be very welcome as the air begins ta cool down. Though I get the feelin’ that’s not what ya meant.”

Rada shook his head, still just smiling almost in awe of what he was seeing.

“It’s beautiful because it’s constant, Commander. I’m so very far away from where my life began. I look to the ground here and it is not the grass that as a child I felt between my toes. I look up at the sky and through the clouds, but those are not my stars. However no matter who you are or how far you’ve come, given the right atmosphere and some good wood, fires always burn the same.”

Keiran studied Rada, wondering where he was going with this.

Rada at the same time found himself truly taking in every aspect of the fire. The gentle crackling of the wood, those eternal elegant games of the light; the same flame belonged to all who saw her. He didn’t know how anyone, including himself in the past, could fail to observe just how beautiful that was.

“I know I miss this land when I’m away,” Keiran thought, though it was less a matter of grass and soil and more of the less tangible things that he could find here. “Are you wantin’ to stand on Angosian soil again?”

Rada thought about the possibility for a moment.

“No, sir,” Rada answered truthfully. “I’m just remembering it.”

Angosia III may have had his grass and his stars, but it was not his home to miss anymore. His home was up in orbit, wherever Wren and Tam may at this moment have been. So his homeworld, with all its wonders and follies, was an experience not so much missed as it was simply recalled.

“I recall that things were simpler there.”

Keiran was a man who could appreciate many of the good things in life being no more complicated than they needed to be and he nodded that he understood.

“Sometimes simplicity can be something ya miss on its own.”

The older he got, the more Keiran realised that statement was true.

“Yes, but not always. I remember something one of my lecturers at the academy once asked us. He was a small man but one with a booming voice and a very large presence in a room. It was late in the day and a lot of people’s minds had started to drift away the lecture. Realising this, he stopped and asked us a question to try to wake us up. He asked us if we knew what you got when you started taking apart a warp core. First you strip away the casings, the regulators and the controls. Then you tear out the housing for the dilithium crystals and drain the antimatter away…” Rada smiled a little and turned to Keiran again. “Do you know what you get at the end?”

Keiran thought about the remaining components for a moment then shook his head that he didn’t.

“Stranded,” Rada answered with a slight further curl of his lips.

Keiran laughed softly, more from surprise than anything else. He couldn’t recall Rada ever telling a joke with him before.

“I know you should never trade away the things that really make the difference in life for simplicity,” Rada explained.

“A wise way ta think about it,” Keiran added.

Rada neither agreed nor disagreed with the statement. He didn’t consider himself wise, but it was something to aspire to. He knew that he worried a bit too much more than a lot too much. In fact to be honest he had considered three times in the last two minutes the possibility that he’d be blamed if a stray ember somehow travelled the impossible distance and defied all laws of thermodynamics to burn down the Captain’s house. It was however a serious concern as unless this bizarre hypothetical perversion of natural laws somehow followed to physical force and just general fighting ability then in a conflict with Keiran O’Sullivan he was at a bit of a disadvantage.

He also knew he probably shouldn’t need to hide his personality to survive when he was in trouble, and that even if he did then requiring a toffee or indeed any other small treat was probably not the most adult way to go about it. Even still as he thought about it, after he’d lost and regained his memories, he liked himself better than he used to before it.

“I feel I should thank you, sir,” Rada said, picking up his drink from beside him, which had warmed quite a bit itself, and drinking a few mouthfuls to try to restore some of the liquids the fire was taking out of him.

“Thank me fer what, lad?” Keiran asked curiously.

“On Sibalt,” Rada started quietly, for the first time the smile really leaving his face completely. “We were sitting by a fire like this and you tried to help me. I couldn’t see it for what it was at the time, or to understand how hard it must have been. Now I do though.” Rada sighed, though it wasn’t really a sad sigh. “I think there’ll be a lot of people in this crew I owe thanks to.”

With everything he’d been through before and since, Keiran was surprised that Rada would even remember let alone think of that conversation they’d had.

“Don’t worry about thanks, yeah?” Keiran suggested, though he appreciated that Rada was not the type to easily forget his gratitude. “Ev’ra’one will just be glad ta see you back at yer post.”

“I have to worry about it, sir,” Rada answered, the smile returning to his voice if not his face. “I haven’t worried nearly enough recently.”

Keiran ran over the last sentence in his mind, wondering just how he should take it.

“What d’ya mean by that?”

“It’s just something I’ve realised recently, sir. I can’t speak for everyone but worrying; really worrying about something going wrong, is what I do when I’m happy.”

Keiran thought about the statement and first it seemed a little strange and a little sad, until he really thought about it again.

“I think I know what yer sayin’. ‘Tis like havin’ a child. One of the happiest experiences of your life but ya never again fall asleep without wantin’ ta be sure they’re alright.”

Rada could certainly relate to that. It was a curious and beautifully natural thing how even having seen that Tam was absolutely fine before he ever heard the news that anything had happened while he was gone, he still worried for him in retrospect.

“It’s sort of like falling in love,” Rada thought aloud, an expression halfway between sadness and amusement crossing his face. He remembered all too recently thinking of the Captain and Keiran and wishing he had what they did. All along it’d been right there just waiting for him to remember it.

“A lot like it,” Keiran agreed, his own concern for his wife surfacing now. He and Rada were very different people, as were Liis and Wren, but the effect love had was something they could all agree on. “Fire’s not the only thing that’s the same no matter how far y’ve come.”

Rada finished off the contents of his drink and put the cup down again where it’d been.

“Nor is it the only thing that is beautiful,” Rada acknowledged, thinking that for all that he still saw in the flame he was spending far too much time appreciating one of the relatively paler beauties in existence. He turned again to look towards Keiran. “Would you mind, sir, if I left to go back to the ship a little early?”

“Of course not, lad. Is there somethin’ wrong?”

“No, sir,” Rada answered, picking up the cup again and beginning to stand. “There are just some people up there waiting for me.”

Lt. Commander Rada Dengar
Chief Engineering Officer
USS Serendipity NCC-2012

1124: Nothing Left Unsaid

by William Lindsay and -=/\=- Zanh Liis
Soundtrack: So I've Been Told by Ed Harcourt
Stardate: 101111.20
Concurrent With I Do Declare
 
 
-=Starfleet Medical, Behavioral Sciences Wing: Earth=-

 
To say she stepped forward with trepidation would have been the understatement of the millennium.

As a cold wind rushed and whistled its way through the empty courtyard, she found her hands shaking within the pockets of her jacket. No matter how deeply she dug them in, they refused to take on any warmth.

She came this time to Starfleet Medical not as a patient but as a visitor and yet as her feet dragged along the cobblestone path, she swore she felt little difference. No matter the role she was meant to play, the air itself around her still felt haunted. She heard no other footfalls, nor even traffic in the distance. Even the distant trees seemed to barely move with the wind, as if to say that the chill in the air as it skimmed across the nearby water feature was felt by her alone.

She had intentionally come here alone. She had no idea how she was going to react to actually being in this particular location, and she didn’t want anyone near and dear to her to be around to see just how uncertain she was that she could go through with this.

She only felt any semblance of courage stepping forward because she knew that even after one more step, as long as she was still here alone, she could register any sort of reaction that her emotions may demand of her without fear anyone she knew would see and take note of it.
 
If one step turned to ten, now nine, that’s when everything would change.

The doors would activate, sensing her approach.
 
She’d be hit first by the smell, before the sights this place held even began to register.
 
It was something that they were supposed to have overcome by this point in humanoid evolution, she thought, but they had woefully and epically failed.
 
Perhaps they could travel at speeds that to previous incarnations of their kinds would have been impossible and seemed too much to even dream of. Certainly they could initiate first contact with species the universe over, and in most cases make at least a peaceful exchange of hellos and how do you dos.
 
They could not, it seemed, stop a medical building from carrying that same basic stench.
 
Perhaps it was the lingering smell of uneaten food. More likely, it was the fact that they were still also working on ways to force those who were lost inside the prisons of their own minds into a sonic shower on a daily basis. 
Disinfectants had been long since done away with. They were replaced by powerful energy sweeps, capable of killing all damaging bacteria that may come in along with visitors and staff alike. Forcing them to step through a decontamination scanner before they were even allowed into the wards made doubly sure. Still somehow, against all odds the place still had the damned familiar medicinal smell that Liis remembered only all too well.
 
More than that, she remembered the last intangible component to the smell of this place- a thing which no one could ever possibly rid it of.
 
It was fear, and that odor bled from the soul of every person kept here in one way or another, in every tear, every drop of sweat and every blood cell within their bodies. It permeated the patients, the people who were to care for them, and most of all those who came to this place not knowing what to expect when they found the person that they were going to see.
 
For all her experience here, real and then forced into her imagination by way of deception that felt every bit as true, Liis didn’t know what to expect. When she saw the empty, broken man she’d come to see, she didn’t even know how she’d feel.
 
She also didn’t know why she was doing this, and that was the truth. She told herself it was that it was her report and request that had put him here instead of prison and she had to come here to justify to herself why that was. She just had to see that in any singular, small way at all that he was better off here than there. She didn’t know what the hell she was going to do if she couldn’t find it.
 
As she passed step five, she felt a heavy burden upon her shoulders. She realized that he might have somehow regained his senses by this point and been asking to go home. She had to stop herself from forgetting that the last time she’d seen him he’d been screaming to the point of exhausting his voice completely. Shortly before that, he had turned his own weapon upon himself and she’d only just been able to prevent him taking permanent and decisive action to finally end his long suffering.
 
It was only now, as she stood upon the last step of concrete she could occupy before those sensors would kick in and at least the exterior doors of the place opened wide to swallow her up, that she really rethought that decision. Perhaps the most merciful thing she could have done for Brody would have been to let him.

She drew a deep steadying breath into shallow lungs.

She knew she had to see him. She had to know what was still there to see.

So as much as her entire body seemed to fight against her and as her hands still shook at her side, she forced her boot to strike the ground again.

Just as expected, the doors slid open. Just as predicted, the smell enveloped her like a wave that flooded outward.

Now she knew there was no going back and her steps pulled her forwards, until without her knowledge and certainly not with her consent that same door snapped shut behind her.

She was really back here and the beckoning silence of the outer world, was overpowered by the lonely cacophony of doctors deep in discussion as they walked, and the familiar repetitive beeping of some far off life sustaining machinery.

She drew in another balancing breath. Still, she felt she was suffocating. 

Surveying the area, decorated in typical Federation d├ęcor with potted plants that seemed to struggle to survive here, Liis immediately spotted a young woman, a girl really, at the mercy of a line. There was only one reception area and she was the only available member of staff; expected to have an answer for every query and a solution to every complaint.

Seeing no alternative, Liis moved to take her place at the end of that line that was as least a dozen people long. She hated the idea of having to wait any longer here than the minimum time possible.

Yet she couldn’t ignore that she was here. She couldn’t forget the sounds. She couldn’t ignore the smell. So she just made herself concentrate on the painting of a field of flowers positioned on the opposite wall, staring into it, trying her best to distract her mind from the reality of where she was again. She promised herself that as soon as she finished here the welcoming landscape of Cork would surround her, all sights and sounds and fragrances she'd welcome, because they represented home. Most of all she promised herself that a cold empty metal bed did not await her this night, but that Keiran's strong, loving arms would embrace her as she fell asleep instead.

It was not so easy to believe though; it never was, and as the line moved slowly forward she just found herself drifting back to having been here before.

"Liis."

She jumped inside, and outside as well for all she knew, when she heard a voice call her name. Yet as deep as she was in her thoughts and her memories she didn’t immediately place it.

"Zanh Liis." She turned towards it to see who’d spoken, and she found it was none other than William Lindsay.

"William?" she responded, her mind returning again to the present, though her thoughts still taking a few seconds to truly clear. "What are you doing here?"

"Was about to ask you the same question," Will answered, and there was something very different, something sterner, in his tone than she was used to hearing.

Liis actually paused for a moment as if so unsure about the answer to that question that she didn’t know what to say.

"Brody?" Will asked, getting his answer from her expression without her needing to speak it. "Are ya sure you want to do that?"

Liis didn’t want to admit to her uncertainty, so instead she changed the subject.

"You still haven’t answered my question."
 
"Before I do, there's somethin' you need to know. Something I want to be the one ta tell ya mehself."
 
Liis folded her arms, stepping forward only at the urging of the person behind her in line as he impatiently cleared his throat to tell her the line had moved. "Oh?"
 
"He's back in the Director's chair."
 
Liis' eyes widened. There was no need to elaborate on who 'he' was. "Good behavior?"
 
"If you can believe it. Kinda makes ya wonder what constitutes bad to these people, doesn't it?"
 
Liis showed no reaction. "So what of you then? Seeing him back there finally drive you over the edge?" She made a hollow attempt at humor, again pressing him in her way for the reason he was in this location.

"Am scheduled to make my next jump tomorrow mornin’," Will explained, none of the usual enthusiasm in his tone for the chance of adventure. "They wanted me ta answer some questions before I went."

"A psych eval?"

"No, it wasn’t," Will said, shaking his head with a look of frustration entering his features at what had just happened. "Was supposed to be. Then all they wanted was ta ask me about what happened on the Poseidon. They wanted meh opinion on the actions of the Sera’s officers."

"What did you tell them?"

"Not what they wanted me to," Will answered, knowing Liis knew both him and Temporal Investigation’s love of scapegoats well enough to know what he meant.

"So then you’re definitely leaving tomorrow morning?"

"Aye."

"Without saying goodbye?"

Will looked exasperated, they both knew whom they were talking about him saying goodbye to.

"He won’t listen no matter what I say," Will replied softly; clear fatigue in his words. "What d’ya expect me ta do?"
 
"I expect you to do what Keiran would do in your place. I expect you to say something whether you think he'll listen or not. I expect you to follow that unwritten code that says that Jumpers never leave anything unsaid."
 
Will ran a hand back through his hair and shifted his weight from foot to foot. "Is not so simple this time." His blue eyes met hers again as he added, "Keiran O'Sullivan will forgive a man an'a'thin where his own trouble is concerned. But when it comes ta you..." he shrugged his shoulders. "Nothin's easy for Keiran where you're concerned."
 
"Has it ever been?"
 
He looked away, knowing she'd read him too well to accept a lie as answer.

"We're holding an informal get together in Cork tonight, to reunite the command crew." Liis said. "I'm asking you, Will. As a favor to me." She reached out and put a hand on his shoulder, squeezing once. It was only then that he realized she was shaking. "Don't leave without at least looking him in the eyes once. If you do, we may all come to regret it. Don't,"  her eyes searched his for any sign she was getting through. "Don't do that to him. Don't do it to yourself, and don't do it to me."
 
Will’s lips parted as if to respond, but no words came out. Then before he could find them they were interrupted.

"Can I help you?" The girl tending the line asked at last, and Will stepped aside as Liis approached the desk. 
 
"Captain Zanh Liis, USS Serendipity." Liis said, "I'm here to see Tucker Brody."
 
The woman scanned the database before her and frowned. "I'm sorry, Captain, but Dr. Brody is not allowed to have visitors."
 
Liis' shoulders sank. "By order of?"
 
"Admiral Jonas Vox."
 
Liis’ eyes narrowed as she and Will exchanged a glance. "I'd like to speak to the attending physician on call."
 
"Sir…"
 
"I'd like to inform him that I have clearance from Admiral Gemini Lassiter, and that I will not be leaving until I have seen Dr. Brody. So we can spend all day playing a rousing round of 'whose Admiral has final say' or you can stop wasting all of our time and introduce me to Dr. Brody's attending physician so that I can get in, get out, and we can all get on with our lives."
 
Will noticed that Liis' diplomatic skills- which were iffy at best under even the most simple of circumstances, seemed stretched to the extreme point of their limits now. The girl sighed, and with the grumbling of the ever-lengthening line behind the Bajoran, she relented.
 
She pressed a few buttons on the panel before her and motioned for Zanh to step aside. "The Attending will be with you momentarily, Captain. If you would be so kind as to wait over there."
 
"Thank you." Liis stepped aside, and Will followed, shaking his head.
 
"Liis are you sure that-"
 
"No."
 
He nodded and took a step toward the exit, knowing it was time to get out of her way and let her do what she felt she must. "Cork. Tonight."
 
"Yeah."
 
"At the house, you say?" 
 
"I didn't, but yeah."
 
Will gave her a thoughtful expression and then, in an instant he was gone.
 
"See you there," she whispered, and then she spun as a door behind her opened and a familiar voice spoke her name.
 
"Hello, Liis. Been a long time."
 
The very last of the color drained away from Liis' cheeks. She instantly recognized this man- he had been one of her doctors here in the past, along with Brody. He was not in that role any longer, though, so she took the liberty of addressing him more informally to remind him that as officers they were on equal footing now. "Ellis. I've come to look in on Tucker and I'm not leaving until I do." She pulled a data chip from the interior breast pocket of her leather jacket and held it out to him. "Authorization, signed by Gem Lassiter. You remember Gem. You really don't want to interrupt her busy day to tell her that you've turned me away."
 
"Why would I turn you away?" The doctor said, his eyes turning venomous as he stepped closer. "You're the one who put him here. It's only right you should see what you've done." He moved back to the door he'd emerged from, and placed his hand against the panel beside it to unlock it. It opened, and Liis' heart leaped into her throat as she realized where she was really about to go.
 
"Come on." Dr. Ellis Moore said, leading the way. "You want to see? Fine. Follow me. I'll show you what's left of Tucker Brody."
 
Captain William Lindsay
Temporal Investigations Agent

and

-=/\=- Zanh Liis O'Sullivan
Commanding Officer
USS Serendipity NCC-2012

1123: I Do Declare

by TC Blane and Dabin Reece
101109.2100
After Like a Bucket of Cold Water

-=Crew Quarters, USS Serendipity=-


“You are an absolute peach, you know that right?” Dabin said, as he plopped Sophie down on the floor of Fleur’s quarters.

“Tell me something I do not already know.” Fleur answered.

Sophie immediately clamored for the nearest toy, in this case a small set of wooden blocks with hand carved Bajoran letters on them that Jariel had had replicated for Tress to play with. Sophie cheerfully began to stack them up into a small tower.

“Easy to entertain this one.” Dabin remarked, as any worries he had about leaving Sophie with the sitter for the evening melted away.

“Like her dad,” Fleur muttered.

February knelt down and kissed Sophie on the top of the head. The girl mumbled in response and kept right on stacking her blocks.

“Thanks so much Fleur, we’ll try not to be too late,” Bru said.

Fleur’s features softened a bit into a smile, with a twinkle in her eyes as she watched Sophie play, and Tress approach to see what her little friend was up to. “Is all right, really. Take your time.”

“We should go Dabin, Commander O’Sullivan will have dinner ready soon.”

“Right!” The couple stepped out into the corridor, and proceeded in the direction of their next destination. As soon as the doors snapped shut, Dabin remarked to February, “Has it always been this easy to be a parent?”

“No,” February chucked to herself. “You know that as well as I do.”

“But, like, it doesn’t get more complicated than this right? We’ll always be able to just give her some blocks, and know that is all she needs to keep herself content and occupied, right?” Dabin asked hopefully.

February shot him an Are you kidding? glance.

“Are you sure this shirt goes with jeans?” Dabin asked, changing the subject and tugging uncomfortably at the collar of the polo shirt he had chosen to wear. He knew bonfire or not, it gets nippy in Ireland, no matter what day of the year it is, so the t-shirts stayed in the closet.

“You look fine. You’re just not used to wearing a shirt with a collar.”

Dabin continued to fiddle with his collar and sleeves, until they reached their next destination. He pressed the door chime, and waited a moment for a response. He was about to press it again, when the door slid open. Instead of looking directly into the eyes of Salvek or Lair Kellyn, he found himself looking down, though not nearly as far as he used to, into the eyes of Lair Arie.

“Hi Arie! How are you!” Dabin said, excited to see the girl who was, truthfully, one of his best friends.

“I am well, Commander Reece?”

Dabin furrowed his brow, and looked at February, who just frowned back.

“Commander Reece? People only call me that when they are mad at me.” Dabin paused, then added, “You aren’t mad at me, are you?”

“Anger is illogical. I have no need of such hindrances anymore.”

“O….. kay. Well, I just wanted to see if your mom or dad were home, I thought we could walk them to the transporter room.”

“Mother and father have already departed for the planet’s surface.”

“Are feeling all right, Arie?” February asked. Worry bounced back and forth between Bru and Dabin, not so much in words but rather in emotions.

“I am well.” Arie replied flatly, offering no other information.

“So, what happened to Raff? That’s what you used to call me.” Dabin asked, now wondering what he had been thinking when he commented just moments ago about how easy parenting was.

“A name I assigned to you because of your resemblance to the giraffe, a long necked spotted mammal native to Earth’s African continent. I was simply too young to realize that you were in fact a native of Trill. To continue to refer to you by a name I know to be factually inaccurate is not logical.”

“But I liked that name,” Dabin said, almost pleading. February could feel his heart breaking.

“I am sorry.” Arie said, robotically.

February stepped up to speak, “We left Sophie with Fleur, Tress and Pace for the evening. I’m sure Fleur could use a hand and Sophie and Tress would love to play.”

“I would prefer to meditate.” There was a moment of awkward silence, as everyone waited for someone else to speak. Arie finally added, “Is there anything more?”

“No, I don’t think so.” Reece said.

“Then, good day.” Arie took one step back, and the doors hissed shut.

Dabin turned towards his wife and shrugged. “Transporter room it is then.”

-=O’Sullivan residence, County Cork, Ireland=-

The couple materialized a safe distance form the bonfire. Before they even turned to walk towards it, the voice of Keiran bellowed out that the food was ready.

Dabin ushered Bru in the direction of the table. Keiran had created quite and impressive array of choices. His appetite had vanished after speaking with Arie, but the sheer smell of this place began to reawaken his empty stomach.

“Help ’rself Dabin, Ms. Grace. I went into town and visited my old friend Timmy today. I promise ya, ya won’t find fresher cuts than these.”

“Just the one in my heart,” Dabin said softly.

“Come again?” Keiran asked, not quite sure what he had just heard.

“Nothing!” Dabin smiled. “It’s beautiful, thanks for going to the trouble.”

Keiran was far too sharp to believe it, but he let the matter drop for now. “When ever’a’one has their plate, we’ll begin.”

"Wait, aren't we missing somebody? Tall? Brunette? Wrinkled nose and four pips?"

"As I've already said," Keiran said, adding softly under his breath, "maybe I should put up a sign..." he looked up, pasting on a smile again to try to hide his own worry over the uncharacteristic lateness of his wife to a gathering of her crew. "The Captain has been detained and gave us her blessing to start without her."

"Swell. I'm starving. Thirsty too."

"We have an array of beverages out, Reece, or I can always pop in and replicate something for you..."

"A Slurpee, perhaps?" A voice interrupted from behind them. Dabin gulped. February cringed.

*Great, just fine.* Bru thought to Dabin with frustration. *Somebody told him about the Declaration...* She tried to force her lips up into a smile and turned toward the man she'd dreaded having to try to explain this situation to: none other than Commander TC Blane himself.

"You're still hurt," Bru frowned suddenly, surveying TC's arm as it was secured to his chest with a sling. He'd nearly refused to wear it, but the LMH had said it was mandatory if he wanted to return to duty and since the Captain was still unavailable and Salvek had needed to see to some pressing family matters upon his reunion with his wife and daughter, TC had been 'it'.

"Just a toasted wing. I'll be back to normal in no time." TC said, shrugging. "But as sweet as you are, February Grace, I refuse to let you change the subject so easily." TC turned toward Dabin, who suddenly felt as if he was wilting beneath the heat of the Commander's stare. "What did you do to it?"

“Huh, well.” Dabin scratched the back of his head with one hand as he held his plate with the other. “Hey! I think the fire is going out! Maybe I should get some wood.

Blane looked over his shoulder at the roaring bonfire, which flames extended a good three meters off the ground. He then looked back at Reece.

“Not even close, eh?” Dabin asked.

“Nope.” Blane said. “Spill it.”

“I already did spill it. That’s the problem. What’s the big deal with this Declaration thingie anyway?”

TC shook his head. “I find it really depressing that such a historic document has withstood numerous world wars including near nuclear holocaust only to be nearly destroyed by you and a slurpee.” TC shook his head. “What is a Slurpee anyway?”

Dabin smiled and was about to reply but TC held up his hand cutting him off. “It doesn’t matter.”

“You are about to find out the significance of the Declaration of Independence. You see, as acting captain, I’ve had the pleasure of having a stimulating conversation with an Admiral Hancock from Starfleet Command today.” TC sat down next to Dabin. “Do you know Admiral Hancock?”

“No I don’t, but that name sounds familiar.”

“Oh, well he is from Starfleet’s Federation Affairs division. You know, the guys who keep all of the worlds of the federation all touchy feely with Starfleet. They keep the peace when a Starfleet ensign starts a bar room brawl on Bajor, you know, stuff like that.”

He paused to make sure Dabin was listening. “Well it seems that even though you talked your way out of incarceration over this, the head curator of the Smithsonian is, understandably, still quite…” TC paused again looking for a socially acceptable word. “…displeased by the ordeal. In fact he is screaming that he would like to add a one Dabin Reece to the extinct animals display.”

TC sighed and rubbed his eyes. “For reasons beyond my own comprehension I informed the Admiral that it was not Dabin season and I assured him that I would personally come up with a suitable reprimand to fit the situation. At first I thought about having you pull custodian duty at the museum, but I figured they would never allow you back in. Then I thought there might be some sort of aid you could render in the restoration of the Declaration, but I figured they would once again not allow you any where near the museum.”

Blane took a swing of ale and continued.

“But I think I’ve come up with one for you. Since you do not seem to understand the significance of the document, I think you should figure it out. I want a dissertation on the Earth’s Declaration of Independence and how it relates to current political and social view of the Federation.” TC smiled. “And I want it in seven days.”

Dabin’s mouth hung open. “You want me to write a book report? I’m older then you, pointy, and the Captain put together!”

TC stood up and straightened the pull over sweater he was wearing. “Oh, and make it good because I am going to have a history expert grade it. The grade that you get will determine if any further discipline will be required.”

Dabin sighed. “Who’s going to grade it?”

TC smiled evilly. “Commander Briggs.”

“Can’t we just go the restoration route? I’m a scientist, I can separate glucose from cellulose!” Bru tried not to grin as Dabin pleaded.

“But then you won’t learn anything will you? Besides I don’t think letting you anywhere near that document is a very good idea. Compared to some of the accidents you’ve cause we were lucky to get off for the price of a slurpee.” Blane moved to step away, but Reece caught him.

“Wait! How long does this report have to be?”

“At least 10,000 words, and yes it has to be in Federation standard. I know the Trill language is much more wordy so no cheating and using it to get to 10,000 quicker. And I’ve taken the liberty of sending a message to the crew informing them that they are not to help you.”

Dabin snarled and stomped his foot, Damn Blane, always one step ahead.

“I’m always one step ahead of you Reece, remember that.”

“I’ll be back in a bit Dabin,” February turned to leave. He gave her hand a quick squeeze as she headed off.

“All right, all right, I’ll write your report on the thingie that means stuff.” Dabin lowered his voice, “So I’ve only had time to scan a few reports. What happened to you all out there?”

TC shrugged. “The same thing that always happens to us. Bad guys come seeking revenge, try to take over the ship, find out that we won’t cooperate, someone of the crew displays some incredible ingenuity and we beat aforementioned bad guys.” He smiled. “Just another day in the saga that is the USS Serendipity.”

He patted Dabin on the shoulder. “Enjoy the meal.”

“What about Liisy?” Dabin asked, his voice even softer now so that O’Sullivan would not hear.

“You know the Captain. Her feelings are between her and whoever she chooses to share them with. Suffice it to say this mission took a greater toll on some than others.”

TC slapped Reece on the shoulder, eliciting an “Ow!”, then made his way over to the food table where O’Sullivan was hovering around watching his guests enjoy the meal that was spread out for them. TC picked up a plate and paused as he thought about what he wanted.

“Admiral Hancock?” Keiran asked quietly with a slight smile on his face.

TC looked back at the big man with a thin smile. “Yea.” He then turned his attention back to the food. “Nice spread, how are the sweet potatoes?”

*********************************************
Commander TC Blane
Second Officer
USS Serendipity NCC-2012

and

Commander Dabin Reece
Chief Science Officer
USS Serendipity NCC-2012

1122: Like a Bucket of Cold Water

by Rada Dengar and Lair Kellyn
101030.6
Time: Current

-=USS Serendipity: Quarters of the First Officer=-


"Why can I not go with you?" Arie watched as her mother ran a brush through her hair, moving it carefully so as not to snag the dangling chain of her earring. "Am I being punished?"

"No, Arie, you're not being punished." Kellyn sighed and set down the brush. She straightened the collar on her red silk blouse but somehow, it just didn't look right. She wished this was just a standard, wear-your-uniform staff meeting. But no. O'Sullivan had to go informal on everyone and invite them down to the countryside for a bonfire and simple dinner over which to catch up with each other. Not a party, he stressed, knowing that few who had gone through the ordeal involving the Poseidon would be in any such a mood. It was supposed to be 'a staff meeting, with scenery', which in the mood she was in sounded about as appealing as a funeral, with party hats.

"Then why can I not accompany you?"

"Because this meeting is only for senior and bridge staff." Kellyn explained, tilting her shoulder down a little on the left to see if that helped her appearance any. Something was off, she just couldn't put her finger on it. "Spouses and children aren't included this time."

The child offered no response, apparently simply accepting what she’d said without a further question. Though it should have been no surprise given recent events, out of habit Kellyn was expecting to be pressed by a young lady wanting to go to a party anyway. So she turned automatically as if to check what were wrong. It was then she became aware that Arie was carrying a storage bin that held within it some very familiar items. Suddenly she grew alarmed.

"What are you doing?" she asked, fearing she knew the answer all too well.

Arie’s response was even more flat in tone than she had taken to being recently, and intentionally matter-of-fact. It was like she was trying to assert just how meaningless the task was to her.

"I am recycling these items. I do not require them anymore."

Without even really thinking about it, Kellyn span around and grabbed the bin away from her daughter's hands. Her eyes widened and her heart sank as she took in the contents. There were an assortment of items; mostly toys and books. Some were decorative items; including a small sea shell Arie insisted on keeping in her hand the entire trip back from a far off beach out of fear it’d be damaged in her pocket. They were so varied and hard to classify, that the only collective noun one could have given them, was a childhood.

Kellyn’s fingers began to sort through some of the books so she could read the titles.

"Arie, these were your favorite storybooks," she objected, her voice seeming almost incredulous as if part of her believed Arie had simply forgotten them.

"I have outgrown them."

While Kellyn had to admit this may be true; maybe Arie would have decided to recycle them eventually anyway, there was one item on top of the box, destined for recycling, that had once meant so much to Arie that it brought a lump to Kellyn’s throat that no amount of swallowing could remove. "But, Raffe was a gift from Dabin. Arie, you can't-"

"I am not a child now, Mother. I am a student of logic. I have no need of. . ." Arie paused for just a flicker of an instant and her eyes darted away, almost guiltily, as in her still childish manner, she couldn't bring herself to insult the toy to its small, worn out face. "...comfort items."

"Well maybe you don't." Kellyn said with a stern yet unreadable expression as she took the bin and set it down on her bed. "But I do. I'll take care of this."

Kellyn had been intentionally brisk in the way she’d spoken. She had hoped for some kind of reaction- indignation, irritation, anything. Instead, Arie merely folded her hands in that maddeningly calm way her father often did and turned away. "Very well. Thank you."

Kellyn's heart instantly fell a little farther, and she had to turn away herself to hide it. She drew in a slight breath, trying not to think of how with each step Arie took, and each gathering moment of silence between them, she seemed to be slipping further away from her.

Finally a little bit more centred again, Kellyn peered around the corner after her.

"What will you do while we're gone?" Kellyn called.

"Meditate."

"Wonderful." Kellyn sighed. It seemed like that was all her daughter did these days.

Once again, Kellyn stared at herself in the mirror and gave up trying to figure out what was wrong with her appearance. She took the bin and put it into the closet behind her, and then, in an uncharacteristic move, she activated the lock and secured the closet door. "She's good, but not that good yet." Kellyn muttered under her breath. "You'll still be there when I get back, Raffe. No recycling for you."

When she moved into the living room she found Arie was already seated, eyes closed, on a cushion in the middle of the room. Kellyn said nothing. She wanted to avert her eyes, as though that would somehow make this new reality less real, but she couldn’t really turn away. Instead she merely sighed as she grabbed a black cloak from a hook on the wall and threw it over her shoulders.

Then without delay, she trudged through the halls, anxious to get this evening over with, though she wasn't sure why. After all, nothing would really change in the morning.

-=/\=- O'Sullivan Residence: County Cork, Ireland, Earth=-


Kellyn materialised on a familiar green hilltop. Perhaps it was a beautiful place but she certainly didn’t notice as she immediately began the begrudging walk down. In fact, her eyes just found the ground as she watched the indentations her boots made in the lush grass beneath her feet as she moved. Again and again the blades of grass fell, unable to do anything to stop her and with her unable to avoid them. She wondered if they felt as crushed by the blows as she felt by recent events.

She tried for just a moment out of thinking like this.

Damn it, she hated feeling this way.

She didn’t take too much notice of time but it wasn’t long before she was about to reach the perimeter of the gathering. She stopped to survey what would be her destination for the minimum amount of time she could take before she could get away without drawing undue attention.

She could see a bonfire burning close by, throwing a gentle orange glow over the world. Maybe she was just too far away but she felt no warmth coming from it, merely tasting the burn of the smoke on damaged lungs as the light wind swept it continually in her direction.

It wasn’t that it was cold, not really. It was twilight but the weather was fair and altogether pleasant for this time of year. It could be the perfect atmosphere for a quiet evening. She was however far too preoccupied to properly enjoy it.

Looking around, she debated her options. A few people were up on the porch on a swing, talking. O'Sullivan was fussing with a table piled high with food, and Salvek was standing by the fire, speaking to someone but from this angle, Kellyn couldn't tell who it was. None of these really provided much of an option anyway.

She wasn't ready to join the group, not just yet. She turned back, moving away toward a gathering of trees at the back of the garden.

How long she just stood there, she wasn’t sure. All she knew was that she was deep in personal consideration, staring upward at the sky as the last of the day set on the dimming blue when a voice broke the silence and her train of thought.

"I won the bet. Remember?"

Kellyn startled. It wasn't the soft voice itself that was so unexpected; it was a voice she had known very well. It was the tone of that voice which came as a genuine, and welcome surprise. For all she’d been thinking of a moment before, to be even hearing that voice sounding happy again was like a spark that hid the darkness from you for a fortunate instant. She actually felt her mouth turning up at the edge into a smirk as she turned toward him.

"You did not."

Rada Dengar laughed softly, and without thinking, he happily embraced his friend. Kellyn’s mind however had quickly returned to acknowledging all the darkness there was in the world. So he found that to his surprise instead of returning the hug that she stayed still, limp as a rag doll in his arms, and twice as sad looking. He released her, and she took a step backwards.

He watched as she tried to immediately banish the sorrow from her face. He looked happy to her for the first time in far too long, and no matter what was going on in her own life she was determined that she wouldn't be the one to change that. Rada however had been on the other side of this act far too often to buy it, and Kellyn could see that he wasn’t.

She quickly tried to change the topic to one aside from her personal struggles. In spite of how hard it was to hide how she felt while looking him in the eye, she made herself watch his response.

"How are you, Rada?" She wrung her hands, nervous to ask even though he looked so much better than the last time she'd seen him. "How are you really?"

"I’m fine…" Rada said, the words sounding far more like a question of her own condition than an appraisal of his.

She turned her head just slightly and the unchanging expression in her eyes seemed to ask him once again ‘really?’

"Really, I am," Rada added, able to tell that she was looking for more of an indication that he even knew what okay was. Though surely it would be no secret, he seemed to drop his tone before he continued, as if he didn’t want anyone to overhear. "I remember, Kellyn."

Something in her countenance said she still wasn’t quite ready to believe it.

"I remember what I did," he admitted quickly, clearly having things he didn’t want to think about of his own. "I also remember Wren and Tam. I remember that I love her."

Rada was really worried with the emotion that seemed to pass over Kellyn’s face when he mentioned that word ‘love’. He had no way of knowing that she was wondering just what love meant for an emotionless ‘student of logic’. She knew Salvek loved her, but it was almost a rebellion on his part. In any case it was something that had grown over time, not something that had needed to be pushed down and out of the way in order to make your heart fit into a more limited philosophy.

"That’s wonderful, Rada. Really," she said, the genuine meaning in the emotion more covered by and not cancelled out through the sadness she felt at her own situations. "Where is she now?"

"She’s already back on the ship in her quarters," he replied, thinking of how amazing it’d felt to have transported up to the ship and walked the entire journey there with her hand in his. "I’m going to help move everything back into my quarters tomorrow. She and I spent a lot of quality time together while waiting for the Sera to return."

Kellyn’s eyebrow raised and he smiled a little shyly in a way to say he hadn’t meant ‘quality time’ in the way she may have been thinking it, but he also wouldn’t be disclosing a full list of his activities. It was a warming sort of smile to see him giving but it didn’t last long enough to have any permanent effect on her mood.

"Right now she’s happy to spend some time with Tam. We hear he had quite an adventure while we were gone."

Kellyn knew it would be common for a young boy to talk for days about the big adventure, though she also had gotten the impression from their talks that Tam wasn’t a common young boy and the events that had transpired were less than an adventure for him.

"How is he?"

"He’s…clingy. Wren doesn’t mind. After hearing what he went through though she doesn’t want to let him go far anyway." Only to a friend as close as Kellyn would Rada have felt alright about confiding what he did next. "I think she’s regretting that she didn’t check in with him more while she was gone."

Kellyn nodded slightly, sadly. She could relate all too well to looking back and wishing you’d spent more effort checking for signs that something might be wrong.

"Are you really okay?" she asked him again, and it was all too clear at this point that she was willing to talk about the condition of everyone but herself.

"Yes, I still, am. What about you?" he asked, gently but with concern.

"I’m okay," she answered softly, and Rada felt like insisting ‘No, you’re not’. "It is very good to see you looking so well again, Rada."

Rada wished he could have said the same. Yet, even though physically she’d clearly recovered more from her time under the ice on Sibalt, it was like there were just something in her that was missing this time. No, missing was the wrong word. It was like they’d taken the fire around which many of their crew were gathered, and dumped a bucket of water on top of it.

He didn’t want to push her though, any more than she’d pushed him when he was so conflicted. He wasn’t even sure what he should say. Maybe she’d talk when she was ready to talk and the best he could do would be to give her that chance to find the words on her own.

He looked up to the sky where Kellyn’s eyes seemed to have found their way again.

"It’s a beautiful evening, isn’t it?" he asked her, so much more appreciative of sights like this now that he remembered the woman that gave them meaning.

Kellyn wrapped her arms around her middle, subconsciously betraying the gnawing ache she felt inside. Still, she told herself that no matter what her own personal issues were at the moment, there was no way she was going to steal a second of this quietly triumphant return of her friend to the crew who loved him. She pasted on her best false smile, though fearing the Angosian's ability to judge it as the fragile mask that it was.

As his eyes settled upon her again, they took on a depth of concern she'd rarely seen directed toward her, and she shivered, trying to shrug the feeling off like the sudden dampness of the Earth below her feet which seemed to be climbing through her veins steadily upward, clawing and grasping for her heart.

"Yeah." She said softly, adding a second later, "beautiful." She seemed almost to choke on the word as it rattled around in the back of her throat.

"Kellyn-"

"A'right ev'ry'one, food's ready as it's gonna be." Keiran's voice called from the distance.

"Aren't we waiting for the Captain?" Zander Blakeslee asked.

"Captain's been detained. She'll be joinin' us shortly." Keiran replied.

"Kellyn," Rada repeated, but as he turned back from the voices that had momentarily drawn away his attention, he discovered that his friend and fellow engineer had already walked away.


----------
Commander Lair Kellyn
Engineering Research and Development
The Alchemy Project

and

Lt. Commander Rada Dengar
Chief Engineering Officer
USS Serendipity NCC-2012