1022: On the Good Days

By Rada Dengar and Lair Kellyn
Concurrent with Any Such Small, Comforting Thoughts

-=USS Alchemy=-

Looking out across the chaos that had overtaken the Alchemy’s medical bay Rada couldn’t help but consider how a truly unique angle on his own suffering was so clearly found from this position.

The Alchemy’s entire medical staff, save one, seemed to be shouting back and forth with something almost mistakable as panic. It was an intricately organized and perfectly orchestrated chaos; expertly performed by the skilled hands of each player and governed by the overriding experience of their conductor's genius.

Every word spoken was answered in harmony, each motion accompanied in perfect time and complimented by a confidence that spoke of having fought the same furious battle to pull someone back by the thread from which their lives now dangled far too many times before.

It could most kindly have been called a juggling act for Doctor Hartcort, by which his attention could be focused entirely on the lowest falling ball which he could deal with in time to move on. The reality was however closer to four plates now spinning at different speeds, one already having crashed, where the doctor must move quickly back and forth to keep them going and should he ever choose the wrong order or two should begin to slow at once then the unchosen one would surely begin to fall and to smash shattered on the ground just in time for him to see.

Life was truly that fragile that it left no doubt that few were more extraordinary than those who could save it and none were less remarkable than those whose greatest achievement was to take it.

Rada had no delusion in believing anything other than that whatever it was he had done-- whatever horrible thing had been so despicable as to need to be hidden from even the mind that conceived it-- was no achievement and no sign of power. It could be no more constructive and carry no more greater meaning that breaking plates upon the ground.

As Rada walked through around these people and though their world so foreign of saving lives he made the usual hollow gestures of greetings to those that he passed by. For the moment he felt no desire to engage with them and chose instead to live with the horror of wonder about whether he had perhaps taken from them someone they loved. The only worse way to live would have been to look and to realise he didn’t care if he had.

Being in a place like this made him realise just how much he really did care. As his eyes found their way to Kellyn’s still form, far too familiar a sight to him over the relatively short time that he’d known her, it stung for him simply to see. Yet while such a feeling amplified in strength felt like it could destroy him it was only through its cleansing possession that he could feel like he was whole.

Perhaps it was because he’d known her the longest of any injured party or because at a time when there were parts of him he was only now discovering she knew parts of him it seemed no one else did. Whatever the reasons were behind it, though, it was not too hard a decision to know which person he wished to see first.

Still one could almost have thought he was uncertain given how slowly his steps seemed to become the closer he became. It wasn’t indecision, however, he was merely being as gentle as possible in his approach as he could lest through any sudden movement that deadly part of him were to be brought out at a time when Kellyn was unable to fight back against it.

He swore he’d never let himself hurt her, but then he’d once said the same thing about taking a life.

He stopped short of walking up beside her and sat in a chair placed by the end of her bed, most likely by Salvek before he’d been called away. It was one spot out of the way of medical personnel where the Vulcan could simply have sat as alone as could be with the woman he loved. It was undoubtedly not an easy thing for Salvek to do but somehow Rada felt he understood its value.

It was a truly sinful crime of fate when one found oneself ranking a friend’s close dances with death in ordinal fashion; trying to decide just how much worse this one was.

Each always felt worse than the last.

Her complexion was currently a pale shade close to the frozen world on which they’d been though little worse than how pale she’d been before. Her position in the bed was the awkward kind of a woman not quite as comfortable as usual to be sleeping but rather one of a woman trying to move out of the range of her pain.

Thinking back over the past times all Rada could determine now was that it was not the worst he’d seen as far as injury or by machines taking on tasks supposedly so natural to the body, but still even since the last she seemed to have aged. These experiences always seemed to age those involved. Perhaps to experience a large part of death must take from you with it a future part of your life. It did make him wonder, even knowing things had been worse, if as weak as she looked she was still strong enough to come back.

Her face seemed sad, not angry like she would be had she known she was sleeping through the truly rare experience of having a silent Jamie Halliday in the bed next to hers. It was the face of a woman once hurt; not one still in the fight.

It was Jelca that had hurt her without ever giving her a chance to fight back. Like myths of the Terran gods Rada had always regarded with a sad curiosity, she’d decided who she’d save then tucked safely away before she unleashed her wrath on an entire world; leaving all those behind to be wiped away to leave only what she wanted to remain. It was actions like that which could lead a man to think of revenge.

Yet, wasn't it the desire for revenge the very thing that turned Jelca into the nightmare that she'd become?

Rada wondered for a moment what kind of person she might once have been instead.

Could giving in to that destructive, burning need for revenge have been the path that led him here? Could hurting someone in an attempt to strike back against his own pain been how he’d justified doing whatever he'd done? If someone had hurt his friend like this, could that have brought him to take finally a life?

Looking at her now he realised the answer was all too clear. Not even for her, his best friend on this ship, could he have been driven to kill.

There must have been something else. Something more that he still didn’t understand, however he couldn’t really think further about it now as this moment seemed to matter more.

He sadly sighed as he looked over her with concern before he spoke softly to himself more than her.

“You on your way back from another brush with death, me utterly confused about my place in life...we have got to find a way to stop ending up here.” He closed his eyes and sighed, bringing his hand to the bridge of his nose.


He was woken from his thoughts by the sound of a weak voice. His eyes snapped back open and he saw she had stirred and was, with great effort, attempting to shift position. "Where do we end up then?" she asked, with eyes barely open and a softened voice that sounded still half trapped in her dreams.

*Anywhere would be better than this,* Rada thought, greatly relieved that she was talking but still needing to focus to make his tone sound at all light. "I'd prefer somewhere that you don't get yourself nearly drowned the second I turn my back."

"Noted." She grimaced, groaning involuntarily in pain though she couldn't have said if asked specifically what part of her was causing it. Her eyelids were heavy and barely slit open and giving up on trying to move, she began to take in her surroundings. Bits of conversations that had been partially processed by her sluggish mind as it fought varying stages of unconsciousness began to clarify, and she realized that what happened on the planet had ended very badly.

She bolted up, at least as far as she could in this withered state and not realizing how close she was to the edge of the bed she nearly went over the side of it. "Reece..."

Rada sprang up and managed to catch her before she fell. The sound of her cry and of the shuffling as Rada hoisted her back toward the center of the biobed drew the attention of Lance Hartcort. He had his hands full with Reece at the moment though and so a nod from Rada that everything was all right was enough to satisfy his curiosity for now and he returned to his work.

"Reece will be fine." Rada assured her gently, intentionally concealing for now how close their friend the Trill had come to dying. "He will live to steal your Kava Sticks another day."

"He better." Kellyn choked out the words between coughs, the spasms of which seized hold of her and didn't appear to want to let go. Propping herself up in the bed as well as she could she looked toward the bedside table, where the dispenser of medication sat. She grasped hold of it and held it to her mouth, inhaling two puffs of the substance. Within seconds, her coughing fit subsided. Finally she allowed herself to fall back down in the bed. Hearing the sound of her breathing, now rattling and troubled as she moved around in the bed even just slightly, erased the relief he'd felt and replaced it with a new set of worries.

Awkwardly he reached one hand around to rub the back of his neck, unsure just what to do with the other. No matter how many times it happened it was still always just as hard seeing her like this and even harder to know just what to say or do or more importantly just how much of his concern he should let shine through. It quickly became clear that she didn’t intend on making this any easier, either.

"What happened down there?" she asked, her eyes slipping shut again.

*You had to ask, didn't you?* Rada thought, thinking in this moment how he both appreciated and loathed the inescapable workings of her mind. *Of all questions, that is the one you ask.*

He opened his mouth as if to speak but quickly closed it again upon finding no meaningful words forthcoming. Only deciding to avoid words of such meaning allowed him to speak again. "Kellyn, its best if we talk about this later,” he said hurriedly. “You need your rest. I should go."

She appeared disappointed by his answer, though not surprised. She slightly nodded, far too tired to argue. She then let herself sink further back into the pillow, tugging her blanket up more tightly under her chin.

"Warm enough?"

"No," she clutched the top of the blanket as tightly as her still numb fingertips would allow. "I don't know if I'll ever feel warm again."

Worried by the tone of her words Rada disappeared for a moment, and he returned with two more blankets. He unfolded them and handed them to her one at a time, helping her straighten them out as he saw her arms were still to weak to complete the task on her own. "Better?"

She nodded and looked almost content to settle back in. Then suddenly in her partially conscious state another thought occurred to her and though it was a struggle she let her head fall to the side. She looked over at the bed beside hers, forcing her eyes to stay open. "Jamie was the only one with me when I," she stopped, as the look on Rada's face confirmed her fears; she owed Jamie Halliday her life. "Damn.” She said, her eyes closing again. “Is he okay?"

"Hypothermia, but he's going to be alright too." Rada assured her as he looked over to Jamie with a new found, silent respect and gratitude for this man he felt he’d so underestimated.

"Thank the Proph…” Kellyn replied, sinking back into the bed once again and finally letting herself fall back into unconsciousness .

Rada didn't like the look of this, not one bit. His brow furrowed with concern. "Kellyn, are you okay?"

"Hmmm." Kellyn mumbled quietly though it was clear she wasn’t really hearing him.

“Kellyn?” He asked again, standing from his chair and leaning over her.

He turned to look for someone who could help and found one of the medical staff already coming up behind him.

“I think.” Rada started trying to explain, but the nurse stopped him before he could. For some reason she seemed unconcerned with rushing to Kellyn and Rada looked about to object.

“Nothing’s wrong with her,” she assured him, putting a hand on his arm as if to tell him she knew what he was thinking but that there was nothing to worry about. “It’s just the medication, it makes her tired. She’s going to be okay.”

Looking back over at Kellyn again, Rada could see that now. She had just fallen back asleep and it was only his imagination making things seem wrong.

“Thank you,” he said, a little embarrassed. The nurse just smiled at him before moving off again to treat others where she was needed.

Again Rada returned to the seat, wondering if he should go now that he’d seen her but somehow feeling like he should stay a little longer. Moments passed in silence but as close as they were he still found them to be awkward. Besides, there were so any things in his mind that usually he’d have spoken to her about and this state shouldn’t change that.

“So, what was drowning like then?” he asked, trying to sound cheerful but failing miserably so deciding instead to give up the facade. “I wonder if it was painful.”

He then proceeded to quietly sit as if waiting for her to respond. He had no idea that inside her thoughts, she was clearly remembering just how it had been. She considered just how easy it would have been to give into the sensation of the water's thorny, frozen tendrils pulling her under; choking her breath away and finally claiming her as its own. She shifted slightly in her sleep and Rada waited a moment in concern until it passed before going on,

"I’m sure it was,” Rada concluded then continued on sadly, “but was it calm and quiet too? How much did you really want to fight?"

Rada stopped, again sighing as he waited for an answer that wouldn’t come from the friend who could so often offer him insights at times like these into the workings of his own mind.

“Kellyn, I…” he started but no possible end to the sentence was forthcoming to his mind let alone to his mouth.

Though when he’d first entered the room he’d have given almost anything for her to wake he now greatly regretted that it had been him and not Salvek with whom she had woken to have this talk. Rada felt like anyone else on this ship would have had a better idea of just what to say to her now. There was too much going on in his mind right now to even properly hold up half a conversation.

Though Rada understood that no one would know the difference, likely not even Kellyn now, it didn’t make the prospect of saying nothing any easier. What was he supposed to do? Should he wait in silence a little longer and then just leave her here? Or should he stay and stick to light banter which she’d never have accepted if she was awake?

No, Rada resolutely decided, he could do neither. To treat a stranger in this position like they weren’t quite there was harsh but forgivable, but Kellyn was his friend and that made it just unconscionable.

“I wasn’t afraid,” he reluctantly confessed, in a voice so quiet that had Kellyn been awake only she would have understood him, and with courage he wasn’t sure he would have had then. “When I was down on the planet I wasn’t afraid of dying. This wasn’t an adrenaline rush, I was thinking clearly and I began to ask myself with my mind in such a mess and knowing I’d done so many horrible things it’d really be so bad not to fight.”

He began to reflect back on that moment where he’d turned his weapon on Reece, knowing that Jelca’s men could have chosen to take him out any second.

“I wonder if you can now understand that feeling. I wasn’t sure I ever would.”

Kellyn again murmured as she turned over away from him, and if she’d been awake he’d likely have made a joke about him not thinking he was quite that boring. Instead though he continued in all seriousness.

He realised that he was about to tell her something she wouldn’t know about him. It was true she didn’t know every detail of his life but they were close friends and Rada had never mentioned this experience before. He’d never really thought about it before recently.

“Someone very dear to me once told me about that feeling.” Rada shifted his chair around to still be in the opposite direction to which she was facing but at least to be closer to the head of the bed should she turn. “She was a girl I’d known at school and she had an experience not completely unlike mine, and maybe yours. She was only young but she’d had a hard life so far. Her father was never around. Her mother was but their relationship was far more tense than it was loving. Then one day after a particularly bad argument, in tears and not really paying attention to where she was going, she stormed out and ended up unintentionally walking straight onto the path of an oncoming ground transport vehicle. She wasn’t killed but she was injured and thrown into a nearby ditch where she started to lose blood and eventually consciousness, unsure as she closed her eyes if she’d ever be found.”

Rada paused trying to remember what eventually happened to that girl through to his frustration he found now he couldn’t even recall her name and any more of her appearance than that she had the most beautiful black hair. Thinking back he may just have been fonder of this girl than he let himself think these days.

“Eventually though the transport operator called for help and she was found and she was treated. In the end she was fine. However that didn’t stop her telling me years later…” Rada stopped again, finding frustration in the fact that he couldn’t remember this girl if it’d been years later and they were still in contact, eventually accepting this small defeat he continued again. “She told me that there were moments she wished she was back in that ditch and that no one ever understood that fact. I think now I do.”

Rada stopped, actually feeling the hints of strange tears finding their way to his eyes. He quickly blinked them away but they weren’t completely ready to go. Feeling so unafraid was truly terrifying. Thinking about that girl though he wondered now if it really was maybe not a symptom of who he was; rather it was of what had happened to him. A long pause passed as he considered that fact before he was finally brought back to reality as Kellyn rolled over onto her back almost as if to better hear him.

She mumbled something hurriedly in this state in a tone that seemed to say that she really needed this answer, staring still at the thoughts in her mind though she seemed to be looking now at the ceiling.

“She said the ditch was simpler.” Rada softly explained, taking his best guess as to her question, as he mentally searched for a picture to match with the remembered words he was saying. “In the brief time she spent in pain before she lost consciousness she found herself running over all the other most painful things in her life. She came to see how this ditch either would or already had taken them all away. Then later when confronted again with pain she said she remembered that feeling which made it hard for her to be glad to be back to all the problems of her everyday life.”

Rada paused again as he silently wondered while Kellyn still lay with closed eyes before him whether any of this was getting though or even if he wanted it to. “She said that on the good days though she was always glad she’d gotten out.”

Rada reached down and pulled up the blanket that seemed to have slipped down Kellyn’s body slightly, leaving her shivering even more as he considered this simple thing that at night Kellyn would have someone there to do for her, whereas he would not. “I just hope that there will be more good days going forward.”

His thought left to hang on the air, Rada suddenly felt he’d said enough so he made to stand up; already almost completely back in his own mind as he asked a hundred questions about the future and as many of the past.

However Kellyn it seemed would not accept this and she groaned pitifully, putting her hand out towards him in as close a gesture to 'come here' she could manage and snapping him back from his internal considerations. Then as Rada leant in over her, she whispered four simple words that truly shocked him before she again surrendered to the overpowering pull of unconsciousness.

"There have to be..."

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


Commander Lair Kellyn
Engineering Research and Development
The Alchemy Project

1021: Surrounded by Enemies

By William Lindsay
Immediately Following Any Such Small, Comforting Thoughts

-=The Captain’s Ready Room, USS Serendipity=-

Liis arrived, pausing merely for a second outside of the door of the Ready Room as if in silent consideration of the inevitability and the toll of one more piece of bad news for this crew. However, such thoughts were dragged quickly clear of her mind by the melancholy realization that she’d gone so long without knowing of T’Dara’s condition, and she could see where that left them. Wisdom was knowing that all the worst things in life would be there whether you acknowledged them or not, bravery was acknowledging them anyway.

She stepped through the door to see Keiran already waiting by her desk. The look of concern on Keiran’s face said that even though she’d known Will for considerably less time than Keiran, that her appraisal of his behavior had been entirely correct. Though Will may well have claimed a communication was a priority in order to get it placed ahead of others in a cue, particularly when he knew his charm would get him forgiven for it, he wouldn’t have done so to Liis, especially not at this late time without a serious reason. Unfortunately, Will was not a man for whom seriousness was often a state associated with good news.

Without a word Liis moved towards her computer terminal but before she’d activated the message Keiran spoke softly.

“D’ya want ta take this alone, Liis?”

It was clear in his tone that Keiran did not wish to let her do so but she was the Captain, and even when not specified and so not enforced by regulations, it was often assumed that a communication like this was for her eyes only. She was his wife but Keiran was not a man to let something like that make him forget her position.

Liis however shook her head that she didn’t in quiet awe still of the respect this true gentleman showed her as she reached down and finally answered Will’s message. When the man appeared on the screen, immediately Liis and Keiran both noticed something was different about him than when last they’d seen him, and that only served to add to their worry about exactly what was going on.

He appeared to be seated in his office, but it was hard to see exactly, because he was leaning in towards the screen and so blocking their view. His eyes looked tired and though he retained some element of charisma, his usual devilish grin was conspicuously absent. He had the lights turned down low, making him seem like he was almost cast in shadow. It was not a position Will would usually take, but at the same time it did nothing to hide the look of impatience in his face. It wasn’t the usual impatience of a man not wanting to wait; rather it was the kind of a man knowing he couldn’t afford to.

[’Tis good to see ya, Liis.] Will acknowledged her, his voice kept more quiet than usual and with none of enthusiasm or fun they’d often find there. [Is O’Sullivan there with ya?]

“Aye. Am here.” Keiran said, stepping over to next to Liis where Lindsay would be able to see him. “’Tis good to speak to ya, William.”

[You as well, my friend.] Will nodded to Keiran, it was these two people and only these two people that he would trust with what he had to say.

“Lindsay, what the hell is all this?” Liis grumbled not doubting that Will had a good reason for what he was doing but with little patience left after this day for him to do anything but get to the point quickly. “What are you doing in your office so late?”

Will heavily sighed as he rubbed his fingers along his temples, fighting a headache, which Liis could tell from the red lines that had penetrated his eyes was more likely that not a consequence of a body in need of much more sleep that he’d recently allowed it. It was a feeling many of them on this ship could relate to.

[’Tis a matter of security. I need ta be sure there’s no one listening in and this is the time of day when the place is most empty. Even still I have ta be careful.]

“Listening in? Like who?” Liis asked even though she knew from experience just how many people could be.

Lindsay greatly wished that right now he could give a better answer to that question.

[Too many people.] Lindsay mumbled to himself. [I take it neither of y’ve forgotten the attempt on me life when I first became the acting Director?]

Liis and Keiran most certainly hadn’t. Both nodded to confirm they remembered and the look in his eyes said Will understood why they did.

That attempt had been in the form of an explosion in Will’s new office, since rebuilt, at the same time as another hit a computer core in the same building. Neither of them would forget how those explosions almost cost the other, among others, their lives. Unintentionally Keiran slightly cringed as he thought back to that time where he hadn’t known what had happened, and so didn’t even know if he had lost her. Sensing his discomfort at those thoughts Liis reached her hand out to his, below the desk where Will couldn’t see.

[Well, what ya don’t know is that there’s a very good reason why some people here would want me out of the way. Gem didn’a just ask me ta take over the job while Vox was gone, she also asked me to hunt down the corruption that infested TI under his watch.] Will shook his head with irritation in a way that suggested that although this may have been fun once it wasn’t anymore. [I just didn’a know how deep the infestation ran.]

Will seemed to mutter to himself again. Though every agent learnt quickly enough that the face of this particular department, as with most others, was far from unblemished; there was something still that would keep them going. That something was a trust in the institution itself, or at least how it’s supposed to be, and a belief that for all the bad there was that bit more good. The deeper he dove the more that belief was tested. Even now, he still felt himself getting angrier about that fact. It was one thing to charge into a Romulan labour camp and to discover yourself surrounded by enemies, it was quite a different one here.

Liis paused for a second frozen as she considered just what this could mean. She knew from experiences for years, including those with the paradox created by Jonas Vox, just what hell corruption in a place like TI could inflict on the galaxy, and on time itself. More often that not it meant people died and never more than now was it clearer just what a great toll a single death would be.

“How bad is it?” Liis asked softly, unable to hide the concern in her voice when she was in the company of two men who’d understand.

[Bad enough that I only know one person here I can trust.] He said with frustration permeating his words. [Am not far from figurin’ it all out and when that happens, I don’t know exactly who’ll come to my side with a phaser in hand or who’ll point one at my face. I’d like ta have ya both here for that. Also it couldn’t hurt to have some fresh pairs of eyes and a tricorder that’s been out of TI hands for a while here either.]

“We’re heading your way now to meet up with the Sera.” Liis assured him but she knew she could not promise him too much as she considered other even sadder duties to perform than digging through the muck of a once proud organization. “However, there is something we have….” Liis stopped herself, deciding that however unpleasant the duty, it still sounded damn wrong to say it that way when a life had been lost here, and her words just made it sound like an obligation. She started again. “A member of our crew, a nurse named T’Dara, has just died. We’re taking her home to Vulcan.”

Instantly the feelings of frustration Will had been fighting, not wanting to have to be here this late, were no longer such a priority to him. He found himself thinking of T’Dara, who he had met before on this ship, and instantly that meant picturing her face. She was a lovely woman with beautiful kind blue eyes. She was far too young and far too innocent to die. Still, when the hell had that made any difference?

[How…] Will began, with sadness in the place or previous anger, having last heard they were simply heading for harmless war games, but he soon thought better. He knew he didn’t have the time to indulge curiosity like that. He shook his head to try to change the track of his thoughts back, though he’d never been any good at that. [You know what? It’ll not make any difference to know. There’s a lot more that I have ta…]

Suddenly, Lindsay stopped talking as he heard the softest of footfalls approaching.

“William?” Keiran asked.

Will raised his hand in a gesture to say that they should be quiet and seemed to look around the room, listening for the sound. A few seconds passed before he leaned in towards the screen again.

[I think someone’s here.] He said at little more than a whisper. [I have ta go for now. I’ll explain more when ya get here.]

Will quickly ended the conversation leaving Liis and Keiran with the Federation logo on their screen. The footfalls were coming closer and Will cursed himself knowing there was every risk that whoever it was had overheard him. Clearly they were approaching his office, so he looked up towards the door, unlocked because locking it would have meant security being told he was here. Suddenly the door opened, allowing light to flood the room except where the shadow of a person had been cast over him.

“Denise.” Will said with relief as his eyes adjusted to the now painful light and he recognised who it was. “It’s only you.”

“Yes, it’s only me.” Denise answered with tired concern in her tone. She’d applied to be Will’s personal assistant when he’d taken the job from Vox, who’d been using a temp at the time. He’d looked in to her record and found she’d had the job in the past, but left it. When she’d been offered it again the official word was that she said she’d rather ‘walk barefoot through Hell’ than work directly for Jonas Vox. That attitude helped Lindsay establish pretty well which side she was on. Besides, he needed to concentrate, and at least to pretend to be behaving, and having a woman old enough to be his mother working here helped him do that.

“What are you doing here this late? And why are you sitting in the dark?”

Briefly Will considered lying but he knew there was a chance she’d overheard him, and frankly he was too tired to come up with something anyway.

“Of everyone here, I can trust you, can’t I?” He asked with weary faith in his voice, that seemed to convey that he felt that she was the only person here he could.

“Of course you can.” She assured him, walking in through the door which closed behind her rendering the room dark again.” Oh my,” she said, her vision not her best asset even in good light, “Do you mind if I turn up the lights?”

“Go ahead.” Will answered reluctantly, easing back into his chair.

“Increase illumination to standard.” She ordered and the room was stinging Will’s eyes once again.

She then moved up closer and was about to take the seat across from him, but stopped and first moved it around to his side of the desk before sitting down in it and smiling kindly at him, prompting him to continue.

“The department’s not what it was when you first started, it is Denise?”

“Nor when you first started I’d say.” She acknowledged and he flashed her not quite his usual devilish grin, but rather one of amusement to this woman who’d failed but tried to be like a mother to him since he took on this position. She did have that certain motherly ability to force a man who’d so rather be out having fun to be here doing his work.

“No it’s not.” He agreed with a sad sigh, thinking back to what he’d thought this place was going to be. “However, I’m goin’ ta try to make it better. I’ve just been speakin’ ta some people who I think can help me.”

“Alright,” Denise said with a nod of her head “and these people, do you trust them?”

“Aye, that I do.” Will answered without hesitation. However much hesitation came when he started considering the possible events of the next few days. “Look, Denise, ya know yer just about my favourite person around here, right?”

“A lie, I’m sure.” She said, thinking that perhaps she would have been if she were a few decades younger. “However it’s one I can live with.”

“Well, then take a few days off.” Will instructed her. “You’ve been showing up too early and work far too late anyway.”

The old woman gave him an ironic grin, given how he had taken the occasional liberty with the schedule particularly when it came to starting the day on time.

“You know I can’t do that.” She answered, reaching out and touching his hand in a gesture of support. “Someone has to be here to make sure you don’t get into trouble.”

“I’m serious.” Will argued frowning and she just smiled politely at him.

“So am I.”

Captain William Lindsay
Interim Director
Department of Temporal Investigations

1020: Any Such Small, Comforting Thoughts

By William Lindsay and Zanh Liis
Soundtrack: Peace on Earth, by U2
Following Memory's Sins


-=USS Alchemy=-

Zanh Liis O'Sullivan stood in silence; her arms folded tightly around her as she rocked her weight from the toes back to the heels of her boots time and again.

She wanted to leave this place.

She wished she could escape the glaring lights and antiseptic smells more than she wanted anything else right now; even though she knew that simply walking away from them could never erase from her mind the sight of the dead or pain of the injured.

Even though she could have easily and with one order sent someone else to stand here in her place, that was something that she just couldn't bring herself, in good conscience, to do.

She was Commanding Officer of this crew and that desire to run and hide from this was not only a luxury but also a powerful display of cowardice that she had neither the right nor the ability to give in to.

She was just inside the Alchemy's medical bay: a small space that felt cramped on a good day with only one or two patients passing through it.

Now it felt impossibly congested with all the activity that was going on within it. The overcrowded room was a flurry of activity as the medical team did what they could for those who were hurt, buying time and mending wounds as best they could as Alchemy swiftly rushed them on their way home.

Liis looked up. She heard medical orders being barked quickly and surely as Lance Hartcort simultaneously oversaw the care of Dabin Reece, Lair Kellyn, Jamie Halliday and Jariel Camen.

"T'Dara, would you," he spun, calling out an order to the nurse.

She did not answer.

He was so used to her being there that for an instant he'd forgotten that she couldn't be there now.

His eyes caught Liis', and quickly both looked away, not wanting that moment of recognition they saw in the expression of the other to prevent them from doing their jobs in the very necessary now.

Liis' eyes wandered now over to her second officer, TC Blane. He had given her a nod as she entered the room from his location in the quietest corner possible. His arms were around February Grace; sheltering her like the brother he'd become to her as she leaned upon him for support.

February had been so brave, Liis thought, and come so far. She'd kept it together until Dabin was safely under sedation, and it was only after she reassured him and all around her with a bright and loving smile that soon everything would be all right, that he was going to be all right, that she had looked down at his blood upon her hands from having held him and gone limp, losing consciousness.

Vol and Trev had flanked her, both men reaching out and quickly taking on the weight of her collapsing form before she ever had a chance to hit the floor.

Trev was needed in Engineering and so had finally gone to work but Vol remained just outside the entrance to the bay; having told Blane that he stood ready to offer the comfort and consolation of his friendship to Bru as well when she was ready to receive it.

Knowing she was at the moment a bit overwhelmed by it all, Blane had simply taken off his jacket and put it over her shoulders to try to warm her up though he knew it was not really the cold that was the reason she couldn't stop shaking.

A deep, burning rage was roiling and twisting inside of Liis. She wanted, in truth, to go down to the brig where Jelca was currently on suicide watch and deliver justice herself in the form of a quick death by phaser blast that was far more merciful a sentence than the woman possibly deserved.

For the sake of all the souls Jelca had taken: good, innocent people and for no right or worthwhile reason, Zanh couldn't help but wish for a second that she could be judge, jury, and swift executioner.

"Sorry for the delay, Captain. Puttin' out fires as quick as we can," Dalton said, as he swept up to her at last.

He walked onward and Liis dutifully followed him toward a stasis chamber sitting in the corner of Sickbay. He stopped beside it and then in spite of all the chaos around him he paused, and with a rarely heard solemness from the depth of his concern for the woman fighting with demons enough as it was he quietly issued what he fully expected to be a fruitless reminder. "Ya know, you don't have to do this now."

"Yes, I do. But not here," Liis replied with an insistent certainty fuelled by strong concern for all who were still here and anger for those who’d been lost. Her eyes moved over to Lair Kellyn across the room, taking note of the expression of shock upon the engineer's face as she stared blankly into the distance.

Salvek had been here before but Liis asked him to go to the bridge and command his ship; knowing work was the best thing for him right now and that his place was in command while she assessed the condition of their crew.

As upset as they all were over everything that had happened on Sibalt, it was the loss of life that was haunting them most.

Especially would the loss of one particular life haunt them, she knew, for a very long time to come.

Liis turned her attention back to McKay. "We can't keep her here. We have to think of the crew. They." She glanced up again as the doors opened and Rada Dengar entered the room. He approached Kellyn's bedside after nodding to Liis, Thomas, and anyone else he happened to pass on the way.

Liis knew that she was going to have to speak to the Angosian soon. She needed to get a sense if she could of just what was going on in his head.

The problem was that would be very difficult to do if he didn't have any idea himself.

Still, that conversation was one that could and must wait. Had he been a danger to the ship then of course it’d be different; Liis couldn’t let her concern for a particular officer -no matter how deeply held her beliefs about the fact that he should never have been in this situation in the first place- jeopardize any more lives among this crew.

However as she watched his gentle approach to Kellyn and saw the look of concern in his eyes for his friend, only overshadowed once before at a time she hoped he could still no longer remember, she knew that while Rada Dengar was even to his own knowledge in great danger now he’d ensure it would be his danger to face alone.

"If not here, Cap'n, where do ya'll want me to put her?" Dalton asked, with a tone that conveyed a fundamental belief that respect shouldn’t and couldn’t end with a life.

"We're going to have to move her to the cargo hold for now." Though her tone was even and emotionless, the very thought of it bothered Zanh more than she could ever let anyone know.

"Captain! I must object. She's not a piece of engineering equipment!"

"Dalton," Liis' voice warned him sternly that she fully understood the gravity of the situation. "I am well aware what she is." She sighed with regret even though she knew that the woman herself would've expected her to do nothing less than to see to the greater good of the majority of the crew; and this decision would do that even if Liis hated it. "We'll transport her straight there instead of..." she didn't want everyone to have to see this, not yet, at least. "Do you have her combadge?"

"I...never had a chance to take it off of her." He sighed and looked away, his tall frame and broad shoulders seeming to sink a little beneath the weight of his sadness. "Didn't have time to do anything."

In this moment Liis wondered how anyone could ever doubt that Photonics were fully aware and feeling beings. She’d seen too much pain in her life to ever be fooled by a mere simulation; of the authenticity of the doctor’s pain, she had no doubt.

She put a hand on his shoulder and squeezed it firmly, reassuring him with the gesture that she shared his sadness before she wearily tapped her badge with her free hand. "Zanh to the bridge."

[O'Sullivan here.] Keiran responded from the tactical station, as Zander was down in the brig with their prisoner.

"Captain," Liis referred to him respectfully: formally. She couldn't say his name now. If she did she would lose any hope of keeping her rapidly disintegrating composure. "Could you please transport myself, Doctor McKay, and the stasis chamber holding the Ensign down to Cargo Bay one?"

Keiran hesitated, but only for a moment. [Aye, Sir. Stand by.]

Liis closed her eyes, shuddering as they smarted against closed lids. They hurt like hell, though with what everyone else was going through she cursed herself for even considering the pain as she wondered how much longer this particular day could possibly go on. The best times had always seemed to be so quickly over and it felt to be an irrevocable truth that time set itself as a tormentor of all good men, and women as well.

Her thoughts were interrupted a moment later when Keiran spoke again. [Energizing.]

Within seconds Liis and Dalton were standing beside the chamber once again, relocated to the nearly empty main cargo hold. She raised her eyes to his, nodding slowly.

"You sure you wanna do this now?" He surveyed her with concern. "You're awful tired, Captain. You need sleep."

"We all need sleep." Liis replied, deflecting considerations of just how tired she really was. "Open it."

McKay sighed again. "Aye, Sir."

Liis watched as the glass enclosure slid away and the lovely, still form of Ensign T'Dara was revealed. There was a certain added horror to death when it looked so close to sleep; so peaceful that the mind could almost be blinded to the fact that an entire life would never be returned.

McKay stepped back. "Would you like me to leave you alone a minute?"

Liis shook her head from side to side to indicate that wasn't necessary.

What her thoughts were in this moment he could only imagine as she stared with fixed, burning eyes as red as the desert sun and equally devoid of moisture.

"If it's any consolation to you," McKay volunteered a moment later, "she never knew what happened. Salvek's nerve pinch knocked her out and after that, her body was already too far gone. She never regained consciousness before the fever took her."

"It is no consolation to me," Liis declared, as she absently lifted her hand allowing her fingertips to twist the chain of her earring. "It may be to her family, though."

She exhaled slowly in bitter disappointment as reality once again slapped away any such small, comforting thoughts. "Her family. How the hell do you tell the family of such a fine, distinguished officer that when they should be celebrating a wedding that they instead have to plan a funeral?"

"I don't know." Dalton's blue eyes rose toward the heavens beyond the ceiling as if silently asking the question of some higher, wiser being. They shone in the light, leaving Liis to wonder who had thought to program in the appearance of tears to a man who was supposed to have no soul and therefore no reason to weep. "For as much experience of as many doctors as I have runnin' around in my head, I still haven't figured out yet how to do that exactly right."

"Well if you figure it out, let me know." Her teeth rattled with her ever intensifying fury. "You know what? I think I would like a moment here alone if you don't mind."

He nodded, and she held her hand up quickly to add another thought. "Oh, if you could, on your way out, do me a favor? Have Zander send a couple of guards down here, right away. We'll be keeping her here until we get back to the Sera."

McKay didn't question her request. Even though the Alchemy was certainly a secure enough environment to leave T'Dara here alone, stationing men to keep watch over her was an act of respect and a matter of honor.

"Aye, Captain. And after we get back?"

"Then we're going to do the right thing. We're going to take her home."

Dalton nodded and stepped back another foot. "Is there anything I can do for you, Captain?"

"You've already done it, thank you. Just make sure Lance has all the help he can get and tell him I'll be back to check in on Reece shortly."

"Aye, Sir." McKay paused one last time, venturing a comment he wasn't sure he should make but was compelled to just the same. "Captain, you do know that this was all completely beyond your control."

"I know." Her words were in agreement but her tone, contradictory. "They tell me there was nothing we could've done given the circumstances, but I don't think that is going to mean a damn thing to her parents."

McKay retreated at last in silence, leaving Liis alone with the stasis chamber turned casket and the valued member of her crew who laid lifeless inside of it.

She began to pace before it, rotating on her heel and then moving ever more quickly back along its length.

As she stared at the nightmare before her, she considered just how unnatural it was to ever see T'Dara holding still.

The woman was always in motion. Always helping someone else, always doing her job.

Never once had Liis ever heard he express any concern for her own rank, position or welfare let alone her personal desires.

Maybe if she had, just this once, she would still be alive.

"Damn it, T'Dara, this is wrong." Liis folded her arms again and spoke through painfully clenched jaws. "You should be happy, glowing. Alive, and in love." She shook her head. "I have never seen you smile, but I know that..." She looked away for a moment from T'Dara's pale, frozen features, unable to look at her now. "I know that Vulcans can and do smile when they're in love, and you deserved..." She shrugged. "You deserved so very much more than this.

"You would've made such a fine physician. Just six more months, you said, and you'd have been able to apply for..." She stopped. T'Dara's plans along with all of her knowledge and all of her accomplishments meant absolutely nothing now.

"I wish I'd known. If I'd only known, I would've had them take you back on the Alchemy before it ever left orbit. Straight to Vulcan. Even on the planet if you'd just said something sooner, I would've made sure that somehow we figured out how to help you." Frustration overtook the sadness in her words momentarily.

"I wish you'd felt you could've come to me. I." Her frustration quickly dissolved; her sorrow and anger too caustic to allow it to remain her dominant emotion.

Liis reached out and straightened the collar of T'Dara's uniform; slightly askew in a manner that the Ensign herself never would have tolerated for a moment. When she was finished, she spoke the only two words she had left in her.

"I'm sorry."

Absorbed momentarily by the silence, Liis startled as her combadge sounded its bright, distinctive chirp. The tone was followed by Keiran's unmistakable voice, ghostly echoing up toward the ceiling in the stillness of the hold.

[O'Sullivan to O'Sullivan.]

It took a moment before she could speak, and he repeated the greeting with much greater concern before she finally managed to force out a single word in reply.


[Liis, are ya alright?] his gently spoken, openly worried question indicated he was contacting her from a location where they could speak more freely than before. [Need ya to come up here.]

"Keiran? Where are you?" Liis inhaled sharply, but her lungs resisted with fearful constriction and she still felt short of breath. "What's wrong?"

[Am in the Ready Room. Ya've got a priority one message comin' in on a secured channel,] he audibly sighed before going on. [You need ta take this one, a chuisle.]

"Lassiter?" Liis groaned, thinking that may be the only way her day could get worse. No, she quickly cursed herself for that childishly simple, self-pitying indulgence as she regarded their lost Ensign again. Things could always get worse.

[No, i's not Gem.] His tone clearly betrayed the depths of his worry as he added, [i's William.]

The formerly faint, far-off sirens in Liis' head screamed closer, grew louder, and continued to wail.

William Lindsay was not the kind of man to make a social call over subspace when it was the middle of the night back at Temporal Investigations as it was now; even if he was the sort who would use a secured channel and priority one code clearance to do it.

"Be right there," she said. "O'Sullivan out."

The channel closed and she reached out, double checking one last time to be sure that T'Dara's uniform was arranged just so. Pips perfectly aligned, combadge neatly in place, collar and cuffs of her sleeves in perfect, formal order.

Just as she would have it. Liis thought, still, something's just not right.

She realized quickly and with chilling regret that it didn't matter how much she tried to make this picture look correct.

With the woman lying dead before her instead of simply in stasis as she might have been if they'd only had more time, there was no way that it would ever look, or be right.

"I wish you peace, T'Dara: daughter of Savel." Liis closed her eyes for an instant as she pressed the proper button and the case slid closed once more. "Peace, and rest."

Captain William Lindsay
Interim Director
Department of Temporal Investigations


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

1019: Memory’s Sins

By Rada Dengar and Dabin Reece
After Risking Everything

-=Former base camp on Sibalt=-

Jelca Rued was no longer amused. She had left Reece behind and transported to the campsite in the hopes of persuading the Serendipity crew that all was well and there was no reason to search the woods.

When she arrived, she found the camp empty. She was too late.

They had already long since gone, heading off in each direction if the footprints were any indication. She activated her comm to try and raise her comrades, but for some reason it was not working.

*Curses, * she thought, *they probably found the tunnels. * And if someone had found the tunnels, there was a good chance they would find Dabin Reece as well.

Jelca activated her transporter, intending to place herself about one hundred meters away from her compound. When she materialized, she saw the one called Steele in the distance, at the entrance to the compound.

They were indeed inside, which explained why her communications device was not working. She had most likely been cut off from access. Infuriatingly, if she was going to get in contact with the others she would have to do it the old fashioned way: on foot.

Complicating matters, as soon as she took off into the woods the temperature suddenly began to rise, meaning they now had control of the weather net as well. So much for her plan to freeze Reece’s friends to death while she reveled in his agony. In her frustration Jelca let loose with a series of Sveji curses through gritted teeth, punctuated by kicking the snow in front of her, sending a spray through the nearby trees.

There was no doubt either that if Zanh’s people had found the communications equipment, they would have been able to use the public address system to call in their other search parties. This location would be swarming with Sera crew soon enough.

Still refusing to be discouraged Jelca circled the perimeter, where she knew the secret entrances were located. Without wasting a moment of time she gathered up what men she could, six in total was all she had left here, and they all immediately began the trek back to the entrance where she had seen the one called Steele. If they were going to try to get Reece out, that is where it would be.

As they approached the entrance, Jelca motioned for her men to crouch down low so as not be seen. Steele was squinting in their direction, and Jelca worried they may have been spotted. She was not looking directly at them however, rather she was glancing into a nearby tree and it piqued Jelca’s curiosity. She followed the line of Steele’s gaze and saw the one called Jariel in the tree, motioning with his hands.

Landry then turned, looking straight at Jelca and her men.

Suddenly her eyes flew wide open and then in a rare moment of a truly impressive physical reaction she’d jumped down into the tunnels within the blink of an eye.

“They know we’re here.” Jelca hissed, knowing that with the Serendipity crew’s greater numbers that letting their position be given away was not a mistake they could afford. Jelca instantly decided that it was a mistake she would not repeat.

She quickly drew her weapon and fired up into the nearby tree. The branch Jariel was perched on snapped, and the Vedek began to fall, grasping for branches on the way down. He hit the ground with a thud on his back, and then just lay there motionless. It was clear he would not be moving any time soon.

One of the guards started to move in his direction to intent on making sure the job was finished, but Jelca stopped him with impatience much stronger than mercy.

“Forget him,” she barked. “We need to find Reece.”

She swiftly turned and ran and the rest of her group followed her to the entrance, only to find it had been sealed from the inside by the time they arrived. With irritation Jelca slammed her hand against the door, not actually expecting it to do anything.

“Should we blast it open Leader?” One guard asked, more eager to please than actually eager to cause any destruction.

Jelca just scowled and chose not to answer. After all her preparation and so many years of waiting nothing was going to plan, but she refused to let Reece get off now; not now that she was so close to her revenge.

She’d already decided that she’d blow up this entire planet if need be to get to him but she wasn’t sure that blasting open this single sealed door would gain them a thing. The choice had to be made. If Reece was on the surface, they would lose precious time getting inside only to find he was not there. If Reece was below in the tunnels and they stayed on the surface, they would never find him.

With the efficiency and thirst of a wild predator, Jelca scanned the surrounding area. Then finally a small smile settled on her face with a piece of good fortune as she saw a large number of tracks heading off into the woods.

She leaned down closely to inspect them, while her men waited looking on.

Converse.” She concluded with an instructing wave of her hand. “They went this way.”

Then what small victorious smile had been allowed on to her face disappeared as in the distance she saw motion, in the form of the rest of the Serendipity crew closing in on their position. They were almost out of time.

“Hurry!” she ordered, following the tracks, which were already beginning to melt from the warmth.

In spite of her small size Jelca moved quickly, fuelled by pure determination. Her guards never slipped back but always stayed just behind her, smart enough to know that when she wanted to lead she really wanted to lead.

The Serendipity crew was getting closer, so much closer that they would likely spot them soon, but while at first it panicked her soon Jelca saw this for the good fortune it was. Either this group didn’t know where Reece was or they were heading straight towards him. If they didn’t know where he was then they should have been almost certainly heading in a direction away from his tracks. If they did know however then their paths towards him were like two separate lines starting out far apart but heading towards the same point where they’d meet; they only came together when they came close to reaching that point.

Her suspicions were proven correct when she heard his voice carried along the still air. He was close, very close, and though Dabin sounded nothing like Ladron to anyone else’s ears to Jelca it was like being there on her planet so long ago watching him tearing their civilization and her family’s fortunes apart. She heard in every tone, every assertion and every protestation the lies of Ladron Reece and all the pain they’d brought with them that still continued to this day.

She disregarded the tracks and instead chose to follow his voice. Tracks could fade but she considered herself incapable of ever forgetting that mocking sound in her ears. Quickly it became clear that the decision had been correct as there beyond the immediate row of trees she could see him once again.

She crouched, just raising her eyes high enough to survey the area. Reece and his female were well guarded. Those officers that were here had been established in an effective and very difficult to penetrate perimeter. Jelca noted that while cautious they didn’t look especially alert. This was very good; it meant that the people who’d sealed themselves below the ground hadn’t had a chance to contact them.

Jelca had to admit that they’d chosen their location well. Though at present these trees had Jelca and her team shielded from their view the actual area where Reece was being kept was a clearing and there’d be no way to get to him without exposing their position and encountering at least one officer stationed on the outside and so giving them a chance to notify someone else. Adding to that that the gaps between the trees were extremely restrictive and so would force them to attack in a single line if they were all to go together and Jelca could have started getting worried.

She noted that they did have the singular advantage that the Serendipity crew only had the two weapons between them that they’d taken from her guards whereas she and all her remaining guards had one of their own. However while that was greatly advantageous if she wished to slaughter them in large quantities she only wanted one of them and she wanted to make sure she was the one who got him. Leveling the place with weapon’s fire meant her odds of being the one to actually do it were unacceptable by far.

“What should we do, Leader?” One of the guards questioned anxiously, noting the increasing volume of the footfalls which said the rest of the crew would be here soon.

Jelca simply smiled slightly as well as very unsettlingly as she had an idea. She turned her eyes to the guards, silently thinking that their sacrifice will be in pain.

“The six of you are to attack from that point,“ she said firmly, indicating an opening in the trees on the far side of the clearing.

The guards were cautious about this particular suggestion but dare not question it.

“What will you do, Leader?” One man nervously asked, knowing it was probably a bad sign that they’d all be going together but she would not be coming with them.

“I shall go after Reece,” she answered, without really answering them but with a determined look in her eye that said she wouldn’t be going further.

She was their Minister however, and so reluctantly they began to move off, staying low and traveling around the trees.

Jelca eagerly watched through the small opening and it wasn’t long before she’d spotted her men entering through the gap in the trees to which she’d ordered them. Just as quickly it seemed the Serendipity officer’s had spotted them as well.

Her guards started to fire, charging in; TC Blane and Salvek started firing back. It was a bad choice of where to enter from and their being forced into coming in single file meant that two of the guards were down already.

Dengar and Ryn began to fall back, protecting Reece and Grace by keeping them behind them, not realizing that Jelca was there in wait. The sound of weapons fire pierced the once still air and Jelca knew that the rest of the Serendipity crew would be here soon, so there was no better time than now.

Suddenly she was around the trees, charging in like a madwoman as her guards continued to be mowed down.

Reece and the other officers turned just in time to see and duck from the beam of her weapon.

Dabin rolled across the ground and popped back up to his feet, making a dash for the tree line. Jelca snapped her weapon up at Lara, then Rada, whom she cared nothing about, then over to Reece who was making a getaway. She fired, hitting Dabin squarely in the hip. The Trill yelped in pain and fell into the snow, which immediately began to turn crimson.

Jelca regained her footing, and ran down Reece immediately. The commotion caught the attention of Blane and Salvek, who left two of the guards pinned down where they were behind the trees. They each tried to get to Reece, but were too late. Jelca kneeled to the ground, pulling Reece’s body up to cover her own, with her arm around his throat and her weapon to his temple.

“DON’T!” she ordered. Blane and Salvek froze in their tracks. Blane wrapped his arm around February, who was somewhere in between horror and fury as she watched this wretched woman holding her wounded husband. “Drop them!”

TC and Salvek both let their weapons fall to the ground. Jelca’s last two guards emerged from the trees and scooped them up. They took up position on either side of Jelca, while Rada and Ryn circled behind her, exchanged glances with the first and second officer’s to see what they might have planned next.

“What the hell is going on here?” Zanh Liis’s voice called out from the tree line. The guards shifted their weapons towards the Captain.

“I wouldn’a do that if I were yew,” Keiran’s voice called from another direction, as the teams converged. “We’ve got ya outnumbered. Ya can’t shoot all of us.”

“Maybe not but I can’t shoot enough of you, starting with him.” Jelca hissed, as she jabbed the weapon into Reece’s wounded side. Dabin groaned in pain.

The crew had Jelca surrounded now, but she and her men held all the weapons.

“What did she do to him?” Zanh whispered to Dalton McKay.

“Anti-coagulant in the weapon. Dominion technology. He needs t’ be in a medical bay last week.”

“Where the hell would she have gotten something like that?” Zanh snapped back.

“Does it matter?”

As they spoke, Zanh heard a rumbling in the distance. She looked back over her shoulder, and saw the trees swaying at the horizon. Her mind drifted back to what Salvek had said, as the rumbling grew louder. They had found a command center, a weather net.

Everyone was looking in the same direction now, as a single name escaped the Captain’s lips…. “Samson… EVERYONE GET DOWN!”

Zanh’s crew all dropped to the ground, while Jelca’s men stood dumbfounded. With the roar of a freight train, a mighty gust of wind blew through the clearing, snapping branches and uprooting whole trees from the forest as it passed. Jelca held onto Reece for dear life, but her goons did not drop fast enough, and were blown off their feet by the wind, and landed with a horrific crunch of bone back onto the ground.

Micah had leveled the playing field.

When Jelca got back up to her knees, she found herself alone, but she still had her weapon, and Reece. The weapon of one of her men lay at the feet of one of the Starfleet officers. He bent down slowly, picked it up, and leveled it on Jelca.

Reece’s eyes were fluttering now as unconsciousness threatened to take him over. The normally energetic and exuberant Trill was barely moving, as the loss of blood approached critical levels.

“If you shoot, he dies with me,” Jelca warned the man with the weapon. “We all die.”

Everyone stood frozen; waiting to see what Rada Dengar would do next.

Rada simply remained still as well, his eyes flicking quickly from the weapon to Jelca as if through being dragged by both sides of a raging internal debate. Then finally the debate was over as he exhaled a slow weighted sigh, suddenly feeling true fatigue about so many winless choices. He was so sick of winless choices and their toll pulled heavily down upon him. Every time he thought they were safe they were just sucked back in. Frankly he found it difficult to care just what happened to him if life were to continue like this.

Being that as it may he could see one and only one way out of this.

He slowly began to move his weapon away from Jelca, instead directing it towards Reece. O’Sullivan and Blakeslee both crept towards Rada, unsure if they should offer their help or just outright tackle him. The truth was, no one had any idea what should be done with Dengar right now.

The crowd stood on in silence watching some in shock and others in utter disbelief, while those few who truly understood considered if Rada had finally broken down.

“Put the weapon down or I shoot.” Rada softly insisted.

Jelca suddenly found herself laughing a caustic laugh of incredulousness and bitter amusement. “This is what you threaten me with? I’ve been wanting him dead ever since I first learnt of his existence!”

“Exactly.” Rada continued softly again, as he spoke the logic that had run through his mind. “Yet you haven’t killed him. You could have killed him in his sleep. You could have had his massacred by your guards. You didn’t do any of it.”

“So what, you think I couldn’t do it?” She scoffed in disbelief. “Even now he sits here dying by my own hand.”

A threateningly insincere smile briefly seemed to flash on his face.

“I don’t deny you can shoot him,” he acknowledged quietly, knowing every ear and every eye was locked upon him. “I simply deny you can do it first.”

He began to step towards Jelca and the slightest shake in her hand was enough to tell him she objected, so he stopped just that bit closer than where he’d begun.

“That’s been the point of all of this, hasn’t it? I don’t know the exact details of why you hate him so but I know you’ve waited because you had to be the one to kill him. That’s why you couldn’t leave him on the surface to freeze to death with the rest of us. Hate is funny like that. Yet now as your finger pulls tighter on that trigger I may squeeze mine first and be the one to have your revenge. I don’t believe you can take the risk.”

The expression on Jelca’s face actually seemed to be one of near terror laced in heavy denial as she protested against his words.

“You won’t shoot him,” she quickly assured herself.

Rada’s countenance briefly flashed with a dark amusement that threatened to break through the fragile glass that seemed all that was holding his sanity together. It was a far colder version of the look one gave to a child whose simple life left them feeling like they understood all the greatest demons in the world.

“Look into my eyes,” he asked her, in an absent but deadly serious tone. “Don’t you see it?”

Jelca did indeed look into his eyes but she found there nothing she expected, and nothing of the darkness he thought she’d find there either. She did fear of that one certain type few would ever have the misfortune to have known.

“I see a man near his limit!” Jelca spat, as all others who were free to do so truly took in Rada’s eyes. They all could see it too.

“My limit?” Rada questioned in hollow monotone with a shake of his head. “No, I have done far worse than to kill just one good man.”

With those words all around who knew enough to understand suddenly felt like all their fears about Rada were confirmed; his resequencing had finally come undone. Some were stunned into silence; some like Keiran and Liis were wise enough to know there was nothing they could say. Others let out gasps or whispers in disbelief that it should happen now.

“What have you done?” Jelca asked incredulous though shaken by the dark sincerity she found in Rada’s voice.

“I don’t know,” he answered truthfully, and with something close to, but less than, appreciation for that fact. “I merely know that many died by my own hand. Nothing else could have taken that missing part of me.”

Rada stepped forward again, just a single step.

“Get back!” Jelca screamed though she dare not move her weapon from the ever-weakening Reece.

“You cannot win here. Either we continue to stand still and he dies so neither of us gets to fire that final blow or you fire and risk me getting to him first. The best you can do now is to get out of here alive so you can plan for your revenge again tomorrow.”

Jelca’s eyes seemed to scan from officer to officer, taking in just how little chance she actually had of escaping. If she just let Reece bleed to death then she would have been the one to kill him but it wasn’t enough, what she’d done so far just didn’t feel like enough.

“There is no way I’m getting out of here,” she both argued and to herself admitted, the glimmer of tears entering her eyes as she truly thought how close she was to her death. The worst part was that she could just be a prisoner if she was to surrender, but revenge was far too powerful to allow that to happen. “Not while some part of Ladron Reece still lives on in this galaxy!”

“You cannot erase history by the burning of a book,” Rada calmly argued. “I don’t know exactly what Ladron Reece did to your people but now he lives on only in memory. It is only through your actions that he is given any life again.”

“He lives in him!” she screamed, as she indicated Reece whose consciousness looked almost like it had already slipped away.

“Ladron is dead, over a century dead.” Rada insisted. “Dabin is simply another man you’re killing without reason.”

“No,” Jelca objected, not willing to accept it could possible be so as panic gripped her tone. “He is but another manifestation of Ladron Reece!”

“And who is Ladron Reece?”

“He is a monster,” she answered shakily as she felt her heart rate pounding. “He posed as a god and assaulted my world!”

Rada quickly exhaled, his eyes locked on Jelca’s, before he spoke for all to hear.

“Will everyone who has ever known Dabin to pose as a god please step forward?”

Looks were exchanged but nobody moved.

“He stole our money!” Jelca continued almost desperate to believe.

“Will everyone whose money Dabin has ever stolen please step forward?”

Again the people were still.

“He lied to take our daughters as his wives!”

“Will everyone who…”

“Enough!” Jelca objected but Rada still didn’t stop.

“Now will everyone who considered Dabin Reece to be a good man please step forward?”

Though reluctantly in some cases and in an uneven wave slowly all the officers present took a single step forward towards Jelca.

“Stop!” Jelca screamed, her hand shaking her weapon as she held it against Reece.

“You can only shoot him once.” Rada reminded her before continuing on defiantly. “Will everyone who would like to call Dabin a friend please step forward?”

People moved in again this time faster.

“Stop it!”

“Look at these people, Jelca,” Rada insisted. “They are all here risking their lives. Would they have done that for a man like Ladron Reece?”

“They would if he had tricked them. They don’t know him like I do!” Jelca desperately insisted though she was losing faith in her own arguments.

“Look at her eyes,” Rada coldly insisted with quiet exasperation as he indicated February whose cheeks were drenched by streams of tears, as she could do nothing to stop Dabin’s deterioration before her. “Are you trying to tell me that she doesn’t know him either?”

“I…I mean he…I mean…” Jelca spluttered out, even as the horror of what she might have done overcame her.

“It’s over,” Rada said. He took another step towards her and this time she didn’t fight him, simply letting her hand go limp as Rada took the weapon by the barrel, her eyes still unable to leave those of poor February.

Then quickly Rada stepped away taking the weapons in hand, and with the remaining guards still unconscious from Samson’s saving act, Doctors McKay and Hartcort immediately rushed in hoping he’d be able to treat Reece before it was too late.

O’Sullivan and Blakeslee moved to take the guards into custody, while TC Blane stepped in with February and took the weapons out of Rada’s hands then turned one of them on Jelca. They each of them knew that whatever happened now, it really was over.

“You are under arrest,” Blane said solemnly, taking little satisfaction from the fact.

“Did you see Vedek Jariel?” Salvek asked Hartcort, who was busy trying to bandage Reece’s wound. Salvek had noted that the Vedek had never made his way to the rest of the group.

“We found him on the way here. Three broken ribs and a concussion. He’ll be up and about in a few a days. He insisted he’d be fine and pointed us in this direction to follow Jelca,” Lance said.

Mellice Cem, who had been standing off to the side up until this point, stepped forward. “She murdered the Starfleet personnel in charge of this facility. I can show you where they are.”

Salvek lowered his head, and then shifted his gaze from Cem to Hartcort. The Doctor nodded, indicating that Mellice was trustworthy. “Please show Lieutenant Tubman their location,” Salvek ordered Mellice.

Zanh had joined the group now. Inside she was struggling with the image of Reece’s lifeless body before her but outside she kept her cool, for everyone else’s sake.

“We need to contact the Alchemy and get him into a medical bay, now!” Hartcort informed the Captain forcefully.

“Did you see anything in the Command center we can use to contact the ship?” Zanh asked of Salvek. All their communications equipment had been taken for the “games” and Zanh had little doubt by now, Jelca had had it destroyed.

“I don’t believe so. The system PA system was not subspace based. It could take hours of searching to find something else,” Salvek answered.

“He’s got minutes, if he’s lucky. Not hours.” McKay said, and he pressed his hands over Reece’s wound to try and slow the blood flow. “And I need Lair Kellyn up there too.”

“Why?” Salvek snapped immediately.

“Hypothermia. She took a fall through the ice.” McKay said. He saw the panic crossing the Vulcan’s face. “Halliday pulled her out, she’ll be ok, don’t you worry.”

“Here,” Jelca reached into a pocket on her clothing and withdrew a Starfleet issue communicator. She laid it in her palm and held it out towards Zanh Liis. The Captain approached her, while TC Blane kept his weapon ready lest Jelca try anything she shouldn’t. “A trophy.” She said simply, explaining why she had chosen to keep this one badge.

Zanh was not sure whether to be appreciative or furious, but she did know the time to debate it was not now. She slapped the badge into Hartcort’s palm and stepped clear. “Find Lair,” was all she said.

“Hartcort to Alchemy. Computer three to beam directly to the medical bay.”

There was a chirp and a moment later, Reece, Hartcort and McKay were gone.

Zanh spun away, needing to avert her gaze from the spot in the melting snow where Reece had been. She found herself looking directly into the eyes of Vol Tryst. The Counselor then turned away and inclined his head, inviting Zanh to follow his gaze.

There she saw Rada Dengar, alone, sitting on the log of a fallen tree. His arms rested on his knees, and his head hung low.

She looked back at Tryst, who still had said nothing.
“I know,” Zanh whispered, as she silently contemplated just where Rada went from here.
Lt. Commander Rada Dengar
Chief Engineering Officer
USS Serendipity NCC-2012


Commander Dabin Reece
Chief Science Officer
USS Serendipity NCC-2012

1018: A Kidnapping of Sorts

By Mellice Cem and Lance Hartcort
Concurrent with Things Are Looking Up and about one hour before Risking Everything

-=The Forest on Sibalt=-

There were many ways to get into Labyrinth Station, so long as one knew where to look.

There was the transporter system that Mellice had access to, or one of the many hatches hidden by various camouflaging shields or behind rather large but very light boulders made of foam.

Watching one of said entrances not too far from his old base camp, he noticed an odd sight; armed guards posted there had been none previously.

*Must be holding the Serendipity crewmembers somewhere inside,* he thought to himself while pondering his next move.

He alone couldn't take on all of Jelca's cohorts; that would be a suicide mission for just one person. He was going to need help. Serious help.

He knew where to get the assistance he needed, but he'd have to work fast in order to make sure he wasn't mistaken for one of Jelca's goons and knocked out before he had a chance to speak.

There were only few people on this now snowy ice cube he trusted, one of them being Zanh Liis, the others being Lair Kellyn, Paxton Briggs and Lance Hartcort. He had to get to one of them and explain why he was here and his role in the 'games'. He transported away to his base camp, and began to gather all the weapons he'd brought with him. The bow with quiver of arrows, his raptor, (a hooked and serrated skinning knife he's had since those dark days on Bajor in the Resistance), as well as his fishing equipment, since he knew the thin monofilament line would come especially handy for traps out here in the forest due to it being nearly invisible and near impossible to detect.

With everything now gathered, he had a feeling that his best chance to explain what he was doing here was to get to the someone who knew and trusted him. Then he could talk some sense into that person as to what Jelca and her goon squad were really up to here. He had to get to the good doctor, Lance Hartcort. With this in mind, he grabbed an extra thermal suit he'd brought with him, knowing how much Hartcort hated the cold.

There was no time to waste, as he transported into what had been the base camp of the Sera and Alchemy teams, and found it completely deserted. Looking around, he noticed the footprints in the snow, going off in different directions. *Search parties, I'd have done the same thing in ZL's shoes,* he thought to himself, while following the footsteps of whoever this was.

He noted just how many tracks there were, just in this one group, as he entered the forest. *Good, with this many people out here, finding them and Lance should be easy, so long as I'm actually following the right group.* Mellice unfortunately had no way of knowing if he was or was not, and it did not help matters that the weather seemed to keep getting worse with ever meter in the direction he was headed.

He stopped by a river, as it appeared they had clustered here for a moment. Mellice scouted around the area, until he found a downed tree over the river where everyone's tracks stopped on this side of the river and started back up on the other side of it. He'd have used his transporter to cross but, the coordinates of the other side were outside the map of the gaming area he had programmed into his device.

*Looks like I have to do this the hard way and cross the downed tree.* Even as he was thinking it, he was already in the middle of doing it, carefully traversing the river via the natural bridge. The ice on the top of it made for a tricky walk, but he managed to make it across and continued to follow the tracks in the snow.

*By the Prophets, either this snow storm is either getting worse or I'm going blind,* he thought to himself. The howling wind and the blowing snow persisted without let up, and the tracks he was following were getting covered up quicker now. He trekked onward in the direction he knew they were leading.

Mellice stopped when he thought he heard voices ahead of him, shouting to be heard over the wind. *That's a good sign, and if I'm not mistaken, that chattering voice sounds familiar.* He altered his path slightly, but kept going in the general direction the voices were coming from. He got ahead of their group, and peered around an oak tree to get a look at the members of the search party. *Leader looks like, O'Sullivan, that must be Christian, Lassiter, Tubman and yes, Lance Hartcort.*

Mellice now had to separate the shivering playboy from the rest of the group so he could explain himself to the Doctor, and offer his help. He made his move, circling around so he was in line with the Hartcort’s back. Staying silent, he crept up on the CMO, and just before Lance could make a move to join his cohorts, Mellice's left arm ensnared his waist, while his right hand clamped tightly around the Doctor's mouth. He then pulled him backwards off to the side, where he wouldn’t be seen by the others in his team.

Lance was not sure what was happening. Before he knew anything, he was being dragged away from his companions. It took a few moments for his mind to register the extent of what was going on.

He was being abducted.

The various possibilities of why this was happening to him ran through his head even as he started to struggle.

Maybe whoever was absconding with him needed a doctor…

Maybe they were looking for some company….

Maybe they were hungry and found the Trills unsatisfying…

The last thought pushed the already spastic doctor over the edge and he began to kick and fight back with surprising violence, even trying to bite down, rather futilely, on the gloved hand that covered his mouth.

Mellice gritted his teeth while struggling with the fighting Doctor. He brought him behind a large tree so the two of them could talk about the current situation. "By the Prophets Doc, I'm not one of them, I'm one of you. It’s Mellice Cem. I was sent here by Admiral David Harris under orders to muck up your training here. I had nothing to do with your missing crewmates." He explained quickly, knowing his voice should have been familiar to the Lance.

"There isn't much time, and you look like you’re about to freeze your balls off, so here." Mellice spun Lance around so he could see the very familiar Bajoran, before thrusting the spare thermal suit at him. "And don't say I never gave you anything either Doc. It might be a little small on you, but it should still fit you well enough to keep you warm."

“Geez, I guess tapping someone on the shoulder isn’t your style, is it?” Hartcort said, as he snatched the thermal suit form Mellice’s hands.

Lance gladly put it on while Mellice explained further. "Jelca and her small band aren't who they claim to be. The real team that was supposed to be in charge here are dead. I found their bodies after the paintball match."

"You know,” Lance began, “Not that I'm not grateful for the thermal suit, but aren't you suppose to be aboard Starbase 54? Last I knew, you stayed behind to help oversee the refit and overhaul of the Revolution's brig?"

The warmth of the suit immediately began to soak into Lance’s frozen limbs. He no longer cared nor worried about how or why Mellice was there only that he was glad he had brought this suit with him.

“Ahhhhhh,” He shook his limbs to get the blood flowing back into his hands. After reveling in the returning sensation of feeling for a short time, he turned back to Mellice.

“So, if you are here as a member of Starfleet, why are you stealing me? Wouldn't it be simpler and easier to just tell the Captain what you know?”

"It would, but right now she might see me as one of the bad guys since I did give her clothing some new coloring during the paintball match. If I were her, I wouldn’t trust anyone here now. Oh, and by the way Lance? You really should have found better cover in that." He said with a light hearted chuckle. "That blue stain on your shoulder was all too easy to put there." Mellice added, admitting to being the sniper that shot the good Doctor.

"I need your help in convincing my old comrade form the Aries that I'm on your side. You should know too that some of the entrances to Jelca’s underground lair now have armed guards posted at them. I don't know what kind of weapons any of you brought on this trip, if any, but you’re going to need them and we're all going to have to come up with a plan to capture Jelca and her goon squad so they can be shown the inside of a Starship brig."

He wasn't mincing words with Lance. There was no time for that now. He just came out with it straight, all the facts. Mellice did not want to sound like a cheesy alien from an old 1950’s movie from Lance’s homeworld, but the old pun worked here as he grinned. "Take me to your leader, so we can get Jelca and her people imprisoned."

“Well I’d be happy to help you with that, but as thankful as I am for the warmth, don’t you think it would have been smarter to try and grab Commander Blane or Briggs?” He shrugged. “I’m the doctor and do not have much tactical pull with the Captain.”

He put his hands under his arms to keep them warm. “Plus I am not very good with a phaser.”

"Once this situation is all settled Lance, I'll show you a few tricks to improve your phaser aim and accuracy, and yes it may have been wiser to grab one of them. However, I didn't want a larger struggle than what was already put up by you. If I had nabbed one of them, someone might have given me a more serious injury than the bite mark on my hand."

“Doctor Hartcort!” The voice of Keiran O’Sullivan boomed through the forest, as the Irishman realized the Doctor was no longer on his flank where he had been up until a few minutes ago.

“Come on.,” Lance said. “I’ll introduce you to the Captain’s husband. Once I explain to him that you are with us, you’ll have no trouble getting the Captain’s trust too.”

As if on queue, the storm suddenly ceased, and the skies began to clear, revealing the warmth of the sun. “Figures,” Lance muttered.


Lt. (jg) Mellice Cem
Assistant Security/Tactical
USS Revolution NCC-71605-A


Doctor Lance Hartcort
Chief Medical Officer
USS Serendipity NCC-2012

1017: Risking Everything

By Lara Valera Ryn
About One Hour After Things are Looking Up

-=The Forest on Sibalt=-

It was the first thing she remembered about her first anthropology class at the Academy.

Okay, it was actually the second.

The first had been the dirt fight between her and another first year student, Guinevere. Who knew that hand shovels full of dirt could fly so far?

But after that mess, (and mess was the only word to describe that particular melee), Lara had learned her first lesson: always rely on the environment. It would clue you in to everything else.

It was a good lesson, Lara thought, now standing back outside what had been a cold and barren wasteland that was once, once being only hours ago, a vibrant and lively forest. Now it was turning into a cold, slushy, muddy mess.

It was a sad shame what had been done to this planet, what irreversible harm had been done to the environment, and to the natural history simply by playing with the weather in such a cruel and heartless fashion.

Such tampering had actually been a pet peeve, to say the least, of the anthro profs at the Academy. And the biologists too. Nature being laid to waste for the benefit of a select number of species. They had actually held yearly protests against the weather regulators set in San Francisco, not that the protesting ever did any good.

But this here was not merely controlling the environment; this was manipulating it to no good end. Except maybe to make them and every other life form on this planet die a slow and cold death.

What would Guinevere think about all this? Lara wondered to herself and she looked around at the now melting snow. Of course, that was a question often asked of the fiery redheaded girl. She did have spunk; it had made her stand out, Lara remembered, among all the other girls. That and her very nice…

Lara paused before finishing last thought. She shook her head. Guinevere? She didn’t know a Guinevere. And if she had, she would have certainly not thought about a classmate or friend in such a manner, at least where her mind was wandering.

So why would this memory have popped up, especially if it were not her memory?

Lara stared down at her abdomen, where she knew the scar to be on her own body. And under the scar lay Ryn, of course. And given the less than innocent place her mind was wandering, she knew there was only one host that could be indulging in such memories through her.

“You,” she growled softly under her breath to it. “Just when we were starting to get along,” she mumbled not to herself, but again to it. Then she added, “But I don’t have time for you.”

“Lieutenant Ryn, are you all right?”

It took Lara a minute to realize that it was a real person speaking to her and not the ghost of a voice in her head. She turned to see Commander Blane glancing over at her, a mild look of concern crossing his face. Lara had been sent to join Commander Blane when Salvek had quickly realized searching the tunnels below ground would be fruitless. Besides the weather net and communications grid, which he left Samson and Sterling to look after, they had found nothing of value, and Salvek feared if Jelca returned that they would be trapped in the tunnels that apparently only had one way in or out. He’d ordered everyone else back to the surface where they had a fighting chance out in the open.

“Yes, I’ll be just fine.”

He nodded curtly. “Any signs of our friends?” The word ‘friends’ was emphasized slowly.

Lara shook her head. It was one of the reasons she was out there in the perimeter of their group, along with a rotation of other officers every few minutes. They were on the lookout for their ‘friendly’ hosts.

“Not a peep.”

“Good,” Blane said, although it was unclear if hearing and seeing nothing really was a good thing or not.

But as he walked away, Lara realized that what she said really was true. There was nothing. No sounds, except for the periodic gusts of wind.

And that’s when it hit her. She looked around and saw nothing either. No signs of life, but them. The forest had been teeming with life during their earlier paintball fight through the woods. Now there was nothing. She didn’t need a tricorder to tell her that she was not seeing or hearing anything.

“Commander,” she said, her voice tight.

TC turned back toward her and inclined his head, telling her to continue.

“She wanted to kill him so badly that she would resort to anything. Now, this weather is destroying the eco-system as we stand here.”

“We’re doing everything we can to correct it.”

“I know, I know. But every minute we wait, we don’t just risk freezing or melting ourselves. We risk everything.”

“All the more reason to set this right,” he sombrely said.

Lt. Lara Valera Ryn
Science Officer
USS Serendipity NCC-2012

1016: All or Nothing

By Jamie Halliday
Immediately Following The Only Step Towards Failure

Jamie suddenly felt like all the air had been stolen from his lungs, dragged viciously down with Lair Kellyn into this frozen world where it felt like either each or neither would stay forevermore. Every passing nanosecond screamed the words in his ears that a person was dying, sinking ever further away from the warmth and the light, and there was nothing he could do.

Immediately his heart was pounding. Instantly his mind was throbbing. She was falling, he was failing, but Jamie Halliday still didn’t believe that hopeless was a valid word. The line of his sight once an unbreakable iron bar between he and whatever of Kellyn that water still hadn’t taken was in the blink of an eye snapped in two and he desperately scanned his surroundings for the tools he needed.

There was a solution to every problem; for every lock a key. He was a Starfleet engineer; it was his job to find them as long as it took. He always could and always had found them, but by God he needed time. Yet he felt deep within him Kellyn’s lifetime dwindling far too quickly away.

“Help!” he screamed as loud as he could without his breath to carry the words, but it seemed no one could hear.

He needed help; there was nothing here, but he couldn’t run because there was no one in sight that his legs could reach while Kellyn still had any chance of resuming life.

It was suddenly so very clear as he turned in desperate circles around that he was alone in an assault of hollow white. It seemed there was nothing on this entire world but further snow and ice to speed her demise.

“Someone please help!”

Still no one could hear; still he was alone.

He didn’t know what to do now. Someone had to though. Someone always knew what to do. He scanned his every memory questioning who the Hell it would be. Could it be Rada? The Captain? Ashton Ledbetter? No, it couldn’t be him.

Jamie needed help, he needed advice, but more than anything else what he needed was anything other than snow. God, now he knew why everyone had been complaining it was cold. It was cutting down to his bone now; this was the coldest place he’d ever been.

He turned rapidly again to the hole which had taken her; already seeming to have started healing over even though only seconds had passed. He daren’t let himself look in to see how far she’d gone by now. She wasn’t getting any nearer to the surface and nothing else mattered but that. He swore he’d get her out however far she’d gone or lose his own life in the process.

The overpowering temptation was to just jump in but he couldn’t let himself do that no matter how much he wanted it; Kellyn was such a strong woman and if she couldn’t swim to the surface then there was no chance he could if he went after her. He didn’t want to live with the knowledge he hadn’t tried but jumping in would be giving up which he knew was even worse.

He clamped his hands tightly on the sides of his head pulling back his hair as he turned in rapid circles again continuing to scan every detail of this world. He knew he just needed time. He could do anything with time. However he felt like he was out of it already.

Over and over again he promised himself no one would die here. However it was getting harder and harder to believe. There was nothing here, nothing but white, and there was also absolutely nothing that he could do for her. He couldn’t give up though. He would never let himself give up.

Suddenly he was running; running for someone to help him, feeling every step taking him further and further away from where he needed to be.

“Help!” He screamed again even knowing how useless it was.

Then before he knew what happened he was the one who was falling. He fell crashing to the ground; tripped by something hard underneath the snow. Suddenly his face lit up with hope that to anyone else would just have only been a glimmer.

Still flat on his stomach, unobservant of all his own physical pain, he began to quickly knock the snow away with his hands to reveal what it’d been beneath his feet. It was wood; once from a fallen and rotting tree buried by snow but undeniably solid enough to hold his weight.

Aggressively he dug off the snow down its length until he found its end. It wasn’t too long but it was still thick and heavy enough that with a bit of all the fortune he would assume he'd have it could still serve his purpose entirely. Still, it was absolutely useless where he was now.

He’d only made it mere metres away from that awful opening that had captured Lair Kellyn but it was still such a long distance that he’d have to move the log back. He began digging again around the edges, trying to free it from the ground that seemed to greedily claim everything it could. However it wasn’t budging and as the wind kicked up and the snow rained heavily down around him it was just getting buried further again and he felt like he and his hopes were getting buried along with it.

Yet he didn’t stop digging even as he knew it was taking too long. Even though still only seconds had passed it felt like an eternity she’d been beneath the ground.

“Please, don’t die…” He whispered pleadingly as he dug like a desperate animal searching for its last treasured food in the ground before an enemy came to take it away.

His hands were cramping up but still he didn’t stop.

He was losing all remaining feeling in his fingers but still he didn’t stop.

Then before he even knew he'd almost whimpered with joy as he realised it was suddenly free.

It was so much heavier than he’d thought but he didn’t care as he forced his hands beneath it and heaved it with the force of a man twice his size out of the ground because he really had hope once again.

It was exhausting even dragging it the short distance back to the hole but he truly didn’t care even a little as he once again had made it to the bank of the frozen lake that had taken Kellyn within it.

This would anchor him to the surface but he daren’t take it any closer or it might collapse down into the ice as she’d done.

Rapidly Jamie ripped the jacket from his shoulders instantly feeling the even further assault of the cold. Then with one arm he lifted the log again just enough that he could place the jacket underneath before letting it drop heavily onto the ground where it’d been. Like an expert in knots, something he'd been since his youth, in a mere eternity he'd tied one sleeve around the wood and then the other quickly around his left leg.

He pulled both knots tight and he knew this was the best certainty he could possible hope for. Then he quickly inhaled a single deep breath and without a thought for his own health or future he'd suddenly dived desperately in after her.

The water was so cold that it seemed like ice that was cutting straight through him and almost took from him every hope he’d had that she could survive. He felt like no one could have survived for this long and as he caught a glimpse of her hair through the distorting water below, and knew she’d so clearly lost consciousness already, that all seemed to have been confirmed.

Yet he still fought against the water trying to push him up to the surface even as it seemed to drag her down to the nothingness below. It was as if the planet itself was trying to force him to realise that it was obvious that there was no chance left that he could save her now.

However of the many criticisms Jamie Halliday had faced not one of them had ever been that he too often saw the obvious.

Even though the cold meant he could barely move under here he still was moving and that was enough to keep him going. His hands were clawing desperately ahead of him and then finally at the full length of the how far the jacket could possibly stretch they found a single clump of her hair.

He had hold of her and he latched on for dear life but it would all be useless if he couldn’t get out himself.

He tried to draw back his legs, to pull himself up, but they weren’t moving because together they were too heavy for his knees and he suddenly felt strands of Kellyn’s hair slipping through the fingers in his weakening grip.

Then to his horror he felt them both getting lower. It wasn’t a smooth motion but rather a sudden jagged drop. It was then that he knew that his jacket had started to tear.

He was running out of time and she was falling from his grasp; held at the fullest extension of his arm. He couldn’t let her go but he couldn’t save her. He had two choices neither of which he could take.

As he always did at times like these he tried in his desperation to hear the voice of memories and other’s wisdom in his mind to tell him what he should do. Flashes of so much useless information seemed to be overtaking him, first in a flood and then rapidly down to a trickle as he and his mind had begun to succumb to the cold.

He saw old friends, old foes, and those he was never sure where to place. They spoke words so discordant now, shouting in ways so very empty of exact definition but so very full of true meaning. Then finally he saw one face, of his grandfather as he’d spoken to him when he was very young, speaking softly as the man always did.

“Life is never to be lived without chances." He told him. "All or nothing; that's all there is."

They were such simple words and so long ago, but they’d guided him before and Jamie knew they could now too. With a single motion he yanked Kellyn up by the hair and then released her letting her keep floating up from his hands.

Then rapidly he brought his arm around again while she was still momentarily raised from where she’d been, latching unceremoniously on to her by her face with one hand then pulling her closer to him.

Then he locked his other arm up on to his knee and with everything he had he began to claw up his own legs.

It was actually working, he was pulling them up, but then the jacket dropped them lower again and he could feel that it was about to give.

Then suddenly it broke but in that exact moment he gripped his hand onto the ice up above and even as his legs began falling below them he was pulling them with his free arm up onto solid ground.

Desperately he dragged their freezing bodies back from to the icy water onto the still frigid but so much more welcome snow above, finally collapsing in exhaustion once out of the lake’s deadly reach.
Kellyn was still unconscious and Jamie felt sleep calling out to him himself, but as he felt her shivers even more so than his own he knew that at least for now and whatever the damage she was still alive.

He had no strength left to move the pair of them any further, but he still had enough strength for the muscles in his face to form into their classic smile as he heard the very welcome voice of Crewman Parrish.

“Hey, are you alright?” asked the young man who’d just spotted them in far off distance that felt so much farther away because of just how quiet he sounded to Jamie’s ears now.

Then there were rapid footfalls coming closer as the world descended into darkness, sounding so much softer than they really were, and soon they were no longer alone. The last sight Jamie saw leaning over them before his eyes completely closed was the extremely welcome and concerned face of Dr. Dalton McKay.

Crewman Jamie Halliday
Engineering Officer
USS Serendipity NCC-2012