1070: Give and Take, Part Two

By Lara Valera Ryn and Denise Moreno
Immediately After Part One

-=Captain’s Ready Room; USS Poseidon=-


"Obviously we’re not both going to get what we want,” Denise acknowledged. “So one of us is going to have to change the other’s mind. That’s why I want you to try and convince me why I shouldn’t do this. Then I’ll try and convince you why I must.”


The request sounded reasonable. Or at least that is how Denise wanted it to sound. After all, what could be more reasonable than two Starfleet officers having a civil conversation and working out their differences? No need for threats, no need for violence. Those were not the markers of good, reasonable Starfleet officers.

But this was not a normal situation, and reasonable had long since gone out the shuttle bay doors.

Finally, Lara replied, "Tell me, did you ever imagine how your career would turn out? Did you ever envision yourself in charge of a ship?"

It was not an easy question for Denise to answer but she took no time to consider it. Her career had entirely been spent in offices; most of them very near if not in the department’s headquarters. She was not a jumper. She was never at home on a ship let alone at its helm. So when she’d thought of her future she’d never envisioned herself on one, but she had pictured command.

She’d thought that surely with her mind and years of hard work that she would have risen through the ranks of TI to become one of the people in control. So while this vessel and these people may not have been her intended command, ultimately this was exactly where she expected to end up; though this was not how she thought it’d feel.

"What Starfleet officer does not?" Denise came back with, her voice gaining some confidence, somehow suspecting that this argument might not take as long as she had suspected, feared, or had time for. She had to show she was right. Not only that, but she had to do so now, before anyone else could intervene. Especially Tucker Brody.

Lara wanted to retort back; to say that not every officer wanted that chance. If she had been given the choice, her type of ships would be for one thing, and one thing alone: transport to and from digs. But going down that path would not do her -- or her fellow crew mates, or the crew of this ship, for that matter -- any good. "I'm not talking about childhood dreams and fantasies. I'm talking about a real ambition. Something attainable, if given the right opportunities."

Denise nodded her head, understanding what the other woman wanted, though not perhaps where she was going with her questioning. At least yet. "Of course. Those of us who are smart enough all do. Some of us may be frightened but we all want the chance to implement our ideas; to show how we can make a difference if given the opportunity."

"But should that opportunity be given to someone, or should it have to be earned?" Lara asked, intentionally baiting Denise.

Denise didn’t miss what she was doing but she didn’t stop herself from reacting either.

"Merit isn't always rewarded," Denise spat coldly back, barely able to control the hostility in her voice or in her emotions as she thought back on her years of service at TI. She had just been seen as a cog in the machine, someone of no importance, with nothing to contribute. To survive she’d had to remind herself time and again that she was so much more than what those others saw and could be even more. So to hear Lara suggesting that she hadn’t earned this position simply because those same others didn’t deign to notice her truly stung too much to let her hold back her words. Indeed Denise was ready to say so much more than she had to pre-empt any argument Lara could make, but to her surprise Lara didn’t argue.

Lara simply shrugged her shoulders. "You're right, it isn't. And sometimes we have to wrest control of our own destiny." She swallowed, her own throat dry. She did not know where these words were coming from, and it was scaring her that they kept coming out, that she had somehow almost lost control, yet at the same time, it was her speaking. It was a strange feeling, an unwelcome one, but perhaps the only one that would keep her and everyone else alive.

"And I have. Here and now." Denise said, her words getting quicker as she was gesturing to indicate this room. She was trying to sound confident, but it remained unclear who she was trying to convince. The position she’d taken could so easily be taken back and even though she had so little desire for power in reality, she was still so frightened of that.

"Yes, you have." Lara rather doubted the woman could have pulled off such a feat on her own, but knowing no better, she went with it. "But now, you're not just responsible for yourself, but for everyone. And that changes the game."

Denise suddenly stopped cold, her anger turning to something much more bitter as her tone dropped lower.

“You so clearly do not understand,” Denise softly insisted, her eyes suddenly as like daggers of ice directed at the entire world. “I have never not been responsible for everyone else. I may never have gotten the credit but I was always the one to organise everything for everyone else, for all the people who got the glory that I didn’t. Do you think I wanted to be in command of these people? I didn’t even want to be part of them, but I was and when their world began falling apart around them it was me they turned to. I had to clean up the mess they’d made; to tell them exactly how to undo the damage. Only then did they listen to me and with Vox out of the picture I was as much as forced to take on the position he’d left.”

Instantly it was making so much more sense why Denise now looked so worried and out of place in command. She didn’t want to be in control, yet Lara also noticed she hadn’t given that control up to Brody or anyone else on board.

“And now you have that power you want to keep it,” Lara observed, though again it was like it wasn’t her talking.

Denise however shook her head that this was wrong, for some reason trusting Lara just enough to say what came next.

“This position is not something I want. I simply can’t afford to lose it. If I had not been here to release the prisoners from your brig then Brody would have destroyed your ship. People would die. Whether Jonas Vox in his office or Tucker Brody here and now, that’s what Temporal Investigations does. It lets people die who don’t contribute to its grand plan.”

Lara was taken aback. She had not expected to hear these words coming from the woman who’d had her held at the barrel of a phaser.

“Is that really what you think?” Lara asked, almost perplexed. “Do you think that what you’re doing is saving lives?”

Denise’s reply was neither angry not prideful, but it carried within it every accumulated moment of lonely pain across a very long and empty life.

“I do not claim my cause is that noble,” she admitted, having no delusions about that. “I have my own interests here and I make no apologies for them. I have never cared for power or even my position as an officer. There are things in life that are given to so many and mean so much more than that. My only interest is in getting what is fair. My interest is in getting what was mine by rights to begin with.”

The hint of tears actually flashed in Denise’s eyes as she stopped and almost shuddered for how hollow her existence truly felt and had felt for so long. Now Lara knew she was seeing the real woman beneath.

“And what is that?” Lara asked with soft curiosity, at this point no longer certain how she should speak to this woman before her.

“That…” Denise started, but stopped, taking in a slow breath to steady herself as she rapidly blinked her eyes dry. “That is something truly private.”

When Denise looked up again, her eyes were now more imploring than threatening and her tone was so much softer than it’d been.

“It doesn’t matter what it is. All you need to know is that I will do everything I can to ensure not a single member of your crew is harmed. However if you stall me too long and so I fail to keep in control that’s when people will start dying. Perhaps you cannot understand why I must do what I must. However if you understand anything of the crew of this ship then you’ll understand why you must do as I ask.”

"Last I checked, I wasn't being asked to do anything. Politeness does not come at the end of a phaser. As for that death threat, been there, done that. I just hope that when the time comes, you'll have the courage to stick the phaser into my face yourself and shoot me."

"I sincerely hope it does not come to that." Denise's words were quiet, but indeed sincere. She was clearly trying to stay afloat and every last distraction was an impediment to that personal mission.

"Now, if you'll excuse me, I have a ship to sabotage," Lara nonchalantly stated. She turned around and marched toward the door of the ready room. It slid open and the guard, standing outside, peered in. Taking measure of the situation, he used his body and rifle to block Lara from moving. Not respecting their captain was one thing; letting the prisoner march around alone was another.

Denise looked up long enough to indicate with her hand that the guard could escort the prisoner back to the science station. Though as Lara was moved away Denise knew she should follow, for just a moment longer she remained alone in the room after the door closed in her face.

Inhaling slowly, she bowed her head as she brought her hand to the bridge of her nose, not quite giving in to the urge to just take her head in her hands and fall apart, Denise then simply stood in this empty office in silence for several seconds more. She decided she just needed a little more time here if she was going to keep it all together when she once again stepped through that door.

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


Ensign Denise Moreno
Commanding Officer
USS Poseidon

1069: Give and Take, Part One

By Lara Valera Ryn and Denise Moreno
Immediately After Mending a Broken HRT

-=USS Poseidon=-

Lara felt like she was a prisoner. She was silently being marched by an armed guard around the corridors and through the turbolifts from engineering to the bridge. All that was missing was the handcuffs.

Then again, she was a prisoner. She was not here of her own free will and if she did not behave according to the rules as defined by the ‘wardens,’ she or someone one else would suffer the consequences. And in this prison, there was only one alternative to playing nicely with the bad guys.

The concept bad guys rolled around her head. They were bad guys from her position, indeed from the position of anyone on the Sera. But from their own perspective, their actions made sense. In their own world, and according to their own morality, they felt that they were right and that their actions were justifiable.

Lara snapped her head and shook herself out of this reverie as the final turbolift door came to open and the guard used the business end of his phaser rifle to push her on to the bridge. Moral complexities aside, she had a job to do. She quickly scanned the bridge, and although she was clearly outnumbered, there appeared to only be a skeleton crew here. Either that, or this thing was rigged to run far more efficiently than any other ship in the fleet.

She found the science station and immediately began to walk toward it. She had not even gotten to it when a voice called out, "Don't try anything funny."

It wasn't the guard speaking, that was for sure. The voice was trying to sound confident, although the speaker was anything but. Lara turned her head toward the voice, toward the person who claimed to be the captain of the ship.

"There is nothing funny about taking sensor readings."

Denise shook her head in fatigue, having no time or energy for any of this. No one needed to get hurt here but this crew clearly had the stubbornness to ensure that some if not all of them would. This situation was a mess and she couldn’t afford to let it get worse. This was supposed to be her second chance and it was a miracle she got it. She didn’t believe she could ever expect a third.

“Let’s not play games here,” Denise insisted sternly, hiding how tired she was for the sake of her crew. “It’ll get us nowhere except extra time in each other’s company. We both know you don’t want to fix this ship.”

“Then why am I helping?” Lara asked, with what was not quite sarcasm but was certainly not an honest question, as she turned back and began to deliberately slowly input commands into the console before her. This entire situation was wrong, not just her conscience but the weight of Ryn’s in the pit of her stomach as well told her that, and if there was any chance she would actually be helping get the ship’s time travel capacity to work by what she was doing here then she would not hurry to do so.

“You think you’ll be able to get something past us. You think you’ll be to outsmart us right here before our eyes and that we won’t have the knowhow to realise until it’s too late,” Denise replied coldly and Lara ignored her, just continuing with her very slow work, as Denise’s eyes fell on her back. “That would be a very stupid decision. Make no mistake; every single thing you do over there passes right through here.”

Denise indicated the screen at the side of her Captain’s chair.

“If you so much as attempt to send an encoded signal to engineering to tell them my favourite coffee, I’ll know. I don’t need to be a science officer for this. I know how to pick a single falsified entry out of a million runs of data. Every member of this crew knows I have done what you are going to try on the scale of time itself. So remember however clever you may think you are, I am still smarter.”

The way Denise had said the last words was not with arrogance as one would expect; it was self assurance. It was like a nervous performer before a show telling themselves that ‘they’d done this all before’ even when it was something completely new. In part certainly her words were meant to remind the crew here why she was in charge, but more than anything else she was reminding herself why she had the right to be. It was almost pitiful but pity was not what Lara felt now.

Lara suddenly stopped what she was doing at the station, physically cringing as she was struck by an entirely unsteadying experience. She had fought the Ryn symbiont so much more than many who were joined because this was not her choice. At times it tempered the mind because waves made of her emotions crashed against those of Ryn’s wisdom causing them to weaken if not to die down to nothing before they’d ever strike and damage the land.

Now however it was not two minds against each other. Now those two waves merged together into a mighty tide that washed away the last of restraint she’d been forced to keep her emotions in check since she first set foot on this ship.

She turned so rapidly that she almost knocked the guard off balance and did force him to take a single step back.

“Then you should know a lot better than this,” Lara snapped, the man with the rifle turning to Denise with confusion as to whether he should just shoot her now.

Denise raised her hand as if to say ‘not yet’.

“There are no two ways about it. Messing with time is a bloody stupid and dangerous no matter who you are.” Lara realised for a moment that she sounded very little like the archaeologist who was always taught to consider how things might be different from another cultural perspective and so to not let her own morality and that of Ryn shine through. “You cannot justify causing the damage you will if you meddle with history. It’s not a right anyone has.”

All eyes on the bridge had now turned to Denise to see how she would respond to this accusation. They didn’t know whether she would yell back or even just have Lara killed on the spot. Had anyone on this bridge truly known her then they’d have realised she’d have done neither.

Unmoving, Denise just breathed in and out very slowly, and when finally she spoke her voice had only glimmers of the anger she’d felt as she’d listened to Lara speaking.

“Jacobs,” Denise said calmly as she rose from the chair, “you have the bridge.”

As the confused lieutenant moved to take command, the entire bridge fell into dead silence while Denise indicated with her hand towards her ready room.

Then she slowly walked towards the door of the still unfamiliar room beside them; on the outside utterly confident but on the inside just praying that people couldn’t see through her. A few seconds after Denise stepped through the door Lara was dragged in behind her by the guard. She knew there was no real reason to struggle against him, but that didn’t stop it from becoming tempting as he shoved his weapon in her back.

Those thoughts however were overtaken by the surprise as she stepped through the door she found the room was almost empty; just the most basic standard essentials that came when the ship was brand new. It was like no other ready room she’d seen in her and Ryn’s collective memory. There wasn’t even a coffee cup on the desk let alone a picture of a loved one. This was not the ready room of someone who had planned ahead to be Captain of this ship.

“What exactly do you think you’re doing?” Lara loudly protested as she kept being pushed forward and Denise said nothing.

Denise simply indicated for the guard to leave them, and though confused he did as he was told. Then they were alone and much to Lara’s amazement she was suddenly out of the reach of a weapon. She didn’t know why she’d suddenly be trusted enough not to need an armed escort and though she knew she could still not leave, her exact status as prisoner suddenly felt uncertain. This whole thing felt very wrong.

Denise was even facing her back towards her as the Captain slowly moved to look out of the window to the darkness outside as she’d known so many captains to do, before deciding it wasn’t for her and turning back around again. There was almost, but not quite, a smile on her face.

“You took quite a risk out there,” Denise observed. “I could have had you killed.”

“I didn’t think you would,” Lara answered with as much certainty as she could muster, noting how much calmer Denise seemed the instant she was off the bridge. “You need me to help fix the ship and so unless I forced you to you have no motivation to kill me.”

Denise shook her head again. Though one would not realise it to look at her current situation, Denise truly didn’t understand why people take such risks.

She sighed sadly. Somehow she liked Lara, in spite of her youth, and she didn’t wish her to die at the hands of anyone on this ship; including her own.

“I don’t want to see you or your crew get hurt which is what’s going to happen if you resist us too much. You don’t want to see me get this ship fully operational as is going to happen even if I have to get someone else. Obviously we’re not both going to get what we want,” Denise acknowledged. “So one of us is going to have to change the other’s mind. That’s why I want you to try and convince me why I shouldn’t do this. Then I’ll try and convince you why I must.”

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


Ensign Denise Moreno
Commanding Officer
USS Poseidon

1068: Mending a Broken HRT

By Jamie Halliday and Lara Valera Ryn
After The Puzzle

-=Main Engineering, USS Poseidon=-

“Hmm,” said Ashton as he examined the components before him for the umpteenth time.

“Hmm?” Jamie asked.

“Hmm,” Ashton confirmed.

He had still been completely unable to figure out just where all the energy from the antimatter reaction created by this device was being directed and staring at it was getting him nowhere.

Every few minutes he’d made sure to tap a button or check a reading but in truth this was purely for show to suggest he was doing something, when in fact there was nothing he could until he knew more. Unfortunately, Powell seemed to be catching on to that fact and every few minutes he found a reason to walk by and eye the three of them suspiciously.

His shadow was very quickly becoming an annoyance, at least to everyone but Jamie, who almost seemed to want to be here. Jamie to his credit was dealing with the potential destruction of the universe, should they do something wrong here, quite well. In fact, with how cheerful he was, one could almost think he welcomed it.

He was certainly the only cheerful one here as Ashton was becoming frustrated both by his position and his failure, whereas Lara was quietly feeling something so much more complicated. Having found nothing in the sensor logs, she stood now behind the two men so they didn’t see the complex emotions playing out on her face as she looked to the device not as an engineer or a Starfleet officer but as simply a person who knew enough about what she was seeing to be frightened.

“This entire design is crazy,” Ashton complained, once again, for in fact the fourth time, deciding they’d do better to just scrap this obsolete and incomplete system and start again.

“It is crazy,” Lara muttered under her breath in a way that Ashton didn’t hear her and Jamie barely noticed.

“I don’t see how this configuration was ever supposed to work,” Ashton added, as he once again pulled the intricate schematics up on the screen.

It was like being given the design of a house where each of the doors opened straight onto a brick wall and none of the staircases reached the other floors then being asked to find a way out. It was made even more complicated when you didn’t really want to find that way, but they put a gun to your head and it suddenly seemed a bit of a better idea.

“Someone did though,” Jamie mused and Ashton looked at him curiously. “I mean, it doesn’t look broken; it was designed to work this way. Someone must have been able to see in their mind how this was going to be a jump ship. It’s happened to me under different circumstances. I’m sure it’s happened to all of us. You have an idea that seems perfect and even works perfectly in simulation. Only then you actually build it and things don’t work as you thought they would. So you have to figure out your mistake and try again.”

“Yes, only in this case the designer, whoever they were, never fixed their mistake,” Ashton complained some more. “Now we’re expected to fix it for them without as much as some preliminary notes on its intended operation.”

While the two men seemed momentarily involved in wondering how this could be fixed, Lara was thinking something different.

“We can’t fix it,” she argued, moving closer between them and speaking at little more than a whisper.

At first Jamie didn’t understand.

“Come on, there’s no need to think like that,” Jamie answered optimistically, never giving up, even in spite of how precious little he understood about this ship. “When you think you can’t fix something you can only ever be proven wrong or give up. So as long as you don’t give up…”

“No,” Lara cut him off sternly, speaking as plainly as she possibly could and giving voice to thoughts that until now none of them had been willing to. “I mean we can’t fix it. They can’t understand the risk of this technology.”

Now even Jamie understood that she wasn’t suggesting they’d be unable to affect the repairs. Seeing a quick nod from Ashton he realized that Ledbetter wished to talk to Lara alone and so moved off to check a nearby readout for a little while.

Ashton waited until Jamie was well clear before talking again, not because he didn’t trust Halliday to be involved, but because he knew it’d look suspicious if all three were huddled together in discussion.

“We can’t just do nothing either,” Ashton finally answered, his eyes never moving from the screen as he lowered his voice to match hers. “It’s true, for now, we can honestly say we don’t know how to fix this. However contrary to appearances, Powell isn’t quite stupid enough not to realize if we stall for too long. We need to work if we’re going to get out of this alive.”

“You’re right,” Lara agreed, though in truth she was sceptical as she was still replaying the events on the bridge before they’d left over and over in her mind. She hoped it had all been an act, but she didn’t know.

She barely knew Ashton but he had certainly seemed to know Brody better than he’d let on. Now here he was, arguing the case for why they should help do exactly what Brody wanted. It was true he didn’t sound eager about it but then they never did. “I’m just not sure what any extra time we might buy is going to be worth if we’re just stuck here. They’ve effectively cut us off from any information except what they tell us.’

Ashton paused a moment in consideration of this fact.

“I’d feel much better if we could get someone on the bridge,” he finally acknowledged, which told Lara that whether she could trust him or not, he didn’t trust Brody as much as Brody might think he did.

“I may have an…” Lara started, but before she could finish they noticed Powell’s passing shadow was passing no more as the impatient man’s steps hurried towards them.

“You will speak so I can hear you,” Powell insisted sternly, forcing his way between the two individuals and lifting his mask up. “I know you’re plotting something.”

“All we were plotting was the repairs you asked of us,” Ashton argued back.

“Really?” Powell asked incredulously, not buying it for a moment. “Then what were you just talking about?”

“We were merely discussing…” Ashton started, quickly scrambling to find a believable lie and then quite surprised when Lara beat him to it.


“Calibration?” Jamie quietly asked with confusion, stepping back into the conversation.

“Yes, calibration,” Ashton answered. “The drive may…just need to be properly calibrated. We need to be able to compare readings from different calibrations. For that however, Lieutenant Ryn will need access a science station, preferably one located as far away from potential unanticipated distortion by the HRT as possible.”

Jamie nodded in agreement, quickly catching on.

“And where would that be?” Powell asked suspiciously.

“The bridge,” Lara answered simply and Powell scoffed.

“You can not be serious.”

“It is the farthest point on this ship from here and the one most likely to lead to accurate results.” Ledbetter argued, and Powell crossed his arms threateningly.

“You can have all the sensor data you want but you’re staying down here.”

Ashton dramatically shook his head, making a truly brilliant show of arguing his case as he stepped up closer to Powell.

“Those sensor readings are useless because they were all taken by people who didn’t know what they were doing. So you either let one of us onto the bridge or the readings will continue to be useless and the drive will not get fixed. When that happens, you’re the one who’ll have to tell Brody.”

Still suspiciously eyeing Ashton, Powell sighed heavily. He didn’t trust this action, but if there was some chance that Ashton was telling the truth and then Brody blamed him for holding things up then Powell would face the consequences. Besides, at least sending one of them to the bridge was one less person for him to have to worry about here.

Reluctantly he tapped his combadge.

“Powell to Bridge.”

[Go ahead,] Denise answered, sounding very tired.

“One of the Serendipity officers is requesting access to a bridge science station.”

There was a long pause as Denise considered, then second and third guessed her decision. She couldn’t give Brody any more ammunition here by making the wrong choice, but she had her own reasons for desperately wanting this drive to be fixed. Ultimately, she had to take the risk.

[Very well, I’ll have a security officer bring them up. Moreno out.]

Powell nodded, not that Moreno could see him. At the same time Lara shot Ashton a look herself and mouthed the words, Here goes nothing.

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


Crewman Jamie Halliday
Engineering Officer
USS Serendipity NCC-2012

1067: The Puzzle

By Lara Valera Ryn and Ashton Ledbetter
After Risks and Consequences

-=Brig of USS Poseidon=-

Ashton reached out and tapped at the forcefield, then he spun and glared at both Jamie Halliday and Lara Valera Ryn. “I’m flabbergasted! We were supposed to beam over and assist them, not be put in this cell!”

“Maybe they just wanted to welcome us in person, and they needed a place to hold us until this Tucker Brody got here.” Jamie offered optimistically.

“Or maybe they just wanted a confined space to make us easy targets when they kill us.” Ryn added.

“You there!” Ashton shouted at the guard. “I demand you lower this forcefield! I outrank you, you know! Where is Tucker Brody? I’m peckish, do you have a spot of watercress about? I fancy a sandwich.”

“No,” the guard replied.

“No? No to which part?” Ledbetter demanded.

“All of it.”

Ashton harrumphed and turned back to his companions. At the same moment, Tucker Brody entered the brig.

“Welcome aboard. I apologize for the forcefield but I wanted to greet you in person and needed a place to hold you until I got down here.” He tilted his head in a very gentlemanly fashion. Both Ashton and Lara turned and looked towards Halliday.

“See, I told you,” Jamie said.

“Mister Ledbetter has offered us his services in restoring the jump drive on this ship. You will both be helping him. The Captain’s offer of help came in exchange for the lives of your crewmates being spared, so please do keep that in mind. We should get to Engineering so you can get to work. If y’all will follow me.

Brody waved at his guard, who fell into step several meters behind the quartet as they left the brig.

"I don't know about you," Lara whispered to Jamie, who happened to be next to her and behind Ashton and Brody, "but I feel like a rat being led through a maze."

Despite the dire situation they were in, Jamie controlled himself from chuckling softly. "Except I doubt there is going to be a wedge of cheddar waiting for us at the end."

"More likely the business end of a phaser."

As they turned down a corridor, it was Brody, who had up until to then been chatting politely, although not amicably with Ledbetter, who replied. "Do you really think our intent so malicious?"

"You are holding numerous captives," Ledbetter stated, his voice tight, "and we are working under duress."

"No, actually, I don't," Lara interjected.

All three men, four if the now mute guard was counted, shot Lara looks, but it was Brody who stated, "I'm glad to see that someone here can be reasonable and understand the ramifications."

"I'm hardly being reasonable, just practical.” Ryn said. “By our moral standards, you are vain and corrupt, and from the perspective of our morality, there is no way we can understand the necessity of this use this violence to meet your ends. But from your point of view, your actions are a natural conclusion of your own standards."

“Would you presume to debate the merits of morality and ethics with me?” Brody asked with a slight grin on his face. He could tell where she was going with this already, attempting to plant seeds of doubt in his head. No doubt she wanted the guard with the phaser at the rear to think twice about Brody as well.

“Sure, why not now?” Lara prodded. “You seem to be an intelligent man who can think on his feet. Why not convince us right here and now that what you are doing is moral?”

Brody let out a deep chuckle, as he slowed to a stop outside main engineering. “Sorry Lieutenant, but that’s all the time we have for today. But if you want to make an appointment, we can discuss it in session." He appreciated her tenacity, but he was not going to play her game. He had far more pressing matters to attend to and time, as it always seemed to be in this profession, was short. “Um, would you all mind turning around please?” He asked.

Tucker nodded towards the security pad and waited till everyone, including his own guard, was facing in the other direction. He didn’t even raise his hands lest anyone see him reaching towards a particular number. Once satisfied they could not see, he blocked the panel with his body anyway, and tapped in the code. The door unlocked and hissed open.

Ashton’s eyes widened as he looked into Engineering. “You’ve been making some modifications.” He observed. There were wires dangling from the ceiling, out of panels, even some up through the floor. Access panels were removed and leaning against any available surface, and the ship’s temporal core was humming away at a rather uncomfortable rate for a ship that was neither time traveling nor at warp.

“Modifications that your friends I have imprisoned sincerely hope you can complete.” Brody walked down the short flight of stairs to the floor of the engineering compartment. “Dexter!” He shouted.

One of the engineers popped up from behind a console and raised a visor he had been using to shield his eyes. He looked at the Serendipity crew members, then approached Brody, keeping his voice low enough that only Tucker could hear him.

“We don’t need them.”

“Then I assume the jump drive repairs are complete?” Brody inquired. Dexter Powell was silent. “I see… in that case, I believe more help could not possibly hurt our endeavor.” Brody lowered his voice down all the way to a whisper. “Keep an eye on them, but not too close. Give them just enough rope to hang themselves with if they intend to betray us. The short one has experience with TI,” he inclined his head towards Ashton.

He slapped Powell on the shoulder, and turned back to Ryn, Halliday and Ledbetter. “Mister Powell is in charge. Replicator use is strictly with his authorization only. I’ll give you access to the computer but remember, we’ll be watching. I’m needed elsewhere, if you’ll excuse me.”

Ledbetter strolled up to Powell. “So, what seems to be the trouble?”

“Drive’s broken.”

“Well then, let’s have a look.” Ashton said, before sniffing at the air near Powell. “And perhaps a shower as well.” He indicated that Lara and Jamie should follow him to the temporal core. Powell stepped off, keeping an eye on them, but not too close, as Brody had instructed.

“You’re familiar with this?” Jamie asked.

“Well as shocking as it may be, TI’s Captains didn’t keep me around all these years for my company. Each of these drives has a hyperspace relativity transposer. Essentially it removes this vessel from what we know as the visible universe and as a consequence the laws of physics go out the window with it. Their HRT is…” Ashton’s voice trailed off.

“Is what?” Lara asked.

“Is… I’m not sure what it is. I cannot even tell if it is working properly. I’ve never seen a configuration like this!”

“If it was working, we wouldn’t be here.” Halliday noted.

“Lieutenant Ryn,” Ashton began, “The HRT requires enormous amounts of energy to be initiated, and so uses antimatter like a conventional warp drive. If you could please, search the diagnostic and sensor logs for anything you think may be hindering the reaction. Defective part, subspace field, anything.”

"I'd be more than happy to." Lara turned around in the room; there was nothing standard about this baby. "But where do I begin?" She gave their friendly engineer Powell and glance and batted her eyes in an I'm trying to be cutesy manner.

He didn't budge.

"Well?" Lara asked.

Powell looked back and forth between Lara on one hand and Ashton and Jamie on the other, unsure if he could divide his attention and feeling his annoyance with Tucker Brody rising.

It was Ashton who spoke next. "Look, I'm good. No, strike that, I'm great around a ship." Then he pointed to the modified console. "But even I can't fix, or sabotage this vessel in the less than 30 seconds it is going to take you to show her the right console over there." He pointed to a series of three linked consoles on the other side of the room.

Powell sighed, and it was enough to indicate to Ashton that he was conceding defeat. "This way," he said to Lara, and lo and behold, took her toward the console that Ashton had pointed to.

As soon as he started to escort her, Ledbetter turned to Halliday. "So, here's what we're going to do."

Powell immediately stopped, turned back, and shot Ashton a dark look.

"We're planning repairs," Ashton stated without looking toward the engineer. "Nothing more, nothing less."

"For now," Powell snapped back.

Ashton shook his head in annoyance and frustration. "For now." He paused, and then added, "There, does it make you feel better if I admit to something I have not even thought of yet?"

What would make me feel better, would be for you to not be here and my responsibility. Powell thought. He gritted his teeth and rubbed the stubble on his chin, the result of having been recalled to the Poseidon before he could shave. He pointed, and grunted, towards the panels Lara was to use, then shouted at the rest of the staff in engineering, who were all staring at the newcomers.

“Back to work!” Powell lowered his shield back down, and pulled a laser welder from his pocket. The shield afforded him the luxury of keeping a watch on the Sera crew while they had no idea whether his eyes were on them or his work.

“This is where the power is diverted into the matrix.” Ashton said, pointing to a location on an intricate schematic. “The HRT acts as a sort of lightning rod for energy, and focuses it onto an infinitesimally small point in space time. It creates a fracture and bolsters it by simulating the effects of negative matter.”

“Creating a gateway in space time for the ship to pass through. How exactly would you simulate such a powerful negative matter without its anti-gravitational effects pulling the ship apart at the seams?”

Ledbetter drew back from the console and narrowed his eyebrows. “How would you know enough to even pose such a question? Negative matter is still only on the drawing boards of theoretic physics. They don’t even bother discussing in at Starfleet Academy.”

“I love reading.” Jamie grinned. “And should you even be discussing this with me? Can’t what happens here disrupt the future?”

“Or fulfill it. If I answered your previous question it would create a paradox that would quite possibly destroy the universe, but I’m not going to do that, so don’t worry. Just be a dear and don’t read the panel two stations over because that will indeed trigger a paradox.”

Jamie looked over his shoulder nervously, and then quickly shut his eyes before he saw anything.

“Now,” Ledbetter continued, “Tell me what you see here?”

“Well, I see an energy signature consistent with a matter anti-matter reaction. It appears to be directed towards your hyperspace device, but that’s all. The energy isn’t going anywhere.”

“We’ve been tearing this place apart to figure out where it’s going!” Powell shouted from behind his mask.

“So where is it going?” Halliday said to Ashton.

“Well hopefully there is no planet directly in line with whatever universe that energy is flowing to, but the answer is, I really don’t know. This configuration is beyond my understanding, and that is saying something.”

“Well you best figure it out, because Brody doesn’t like to hear I don’t knows.” Powell warned.

“I bet he doesn’t,” Lara mumbled under her breath.


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


Ashton Ledbetter
Temporal Investigations Observer
USS Serendipity NCC-2012

1066: The French Connection

By Vol Tryst and Jariel Camen
After Fixing the Song
-=Paris, France=-

He waited outside the apartment in Paris, listening to the evening music that seemed to float down the streets with the gentle breeze, rather than emanate from any specific place. He had already been through two espresso con pannas and was in no particular hurry for the family to arrive.

With only a few other diners around, this was a rare moment of solitude. No one to counsel, no queries to answer, no friends to speak with. Just Vol Tryst on a quiet Parisian street watching the world drift by rather than swimming desperately to keep up with it.

The waitress stopped at his table, and broke his daydreaming. He lifted her eyes to her face and she smiled politely.

"Une autre?" She asked.

"Non, merci." Vol pushed the espresso cup and saucer away from him with a single finger, the waitress picking it up and smiling before walking away.

Resuming his aimless daydreams, Vol smiled to himself in his moment of solitude. The decision to remain on Earth was the best; it allowed the Counselor a small reprieve so that he might reboot himself and be able to serve at his best. However, as his gaze drifted skyward to the indigo curtain which covered the vast space above, he couldn't help but wonder what was happening on the Sera at this very moment. He found he missed the business somewhat, and the thought even made him chuckle to himself.

"What iz so funny?" Came Fleur's voice from behind him.

“Hmm? Oh, Fleur! Welcome back.” It was not easy to catch a Betazoid by surprise, as fleur just had. Much like non-telepathic species, when a Betazoid was truly lost in thought, they became unaware of what was transpiring around them, with even their telepathic sense being numbed. “Nothing, I was just thinking of how peaceful this place is, yet how I actually miss the daily life on the ship. I am a contradiction in terms.”

“Well, think of it this way,” Jariel said as he set Tress down, and looked up towards the sky. “The ship is probably just cruising around up there with nothing to do. I’m sure the crew is having a grand old time.”

The family had met with Hartcort and Schneider in the early afternoon is San Francisco, but it was nearly ten at night here in Paris. Despite being underneath the Californian sun just a few moments ago, Tress, having been on Paris time, was already yawning and thinking of the song Maman had sung her which she hoped so much to at least see her sing tonight.

“You did not just come for ze nightcap, no?” Fleur asked. “You are wanting to know our decision.”

There were no words exchanged, just glances back and forth between the adults and Gillan Pace. After several moments Vol nodded slowly.

“I understand,” He sensed the worry in each of their souls, and instinctively reached out to hug each member of the family. “Could I ask you something?”

“Of course.” Camen said. He gestured to the table, and the group each began pulling wrought iron chairs away from the table to sit down. The waitress returned upon seeing the newcomers joining the man who had looked far too alone for her tastes.

“Bonsoir. Une boisson pour n’importe qui? A drink for any of you?”

“Thè chaud avec citron, S'il vous plaît? Hot tea with lemon, please?” Jariel asked, then looked at Fleur to see how his pronunciation was. She rocked her hand back and forth to indicate so-so. He had the words correct, however the inflection was off. He was trying though.

The waitress nodded, having gotten enough of it to understand. Fleur ordered a coffee for herself, and a hot chocolate for Tress, to hasten the girl’s impending journey to dreamland. Pace simply asked for an apple juice, for it was the only words he felt confident enough to speak to the waitress without fearing her may butcher them.

The waitress thanked those assembled, and bustled off to prepare their order. Once she was out of earshot, Jariel looked back up at Vol. “So, Counselor, what is it you wished to ask us?”

Vol nodded in affirmation to Jariel's query. His eyes however darted to the children sitting at the table, he licked his lower lip before getting Fleur's attention.

"Do you mind?" Vol leaned forward on the table, motioning a finger to Tress. Fleur understood immediately.

"Oh, but ov courss." Fleur quickly signed to Tress that she would be interpreting for the Counselor. Once he saw that Fleur was ready, Vol began.

"Hello Tress, you remember me?"

Tress signed three letters back with her short fingers. [[V – O – L]]

"Good. Umm... I am going to talk about some things with your parents. It is about your surgery, do you mind if I do so? You are more than welcome to stay of course."

[[Tress stay with V – O – L]], she continued spelling out his name one letter at a time, unsure how to actually “say” Vol.

Vol smiled, in momentary wonderment of what it was to be a child. Once he received his approval, he sighed and laced his hands together, leaning his arms and elbows on the table.

"My first question is about Tress's identity. I believe it's necessary for her, as well as most children her age, to know who they are when they begin entering the world at large. After the surgery, will Tress be a Deaf child who can hear? Or a Hearing child who is deaf?"

Jariel pondered Vol’s question. No matter how well the surgery went, Tress would, assuming it worked, always be truly deaf from a biological standpoint. She would hear only as well as the device functioned, for as long as it functioned, which was hopefully forever.

“When I was unable to speak, I thought of myself as a man with a voice who could not speak. I believe the opposite is true for Tress. No matter how small the device that lets hear is, it will always be the device that lets her hear. The parts of Tress that truly let her process voices and sounds are lost forever. Are you saying it is important for her to know that?” Camen could see the direction Vol was taking.

"I am concerned..." Vol spoke slowly in order to allow Fleur the time she needed to keep up with her interpreting. "...that Tress will feel like she belongs to neither one community or another because of the procedure. I—" Vol bit his lip as he chose his words carefully. "I believe Tress is a perfect the way she is, to change that may suggest that..." Vol ended his attempt to express himself as he realized he was simply reiterating what he had told Fleur at the spa the other day.

Vol sat back in chair, pondering to himself. There was so much about this that rubbed him the wrong way but there was no squashing the possibility that his concerns were unwarranted. Tress may be completely fine after the procedure and have no difficulties regarding her deafness for the rest of her life. It was difficult to draw on his own case studies and experiences, because Vol had learned quickly that one child's reaction could be expected to be replicated in another.

Vol heaved a sigh, looking up to both of the parents.

"Let me just ask this. Do you believe that the procedure is best for Tress, or is it best for you?"

Jariel felt a sting when he comprehended the words asked of him.

"I beg your pardon?"

Vol licked his lips. "She was born Hearing, just like the both of you. Something changed and the both of you have adapted to that change. However, it isn't inconceivable that you may still resent the change, and would do whatever you could to revert back the way things had been."

The statement hung in the air for a moment. Finally, Fleur spoke.

"Counselor, I understand what you are saying, but hearing or deaf, Tress iz our daughter. That will never change."

“I don’t resent the change, but I do resent how it happened. It wasn’t fair, and it wasn’t right. Tress misses her mother’s voice, and she deserves the chance to have it back. Me she can take or leave, but her mother? There is no separating these two.” Jariel laughed.

Jariel noted Pace’s reaction to his use of the words “her mother,” or rather, his lack of a reaction. Pace had not only reached the point where he accepted Fleur as Tress’s mother, but also was so comfortable with the idea that it could be mentioned in casual conversation without him bristling.

“You are awfully quite Pace.” Camen observed.

“I’m just concerned. Concerned something may go wrong; concerned we are slamming a door shut on her forever if we refuse. I just wish I could look a year into the future to know what would happen so we new what to do right now.

“Well, that is a luxury we don’t have but all want.” Camen replied. Indeed he wished he had the ability to see what was to come, but like everyone else was left to fend for himself with nothing more than the experience he had. Experience that, when it came to fathering, was blossoming at best. “So we do the best we can and hope the future will show us we were successful in our endeavors.

Vol drummed his index finger on the table; his right canine tooth was just barely visible as it was biting down on his lower lip. Vol felt that there was not much else he could say, to push the matter further would be irresponsible and may provoke animosity where it was not merited. Still, there was still one more thing he was curious of, and he thought himself foolish for not having the courtesy of asking this before.

"How did the meeting with the Doctors go?"

“They were impressive,” Jariel sighed. “It was hard to find any fault with what they were telling us, which sort of scares me to death my friend.”

"How did they seem?"

Jariel's eyebrows scrunched and he and Fleur exchanged glances. Fleur spoke up, "What do you mean?"

Vol's tongue pushed against the inside of his cheeks, still struggling to find the right words. The effect made Tress giggle.

"There is a theory, that doctors and scientists exercise what is referred to as instrumental reason. It is the desire to discover how the world works, to pursue experiments if only to see if it can be successful. Many great milestones have been reached because of this ambition and I would be a fool to say that I do not owe some of the comforts of my life to this way of thinking.”

"But what instrumental reason lacks is an ethical element. On Earth, in the early 20th century, someone wanted to know if it was possible to manufacture a weapon of mass destruction. The pursuit of it was more or less well intentioned, to see if it could be accomplished. The aftermath, which I'm sure you know, resulted in the Cold War. The ethical problem with creating such a weapon is obvious. Ethical reason poses the question; should it be done.”

"In the case of this endeavor to make Tress hear again, I myself am concerned with the aftermath. If it can be done, if it is successful, it creates a dangerous precedent for those like Tress in the future. Science will never regard those with a hearing impairment the same again, they will be viewed as those with a defect, but with a course of treatment available to them. The idea that someone may want to remain deaf will become preposterous, and..."

Vol trailed off, waving his hand in the air as if he were warding the rest of his rant away.

"I have taken up too much of your time and am rambling on like an idiot about monumental concerns that shouldn't be a part of this discussion."

Vol sighed, then lifted his arms off the table and propping his elbows on his knees as he bent down to look at Tress. The Betazoid spoke slowly, so that she may be able to read his lips more easily.

"Tress, if you want to go through with the procedure, you will hear nothing more but support from..." Vol smiled as a thought came to him. He summoned what he remembered of his USL alphabet and spelled:



Lt. Vol Tryst
Ship’s Counselor
USS Serendipity NCC-2012


Jariel Camen
Ship’s Chaplain
USS Serendipity NCC-2012

1065: San Francisco Nights

By Wren Elton
After Fixing the Song

-=San Francisco, Earth=-

This was a frighteningly loud city for anyone, but a telepath especially. One so easily could have gotten lost to the thoughts of others; to be dictated to by their passions and controlled by their needs as they became your own. It was easily overpowering, but then so was the sense of sadness she felt now in this empty place she’d once called her home. Her steps then had been eager, but San Francisco was then a very different city from the point of view at least of a very different woman. She was so reckless and wild in an equally rebellious land that suited her no more.

That sense of entitlement to a night of fun and a life of worthy risks still pulsed with an intangible and undeniable energy in the hearts of those around her. It was however only a single ingredient that could be always tasted but never isolated, as the larger the crowds the less distinct the arguing shouts of their minds became. It was to some a cacophony and to others a symphony as the fight of a thousand wants for supremacy raged on around her. This was the truest of collective consciousnesses; a living entity in its own right, confused about its path but moving in only one direction at a time.

This had once been a favourite time of hers; a time of carelessness and joy. Though now she could only think as she observed the people moving so excitedly and almost without direction that she was glad her son was safe on the ship and not here. This was that certain type of late where the city knew not what it wanted to do. Parts of it screamed that it was time to sleep, or to lock the world out for a more intimate existence, while others just as eagerly demanded they be allowed to come alive before the world’s eyes.

Wren now found herself moving small steps through such a part and it truly did demand the attention of those around no less than any great performer or wild man. Lights ignited the street with cold flames unaffected by the mild chill in the air somehow entirely distinct from the overwhelming heat of warm bodies swarming around her.

Light however could so easily be blocked by the tight enough closing of the eyes which for just a few moments since she’d been here she’d realised she was doing to keep from being overwhelmed. The music could not be so easily dismissed from her thoughts. It was loud and it was fast, and somehow always audible over the screaming wave of voices and laughter of those moving to or already at their party for the night around her.

There was obvious excitement and happiness in this city; to the experienced eye there was also love. Sometimes it was subtle and drowned out by lust but one couple she could see could have no other label. Their eyes met long before their lips and they were tonight each other’s world in a way mere pleasurable meetings held no hope of ever achieving. Seeing them with her eyes lingering for a moment, Wren found herself struck by a sinking realisation that she was so very alone right now with no one to look at her like that, and no idea how to find him.

Quickly though she forced herself onward because she must. In all these people an individual easily became a trivial commodity, but Wren sensed she did not move through unnoticed. Eyes found her; watching her, judging her, enjoying her in ways to which they had no right. A far larger share than could ever be attributed to random chance of those were men. Once she would have loved these moments as their attention moved hopefully to her and she got to decide whether their hope would pay off in the end.

However she enjoyed such meaningless experiences no longer, their bringing her only unhappiness, and when they took a second to look up to her eyes they found that out and quickly moved on to easier challenges. Those eyes of hers were slightly sad but more than anything else were just lost here now. There was only one man, who she could only hope was still in this city, that she listened for and even though she believed it was her Betazoid sense that would find him she still searched frantically with her eyes. As ridiculous as it seemed, including to her, it was like every second for the last hours she expected would be the one in which she would find him and then each time she didn’t she was enveloped by a lot of confusion and a little more depression. Yet the beating of the music, which just seemed to be getting faster, spurred her hopes on.

This was the only way. His communicator was gone and his lifesigns were far too hard to distinguish in a city such as this in which even an Angosian wouldn’t be the only one of his species; even one who was the only one of his kind. Every instinct told her it was much better to look for him on foot led by the heart and the mind that knew him rather than those foolishly blind sensors that couldn’t distinguish a gem among the rocks.

There were so many minds here; minds of impure and inelegant thought that attempted to pull at her attention, but Wren would not let herself be distracted like that. There were those on her homeworld who’d call her a fool for thinking she could find him by her senses like this. They’d speak of how he’d cloak his mind from her grasp and so there’d be nothing for her to find familiar. Indeed the way a whisper of a nearby new husband into his beloved’s ear seemed to be muted through the music seemed to suggest that they were right. However there were very different kinds of nothing to be found. There was the nothing like a meaningless life on the street and the floor of a bar and there was the nothing like the vast and beautifully unchanging vacuum of space in all its majesty. His mind was always the latter and was therefore unmissable to those who’d ever stop to look to the stars.

Yet, she only felt more and more like she was losing direction as she moved through the crowd that seemed to be growing ever larger with each step she took. It’d been a long and draining walk since she’d started hopefully at the building where he’d left his shuttle; expecting him to have stayed there for a little while as with how lost he must feel she was sure he’d stay by a familiar point before he ventured out. That thought alone brought with it at first a warm than an incredibly sad smile as she recalled her arbitrary allocation of a particular chair for him to sit in once in her home which he’d returned automatically to every time he’d been after that. Hints of tears actually came to her now tired eyes as she considered he would not presume to take any other chair than that was offered; it was just one of the many ways he was far too sweet for the world.

She had to consider that was especially true of this world as the crowd began moving faster to the beat and one hapless young man was pushed in her direction, his undoubtedly sticky red drink spilling into her hair and on her dress as she could only powerlessly watch as the liquid ran down her neck and her back. This was one more problem she didn’t need; a shower could easily fix her but she wasn’t sure what it’d take to recover her outfit. She pushed back the tears that had no place here anyway as she tried to not let the hopelessness get to her. It didn’t matter how impossible it all suddenly seemed; she was not that weak.

This dress was perhaps not the most sensible but it fit her well and its elegant black design, showing off enough but not too much of what was beneath, was exactly the type of thing that he’d always very strongly appreciated on her. Unfortunately a large red patch detracted somewhat from the sophisticated illusion she wanted desperately to create of a woman in control. When he saw her again she demanded it be perfect. She wanted him to fall in love with her again right there so that when he remembered there’d be no more surprise than that he somehow had been able to look past her for so long. Had it not been for what had just happened she may have actually believed she had that small but sufficient influence over her own fate that meant that would work.

The young man here was apparently aware of what he’d done and just a little embarrassed based on the half-hearted apology he offered, but the way he then began to yell back at the people who’d pushed him told her he saw no place for the blame on his own head. Only now did she notice that he was dressed in nothing but jeans and a casual t-shirt in spite of her own and the similar formal clothing of others. There were many others dressed much rougher yet mere metres away a group of far more civilised women in gowns meant for queens were cackling about their empty lives.

The people here didn’t match. They didn’t need to because they each saw the party they wanted and that was what made it the party it was. As alcohol was sold and raucous laughter was enjoyed to the pounding of the music, it mattered not who everyone else there was. You were one of them if you didn’t mind the mess they were making of the street and were willing to have their fun. Looking about at all these untamed beings Wren realised that this crowd that would so welcome her even still, was no place for him. So it was no longer any place for her.

In an instant she knew there was no point looking here any longer and so scanned the street for the nearest way out. She saw a small alley in the distance, devoid of people but evidently not a dead end by the light that came through. So she forced her way forward in that direction. The crowd tried to fight her on it. It was like they were demanding she stay; that she fall victim to the temptations of her life so long ago of pleasures without consequence. Yet as tempting as that could be in a world of such heavy fallout it held very little value to a woman who still had some hope.

So she pushed herself forward again and even though the crowd still fought her she didn’t let it win.

“Coming through,” she loudly insisted, stepping around those who would not move for her and past those who would.

Seeing the exit getting closer while the music somehow got louder she suddenly felt an inescapable desire to be free, and started moving faster. There were so many people here; too many minds trying to drag her back, and as she finally reached the alley she was almost running. Though her foot struck a recent puddle from earlier rains, she didn’t care about the mud that splashed upward and just kept on going.

Then gratefully she was free and into air slightly easier to breath as the people had thinned and the music had thinned quicker. Slowly then as it all shifted down to silence her steps began getting smaller too, until by the time she was able to draw in a clean breath she found she was walking again.

Now she was in a new part of the city where the streets were empty and barely lit but the buildings stretching towards the sky on either side of her were full of the sweetest of dreams. It was quiet but never peaceful as long as she refused to block out their thoughts and emotions. Now she hoped this part of the city was his even knowing she could not search here yet. Wherever she was that was where she wanted him to be.

Her dress had thoroughly stained with what from the smell she knew was now cheap wine and so she’d need to change out of it before she could venture out again. Though she couldn’t claim to have been completely averse to a drink for all her life, or even right now for that matter, she did not want that to be her scent should he come across her. That was especially true when she thought of what it did to her when he’d been bold enough to come up behind her, his hands on her shoulders, as he inhaled the flavour of her hair. With the cold wind suddenly blowing quicker a shiver passed over her as she closed her eyes and almost felt strong hands running down along her arms now as the air caressed her. He felt so close. He felt like he was just out of reach, until she opened her eyes again to reveal a depressingly hollow and unspectacular street.

This was her reality; lost in an apparent eternity of nothingness in every direction. She knew it was time she got back to her hotel which was too close to worry about arranging transport, so instead she just walked quicker finding as she did silence only became quieter and lights turned all the more to dark. As she drew closer in fact she found the streetlights were so dull as to pale before the moonlight which was in another time a thing of beauty but which now was simply a sign of the absence of the sun as the moon reflected off the water of recent rains it couldn’t help to dry. The sun had not shone on her life in so long that as she looked to the dark clouds above after what’d been by all accounts a sunny day she asked if it’d not forgotten her as well. For only a moment she stared, feeling suddenly so numb, before she turned her eyes to the harsh uneven pavement below and reminded herself again that one must live through the night to feel the warmth of day. She had to hold on to the hope that her night must almost be over; that it could last no longer than she could survive.

The hotel had indeed been close and so it only took a few more streets before she was in sight of the grand building that unmistakably and proudly displayed its name. It was known as the Russian Hill Hotel; so named because of the beautiful park it overlooked and it was the type of place so very glamorous she just knew at a different time she’d have found such romance here. In fact she’d once intended to; when as a bit of a surprise to Rada who she would always say worked too hard, she’d decided to book them a ‘weekend away’ right here in the city in this very place. However that plan never came to be, because she’d made one stupid mistake that had given her the love of a beautiful child and cost her years of the love of a wonderful man.

The door as always in these places was well lit though never vulgarly so by being made too bright. It was instead lit in the manner of evening, where only the lightest of shadows followed her into the beautiful foyer adorned with natural and elegant plants in the golden pots that covered the dirt that housed them and offset the royal red in the flawless carpet beneath her feet. The entire space seemed to be decorated in such a way to speak of eternal class by avoiding anything recognisable as clearly any given century. Even the simple but refined fountain that ran the water in a smooth unbroken layer along the dark marble of the wall, only making the smallest more relaxing of sounds as it splashed lightly on the pool below, could just as easily been seen in the twentieth century as the twenty-fourth.

Wren had booked a room from the ship so she’d not needed to come here before now. However as she moved slowly to the desk, her feet muted by the soft carpet below on which she feared was likely tracking water, she found herself becoming more tense for reasons she couldn’t fully understand. This place was somehow familiar, but she didn’t know how or why. She saw nothing that she remembered, but something inside her told her this place had been redecorated since she’d seen it last.

Then as she heard the voice of the hotel clerk behind his counter, a man likely in his late twenties diligently smiling to greet his coming customer, it suddenly caused her heart to race. She’d heard this voice before.

“Welcome to the Russian Hill, madam. How may I assist you today?” He greeted her in cordial tones that just seemed slightly uneven like this wasn’t his first language but it was one he’d mastered well long ago.

For a moment Wren said nothing, drawing a curious but patient look from the young man.

“Yes, you can,” Wren finally said softly, her mind still searching for where she’d seen this face before. “I’ve booked a room under the name Wren Elton.”

“Oh yes, Miss Elton,” the man said, looking through the named on the screen before him, then looking up slightly. “Or is it Mrs Elton?”


“Of course, Miss Elton,” he said, smiling as he located her name. “We’d thought maybe you weren’t coming.”

Wren said nothing in response, still too busy wondering, leading him to fear he might have offended her somehow and to apologise horrified at the thought.

“It was just a little joke. Of course you are entirely free to arrive when you chose. I didn’t mean…”

“No, it’s alright, I know what you meant,” Wren assured him, finding him reminiscent of someone else she’d known but knowing that wasn’t what she was remembering here. “Look, this might sound strange, but how long have you worked here?”

“I’ve been with the company for ten years, madam, ever since I left school.”

Now Wren was getting nervous, in that case she must surely have been here before.

“Do you happen to know if this was always known as the Russian Hill Hotel?”

“As long as I’ve been here, madam”

Wren shook her head, confused but certain this gentleman had no answers to give her.

“Is everything alright, madam?”

“Yes, everything’s fine,” She answered unconvincingly as she took an identification card from her purse and presented it to him.

“Very good, madam,” he acknowledged warmly as he handed her the card to her room, barely looking at her identification as to do so for too long would offend the customer by suggesting he did not trust them.

Wren put it in her purse and smiled as thankfully as she could to him before she moved off again towards the nearest lift, though her thoughts stayed very much with him.

In fact it was only as she got off it on her room on the second floor that her thoughts suddenly changed. The lettering on the doors was distinctive and elegant but never uniform; like they’d taken the time to bring in a calligrapher to paint it on each. She thought it was somehow a mark of what unique love could be in each of these rooms, and she realised she had that same thought before. The walls were a different colour and the carpet had changed, but she’d been here before, and as she moved through to room twenty-four she felt every step was more familiar.

Almost afraid, but equally afraid not to know, she opened the door and revealed her room for the night. It was modestly sized enough to be intimate but it was it was still large enough that one’s eye could be lost as it passed the long distance over the view of the balcony overlooking to the park to the shining bathroom that looked clean enough that you could confidently perform surgery there. With the exception of her bags that had been beamed onto the luxurious king bed everything here cost far more money than was needed. There was so much unnecessary; so much entirely unnatural. She remembered it though she’d had very different thoughts then. She’d been here before; if not this particular room then one of identical design in this very building.

Like a vicious slap in the face she was suddenly overcome by a hundred images at once that caused her to stumble into the room and to sit on the bed.


“Nothing is going to happen,” he’d said, smiling a smile he’d never admit to having given as he’d lead her through the door.

She’d been so uncertain, but felt so alive, as she’d moved in his arms into that room in the hotel of which she’d never caught the name.

“I will be leaving within the next days,” he’d insisted with cool authority but in a voice so full of awakened desire that it sent a chill throughout her entire body that left her feeling weak.

“I’m so not sure this is a good idea,” she’d said slightly drunkenly as he kissed her, but he just offered a look that said he wanted this so much that she couldn’t possibly not want it too.

She did undeniably want it too, but she was afraid, and sensing these emotions he’d whispered in her ear.

“There can be no consequences. No one will know.”

Her heart was pounding so fast, and she honestly didn’t know why she was doing this but as she clumsily moved further into the room she knew that she had no desire to resist.

“My father sent me here to experience my Betazoid side,” he’d reminded her so quietly. “This is my Betazoid side. This is who you are.”

Then as the words had struck her intoxicated ears and his lips moved back to hers, she actually smiled at the thought that it was true.

-=End Flashback=-

Now, however she suddenly wept as she remembered that day, taking her head into her hands and letting the salty liquid slide down her wrists. She’d been to this same hotel with Tam’s father their one night together. They’d transported here at night and then she’d gone back the next day after breakfast; she’d never even walked outside the doors of the foyer to see where she was. She hadn’t known and was too young to care to learn.

She’d hated herself for that night. She’d been such a fool and so very arrogant and that stung her eyes on its own, but more so did the knowledge that arrogant fools only really got older. She asked herself now how Rada ever could have loved her. She was such a mess; sitting here in this wine stained dress. She always had been and she always would be, and she wondered how hard it’d be for him to see it now with a fresh set of eyes. Collapsing sideways onto the bed in disbelief of all the places to end up, the door closing automatically and so cutting off the outside light to leave her in a much darker world, she began to ask herself if he truly could ever feel that way for her again.

Along with the tears a wave of guilt threatened to drown her but an ocean of fear about what he would think of her when the memories return washed it away. He deserved so much better than her. She couldn’t inflict herself on him, at least not until she could figure out just what had been so wrong with her for so long and how he could possibly love her even in spite of it. There was only one place she could possibly do that. She’d have to go back to where it all started.

Wren Elton
Manager, Afterthought Café
USS Serendipity NCC-2012

1064: The Yellow Rose of Texas

By Landry Steele and William Lindsay
Following Desperate Times


-=USS Serendipity=-

Dwan Tubman set out into the Jeffries tube before him and Dane watched him move away with something akin to patience, knowing it was best to let Dwan leave remembering Dane had had a cool head when last he saw him.

The moment Tubman was gone however Dane quickly fastened the panel back into place and then started beating on Landry Steele's door.


He waited a moment but heard nothing in response. He pounded harder.

"Landry, let me in!"

Again silence was the only reward Dane got for his trouble, as the vibrations of his fist on the door echoed down to nothing. He couldn’t just wait around though.

"Down it comes," he sighed, prepared to start pulling wires out of the panel and use manual override.

Before he managed to get to the wiring however, the door opened on its own.

What was revealed was a room of total darkness, save the utterly wrong sight of the unnaturally twisted space beyond the view port. It was not cheerful, it was not at all warm; it was nothing like the Landry he’d come to know and despise. This was much more like him and who he’d once been. In fact he swore he’d locked himself in this room before, or at least one a hell of a lot like it.

Sometimes this room came with loud and vague music to dull the mind, but now like so much more often it was bereft of meaningful sound. It was that sort of quiet, not so pure as silence, where your own movements each somehow echoed louder than the voices of memories were all that reminded you that you were still really here.

This was how he knew Landry was still here.

He heard her steps retreating as she slowly moved back over toward the window, having just released the door for him. Only then did he finally see her as she stepped slightly from the shadows.

Her face was framed by the misbegotten streaks of light outside, and now he saw a sight even more unbelievable and unexpected than the spatial disturbances that had enveloped them.

Landry Steele's features were unnaturally and hauntingly frozen, and remained that way as she sunk back into the chair before her, her knees seeming too weak to hold her up for any worthwhile length of time.

She looked like a complete stranger to him in this moment, there was no trace of the woman he thought he knew. It was like looking at a painting of a great adult mystery once so misunderstood in childlike innocence and only now finally realising what it is, and finding all that you’d thought of it was gone and the painting itself was utterly unfamiliar.

Had she been a painting she’d have moved no less. She appeared not even to breathe; completely motionless with eyes staring straight ahead as if fixed forward by the immutable finality of death. Whose death, Dane wasn’t sure.

"Landry, everything's gone to Hell and people on this ship are going to start dying." He approached slowly and spoke carefully, as the door closed behind him cutting off the light from the hall.

Though he feared what might happen if he pushed her too far too fast he really was left with no alternatives to honesty and hope. "That’s if they aren't dying already. Lair, she's," he stopped himself, seeing no response in her.

Now, he was disappointed. It seemed no one here mattered to her. He’d expected that she'd served aboard this ship long enough by this point that she should've started caring about someone here; or at least offered some indication that she was worried about the man she so seemed to idolize, the man she still insisted on calling Captain O'Sullivan. When someone disappointed Dane, even someone he had such low hopes for to begin with, he got angry.

"Damn it Landry, look at me!" He shouted as he rapidly spun the chair around to face him then shook her by the shoulders, though she remained as limp as a rag doll at first. "Don't you care? Doesn't it bother you that good people, people who haven't done anything wrong are going to die if Brody has his way? And he won't even tell us why. God knows what he's doing to the Captain over there and O'Sullivan and Lindsay..."

She’d almost but not quite winced at the sound of O'Sullivan's name. Now Dane was really furious.

Right now she was as useless to the fate of this ship as the chair on which she sat, and he turned away from her with as little feeling as he’d have done for that chair alone. He visually scanned the room for something, anything, he could use to try to wrest her from her seeming state of shock.

The closest thing he could find was a vase of flowers on the nearby table, which he quickly retrieved and then held in the air before her unmoving eyes.

Though she gave no outward indication and perhaps was not even aware of it on any level that could be called at this point conscious, the sight of the flowers was even more difficult for her now. They were intricately woven, bright and fragrant yellow roses; flawless blooms of the sort she always kept nearby just to feel that some small part of what she’d shared with Tucker remained.

The sight of them slashed at her just as if the thorns they contained had been thrust into her skin, and though you couldn’t see it either she was still certain that she was internally bleeding.

Suddenly she was overwhelmed by the memory of his breath on her skin as that low, hypnotically melodic voice sang that old song softly into her ear.

He’d repeated the last few words without the music after it ended, passionately whispering them before he finally stopped hovering and pressed his lips to her neck. She sighed and shuddered at the sensation.

“I’m gonna take you back to Texas with me, Landry. Make you my queen…give you anything your little heart desires.”

Her vision flickered in and out as she became so dizzy she was forced to close her eyes. She leaned her head back against his chest. She wanted to speak, to tell him that all she wanted in the world was him-- that would be more than enough-- but she could only weakly gasp his name instead.

“Ain’t nothing gonna stop us, darlin’, I promise you.” He smiled as he spoke now, and the sound of the expression resonating in his tone made her even weaker as he murmured on. “Yes sir. Gonna take ya back home with me when all this is over and we have some time. We’ll finally have time, just the two of us,” he promised.

Nothing else he could’ve said would have been more meaningful to her- or more effective.

He laughed softly then with some small, secret delight and the sound convinced her as no words could have that she’d follow him anywhere he wanted her to go. “Yes indeed,” he finally added, shaking his head as his smile became a fully realized grin. “My Momma is gonna love you.”

She desperately wished that he’d finally say that particular word in reference to his own feelings, at last. It was the one thing he hadn’t actually said to her with simple and explicit clarity and she longed to hear it.

If he would only say that he really loved her, Landry was as terrified as she was certain of the fact that there was nothing he couldn’t ask her to give him, no matter the cost, that she wouldn’t willingly offer.

The price of her soul itself would be little to pay to keep feeling this way…

With a great shout of frustration at her continued refusal to acknowledge his actions, Dane smashed the centerpiece to the deck. Then he stepped toward her again, crushing flower petals and shards of glass alike beneath his boots with every step.

"Landry! You can't do this. You can't just shut down for the sake of- of," he struggled to try to hold on to his reason when all he wanted to do in the moment was pick her up and shake her until she started to talk or at least until whatever brain rattled around her head fell back into place. "For the sake of a man like Tucker Brody."

Destroying the vase had drawn no response at all. Suddenly, however, it became clear his last words did.

Landry jumped out of her chair and lunged forward, grabbing Dane by the throat and slamming him up against the opposite wall. He struggled for breath as he found to his surprise that she was actually holding his feet up off of the floor.

"Shut up, Dane," She warned viciously as she shook him with strength that utterly amazed him and then she dropped him to the floor, where he landed in a startled heap, gasping for air and coughing violently. For an instant as he’d looked into her cold eyes, he thought she was really going to crush his windpipe and he had no doubt now that if she'd wanted to, she could have.

"Just...shut up," she repeated, muttering the words as she walked across the room and began upending any fixture she could get her hands on, spreading destruction with impressive efficiency as she moved.

Again he was seeing a new woman. This woman was powerful and very much alive.

Even had he not still had to fight to breathe Dane would have struggled to speak as he watched her and saw such unrestrained and inexplicable anger, having to roll out of the way of a flying chair as she took out what seemed to be a lifetime of her frustrations on the unsuspecting and entirely defenseless furnishings.

He’d never seem anything quite like it. He was put in mind however of stories he'd heard. They were stories of Zanh Liis doing something similar in the past, and he wondered if it was some sort of requirement, either by conditioning or recruitment, that female TI agents vent their rage on inanimate objects. The men, it seemed, tended to prefer to extract their own personal vision of justice from the bodies of living souls who had wronged them.

Even as more furnishing flew in his direction, Dane was still grateful in this moment that she was the former.

In his experience it normally took a death to stop a male agent. When Landry would stop was uncertain. However finally, with the room left in no recognizable state, she seemed to freeze; considering the chair she was standing over.

Quickly she turned to him, with hair disheveled and eyes that were frighteningly desperate where before they had been so lifeless.

She surged towards him far too fast for him to ever get away in time.

"If it was Gira," she rasped angrily at him, shaking as she reached out and grasped hold of his tunic, pulling him up to his feet to face her. "Look me in the eye and tell me that if Blane asked you to sell Gira out you could do it."

Dane's eyes flew open in disbelief, about to protest about how different the two situations were, when he was instead silent and that look was quickly followed by a sad understanding. Landry however wasn’t silent.

"Or if they asked Zanh to turn on O'Sullivan. Could she do it? Could he do it to her? Ask yourself that before you crucify me."

"I...I didn't," Dane stuttered. "Landry…"

She wasn’t really listening though, and he began to ask himself, looking at her now, if he knew a single thing about her that was real. He knew her as the gum-snapping, ditzy TI rookie who never seemed to do anything right except by lucky accident. Now he was beginning to wonder just how much of that was nothing but an act.

He was willing to bet at this point that all of it was the likeliest answer to that question.

"You know that feeling that you get, every time she walks into the room? Every time someone just says her name?" Landry continued, her eyes never leaving his but by her tone clearly still not seeing his fear. "That's…" she finally broke the stare and looked at her feet. Her words became less those born violently of anger and more those of consideration of something even she didn’t fully understand.

"But it's more than that. Tucker, he was my teacher in so many ways. He." For the first time Dane saw the slightest film of tears form in her eyes though not a drop fell to her cheek. "He made me what I am."

"What you are?” Dane asked with confusion. “Landry, you're-"

He stopped himself, not wanting to insult her, but finding it was awfully difficult not to remind her that she was still only an Ensign...an intern...someone who would still be returning Jonas Vox' subspace messages for him if not for Gem Lassiter sending her here to learn from O'Sullivan and Zanh...

Suddenly Dane realised that no longer seemed like that could be the real explanation for why she was here at all.

"I am an operative, Dane. I am no more a bloody intern than Ashton Ledbetter is." She shook her head at so many things; at nothing and everything all at once. "Yes, I'm lower ranking. But I'm older than you think, I've done more than you know and the real reason that they sent me here was because of you."

Dane blinked furiously in confusion, thinking he must have misunderstood her."Me?"

"You." She laughed incredulously. "They sent me to see if I could push you to the point of breaking. Do you think anyone is really," she sighed, "anyone could be as obnoxious as I have tried to be? I'll tell you it's a lot of work and it's damned exhausting."

"Wait." Dane had to stop. His head was spinning and they were getting far off the track he wanted to push her along. "We're supposed to be talking about Brody."

"Yes, Brody." Landry struggled just to say his name now, and she closed her eyes a moment to steady herself as images associated with that name overtook the external sights of her present surroundings. "He was a good man. He only wanted to help people. I can't believe it has all really…"

She shivered as she considered so many things that she’d once thought impossible and how little faith she could have now that anything was.

"Really what?" Dane prompted her, and she opened her eyes again to set them hauntingly upon him.

"That it’s all come to this," she answered, speaking no more words after she’d done so.

What could easily have been a lengthy moment of silence prepared to pass, but Dane quickly broke it buy reaching out and putting his hands on her shoulders. He spoke as emotionlessly as he could without forgetting the meaning of his words.

"Landry, I can't imagine how you're feeling but you have to really think about this. Whatever Brody was to you in the past, he is at this moment the man who is promising to start killing one of our officers at a time starting very soon if he doesn't get what he wants."

Landry didn’t even pause to let his words settle in.

"He won't kill Zanh," she quietly insisted, her declaration was as certain as it was chilling, and Dane's hair stood on end as the words hit his ears. "She'll wish she were dead, but he won't kill her."

Now, Dane hadn’t just had enough; he’d had too much.

"Okay. That's it." Dane shook her forcefully back and forth trying at least to make her fight him. "You say that TI sent you here because of me but what if that's not true? What if they really sent you here because you're the one who can stop Brody from destroying Zanh Liis and doing who knows what else with the Alchemy Project's technology? What if…?"

Again she wasn’t listening, but this time she scoffed rather than offering silence, to the very thought that Dane could have thought more than she had about what was going on here.

“You want to know the truth about me, Dane Cristiane?” she asked. “The truth about yourself?"

He stared at her, unsure what the truth about him had to do with the truth about herself and least of all anything to do with Brody. However that also meant he was too unsure to stop her.

"They sent me here to see if we could really be assigned someday as Jump partners. After some of the history with other teams they..." she looked at him with an expression now of complexity beyond description or even interpretation. "They wanted to be sure we could work together without killing each other or-"

"...or becoming involved." He didn't even have to think; he just finished the sentence for her as though he'd done it a thousand times before.

"Exactly." She looked at him coldly now, but without anger. "I know how you feel about Gira. And if you've had this sense of knowing that it's not going to change, well, I'm here to tell you that you're right. It's not. She's the one, Dane. No matter who else you may ever be involved with she's the one you want."

Dane knew she was telling the truth and so let the comment stand with neither objection nor addition.

"And Tucker Brody?"

She turned away now, once again sinking down into the chair, as she spoke words of bitter disappointment at life itself. "He's the one I can't have."

For the first time since he’d been here Dane felt like he understood at least as much as she did.

"Doesn't stop you though does it?" He sadly lowered both his eyes and his voice. "Wanting him."

There’d been new emotion in the words he’d said. Landry wondered for a moment if he was truly speaking to her now, or more addressing his own feelings for young Ensign Lassiter.

Still, from whichever angle he spoke it didn’t matter. Landry shook her head.


That longing never went away. History could be altered a million times over and a billion years may come to pass, but that undeniable reality would always be just as true for her.

No matter how many times she was resequenced, no matter what had been or would be or never could exist, he was the last person she thought of before she went to sleep at night. So often she had wondered whether he’d think of her at that time too, if even at all.

"I've forgotten and remembered the weirdest things, you know, with the resequencing," she whispered. "Yeah, I'm like a slate, they say. Wipe Steele's mind clean every time and she's all bright and shiny again. Brand new."

She sighed, staring vacantly ahead once again. "Sometimes I think I remember things about the people here on the Sera that I shouldn't. Strangest impressions, I get. Like every time I look at TC Blane in civilian clothing somehow I think unaccountably of coffins. Rather, of being stuffed into one by him."

A look of knowing sadness passed over Dane’s face, but he said nothing. He couldn’t tell her now that that image was a remnant of her memories from the mission they'd gone on to Klaestron to rescue Carrick O'Sullivan. It was the one that led them to the Sylph and stopped the Cascade, restoring Keiran to his proper place in history. She wasn't meant to remember that, so he wouldn't be the one to remind her. He’d clearly reminded her of too many bad memories already.

“I know you feel your feelings won’t change any more than mine could for Gira,” Dane softly insisted. “Maybe they won’t. I don’t know and it doesn’t matter. I’m not asking you to betray him. All I’m asking is that you tell us what you know.”

Looking up at him, her eyes said that she saw no distinction, before she looked down to the dull, carpeted floor once more.

“You still don’t understand,” she protested, though it was more statement than complaint.

Dane started getting angry again, though it was a bitter type of anger now.

“What the hell did he do to you?” he demanded, unsure if he wanted to turn away or attempt to shake some sense into her again and so instead remaining completely motionless.

Landry however did move as her head seemed to drop lower as if it was just too heavy to hold anymore while she whispered her confession: thoughts that seemed fueled by some independent and unrelenting need to expand beyond the confines of her mind so they could live and breathe again. They overpowered her and took the form of words, moving quickly across her lips.

“He gave me everything,” she gravely answered, consumed by memories of all that meant to her. “He gave me more than I could ever give back, and that just made me want even more to give what I could. I was frightened; it gave him a terrifying power over me. I honestly thought I’d do anything for him. Only I…”

Landry stopped again, unable to continue speaking of regrets that were just too private to share, even with the man destined to become her future Jump partner.

Looking at her now, for the first time since she’d attacked him, Dane once again saw a weak woman. She wasn’t too strong to break; she wasn’t even strong enough to put back together. He realised he would get nowhere here and he couldn’t afford to waste any more time.

"It's really sad, you know." Dane said, as he shook his head in disgust and started walking away.

"What do you mean?" she asked, with confusion that he was giving up now of all times.

Dane knew that there had been something more than anything that could be called love between this woman and the man whose grip still held her captive in silence. He knew from his own dark past the power that one being could hold over another and how emotions could be manipulated to the advantage of a person willing to exploit those with purer hearts than theirs.

Unsure if anything could ever free her now, he regretfully spoke his final words.

"He's controlling you still, after all this time."

Finally, Dane Cristiane stepped out of Landry Steele's doorway, leaving her alone again in the spectral, speechless dark.

Ensign Landry Steele
Temporal Investigations Agent
Stationed aboard the USS Serendipity NCC-2012


Captain William Lindsay
Interim Director
Temporal Investigations


NRPG: Happy St. Patrick's Day, everyone. If you're going to celebrate with drink, please call a cab or designate a driver.


~Zanh Liis