1142: The Three-Sided Square

by Rada Dengar
110226.2200
After Chateau and Beer


-=Personal Quarters of Rada Dengar and Wren Elton=-


Wren quietly sighed, worried by what she was seeing and more so by what she was feeling. In spite of the general cheer about the ship today, there was something strange in the mood of one Angosian.

She slowly approached Rada from behind. He was quiet today, even for him. It wasn’t sadness, as such, though. She couldn’t place it that easily.

He was however exceptionally contemplative, as time and again he would flick arbitrarily though the pages of his book, read a little, then flick through again.

It seemed like he was searching for something without knowing quite what it was.

“You know you’ve barely put that thing down since we found it,” she said, leaning in over his shoulder and causing him to jump slightly as he was pulled out of the internal world of his thoughts. “Maybe it’s time to give it a rest…”

He looked up at her, a little startled. Slowly he recovered and exhaled. He realised she was right.

He snapped the book shut in one hand then placed it down. Yet he couldn’t help but to continue to stare. His fingers never left it as it rested on the table before them.

Wren moved around to sit on the couch beside him, gently taking his hand in hers and away from the book. He could see the concern in her eyes, and she could see that he just wanted to pick it up again.

She hated seeing him like this.

“Have you figured out who sent it yet?” she asked, picking it up herself and rubbing her thumb over the hard cover.

“It must have been someone in my family,” he suggested, without any real certainty. “I still can’t figure out though why they wouldn’t have left their name…”

“Maybe…maybe you should just try contacting them.”

“And ask about it?”

She nodded but it was clear he didn’t want to do that. Rada merely sighed, shaking his head in response.

Without even really thinking about it, he picked up the brown paper that the book had come wrapped in off the table and began to examine it in his spare hand. Seeing how uncomfortable he was, Wren squeezed the hand she still held.

She could tell he wanted to talk but that he didn’t really know about what.

“So…The Three-sided Square...” She read the title aloud. “You said it was Angosian?”

“Yes, it’s a very old and well-known children’s story…”

Wren simply watched him patiently as he sat the paper down, knowing he wanted to say more.

“It’s about, somewhat ridiculously, this…anthropomorphic square who sets out to leave Square Town to see the world. After a frightening encounter with a rather grumpy circle, he ends up in Triangle City. Everything’s a triangle there. The windows are triangles. The boats are triangles. Well, you get the idea.”

Wren nodded that she did and Rada continued with just the slightest hint of sadness entering into his tone.

“Of course he doesn’t fit. He can’t get in through the triangle shaped doors. He’s uncomfortable in a triangle shaped house. Besides, the triangles don’t like him very much. Eventually though he begins to belong.”

“They accept him?”

“He thinks so. Everything starts to seem easier. Only then he catches sight of his reflection in a shop window. That’s when he realises that his top has begun to be squished in by being forced through triangle shaped doors. He’s beginning to become a triangle. He knows then that he has to go home…”

Rada stopped, sighing. Wren could tell he was intending to remain silent.

“Was it a favourite of yours as a child, or…?”

Rada shook his head that it wasn’t as he picked the book up again. “I’d heard of it but it was never particularly significant to me.”

“So then why would your family want to send it?”

Rada’s eyes filled with fear as a possibility occurred, causing Wren to hold his hand even tighter.

“Maybe…maybe they know.”

“Know what?”

Rada paused and shifted awkwardly, clearly not wanting to put this into words.

“What I’ve done,” he finally answered. “What I’ve become.”

Wren’s eyes opened wider.

“Hold on,” She immediately objected, having thought they were past this. “You did what you did to save my life. You…”

Rada smiled slightly sadly at her, contemplating how to explain this. “What I did, what I now remember doing, was a very horrible thing. I’ll always have to live with it. However I’d done many things one of my people should never do before that. I’d changed a lot to even be in that position in the first place. Starfleet; this life we lead, it’s not the Angosian way.”

“No, it’s not,” Wren answered, taking the book from him and placing it back upon the table. “But that doesn’t mean you’ve changed. If you’d been content to do things the Angosian way, I don’t think you’d have ever left.”

“You’re right, I guess,” he said with a shrug of his shoulders. “I never did quite fit in there either.”

“You fit in here,” she assured him.

“I fit with you and with Tam,” Rada replied with a slight smile. “I wouldn’t have even come close to fitting in here though when I first left home.”

Wren was surprised by hearing him speak of Angosia III like this.

“You know, I don’t think I’ve ever heard you refer to where you grew up as home before.”

“I haven’t thought of it as home in a long time,” he admitted. “I still don’t. I’ve just been thinking now of how it used to be. I once belonged there and the rest of the galaxy seemed so strange. I’m quite different now though.”

“I didn’t know you then. But I think that if you could speak to your old self, he’d be pleased with how you ended up. Anyone would have to be.”

“I almost did,” Rada answered. “On Earth, I saw a young man. I could tell he was Angosian and, Wren, he was so much like a younger version of me. It was frightening.” Rada paused and closed his eyes, just trying to grasp how much had changed in him. “He had so much innocence I’ve lost.”

“I’ve known you a long time now,” Wren replied. “I don’t think you’ve lost anything. You’ve gained a lot though.”

“Yeah, well I know that’s not how they’d see it,” Rada said, turning to look now at her and contemplating just how good she was to him. “They’d think I’ve just changed to be more like the people out here. I think this book is someone’s way of telling me it’s time to go home.

“Do you want to go back?”

Rada immediately shook his head. “I don’t belong there anymore. Besides, I wouldn’t know what to say to any of them after all this time.”

“You are starting to miss Angosia though, aren't you?”

“No, I…” Wren gave him a look that reminded him who he was talking to. “It’s just this time of year. The ship tends to take on a very human, Christmas feeling. It reminds me how far away I am from where I began. I miss not feeling that.”

“Well, are you sure you don’t want to go back there?” Wren prompted him, just wanting to make it better.

“I’m sure,” Rada answered without certainty, though certainly with fear at the prospect. He looked to the book again. “First, I just really have to figure out who sent this…”

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

1141: Chateau and Beer

by Jamie Halliday and Ashton Ledbetter
110209.0200
After The Yellow Sheep


Christmas Eve at the Ledbetter residence was a most frightening occasion, though certainly not intentionally. In a classic and whimsical display of Yuletide generosity, Ashton’s mother, as a matter of tradition, always gave the hired servants six to nine P.M. off to be with their families. It did little good for the Hupyrians, who had no use for Christmas Eve or Christmas, but it did allow Ashton’s mother to present herself as a shining example of philanthropy during the local Bridge Club meetings.

Mother dearest would wear the same red velvet dress during dinner each year. Her hair was pulled back so tightly into a bun that her already sculpted Patrician fa├žade appeared to resemble more a skeleton then a living person. Father would be rambling on about his latest case as Mother awkwardly set down the turkey, which of course the servants had prepared before being dismissed for three hours.

Apparently there was some sort of to-do over whether Federation Law allowed a ferret to be named as principle owner of a London boutique specializing in women’s hats. At issue was a dispute over services rendered and paid for in advance that were not completed to the satisfaction of the customer. The proprietor of the establishment hailed from a planet where a creature quite similar to ferrets were considered Gods, and therefore were not only allowed to own property, but in fact operating a business without the name of one of the Gods on your deed was, in fact, illegal.

At issue was the freedom of the Owner to practice the religion of his choosing, even if that meant the customer would be unable to recoup any of her payment by suing an assetless rodent.

If there was one thing Ashton hated, it was lawsuits involving property and furry creatures. He ate as quickly as he could, and even performed the menial task of setting the dirty dishes in the replicator to be reconstituted. Ashton was always somewhat disturbed by the fact that, despite his food being literally assembled one atom a time, it had in fact once been a plate, or any other number of vile things.

Upon unwrapping and thanking his parents for the yearly ascot, he kissed mother on her bony cheek, and retired back to his apartment. Now adorned in fuzzy slippers, a fuzzy robe, and eating a fuzzy peach, Ashton surveyed the city from on high as a solo piano slowly chimed out Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas over the surround speakers.

Despite what should have been the perfect moment, something just didn’t feel quite right. Champaign? No. Replace the piano with a classical guitar? No. He set his peach down, and tapped a hidden panel on the wall, causing a mirror to slide away and reveal a computer terminal.

“Computer, are you able to locate Jamie Halliday?”

The Computer thought for a moment, before popping up a map of the globe, with an arrow over the Scotland home of the Halliday clan.

“May I speak with him?”

The computer chirped, and Ashton was suddenly overwhelmed by the sound of raucous laughter and loud music coming over the communications line.

“This is Jamie!” Halliday shouted over the noise to be heard.

“Crewman Halliday, this is Ashton Ledbetter…” He paused for a moment. “Obviously I’ve caught you in the middle of a gather, my apologies. I’ll contact you another time.

[There’s no need to do that,] Jamie replied, as a festive debate between two Scottish brogues managed to overcome the sound of the music. [I’m not busy!]

“Are you sure?” Ashton asked skeptically, thinking Jamie was just being polite.

[Sure I’m sure,] Jamie replied as Ashton heard a voice, incomprehensible over the music, speaking to him on the other end. [It’s Ashton. A friend of mine.] The voice seemed to mumble again. [What’s that…? Oh, my mother’s asking why you’re calling.]

“I was just wondering if you’d like to get together tonight for something to eat.”

[I’d love to, but I can’t go anywhere tonight.] The voice mumbled once more. [Apparently you’re welcome to come here though!]

“Oh, I wouldn’t want to be an imposition.”

[Then don’t be! Just come over.]

“Well…” Ashton thought for a second, not wishing to intrude on what was clearly a lively and loving family gathering, and indeed quite inexperienced in how to act at one, yet noting the loneliness of where he was now. “Well, thank you. I believe I will. Might I ask about the dress code?”

Even over the blaring music, laughter could be heard.

[I told you he was funny!] Jamie said to the crowd. [Don’t worry about it. Just come in what you’re wearing.]

Looking down across his fuzzy robe and slippers, which it was true were personally tailored; twice actually, after the first one couldn’t get the collar right, Ashton thought better.

“Okay, I’ll be there soon.”

-=/\=-


By the time Ashton materialized in front of a small, well-kept but poorly designed house, he was dressed impeccably. While some people chose to slob about by dressing in smart casual, Ashton preferred a sort of ‘genius informal’, but obviously not too heavy on the 'informal'.

He’d carefully selected a simple, black, barely absurdly priced at all outfit, which should fit him in anywhere. It was clearly the fashionable choice. What it was not however, he realized, was the warm choice as he felt precious Italian shoes sinking down into the freezing snow.

Seeing the small house, whose functioning chimney bellowing smoke bizarrely suggested a fireplace for more than charm, Ashton wondered if there weren’t some mistake in the transporter coordinates. It was hard to believe a party the likes of which he’d heard would be contained within such a miniature replication of the family servant’s quarters.

Yet as he felt the snow threatening to sink straight through his shoes and render his socks damp and unpleasant, he decided that were it the right address or not they’d better prepare, because he was coming inside.

Rushing to the door, he pulled his arms around himself, scanned his eye over quickly, but was unable to find any chime. Giving up, he knocked insistently with his free hand on the wood.

The door was soon pulled open, revealing what appeared to be an ordinary sized woman, slightly miss-proportioned. Ashton had no chance to question if it were the right place, before he felt himself being pulled inside and the door shut behind him.

“Glad you could make it, dear,” she said excitedly, her arm linked in his. “Do take off your shoes.”

Ashton looked down, and as much as he preferred not to go around barefoot, he could see he was likely to trod filthy snow in with him and so he reluctantly complied. Thankfully, he’d chosen to wear designer socks today as well.

His task however was made slightly difficult as the small woman didn’t wish to free up his arm. No sooner had he managed to remove one shoe before he found himself descended on by what, had it not been for a single friendly face, he would have assumed was a small street gang.

“Welcome to the Halliday residence,” Jamie said proudly, moving to free his friend from his mother’s eager arm, though she seemed intent on holding on. He then turned back to the crowd. “Everyone, I’d like to introduce my friend Captain Ashton Ledbetter. Ashton; this is my mother, my father, my uncle Donny, my sister Dolina and my two brothers; Artair and Colon.”

“How do you do,” Ashton said, as he attempted to navigate the assault of approaching hands, each expecting to be shaken, while still trying to remove his second shoe.

Though the music had been turned down to a dull roar, the noise was more than made up for by the sudden clamor of greeting words.

Doing his best to be polite in the presence of these rather large people, Ashton tried to respond to each of their greetings in turn, yet two of the males were looking at him rather disapprovingly, and the younger of the females was looking at him all too approvingly.

His eyes quickly locked on hers and she smiled at him a little flirtatiously. However his thoughts were soon distracted, as he felt the extremely expensive bottle of Chateau La Barre he’d brought being yanked from his hand.

The man he assumed was Jamie’s father; it was hard to tell with the speed of the introductions, was examining it happily.

“Ah, grand,” he said. “It’s good ta see Jamison’s keeping such fine company.”

Then before he knew any more, the crowd had Ashton surrounded, with a person on every side, as he was led the very short distance to what appeared to be some sort of living space. All the while, Jamie’s sister kept eyeing him, as Jamie’s mother continued to talk excitedly in his ear. Jamie seemed to find watching the exchange quite amusing, though his sister seemed to find it less so.

“My, aren’t you a handsome young man?” the mother said, then turned rapidly to her husband. “Doesn’t he look like that man?”

“Which man's that then?”

“We used to know him. You know; pasty skin, beady eyes? You must remember.”

“Nah, I don’t know what yer talkin' about. You must be imaginin’ things…”

“He thinks I’m imaginin’ things,” she said to Ashton with a shrug of her shoulder, insistent that she was not. “He spoke a bit like you actually. Maybe he was your father. What was his name?”

“Ashton Charles Ledbetter, the same as my own.”

“No, that’s not it,” the mother replied, seeming perplexed.

“He couldn’t come up with anything a wee bit more original for you?” Dolina asked teasingly.

“Now, go easy,” her uncle insisted. “Names are hard to come up with. They named you after the neighbours’ dog.”

One of her brothers laughed.

“They named you after their parakeet,” the uncle added.

Then suddenly Ashton realized they'd arrived at the seating area, each of them taking their place. Dolina sat to his left and Jamie, protectively, to his right.

Jamie’s mother placed the now opened bottle of Chateau La Barre down on the table, and surrounded it with an assortment of other wines and longed neck beers. The color drained from Ashton’s face as he saw hands grasping for the rare vintage.

“Oh that’s really for after… dinner… tasting.” Ashton’s voice trailed off as he saw the bottle poured and rapidly consumed by Jamie’s family.

“Did ya same somethin’?” Artair asked from across the table.

“No, nothing at all,” Ashton shook his head. His initial shock turned to glee when he saw how much the family was enjoying the wine. Feeling rather game to try their offerings, Ashton grabbed one of the beers from the center of the table.

“Jamie,” Ashton whispered. “I believe I left my bottle opener… I don’t own a bottle opener.”

Dolina snatched the bottle from his hand, twisted off the cap, and set it down in front of him.

“Well, thank you very much, my lady.” Ashton said, with a bit of a grin. She inclined her head to say “thank you,” with a grin of her own.

Jamie’s mother returned to the table with a large platter of lamb shanks and set it down in the center. She then bustled back to the kitchen to retrieve the sides that would accompany their meal.

“So, Jamison introduced you as Captain Ashton Ledbetter,” Jamie’s father began, “But Jamison, I thought your Captain was that girl ya told me ‘bout. What was her name? Lonny Zeus?”

“Zanh Liis, and she is not a girl,” Jamie corrected.

“Where do these kids come up with these crazy names?” Jamie’s father shook his head as he grabbed a shank from the platter and plopped it on his plate.

“She’s Bajoran,” Jamie added.

“So why are you a Captain and on the same ship?”

“Well I’d very much like to know that myself. I am a part of an… organization, of which Zanh Liis was also a part. I had my own ship, for a few fleeting moments, which was lost saving her crew from doom. As reward for my heroism I was placed aboard her vessel as an observer until another ship could be procured for me to Captain. Apparently there is a backlog at the Starfleet shipyards,” Ashton grumbled.

“Well that hardly seems fair. If ya lost yer ship savin’ hers, they should be givin’ ya her ship.” Dolina chimed in.

“Have you ever considered a career at Starfleet Command?” Ashton asked her, completely sincere.

“Me?!” Dolina asked with an amused laugh, before adding an exaggerated wink. “I’d like ta think I’m far too excitin' for that.”

Ashton found the gesture so enticing and surprising that he didn’t immediately notice the sudden drop in conversation as her father and two of her brothers began to give him warning glares. Jamie’s uncle also gave a warning look; though it was more of the variety of ‘watch out; she’s dangerous’. It was an expression to be taken all the more seriously given Jamie had earlier told them one of Ashton’s claims to have strangled a Borg Queen with her own spine.

“Actually, Starfleet can be…quite a…” Ashton slowly recognised the silence that had descended around him. “A challenge.”

Suddenly, he felt rather uncomfortable as he noticed all eyes upon him. Thankfully, Jamie’s mother quickly spoke again. She had an eager smile on her lips; wondering if the two of them would hit it off.

“Oh, there’re so many questions we want ta ask ya.”

“Aye, I’ve got one,” Jamie’s father cut in sternly. “D’ya understand how to treat a lady?”

“Dad!” Dolina groaned, her face turning red as she looked away.

Again one of her brothers seemed highly amused.

“This from a man whose idea of a romantic first date was a parma and chips at O’Shannon’s pub,” Jamie’s mother teased.

“I still maintain I’ve never had a better meal,” Jamie’s father answered, the sternness leaving his tone. “Then again, maybe that was the company…”

Jamie’s mother giggled slightly at the suggestion, their eyes locking on each other, while their children turned away at this display of affection. Ashton could tell the attention had been successfully diverted from him once more.

“Yes, well, don’t worry. I can assure you I’m nothing if not a gentleman,” Ashton added.

“Well, I know that my Jamison’s a good judge of people,” Jamie’s mother replied, taking her husband’s hand. “If yer his friend, that says enough ta me.”

“Are ya kiddin’?” Artair laughed. “He’s a terrible judge of people. D’ya remember the furniture incident?”

Everyone except Ashton laughed, recalling the story.

“About five years back, a lad he knew asked him ta store some of his old furniture while he was off planet,” Artair explained.

“He said he’d be back in a week to collect it,” Jamie justified, though it was clear he wasn’t embarrassed.

“So of course Jamison obliges,” Artair added. All of Jamie’s family repeated the words, “Of course” in chorus.

“Do y’know what happened ta that furniture?” Artair asked.

Ashton shook his head.

“Well, at the moment a Starfleet Captain’s sittin’ on some of it…”

Everyone laughed as they saw Ashton’s realization. Though his immediate reaction was to try to say something kind to avoid Jamie being made uncomfortable to have his mistake recalled, he could see Jamie laughing just as much.

“No, the lad’s a terrible judge of character,” his father added, with a slight smile. “What he is though is a bloody good test of it. The wrong sort of people will take advantage of him. The way he tells it, that’s something y’ve never done.” He raised his glass. “So you’re alright by this family, Ashton Ledbetter.”

Raising their glasses as well, everyone murmured in agreement. Ashton smiled, slightly taken aback, feeling something warm and quite indescribable.

“Well, thank you,” he said sincerely. “Thank you very much.”

**********************************************
Crewman Jamie Halliday
Engineering
USS Serendipity NCC-2012

and

Ashton Ledbetter
Observer
USS Serendipity NCC-2012

1140: The Christmas Star


by Vol Tryst and Dabin Reece
110209.0100
After Mission Improbable


Vol Tryst sat at his computer, double checking his appointment calendar for the next week. Depending on the person he was scheduled to see, his reactions varied anywhere from pleasant smile to shrug to cringe. He reached slowly for a mostly empty cup of coffee and was just about to press the cup to his lips, when an intruder disturbed what was to be a relaxing morning.

Without a chime requesting entry, the door to Vol’s office simply opened. Vol froze with the coffee cup at his lips and shifted his gaze to see a wild eyed Dabin Reece pointing at him with a trembling finger.

“You!” Reece spoke in a gravely voice just barely above a whisper. He moved swiftly towards the Betazoid and Vol thought the same thing everyone else thinks when they are charged by a crazed intruder with unknown intentions.

*Finish the coffee before it’s too late.*

Vol gulped down the last of the cup, and just in time, as Reece grabbed his wrist and pulled him up from his chair with surprising strength. The mug toppled to the floor in what appeared to be slow motion as Vol was dragged away. Too shell-shocked to realize what was happening, Vol allowed Reece to keep on pulling until they were out of the office and inside a turbolift.

“Can I ask where we are going?”

“Replimat.” Reece answered, as he circled the lift like a caged animal. The Replimat was a small room aboard the ship housing a few larger sized replicator designed to handle more than your typical bowl of soup or cat food.

“Can I ask why?”

“Isn’t it obvious?” Reece shouted, throwing his hands up in the air.

“You’re… worried about something.” Vol surmised, sensing Dabin’s emotions.

The lift stopped and Vol was once again moving involuntarily down the corridor. Dabin pulled him into the Replimat and pointed at an image of an item that was frozen on the screen above one of the replicators.

“I hate this,” Dabin said, pointing at the picture of a garden gnome. Vol looked up at the image, blinked and resisted the urge to gulp.

“Okay,” He said, waiting for more input.

“It just doesn’t say O’Sullivan to me.”

Vol laughed out loud. “No, it doesn’t. Should it?”

“Look, the Captain is throwing this sort of Christmas surprise for the Irishman. Just don’t tell her I know because she doesn’t know I know.”

Two engineers, having just replicated a replacement part for the ventilation unit in Sickbay, glanced back over their shoulders at Reece as they were about to leave.

“Shhhhhhhhhhhhhh!” Dabin said, holding his finger up to his lips. “It’s supposed to be a secret!”

“I didn’t say anything!” Vol shot back, holding his hands up in innocence. “And if it is indeed a secret, how is it that you came to—”

“Liisy talked to the ice man, all hush hush. That always means something is going down. Then I saw Steele all decked out like the Michelin Man and muttering something about a tree down by the transporter room. I put the pieces together from there. That and I pulled the transport logs after they left the ship. So I need something really O’Sullivan like to surprise him with, a gift from the crew. The gnome just isn’t talking to me. Help me Vol!!!”

Vol tensed his face and shut his eyes. He raised his index finger to drill it into his right ear for a second or two before removing it and stretching out his face.

"Counselor!" Dabin's pitch was beginning to inch away from persistence towards whining. Vol quickly placed his hands on the Trill's shoulder.

"Yes, Dabin! Of course I will help."

"Good."

"What's in it for me?"

"You—what?" Dabin almost yelped.

"My time as Ship's Counselor is very valuable Commander. There could be a patient waiting for me right now, in my office, in turmoil beyond your wildest imagination. And yet, here I am and here I shall remain if you make it worth my while." Vol cocked a single eyebrow. It was a signal, the gauntlet had been thrown down.

Dabin was quiet at first as he peered at the Counselor suspiciously.

"Did you have something in mind?"

Vol grinned.

"How is that beautiful wife of yours?" Once the words were heard and understood, Dabin's mind went places that caused the counselor to fail at stifling a laugh. A hand founds its way to his abdomen, an instinct when one's abs clench in pain despite laughing in glee.

"I miss her, that's all."

"...really?" Dabin joked.

"I do and I want to kidnap her. I've let you have her all to yourself for quite some time and I have been very patient."

"I gather you mean that you'd like to spend time with her?"

"Yes and soon."

Dabin's face was riddled with confusion.

"You know, you could have just taken off with her at any time. I'm sure she would've played along. She misses you too."

Vol raised his eyebrow again. "Is that so? How long would it have taken before you summoned all of the Sera's security officers to help you find her?"

"An hour at most I imagine."

Vol rolled his eyes. "You would have begging for help the moment you realized she was gone.”

“This isn’t getting my present selected! I’ll watch Sophie and you two can go have your day of fun. Deal!”

"Right, so..." Vol clapped and rubbed his hands together, pivoting so as to look up at the image of the garden gnome once more. "...a gift for Mr. O'Sullivan."

"You go first." Dabin suggested.

"Me? You want me to come up with an idea right now? Why?"

"That was my first guess." Dabin pointed to the viewer.

"Right!" Vol submitted. He approached the console and surveyed the buttons which gave him ample options to choose from. He tapped a few and then looked up at the viewer to browse the selections available. Once he found something he stopped.

"How about that?"
Dabin tilted his head to the side, looking at the picture of a small knife with Celtic knot carved into the handle.

“Too Blane,” Dabin said, shaking his head. Vol shook his as well, for a different reason, and brought up a picture of gift basket with an array of Christmas themed toffees.

“Too Dengar. Next!”

What followed was a rather hideous Christmas themed vest and scarf. Reece regarded it for a moment, then shook his head.

“Too me. But send me the number of that file. No, this is big, Vol. This is like the biggest deal for people of his faith. I love all the lights and stuff but I don’t know Christmas like he does! It needs to be meaningful, and respectful, and emotional and not tacky or ugly.”

“I can see why you are stumped,” Vol grinned as he spoke under his breath. “You said there is possibly a tree. Ornaments are part of the tradition, perhaps we could come up with something along those lines?”

“So what are you thinking?”

"Does he like stars?"

"Huh?" Dabin looked to the Counselor as the hybrid looked over his shoulder back at Dabin.

"Or does he prefer angels?"

"I haven't a clue." Dabin was on the brink of sounding helpless. Why'd he have to be determined to be a nice guy? It's so hard!

"Well, which do you prefer?" Vol now turned to Dabin directly. "Present are much more about the giver than they are the receiver anyway."

"They are?"

"Stars or angels!?"

“He has to have an angel already. I’m thinking star.”

Vol turned around and found tree ornaments which were traditionally tied, hung or placed on the ceremonial tree. There were quite a few.

"Alright, which do you fancy?" Vol spread his arms out wide as thirty-five or so ornaments were displayed in a slideshow on the monitor.

Reece looked at the offerings and tapped his foot. As his eyes moved from one to the other, he could sense Vol’s mind almost playing the “warmer colder” game in his head, leading him towards the one Vol liked.

“That one!” Reece shouted.

“I agree,” Vol nodded. “I’ll have it replicated, wrapped, and the good Commander will find it on his doorstep.”

“With a note saying its from the crew?”

“Yes Dabin, with the note.”

“You’re the best, Counselor!”

“I know.”


*******************************************
Vol Tryst
Ship’s Counselor
USS Serendipity NCC-2012

&

Dabin Reece
Chief Science Officer
USS Serendipity NCC-2012

1139: The Yellow Sheep

by Jamie Halliday
110203.1430
Shortly After Mission Improbable

-=Scotland=-


In a small house, coated heavily with snow, a sweet rotund little woman was busy at work. Her hips wiggled as she moved back and forth, fussing with the tree. She’d move a piece of tinsel to exactly the right place, step back and realise it was entirely the wrong place, then decide to fix it all over again.

“Leave it be, ma,” a gruff voice instructed her, but she paid him no heed.

“Oh, let her do it,” an even gruffer one replied, having become quite accustomed to her quirks through many years of marriage.

Finally, the round woman stopped, stepping back, and looking at what was by this point barely recognisable as tree. Instead it was a pile of flashing lights and silver tinsel, with a single angel in top whose paper dress had long since been torn.

“Perfect,” the woman said enthusiastically, as she observed her work with an excited smile.

“You know, none of us even care about this stuff anymore,” the first gruff voice said.

It belonged to Artair, her middle child; now a burly man in his thirties, every bit the image of his father, but who’d always still be to her the sweet little boy who’d made the wonky clay cup which sat always upon their mantelpiece.

“Now you know that’s not true,” she replied in her squeaky high voice, not really minding his tone.

She was far too happy today to let anything bother her at all. On Christmas Day all too often her children had places to be, and their own lives to live. Yet today was Christmas Eve; her favourite day of the year, when none had the heart to deny her the tradition that they’d all be together.

“Oh, aye, the favourite loves his Christmas time.”

“He thinks every day’s Christmas,” a feminine voice added teasingly. It was the voice of her daughter Dolina, who’d managed to be pried away from the busy life of hospital emergencies and yelling ‘stat’ to be here today as well.

“Now,” her husband said sternly, peeking out from behind his newspaper. “Y’know we never have any favourites.”

Artair and Dolina simultaneously rolled their eyes.

“So then d’ya want to tell me why he’s the only one who ever gets a handmade scarf?” Artair asked. “He’s nowhere near here when winter comes.”

“Because he’s the only one willing ta be seen dressed in something his ma knitted him,” she answered, wondering now if the tree could sparkle just a little more. “It’s no use making it for one of you so it’ll sit in yer cupboards all year long.”

“Well we’d look ridiculous in it,” Dolina answered. “Whereas he just looks like…”

“Him,” both she and Artair finished together.

Finally, the old woman had to leave her tree be, as she was disturbed by a rapping knock on the old wooden door.

“It’s open,” her husband shouted, quite comfortable in his well worn recliner rocker and not too keen to get up if it were just anyone.

As he saw who it was though, he smiled, and set his paper aside.

It was his brother; a heavier man, with a chin covered in hair and a face with two permanent dimples.

“Ah, Donny, ‘tis good to see you again,” he said, forcing tired legs to raise him to the floor.

“And you as well, Duncan,” his brother answered, using his free hand to steady him before he fell.

Duncan however was actually much more concerned with the contents of his other hand. Retrieving it, he examined the bottle of wine approvingly.

“Ah, grand,” Duncan said. “So how are ya keepin’ yourself?”

“Oh fine. Bridget’s been keeping me on my toes.” Duncan merely smiled knowing that Bridget, his brother’s on again, off again, slap you in the face then get angry when you didn’t ask her for a meal next Saturday, girlfriend, could keep any man busy. “And you?”

“Ah, ‘tis too peaceful. All of the better criminals seem to have dried up. Sometimes I wish I’d let a few more of them go in me younger days. Give me something to do now.”

“Don’t ya mean give me something ta do?” came the voice of his oldest son Colon, as he stepped in through the door.

His voice was as gruff as his father’s, and he was a big man himself, but he was no shy sort when it came to affection. He pulled his father into a hug, nearly ripping him from the ground, before turning and in turn acknowledging every other member of his family. Of course he hugged his mother too, but having to stoop down reminded him to hold her gently, while she took no such precaution with squeezing him.

“So who’s still missing?” Duncan asked, counting one extra place at the tiny dinner table, which it was a mystery how such a large collection of people would manage in any way to fit, and how they had for years on end. It was quickly becoming a challenge just to fit them all in this small living space, with the people to space ratio becoming entirely disproportionate.

“Only one,” Donny answered, contended to be surrounded by this group.

Duncan smiled, realising who it was and thinking back over a memory from a few years ago.

“D’ya remember when he worked for me?” Duncan started laughing. “I had poor Reverend Campbell in a terrible state about gettin’ his engine back and running in time to get him to his big prayer meet. So I sent the boy out to get a new drive control. It’s a five minute job. Instead he gets back half an hour later, with a bucket full of loose components, and an idea how to make a better one.”

Artair and Dolina rolled their eyes together again as Duncan and Colon laughed. Donny however shook his head slightly in concern.

“I had ta sit him down and tell him we don’t make ‘em. We just fix ‘em,” Duncan finished.

“Aye, the lad never did learn ta do things easily,” Donny added, always just that bit worried about his youngest son.

“It’s all turned out fine,” the round woman assured him, moving to place a comforting hand on her husband’s arm. “He turned out like…”

This time, everyone but Donny finished together in chorus. “Like him.”

All but Donny laughed, but even he couldn’t stop himself completely.

A lot of families had black sheep that they all knew. Theirs however was more of a bright yellow, and they knew he’d be here soon.

In fact at that very second there was another knock on the door. Being closest, Duncan pulled it open, and there they found him; packages piled high in his arms, and a big smile adorning his face.

Finally the gathering was complete as he was welcomed.

“Is this the Halliday residence?” Jamie asked as he stepped inside. “Because I’ve got a present delivery!”

Crewman Jamie Halliday
Engineering Officer
USS Serendipity NCC-2012