318: To Lions: Part One

by Keiran O'Sullivan
-=Concurrent with Be Our Guest=-

-=USS Serendipity=-

"What a freaky outfit that was," Dane muttered, offering his personal opinion of the people of Stra II and their society in general to Keiran as they moved from the Aerowing's dock and toward the nearest lift.

"And you plan to work for TI in a few years, boy?" Keiran responded with a doubtful shake of his head, "You haven't seen anything close to freaky yet."

As the two men waited for the lift with the rest of the combined away team milling around the corridor behind them, an emotionless voice addressed the Sera's chief of security.

"Lt. Commander, a moment of your time before you retire, please."

*About bloody time,* Keiran thought. He had known that Salvek wanted to chew on his ear if not kick his ass outright ever since they'd gotten to the power allocation center tunnels, and he was glad the man was finally going to have his say.

Or so it seemed.

"Yes, Sir," Keiran left Dane at the lift and moved to the side to speak with Salvek.

"I wish to meet with you in the morning." Salvek announced. "Please secure an hour and a half of your time and meet me at my office at four thirty hours."

Keiran cursed internally. It was already close to midnight. Why make him wait?

"Commander, if I might speak to ya frankly now,"

Taking a page from Zanh Liis' 'open door' policy, Salvek decided to allow it. His eyes remained mere slits as he gestured with his hand for O'Sullivan to continue.

"If a dressing down is coming, couldn't you get to it now, then we can both recover over a good night's sleep?"

"That is impossible, Mr. O'Sullivan. We must meet much more privately, and for a greater length of time."

"That bad is it? What the hell have I done?"

"We will discuss that in the morning." Salvek replied calmly. "Sleep well."

If Salvek had been any other man aboard the Serendipity, Keiran would have taken the Vulcan's parting words as a shot. But he knew that Salvek was incapable of sarcasm. He meant the comment as sincerely as was possible for an emotionless man to mean anything.

A streak of profanity ran through O'Sullivan's mind in a continuous loop as he made his way back to quarters. He didn't even want to try to launder his uniform after all he'd been through in it since they'd left, and so he stripped, placed all of his clothing, boots and all into the replicator's recycle bin, and incinerated it.

He stood for a long time in the withering heat of the sonic shower, unable to feel clean. It seemed impossible to escape from the imagined stench of the utter despair he'd witnessed on the planet. It clung to him, and it bothered him. The children, most of all, deserved so much better, so much more.


Suddenly, a feeling that could only be described as an other-worldly premonition engulfed him like a wall of flame. His skin was afire, his eyes burned, and he actually wheezed a choking breath as he switched off the shower, threw on a pair of pants and hurried toward the computer terminal on his desk.

He pounded the controls, demanding the computer display all of his waiting messages.

It only took a moment of scanning to find it.

In among half a dozen communiqu├ęs from colleagues, roster scheduling requests, and other trivial daily events. . .

There it was.

He opened the file without hesitation. His lips felt tight and dry as they parted in shock, and he slumped into the chair as he stared at the message that had come while he was away.

No dark premonition could have prepared him for this.

Text only, one paragraph. It was from Keiran's father, and it was brutally honest.

[Maggie was killed in an accident; Carrick is gone. He sent me a subspace text telling me he'd taken his mother's journals, and he was going to make it on his own. He said we shouldn't try to find him. I don't know where he's gone, Son. I'm sorry.]

These were the regretful words of an old man who could barely see and hardly breathe. Keiran leaned back in his chair as he tried to understand them.

His ex-wife and mother of his son was dead, and that son was gone.

He wanted to know how it had happened, but knew that contacting his father would only upset the man further, and perhaps hasten along the end to the old man's days. That end was not far off, and both of them knew it. They had known it, for the better part of two years. They didn't speak of it, it was not the kind of thing that fathers and sons, especially stubborn Irish ones, talked about.

They so rarely talked about anything.

Keiran had wanted so badly, the first time he held Carrick in his arms, to believe that things would be different for them. Now that infant son he'd promised the world to was six months shy of seventeen. He was nearly a man, he was angry, alone, and he was out there, somewhere, in the huge galaxy all alone.

What would become of him?

Keiran hung his head, unable to react. Unable to shed a tear in the state of shock he was in.

He remembered back to the time he left home himself, when he'd gone to his father and said that despite the elder O'Sullivan's objections, Keiran was going to have a life in Starfleet.

He was going to fight the good fight. Win the battles for the good guys.

How naive he'd been.

How innocent in his way, as worldly as he imagined he was.

He just hoped and prayed that Carrick wouldn't make any mistakes so bad that he wouldn't live to learn from them.

Keiran reached into the desk drawer, and he pulled out his mother's rosary. He ran large, rough fingertips over the cool, polished beads and dropped to weak knees next to his bed.

"Our Father, who art in Heaven. . ."

-=Two hours later=-

Having collapsed into bed at last overcome by total exhaustion, Keiran dreamed fitfully. Intensely, and of a life long gone.

-=Alternate Time Line: Eleven Years Ago=-

The thick braid of her dark hair swung down against the middle of her back as they circled each other slowly.

Her earring jingled. It was an entrancing sound, and Keiran fought to hold his focus as Zanh Liis cast the lopsided grin at him that threatened to disarm him the rest of the way entirely, as far as his wits were concerned if not his weaponry.

"On guard," Liis declared, raising her sword toward him and taking an aggressive posture.

"Come and get me, little girl. If ya think ya can." Keiran grinned back. He'd been teaching her about fencing for the past six months of linear time, insisting that it helped her concentrate. That it would help her discipline.

"Mind your lessons, Zanh Liis. This hobby of mine that you hold in such disdain could save your life one day."

"Come on. Even if I'm in a combat situation, where the hell am I going to get one of these in your standard twenty-fourth century battle scenario?"

"Replicator?" He crowed, knowing full well he was being a smart ass.

Lt. Commander Keiran O'Sullivan
Chief of Security
USS Serendipity NCC-2012