678: Insufficient Distraction

by Rada Dengar
After Holograms from the Heavens

-=Lethus IV=-

Rada had been assigned the relatively simple task of essentially converting a drill into a radio and he was glad for it. Though it would take weeks to transform the mining device to send audio waves he just needed to get it to reach someone somewhere something to do with Starfleet and then he could tap out a message in Morse code if need be. They had no sort of transceiver and so no way of confirming if anyone even heard them. The components did potentially exist to create one on this planet but if no one did hear them then knowing about it wouldn’t be much use to them anyway.

This all just proved a welcome but insufficient distraction for Rada from the reality of Kellyn’s condition. This was not the first time he’d seen her injured but this was the first time he’d had her blood literally on his hands.

As he and Hok held their torn off sleeves to the wound in a desperate attempt to slow the bleeding he just kept thinking that there was too much blood. He’d washed it off several times and had he not had this to do may very well have kept scrubbing to the point of drawing blood himself. He still felt it there which was a constant reminder that it was not inside Kellyn like it was supposed to be. He was an Engineer not a Doctor but he knew all too well that if you keep leaking fuel eventually the engine’s going to stall.

Sure Commander Blane had given her a top up but Rada just couldn’t see how it would be enough. They weren’t even the same species and as many commonalities as there may have been between humanoid life forms blood was just not something easily substituted. What if McKay were wrong about it and Kellyn’s body were simply going to reject the blood? It would be an internal war with Kellyn the one side sure to lose.

Dalton McKay may have been a doctor but he was also a hologram being projected by a technology they barely understood and trusting readings from a tricorder which could have been a thousand times distorted by residual radiations following the Romulan attack. Assuming that the mobile emitter even ran his programme in the way it was designed to be run by twenty-fourth century computers it still only took a single bit error to change a no to a yes and to change a life to a death.

He tried to put the thoughts out of his mind and reminded himself that a biological doctor was more likely to make a mistake through some flaw in their brain chemistry than a hologram was through some bug in their programming; especially when that hologram was programmed by Lair Kellyn. What he couldn’t put out of his mind was the fact that his hands were shaking and that even as he tried to slow his heart with deep breaths he was shuddering. He was starting to feel a numbness in his fingers and just felt he couldn’t do this as he near enough threw the drill onto the ground and took his head in his hands.

*Come on, Rada. We can do this,* he told himself, the term we being an appropriate form of address for how his mind had such little control over the finer functions of his body that it felt like they were separate entities fighting for supremacy with the only thing they could agree on being that they needed to get this done.

Footsteps were slowly approaching and he tried to calm himself as best he could. He reached into his pocket and removed one of those wonderful toffees. He’d never before found a wrapper so difficult to remove as he did with this one. It was so fiddly for some reason and his fingers kept missing the edges. Finally he managed to force the toffee out of the packaging and into his mouth as Dabin Reece arrived.

Just having something to chew did seem to slow his breathing markedly, but it did not return the colour to his face.

“So Danger, are we on the air yet?” Reece asked in his upbeat tone. Rada truly admired Reece’s ability to speak like that at a time like this. The enthusiastic, the confident, the upbeat; these were all safe confines Rada liked to retreat to in times when reality proved too much of a distraction but they actually seemed to come naturally to the Trill. He had so much respect for that in a time like this.

“Well, yes and no,” he said, standing up to face Reece and forcing on a casual tone. The tone was not enough to convince Reece that this was a casual matter for Rada.

“There something wrong with the drill?” he asked, although he had a feeling that the drill wasn’t where the problem truly lay.

“Ah well yes. It’s actually something I was hoping to get your expertise on,” he said, rubbing a hand along the back of his head although not understanding why. Realistically asking for Reece’s expertise was just his way of avoiding admitting that he didn’t know how to fix it.

“Go on…” said Reece wondering where he was going with this.

“Well I managed to easily convert it to send out a simple signal,” he replied, turning back to look down at and indicate the drill. “And it should have the range to make it to the nearest relay station but the problem is…” his hand went to the back of his neck again. “It’s not going to be quick.”

“How not quick are we talking about?” Reece asked, realising from the look that Rada was poorly concealing that it wasn’t going to be good.

“The reason it was so simple to convert is that this device generates subspace signals in the same crude way that people were doing centuries ago. Without access to modern components they’re only going to crawl along at the equivalent of Warp three. So unless a ship just happens to pass by and pick them up I’d estimate it’d take twenty-two hours before any one receives it and Starfleet can send someone.”

Neither of them needed to say it; Kellyn may not have that long.

“What about this?” Reece asked presenting Rada with his communicator hoping since it was a subspace communication device itself, albeit with a relatively limited range, that it contained what Rada needed.

Rada just shook his head and presented Reece with a mess of wires from his pocket that was once his own communicator “It’s not compatible. Nothing we have could handle this type of signal and for the life of me I…” Reece noted some anger in Rada’s voice “I can’t figure out how to adapt it.”

“What about our scanner thingy?” he asked.

“No, not even that’s compatible,” said Rada through clenched teeth as he tried to remove another toffee from his pocket but once again struggled with the wrapper. “I can’t figure out how to adapt in to anything we have without access to a replicator or weeks of work building something from scratch.” He still couldn’t remove the wrapper. “I can’t do anything for her.”

Most men would have thrown the damn toffee on the ground now for its stubbornness but Rada wasn’t most men. He slipped it back in his pocket, sighed and looked up at Dabin “I don’t know what I’m supposed to do.”

“Turn it on.” Reece said simply as he reached down and picked up the device, realising he had no idea how Rada had intended it to operate he handed it over to him “The sooner we start sending the signal the sooner they receive it.”

Rada started pressing buttons on the device and asked, suppressing how very much angry in himself he was, “So, what do we do in the mean time? Just wait?”

“No. In the mean time you get working on that adapter,” Reece answered.

Rada shook his head, he should have thought of that. He was grateful that Dabin did so he thanked him.

“Don’t worry about it,” Reece replied calmly and admitted “It’s getting to all of us.”

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

677: The Moment

by Will Lindsay and Keiran O’Sullivan
(As told by Rada Dengar and Salvek)
After That Still Small Voice of Conscience

-=The O’Sullivan Residence, County Cork, Ireland

As soon as they were out the door Keiran turned on Lindsay, trapping him between a towering Irishman and the wall. It made the proverbial rock and a hard place seem comfortable by comparison.

It was times like this that Will was reminded of just what a giant O’Sullivan really was. He was over six foot and solid himself but not only did O’Sullivan have him beaten on height but he certainly had a much fuller build and the look of furious desperation in his eyes just made him that much more imposing.

Though his words were filled with more rage than Will had ever seen from the man, he did not rush them. He spoke them slowly and harshly emphasized every syllable to make sure there could be no doubt about what he’d said.

“Right, now you listen to me very carefully, William. This is not a matter for debate. You’re not taking Liis anywhere without me, and if you so much as look like you’re thinking about tryin’ it I swear to God I won’t be responsible for my actions.”

Will tried to look as unintimidated as possible by throwing his shoulders back and rising onto his toes to try to look Keiran in the eyes but it all seemed a lost cause. Especially since he was sure that Keiran could see the sadness in his face.

“I’m sorry Keiran. The decision has been made and we’ve no time to discuss it.”

“Don’t you give me that!” Keiran sternly warned “You of all people should understand why I can’t…I can’t just let her go. I’ve…” Keiran’s words were breaking up as his head swam with images from those other timelines where he’d lost her. They were supposed to done with that here. They were supposed to have finally escaped the demands of time and space; but then they looked over their shoulders and there they were, bolting towards them and picking up speed.

Lindsay thought that right then it looked like O’Sullivan might just break. He couldn’t imagine what Keiran was going through, being asked to risk losing her yet again.

Deciding that there was no talking to the man from this position he took his chance and ducked out under Keiran’s arm while he was composing himself. Keiran seemed not to react. He had his head bowed and sounded as though he was softly praying. What exactly he was praying for, Lindsay wasn’t sure.

Once he was standing upright behind Keiran, Lindsay earnestly promised, “I give you honest my word that I will keep her safe.”

Keiran stopped his prayers and turned slowly to face Lindsay. His head was still downcast slightly as he said miserably, “Don’t ya get me wrong, Will. I have no doubt that you will do everything you can to protect her, but yer one man against the Universe with an entire ship to look after. She’s my only priority.”

Will shook his head. “I still can’t take you with me. There are concerns here above you, above me, above Liis…”

Keiran cut him off. “As far as I’m concerned there is no concern above Liis!” He screamed at Will, before taking hold of his shoulder, with a normal man this would have just been enough to secure their attention but Keiran’s grip was like a vice. It was not meant to hurt but then again Keiran wasn’t feeling in a very gentle mood at the moment.

Lindsay regretted his choice of words. “That’s not what I meant,” he protested.

Keiran twitched his free hand, feeling the urge to simply take out all his frustrations on Will.

"We're not really going down that road again, are we?" Lindsay asked. Keiran could hear the heartbreak in his voice, and immediately released him. Indeed, nothing would be gained by losing Will as a friend again, but that was not the road he feared to travel.

Lindsay let the silence hang for a minute, as Keiran composed himself.

"To hell with the orders. Would it really hurt anything if I just hid on your damn ship? Liis doesn't even need to know I'm there. No one will know." Keiran was now desperately looking for any solution other than the one Lindsay had proposed.

"They'll know, she'll know. Of course you mean well Keiran, but if you start sneaking around on her and deceiving her, you are going to lose her trust."

"That's a small price to pay compared to what I've lost before," Keiran growled.

"They don't build them tougher than Zanh Liis, you know that. She's a child of the streets and you may be her husband, but those people are the only family she's ever had. You can't ask her to simply turn a blind eye to them for your sake. Not now, not ever. Once this settles down, you'll hop a transport and meet up with us in a few days. It's only a few days," Lindsay said.

"Halius II," Keiran mumbled.

"What was that?" Lindsay asked.

"You heard me."

Lindsay suddenly forgot just how large Keiran was. He lowered his shoulder, and drove it into Keiran's chest, driving the Irishman into the ground with a massive thud.

"Why do you feel the need to bring that up every damn time?" Will punctuated the last three words by grabbing Keiran’s shirt and shaking him with each syllable. The sore spot had been found.

"Because she died, Will!" Keiran shouted, pushing Will off of him and sitting up. Keiran wheezed for air, the blow to his chest having knocked the wind right from his lungs.

"We were supposed to rendezvous with the Aries, but you felt like you could take on the Klingons all by yourself. And Aileene died because of it!"

Lindsay's head fell into his hands, and he could not stop the tears from flowing.

"Yeah, Keiran. She died. I was there too, remember? How many times can a man say he's sorry? And admit he did something stupid?"

"Not enough when I'm about to put my wife's destiny in the same man's hands," Keiran said coldly. It had been so long ago, and Will had been so careful ever since, but that one error in judgment on Will's part had always plagued Keiran in the back of his mind.

Will had been smitten with Aileene, but the lass had run afoul of the Klingon authorities and Will had decided to be her hero. Aileene paid with her life, and Keiran spent three weeks on bed rest, after the fine hands of Starfleet medical had pasted his broken body back together.

"So it's not her you don't entirely trust to make the right decisions, it's me?" Will asked.

Keiran couldn’t easily answer that right now. Will had made a mistake and he’d forgiven him for it, but forgiving and forgetting are two very different things.

That natural drive to be the hero was something that Will had never lost. It was a great asset, most of the time. It meant that he could charge into danger with no thought of what would happen to him and ask no more reward than the knowledge that he’d done it, but it also meant that he could charge into danger with no thought of what would happen to those around him.

It was a risk that Keiran had held no quarrel with taking on himself, but allowing the woman he loved to take it on was another story. He trusted Will with his life, but Liis’ was a higher priority.

Keiran mumbled as he spoke, his tone was still bitter but only so much as an angry man not sure of why. “It’s not that I don’t trust ya Will,” he said, unsure of whether it were true or a lie. “And it’s not that I don’t trust Liis,” that he was sure of. “You can both look after yourselves without me around gettin’ in the way, but Liis and I are married now and the times when we’re supposed to just look after ourselves are done.”

He lifted his head to look Will in the eye as he made his plea in his soft but commanding way “My place is with her.”

He looked up to directly meet Keiran’s line of sight. Though in many cultures this was a sign of a challenge, here it was simply a matter of respect. Besides, it’s hard to challenge someone while trying to command the tears back from your eyes. Will wanted so much to agree to Keiran’s request but he knew it couldn’t be done. As sorry as he was, his tone was explanatory, not apologetic.

“I can’t do it Keiran.” He could see the anger building again in the man at hearing that response and he couldn’t blame him for it, the same anger was growing in him at having to give it. “You know I would if I could but we’re not talking about smuggling on a bottle of Romulan Ale here. As soon as the two of you set your collective feet on my ship a thousand alarms will go off back at HQ and one of you will be dragged off.”

Keiran knew he was right. Working out whether a group of Romulans was about to abduct a child in time for it to be simple to prevent may have been beyond their abilities, but the distortion created by both he and Liis being on that ship would be hard for TI to miss.

“Can’t I…” Keiran was about to ask if he couldn’t go in Liis’s place but he stopped himself, admitting, “No, I know I can’t.”

Will was right. He could never ask Liis to remain on Earth while her crew was in danger. He’d never forgive himself if she was hurt, but she’d never forgive either of them if something happened to Lair Arie or any member of the crew because she wasn’t there to prevent it. Besides she’d be on her own either way.

At least if she went with Will, then he’d be there to watch out for her. She’d be on board one of the finest ships around, as opposed to whatever rickety old antique she would settle for if it would be the first one to get her there.

"I'm just going to deliver her to her ship. You have my word. I won't be trying to take on the Romulans all on my own. Believe me, I have no desire to come back here and explain to you why my bad judgment cost Zanh Liis her life."

Keiran could easily see things happening along the way that changed Will and Liis' approach. Perhaps they catch a glimpse of the Romulans on sensors. They see that their ship is damaged, and decide they can overwhelm their shields and beam Arie to safety. Unfortunately the Romulans have been playing dead, and as soon as Will's ship is within range, they attack and destroy his vessel.

"Just do this for me. Send me a report every hour, at least. I don't need to know where you are or what your doin', just that you're alive."

Keiran lumbered over to the front step, to sit down on something besides the moist grass. He stared off towards the hills that seemed to stretch on forever two days ago, and now seemed like a massive barrier trapping him where he sat. Will moved to sit beside him, and let the silence linger for several moments before clearing his throat and beginning to speak.

"So, what about you?"

"I have some ideas. Lassiter didn't say an'athin' about me not followin' ya as soon as I can, did she?"

"Technically, no. Thought she did say having the two of you in the same place was not a good idea," Will warned, knowing that 'same place' was a very subjective phrase.

"Technically, Will, you and I aren't even in the same place, are we? I'm here and you are half a meter to my left. So what does same place mean to ya?"

"I'm fairly certain it means you and Liis can't be on the same ship right now."

That was all Keiran needed to know.

He had favors to be called in, or, if nothing else, good material for blackmail that would serve him well in securing a ship of his own.

Keiran may very well shock the hell out of both of them, how close behind them he would be, like a shadow they could not lose.

"When will ya leave?"

"As soon as she's ready, and I'm sure you are good with all this."

"I'll be good with all this, William, when she and I are back here to finish the two weeks alone that we were promised. When she's seen Mizen Head Light and pulled a few Scots at the end of a tug of war rope into a lake. That's when I'll be good with it. For now I'm just doin' my duty as a Starfleet Officer as best I can to help my Captain and her crew, even if that means I need to stay the hell out the way."

Keiran considered getting the medkit and hypo, knocking Will out, and bringing him back around halfway to their destination when it was too late for Will to do anything about it.

By the time Liis stuck her head out the front door to see if Will was ever coming to get her, Keiran would by streaking past Neptune in Will’s ship.

But, Will was right. If he snuck off and left Liis behind, she would never forgive him. Nor would she ever be able to live with herself if the worst happened, and living with herself was something Liis was only just beginning to do.

As much as he feared what the Romulans may do to Liis if they captured her, he feared the repercussions of losing her trust even more.

He also had to consider that a child was involved. A child that Keiran cared for very much. The fact remained that Zanh Liis' presence was the most valuable asset to secure the safe return of Lair Arie. Keiran simply could not put his own concerns above the child's.

How could Keiran ever look in a mirror at his own face if he thought Lair Arie was sacrificed so he could keep Zanh Liis safe?

Will turned to see Liis standing in the door all packed and ready to go, he didn’t know how much of their conversation she’d heard.

Looking up into her eyes the temptation was still so great for Keiran to try again to stop her, to keep her safe here and damn the consequences. But he resisted, with all the strength in him, he resisted.

He rose slowly to his feet and walked silently to her, neither of them uttering a word. Once close enough he thoroughly embraced her and leaned down to whisper in her ear the only words he could find.

“Take care of yourself, Liis. Please.”


William Lindsay


Keiran O’Sullivan

(as told by Rada Dengar and Commander Salvek)

NRPG: Christmas just arrived early for me this year.

I have no proper words with which to thank you, gentlemen.

I just don't. I am humbled, and I am in awe.~ZL

676: Holograms from the Heavens

by Dabin Reece
After Child’s Play

-=Lethus IV=-

“Look! Up in the sky!”

“It’s a bird!”

“It’s a shuttle!”

“It’s the probe!”

The Starfleet issue probe streaked across the sky towards their location, before rapidly slowing and dropping as gently as could be at their feet. Dengar approached the probe, tapped a few buttons on the casing, and the lid popped open.

“And you didn’t even need Kellyn to boot it across the planet for you.” Reece said.

Rada grabbed the emitter, stood up, and activated the LMH program.

“What in the name of pigs in a blanket.” McKay stammered as he looked around. One moment he was on the bridge talking to Salvek, and the next he was on the planet below. “He shot me down here in a probe? Now wait just a damn minute.”

“Doctor we’d love to discuss the ethics of Salvek’s decision with you, but Lair Kellyn needs you, now.” Dengar shoved the medkit into McKay’s hands and pointed towards the trench.

“Oh we’ll be discussing the ethics. I am a living intelligent being. I wouldn’t conk him on the head and cram him into a probe. Zanh Liis will hear of this don’t you worry your pretty little head about it Mr. Dengar.” McKay ran the tricorder over Lair Kellyn’s wound and shook his head. “Dermal regenerator please.”

Reece handed him the tool from the medkit, and he began sealing the wound.

“She needs surgery to repair the lung tissue but that will have to wait,” McKay said. “Also, she needs a donation of blood.”

“Take it! Take it all!” Reece declared heroically, thrusting out his arm and shutting his eyes.

“You and I both know you aren’t a matching donor Commander Reece, so you can stop playing hero,” McKay rolled his eyes.

“I know, but if I was a match, you could take it all.” Kellyn’s still body came to life, as he arm swung up and smacked Reece upside the head.

“Hey, now what is that?!” Dabin protested.

“I can still hear you, you know.” Kellyn’s words were slurred but clear enough to be made out.

“All right, I need you to simmer young lady,” McKay warned, as he scanned the others for a matching blood type.

“Lady?” Reece scoffed. “Have you ever heard her try to repair anything? She could make an android blush.”

Kellyn smacked him again, and Dabin gladly accepted the blow, knowing that if she were angry enough to hit him, it meant she would stay conscious if nothing else.

“Congratulations Commander Blane! You are our lucky winner, and I’m as happy as a vampire during a solar eclipse.”

Blane left his perch on the edge of the trench, and held out his arm.

“Take what you need,” he said simply. McKay pressed the hypo to Blane, extracting the blood into a long vile attached. He then moved to press the hypo to Kellyn to inject the blood into her stream.

“WAIT!” Reece yelled, grabbing McKay’s arm.

“I’ve done this before son,” Dalton said, exasperated. Reece snatched the hypo, held the blood up to the sun, and shook it slightly.

“What is he doing?” Hok asked, whispering to Dengar. Rada simply shook his head.

“Boy don’t take this wrong way but you’re acting like the one that needs medical treatment.”

Satisfied, Reece handed the hypo back to McKay. “Ok,” Dabin glared at Blane. “He’s not a Changeling, for now.”

Kellyn smacked him again, this time rolling Reece over onto his back. McKay pressed the hypo to her arm and gave her the donation.

”She’s stable for now, can we get her any place more comfortable?”

“I’m fine,” Kellyn mumbled.

“We’re about half a kilometer from the construction camp,” Hok said. “Maybe we can find assistance there.”

“I’m willing to bet the Romulans made sure we’ll be finding no help there,” Blane had seen the smoke rising from the camp in the distance, and was sure there was no one left alive.

“I have a suggestion, Commander.” Rada spoke up. “There’s still plenty of power left in the probe’s cells. I can modify the propulsion systems on it to double as an antigrav gurney. We can move her that way.”

“Be my guest,” Blane said.

Hok and Rada modified the probe, while Reece, McKay and Blane patched Kellyn up as best they could to be moved. Once ready, all five men lifter her carefully, and laid her atop Rada’s makeshift “gurney”. Rada stood by the probe, working the controls to move it about.

“Hey Kellyn, how about a story while we walk?” Reece asked.


“Good! Once upon a time there was a Vulcan. The Vulcan was a strong, dignified and handsome man who loved his wife very much. One day the wife went on an Away Team with her friend, a Trill. Let’s call him, Damien. Anyway, the wife, let’s call her Kelly, got hurt really bad. The Vulcan, who went by Saul, got really mad that Damien let Kelly get hurt, so he went all ancient pre-Surak on Damien’s ass and cut him with some big, like, blade thingie.”

“I like this story,” Kellyn mumbled with a grin.

“So the moral of the story is, Kelly needed to be strong, and get better quick, so Damien didn’t get cut with the blade thingie.”

“Mmph.” Was all Kellyn said.

Reece pulled McKay aside, away from the rest of the group. “So be straight with me, how bad is it really?”

“It is as bad as I said it was. She’s stable for now but she needs surgery to repair her damaged lung tissue. You and I both know she does not have the healthiest lungs to begin with.”

Dabin nodded, understanding. All he could do was hope the Romulans had left something behind that Rada Dengar could use as a communications device to call for help. Either that, or the Salvek would run down the Romulan, retrieve Arie, and double back here before it was too late for Lair Kellyn.

As the group approached the camp, they discovered the Romulans had left little behind. Hok and Blane volunteered for the grim task of finding blankets, tarps, or anything else that could be used to cover the dead. Dengar and Reece searched for any devices that were still functioning that could be of use, and McKay took Kellyn to one of the empty bunks in the barracks where he could set her down on a clean bed.

Reece managed to find several rations into the food service area, but the replicator was completely vaporized by the Romulans. If nothing else they would have clean water and protein bars for a few days.

Rada flagged him down, as Dabin left the cafeteria to deliver the rations to McKay.

“Look at all this,” Rada held out his arms, which were laden down with all sorts of medical supplies. “There’s a whole tent of this stuff back there. Should help McKay keep Kellyn going a bit longer. I’m going to search the tool storage bay next.”

“I’ll help you, let’s drop these off first,” Dabin and Rada made their deliver to McKay, who immediately tore open a water container and began to drip it into Lair Kellyn’s mouth.

“Thank you all, so much.” Lair Kellyn managed to get out between sips. Dabin was used to her being the energy and fire in every room she was in. It pained him to see her like this. He did not dare ask how much of the conversation with the ship she had or had not heard. She was in enough physical pain as it was, he only hoped she was unaware of what had happened to Arie. Knowing Kellyn, if she had heard anything, she would keep her mouth shut. She could be accused of being many things, but a whiner was not one of them.

Dabin and Rada headed out for the tool storage bay, but just as they were about to enter, Blane and Hok exited.

“We were finished so we wanted to help you search for supplies. How about this? Subspace wave pulse drill, is it not?” Hok handed the device to Rada.

“Sure is. Uses tightly compressed subspace signals to break apart rocks below the surface prior to excavation.”

“I like the word subspace!” Reece said with a smile. “Tell me we can use this to send a communications signal somehow?”

“I’ll need an hour or two, but yeah, I think I can do it.” Rada said. “With any luck Starfleet with have the cavalry here by dinner.”

Dabin Reece
Chief Science Officer
USS Serendipity NCC-2012

675: As We Know It

by Paxton Briggs and February Grace
During and after Child's Play
Soundtrack: It's the End of the World As We Know It by REM


-=USS Serendipity-=

-=Quarters of Grace and Reece=-

February's eyes flew open as the musical alarm set to wake her from her nap began to sound.

*Interesting song choice,* she thought groggily, *Dabin must've left the 'shuffle' feature on.*

"Computer. Discontinue alarm."

The computer beeped cheerfully, as it ever did. That was something that had always amazed February about Federation ship's computer systems or more specifically, their vocal synthesizers.

They could be telling you the temperature of your sonic shower, reciting the parameters of your favorite holodeck program, or informing you that you were going to die an unfortunate and inescapable death in twelve seconds when the self destruct engaged. Regardless, it always sounded pleased with itself, and the situation.

She climbed out of bed and shook her head. Time had seemed to slow to a near halt the moment that she'd been relieved of duty. It had rolled to a complete 'all-stop' the moment Reece had left the ship.

The only way she could think of to help make it go faster was to sleep through as much of it as she possibly could.

She padded across the deck in thick, fuzzy socks. She was dressed in pink from head to toes, comfortable jogging pants with a matching hoodie; the perfect wardrobe for the person meant to do nothing more strenuous than turn the pages of a book and take frequent naps.

"This would be great, if I was you." She looked at Sparrow and he blinked at her with irritation at being disturbed by the alarm before lowering his head back down onto the couch and going back to sleep.

Bru maneuvered her feet into her Converse. She was allowed a short walk and some time out of quarters each day and her time for today had finally come.

"Come on, baby girl." She said gently, patting her stomach. She and Dabin were still in the 'heated debate' phase of picking a name for their daughter, and she only hoped that he'd let go of 'Ophelia,' already, by the time he got back from the Away mission. "Time for us to go and talk to Jariel's flowers."

She replicated a nutrition bar and a bottle of juice and headed for the arboretum.

As she walked through the space, she couldn't help but pause at Jariel's angel sculpture and, in her way, she sent him all the good thoughts and hopes she could that everything on Bajor was going to turn out all right.

She had done some digging, but been unable to obtain any specific information about him, her attempts frustrated at every turn.

She thought back again to the call she'd made as soon as Dabin told her about the situation, and that the Alchemy was on the way to try to help.

"I understand that communications in the region are difficult, Prylar Chem," She had said, speaking to Camen's old friend at the Central Vedek Assembly. "But we're very concerned. We can't verify Vedek Jariel's location and with the fever outbreak at the orphanage where he grew up, so near his last known location,"

Chem had shifted uneasily. "I'm sorry, Lieutenant Grace. But as I told you, we cannot get information in or out of Altaan at the moment. Hopefully when your ship's relief team arrives, they will be able to tell you more."

"I understand. Thank you for your time, Prylar. If you hear anything from Camen in the meantime,"

"I will do my best to see the information reaches you." Chem said, half-heartedly. "Good day."

The screen went black, and February sighed. "Sure you will."

She hadn't held out much hope that she'd hear back from Chem, and so far, her instincts had proven correct.

Just as she had settled in on the swing under the gazebo and prepared to enjoy watching the afternoon irrigation cycle, the ship suddenly shook mightily, and in the distance she could hear the familiar wail of Red Alert klaxons.

She did a little bit of quick figuring and came to the conclusion that if something was really wrong, that they were going to need all the help they could get on the bridge. With Hok gone as part of the Away Team, they may even need the best pilot still aboard ship to navigate.

She wondered how she'd explain to the medical staff why she'd disobeyed their direct orders.

Even more, she wondered how she'd explain it to Dabin.

She looked down at the barely visible bump at her midsection and worried for the safety of her baby. About Grace's safety...

The ship shook again much more violently, almost throwing her out of the swing.

"Da-amn!" she cringed. Then, clear as day, the voice of Grace rang through in her head. *You're a Starfleet officer, and your ship is in trouble. You know what to do.*

Hurrying as quickly as she could considering the way the ship was listing and shaking, February got to the nearest turbolift and, dressed even as she was, proceeded directly to the bridge.

"February," Sue Tenney looked up from communications in surprise upon her arrival. "You're not supposed to be here,"

"Where is Commander Salvek?"

"He's in the ready room with some Commander from Border Station Indigo." Sue replied.

*Interesting,* February thought at first, but then she became concerned. *This is bad. If he's drafting visiting officers into service...* "Commander Blakeslee?"

Sue shook her head sadly. "Hurt. Bad. They just took him to Sickbay."

"I have got to help Engineering with the sensor fix," Ensign Nye said, rising from the Science Station. He knew that the previous Grace host had been a scientist. "Lieutenant, if you wouldn't mind,"

February gulped. Wen had been a Starfleet Science officer, but she was only joined to Grace for a year before she died. Of all past hosts, she was the that Grace, to this day, felt the most disconnected from.

Still, memories and knowledge were memories and knowledge, and Bru could run the sensors. Besides, after a year of listening in on Dabin's thoughts, she had picked up more than a little from his brain as well, that may help them in a pinch.

This situation was already so far beyond 'pinch' that she honestly felt there was little to lose by her trying. She settled in at the proper station, and for a moment, she realized that no one was talking about the Away Team.

She closed her eyes, her fingertips hovering over the panel where Dabin spent a great deal of his on-duty time...and she hoped with all of her heart that he would be all right. All that she could do was try to help Salvek keep the Serendipity together so that he had a home to come back to.

She began reading the sensor logs and her mouth fell open.

*Romulans...one lifesign less than before the attack...* "Oh no," she whispered, horrified at the discovery of whom that lifesign belonged to "Arie."

For a split second, even though her baby hadn't even been born yet, February considered the panic that Salvek must be struggling to contain, knowing that his daughter was in the hands of the Romulans. She also knew that when Lair Kellyn found out, that it would take a dozen people to hold her down and prevent her from trying to take on the entire Empire herself to get her child back.

Salvek suddenly reappeared with a very tall, very blond man behind just over his shoulder. She gave him a wave to try to reassure him, but sure enough the very first thing the Vulcan did was question her presence here.

"Lieutenant Grace, you are confined to bed are you not?"

"Doctor did say I need to get up and about a few times a day. I'm merely following his advice."

"This is not the arboretum," Salvek responded flatly, knowing she was well aware of her restrictions.

"You are short several science officers. My last host was a science officer.”

Salvek thought about the risk to her child, and her own life, as well as that of the Grace symbiont if she disobeyed the ‘off-duty’ order. He also considered that due to her current standing among her people, if anything were to happen to her, Grace would perish along with her.

Knowing him as well as she did, February lowered her voice, and addressed his unspoken concerns.

“Sir, the situation is grave, and f the ship comes apart, then that won’t be very good for the baby either, will it?”

Salvek, for the first time she’d ever seen, averted his eyes and sighed.

“I need to help my crew, Commander. I need to help you."

"So be it," Salvek finally agreed.

"Orders, sir?" February asked.

Salvek made no reply; instead, the man called Briggs responded instead.

"I have assumed command of this vessel. You will be taking orders from me now, Lieutenant."

February's jaw dropped, as everyone on the bridge froze, and looked at Salvek.

"Commander Briggs has, rightfully, relieved me of Command. Each of you will follow his orders," Salvek did not look at anyone as he spoke; he merely kept his eyes on the display before him.

"Alrighty then." Grace tried to break the tension by clapping her hands together once. "Well, Commander you should know that I am the ship's Senior Flight Controller. As you can see I'm not properly dressed, but as the Vulcan just told you, I'm not supposed to be here. So my question to you is, where can I be of more use to you doing what I'm not supposed to be doing? Helm or Science?"

Briggs analyzed the thin, babbling Trill. "Science for now, if you're qualified."

February nodded. "I think I can handle things at least until Ensign Nye returns."

"Very well." Paxton circled the bridge, knowing that if he came anywhere near Zanh Liis' Captain's chair, he may have a full blown mutiny on his hands a moment later and that was something he couldn't afford.

"Orders Sir?" Grace asked once again.

Briggs glanced at Salvek and then to the bridge staff. “Some one give me a damage status report up on the main viewer. Engineering, I need you to concentrate on getting the transporters back online. Tactical, you get that shield array back online.”

He saw that most of them responded by simply standing around and staring at him.

He waved his arms. “Well get going, people.”

"Very good." February had already set to work, and as Briggs also ordered everyone else finally began their tasks.

Briggs sighed and leaned down, way, way down, to speak to the Trill softly. "What did you say your name was, Lieutenant?"

"February Grace." She replied, not glancing up at him as she hurried to retrieve the data he'd requested. She allowed just the hint of a sympathetic smile to curl the corner of her lips as she considered his situation, felt badly for him, and hoped to ease the tension. "And from the looks of it, I'm your new best friend."

Paxton smiled. “I wouldn’t doubt it.”

“Damage report on main screen, Commander Briggs.” Bru reported.

Paxton walked over and stood stared at the schematic with his hands on his hips. The Sera was a mess.

Shields were down to fifty five percent, they had expended almost half of their photon torpedoes in the fight not that it mattered as the forward launcher was destroyed, less then half of the phaser arrays were online, they had two hull breaches luckily in non-critical areas and the emergency force fields were holding.

Engineering was estimating three to fours hours to get the transporters back online, six to eight for the shields. The launcher and the phaser arrays were beyond help with out a space dock. The hull breaches could be fixed, but they required a space walk to do so which meant dropping out of Warp. Engineering was content with the force fields to hold the breaches closed, but if they were to lose power for any reason they could lose the ship.

Not to mention they had no CEO, CMO, CSO, second officer, or captain.

They were not ready for another confrontation.

He studied the Sera’s schematics again then turned around to face the bridge staff.

“Helm, take us out of warp. Engineering get to work on those hull breaches and make it fast.” He ordered.

Salvek spun on his heel to glare at Briggs at the mention of dropping out of Warp and out of pursuit of the Romulan ship. He opened his mouth to say something but was cut off by Briggs.

“I can’t justify sacrificing an entire Starfleet vessel for one non-Starfleet person.” He sighed. “I am sure that I do not have to explain the logic of that to you Commander.” Salvek said nothing in reply.

“However, I cannot stand by and allow a precious artifact that was rightfully claimed by the Federation to be stolen and a citizen of the Federation to be abducted by criminals.” He added quickly.

He turned back to the schematic on the main viewer and pointed to a spot on the lower saucer. “Commander Salvek, assemble a command crew, assault team, and continue pursuit with the Polaris.” He tapped the silhouette of the Sera’s Aerowing.

Salvek blinked with the sudden realization of what the Commander was saying, and the fact that he had forgotten about the craft completely.

“According to this the Polaris can do warp 7.5, has four type-VI phaser strips, pulse emitter, and two MK-25 micro torpedo launchers and is ten times more maneuverable then their ship.* If the Romulans are as damaged as we are and according to the last sensor scan before they took off they were, the Polaris should be more then a match for them.”

Paxton turned back to Salvek. “We’ll join you as soon as possible.” Plans already formulating in his mind, Salvek remained frozen in place for a moment.

“Go get her back.” Briggs urged, nodding to Salvek. “That’s an order,”

Commander Paxton Briggs
Second Officer, Border Station Indigo
Currently in Command of the
USS Serendipity NCC- 2012


Lt. February Grace
Senior Flight Controller
USS Serendipity NCC-2012

674: The Voice of Conscience

by -=/\=- Zanh Liis
Soundtrack: Crashing Down by Mat Kearney
Hours After Given the Choice


-=County Cork, Ireland, Earth=-

As he paced a path back and forth across the hardwood floor beneath his boots, he hated himself more with each taunting tick of the nearby longcase clock.

Why the hell had he ever checked his messages tonight?

What could have possessed him to risk the perfection of their time here on Earth by having to know, right now, the status of a ship and crew over which he, as yet, currently held no official responsibility or oversight? Why had he done it?

Because it was her ship.

Because his conscience would have bothered him had he gone one more night without knowing what was going on.

Because she would surely have done so herself, had she not been so exhausted.

How was he ever going to tell her what had happened? She was upstairs, contentedly sound asleep, safe in their bed.

How could he wake her to this nightmare?

Just hours ago, how different things had been.

There was nothing in the world to worry about, as they stared at the stars, wrapped in each other's arms at Barleycove Beach.

She was happy just to lay with her head on his chest for the longest time, his hand running through the disheveled strands of her hair. Nothing needed to be said then, or could be said, that would express their feelings for each other any better than they already had done, without the use of a single one.

Still as peaceful as it was, he could sense a growing restlessness in her. An uneasiness that had followed her back from Scotland, and that she had been reluctant to discuss with him.

He recalled how she had returned to the house yesterday afternoon, weary and pensive, and he'd wondered how she could look that way after spending the day with the Human incarnation of the phrase 'The life of the party', William Lindsay.

Keiran had arranged a special dinner for them at a small, romantic restaurant in town, but they'd never made it there.

Those plans had been set aside soon after his wife had come in the door; when he asked her how her day was and her response was not at all what he'd been expecting.

"I know you said you had something planned for tonight," she began slowly, hating to disappoint him. "Is your heart set on it?"

"My heart is set only upon spendin' time with you, Liis. If you'd rather just," he wondered what it was she wanted. Her eyes were swirling with conflicting emotions, and it seemed to him that she wasn't entirely sure what she wanted, either.

"You...you look amazing." She whispered, noticing that he'd cleaned up after whatever he'd spent the day doing with Carrick, and put on a solid black dress shirt and pants.

Seeing him in all black, the solitary color of the uniforms they had been obliged to wear for many years, seemed to catch her off guard.

He approached her slowly, then tugged her by the collar of her leather jacket closer to him. She pulled back.

"Ugh, I am a mess," she groaned, indicating the dust that seemed to coat her clothing as if she'd been rolling in it. Keiran had to wonder what exactly it was she'd been doing all day. "Let me go and...then we can..."

She was having a hard time forming complete sentences. She wanted to say she'd get dressed and go along with whatever he wanted; but she just didn't seem to have it in her to walk another step.

"'S'alright, darlin'," he whispered, kissing her forehead. "We'll stay in tonight. Hot shower and somethin' to eat will do wonders."

"No," she winced at the thought of food. "Thanks, but not hungry."

"Shower and a good night's sleep, then. I'll turn down the bed."

She moved slowly toward the stairs. Her progress came to an abrupt stop, though, as she actually reached them. The expression in her eyes conveyed that they seemed to her, in this moment, as tall as Everest and she had no strength to try to climb the mountain.

Keiran didn't even ask, he simply put his arm around her waist supported all of her weight, and helped her up to their bedroom.

"Are ya feelin' poorly, a chuisle?" He was getting worried by her demeanor, and her sudden frailty. "You look like you're in pain. Should I be fetchin' the doctor?"

"No, really, I'm fine." she stopped. "It's been a busy...life." She had intended to say 'day', but she decided against the word as she thought over the past week.




She couldn't decide on which increment of time had been the most frenzied.

He accompanied her into the bathroom and turned on the shower. The temperature of the room began to increase as the old-fashioned water fixture pumped out hot liquid and steam; and Liis moaned softly with approval. She felt chilled through, and the heat was a welcome sensation.

"I'll get yer clothes," he kissed her once, softly on the lips after propping her up against the wall. "You certain it's safe for me ta leave ya alone?"

She nodded.

"If you need an'a'thin', I won' be far."

He closed the door and Liis slowly stepped out of her clothing. Using the last of her energy to climb into the tub, she sank to the floor; allowing the water to rain down upon her and wishing it was as easy to wash away old fears as it was the dust from the ancient dirt roads of Scotland.

Time passed, and Keiran grew worried as he waited for her to emerge. Unconsciously, he wrung his hands as he sat on the edge of their bed.

He fluffed up her pillow again and straightened the corner of the quilt on top of the pile of blankets, just so.

He was finally about to go back in and make sure she was all right when at last she appeared, wearing the black velvet robe he'd left on the back of the door and squeezing drops of water from her hair with a towel.

As she looked at him and at their bed, she felt the urge to just break down and cry.

She wanted nothing more than to sink into it, disappear into his arms, and never move again.

"Come on with ye, then," he gently patted the mattress.

She climbed in and he pulled the covers up around her. He kissed her softly, then rested his head against hers a moment as he wondered what in the world had been said between her and Will Lindsay that could put her into such a state of mind.

He had expected the two to hit it off famously; and that they would amuse each other all day by telling tales out of school about him and the eccentricities that, as his previous Jump partners, they both knew better than anyone else ever could.

He had not expected her to return home as if the weight of the world, which he had wrestled so hard to free her from, was once again squarely situated upon her shoulders.

Certain that she wanted nothing more than sleep, he kissed her head once and then prepared to leave her to it. He would join her later, after writing a few letters of thanks to his family for all they'd done.

The moment he rose from his spot beside her and headed for the door, Liis stopped him.

Without any apparent provocation, her melancholy mood seemed to shift to one of panic, and her voice changed in pitch along with it.

"Please," she begged, "Don't go."


She shook her head. Only when her hands reached out to grasp his arms did he realize that she was trembling.

"Liis, you're shakin' like a leaf, darlin' what is it?"

"Please," she reached out and took his arms, placing them on either side of her. "Keiran."

He settled back into the bed and enclosed her in his arms, completely at a loss as to what he could, or should, say. In the end, he decided to simply take his cue from her, and do just as she asked. He would stay with her and he would hold her, as long as she needed him to.

He felt her chest rise and fall as she literally cried upon his shoulder, until her silent tears were all spent. Her body, which had been so tense when he first touched her, went limp at last; she had finally fallen asleep.

More tired himself than he'd realized, he closed his eyes and soon drifted to sleep as well.

He had completely forgotten that he'd wanted to check their messages.

When she'd awoken the next morning, her eyes were bright, and her smile had returned.

He thought better of asking her then what had upset her so much; if and when she was ready to tell him, she would.

At last he accessed the comm and sighed with relief; there was nothing of importance there.

He had made her coffee and they had spent the better part of the morning going through the rest of their wedding gifts; then when Liis went upstairs to read a little, he began work on his project; the meal that he would serve her later, at a picnic on the beach.

The evening had turned out so much better than he'd even dared to hope. He'd expected to take her on a walk and show her the light station at Mizen Head to cap off their evening; Liis, however, had entirely different plans, and ones that he liked much, much better.

After awhile, the temperature chilled to the point that they both felt the effects. They had reluctantly headed home, and Liis had made him promise her that he'd bring her back tomorrow, to show her the Mizen Head Light just as he'd planned.

That excursion would never happen now.

Because he had checked the damned messages a second time.

*I'm a fool.*

He berated himself. He should have known that there was no way that things could stay calm and controlled long enough for their entire honeymoon to take place without interruption. He'd had this boyish fantasy that he would actually get to keep her here for two whole weeks, all to himself, while the rest of the world spun on without them.

It was not to be. Still...God, how tempting it was, especially considering how exhausted and emotional she'd been, to try to keep this from her, at least a day or two longer.

With his index finger poised over the delete button, he struggled once again with his conscience.

They were so far away from all that was going on.

Still, how could he turn a blind eye to it no matter how much he wished to?

He knew that he had to tell her. There was no way he could just pretend he didn't know and go on with the rest of their holiday.

First, because her own curiosity was getting the better of her and soon, she'd check for messages herself.

Second, even if she didn't she'd take one look at him the moment she woke up and know he was keeping something from her.

Third, even if somehow he did manage to conceal from her all that was going on, she would never forgive him when she did find out.

Lastly, he loved the crew as she did, and he couldn't stand idly by if there was something, anything, he could do to help any one of them.

As he stared at the words on the screen, willing them with all his heart to be different for the hundredth time since he'd first read them, he knew what he had to do.

He went into the bedroom and pulled her suitcase from the closet, and started to pack her traveling clothes.

As quiet as he tried to be, she stirred when she heard him opening up the dresser drawers. "Hey," she sat up, groggily rubbing her eyes. "What's going on?"

"Liis, darlin'," he turned and spoke to her slowly. "You've... got a message waitin'."

She groaned. "Morning..." she begged. "In the morning." She rolled over and pulled the blanket up tighter around her. Keiran sighed and affectionately caressed her cheek with the back of his hand.

"Liis, you need to read it."

The tone of his voice snapped her instantly out of her semi-dreamstate, and she sat up.

He walked across the bedroom to the panel on the wall and brought it up for her.

"I'm up." She stumbled out of bed and over to the wall, clenching and unclenching her eyes, trying to shake the heavy hands of sleep off of her slumping shoulders.

She struggled to focus on the screen, and the instant she did, she froze. Keiran's chest ached as he waited for her reaction, watching as she read the text only security update that Lassiter had sent on the Alchemy's status for him, as the newly appointed Security Liaison to The Alchemy Project.

She choked on her own breath in horror. "No."

She turned on all the lights, and Keiran blinked rapidly to try to adjust to the glare.

She rushed around in a frenzy, knowing that she had to pack. She had to hurry.

Hurry to what, she didn't even know.

Did she listen to her heart and rush to Bajor, or would it be a mistake?


She began swearing loudly, calling herself a litany of profane terms in self-condemnation. "What the hell is the matter with me? Vacation? I wanted to take a goddamn vacation? I should have been there to command the Alchemy!"

She searched everywhere for her luggage, growing quickly frustrated when she couldn't find it. "Where is my damned suitcase?"

"I've...already started to pack it." Keiran said softly, lifting the case up and holding it out to her. "Mine as well."

She didn't have to ask if he was disappointed that their honeymoon was coming to such an abrupt end; she knew the answer.

She also didn't have to ask if he was hesitant to follow where she'd go; she knew the answer to that as well.

"I wonder how fast we can get there."

"Get dressed, I'll contact the Admiral right away and see what can be done, but," suddenly he was seized by fear for her safety. As she pondered the events that were unfolding on Bajor, she didn't even think to consider the danger that the situation posed to her own health.

Keiran did.

"Liis, think about this." He plead. "The Alchemy is taking Adams and Hartcort to Bajor, they should be there soon if not already. I don't know him, but I can tell you this about her. If anyone can stop what's happening, if anyone can find a way to save them, to save Timal, and Jariel..."

The news from the planet contained the warning that the elderly Vedek who had raised Liis was faring worst of all among those sickened at Altaan, and that the Vedek was, by last report, seriously ill as well. "She can do it. But if you go there, if you get sick,"

"The Sera is under the command of two men who certainly do not need me around to tell them how to do their jobs if the worst should happen." Liis said, her decision clearly made. "I'm going to Bajor."

She grabbed clothing from the pile he'd set onto the bed and turned toward the bathroom to change. She stopped, looking up and into his eyes as he placed himself squarely in her path.

"We're goin' to Bajor. You have to remember somethin'. You're not alone anymore, right? I'm always standin' just over your shoulder. Like your shadow."

She nodded, tears in her eyes, and left him.

He moved to the panel and sent a message to the Admiral, requesting travel assistance and informing her that they would be at the hub and ready to transport as soon as possible.

Just as Liis emerged fully dressed, a loud banging noise came from the first floor.

"What the hell was that?" Keiran frowned.

"Sounded like the door."

"At this hour?" They exchanged a worried glance, and quickly headed down the stairs.

As the pounding continued and grew steadily louder, Keiran called to their would-be visitor.

"Hold up, would ya? We'll be there as fast as we..." he pulled open the door and to his surprise, saw Will standing there. "...can." Keiran paled, knowing that Will would never pay a social call this late, let alone to a man on his honeymoon; let alone holding the item that he was holding in his hand.

He didn't wait to be asked in, instead he pushed past Keiran and stepped directly into the entry way, where Liis had just come to a stop and was staring with her mouth hanging open.

With a swift motion of his wrist, Will flipped the compass open and Liis took a marked step back.

"William," She gasped, closing her eyes a moment to try to brace herself for whatever he was about to say next. "Is what's happening on Bajor an error in the timeline?"

Lindsay tilted his head in confusion. "Bajor? What the hell's happening on Bajor?"

Liis and Keiran shared a look across the room, and finally Keiran found the strength to move toward them.

"There's a Vellat Fever outbreak at the orphanage in Altaan." Liis elaborated." I have to go there."

Will scoffed, laughing bitterly. "You can't go to Bajor."

"Can't I?"


"Why not?"

"Because something very bad is about to happen."

"A plague isn't bad enough?" Liis' voice rose and she grabbed hold of Lindsay by the jacket. "People dying isn't bad enou-"

"The Serendipity is going to be attacked by Romulans!" Will shouted, to snap her to her senses.

She narrowed her eyes and shook him once. "I don't believe you."

"Zanh Liis, listen to me," He grappled with her, his own hands on her shoulders now as he attempted to lock eyes on hers. "The Sera was sent to Lethus IV to retrieve a Hugreti artifact. The Romulans know about this artifact and they will intercept the ship."

"The Alchemy should be almost to Bajor by now," Keiran interjected, "The prototype is safe. Why is the compass lit if the Alchemy is-"

"Because Taris is going to kidnap Salvek's daughter."

Liis' eyes widened in horror, and she stumbled backward, simply unable to accept his words as truth.


"We can't execute a Jump to prevent it, either." Will explained. "With all that's happened to you and the timeline since Vox' damned Cascade there are forty temporal theorists and ethicists back at HQ who are driving themselves absolutely insane trying to figure a way out of this one."

"Liis," Keiran staggered toward her, reaching out to put a strong hand on her arm but she pulled away.

"Salvek?" she asked weakly.

"He's alive, at least for now." Will confirmed.

"Kellyn?" She knew that if Lair's life were to be lost, for all practical purposes, so would Salvek's.

Will shook his head. "She's part of an Away Team that will be on the planet's surface and we can't tell yet if," He stopped. "The decision was made that while they can't risk me going back to try to prevent this from happening altogether, that I can take a ship and get you back into the equation, as quickly as possible without actually taking you back before the event. I can place you within hours of it, though, in the last known location of the Sera. But we have to leave right away."

"I'll get the bags." Keiran took the stairs two at a time, ascending to the bedroom.

"Liis," Will dropped the volume of his voice and leaned close to her, as she held her head in her hands. "I can only take one of you with me."

"What?" She gasped, wondering how this could possibly get any worse.

"Lassiter, she and all of her theorists, they believe that if you and Keiran both," he stopped. "We just don't know how much damage Vox' Cascade and the Paradox did to the line. They feel it's too risky to put both of you into this situation not knowing if."

She grabbed him by the collar, spun him around so that they had reversed positions, and shoved him up against the wall. "Not knowing WHAT." She growled through her teeth.

"If both of you are meant to be alive when it's all over."

Liis' lungs seemed to collapse; leaving her, for a long moment, completely incapable of breathing.

Keiran returned with a suitcase in each hand, his expression one of surprise as he saw the way Liis was pinning Will up against the wall.

"There a problem here?" He asked, one eyebrow arched.

Liis released Lindsay and walked away, unable to look into her husband's questioning eyes.

"I'm going with Will, Keiran." She declared, knowing that TI would consider the danger greater to whoever went with Lindsay than to the one who stayed behind. "You're not."

Keiran dropped their bags. "What didya just say?"

"I said you can't go with us." She stared at the floor as she walked up and retrieved her suitcase. "I'm sorry. I'll contact you as soon as I'm able."

"Like HELL ya will!" His voice resonated through the house. "You're not goin' an'a'where without me! William, talk sense to her will ya? If she won't listen to me, maybe she'll listen to you."

Will's face was a portrait of misery as he closed his eyes and shook his head once.

"What is wrong with the lot of ya?" Keiran shouted, terrified of the idea of being separated from her again, especially so soon, and especially like this. "Liis, won't you hear reason?"

He ripped the suitcase out of her hand and spun her by the shoulders. Tears fell down her face as he put his hand beneath her chin and forced her to look up at him.

"It's my ship, Keiran. My crew. If only one of us can go with him, it has to be me this time."

"Only one of us?" Keiran's eyes widened as he processed her words and their meaning became clear. "No. This can't be happenin'." He closed his eyes and pulled her to his chest. "I won't let this happen."

"We have got to go, Zanh Liis," Will interrupted.

Hearing Lindsay speak again, Keiran withdrew his embrace from Liis and turned back.

"You." His tone was a mixture of agony and rage, the latter emotion being focused directly on the man standing before him. "A word."

He stepped forward, grabbed Will by the back of the jacket and ushered him outside onto the front porch, slamming the door closed behind them.

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

673: Strength to Speak

by Jariel Camen
After Spilling the Beans

-=USS Alchemy=-

Dane and Camen stuck their heads through the door to Sickbay, and called for everyone to get their things together. Adams and Hartcort stuffed whatever remaining items they needed for the surface into their duffels in final preparation.

Fleur gathered up Tress, who was so sound asleep she did not even budge.

“Can I trouble you?” Adams asked, as she extended two additional duffels packed with medical equipment towards Camen.

“Of course Doctor.” He slung one bag over each shoulder. Each must have weighed twenty-five kilos. He wondered if there was anything left in Sickbay or if Doctor Adams has stored it all in these two bags.

Azalea then loaded down Dane with the same cargo.

“You can never have too many strong young men around. Thank you gentlemen.”

Despite all that was going on around him, Camen could not help but smile at Adams attempt to lighten the mood in the room. You had to have a good sense of humor and a benevolent aura about you to get through times like this, and Azalea Adams was providing everyone with just that.

Harcourt gathered up his own duffels, as did Adams. Dane took the lead, escorting the group to the ramp that lead to the surface.

Camen shook his head and laughed, as his first foot fell on the soil of Bajor once again.

“What is so funny, Camen?” Fleur asked, wondering what could elicit such a reaction at a time like this.

“Nothing, Fleur. It’s just,” Camen looked at her, and the trees behind her, and could not believe that of all places for the Alchemy to land and extend its ramp to the ground, that it would do so in this exact spot. “It’s just, you stepped off the ship in the exact same spot where you were standing when I first met you, before. Everything is exactly the same right down to the trees behind you.”

Fleur felt as if he described seeing a ghost. Still, the gleam in his eye warmed her soul. She never thought she would see an expression quite like that when he thought of her.

“How can you grin in such a way? I am exhausted, filthy, carrying a sick child. I do not know how I looked that day but I could not possibly look worse then I do now,” Fleur said shyly.

“You never look anything but beautiful.”

“Pfffft.” Fleur didn’t know how he could believe such a thing. Maybe she didn’t care. The idea that anyone could ever look upon her as beautiful, outside or inside, was something she had given up on long ago.

Camen ignored her insightful critique of his personal beliefs. Someday she would understand, he hoped, that no one had ever brought him fulfillment like she could. No one ever made him feel like he was all that mattered, like Fleur did when she held him close.

He wished more than anything he could be writing her love notes and discreetly listening outside her kitchen window while she sang love songs in her native tongue. Instead he was here, facing a crisis that threatened to break his heart.

But no matter how difficult the coming days were going to be, he at least had her strength by his side, and that made it all easier.

As he looked from Fleur, to the orphanage, the first thing he noticed was how quiet it was. Too quiet. It was late afternoon; this is when the children should have been out playing on the grounds.

There was no laughter today.

Camen noted as well that the weeds were already encroaching on the flowerbeds due to lack of care. He made a mental note to take time to remedy that at some point, no matter how busy he was.

“This is where you grew up then eh?” Fleur asked.

“Like so many children of Bajor.” Camen looked over his shoulder, at Dane Cristiane, who looked quite like he had seen a ghost himself.

Possibly he expected some ornate temple as the site of Jariel Camen’s upbringing. Possibly he expected some sort of military boarding school as the site of Zanh Liis’. When one saw the simple wooden doors, glass windows and quiet grounds of the Altaan Orphanage, it probably was never what one expected.

Camen pulled the front door open, and the sound of pained moaning and crying assaulted his hearing. Immediately any idea he had of waxing poetic about Altaan with Fleur melted away, and was replaced by waves of nausea.

The dining room had been converted into a makeshift triage center, where the sick children could be watched over by whatever adults were lucky enough to have stayed healthy.

“Excuse us,” Adams and Hartcort pushed past Camen, and immediately began making there was from cot to cot, examining the children to see which were the worst off.

“Let’s get a bed for Tress,” Camen offered.

“Oui,” Fleur felt helpless to comfort him, as she saw Camen’s heart breaking before her very eyes.

“The children were doing so well the last time I was here. Running, working, begging me to play with them.” He saw Milea in the room, sound asleep on a cot. She was not easy to miss since was quite a bit taller than the other children around her.

He sighed, thinking of how much he had looked forward to helping her on their project to replant the flora in the Plains. Not to mention how much she had looked forward to it, which pleased Camen more than anything.

He dropped the duffels in the corner for the doctors, and pointed out an empty cot for Tress. “We have some cribs around. Tress can rest here till I can fetch one.”

Fleur laid her on the bed, and one of the Prylars immediately brought a cool cloth.

“Where is Vedek Timal?” Camen asked.

“In his room, Vedek,” The Prylar answered.

“I will go with you,” Fleur stepped up to his side, determined that Camen would not see his long time friend so ill by himself.

Camen led the way back through the kitchen and into the rear of the orphanage. A few bright faces greeted him. It appeared only a handful of children had dodged the fever.

“When will Bema be better Vedek? I want to play with him.”

“I don’t know, child. A few days more though, at least. I know the adults are very busy, are you hungry? Are you getting food?”

“Yes Vedek, they are feeding us, but we’re bored. There is no time for anyone to play.”

Camen felt nearly as bad for the healthy children that got forgotten at times like this, as he did for those that were ill.

“What if I make a deal with you?”

The child grinned. Camen was infamous for his deals.

“If you can be patient, and read your texts for a few more hours, I’ll bring you aboard the Starfleet ship that brought me here, and you and the other healthy children can play all the games you want on the computer. How does that sound?”

The child nodded, indicating that the deal was acceptable, and ran off before Camen could change his mind.

“So, mighty Alchemy, the pride of Salvek, Lair Kellyn, and Starfleet Research and Development, is going to serve as an arcade for the children of Bajor?” Fleur asked.

“Timal would kill me. Salvek, would understand.”

Camen pushed open the door to Timal’s room, and saw his friend, drenched in sweat and tossing and turning in the throes of the fever. He approached the bedside, and placed the back of his hand on Timal’s forehead.

“Jariel? Water.” Timal managed to say through the haze. Camen was glad to see he was at least willing to drink. Fleur filled a glass from the pitcher in the room, and handed it to the man.

“Are you hungry at all?” Camen asked.

Timal shook his head, and drank a few sips of the water. “Just worry about the children, I’m fine.”

He set the glass down on the nightstand, and closed his eyes. There was a lamp there, Timal’s reading glasses, and a notepad. Jariel looked at the pad, and saw plans for a large playroom for the children. Along with the plans was a note that read; Need more latinum.

Even in his sickened state Timal was still trying to find a way to improve life here for the children. Camen knew it had taken years of saving and pleading with the government just to get funding for the schoolhouse they had built together.

“What iz it?” Fleur asked, as she watched Camen study the drawing.

“Naloy? Is that you?” Timal asked, upon hearing the female voice.

“No, Timal, it’s Camen. I brought the woman I told you about, Fleur.”

Timal mumbled, and Camen was unable to make it out.

“What did you say?”

“Marry me, Naloy.” Timal said a bit louder. “Marry me.”

“We should let him rest,” Jariel sighed.

“Who is Naloy?” Fleur just had to ask on the way out of Timal’s room.

“Jardin Naloy. He was in love with her, but never managed to ask her to marry him. She married another, a man called Anian Stev.” he paused.

"Naloy was the woman who would become…Zanh Liis’ grandmother." Camen added at the end in a matter-of-fact fashion. “I suppose the fever gave him the courage to say what he never could before.”

Fleur thought of the letter Jariel had written when he was taken with the fever, as well as the name Liis that he had spoken in his ramblings. She could not help but wonder which of those two things represented Camen’s courage to say what he always wanted to.

Either way, as long as he needed her at his side, she would be there for him.

Either way, she loved him with all her heart.

Jariel Camen
On Bajor

672: Given the Choice

by *William Lindsay
(as told by Rada Dengar)
and -=/\=- Zanh Liis
Concurrent with Barleycove Beach



The sound that interrupted his slumber was shrill, familiar, and bloody annoying.

"The world better be coming to an effing end."

Rolling over in bed, Will fought to open his burning, puffy eyes.

He didn't know if it was all the fresh air, or if it was emotional exhaustion from the talking that he'd done with Zanh Liis that had left him so worn out.

Or, he considered, it could be the fact that after they'd finished talking, he'd gone out and gotten absolutely polluted trying to forget half of the things they'd talked about.

Regardless, it seemed that he had slept an entire day away. The curtain was open a crack and through the breach he could see the sun was already setting.

Had it really been twenty-four hours since he'd said goodbye to her at the trans hub?

He had wanted to deliver her directly back to her husband just as he had promised, but she insisted that she needed the time for the walk home alone. To compose herself and gather her thoughts before she looked Keiran in the eyes again.

He'd respected her wishes, not realizing until after she'd gone just how much he needed the walk back with her to help sort out the years of mangled history that their conversation had dredged up and the accompanying emotions that he hadn't expected to surface along with them.

All he could wonder as he heard that sound and groped around for the source of it on his bedside table was what the hell the problem was with the Universe now.

If he believed in God, he would have prayed that it whatever it was it didn't have anything to do with Keiran, or Liis.

He retrieved his compass, slowly managed to sit upright, and finally dropped his legs over the side of the bed. Rubbing his stubbled chin he sighed deeply, pried open the lid, and swore a blue streak.

"I'll be damned," he whispered, when his more explicit profanity had subsided. "It is."

He scrambled out of bed and stumbled toward the computer panel. Opening a secured channel, he sent an urgent message to Gemini Lassiter.

[William, I am very busy at the moment,] the Admiral barked in response a few moments later.

As much as she adored the man, she didn't like that he often overrode her other incoming calls by hailing her waving the 'high priority' incoming message flag when all he wanted to do was complain that he didn't like his new orders, or some other nonsense that he should have waited his turn for. [World better be coming to an end.]

"Be careful what you wish for," he held up his compass on display, and the woman's expression immediately changed from one of irritation to one of stark terror.

[I'm going to have very explicit orders for you, William.]

He sighed dejectedly, running his hand through his hair. "Aye. I thought you might."

[Get here. Now.]

As he hurried to find his clothes, Will's thoughts rewound, back to the conversation he'd had with Zanh Liis as they drove through the countryside, without a present care in the world.

-=The Day Before: Somewhere in Scotland=-

Liis once again took the wheel and Will took the passenger’s seat. Liis had opted to continue once again on the road they’d been traveling before they’d entered Will’s property.

She drove somewhat slower now; not slow enough that a person without exceptional reflexes could have easily navigated the winding roads but slow enough that the small, graceful and perfectly timed adjustments she made to the wheels didn’t look like she was showing off.

There was so much beauty in the simple green Scottish countryside that Liis could have just driven for hours more without saying a word and not grown tired of it.

That and she was expecting a question from Lindsay soon and these few minutes of silence were allowing her a chance to consider potential answers. She didn’t know what that question would be but she had placed no restrictions on what it could be and had promised to answer it whatever.

Will intentionally didn’t say anything or even look directly at Liis during this time. He had decided on his question and it was not the type of thing that should not be asked too bluntly or of a person far out of their element lest it be answered without due consideration.

This was why he’d chosen to wait just until he was certain Liis was comfortable on the road, not long enough that the question would have to snap her out of it but long enough that she’d be in the mindset he’d seen her in before, as she drove without any idea where they were going. So he just sat there with his arm resting on the door and watched the scenery flashing past.

As she drove, Liis considered the type of man Will Lindsay was. She was an excellent judge of character, and could often surmise a person’s intentions. It followed that if she knew what they wanted she’d know what they wanted to know and therefore what they’d ask of her given the chance.

Lindsay was an honourable and clearly honest man. Liis didn’t doubt that it was these qualities which had led Keiran to such respect for him.

So she knew that he would not ask something trashy; that he would not be looking for some sordid piece of gossip from her past for a brief chance at laughter. As he was a good man she was also sure that he would not delve into some painful span of her life simply out of curiosity.

Still, whatever he asked she was certain it wasn’t going to be trivial. He would appreciate that this was a rare opportunity to ask her about something that she would almost never really talk about; herself. She tensed up at the concept.

The hills kept on passing by and the roads kept on winding. The atmosphere became very calm from his point of view but internally she was growing ever edgier. Finally Will decided she was as ready as she’d ever be.

Though his arm stayed casually draped over the door with his elbow hanging partially out of the vehicle, there was nothing casual about the tone he spoke in.

He turned to her as said, “Both you and K went through a hell of a lot of bullshit as a result of your time at Temporal Investigations.”

She didn’t say anything, didn’t even turn to face him which was a probably a good thing considering she seemed to be accelerating. She tightened her grip on the steering wheel and he his on the seat.

“That comes with a lot of bad memories. Not to mention you now have the memories from all those other timelines. These memories will have a lasting impact on how you live the rest of your lives. They may well cause you both a lot of pain for years to come. This made me wonder, given the choice; knowing that you’d meet again in this timeline…”He paused a moment as he studied her face for a reaction to where he was going with this.

It was obvious from her sudden change in posture and the fact that they seemed to be going ever faster that this was a tense topic for her. Liis was not prepared for this question. Knowing what he did he couldn’t blame her for that.

He’d expected this to be the case but not only did he need to know the answer himself but he also felt that as tough as it would be for her, it would also be good for Liis to come to one.

After a moment of further consideration and special attention paid to the strange look in her eyes, he asked it. "Would you rather have forgotten?"

Liis slammed on the brakes.

Not wearing his seat belt at this point Will lurched forward, bracing himself with his hands against the dashboard as best he could as the car screeched to a sudden stop.

She threw the gearshift into Park and abandoned the vehicle right where it was; in the middle of the deserted country lane. She bolted, not bothering to even push the door closed behind her.

"Answer the question!" Lindsay jumped out of the convertible without even opening the passenger side door and pursued her. "If you knew you'd fall in love with each other again in this timeline, would you rather not have remembered him at all?"

Liis folded her arms, turning her back to him as the very thought of the question pulled the air from her lungs. Conflicting feelings rose like a swell, threatening to crush her beneath the depths of a violent, angry tide.

"Everything would be simpler." He sought the right words, even as he continually placed himself directly in her path until she gave up trying to avoid him and held still. "That bit of innocence that you still held onto, before all this. Gone forever now." He waited a moment for her to consider his words. "Are you sorry?"

"Am I sorry...for my sake?" Liis gripped her hands together tightly as they began to vibrate.

She stammered as she tried to deconstruct his question clinically, though she doubted there was any way she could ever be logical or distant about her feelings for Keiran. "Hell, no."

She fought the urge to run, remembering she had promised to answer him as honestly as possible any question he asked her today.

"Innocence lost? Maybe. Would things have been simpler? Definitely. Better?" She shook her head forcefully from side to side, until her earring jingled. "Not for me." She ran her hands up and down the sleeves of her black leather jacket.

"Now, if you were asking me for his sake? Would I, if I had the power, go back and save him all the sorrow and anguish he suffered just for the few days of happiness between?" She stumbled a few paces forward, leaning against the nearest tree she could find for support.

"You're not asking because you've got a Jump ship hidden somewhere in this fairytale scenery, are you?" Her tone was sarcastic. The question itself was, however, entirely genuine.

She had learned that those in the employ of Temporal Investigations had the nasty habit of throwing things like that at you when you were momentarily off guard, and least suspicious of their intentions.

"No, Zanh Liis. I promise you, it's not that. I." He strode over to her, frustrated and worried he wouldn't be able to articulate his sincere need to know properly.

"Someday, I will be the one staring down the barrel of that final resequencing, if I'm ever to be free completely of this madness." He folded his own arms and sighed. "I really want to know, how much of who you are would you want to remember, if you had the choice, and the chance, to forget?"

"William," Liis’ voice shook just as her body did. "If I could go back and spare Keiran the pain of it all, the Dominion War, the death of his first marriage." Tears pooled in her eyes and finally spilled over as she gazed up overhead into the infinite blue.

"If I could give back all the years of his son's childhood that were lost to him and a simple, unbroken life with Maggie, with only my own sadness the price for it?"

She closed her eyes and held her hands to her chest, enclosing one over the other in the vicinity of her heart. "Hell, forget the price to be paid. If I could do that for him, I'd be willing to lay down my life for it."

She ran her fingertips over the rings Keiran had given her only two days ago, and felt overwhelmingly guilty for all the pain he'd had to go through just for the chance to put them there.

"I'd make that deal with History in an instant. Because he's been through too much, lost too much, just to end up with me as the consolation prize for his suffering."

*A consolation prize?* Will asked himself. She really had no idea just how much the man loved her.

Will had known Keiran for a long time. He’d seen many emotions from the man. He’d seen him furious. He’d seen him obsessed. He’d seen him so shattered without her that he wanted to crawl into a liquor bottle and die. He’d even seen this giant of a man with the strength a ten break down and cry before him.

He’d seen pretty much every emotional state imaginable from his very good friend, but never had he seen him happier than he was when Zanh Liis said those two simple words; ‘I do’. He didn’t understand how she could not see it.

He briefly met her gaze before she moved again. His eyes conveyed just how wrong he found her choice of words but he chose not to say anything, finding that the less he said the more it forced her to. Besides, the poetic Irishman could and would say it much better than he’d ever be able to and he didn’t doubt would keep saying it until he made Zanh Liis believe it too, even if it took a lifetime.

"But if you're asking me to tell you, from a selfish standpoint only, if I'm sorry I remember him? Would I go back to my old life if I had the choice?"

Again, she shook her head.

"Knowing what I know, knowing him...how could I choose any life that didn't have him in it? No matter how many painful memories come with it?" She tried continually to choke back the lump that had become firmly lodged in her throat.

Restraining himself now was one of the most difficult things Lindsay had ever had to do. He was the swoop in and save the day kind of a guy. So much of him wanted to stop this. The decent gentleman in him, even if he did bury it far below the surface sometimes, was naturally driven to try to comfort her.

She looked like she was very close to completely breaking down. She was shaking and seemed unable to stay still. He knew that Keiran may very well never forgive him for upsetting her like this. The only thing which let him keep holding himself back was the knowledge that Liis really did need to say this.

She paced around the tree, and around Lindsay in a full circle before continuing. "I believe, more than anything else, that we are the sum of our memories. Who are we, what are we, if we're only the fragments that others decide we should be?

TI took something from all of us, with the first resequencing and every one after. I knew something was missing, something that nothing else could replace. I just had no idea what they'd actually stolen from me." Her voice broke, her chest rose and fell in ragged, mournful gasps. "Until he came back to me.

"Jonas Vox and his sort, they've made us over in the image most convenient for them. I may have spent a lot of time in Hell, then and now to get to this point, but if that is what had to happen so that I could be where I'm standing now? I can't stay I'd do a damn thing differently."

Finally, she strode over to the car, started it up, and waited what seemed a very long time for Will to find his way back to it as well.

He said not a word as she drove them back the way they'd come, even after she'd finally parked the car one last time under the tree where their day had begun.

"I can't help but wonder." She whispered hoarsely, choking the wheel in a deathly tight grip.

"Wonder what?"

"If he would rather have forgotten me."

Will didn't say anything. What would be the point? If Liis didn't know just how crazy that sounded by now then he'd never be able to convince her. Hopefully, in time, she'd realise it on her own.

-=End Flashback=-

"Now what, Zanh Liis..." he whispered, as he clipped his compass to his belt, grabbed his travel bag and ran for the door. "What the hell do we do now?"


Captain William Lindsay
Temporal Investigations
(*As told by Rada Dengar)


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

671: Child's Play: Two

by TC Blane and Commander Salvek
…continued from part one

-= USS Serendipity=-

“What is the status of the transporters?” The normally mild mannered Salvek had to scream into his comm badge, just for Halliday to hear him over the fire suppression systems.

[Still offline! I strongly suggest we focus our efforts on the shields! I can’t hold them together much longer!]

“Negative. Continue working on the transporters. The Away Team depends on it. Mr. Blakeslee, concentrate all fire on their weapons systems. We need to slow their attack.”

Zander nodded as he let loose another volley of torpedoes that struck the opposing ship along its broadside. He quickly followed with three strikes from the phasers in the same section of the Romulan ship.

The last shot penetrated the shields and struck home, cutting and burning a savage tear along the length of the Romulan ship. A flash was seen as the contents of her damaged section were sucked into space from the hull breach.

“Yeah!” Zander yelled. “Direct hit on their engineering section! Their warp core is offline so is impulse!” His exhilaration was cut short as a torpedo slammed into the Sera shaking her violently. Alarm lights flashed on his panel.

“Starboard dorsal shield is down!” He tapped furiously at the panel. “Trying to compensate.”

A second torpedo slammed into the lower side of the Sera’s saucer and Zander’s panel exploded into a shower of sparks and shrapnel. The force of the explosion flung him backwards into the bulkhead like a rag doll. He fell to the deck burned, broken, and unmoving.

-=Planet side=-

“Romulan away team! We are willing to surrender the Hugreti weapon, if you will guarantee our safety,” TC knew there was no weapon in the box, but there was no reason the Romulans needed to know that.

“Agreed!” Came the hasty reply.

“No negotiations?” Hok said, sounding surprised. “They must be in a hurry.”

“Well we are about to find out.” TC stood up, and flung the box end over end away from the trench, then ducked back down. There was silence for a few moments, and then the hum of the transporters.

TC poked his eyes slowly above the ground and looked through the haze. “I’ll be damned, they left.”

Reece should have been glad the Romulans were gone but their hasty departure only served to concern him. “Something is very wrong about this.”

-=USS Serendipity=-

Salvek rushed up to tactical, and pressed his fingers to Zander’s neck. He was alive, but barely.

“Medical team to the bridge.”

The Vulcan stood and turned to the tactical display. The badly damaged Romulan ship appeared to be adrift. They were no longer firing, which was fortunate, because Salvek could not find any active weapons to fire back at them if they did. Instead he concentrated on trying to repair dorsal shields.

“We’re being scanned. I think the Romulans are about to activate their transporters.” Ensign Nye reported from the Science station.

Suddenly Salvek felt like a man alone. The entire command crew save himself was either on the planet below, on Bajor, injured, pregnant or on their Honeymoon. He did remember that there was another resource that he could rely on, however.

“Paxton Briggs, please report to the bridge.”

Salvek heard rustling behind him, and turned to see Dalton McKay, who had slipped unnoticed onto the bridge and was already working feverishly on Zander Blakeslee.

“Is he all right Doctor?”

“No.” McKay said honestly. “Third degree burns and several broken bones. I’m going to stabilize him, then transfer him to Sickbay. He’ll survive.”

Dwan Tubman, the new security officer Salvek had met during the contest to install the fireworks launchers in Ireland, arrived and took the tactical station from Salvek. Paxton Briggs was right behind him.

“Orders Commander?” Briggs asked, knowing he was not here for a social call.

“Assist Ensign Tubman in any way you can to try and get weapons and shields back on line.”

“I’ve got the communications back on line!” Ensign Tenney reported.

[Blane to Serendipity, please respond!] TC’s exasperated voice crackled over the speakers.

“We hear you Commander, please report.”

[Lair Kellyn is severely injured, request immediate transport to Sickbay. The Romulans have the Hugreti box.]

Salvek stiffened at the mention of Kellyn’s name. He looked at Briggs, who just shook his head, indicating that transporters were still off line.

“We can’t beam you up, transporters are damaged.”

“Commander, Romulan transports have been activated!” Nye shouted over the conversation.

“Intruder alert, all security personnel…” Salvek’s order was cut off by Nye in mid sentence.

“They aren’t boarding the ship, they are beaming something off. They also have their warp core back on line.” Nye paused, as he waited to see what they were going to do next. “They’ve gone to warp. Heading for Romulan space. They’ve activated their cloak but I can still track them.”

“Let them go, we’ll send a shuttle to retrieve the away team. Any idea what they took?”

“Not what, who. I can’t tell exactly, sensors are malfunctioning.” Nye shook his head as he tried to decipher the readings.

“Abduction?” Salvek raised an eyebrow.

[Hey, Salvek! This is Reece! Look dude you gotta get the Doctor down here now, Kellyn is in bad shape.]

“We are assembling a shuttle team, stand by. Computer, are there any persons unaccounted for besides those on the planet?”

^Lair Arie is not on board the Serendipity.^

Salvek staggered back, and slumped into the Command chair. His Vulcan patience had officially been pushed to the limits, and he was barely in control of his emotions.

“Commander,” Nye spoke up, “I can only track the Romulan for another two or three minutes till they move out of sensor range. If we wait for a shuttle launch, we’ll lose them.”

[No way dude, you gotta launch that shuttle or Kellyn will die!] Reece shouted over the open comm.

“If you launch that shuttle you may never see your child again.” Nye did not mean to be harsh, he merely wanted Salvek to understand how grave the situation was. Briggs watched the entire display with one eye on tactical and the other on Salvek.

[You can’t just leave her down here!]

“You can’t just let the Romulans take her!”

[You have to do something!]

“We’re running out of time!”

Salvek bolted out of the Command chair, and approached Dalton McKay.

“Is Mr. Blakeslee stable? Can we transfer him to Ensign T’Dara’s care?” Salvek asked.

“Well yes, but I’d still like to…”

“I am sorry, Doctor.” Salvek grabbed McKay’s mobile emitter and shut his program down. He then handed the emitter and the triage kit he was using on Blakeslee to Ensign Tubman.

“Take these to weapons control on deck seven, and place it inside a probe casing. You have thirty seconds.” Salvek ordered, his eyes held Tubman’s in a steely gaze, indicating just how serious he was that this task be performed without flaw.

“Yes sir.” Tubman said in his deep bellowing voice. With that, he bolted into the turbolift.

“Helm, lay in an intercept course and engage as soon as the probe is away,” Salvek ordered, returning to the Command chair. “Commander Blane, we are launching a probe that contains the Doctor’s mobile emitter and a medkit. We are programming it to land at your coordinates, then we are going after the Romulans. We will be back for you as soon as we can.”

The next fifteen seconds took an eternity from Salvek’s point of view, as he waited for Tubman’s signal.

[Commander, this is Ensign Tubman. You may fire your probe now.]

Salvek signaled to Briggs, who launched the probe.

“Maximum warp, engage.” Salvek ordered next, and they were away. “Can we catch them?”

“They are only at Warp six. We are doing a bit better. Two hours to intercept.” Briggs reported.

Briggs shifted uncomfortably as he took note of the ship status. The damage was severe but the drive systems were in better shape then their foes, but the shields and the weapons were in trouble. They would not win a gunfight in their current condition. Briggs shook his head.

*This is a bad tactical decision.*

He glanced over at Salvek. He could tell the man was stressed, despite being a Vulcan. Paxton had worked with Vulcans in the past and knew that something else weighed on this particular man. Something other than the burden of command.

Briggs walked over to stand next to Salvek who sat in the captain’s chair staring straight ahead as if trying to will the Sera to a faster speed.

“Commander, may I speak with you a moment?” Briggs asked.

Salvek turned to face him. “Yes Mr. Briggs what can I do for you?”

Briggs looked around the bridge to make sure no one was paying any unnecessary attention to them. Satisfied that everyone was consumed with repairing the Sera’s bridge and preparing to intercept the Romulan ship, he lowered his voice and nodded to the ready room.

“May I speak with you in private?”

Salvek had too much work to do to prepare for Arie's rescue to be bothered with a private conversation at the moment. He could only surmise, based on knowing nothing of the man, that Briggs wished for some explanation as to what was going on that prompted this battle.

Salvek led the way into the ready room, and replaced a few of Zanh Liis's decorations that had tipped over or fallen to the floor altogether during the battle. Nothing, he noted, was damaged.

Salvek would already be turning over a damaged ship to the Captain; he did not need to tell her that her ready room was in shambles as well.

"The injured woman on the planet, and the person that was kidnapped." Briggs began.

Salvek completed his thought, and confirmed the worst to Paxton, "My wife, and my daughter."

Paxton had guessed one of the two was important to Salvek somehow. He had not bet on both not only being important, but being immediate family.

"Commander, I believe it is unwise for us to pursue the Romulans. We are in no condition for another firefight. Especially if they bring in reinforcements."

"There will be no reinforcements," Salvek said calmly.

"How can you know that?"

"Because the Captain of that vessel works alone. There is one and only one person that would ever make a point of taking my daughter," Salvek kept his eyes on Briggs as he spoke, and Paxton stared right back.

Briggs was beginning to think Salvek sounded delusional. His wife was severely injured, and his daughter taken from the ship. He seemed far too confident that the Romulans would not bring in another ship, which, if it happened, would spell doom for the Serendipity.

Vulcan or not, no one under the strain that Salvek was experiencing at the moment could effectively command a starship.

"Commander, your Captain is gone, and your second officer is stranded on the planet behind us. You are in the midst of a deep personal turmoil surrounding the status of your family. Given the circumstances, I feel I am left with no choice but to relieve you of duty and take command of this ship."

Salvek gripped his hand into a fist instinctively, then immediately released it.

"That will not be necessary. You are dismissed, Commander."

"Oh, I believe it is. I'd be happy to call the ranking medical officer or ship's Counselor for their opinion, but I believe you a wise enough man to know what they will say. I cannot in good conscience allow you to lead this ship to disaster because of your personal feelings for you family."

Paxton leaned over the Captain's desk to whisper to Salvek. "But for the record if it were me, I'd do the same thing."

Salvek was tempted to call T'Dara to the bridge, but knowing she was Vulcan, he knew she would rule in Briggs favor, as she should. He only had one word of caution for Briggs.

"The crew will not follow you." Salvek said coldly.

"That's a chance I'm willing to take," Paxton replied. "Now, you are welcome to stay on the bridge and assist all you wish with repairs. But the Command decisions stay with me."

Salvek felt his Vulcan passion burning, but held his tongue. He left the ready room with Briggs in tow.

February Grace waved from the science station, where she had come to fill in while Ensign Nye went below to assist with repairs to the sensor nets.

"Lieutenant Grace, you are confined to bed are you not?"

"Doctor did say I need to get up and about a few times a day. I'm merely following his advice."

"This is not the arboretum," Salvek said dryly.

"You are short several science officers. My last host was a science officer.”

Salvek thought about the risk to her child, and her own life, as well as that of the Grace symbiont if she disobeyed the ‘off-duty’ order.

Knowing him as well as she did, February lowered her voice, and addressed his unspoken concerns.

“Sir, the situation is grave. And if the ship comes apart, then that won’t be very good for the baby either, will it?”

Salvek, for the first time she’d ever seen, averted his eyes and sighed.

“I need to help my crew, Commander. I need to help you."

"So be it," Salvek said.

"Orders, sir?" February asked.

Salvek did not reply. He merely walked to the engineering station and began running diagnostics on the ship's systems. If Briggs wanted to take command, he would be the one to inform the crew.

"I have assumed command of this vessel. You will be taking orders from me now, Lieutenant."

February's jaw dropped, as everyone on the bridge froze, and looked at Salvek.

"Commander Briggs has, rightfully, relieved me of Command. Each of you will follow his orders," Salvek did not look at anyone as he spoke; he merely kept his eyes on the display before him.


Commander TC Blane
Second Officer
USS Serendipity NCC 2012


Commander Salvek
First Officer
USS SerendipityNCC 2012