768: The Doctor Will See You Now

by Lance Hartcort and Zanh Liis
Following Something Amiss

-=Afterthought Café, USS Serendipity=-

It didn't take Captain Zanh long to identify Lance Hartcort from his profile picture.

She spied him sitting in the Afterthought, chatting to Ensign Withers; a young engineering officer who had come aboard from the USS Gauntlet to assist with the repairs.

The doctor's good looks and medical knowledge were only overshadowed by his legendary charm, which, by the dreamy look in Withers' eyes and the way she hung on his every word the good doctor had turned on full-blast.

Zanh knew that this was her man.

He just didn't know that she was his Captain yet.

She went to the counter and accepted a cup of coffee from Wren Elton,thanking her and standing there a moment to observe Hartcort in what seemed to be a amazing display of poise and grace resembling a big cat slowly stalking its prey. Zanh considered the description Paxton Briggs had given her of Hartcort as she watched the man in action. It seemed the good doctor's reputation was well earned; she only hoped his medical skills held up to their hype as well.

She shook her head in disbelief. He seemed even younger in person.

*He looks like he should be in the Academy, not a CMO. But then I've never been one to judge a book by its cover.*

She moved toward the table and Hartcort, deep in the middle of a story and with eyes locked on Withers, mistook her out of the corner of his eye for their waitress.

Without turning his head, he held his cup up and out toward her, sloshing a little of the contents which had long gone cold as he regaled Withers with the story of his exploits on Bajor, raining down onto Zanh's boots.

"So there we were...stuck in the middle of an epidemic and watching things go downhill fast when...Oh, thanks hon, can I get a refill?" He addressed Zanh, who watched with great amusement as Withers, who could fully see her standing over Hartcort's shoulder, went stark white.

Lance thought the change in the pretty engineer's expression was a testiment to his storytelling skills, but it was in actuality due to the fact that he had just asked the infamous Zanh Liis to bring him another cappuchino.

It took him a moment to realize that the young woman was staring past him at the waitress. He frowned, wondering what could possibly be more interesting than he was.

At last he turned to stare almost directly at the four gleaming pips on Zanh's collar.

His eyes drifted from the pips to Liis' eyes then back to the pips.

He smiled warmly. “So I guess you won't be getting me that refill will you?” He gulped. “Sir.”

“Um, I have to go.” Was all Ensign Withers said as she skillfully slipped out of her chair and quickly left the cafe'.

Lance looked longingly after her before turned back to the woman with the captain's pips.

Her voice was deep and her tone even as she introduced herself. "Zanh Liis. Pleased to meet you, Commander Hartcort."

“Let me start off by saying sorry, Sir.” He recovered quickly. His eyes skillfully took in the full sight of the woman standing before him; his attention locking only for a split second on one specific item adorning her features.

“Might I also add that you husband is a lucky man to have married you. Looks and power, awesome combo.”

"Wow. And he goes right into suck-up mode with consummate skill, ladies and gentlemen. Very nice, doctor. You'd better hurry to pucker up though if you also plan to kiss my ass today, because I've got a busy schedule."

“I can do that if so ordered.”

"Saints above," Liis borrowed one of Keiran's pet phrases without thinking. "He respects the chain of command! Good to know. But before you also pull out your handkerchief with an aim to polishing up my boots for me, Commander, excuse me for a second. I'll be right back." She gestured toward her sling with the mug in her right hand. "Forgive my lack of efficiency, but I am working with only the one arm."

She set her cup down on the table, took his half-empty one, and actually went to the counter and retrieved a new cup of cappuchino for the youthful physician, giving him a moment to gather himself before she returned

After handing his beverage over, she grasped hold of and spun the chair across from him backward and moved to straddle it. "So. I hear you've been a busy boy in my hometown of late. That makes you a very popular guy in my book."

Before he could answer her expression altered, conveying deep concern. "How is the Vedek?"

"Timal, Jariel, or did you have another in mind? Place was swimming with people in robes."

"Well, I did mean Timal," Liis' eyes focused on the top of the table for a moment. "He raised me, you know."

“Timal will make a full recovery. He is a tough old bird but it was touch and go for a little bit. I expect the man to outlive me.” He smiled.

"You and me both." Liis picked up her coffee cup and stared down into the liquid inside for a moment as she spoke again. "And Jariel?"

“Jariel is also fine, or will be once they retrieve his little girl.”

Liis stopped mid-sip and sat up straight, blinking repetitively though the rest of her expression was blank. "His what?"

"Gillan Tress. The little orphan girl from the Plains that he and Fleur Le Marc want to adopt."

Liis' expression changed at least ten times in as many seconds, finally settling upon a gaze of concern, only one question on her mind. "Is the child in danger?"

Lance looked into his own cup now. "Physically? I don't think so. Emotionally? Absolutely. She had already bonded to both of them and views them as parents. Another loss of a mother and father might be unrecoverable. On top of her hearing loss following the fever, it could be deadly in a very real way."

"I'll need to speak to Samson and Cristiane about the situation too. If any of you believe there's any string I can pull to help the situation, I want you to say the word. I'm fully prepared to start yanking."

"Start yanking." Lance shifted his gaze. "No one in power should be allowed to abuse it in this way. I feel partly responsible. We really, rightfully, turned the screws on certain goverment officals so they are lashing out and hitting WAY below the belt." He paused a moment before going on as Liis mutely considered his words.

"I've already sent my very long, very detailed report to Starfleet Medical." He held up his cup. "Here's to hoping they do something fast. People need to pay for this."

"What a universe it would be," Zanh mumbled absently, "if the guilty were always made to pay in full for their crimes."

Silence settled between them for a moment, and a moment was about all Hartcort could take.

"So, what's with the busted wing?" he indicated the sling her left arm rested in.

"Oh, this? Nothing. I just took some shrapnel on a Romulan ship just before we were beamed out at the very last possible second."


"Yeah. Well, was my own damn fault I was in such bad shape. I broke rule number one of being stabbed by a pointy object. Never pull the offending article out on your own."

Lance shook his finger at her. "That's right. You should always leave that to a well trained professional.” He smiled. “Like me.”

His expression turned serious. “Make sure that your photoelectronic CMO puts you one a exercise routine ASAP. We don't want that bicep to atrophy."

"Oh no, we don't want that," Zanh droned, clearly unworried. She took to swirling the coffee in her cup in circles and watched it spin. "Would slow down my impact and reaction time when I need to smack Dane around."

"Seriously," Hartcort insisted. "It'll make your recovery take twice as long.”

"All right. I'll look into it as soon as I get to finish my honeymoon. Which was most rudely interrupted by the Romulans."

"Honeymooning could be considered a form of exercise in and of itself," Lance grinned, taking a sip from the steaming cup in his hand.

Zanh cleared her throat.

"Too much?" He asked, still smiling.

"Almost." Zanh smiled. "But not quite." She set her cup aside and looked at him directly once again. "Doctor Hartcort, I hate to bring up what may likely be a sore subject for you, but I heard tell that the Rev is going to be in dry dock awhile."

Lance nodded as he took another slow sip from his cup. “Oh that's not a sore subject. Boring, but not sore. Well, maybe my backside will be sore from sitting on it. But yes, it'll be stuck in one spot for some time.” His brow furrowed. “Why do you bring it up?”

"Tell me something. Where do you see yourself in five years time, career-wise?"

"Running Starfleet Medical." He smiled then his expression became serious. "Or dealing Blackjack at a Ferengi casino. Whatever comes first."

"Given what you've accomplished on Bajor, I have no doubt that you have a bright future and can go anywhere you want. But before you become the youngest Director of Starfleet Medical in the history of the Federation, you've got to kill some time working your way up the food chain." Zanh twisted the chain of her earring and then adjusted the cuff affixed to the top of her ear.

"I'm thinking that you could find plenty to do around here to challenge you in the meantime. You've already met some of my crew, though Cristiane is hardly what I'd call typical of my...staff..." Liis' words trailed off as she watched Dabin Reece jog past, juggling three small, round donuts into the air for no reason other than the fact that he was Dabin Reece.

"O...kay, so maybe Dane is the one you want to think about when you consider making your decision..." She looked at him squarely in the eyes. "Look. I've read the reports, I've reviewed your record, and I'm impressed." She paused. "I am not a woman who is easily impressed. That being the case, I'm offering you a job."

Lance's eyes widened. “To do what? You short a nurse or something?”

"Nurses, I've got. What I want is the youngest CMO in all of Starfleet. 'Cause I don't already feel old enough on a daily basis anymore. I need someone around to remind me of just how truly decrepit I am becoming in my golden years." She locked piercing steel-blue eyes on his. "Care to give it a shot?"

Lance stared at her for a long moment. "I don't know. I mean there is the Thursday Poker game I'd be missing, and laundry." He frowned. "Oh and stock reports, I'd hate to miss those."

"They play Poker on this ship." Zanh replied, intentionally sounding bored. Her voice became humorously and momentarily muted by the cup as she tilted it to her lips to finish the last sip of her coffee. "They think I don't know. I know." Her eyes never left his for a second, and he continued to return her stare.

"I think I could use a change of scenery." He paused. "OK, I'm in. On one condition."

She set her empty cup down and arched a single brow. "Such as?"

"I get to redecorate Sickbay and run it my way."

She nodded once. "Fair enough. Just as long as you also remember one thing."

"Name it."

"That your Sickbay is still located on my ship."


Commander Lance Hartcort
Chief Medical Officer
USS Serendipity NCC-2012


-=/\=- Zanh Liis
(Problem Patient)
Commanding Officer
USS Serendipity NCC-2012

767: Something Amiss

by Vol Tryst and Wren Elton
After In High Places

-=Deck Eleven; USS Serendipity=-

Vol had many things to do now that he was back onboard the Sera.

There were people that he wanted to see and people that wanted to see him. He had many appointments to schedule to see how his patients had fared in his absence, an especially important task considering that the Vedek had also been off ship leading Vol to be concerned about some of his less outgoing patients not seeking help when needed with the two most familiar sources being suddenly lost. After a morning spent dealing with the most crucial tasks he now felt that he’d earned a short break and that it was time for some nice non-replicated tea.

The best place to go on the ship for a non-replicated hot beverage and also to attempt to satisfy his ever present sweet tooth had always been the Afterthought Café, and so he made his way there now. Since Fleur Le Marc had left for Bajor the Café had been out of action until it was taken over by one Wren Elton; this woman intrigued Vol for several reasons. Had there been more time between her arrival and Vol’s departure he would surely have gotten to know her. Well, now he had time. Aside from simply satisfying his curiosity he was certain he would enjoy getting acquainted with the only full Betazoid on board.

As he walked through the door he took in all the slight changes which had taken place in Fleur’s absence; a table moved around, a jar moved from one end of the counter to another. They were the type of changes so small that you had to really look to notice them.

The tables were empty except for a pair of Ensigns sharing one in the corner. You didn’t need to be an empath to tell from the way their eyes met, how closely together they sat and how near and perfectly aligned their lips stayed even when they had no intention of meeting them that they were a couple in the very early stages of love. Perhaps though you did need to be an empath to know just how warming love like that could be to a third party even when they didn’t know the people personally.

Of course they weren’t all that Vol could sense in the café as Wren Elton was hard to miss. She was standing wiping her counter; clearly as warmed by the young love as he was, she stood inauspiciously watching them with a soft smile on her lips. Vol could sense quite a lot from her and she clearly made no attempt to hold anything back.

As he got closer she turned to face him, studying him as he studied her. Placing the cloth she’d been using for wiping the counter on the shelf underneath which she next intended to clean, she waited for Vol to arrive. Vol immediately sensed she was confident, calm and content with a natural grace about her which Vol was sure she was aware of.

“What can I get you?” she asked in an upbeat although not quite chirpy tone, not presuming to attempt telepathic communication even though she sensed the potential for it.

“Passion Fruit Tea would be great if you have it,” he answered.

“That we do,” she replied, as she immediately turned around and set about the task. Looking over her shoulders she asked him, “Any sugar?”

“Four, thanks,” he requested, and she thought how they must share similar tastes. She set the tea to steep and made herself a small note of the number of sugars required.

Turning back to Vol she told him that “It won’t be long,” and he smiled politely in response. Normally he would have moved to a table now as he waited but Wren was clearly not done speaking with him “It’ll give us a time to chat. I can tell you have plenty of things you want to ask me.” she added with a matter-of-fact tone.

"I'm glad you seem willing to, as you put it, 'chat' with me."

"I am. It's nice to..." Wren paused to find the right words, which took no time at all. "...have a familiar mind around. You've been gone for some time."

"Rumor has it that breaks from one's duty are necessary in order to continue to do well." Vol rubbed his face against his palms and fingers before letting his chin rest on his hand.

"Breaks are overrated." Wren said flatly.

"You're telling me."

The two Betazoids smiled. Indeed, being around one of their own kind did bring with it some sort of familiarity and comfort. Wren turned about to finish preparing her patron's tea. She remembered the sugar, and she picked up the mug and set it before Vol. He thanked her, but he did not move from his seat. Instead he looked up at her to continue the conversation.

"How have you been?"

“Oddly comfortable,” she answered “I’m had this idea in my head that life on a starship was full of constant uncertainty.” Uncertainty was something she was quite accustomed to living with. “But if anything, it’s been relaxing.” It really had been; she’d spent a long time as a single parent constantly looking over her shoulder and knowing that she could depend on no one but herself, if that.

Now she was managing a stable business, had a room for which rent was no concern and had someone she could really count on. This place was an incredible relief for her and Vol could feel it.

"The Café seems to be treating you nicely."

“It is." Although baking wasn’t her strong suit, she did enjoy this job. “Business is good and the hours suit me. But I’m sure you’ve got more pressing questions on your mind than that,” she watched him expectantly.

"I would like to ask, if you don't mind." Vol held his breath, realized he was jumping ahead of himself, and mentally backed up so as to give context to what he was about to ask.

"The Captain supplied me with a summary of some of the goings-on on the ship since my departure, a dull moment seems extinct on this vessel. But, what's not included in the Captain's summary is an insight that I believe only you can give me. How has been the emotional state of the crew, anything I might want to know?"

Wren was busy cleaning things behind the counter, but though she never looked up from what she was doing, she was listening intently. She slowed for a moment as the Counselor finished his sentence, before resuming wiping down the espresso bar. Wren thought she was sensing something peculiar from the Counselor, but she ignored it for the time being.

“Well, I try not to pry,” she answered over her shoulder, it was a half truth in that she did put the effort in; just not much of it. “But the best word I can use to describe the feeling amongst the crew would be anxious. First the ship was diverted on a mission with information among the crew on a need to know basis. It bothered some people out of the loop a bit and seemed to bother the people in the loop a lot but at the end of the day they seemed to take it in their stride.”

“It was a dangerous mission but they’re a fact of life on a ship like this,” Vol observed. “When did things change? When the Romulans attacked?”

“Not immediately,” Wren answered “It was when word started to spread about a Commander Briggs taking command that things started to get tense. People didn’t know him and so they didn’t trust him. It wasn’t until the chain of command was returned to normal that people seemed to calm down.”

“Was there anyone specific having problems I should know about?” Vol asked, taking a swig from his cup.

“Not that I can think of." She did know that this mission had been pretty tough on Rada, but thought that if he had any problems she’d be able to deal with them. “Is there someone specific or some specific problem you want to know about?”

“No,” Vol replied and there was that peculiar thing again. He finished his drink, thanked Wren with a curt nod and a partial bow, and then headed straight out of the Café. All the while, Wren's eyes buried into his back.

She muddled over what she was sensing, and kept dismissing and revaluating her conclusion over and over again. It was absurd. A Betazoid's senses were always keen, but this was just impossible.

A Betazoid keeping something a secret was unheard of.

Let alone lying.

Wren Elton
Manager, Afterthought Café
USS Serendipity NCC-2012


Ensign Vol Tryst
Ship's Counselor
USS Serendipity NCC-2012

766: Never Turn Back

by Rada Dengar and Lair Kellyn
Immediately following Pavlov's Bell
Soundtrack: Beautiful Disaster by Jon McLaughlin


-=Deck Eight, USS Serendipity=-

Neither spoke a word during the lift ride, or until, in fact, they were seated on the swing beneath the gazebo in the center of the rose garden section of the Arboretum.

Kellyn waited until Rada was sitting and then launched the swing into motion, staring at the blur of the flowers off in the distance as they swung to and fro.

Rada neither assisted nor prevented Kellyn’s moving of the swing, he just sat next to her on it and watched, checking for signs of how well her recovery was going. She was moving freely enough and didn’t look to be in any real pain but Rada knew how deceiving appearances could be in that matter.

Knowing she was nothing if not honest, he realised it was probably best just to ask. "How are you feeling?"

She laughed softly, indicating that the question, though it seemed simple, was in fact exactly the opposite.

"Physically? I've felt worse." She didn't want to elaborate on any of the rest, not yet.

She had only just learned that Salvek had delayed the return of the team so that he could stay with Taris as she let go her hold on this life, and worse, that he had chosen to meld with her before she died.

How he could choose to do such a thing was incomprehensible to Kellyn, and she could clearly see the after-effects that the decision was causing, already. He had come home to her not the man he'd been when they'd said goodbye, before she left for Lethus. He was haunted, he was distant, and he was different.

She avoided Rada's next question before he could ask it, abruptly changing the course of their conversation. "I don't know how to thank you," she said softly, still staring straight ahead.

Rada was visibly uncomfortable at hearing this and shifted in his seat, turning his eyes away. “Then I’ll make it simple for you; you don’t have to," he said, with a definitive shake of his head and almost shame in his voice; not understanding why everyone wanted to thank him all of a sudden.

He could only assume that somewhere along the line, the facts of what he’d done had been distorted because he certainly didn’t feel he should be thanked for it. As he saw it, his real actions had been barely adequate and bare adequacy should be only occasionally accepted and never applauded.

Thanks to his inability, things could have gone very wrong down there. The mere fact that addition of his eventual small successes to the much greater deeds of others had meant they didn’t; couldn’t redeem him. His eyes were downcast as he felt the need to quietly stress the point. “I really didn’t do anything.”

Kellyn disagreed and was not about to let Rada go on believing this. Through the corner of her eye she watched him in silence until he finally turned again to face her. It was then she spoke; her words strong and leaving no doubt of their sincerity.

"You saved my life down there. Don't be modest about it now. I'm grateful to you, and so is my family."

Rada didn’t doubt she was grateful, merely that she should be. Kellyn was a good, supportive friend and it was natural that she should offer encouragement. Were that all this was, then he could have accepted it.

He respected Kellyn too much however to let her go on feeling gratitude that, as far as he was concerned, she shouldn’t. “I was the only engineer down there without a disruptor wound,” he said with a shrug of his shoulders that belied the sternness of his words. “So I just did what any engineer would do.”

It was clear that he really didn’t grasp what he did on Lethus IV. “You did a lot more than that down there, Rada. Believe me.”

It was then, seeing the sincerity in her eyes, that Rada realised that she wasn’t just referring to something she’d heard happened; she was remembering something she had experienced.

"How much," he asked gently, unsure exactly if he actually wanted to know. "How much do you remember, of Lethus?"

"Most of it is just impressions. Muddled. Hazy." Her expression was one of a person very lost in thought. "I think I owe Reece one hell of an apology."

"You were trying to protect him. He knows that. We all knew that."

"You were all protecting me and I don't think I was the most gracious patient in the history of medicine."

"You're alive, Kellyn. That's what matters."

"Still, there is one thing I remember very clearly, Rada," Kellyn confessed now, finally turning her head toward him. "I remember what you said to me."

Rada instantly tensed up and had to look away, staring with false fascination at a far off nothing. He’d thoroughly convinced himself that she wouldn’t have remembered what they’d spoken about, that given her state at the time it was impossible.

He’d shown her that small dark part of himself that he’d always been determined to keep hidden and only afterwards truly considered the implications. He was frightened what she might think of him now that her mind was clear and capable of truly grasping what he’d said. He had no idea that his willingness to make such a confession had brought nothing but a new and deeper respect from her, respect being something he’d never been much good at noticing.

"I remember what you said and you..." Kellyn shook her head, slowly raising large blue eyes up toward the 'sky' overhead. "You gave me a gift. You shared something of yourself and kept me focused on where I was, when all I wanted to do was close my eyes and go to sleep. Saying thank you sounds...so..." she sighed, fighting to find the words. "So incredibly stupid and insufficient but I am grateful so I don't know what else I can say. So, thank you."

Rada was at a loss for words as his body unfroze, his fear suddenly replaced by confusion as he tried to process what she’d said. There was silence for a time as his mind replayed their conversation, searching his words for what it seemed she’d heard him say. He couldn’t find it, at a point he couldn’t even look for it anymore.

His mind was ensnared by Kellyn’s own confession which took on a new meaning now he saw how truly lucid she’d been; a confession of how she’d always been alone. He sighed sadly as he considered how wrong it was that her words should be so true.

"Do you remember what you said to me after I was finished talking?" he asked, turning to look upon her directly at last.

Kellyn paled. "Yeah," she admitted softly, feeling extremely self-conscious now. "I remember exactly what I said to you."

Rada kept looking right at her, even though he knew she wished he wasn’t; he needed her to see how sincere he was. He clamped his feet on the ground to stop the swing where it was.

“At first I didn’t understand what you meant. I looked at your life and it just didn’t make sense. With Salvek and Arie and even Dabin Reece you should never be alone.” He exhaled slowly. “Then I realised I knew exactly what you meant. True loneliness isn’t a physical distance from people, it’s an emotional one. Loneliness is when," he searched for the words.

“It’s when you’re on a ship full of people and none of them know who you are. No matter how long you spend with them, you know that you will be forever strangers kept at the length of an arm. Your arm.”

She looked over and saw in his face just how genuine his words were.

“I know this because I’ve been on that ship myself at one point." Rada continued. "Apparently it’s larger than I thought, perhaps that’s why it’s so hard to find your way off.”

"Harder to find a way off than that damned train platform in the desert," Kellyn mumbled, before she could catch herself. She wondered if he'd caught what she said just then, hoping not.

The look in his eyes said that he had.

She'd told him long ago about her trip back from the brink of death after she'd taken that bad shock on the Alchemy last year, and so he knew well the weight of her words.

"You said, at one point. So tell me, Rada Dengar. Have you found the way back?" She wished now for little more than motion and would have pushed the swing into action again if the firm planting of his feet on the ground hadn't prevented it.

She wanted to rise; she wanted to run.

She felt in this moment she had the strength to do neither.

"Maybe you can draw me a map. Or better still, a blueprint. You know us. We're engineers. Schematics are our friends," she added, trying to lighten her tone.

Rada smiled, recognising from his past what she was trying to do. “I’m afraid that as much time as I spent there I never did figure out the design of the place,” he confessed, with light amusement “The best I can do is point you in a direction.”

His tone became deadly serious again, his entire face seeming to match it. “It’s the same one you’re heading in now. It’s a long journey and you often won’t have the strength to keep moving forward. You just have to make sure you never turn back.”

Kellyn’s reaction was silence, her face taking on the appearance of one uncomfortably lost in thought. Rada rose from the seat to stand fully on the ground below, allowing Kellyn the freedom again to move the swing as she wished; she chose simply to keep it still.

Rada’s stance, still facing her, told Kellyn that it was his full intention to make sure she made it safely back to her quarters and that he’d not leave her here to think alone. She rose to stand herself, her mind a buzz of thoughts too muddled to grasp.

Discomfort made her fidget but she met his eye line directly, speaking sincere words at barely more than a whisper, saying the only thing that she honestly could.

“I’ll try.”

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


Commander Lair Kellyn
Engineering Research and Development
The Alchemy Project

765: Pavlov's Bell

by LT Commander Rada Dengar
Following In High Places

-=Main Engineering, USS Serendipity=-

Admiral Lassiter had come bearing Engineers, and one of them had been keeping Rada very busy.

Lt Commander Amelia Weston, the USS Gauntlet's Chief Engineer, had graciously offered to personally come over to assist with planning the repairs. She was so gracious in fact that she’d gone as far as deleting Rada’s plans from the computer’s memory banks and putting her own in their place.

Rada had tried his hardest to be agreeable but as best he could tell she had a very strict policy against agreeing with anyone else on anything, or perhaps it was just with him. He had very diplomatically thanked her for her help but said that he could organise the repairs on his own from here on out. He’d said it twelve times since she’d been here; including several times in different languages just in case, but she somehow missed his words every time.

She was a very formal woman with a strict belief in adherence to protocol; the type of person who always followed the book to the letter even when she knew she’d found a typo. At first she had simply decided to change every setting she could lay her hands on and Rada had allowed her to do if it kept her busy, knowing he could fix them when she’d gone. But then, her suggestions for improvements had moved onto more personal things.

She said she knew Rada hadn’t been in the position for very long and that she would give him the benefit of her experience. That experience totaled twenty years. which, as Jamie helpfully pointed out to her meant she was at least in her forties. He then added that she looked older.

She didn’t like Jamie very much, though she seemed to like Rada.

She had plenty of nuggets of wisdom to share with him. It was quite inappropriate, she informed him, for a Chief Engineer to be seen with their uniform in the mess his was when she’d first entered; his sleeves having been all bunched up around his shoulders. She was a true believer in the art of delegation and so had not found herself in such a state in a long time.

Every time she saw him she had something else to say. “Oh, Lieutenant Commander,” she called out when she spotted him, Rada cringed with the sound of her voice. It was not an unpleasant voice but the effect was similar to Pavlov’s Dog with her voice standing in for the bell and her words to come representing the powdered meat not fit for human consumption. “I just had another thought.”

“Oh, yes?” Rada said politely, forcing a smile on his face.

“Now, don’t be offended by this,” she said, putting her hand on his arm and bracing him, “but the atmosphere in here is somewhat informal. You really should work on that.”

“Oh?” Rada asked, slipping to the side to escape her grip. He’d learnt it was best to keep his responses short, it was the only practical way of shortening their conversations.

“Yes, definitely. The way I see it…” she said as one of her men handed her a PADD. She stopped to read it.

“Here you are, sir,” the man barked, he said stepping backward with his hands behind his back “I believe that’s all in order, sir.”

She nodded her satisfaction and handed the PADD back to him. He then walked, practically marched away, straight back to work.

“I really don’t see the problem...” Rada started and as if on cue Jamie popped up.

“Hey Rada! I have to tell you something,” he said, shouting across the room. “Sorry for interrupting…” he said cheerfully as he arrived. He saw Amelia out the corner of his eyes and seeing how annoyed she looked added “Sir,” as Rada advised him to say around her. “Sorry for interrupting but this isn’t the type of thing that can wait very long,” he then proceeded to look down at his chronometer and wait for several seconds.

Amelia’s eyebrows immediately shot toward the roof and the shock on her face begged the question of why Rada hadn’t had this man court-martialled yet.

Finally Rada had to ask. “What is it, Jamie?”

“You asked me to remind you when it was almost oh-nine-hundred hours,” he said still looking down, waiting a few more seconds then looking up and adding “Now it is.”

“Thank you, Jamie.” Rada replied, smiling with appreciation for how precisely Jamie defined almost. Turning to Amelia, Rada gladly added, “If you’ll excuse me, Lieutenant Commander, there’s somewhere I need to be. However I’m sure if you have any questions Crewman Halliday will be more than happy to help.” Jamie nodded that he was; she was clearly disgusted at the thought.

There was a spring in Rada’s step as he moved through the halls of the Sera. He’d not had a chance to see Kellyn yet since she got out of Sickbay, but had arranged to see her now.

He rang the chime to her quarters and immediately heard the excited voice of young Lair Arie. "Come in, Rada! Come in!"

He was unprepared for the display of happiness to see him that awaited the moment the doors parted. Arie, usually much more the picture of Salvek's training in Vulcan reserve was, instead, the image of Kellyn's Bajoran emotionality.

The child threw her arms around him, and hugged him tightly, nearly knocking the unsuspecting Angosian off of his feet. "Thank you, Rada, thank you so much."

"You're welcome?" Rada said automatically, though his tone clearly indicated that he had no idea what she was so grateful for.

Arie continued to squeeze him tightly as she answered his unspoken question for him. "You saved my mother's life. You and the Doctor and Reece and the rest of the team. Thank you, Rada. If you hadn't repaired the emitter..." She couldn't continue.

She rested her forehead on his arm, and Rada couldn't help but notice how much Arie had grown since he first met her family, aboard the flagship what seemed to be ages ago now.

He patted her on the top of the head and then gently began to disentangle her arms from his middle. "I did the best I could. We all did the best we could."

She nodded, and stepped back as she heard her mother's footsteps approaching. "I think you did very well."

Rada said nothing, he simply nodded.

"Do you think that I could play with Tam later?"

"You'll have to ask his mother if he's done with his homework, but if he is I don't see why not," Rada answered gently, as he stared beyond Arie and caught Kellyn's eyes for the first time.

Hers were a swirl of conflicting thoughts, a storm at sea against which she seemed to be fighting very hard to keep herself on course.

"Arie, get back to your meditation now. Your father is waiting for you." Kellyn instructed.

"Yes, Oko-mekh." Arie answered obediently, stopping to give Kellyn a kiss on the cheek before finally searching out her father in another room.

"Hello." Kellyn said. For the first time she could ever remember, she felt uneasy with Dengar's eyes upon her.


"Would you like to take a walk? I've been cooped up in here and I need some air."

"Are you sure you're up to it?" He was still concerned for her physical recovery and didn't want her to overdo it.

"I think I can handle getting to the Arboretum. Then we can sit down."

Rada nodded again and gestured politely for Kellyn to go ahead first through the doors, before following just one step behind her.

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

(With a very tiny amount of Lair Kellyn at the end...
I only mention it because if I don't, he'll call me on it *laugh*~ZL)

764:How Full or Empty is Your Glass?:Two

by Dane Cristiane and Keiran O'Sullivan
…continued from part one…


Dane began to materialize, and O’Sullivan watched Steele even more closely.

Reports written during his absence from the Serendipity and comments from the Captain indicated that the two young Ensigns had fought like cats and dogs, or rather, like Zanh and Ledbetter when working together before,

He knew full well that as much as being deeply attached to someone emotionally could ignite a memory in a resequenced TI agent so, too, could meeting up again with someone that you'd had as strong an aversion to.

Dane did something completely unexpected the moment that he set eyes on O'Sullivan, taking Keiran by surprise.

He smiled.

"Captain O'Sullivan!" Dane lowered his eyes respectfully. "This is a pleasure, Sir,"

"See? He still calls you Captain too." Landry whispered, garnering a sideways glance from the Irishman.

"That'll do, Ensign." Keiran admonished softly.

Landry fell quiet and watched as O'Sullivan held out his hand to Cristiane, offering a gesture of greeting.

Dane clasped hold, his hand completely disappearing into O'Sullivan's as he shook it.

He realized suddenly that if O'Sullivan was on the ship, something must've gone terribly wrong.

He knew that the Sera had been beaten up in some sort of battle, but the details had not been disclosed to the Alchemy crew as they made their way back from Bajor. His expression became one of concern. "Sir, I thought that you were supposed to be on your-"

"Plans changed, Ensign. We'll discuss it later." Keiran interrupted, as he shifted his eyes to Steele, then back toward Cristiane. For the first time, Dane realized who exactly was standing there beside his towering mentor.

He blinked at O'Sullivan, and O'Sullivan nodded slowly.

Dane finally extended his hand to the woman. "Dane Cristiane, Communications." Before Landry could respond, Keiran interrupted again.

"About that. I would be the person that they sent to tell'ya that Ensign Steele has been given your post at Communications."

Dane's jaw clenched, as he immediately gave in to the long-ingrained habit of expecting the worst. "What? Sir, have I done something to-"

"Dane," Keiran's voice cautioned him to keep his cool. "We'll discuss it later." Cristiane had no idea that the testing, and trial, of his character had already begun.

O'Sullivan turned to Steele again. "Ensign, why don'cha wait for Mister Cristiane in the lounge? I'll send him to fetch ya shortly and take you on a grand tour of the ship."

"Whatever you say, Sir! Nice to meet you, Ensign." She exited, and O'Sullivan and Dane each nodded to Parrish before they left as well.

Keiran pulled Dane aside in the empty corridor and lowered his voice.

"Is very important to remember, Dane, as far as Landry is concerned, you just met her for the very first time. Got it?"

"I understand."

"Good. Now, listen. The reason that she's takin' yer post at the comm station is because as of now, you belong to me. I'll be trainin' you, and sendin' you through rotations with all of the departments on the ship to get you ready for the next step."

"The next step?" Dane's heart began to race.

"Yeah." Keiran answered slowly, worried for the young man's future. He could only hope that Dane was really up to the challenges, and the hardship, of the job. "Your first Jump."

Dane's eyes flew open as he stared at O'Sullivan. "You mean...my application was,"

"Approved, with conditions. You will work with me intensely from this second up until the very moment that I decide you're ready to be handed over to the agency full time. If ya do not ask how high I wan'cha ta jump while you're on the way up, I guarantee you that you will no' last a day at Temporal Investigations."

"On the way up. Understood, Sir. Captain,"

"Dane, rank's Commander now,"

"It'll always be Captain to me, Sir," Dane said, uttering the words with more respect than he'd ever offered anyone in his life. "Before the rest of the crew, yeah, I understand, it has to be Commander. But when it's just you and I, Sir, I." Dane stopped. Part of him still couldn't believe, given the Paradox, that O'Sullivan was alive and well and standing before him now.

Keiran could only shake his head, amazed at the changes that had taken place in the young man before him.

"I know I've made monumental mistakes in the past." Dane continued. "This chance means...a lot to me."

"I know, boy. I know." Keiran pressed a hand down on Cristiane's shoulder. "That's why you're not gonna repeat those mistakes. Ever again."

"Got that right." Dane knew exactly where his loyalties lay now.

"Grand. Stop by my office tomorrow morning first thing for details of your startin' rotation. I wan'cha to spend some time with February Grace talkin' about pilotin'. Then I wan'cha to spend some time with her husband talkin' about science."

Keiran began to walk, heading toward the lounge where Steele waited for Cristiane.

He silently ticked off the passing seconds in his head, waiting to see how long it would take Dane to object.

Surely he wanted the man to learn his place and mind it, but he didn't want Dane to turn into a yes-man or a pushover, either. If he did, he'd never be able to make the decisions that he'd need to as a Jumper.

Twenty-three seconds later, the sound of rapid footfalls met Keiran's ear and he stifled a grin as Dane caught up to him.

"But, Captain O'Sullivan, Sir...why do I have to complete a science rotation? I understand that my piloting skills can stand some improvement and Security is a no-brainer..."

"Two reasons," Keiran replied evenly as Dane struggled to keep pace with his impossibly long strides. "Temporal anomalies and explosives."

"Two good reasons, Sir." Dane replied contritely, feeling like an idiot.

"But why can't I work with Samson? Why does it have to be Reece?"

"Why did I have to work with Ledbetter all that time?" Keiran asked rhetorically.

"You're still working with him now, Sir, if the updated roster I saw was correct..." Dane had, Keiran observed, certainly done his homework before returning to the ship.

"My point precisely. We usually don't get to choose our crew mates, Dane. Workin' with Reece won't just hone your science skills. Is meant to test your patience."

Dane had absolutely no doubt that it would do both, if he could keep himself from shaking the spots right off of Reece in frustration. "Yes, Sir."

"Now. Go on, off with ya. Give Landry that tour. When you're finished with that, there's somebody else I want you to show around the ship. They'll be waitin' for ya in transporter room two at twelve-thirty hours, and so will I to introduce ya. "

*I wonder if all TI agents start out as tourguides...* Dane grumbled internally.

Noticing that the younger man was only half listening, Keiran repeated himself. "Cristiane! Quit yer daydreamin'. Twelve-thirty hours, mind? Don' be late."

"Aye, Sir."

-=Twelve-thirty hours=-

Dane now had a pounding headache.

Landry Steele may have forgotten who he was during her resequencing, but she certainly had not forgotten who she was and the woman was as damned annoying as ever.

He rubbed his temples for a moment before moving through the doors of the transporter room, where Keiran was waiting, leaning casually against the wall with arms folded and the toe of one massive boot crossed over the other.

"Four more seconds and you'd’a been late, boy. Watch the clock."

"Aye, Sir." Dane answered pathetically.

"Now, let's bring our new crew mate aboard, shall we? Would'ya like ta do the honors? Sent the trans-op on a coffee break."

"Yes, Sir." Dane stepped to the controls and initiated the transport. "Energizing."

Keiran watched him carefully as the form of a woman took shape before them.

If any test was going to be the one that broke Dane's resolve to join the agency, it was going to come in the form of the person who would soon stand before him.

"Welcome aboard, Ensign." Keiran said, stepping forward and offering his hand to the young woman.

"Thank you, Sir, it's...awfully good to see..." she stopped, and Dane's head jerked upward, recognizing her voice instantly before even catching sight of her. His heart nearly stopped.

Keiran allowed Gira to give him a hug, and he placed a gentle, fatherly kiss on the crown of her head before turning to Dane with a look that conveyed an unspoken warning.

"Ensign Cristiane, this is our new flight controller, Ensign Gira Lassiter." He went through the formalities though he knew damn well they were not needed. "Miss Lassiter, Dane Cristiane. He'll be givin' ya the official tour."

Dane locked down the transporter controls and stepped forward, nodding to Gira and bowing slightly. "Ensign."

She offered him a small smile, and Keiran nodded toward the door.

"You'd best get started. Gira, I'll be talkin' to ya soon as you get settled."

She moved forward, then turned back toward Keiran with tears in her eyes. "Thank you, Sir." Three simple words, that spoke a volume of gratitude.

Keiran lowered his eyes, saying nothing. He then watched the two leave and the door close behind them, and sighed, mumbling to himself.

"Right. Well. That's that, then. He'd better conduct himself as the gentleman I expect him to be. Otherwise, goin' to hav'ta kill 'im."

Dane reached out, gently offering to take Gira's duffel bag. She resisted, but he insisted and she finally handed it over.

"I can't believe you're here," Dane said, a million questions as to why she was here, now, racing through his mind.

"I owed you a letter," Gira replied softly. Nervously. "Thought maybe I'd deliver it in person."

Ensign Dane Cristiane
Temporal Investigations Intern
USS Serendipity NCC-2012


Commander Keiran O’Sullivan
Security Liaison
The Alchemy Project
USS Serendipity NCC-2012

763: How Full or Empty is Your Glass?: One

by Dane Cristiane and Keiran O'Sullivan
Concurrent with In High Places
Soundtrack: Glass of Water by Coldplay


-=Location: Classified=-

Worn and weary though he was, Dane Cristiane found that for once in his life, he was actually happy to be where he was.

Where he was, was standing on a transporter dais in the same structure that currently, and covertly housed the USS Alchemy.

The prototype would remain at this site until the Serendipity was repaired and ready to return to space. In the meantime she'd have some upgrades, routine maintenance, and Dane didn't really know or care what else.

All he knew was he was about to go to the first place he had ever come to think of in his life as home.

He was returning to the Serendipity.

Better still, he was returning to people there that he found, to his continued disbelief, that he had actually missed while he'd been gone.

Happy as he was, however, he remained distracted by a nagging concern at the back of his mind.

Gira Lassiter had not responded to his last communication, and he had thought that if anything would be enough to get a reply out of her of some sort beyond the one line she'd sent doubting his actual location on Bajor, it would be the sight of absolutely unholy cuteness of the orphans from the sanctuary at Altaan.

They had put on quite a show for her as he filmed them with the vidcamera, and he was more than a little disappointed that the effort hadn't gotten so much as an electronic confirmation of receipt of the message.

*Maybe she sent her reply to the Sera, thinking I would have returned by now...*

"Are you ready, Ensign?" The transporter operator asked.

Dane drew in a deep breath, and nodded. "Energize."

-=Moments earlier, in Transporter Room Three of the Serendipity=-

It was very early morning if you believed the chronometers of the ship, but to Keiran O'Sullivan it still felt as though it was the middle of the night.

He hadn't slept well, his mind swimming with too many thoughts to sort out before dropping off from pure exhaustion.

This being the case, those thoughts did what they always had a tendency to do on nights like last night.

They chased him from his waking hours into the supposed refuge of dreams, mutating violently into sights and sounds that he didn't want to experience.

Still, he had been greeted with the most comforting of all sights possible upon opening his eyes at four-thirty hours and finally giving up the attempt at resting.

The sight was that of his wife; safe, sound, and fast asleep beside him.

*My wife, Liis...*

The idea of her being his wife after all they had been through was still a complete novelty to Keiran, and he found he couldn't erase the grin from his face as he strolled the halls with renewed energy.

He nodded to those he passed as he started to whistle a few notes of a familiar tune. He strode into the transporter room, and was glad to find that the person he'd planned to be waiting for had not yet arrived.

"Wait! Captain O'Sullivan!"

A youthful, female voice called out to him. The woman it belonged to came skidding through the half-closed doors and then stopped just short of plowing into Andrew Parrish as he stood at the controls.

The bright-eyed, auburn-haired woman squared her shoulders, brushed her bangs back out of her face and stood tall, her expression calm and cool as though there had been nothing at all out of the ordinary about her entrance.

Keiran knew this girl.

Yet, he also knew that from her standpoint they had not met before, and the last thing he wanted to do was alter her present impression of the situation. "Ensign..." he said, purposely leading her to fill in her name.

"Landry Steele, Sir. Captain O'Sullivan, I,"

"Commander." Keiran corrected. He knew that Landry had been working as Gem Lassiter's assistant since her resequencing, and so her information about him, accessed through TI channels, still maintained his old rank. "Not my ship, Ensign. Here, I'm just one of the bunch."

"I'm sorry, Sir. But you'll always be Captain Keiran O'Sullivan to me, Sir..." Landry gushed, actually somewhat star-struck. "I mean, the man who carried off the infamous 2378 Jump where..."

Keiran became immediately and intensely uncomfortable. He didn't want to think about the past at all, especially not now.

It was all he'd been thinking about for such a very a long time, as he continually struggled to resist the pull of the multitude of memories he'd been stuck with.

He didn't want to spend any time regaling what seemed to be an almost-teenaged fan club with stories of what were supposedly his fabled 'glory days'.

To him, those Jumps were made up of days marked by misery, longing, and a love long unrequited. A love that had finally been returned to him, only to be viciously torn away the moment that he trusted in it.

He'd faced war, destruction, death and dishonor, but those memories of losing Liis' love were the ones that frightened him the most.

*Here and Now. Now is the only time that matters,* He repeated internally, trying to slow the pounding of his heart. He inhaled and exhaled once, deeply and slowly.

"Ensign, 'tis very kind of ya to be aware of meh work. But I hav'a very busy schedule today. Is there...somethin' in particular you were needin' from meh?"

Landry giggled furiously. "Captain, your accent is quite lovely, Sir, I swear, I could listen to you all day,"

"Landry," Keiran slipped into familiarity out of sheer frustration as he looked down at the very petite Steele; more than a foot shorter than he was in his boots. He gently removed her Pixie-like hand from his massive bicep, where it had suddenly and inexplicably clamped down. "What didya need, then?"

"I just need your signature, as Security Liaison to the Project, to confirm my new orders, Sir. Admiral Lassiter said,"

"Wait." Keiran held up a finger in question. "New orders?"

"For my internship aboard the Serendipity, Sir. I...I thought the Admiral had told you." Landry looked quite disappointed now. "She said that you were familiar with my file and my past work, whatever that was." She shrugged suddenly. "Honestly I can't remember what I did before. I could have been top of my class in Underwater Firefighting, for all I know."

Keiran couldn't help but be as amused as ever by the woman's bubbly nature, and fought to contain a smile, trying to be very formal so as not to give the impression that he remembered her past work quite well.

"But," she continued, "they tell me that's the way it's supposed to work. So I s'pose that's a good thing, right?"

"Aye," Keiran's blue eyes clouded again, and he stared distantly off toward the doors. With more than a trace of bitterness in his soft, rumbling voice, he continued. "Is exactly how it's supposed to work."

He shook himself free of the thought that had seized him and folded his arms over his chest."So what's to be the outcome of this 'Internship', like yeah?"

"Well, if I want the job for a career, I have to jump through all the required hoops first. Ha. Jump through hoops. No pun intended."

"The job?" Keiran's chest tightened. His lungs felt all at once too small to contain the necessary amount of oxygen required in order to catch his breath.

Landry had never before expressed to him any desire to stay with Temporal at all, let alone to become a Jumper.

"Yes. The job. If I'm going to become a Jumper, they want me here and they want me going through the different departments until I learn all I can learn from you and...Captain....Zanh..." Landry's voice trailed off. She realized suddenly that the transporter operator was gaping at her to the point she couldn't believe his upper jaw was still hinged to the lower.

"What's your deal, Crewman?" Landry asked, putting her hands on her hips and tapping her toe impatiently.

"I...um...work...here?" Parrish replied, reddening. "That's my 'deal'."

Keiran realized then that they shouldn't, really, be discussing this in front of Parrish. "Drew, would'ya mind too terribly much steppin' out fer a moment? Please?"

Drew Parrish never minded doing anything that O'Sullivan asked him, because the man was just so damned polite when he asked it.

"Of course, Sir. Let me know when you need me."

The doors shut behind him and Landry turned her attention back to O'Sullivan, a big smile upon her face. "We don't need him anyway. Captain Keiran O'Sullivan of Temporal Investigations could run a common transporter with his eyes closed and both hands tied behind his-"

"Ensign," Keiran felt the beginnings of a headache, and he closed his eyes a moment. "You're very kind. But if we're goin'ta work together and you're going to learn from me, then you have to let me do some of the talkin'. So."

Landry nodded. "So you'll approve the Internship?"

"Aye, will that." Keiran took the PADD from her hand and affixed his thumbprint to it. "Though you might wish later that I hadn't. I can be hard on those I teach. I'll be...expectin' quite a lot from ya."

"I'm ready to give it, Sir."

"Am glad to hear it. I've got another intern I'm takin' on too, and in fact, he's probably wonderin' why we haven't beamed him back yet. So I think I'll just be lettin' Mister Parrish back in now. Actually, would ya be so kind?"

"Happy to help, Sir!" Landry stuck her head out through the doors and yelled to Parrish, who had taken a walk down the hall to afford O'Sullivan the privacy he'd requested.

"Hey, Parrish!"

Drew nearly jumped out of his skin, lost in through and truthfully, still half asleep as he leaned against the wall of the formerly quiet corridor.

"Back to work! Chop chop!" Landry added, clapping her hands together twice for emphasis as she spoke the last two words and before jerking her thumb in the direction of the transporter room.

Keiran sighed and raised an eyebrow as she turned back to face him with a satisfied smile on her face.

"I could've hollered for the poor boy mehself, Ensign Steele."

She bit her lip. "Sorry, Sir."

"They're ready when we are, Sir," Parrish announced, shooting a look at Steele as he read the text on his communications screen.

"Then let's welcome Mr. Cristiane home."

Keiran's stare locked on Landry as he spoke the name, but not a hint of recognition appeared in her eyes.

Ensign Dane Cristiane
Communications Officer
USS Serendipity NCC-2012


Commander Keiran OʼSullivan
Security Liaison
The Alchemy Project
USS Serendipity NCC-2012

762: In High Places

by -=/\=- Zanh Liis
Early morning, after Horseshoes and Hand Grenades

-=Temporary Quarters of the Captain, USS Serendipity=-

Serendipity had stumbled her way home to the Sol system at last.

As soon as the ship had arrived, her Captain collapsed into something more comparable to a black-out loss of consciousness than what one considers a routine night's sleep.

Now the chronometer was sounding its alarm just three hours later and she stirred, groaning and rubbing her eyes.

Today was a day she was not looking forward to.

Zanh Liis had been sternly warned not to speak with Salvek until after the hearing and knew that Gem Lassiter was a woman to be pushed only so far; so she had respected the Admiral's direction and stayed clear of her Executive Officer as difficult as it was for her to do so.

By all reports he was holed up in quarters, meditating, and Liis figured that was the safest place for him anyway for the time being.

She couldn't begin to fathom what he was going through.

She rolled over, seeking the same pair of warm and strong arms that had safely enclosed her as she dropped off to tired to dream in the small hours of this very same morning.

Feeling her hand sink down and come to rest on his empty side of the bed, she sighed. He had already gone off to start his day.

Opening her eyes at last she discovered a folded sheet of paper resting on the bedside table and opened it. She willed still-sleepy vision to focus on the handwriting which, every time she saw it, instantly caused her heart rate to increase.

Much to be done today, my Liis. Forgive me, not kissing you goodbye- I did not wish to wake you. Until fourteen-hundred... SHTV ~K

Liis folded the paper up and tucked it into the drawer of the nightstand. She was starting a new collection, in this life, of notes and letters from him. She would save, as she had in times past, everything upon which he wrote to her in his own hand.

She rose and quickly dressed. She, too had much to accomplish before the inquiry began at fourteen-hundred.

While gulping down two cups of strong coffee in quick succession, she found the replicator had also been pre-programmed to provide her with breakfast.

She stared at the bowl of dry cereal- the only thing that Keiran had found so far that he could get her to even consider eating before the clock struck twelve hundred hours. Another small note, left beside the replicator read simply,


Liis laughed softly and poured the freshly replicated pitcher of milk onto the bowl of frosted corn flakes. "Yes, sir, Captain O'Sullivan." She gave a small salute with her spoon before setting it in the bowl and shook her head, amazed at him, and at herself.

How easy it had been, becoming accustomed to having him look after her, after all the years she'd spent wandering through the hours of the day feeling alone regardless of who was in the room with her. That was the magic that Keiran possessed; an ability to be there for her, even when he wasn't there with her.

She walked the room, bowl of cereal clutched in her unbandaged hand. Normally she would eat while she walked so as not to think too much about the fact that she was doing it; but today she had to accept the fact, finally, that with the sling still in place if she was really going to manage she was going to have to sit down while she had her meal.

With every intention of doing just that she moved through the room, heading toward the couch. She stopped as she noticed something odd, something that didn't belong as she walked past the doors.

There was an item stuck between them.

As soon as she approached, they parted and the envelope that was caught between them fell to the deck. Liis nearly tipped the milk in the bowl out onto her boots and swore softly as she peered downward, leaning forward to see what it was.

She set the cereal aside and picked up the envelope, propping it against her hip and fumbling to open it with one set of functioning fingers.

The envelope bore a wax seal, but not Keiran's.

"Bizarre." Liis wondered who else would have...

She quickly realized exactly who would have, and ripped the envelope open faster.

She narrowed her eyes, intently concentrating on the unbelievably complicated, nearly illegible handwriting as she tried to decipher it. She couldn't help thinking this would have been a more effective form of cryptography than half the codes that she'd been taught to use back in the days when she was still working in the field.

"Had to beam down urgently, sorry I didn't have time to ask your permission to disembark. I hope you'll fore go the court martial for insubordination just the once." Liis shook her head until her earring rattled, mumbling, "smart ass."

She continued down the page, putting on the Scot's accent as she finished reading his note softly aloud to herself.

"Will be puttin' in a grand appearance at Salvek's hearin', keep an eye out for me. After is all over, I shall require an afternoon of your time, Captain. We have much yet to discuss, and I still have a weddin' gift ta give ta ya. 'Til then..,Suffer Bravely." She recognized the translation of the words Endure Fort; family motto of the proud Clan Lindsay of Scotland.

The phrase had come up in conversation, among other things, during their trip alone together aboard the Vanguard.

She paused, noticing suddenly that there was something written in among the lines of the text, one letter scrawled upside down and in between each sentence. Her mind quickly identified and assembled the letters and numbers, but for a moment they made no sense to her.

"J..o..h..n," she whispered. "John one four, no... Fourteen. Three, KJV. What the hell," the light of understanding flipped on inside her head. "Wait."

She turned on her heel and moved to the computer. She tapped in a command, and a moment later a block of text was highlighted and displayed before her eyes. Again, she read aloud what it said.

"'And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.' John, chapter fourteen, verse three, King James Version." Her eyes moved from the screen and scanned his note again quickly and she puzzled momentarily over his odd choice of literary reference.

Aside from the fact that she found it highly amusing, in a singularly twisted sort of way, that he should ever dare compare himself to the revered Terran man known as Jesus Christ, she had a feeling there was a deeper meaning that he was trying to convey to her.

This was not something the kind of thing he would do without a reason.

"You'd better hope O'Sullivan never sees this, Lindsay, he'll snap you in half like a twig for committing...blasphe...my." She stopped again.

Her eyes scanned the page top to bottom one last time, looking for further clues as to what he was trying to tell her, without telling her.

Three sweeping and, if it's possible for handwriting to be arrogant, absolutely egotistically embellished initials WTL comprised the signature, but that was not what
completely captured her attention.

What caught, and held her gaze was the embossed seal upon the letterhead stationery which had previously escaped her notice.

Now it was fairly shouting at her, even with its formal, small and unassuming blue letters.

The logo was one she had seen countless times; it was the seal of the Department of Temporal Investigations.

What it said beneath that seal was the real shock and conveyed the message that she had been meant to receive.

From the Office of the Director

Liis mouth fell open.

"I'll be damned."

She knew that since he'd chosen to tell her this way, that this was information that she was not yet meant to know.

She appreciated the lead-time so that she could prepare herself, not only for the announcement when Lassiter swooped in to drop it on her like a warhead, but also for the hearing. She needed to know this before Salvek's inquiry, and Will made sure that she did.

She actually laughed out loud once.

Everything was going to be all right.

She was certain that Will would take control of matters with this hearing, and see to it that Salvek would be spared as much as possible of the nightmare that usually made up such experiences.

Additionally, she and Keiran had a true ally now, squarely between the pair of them and the machinery of TI that had dragged them back, chewed them up and spit them out so many times.

She only wished that she could see the look on Jonas Vox' face when the news finally reached his ears that his job was now being done, even if only temporarily, by William Lindsay.

With a renewed sense that things were moving forward as they should, Liis tucked the letter back into the envelope and for the first time, fully analyzed the wax stamp used to seal it.

It was the image of a small flower, one she'd seen before but she couldn't exactly place where.

She made a note to ask Will about it later on. She was certain that, as with absolutely everything else to do with the man, that there was a story that went along with it.


Time flew past quickly as she saw to the business of getting the Sera settled back into space-dock for expedited repairs.

She was informed that the Alchemy had arrived ahead of them and was 'secured' at an undisclosed location, undergoing diagnostics and maintenance.

The crew of the Away Mission to Bajor had returned to the Sera for debriefing by Lassiter, and there was one last thing that she hoped to accomplish before she left the ship for the hearing on Earth.

After that one thing more was seen to and the hearing was over, she hoped to return to Ireland for at least a few more days of the honeymoon that had been derailed before she came back to the ship to be certain that repairs proceeded according to plan.

According to her plan and not anyone else's.

"Computer, locate Commander Lance Hartcort."

^Lance Hartcort is on Deck Eleven, aft section.^

"Having coffee, are we doctor?" A slow grin swept across Zanh's face. "I'm about ready for another cup, myself. Think I'll join you."

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

761: Horseshoes and Hand Grenades

by Admiral Lassiter and **William Lindsay
Hours after Consequences and One Man's Lie

-=Conference Room One, USS Serendipity=-

"Gemini, darling, you're looking absolutely ravishing tonight." Will strode into the conference room as if he owned the place and in fact, as far as the woman before him was concerned, he did.

"Don't try to charm me, William Torquil Lindsay. It won't work this time." She tried her best to be stern with him, but it was difficult considering every time she looked at the man, the same thought always lingered at the very back of her mind. *If I were what I was twenty-five years ago, I'd be the one doing the charming here.*

Most times that they interacted, Lassiter found that Will's youth and vitality energized her. It was part of what made him so irresistible; the roguish bravado that he carried off as few men could. Today, however, instead of making her smile those traits made her feel every bit as old as she actually was.

"This time?" Will actually sounded disappointed. He stopped to look at himself over her shoulder, as his image reflected in the window before which she was standing. He brushed his fingers through his hair. "I must be losin' meh touch. Will hav'ta look inta findin' it."

A slow sigh escaped her lips. "William, we've serious business to discuss. You did not accomplish your task."

Now, Lindsay's posture stiffened. He was used to pretty much getting a free-pass from Lassiter no matter what he did or how he did it. To sense disapproval in her was new, and decidedly unwelcome.

"Now howdoya figure that, darlin'?" He pressed on with the charm, easing a hand onto her shoulder and giving a squeeze. "Everything turned out all right in the end. Taris is history, Lair Arie lives, what more could'ye ask of me?"

"That you do as your told." She said bluntly, taking hold of his hand and moving it off of her shoulder.

“Come now, Gemini, you know me.” Will lightly protested, not liking this mood she was in one bit. “I get the job done, just need a bit of room to move, that’s all.”

She shook her head, it was important that she be firm here. “Most agents find a way to get the job done and follow orders at the same time.”

“Aye ‘tis true, that.” Will conceded with an overly exasperated tone and a complete lack of modesty in his voice, making her question his sincerity. “But then most agents don’t have my success record, do they?”

Will’s success record may have been impressive but it was not without certain blotches. Blotches that she wondered if he even considered when he acted.

His confidence in his abilities was a great asset; he’d never second guess a choice when he couldn’t afford to. The double edge of that sword existed in the fact that he’d also never reconsider a choice when he could, or should.

Lassiter saw two potential paths stretching out ahead of him at this point. If he paid attention to life’s little lessons he could one day be Keiran.

If not, he could one day be Jonas, and that was what worried her.

“You’re good, Will.” Lindsay accepted this with a falsely bashful grin, clearly exaggerated. “But that can only carry you so far," she warned. Lindsay’s face took on a gentle seriousness, he looked like he was barely succeeding in hiding a smile, and it was quite intentional.

“Letting Keiran come along was reckless even by your standards," she concluded.

“Well, I always am tryin’ to better meself,” he hoped a light tone might alleviate some of the tension Lassiter was clearly feeling.

It didn’t.

"This is serious. Do you realize what could have happened? One false move on anyone's part and we could have lost the Vulcan, his child, not to mention Zanh and Keiran and," Lassiter now moved back to the table and sat down slowly. "This was way beyond a close call. You really could've been killed, Will."

"Could'a been. Wasn't." He winked at her, employing the habit he'd picked up from O'Sullivan over the years of offering quick, direct replies consisting of few words. "'Sides. Aren't you the one who always told me that 'close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades'?"

Lassiter rubbed her temples, trying to force down a headache that she just couldn’t seem to escape. “Well, perhaps it’s about time I added 'near death experiences' to that list. God, Will, sometimes it’s like you don’t even take the time to consider the potential consequences of your actions!”

She had no idea just how wrong she was there. Will had been doing nothing but consider the potential consequences of his actions, albeit retrospectively. His earlier discussion with Liis had left him with all too clear a picture of exactly what could have gone wrong over there.

It was a disturbing picture to see painted by her in such vivid, living detail; and one he intended to work very hard to blacken out of his memory.

Liis’ tale of when they first met from her perspective, in that small pub in County Cork, still weighed heavily on his mind. He knew Keiran had died in that timeline but Liis’ words made it feel real; as though it actually could really happen. It was strange but even as they fought for their lives aboard Taris' ship, he’d not felt like that.

One time experiencing Keiran's death was more than enough for Liis to contend with, but then she’d told him about the timeline where she’d been hospitalized after a breakdown following having to face it happening all over again.

Lindsay realised in that moment just how much he’d underestimated the damage that could have occurred; it was no longer limited to one man.

They could have all died or worse; he could have been the only one walking out of there with his mental and physical faculties intact and that idea truly scared him.

Fear, however, was not something William Lindsay was prepared to show; not here, not now.

“Relax. I always come out on top.” He gave a dismissive wave and his most charming smile. “Ya don’t have'ta worry about me.”

"Oh, but I do worry about you, William." She sighed, once again pressing her fingertips to the bridge of her nose. "Someone has to." She folded her arms and looked up at him anew. He blinked, waiting expectantly, knowing her well enough to know she was not yet finished speaking. "I have a proposition for you."

"At last! Gem, my love, I thought you'd never-" he started to joke, putting his hand to his heart in overly-dramatic fashion and in doing so, finally severed Lassiter's last, paper-thin nerve.

"Shut your mouth for a minute and listen to me!" She snapped, instantly regretting having done it as the look on his face changed.

The easy smile he'd been wearing evaporated, and he sat down on the edge of the table and folded his hands, resting them against his knee and waiting on her, still.

"In a few weeks shy of six months, Jonas will be released from that five-star hotel they dare to call a detention center. He'll be resequenced, giving him an unearned, blissfully clean conscience when it comes to the Cascade he caused and everything that came after. Then, in their infinite wisdom, despite my objections, despite the objections of Zanh and O'Sullivan and any TI agent aware of the situation who has half a brain, the higher-ups at Command still intend to give him his job back."

Will parted his lips to speak, about to condemn them for the choice by way of mentioning Jonas' barbed wedding gift to Keiran and Liis, but stopped. He nodded to indicate he was listening closely, and she continued.

"Until that time, we need someone to go into the position of Interim Director of Temporal Investigations and I want you to do it."

Will laughed now, genuinely. "You're not serious, Gem. Me? I think you've got me confused with the responsible half of the former TI team of O'Sullivan/Lindsay."

"Keiran couldn't take the job now even if he wanted to. Which I happen to know, new marriage notwithstanding, he would not want to do. The Paradox...the fact he can't ever be resequenced again," Lassiter shook her head.

"He can't. You, however, are my first choice anyway. Would you like to know why?"

"I can'na wait a second longer to know why."

"Because you will hate the desk job so much that you'll get bored. When you get bored, you'll start poking around into things. You're a star and people like you, Will, they just do. Even better, when you want to you can play the 'beautiful but dumb' role à la Sir Percival Blakeney to absolute perfection. In doing so people reveal things to you that they often won't to others."

She openly appealed to his ego now, knowing full well that for years he'd fancied himself the TI equivelent of Baroness Orczy's swashbuckling hero and master of double identity, The Scarlet Pimpernel.

Will stood up, and stood tall. "You're looking for corruption. You think if it's there, I can find it."

"Jonas couldn't have done all the damage he did alone. He's only one man. You learned your detective skills from the best there is. You can take the things Keiran taught you and you can use them and in six months time, we'll be able to see what Temporal Investigations really is now. I'm hoping there is something left of the agency that I have dedicated my life to." She looked truly grieved by the idea that there might not be.

"Six months..." Will sounded as if someone had just handed down a prison sentence to him instead of Vox, or worse, a death sentence. "...in an office."

"Not exclusively. You'll be going back and forth giving reports to me, reports to Command. But always, to me first. Especially if you find what I'm afraid you might find. I..." She bit her lip and then lowered her voice.

"I need an ally in that office that I can trust. Someone I can count on, to help me get our house in order before they let Jonas come back in and do what it is that he...does. I need someone to help me protect The Alchemy Project. It's at such a crucial stage right now, with all that's happened this first year. Zanh Liis needs all the friends she can get at the home office, and if you were there, I am sure she would sleep better at night for at least the next half year."

Will had to wonder for a moment, given the look in Liis' eyes as they'd discussed his sabotaging their compasses, if that were in fact still true.


The perfect diversion to buy himself a moment to think.

He pulled his compass from his belt and looked up at her expectantly.

"What did you do to it this time?" She asked, as she reached into the attaché case she'd brought with her and procured the kit of tools that Will sought, without him having to ask aloud. "You know what? Nevermind. I don't want to know."

She handed the kit over, and Will first withdrew the eyepiece similar to a jeweler's loupe, put it to his eye, and then used the tiny point of the smallest pair of tweezers to pry open the compasses case. Once into the intricate works, he began the delicate task of resetting it, repairing the damage he'd intentionally done.

As he tried to pretend he was completely absorbed in the task at hand, he sighed.

Suddenly, he had a whole slew of decisions to make, all based upon the making of one. He was for the moment, something that he almost never was at any time.

He was uncertain what to do.

“I’ll be needin’ time to think this over,” he said softly, as he worked, almost ashamed of the words. It was not an answer that he liked to give, especially when he was being presented with a challenge.

He was presented with them often and he usually jumped at the opportunity, but they were usually not like this.

Normally challenges were exactly how they were supposed to be; they involved a quick trip into a hostile environment, an exchange of phaser fire, one or two death defying leaps and you were back in time for tea.

This was not how they were supposed to be.

He finished the work on his compass, rolled the tools back into their padded case and tossed the lot back to her. He clipped the compass back to his belt, folded his arms, and sighed again. He stood and began to pace in a most O'Sullivan, and most un-Lindsay-like, fashion.

Will got uneasy just looking at a desk for too long. Now he was being asked to spend six months sitting behind one?

Corruption hunting was exactly his type of thing but providing the cover would mean spending several hours a day actually doing the job. That meant sitting there all day while balding old men in uniforms too tight for their aging bodies had him putting his thumbprint signature on paper work in triplicate. It would probably be enough to finally push him over the edge.

No matter what he was doing, simply sitting down for too long got to him. He could be running a ship at critical velocity toward the Federation border with two dozen Romulan vessels snapping at his tail and he’d still feel like getting up and stretching his legs every twenty minutes.

Lassiter was disappointed with Will’s response, even if she did understand it. When William Lindsay wanted to do something he did it, needing no more justification than that he felt like it.

His indecision meant that what he felt like doing and what he wanted to do were in conflict. He clearly wanted to take the job, the pride he’d shown regarding hunting for corruption made that clear, but either didn’t feel like he could or that he should.

“I can’t give you long to mull it over,” she warned “Every Admiral and their pool boy has someone they want for this post. Pretty soon someone’s going to ask me what you’ve decided. There are a lot of people out there very eager for the job, if I say you’re still making up your mind about it…”

“Then someone’ll make it up for me,” he concluded as he sat back down. He knew how these things worked. Gem had been given the all clear to offer him the job if he wanted it. If someone could say that he didn’t and press the ‘need to quickly fill this vital role with an enthusiastic applicant’ that all clear may just disappear.

"You know it goes without saying that you're the youngest person they've ever considered for the post."

He nodded.

Lassiter sighed, leaning in and looking him directly in the eye as she spoke. “Look, don’t feel that you have to take this on just for my sake. But before you answer, tell me, what is it that really bothers you about spending awhile doing Vox's job? It can’t just be fear of being bored for a few months. I know you, you’re more than capable of making your own fun if you have to.”

She was right and Will knew it; he could easily find something interesting to do with himself when he was given basically free reign in one of the most powerful institutions in the Federation. He unsurely tried to justify himself; unsure that was if his words were true.

“Tis the whole thing about workin’ in an office; the paper work and the reports. You were right that I’d hate it. It’s just not me.”

Gem wondered whether it was perhaps more true that he feared he wouldn’t hate it. That he’d leave the field and get too comfortable and then he’d wake up one day an old man wondering why he never did any of the things that used to make him feel alive.

She could understand that fear.

It was clear from the look on his face that he was not intending to take the post but just didn’t want to tell her.

“I can give you until we reach Earth to think it over, that's it,” she advised, hoping that he’d change his mind. "Talk to Keiran about it, if you need to bounce the pros and cons off of someone, but no one, and I mean no one else until the decision is final, then I will be the one to inform Captain Zanh."

Will nodded his understanding. “Aye, that’ll be more than long enough.”

He was about to leave to undertake some serious thinking when he saw the disappointment in Gem’s eyes.

Though there were still a thousand considerations in his head a realisation struck him that he was perhaps over-thinking this. Gem wanted him to take the post. It’d let him help out Liis and Keiran, he'd be squarely between them and any mischief that the higher-ups at TEMA may try to pull to drag them back into the mire. And lastly, he’d get his chance at pulling off one of the greatest covert internal investigations in Starfleet history.

There really was nothing more to think about.

He stopped just short of the doorway and turned back toward her.

He stood tall once again, giving her a much more characteristic look and devilish half-smile.

“What the hell,” he said proudly. “I’ll do it.”


Admiral Lassiter
Director,The Alchemy Project
(and former director of the Temporal Emergency Management Agency)

Currently aboard the USS Serendipity


**Captain William T. Lindsay
Interim Director
Department of Temporal Investigations

760: One Man's Lie

by **William Lindsay and Zanh Liis
Hours after Consequences


-=USS Serendipity=-

Will Lindsay was a man good at living with the choices he’d made, even when they did bother him.

For this reason he could cope well enough with the fact that he’d sabotaged Liis’ compass to try to trick her into not boarding the Romulan ship. He could cope with not telling her about it now and indeed for a very long time in the future. Coping was good and it was an option Keiran had given him.

He was leaving it to Will’s conscience whether he told her or not and said that he wouldn’t mention it to Liis if Will didn’t; that he couldn’t cope with. Will knew O’Sullivan and he knew that, save the occasional planning for a romantic gesture, it would eat him up inside to keep anything from her.

He realised he had to tell her and approached her cautiously, making sure to stay out of the reach of her one free arm. Will considered it a truly dangerous thing, angering a woman; particularly if they were of the Bajoran variety. A man may punch you in the face, kick you in the stomach or attempt the fasten and pull method of amputating your arms, but a woman may well choose to inflict her damage on much more precious parts of the anatomy.

Even at this late hour, Zanh Liis was still sitting at her desk, struggling with only the use of her one free arm as she tried to work her way through the most recent reports on the state of the repairs to the Sera.

"Will," she nodded toward him, looking him over quickly. "Good to see you look like you're feeling better."

"Aye, and you." Will replied with a nod. He wondered if Liis even realised just how weak she'd looked when they'd left Taris' ship, seeing her now looking so strong and immersed in the duties of a starship captain it was easy not to.

"Gem Lassiter is looking for you," she casually remarked.

The look of boredom that dawned upon his face showed that this wasn't news to him. "She'll find me, when she's good and ready." Will seemed in no hurry to have that conversation at this particular moment. In fact, he had another on his mind that he very much wanted to get over with first. “Liis,” he hesitated uneasily, never quite sure how to start something like this. “We need to talk.”

Liis didn’t even look up as she dryly suggested, “You’re breaking up with me?” She then shrugged her free shoulder and added apathetically, “Oh well. I guess some things just aren't meant to be.”

Will wasn’t in the frame of mind for jokes right now. He just wanted to get this said. He spoke with none of his natural enthusiasm. “It’s about yer, um, compass.” He chose his words carefully. “The readings it gave ya when ya last saw it weren’t exactly the correct ones. I…” he trailed off.

"William," Liis shifted slightly and with annoyance, obviously very tired of having to wear the sling that her arm remained trapped in. She looked up and met his eyes directly. "Do you think that I got this far in life by being stupid?"

Her eyes told him that somehow, she knew. She couldn’t know, but she did and Will found that suddenly all words were eluding his grasp. He could only watch her as she continued.

"Well, you must if you think that I could look at those compasses and not know that they'd been tampered with." She laughed softly, the sound telling him that he should have known better.

"You had me for a minute, when you showed me the dial of mine. I could almost believe that it could be so convoluted, given the Paradox. You almost pulled it off. But then, in your attempt to completely convince me, you made the mistake that gave you away." She rose from her chair and stared out the window.

"You showed me the dial of yours. I took one look at it and I knew that there was no way that our compasses would both be so unreadable at the same time. We weren't assigned to be partners, ever. We weren't assigned to protect the same target, ever. We had never even met in this timeline until the night before my wedding. There is no way they'd both show such similar, incomprehensible readings."

"You couldn't have known-" Will objected. He didn't want to believe that his attempt at subterfuge had really been so transparent to her.

"That little speech I gave you, about how I was going to call the shots no matter what the compasses said. You think I said those things because I enjoy listening to the sound of my own voice? No. I gave it for your benefit, so that you'd know that I didn't care what the damned things said. I was going there, I was going after Arie and Salvek and I was going after Keiran."

Then the realisation hit Will of what Liis went over there knowing. “You knew that I was hiding what the compasses said from you. How’d ya know it didn’t say you were going to die over there?” Her silence told him everything. “Ya didn’t know; ya just really didn’t care.”

Liis never so much as turned from the window. “I knew that you were trying to stop me from going over there, so the compass had to say that either one or both of us was in danger. There was no way in hell I was going to allow Keiran to face the Romulans without me at his side.”

A moment of silence passed as Lindsay processed this information. Liis’ was, at that moment, in the room in body only.

Her mind was back on Taris’ ship, considering all the worst possibilities of what could have happened. Many strong people would have been over powered by these thoughts. How exactly Liis was responding Will couldn’t tell.

He felt she had to know. “The readings said that you’d be okay, Keiran was always the one at risk.”

Liis required no time to consider this information, she’d prepared herself for the decision she’d have had to make the moment they’d left Earth. “In that case, I’m glad I was over there. If something happened to him then…” she didn’t need to finish, she’d never have forgiven herself.

It was then Will first considered his actions in full and what it could have done to Liis if he’d actually succeeded and made her hesitate. The realisation stung. He was glad she was still not facing him as he did not want to look her in the eye right now

“You must hate me now for trying to mislead you." He didn't use the words 'lie to you' because William Lindsay believed more than anything else in life that truth is subjective and that one man's lie is another man's completely valid viewpoint; even if he was no longer sure of the validity of this viewpoint.

"Don't worry, Lindsay. I understand your actions and what's more, I know what you were trying to protect me from." Her eyes took on a far away sadness, and she stared at the floor.

"I've lost him before. I lived it, in the Paradox. I lived it, the moment that Jonas Vox took my compass and handed me that damned envelope and said that." She stopped, the words becoming more and more difficult to say. After another moment in silence, she struggled on.

"You thought, that if it happened again, if he were to." Liis still couldn't bring herself to say the word. "You didn't want me to see it. How could I hate you for that?" She turned her full attention back to him now, her eyes searing through him.

"Do you remember the story that I didn't think I could tell you back in Scotland, William?"

Will's complexion took on a waxen tone."The one that I didn't think I could hear?"

Liis nodded. "It's time that you heard it."


Captain **William Lindsay
Temporal Investigations
Currently aboard the Serendipity


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

759: Consequences

by Dabin Reece
Following Praise Well Earned

-=USS Serendipity=-

“Admiral Lassiter!”

She would have known that voice anywhere.

Even without the voice she would have known the sound of the rapid but carefully measured footfalls behind her that signaled the approach of one Captain Ashton Ledbetter.

“Yes, Captain Ledbetter?” Gem sighed. She had been dreading this moment. It had taken him a little bit more than an hour to track her down since her arrival on the Sera. He must have been having an off day. She expected him to be waiting for her in the transporter room.

“When is the inquiry into the loss of my ship being held? You know I expect Zanh Liis and the Trill to pay for this outrage.”

“The death of Taris and the safe recovery of every soul from the Romulan ship? Is that the outrage you speak of Captain? And the Trill does have a name, Dabin Reece. I don’t think you would appreciate it if he referred to you as the Human.” Lassiter kept her tone formal. The somewhat narrow-minded nature of his comment rubbed her the wrong way. Then again, most of Ashton Ledbetter’s traits rubbed her the wrong way. Yet, somehow through it all, the man could handle a TI mission. For that reason he had ascended to the rank of Captain, and for that reason alone she put up with his neurotic behavior.

“You know what I mean, Gem.”

Lassiter cleared her throat loudly.

“Admiral Lassiter,” Ledbetter quickly corrected himself, for the sake of the two attendants that were accompanying the Admiral on the Sera. He pointed at her emphatically, as if to say, I meant to call you Admiral Lassiter.

“I’ve only just arrived, Captain. I assure you there will be a full inquiry into the loss of the Consequence. It is not at the top of priority list at the moment however. I’ve just toured engineering and the repairs going on there and later on I will be looking into the events that occurred on the Romulan ship.”

“What are you doing in the meantime?” Ledbetter grinned.

“Even an Admiral is entitled to pause and take in a meal. You are not going to let this go, are you Captain?”

Ashton stood up tall, and took on the most serious expression a one hundred sixty-seven centimeter, seventy-three kilogram man could muster.

“All I ask, Admiral, is that justice be done, and the truth be told.”

Lassiter turned to one of her attendants and reluctantly caved to Ledbetter’s demands. “Please inform Captain Zanh and Commander Reece that there will be a brief meeting in one hour in the main conference room, to discuss the events surrounding the loss of the Consequence.”

-=Forty-five seconds later=-

Zanh Liis sat in her ready room. Her good hand sat with fingers drumming against the top of her desk, counting down softly to the empty room around her.

“Five, four, three, two, one.”

[Reece to Liis! Reece to Liis!]

“I know Commander, I know. They already told me.”

[But, they can’t do this to us!]

“Just take a deep breath and relax.” Zanh was already preparing herself for the inquiry into Salvek’s actions on the Romulan ship. She simply didn’t have the time or the nerves to deal with a Dabin Reece meltdown at the moment. No doubt she had a persistent Ashton Ledbetter to thank for the newest addition to Admiral Lassiter’s schedule. “We’ll get through this.”

Dabin Reece issued some sort of a squeal or squawk, and closed the channel. He immediately began rummaging through his quarters for his dress uniform as February nervously crocheted faster and faster while watching him out of the corner of her eye.

“Do you think the Admiral might relieve you of duty?” She asked, as Dabin hauled the uniform out of the closet and began to change.

“I hope not. Captain Ledbetter has it in for me.”

“Do you think you really need the dress uniform?”

“Dress to impress. It might help.” Dabin smoothed out the front and made sure the gold trim was perfectly aligned. Bad enough Zanh Liis still blamed him for the loss of her Jump ship, but at least she never hauled him before the Admiralty.

Dabin began pacing and mumbling, and February shifted uncomfortably. She hated seeing him like this, especially when she knew he had done nothing to deserve this kind of treatment. The formal reports submitted by the crew should have been enough to excuse the loss of the Consequence.

If she wasn’t under strict Doctor’s orders to avoid stress she would have gone to the meeting with him, and given Ledbetter a piece of her mind. Instead, she called up a video of some old cartoons she knew he would enjoy, and Dabin finally settled down for the next hour. There was something so precious about the sound of his laughter when he watched that coyote’s futile attempts to catch the roadrunner.

He watched the shows, and she watched him, far more amused by his reactions than the cartoons.

“I think you need to get going.” She said reluctantly, as the time approached.

“I think you’re right. Thanks, I needed the laugh.” He gave her a quick peck on the lips, and pat on the tummy before heading for the turbolift.

The lift doors parted, and there was Ashton Ledbetter, on his way to the bridge as well.

Ledbetter pursed his lips and stepped to the side of the lift. Dabin entered, and leaned against the opposite wall. They rode the lift in silence, neither one looking in the other’s direction.

Finally, Ledbetter broke the stalemate.

“Lovely weather we’re having.”

Reece threw his hands in the air. “We’re on a starship!”

“Oh we are? How soon until you blow it up?”

“All right, that’s it! You know as well as I do this was not my fault!”

As the doors opened, Zanh Liis saw the pair yapping at each other like a couple of Chihuahuas in a turf war over a chicken bone. She was waiting outside the conference room for the pair to arrive, before heading in.

The bridge crew each turned to watch as Ledbetter and Reece poked fingers in each other’s chests as the crossed from the turbolift to Zanh Liis’s location.

“That’s enough, both of you.” She hissed, once they were close enough for her to silence them without the rest of the crew hearing it. “Act like that in front of the Admiral and she’ll throw you both out the airlock, unless I beat her to it.”

Ledbetter harrumphed and walked through the doors.

Dabin laid a hand on her good shoulder. “He can’t make us suffer for this. We did the right thing.”

Liis nodded slowly. “Please, Dabin. I can handle this, but I’m begging you, let me do all the talking. Do we understand each other?”

“Loud and clear, Crinkles.”

The duo entered the conference room, where Admiral Lassiter sat at the table already, along with Ledbetter.

Ashton had taken up the spot on the end of the table by the window, where Zanh Liis traditionally sat. Her eyes flashed when she saw the smug look on his face, as if daring her to tell him to move. Instead, she elected to sit across from Lassiter, with Dabin Reece at her side.

“I’ve read everyone’s reports,” Lassiter began without fanfare or delay. “Captain Ledbetter, by all accounts the sacrifice of the Consequence was justified, as it helped safeguard the Serendipity and all those aboard. So I ask you, why are we here?”

“As you say Admiral, it was justified, but it was reckless. Commander Reece had several other options available to him that could have ended without the destruction of my ship. Captain Zanh also made an error in judgment by not turning Command of this vessel over to me while she and her command crew were gallivanting around on the Romulan ship.

Gallivanting?” Liis stood straight up out of her chair. She had promised herself she would be calm and defend Reece. She wasn’t planning on defending herself. “Do you know how many good men and women almost died over there?”

“Poor choice of words.” Ledbetter said. Liis sat back down. “If Captain Zanh had turned Command over to me, while she was bravely fighting the Romulans, I could have gotten us out of this mess without the Consequence being destroyed. Which, as we know, was a direct result of Commander Reece’s actions.”

“It was the Romulans!” Now it was Reece standing up out of his chair. As soon as he stood, Liis grabbed him by the arm and pulled him right back down into his seat.

She leaned over and whispered into his ear. “I said, let me do the talking.”

Lassiter turned her attention to Zanh, “You have something to say Captain?”

“Yes, Admiral. If I may, my crew made the best out of a bad situation. Commander Reece took the best option he believed available to him, so that he could both protect the Sera and keep the ship in range to beam our crew off the Romulan ship. In the end, we are all sitting around this table arguing about it, and I think we should all be grateful for that,” Liis shot a look at Ledbetter.

“Yeah, what she said.” Reece added for extra emphasis. It never ceased to amaze him how diplomatic she could sound at times when he knew she wanted to wring the necks of everyone in the room.

“The handbook tends to agree with you, on this matter. Captain Zanh. However, Captain Ledbetter makes a valid point. Perhaps some things could have been done differently. Perhaps we all have something to learn from this.”

Lassiter stood up and looked out the window, mentally preparing herself for what would come next.

“To that end, since he no longer has a Command, I am temporarily assigning Captain Ledbetter as an overseer on the ship until further notice.”

WHAT?” Reece, Zanh and Ledbetter all bolted out of their chairs now, shouting in unison.

“You can’t leave me here with this group, I’ll go mad!” Ashton protested.

“Things being what they are, I would like someone to keep track of how things are run on this ship. Captain Ledbetter will have no official place in the chain of command. I want him detached from the goings on aboard this ship so he can report back to me as an observer, not a member of the crew.”

“I assure you Admiral, this is not necessary.” Liis’s words were polite, even if her expression, posture, and grinding teeth were not.

“If it is not necessary then Captain Ledbetter will have nothing to report. We’ll just see.”

“O’Sullivan is going to eat you for lunch,” Reece chimed in, grinning at Ledbetter.

“He’s a gentle giant. It’s his spouse that may be just crazy enough to kill someone. Namely, me.” Ledbetter shot back.

“I sincerely hope Captain Ledbetter will be treated with the utmost respect,” Lassiter said coldly, directing the words towards Zanh Liis rather than Dabin Reece.

“Admiral,” Ledbetter laughed nervously. “I rather thought when this was all over and it was determined the ship loss was not my fault, that I’d be given a new Command right away.”

“I am assigning no fault to the destruction of the Consequence, other than the Romulans.”

HA!” Dabin Reece pointed at Ledbetter in triumph. “I told you.”

“Sit down, Commander.” Zanh warned.

“However,” Lassiter continued, “Jump ships do not grow on trees, Captain Ledbetter. Therefore, until a new one can be,” Lassiter paused looking for the right word, “procured, you will remain here. Dismissed.”

Reece was not about to sit around and wait for Lassiter to change her mind about having his commission. He held out a hand, and pulled Zanh Liis up to her feet. His silent way of saying thank you, as the group filed out of the room.

Dabin Reece
Chief Science Officer (Still)
USS Serendipity NCC-2012

NRPG: By special request of our XO...Ashton stays, so that he can continue writing him. How could I say no to dialogue like that?~ZL