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