964: Back to Work

by Zander Blakeslee and Zanh Liis
The Morning After Picking Up the Pieces

-=USS Serendipity=-

Zander Stepped off the transporter and walked down the two steps to stand in front of the chief, leaving a large duffel bag sitting on the pad adjacent to him. “Permission to come aboard.”

“Granted, Commander Blakeslee.” Andrew Parrish smiled. “Welcome home.” Parrish looked around. “Where are the wife and kids?”

Zander walked back to the transporter and heaved the heavy duffel over his shoulder then turned back to answer. “They’ll be joining me in a day or two. Have to close up the house and we wanted to give the kids some more time in open spaces.” He explained as he turned towards the door.

Parrish nodded. “Very well, again, welcome home sir.”

Zander headed out the door and into the hallway.

He felt that it had been a lifetime since he last walked the corridors of the Serendipity. He reflected back to the days before he and his family left for earth. Days spent in Sickbay healing from the injuries he sustained from the explosion on the bridge.

He found he was still having nightmares about it; still wondering if he would ever leave his children without a father. But those nightmares were only a result of his drive to be a good father, husband, and officer. O’Sullivan had helped him to see that.

He owed the man a mug of ale at the very least.

Reaching the Blakeslee family quarters he entered the darkened room and dropped the duffel onto the floor. The expected thudding noise of it hitting the deck was punctuated by the unexpected sound of crunching glass.

Zander frowned. “Lights.”

As the lights came up he was greeted by what could only be described as chaos. The room was in shambles. Pictures were off the walls, plants knocked off of tables, lamps felled to the floor.

He glanced down a located what had made the crunching sound. He had unknowingly dropped his bag onto one of the displaced pictures, shattering the glass and breaking the frame. He moved his duffle and gently picked up the picture so as to not damage the photo under the broken glass.

It was a photo of his wedding day; specifically of the ceremony that had taken place on Earth. He was dressed in his Starfleet dress uniform and Samthia in a translucent blue dress. Zander smiled as he carefully placed the shattered picture onto the end table.

“Looks like the fight was worse than reported to the news channels,” he commented, as he went to look for a broom.

=^= Later =^=

The doors to the lift opened and Zander stepped out onto the bridge for the first time since the explosion.

It was different.

It had been remodeled after the fight that caused Zander’s injury and then once again, after the encounter with the alien species that he still needed to learn so much about. Zander could not help but think that it looked better.

“Welcome back.” A voice jarred him back from his thoughts.

He looked down at the center chair to see Commander Blane looking up at him.

“Thanks.” Zander smiled. “The captain?”

TC nodded towards the Ready Room. “Right where she should be.”

Zander nodded and walked to the Ready Room door. He stood tall, checked his uniform and hit the chime.

“C’mon, with ya, then.” Came the gritty, familiar female voice from the other side, and Zander couldn’t help but think that Zanh was starting to sound more like her husband every day.

The doors released and Zander stepped into the room.

Captain Liis O’Sullivan, as the members of crew who were closest to her had taken to affectionately referring to her these days; was seated behind her desk half hidden by a pile of PADDS and discarded coffee cups. She stared at the screen of one PADD on her desk as she held another in her hand.

Zander approached her desk and stood in front of it at attention, his eyes staring forward. “Captain, Commander Zander Blakeslee reporting back to active duty.”

"Is he now?" She feigned indifference, but only for a second before she slowly lowered the PADD from her face revealing a broad, warm grin.

She stood up from her chair and reached her hand out across the desk toward him. "It's about damned time. Welcome home, Zander. We’ve missed you."

Zander wondered, but only for a moment, if Zanh knew of his conversation with Keiran. Since she didn't immediately bring it up, that led him to believe that she did not; and it just went to show that O'Sullivan was a man of his word.

If there had been anything that Keiran felt compelled to tell her as Captain for the safety of the crew and ship as far as Zander was concerned, Zander was sure that Keiran would've handled it as carefully as he could.

But since it was simply a conversation about life and responsibilities of fatherhood between friends, O'Sullivan had, it appeared, seen no need to share it or the fact he'd even been to Alaska at all.

"I know that there is still damage, scattered around the ship. Most of it, teams have already been sent in to clean up but your quarters..." Zanh paused, walking across the room to replicate another cup of coffee, hers long since having gone cold as she worked to try to finish up all the reports she had to turn in before their next assignment.

She’d heard 'assignment' and not 'mission' from Command and immediately, been intrigued. It turned out that what they were supposed to be doing next was actually something they were supposed to have done before the situation with the Domox put everything else on hold. She couldn’t wait to see how her senior staff was going to take the news. Some would, she bet, a lot better than others.

"Have a seat. Can I offer you something?" Zanh asked, pausing before ordering her beverage.

“No thank you, Captain.”

"Suit yourself.” She addressed the replicator without hesitation as to her own order, which was the same as it always was. “Hot coffee, medium blend, extra cream." Zanh instructed. The cup appeared and she quickly retrieved it, took a sip and sighed contentedly before turning her attention back to her Chief of Security. "As I was saying, your quarters...I hope they're not too bad, but I hesitated to let anyone in to survey them. I thought you'd rather do it yourself."

Zander nodded. “Yes, thank you. Things were pretty messy, but I got it mostly taken care of.” He scratched his chin. “Looks like you were in a good fight, things were jarred around pretty bad.”

"Yeah,” Zanh said sadly, her eyes taking on an absence that bothered Zander as he'd rarely seen it before. “We were in a fight.”

"Captain," Zander shifted in his chair. "I know that there is are lot of rumors and much speculation going around about what actually happened with the Zenith. I understand that this information is classified as strictly need to know but as your Chief of Security as well as Tactical, I feel that I simply cannot perform my duty to protect the crew as we go forward unless I know what really happened."

Zanh inhaled slowly, and wearily. She held the breath as she sat suspended for a long moment, captive of her own thoughts. She had known this was coming, and in fact she couldn't blame the man. She would have made the very same request of any CO she'd had, if she were in his shoes. “Some welcome home this will turn out to be…” she muttered softly to herself.

"I need to know the truth." He concluded, with absolute certainty that he also wished he didn't have to hear it.

"I know, Zander. I know." She set her cup down and plunked down into her chair with a heavy sigh. Her hands sought out the spyglass she always kept nearby. She opened and closed it several times, seeming to study the inscription engraved into it again before finally putting it back where it had been. "I wish I didn't have to burden you with this."

Her eyes darted over to the picture of Keiran that she kept on the corner of her desk. It was small thing, almost lost among all the rest of the seemingly random items that were always piled upon her workspace. One wouldn't even notice it unless they specifically looked for it.

She specifically looked for it now just so she could see the smile upon Keiran’s face.

It was a truly happy smile, the one that she’d seen him wear on their wedding day when this image had been captured and a few rare times since. It was one she only hoped would return to replace the sadder version that was currently all he could manage. Thinking of all he’d seen and gone through on the Zenith, she clearly understood that it might take a long time before she saw that particular smile again.

"I wish no one had ever had to be burdened with it.” She told him regretfully, finally taking her eyes away from the photograph. “But what happened could happen again for all we know, though all evidence points to the fact that the enemy was completely destroyed."

"Completely destroyed as in..." Zander sat up straighter now, trying to grasp what she seemed to be implying. "…their invasion force was stopped? Or as in their way to come back here was destroyed?" He waited now for her to fill in the details.

"As in the race no longer exists."

Zander blinked but did not offer any other reaction. “I see.”

Zanh rotated her chair to the side and lowered her eyes, fussing needlessly with the PADDs before her while gathering her composure. She really hated that anyone else had to know what really happened, but she knew that of all people left who did not, if anyone must know it was Zander.

“So, in that case we need to be concerned about reprisals from any remaining members of that species that might have been able to avoid their extinction.” He said plainly. “I’d like to set up security measures for when we are in unknown territory or docked at any station that allows access to civilians. Would it be possible to have access to any information we have on the…whoever they are…were…so I can setup a security profile?”

“Yeah, I’ll, um, see to it that you get that. You…might find it helpful to speak to Counselor Tryst about them. He has insights into the way that they think…thought,” Zanh brought her fingers to the wrinkled bridge of her nose, and held them there, fighting off the return of the previous day’s headache. “That the rest of us don’t even though we were there too.”

He paused and looked at his captain. “It was that bad huh?”

"It was as bad as it can be with one exception."

"That being?"

"That there is still a Serendipity for you and I to be having this conversation on.” She returned her full attention to him, and for the first time Zander noticed deep, dark circles under her eyes that told of just how little rest she’d had recently. “There very nearly wasn't."

Zander's lips parted and he blew out a long, slow breath. Suddenly he was very glad that he'd taken his wife and children off of the ship when he had.

The insecurity about bringing them back to this life returned to him for an instant and nearly took over. He closed his eyes, and Zanh sat up straighter in her chair, taking note of the fact that he was now clenching his fists without realizing it and his shoulders were taut. His expression was one of deep concern as he tilted his head to look at her once more. Though his eyes were again open, he really wasn't seeing her.

He was seeing the pile of logs and the handle of the sledge.

He was thinking of sticking the wedge into the flaw in the bark and smashing the hammer down onto it until the cracking noise echoing up into the mountains was all he could hear.


At least there, he knew that they were safe...


...but were they really if they ended up losing him a piece at a time instead of risking him being lost one day to duty?

"Mister Blakeslee?"

Zander returned to the moment. "I'm sorry, Captain." He offered her no explanation for his distraction, but it wasn't like she needed any.

"Are you sure that you're feeling up to this?" She asked him softly, with genuine concern. "You're an excellent Chief of Security, Zander and I'm anxious to have you back on the job but you're an even better man, and if you need more time to-"

"No." He answered hastily, adding much more softly, "sir." He sighed and hand his hand through his short hair. "I just need to keep reminding myself of the advice of a very wise man we both know."

"Well, it so happens that we have a couple of wiseguys around here, which one are you referring to?" Zanh tried to ease the tension in him with the small joke, and Zander did relax just the smallest amount.

"No wiseguy, this one." He replied. "You know him pretty well. You happen to be married to him."

Suddenly, Keiran's 'visit to a friend' made sense. So that's where he'd gone...to Alaska. "Oh, you mean O’Sunshine? Yeah, we’re acquainted. What did he tell you?"

"Nothing I didn't already know. I just needed to hear it from a voice outside my own head." Zander answered. "I am more than ready to return to duty, Captain. I am anxious to do so."

Zanh gently clapped her hands together once. "That's what I wanted to hear." She smiled at him genuinely, warmly, and rose from her chair. He did the same and she extended her hand to him. "It's good to have you back, Zander."

"Thank you, Captain."

"I'll see to it that the necessary information about our encounter with the Domox and the loss of the Zenith's crew is turned over to you. Be advised though that it's best that you only discuss it with myself, Salvek, TC Blane, Counselor Tryst or Keiran because he..." she was saddened just the same every time she was reminded of all Keiran had gone through. "He was in command of the Zenith during the fight."

Zander's eyes widened. He respected O'Sullivan already, but that respect took on a whole new dimension given what he'd heard just through rumors about the battle. "Understood."

"Before you go," She held a hand up to beg a moment more of his attention. "One more thing. You've met Paxton Briggs?"

"In passing..." Zander wondered where this was going.

"Well, to put it bluntly, given all the man has done around here lately, I want to keep him. So I need to know where you think we should put him."

Zanh put a hand on her hip and considered her options. "I would love to make him a member of Sera's crew outright but I'm thinking that if I recruit him into The Alchemy Project directly instead that he'll have more options later on. It'll be a nice little thing to have on anyone's Starfleet resume, this project, in a few years time. Your thoughts?"

Zander thought for a moment. “I have seen Commander Briggs dossier, as chief of security I checked him out when he first arrived. He is a man worth keeping. Second officer of the Indigo station is no small assignment.” He smiled. “Literally.”

"Tell me about it. I've seen the plans of that monster. Made me wonder if they have the equivalent of Shirpa out there to keep you from getting lost trying to find your way to the turbolifts."

“If I may be so bold, we technically have two starships here. The Alchemy is practically a entity unto herself and has often operated on it’s own, independent of the Sera. I think it would be beneficial for her to have her own, on-call command staff, dedicated to her operations and ready to crew her on a moment’s notice. A dedicated team of officers who know her capabilities inside and out. A team that is always in certain roles when the Alchemy is needed rather then pieced together from the Sera’s command staff. Commander Briggs would be perfect to act in a first officer role.”

He shrugged. “But that is just an observation.”

“Well, I was considering granting him the title of 'High King of All Starfleet' if that’s what it took but if you think he’d be satisfied with that instead it would require a lot less paperwork.” Zanh joked. She had, since the battle, actually been thinking along lines not dissimilar from Zander’s. It had occurred to her that the Alchemy needed it’s own command structure in place in advance of the next crisis, whatever that turned out to be.

"You know, you’ve got a point." Zanh paced around the room, nodding slowly. Her hand swept over the desktop and caught up the spyglass and she began to open and close it as she walked.

"We've always thrown a crew together for the Alchemy at the last minute when needed, depending on who was where. But given what just happened with the Domox and how fast it happened, and also considering that the Alchemy has more and more often been sent off out on her own and will be with greater frequency as further experiments and tests are run on her..."

She snapped the glass up to her eye, looked through it a moment and then rocked her weight from her heels to her toes before closing the glass and turning back to face him fully. "I think you're absolutely right, and that we should have a set command staff for the Alchemy when she goes out. People can be swapped out, of course, as needed and when the inevitable comes up which it always does..."

"If you place Paxton Briggs as First Officer, then he can focus his energies on making sure she’s always ready to fly the second she’s needed. He can also work closely with Commander Blane and Commander Salvek, Sera's XO in order to be certain that supplies and components are obtained from Command for the Alchemy's continual upgrades..."

"Instead of making Lair Kellyn arm wrestle the people in Procurement for them? Sounds like a plan to me." Zanh laughed softly at the mental image, knowing that Lair would always win any contest of that sort. “I heard she broke a few wrists in the last round of ‘we need it more than you do, so hand over the friggin’ part already’.” The more she thought about this idea, the better it sounded. "It'll also be convenient for him to work alongside Salvek in coordinating with the Sera's needs for another reason.”

"What reason would that be, sir?"

"The Alchemy is Salvek's project. So there is no one else to whom command of that ship should rightly be assigned. Not even his arm-wrestling champion wife." Zanh now laughed a little more enthusiastically, puzzling Blakeslee.

"Something amuses you, Captain?"

"Yes. I was just anticipating the look on Salvek's face when I tell him that his work load just doubled."

Zander smiled. "Funny, somehow I don't think he’ll mind." Zander’s eyes moved toward the door. "And if you don't mind, captain, I'd like to get back into the swing of things."

"By all means get out of my sight, you slacker. You've been off the clock too long already. You might start thinking we're going to go easy on you from here on out." Zanh teased, knowing she could because the idea of Zander ever giving a single bit less than his best to his ship and crew was so utterly ridiculous. He smiled even more broadly, even as the smile on Zanh’s face slipped away. She spoke softly as he headed for the door.

"I'm sending those reports to your office now, for your review." She didn't sit down again, rather just leaned over the desk and tapped at her computer, triple checking to make sure that the encryption was still firmly in place to protect the sensitive files.

The far away look returned to her eyes as she hit the final 'send' command.

"I warn you, Zander," Hearing her tone, he turned back to see what look on her face could possibly accompany it. Both the tone, and the expression, could only be called haunted.

Her deep blue eyes his stare for only a moment, and then returned to the screen. "This is not light reading."


LT. Commander Zander Blakeslee
Chief of Security/Tactical
USS Serendipity NCC-2012


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

963: Happy Daydreams of Riches and Naked Humans

by Lance Hartcort and Alison Schneider
Following Sunny San Francisco

-=Dron’s Quarters Starfleet Research, San Francisco=-

"So what is it exactly that you want from me?" Dron asked, his head inclined on Alison's lap.

She tugged hard on his right lobe, which made the Ferengi let out a contented sigh. "You know what I want. I will not repeat myself just to prolong your pleasure."

"Very well. You cannot fault a Ferengi for trying." Turning to the other occupant of the room, he asked, "What is it that you want from me?"

Having until now been watching the entire transaction with amusement, Lance finally replied, "To speak with you about your implants and see if perhaps they could have some other uses."

"To help this little girl?"

"Yes," Lance confirmed.

"Where's the profit?" Dron asked.

Lance stepped forward, having anticipated the question and having already prepared an answer. "You created this technology for translation purposes, yes?"

"Yes," he confirmed.

"So any new uses for the technology would mean new product lines, which would mean greater profit," Lance finished.

"I like the way you think." Dron stated, before he pulled away from Alison, sat up, and faced her. "But why aren't you helping him with this?"

"I did bring him here, and you were happy up until a moment ago with me." She wiggled her fingers at him.

"Why haven't you considered reconstructive gene therapy?"

Alison sharply inhaled.

"Like I didn't know about it." Dron pointed to his ears. "I hear everything around here." He then patted her on the knee, as if that gesture were somehow supposed to be reassuring.

"Because I don't want the hobgoblin to have me imprisoned for handing over details of work which is technically illegal," she quickly answered. Alison turned to Lance. "It's what I do here. We manipulate genes to create therapies," She paused and then added, “and tailor made viruses and antidotes."

"It's the black operation of Starfleet science," Dron added.

Lance smiled. “Yes, but that is not of any concern as the prospects for profit are slim. Well, right now anyway. You’re little dodad on the other hand has great promise.”

Lance waved his hand in the air in front of him and stared out into space dramatically. It was time to cast out the bait. “Think about it Dron. You could market it amongst the civilian populace of uncountable worlds. Be the savior for those without hearing. Many would pay anything to have their hearing back.”

Dron followed Lance’s gaze as if he could see the profits rolling in. “Yes, yes! Dron, The Master of Sound, The Bringer of Hearing!”

Lance winked at Alison. “Think of what you could do with all of that profit.”

Dron continued to stare out in space as if looking at the future and nodded slowly. “Yes. He turned toward Alison and smiled lustfully, which caused her to raise her eyebrows.

“Of course there is a slight problem, Lance added with feigned sorrow.

Dron turned back to him. “Problem? What problem, Hu-mon?”

Lance smiled slightly; it was time to reel in the fish. “You need to figure out how to apply the technology to get it to communicate with body and brain. Otherwise, it is useless for this purpose. You need someone with experience utilizing biomechanics to design an interface for it so your technology can be used.”

Lance smiled and pointed towards himself. “I can do that for you.”

Drons eyes narrowed in suspicion. “What is in it for you?”

“Reputation,” Lance answered quickly. “I am a doctor and my reputation is important. You don’t think I am going to work for free in Starfleet forever do you? The more people hear about me, the more profit I can make when I leave Starfleet for private practice.” He flashed his most charming smile.

Alison was trying her hardest not to burst out laughing. When Lance was good, he was great. And she could not imagine a person not falling for his charm when he put it on as he was now.

Dron paced around the room for a moment, and it was clear that there was only one thing rolling around in his brain: profit. Finally, he spun around, firmly stood his ground, and said, "80-20. That will be the share of profits---if you are able to make the device to interface properly."

"I know you can do better than that. Twenty percent is hardly worth my time and expertise," Lance replied without blinking.

"You Hu-mons," Dron mumbled. He then said louder, "75-25."

Lance stepped over to Alison and gently took hold of her arm, as if to escort her out of the room.

"I'm sorry things could not work out," she quietly and almost sincerely said to him.

"It is a shame," Lance agreed, just as softly, "but I am sure that we can work out another solution."

"You are driving a hard bargain!" Dron exclaimed from the other side of the room. "70-30. My final offer."

Lance stopped short of the door and smiled at Alison before turning back to Dron.

“All right, deal.” Lance held out his hand. “When can you get me a copy of the prototype? A working copy of course.”

Dron eyed Lance’s outstretched hand before shaking it. “I can send the specifications and blueprints as soon as I return to the lab. How long will it take for you to design the interface, Hu-mon?” He smiled his toothy grin. “Profit waits for no one.”

Lance frowned in thought. “Well, I don’t really know. I’ll have to design the microbiologic connections, design nanites to work on the nerves…” He shrugged. “Could be weeks at best. After all, you do not want a bad interface that does not work properly, or even worse causes harm to the patient.”

Lance cringed. “Just think of the lawsuits.”

Dron nodded gravely. “Yes, the consumer can be fickle. We will have to insist on waivers.” He grinned as he nodded at his superior idea.

Lance nodded with him. “Yes, well I’ll leave that up to you. You seem to be quite the businessman.” He turned to leave. “I’ll look for that information expediently. The sooner I get it, the sooner I can get to work. A good day to you Mr. Dron.”

Lance and Alison left the room, with Dron slowly wringing his hands together as happy daydreams of riches and naked humans danced in his head.

LT. Commander Lance Hartcort
Chief Medical Officer
USS Serendipity NCC-2012


LT. Alison Schneider
Science Research Officer
Starfleet Research San Francisco

962: Sunny San Francisco

by Lance Hartcort and Alison Schneider
Concurrent with Picking up the Pieces

-=USS Serendipity

The doors to the transporter room slid open as Lance walked past them. A small Starfleet issued-duffel bag was slung over his shoulder. He walked up to the transporter console and the operator that was stationed there.

"Good morning Ensign." He said as he approached.

The young ensign smiled at Lance from behind the console. "Mornin' sir. What can I do for you?"

"You can beam me down to Earth my good man." Lance said as he turned and stepped up onto the transporter pad.

"Sure, where to?"

Lance clapped his hands together and rubbed them in thought. He had not really planned on taking anytime away from sickbay, but in typical Lance fashion he woke up less then an hour ago and decided he needed a break. He had not thought about where he wanted to go, only that he wanted to go, somewhere.

He snapped his fingers. "What time is it in San Francisco?" He asked.

The ensign hit a button on the console. "Twelve after twelve in the afternoon. It is eighty-two degrees and sunny."

"Excellent!" Lance smiled as he straightened his uniform. "Bay View Café, 125 Dalton Street in sunny San Fran if you could."

The ensign smiled. "You got it. Have a good trip."

Lance winked and pointed at the ensign as he began to dematerialize. "Catch you on the flip side."

Lance materialized standing on the sidewalk directly in front of the Bay View Café. The warm sun shown in the sky, its rays reflecting off of the water in the San Francisco bay casting waving bands of light onto the front of the café.

Lance squinted as he looked at the patrons seated at round tables out in front of the café. Large brightly colored umbrellas shaded them from the sun. Waiters moved between the table taking and delivering orders to the customers.

Lance held up his hand over his eye to shield them from the glare coming off of the windows and he looked to the far corner table. Seated there was a man in a Starfleet uniform. Salt and pepper hair was cut short on his head and Lance could see the frame of the man's glasses sitting comfortably behind his ears.

* Right where he should be. * Lance thought as he started to walk towards the man.

As Lance approached he noticed that he was reading a menu and also took notice that another menu sat on the table across from the man and two full glasses of water sat on the table.

Lance approached and stood next to the man. "So, is this seat taken or am I gonna have to stand?" The Starfleet officer looked up and frowned until he recognized the man standing front of him.

"Lance! My boy!!" He stood up and wrapped his son in a strong hug.

Lance returned the hug. "Hi dad, I figured I'd find you here."

"Grab a chair!" Martin Hartcort pointed to a empty chair at a nearby table. "Join us." Lance grabbed the chair and pulled it over to the table.

"Us?" He asked.

"Yeah. Us." A female voice replied from behind him.

Lance turned around, and although perhaps he shouldn't have been, he was mildly startled. "Alison," he said.

His former shipmate, Alison Schneider, tossed him a casual smile as she sat back down. "Two Dr. Hartcorts." She glanced from Lance to his father. "To what do I owe this pleasure?"

The elder Hartcort set his menu down and with an honest look of puzzlement on his face replied, "Your guess is as good as mine. This is a surprise visit." He turned toward his son. "A welcome one though."

Lance felt his father staring at him, sizing him up. It was only a brief glance; that was all his father ever needed, and it was all Lance needed to be reassured that he had made the right decision in coming down here.

A waiter came over and looked at Lance, but before he could say anything, his father spoke up. "Another menu." He then briefly turned to Alison and asked, "You don't mind?"

"Why would I? It's not like I don't get the chance to see you often. I only work for you. Again." She flashed another smile, this one less than innocent.

"Of course, sir," the petite waitress said in response to his request. "And to drink, sir?" she asked, speaking to Lance now.

"Water, for now, thank you."

"So," Alison said, breaking the anything but awkward silence as soon as the waitress had left, "I hear that you have been keeping a new ship together, the Serendipity."

Lance picked up the menu and opened it. "Yeah, it has been a wild ride in just a short time frame. You know how it is, you agree to go to a conference, get side tracked to help with a pandemic, get offered a new CMO position on an active starship, it's pretty standard. Happens all the time I am sure." He smiled.

"Yes." replied his father. "I heard about you actions on Bajor. Well done indeed. Although I don't think the government will be giving you the key you the planet anytime soon." He took a sip of water from his glass. "They should, but you made some very powerful enemies."

Lance nodded. "Maybe, but some good friends also."

Martin raised his glass. "And that my son is the main reason we do this crazy job."

Lance smiled and turned to Alison. "So, working for my old man? What does he have you doing here on the big blue marble?"

"The same thing he had me doing last time. Except that I'm not getting paid for it." She shot a look toward the elder Hartcort.

"You did agree to sign up for Starfleet," was his response, one which sounded quite well rehearsed and well used.

"Yes, well I never imagined that the paperwork was going to kill me."

The waitress returned, and the three of them stopped their conversation long enough to place their orders.

Alison then resumed with her answer. "It's why I left Indigo. Not the people, not the job, the paperwork. So I came back to Earth, thinking I could go back to private research. Except then some little green hobgoblin invoked some clause in some contract and would not let me resign."

"The little green hobgoblin in question would be Commodore Kelvik," Martin filled in.

Lance nodded in recognition. Although he was under Starfleet Medical, much like his father, he still knew who the head of Starfleet Science was.

"I'm telling you," Alison said, in her usual rapid-fire manner of speaking, "if a Vulcan can have a Napoleon complex, this one does."

Lance laughed. "I like to see him in that hat."

"So, what brings you to Earth my boy?" Martin asked.

Lance shrugged. "Free time, kind of. Needed a break mostly. While I like the activity, the politics are not my cup of tea."

Martin laughed. "Goes with the title. You're a CMO on a starship and therefore have the needs of the crew and the ear of the captain at your disposal." He reached over and squeezed Lance's shoulder. "In any case it is good to have you home."

Lance turned back to Alison. "You know, Pax is on the Sera also." He smiled "Not by choice, I was offered a position, but he was kidnapped."

Now it was Alison who laughed. "Who in their right mind shanghaied him? Last I saw him, he was still happy on the Indigo, at least with his work."

"He's a good man, and great at his job, even though sometimes it seems as if no one knows what that job is."

"Well, then perhaps he too can be persuaded for some down time on Earth. We don't see nearly enough Starfleet officers around here."

The waitress came and delivered their food. Each of them took a moment to wait for their food to be served and then dug in as they continued their conversation.

"The weather has been idyllic," Alison said in between bites, "so perhaps some time on the beach would be good. The sunset district is nice at this time of year. You'll find plenty of things to distract you and take your mind off of work."

Lance spied a particularly good-looking woman walking along the sidewalk near their open air café. "You don't say." He answered absent mindedly as he eyes followed her path.

His father laughed.

Lance turned his attention back to his smiling meal partners. "What?" Alison and Martin shook their heads and exchanged knowing glances as Lance smiled.

He picked up part of his salad with his fork and popped it into his mouth. "Well since I have two of the second greatest minds in Starfleet medical here with me, aside from myself of course, I do have a patient with a problem on the Sera that I am hoping you might be able to help with."

His father put down the burger he had been munching on and wiped the grease from his bottom lip with a napkin. "How can we help?"

"There is a little Bajoran girl on the Sera that has hearing damage from contracting the fever that I worked to stop." Lance pushed a bright red cherry tomato around his bowl with his fork. "Best that I can tell the vestibular nerves are damaged and cochlear nerves are dead. No signals are traveling to the brain from the inner ear. I can't find any damage to the physical components." He stabbed a cucumber and popped it into his mouth. "Any--" his speech was momentarily interrupted by a loud 'crunch crunch'. "--suggestions?"

Alison shot Martin a look. "You know what my first suggestion is going to be," she said slowly and seriously.

"And you know that Kelvik would veto such a procedure," Martin replied, just as somberly. "And with good reason."

"I'm not denying that such work doesn't have its moral issues---" Alison started to say and then stopped. She then turned to Lance and continued. "I can check with some of my colleagues over in the tech department. Perhaps they have some device that could be of some use."

"We actually have a team of Ferengi scientists partnering with us for the year," Martin said. "We're making it worth their while to work with us on universal translator implants."

Lance raised his eyebrows. "Interesting, how far along is the development of these implants? Are they viable?"

"It does not matter son. Kelvik won't allow it." Martin chimed in again as he took a sip from his water.

Lance smiled. "I am CMO of the USS Serendipity. What I do in my surgical suite is my business." He took another forkful of lettuce and stuffed it into his mouth, crunching on the lettuce. "Besides, this particular little girl has friends in high places." He turned back to Alison. "So tell me more."

"I don't have all of the details, but basically, it is an implant, all but invisible to the naked human eye, designed to be connected to the hammer bone of the middle ear."

"So, this device in essence controls the vibration and pressure caused by sound," Lance added.

"Right," Alison concurred. "It makes up for a weakened middle ear, assuming that's where the damage is. There may be other possibilities with these implants, but you'd have to speak with Dron, who is the lead Ferengi scientist here." On a less serious note, she added, "I doubt you'll have trouble making his acquaintance. He has the same weakness for human," she pronounced the word as a Ferengi would, "female flesh as you."

"We had to stop sending third year female interns to work with his team," Martin contributed.

Lance grinned. "Sounds like a kindred spirit." He turned to Alison. "And it is not a weakness, more of a deep appreciation."

Alison sighed. "Yeah, sure."

Lance leaned back in his chair. "Has the device ever been applied in this manner before? It would have to be connected directly to the undamaged side of the nerves, possibly to the audio sensors of the brain itself?"

"Son, I keep telling you that Kelvik will not allow it. That is the science department's baby." Martin restated.

Lance held up his finger. "Yes but you also said that it belonged to the Ferengi as well." Lance winked. He turned back to Alison. "So, do you think it could work?

"Lance, you know that I am first and foremost a scientist. I am willing to give anything a try."


"And I'm willing to bet that I can set you up with Dron this afternoon." She winked at Martin. "Not all of us have staff meetings in less than an hour."

A concerned look flashed across Martin's face. "Has time gone by so quickly?" He finished another couple bites of his meal before standing up. Looking down at his son, he said, "I hate to eat and run--"

"Don't worry about it, dad. Duty calls. I understand."

"If you have further time, my boy, you know where to find me." Martin stepped closer to his son and squeezed his shoulder. He then looked over at Alison. "As for you..."

"Oh, you'll be seeing plenty of me."

"Don't I always." He looked down at the table and then at Alison. "Your turn?"

She smiled at him. "Scat. I'll take care of this."

He nodded for a second time before leaving the cafe.

There was silence between Lance and Alison for another moment before he asked, "Do you think Dron will be willing to share the implant?"

Alison put down the fork she was holding and stretched her fingers, cracking several knuckles in the process. "Well, that just depends on how good my oo-mox skills are today."

Commander Lance Hartcort
Chief Medical Officer
USS Serendipity NCC 2012


Lieutenant Alison Schneider
Starfleet Science
NPC as played by
Lieutenant Lara Valera Ryn

961: Picking Up the Pieces: Two

by Rada Dengar and Zanh Liis
…continued from Part One

-=The Afterthought Café, USS Serendipity=-

No one came out of memory resequencing, especially their first memory resequencing, without feeling like they'd lost something but just couldn't fathom what that something was.

She'd heard stories and in fact even seen firsthand TI agents who would insist that they'd lost their compass again and again. Or that they’d misplaced some other piece of important technology they needed for their job only to see them come to the bitter realization later that it wasn't they'd lost the tools of their trade but they'd lost someone or something much more vital than that.

Most of the time it turned out that they'd simply lost themselves.

Liis had walked that road. She remembered waking up in a haze more than once, being made to name off lists of people she remembered.

She recalled times when she was shown images on a screen of people that she could have sworn she had never seen in her life and yet still somehow believed deep down that she'd known well. One of those people, she realized only when the Sylph had intervened, was Keiran.

It was a singular, and singularly destructive process that cost you another share of your soul, every time you went through it.

For Rada, Liis believed it could be even worse than for most. He wouldn’t understand what was happening to him. He’d be frightened of what it was, frightened of what he’d lost and even more frightened of someone finding out about it and trying to take away what he still had.

If there was one thing Liis knew about him it was that Rada didn’t easily share his fears and when it came to something as indefinable as what he must now be feeling he’d have to face it alone. Maybe once he’d have shared it with Wren but he couldn’t do that now.

Liis could only console herself with the knowledge that in Dengar's case, it was never supposed to be something he'd have to go through again.

Watching Lair now, Liis immediately recognized that the casually cautious expression on Lair's face was masking a deep concern beneath. Liis had known Kellyn long enough to recognize the signs of worry when she saw it.

She knew in the moment that her thoughts were little different from Lair's own, even as Lair showed Rada some schematics on a PADD for proposed upgrades to the Alchemy and his eyes lit up at the prospect of getting back to the work he loved.

Yes, Liis thought, she knew exactly what Lair was worrying about, as both women wondered if Rada could ever truly be the same or if the Rada Dengar they had known was now a man who would live on only in their memory.

Zanh's eyes finally left the pair as they chatted enthusiastically, and were drawn now toward the counter where coffee was served or more specifically, to the face of the woman standing behind it.

This woman, Liis feared, would never be the same.

Wren's hands were shaking as she prepared the order for that particular table in the corner. As she set the Cappuccino with two sugars down onto the tray the cup slipped, sloshing hot liquid from it onto her fingers. She didn't even react to the pain. She simply wiped up the spill and then placed Kellyn's mocha latte on the tray beside Rada's coffee.

Her hands were still trembling as she attempted to lift the heavy tray and Zanh Liis reached out, gently stopping her from proceeding out of fear that Wren would drop the lot and seriously injury herself even if she wouldn’t immediately know it. “Please. Allow me."

"Captain," she began without feeling.

"Go home, Wren.” Zanh insisted. “Someone will have to cover for you. You…" Zanh stopped to think what to suggest, realizing that Wren probably wanted to work right now as a distraction, but that this sure as hell wasn't where she should be. If nothing else she should be with her son; comforting and being also comforted by him.

"I wish I could." Wren replied weakly, not having meant to say the words aloud and not even needing to wonder if Liis had known what they’d meant.

Zanh didn’t need to respond. She just moved behind the counter, took a cup from the shelf and poured herself some coffee. She then set it on the loaded tray before picking it up.

"Maybe a trip down to the planet. Get some real fresh air, you and Tam, both." Liis suggested but it was clear even before Wren shrugged her shoulders that she had no great interest in the prospect.

It was obvious to all that could see into the numbed pain in Wren’s eyes that nowhere Liis could have suggested would have appealed to the Betazoid right now. It seemed Wren was as aware of this as anyone.

"No matter where I go, it won't matter. He won't be with me." Wren concluded sadly, speaking quietly as to be honest only with Liis because she could sense the Bajoran did understand what she was going through.

Wren knew there was no reason to further punish herself by remaining here. Pride could be a powerful force but she had enough insight into the people around her to know they’d think no less if she were to leave now. Finally she untied her apron, hanging it on the hook on the wall and disappearing into the kitchen to go out the back exit.

Regardless of how inconspicuous she had tried to be, Rada had still glanced over at the woman behind the counter and observed her for a moment with confusion once again.

"Is something wrong? Are you all right?" Kellyn asked nervously, her mind filling with possibilities of what he could be thinking.

"I’m fine. It's just...it’s that girl. I can’t quite understand it. She is so uncomfortable around me. I don’t know why but it’s like she’d nervous or frightened. I mean I do tend to have that effect on Betazoids, but with this one it’s more than that.” Rada explained, intentionally avoiding sharing with Kellyn how he found his reaction to the woman just as perplexing as hers to him. “I know I must have done something to offend her. I just wish I knew what it was so that I could make amends somehow.”

Rada had no way to understand why Kellyn would get the look in her eyes she had at that moment; and no chance to ponder it as a familiar voice interrupted his thoughts.

"It's nothing you've done, Rada, and," Liis approached the table with the tray and set it down. "It's nothing for you to worry about right now."

"Captain," Rada said, slightly startled, as he rose from his chair in greeting unsure of what he should or shouldn’t say. "Is it still Captain? I'd been told,"

"It is." Zanh simply replied, as everyone in the room but Rada knew she was studying his reactions.

Rada nodded but said nothing and the silence between the three of them was perhaps allowed to go on for too long. Suddenly, Lair felt her level of discomfort rise above what she felt able to handle at the moment, she noted she was the only one seated and felt so very out of place, and so she stood from her chair too.

"Rada, Captain. If you'll excuse me, I have to be going now. I want to run another series of tests on those numbers.” Kellyn made the best excuse she could. “I should check the figures once more before we begin fabrication of the parts we'll need."

"If you want any help, please let me know." Rada replied politely, for the man was nothing if not always polite.

"I will.” Kellyn answered, trying her best to appear as relaxed while speaking to her friend as she always would have done before. “Just don't work too hard."

Rada smiled but it was clear he knew something was wrong.

Kellyn decided she’d not allow any more opportunities for that she happen.

She nodded to him then to Zanh once more before discreetly slipping away and hoping Rada didn’t pick up on the fact that she’d left her coffee behind.

With Lair gone, Liis turned the chair that Kellyn had been sitting in around and straddled it. Rada just quietly watched, unsure why she was sitting here as Liis picked up her coffee and took a sip.

She was trying desperately to make the conversation seem casual as she asked what she believed to be the single most dangerous question anyone could ever ask someone who had just been resequenced but the only one she felt she should. "How are you feeling, Rada?”

Rada looked confused by the question, which, even though he didn’t understand the implications as Liis did was still one he’d learnt never to take at face value. No one ever sought you out just to ask how you were feeling unless they suspected the answer wouldn’t necessarily be a good one.

“I’m fine, Captain.” He quickly assured her, feeling the weight of all eyes in the room upon him as people failed miserably in their attempts to be subtle.

Immediately he got the feeling that he’d answered the Captain too fast.

“Don’t get me wrong, I know I was in a coma and it’s not that I don’t take that seriously. It’s just that I do believe I’m doing well.” He added what he hoped wasn’t too swiftly.

*Doing well?* Liis repeated his words to herself; they could mean so many different things at so many different times and she doubted Rada meant any of them now. He seemed nervous, a little more so than was usual even for him, and certainly more so than the engineer surrounded by equations who’d demanded she just give him some more time to do what he must.

“So then you feel you’re recovering just as you should?” She pressed on, taking another sip from her drink. He had no way of knowing just how much of a test this question was; Liis knew his recovery shouldn’t feel like he’d believe it should.

“Just as the doctor tells me I should be.” Rada answered, considering shrugging his shoulders but instead taking a sip from his own drink so as to appear nonchalant.

Now Liis knew he was holding something back. Whether it was a matter of a gaping void he felt in his identity or just a sore leg she couldn’t yet tell, but it was important to her not just as once again the Captain of this ship but as someone who cared about the Angosian to figure it out.

“Dr. Hartcort tells me that there could be some memory loss.” Liis added, hoping to prompt Rada to open up. When he just nodded that he was aware of this rather than answering Liis knew more prompting would be required. “Has there been?”

“Well,” Rada started, pretending to have to think about it as if he hadn’t been doing exactly that ever since he’d awoken “I still can’t remember the accident.”

Liis said nothing, just tipping the cup to her lips again and drinking as a sign that she was listening and that he should be talking.

“They told me that I was injured when a faulty conduit overloaded, but the last thing I remember before waking up in sickbay was going to bed in my quarters.” He explained, quickly justifying. “I’m told that’s not unusual in the event of severe injury, especially head trauma.” Unhappy with this topic, he immediately tried to steer the conversation in a different direction, switching to a more jovial tone.

“Speaking of head trauma, it’s a funny thing and I suppose it’s one of the advantages of a lengthy coma. By the time I woke up my head didn’t even hurt anymore. Maybe we should recommend a coma to everyone with a headache.”

Liis weakly smiled to acknowledge the joke, not that she really felt like smiling as she watched him clearly confused about what was happening to him. Still, she wouldn’t let him switch tracks that easily. “Anything else?” she asked, taking another drink from the rapidly emptying coffee before her.

“Well, Captain…” Rada said, pretending he really had to strain to think about it before finishing with a smile. “If there is anything I’ve forgotten then I’m afraid I just can’t remember it.”

“Good.” If he was telling the truth then it certainly would be a good thing, sometimes the best you can hope for after resequencing is a chance for denial. When the fragments of memories are always there then you always know something’s missing and so you have no such ability. “Then you feel you’re ready to jump back into your work?”

“Yes, I am Captain.” Rada replied with all of the confidence that he could find and Liis was surer than ever before that he had no intention of sharing what it was that was clearly bothering him.

She also heard something else in his words, it wasn’t just that he’d said ‘I am’ and not ‘I do’ as if it wasn’t just a feeling but a certainty, she genuinely believed hearing him that he did feel he could safely return to work. At the very least this answered the official question that she had to have answers to for the good of the ship, even if her questions grown from her concern for Rada were still far from being resolved.

They were mostly questions which she knew would not be answered today because many had answers Rada didn’t yet have and which only time could give to him.

“I’m glad to hear it, Danger.” She said with a nod and a much more reassuring smile, hiding well just how much it was that she hated all of this.

She hated knowing he was lying to her, if about nothing else than exaggerating how good he was feeling and she hated even more that there was nothing she could do about it without exposing the lies she had to tell him herself.

She could read the relief in him as she gave her unofficial approval of his return to duty, far more relief than a man who didn’t believe his job was in jeopardy. Then of course that was always how it felt when you could sense there were things you’d forgotten.

It wasn’t just that you didn’t know them, it was that you felt like everyone but you knew just what you didn’t; just what you’d lost.

It could cause even most self-confident of men to doubt, and worry weighed heavily on Zanh Liis about the lasting effects it could have on a man like Rada Dengar.

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


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

960: Picking Up the Pieces: One

by Rada Dengar and Zanh Liis
Hours after Friends and Family

-=Crew Quarters: USS Serendipity=-

As exhausted as she was, it was still so good to be home.

Home in this case and at this moment meant being back aboard the Sera; surrounded by her friends, her family; her crew.

She exhaled a small, weary sigh as she changed out of her uniform. She tried to dismiss the lingering, everyday pain in her spine. It was something that the doctors had struggled to treat with varying degrees of success; but she reminded herself of one thing about it that had been an odd kind of comfort to her in years past.

As long as she felt pain, it meant she could feel something. There had been hours, days, years in fact when that pain had been the only thing to remind her that she was still alive at all.

She was finally able to stop thinking about it today because she felt something else surpassing it: an intense throbbing in her head.

She could go to Sickbay for a hypo, but didn’t want to risk getting Hartcort’s attention and ending up spending the rest of the evening being scanned head to toe for a simple headache.

She knew rest was what she needed, but longed instead for little more than a long hot shower and a strong cup of hot coffee.

As she reviewed the day in her mind, she gratefully counted amongst her many blessings how glad she was to now be back in a place where no one would ask her to make any more speeches for a while.

She'd spent a difficult morning doing just that- speaking. Then came a torturous afternoon trying to make small talk with the families of the fallen Command Crew of the Zenith at a private reception after the official service; so the very last thing that Zanh Liis wanted to do now was to be around people. She asked herself again why it was that Humans had the bizarre and twisted notion that trying to eat, let alone socialize in large groups when you were grieving was ever a good idea.

Yet attending the event was what she knew she must do, and so she had done it.

As she slipped into a simple pair of black slacks and then buttoned down and tucked in one of Keiran's crisp white shirts, she knew that what she must do next was make her presence known aboard their ship. To reassure the crew that her return was truly happening. This was something that could not wait, she had to take care of right away no matter how much she just wanted to close her eyes and finally fall asleep after so many long and sleepless nights.

Again she would do what she knew she must, and put their best interests above the need she felt in this moment to simply lock herself away from everyone in the world, even if only just for a little while.

She was comforted by reminding herself again that the people she would be speaking with from here on out would only be those who served alongside her; the crew of the ship she so loved.

As she buckled her belt and pulled on a fresh pair of boots, she wondered how Keiran was faring right now.

He had stayed down below on the planet awhile longer, saying that he needed time still to talk with Gira and Gem. He was trying to build a fragile footpath between mother and daughter; one that may one day become strong enough to call a bridge, but not today. Maybe not for years to come.

Maybe it would never be strong enough to sustain any lasting connection between them. Still, Keiran was adamant that he must try.

Liis didn't envy Gira's position, and could only imagine the pressure of having a mother who was someone like Gem Lassiter.

Liis stared absently into the mirror, not really seeing her reflection at all as her thoughts returned to her own conversation with Lassiter today. It had finally happened after the official service had ended and it had been short and to the point.

She struggled to keep a hold of her powers of concentration, her thoughts clearly conflicted and split. They were unevenly divided between the exchange with Lassiter and something else that she’d much rather think of instead, as she also recalled the nearly wordless but much more meaningful conversation she and Keiran had shared before the day really began.

-=Hours Earlier=-

"Zanh Liis."

Liis heard the familiar voice just over her shoulder, and bristled. This was the moment she'd been dreading.

She turned around slowly and she watched as Lassiter approached, Keiran towering behind her. Liis' eyes immediately darted up toward those of her husband and his expression reminded her without a word that he was certain things were going to be all right.

He had done all he could to assure her of that in the early morning hours of this day already, when neither of them had been able to sleep.

She'd been pouring over notes for her speech, writing, rewriting then writing again from scratch but never being satisfied with her work. She was trying desperately to figure out how the hell you're supposed to eulogize someone you didn't know well, let alone more than eight hundred people whom you never had a chance to even introduce yourself to.

She had really begun to worry about Keiran, knowing that he hadn't intended to be gone so long and knowing something serious must've come up to prevent him from making it back from the planet by now. She later found that he’d ended up taking a walk; a walk that lasted until the sun was already beginning to cast the first, colorless traces of light upon the gently sleeping world.

The moment he walked in the door, it only took a glance at the look on his face to tell her she should not ask him what was wrong.

One look into her eyes told him that at this moment, everything in her universe felt wrong.

She tossed the PADD with her ten-times revised notes aside and simply stood up from the table she was sitting at, in their temporary shipboard quarters. All of their belongings were still down on the planet, in their house, as she still hadn't made up her mind completely if she was meant to return even after all that had been said.

Without a sound she opened her arms to him. They found solace in the silence that language, clumsy and awkward as it could be at times like this, could never give.

He grasped her tightly against him, afraid that she'd slip away again if he opened his eyes. It had happened so many times before, and talking to Gem about her own deeply felt loss brought it all back to him. Still, as frightened as he was, when she spoke softly at last simply asking him if he was going to be all right, he found the ability to speak had silently returned.

"As long as you're here, I am." He whispered, gently touching her face. "And as long as we're here. Liis," he continued, never having intended to try to influence her so directly, but knowing that they were needed here, and both wanting and needing to be certain that she knew it too. He knew what a powerful force doubt could be, and he couldn't allow it to creep up on her now when she needed to be clear of mind to decide the course of the rest of her life. "Ireland will still be there when-"

She’d stopped him from speaking with a kiss, a simple gesture which said so much but nothing more so than ‘I’m here with you’. Then as she released his lips she’d nodded, acknowledging what he’d said. "But, Lassiter,"

"Won't be givin' ya any more trouble.” Keiran had assured her, his eyes speaking of his certainty about this in the way words never could. “She's already signed the order dismissin' yer resignation. Will took care of ev'ra'thin'."

Liis made a mental note to thank Lindsay later as she began to wonder just what the man had done for her.

When she'd asked Keiran what she should expect when she spoke with Lassiter today since she'd been out for blood the last time they'd spoken, he could only shake his head sadly. "Expect to see her as you've not seen her before," he had answered gravely, "nor likely will ever again."

It was that warning from Keiran that rang in her head now as Gem approached, and it saddened Liis to see that he'd been so right.

The woman was definitely different. She seemed in this moment so much less herself than Liis had ever seen her. She wondered if it was seeing her for the first time dressed simply in civilian clothing that made her seem so much less intimidating. But she’d dismissed that possibility; it was so much more than that. This was a woman in pain, and Liis couldn't help but feel sympathy for her even though Lassiter had used that pain to lash out at Liis herself.

Now that everything had been put right, what Gem had done just didn't seem to matter much to Liis anymore.

"Zanh Liis, I am never a woman to try to shift responsibility when I've done something wrong." Lassiter declared openly, not caring who was standing by, in fact, not even noticing that anyone was. William had already left the building; and so there was no one here that Lassiter cared at all about impressing, or instilling fear in, today. "I was wrong, and I apologize. I hope that we can put all of it behind us now that you've been restored to your rightful place in The Alchemy Project."

Liis had been more than willing to do so on her own behalf since no lasting harm had come to her or her crew. But on behalf of that crew, especially Lair, Cristiane, and Dengar, Liis had a little bit harder time forgiving and forgetting.

It was only because the first two seemed to have made their peace with the situation already, knowing that they wouldn't be leaving the ship or their jobs and the latter never knew that his job was ever in jeopardy at all that she found she was able to nod to Lassiter, or at least this version of Gem Lassiter that she’d never known before, in the affirmative.

"I do as well. You've so many more important things to worry about right now," Liis replied, leaning forward toward Gem so only she could hear what she would say next. "Like getting well. You must remember, you've had a very serious surgery recently, Admiral. You must give yourself time to heal."

Liis’ tone added the sentiment 'in so many more ways than one', and Gem felt something ache inside of her chest, though it was not physical pain which was making her suffer now. She couldn't believe that she still had a heart in her chest at all, let alone one that was still functioning enough to keep her alive.

"Yes. Well." Gem cast a quick unreadable glance at her daughter, standing across the room, talking with Dane. "Keep an eye on that one." Gem then jerked a thumb in the direction of Cristiane, to leave no doubt who she meant. Keiran stepped forward to answer before Liis had the chance to.

"Believe me, Gem, am keepin' both my eyes on 'that one'." He’d assured, and it seemed Gem found this satisfactory.

"Very well. If there's nothing else, I really should head over to the reception. I must be seen there before I can finally go home." Gem concluded, and she nodded in turn, first to Liis, then to Keiran. "Take good care of your crew, Zanh Liis.” She advised. Then, realizing there was one person of whom with all she trusted to him now she’d have to make a special mention, she added, “that includes my old friend O'Sullivan here."

"I will." Liis answered, before she watched as Gem wandered quietly away.

With Lassiter finally out of ear’s range Liis looked at Keiran with her eyes widely opened. "To say that she's different was a monumental understatement." She whispered and watched intently for a response as Keiran opened his mouth but stopped before the words left his lips.

It was so easy for a wife to know that he’d changed what he'd first thought to say, and Liis also knew that when he did that, he had a very good reason. So she didn't press him on it when he responded simply with what was almost not an answer and was spoken with a hidden concern.

"She'll be back to her old self soon. You'll see."


Liis wondered, as she moved now through the halls of the Sera and towards the Afterthought, just how long it would take before some of the rest of her crew began to return to being the people they'd been before.

When she arrived she first took note of Rada Dengar, newly released from Sickbay, as he sat in the corner across a table from Lair Kellyn.

Liis watched quietly from the background as the two colleagues and friends talked, and for an instant, he almost appeared just as he had been before everything had gone so terribly wrong. Before everything, for him, had changed.

Still, appearances could certainly deceive and Liis knew better than most that was what she was looking at now. It was merely a pleasant deception belying a much deeper and much crueler, underlying struggle within. She’d seen others fight this same fight before and indeed, waged such war herself. Eventually, if you just watched closely enough, every person engaged in the same continual battle would begin to show some signs they were losing it.

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


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

959: Friends and Family

by TC Blane and Zanh Liis
Hours after One Day, Every Hundred Years

-=San Francisco, Earth=-

The line of officers representing the crew of Captain Zanh Liis and the USS Serendipity stood silently at the very back of the lecture hall, shining brightly in their perfectly appointed dress uniforms.

Not a single boot was scuffed. Not a single pip was out of alignment on their collars, and there was not a single one without a very heavy heart; knowing the true cost of the battle with the Domox in a way that no one else here present truly could.

They had all lost.

Yet here they were, every officer down to the last paying silent respects to the lives of those lost aboard the Zenith and knowing how very lucky they were to still be alive themselves after the battle.

From where she stood at the podium, Captain Zanh could make out the familiar figures at the back of the room, but purposely did not focus her vision on them. If she caught their eyes, if she saw any emotion in their faces, she would not be able to hold herself together to complete the speech that she'd come here to give. A speech that was, thankfully, almost over.

One set of eyes, specifically, she'd asked help in avoiding until that speech was finished.

If she looked in anyone else's eyes, she would struggle to keep herself composed. If she looked into his eyes, she would lose her composure altogether.

So Keiran had done what he could to fulfill her request. He was not standing with the others from the Sera or at her side. Rather, he was sitting in a row toward the front of the audience and doing his best to blend in with those around him though he knew Liis could never be completely unaware of his presence in any room, no matter its size. He was wearing civilian clothing at the request of Gem Lassiter, who also had not come dressed in uniform today.

Today she was not an Admiral. Today she was only a grieving mother, and just one of many here.

Keiran fidgeted in his seat very nervously, wedged between Gem and Gira. He kept his eyes directed to his hands, staring at the ring he was wearing as he listened to his wife address the assembly.

He couldn't help but look up every so often and glance at William Lindsay, who stood at the front of the room near Liis. Department heads from many different areas of Starfleet were present here today to pay tribute to the crew of the flagship; lost not in an openly declared war or in defense of those they swore to protect, but lost in the line of duty while doing the most important and basic thing that any officer in Starfleet could ever do; exploring the unknown.

Will stared at his boots for the most part, very much disliking these sorts of functions in general but hating this particular occasion even more, knowing that his friends were in so much pain. The air seemed too thick and polluted with sadness to breathe and only became more so with every moment that passed. He just couldn't wait to get the hell out of here and back to work.

Keiran couldn't help but notice that while Gem Lassiter's eyes seemed to be staring off into the distance at nothing, that they really weren't. They were really staring off into the distance specifically at something; at someone. That same someone who kept staring down at the floor beneath his feet.

Keiran uttered a short, silent prayer for the souls of the dead and begged strength be given to their families. He also prayed for Gem, and for Will though he the man had no clue he even needed it. Lastly, he prayed for Liis. She didn't know how much she needed it, either.

She never had.

He'd been shocked when, just before taking to the stage she had suddenly abandoned her written speech, which she had agonized over the past few days. She said it didn't feel right, that she had to simply close her eyes instead, gather her courage, and then look out into the crowd, one face at a time, and speak what she felt.

So that was what she'd done.

When it was finally over, Keiran led a Lassiter woman toward the back of the room and the exits, one on each arm. No one present would really be able to recall just what Zanh Liis had said, but as he moved through the crowd Keiran heard them all express similar sentiments stating that what she'd said was exactly what they needed to hear.

Dane Cristiane's eyes were fixed upon Gira as he saw her approaching. She remained in a state of shock, that much was clear to him. Still, as they walked by he broke his proper Parade Rest stance to reach out and tug on her sleeve. She looked up at him just as TC Blane's eyes served a warning to Dane that he'd best pay attention to his posture and hold still. The look on the young pilot's face in response to Dane's spontaneous gesture caused Blane to cut the kid a little slack, just this once.

It took some time for the auditorium to clear. No one seemed in a hurry to leave, knowing that at least while they remained in this room, they were among people who could begin to fathom what they were going through. In the world beyond the doors at the back of the hall, no one truly could.

As she stood there, backed into a corner with a line of people still waiting to greet her and shake her hand, Liis began violently twisting the chain of her grandmother's earring. She was also beginning to feel she could take little more.

She felt guilty when these people thanked her for her words. She felt that they meant so little. She felt she had done nothing to deserve their thanks when she'd failed to bring their loved ones home to them alive; to bring them home at all.

Seeing this struggle, Salvek and Blane exchanged a glance. Before he could act, Salvek was suddenly also surrounded by people who wanted to speak to him as well, so Blane nodded to the Vulcan that he would handle the situation and rescue Zanh from captivity.

He quickly and efficiently made his way through the gridlock and raised his voice slightly to be heard over the words of all around them. "Captain?"

When his first attempt failed, he reached past the people crowding her and put a hand on her shoulder. "Captain Zanh, I am sorry to interrupt, but I need to speak with you urgently."

Zanh appeared worried, thinking, what the hell could be going wrong now? She followed without hesitation as Blane led her by the arm away from the throngs, and as soon as she could lean closer to him she asked softly what the problem was.

"We should discuss it outside." TC informed her, casting his clear, vibrant blue eyes toward the nearest emergency exit. He nodded to the security guard standing sentry at the door and the man unlocked it, allowing them passage out the back way.

A moment later, they were standing in a small garden, perfectly tended, that was just one of many on these grounds; the grounds of Starfleet Academy.

“What's the matter, Thomas?” Zanh asked as soon as they were clear.

TC looked at her with complete and utter seriousness.

“Does this dress uniform make my butt look big?” He asked, before cracking a slim smile.

Zanh frowned, not getting the joke at first. “I don’t…wait a second…what?”

TC raised his eyebrows. “You looked like you needed a bailout.”

Suddenly, what he'd actually just accomplished sank in and Liis sighed gratefully, leaning back up against the nearest tree for a second to catch her breath.

"You've no idea. I needed a bailout worse than the crashing Ferengi stock market. You were very convincing, believe me I thought you were going to tell me that Reece was flashing back to past hosts and swinging from the chandelier in the lounge and we had to go talk him down."

"Now that would be a sight to see." Blane mused, as Zanh pushed off from the tree and started walking again.

He followed in step beside her, never rushing ahead, never falling behind. He remained always at her side, just as he had been so loyally for such a long time now.

"Be careful what you wish for, Mister Blane." Zanh said with a small laugh. "You haven't known Reece quite as long as I have. Chandelier swinging is a likely future possibility, if not an outright eventual certainty."

Even as she joked her voice was flat, without the usual humorous inflections as she spoke the words. Her mind was occupied with so many other thoughts that she barely knew what she was saying at all. All of those thoughts jumbled together but somewhere in the mess that was her mind one thought rose above all others.

It came to her now that she had never thanked Blane appropriately for coming to her home in Cork and setting her back on the proper path.

"So, Thomas, I need to say something to you." She began slowly, pausing as she tried to think of the words to speak to a man whom she could usually communicate just about anything she wanted or needed to without using words at all.

"Oh?" Now Blane's eyes shifted slightly, only conveying for an instant that now he was the one who was concerned.

"Yes. There's a situation I need your advice on, actually. A very serious, potentially hazardous situation."

TC blinked but did not flinch as their steps continued forward. "I'm listening."

"Well, the situation is this. Do I make Dane move the bed back to the ship again or do I tell the Irishman that we have to make another one to keep up there before Cristiane does permanent damage to himself?"

Blane's eyes held a spark of understanding now, a feeling most welcome to him when he realized what she meant. She had heard what he'd said, what Salvek had said as well. What was more, she had listened to it.

She was going to return to her ship and crew.

“Well," Blane said with a gleam in his eye, "I would not want the young man to get lazy.” He winked. “Hard work is therapeutic for the soul.” He shrugged, adding in an entirely different tone, “besides I think it would be good for him. Kind of...good, healthy symbolism for the return of his mentor. And his nemesis, of course.” He joked.

"Well, I have to go easier on Dane these days. If I kill him, who's going to paper train that puppy Lindsay sent me?" She widened her eyes, and Blane nodded.

TC laughed softly, thinking that job would be good experience for the kid, too. It would certainly help to keep Dane humble by reminding him of his current position in the food chain.

As they continued walking, Zanh was stopped for a moment by the mother of the Zenith's lost chief engineer, and she offered her condolences as best she could. She always felt so hesitant to say anything at times like this, afraid to say the wrong thing. But knowing that silence could often be the very worst thing, she'd say something simple that she hoped would at least acknowledge the person's suffering.

She remembered all too well what it was like to grieve, and the good and the bad of what people said in response to her at those times. As rare as they were, the people who managed to say the right thing, or to say with just a knowing glance that they felt empathy for her pain, did more than enough to offset those who made hasty statements that were of no help at all or worse, those that actually hurt.

After the woman moved on, Liis sighed softly and began to run her hands up and down her arms as if fighting off a chill that didn't truly exist in the bright morning sunshine. She stared into the distance, saying nothing about the exchange. Blane allowed her to recover in silence before he spoke again.

“These families, every one of them, need to know that their loved ones did not die in vain. Dying to save worlds of telepaths is honorable to say the least.” TC glanced at her. “Keep letting them know that.”

"I've tried to." Liis answered softly. "I just wish that I could give them so much more than empty words of regret." She truly hated that she could not. "Words are meaningless."

"Your words may be many things, Zanh Liis O'Sullivan, but one thing they have never been is meaningless." Blane objected. "Meaningless words are words without feeling or sincerity to back them up. You've given them both those things in addition to your words. What more could they ask of you?"

She thought of many more things they should have been able to ask of her.

She pondered his comments in silence as they turned around and headed back the way that they'd come. After a few moments had passed, Liis stopped walking and looked at Blane directly. "Thomas, answer a question for me."

Blane tilted his head slightly to show he was listening and waited for her to ask it.

"I happen to know for a fact that Salvek was going to offer you the post as XO. Would you have taken it?"

He thought for a moment. “Well I don’t know.” He glanced at her from the corner of his eyes. “I was not asked.”

"Don't get smart with me." Zanh shook her head. "You're far too important, too good an officer to remain my SO forever. Now you know I am perfectly happy to keep you in that post until we're both old and gray and completely senile. But there comes a time a man has to think of his career." Liis' tone was solemn and serious as she continued without stopping to breathe.

"There will be doors opening up to you, more and more in what I am sure is the not too distant future. If you should ever choose to walk through one of those doors, as much as I've come to depend upon your insights," she smiled softly, thinking back again over many times that Blane had talked sense into her when no one else could; including the most recent time he'd done it and how he'd done it, giving her back as good as she gave in the fight. "I'd never want to hold you back."

“Captain.” He stopped walking and she halted as well. She watched him intently as he turned to face her and then finally spoke. "You've seen my service record, been my commander, my friend for quite some time now.” He folded his arms across he chest and stared at her. “Where in all of that do you see me thinking about my career in Starfleet?”

"You certainly weren't thinking of your career when you rushed to join the Alchemy crew in saving my sorry ass from the Ferengi..."

He didn't respond to her remark, instead he nodded towards the sky. “Up there is a ship full of my friends…” He nodded back towards Zanh. “…my family.” He tugged at his uniform. “This is my ticket or tool, if you would, to be around for them. To serve them, protect them, provide for them. To make the universe a better place by upholding the credo of the Federation as well as my own.”

He took a step and Zanh followed where he led. “If I was so worried about my career I would not still be working for you, that’s for sure.” He smiled.

"Of course not." She said simply, smiling back at him genuinely as well.

They walked in silence the rest of the way back to the lecture hall. Once there, she saw a few familiar people waiting for her in the distance, and her smile faded. "Duty calls."

"Doesn't it always."

She squared her shoulders and prepared for the hardest conversation of all she'd likely have today, the one with Gemini Lassiter. "Well, I'll tell you one thing for sure. Even if you weren't asked..." She held her hand out toward him, and he grasped it firmly in a shake, pumping once before releasing it.

"The Sera can do no better than to have a man like you on the bridge. No matter what label is affixed to you or how many shiny things are on your collar." She waited a second, before her eyes met his in a sincere and grateful stare. "Thank you, Thomas."

"What for?" He asked, still uncertain just what he'd done.

"You know damn well what for." Zanh whispered, before she finally left his side.

Blane watched her, moving forward as she inhaled deeply of the fresh outdoor air; so different from the stifling atmosphere that existed just beyond the shining glass doors up ahead.

Liis steeled herself for one last exchange of words she only hoped were meaningful and approached the towering building feeling much better prepared to fulfill the last of her official duties for this day.

Commander TC Blane
Second Officer/Chief of Operations
USS Serendipity NCC-2012


-=/\=- Zanh Liis O'Sullivan
Commanding Officer Once Again
(and You're All Stuck With Me Now- Woo hoo!)
USS Serendipity NCC-2012

958: One Day, Every Hundred Years

by -=/\=- Keiran O'Sullivan

Immediately following The End of the Story



Keiran found Gem in the Grand Lobby of their current location; headquarters of Temporal Investigations.

She was standing completely still, off in a corner and silently staring up at the domed ceiling, eyes firmly fixed upon it even as curious people frowned at her in confusion when she ignored their polite greetings as they passed by.

"So." Keiran said softly, rocking his weight from his heels to his toes in a manner which, when Lassiter observed it at last, reminded her more than a little of his wife. "Think we should talk."


His eyes widened as if to ask if she was kidding.

"All right, all right." She groaned. She wouldn't have wanted to admit it to him, but now that someone, especially someone as trustworthy as he was knew the truth, it was a relief to finally have someone she could talk to about everything that'd happened.

She also knew he'd have questions, and she felt that he was entitled to the answers if he was going to help her shoulder the considerable weight of this burden from now on.

"We need somewhere that's safe, then." Keiran noticed that the longer they stood here, the more people were taking note of their presence, and Gem's distant expression. Most of them would accept it as a sign of her grief once the news of her son's death was common knowledge within the agency; but there would be those who may not be so easily misled into believing that was all there was to know about her strange behavior. "Care for a quick trip to Cork?" he asked, as he gently nudged her out of her corner.

"Actually," Gem said, following him onward toward the exit, "I know somewhere we can go that's much closer."


A short time later she was unlocking the door to a small, second-floor flat that Keiran had never seen before.

When the door opened and she called for the lights, Keiran was astonished. It was immaculately kept, absolutely spotless...and completely out of its time.

Everything within it, down to the last set of curtains on the windows and light fixture on the wall was forty years out of date.

"Nice place ya've got here." He observed, as she gestured for him to sit down. "Not exactly what one would expect of..."

"...a powerful Starfleet Admiral?" She laughed softly, humorlessly. "Maybe that's why I keep it. Because when I lived here all the time, I wasn't a Starfleet Admiral." She answered his unspoken question before he could ask it. "Why do you always return to that field in Cork, O'Sullivan? Think about that before you ask me why I've kept this place all these years."

Keiran's eyes grew even wider than she thought possible, and the expression on his face was one of such clear shock that she couldn't help but shake her head and laugh again.

"Yes, I lived here at the time that it all...happened." She looked away now, somewhat embarrassed as she added, "but nothing actually happened here, if that's what you're thinking."

His expression immediately became one of relief. He hadn't wanted the mental images that came along with thinking that the reason she'd kept the place was because she had those sorts of memories here.

"Not that he didn't try," A slight smile curled just one edge of her mouth. "Valiantly." That hint of a smile turned quickly into a satisfied smirk. "Failed spectacularly. But he did try."

The warmth of the memory of hours spent bantering back and forth with Will here, when she'd known him only as 'Michael' faded quickly, overtaken in an instant by the freezing cold of the sadder moments that followed.

Moments she wished that she'd been able to forget, for they still stung just as painfully all these years later.

Moments like the ones they'd spent saying goodbye.

Keiran noticed the return of the haunted look in her eyes and wished to get this over with, if that was what she wanted, without adding to that sadness if he could. The best way to do that, he thought, was to keep her talking by answering his questions.

"There are a few things I'd like ta know," Keiran began slowly, as she took her boots off, then went into the kitchen and washed her hands. She procured two glasses and a bottle of Scotch from the cupboard, but Keiran waved her off as she poured him a glass and brought it to him. "Gem, I don't drink anymore, mind?"

She had no problem with his decision not to join her. "More for me." She decided, sitting down on the large chair across from him. She tossed the first one back quickly and then settled into drinking the second much more slowly. "Ask your questions, O'Sullivan. I'll answer them."

"Well, obviously..." he actually reddened slightly, and began to do that annoying thing where he fiddled with his wedding ring that Gem hated. It made her nervous just to watch it. "How the hell did'ya keep ev'ra'one from figurin' out that Nicholas was born..." He stopped, knowing he'd said enough to convey the question without elaborating.

Gem sighed, closing her eyes and clutching her glass. She immediately felt the same rush of sheer panic that she had all those years ago, when she realized the truth about her 'situation' and that if it was discovered that she was pregnant by a man not from her time, that TI would make her abort the baby immediately, no questions asked or answered, for fear of what its very existence could do to the timeline.

She didn't care what she had to do, she couldn't allow that to happen. She remembered telling herself over and over as she lived a life she didn't want that this was what mothers did for their children every day, worlds over. She was no different.
She was no better.

"No one," she breathed the words out through gritted teeth, and Keiran marveled at the determination in her voice as she remembered and spoke just as if this had happened yesterday, "...was going to take William's son away from me."

-=Flashback: 2357=-

"Adam, you have to do something for me." Gem paced back and forth in the office of Adam Galloway.

He frowned at her. "I never like where it goes when you start a conversation that way, Gem."

"I have never asked you for anything like this before, so don't pretend that I have." She protested indignantly. "Jonas, maybe. But never me. So don't act as if I've come once too often to the well."

Adam knew that she was telling the truth. In fact, if anything, he was the one who had asked many a favor of her along the road they'd traveled together in the time they'd known each other. He owed her far more favors than he could ever repay- and until today she'd never brought that fact to his attention purposely.
On the contrary, any time he'd tried to make things easier on her or save her any trouble because he felt very much and very rightly that he owed her, she never allowed it.

If she was asking something of him now, she had to be in very deep trouble.

"Jonas just got back from a Jump a week ago..." he ventured, "are you going to ask me to reassign you again? Because we've been through this before, and if you two keep this up-"

"Not at all," she interrupted. "To be blunt, I am asking you to send us away for awhile. Jonas is pretty burned out after the past few Jumps, you know that. Well, proving his insanity without a doubt, he proposed to me again immediately upon his return and proving mine, I've finally accepted. I would like, after all the time we've spent doing nothing but work the past decade of linear time..." she paused, "...an extended honeymoon."

"About nine months long?" Galloway glared at her, proving again that he was a man not easily fooled. Gem's cheeks turned crimson. "God, Gem. You didn't. Tell me that you didn't. You, of all people."
The look upon her face answered the question for him and he groaned, loudly.

He was the only one who had been entrusted with the story of what had really happened after it was all over. As her immediate superior and Director of the Agency, she knew that she'd had to trust him with it. He had chosen not to end her career on the spot, but he might rethink the wisdom of that decision now given this new information.

"I won't apologize to you for what happened." Gem enclosed her hands protectively, and instinctively over her mid-section. "I sure as Hell will disappear from the face of the Earth never to be seen or heard from again if you even breathe the threat of wanting to intervene. And you can't let me do that because I know too much. I am far too valuable to you and this agency and you know it."

He hated it when she was right.

She was so often right.


"Look, Jonas was so drunk the night before he left for that last Jump, he has no idea what happened. It won't be difficult to..." she stopped. "Don't worry. Just...let me live as a civilian for a year. Let me be seen by civilian doctors, under an assumed name. Then let me reappear next year with our son and no one will think anything of it."

"With your son. Yours, and his." He was indicating the man she had only been willing to refer to by his alias, Michael Blakeney; TI agent on a mission from the future, back to the past that was their present.

"Adam," Gem moved forward, placing her shaking hands flat upon the top of his desk as she leaned closer to him. "Don't take this from me. I promise you, I will give this agency and Starfleet the rest of my life if you let me have this one thing. If you don't." She was not making a threat, instead he knew it was simply a promise of the course of action she was determined to take. She would keep her child, with or without his blessing. "This is the easiest way for everyone. No one will question it, with you to help me with certain small details."

"A-ha! See? I knew that part was coming up next! Damn it, Gem..." He ran his hand up and across his bald head, sighing heavily. "If this kid grows up and brings about the end of History as we know it..."

"He won't. In fact," she lowered her voice even more, disbelieving what she was saying but knowing that it was the only way, as well, to seal this deal. "I promise you that he'll belong to Starfleet. I'll raise him from the beginning to become a perfect officer."

If anyone could do that, he thought, she could.

"I'm going to regret this someday." Galloway warned her sadly, "and so will you."


"That's why you said that," Keiran stammered. "Galloway was..."

"If you had to talk to anyone about the Zenith disappearing, it had to be Galloway. He knew exactly what..." she spoke the words for the first time now as if she were beginning to accept them, "...losing Nicholas would do to me."

"And Jonas..."

"God, Keiran you've known Jonas for decades, do you think his attention span is really that long? I assure you, it's not. Factor in all the resequencing procedures he's had and he doesn't remember his own history any more, let alone anyone else's."

Keiran nodded.

"Then we had Gira, and for years we were the perfect Starfleet family. And I have given everything I am and everything I have to Starfleet in repayment of that one debt I owed to Adam Galloway." Gem continued, finishing the liquid in her glass and swallowing hard. "I should have known that Time is always the one that has the final say."

Keiran wanted very much to believe that she was wrong about that.

He tried to dismiss the chill that ran through him and keep his thoughts on task. "What about William bein' assigned to me?"

Gem smiled wryly. "You religious types. You think that everything that happens in your life is the result of Divine intervention, O'Sullivan? Well not that time, unless I've been promoted to the position of 'deity' at some point and am as yet unaware." She inhaled and exhaled slowly as she remembered the day years ago when Jonas contacted her via subspace, in a fit and spitting nails.

-=Flashback, 2377=-

"What did O'Sullivan do now?" Gem asked her ex-husband as he stared at her from the viewscreen. He was a man she was still forced to interact with professionally, whether she wanted to or not.

[You won't believe it.] Jonas grumbled, pouring himself a strong drink.

"He got involved with Zanh, didn't he?"

[Damn it, Gem, I can't ever tell you anything you don't already know, can I?]

She ignored the question, since he didn't really want an answer. "And your response was?"

[I told him that I'm splitting them up.]

"You didn't!" Gem's eyes flashed fury. This was not the right thing to do. "Hypocrite."

[That's exactly what Keiran called me.]

"Well, he's got every right, it's exactly what you are."

[Well, breaking the rules turns out so well, doesn't it, Gemini? Look how happy we were,] he snarled. Their marriage had ended years before but still, when the news came that Keiran O'Sullivan needed a new, long-term Jump partner, he would be forced to consult her on the decision.

Without his knowledge, she would work quickly and tirelessly behind the scenes to see to it that O'Sullivan was assigned one of the brightest new recruits that TI had ever seen; a man whose career she had watched quietly and with interest as it led him toward the agency.

A man who had risen to the rank of Lieutenant; a man who was called William Lindsay.

"I'll think it over and then send someone down." Gem replied casually, even though she knew already exactly what she was going to do next. "Just lay off of Keiran, will you? Man's got enough trouble, he doesn't need you preaching at him. Lassiter out."


"The two of you needed each other," she offered as explanation of her decision to engineer things this way. "I don't know which of you has depended upon the other more over the years. You on him, or him on you."

Keiran wasn't sure he could answer that question honestly, either. It was about as close to a draw as you could get in his estimation, only he'd never admit that to Will.

He had another question, still. "From his perspective...I mean, if he remembered it..." Keiran struggled, it was so difficult, even for him, at times to keep these events and the years in which they occurred in proper order. "When did Will make that Jump...the one when,"

"The one that resulted in Nicholas?" She stared blankly at her empty glass. "While you were on medical following another failed resequencing procedure and too incapacitated to work."

Keiran cringed. Another time he hadn't been there for Will, when Will had needed him. Yet, Will had never mentioned it, so that had to mean only one thing. "He must not have remembered. After he came home. After they resequenced him."

"No, he didn't," Gem said flatly. "You see, Keiran, William Lindsay is one of the greatest memory resequencing success stories you'll ever find. That's because of the type of personality he has. It's the same reason he was recruited for TI to begin with. He lives very much in the present. Now is the most important time for William, always. That being the case, it's very easy to erase yesterday. No matter..."

"No matter how much yesterday mattered," Keiran finished.

"Exactly." She stood and retrieved the bottle, pouring herself another glass of whiskey.

They talked for a very long time, neither one of them aware that moments had turned to hours somewhere along the way.

Keiran not only listened but answered questions she had for him about his own experiences with memory resequencing and lost love.

The one thing he did not do, however, was offer her any advice. He knew damned well that their situations were only similar on a very surface level; there was nothing that he could say to try to advise her that wouldn't come off as either completely self-righteous or just grossly misinformed.

"You know..." she said softly, as she finally glanced over at the bag which still contained the copy of The Scarlet Pimpernel that Nicholas had never read. "As much as that story reminds me of that time, there's something else I often think of, when I think of him."

Keiran waited silently for her to decide if she wanted to continue. After a few moments, she did.

"You've spent enough time in and around Scotland. Ever hear of Brigadoon?"

"Scottish legend says that i's the little town in the Highlands that disappears in the mist, no? At the end of the day?" he asked softly, though he was certain he was correct.

"Yes." She stared blankly forward. "The little town that only appears one day out of every hundred years. When I think of him the way that he was...that we were...of that time, that place," she paused as she struggled for the words to explain.

"It's like everything that took place happened in a location that disappeared from existence the moment he was gone. The entire world changed, while he was in it. Just being who he was...by showing me who I could be..." she shivered as she sighed softly. "He showed me a place that seemed to disappear at the end of the day. A place that can't be recreated without him."

She lowered her eyes to her hands, shaking her head as she noted the signs of age so clearly evident upon them. For Will, the difference between his age now and the age he'd been during the Jump was little more than ten linear years.

Since the clock had never been altered for her, she had aged so much more than that. "He was mine, for that one day out of a hundred years. And if I had to live all of those years over again just to get that day, I'd do it without thinking twice."

Keiran was forced now to look away from her. He knew just what she meant.

"Doesn't matter how old you get on the outside, Keiran," she added sadly. "When you love someone that way, the clock stops the moment they leave your side and the hands of time never move again for you unless and until you get them back." Keiran was the one man she was willing to bet could understand exactly how she felt.

"But there is no getting my William back, and I know that. That's why it meant to much to me to have Nicholas. You know..." she sighed softly. "He was so much more like his father than anyone realized."

Suddenly she felt very tired, and she rubbed her aching eyes. "I'm about ready for this to be over. Is there anything else you want to say or ask before you leave?"

Keiran knew that was a warning his time here was almost up, and he sighed. "Just that," he frowned. "am worried about you. Are you goin' ta be all right?"

"I always am," she replied rather unconvincingly, and she was again in this moment the woman that he had always known her to be. She was unemotional, untouchable, and seemingly fashioned from stone. He knew better now, though. She was not a cold and lifeless statue; she was every bit as human as he was.

"Are you goin' to go ta the service in the mornin'?"

"You mean four hours from now?" she corrected him, and only then did Keiran realize that the reason he was so tired was because it was so late.

"God, is that right?" He looked at the old-fashioned clock on the wall. It read three AM.

"Yes. It is. Goodnight, Keiran." She forced out two more words, as difficult as they were to say, she sincerely meant them. "Thank you."

"If ya don' show up for the service I'll be forced ta come looking for ya, ya know."

"I will be there," she said, indicating he should rise from his seat and gesturing toward the door. "If for no other reason than so you don't come looking for me."

"William, he's..." Keiran rubbed his beard thoughtfully as he walked past her. "He's going to be there. Are you,"

"Keiran Riley O'Sullivan..." She put her hands up against his immensely broad back and pushed him closer to the door. "Go."

"Aye, sir," he reluctantly agreed. "Gem," he reached out and put his hand on her shoulder. The gesture was so kind and the concern in his eyes so sincere that Gem could barely stand it. "If you ever need ta talk about this again, you can always come to me."

"I'll remember. Keiran," she paused, "I know I don't have to explain to you how vital it is that William never know any of this."

"No." Keiran concluded sadly. "You don't."

"Good." She closed the door, and he reached out, catching it with his hand just before it slammed shut.

He looked at her through the narrow crack and sighed. "I truly am sorry for your loss, Gem."

"You can..." she fought for the words as she tried very hard to control her emotions now, "save it for the service tomorrow."

"Wasn't talkin' about Nicholas." Keiran whispered, before he finally withdrew his hand and allowed her to close the door.

Gem turned away from the door, pressing her back up against it as tears burned her eyes once again. She had no need to fight them now, there was no one here to hide that vulnerability from any longer. Still, she did it anyway.

She finally crossed the room, and picked up the glass from the table. She took it to the bedroom with her, and once there, she reached out and touched a panel on the wall.

She scanned the menu of items it displayed, and selected one.

She adjusted the volume setting, and then sat down on the bed as the music she'd chosen started to play.

She set the glass down on the nightstand and lay back into the pillows, closing her eyes.

For just a moment as the orchestra played that same, sweeping version of Moonlight Serenade she remembered so well, she could clearly see him standing there, with her mind's eye.

He was flawlessly dressed, and his grin was still as disarming as she recalled as he winked at her, looking just as he had the first time she ever laid eyes upon him.

She remembered the faint, intoxicating scent of his cologne as he drew her closer and swept her around the dance floor. He was every bit as charming as he believed he was, even if she had refused to let him know it.

The memories began to fade once more as the music played out. Now all that was left was for Gem to convince herself again, as she had thousands of times before, that was the past and this much colder, harsher reality of being without him was now.

It was as difficult a thing to do as it had ever been, but she finally succeeded by reminding herself that when he cast those same bright and brilliant blue eyes upon her later this morning in a crowded room full of strangers, that he would not remember ever having danced with her at all.
-=/\=- Keiran O'Sullivan
Security Liaison to The Alchemy Project
USS Serendipity NCC-2012


NRPG: A note to our readers (thanks for subscribing, btw...)the new mission will begin very soon. It's going to be something completely different--stay tuned.~ZL