1089: Plans and Duty

By Tam Elton (as told by Rada Dengar)
After Shattered Harmony

-=Sickbay, USS Serendipity=-

It was an anxious moment in sickbay as Doctor McKay, Dane Cristiane, Lair Kellyn, Trev Sterling and the children all stood closely gather around the small screen as if it were a dying flickering flame that held their only hope of warmth. They had no way of knowing if their message had gotten through to Engineering let alone if anyone had seen it. For that matter they had no way of knowing if the recipient would have an opportunity to respond, or, given the infestation of enemy agents, if the message would have done anything more than to give their position away.

It hadn’t been long since the message was sent, merely seconds, but it was long enough that for better or worse they now knew it would have been received if it were ever to be.

“Do you think it worked?” Tam asked nervously, looking up at Lair Kellyn who had worked the controls.

Kellyn was about to answer when the question was answered for her.

“Something’s coming in,” she announced as her hands moved quickly to decrypt the data.

It was only a light encryption, indicative that the person who’d sent it hadn’t had much time, and so very soon the once apparently nonsensical text had been replaced with a few almost as incomprehensible words.

Cont fail ROMS. Dalton furrowed his brow.

“I think ya’ll might need to check your decryption algorithm. That makes about as much sense as drinking all a Klingon’s bloodwine then challenging him to a temper contest.”

“The decryption worked,” Trev answered as he stared at the words before him.

“Really?” Dalton asked sceptically. “Well I sure don’t recognise the language. What are Roms supposed to be?”

“R O M S,” Dane spelled the word out, recognising it from the academy. “It stands for required on my signal.”

“And the language is a little known and esoteric dialect known as Starfleet Engineer,” Kellyn finished. “Cont fail is short hand for containment failure. As in antimatter containment failure.”

A look passed between all but the two Engineers for whom this was new information. They all seemed to asking the same question silently but it was the second youngest among them who first spoke it aloud.

“Why would someone wish us to destroy the ship?” Arie asked uncertainly, having grown quite fond of this vessel and the people on it and so preferring that neither be put in any more danger than they had been already. Though she would be hesitant to admit it with all of her Vulcan training, she was also frightened for herself.

“Even rats will run from a burning building,” Trev observed. “In all the ways that matter corrupt, Starfleet officers are no different.”

“If they see the ship’s about to be destroyed then they’ll start transporting away,” Kellyn added to his thought in that way engineers tended to do with each other.

“Yeah, but if we can’t shut it down in time then we’ll all be killed.” Dane added without thinking.

The fact that there were children present here became suddenly much clearer to Dane with a look from Kellyn that told him he should stop speaking right now, though did so using an impressive array of Bajoran profanity. Though he was attempting to pretend it didn’t bother him, it was quite clear to the mother of a half Vulcan child that Tam had found that suggestion to be very worrying.

“That’s why we’re not taking any chances,” Kellyn answered firmly. “A simulated containment failure will do the job just as well.” She made a point of addressing this point towards Tam and Arie, though not necessarily to them because she did not wish to make them self-conscious. “The ship will be in no danger.”

Without realising it Tam very quickly nodded his approval of this suggestion, eliciting a slight smile from Dalton.

“Sounds to me like it’s a very good idea,” the hologram said. “What do we have to do?”

“The only two places you can activate a ship wide simulation are the bridge and main engineering,” Dane observed. “Neither is accessible right now.”

“When a simulation’s activated the main computer reroutes data from the auxiliary core in the place of sensors. It’s only two decks down. If I can get there I can set up a bypass manually,” Kellyn explained, already planning her route in her mind.

“Hey there, little lady,” McKay objected, a clear look of worry on his face. “Ya’ll ain’t exactly operating at recommended norms just yet. You shouldn’t be the one to do this.”

“He’s right,” Trev agreed. “I should be the one to go.”

“They won’t expect anyone to be in this area, at least no one conscious, so security will be minimal. The core is another story,” Dane observed, his tone reflecting a concern for fellow members of his crew that had been quite absent when he’d first come on board. “I’d better come with you.”

Kellyn was clearly quite ready to object to this suggestion but as she felt the coarseness air seemed to be taking when it passed through her lungs, and realised that without intending to do so she had leant her weight against the wall behind her to support herself during this conversation, she realised she was barely in any shape to argue about her right to be the one to go let alone to actually do it.

“Alright,” Kellyn agreed, as she tried to still the sudden dizziness her mind was insisting upon, though her reluctance was clear in her tone. “Well if we’re going to do this there’s no point waiting around.”

Trev nodded that he agreed with this suggestion and then Tam, who to this point had been content to be quiet, knew this was the moment where he had to make the brave offer or else he’d never forgive himself.

“How can I help?”

Trev quickly answered him in his most ‘Starfleet Officer’ tone.

“When we make the bypass there’ll be a momentary flash on one of the bridge terminals. We’ll need a distraction. I need you and Arie to remain here and assist Commander Lair and the Doctor with making one.”

Tam immediately stood much taller, eager to fulfil his duty to the best of his ability. He felt that he looked quite brave though deep down he didn’t feel brave at all. His mother and Rada were both so far away and neither could protect him now. As much as his Vulcan part told him it was only logical that he should acknowledge that it was a good thing they at least were out of danger, he was in his heart far more Betazoid and that half told him that he just wished they could all be together again. Still, he couldn’t let that show.

“I will do my part, sir,” Tam answered with all the confidence the child could muster and Trev nodded his approval.

“I’m sure that you will.” Trev looked up to the adult members of their group. “Now I think it’s time we do ours.”

“We’ll get you your distraction,” Kellyn confirmed, slightly proud of how well they were all working together. “However we can’t use the communicators. I’ll need to know now when you need it and for how long.”

Dane and Trev exchanged a glance, seeming to consider this together without the exchange of a word. It was almost enough to make Lair wonder if some sort of telepathic training wasn’t part of the secretive lessons that she was aware of Cristiane receiving from Keiran O’Sullivan among others. She really hoped that wasn’t the case, especially with the damage she may have done to those abilities with a bottle of pilsner once upon a time.

“Fifteen minutes and as long as you can give us,” Dane decided and Trev signalled that he agreed. They knew that if it took them much longer than that then it would mean they’d been forced into an engagement with the enemy. If that happened then there was no way they could keep their actions a secret for long. They had no doubt about how Brody would react if they were discovered. So they made their plan and they were sticking with it.

Seeing Dane as he was now Kellyn couldn’t help but want to smile at how far he really had come in so many ways. She didn’t smile though, as she wouldn’t want him knowing that just yet. Instead she simply nodded her head that she’d do what she could and then wished them, “Good luck.”

-=Several Minutes Later; Deck Seven, USS Serendipity=-

Just as they’d expected the area outside of sickbay had been unguarded and they’d been able to make their way through the Jeffries tubes down the two decks. However it was no sooner than they’d emerged onto this deck that they had it confirmed that their luck would not be so good here.

Immediately in the distance they heard voices; two to be exact, though their location was uncertain due to the ease with which any sound would be carried on the stillness of the air in these unnaturally empty halls. As least they didn't sound like they were approaching them.

As Trev very quietly clipped the access panel behind them back into place, Dane removed the tricorder he’d been able to acquire from sickbay from his belt.

The readings clearly indicated that aside from themselves there were only two lifesigns on the entire deck and rather than report that aloud he simply waited until Trev was done and handed him the tricorder so he could see them for himself.

“They must have evacuated the entire deck,” Trev speculated at a whisper. “Probably didn’t want to risk anyone getting access to weapons control.”

“Why would they bother?” Dane asked, equally quietly. “All weapons systems have been disabled.”

“Not according to this,” Trev observed as his readings focused in on the controls. “It looks like they’ve adjusted the ship’s weapons to counteract whatever they’ve been doing to disable the phasers. If I could find out how I might be able to bring some of the hand weapons back online.”

“We don’t have time,” Dane insisted, one of Keiran O’Sullivan’s more frequently repeated lessons being you should always assume you have less time than you think you do and never a second more than you know you do.

“We might if we split up,” Trev considered.

“No, we won’t.” Dane said more firmly, finding it strange to be insisting like this when Trev technically outranked him but also knowing that as an engineer Trev’s skills would have been with the technology whereas his own training was in keeping his fellow crewmembers alive. “Take a look at the scan of these halls.”

Trev pulled up the image on the screen before him, though with his photographic memory Dane had no need to look at it.

“The same hallway we’re in now meets with the one the two lifesigns are in at the entrance to the computer core. We can’t get around them. One of us will have to distract them for the other to get in.” Dane noted Trev was still wearing the extremely colourful Hawaiian shirt but managed to resist making a remark about how much more of a distraction Trev likely would be than him.

Tam Elton Civilian Crew
USS Serendipity NCC-2012
As told by Rada Dengar

1088: Desperate Measures

By William Lindsay and Keiran O'Sullivan
After Pygmalion’s Project

-=Main Brig: USS Poseidon=-

The cell that imprisoned them seemed to be growing smaller by the moment; an effect enhanced by the increasing annoyance Keiran felt as a single sound assaulted his ears.

William Lindsay was snoring.

It was a familiar noise, one he'd suffered through many times and that was only slightly muted by the growing volume of the warning ringing in his head; words that told him time was running out on them.

That overriding plea was conveyed by the voice of the woman he loved, and it also told him that she needed his help if she was going to get out of this alive. Now of all times he needed Will to be quiet.

“Will,” Keiran whispered sharply, attempting to rouse his friend back to consciousness.

Accepting that they wouldn’t be getting out of here any time soon, Will had lain back on their single piece of furniture in this cell. Generosity would have been calling it a seat. A far greater generosity would have been to call it a bed. Yet he had in his time slept on far rougher surfaces and in far worse company than one worried Irishman. So he’d let himself close his eyes for just a few moments that had turned into many more while Keiran stood watch.

It was clearly not a particularly deep sleep though as he shifted far more uncomfortably than he should have just because of his sleeping condition alone. Now his thoughts played out in his head as something not quite a dream, but more just repetition of his worries and regrets. Will didn’t regret many of the things that people said he ought to. He did regret, however, though Keiran wouldn’t say it, that had he not been so eager to get to the corruption then they wouldn’t be here on this ship.

It wasn’t that he regretted his choice to take action, but he did wish he’d just told Liis and Keiran to sit this one out. In fact he shouldn’t have asked but he should have ordered them. Liis may well have taken one of his extremities for giving her an order, and probably one of his favourite ones at that, but he felt he should at least have tried.


Again Will shifted in his sleep, murmuring as he did but still not moving.

“William!” Keiran said more forcefully as he shook the Scotsman’s shoulder. “Will ya bloody well wake up, man?”

Finally Will’s eyes cracked open, blinking defiantly against the harshness he found even in the comparatively low level of light. He brought his hand up to protect them.

“Better be important,” Will grumbled.

“Someone’s comin’,” Keiran added suddenly, and Will’s eyes now really opened as he picked up on the footfalls Keiran had heard before.

He quickly swung his legs over the side of his seat as the door to the room outside their cell opened and a short, shadowed form appeared.

At first the light from outside, so unkind to their unadjusted eyes, made the person’s face too difficult to make out, but as the door closed automatically behind them, familiar and worried features came to be clearer.

It was Denise Moreno taking hurried steps toward them, and now Will truly regretted having woken up.

She analyzed both men and shook her head as she approached the powerfully charged barrier that separated her from them. "So, there is such a thing as a jail that can hold the legendary Lindsay and O'Sullivan. I though you'd have figured a way out by now. I'm a little disappointed."

Keiran's jaw set but he held his tongue, there was no point on wasting words to reply.

“Whatever ya want, yer not gettin’ it,” Will said simply, making no secret of exactly how he felt about the woman right now.

Denise saw no use in trying to convince him he should feel in anyway different.

“Will, just listen,” Denise pleaded. Her voice dropped as she looked towards the door and back with marked agitation. “We don’t have much time. Brody can’t know I was here.”

Denise knew that Will felt betrayed and wouldn’t be easy to get through to.

Keiran however was not so ready to just turn away and he instead tilted his head to indicate he was listening.

"Show of good faith," Denise said, answering his unspoken question. "I'm coming in."

She held up a small and particularly vicious TI issue hand phaser on display. "I'm bringing this with me. If either of you try anything, I'll kill you."

Will and Keiran exchanged a look; the Scot remaining where he was, the Irishman stepping back a pace and holding his hands out to the sides in a gesture that he understood her.

"You've been warned," Denise said, her voice uneven as she used the remote in her pocket to disengage the forcefield for an instant so she could step beyond it.

The second she passed the threshold she hit the button again and the field crackled back into existence. She gripped the weapon tighter and fingered the trigger, another unspoken warning that neither one had better think about trying to overpower her. "Now listen to me, the both of you. As I said, we don't have much time."

“I’m not interested in an'a'thin' you have ta say,” Keiran declared, concern deeply permeating his words. “Not until I know that Liis is alright.”

Though she’d just arrived in position to be able to look Keiran in the eye, Denise wished now for all she was worth that she could risk looking away. She knew she dare not and so settled for clearing her throat in a futile attempt to try to dispel her anxiety.

“I’m sure she hasn’t been harmed,” she answered, in a way that proved that no matter how big the deception you were involved in it didn’t make you a good liar. “But I can’t guarantee that she’ll stay that way much longer.”

Had Moreno been a man Keiran would've reacted so quickly she'd never have seen him coming. He would have wrenched the weapon from her grasp and grabbed her by the throat. He would have lifted her into the air until her feet departed the deck.

With Liis' life at stake, in desperation he wanted to shake Moreno like a rag doll until she either decided she was going to help him or dropped dead in his grasp and no longer constituted an obstacle between him and Liis' freedom.

Will recognized the look in Keiran's eyes just as Denise did. She raised her weapon higher, aiming at his head.

Lindsay sighed with irritation and spoke a sudden, authoritative warning. "Down, boy."

Keiran's eyes flashed with fire. Had the words come from any other man that man would barely have lived long enough to regret them. He clenched both hands into fists in utter frustration.

"What do you mean you can't guarantee it? You're in command here, aren't ya? Jesus Christ," Keiran barked. "I don't care what happens ta you or to me, Moreno, just tell me this. Who is if not you can guarantee that my wife will get outta this alive?"

"Keiran, shut up." Will snapped, and then his tone changed, softening into one he hoped would serve to reignite some sense in Denise that he could still be trusted, yet. "Denise, what's going on?"

"The way things are going, I'm not sure any of us will get out of this alive," Denise answered gravely, her complexion taking on a pall that Will had never seen in her before.

"Denise," he repeated her name intentionally and leaned forward but did not stand as he observed the phaser still trembling in her hand. "I can't help ya without knowin' the truth."

"It's Brody," she confessed at last. "He's supposed to be working for me but it seems his priorities and mine have...diverged."

"That's what happens when ya trust a snake. Ya get bit," Will replied sadly. They both knew that he was referring less to her experience with Brody, and more to his similar experience of being betrayed by her.

"We don' have time for this!" Keiran's anger boiled over and he grabbed Will by the front of his shirt. With amazing strength and one quick yank, he hoisted the Scot to his feet.

With a great shove he sent Lindsay reeling toward Denise, counting heavily upon the fact that any woman alive would be hesitant to shoot William Lindsay. "You two bloody well better quit dancing here and get on with it!"

Sure enough as Lindsay careened into Moreno she dropped her weapon. Will kicked it away.

"Level playing field," he declared, as he locked his eyes onto hers. Denise couldn't stop color from flooding her cheeks. "Denise, we're going to have to help each other. Bring all this to an end, before everyone gets killed."

"I can't just set you free." Denise trembled as Will's hand brushed against her arm and with surprising speed she slipped from his grasp. In the same motion she pulled another phaser from behind her back and pointed it at him. "Please, Will. Don't make me use it."

"I did not think you’d see reason ta bring a second phaser," Will admitted with a regretful shake of his head, as knowing her, truthfully he hadn't. He was internally cursing himself that even still he was underestimating this woman, and that touch of bitter anger could be easily heard in his tone. "You really are full of surprises, aren't ya?"

Anger or no though, there was nothing he could do about his mistake now. He backed up and Denise skillfully moved toward the discarded phaser on the floor, keeping the one she held trained on the pair as she carefully retrieved it.

"Whatever it is you plan to do once you get the temporal drive on this beast runnin' right, Denise, you're never going to get to do it. Not if Brody is already plannin' ta take over," Will concluded.

"Planning? He's already trying,” she answered in a tone that said that trying felt a hell of a lot more like succeeding. “That's why I came here, but I think I've made a mistake."

She clipped the second phaser to her belt and then backed toward the forcefield.

"Another in the series, ya mean," Will whispered and Denise gulped deeply.

The sound of his whisper weilded more power over her than any shout she'd ever heard. A lifetime of being shouted at by one powerful man or another however, let her steel herself against the effect for the time it took to exit the cell.

She felt that she could breathe a little as the field snapped back into place, knowing that they were on the other side of it. With nothing in between them they were a danger to her life and yet it was not that which truly frightened her. It was that in the cell she was no longer in control which made their chance of escape into one more complication among the mountain that had built itself on top of her.

"You're not going to help me unless I let you out and if I let you out you're going to try to stop me,” She realised. “I can't risk that you'll succeed, no matter what Tucker Brody is planning."

She retreated toward the exit, knowing that being found here was yet another risk she couldn’t afford. However when almost at the door she was abruptly stopped, as she heard O'Sullivan make a declaration she couldn’t in her lifetime have expected.

"I don't care what you're tryin' to do here,” he said with frightening honesty. “Make the jump and go back to make yourself the Queen of the bloody Federation. All I want is my wife."

Though at any other time she might have taken this for merely a ploy, Denise was unable to stop herself from turning until she had found all the conviction she’d heard in his words in Keiran’s face. It seemed Will saw it too.

"Keiran, wait," Will stepped forward, alarmed by the fact that in this moment he couldn't be certain as he might have been in days of old that Keiran was only talking a good game. Here and now, after all he'd been through to finally get back to Liis, it seemed as likely as it was not that Keiran truly meant every word that he was saying.

“I have no interest in power,” she insisted softly, but in the faces of both men she found that they didn’t even consider believing her. Her tone lost its softness with that realisation. "This isn't about power!" she objected, "Not for me."

"What is it about then?" Will asked in the way a man did when he expected to hear a lie but just hoped this was the lie where the other person realised it was useless continuing on doing so.

Denise opened her mouth to speak, with so many crystal clear justifications in her mind, but she hesitated as she realised they were justifications only to herself. The reality was a truth so fundamental and universal to all life that even they who play with Time couldn’t yet truly find the words for it.

"You wouldn't understand," she said softly.

Keiran clearly didn’t have any patience to try to understand anyway.

"I don't care if he understands you! I don't care if he's willin' ta help you or not!" Keiran's voice crept up in volume with each word, so much so that Denise nervously looked over her shoulder to check and make sure that no one had happened to hear. "I am willin' ta do whatever ya want if you promise me that my wife will live."

"Keiran, think about this," Will warned, his words almost a plea for Keiran to stop to truly consider what he was offering and just what Liis would say if she knew of it. Keiran however apparently knew he could not afford to stop for anything.

"You." Keiran spun on Will and again grabbed him by the shirt. "You are the reason Liis is in danger to begin with. As long as I’ve known ya you’ve been bloody taking risks without thinking a second ‘bout who’d pay for them. Ya almost got the both of us killed more times than I can count. Then every time like a bloody idiot I forgave ya. Yet you repay me by delivering Liis in to clutches of that madman,” Keiran’s eyes was now truly furious and rather than just fearing what he was intending, Will was now afraid for what he’d do this second. “You've nothin' more ta say about this."

Will's adrenaline surged as he locked eyes with Keiran, trying one last time to ascertain whether or not he was still in possession of his faculties. "O'Sullivan..."

"Not a word, William. Not a bloody word."

"Brody's obsessed with your wife, Captain O'Sullivan." Denise said softly, stepping closer to the field once again. "I don't know why. But that obsession might provide us all with the distraction we need to take him out of this equation and out of your lives permanently." She looked up, and up, into O'Sullivan's storming blue eyes. "If you were to...escape," she paused, "what would you do?"

"I'd protect my wife from Tucker Brody." Keiran replied simply, adding with complete and chilling certainty, "until my dyin' breath."

Slowly Denise exhaled, almost shaking with the rapid assault of conflicting thoughts, as she tried to balance everything out in her mind. Either choice she made could very well be the one that ruined it all. It would be the one that cost her everything, especially those things she didn’t even yet have.

“You really mean that, don’t you?” she asked, but the Irishman knew she wanted no response. “And what about you?” she glanced at Will, whom O’Sullivan had now released. “You can’t expect me to believe that your only priority is rescuing another man’s wife.”

Keiran’s eyes turned back to Will as if his glare alone would somehow force him to promise Denise things they both knew he couldn’t.

“No, I can’t,” Will admitted, sad eyes looking back on O’Sullivan. “But if ya know me at all then ya should believe meh first priority is takin’ care of my friends and getting them off this ship.” Will heavily exhaled as looked now to Denise, knowing Keiran was unable to offer him any reaction until he knew if the woman believed him. “I owe them that, and loyalty still means somethin’ ta some of us.”

Denise knew that the last remark was yet another one directed at her. She also knew that what Will had said was true and that there was no way O’Sullivan would be allowing him to deviate from a moment in his efforts of rescuing Liis in order to sabotage this ship. If there was one thing she knew it was the single-mindedness that came when you were trying to save someone you loved.

She reached into her pocket and brought out the remote again, examining it in her hand for an eternal moment as if she was looking upon every choice in the rest of her life. As she asked herself if she was sure about this the only answer could be that she definitely couldn’t be. Yet she couldn’t be sure of anything anymore.

With the reluctance of a woman attempting the first step onto a bed of hot coals she altered a few settings and then she pressed the button. Though nothing happened in the room, the pain in Denise’s eyes was as though she’d just done one of the hardest acts of her life.

“It’s on a five minute delay to give me a chance to get away from here before you’re released,” she explained, before finally looking up again and finding herself confronted by two faces no surer of her than she was of them. “Please don’t make me regret this.”

-=/\=- Keiran O’Sullivan
Security LiaisonThe Alchemy Project


Captain William Lindsay
Interim DirectorTemporal Investigations

1087: For Ledbetter or for Worse

By Jamie Halliday and Ashton Ledbetter
After Two Different Men, Too Little Time

-=Main engineering, Poseidon=-

Ashton bit down on the knuckle of his index finger, as he tried to devise their next move. The longer he stared at the screen, the more he realized exactly what the final pieces to the puzzle of the Poseidon’s jump drive were. He willed himself to look away from the screen, as if that would drive the clarity of the picture from his mind.

Ledbetter could not help but wonder if the persons responsible for the Manhattan Project felt anything like he did now. The terrifying dread of knowing your work may be a success, when despite all your hard work, you were hoping to fail. Was this what it felt like to know you were on the verge of creating a weapon of unimaginable power, to be used by a man whose intentions were completely unknown to you?

There was no knowing exactly what the plans for this ship were. Destroying the Sera may only be the first blow in a war that could consume the quadrant. Then again, denying him his prize could be equally as dangerous. Ashton could only do what he thought was best, no matter how crazy anyone else thought his plans were.

The question still came down to though just what was best under these circumstances. He felt like a man being told that he couldn’t stay still but the only thing worse than going forwards was going backwards, left or right. Any way he looked at it, any action he took, the Sera and perhaps the entire galaxy were almost certain to lose. Under those circumstances many would say all a man can do is to try to look out for his own win and to hope everyone else could do the same.

Dealing with Brody was going to be difficult, however. The man could see through any subterfuge, charade, pretense or scam-o-la. He was intelligent. Damn intelligent. Perhaps even more intelligent than Ashton himself, but if so, not by much. He would see through any request made for the sake of the Sera. He would recognize any lies about what Ashton really wanted. The only way Ashton would ever hold his attention more than a few moments was to actually be Ashton, which meant looking out only for himself.

He straightened his uniform, and his hair… twice. Ashton then gave Jamie a knowing glance. Though there were some members of the crew he wouldn’t have given a second or even first thought to leaving to fend for themselves, he even gave it a third in the case of Jamie Halliday. He could only hope that somehow the young man would know enough to do what he had to do and to stay safe when Ashton couldn’t protect him.

“Carry on while I’m gone. I hope you can figure out what I could not,” Ashton said simply. Then without further delay, he marched straight up to Powell. The man looked down at Ledbetter as a man would look at a child that had interrupted his reading of the newspaper one too many times.


“I need to speak to Tucker Brody.”

“Why?” Powell folded his arms across his chest suspiciously.

“Because if I’m going to give him what he wants, I have demands that I expect to be met.” Ashton braced himself, as he was unsure what was going to come next. Whatever it was he hoped it was not the butt end of a blunt object that might permanently disfigure the smooth sloping curves of his perfectly sculpted chin.

Powell luckily was in no mood to either argue or disfigure over it. Brody brought them aboard and Brody could handle their demands if he wanted to be the big boss. Every moment Ledbetter and Halliday spent here was another moment something might go horribly wrong that Powell would pay for with his career. Given his current circumstances and the general lack of a retirement plan from large scale conspiracy organizations, that effectively meant losing his life.


“Now listen here, I will not be…” Ashton began to argue his point, before realizing that Powell had in fact agreed to his request. “Be… delayed another moment. Let’s go then!”

We’re not going anywhere,” Powell replied, shaking his head.

“Fine, I’ll find my own way then,” Ashton answered, preparing to leave. The way Powell’s nearest guards quickly stood much taller however seemed to suggest that that wasn’t a good idea.

“You’re not going anywhere either.”

Ashton then game Powell a look which suggested he was either stupid, wasting both their time, or an unfortunate mixture of the two. “I told you. I want to talk to Brody. Or do you want to be the one to explain it to him when his precious drive doesn’t get repaired?”

“Brody doesn’t want you out walking around the ship and neither do I. Either he comes here or you don’t talk to him.”

Ashton was quite prepared to whine in protest but he knew that with Brody he’d need to put on a strong front. Even when your frustrations had clearly earned it, as he felt his pretty much always had, complaining about them rarely seemed to do that.

“Fine, in that case we’ll use your office.”

Powell’s face showed he was clearly unhappy about this suggestion but nevertheless he didn’t argue. He simply hit his combadge.

“Powell to Brody.”

[What is it now, Powell?] Brody answered in a tone which clearly suggested that whatever he was doing he didn’t wish to be interrupted.

“It’s Ledbetter. He it demanding to talk to you.”

Even without seeing his face, everyone here could tell that Brody’s expression would convey he put very little stock in anything Ashton demanded from him.

[Tell him ta get back ta work. Then make it very clear he is not to contact me again until he knows how ta fix the drive.]

“But I already do!” Ashton protested, leaning in and somewhat uncomfortably yelling into Powell’s chest.

With that, you could almost hear Brody’s eyebrow rising. He did however offer no words in response, allowing Ashton to continue. “And since I’m the only one who knows how, you really shouldn’t hurt me.”

[Perhaps,] Brody mused. [I could still destroy your ship though.]

“If you did then you’d be in the exact same position you are now except without that bargaining chip, and my demands would only have increased,” Ledbetter argued. “My requests now however are not at all unreasonable.”

There was a brief pause as Brody considered this information.

[Alright, Captain,] Brody decided, figuring that the worst that could happen was he discovered that Ashton was lying and wasted a little time. [I’m coming down.]

Ashton them smiled as Brody closed the channel. It was a small amount because of his achievement in getting Brody to come here. It was much more however because of the fact that at least until the end of his meeting with Brody, Powell would not be allowing anyone here to kill him. That was a great relief off Ashton’s shoulders.

“Now, if you’ll show me to your office…”


Ashton soon found himself standing in this woefully undersized and poorly decorated excuse for a Chief Engineer’s office. Clearly Powell lacked even the most basic sense of style in that there was nothing more here than a cheap desk and a couple of chairs on either side. Granted, it wasn’t like they’d actually stopped anywhere that sold expensive art, or anywhere at all for that matter, but there still really was no excuse to have been so drably unprepared as this.

There was however at least one preparation he seemed to have made. In one of the drawers of his desk that Ashton had opened, hoping to discover a weapon or at least some blackmail worthy pictures of Powell in a dress, he had discovered a bottle of scotch and two glasses. It was cheap synthaholic swill, but there was still nothing that said backroom deal like two men and two glasses of scotch.

So Ashton had poured the beverage for each of them, though based around the label he decided that he wouldn’t actually be drinking his, and then took his seat. At first he’d considered that he should have taken the official desk chair, like he belonged here and Brody was the visitor, however he doubted Brody would have reacted well to that.

Besides, experience had taught him that asserting ones power in a situation wasn’t always about stopping the other guy from getting what he wanted. Sometimes it was about letting him get exactly what he wanted and knowing that it was because you were letting him.

Of course he could just have well asserted his bargaining power by standing while Brody sat, which he knew was just the type of trick Brody would do himself, but the problem was that then Brody would probably just stand too and they’d end up in the same situation but with tired legs. So overall he was happy with his chosen position at the moment Brody walked in through the door.

“Scotch?” Ashton offered up the glass by lifting it from the desk and holding it out towards Brody. Tucker took the glass and downed it in one swig, thereby eliminating distraction from the conversation in the most efficient way possible.

“What is it you would like to say?” Brody asked, crossing his arms behind his back. Ashton noticed something about his stance. It was just a bit too rigid, and Brody was definitely leaning a bit towards the door. He didn’t want to be here, not because Ashton was annoying him, but because he seemed anxious to be somewhere else. Ledbetter could not help but wonder exactly what he was interrupting.

“A deal.” Ledbetter flourished the glass his in hind in a very James Bond like manner.

“I’m listen’in.”

“Gem promised me a ship. And I got one, shortly before the incompetent Zanh Liis and her band of merry men destroyed it. I’ve been stuck on her ship of fools ever since, my talents wasted as an Observer. Can you imagine it? Me, Ashton Ledbetter, reduced to the Starfleet equivalent of a meat inspector.”

“My heart is breakin’.” Brody said dryly. “The point, please.” He simply had no time for these long winded pity stories.

“The point is, I’m not repairing your drive until I get my own ship. What you do with the Serendipity and the rest of your galaxy after that is your own concern and none of mine, but I will have my Captain’s chair.” Ashton slammed the glass down definitely, causing some of the scotch to slosh over the rides onto his hand and the desk. He then nonchalantly proceeded to wipe the booze off on his leg, hoping Brody would not notice.

“I’m not really in a position at the moment, Mr. Ledbetter, to go out and find you a ship.”

“Well, let me know when you are.” Ashton grinned, and spun around in his chair, facing his back to Brody. As soon as Brody could not see him, the grin turned into a grimace.

“I could just have you executed, but I don’t think that would help me, or convince you.”

“I’d rather die than go back to that meaningless life.” Ashton tried his best to make it sound convincing. As much as he did not enjoy being an observer, the idea that the light he shed upon the galaxy would ever be snuffed out was unbearable to him, but Brody didn’t need to know that.

There was a pause before Brody continued, where Ashton could almost feel the man’s eyes boring into him.

“I’m not sure I believe you,” Brody concluded, making the words sound like a very convincing and explicit threat.

“What you believe is your own concern,” Ashton dismissively replied.

“Perhaps, but what we both know is both our concern. We both know that I can’t get you a ship. So we both know there’s no point in you demandin’ one. Unless, that is, you don’t want yer demands ta be met.”

It took all of Ashton’s willpower to stop himself from gulping with this observation. “Yes, well, I believe that you’re forgetting one thing,” he suggested, trying to sound like he wasn’t just stalling for time.

“Is that a fact?” Brody asked with a hint of amusement.

“Yes,” Ashton answered firmly as inspiration struck, “you’re forgetting the first rule of negotiation. You always ask for more than you want and know you’re getting offered less than all they’re willing to give. That way you meet in the middle at what you want.”

“Alright, then let’s take the back and forth as read, shall we?” Brody said, sounding unconvinced. “What do you really want, Ashton?”

“My demands are quite simple,” Ashton answered, spinning around in his chair again. “First, I want your guarantee that I will get a ship as soon as you’re in position to acquire me one. Second, I want proof that you will be in such a position sooner rather than later.”

“Well then,” Brody started, moving around finally to sit down, “it seems we may be in a position to work together after all. If you get my drive ta work, then I’ll be in position ta give you a fleet.”

-=Outside of the office=-

It felt like forever since Ashton had gone into the meeting with Brody. That was saying something, because as impatient as he could come off Jamie was still a man who’d happily wait forever for almost anything. Of course, given he would also happily undergo serious dental work and face a major threat to his existence with a smile on his face still gleaming from that dentist, the qualifier happily didn’t really mean so much in his case.

He definitely was happy right now though and was in fact extremely excited. All the readouts before him had suddenly begun to make sense and he could tell exactly what Ashton had been setting up. His hands were working furiously now, inputting the final commands. It was extremely tricky work, like pulling a heavy weight up a very steep hill and knowing that if you stopped moving for a second it would fall until it slammed back into the ground below with you along with it.

“Hey, what are you doing?” Powell shouted as he quickly moved, finally noticing Jamie’s actions from where he’d been trying to listen in on Brody’s conversation.

“I think I’ve figured out how to get the drive working,” Jamie answered eagerly.

-=Inside the office=-

Ashton could barely manage to hide his fear and contempt for Brody’s plan for what he’d do with the drive. Though Ashton wasn’t foolish enough to think he’d been given the full story, he could tell there was a very large grain of truth in what Brody was suggesting as his proof that he could give Ashton what he’d asked for.

“You really think you can take over Temporal Investigations?” Ashton asked, half in shock.

“With this ship,” Brody answered, “I don’t think anyone can stop me.”

Seeing the look of near satisfaction on Brody’s face Ashton knew that he was right. Brody would know exactly what to do, where and more importantly when to go that TI would be unable to defend against him. At that point there really would be no stopping him from rewriting all of History to his own desires. The only way to stop him would be right now by making sure that the jump drive could never be repaired.

-=Outside the office=-

Jamie input the final command and Main Engineering was suddenly alight as energy surged straight from the warp core into every conduit, past every interface, all culminating at a pinpoint on the temporal core. An almost vicious whirring had begun and it was growing louder and louder; so loud that Brody and Ashton had suddenly emerged from the office to see what was happening.

Confronted with not just the noise but the rapid blinking in and out of screens and lights all around them, Ashton felt he had to shout over it all to get Jamie’s attention.

“What’s happening?”

“I think I’ve done it,” Jamie answered and Brody moved in beside him to check the readings on his, the one working screen. Eagerness could almost have been seen on Brody’s face as he felt it all so close.

The sounds were building.

Energy was being transferred into the drive.

Then suddenly…that energy was dropping out, the sounds whirred down to nothing and the screens returned to normal.

“Sorry,” Jamie happily announced, while everyone’s heart still seemed to be pounding, “I guess it was a false alarm.”

Brody’s face was quickly devoid of emotion though his actions certainly weren’t as he physically dragged Jamie away from the console.

“What did you do?” He demanded.

“I…I thought I was fixing it,” Jamie answered.

“You thought wrong, Jamie,” Ashton announced as he observed the readings on the screen Jamie had been working with. He then sighed and shook his head. “This is going to take me hours to undo.”

This was not what Brody wanted to hear.

“My offer is good for one more hour,” he insisted coldly to Ashton. “Either you fix the drive by then or I take my chances of finding someone else that can.”

Then without another word or allowing Ashton a single chance to argue, Brody stormed out and Ashton quickly moved in towards the clearly distressed Jamie and ushered him away from Powell’s irritated glare.

Only when they’d gotten several meters away from him did Ashton finally speak again and then only very quietly. Only then did the smiles return to each of their faces.

“I take it you picked up on my instructions?”

“I think so,” Jamie answered, happy although still not completely so with the pure rage he’d felt in Brody still fresh on his mind. “The modulator should have overloaded. No matter what we do now, the drive shouldn’t be able to engage. How’d things go with you?”

“I think Brody believed me.”

Ashton Ledbetter
Temporal Investigations Observer
USS Serendipity NCC-2012


Crewman Jamie Halliday
Engineering Officer
USS Serendipity NCC-2012

1086: Pygmalion's Project: Two

By Landry Steele
...continued from Part One

-=Quarters of Landry Steele, USS Serendipity=-

He was close now- far too close in physical proximity to disregard his presence any more than she could deny how far and how fast she’d fallen from the grace of such happier times.

As she glanced through salt-stung eyes out the viewport to the Poseidon once again, she could sense his conflict somehow. She hated to imagine what he was doing and planning but she couldn't deceive herself into thinking that he was doing any differently than her fears dictated he must. She could feel that he was certain he was doing what was right, and she knew just as well that he was absolutely wrong.

He'd been absolutely wrong before and refused to see it then- and it was refusal on her part to allow him to finish making her over into his ideal woman and ideal TI agent that had brought their time together to its abrupt and devastating end.


She felt desperate and sick as she grappled her emotions, wracking her brain for a way to stop him before it was too late.

"Please, Tuck, listen to me, won't you just hear reason?"

"Don't call me that anymore," he warned, the anger marring his features as unfamiliar as it was unwelcome.

The change in tone of his voice hurt but more than that it frightened her, because it was so completely foreign to her ears. His tone and his words were those of a man forcing distance between himself and the person he was speaking to- and the very last thing she ever wanted between them was distance after all they had come to mean to each other.

"Why not? Because it's something no one else is allowed to do? Because it reminds me that you've let me know you the way that you've never let any-"

There was unmistakable pain in his voice as he interrupted.

"Because you used to call me that and I can't," he stopped and spun away suddenly, not wanting to look at her anymore.

He was now softly murmuring to himself, words she couldn't quite make out and clearly did not understand any more than the ones he'd spoken at top volume seconds before.

When someone at Temporal Investigations said that someone used to do or say something and then reacted the way that Tucker just had, it was a serious warning sign that whomever they were speaking to had better back off and not continue to press the issue.

Something was wrong- very wrong now, and she just didn't understand why suddenly he'd become so set in his ways. He was fixed as if he were a statue; chipped out of unyielding stone and equally unwilling to move.

He looked like a sculpture to her, always, in moments when he looked so serious and still. It was moments like that, in deep thought and retreating into his dizzying, intricate mind, that she was most aware of just how much he embodied the perfection portrayed in the faces of mythical gods.

Tucker was a beautiful man in every sense- and though the term more commonly used for extreme good looks in a female being- the word handsome did not seem to convey the same timelessness, the same indisputable proof, the same absolute meaning as the word beautiful did.

She was shaking now, so hard that her words broke apart into fragments as she tried to force them past her constricting vocal cords. He was so angry already that she was truly terrified to speak another word.

"Tucker, please. Please. Tell me what I've done wrong so I can fix it."

He turned on her now, and railed. "Stop asking questions! That is the first thing you can do it you want to improve the situation. Then you can do what you've done before which is know that if I ask somethin' of ya, if I ask you to trust me, that I'm lookin' out for your best interests! Don't question when I ask you for somethin' specific, Landry. Just do it for me and know that I wouldn't ask ya if I didn't need to and I didn't know it was best."

"Best for who?" Her eyes searched his, almost pleading with him to help her understand.

"For everybody!" He threw his hands into the air, his limitless rage somehow building ever higher.

"Still more questions! Still more doubts! Tell me, Landry when did you lose your trust in my vision? In my thoughts, in my ability to plan and think ahead and keep you safe? When did you lose faith in," he released a sudden, deep and anguished sigh and softened now, only for an instant, as his hand reached up and brushed back a strand of her hair. "When did you start to doubt my love for you?"

Landry shuddered as her blood seemed to freeze in her veins.

"I have never questioned you before this, Tucker, because before this I could justify everything that you asked of me. I could honor everything that I believed Starfleet to be and everything I believed Temporal Investigations to be and still do what you asked of me. I could still honor who I am as a human being and do what you asked of me. This time-."

She folded her arms tightly over her stomach and clenched the inside of her cheek between her teeth. She didn't want to cry but she didn't know if she could stop it now, even if she bit down until she bled.

"This time it's more important than ever that you believe me," he said, bitterness overcoming him as he locked merciless eyes upon her. "But you're telling me that you aren't capable of doing that."

His glare far surpassed disapproval, it was lightyears beyond anger and resentment. It was a look of unequalled disappointment, and Landry could think of nothing that could have possibly hurt her more than feeling that she had truly failed him.

"We're not talking about letting you suggest a dress for me to wear to an Admiral's dinner or changing the color of my hair because you think it compliments my eyes." She wanted so much to look away but found herself physically unable; his power over even her smallest actions was that strong.

As near as she was to him, able to feel the heat of his body and detect the faintest scent of his skin, she wanted nothing more than to try to smooth things over with him the way that until this day she had always been able to smooth them over; by taking his mind so far off of the rational demands it was making of him that logic temporarily ceased to exist.

Moments when there seemed to be nothing in the universe to be fought for or won or lost; when the only thing that mattered to him at all was the way she could make him feel.

She had learned a secret about him somewhere along the way that she'd never dare let on; that his addiction to her- and what they had could be called nothing less than a physical and psychological dependency- was as strong as hers was to him.

That's why he'd worked so tirelessly to help further her career. That's why he'd taught her so much and invested so much time into making sure she learned how to use her intuition; not just to read people's body language and intentions but to speak to them in ways that would speed her along in her meteoric rise up the ranks.

It was the instant when such speech began to feel like intentional manipulation that her intuitive senses had begun to cry foul, and after that point she'd never been able to do it again without first thinking twice and later regretting that what she'd done.

She had told herself many times that there was nothing she wouldn't give him and nothing she wouldn't do for him if it were in her power. Today, she had discovered that as much of her soul as he owned, she still held onto the smallest sliver and that sliver was causing her so much pain than should be possible from any such small, insignificant thorn.

It seemed to her now that the greatest lesson she'd learned in all this was that the things that seem the most insignificant of all can in the end become the very things that define you.

"Tucker, please. Don't do this. You have got to hear reason this time." In an instant she regretted using that word here.

Until that point she had only denied him but now she had insulted him.

"Unreasonable?!” He demanded. “I'm the one who's being unreasonable?"

"Yes." She needed him to see that.

He couldn’t believe she was making such a big deal out of this. "I'm only askin' you to gather information, Landry. That's all. Just facts and data. I'm not askin' you to do anything that's goin' to get anybody hurt."

"Aren't you?" She lunged forward suddenly, grasping hold of him by the shoulders and clamping on as she tried to pull him nearer. Even though he hadn't changed position at all in so long, she could feel him slipping further and further away.

"Why Zanh Liis, Tucker? Why can't you just let her live her life and leave it alone? What..." she whispered now, feeling defeated as the anger in his eyes turned to ice and she knew he would never give her an answer to her questions. Still, she couldn't stop herself from speaking the very last one. "What the hell did she do to you?"

After waiting until she could bear it no longer, Landry finally let him go. Her resolve to keep her composure was gone, and her shoulders shook as she began to cry. "I've tried to become exactly what you wanted me to be. I've tried-"

"I only ever wanted to see you realize all you could be," Tucker argued. "You never had to change to be what I wanted, Landry. Don't you understand yet? Don't you know?" His own composure failed now and for the first time since she'd known him, sparse, silent tears rolled down his face. "I only ever wanted you to be all you already are."

"It's not enough," she declared. as she began slowly backing away. "I've never been enough." She had to get out of here, she had to go now. If he touched her, looking the way that he did- as if his own heart was shattering because she was breaking it into pieces, she would never be able to hold onto a single remaining conviction she possessed.


"No matter how much I let you chisel away to make me your perfect officer, perfect woman, perfect-"

"Wife, Landry." His voice broke. "I wanted to make you my wife."

"No." She shook her head firmly. "Don't- don't do that. Don't you say that word." She stepped backward, feeling her way toward the door. She slapped her hand blindly behind her for the release, knowing he'd secured it so no one could easily enter from outside until they were finished with their conversation. "Don't you dare say you wanted a real life for us. If you did then this couldn't possibly be the way we're going to end."

"Landry." He rushed forward toward her, sweeping her into his arms and clutching her desperately against his chest.

He buried his face into her hair, sobbing and squeezing her so tightly that she couldn't draw another breath. "We will end if you don't listen to me and I-" he drew back, searching her eyes, her face, what remained of her withering soul for any indication that she could somehow, trust him still. "I'm begging you."

Landry finally gasped for air but it did nothing to take away the feeling of suffocation as her heart seemed to have seized in her chest.

Tucker Brody did not beg- anyone, for anything.

Yet he was begging her now, and she didn't know how she could possibly deny him.

Still she knew that it was too important- The Alchemy Project was too important- to ever do what he was asking her to do and risk its downfall. Even if it did mean their end.

She could only choke out his name, once again that single endearing syllable that she alone had been allowed to use.


"Landry, I love you," he whispered, kissing her with an emotion that she could only identify as pure panic in an attempt to reach her one last time.

She pulled back and pushed him away.

"No," she said, without a shred of conviction worthy of convincing either of them she meant it.

"God, Landry, please,"

"No." She spoke the word more forcefully this time and finally accepted what she must do.

She backed the last few steps out the door and into the empty corridor beyond. Tears fell down her face as she forced her eyes to close and prayed that they would somehow wash away the memory of the hurt in his face before it became the memory that would haunt her dreams for the rest of her days.

"Please," he tried once more. "Landry, don't go."

-=End Flashback=-

That moment would never leave her and those last words were nearly enough to overpower her.

Despite the fact she was doubtful she could survive without him, she'd known she couldn't stay without losing the very last of who she was to the darker sides of his desperation. So finally she had done the one thing she knew she must.

She’d heard his pleas and still forced herself to walk away; blocking out as best she could his pain; pain that hurt so much more than her own.

She had taken the assignment on the Serendipity, as ordered, but not accepted the job that Tucker wished her to take on along with it and that had sealed their fate.

Every morning when she awoke in the small, lonely bed in these quarters instead of the warm and welcoming one that he'd shared with her, she regretted that decision.

Even though she still knew it was the right one- the only one- every single morning she only hated more that she'd had no other possible choice.

She'd written to him once- a letter that she'd left on his doorstep before leaving Earth and was entirely certain he'd seen, because she'd watched from around the corner as he'd torn the envelope apart and his eyes took in every word.

Then she had watched as he held the pages between his thumbs and index fingers and torn it into shreds.

She'd promised she'd always look out for him, as best she could.

She pleaded with him again to give up his obsession with this one particular person and their position in Starfleet, but he would not.

She had always believed that keeping his secrets and keeping an eye on him was the best way to ensure his safety. She never believed him capable of doing anything- anything of the sort he was doing now.

She had been so very wrong and that only reminded her that in spite of every way it felt, her decision must have been right. The more she thought of it, the quicker she came to a sickening realization; she had no more choice now than she had the day that she'd walked away.

She couldn't keep his secrets anymore, no matter how much she wanted to. If she did he would end up getting himself, if not all of them, killed before this was over.

It had to end.

She had to do everything she could to see to it that if nothing else, even if he lived to be court- martialed, then Tucker would be judged in the future to have only been terribly wrong- not to let History step forward as judge, jury and executioner and pronounce him dead wrong instead.

Landry Steele
Temporal Investigations Agent
Aboard the USS Serendipity NCC-2012

1085: Pygmalion's Project: One

By Landry Steele
Concurrent with Shattered Harmony

-=USS Serendipity=-

Landry Steele stood at the threshold of her quarters, wondering what would happen now if she tried to open the door.

Something had happened, she was certain of it. Something seriously wrong.

No one had come to check on her or attempt one last time to convince her to see reason. Not even Dane had come back for another try, and that told Landry that the situation on the ship was far more grim than she had ever wanted to imagine.

She had finished, as best she could for now, putting things in the room around her back into some sort of order. A futile exercise especially if the Sera was in, as she believed it was, serious danger of being blown to smithereens or collapsed in upon itself like a dying star.

Still, she had gone through the motions anyway.

After all, she'd had nothing better to do.

Nothing else was left but to continue to think of him, and remember things that would only make her feel worse.

They were hell, the memories of their first dinner together, because the rest of the evening-- something she couldn't stop herself from recalling just as clearly-- hurt so much worse to relive now.

Not that she truly ever could relive it. As vivid as the memories were and as many times as she'd tried to recapture them since she and Tucker had parted, there was no substitute for the warmth of his voice. No fantasy could match the touch of his hand. No dream, day or night could effectively reproduce the intoxicating thrill of his kiss.

Usually, as difficult as it was ever to do, she was capable of forcing herself to shut those memories out, or at least stop them before they reduced her to tears. Tonight, everything was different.

The more time that passed on this worst night she'd ever known the harder it became to banish his ghost.

-=Flashback, 2387 Current Timeline: Earth=-

She was intoxicated, though it had nothing whatsoever to do with the wine. Tucker Brody was her drug of choice and one for which she was developing a serious, inescapable addiction.

Being in his presence produced a high that set her heart pounding at dangerous new speeds. Her skin tingled with an energy she'd never known; her inhibitions slipped effortlessly down her body and onto the ground around her.

She was lost in this moment to every sensation but the almost electric charge from his lips as his mouth met with hers, and she wouldn’t have had it any other way.

They clung to each other in the entrance to his home, where just moments before she’d nervously tried to suggest she should go.

She found they were moving further inward, into the foyer but she was really too distracted to care. Her head held between his warm hands, each of his kisses more powerful than the last.

Any other time she was sure she’d have been fascinated to study every detail of the house, to learn all the secrets that it spoke about the man who lived in it. Now however she was in too little control of herself to notice them- a true captive to the images her mind so vibrantly held of how the rest of this evening might play out.

It’d been such a perfect night; one which she’d only not call magical because she knew that he’d worked to make it this way.

He'd caused reactions in her so much stronger than any spell, with his hands and his voice and with that brilliant mind that as hard as it was to believe, must be real.

When they’d left the restaurant she’d expected him to be taking her home and that she would perhaps be graced with a polite goodnight kiss. Instead he’d brought her here and this eternal moment felt far more than a kiss for the night. It was instead the kiss of a lifetime; the kind that women come to believe, after a certain age, only existent in fairy stories.

It honestly had been her intention to make a hasty retreat the moment she saw his front door.

His home was everything thing he was and all she could have expected it to be. It was situated on a secluded little street, behind an iron railed fence, where none would find it unless he wished them to. Its design was timeless and it was strong. With Victorian redbrick walls and round-arched windows, this large house somehow shone of warmth, brilliance, and elegance no matter the light.

Yet something in the ancient structure was frightening, and frightened was exactly how she’d felt as they had approached it. It wasn’t really a fear of the house, but of how she felt for him and just what they could be.

She was already feeling things she had no entitlement to; not after only an evening. She felt so much unlike herself now, as each desire built and those wants seemed so much more a right with each progressive kiss.

She couldn’t believe any kiss could render her so utterly willing to chuck aside her lifelong hesitance to seem anything less than a lady- which it did- if he didn’t feel the same way.

Whatever she was feeling though and as insignificant as it now seemed, he’d somehow known it exactly. She had been almost shaking beneath his gaze, stumbling awkwardly around her words for an explanation as to why she should go.

Those piercingly beautiful eyes had searched hers. He’d just kept staring into her eyes and her soul, saying everything without a word, erasing her very last shred of resistance.

In her silence he’d taken her hand in his and leaned in closer, his breath on her cheek, as he whispered with such strength, “Don’t be frightened, darlin’. Not of what you might become.”

Those words had sent her heart into overdrive and it was far too late for her to put a stop to any of it. Anything he wanted from her he was free to not only take, but she was so much more than willing to give to him.

She had been vaguely aware of the lights coming on around them and of the sound of that door closing behind. She was far too entranced by his nearness to process what those sounds meant; literally and symbolically. All she could think as they kept moving further inside was that she hoped he would never let go.

Letting go was exactly what Tucker did next.

Confusion spread rapidly over her face. Her heart plummeted as she felt his lips part with hers and his hands moved away from her face.

She opened her eyes to find him grinning as he leaned his forehead in, not quite touching her own. It was the knowing smirk of a man sensing his victory was near, and he let her wait a good long time before a simple yet unstoppably powerful question washed over her.

“So darlin’," he murmured, "what would ya like to do now?”

-=End Flashback=-

That night had truly been the most unforgettable of her life.

Truly unforgettable, in that the memory of him and of it was so engraved into her soul that no amount of memory resequencing had been able to wear it away.

That alone was enough to make the tears bite harder now as she considered everything that she could never have again.

It wasn’t that she was selfish, in fact if she’d been able to let herself think only of the thrills she could have then she’d have had countless more nights like that since then. It was the fact that she couldn’t allow herself to become what he wanted that had cost her the greatest love she'd ever known.

She knew that she’d had no choice, but that didn’t stop the overwhelming regret she now felt. She had lost things that she’d never really had, including perhaps affection he’d never really give.

From the very next morning he had set to work on his small changes, in so many ways she was blind to at the time. Now she could see them so clearly and they should have made it easier not to think of all they could have been.

No matter how much she tried to resent them and him for them, they never offered her any real solace.


She had woken the next morning with a smile on her face and lazily groped her hand around his bed in hopes of finding Tucker where she’d left him. She felt a contentment she never had before, as she thought of him being there beside her.
Her smile only faded when that hand found only empty space, and she opened her eyes to discover she was alone. Then she frowned.

She didn’t want to be alone.

Before she could begin to worry though, she heard a beautiful, faint sound. Many of the words were unclear, but what was undeniable that it was the sound of his singing voice coming up from the floor below. Craning her neck she listened hard to try to make out the lyrics.

“You’ve traveled down some dusty roads and slept out in the rain, but this yellow rose is always here when you come home again…”

She’d never heard this song before but it was one she was determined to commit now to memory. She was also determined that she’d hear it coming from him in person.

As her senses now began to focus she recognized the smell of bacon frying as it carried on the air. He must have been making them breakfast and she decided that she should join him. Judging from the angle of the warming streaks of light that webbed together and bridged themselves a path from the window to her position in the bed, she decided it might even be closer to time for lunch.

Even with the bright sunlight it was still cold in this room. That alone could have made her reconsider leaving the bed. Then she smiled as she saw that hanging on a hook on the door was a lacy, feminine robe; a design much more likely meant for her than for him. Throwing back the blankets and reluctantly placing her bare feet onto the freezing floor, she hurried over and quickly wrapped the soft garment around herself, appreciating both the robe’s warmth and its luxurious texture as she did. Then she smiled again, wondering what Tucker might think of her in this.

Judging by the color and the care he'd taken in replicating it, she grinned with the realization that he likely already had.

Agent Landry Steele
Temporal Investigations
Aboard the USS Serendipity NCC-2012

1084: Instant Regrets

By Wren Elton
After Unexpected Familiarity

-=A Small Apartment, San Francisco, Earth=-

“Wren?” Rada asked in disbelief, unintentionally squinting his eyes as if to make this picture make sense. “What are you doing here?”

Now her every sense had suddenly furiously focused upon him, blinding her not just to the sights but to the thoughts of all around her. Unfortunately those thoughts included her own and she just stared at him unable even to murmur out any sort of response. He was here, but she wasn’t ready, but she couldn’t go, but she couldn’t possible stay.

Entranced by the familiarity of being so near him without time for any of the carefully practiced self-control she’d held around her expectations for so long, she found she couldn’t move. She just wanted to stay in this moment while even all the confusion on his face and the lockdown of his mind, was yet to shatter the illusion of forced sensation out of time that made her feel like he still loved her.

Dear old Madelyn began to smile broadly, quite wrong about what she was seeing but still more astute that Wren had given her credit for as she mistook the evident pounding of Wren’s heart for that of a woman who’d fallen in love at first sight but never told the man. Daryl, she thought, must have been far more handsome than dishonest old eyes had told her.

Remembering the feeling from her youth of the simultaneous release and capture of the heart, among other parts of who she was, she also recalled the moments after such a meeting and the pain that so often ensued. She remembered feeling the fool and being utterly convinced that that was exactly what the young man thought of her as she recalled of her failure to speak. She wouldn’t let this young woman’s silence sentence her to such a fate.

“She came to see you actually,” Mad quickly chimed in. “She was hoping you could help her access the old tavern across the street. You know, the one you were asking about the other day.”

Rada’s eyes never moved to Mad, remaining instead set on Wren in confusion. Seeing Wren here felt so out of context, like the image he saw was the blending of two photographs from vastly different times in his life. However there was something more to that look now that she’d mentioned that tavern.

“Why do you want to get inside?” he asked.

Before she could answer however the sudden assault of her senses began. As she saw the light glimmering in his eye she recalled the illuminated brilliance she’d found there as they reflected the light of the moon above.

From her angle she had found a shadow cast upon his cheek and she remember how he looked with his head slightly bowed and seeing his eyes dare to glance at her when he thought she wasn’t looking.

Though hardly bashful then she actually felt her cheeks flush now which took her back to the warmth of his skin with that electricity of her first touch of his hand.

Then she saw him laughing, that beautiful laugh, in that tiny beaten tavern where he a gentleman seemed so out of place. It was such a wonderful time.

Only then the vision of that tavern began to warp to it now boarded up, locked away, untouched for far too long, and it seemed to reach a cold hand into her chest as she realised how it reminded her of his love. Maybe that love still existed within him but now it was as inaccessible as that tavern and just as unstable; likely to collapse if one attempted to force their way in. Her illusion of what had been had just been shattered and though her heart could no longer break, another crack formed in one of the shards that lay on the ground by his feet.

This was way too soon. She had to find a way to get out of here, but with every second that passed that just became harder.

“She used to be the manager,” Mad quickly explained, believing in her all honesty that she was helping. “She was hoping she could look around the old place again.”

“Well, I’d be glad to help,” Rada said immediately, his voice conveying a quiet eagerness to see this particular building. “That’s if it alright with you.”

This time Mad paused for a moment and eyed Wren to give the young woman a chance to answer. She knew it got to a point in a conversation where a young couple needed to be free from outside influences. To help with a sentence of two was no issue but just from what she felt in the room she was certain that this could very easily lead to activities where this young man would much prefer a young woman to Mad herself. She thought it was a pity, really.

“Yes, of course,” Wren answered slowly and softy, finally finding her words as she exhaled quietly, and managing somehow to hide the shaking she felt from her voice. It was such a struggle that she really wasn’t thinking of what would happen next as she concentrated entirely on the now. “I’d love your help.”

With all her focus she’d managed to make her attention return enough to the moment to observe that before she’d even finished talking Mad had started moving away. She was leaving them alone and Wren’s eyes flew rapidly wider. She definitely wasn’t ready for that yet.

“I think I’ll go look at those shelves now,” Mad announced loudly though much more clearly to Wren than to Rada as she moved very quickly to her bedroom and before the Betazoid even had a chance to object the door was closed behind her.

Though she knew it would be sensible to keep staring at the door she found herself unable to stop her eyes from finding him again. As she did, this room and the distance between them felt so much smaller. Now there was nothing more between them but her willpower; which she could almost take in her hands and feel crumbling.

“I have a little…” Rada started out slowly before he just had to stop and sigh then to ask a question about the continued lost look in Wren’s eyes. “Are you alright?

She heard such gentle concern and care that just made her want to scream that of course she wasn’t. Instead however she breathed deeply, bracing herself as well she could against the assaulting tide of this moment, before she responded.

“I’m just a little surprised,” she said with amazing calm as she tried desperately to remind herself of every reason why she couldn’t just shout that she loved him. “Mad said I’d be meeting someone called Daryl.”

Now she could see that Rada felt a little awkward as he brought his hand up to rub the back of his neck. She’d always felt he looked so sweet, so shy, when he did that. Her heart had never ceased to race a little faster since the first moment she’d seen it and with her panic already it now made it seriously threaten to seize up.

She had to get out of here and she glanced involuntarily to the door out for just an instant. He didn’t miss it though and the look in his eyes as he saw how stiff and anxious she was becoming, so clearly not wanting to be here, was enough that she hated herself for ever allowing it to happen. She could read her knowledge of him almost as easy as an open mind. He was wondering if she was scared of him.

“Well, the thing is that I’m sort of trying to start a bit of a new life here,” he explained, not meeting her eye line as if he were a great monster just trying to seem unintimidating to the innocent person caught in its path. “So as part of that I decided to try out a new name.”

“An Earth name,” Wren observed worriedly. Though it would have meant nothing to so many people, Wren knew how proud Rada was of his heritage. To take an Earth name was practically to denounce that entire life, thousands of years of history before it, as if one mistake outweighed it all.

“It makes things…simpler,” Rada answered finally and softly, so clearly wishing he could form a coherent lie.

She knew he must have been so desperate for people to not question his past. He wanted them to think he just belonged here. Obviously he lacked the knowledge and likely felt he lacked the strength to answer questions of what horrible thing he’d done to mean he had to come so far from where he started. It was hurting him but she couldn’t tell him that this atrocity that now ate away at his very soul, was to save the life of the woman he’d loved. Considering again the toll her love had taken from him, she wasn’t sure she even had a right to want it back. Then he looked up at her again, his mind so clearly at work, and she really didn’t care what was right.

“You’re not surprised?” He partially asked and partially said quietly to himself.

That was when she realised he’d spoken of starting a new life here and she didn’t react at all. She was no one special and if she knew then he must surely believe the entire ship did too. He probably thought they all considered him weak or cowardly, so now Wren had no motivation to go when to stay gave him a chance to see none of the hatred he surely felt he deserved anywhere in her eyes. There was only silent adoration.

He didn’t see anything though as he somehow missed a momentary glance of hers that should by rights have lit them both aflame. He was in so much pain that it left it impossible for him to feel. This silence between them, awkward in a way their silences should never be, was only hurting him now more.

“Why Daryl?” Wren asked immediately, the first question that came into her head, as this realisation struck her.

“It just came to me,” Rada replied uncertainly, not wishing to reveal that he’d seen the name scribbled repeatedly on one of the desecrated pages of the Bible in his room by someone he was sure felt more at home there than he. “It was either that or Engley.”

“Your middle name,” Wren thought aloud without really thinking at all.

“Yes...” Rada replied in a tone that asked how she could possibly know that and Wren’s heart seemed to want to leap from her chest in a very different way than it had when she first saw him. Then it was fear of what she right do whereas now it was terror of what she might just have done.

She rapidly started trying to go backwards.

“You once told me that it was how you got your Academy nickname,” she offered quickly, unintentionally holding her breath hoping as she did that it didn’t raise more questions. She couldn’t afford more questions now.

Then for what felt like an eternity he seemed to mull this story over in his mind, while she just shouted a telepathic prayer to the Betazoid gods.

“Of course,” he finally replied, clearly unconvinced but not wanting to admit to having forgotten telling her this.

Red, for Rada Engley Dengar, had been a nickname he rarely thought of let alone had any reason to bring up. In the entire time they’d known each other she’d only used it once and it was a moment that she could never have forgotten. He’d looked almost hurt and asked her not to use it. He’d hated that nickname but it didn’t matter to him if other people called him it. He’d never see many of them again. Yet he couldn’t bear the thought of hearing it for a lifetime…

So given his feelings for it he certainly had no reason to tell it to Wren, who to his mind he only met years after the Academy, so he didn’t know why he would. However much to her relief he clearly did know that he wanted to change this topic and quickly. His words however were of no relief to her.

“Look I’ve really finished everything I need to do here for the moment. I can help you get into your tavern straight away if you want me to,” he suggested and Wren’s mouth opened but no words spilled out.

Again she was assaulted by images, but they were no longer from her memories. Now she saw him on his knees on the street in front of that tavern as he wept for what he’d done, while the clockwork gears of his mind each disintegrated into sand, slipping onto the ground before them and being swept across the evening winds. Seeing that place again could be the thing that broke him and she couldn’t help herself from voicing her objection aloud.


Had his reaction been to be mad then it would have been painful, but it would have been nothing compared to this look in his eyes like he thought he had everything in the world to apologise for.

He slowly exhaled and dropped his eyes down.

“I’m sorry. I should have realised you were just being polite,” he said softly, entirely sincere in his apology and his belief that she had every right not to want to involve him. He thought she was rejecting him. She found she couldn’t hold back anymore.

She suddenly jumped forward and pulled him into her arms so tightly, her hand moving up and down his back as her breathing got too heavy even whisper the thousands of words she needed to say to him right now. It’d been so long since she’d touched him let alone felt him pressed so close against her. She had missed it so much that tears started to form in her eyes as she felt his arms gripping her back.

In an instant she felt she had him back and it was as much joy as she had ever known in her life. Only then he started shaking and all the warmth she’d felt in him was gone. Now his pain was unshielded and his grip was not loving but desperate; like a blind man reaching out for an object, he knew not what, as he fell to the ground.

Now the tears in her eyes were truly flowing as she wondered what she’d done. He wasn’t ready yet. She may just have destroyed any hope that he had.

Wren Elton
Manager, Afterthought Café
USS Serendipity NCC-2012

1083: Shopping and Plotting

By Vol Tryst, February Grace and Dabin Reece
After Down to the Wire

The sound of lips smacking together as air was exhaled through them filled the immediate atmosphere.

As did the sound of a foot tapping on the tiled ground.

These sounds were coming from a man whose arms were crossed and his hip cocked to one side.

His gaze fell to the ground and his tapping foot.

*I'll be the first to support the fashionably late defense, but this is ridiculous.*

Vol took to drumming his fingers against his own arm. Indeed, he and Bru had planned to take advantage of their final days of shore leave and go on an outing together. The two of them had been so preoccupied that they really hadn't seen very much of each other. Vol had been tending to the Tress situation and Bru, well... anyone married to Dabin Reece couldn't be held accountable for not having a lot of free time.

So now Vol waited, in the center of downtown Paris, waiting eagerly to get the day started. It was already noon, and Bru had said to meet here. What they were to do today, Vol had no idea. Bru had omitted that small detail and…



A held breath.

These were all sensations that Vol felt... emanating from someone right behind him.

*Nice try, * he thought to himself, a smile erupting onto his face.

The Betazoid spun around and his arm immediately whiplashed, pointing at Bru.

“You... are...”

Bru was without a doubt disappointed that she'd been caught trying to creep up on the Counselor. So she stood up straight and walked towards Vol.

“Late. Yes, yes I know. Now give me a hug you big downer.” She grasped onto Vol's neck, Vol returning the gesture.

“I've missed you.”

“The feeling is mutual,” Vol responded, pulling away and marveling at Bru's attire. “Nice shoes.”

Bru looked down, showing off her new silver-toned kitten heals. “Yea, to replace the ones you smeared with paint back on Sibalt.”

“Did I do that...?” Vol played the fool.

“Uh huh, and this day has been in the making for a while. My revenge is at hand.” February wasn't even attempting to hide her mischief.

“Uhh...” Vol's eyebrow raised suspiciously. Bru grabbed his arm and pulled him down the bustling streets.

“Come onnnnnnnnn...” Bru whined; linking her arm with Vol's as they began strolling together.

-=Paris Shopping District=-


Of course, shopping.

Vol looked miserable as he stood on a stand, facing three different mirrors as both Bru and a tailor circled around him. Fixing this, needling that, sewing that piece, marking this spot. Vol felt like a mannequin.

Bru stood up straight, having just folded the cuffs of the new pair of jeans she was going to make Vol buy, she looked straight up into the Betazoid's eyes.

“Enjoying yourself?”

Vol rolled his eyes and tried not to exhale heavily. “I…”

“Good!” Bru was looking past Vol and she approached the employee to collect the snazzy new shirts that Vol was going to be made to try on.

Vol allowed himself to sigh. There was nothing he felt more uncomfortable enduring than being fussed over.

"Now now, don't you…" she paused and imitated his sigh and slightly slumping posture before continuing, "...me, Vol Tryst. You can't look this good in clothes and not expect me to have fun playing dress up. Besides, you want to look just right for this little surprise we're planning for Tress don't you?"

"Not that one." Vol pointed to a shirt, as it seemed to approach him under its own power. In truth the hanger was just being held up on display by the quickly wearying tailor.

"Of course, Monsieur. Whatever you like…or do not like. You prefer maybe this one, no?"

Vol saw the next option, considered the pattern and nodded once firmly, smiling.


The expression was so incongruous to the word that it took the man a moment to realize what Vol had actually said, and Bru sighed. "We're going to miss our chance for lunch if we take much more time with this. So. If I may?"

Seeming to perk up at the thought that the finicky shopper in pink and the even more finicky shopper in gray might soon make their final purchases and bid him farewell, the man nodded. "Of course, Madame Grace. As you wish."

Bru quickly weeded through the pile of shirts. "No. Nuh-uh. Ow, my eyes! And this one is just about..." She was tossing the shirts, hangers and all up into the air and the salesman behind the tailor was quickly catching them and cradling them like a precious newborn child when Bru pulled out a shirt from the last left of the selection.

"This one."

She grinned and held it up to Vol.

It was a small cotton long-sleeved t-shirt that was charcoal in color. What made it pop were two silveresque bands which ran diagonally across the front, forming an X, and stretched halfway along the back. Vol bit his lower lip as he scrutinized the garment, before finally allowing himself to grin.

“That'll do.”

“It better,” Bru laughed.

-=Later at Lunch=-

As their cups of coffee were refilled one last time, Bru smiled contentedly. Her dessert, a trio of tiny cream puffs filled with vanilla ice cream and drizzled in chocolate sauce and confectioner's sugar, looked almost too beautiful to eat.

"Nobody knows puffs like the French."

“Pardon?” Vol looked up from his own dessert. A white chocolate fondue sat in a bowl on his rectangular plate, surrounded on all sides by mountains of fruit. Pineapple, strawberries, grapes, pears, orange, all being stabbed at in turn by Vol's fork and being dunked into the melted chocolate.

Bru just waved Vol's request to repeat away, continuing on her tangent.

"In fact, you know, this is the most fun I've had in France since I was Deveral." She took in the incredible scenery, closed her eyes a moment to enjoy the lovely music provided by a band of musicians playing around the corner, and seemed more at peace than Vol had seen her in some time. Sensing that contentment in her was a source of joy to him, not only because she was his shipmate, but also because they had come to be such dear friends.

He observed her a moment longer without speaking, just enjoying the bright, happy emotions emanating from her. "Yes, Deveral loved Paris. Actually he loved Parisians. There was..." She opened her eyes and a perplexed expression moved over like a thin, shallow cloudbank only eclipsing her smile for a moment.

"Yes, and there was....and..." now she bit her lip and giggled. "A lot of Parisians. You know what? Let's talk about something else."

Vol immediately felt himself go into Counselor mode. His head tilted to one side, he stopped and his eyes narrowed in a concerned glance. Bru noted the silence and looked up into his eyes, her shoulders slouching when she realized she might have to wiggle away from this one a little harder.

“Not now, please?” Her eyebrows rose pleadingly.

Vol finished swallowing his fruit.

“Fine.” It was clear he was not all too happy about, but would respect Bru's decision for now.

Bru nodded curtly as silent thanks.

“So... Tress's party?”

“Yesss...” Vol let the consonant drag.

“Did you have any ideas for a where?”

“Well...” Vol finished up the last morsel of his delicious dessert before wiping his hands and mouth with a napkin and leaning back in his seat. “...we should have it somewhere unique to her interests.”

Bru couldn't help but smile deviously.

“My thoughts exactly.”

“Oh really?” Vol said daringly, smiling himself.

A moment passed.

“On the count of three, ready?” Vol said, leaning forward, heightening the suspense. Bru did the same.


Vol counted:

“One... two... three… The Smithsonian!”

“The Smithsonian!”

Both pilot and counselor burst out laughing as their hypotheses were confirmed. They'd both been thinking the same locale and in some small unspoken way it reinforced their affection for each other. There was nothing like being friends with someone who lived on the same wavelength as you did.

“Did I miss some hilarity?” A voice came from behind Bru, she whipped around.


“You two are up to something! I can feel it in you, and Vol is biting his lip,” Dabin said to his wife after giving her a quick peck on the cheek. He flopped several large shopping bags onto a chair, each a different color with matching tissue paper spilling over the top.

“Where have you been?” Vol asked curiously as he eyed the bags.

“Shopping, duh! This is Paris! Look at this number!” Dabin pulled an exact replica of the shirt Bru had previously picked out for Vol out of the bag, and held it proudly up in front of himself. “You’re laughing, why are you laughing? Is it terrible?”

“No Dabin, it's perfect.” Bru said, tapping his hand to settle him down.
“Hmm, we’ll see…” Dabin stuffed the shirt back in the bag. “So, just before I interrupted Bru was thinking very strongly about the Smithsonian? What’s that all about?”

“A surprise party for Tress that we’re planning!” Bru replied.

“Oh! Oh! Planes, shuttles, spaceships and rockets! Brilliant! She can wear her little hat and goggles and buzz to her hearts content! And we get to have the real fun, watching her!” Dabin was already rubbing his hands together. “Oh and there needs to be a cake there! And not just some cheap little cake. I’m talking a CAKE. Something you need to assemble in orbit. It’ll have airplanes made of frosting and its own seat on the Federation counsel.”

“Ok, Dabin is in charge of the cake,” Vol said to placate the bubbling Trill.

“So we have a who, a what and a where, now we just need a when. Why not right now!” Dabin said hopefully.

“Well, because Tress just had a long day and needs some rest,” Bru said, “But as long as it is ok with Camen and Fleur I’m sure we can start something tomorrow or the day after.”

“…and cheese, we’ll need copious amounts of cheese. I mean like, enough cheese for it to produce its own measurable gravitational pull.” Dabin continued on as if his previous thought had never been broken. Vol just grinned as Dabin’s buzzing mind lit up his own. “What about the crew? We need to invite the whole crew!”

“I think, after all they’ve been through, that Tress and her family may prefer a more intimate affair, just for her and her closest friends,” Vol said.

“Oh, yeah, I suppose.” Dabin shrugged. He began unconsciously stabbing at the last of Bru’s puffs, which she intentionally left on the corner of his plate, knowing he’d eventually want a bite. “Just one question. Who gets to take the munchkin for her first ride in the Spirit of St. Louis?”

Vol Tryst
Ship’s Counselor
USS Serendipity NCC-2012


February Grace
Flight Controller
USS Serendipity NCC-2012


Dabin Reece
Chief Science Officer
USS Serendipity NCC-2012