Leah watched the snow falling, and it began to get a bit more unpleasant, so she ducked under an eave. She flipped open her communicator again. “I’d like to see President Archer. It’s Rabbi Benson.”
The Vulcan aide replied, after checking something or other, “You may see him right away. He is in his office.”
She thanked him and headed to Archer’s office, a place she knew well. He stood up when he saw her. “What brings you here? I’d’ve thought, after the last few days, you’d be sick of all of us.”
“Not quite yet,” she smiled. “Sir, you know I married Diana Jones, right? She was on the NX-01
, in the Science Department.”
“I remember her not only from there, but also from the Cochrane
. I think she may have been on Captain Reed’s ship, too. How is she?”
“Uh, not so good.”
“I’m sorry to hear that. Is there anything I can do? I’m in touch with all sorts of doctors.”
“I don’t know. We – it’s a kind of senility, or at least it seems that way,” Leah sighed. “She’s just slipping away. It’s very hard to watch. You know how smart she, she was.”
“Do you need to take time off? I don’t think we’ll be doing a big production like this again anytime soon,” he offered.
“I think maybe I should leave entirely,” Leah stated. “It’s, well, I see her world shrinking. It seems only fair that mine should shrink, too.”
“Take as much time as you need to,” Jonathan suggested, “but you don’t have to just up and quit.”
“I, I don’t know.”
“You have been affiliated with Starfleet about as long as I have,” he reminded her.
“Yeah, I suppose so.”
“And do you remember, we launched the NX-01
, and there was the thought that, in deep space, people might need a little spiritual guidance.”
“I imagine a part of that was to give Dr. Phlox a break as well,” she opined, “I didn’t have much to do for the first few years.”
“That’s right, I remember now,” he agreed, “and then, after the Xindi probe hit Earth, we got four Jewish crew members. Three were fresh out of school, and the fourth was a little older, and he was commissioned as a Science Ensign. Do you recall their names?”
“I sure do,” Leah confirmed, “They were Ethan Shapiro, Karin Bernstein, Josh Rosen and Andrew Miller. I recall a few long talks with Ethan, about Karin. I was so pleased when I learned they had decided to get married,” she sighed. “It’s a partnership, you know, and it can color every other piece of your life. But that runs both ways. And I’ll tell you,” Leah admitted, “it’s so much harder when you can see and feel that partnership is crumbling.”
President Archer thought for a moment, and then offered, “You can have someone help you, all right? And that person can do all of the traveling, and anything else that’s too involved, or that you just plain don’t want to do.”
“Stay, at least in an abbreviated capacity. Because there’s one thing I know about caregiving – you may find you want to escape into work sometimes. My father suffered from Clarke’s Disease. I was only a kid, but I could see how my mother’s mood changed on the days she went to work. She never wanted to admit it, but I think she was somewhat relieved on those days.”
“Diana’s only going to get more and more dependent on me.”
“Cross that bridge when you get to it. For right now, though, you’re still independent. And, at least a little bit, so is Diana.”
The shuttles took off and approached the surface. “Once we’ve landed,” Izo commanded, “you need to get lost, Rosen. Go hunt whatever the hell they got here for game.”
“We’ll have to load up this shuttle with the kills,” Josh pointed out.
“You can delay that,” Izo put a hand on Leah’s knee. “We’ll be busy.”
“I am busy right now,” Leah stated slowly. “I need to concentrate on the approach vector. Look at that snow.”
“So?” Izo was uncomprehending as the storm worsened.
“It’s looking bad,” Josh observed. “What’s the wind speed out there?”
She checked a display. “Huh. Man oh man, this is not good.” She flipped a switch. “Benson to Pike, are you getting a handle on the weather?”
“I am,” came the somewhat staticky reply from the other shuttle. “There are gale force winds, ah, there’s a gust to hurricane strength. This is one ugly little snow squall. If it keeps up for a few hours, we can call it a blizzard.”
Izo asked, “Is this a dangerous landing?”
“Yes!” Shelby yelled from the other shuttle.
“Turn back,” he commanded Leah.
“You heard me. Now turn back.”
Josh unsheathed his weapon. At point blank range, he fired at Izo’s back. The Empress’s youngest fell forward. “We’ve got less than a minute before he wakes up,” he cautioned.
“Then stun him again and heavier this time. We’re goin’ to the surface.” She descended at a steep angle and got the shuttle nearer to the surface. Just before getting there, she opened the channel back up to the other shuttle. “May day! May day!” she called out, lying, “I’ve got engine failure!”
Pike looked back at the MACOs in her shuttle. “I can’t be going after them. You see what it’s like out there.”
One of the MACOs – E. Hamboyan was on his uni patch – looked at her grimly. “We are all gonna end up in the agony booth if we just leave Izo down there. You better do whatever you can to land this thing.”
She sighed. “Okay, but don’t blame me if we can’t get back in the air.”
On the other shuttle, Josh stunned Izo again, just to be sure. “He’ll be dead weight. Here, you gotta help me get him out.”
“Right.” Together, they lifted him out and deposited him on the snow-covered landscape. “I better make it look like I’m going back in. Then I’ll hit the remote.”
“And then boom,” he confirmed.
Leah nodded. “G’bye, Josh, and thanks. Your time will come, and Shelby’s and Frank’s times, too. You’ll get out.”
“Say the prayers,” he told her, “you’re a member of the tribe and I know we can’t say ‘em openly on the Defiant. So say them on Andoria, okay? You keep alive now, ya hear?”
“I will.” She smiled. She raced back to the shuttle and entered it briefly to grab the first portable thing she could see. It was a medical kit. She had no extra clothes, no food and barely any money, but at least this was something to trade if necessary.
She didn’t even bother to close the hatch, and could see the landing lights for the shuttle that Shelby was piloting. “You better not get too close,” she murmured as she dashed away from the shuttle. Seeing a small snow-covered embankment, she got behind it and hit the remote. As Frank Ramirez had promised, the shuttle exploded in a mass of flame.
Leah glanced around for a second and saw a gateway to a subterranean passage. She dashed in, not knowing what she’d find on the other side.
Once the shuttle had gone up in flames, Josh noticed Izo stirring a bit, and did not stun him again. Groggily, Izo asked, “What the hell just happened?”
“The, the storm, man. Benson lost control, and it was a hard landing. She and I got you out here – you musta hit your head, or something. She ran back to get the med kit, but it looks like the fuel tank must’ve ruptured. I, I think she must be dead.”
“Uh, she’s landing now.” Josh got up and helped Izo up. They walked over to Pike’s shuttle as Izo roused himself.
The snow was falling even more rapidly. Pike opened the hatch to her shuttle. “I think we’d better just head back to the ship,” she suggested.
“I said we were going on a hunt,” Izo commanded angrily. It seemed that he had changed his mind. “One shuttle is gone, and a pilot is dead. I’m not going back empty-handed, long as we’re all here.”
“Somebody needs to stay behind and help me shovel snow,” Pike said. “Otherwise, we could be frozen here all week.”
“I’ll shovel snow,” Rosen volunteered.
“Suit yourself,” Izo sneered. He and Hamboyan and the others departed.
Once they were out of earshot, Shelby asked, “Do you think she got out?”
“I guarantee it.”
Leah entered the subterranean tunnel and was immediately accosted by Andorian security personnel. She put the med kit down and raised both hands over her head. “I’m defecting,” she declared. “My dagger is in a sheath on my left side. This case I’m carrying is a medical kit. I am a trained pilot and I know the Empress’s defenses and her next destination.”
An Andorian security guard eyed her. “We’ll be very displeased if you’re lying. General Shran doesn’t like that.” He relieved her of her dagger as his partner opened up the medical kit and displayed its contents. “You will need a sponsor. We can’t just have everybody and his brother defecting from the Terran Empire.”
“I only know one person on Andoria. And she might be gone, anyway.”
“Give me her name.”
He flipped open his communicator. “Get me Diana Jones.”
There was a pause, and a voice could be heard through the device’s small, tinny speaker. “My name is Tallinaria. Miss Jones can’t be disturbed right now.”
The guard looked at Leah. “Start talking.”
“My name is Leah Benson. I knew Diana years ago. I’m sure she’ll remember me.”
“Don’t be so sure,” Tallinaria replied, “for she knows nearly no one these days.”
“Come to the main tunnel,” the guard suggested, “and you can meet in the main security office. Give us a few minutes to get there.”
“We’ll be there. Tallinaria out.”
“Why are you doing this?” Leah inquired.
“If you know what you claim to, General Shran will be most interested. And if you don’t, well, at least we’ll know.” He tapped out a quick message on his PADD – General, we have a defector who claims to know Empress Sato’s next moves. Meet us at the main security office.
“You may be right,” Leah admitted to President Archer. “But I don’t know how long I can even be on limited duty. It’s, well, it takes a lot out of you.”
“I remember my father, in the final stages of Clarke’s Disease. He had hallucinations about all sorts of things – giant rabbits, aliens with pointed teeth, a barrier at the edge of the galaxy, composed of pure energy. If he’d been at all coherent and organized, I suppose he could’ve even written a book. I can get you the names of the neurologists we used. I can’t say if any of them are still practicing medicine, but they might have people they can recommend to you.”
Leah thanked him. “I think I should start heading home today. I would just feel better about things.”
“Don’t stand on ceremony,” he told her, “I’m sure you can get a ride with Ambassador T’therin or anyone else who’s heading out. And Rabbi?”
“I do know quite a bit about what you’re going through. If you ever want to talk, I am happy to do so. You’re not alone.”
Diana and Tallinaria arrived, but they weren’t alone. General Shran came in right after them.
Diana was a woman who had once been lovely, but her illness was robbing her of everything. She eyed Leah cautiously. “Do I know her?” she asked Tallinaria, who was a middle-aged Andorian.
“You tell me,” replied the Andorian woman.
“Years ago,” Leah explained, “You and I were together. We were on the Defiant. You convinced me to quit drinking. And in return, I taught you the secret prayers of my faith.”
“Faith?” Diana was still not comprehending.
“Yes,” Leah nodded encouragingly. “I am a Jew, and you aren’t, but we got together anyway, and I taught you my prayers because, well, because I wanted you to know that big secret about me. There were prayers over candles, and vegetables, and wine. And there was a prayer over bread. Can you, Diana, can you say that prayer over the bread with me?” She looked Shran in the eye. “That should prove it, right?”
“Agreed, pink skin.”
“Baruch …” Leah began.
But it was as if a switch had been flipped, and Diana finished the prayer for her, intoning and ending with, “min ha’aretz.” She looked up. “I haven’t said those words in, in, I don’t know how long.”
“She knows me,” Leah insisted, “so can I stay?”
Shran looked at them. “You will tell me all you know, about the Defiant and the Empress Hoshi Sato and anything else that can assist the Independent Andorian Government in Exile.”
“Yes, sir.” Leah finally let out the breath that she had been holding for how long? Perhaps it had been held for all of her life.
On an Andorian ship, Leah walked out of a small guest bunk. “It pays to know the President,” she murmured to herself. She walked along the ship’s corridors. Her destination was the vessel’s small mess.
When she got there, she stood in front of a replicator, not understanding the printed directions, which were written in Andorian script. “Here, let me help you,” came a familiar voice.
“I don’t mind,” he said, “Now, here, it’s set to a voice command, but if I change it to touch screen, I can put it in your language.” He fiddled with keys until the screen changed. “Ah, that’s it. Now, there aren’t too many human foods programmed in.” He stepped back.
Leah scanned the list – there were pictures with print under them. Orange juice, roast chicken, mashed potatoes, broccoli, vanilla ice cream, sour cream, butter, a plain salad, vinaigrette dressing, oatmeal ….
Finally, she found what she wanted. She hit the key under the picture of bread and then, when a symbol of a flame came up, she hit it. “I guess that’s wheat toast.” A few more images were offered, such as the ones for butter and jam, but she bypassed them. There was a brief flash as the machine fulfilled her request.
She took her toast and sat at an empty table. She flipped open her communicator. “I’d like to talk to Diana Jones, on Io.”
“Connecting you now,” replied the relayer.
“Leah! There’s a strange Andorian woman here.”
“Uh, she’s friendly. Listen, do you remember when we first started going out?”
“A little. Your family wasn’t sure they liked you being with a non-Jew.”
“That’s right,” Leah confirmed. “But we won them over, in part, because I had taught you the prayers. Do you remember the prayers? Because I’m about to have some bread, and I’d really love it if you would pray with me. Okay?”
And, together, they recited.
Baruch atah Adonai eloheinu melech ha’alom ha’motzi lechem min ha’aretz.