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Old June 13 2013, 11:23 PM   #1
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Star Trek: Lambda Paz-- "Victories and Defeats"

Season 3, Episode 1:
The two year conflict between Federation Alliance and the Dominion has now ended. But for the war's participant's, the difficult process of picking up the pieces and coping with personal losses is beginning.


This story is an immediate continuation of "To the Bitter End", depicting the final forty days of the Dominion War.


***********************************************


Part One: A Hero’s Welcome
How does one respond to being seen as a hero?


Limis Vircona stared at her desk monitor while sorting through padds cluttered on her desk. Commander Ronnie Kozar was seated on the other side of the desk helping her sort through those padds containing the latest personnel reports and repair schedules. Limis didn’t mind this kind of administrative work. It was sure preferable to battling Jem’Hadar patrols on an almost weekly basis. Ever since the Dominion War had ended, she was engaged in administrative tasks nearly every minute of every day.

When Limis was placed in command of the USS Lambda Pazat the start of the war, she had expected such a battlefield commission to only last for the duration of the war. All that was on her mind then was avenging her colleagues in the Maquis. She never considered what she would do with her life after the war—assuming the Federation and its allies won the war, and such an outcome was seriously in doubt during the war’s early stages. Perhaps she could continue to have some kind of positive influence now that the Dominion had withdrawn from the Alpha Quadrant and the Cardassian Union was in Federation Alliance occupied territory.

As far as she knew, Limis was still in Starfleet on the assumption that no news was good news. She wasn’t so sure about the all of the former Maquis serving on board the Lambda Paz. Some of them had already resigned while others, such as her closest friend and confidant Rebecca Sullivan, were undecided. A review board was in the process of evaluating those who were undecided on an individual basis.

“Engineering will be running tests on the warp engines,” Kozar informed Limis while handing Limis one of the padds on the desk. “Phaser upgrades are a bit behind schedule, but it shouldn’t be much of a setback.”

Limis nodded, taking a few last glances at each of the padds. “If that’s all,” she said, “I should continue packing.”

“Where are you taking shore leave?” Kozar curiously inquired.

Limis took a deep breath, already envisioning more agrarian surroundings. “Bajor,” she said contentedly, “my home village in the Lonar province.”

“Enjoy your trip,” Kozar replied with what seemed like feigned interest to Limis.

It seemed almost too polite to her, she mused as the first officer exited the ready room. While their professional relationship was in a state of détente, Kozar had been very vocal in questioning some of her recent decisions during the waning months of the war. These somewhat forced pleasantries seemed like a feeble attempt to remind each other those disagreements were not personal.

She was lost in that thought when the computer chimed. “Captain Limis. Incoming bulletin from Starfleet Command.” Limis rolled her eyes in frustration over the timing of this communiqué and tapped the activation key on the desk monitor.

An official memorandum appeared on the screen saying that a number of Luna-class ships were to be temporarily decommissioned and the Lambda Paz would probably be one such ship depending on the Starfleet Corps of Engineers’ appraisal of ships that survived the war. She would be permitted, though, to retain her Starfleet commission and to take any new assignment of her choosing.

Limis just stared blankly at the screen, reading the message over and over again. She knew a decommissioning was a possibility since the Luna-class was originally constructed to be a new class of explorer ships, and ship production usually decreased during peacetime. It almost seemed like a cruel joke that she would possibly lose her ship while still being allowed to remain in Starfleet. She was not sure, however, whether to be insulted or flattered by that decision.

Limis emphatically shut off the desk monitor, stowed away a few padds in a briefcase, and headed for the ready room’s main entrance. At the moment the doors parted, she took one last look around the office, wondering if this was the last time she should set foot in it. As if satisfied that everything there was properly arranged, she nodded and stepped out of the ready room.

###

On her way to the transport vessel bound for Bajor, Limis ran into her longtime friend Rebecca Sullivan on the promenade of Starbase G-6. Rebecca was traveling to Betazed with Lieutenant Sara Carson. With looming uncertainty as to whether the two friends would remain shipmates for the foreseeable future, they exchanged rather mundane and awkward small talk, including Vircona jokingly asking Rebecca if she brought enough sunscreen.

“I always bring enough sunscreen,” Rebecca retorted with an amused grin. “But I hear it’s more arid where you’re going.”

“I can handle it. We could all use plenty of natural sunlight.”

They soon passed by the airlock housing the transport ship ferrying passengers to Betazed, which caught Rebecca’s attention. Sara was already waiting for her. Rebecca flashed a wide smile at her lover and looked back at Vircona with a wistful sigh. “Have fun, Vira,” she said with a supportive grin.

“You too, Becca,” Limis replied. “You’ll have plenty of opportunity not to think about what lies ahead on those warm beaches. I’ll tell Yanith you said hello.”

“Great.” After a long and silent stare, the two women held each other in a long embrace. Rebecca then grinned awkwardly and headed straight for the airlock, greeting Sara with a pecking kiss on the lips.

Limis just stood and watched Rebecca as she and Sara walked gingerly towards the airlock, holding hands. She wondered off and on if this would be the last time she and Rebecca were shipmates. Whatever Rebecca’s decision would be regarding her future in Starfleet, Vircona would certainly support it. The big question was where Rebecca would go now that her home colony on Volan Three had been annihilated and the whole planet rendered uninhabitable.

***

In addition to making up for lost time with her son, Limis was mostly looking forward to not having to deal with two of her most senior officers, who had too often gone out of their way to question every command decision she made over the last two years. At least Kozar isn’t second-guessing where I take my shore leave.

Her hopes of being away from ship’s business were suddenly dashed when she took her seat on the transport and saw that a certain persistent thorn in her side was seated across the aisle from her. “Morrison? What the hell are you doing here?”

“Good to see you too, Captain,” Mandel Morrison replied with a teasing smile. “I’ve heard a lot about the many idyllic settings on Bajor. Never got much of a chance to see those places during our little adventure.”

Limis rolled her eyes with displeasure at having been reminded of when Morrison was an uninvited guest on one of her undercover missions. They had gained mutual respect for one another after that mission nearly ended in disaster. Since then, Limis had tried to convince herself that such mutual respect was professional rather than personal. “You call almost being brainwashed by Teero Anaydis a ‘little adventure’? There’s something more going on here, Morrison.”

Morrison quickly detected the investigative tone in her voice. “Are you asking me in an official capacity?”

Limis scoffed. As if I cared about his personal life. “Of course not. But you strike me as a man who takes his shore leave on Risa, Casperia, or Wrigley’s Pleasure Planet, not Bajor.

“You’re right about that,” Morrison conceded. “I’ve heard, though, that you can get relationship advice through Orb experiences.”

Limis’s eyes again widened in disbelief, while she was barely able to hold in a light chuckle. While she didn’t believe in the Prophets, she still thought it blasphemous of Morrison to presume to seek advice from them about his reputed bed-hopping. “The so-called ‘Prophets’ can’t explain why they let the Occupation happen,” she derided. “I seriously doubt they’re going to give Mandel Morrison ‘relationship advice’.”

Morrison gave a sarcastic frown. “Can’t hurt to give it a try. While I enjoy Lieutenant Neeley’s… company, I start to wonder if that’s all there is for me. Am I capable of having more meaningful relationship?”

“On second thought,” Limis chided, “I don’t want to know. Your love life, or whatever you call it, is your business. If we should cross paths on Bajor, I don’t know you. You don’t know me. Agreed?”

“It’s a big planet,” Morrison offered. “I don’t think…”

Limis sighed, wishing she could give him the proper dressing down that she could while they were on duty. “Agreed?!”

“Yes. Agreed,” Morrison answered, properly chastised.

Limis sighed, hopeful that she wouldn’t run into Morrison anywhere on Bajor, as she rested her head on the top of the seat. At moments like these, she was thankful she was Morrison’s commanding officer. Otherwise, she would have let herself succumb to his charming personality. He was an attractive man, Limis acknowledged, who closely resembled that handsome Vedek who died while negotiating the first Bajoran-Cardassian peace treaty. That’s as far as it goes, she silently insisted to herself. I hardly envy the women who have shared his bed.

###

Limis stepped through the gate at one of Bajor’s spaceports. She took a few looks around the waiting area. The young man she was expecting would meet her at the gate soon rose from his seat.

Her son, Hasin Yanith, was a tall and trim man just over twenty years of age, dressed in dark gray slacks and a matching colored vest over red long-sleeved shirt. His dark blond hair was short and well groomed, and he wore a Bajoran earring on his left ear. Limis took quick paces towards her son and tightly embraced. She held him for a very long moment and pecked kisses back and forth on both of his cheeks. She was fully aware of how overly clingy and affectionate she was being her adult son. Despite a familiar look of embarrassment in his eyes, she justified it by a combination of wanting to savor being around her son after having survived the Dominion War and his recent ordeal of being held captive by Cardassian scientist, Doctor Crell Moset.

Vircona sighed and clasped her son’s shoulders while staring into his blue eyes. “So tell me what’s happening in your life, son?” she inquisitively wondered. She interlocked her left arm with his right arm, and they both started walking.

“I enrolled in a few classes at Lonar University,” Yanith began, “but I haven’t chosen a major.”

“Give it about a year,” Vircona glibly suggested, even it often seemed trite. “You’ll figure out what you want to do with your life.”

A horde of people suddenly scrambled towards the pair. They were reporters, hoping to get a few words from one of Bajor’s latest heroes. Armed with recording devices, either audio or video, they asked a varying array questions addressed at Limis all in unison.

“How does it feel to be back in your home village for the first time in almost twenty years?” one reporter asked.

“How do you respond to being considered a hero, Captain?” asked another.

“No comment at this time!” Limis shouted through the cacophony of voices.

The reporters quickly backed off while Vircona and Yanith headed in the direction opposite of which they came. “We probably should’ve kept a low profile?” Yanith sympathetically remarked.
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Old June 13 2013, 11:37 PM   #2
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Re: Star Trek: Lambda Paz-- "Victories and Defeats"

(Chapter One continued)

Limis found a measure of solitude in a tavern she had frequently patronized when she had previously resided in the village of Karvishan. Of the very few people who were also customers, none of them recognized her. They led very sheltered lives as farmers and mountain surveyors and knew very little of off-planet affairs. This whole quaint village seemed like a representation of simpler times even if the Cardassians had left their mark on it.

From what Limis could tell, the local tavern had been renovated several times—once to conform to Cardassian preferences in alcohol and again to fit the Bajoran ideal of doing things in moderation. The hardwood floors and furniture were replaced with more durable metallic materials. The bar and the shelves behind it were still wooden, giving the establishment a more rustic quality that provided a welcome break from more modern life.

While she nursed her half-empty glass of native synthehol, the one person who did recognize Limis approached her. Lenaris Holem was a balding and portly man of average height. Her former Bajoran Resistance colleague flashed a slight grin as he sat across from her. Limis barely smiled at all, choosing only a polite nod at her old friend, who had recently held a Starfleet commission during the last year. “So what are your plans for the future?” she asked with seeming indifference.

“I’m considering my options,” Lenaris plainly replied. “I may stay with the Derna or go back with the planetary police force. The regional commissioner offered me the position of municipal chief in Holnar.”

Limis sighed enviously and took big gulp of her beverage. “At least you have more concrete choices,” she said as she set her glass back down on the table.

“I haven’t done as much to warrant your level of scrutiny.”

Limis shook her head as if not wanting that terse reminder. “Good for you.”

Lenaris accepted his synthale order from a waiter. He took a brief sip and leaned in closer to the table while setting down the glass. “We did a lot of things during the Occupation we’re not proud of,” he reminded Limis.

Limis took another sip of ale. She gave her head a half turn while recalling one of her least of her least proud moments. Such a moment did provide a measure of pride while she had living on Bajor; not so much, though, after she left for the colonies on the Federation-Cardassian border where she had more time reflect and consider her choices during the Occupation. “Remember when we captured Gul Ixnar?” she asked, “who gave the order to burn the whole village of Kentor to the ground ‘by mistake’, as if faulty intelligence on Resistance activity made up for all the innocent children who died? I got a certain pleasure out of squeezing the life right out of him. He had it coming, no question. I didn’t get the same pleasure out of torturing Mirren Hadar to death.”

“The Cardassian who was passing on Dominion secrets to the Romulans?” Lenaris inquired.

“He certainly deserved to have the book thrown at him after he plundered my ship,” Limis continued. “It certainly didn’t warrant the death penalty. And his brother has declared kunooran on me. And he’ll do whatever it takes to have his vengeance against me.”

“Do you think you deserve whatever he has in mind?”

Limis rolled her eyes, not exactly wanting to know what Gul Enic Hadar had in mind. “I don’t know,” she said contritely. “I’d take what the Federation dishes out for any of my less than reputable actions over what passes for justice in the Cardassian system.”

“You’ve done a lot of good during the war whether you realize it or not,” Lenaris offered. “The mayor has organized a banquet in your honor. Some of the members of our old resistance cell will be there. You’re a hero around these parts, Vircona.”

Limis scoffed. She didn’t want to be thought of as a hero no matter how much she had done to make victory over the Dominion possible. She had hoped to distance herself from the war as far as possible and move on with her life. “Does he want to give me the keys to the city as well?” she acerbically asked. With a less harsh tone, she added, “Because it’s from you, I won’t dismiss the invitation out of hand.”

“The banquet’s tomorrow evening around sundown,” Lenaris told her. He then stood up and finished off his ale. “That gives you some time to consider attending.”

Limis just sat and sulked while she watched Lenaris walk away. Once he was gone, she stared again at the drink glass. Maybe she wasn’t a hero in her own mind. But with the invitation to a state dinner extended, one inalienable truth occurred to her. At least, Bajor was not one such casualty of the war. That was at least worth celebrating, even if that meant the other celebrants would be kissing her boots.

###

The following morning, Limis joined her son and one of his university friends for breakfast at a quaint diner. Kenna was a petite blonde woman with her hair tied back to a bun hanging from the back of her neck. She had a beaming smile on her face when she spoke, which caused Limis consternation, as she was acting as if she was in the presence of royalty.

“Is it true you took over the entire Seventh Fleet when the fleet’s commander went down?” the young woman asked.

“Yes, I did,” Limis plainly answered, hoping to purge the mixed feelings elicited by the thought of Admiral Edward Jellico in a possibly irreversible comatose state. She deeply disliked the man, yet she could find no pleasure in his current condition.

“That’s awfully difficult,” Kenna went on as if oblivious to Limis’s stubborn humility. “I mean, you led a small resistance in the Maquis. That’s just twenty or thirty people. That’s hard enough keeping all those people in line; not to mention commanding a starship or a whole fleet of starships. But you did it with crews who have been in Starfleet a lot longer.”

Limis was nearly on the verge of a headache from this young woman’s perkiness. “There wasn’t really magical about it,” she said with restrained frustration.

“She’s a history major,” Yanith cut in to explain his companion’s fascination with a living war hero.

“I see,” Limis said with an understanding nod. Looking back at Kenna, she added, “Then you should know that historians will often make the mistake of assuming those who were on the winning side in a war are the heroes and those on the losing side are the villains. It’s not always that simple.”

“I don’t think history is going to remember you as a bad person. You’re one of the reasons for Bajor’s safety.”

“I certainly am,” Limis acknowledged. “But I’ve had to make really tough choices over the last twenty-five years. People died who didn’t need to, including some of my dearest friends. And I’ve done plenty of foolish things that could’ve wasted a lot more lives.”

Kenna looked at Yanith with a nervous grin. “I’m still grateful for the chance to meet your mother, Yanith,” she said. She slowly nudged her chair away and stood up. “I’ll go freshen up.”

Limis watched as Kenna walked towards the restroom and flashed a scheming grin at her son. “Out with it, son,” she said, clasping his wrist. “She’s not just some girl in one of your classes.”

“Was that I obvious?” Yanith asked with a triumphant smirk.

“You were giving off this vibe that you were afraid I wouldn’t approve of her,” Limis playfully chided.

“We have been spending a lot of time together, but it’s not that serious.”

“Now who’s being modest? I’m still glad to be having some normal mother-and-son time.”

Yanith smiled and clasped his mother’s hand. “I am, too. So, are there any special events planned in your honor?”

Limis shook her head in annoyed disbelief. “You’re doing it now. Captain Lenaris did inform me of a banquet being held in my honor.”

“You should go, Mom,” Yanith persisted, “even if you don’t think you’re worthy of being considered a hero. People look to heroes, larger than life figures who take on the burdens that ordinary people find overwhelming.”

“That sounds like the late Vedek Talwan,” Kenna chimed in, having returned from freshening up. “He also mentioned a regular habit to tear those heroes down once they are built up.”

“Just like you’re already tearing yourself down,” Yanith teased.

Limis sighed, having been reminded that her son inherited her willingness to guilt people into making certain choices. “You two can come along.” With a focused stare at Kenna, she added, “You can have a chance to interact with more living witnesses to history.”

###

As the guest of honor, Limis was seated at a table on a stage overlooking the rest of the gathering. Her son and his friend Kenna were seated together at one end of the table. Lenaris, the mayor, and three other former members of the Ornathia Resistance were seated at the other end of the main table. One of them was the son of the late Ornathia, Merrek.

To start off the banquet, the mayor presented Limis with a commemorative plaque. She remained very gracious in accepting the recognition, smiling whenever a photographer snapped a picture. The forced smiles were even difficult whenever Merrek and Emmil were shaking they’re heads with disapproval.

Once the presentation ceremony was completed, as indicated by the photographers’ withdraw from the dining hall, the rest of the invited guests sat down to their meals. A few late arrivals slipped by the head table in order to offer their congratulations.

“What’s next for you, Vircona?” asked Emmil. “The Christopher Pike Medal of Valor?”

“I’m sure there will plenty of Starfleet honors,” Ornathia Merrek added. “Even they don’t give out awards for desertion.”

Limis let out an annoyed sigh. Why would they bring a thing like that up nearly twenty years later? And why would they get seats at the head table if they hadn’t forgiven her for leaving Bajor all those years ago? “What are you talking about?” she demanded with a firm stare.

“When you abandoned us seventeen years ago and took left the planet with your kid,” Emmil explained.

Yanith’s eyebrow perked up and allowed his fork to fall back on the table, as he was not too pleased to be referred to in the third person.

“My priorities changed once I married and started a family,” Limis curtly offered. “I still tried to do my bit for king and country, but I found juggling the two very massive responsibilities increasingly difficult.”

“Many others had families, and they found ways to balance that with the Resistance,” Merrek fired back, “including and especially my father.”

Limis rolled her eyes in frustration, but continued to maintain her composure. “More power to them and to him. I simply felt that my son, who is here with us now, deserved better.”

“Would you have skipped out on the Maquis or Starfleet during the war?” Emmil crassly wondered.

“Now, that’s not fair,” Lenaris chimed.

Limis took a quick glance at her friend, thankful for his intervention, but then confidently continued. “I am neither going to sit here and rationalize every decision I’ve made in my life, nor am I going discussing hypothetical scenarios. At the time I left Bajor, I had hoped there was room in my life for so much more than just fighting and killing. Do I regret that decision? Sometimes.” Another glance at Lenaris, and she saw him nodding lightly. The bluster of Merrek and Emmil was a ploy to maneuver Limis into proudly acknowledging her own heroism.

“But I made up for that by making sure that many of the surviving Maquis got out of the killing zone safely,” Limis went on. “And when I agreed to serve in the war, it was only to avenge the thousands who died. I realize now how much good I’ve done for an entire region of the galaxy. Vanquishing the Dominion did Bajor and many other worlds in this half of the galaxy a lot of good. And no one can take that away from me.”

Everyone else in the room applauded--even the two dissenters who were expressing phony resentment. Limis then smiled and felt an air of strong self-assuredness while accepting pats on the shoulder from others at her table. First Lenaris, then the mayor, and finally her son praised her on her speech.

***

Some hours later, after Limis shook a few hands and reacquainted with old friends and colleagues, she stood on the balcony and stared at the arrangement of colors in the sky given off by the setting sun. While she encountered a number of stellar phenomena of great beauty over the last two years, none compared to the haphazard distribution reds, yellows, and oranges, and blues during sunset on Bajor. Though not having been on Bajor over an extended period of time in decades, Limis found nothing more aesthetically pleasing than the view before her. She never gave it much thought before, but she enjoyed seeing such great beauty in lieu of the ugliness of war.

She turned around as she heard slow and soft footfalls approaching her. She smirked at Lenaris slowly approaching her with a half-empty flute of champagne in one hand. “I saw what that was about back there,” she said, flashing a devious grin. “I didn’t think anyone who genuinely resented me over something relatively trivial would get a seat at the head table.”

Lenaris nodded in agreement. “I know how hard on yourself you can be,” he said, while standing next to Vircona. “And there has been many a time where you’ve employed the same brand of reverse psychology on me and our other Resistance colleagues.”

“Nicely played, though.”

Lenaris simply gave a light nod in acknowledgment of her compliment. “So how much longer are you staying on Bajor?”

“I was planning on staying a week. But I may make it two--more time to walk among the common folk.”

Lenaris chuckled and gradually took leave of her as he saw Yanith slowly approaching Limis.

“Quite a turnout,” her son commented. “Glad you got me and Kenna a seat at the head table.”

“I’m glad you could come, son,” Limis replied with a blissful stare at him. “And I appreciate that you admire your heroic mother.”

“Still a hint of modesty,” Yanith teased.

Mother and son both exchanged weak smirks. Yanith then sighed as he had a more serious look on his face. “Things haven’t always been perfect between us,” he began. “What mother-son relationship is? You’ve done a lot of things that were out of caring for me, even if I didn’t realize it at the time. But you should know, Mother, that I’m very proud to be your son.”

Limis’s eyes were brimming with tears from hearing her son say those words. It was true the relationship between them wasn’t always a loving one. Being separated from him for long periods of time often came with the territory being a single mother. On many occasions, she’d become frustrated that he didn’t always understand that. At least, as a young adult, he understood it now. It was just as emotionally satisfying as learning he survived his recent ordeal with Doctor Moset.

“Thank you, Yanith,” Vircona with a wide smile. She put her arms around his shoulders and hugged him tightly. He returned the hug by putting his arms around his mother’s shoulders.

After about a minute of holding each other, they slowly let go. Vircona cleared her throat to keep her emotions in check. “Now let’s go back in there.”

Yanith nodded in agreement while his mother clasped both his hands.

Limis then headed back in the dining hall, still greatly reluctant to be taking congratulatory handshakes or being canonized as a hero. But after some clever maneuvering from one of her best of friends, she was willing to take the good with the bad of the last two years.
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Old June 22 2013, 07:43 PM   #3
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Re: Star Trek: Lambda Paz-- "Victories and Defeats"

Part Two: Familiar Patterns

He slowly tiptoed towards her from behind after having just stepped out of the shower. He wrapped a towel around his waist and stared at the woman lustily. She was also wrapped in a towel from her chest downwards while she dug a comb through her damp hair. He slowly put his arms around her waist, took a quick whiff of the floral fragrance in her long mane of red hair, and placed a soft kiss on her right shoulder.

Lisa Neeley put her hands on Mandel Morrison’s wrists hoping to coax him to loosen his grip. He was willing to oblige while continuing to plant pecking kisses along her shoulder. The Lambda Paz’s head of security was hoping to put off discussing a rather sensitive issue a few more seconds once it had crossed his mind. They had grown increasingly fond of one another when Neeley was placed in charge of the company of Starfleet Marines stationed on the Lambda Paz to the point where they eventually established a casual sexual partnership. Both agreed that either one of them could be killed very suddenly and unexpectedly during the Dominion War, so they decided not to be too emotionally invested in each other’s company. Morrison had found such an arrangement more difficult when Neeley was near death, leading her to become more emotionally distant and to eventually dissolve their partnership.

After the war had ended, they had once again turned to each other for emotional comfort. Morrison had welcomed having Neeley back in his life, but he felt that wasn’t enough. He continued to put off discussion of the subject, though, knowing what had transpired before when he allowed himself to become emotionally attached to this woman.

“Considering how we keep falling into familiar patterns,” Mandel said with lips close to the side of her neck, “you ever think about us becoming a complete couple?”

Lisa flashed a devious grin while letting her arm float up towards his head. She stroked his dark hair and pursed her lips on his left cheek. “Is that a genuine offer?” she asked with an air of suspicion. “Or do you not want me sleeping with other men?”

“Do you plan on sleeping with other men?”

Lisa scoffed as she clasped both of Mandel’s hands with hers. She loosened his grip on her even more, allowing herself arch her body around and look him in the eye. “Don’t tell me you didn’t sleep with other women the last time we were partnered.”

Mandel shook his head coyly in the hope that wouldn’t give a definitive answer either way.

Lisa again smiled deviously while placing on hand on his muscular chest. “When you say ‘complete couple’, you mean exclusive?”

“Exclusive,” Mandel answered with a slight tilt of his head. “Dating. Getting to know one another better. We make love rather than have sex.”

“Are you ready for such a commitment?”

He stroked her cheekbone with the back of his hand. “‘Commitment’ is a very strong word. That puts a lot of pressure on both of us.”

“The risks are still the same.”

“The war’s over now. But there’s still a lot of cleaning up to do.”

“And the possible conflicts of interest,” Lisa added with a mischievous smirk. “The deputy chief of security spot is still vacant.”

“You want that job?” Mandel asked with mixed suspicion and hopefulness.

Lisa landed a soft nudge on Mandel’s chest with the palm of her hand. She flashed the same victorious smile that she did in previous instances of outwitting him. “There’s still time for the captain to decide,” she teased. She backed up from Mandel and slowly walked out of the bath nook and into his bedroom. “And we don’t have to decide just yet. As people making business deals say, ‘Don’t call us. We’ll call you.’”

Mandel just stared at himself through the mirror, not sure if Lisa Neeley was still worth pursuing or if he genuinely wanted a more committed relationship with her or any woman in the near future.

###

Morrison boarded a transport bound for Bajor and quickly took his seat. To his surprise, Limis Vircona was seated across the aisle from him. He smirked lightly to hide his embarrassment at crossing paths with his commanding officer. True, Limis would probably be taking shore leave on Bajor at some time or another. But for us to be on the same transport, sitting across from one another? What are the odds of that?

“Morrison?” Limis said with a look of annoyance. “What the hell are you doing here?”

“Good to see you too, Captain,” Morrison replied with a teasing smile. His smile quickly abated, having realized that he wasn’t hiding his embarrassment as well as he was moments ago. “I’ve heard a lot about the many idyllic settings on Bajor,” he coyly added. “Never got much of a chance to see those places during our little adventure.”

Limis was none too pleased to be reminded of when Morrison was an uninvited guest on one of her undercover missions. It was at a time when Morrison and first officer Ronnie Kozar did not fully trust Limis. After Morrison and Limis had escaped the clutches of the fanatical Bajoran Teero Anaydis, they had gained mutual respect for one another. And Kozar had made more of an effort to try to peacefully coexist with Limis.

“You call almost being brainwashed by Teero Anaydis a ‘little adventure’?” she derided. “There’s something more going on here, Morrison.”

Morrison quickly detected the investigative tone in her voice. “Are you asking me in an official capacity?”

“Of course not. But you strike me as a man who takes his shore leave on Risa, Casperia, or Wrigley’s Pleasure Planet, not Bajor.

“You’re right about that,” Morrison conceded. “I’ve heard, though, that you can get relationship advice through Orb experiences.”

Limis’s eyes again widened in disbelief, while she was barely able to hold in a light chuckle. Morrison knew that Limis was something of a non-believer with regard to whether the entities in the Bajoran Wormhole were really gods. Or she was a skeptic who didn’t definitively believe either way--an agnostic. Hence, her reaction only further confirmed his embarrassment at admitting why he was going to Bajor. “The so-called ‘Prophets’ can’t explain why they let the Occupation happen,” she remarked. “I seriously doubt they’re going to give Mandel Morrison ‘relationship advice’.”

Morrison gave a sarcastic frown. “Can’t hurt to give it a try. While I enjoy Lieutenant Neeley’s… company, I start to wonder if that’s all there is for me. Am I capable of having a more meaningful relationship?”

“On second thought,” Limis chided, “I don’t want to know. Your love life, or whatever you call it, is your business. If we should cross paths on Bajor, I don’t know you. You don’t know me. Agreed?”

“It’s a big planet,” Morrison offered. “I don’t think…”

Limis let out a frustrated sigh. “Agreed?!” she persisted.

“Yes. Agreed,” Morrison answered, properly chastised.

He took a few deep breaths and rested his head on the back of the seat, feeling certain he would ever cross paths with Limis on Bajor anywhere other than the spaceport.

###

In a secluded temple on Bajor, a monk opened the Orb of Contemplation, and then stepped aside. Morrison stared blankly at the glowing blue bulb before him waiting for the scene around him to change.

A flash engulfed him and varying images appeared in front of him. The death and destruction wrought by the Cardassians on Setlik Three. Broken and battered starship hulls left behind during the Dominion War. The Coridan Massacre, where fifteen hundred miners were asphyxiated after being trapped by orbital bombardment. The faces of friends and colleagues, living and dead, blinked in front of him.

He then found himself on the planet where he was part of an away mission during the Lambda Paz’s maiden voyage. He had gone against orders to abandon a rescue mission in order save his then-lover, Sara Carson. He was in her crash-landed shuttle, Sara standing in front of him as a disembodied spirit looking over her own unconscious form.

“You should have left me behind,” she said in an eerily dull voice. “Those were the captain’s orders. I was just one person. One life. You are responsible for many more lives than mine.”

“The captain could have chosen not to lead an away team down to the planet,” Morrison explained. “It wasn’t entirely on me. And one member of that team was killed.”


Sara turned away and began walking towards a white light, often envisioned by people having near-death experiences. “Yet when the time came to abandon that rescue,” she said, her voice echoing all around, “you persisted in trying to save me. You could have relieved yourself of the burden of my expectations of our relationship.”

Mandel started to follow her towards the light. “No, that would have been selfish.”

He was engulfed in a white light, surrounded by complete nothingness. He could still hear the echo of Sara’s voice. “Captain Limis made a selfish choice deciding that my life was important than the life of the woman who died. What was her name?”

He was suddenly in the Lambda Paz’s sickbay looking over the charred corpse of the Marine soldier who died during that rescue. “Dinara Nowitzki,” Mandel recalled aloud.

Sara’s appeared in front of him on the opposite side of the biobed. “What was your relationship to her?” she asked. “She was one of many soldiers under your command. Just a name, a rank.”

A quick flash and the deck was littered with corpses: those of fellow Starfleet officers and troops killed during the war and the miners who died in the Coridan Massacre, who not only died from suffocation in the underground mines, but because Morrison chose to abandon the rescue after his team suffered heavy casualties. “You made conscious choices that led to their deaths and the deaths of the miners trapped in the caverns below,” Sara reminded him.

Another quick flash, and he and Sara were in bed together when they first consummated. “Yet you chose to save my life,” she said while resting her head on his bare chest.


From his right, he felt a hand stroking his cheek. Mandel arched his head in that direction to see Lisa Neeley lying naked on the bed. “If we were just sexual partners,” she rasped, “you had no emotional connection to, we could have easily been replaced.”

He leaned over to kiss her, but she suddenly vanished. He then rolled over back towards Sara, only to see her and Rebecca making love.

The setting changed yet again. Now was he was on the transport traveling from Starbase G-6 to Bajor. As had happened during his real life trip to Bajor, Limis was seated across the aisle from him. “You are just as capable of the same feelings that everyone else has,” she told him, “no matter how much you deny them.”

He was about to respond, his mouth gaping open, but he had suddenly been taken back to reality.

***

Morrison quickly left the temple without speaking to any of the priests and monks. Upon leaving the building, he stopped and looked back at it, staring for a very long moment. During that time of additional contemplation, he silently wondered if this trip to Bajor was worthwhile. For one, the vision he had just experienced was about as straightforward as any Orb vision. Straightforward, considering Morrison had heard that the Prophets were notoriously enigmatic in their revelations of future occurrences.

More to the point, this vision did not reveal anything about Mandel’s life that he didn’t already know. He had been dating Sara when the Lambda Paz had embarked on his maiden voyage. His devotion to her had indeed been tested when her reconnaissance shuttle had crash-landed on a planet believed to be housing a Dominion installation. Captain Limis had chosen to lead an away team down to the planet to rescue Sara and her copilot. The rescue party soon came under heavy fire from Jem’Hadar troops, and Limis eventually chose to abandon the rescue. Rather than honor those orders, Morrison chose to go in the shuttle after Sara. Following her recovery, she and Mandel consummated for the first time. Afterwards, Sara made an innocuous comment about the things people did for love, and he started to question whether he could describe his feelings for Sara in those terms.

Their romantic affiliation had eventually dissolved, and less than a year later, Morrison found himself in a casual sexual liaison with Lisa Neeley. Morrison found that arrangement satisfactory, given the risky nature of their careers, until Lisa had nearly died. In subsequent weeks, she had been increasingly distant, which Morrison chose to ignore until he found her in an amorous embrace with another man. Neeley later transferred to another ship after they were unable to peacefully coexist. Yet they crossed paths again during the closing weeks of the Dominion War. And despite giving Mandel a wide berth, she eventually turned to him as a source of comfort after the war’s end.

Essentially, the vision reaffirmed that Mandel was in love with both these women, yet they were both unattainable for different reasons. Sara was now involved with Rebecca Sullivan, and Lisa continued dodging the issue of whether she desired a more committed relationship.

So what did Limis’s appearance in the vision signify? Morrison kept asking himself. Was it meant suggest he should pursue relationship with her? When she first assumed command of the Lambda Paz, he found she possessed great assertiveness and exuberance that he found attractive. He could never act on that attraction, however, since a starship captain had to be completely objective regarding her crew. More recently, of course, Limis’s annoyance at his presence on the transport to Bajor reaffirmed that such a relationship would never happen.

###

As he was walking further away from the temple, Morrison stared at the ground. He didn’t realize the presence of another person walking in the opposite direction until he crashed into that other person, looked up, and saw Limis standing in front of him. They both chuckled with embarrassment, both certain they would not have crossed paths in such a secluded rural setting.

“Captain…” Morrison stuttered. “I didn’t think you’d be here.”

Limis pointed an accusing finger in his direction. “You didn’t forget our deal already?” she asked.

“There aren’t a lot of people around here,” Morrison offered. “And it’s not like the priests and monks here gossip.”

Without either of them realizing it, both of them slowly sauntered towards the temple. “You’ve got a point there,” Limis acknowledged with a smirk. “I take it you’ve just consulted the Orb of Contemplation.”

“I have,” Morrison answered with an emphatic nod, as if trying extra hard not to reveal the contents of his recent vision. “So what are you contemplating if you don’t mind my asking?”

“I’ve been invited to an honorary banquet in my home village.”

“I can imagine. I can see how you’re quite the hero around here.”

Limis sighed, as if she didn’t feel deserving of such an honor. “I don’t know if I’m entirely worthy of being canonized. I’ve done as much bad as good.”

Morrison gave a sympathetic smile. He, himself, had often been put in the position of having to make really tough choices throughout the war. Ones that determined which of his people lived and died. That was especially true when he abandoned a rescue during the Coridan Massacre. Surely, Limis was reluctant when political pressures forced her to temporarily relieve him of his duties as head of security. “I was there for a few of those instances,” he said, “but I wouldn’t put it that way. It may seem like a platitude, but we’ve all done things we’re not proud of.”

“I know, I know,” Limis relented. “But during the war, we just made the decision and moved on. Now that things have quieted down, I can’t exactly ignore everything that’s happened over the last two years.”

“We do whatever we can to continue living our lives,” Morrison reminded her and himself. He had often been racked with guilt over the choices he had made throughout the course of the Dominion War and the earlier Federation-Cardassian border conflicts. More recently, he had learned to put that guilt aside, realizing the wastefulness of holding onto it.

They were so caught up in their conversation that they didn’t realize they’re arrival at the temple until a monk stepped through the enclosure’s wooden door. “Captain Limis,” the elderly Bajoran man said, “the ranjen can see you now.”
“I’ll be right there,” Limis said with a somewhat contrived smile. “Good talking to you, Morrison.”

“You as well, Captain,” Morrison agreed with a nod. He waved at her as she walked into the temple.

In Limis, he had seen something of a kindred spirit. Morrison knew since they had first crossed paths two years earlier that they both projected hard exteriors while internally, wearing their emotions on their sleeves. Even so, Morrison was pleasantly surprised that she had chosen to open up to her. Maybe that was the Prophets or Wormhole aliens or whatever one chose to call them were suggesting: that he would become her confidant on matters of difficult command decisions. As far any type of romantic relationship: never going to happen.
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Old June 30 2013, 12:37 AM   #4
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Re: Star Trek: Lambda Paz-- "Victories and Defeats"

Part Three: Give Me Today, and I Will Be Happy

Sara Carson and Rebecca Sullivan stared at each other contentedly while locked in a post coital embrace. Sara lay down on her back, her chest resonating with slow and labored breaths and beads of sweat glistening across her shoulders. She clasped Rebecca’s left hand with her right, the forearm strategically draped over her right breast, and her left forearm held around the back of Rebecca’s shoulder blade. Sara batted her eyelashes at Rebecca’s, feeling the passage of time slow to a crawl.

“Two and a half years,” Rebecca breathed, leading Sara to wonder if she was midway between lucid and dreaming states.

“What?” Sara asked, taking a closer look into her lover’s dark eyes.

Rebecca blinked her eyes opened and grinned with slight embarrassment. “Two and a half years having big responsibilities--being an engineer and pilot in the Maquis now seems like nothing compared to being on the run from the Dominion, and then fighting in a war.”

“It really puts things in perspective,” Sara agreed while stroking a lock of Rebecca’s long, dark hair.

Rebecca sighed happily. “But do you get the sudden sense of no longer having the weight of the world on your shoulders after two years?”

“I do get that sensation,” Sara answered with a gleeful blush as she shook her head back and forth cheerfully. “Of course, those of us remaining in Starfleet will be getting new assignments soon.”

Rebecca scoffed, and Sara sighed repentantly after having realized she raised a rather delicate issue. Sara had earned her way to the rank of second lieutenant, while Rebecca had only been granted a Starfleet commission out of necessity during the Dominion War as one of the few surviving members of the Maquis. Rebecca was uncertain whether she would be allowed to remain in Starfleet.

Sara thought Rebecca would storm off in a huff when her lover arched her body upward. She momentarily cursed herself for her indelicacy. She was relieved soon afterwards to see Rebecca was just sitting up on the bed cross-legged with her hands clasping her knees while looking straight into her dark-brown eyes. “I’m not so sure myself if I want to remain in Starfleet,” she clarified. “Why don’t we just forget about that for a while? Don’t you just want to get away to some tropical paradise?”

Sara flashed a bright smile and sat up. She crossed one leg over the other, which was dangling off the side of the bed. “That sounds good,” she said while softly gripping her foot perched on her thigh. “We could stay in a hotel suite with the most amazing view.”

Rebecca arched her body further upright and leaned closer to Sara. “Lie around in the sunlight all day.”

“Get lost in the wilderness.”

“Have loud sex in every room of our suite.”

Rebecca leaned her body closer to Sara’s “We already do that.”

“But this’ll be where no one knows us. How’s Betazed sound? The real Janaran Falls. The medical quarantine has been lifted.”

Rebecca had been suggesting they go there for months, though it wasn’t feasible with the war on and the Dominion having occupied Betazed for almost a year. Sara was certainly willing to oblige after they had shared their first kiss in a holosuite recreation of the lovely tourist attraction.

“It’s a date,” she said.

She planted a kiss on Rebecca’s lips and leaned back on the wall at the head of their bed. Their lips were both puckered against the other’s as the two women clasped each other’s hands. Sara then let her hands free and ran them up Rebecca’s arms and up her shoulders. She thrust herself forward while Rebecca leaned back until Sara was on top of her, letting her kisses move along her cheek and down her neck as they basked in the warmth of the other’s bodies.

###

On the promenade of Starbase G-6, Rebecca ran into her oldest and dearest friend Limis Vircona, who was traveling to Bajor to visit her son. As the two friends approached the airlock housing the transport ship ferrying passengers to Betazed, Rebecca felt an air of uncertainty. Still undecided over whether she would remain in Starfleet, Rebecca couldn’t help pondering if this would be the last time for a while that she would see Vircona in person. If not, they would surely find a way to keep in touch via subspace messaging. It would be the least they could do to maintain a friendship that had defined both their lives. They filled the awkward silences with exchanges of mundane small talk, including Limis jokingly asking Rebecca if she brought enough sunscreen.

“I always bring enough sunscreen,” Rebecca retorted with an amused grin. “But I hear it’s more arid where you’re going.”

“I can handle it. We could all use plenty of natural sunlight.”

Upon their arrival at the airlock, Rebecca saw that Sara was already waiting for her. She flashed a wide smile at her lover, and then looked back at Vircona with a somewhat plaintive sigh. “Have fun, Vira,” she said with a supportive grin.

“You too, Becca,” Limis replied. “You’ll have plenty of opportunity not to think about what lies ahead on those warm beaches. I’ll tell Yanith you said hello.”

“Great.” After a long and silent stare, the two women held each other in a long embrace. Rebecca then grinned awkwardly and headed straight for the airlock.

She took quick strides towards Sara, greeting her with a pecking kiss on the lips. They both took gentle paces towards the airlock while holding hands. Through her passionate jubilation of traveling to one of the most beautiful worlds in the Federation, Rebecca still felt pangs of trepidation for an uncertain future. Or perhaps Rebecca felt envious of Vircona, who at least had a home to go back to, while her home colony had been eradicated and the whole of planet Volan Three rendered uninhabitable, courtesy of the Dominion’s near complete extermination of the Maquis. But as Vira so concisely put it, I’ll have plenty of opportunity not to think about an uncertain future on those warm beaches.
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Old June 30 2013, 12:42 AM   #5
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Re: Star Trek: Lambda Paz-- "Victories and Defeats"

Chapter Three (continued)

Upon arrival at their hotel suite, Rebecca threw down her duffel bag and took quick paces towards the large balcony. She was absolutely mesmerized by the scenery outside. The balcony provided a great view of a mountain covered in lush trees and foliage. The face of the mountain was dotted with steep waterfalls, all interconnected and flowing into the top of a large waterfall very near the bottom.

“Isn’t it amazing?” Rebecca gasped. She pointed to the right and downward at the large central waterfall. “The real Janaran Falls is down there.”

Sara took slow steps across the balcony, basking in the brisk mountain breeze and the bright blue sky. Crashing waves filled the air, as did the distant sounds birdcalls. “Can’t wait till tomorrow to see how accurate the holodeck recreation is,” she said of seeing the real Janaran Falls. “That’s quite a breeze,” she remarked while slowly inhaling through her nose.

“Reminds you how much a starship’s air can feel very artificial,” Rebecca added while leaning on the balcony railing.

Sara nodded in agreement. “Oh, yes. Absolutely.” She nudged Rebecca on the shoulder and pointed out the interior of their suite. “You notice how much smaller the room is than the balcony?”

Rebecca smiled brightly. “That’s because Betazoid society has traditionally been an outdoor society.”

“Even when so many other humanoid races have spent so much time perfecting indoors?” Sara asked with a teasing grin.

“It’s been like that here for millennia. It comes as a result of a whole planet having tropical or temperate climates.”

“How do you know so much about Betazed?” Sara wondered as she rested her head on Rebecca’s left shoulder.

“I did a year abroad here,” Rebecca explained, wrapping her arm around Sara’s shoulder. “I hated to leave once it was over.”

“That’s one tradition that does seem to make practical sense,” Sara mused. “And there are some that don’t. Like kids getting the summer off from school.”

“Ah,” Rebecca said with an agreeing nod, “but that goes back to the pre-industrial days when families needed extra help in the farms during growing seasons. It’s still practiced on farming colonies throughout the Federation and Earth’s neo-transcendentalists.”

“Not to judge them, but I prefer a little bit of everything in moderation. Modern technology does make life a lot more convenient, but sometimes a little too convenient.”

Rebecca arched her body while coaxing her arm off Sara’s shoulder and looked into her lover’s eyes while clasping both her hands. “Having experienced both Starfleet and the Maquis, I couldn’t agree more. Maybe we should head out and enjoy more of that tropical breeze.”

Sara accepted Rebecca’s suggestion with a smile and a kiss on the lips.

***

As Rebecca had suggested, she and Sara visited the resort’s beach. The proximity to the lake created a soft breeze that was slightly stronger than the one felt from the balcony of their room, and offset scorching heat generated by the midday sun. The water was remarkably clear for a natural body of water surrounded by sandy beaches. The idyllic and tropical setting was surely one to behold.

What caught Sara’s were the people in varying states of undress. Some men and women who were laying out in the sunlight, walking along the lakeshore, or frolicking in the water were dressed in conventional swimwear that concealed their upper bodies down to their thighs. A few others, male and female, were bare-chested. Numerous other people throughout the beach--men, women, and even children--were fully nude. It didn’t seem so unusual for non-humanoid species--an iguana-like Selay, three bipedal feline Caitians, and a birdlike Ornithian. Individuals of those races only wore clothing during highly formal occasions or in off-world settings. And Sara had also heard on multiple occasions that traditional Betazoid weddings called for all participants and guests to be nude. Yet seeing humanoids naked in such a public setting still didn’t seem right, probably because of the humanoid tendency to conflate nudity with sexuality.

“Is this another one of those long-standing Betazoid traditions?” Sara rhetorically asked.

“Betazoid society is one that values complete honesty,” Rebecca explained. “Everybody’s anatomy is mostly the same, so it makes no difference how one dresses at public beaches.”

Sara nodded while forcing a grin while setting down a cloth bag. She removed a beach towel hanging out of the bag and spread it out on the sandy ground. She then removed her polo shirt and knee-length shorts, revealing a two-piece swimsuit consisting of a pair of briefs and a spaghetti tank top. Rebecca followed that same sequence, but she also stripped off her undergarments as well. Sara held her mouth agape, trying to hold in her surprise while she and her paramour lay on their separate towels face down.

“I know that look, Sara,” Rebecca said with a teasing smile. “It’s not like you haven’t seen me naked before.”

“But what about everyone else?” Sara retorted.

Rebecca chuckled lightly. “I’m okay with my body if that’s what you’re wondering.” She took a deep breath as she felt the breeze on her skin. “It feels liberating almost. You should try it.”

“No, thank you. I’ll keep the swimsuit on for now.”

“Suit yourself.”

###

Rebecca and Sara spent the evening at a dance club, sampling a few different alcoholic beverages that replicators did not synthesize well. They were seated at the bar while loud techno music blared throughout the establishment. The music’s volume made Sara wonder how people were able to speak to each other over such booming noise. Individuals of varying races who were on the dance floor did not appear to mind.

Sara grimaced as she downed a second shot of a very bitter tasting alcoholic beverage. “What do they call this stuff again?” she asked Rebecca.

“Tequila,” Rebecca shouted over the music.

“It’s amazingly potent stuff,” Sara remarked while imbibing what little was left in her glass. “Yet it’s strangely appealing at the same time. Makes replicated synthehol taste like water.”

“Like you wouldn’t believe,” Rebecca agreed. Seeing the bartender pass by, she waved to him, asking about something called lyserdase. Sara was somewhat baffled, as she was unable to find that particular beverage on the menu.

“You sure?” the bartender skeptically asked. “It’s unpredictable with most first timers.”

“Oh, I can handle it,” Rebecca assured him.

The bartender nodded reluctantly. “If you say so.” He reached underneath the bar and handed her two ovular capsules.

Sara’s eyebrows perked up as if she recognized the capsules. “I’ve seen those,” she said ominously. “They’re a very powerful psychedelic agent.”

“Relax,” Rebecca assured. “They’re legal on Betazed.” That did little to assuage Sara’s worries. Rebecca broke open the capsules and lets the powder flow into her drink glass. She consumed the drink in one gulp. Feeling a sudden rush, she leapt out of her chair and towards the dance floor whooping.

Rebecca stumbled momentarily, but quickly regained her balance. The pulsating sound of the music suddenly waned until the whole room became eerily quiet. The other club patrons remained inaudible. She could soon here the distant sound of Jem’Hadar plasma rifles.

“The Jem'Hadar weren't supposed to be here,” she heard a familiar masculine voice say. “No one knew about this base but us.”

Rebecca found herself on Athos Four, where what was left of the Maquis had fallen back as their colleagues were being exterminated by the Dominion. Her late husband Michael Eddington was alongside her, coming to the rescue of her and her surviving colleagues. Clearly, the psychedelics were causing her to relive her spouse’s death, but she was still feeling that same primal fear for her life--the sense that one misstep could cost her life. “They landed three days ago. We tried to fight,” she said rather calmly.

“I know. I saw the bodies,” Michael replied. “I thought for a while there…”

Rebecca immediately knew how much he dreaded the idea that she didn’t survive the onslaught. “I didn't think I'd make it either, but they kept all the leaders alive. They were going to make a present of us to the Cardassian government. Now I guess we'll end up in a Federation prison."

“No, we're not going to prison. Not if I have anything to say about it.”

She started to black out, her surroundings darkening. She could almost feel her life slowly slipping away. But after a quick moment, she was back on Athos with her group under heavy fire from Jem’Hadar troops.

“Go. Whatever happens, don't stop until you get to the runabout,” Michael was shouting. “You, too,” he instructed her.


“I’m staying with you,” Rebecca insisted.

“I’ll be right behind you,” Michael promised. “Now get going.”
Having experienced these events before, Rebecca knew how hollow that promise was. She became extremely lightheaded and she eventually passed out.

Rebecca found herself back in the dance club, drawing the attention of onlookers as she stumbled across the establishment.

“Becca!” Sara cried. She leaned down and felt Rebecca’s warm forehead. “Stand clear,” she told the onlookers. “We need to get her to a hospital.”

###

Hours later, Rebecca awoke in the bed of a Starfleet hospital. She winced and felt her forehead, still feeling the effects of a lingering and searing headache. She looked around and saw Sara outside her room conferring with an attending physician. Rebecca sighed ruefully and rested her head on the pillow while Sara dismissed the doctor and sauntered into the room.

“The doctor said you probably shouldn’t have taken such a high dose when you hadn’t taken it in over a decade,” Sara explained with grudging sympathy.

“Oh, my God,” Rebecca said with a slow exhalation. “How could I have been so stupid?”

Sara gave a pitied smile and walked slowly towards her lover’s bed. She put her hand on Rebecca’s shoulder saying, “You wanted to experience life with very few responsibilities and obligations. Thankfully, someone with the self-discipline of a Starfleet veteran was there to help. Just don’t do something like this again.”

Rebecca clasped the hand that was on her shoulder while her eyes were brimming with tears. “Thanks for understanding. It’s more than that, Sara. I was so certain I would not survive the war. I was only concerned with avenging the Maquis; making sure Michael’s death wasn’t meaningless. I never planned for a life after the war. Now I don’t know what kind of future I have. I feel naked because of that.”

Sara smirked, realizing Rebecca’s feeling of being metaphorically naked explained how she didn’t mind being literally naked on a public beach earlier in the day. “You have me, Becca. You didn’t exactly plan on falling in love with me so soon after your husband died. But you did, and that’s something to live for. And I couldn’t imagine my life without you.”

Rebecca let single tears escape both her eyes. She held the hand grasping her shoulder with both her hands. She coaxed Sara’s hand towards her face and kissed the heel of the palm. “You don’t know how much that means to hear you say that.”

Sara was becoming teary-eyed as well while brushing the tears from Rebecca’s cheeks with the back of her free hand. “I can make an educated guess,” she retorted.

Both women soon had tears rolling down their cheeks. They giggled, and then shared a kiss.

###

Sara and Rebecca trudged down a moist trail of the humid jungle that surrounded Janaran Falls. The trees were hundreds of meters tall and were draped in leaves that nearly blocked the sun. Some of the sunlight did bleed through the leaves, creating a blinding brightness. At the end of the trail, the pair carefully descended down a rock face and set down their duffel bags.

The base of that rock face overlooked a lake where multiple waterfalls flowed into it, including one giant waterfall up ahead. Rebecca tapped Sara’s shoulder and pointed to her left. Light shades of yellow, orange, and red filled the bright blue sky. Within an hour of sunset, the rays of the sun reflected off high mountain peaks of multicolored crystal, gradually creating a more prominent and haphazard arrangement of colors. It was exactly like a holosuite simulation of Janaran Falls Rebecca had shown Sara seven months earlier.

“Amazingly beautiful,” Sara remarked. “And a lot more real without the sense of a holosuite wall just a few meters away.”

“And since holosuite and etiquette are hardly ever in the same sentence…” Rebecca said suggestively. She removed her navy blue tank top and tan shorts and flung them aside while tiptoeing towards a line of stones at the lakeshore. She then slipped off her bra and panties and threw them towards Sara, whose eyes widened with embarrassment. Rebecca lowered herself into the lake and submerged herself in the clear water. “Come on. Jump in already.”

Sara kicked her flip-flops off her feet while watching Rebecca move her arms to and fro in the water--her upper body halfway in a floating position, beads of cool water trickling down her shoulders and across her breasts. Sara stripped off her tank top and shorts slowly waded into the lake still wearing her undergarments.

“Really?” Rebecca scoffed. She walked over to Sara and quickly unhooked the front of her bra.

Sara crossed her arms across her chest. But then she didn’t see the point of that when Rebecca had already seen her fully naked on multiple occasions. “What the hell?” she said. If she learned one thing from Rebecca on this trip to Betazed, it was to do something outlandish, like skinny-dipping in a major tourist attraction. She slipped off her bra, then her panties, and hurled them to the shore near the rest of her clothes. She then wrapped her arms around Rebecca’s shoulders and planted her lips on Rebecca’s.

The two women continued kissing as they lowered their bodies further down into the water without any other cares in the universe. Neither of them wanted to let go of this moment. Sara ran her fingers through Rebecca’s hair while Rebecca stroked Sara’s bangs drooping over her forehead. Sara’s fingers then rubbed down Rebecca’s neck and down the center of her back while pecking her lips across her cheeks.

Rebecca stroked one hand down the left side of Sara’s neck and along her shoulders while kissing the right side of her neck. The two lovers’ eyes met in a deep, soulful gaze, and they kissed each other on the lips once more.

They continued holding each other tightly, trying to keep blissful moment frozen in time as long as possible.
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Old July 11 2013, 11:19 PM   #6
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Re: Star Trek: Lambda Paz-- "Victories and Defeats"

Part Four: Five Stages


Denial
Being with him provided her with some sense of normality. He was the one constant in her life during the last two months of the Dominion War.

In the EMH-Mark III, Aurellan Markalis found a kindred spirit--someone who was as socially challenged as she was. She had found this particular version of the Emergency Medical Hologram far more personable than earlier versions, though he still exhibited some of the same deficiencies she had such as properly understanding and expressing her emotions. Ironically, she had become something of a social mentor to the hologram, whom she started to call Leo Houseman after a person of his likeness she had encountered in a dream, and even a lover.

The program was severely damaged during the war’s final battle. The EMH program was easily repairable, but required a new memory core. For all intents and purposes, the man Aurellan knew as Leo was dead. She remembered that one of her professors in medical school said that the humanoid brain contained a “spark of life” that could not be replicated. With a holographic image, though, she could at least make an attempt.

She had made a lunch date with a crude recreation of the EMH-Mark III in one of the smaller crew lounges to spare herself the embarrassment of interacting with a man declared dead. She lacked the technical know-how of the first EMH program’s original masterminds, so there would surely be flaws. The image shorted out from time to time. And he may have looked and sounded like a regular run-of-the-mill EMH Mark III, but Aurellan still knew deep down he was not Leo.

“One patient came in this morning,” Aurellan told her holographic date, as they were polishing off their meals, “with multiple injuries resulting from, of all things, falling out of bed while having an arachnophobic nightmare.”

“That is rather unusual,” the EMH said with the dispassionate tone Aurellan had become so accustomed to. “Isn’t it more likely that one would be dreaming of being chased by a legion of Jem’Hadar or Breen?”

Aurellan gave a reluctantly agreeing nod. “Talarian hook spiders, on the other hand, are pretty damned scary.”

“But their venom is fairly harmless compared to the black widow or the brown recluse on Earth.”

Aurellan considered that fact and tilted her head slightly. “The fear of spiders is largely instinctual.”

“Ah, evolutionary genetic predisposition,” Leo realized. “Evolutionary psychology holds that the presence of venomous spiders led to the evolution of a fear of spiders or made acquisition of a fear of spiders especially easy. Like all traits, there is variability in the intensity of fears of spiders…”

Aurellan grinned sheepishly while listening to him reciting a passage in a library computer file verbatim. She appreciated that she connected with him more on an intellectual level than a physical level. On the other hand, he demonstrated one of the major flaws in her programming. She had a greater understanding of how she used to bore family and classmates by reciting this stuff now that she was on the receiving end of a lengthy spiel. Aurellan just nodded politely while mostly tuning out his words.

She was brought back to reality when she heard the doors hiss open. Lieutenant Shinar sh’Aqba, the ship’s Andorian chief engineer, entered along with two human male crewmen. Sh’Aqba and her fellow engineers walked in looking rather nonchalant until Shinar stopped suddenly upon seeing the EMH-Mark III. “Doctor?” she gasped. “How are you here? The holo-emitters haven’t been…”

“Computer, end program,” Aurellan instructed, causing the hologram to disappear. Then looking at Shinar with a repentant smirk, she said, “Sorry if I caused you to see a ghost. What are you doing here?”

“Coincidentally,” Shinar answered with slight amusement, “overhauling the holo-emitters in this section as part of a deck-by-deck inventory.”

“Aren’t you supposed to be on leave?”

“Get started,” Shinar instructed the two engineers. They both gave acknowledging nods and walked towards two different corners on the opposite end of the room and carefully set down anti-gravity lifts and toolkits strapped to their shoulders. Once satisfied that they weren’t listening in on the personal side of the conversation, Shinar answered Aurellan’s query. “It just seems easier to throw myself into my work,” she said with a shrug of her shoulders. “What I’ve just witnessed looks more like a cry for help.”

“You needn’t worry about me,” Aurellan plainly insisted. “Will you still be attending counseling sessions?”

Shinar took another look at her two crewmen to make sure they weren’t actively listening. “That’s supposed to be confidential,” she insistently whispered.

Aurellan did not seem the least bit concerned about eavesdropping. “I am aware that what you talk about is confidential,” she said with a slightly less hushed tone. “But the counseling staff is part of the medical department. I am chief medical officer, and I just wanted to make sure you were attending those sessions.”

“Of course I’m attending them. I am more curious as to who is keeping an eye on the chief medical officer’s emotional well-being.”

Aurellan sighed in annoyance. Maybe Shinar was trying to reach out to her as a friend or a concerned colleague. She still found her inquiry rather presumptuous given her lack of a medical degree. “What’s abnormal about interacting with a holographic recreation of loved one who has died?”

“I’m not sure,” Shinar conceded. “Erhlich wished for five more minutes just before final battle. Who knew that he would be one of the casualties?”

Aurellan smiled even as the sorrowful memory of Leo telling her he loved her as his image faded away came to mind. “I find myself wishing for five more minutes with Leo. I’m glad you understand.”

They stared at each other blankly for a few moments as if wanting to give the other a comforting hug or pat on the shoulder. Neither of them gave way and just exchanged polite blank-faced nods before Aurellan left the room.

In the corridor, Aurellan trudged across the hallway and leaned against the wall on the opposite side of the entrance. Alone, she found she could not hide her grief. She buried her face in her hands as she slid down the wall into a sitting position, but found she couldn’t shed any tears over her loss. Maybe, she thought, she was in denial about being in denial. She was in denial that her feelings of grief and loss were as legitimate as those resulting from the death of an organic being. And thus, she was in denial of being in mourning.


Anger
Crewman Lorne lowered himself from his anti-gravity lift after having assessed one of the holographic emitters. Crewman Bates had completed his assessment of one as well, and they both reported to Lieutenant sh’Aqba, who was making notes on a padd.

“This optronic emitter is shot,” Lorne informed her, pointing towards the left corner across the room. “We’d better replace it.”

“What about the ODN lines to sickbay and the computer core?” sh’Aqba inquired while momentarily looking up from her padd.

“From what we can tell,” said Bates, “those are still in good working order. A full diagnostic might still reveal something we didn’t find.”

“All right,” sh’Aqba said with a slight nod, “we’ll leave them be for now. What about environmental controls in this section?”

“Their running on tertiary atmospheric pumps,” Lorne answered. “It’s no big deal as long as the ship isn’t regularly traveling at warp.”

“The sooner, the better though,” sh’Aqba remarked. “A technical team from the starbase can get on it as soon as one’s available.

“What about an ex-Maquis who doesn’t follow every safety regulation?” Bates suggested. He grinned momentarily, but that expression quickly subsided when he saw how perturbed his superior was.

“Excuse me?” sh’Aqba asked with subdued annoyance.

“I wasn’t referring to anyone in particular,” Bates stammered. “I’m just saying…”

“Tarlazzi’s routine disregard for safety regulations eventually cost him his life,” sh’Aqba said with festering anger. “It’s hardly a joking matter, Crewman.”

“I didn’t mean anything by it, ma’am,” Bates attempted, even knowing it would do no good. “I…”

Sh’Aqba sighed, not sure what had just come over her. “Just carry on, gentlemen,” she instructed the two technicians. And she stormed out in a huff.

“It was rather crass of you,” Lorne remarked, almost as if he knew of sh’Aqba’s relationship with the late Erhlich Tarlazzi, and how any subtle reference to him seemed to hit a nerve.

“I know, I know…” Bates replied with a frustrated sigh.


Bargaining
Aurellan Markalis entered the sickbay’s primary intensive care unit to find a three-person engineering team running field tests on a new holographic doctor, who was staring blankly, as programming subroutines had been loaded into it.

This hologram was female, though, with medium length blond hair and a trim and curvy physique. If Aurellan was attracted to women, she’d find this new holographic doctor an ideal dating partner, but that was far from the point right now. One year after the Mark III was added to Starfleet vessels, the Emergency Medical Hologram was being upgraded once again.

“What’s going on?” Aurellan curtly demanded.

“I’m sorry,” replied Ensign Kaplan, a young dark-haired human male. “I thought Commander Kozar or Lieutenant sh’Aqba would’ve informed you. We’re starting field tests on the EMH-Mark IV. Don’t worry. We’ll try to stay out of your way if there’s a medical emergency.”

“Of course you will,” Aurellan said with a sheepish nod. She had hoped not to mention her romantic affiliation with the Lambda Paz’s Mark III after they both had worked to try to keep the personal and work lives separate. A rebooted Mark III would certainly not be Leo, she held out hope that she and a rebooted Mark III would fall in love all over again.

“But a Mark Four?” she went on. “Why not a Mark Three? That just needed a needed a new memory core.”

“We’re just following the duty roster, ma’am,” Kaplan plainly replied. “And it’s on orders from the Corps of Engineers to update the EMH to current technical standards. Now, I really should be getting back to work.”

Kaplan made his way back towards the main diagnostic console, but Aurellan stepped in front of him. “He wasn’t just a piece of equipment, Ensign,” she said with restrained anger, catching the attention of the other two engineers. “He was a person. Many people were able to survive the war because of that man. And now they’re just willing to pretend he didn’t exist?”

“I’m no philosopher,” Kaplan coyly replied, “so I’m far from qualified to argue either side. I’m just following orders. You’re free to file a complaint with the Corps.”

Aurellan sighed, taking Kaplan’s statement as a cue not to try to continue to argue with the man, even when a hot-button medical issue came to mind. What if a doctor was in a position to resuscitate a flesh-and-patient patient already declared dead? Would she be ethically obligated to at least try to restore that patient to life?

“Fine,” Aurellan snapped, quickly making her way out of the medical bay. “Whatever. Not that it’ll do one damn bit of good.”

Upon leaving the sickbay, she hurried to her quarters. Once there, she locked the door using several layers of encryption, hoping she could hide from the outside world indefinitely. She leaned back against the door frame, nearly bumping her head against it.

One could not die of embarrassment, she knew, but she wished for that not to be true at this moment. While she prided herself on keeping her personal and working relationships with Leo separate, and she tried to put up such a front just back in sickbay, that hardly diminished her shame at having made such a fool of herself back there.
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Old July 11 2013, 11:26 PM   #7
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Re: Star Trek: Lambda Paz-- "Victories and Defeats"

Depression
“The time is 0600 hours.”

Aurellan stirred in bed when her alarm woke her. She felt sufficiently rested but couldn’t bring herself get out of bed. Though she had to be at work in an hour, she was dreading the day ahead. A sense of powerlessness pervaded her thoughts, knowing that what little hope she had of rekindling her romance with Leo was gone. It was a feeling of loneliness and of emptiness--an intense sadness and despair that logic could in no way explain.

The computer reminded her of the time again. A minute had passed while Aurellan was staring up at the ceiling wondering how she would face the next few days. She tapped a control panel on the nightstand, instructing the computer to wake her in another half hour, and then covered her face with the top pillow.

***

Shinar sh’Aqba awoke in a cold sweat when the computer informed her of the time. She just stared blankly at the ceiling and contemplated her immediate future. Today was one more day that she was an outcast among the Andorian people after she ignored her betrothal vows. Today was one more day that she was pregnant by a man who gave his life during the Battle of Cardassia. Erhlich Tarlazzi insisted he chose to pilot a kamikaze maneuver on one of Cardassia Prime’s moons to minimize the loss of life in the war’s final battle. Shinar was certain Erhlich volunteered for a suicide mission to get out of familial obligations that were thrust upon him so suddenly. For that, she could never forgive him. Or maybe she felt frustration that she could never tell him how angry she was him.

What was more, she could not carry her unborn offspring to term because of the unique nature of Andorian sexes. As a shen, Shinar could ordinarily act as an intermediary during mating in a group of four. Ordinarily, a shen would find a zhen surrogate in the event she became pregnant in a dual mating. For Shinar, though, being shunned by her own people made finding a viable surrogate impossible.

The Andorians had known they were an endangered species for the last century, but Shinar felt that was no justification her race’s repressive marital laws. What had happened in her life in the last five months, though, made her feel that starting a revolution was too costly. What was done was done, and there was no turning back now. But at this moment, she had neither the will nor the strength to try to look forward.

###

Aurellan entered sickbay adjusting a lock of her blond hair that was out of place. Having straggled her way out of bed, she did not have time to shower, and so was looking a bit unkempt. She greeted Doctor T’Pren with a smirk meant to hide her embarrassment with her appearance. T’Pren just stared blankly at Aurellan in acknowledgement of the chief medical officer’s arrival.

“This is today’s appointment schedule,” T’Pren said, handing Aurellan a padd.

Aurellan took a quick glance at a list of names and a brief description of their injury or illness. “What about the field tests on the EMH-Mark IV?” she inquired.

“Additional tests will be conducted this afternoon.”

Aurellan nodded, doing her best to hide her emotions. which T’Pren still saw right through.

“Please do not think me unsympathetic,” T’Pren offered, indicating to Aurellan that the Vulcan woman saw right through her façade. “Your relationship with the Mark Three was not trivial simply because he was a hologram,” T’Pren added.

Aurellan scoffed. “I suppose you’re also going to remind me that he was a real person to me. Leo’s ‘death’ was a dagger in my heart, but I’m better now.”

“You display emotional restraint of a Vulcan. However, because we learn to suppress our emotions, that does not mean we do not grieve a loss. The woman to whom my brother was betrothed was killed during the war. He has been prone to irrational behavior since his loss despite his outward efforts to maintain emotional control. Thankfully, he has friends and family to help him cope.”

“He’s blessed to have such caring people in his life,” Aurellan said with a sympathetic smile.

“And you do, as well. Despite your introverted tendencies, your colleagues care about your emotional well being. Let them provide you emotional support, Aurellan.”

Rarely did a Vulcan address a non-Vulcan or a superior officer by given name, which suggested to Aurellan a reaching out on T’Pren’s part. “I’ll keep that in mind, Doctor,” she said with a slight grin. “Thank you.” Another quick glance at the padd in her hand, and she noticed a familiar name. “It says here Lieutenant sh’Aqba has a pre-natal exam right now.”

“Correct,” T’Pren replied. “But she has been neglecting her last five appointments.”

Aurellan had an idea of why. “Computer, locate Lieutenant sh’Aqba.”

“Lieutenant sh’Aqba is in her quarters.”

Aurellan handed the padd back to T’Pren. “I’ll go check on her.”

***

Shinar came to her door after the third ring of her doorbell dressed in a bathrobe and some kind of mesh hair net covering her hair and antennae. “What?” she impatiently asked Aurellan.

“You haven’t coming to your last five prenatal exams,” Aurellan plainly replied.

Shinar rolled her eyes and trudged back into her cabin. “Non-sentient mammals carry their young, and give birth to offspring without the need for prenatal exams.”

Aurellan snuck through the doorway before the doors slid shut. “With a high-risk pregnancy such as yours,” she persisted, “prenatal exams are quite necessary.”

Shinar dropped herself on the sofa and stared out of the window. “I didn’t ask to become pregnant. And I certainly didn’t plan on being a single mother after Erhlich selfishly chose to abandon me and my unborn child.”

Aurellan paced towards a chair facing across from the sofa and seated herself there. “Many mothers throughout humanoid history didn’t ask to become mothers. But they love their children as much as those who did plan on becoming parents.”

Shinar derisively shook her head and continued staring through the window. “I know, I know. But I don’t know if I have the strength to care for this helpless infant. I don’t know if it’ll survive a normal Andorian pregnancy given my situation.”

“You have a lot of hard choices. But all you can try to do now…”

Shinar let out an exasperated while looking sternly at Aurellan. “You’re not going to guilt me into this appointment, Doctor. You think I’m just neglecting these exams in order to find out if someone will care enough to reach out to me. Well, you couldn’t be more wrong. I don’t care if I miscarry right this very second.”

Aurellan frowned sympathetically. “You don’t mean that.”

Shinar grabbed a ceramic bowl on the coffee table. “You don’t want to test me,” she hissed. “Now get out!” She threw the bowl in Aurellan’s direction. Aurellan was quick to duck out of the way, and then watch the bowl shatter against the wall.

Aurellan momentarily glanced at Shinar before leaving the cabin without a second thought.

###

Commander Ronnie Kozar took a look at a padd while seating himself behind the desk in the ready room. “So let me get this straight,” he said to Doctor Markalis, who was standing at attention on the other side of the desk. “You want me to order Lieutenant sh’Aqba to attend her prenatal exams? I’m afraid that’s beyond my purview as executive officer. Now, if she was a danger to herself and others…”

“She certainly is,” Aurellan replied, stepping closer to the desk. “She said she doesn’t care if she miscarries. And she became violent with me, so I had security guards posted at her door.”

“Those certainly are ominous warnings,” Kozar agreed. “Unless she’s taken actions in the line of duty that make her a liability, there’s nothing I can do. It is within your power as chief medical officer to relieve her of duty on those grounds. Can you certify that, Doctor?”

“No, sir,” Aurellan deferently answered.


Acceptance
Sh’Aqba was continuing to sulk while sitting on the sofa in her quarters. The security guard standing by her door was a reminder of extreme shame she felt having threatened someone who was only trying to help her. She dreaded having to face that person again, even more so when the doorbell chimed. “Go away, Aurellan!” she shouted.

“It’s Commander Kozar,” a familiar masculine voice replied. That immediately caught her attention. She stood up and made some minor adjustments to her hair that was draped over her forehead to while pacing towards the door. “Sorry if I don’t look more presentable,” she said after opening the door to admit the first officer.

“At ease, Lieutenant,” Kozar replied. “This is not a formal visit. May I come in?”

She didn’t dare say no to a longtime colleague and friend who had been like a brother or an uncle. “Of course,” she reluctantly answered.

“You may wait outside,” Kozar whispered to the guard, who quickly obliged. Taking another quick at how Shinar was dressed, he asked, “So this is how you ‘throw yourself into your work’?”

“You just said this wasn’t a formal visit,” Shinar reminded him while sitting back down on the sofa.

Kozar took slow steps towards the coffee table and remained standing. “I’m here as a friend who is worried about you. I was willing to let you take today off considering your current difficulties. So my question is why you chose to cut short your earlier shore leave in the first place.”

Shinar sighed with frustration. “I’m an outcast on Andor. Taking time off only serves to remind me how much I’ve lost. Staying here and assisting in low-priority repairs to make sure this ship passes inspection also reminds me of what I’ve lost and what I’m forced to deal with all on my own.

“Except you’re not alone, Shinar,” Ronnie offered. “Your family on Andor may have forsaken you for skipping out on your betrothal vows, but we’re your family. Doctor Markalis is going that extra kilometer to reach out to you. You’ve been the ‘little sister’ Morrison and I have looked out for the last thirteen years.”

Shinar chuckled while fighting back tears at the same time. “When you put it that way…”

Ronnie seated himself on a chair and flashed a sympathetic smile. “Many of us lost a lot of friends and family during the war. Hell, a planet everyone thought was an impenetrable fortress was attacked. But you’re responsible for a new life now.”

Shinar grinned limply. “In other words, be grateful for that new life.”

“You want to be mad at Erhlich for leaving you with a baby you never wanted, then be mad at him. Just don’t take it out on that innocent life inside of you. Life happens. One either meets it head on or runs away and dies a little at a time.”

“You’re right,” Shinar agreed with a twinkle in her eyes as if she experienced an epiphany. She gently caressed the bulge in her abdomen, which she had only now realized had become noticeable in the last two weeks. “Instead of wallowing in my grief, caring for this new life is how I should honor Erhlich’s memory. And the way to do that is go to my prenatal exams.” She quickly got up and headed for the door.

“Hold on,” Kozar snapped, eliciting sh’Aqba to stop in her tracks.” Shouldn’t you get into uniform first?”

“Right,” sh’Aqba said with an embarrassed chuckle.

###

Aurellan entered the sickbay’s primary ICU, pleasantly surprised to see sh’Aqba seated on one of the secondary biobeds. She momentarily got the idea that Commander Kozar had a role in Shinar’s sudden change of heart. It was a notion she quickly dismissed, considering his earlier refusal to offer any help. “Lieutenant,” she said flatly. “Can I help you with something?”

“I’m here for my prenatal exam,” Shinar replied, as if that was not something she was trying to avoid.

Aurellan grinned lightly. “What changed your mind?”

“Commander Kozar has a way of getting to me.”

Aurellan nodded, having realized the first officer’s coaxing had to have been informal, yet still reminding herself to thank him later. “Nurse, prepare the prenatal exam equipment” she instructed a Denobulan woman sorting hyposprays nearby.

The nurse headed for the biolab as instructed. Aurellan, meanwhile, opened a medical tricorder perched at the foot of the biobed and trained the hand sensor to Shinar’s bulging abdomen. “Heart rate and blood pressure are normal,” she informed her patient. “Internal organs developing normally, bone density and muscular structure development normal. Amniotic fluid pH levels optimal. Everything’s looking good so far.”

“The ‘for now’ part still worries me,” Shinar said with an exasperated sigh. “How will we address the fact that I can’t carry the baby to term?”

Aurellan put aside her tricorder and seated herself on a chair to the left of the biobed. “I’ve been working on that problem almost non-stop. Starfleet Medical has made many advances in incubation units that allow normal development of partially formed fetuses in the event of serious maternal injury or death. I put in a request for one, and it should be arriving in a day or two. I just need to tailor this particular unit for Andorian physiology.

Shinar gasped joyfully. “Oh, that’s wonderful.” She hugged Aurellan without regard for how she often recoiled from physical contact. She quickly composed herself, though, and gradually pulled herself away. “I appreciate this. I really do. I hope it’s not a way to hide from your own feelings.”

“I’m telling you,” Aurellan insisted, clasping Shinar’s hands. “I’m handling it.” But then she lowered her head and burst into tears and put her arms around Shinar’s shoulders. “I’ve been trying to convince myself he was just another casualty,” she said, letting tears freely flow down her cheeks, “or that nothing about our relationship was real, he just told me he loved me because I said it first.”

Shinar gently stroked Aurellan’s hair. “You told me once he demonstrated his love for you through his actions even if he didn’t express that feeling in a way most people do. You needn’t pretend none of that was true.”

“I know that I shouldn’t. I just feel embarrassed sometimes to let my emotions go or that others won’t take me seriously.”
Shinar looked Aurellan in both eyes while holding both her shoulders. “It doesn’t matter what others think. You loved him. And that’s what matters. We shared a common experience. We can help each other through that. Come with me to the support group meeting on the starbase at 1800 hours. You can explore your feelings there without fear of being judged or marginalized.”

Aurellan sighed, feeling a huge weight lifted off her shoulders--feeling that she no longer hide her grief. She clasped one of the hands on her shoulder. “Sure, I’ll be there,” she said with a smile and her eyes still brimming with tears.

***

Shinar and Aurellan sat next to each other at the grief counseling support group. The whole group sat in a circular arrangement, so each person could see one another. Most of the participants were human, along with a few individuals of various races that included two Andorians, a Denobulan, and three native Rigelians.

The group foreperson, a blond-haired human male introduced both Aurellan and Shinar as newcomers to the group. Aurellan offered to introduce herself first. She felt awkward explaining to total strangers how she wound up romantically involved with her ship’s Emergency Medical Hologram. That awkwardness was tempered by the knowledge that these strangers had also experienced significant personal losses during the war. Knowing that gave her the comfort to express her mixed array of feelings while in this man’s presence and now that his essence was gone. At no time did she feel her relationship was trivial or that her feelings were no less valid than if she had experienced the death of a person of flesh-and-blood.

Aurellan could actually smile without feeling judged when she said how much she loved Leo, as if he was every bit a real person.

Lena Katina: Never Forget
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Old September 10 2013, 10:48 PM   #8
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Re: Star Trek: Lambda Paz-- "Victories and Defeats"

Epilogue

Sometimes, life sucks, but on the other hand, the heroes persevered by strength of will.


On the Heights of Despair (1934) Emil Cioran
“I am displeased with everything. If they made me God, I would immediately resign.”


“Why don't I commit suicide? Because I am as sick of death as I am of life. I should be cast into a flaming caldron! Why am I on this earth? I feel the need to cry out, to utter a savage scream that will set the world atremble with dread. I am like a lightning bolt ready to set the world ablaze and swallow it all in the flames of my nothingness. I am the most monstrous being in history, the beast of the apocalypse full of fire and darkness, of aspirations and despair. I am the beast with a contorted grin, contracting down to illusion and dilating toward infinity, both growing and dying, delightfully suspended between hope for nothing and despair of everything, brought up among perfumes and poisons,consumed with love and hatred, killed by lights and shadows. My symbol is the death of light and the flame of death. Sparks die in me only to be reborn as thunder and lightning. Darkness itself glows in me.”

Excerpt from “Ulysses” (1833) by Alfred Lord Tennyson
Tho’ much is taken, much abides; and tho’
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.
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