The Best Robe

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction' started by Laura Cynthia Chambers, Jun 13, 2016.

  1. Laura Cynthia Chambers

    Laura Cynthia Chambers Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    Jun 1, 2016
    Location:
    Mississauga
    "What do you think?" Lieutenant Riley picked up the intricately weaved emerald green basket from the market stall and plopped it down on his head. He gazed dreamily at his companion. "Does it go with my eyes?"

    "Oh, cut it out, Kevin." Lieutenant Grace Berlin shoved his shoulder gently. "I don't think he appreciates you playing with his art." She gestured toward the portly Yursian merchant, whose scowling face had turned bright orange. Several similar, brightly colored items covered a plain wooden table draped with a white cloth fringed in pale green.

    With a deft movement, the brunette lifted the basket off Riley's head and turned to face the merchant. "I'll take it," she said, giving him her best smile. The man grunted at her and held out a stubby-fingered hand, and she deposited four fe'yas into it.

    As she carried the basket on the crook of her arm, Riley plodded behind her. "Hey, you didn't thank me for the lovely present." He tapped her on the shoulder.

    Berlin didn't turn around. "That's because you didn't buy it."

    "No, but I picked it out." He shoved his hands in his pockets, pouting.

    "No, you wore it like an Easter bonnet. Not very becoming for a Starfleet officer." Berlin paused to examine a bin of large pink melons. She touched the grainy skin with her fingertips before moving on to a small booth nearby where a plate of sliced melon awaited samplers. She picked up a piece and popped it into her mouth, puckering slightly. "Sorta like grapefruit. Want some?"

    Turning, she held out a tender wedge, but Riley's attention was elsewhere. He lifted his hand to his forehead, scanning the crowd with his eyes. Looking for something. "What is it?" She stepped closer to him, eating the second sample. "Kevin?"

    "Thought I heard someone… shouting…sounded like, 'stop! Thief!'-" A brown streak plowed between the two officers, toppling them to the ground. Riley fell backwards into a small pen full of chickens, scattering the noisy birds and sending feathers everywhere. Berlin tumbled sideways into a post holding an awning up above a stall, wrapping her arms around it to steady herself. The basket rolled between two tables, forgotten.

    They had barely collected themselves, Riley brushing feathers off his uniform, before a burly man stomped over to them. "Did you see that dirty thief?"

    Riley straightened up, groaning. "See him? We just had a close encounter of the third kind." He rubbed his right arm.

    At the man's confused expression, Berlin held a hand up in Riley's direction. "Never mind." She shook her head. "Look, whatever he took-" Out of the corner of her eye, she saw a flash of brown disappear behind a nearby building. "-I'll pay for it. How much?"

    The man's eyes widened. Riley shut his and shook his head. He paced over to Berlin and pulled her aside. "Now you've done it. He's probably going to ask for twice the price of whatever the guy took."

    Berlin ignored him. "How much?" She held out a handful of fe'yas. The man hesitated; clearly her action had caught him off guard. He relaxed visibly, taking two coins from her outstretched hand.

    "Nice doing business with you, miss." He turned and lumbered away, the fabric of his blue faded robe swinging as he walked.

    Berlin crooked a finger at Riley. "Come on." She walked purposefully to the place she had seen the 'thief' disappear.

    "Now what?" Riley shrugged, falling into step with her. "We're supposed to be getting back soon."

    "Enterprise won't leave without us." She picked up the pace, turning at the corner of the alleyway. "I wanted to talk to our 'thief'."

    "Our thief? Listen, if you wanted to play cop, why don't you pick a time we actually come armed, huh?" He stopped and leaned on the wall, one arm blocking her way. "What's so special about this guy, anyway? You barely even got a glimpse of him. If that."

    She ducked under his outstretched arm, her bobbed hair brushing against the underside. "It wasn't him…I noticed. That merchant…we passed his stall about ten minutes ago."

    "So?" Riley frowned, stroking his chin. "Still not getting it."

    Berlin paused and turned her head around. "Kevin, the merchant was selling bread." Even as she spoke the word, she saw a piece of a half-eaten loaf on the ground. Bending over, she retrieved the chunk and gave it to Riley. His eyes widened as it dawned on him.

    "He's hungry…" Riley muttered under his breath, hands on his hips. He looked over his shoulder in the other direction, then returned his gaze to Berlin.

    She moved further down the alleyway, stepping over puddles, bits of broken pottery and pieces of old crates. "Hello?" She lifted up a piece of torn, stained cloth and jumped back when a small furry rodent skittered out from underneath it. Swallowing, she pressed a hand against the wall. "We're not going to hurt you. Are you al-" Her shoe came down lightly on something firm. She gasped softly and stepped back when she saw what it was. An outstretched arm. And attached to it, a young bearded man in a dirty brown robe, his face as pale as moonlight.

    "What is it?" Riley caught up to her and followed her gaze. "Yikes. Is he dead?"

    She dropped to her knees, disregarding the filth of the alley, and pressed two fingers against his neck. "No, thank heavens. Just unconscious." She grabbed him under his armpits and tugged, but she couldn't lift him. "Help me lift him. We're bringing him back with us."

    Riley opened his mouth as if to protest, then, thinking better of it when she shot him a glare, sighed and bent over at the waist. Berlin relinquished her hold on the man as Riley lifted him and slung his unconscious form over his shoulder.

    Both of their communicators beeped. Riley shifted the man's weight and nodded to Berlin, who flipped hers open. "Lieutenants Berlin and Riley here; go ahead."

    "This is Lieutenant Combs. We're getting ready to leave; everybody's back but you two." He paused. "Enjoying yourselves, are we?"

    Berlin shared a look with Riley. "Not exactly. We're ready to go now. Please have a medical team meet us at the transporter room. Berlin out." She snapped the communicator shut. They both stood as still as they could as they and the man dematerialized.

    Opening Credits
     
  2. Laura Cynthia Chambers

    Laura Cynthia Chambers Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    Jun 1, 2016
    Location:
    Mississauga
    Theme Music Intro and Sound Effects

    A young redheaded woman in a red uniform stood by the captain's chair as Kirk looked over the clipboard, nodding as he signing it. He handed it back to her and straightened up in his chair as she walked away.

    Spock walked onto the bridge and headed for his console, barely glancing at the captain as he passed by. Uhura sat at her console, watching the screen in front of her. Kirk looked up at him briefly before turning to Sulu. "Mr. Sulu, set course for Treano II." He smiled. "Mustn't keep Commodore Whaley waiting."

    Sulu pressed several buttons. "Course laid in, sir."

    McCoy entered the bridge, a light smile on his lips, and took his place next to Kirk, bouncing on the balls of his feet, his chest slightly puffed out. Kirk glanced at him. "What's up with you, Doctor? You look like the cat that ate the canary."

    Spock paused and walked over to McCoy. Peering intently at his face, he frowned in confusion.

    McCoy frowned back, flinching as Spock moved closer. "What are you looking at?"

    Spock remained passive. "Aside from a slight growth of facial hair that could hardly be considered 'fur', I see no resemblance whatsoever between Dr. McCoy and a domesticated feline."

    McCoy grunted. Kirk turned to Spock, a light grin tipping his own lips upward. "I was referring to his facial expression, Mr. Spock. He's happy about something."

    Spock raised an eyebrow. "Ah. I see. May I ask what you are so pleased about, Doctor?"

    McCoy let his hands drop to his sides. "You may, " he remarked drily. "We have broken a record, gentlemen."

    "Which one is that?" Kirk asked.

    "Longest time on shore leave without anyone getting burned, blasted, fried, or beaten beyond recognition." He held one hand behind his back, holding up four fingers with the other one. "Four whole days."

    "Oh, come on, Bones, it can't be that bad."

    "Can't it? Mind you, I'm pretty sure the only reason we even got this far was because you remained topside for the duration." He crossed his arms and turned away. Spock raised both eyebrows and pursed his lips in a "well, then" face.

    Kirk chuckled and leaned over to press the button on the side of his chair. "Kirk to transporter room."

    "Transporter room here, sir."

    "Everyone present and accounted for?"

    "Aye, sir-"

    "Good. We're almost a week ahead of schedule and I'd like to keep it that way."

    The transporter officer paused. "Is Doctor McCoy on the bridge, sir?"

    The smile melted slowly off McCoy's face. He backed up one step, then another, shaking his head side to side. "Oh, no…"

    "Yes, he is," Kirk answered.

    "Medical assistance is needed here urgently. Lieutenants Berlin and Riley-"

    "He's on his way, Lieutenant. Kirk out." Kirk turned off the communicator.

    "I knew it was too good to be true," McCoy muttered under his breath as he turned and headed for the turbolift. "What's that scamp gotten himself into now?" He entered, and the doors shut behind him with a swoosh.
    ___________________
    Captain's Log, Stardate (insert here): Our scheduled trip to Treano II has been temporarily delayed. Two of my crewmen have returned from shore leave on Yursi with a third unknown party in medical distress. I am confident that this will not have a significant impact on our plans. However…I have been wrong before.

    Kirk and Spock walked into sickbay. Both looked surprised as they saw Riley, asleep in a soft chair nearby. His eyelids twitched.

    Kirk shushed Spock, who nodded once, and they both moved towards McCoy, who was standing at a small sink. A nearby nurse squirted pink foamy liquid into his hands from a squeeze bottle. Rubbing them together, he scrubbed vigorously and rinsed his hands and arms. She set the bottle down and walked away.

    "Doctor?"

    McCoy looked up from the sink, shaking his hands. "Just a minute, Jim." He reached for a blue towel hanging on the nearby rack and dried off with it. Rehanging the towel, he came closer. "I assume you're here about our new passenger."

    Kirk looked over his shoulder at Riley, who was now slumped over to the right, then back to McCoy. "Where's Lieutenant Berlin?"

    "In there with the Agapean. Hasn't left his side since we brought him here." He indicated a private room behind him with a lift of his chin. "Can't say as I blame her. He looks like he hasn't had a decent meal in about a year; you can practically count his ribs, Jim." He shook his head, arms crossed over his chest. "And that filthy old rag he was wearing looked old enough to be Adam's coat of skins. There's a story here somewhere." He picked up a clipboard and began writing on it. "Other than being half-starved, and a few scratches, he's pretty healthy. I expect he'll make a full recovery."

    Spock looked over his shoulder. "Did you say 'Agapean', Doctor?"

    Kirk and McCoy both regarded him with interest. "That's right," McCoy replied, his hand hovering over the clipboard, pen still.

    "What do you know about Agapeans, Mr. Spock?" Kirk asked, relaxing.

    Spock clasped both hands behind his back gazing upward as thought trying to recall. "The first contact with Agapea was made in 2257 by the USS Courage, commanded by Captain Simon Redding. It is a large class-M planet with approximately 4 million inhabitants. There is no formal Starfleet presence there; however, we maintain friendly relations with them to this day. It is a peaceful, agrarian society that primarily uses technology when it is useful to expedite or facilitate labour."

    "Real 'blood, sweat and tears' kind of folks, huh?" McCoy asked. He placed the clipboard and stylus down on a nearby table.

    "Indeed, Doctor. Your kind of people?" Spock asked.

    "You could say that, Spock. It'd sure make life easier. How often do you have to bow and scrape to a carrot patch?" He tipped his head to the left slightly.

    Kirk, who had been nodding his head up and down, clapped Spock on the shoulder. "When, Mr. Spock?"

    "'When', sir?" Spock furrowed his brows, staring in Kirk's direction.

    "When am I ever going to ask you a history question you don't know the answer to?" His hand remained there as he waited for his answer.

    Spock looked down at his feet, then back up at the captain, considering this. "I cannot predict the future, sir. But I hope the answer, insofar as the facts requested are relevant and necessary, is 'never'."

    McCoy's eyebrows bounced upward in unison.

    Kirk smiled. "Good man." He squeezed and let go.
     
  3. Laura Cynthia Chambers

    Laura Cynthia Chambers Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    Jun 1, 2016
    Location:
    Mississauga
    Grace Berlin sat in a metal chair next to the unconscious man's bedside. He had been cleaned up and dressed in a blue sleeveless hospital robe. A medical display screen hung over the bed, readings fluctuating slightly.

    For the first time she got a good look at the man. He was taller than she'd thought, and looked as though he hadn't had a good meal in months. A circular ridge of bone surrounded his pale bronze face, and a scruff of matted curly reddish beard hung from his chin. His hair, still damp from washing and lying against the pillow, was similarly colored.

    She brushed her hair back from her face as she leaned forward, her lashes lowering in sympathy. A sudden movement and her eyes flickered open again to see the man's hand lifting to his face. He groaned, squinting even in the dimly lit room. "Bread…run…" he rasped. Then, noticing her face for the first time, he turned his head more towards her slowly.

    "You are…" His face crumpled and he covered it with his hand. "…oh, it's all a mess." A single tear ran down his cheek and pooled in his chin ridge.

    She placed a hand on his shoulder to calm him. "So you do remember? Don't worry; it's all right. You're not in any trouble. I settled things with the merchant. You owe him nothing."

    He looked at her, surprised. "I was starving, or else I never…never…in all the years since I left…" The man swallowed hard, eyes reddening. "I'm not a thief."

    "Then what are you?" she asked, lifting her hand and folding them together in her lap. "Besides an Agapean, I mean? How did you wind up in such dire straits?" She softened her voice. "I'm a good listener, you know."

    He smiled sadly. "And I'm a fool." For the first time he seemed aware of his surroundings, beyond her. "What is this room?"

    The door swished open at just that moment. "This is what's known as the deluxe full-service suite at the Chez Enterprise. Comfortable accommodations, all you can eat or drink, beautiful women at your beck and call, and a very annoying man who comes in every so often to look at your throat." Kirk walked through the doorway, his gait jaunty. He was obviously trying to put the man at ease.

    Behind him, Spock entered, his gaze scrutinizing the room as though he too had never seen it before, then finally regarding the Agapean with an interested look.

    "Very funny. What are you trying to do, Jim, scare him off?" McCoy hollered through the door. As he entered, his physician's eyes scrutinized his patient for a few seconds while Berlin offered him a drink of water. "I apologize for my captain here. In all my years of medical practice, I have yet to discover a cure for idiocy." Spock raised his eyebrows at Kirk as McCoy walked over to the bedside and checked the monitor, making notations on his clipboard.

    The man took a few sips of water, his back supported by Berlin's arm, then lay back down in a semi-reclining position. "In that case, I recommend my life…up until now, that is. The consequences of my actions would be enough to cure any man. For good."

    "Can you explain what you mean by that?" Kirk moved to the other side of his bed and stood there.

    He frowned. "Oh, where do I start?"

    "Wherever facts become pertinent to the point you are making." Spock offered. "Your identity first?"

    He wiped his mouth with his right hand. "Albix. An Agapean. My father is Descin; he is a rich man, and I am one of his two sons. The younger. I never knew our mother…maybe if I had I might have had something to stay for."

    He paused, thinking. "We have an orchard…at least we did, vast and wide as the eye could see. Ripe, plump breesa hanging from every tree. Someday, it would have been ours; mine and Todar's." He licked his lips. "I couldn't wait for 'someday'." The bitterness in his voice caused McCoy to put the clipboard down and instead listen to the tale with rapt attention, along with Berlin, Kirk and Spock.

    "We as a people don't generally stray too far from home, but there were others, always coming and going…and such stories they'd tell! Other worlds…life so foreign from what I'd ever known." Albix sighed. "I wanted to see it…for myself."

    "There's nothing wrong with dreaming of more." Kirk offered. "Everybody else in this room is living proof of that."

    "But there was. I was so restless; I built walls in my mind around our land that kept becoming smaller and smaller…until they nearly strangled me. Finally, I told my father I couldn't stay any longer, I was leaving and for that I needed money. He asked me to think it over, but I saw him only as my jailer. I demanded my share of the orchard in parins. Oh, the look on his face when he relented! I wish I could forget it."

    Kirk frowned, but not at him, then nodded.

    "He sold my half that very day…and that same night, I paid for passage on an Ulpidian transport, believing I was finally free; of the life I'd always known, of my father, of everything."

    He shook his head sadly. "What a fool I was. My ruination…I had never managed my own affairs before… The first night, I bought everyone drinks, played any game going round, and enjoyed the company of several-" He looked at Grace, whose expression hadn't changed. "I'm sorry."

    "Go ahead," she urged. "It doesn't shock me."

    "I was everybody's friend…I-I wanted to be. That's how it was wherever I went. Always up for a good time…until I started losing money. And then the drinks…they all tasted the same. Flat, dull, sickening…and the women…." He looked up into Berlin's face again. "I'm convinced that 'broke' becomes a part of a man's essence, after a while. And that's what I was; broke, and broken, in every sense of the word. The party was over.

    I spent my last parin on Yursi. Bought myself a bottle of drink." He laughed. "Figured as long as I knew I was destitute, I might as well toast my old life goodbye. Didn't think about a place to stay. Just found any old corner or shelter I could. Picked through garbage looking for stuff I could sell, eat…anything to live a little longer, even in my filth. I survived…somehow. Imagine me, a son of wealth, hungering after coarse bread! When all was in my grasp…now all I had was a grasp." He looked down, tears coming once more. "What I wouldn't give for a chance to start over again. To tell him I'm sorry."

    Berlin was crying, too, by this point, comforting him by holding his hand. Then, her eyes flashed hope as she turned to look at the captain and first officer. Squeezing Albix's hand, she leaned closer. "Maybe-"

    Spock looked at Kirk, who nodded, then addressed Albix. "If you are indeed eager to return home, we may be able to help you."

    Albix looked between the men. "On your ship, you mean? You could take me?" His face flickered between fear, longing, and resolve. "I have no right to make such a request."

    "If you say so. Mr. Spock, have you ever been to Agapea?"

    Spock pursed his lips. "No, sir. But I am suddenly filled with a curiosity about it that hadn't struck me previously."

    "Doctor?"

    McCoy realized where they were going with this. "What does breesa taste like, anyway?" he asked, cocking his head to the side.

    Kirk smiled. "I may be no doctor, but I know of only one remedy for this sudden outbreak of interest." He pulled his communicator out and flipped it open. "Mr. Sulu?"

    "Yes, Captain?"

    "Set course for Agapea."

    "Aye, aye, sir."

    Berlin leaned over the bed, smiling. "Hear that? You're going home, Albix. Home."
     
  4. Laura Cynthia Chambers

    Laura Cynthia Chambers Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    Jun 1, 2016
    Location:
    Mississauga
    A very nervous Albix paced back and forth on the bridge like a caged lion. He looked much better otherwise, now clean shaven and dressed in a dark gray sweater and black pants.

    "Could you not do that? It's really distracting, and I'd rather not have to drag you down to sickbay again," Riley scolded. He turned back to Mr. Scott, who was reading off a series of numbers and nodded, confirming his readings.

    Albix wrung his hands, ignoring Riley's annoyance. "I just hope he won't turn me away. I think I could bear anything but that."

    Scotty left the bridge, nodding to Kirk as he entered and stopped to confer with his yeoman. Riley gave Albix his full attention this time, smiling at the man. "Cheer up. He's your dad. He's not going to shoot you just because you cost him half his fortune…" His face sobered as he realized what he'd said. "On second thought, good luck, buddy." He clapped Albix on the back, muttering, "You'll need it," under his breath as he left the bridge.

    "Captain?" Uhura pressed a button on her console and spun in her chair. Kirk looked up."We're just within communications range of-" A light blinked on her console and she held up one finger before posing both hands on the console. "Sir, we're receiving a hail from the surface now." Albix froze, mid-pace, then moved rapidly down the steps to her console, a desperate look on his face.

    "Go ahead." Kirk leaned forward.

    "Starfleet vessel…can you hear me? I…want to ask you something." The voice was quiet, unreadable.

    Albix's eyes widened. "My father," he mouthed silently, his face drawn and pale.

    Everyone on the bridge stopped working to listen. Sulu studied the helm but clearly his mind was elsewhere. Ensign Chekov, next to him, was out and out staring. Kirk's yeoman held her breath, rocking back and forth on the balls of her feet. Spock had abandoned his post by the ship's database readout and now stood on the other side of Uhura. Albix clenched the edge of desk, white-knuckled.

    "This is Captain James Kirk of the Federation starship Enterprise. What would you like to know?"

    A sharp intake of breath. "Captain…." Uhura touched Albix's hand and he straightened up, emotions playing across his face. "My son, Albix…is he onboard your vessel?"

    Kirk's eyebrows rose in surprise. "Yes, yes he is. We're bringing him-"

    Uhura turned in her chair. "Sir, we lost him."

    "That's odd." Kirk frowned. "Try again."

    She pressed several buttons and waited for a few seconds. "Nothing, sir. No response."

    Albix staggered backwards. "'No response.' I knew it. He wants nothing to do with me. I don't blame him. After the shame I've brought…" He wrung his hands, then pounded a console with his fist. "Why did I ever think he'd take me back?"

    Uhura looked at the display in front of her. "We're getting another communication, sir…text only. It says, 'Your ship and its crew are welcome here. Bring my son with you when you come.' That's all." She shrugged.

    "Tell him we accept." She nodded and leaned into the communications station. Kirk stood up and looked behind him. "How soon until we arrive, Mr. Chekov?"

    "If all remains as it ees, approximately vun hour, Keptin." Chekov responded.

    Kirk smiled. "Excellent." He looked around the bridge. "Albix?" The man was nowhere to be found. "Where did he go?" Kirk asked his yeoman.

    "Out the door. I think he said something about going to his quarters to get ready, sir." She tugged on her long red sleeve. "He did look awfully upset, though."

    "I think he'll be all right, Yeoman." Kirk reassured her. She nodded and left his side.

    As everybody seemed to remember they had a starship to run, Kirk paced across the bridge to where Spock stood. "Absorbed as usual?"

    Spock looked over his shoulder. "I find nothing wrong with devoting my complete attention to my studies, sir. Do you consider it an aberrant trait?"

    "Not in the least. I just wondered what you were reading. Another volume of Vulcan wisdom perhaps? Last week you quoted A'hn O'syr Saltak a total of 17 times in my presence alone." He looked at the screen. "Communication logs regarding Agapea?"

    Spock straightened up and leaned closer to Kirk, speaking quietly. "Yes, sir. I found it singularly unusual that Descin would initiate contact with us so quickly. For him to notice us at the very moment we come within communications range is either a coincidence or indicative of the fact that he must spend significant time monitoring the comings and goings on his homeworld."

    Kirk leaned against the console. "Yes, maybe so, but he's a rich man, Spock. A businessman who needs to stay on top of these things. Fruit doesn't sell and ship itself, you know. "

    "Indeed it does not, sir. Yet he contacted you personally, though he is neither a diplomat or a politician. On the off chance that his son, who has been absent for almost eight years, is with us." He raised one eyebrow.

    Kirk stroked his chin, nodding. "You may have something there." He leaned closer to the computer. "Computer, identify all correlations amongst the communications logs regarding Agapea from present day to eight years ago."

    Whirring came from the computer. Then a female voice responded, "All logged communications with Agapea in the time period specified correlate in the following respects; all communications initiated by Agapean citizen Descin Baras; all communications requests as to the presence of Albix Baras, son of Descin Baras."

    Kirk looked up from the computer and towards Spock. Both wore a look of surprise.

    Spock frowned. "It would appear he is most eager to reunite with his son."

    Kirk looked upwards. "Apparently so."

    LOL I didn't mean to make a pun. "A -parently so" get it? Do you recognize the story now?
     
  5. Laura Cynthia Chambers

    Laura Cynthia Chambers Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    Jun 1, 2016
    Location:
    Mississauga
    Grace walked down the hallway, a look of concern on her face. She passed by several crew members, including two security officers who looked up once as she hurried by them, then returned to their conversation. She spied Albix's guest quarters on the left side of the hall, and stood outside his room for a few seconds, smoothing her uniform. Then she raised her right hand to press the door chime.

    "Come in," a muffled voice from the other side called softly.

    She entered, surveying the dark grey walls; the comfortable bed covered in red checked sheets; an abstract painting of swirls in dark blue and muted yellow to the left of the window. A small peach rectangular table stood on two wide posts. Albix sat in a soft white chair with a low back, staring down at the tabletop. A dish of thick brown vegetable beef stew sat steaming before him as he absent-mindedly stirred it with a spoon.

    Grace pulled out the other chair across from him and sat down. "No matter how long you stare at your dinner, you'll never be able to eat it with your eyes."

    He looked up at her, confused. "What?"

    She shook her head, smiling sadly. "Nothing….just something my mom used to say." Grace swallowed hard, twisting her hands in front of her. "You haven't touched your dinner. What's the matter?"

    He dropped the spoon and sighed deeply. "I'm not hungry right now."

    "I suppose that makes sense. Your stomach's probably shrunk from not getting enough for a while." She looked up at him, her eyes soft.

    "No, that's not why." Albix slumped forward, dejected, and pushed the dish out of the way.

    Grace put her hand on top of his. "Tell me."

    "I-I just…he didn't even want to speak to me." Albix covered his face with both hands.

    "He asked about you, didn't he?"

    "Yes. But that's all. I mean, I expected him to be surprised. Angry, even." He picked up the green glass of water next to him and drank it half down. "But indifferent?" He groaned. "This was a really bad idea. As though I could just come back home and pick up where I left off." Albix paused, thinking. "It's almost harvest season again. I may not be able to return as a son, but he always needs seasonal workers to pick the breesa. Even if he doesn't care anymore, maybe he will allow me that much."

    "He cares. T-trust me." A single tear ran down Grace's cheek. She wiped it away with the back of her hand, sniffling. "I know."

    "Are you okay?" He looked at her curiously, for the first time focusing on something other than his own pain.

    "Yeah. Albix...listen to me. Do you know how fortunate you are?" She sat back in her chair. "I was an only child growing up. Daddy's girl and Starfleet brat. We bounced from starbase to starbase, but somehow he and Mom always managed to make it feel like home for me." She sighed. "There was never any question about my destiny. Four years of Academy and then a nice safe posting on the Julius." Albix frowned. "Transport ship. Don't get me wrong, it was a good craft and all, but traveling the same regularly scheduled route over and over again? I wanted adventure. Much like you did."

    Albix rested his chin on his hand. "Did you find what you were looking for?"

    She ran her hand through her hair. "Yeah, I did. I requested reassignment to the Reliant and got it. When I tried to tell my parents the news, my mother was thrilled for me. But my father…" She swallowed hard. "He was not happy. The captain of the Julius was a good friend of his, and the position a coveted one. We had words with each other. I-I told him if he didn't think I was grown up enough to make my own choices, then I didn't want anything to do with him. He was so hurt…I think, but he yelled at me to go then." She drew in a shuddering breath. "S-so I-I did. I-I j-just wish I'd gone about it another way."

    "Then you do understand." He looked at her with sympathy.

    "Yes," she whispered, a faraway look in her eyes. "More than you know. Not long after I left them, my parents retired to the Syndas III colony. Two days after they moved in, a massive volcanic eruption destroyed the settlement. Without warning, everything was gone."

    Albix reached across the table and touched her arm. "Oh, Grace…"

    Grace returned her gaze to him. "What I'd give to see them again. To apologize. I don't have that chance any more. But you do. Take it."

    The wall communicator chirped. Albix jumped, looking around for the source of the sound. Grace stood and walked over to the wall, pressing the switch. "Berlin here."

    "This is Spock, Lieutenant. Please inform Mr. Baras that we have arrived at Agapea and will be transporting down in fifteen minutes."

    "Understood, sir. Berlin out." She pressed the off switch and looked over her shoulder at Albix, who was now seated on the edge of his bed. "It's going to be just fine. You'll see."
    ___________________________
    The landing party consisting of Kirk, Spock, Albix, Berlin and two security officers materialized in the middle of a field. It was early evening. Several large fruit trees stood planted in even rows. Long green leaves trailed down from the branches, and clusters of blue tear drop shaped fruit hung heavily in clusters. A stack of bushel baskets sat next to one, tipped over.

    Kirk stared off into the distance, surveying the gently sloping valley. Several small natural rock formations had been left in place, instead of being removed to make way for the orchard. As Albix spoke quietly to Berlin, she squeezed his hand.

    Spock pointed in the opposite direction of Kirk's perusal. A large house, spacious but not overly pretentious, stood about 50 feet away. Light filled all the windows; the sounds of conversation and music spilled outside. "Captain. I believe that is where we are expected." He looked at Albix, who nodded once.

    The door burst open, and a large man hurried along a cobblestone pathway towards them. He was not a young man; his hair was gray and his face was lined with age. But his eyes were as bright with wonder as a little boy's.

    The security officers reached for their weapons, but Kirk waved them off. He stepped forward and extended a hand towards the man. "Descin Baras, I presume? I'm Captain Kirk; you contacted-" He cut himself off as the old man swept past Kirk and nearly collided with Albix, taking him in a tight embrace. Kirk and Spock shared surprised looks with each other and the security detail. Grace backed away two steps, smiling at the scene before her.

    Tears streamed down Descin's face as he looked on the son he hadn't seen in years. "My boy. Oh, my dear, dear boy. I thought I'd never see you again." He buried his face in his son's shoulder. "My son…" he murmured softly.

    Albix was weeping, too, relief evident in his eyes. "Father…I'm so sorry…"

    Descin pulled back, grabbing his son by the arms. "I know, son. I know you are." He smiled, and lifted a corner of his reddish-brown robe to wipe his eyes. "Look at us…watering the breesa with our tears," he chuckled. He slipped his arm around Albix's shoulders, looking around at the others as though noticing them for the first time. "Captain, my apologies. Having my son back has made me forget all about hospitality."

    Kirk smiled warmly. "That's quite alright." Spock nodded.

    "Yes, well, as I said before, you and your crew are welcome to join in the festivities." He turned to his son again, looking at him with deep love. "As soon as I heard you were coming home, I invited all of our friends and neighbours to the house for a celebration. Such short notice, but most of them have already arrived."

    "And Todar?" Albix's question hung in the air for a few seconds.

    For the first time, the joy that radiated from Descin's face dimmed a little. "I expect him home later. He does not know yet." He dropped his gaze, but then recovered quickly. "I'm sure he'll be happy to see you as well. Come, come, I had Hesla lay out some fine clothes for you." Steering his son towards the house, he walked ahead of the others, Berlin next to Albix. Stopping once to look over his shoulder, he called back to them. "There's plenty of food and drink, so you needn't worry about taking advantage of me."

    "Thank you, that's very generous. I'll be sure to let them know." Kirk flipped his communicator open, as Spock's gaze darted between the retreating figures and the captain. "Kirk to Enterprise."

    Uhura answered. "Receiving. Go ahead, Captain."

    "Make the following shipwide announcement; all off-duty personnel be advised that they are welcome to attend a celebration here on Agapea, given in honor of our guest's homecoming."

    "Understood. Will so advise."

    "Thank you, Lieutenant." Kirk shut the communicator and turned to Spock, throwing his arm over the first officer's shoulder, grinning. Spock frowned, and Kirk's smile faded. He narrowed his eyes at Spock. "Something wrong?"

    "No, sir." He pressed his lips together. "I was merely struck by the way Descin greeted Albix."

    Kirk tipped his head to the side, amused. "You were struck? He almost knocked me over getting to him."

    They headed down the pathway side by side.

    "You misunderstand me, sir." Spock continued. "It was as though he had done nothing wrong whatsoever. Surely his father would hold such grievous errors against him."

    "It's called a second chance, Spock. Haven't you ever been given one before?" Kirk asked.

    "I have rarely required such, as I generally consider the consequences of my decisions before acting. Forgiveness is a human concept; the releasing of grudges due to past wrongs. There is no emotion involved when we deny somebody a chance, only logic; it would be most irrational to expect different results from the same person."

    Kirk held up one finger. "Ah, but that's just it; he's not the same person he was before."

    Spock considered this briefly. "Perhaps you are right, Captain."
     
  6. Laura Cynthia Chambers

    Laura Cynthia Chambers Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    Jun 1, 2016
    Location:
    Mississauga
    Grace wandered over to the buffet table, looking over at Albix as she selected from a wide variety of foods. Instead of the casual clothes he had worn on the Enterprise, he was now clothed in a bright orange robe similar to his father's. He stood by Descin's side, greeting several people he knew., and introducing them to the captain and Mr. Spock. Descin's face shone, clearly proud of his son.

    Several members of the crew were also milling about the large room which was flanked by tall blue curtains that hid several small alcoves leading to a balcony two stories above the ground. Three musicians played large stringed instruments similar to harps, while a fourth beat softly on a small drum.

    Riley appeared next to her, munching on a drumstick. "Hey, why aren't you hanging around with your new boyfriend?" he asked, mouth full.

    Grace blushed crimson. "We barely know each other."

    "Suit yourself. At least the food's good." He paused, the almost empty bone pointed at Descin. "What's with this guy anyway? If it were my kid, I'd have a few words to say to him, and they wouldn't all end in 'I love you' either." He reached for a cup of punch and took a sip. "I mean, yeah, I kinda feel sorry for Albix and all; don't get me wrong. But still…that's a lot of dough."

    "Well, I think it's wonderful," Grace snapped. Then more softly, she asked, "What if it were you, Kevin?"

    "Ya mean if I was his wayward son? Let me tell you, if I came home and said 'Guess what? I lost all your money, pops,' and he took me back like that-" Riley snapped his fingers "-I'd have some serious doubts about his sanity." Sobering, he took another drink, finishing off his glass. "All kidding aside though…" He swallowed hard. "…I'm a little jealous. To be honest, I don't know whatmy dad would've done. Never got the chance to find out." He turned away from her, his head down.

    She placed one hand on his shoulder. "I forgot. You're an orphan, too…"

    "Yeah, well…if you're waiting for me to cry on your shoulder or something, you'll be here all night." He stuffed his hands in his pockets. "Not that I wouldn't mind being consoled by you, though…" He winked at her, grinning like an impish leprechaun.

    "Not a chance, Riley." Grace smiled back. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Albix moving towards her through the crowd. "Try to come back sober this time, okay?" she teased. "You'll be sorry in the morning if you don't." Riley toasted her silently with his empty cup, even as he moved towards the punch bowl for a refill.
    _________________
    Kirk watched Albix cross the room, headed in Grace Berlin's direction. She took his hands, beaming, After speaking for a minute, she nodded and they headed out onto the balcony terrace together.

    "She seems quite taken with my son."

    Kirk looked back to see Descin watching too, as the curtain fluttered closed behind them. "Yes, that's Lieutenant Berlin, she's actually the one who rescued him. Well, her and Riley. They found him starving and brought him back to the ship."

    Descin turned to face Kirk and Spock. "I cannot express my gratitude enough to all of you. You have made an old man very happy."

    "Thanks are unnecessary." Spock folded his hands behind his back. "Knowing that we have been able to aid you is our reward."

    "Still…I must do something. Would some crates of breesin be acceptable?"

    "Breesin?" Kirk asked.

    "A well-aged beverage made from breesa, Captain. Full, rich, and flavorful."

    Kirk shared a look with Spock, before turning to smile at Descin. "I think we could squeeze one or two into one of the cargo bays," he replied.

    "Excellent!" Descin clapped his hands. "It is settled, then."

    "We will make arrangements to receive your generous gift." Spock bowed slightly, eyes closed. Kirk did the same, but opened one eye when he heard a loud creak.

    They looked up to see a man standing by the doorway, talking to one of the guests. He was large, square-jawed, and rugged looking. As the guest answered him, pointing beyond the curtain, his features darkened. Frowning, he pushed through the crowd until he stood in front of his father.

    "What is the meaning of this?" he rasped angrily.

    Descin smiled, but his features were strained as he took the man by the arm and tried to calm him. "The best of news, Todar. Your brother has returned to us. Come and celebrate."

    Todar's face looked anything but merry. "Celebrate what? I have no brother, and well you know it," he growled. He waved his arm around the room. "And what are all these Starfleet officers doing here?"

    "I invited them," Descin explained. "Todar, this is Captain Kirk and his first officer, Mr. Spock. They brought Albix home again."

    Kirk offered his hand, but the man ignored it, turning his back on them. Stabbing his finger at Descin's chest, he opened his mouth to say something. His expression changed from anger to an eerily calm one. "Starfleet…" he muttered. A smile slowly crept across his face. "I am sorry, Father. Perhaps it is good news, after all…" He retreated from their group and left the room, bumping into Riley on the way out, whose hiccupy "'Scuse you," was barely heard over the music.

    Spock raised an eyebrow. "A turn of 180 degrees."

    Kirk frowned.
    ___________________
    The party was more subdued by now. Several people had departed; others had gone outside to walk along the orchard. Their voices echoed along the rows of trees while the light of two moons overhead shone down on them.

    Grace leaned over the balcony, looking up at the sky, her face illuminated by the moonlight. "It's a beautiful evening, isn't it?" She looked to her right. "Albix?"

    He had left her side and now stood by the curtain, looking between the slight gap. Grace sidled up next to him. "I never figured you for a people watcher." At the sight of his drawn features, her mouth turned down.

    "My brother." The two words were filled with sadness. "He is here."

    "Really?" She moved towards the curtain and pulled a handful of drapery aside. "I'd like to meet him. I'll bet he has all sorts of stories-"

    He held one hand up. "Please. Stay." She dropped the curtain and stood there, frozen by the pain on his face. "Our relationship was never close, and from what I saw on his face, I'm pretty sure he still holds the grudge our Father doesn't." Albix walked over to the railing and leaned on it.

    Grace put her arm around him and pointed at the sky. "See that?" He followed her gaze to where the two moons hung overhead, twin curves in the sky. "Crescents. As though the heavens are happy with us." She leaned on his arm, and they watched the sky together.
    _______________
    "…so I drew out my phaser and fired! Phshhhhh-pow! And that creature was history!" Kevin Riley mimicked shooting a weapon, then threw his hands up in the air. "Anyways, it's been great, pal…see ya," he nodded, slapping the back of one of the four Agapeans who had been listening to his story. He half-stumbled towards the sound of singing. "They're playing my song," he laughed, hiccupping again. He wondered briefly where the captain was, scanning the crowd for him. Neither he, Spock nor Descin were anywhere to be found. The old man had probably called it a night. Same for his superiors. "Nighty, night, fellas," he muttered. "Maybe when I get back I'll sing you a lullaby, huh? Would ya like that? No, probably not…" He shook his head.

    As the evening had progressed, the crowd had thinned. Most of the Starfleet officers still planetside had migrated to a smaller chamber down the hallway which appeared to be a combination office/drawing room.

    He peeked in the door and saw Todar standing by a large unlit fireplace. A cabinet to the left was open, and inside he spied several clear bottles of liquid in various shades of amber and red. One appeared to be missing, but then he saw a tall bottle in Todar's hand. A leering grimace covered his face as he poured a shot glass full of dark blue liquid for Nurse Courtney. The rail thin redhead raised her glass, spilling a little on her dress front, giggling. Others conversed lightly, glass in hand, waiting.

    Todar looked up, spying Riley. "Come in, friend. I believe I saw you earlier, didn't I?" He beckoned Kevin with one hand. Others nodded and offered half-smiles to him. "We were just about to toast my brother's homecoming. Care to join us?" The man picked up another shot glass from the table and poured, as though certain what his answer would be.

    "Yeah, sure." He walked into the room, through the grouping of chairs and standing people. He counted at least ten from various departments.

    Todar handed the drink to him and he sniffed it. "Hey, I tried some of this already. Not bad. Why'd ya keep one under lock and key?"

    Todar hesitated. "That was breesin," he huffed, as though being bothered by a small child.

    Riley indicated the bottle with his thumb. "So what's this then? The good stuff?"

    "You could say that. It is malarbreesin. The difference is subtle at first, but I think you'll find it rather…interesting." With that, he stepped back and raised his own glass. "To my beloved brother Albix on his return; may he always be seen as he truly is." He lifted it to his lips and tilted his head back.

    "To Albix," the crowd agreed, downing their glasses in unison.

    Riley felt a rush of cool sweetness as the blue liquid trickled down his throat. He wiped his mouth with his sleeve. "Not bad," he chirped. "Fruity and smoo-"A jolt of electricity ran down his limbs and rocketed up into his head, freezing him in place, glassy eyed. All his fellow crew members had the same vacant look on their faces.

    Todar placed his empty glass on the table, unaffected. He surveyed the entranced crew before him. "As he truly is," he repeated, slowly pacing around the room, his hands clasped behind him, jaw tight.
    ____________________
    Fire filled his mouth. Riley gasped, filling his lungs with air, which set off a coughing spasm. The blue-faced lieutenant turned crimson, dropping the glass with a crash. He doubled over, hands on his knees, trying to breathe again. He drew in first one shaky breath, then two more.

    Several of the crew members were clutching their throats, while others wobbled on their feet, having recovered quicker. A few tittered nervously, weak with relief.

    His breathing slowing down now, he stumbled backwards and plopped down into a chair, his arms hanging limply at his side. He lifted one and dragged it across his sweaty forehead. "Wow!" he exclaimed, looking towards the fireplace, his vision clearing. "'Interesting'? You weren't kidding…"

    But Todar had left sometime during the incident; the cabinet door was locked again, and there was no sign of the bottle of malarbreesin. "How d'ya like that?" Riley turned to Courtney, shaking his head. "What did he put in that stuff, anyway?" The nurse shrugged, clearly still too tipsy to care.

    "Eh…" Riley stood up from his chair. He cast a glance at Todar's discarded glass. Frowning, he lifted it up to the light. Empty. Not even a film of blue liquid at the bottom, unlike everybody else's. He tugged at his collar, then headed for the door. "If anybody's looking for me, I'll be outside. Need some air." Nobody seemed to hear him as he exited the chamber.
    __________
    "Hear that?" Grace whispered, her voice hushed with wonder. A soft clunking and rustling sound traveled on the breeze.

    "I used to fall asleep to that sound." Albix sighed. "It's the breesa trees swaying in the wind. I never thought I'd hear it again." He watched her listen, her eyes closed in pleasure.

    "Just like music. With no band." She leaned on her elbows, a dreamy look on her face.

    Albix swallowed. He touched her on the shoulder. "Grace?"

    "Mmm?" she murmured, looking deeply into his eyes.

    He took her hand in both of his. "I want to thank you."

    "For what?"

    "For saving me,for encouraging me like you did. I never would have been brave enough to come here on my own. If you hadn't taken a chance on a thief, I'd probably be holed up in a Yursian holding cell, feeling sorry for myself."

    She looked down at their hands, trembling slightly. A slow smile spread across her face. "You're welcome. But you're also wrong. The man I see when I look at you is capable of far more brave things than even you know."

    "Really?"

    The air thickened between them.

    "Really."

    He leaned closer. "Even this?" he asked, lowering his head towards hers. Gently, he wrapped his arms around her waist and drew her forward. Her eyes widened just before their lips met in a sweet embrace of gratitude, hope and joy.
     
  7. Laura Cynthia Chambers

    Laura Cynthia Chambers Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    Jun 1, 2016
    Location:
    Mississauga
    A still slightly dazed Riley parted the curtain and moved towards the balcony railing, his footsteps tapping on the tiled brick. It was a cool night. The air was laden with the light perfume of almost- ripe breesin. He shivered slightly as the wind played with his hair. "Whew. I'd take the cold any day. Was getting' kinda stuffy in there."

    He flinched as a shadow moved over him. Tipping his head back, he quickly realized it was just the curtain, disturbed by the wind. "Heh, heh…you're seein' things, Riley…"

    "Kill him! He must not live another minute! He will destroy everything!"

    Riley covered his ears as the phrases, dripping with venom, shot through his consciousness. "What the-" The voice was familiar, but he couldn't place it. "Weird." He shook his head.

    A flicker of movement caught his eye from behind a large column. Curious, he tip-toed along the tiles and peered around it.

    Two figures were moving in the moonlight, so close they were touching. Riley covered his mouth to hide a grin as a rosy blush filled his cheeks. "Well, well, what do we have here….looks like a couple of lovebirds…" he chuckled. But his laughter quickly died off as he realized that one of the two wasn't human. Wasn't even humanoid.

    And the other was Grace Berlin.

    Riley's heart leapt into his throat. He watched in horror as the young woman writhed and twisted violently, trying to escape the clutches of a large orange serpent. Crying out, she pushed on the creature in an attempt to free her body. But the snake just coiled even tighter, closing her mouth with the end of its tail.

    He had seen that creature before on Meradis Prime. Had bragged about obliterating the beast not an hour ago, his false drunk bravado covering the grief and guilt he felt over losing two friends to its ravenous appetite before he managed to stop it.

    Panicking, he reached for his phaser. It wasn't there. "No!" he shouted. Jerking his head from side to side in a frantic search for a weapon, he found nothing.

    "Grace!" The snake opened its massive jaws and prepared to swallow Berlin whole. Riley lunged forward and grabbed the serpent by the back of the neck. "LET HER GO!" he yelled, strangling the creature with his bare hands, trying to drag it off of Grace's struggling body.
    _____________
    "Harvest begins in three weeks, and processing to make breesin two week after that." Descin plucked a single breesa off the tree and passed it to Spock. "But most of the fruit is ripe enough now."

    The Vulcan studied it in the pale light of the moon. "Curious. Does it have any other applications that do not pertain to alcohol?"

    "Yes. When unfermented, the juice can be quite sweet. Or you could eat it raw. Some people use it to make pastries, too." He sat down on an overturned basket. "My Jalia could whip up a brees-wava that would make your mouth water," he remarked wistfully.

    Kirk took a bite of the fruit. "I'll bet." He lowered his hand, a sad expression on his face. "How long has it been?" Spock looked up from his perusal of the fragrant blue-skinned orb, listening.

    Descin sighed. "Longer than I care to remember. About 19 years now. She died of a fungal infection, Captain. It devastated our entire orchard and took her away from us all in one terrible season. Albix was just a baby, and Todar a young boy. He didn't understand why I spent more time with his brother. Why I had to."

    "It was only logical that you focus your attention on the child who was least able to fend for himself," Spock offered in an attempt to comfort him. "Affection must be secondary to survival."

    "Come on; he was only a child, Spock. How could you possibly expect him to figure that out?" Kirk scratched the back of his neck.

    "Even young minds are capable of rational thought," Spock protested. "Though I will allow that feelings of loss and abandonment, like all emotions, have a way of distorting ones' perception of reality."

    Kirk placed his hand on the man's arm. "You made the only choice you could, Baras."

    "Thank you, Kirk. I only wish Todar knew that. Healing will not come easily for that one." Descin stood up stiffly and straightened his back, yawning. "Used to be I could go without sleep for a day at a time. I'm afraid I really must retire now, Captain." He smiled. "You may remain a little longer if you wish, though."

    "That's okay, but I'm getting a little worn out myself." Kirk covered his mouth to stifle a yawn, stretching his arms upwards. "Phew. Ready to hit the hay, Spock?"

    Spock raised an eyebrow. "If you are asking whether I am fatigued, inviting me to engage in further physical activity seems almost cruel." He fell into step beside the two men.

    Kirk threw his free arm around Spock, laughing. "How dreadfully I mistreat you, Commander. My most humble apologies. However do you manage?" He bowed gracefully, one eye open.

    Spock turned his head and cocked it to one side. "Usually by regarding your hypocrisies, idiosyncrasies and irrationalities as examples of human nature suitable for dissection. Between you and Doctor McCoy, I have all the material I require."

    Descin glanced over at them, confused. "Private joke. You wouldn't understand," Kirk muttered.

    A loud scream erupted from the balcony. Dropping the half-eaten breesa, Kirk tore through the orchard, kicking up clods of dirt in his wake. Spock hurried after him, Descin struggling to keep up.

    Bursting through the door, he ran up two flights of stairs, following the sound of the screams. Into the celebration room that now lay empty, shoving the banquet table out of his way with a mighty heave. Several dishes clattered to the floor as he nearly tripped over the amber table cloth.

    Regaining his footing, he plowed through the curtains onto the balcony, stopping to catch his breath. To his left, Lieutenant Grace Berlin stood in the corner, her back pressed against the wall, hands over her face. Kirk pulled her hands away and saw the look of sheer panic in her tear-filled eyes.

    "What's wrong?" he asked her gently.

    Breathing rapidly, Berlin grabbed his shirt. "C-captain…" She lifted a shaky finger and pointed over his shoulder. "Look…"

    Kirk looked.

    Lieutenant Kevin Riley had his hands around Albix's throat, squeezing tightly. "I'LL KILL YOU, SERPENT!" he screamed. "I'LL KILL YOU! "

    The Agapean wheezed and clawed at Riley's arms weakly as the officer pushed his upper back a little further over the railing. Kirk leapt into action, seizing him by the shoulders. Riley swung his head around, momentarily distracted. Kirk shoved him out of the way and pulled Albix upwards, lowering him to the ground gently. He moved his feet apart, bracing himself as Riley backed up.

    Spock appeared, followed by Descin. The older man put his arm around his son's shoulders, talking softly to him before helping him stand, supporting his weight as they departed. Spock ushered Lieutenant Berlin out through the curtains, reaching for his communicator.

    Riley lunged at Kirk, who grabbed the writhing man, standing as a firm roadblock between him and Albix. "Riley! What's gotten into you?!" He shook the man twice. The hatred on Riley's face became raw fear.

    "NO! I MUST SLAY THE SERPENT!" he cried, frantically trying to escape Kirk's hold. "Don't you see it, Captain? The fangs, the maw…dripping blood and death-oh!" He went limp in Kirk's arms as Spock subdued him with a nerve pinch.

    "Thank you, Spock." Kirk leaned Riley against the post. Except for the sheen of sweat on his face and his torn uniform, he looked as though he was just taking a nap.

    Spock looked at the unconscious man, then turned back to Kirk. "I have already alerted Doctor McCoy and security, sir. They will be expecting us." He paused. "I believe his exact words were, 'I'll put another pot of coffee on. Blast it, I knew I should have taken that sleeping pill.'" Spock raised an eyebrow. "Though I suspect that last part wasn't intended for my ears."

    Despite offering a weak smile, the worry lines did not disappear from Kirk's brow.
    ______________
    Kirk sat on the edge of the metal chair, steepling his fingers together. "Is that the best you can do, Doctor?" He cast a fleeting glance at the two small glasses that sat on the desk in front of him. Each were filled halfway with a blue liquid. Spock stood next to the desk, peering down at them intently.

    McCoy stood by the door of his office, hands on his hips. "Listen Jim, if you don't like my diagnosis, take it up with the laws of nature." He counted on his fingers. "Booze + the green-eyed monster = violence. Simple as that. Lucky for Albix, you're a fast runner and Kevin's grip wasn't stronger. He's got some bad bruising, but his larynx is still intact. I gave Berlin a mild sedative and sent her back to her quarters, but I'm keeping the other two over for observation. The rest is your job." McCoy walked over to the desk and picked up one of the glasses. "This is the stuff most of you were drinking. Breesin. In the punch. This, on the other hand-" He traded glasses. "-is a bit stronger. That's the last thing Riley drank. Though there's nothing in it per se that would cause the kind of hallucinations he claimed to see. Harmless pink elephants, yes. Transforming a man into a vicious serpent?" McCoy shook his head. "I suppose he could've had some bad stuff by mistake. But when I asked him about it, he swears the last thing he remembers was being in the main room." He held up both glasses. "Could you tell the difference just by looking?"

    Kirk stared at one first, then the other. "No, I don't think so."

    "May I?" Spock asked. He sniffed both glasses, dipping a finger into each and tasting briefly, licking his lips. He pointed to the one on the right. "This one is slightly more potent, but not overly dense. Fragrant with hints of bitterness."

    "Excuse me; I forgot about our mass Spock-trometer here." McCoy huffed. "First officer, scientist, and sommelier. Isn't that something?" He rubbed his forehead, sighing.

    Kirk smiled but it didn't reach his eyes. "Yeah, Bones. He's a regular boy wonder."

    Spock arched his eyebrow.
    _________
    Sickbay was shadowed in the dim light of overnight. Just lit enough so that the staff wouldn't stumble blindly in the dark. There was even a setting that allowed for small squares of light on the walls, as though streetlamps shone through curtains covering glass paned windows. McCoy had posed the challenge to Scotty a few months ago, and the engineer had been intrigued enough to oblige him. Anything that made the place seem more like a hospital and less like a sardine can pleased him.

    He was now seated in his office, trying to make sense of this incident. A single desk lamp shone yellow light on two small shot glasses. The samples remained on his desk where he had left them after Kirk and Spock had excused themselves. On the right, the one labeled "Breesin Sample One (bottle)"; on the left, "Breesin Sample Two (synthesized from drop on Riley's uniform".

    McCoy massaged his temples. "Uhh, I'm going to go blind staring at these things." He squinted, blinking several times. Standing from his chair, he walked over to a more comfortable couch and dropped onto it. "Just a few winks here and I'll go to bed…promise…" He squirmed before leaning his head back on the back of the couch, his breathing becoming more even as he drifted off into a light slumber.
     
  8. Laura Cynthia Chambers

    Laura Cynthia Chambers Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    Jun 1, 2016
    Location:
    Mississauga
    Sonya Courtney rubbed her forehead as she exited the turbolift. A guard on duty gave her a cursory nod as he passed her. The doors closed behind him and she tip-toed the rest of the way down the corridor.

    She entered the main area of sickbay and looked around the room. McCoy's office was still in use, but he was probably absorbed in some medical journal. The nurse on duty was not in the main treatment room, either; so much the better. Leaving the lights dimmed, she headed towards the medicine cabinet.

    "Never again," she muttered, then winced, squinting. She typed in the combination and pulled the door open. "Where's that painkiller?" Rummaging around in the cabinet, she found what she was looking for. A small bottle of green pills. She uncapped it and shook out two, swallowing them with a glass of water. "Maybe now I can get some sleep." Courtney replaced the bottle and closed the cabinet, turning to leave.

    A soft moan came from one of the rooms off to the side. Pausing, she smoothed the front of her skirt and headed for the source of the sound, her nursing instincts not completely dulled by her post-drunk condition.

    She peeked around the side of the doorway. A lump was huddled under the blankets, but it was still too dark to make it out. "Hello? Do you need anything?" She turned on the light switch.

    And gasped.

    A large beast lay on its side, breathing loudly. It was covered in spiny dark fur, and looked to be at least 7 feet from head to hind legs. Enormous fangs glistened in the half light, overhanging the wolf creature's lower jaw by a good three inches. She inched along the wall, eyes wide with fright. As she moved into the corner, its eyes opened. Large red orbs full of rage and menace. Backing away, she ran out the door and headed for the medicine cabinet again.

    Grabbing an empty hypospray from a drawer in the table to the right, she frantically punched the buttons and yanked the cabinet open again. Spying a large bottle of pale yellow liquid, she pulled it down and drew some up, filling the injection device.

    Without replacing anything or shutting the door, she grabbed the hypo with both hands, holding it in front of her like a shield. Breathing heavily, she trembled her way through the door and around the other side of the bed.
    ________________
    McCoy awoke with a snort. Eyes popping open, he squinted and rubbed the back of his neck, sore from lying on the couch. "Computer, what fool time is it?" he mumbled.

    The computer didn't respond.

    McCoy gingerly got to his feet, stretching. "Oh…" He pressed a hand to the small of his back. "That does it. I am getting too old for this couch."

    A creak made him freeze. "That didn't come from me…" Stiffly moving towards the door of his office, his gait sped up and became more fluid.

    He surveyed sickbay, his domain. Everything was as it should be. Treatment beds were nicely made up with clean sheets, the vital sign displays had been freshly wiped down…

    And the cabinet door hung open.

    He frowned. "Did I leave that-" McCoy hurried over to the cabinet, pushing lightly on the door. It swung out of the way with ease. He saw an empty space on one of the shelves, and looked briefly before spying the medicine bottle on the table, still uncapped.

    He picked it up, reading the label. "'Salemboline'…now I know I haven't used that today." Out of the corner of his eye, he noticed the light spilling from Albix's room. Setting the bottle down, he headed in that direction.

    As he entered the room, he stopped in his tracks, momentarily caught off-guard by what he saw. Nurse Sonya Courtney stood poised over a sleeping Albix, a hypospray in her hand. "Nurse?"

    She looked up at him, fear and calm warring for dominance. "Shhh," she hushed McCoy. "Once I've sedated the creature, call security. I think it may be rabid." She brought the hypo down towards the Agapean's neck.

    "No!" In a flash, McCoy was by her side, trying to wrestle the hypospray from her hand. She struggled against him, stronger than he thought she'd be. The hypo came dangerously close to his own neck, and he ducked out of the way. Courtney pushed past him and thrust the hypo towards Albix again. McCoy reached out and grabbed her arm, twisting her wrist until her grip on the device loosened. "Oh!" she cried out, gasping.

    Albix's eyes twitched as he turned over and eased up slowly, still half-asleep. "Wha-" He blinked twice, taking in the scene before him. Quickly, he straightened up against the headboard, squishing the pillow beneath his weight as he did so.

    McCoy pinned Courtney against the wall with one hand, arms crossed behind her back, kicking the hypo under the bed as he did so. He reached for the comm switch on the wall with the other hand. "Security!" he yelled. "I need help in sickbay!"

    Courtney angled her head towards the comm unit. "Yes! Come quickly! Hurry!" She turned to McCoy. "Let me go, Doctor! I have to sedate it first! They're not safe if I don't!" she pleaded, her face reddening as she writhed in his arms, trying to free herself.

    McCoy turned the switch off and grabbed Courtney's shoulders with both hands, turning her around to face him. He gave her a good hard shake. "Nurse! Control yourself! That is not a creature; he's my patient! Look at him!" McCoy turned her forcibly around and pointed at a still cowering Albix, eyes darting between McCoy and the nurse.

    Crying out in fear again, she buried her face in McCoy's chest, grabbing his shirt with her fists. "Don't let it bite me! Please, don't let it bite me!" she wailed.

    McCoy frowned as it dawned on him. "Another one?"

    Two security officers ran into the room. "Put her in medical restraints. I'll be there in a second to sedate her. After that, I want one of you outside this room. Don't let anybody but me in," McCoy ordered, wagging his finger.

    "Yes, sir," one of the men answered. They removed the trembling nurse from his arms gently.

    She fought them both, but they only tightened their firm grip on her. Her frightened eyes still fixed on the bed where Albix now slumped, breathing rapidly. "THE CREATURE! THE CREATURE!" Courtney screamed as they dragged her away.

    McCoy rounded the bed, stopping to place a hand on Albix's shoulder. "Sorry about that," he drawled. "You try to get some rest now, all right?" Albix nodded and slid down under the covers, still uneasy. After a cursory glance at his vital signs, which were improving, McCoy leaned on the edge of the bed and bent over, picking up the hypospray. He stood again and moved toward the door, turning out the lights.

    McCoy paused in the doorway, his gaze darting between Albix and the hypo, still trying to make sense of what had just happened.
    _____________
    Albix stood up from the bed as Grace rushed into the room. She embraced him, the folds of his long orange robe brushing her bare knees. "They told me what happened last night. How awful it must have been for you!" She held him at arm's length, assessing his face and color, worried. "What's wrong with everyone?" she asked, shaking her head and sitting on the edge of his bed.

    He lowered himself down next to her and put his arm around her shoulder, rubbing her arm gently. "Shhh…it's over now. Don't think about it." He turned to look at her. "Did you get any sleep at all last night?"

    Grace laughed lightly. "Are you worried about me? You're the one who's had two attempts on his life in one night."

    He nodded. "Yes. I'm sorry you had to watch." He looked away briefly, then stood up slowly, taking her by the hand. "Father's giving your captain a tour of our orchard today so he can see the manufacturing process for breesin. Want to come along? I can show you some of the places I used to play as a boy."

    She looked at the ground as they walked out the door past a security guard. "I'd love to, but I'm on duty in-"

    "Not if I have anything to say about it." McCoy stepped out of the room next to Albix's, a clipboard in hand. "Don't worry, Lieutenant, I've already spoken to the captain about giving you a break and he agrees with me. You two just have a nice, relaxing day together, you hear?" He nodded at the two of them and headed for his office.

    Albix smiled. "You were saying?"

    Grace returned it, leaning forward to kiss him lightly. "Let's go."

    Somebody cleared their throat, and they broke their kiss to see Riley standing in the doorway McCoy had just exited. Albix, started, stopped in his tracks, looking at the young man. He returned the stare, his eyes having lost the fear and rage that had been in them last night. Instead, he looked downright embarrassed.

    "Good morning," Riley muttered. "I, uh, hope I didn't hurt you too badly…last night. Because I really did see a serpent trying to kill her when I-"

    Albix held up one hand to silence him. "It's all right. I have no right to hold it against you, considering my own failings."

    Surprise rounded Riley's eyes. "Seriously? No hard feelings? 'Cause I think even I'd hate me for it." He held out his hand to the Agapean, who took it, and they shook hands. "You're okay. See ya, Gracie." He headed out the main entrance ahead of them.
    __________________
    Grace and Albix wandered lazily hand in hand through the breesa orchards, stopping occasionally to pluck ripe fruit from trees here and there, depositing them in a small basket that he carried strapped to his chest. He'd whisper something in her ear, and she'd answer, leaning in closer to him. A half-eaten breesa hung low in her free hand.

    Further off down the orchard, Descin introduced Kirk and Spock to a man who was pruning one of the trees with a small knife. He climbed down his ladder and pulled a branch out of a large tangled pile to show them. Kirk turned it around in his hands, passing it to Spock who studied it closely, peeling back some of the bark to see the wood underneath.

    Albix took a few leaves from a branch and sprinkled them in Grace's hair. She laughed and batted them away, stumbling backwards onto the ground. She pulled him down with her and they both laughed together, gazing up at the sky.

    Kirk, Spock, and Descin walked into a small outbuilding that housed a fruit press. They listened as he explained how it worked, showing them various levers and cranks.

    Grace and Albix sat next to a small creek, their bare feet dangling in the cool water. She sighed, turning her face to the sun, a floppy straw hat on her head.

    Kirk and Spock both sampled sliced breesa fruit from a small platter on a table in the pressing shed, seeming to enjoy it. Descin smiled in approval. A small insect buzzed around their heads, and Kirk waved and batted at it, while Spock stood stoically.

    Grace slept peacefully, her head resting against Albix's shoulder. He too was napping, his arm protectively wrapped around her. They were both leaning against the back of a wooden bench next to the main doorway of his house.
    ______________________
    Todar stepped out the door, shading his eyes as he scanned the horizon for his father. A ledger was sandwiched under his arm. He caught a glimpse of the couple out of the corner of his eye. Frowning at them, he reached for a small box clipped to the belt of his burgundy tunic and clicked it on. "Father. We need to discuss the budget for hiring the harvest workers. Can you come now?"

    "I will be along shortly, son," Descin replied.

    "Good." Todar turned off the radio and, glaring once more at his brother and Grace, stalked into the house.

    Descin replaced his radio and turned to Kirk and Spock. "Captain, if you'll pardon me. I have some business matters to handle. It shouldn't be too long."

    Kirk sat down on a small three legged stool. "Take all the time you need. I hope, though, that you and your sons would do me the honor of being my dinner guests tonight." He stroked his cheek with one finger, his gaze downwards. "I understand if you wish to refuse, in light of what happened-"

    "Not at all, Captain," Descin interrupted. "We would be happy to accept your invitation." He hurried away, his footsteps slapping the ground. He almost ran into McCoy, who watched him for a few seconds before coming inside and leaning against the wall.

    Pointing in the direction of the old man, McCoy turned to Kirk and Spock. "That man is an enigma."

    Kirk held the platter out to McCoy, who took a slice and ate it. "Really? I thought he was Agapean."

    McCoy frowned. "You know what I mean."

    Kirk shook his head. "Actually, I don't. Why don't you enlighten us?"

    "Okay, case in point; I practically had to throw him out of sickbay last night so I could tend to Albix. Yet when I contacted him about the incident with Courtney last night, want to guess what he asked me?" He paused. "After I assured him his son was well, he asked about her condition."

    "Perhaps he was being kind." Kirk suggested.

    "He asked about Riley, too. Now I don't know about you, but if my son was nearly murdered by some raving strangers, I don't think I'd be feeling very warm and fuzzy about them."

    "I find it stranger that you are taking note of his seemingly irrational behavior, Doctor." Spock remarked. "All while laying aside your duty as a physician, albeit in a hypothetical situation."

    McCoy opened his mouth to say something, but Kirk interrupted him. "That reminds me, Doctor. I heard you were the one who stopped Sonya. How is she?"

    McCoy let out a deep breath, his shoulders falling. "Lucid, but no conscious memory of her actions, which is probably a good thing. I'm still keeping her under observation for the next little while." He rubbed his eyes. "That woman scared me half to death, Jim. Do you know what she tried to do? A hypo full of salemboline. If I hadn't stopped her, she'd have probably given him the whole thing." McCoy wiped his brow with his sleeve. "You just don't come back from that." He put his hands on his hips. "What on Earth is happening to them? There is absolutely nothing in that breesin that could do this."

    Spock had been standing off to the side, lost in thought. He turned to face McCoy. "There is another possibility. Have you tested the samples yourself?"

    McCoy fisted his hands at his sides. "Weren't you listening at all? I just said-"

    "I was referring to ingestion." The Vulcan paced forward two steps. "It is not fatally poisonous, or else Riley and Courtney would have died."

    "Well, no. I'm not generally in the habit of drinking my medical samples." McCoy crossed his arms over his chest, making a face. Kirk grimaced.

    "While a revolting prospect in most cases, it may be the only way we can determine what we are dealing with." Spock suggested. "Although I already have my suspicions."

    "Of course you do." McCoy sighed.
     
  9. Laura Cynthia Chambers

    Laura Cynthia Chambers Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    Jun 1, 2016
    Location:
    Mississauga
    "I always said you were a glutton for punishment," McCoy muttered as he checked the screen above the bed. "Sure I can't talk you out of this?"

    Kirk sat on the edge of the bed, his feet swinging back and forth. "Positive. Between the three of us, I'm the best choice. Both of our affected crewmen were human, and you've got to watch my reaction."

    Spock stood nearby with his hands at his side as McCoy handed Kirk the glass full of malarbreesin. Kirk put the glass to his mouth and drank the liquid. He licked his lips. "Hmm. So far, so-" Kirk's head snapped up and his back straightened as his eyes glazed over.

    McCoy shot a concerned look at the monitor. "What the- He's stopped breathing!" He grabbed his medical tricorder and moved the scanner around near Kirk's body. "It's having some kind of paralytic effect on him. Jim! Can you hear me?"

    Spock, his face concerned, nevertheless rounded the bed swiftly and spoke loudly to Kirk. "Captain, listen to me; there is a tribble on the bedside table. A brown and white tribble."

    McCoy nearly dropped the scanner. "Spock! Have you lost your marbles?" He set it down and grabbed a hypo from a nearby nurse, injecting the captain with its contents. "I'm trying to resuscitate the captain here, and you're babbling about tribbles!"

    Spock arched a stern eyebrow. "My theory, Doctor. If you will indulge me."

    Several minutes passed during which McCoy frantically worked on Kirk. Finally, a blue-faced Kirk lurched forward in bed, coughing and gasping for air. McCoy and Spock both supported him, the doctor clapping his back before laying him down on the bed. He commenced scanning him again. The lines eased from his face. "You're almost back to baseline now." McCoy put his hand on Kirk's shoulder. "Feeling better?"

    Kirk exhaled- "Yeah."- before slowly turning his head to the right. "Where'd you get that tribble, Bones?"

    McCoy narrowed his eyes. "What tribble?"

    "This one." Kirk picked up a green memory tape from the bedside table and held it out to McCoy. "I thought we got rid of them all." He stroked the tape. "I hope you fixed it or else we're going to have a big problem on our hands."

    McCoy scrutinized Kirk, then looked up at Spock, his finger moving between Kirk and Spock wordlessly. Spock took the tape from Kirk and looked him square in the eye. "Captain…Captain…there is no tribble."

    "Sure there is," Kirk protested. "Brown and white. You just took it from my-"

    "There is NO tribble." Spock repeated, staring intently at Kirk until he squinted, rubbing his forehead.

    "But I-" Spock gave him back the tape, and he stared at it, before frowning and rubbing the back of his neck. "Ughh…my head. What's going on?"

    McCoy crossed his arms. "That stuff gave you a good kick in the rear. Enough for Spock to play a little mind trick on you." He turned to the Vulcan. "A trance, then?"

    "Precisely. By consuming this drink, one is placed in a temporary state of suggestibility, not unlike hypnosis. Even the most bizarre of ideas can be accepted and acted on." Spock walked over to the other side of McCoy, his focus now on Kirk. "I deliberately selected a harmless delusion for you, sir, but the effect would be the same if one was strongly convinced of a more dangerous non-reality."

    Kirk rubbed his chin. "Such as believing a man to be a monster."

    "Yes, sir."
    _______________________
    A security officer ushered Descin and Albix into the dining room together, Todar following behind them. Albix wore his orange robe, Todar the burgundy tunic, and Descin a light blue fringed robe. The table was spread with the best linens, dishes and silverware the ship had. A large basket of fruit and flowers was tastefully arranged in the center of the settings.

    Kirk noticed them and paused in his conversation with Spock, who looked up as well. McCoy paused in his reach for a green glass. The rest of the senior staff smiled up at him politely. All were wearing some form of non-duty outfit. They all stood as Kirk walked over to the front of the room.

    "Have you commenced already?" Descin asked.

    Kirk shook his head. "No, you're not tardy. Come, sit." He gestured to 4 chairs that were still vacant. "You're not even the last to arrive," he added as they took their seats. Descin chose the chair next to Kirk's end of the table, leaving the seat across from Todar vacant.

    "Who else is coming-" Albix cut himself off as he saw Grace standing in the doorway, clearing his throat. She was wearing a deep purple wrap around dress that reached just past her knees. Her short hair was slightly curled at the ends, and it barely touched her shoulders. Her uniform shoes had been replaced with a pair of black patent leather flats.

    "Good evening, Lieutenant. You look very nice," Kirk said warmly.

    Albix swallowed, rising slightly from the chair, but she hurried over to hers and sat down. Reaching diagonally across for his hand, she smiled at him. "It's not often I get to wear this. Or eat here."

    He tugged at his collar, glancing slightly at his approving father and sullen brother before returning his eyes to her. "I…uh…yes. What he said. And more."

    Grace seemed amused at his bewilderment. She reached for a roll from a large basket, before passing it across to him and buttering the bread. He looked at the rolls for a few seconds as though he didn't know what to do with them, but quickly recovered, selecting one and passing them along the table.

    Sulu was seated on Todar's other side. "So…" he began, cutting into the steak on his plate. "I kind of dabble with plants, too."

    The man grunted. "'Dabble'? How quaint." He barked out a short, derogatory laugh. "Pomology is not the sort of thing one merely dabbles in. It has been my family's way of life for years." He ripped off a chunk of roll with his teeth. "I do not expect someone who rejects that life to understand." He shot a quick glance at Albix before meeting Sulu's gaze once again.

    Sulu gave him a sheepish look, aware that the comment was not entirely intended for him. "Well, we can't all be farmers. I just thought maybe we could discuss grafting techniques." He popped a piece of steak into his mouth, scanning the table. Uhura concentrated on winding noodles around her fork. Albix was trying to teach Grace some kind of trick with his napkin and an empty glass. Scotty and Chekov were arguing good-naturedly about something.

    Todar grunted again, reaching for his drink, draining it quickly. "No? Ooo-kay then…" He turned his attention to the captain's end of the table. Kirk was deep in discussion with Descin as McCoy and Spock listened intently.

    "Our findings indicated that your son's attackers consumed a stronger variant of breesin shortly before their episodes." Spock laid his fork down and folded his hands together on the table.

    "We believe it was partially responsible for what happened." Kirk added, angling a subtle glance down the table at Todar.

    Descin looked over their heads, lost in thought. "I thought I destroyed it all…"

    "Destroyed what?" He leaned forward.

    Descin's brow furrowed. "About two years ago, the west side of the orchard was afflicted by a new invasive type of rot. Almost invisible to the eye. We had already pressed several gallons ofbreesin before it was discovered. But…" He shook his head. "No…I made sure it was all accounted for. Not a single drop was ever shipped or stored."

    "Is it possible you may have miscounted?" Spock suggested.

    "Perhaps," Descin admitted. "My deepest regrets. I am immensely relieved that no permanent harm has been done."

    "We're still trying to determine who else may have been exposed to it. So far, there don't seem to be any long-term side effects." McCoy sipped his drink. "And thanks to our lab rat of a captain here, we got to observe how it works. A swig of the stuff immediately catapults the subject into a brief episode of respiratory arrest and paralysis, during which you literally have a captive audience, ready to believe anything you tell them. Like, I could tell you that the knife in your hand is…oh, I don't know, a biscuit. And if you tried to eat it, well…you see the problems it could cause."

    "Indeed. A substance like that in the wrong hands could pose a serious threat." Spock added. "Considering this, it would be wise for you to analyze your current inventory again."

    "I shall." He ran his hands over his face, a hint of confusion, quickly replaced by a pleasant smile. "Which reminds me," Descin continued. "My gift to you and your crew is ready for transport. Since you'll wish to inspect it first, perhaps you can receive it tomorrow?"

    "That would be fine. We'll be leaving tomorrow afternoon, so we'll set pick-up and inspection for that morning." Kirk reached across the table and shook hands with him. "Pleasure doing business with you, sir."

    "It's not business when it's a gift, Captain." Descin replied. He scanned the faces of his sons. Albix seemed at ease as he scooped up a forkful of potato, his eyes never leaving Grace for long. Todar had gotten up out of his chair to pace restlessly around the room. He seemed to be looking down over the crew's heads, each one looking uncomfortable until he moved on, annoyed.

    "Is something the matter, Todar?" Kirk asked.

    The man's head shot up. He opened his mouth, then shut it again. "No…not particularly." He yawned. "Father, tomorrow is a busy day for all of us. I think it might be best if we left now."

    Descin turned to Kirk. "We are going to be quite busy with early pressing tomorrow. I beg your leave."

    Kirk waved him off. "Understood. I'll walk you to the transporter room." He got up from his chair, wiping his mouth with a napkin, and led the men down the hall into a turbolift. "Transporter."
    _______________
    The doors swished open a few seconds later and they headed down the hallway. "Pretty soon, we'll have to put one of these in the house," Descin remarked.

    Albix smiled at his father. "You're not that old yet, Father."

    "Who said I was old? I shall need to save my energy for chasing your children around the fields." Albix's eyes widened, and Descin laughed.

    Kirk seemed amused by their easy banter. Todar, on the other hand, appeared more interested in the crewmen who were passing through the halls. He scrutinized their faces with his usual frown, as though trying to recognize if he'd seen them before.

    As they walked into the transporter room, the operator was adjusting a setting on the panel. He was a short, compact man, wearing a red uniform.

    "Wardell."

    The young man snapped to attention. "Sir?"

    "Our guests are ready to leave now. Where's Rollins?"

    "He's, uh, grabbing a bite to eat at the mess hall, sir. Asked me to cover for him for a few minutes."

    Kirk nodded, and then turned to face his guests, who were walking onto the platform. "I hope this is the first of many such evenings, Descin. You and your family are always welcome on theEnterprise."

    "As you are at my home, Captain Kirk." Descin bowed his head. "You have brought me joy," he said as he put one arm each around his sons.

    Kirk bowed his head, and turned to Wardell. "Energ-" But he was stopped short by the strange shocked expression on the man's face. "What is it, Ensign?" he asked, confused, hands hanging slack at his sides.

    In a flash, Wardell dropped behind the transporter station and whipped out his phaser. "Captain, get down!" He shot the weapon twice in the direction of the platform. Everybody ducked out of the way, falling to the floor.

    Kirk froze, then got on his knees, slowly crawling towards the ensign's position. Wardell gripped the console with one white-knuckled hand, peering around the corner. He sighed with relief when Kirk reached him. "That was close, sir. I don't know how he beamed aboard, or where he came from."

    Kirk looked behind them. Descin and Todar lay on their stomachs, arms over their heads. Albix was propped up on one elbow, groaning. Blood seeped from a wound on his shoulder.

    Kirk put his hand on the ensign's shoulder. "Who?" he asked, even though he already suspected what was happening.

    "The-the Klingon, sir." Wardell hissed. "He's holding the old man and the other one at gunpoint. I think I got him, though." He checked the setting on his phaser.

    Seeing an opportunity, Kirk chopped the ensign's wrist. Wardell cried out, dropping the weapon. Kirk stuffed it in his belt and ran towards the injured man just as a security officer appeared in the doorway. He pointed to Wardell, who was still rubbing his wrist. "Take him to sickbay." The guard hoisted a struggling Wardell up and dragged him down the hallway.

    The captain helped Albix to his feet as Descin came around to his other side and raised his son's arm over his shoulders. As they headed out of the room, Todar trailed them until they left. He glanced at the transporter console, then down at his hand, which had some of Albix's blood splattered on it. Making a fist, he slammed it down hard on the console with a growl.
     
  10. Laura Cynthia Chambers

    Laura Cynthia Chambers Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    Jun 1, 2016
    Location:
    Mississauga
    Albix sat on the edge of the bed, one arm hanging out of his robe as McCoy closed his wound. "That should do it," he drawled, handing the tissue repairer to a nurse who took it away and handed him a hypospray. "You didn't lose too much blood, but you'll be sore for a few more days." He injected the man in his good arm. "That should help with the pain." The nurse took the hypo from his hands too. "I want you to take it easy for a bit." He smiled. "No offense, but I'd prefer not to see you here again any time soon." He helped Albix manoeuver his arm into the sleeve of his robe again. Albix winced as he stiffly eased the arm through, before sliding off the bed and onto his feet.

    Descin and Kirk stood by the door, watching as he came towards them. Kirk crossed his arms behind his back. "Are you sure you still want to return home tonight?" he asked.

    "Yes, Captain. I haven't slept in my own bed in years." Albix yawned. "Not to mention with both eyes closed." He brought his hand to his mouth as he realized what he'd said.

    Kirk didn't flinch. "Believe me, we've had more than our fair share of sleepless nights here."

    McCoy joined them in the doorway. "Oh, and before you ask, the man who shot at you is going to be fine. Thwarting the attack seems to eventually break the spell. One of the mysteries of the subconscious mind." He leaned against the doorframe. "Good night."

    "Thank you, Doctor." The three men headed down the hall.

    "Let's try this again, shall we?" Kirk asked. The corridors were empty as they strolled towards the transporter room. "This time, there won't be any incidents. I'm going to operate the transporter myself."

    They entered the room and Kirk stood behind the console while Descin and Albix stepped onto the platform. "I hope Todar isn't too worried about you," Kirk muttered.

    "Don't trouble yourself, Captain. I'm sure my brother is sleeping quite soundly." The words sounded sad, more painful than Albix's wound. Descin looked in his son's eyes briefly before turning away.

    Kirk engaged the transporter and the two Agapeans beamed away.
    ____________________
    Albix lay in a large bed covered in blue satin-like sheets, asleep. Fading starlight winked through the open window, as the sky showed the first glimmers of sunlight. He turned onto his injured side, moaning, and quickly flopped over on his back.

    He fisted the end of his pillow in his good arm's hand, then sat bolt upright, gasping. His breathing slowed as he realized he was not in any danger. Instead, the sound of leaves and fruit swaying in the gentle breeze calmed him.

    Sliding out of bed, he got up and padded slowly down the hallway of his home towards the staircase. His robe rustled as he descended the familiar steps and ended up in the front hallway. Light pooled near the office door and he opened it, expecting his father.

    Instead, Todar sat at the desk, drinking breesin, his head propped up on his fist. He glared at Albix. "Trouble sleeping, brother?" His lips twisted into a grimace as he looked Albix from head to foot, noting his damp, messy hair and wrinkled clothes.

    "I did not mean to disturb you. I thought Father was-"

    "You thought. Pity you didn't think of our father more often." He took another drink from the bottle, draining it.

    Albix stepped backwards, eyes downcast in shame. "He has forgiven me, though I know I don't deserve it. I suppose it would be asking too much for you to do the same." He turned to go. "I might as well get a head start on working this morning. Even with one good arm, there must be something I can do to help around here."

    A side door creaked, and both men turned to look at it, but nobody was there. Todar returned his glare to Albix. "You could have helped by staying away, but it's too late for that, now, isn't it?" He stood up and walked towards his brother, a pruning dagger in his fist. "Far too late for that." He held the dagger between their faces, turning it in his hand. "Go, then, brother…I believe the trees on the east side need watering. I'm sure you haven't forgotten how to pour water out of a bucket."

    Albix backed away, slipping through the door and running out the front door, Todar watching him. "Run, brother…" he sneered, laughing. "I shall have you yet." He waited for a minute and then followed after him, dagger swinging.
    _______________
    Albix slowed down as he neared the pressing shed. He ran to his left, past two empty crates until he came to a water pump. He picked up a bucket and started cranking the pump handle up and down, until water spilled out, filling the bucket halfway.

    Groaning, he paused to rest, wiping his brow with his sleeve. A shadow loomed over him, and he turned around slowly. "Who's th-" A fist slammed into his jaw, snapping his head backwards. He slumped to the ground with a thud, blacking out.
    _____________
    Kirk sat on the edge of his bed, drinking a cup of coffee. He rubbed his eyes with one hand.

    The intercom on his wall chirped. He set the mug down on his bedside table and walked over to it, pressing the button.

    "Kirk here. Go ahead."

    "This is Uhura, Captain. We're receiving an urgent message from the surface. It's Descin Baras, sir. He requests that you come down immediately."

    Kirk looked away. "Did he say why?"

    "No, sir. Just that there was trouble and for you to come at once. Then it cut dead." She paused. "Shall I try to raise him again, sir?"

    Kirk frowned. "Yes. And tell Spock and Dr. McCoy to meet me in the transporter room. Kirk out." He switched it off and reached for his coffee mug, draining it before putting it back down and leaving his room.
    ___________________
    It was early morning when Kirk, McCoy, and Spock materialized in front of the large house. Dark clouds covered the sky. All three men carried weapons; McCoy wore his medical tricorder, the strap slung diagonally across his body.

    "Do you think it was wise not to bring security along?" McCoy asked, shading his eyes as he looked around.

    "We have not determined which crewmen still pose a potential threat to Albix." Spock looked in the opposite direction, while Kirk was perpendicular to both of them.

    McCoy frowned and walked over to the front door, which was ajar. "Huh. Door's open." He swung it back and forth, peering inside. "It's a big house. Could be anywhere."

    Kirk pointed over towards the pressing shed. "Did you see that?"

    Both men turned and looked in that direction. "What?" Spock asked.

    "I don't see anything," McCoy added.

    "There…it moved again! Come on." He led the way down to the pressing shed. They passed a water pump that was dripping, an upside down bucket spilled on the ground beneath the spigot. Two large brown crates with a painted label on the side sat outside the outbuilding. A hand gingerly reached up over the edge of the crate, trying to lift the lid before falling limp. Kirk and Spock raised it out of the way and reached inside, pulling a barely conscious Albix out of the crate and laying him against the side of the crate gently.

    "Oooohhh…" he groaned. He was clothed in a short white tunic. A large purple bruise covered his chin.

    McCoy knelt down beside him on the dewy grass and began to scan him with his tricorder. "Jaw's not broken, but somebody sure gave him a good sock."

    He tried to move, but Kirk placed a hand on his chest and pushed him down. "Easy there."

    "What happened, Albix?" Spock asked. "Who did this to you?"

    Albix blinked, letting his head hang slightly. "My…my father."

    The three shared a confused look. McCoy sat back on his haunches. "Don't read too much into it. That's probably just the concussion talking."

    Albix shook his head weakly from side to side. He stopped and held it. "No…he…my father…" He gathered his arms around his body and shivered, looking down at his body. "My robe…he must've took…why would he?"

    "Of course…" Kirk stood up, looking off into the orchard. "Bones, you stay here and look after Albix." McCoy nodded and turned back to his patient. "Spock, take the west side of the orchard."

    Spock and Kirk had walked a short distance away in the direction of the orchards when Spock turned to him and asked, "What are you thinking, sir?"

    "He was telling the truth."

    "Then he must also be under the influence of the contaminated breesin and whoever administered it."

    "No, I don't think so."

    Spock frowned. "A most illogical riddle, then, Captain. Why else would a man render his beloved son unconscious, hide him and steal his robe?"

    "Love, Spock." Kirk picked up the pace and headed for the east side of the orchard.

    Spock, looking thoroughly confused, pondered it a moment before running towards the west side.
    _____________
    Todar crested the rise just in time to see a flash of bright orange disappear behind a large boulder. He bent over and stopped to catch his breath, hands on his knees.

    "You are a fool if you think you can escape me here, Albix!" he cried furiously as he straightened up again, dagger raised in the air like a hammer. "I know the orchard well," he laughed. "Have I not tended it since you left? Have I not always been faithful to our father? But you…" He spat the word out as if it were poison. "You abandoned him. Forced him to sell half our land. All so you could waste it on your own selfish desires." He sneered. "If only those pathetic officers had finished you off like they were supposed to. Now I'll have to get my own hands bloody instead."

    "Aren't they stained enough already?"

    Todar whipped his head around, dropping the dagger in the dirt. Kirk stood behind him, scowling intently, his phaser pointed at the Agapean. "Captain. What impeccable timing," he snarled.

    "You should have kept your big mouth shut, Todar. Until now, I didn't have any proof." He stepped forward, jaw tightly clenched, but Todar didn't move. "You gave a noxious substance to my crewmen. You manipulated their minds, convinced them to shed innocent blood by presenting it as a threat!" He continued moving forward until the end of the phaser was only an inch away from Todar's chest. "I take that very seriously."

    Blood and rage filled Todar's face. "He is not innocent, Kirk. He is many things but never that!" He took a step back, staggering.

    "I don't get it. I had a brother, once. His name was George Samuel; I just called him Sam. You know how boys are; we fought, we made up, we fought some more; even threatened to kill each other now and then. But those were just words; I never meant it and neither did he. We were family. Flesh and blood, and something far beyond that." Kirk swallowed hard, his jaw tight. "What did he ever do to you?"

    Todar clenched his fists at his side. "He stole much from me. The life of our mother. The heart of our father." He waved his arm, indicating the fields around them. "Our family's legacy. Gone."

    Kirk's grip on the phaser tightened. "I can't begin to imagine having that kind of hatred inside, rotting my soul. Many a man has starved himself feeding on the bitterness of years, the blood of others."

    "Perhaps he finds nothing else that pleases his palate." Todar growled. "Let me sup, Captain." He tried to reach for the dagger, which lay on the ground near Kirk.

    Kirk shifted to the side to block him, shoving the phaser into Todar's ribs. "No. You're not going anywhere until you answer my questions." He inched forward. "You could have simply convinced my crewmen to kill Albix, as he was. Why did you make them hallucinate? See danger that wasn't there? Serpents. Monsters. Tyrants-"

    "BECAUSE THAT IS WHAT I SEE!" Todar roared, shoving Kirk to the ground, sending his phaser flying in the other direction. Kirk landed on his back, dazed. He reached for his communicator, but Todar kicked it away from him. As he sat up and struggled to stand, Todar towered over him, a malicious smile curving his lips, the dagger pointed downwards. "And the last thing you ever will."
     
  11. Laura Cynthia Chambers

    Laura Cynthia Chambers Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    Jun 1, 2016
    Location:
    Mississauga
    Kirk lay in the dirt, the shadow of the pruning dagger falling on his face. Todar's eyes glowed with anger as he slowly brought the weapon down towards Kirk's chest.

    Lunging forward, Kirk launched himself at the man, grabbing his arm and twisting it, thrusting his attacker's hand to the side. Todar gasped angrily, releasing his grip on the knife, sending it flying into the trunk of a nearby breesa tree. He released the man's arm, leapt backwards and crouched in a combat stance, shuffling sideways, matching Todar's movements.

    Kirk reached out an open hand to grab Todar by the arm, but he forced Kirk's arm down instead and grabbed his shoulders in a vice grip, shaking him. Kirk gritted his teeth and raised both arms up and spread them apart quickly to break the hold, before bringing them down on Todar's head and pulling him to the ground.

    Kirk rolled on top of Todar and punched him in the face, splitting his cheek open. Before he could strike him again, Todar lolled his head sideways and Kirk's fist met the earth. Todar laughed evilly. Instantly, he flipped Kirk over, pinning the captain's arms under his knees, and grabbed him by the throat. Kirk choked and coughed, his eyes rolling back in his head.

    A figure emerged from behind the rocks, draped in Albix's orange robe. The hood was drawn over their face. A single breesa was clutched in its hand. Drawing one arm back, the figure threw the fruit past Todar's head. Todar whirled his head around, loosening his grip on Kirk's neck.

    Kirk used the distraction to rear back and kick Todar hard in the abdomen with both feet, sending him staggering backwards into a tree, inches from his dagger which was still buried in the trunk. He gasped and plowed forward into Kirk, tackling him to the ground. Todar grabbed a handful of Kirk's sweater, pulling him upwards again, ripping a hole in it in the process. Both men were streaked with dirt and grass stains. Todar's cheek still dripped blood from the gash Kirk had given him.

    They struggled there, deadlocked, each staring the other in the eye, determined and dangerous. Kirk sucked in a ragged breath, shoving him away towards the tree again. As Todar yanked on the dagger handle, trying to pull it out, Kirk dove towards his phaser, grabbing it and rolling over onto his back, before rising slowly. Todar braced his foot on the trunk and pulled the dagger out, stumbling backwards and spinning around, only to find himself face to face with Kirk.

    The captain pointed his weapon at Todar once again, his shoulders rising and falling rapidly. "Only a coward…compels men to do…something…he hasn't got the stomach for…himself." He wiped his sweaty face on his torn sleeve. "So tell me…" He jerked his head sideways. "What changed?"

    Neither man noticed Spock creeping over the ridge, his phaser drawn as he crouched behind a low bush. Or the figure in orange, moving slowly around the other side of the rocks.

    Todar held the knife in front of himself, seething. "Needs must, Captain. It's not my fault your people are so weak-willed that they can't even finish the job."

    Kirk smiled angrily. "No. Not weak-willed, Todar. It takes far more strength to control oneself than to remain a slave to hatred. To allow old wounds to finally heal instead of twisting the knife deeper and deeper." He approached the angry man slowly.

    PH-CHOOM!
    ________________
    Everything happened in slow motion.

    Spock fired his phaser over Todar's head, startling both men.

    The figure in orange waved its arms frantically, running towards them.

    Todar thrust his elbow into Kirk's side, knocking him off balance and sending him sprawling face-first into the grass, his weapon landing beneath him.

    "Captain!"

    Kirk pushed up from the ground at the sound of Spock's voice, but the slippery mud made rising difficult. He reached out to grab Todar's ankle as the furious man raised the dagger back over his shoulder and heaved it at the figure with a loud roar. It soared through the air towards the figure, embedding deep in his shoulder.

    "Ooooh!" He crumpled to the ground in a heap, collapsing against the rocks. Spock ran to his side, dropping onto his knees. He took the figure in his arms, lowering him slowly to the ground before flipping his comm open. "Spock to McCoy, your assistance is needed here urgently." Dropping the comm, he pressed down on the wound with a fold of the robe.

    A smile of satisfaction crossed Todar's lips as he turned, yanking his leg out of Kirk's grip. Defiantly, he strode down the hillside.

    And right into Kevin Riley's fist.

    Todar slipped backwards on the grass, landing unconscious on his back, his head slumped to the side.

    Kirk looked up from the grass in surprise and relief as Riley stood over the man, one hand on his hip, thoroughly pleased with himself. "Stay out of my head, ya jerk." He raised his head and shrugged in Kirk's direction before pointing to the prone assailant with his thumb. "Hey, Captain, want me to truss him up for you?"

    He reached out a hand and Kirk took it, standing up on shaky legs. "Riley. What are you doing down here?"

    "Eh, Mr. Sulu figured you might need some help after all, so he sent me along. Seeing as how Toad-boy's hypno-creepy influence has no effect on me anymore, it kinda made sense." They lifted Todar to his feet and leaned him against the tree. His head rolled to the side as he moaned weakly.

    Riley tapped his temple with one finger. "I think he was counting on me forgetting everything. And I did, too…but it all came back to me this morning in a dream."

    "Well, I'm certainly glad it did." Kirk laughed. He glanced over his shoulder, the laugh dying as his features became concerned. "Well, Spock? Was I right?"

    Spock looked down at the figure, then up at Kirk, his face unreadable. "Yes, Captain."
    ___________
    Todar blinked several times, trying to clear his vision. He lifted his head, his dazed expression changing to one of grim triumph. "He is no longer with us, then?" the Agapean rasped, chuckling hoarsely.

    "We shall see," Spock answered gruffly. "The wound is deep, but it does not bleed much as long as the blade remains in it."

    Todar frowned. "We'll see about…that…" He shifted, trying to stand, but Kirk pushed him back down against the tree with a thump.

    "Don't even think about it," Riley barked. He kept a firm hold on the man's shoulder.

    Kirk tsked, shaking his head. "You don't even know what you've done, do you?"

    A rustling sound came through the trees. Todar craned his neck to see who was coming, but saw nothing. He locked eyes with Kirk. "I have done what I must."

    McCoy appeared on the hillside, stopping to catch his breath for a second as he took in the scene. When his gaze landed on Spock and the prone figure, he sped to their location and dropped to his knees, scanning the person with his tricorder.

    Kirk regarded the man with contempt. "Let me tell you something about hatred, Todar. When you allow yourself to get mired down in it, it changes you. To the point where you're so blinded that you can only see what you want to. Nothing else matters, not even the truth!"

    More rustling came from the direction McCoy had arrived from. Kirk and Todar's heads snapped sideways to see Albix stagger into the clearing, still wearing the white tunic they'd found him in. He rubbed his sore jaw, staring at his brother.

    Todar's mouth gaped in shock. "You. But…how? There's only one of you and I-I-"

    Albix looked at his brother sadly, trying but failing to find the words. He shot a pained look at the figure, who moved once and groaned softly.

    "He was counting on that, Todar," Kirk whispered sadly. He and Riley each put a hand underneath Todar's armpits and hauled him over to the place where the figure lay. Albix walked slowly over towards them. McCoy leaned back in a crouching position as Spock removed the hood from the figure's face.

    All the blood drained from Todar's face as he saw Descin's familiar features, now drawn and pale. "Father…" He looked as though he was going to faint himself, but Kirk and Riley adjusted their hold on him, bracing him more firmly.

    McCoy addressed the group with a serious face. "The blade's pretty close to an artery. I don't want to risk removing it until I can get a better look in sickbay. Sooner rather than later." He moved forward and resumed scanning, but Descin pushed his hand away weakly.

    "Wait…Doctor. I must...speak to my…sons." He let his arm drop to his side. McCoy backed away so that they could see his face.

    Albix wiped away tears from his red-rimmed eyes. He shot an angry look at his brother. "You hated me this much?" The anger was quickly replaced by pain.

    But Todar continued to stare at his father in shock. Unshed tears filled his eyes. He swallowed twice and sunk to his knees beside his father's limp form. His tears dampened the orange robe as he grabbed his father's hand and uttered one single syllable filled with pain. "Why?"

    Descin coughed, wincing with pain. Reaching up for Todar's face, he placed his hand on the stricken man's cheek. A tear ran over his fingers. "To protect you…both." He paused, coughing again. "I would far rather face…my own death…than see either of you die…" He closed his eyes briefly. "He is my son…and you are my son…know this; I shall not hold it against you."

    Todar staggered backwards like a drunken man. McCoy glanced at him before flipping open his comm. "Enterprise, this is McCoy requesting emergency transport. I've got an elderly male with a serious stab wound to the shoulder…" His voice faded out as Todar stumbled away from the scene, dropping to his knees on the ground. He covered his face with his hands and wept loudly.

    Spock watched him with deep concern on his face. Riley appeared confused. "Huh. Didn't know he had it in him." Kirk stood deep in thought, his arms at his sides.

    Only Albix approached Todar, slowly and cautiously. He put his hand on his brother's shoulder. Todar flinched as though burned, raising a tear-streaked face to his brother's. Gone was the hatred of moments ago. Instead, fear and guilt flared in his eyes. "What then, brother?" he asked, barely above a whisper.

    Albix regarded him for a moment before offering his hand. Todar stared at it as though he'd never seen one before, then took it. Albix pulled him up from the ground. "I would not," he paused, swallowing, "be my father's son if I did not do for you as he has done for me."

    And everybody watched in disbelief as the brothers embraced each other, weeping.
    ______________
    Captain's Log, Stardate (insert here): Doctor McCoy was able to stabilize Descin and remove the dagger from his shoulder. He expects the man to make a full recovery. As for Todar? Only time will tell. He remains emotionally shattered, but I suspect he'll have plenty of support from his family in the days to come.

    In accordance with both Descin and Albix's wishes, I will not be pressing charges against Todar for what he did to my crewmen. I would have refused their request were they not the ones making it. It carries a lot of weight when the victims are the strongest advocates for the accused.

    I still can't wrap my mind around that kind of acceptance. No rules, no limitations. Free, unconditional, forgiveness. Love. Maybe we can find it for ourselves. Someday.
     
  12. Laura Cynthia Chambers

    Laura Cynthia Chambers Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    Jun 1, 2016
    Location:
    Mississauga
    "Enter."

    Grace walked through the door of the captain's office. He was seated at his desk with a glass of breesin next to his right arm. Another man sat with his back to the door on her side of the desk.

    "Am I interrupting something, sir? I can come back later," she suggested.

    "Not at all, Lieutenant. Sit down." Kirk smiled warmly and indicated the empty chair next to his other guest, and she sat.

    "Grace." She turned her head and saw Albix sitting next to her. He reached for her hand.

    "How is your father?" she asked, leaning towards him, her eyes filled with concern.

    "Eager to get back to the orchards again." He squeezed her hand gently.

    "I'm not surprised," she laughed.

    "I assured him that we'll get along fine while he recovers. I don't think he's going to listen, though. Stubborn old fool." He shook his head, smiling.

    "Ahem," Kirk interrupted. They both looked over at him. "I'm still here, you know."

    Grace straightened her skirt, blushing. "I'm sorry, sir." She looked over at Albix and he nodded at the captain. Grace frowned in confusion as they shared a knowing look.

    "Quite all right." He folded his hands on his desk. "Are you familiar with our current relations with Agapea, Lieutenant?"

    She pressed her hands down on her thighs. "Good since first contact, sir. However limited they are."

    "No permanent Starfleet presence?"

    She nodded. "That's correct, sir."

    Kirk tapped his fingers against the table. "An unfortunate oversight."

    "Perhaps." Grace leaned forward. "If I may, sir, why are you asking me? You could have checked with the computer database..."

    "A most unfortunate oversight," Kirk repeated, getting up from behind his desk to pace back and forth slowly. "One which ought to be remedied as soon as possible." He leaned forward over the desk and smiled at her. "Does that sound like something you might be interested in, Lieutenant?"

    Grace opened her mouth, but no words came out. She glanced between Kirk's easy grin and Albix's loving gaze as it dawned on her what he was suggesting. A wide grin spread across her face. "Oh, yes, sir. It does."

    Kirk sat back down in his chair, picking up a memory tape and tapping it on the surface of his desk. He closed his eyes. "Consider it done. I'll recommend you highly in my report to-" Kirk looked up and realized that neither one was listening to him.

    Instead, they were lost in each other's arms, kissing tenderly. Kirk moved from behind his desk and exited the room, giving them a moment alone.
    ___________________________
    Kirk walked onto the bridge and jogged towards his chair. Spock stood on the left side. He eased up into it. "Mr. Sulu, let's try Treano II again, shall we?" He shot a glance at McCoy, who was pacing on the deck behind him and muttering under his breath.

    Sulu smiled, pressing several buttons. "Course laid in, sir. Ready when you are."

    Uhura faced the captain. "Still waiting on confirmation that all have returned from Agapea, sir."

    "Thank you, Lieutenant." Kirk turned to Spock, who himself was observing McCoy's odd behavior. "What's the matter with him?"

    "I am the one responsible for his mood, Captain." Spock answered. "He told me so himself."

    "What did you do?"

    "I mentioned the 'r' word to him."

    Kirk frowned. "'R' word?"

    Spock stepped around to Kirk's right side. "'Record', sir. I inquired as to whether the four day record he spoke of earlier still applied, given that the party was not an official shore leave. He rather sternly suggested that my good health might endure if I never spoke of it again. Apparently he ranks it similarly with the 'q' word…'quiet'," he added in a whisper as Kirk opened his mouth to enquire again.

    "Oh," Kirk said.

    McCoy stopped pacing and joined them where Spock had been standing earlier. "He said it, didn't he?"

    Kirk turned to him. "Well, as I recall, you said it first, Doctor."

    McCoy sighed. "Me and my big mouth. You know, on at least three occasions during this whole ordeal, I seriously considered putting a revolving door in sickbay." He rubbed the back of his neck. "Do you believe in curses?"

    Kirk shrugged. "How can I not? Between your 'rec'-" He cut himself off as McCoy frowned at him. "- uh, 'r' words and my 'ahead of schedule's, we really have no one to blame but ourselves."

    McCoy turned to Spock. "What about you?"

    "If you are asking whether I agree that one can speak an undesirable outcome into reality by invoking the opposite scenario, I cannot be certain. A further unbiased analysis of empirical data would be necessary before I could draw such a conclusion." Spock thought for a moment. "If, however, you're asking me whether I believe in curses, the answer would be yes. You yourself have provided examples of them on numerous occasions."

    McCoy's jaw hung slack as he tried to figure out what Spock was saying. His hands dropped to his sides as he realized the possible double meaning.

    Kirk laughed out loud.
     
  13. Laura Cynthia Chambers

    Laura Cynthia Chambers Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    Jun 1, 2016
    Location:
    Mississauga
    Author's Note

    Thank you for journeying through this story with me. I hope you find in it the courage to show grace to others.

    Q: Is this story based on something?

    A: Yes, it is taken from the parable of the prodigal son in the Bible (Luke 15: 11-32). I chose "The Best Robe" as the title because it's a phrase in the KJV translation (and that's the version they likely would've used to title this if it had been a TOS episode. I kinda wish I could go back in time and submit it!) and also because the orange robe is how Descin rescued his sons.

    Q: Where did all the names come from?

    A: Agapea- The Greek word "agape" meaning "brotherly love or charity" - the kind of love God lavishes on us.

    Grace Berlin- Grace because she shows Albix kindness and gives him a foretaste of his father's love, and Berlin because I thought it went well with her name.

    Albix- I think alba means white and it's this idea of someone who's cleaned and given another chance.

    Todar- from Theodore, meaning "gift of God" - Todar is still loved even if he doesn't feel like it

    Descin- Nothing in particular, though you could see it as "design"

    Breesa, Breesin, Malarbreesin- I needed a cool name for fruit and it came to mind. "Malar" sounds like "mal" meaning "bad"

    Salemboline -A made up drug that can be fatal in high doses. From the word for peace "salem" - so probably a painkiller or sleeping drug

    Q: Why did you use Kevin Riley?

    A: I like the guy. He's one of the few well-developed non-senior staff crew characters who only has a couple of episodes. So I made him be his usual "charming" self, wind up in trouble (as usual) and he even gets hero moment near the end! Sure, he doesn't get the girl, but you can't have everything, can you?

    Q: Why did you want to write this story?

    A: I'm a Christian, and I love stories of redemption, love, grace and reconciliation. "The Best Robe" is everyone's story, ultimately; we just play different parts, whether it's on the sidelines, or a starring role. I felt it needed to be told in this genre and this show. What's really great is I can put a twist on it (okay, several) and explore themes of grace and forgiveness freely unrestrained by most of reality.

    As I wrote this, I enjoyed creating characters and developing them, while at the same time using a known framework (the crew of the Enterprise) that held the story together.
     
  14. Laura Cynthia Chambers

    Laura Cynthia Chambers Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    Jun 1, 2016
    Location:
    Mississauga
  15. Laura Cynthia Chambers

    Laura Cynthia Chambers Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    Jun 1, 2016
    Location:
    Mississauga
    Just curious - if this had been a TOS episode, where would you rank it in relation to other episodes, dialogue and plot-wise?