d. William Roberts
A thunderous boom followed the bright flash of lightning that snaked down to the ground. The sound echoed its way down the green covered hills of the valley. A large river ran down the lowest part and carried away the excess water of the storm. The rain, though a nuisance to the scientists and Starfleet officers of the research and development station of New Saar, was absolutely necessary for the early formation of the grapes growing within the vineyards covering the terraced hillsides. Later in the season, constant hot and dry weather would serve to make the vintage wines this area of the planet was known for.
Admiral Susan Williams stood by the transporter platform inside the facility and waited patiently. Her conservatively cut brown hair was filled with gray betraying the age the rest of her body hid within the perfectly fitted Starfleet uniform.
"Itll be a little longer, sir," the transporter chief said, just a little bit nervous about having the facility commander nearby.
"Be at ease, Chief," Susan Williams replied in a quiet voice. "They will arrive when they arrive. I have waited for ten years to get my husband back; a few more minutes wont matter. Besides, I have nothing else scheduled for this morning."
I had all but given up hope of ever seeing him again, she thought as she turned to look out a nearby window and watched the rain coming down outside. And then, out of the blue, hes found and coming home. A dark thought made itself known at that moment. But hes not alone, nor is that because Shaun and Arlene are coming with him. I wonder if thats why they came with him in the first place. I would hope not. Why would they need a motive for visiting?
"Thank you, Torkai. We are ready to receive transport," the chief said in response to a message from the long range shuttle in orbit. "Sir, theyre coming now."
"Thank you, Chief," Susan Williams responded as she turned to face the platform.
A moment later, the pads on the floor and ceiling came on and the distinctive whine of the transporter filled the air. Blue energies filled the space in between and then silhouettes began to form. The process ended and there stood Captain Shaun Kelsey, Commander Arlene Williams and her father, Murray Williams.
"Well, Captain," Susan Williams addressed Kelsey, looking over his uniform with the practice eye of a senior officer. "Ive heard good things about you."
"Thank you, sir," Kelsey responded, stepping down from the platform. "Just doing my job."
She turned to Arlene and gave her a big hug, ignoring proper Starfleet etiquette. "Hes taking good care of you I see," Susan Williams asked after a moment.
"Yes, sir. He has," Arlene Williams answered, and then winked at Shaun.
Then the admiral stepped in front of the third person in the party and looked at his face, making eye contact. There was a short, but uncomfortable pause. "Youre looking well, Ray."
"As do you, Susan," Ray Williams responded. "I heard that you were promoted. Congratulations." I sent her a message about DeShana and the kids, he thought as he studied her face. Thats probably why this cold reception.
"Where are the others?" Susan asked.
"Theyre waiting on the shuttle," Ray answered. "Look, Susan, I dont want to be an imposition with this. I know its going to be a difficult transition, but Im hoping we can work it out in an amicable way."
"I understand, Ray," Susan responded. "Invite them down. I want to meet them."
"We were there nearly ten years, Susan," he continued his explanation. "It was a very hostile environment, and we had to support each other if we were going to survive. After a while, I began to love her, and it was only natural that the children followed."
"Will you stop with the explanation, Ray?" Susan snapped. "I fully understand. Can you invite them down now? Id like to meet them."
Ray Williams gave the transporter chief the signal to energize. Does she mean it? he thought. She was never a vindictive woman before, so I doubt shed start now.
The transporter whined again and three forms took shape and coalesced into a woman holding a child and a toddler on the pad next to her. The baby was screaming and as soon as she could, the toddler ran to her mother, grabbing her mothers skirt and crying. Ray immediately went to help the woman, by trying to calm the little girl down.
"No, no, no, Aylana," he soothed. "Youre all right. Theres nothing to be afraid of. Youre all right. See, theyre not the Jellies..." He took her head and held it to his chest and hummed. Soon the girl was only barely sobbing with her face buried in her fathers shirt. The baby finally settled down once Mom offered him her breast.
"Come, DeShana," Ray said after a moment of silence. "Id like to introduce you and the children to someone new."
Ray Williams led over a woman as tall as, but appearing younger than, Arlene. Her face had fine features, and her skin bistre brown. Her tan colored eyes were in direct contrast to this, giving her a unique look. She had a very comely figure despite all that had happened to her in the past. It was when she smiled that the whole world lit up.
The little girl was a spitting image of her mother except that her skin color was quite a bit lighter. As for the little guy at his mothers breast, it was hard to tell exactly who he took after from this angle, but it was obvious he was going to have his mothers skin color.
Shaun Kelsey held his wife in his arms from behind, lending comfort and support during this obviously awkward moment.
Ray Williams walked over to Susan Williams with his new family in tow. That he was uncomfortable with what was about to happen was written all over his face. It was written on DeShanas face as well. "Susan," he began, "Id like to introduce you to DeShana Williams, the mother to my daughter Aylana."
At the mention of her name the little girl pulled closer to Rays shoulder and buried her face into his shirt.
"And my son Syljon. DeShana, Id like to introduce you to Admiral Susan Williams," he hoped by adding the honorific shed earned that it might make this easier. "My wife and the mother of my daughter Arlene." With that, he indicated Commander Williams who was being held by Captain Kelsey.
Kelsey was impressed with Admiral Susan Williams calm in such a touchy situation.
"Thank you for the introductions," Susan responded. "And it is good to meet all of you," she continued, indicating DeShana and the kids. "Let me show you to the guest suites Ive reserved for you. I think youll like them, after all, whats my lofty position good for if it isnt to see to it that my family is taken care of." She smiled at Ray and then at her daughter. "If youll follow me?"
Shes not happy at all, Arlene thought as she walked beside Shaun. A daughter can tell. She took hold of Shauns hand and squeezed it hard. He responded back in kind.
"What is it?" he whispered in her ear.
"Theyre going to need all the support we can give them," she answered.
"Oh," he replied. I have to give the Admiral credit, his thoughts continued. Shes meeting the challenge with a lot of composure.
New Saars star rose over the horizon with only the briefest of a red tinge to announce its pending arrival. Contrary to the day before, the sky was clear and slightly turquoise in color. Kelsey sat up in bed, rotated his feet onto the floor and stretched, feeling the luxury this produced.
Perfect day for wine tasting, he thought as he looked out the window and saw the dawn.
"What time is it, dear?" Arlene said from under the covers on the bed.
Kelsey looked at the chronograph on his wrist, but noted it was still set to Chosin time. "Its oh-two hundred, dear."
"Not there," Arlene sighed. "Here."
"Havent a clue," Kelsey answered. "Mornings the best I can tell you."
"Mum wants to give us a tour of the facility after breakfast."
"So I heard," Kelsey responded. "Do you suppose itll take all day?"
"Why?" she asked. "You got some place to be?"
"Not really," he answered. "But its such a beautiful day out, I thought we might take advantage of it and go do some wine tasting at the local vineyards."
"Hmm," Williams said, "sounds like a good idea. Im sure the tour of the facility wont take all that long."
Kelsey got up and walked to an open space on the floor and began doing some maintenance exercises. A few minutes later, Arlene joined him. After fifteen minutes, they stopped and grabbed towels to wipe the sweat off their bodies. They took a shower together, as was their practice, got dressed and soon were ready for breakfast.
Admiral Susan Williams stood on the balcony attached to her spacious quarters and stared at the valley. She didnt notice the view, or the smells of breakfast; there was too much on her mind at this moment.
What are we going to do? her thoughts tumbled back and forth. My mind knows that what happened was perfectly innocent. He couldnt know hed be rescued, especially after the years passed. From what Ive heard, the conditions were so horrendous that they all needed each other to survive, and that was why he paired up with her. It is impossible to believe he wouldnt develop feelings for her after a while, and the children would naturally spring from that. Her frown would have crisped a subordinate. So why do I feel so betrayed? Is it because I held out for him? That I never gave up on the idea that he would be found and we would be together again?
A tear rolled down her cheek. I still love him so much, her thoughts screamed. I cant lose him again, and this time forever.
The doors chime rang. She wiped the tears from her cheeks before turning and heading for the door. When she opened it, Shaun and Arlene were there.
"Good morning, Mum," Arlene said and reached out to hug her, ignoring the difference in rank.
"Maam," Kelsey offered and nodded.
"Maam," she snorted derisively. "Come here and give your mother-in-law a kiss and hug, you thick-headed Irish lad." She held her arms out and received what shed ordered.
"Okay, Mum," Kelsey responded after they pulled apart. "Ill try to remember that."
"You say that every time you visit, and every time you forget."
"It must be all that gold braid on your sleeve; it blinds me," he answered.
"Pfft! Come on in," Susan said. "Breakfast will be served in a bit. Can I offer you some coffee?"
"I thought youd never ask," Kelsey answered.
"What are we going to do, Ray?" DeShana asked. She was sitting in the bedrooms easy chair, nursing Syljon.
"I dont know, Dee," Murray Williams answered, while sitting on the side of the bed. "This is new to me."
"Me, too," she added and then looked down at Syljons contented face. "You dont think shes going to make you leave me do you?" she said without breaking her concentration on the baby.
"The plain fact of the matter is that I cant be married to two women," he responded. Standing, he walked over to the wardrobe and picked out a casual outfit.
"Why not?" Dee continued, returning her attention to Ray. "There are no laws in the Federation to prohibit it."
"Susan comes from a strict, conservative upbringing in England," Ray answered, "and so do I. You saw this by my hesitancy to pair up with you all those years ago."
"And I see it in you now. You stopped making love to me the moment we were rescued," she said, emotion filling her voice. "Youre going to leave me, arent you?"
"I love you, Dee, and you know I love the children. I dont have any remorse about our life together, but..." Rays predicament was written all over his face.
"But?" she asked as she put Syljon to her shoulder and started patting him on the back. She was rewarded a moment later by a small burp. She never let her eyes leave him as she did so.
"I love Susan as well," he answered. "Ive loved her since we both went to the same school in England. She gave me Arlene, and, by the looks of it, she has stayed faithful during this absence."
"Im sure she understands the extenuating circumstances involved there."
"Shes a very intelligent and empathic woman, Dee," he answered. "Im sure shes considering that as well."
"So, you cant be married to two women," Dee concluded.
"Im very uncomfortable with it," Ray responded to this statement. "Susan will reject the idea outright."
"I return to the original question," she started. "What are we going to do?"
"I dont know, Dee," Ray answered as he shrugged, his body demonstrating the depression he was experiencing. No matter what happens, Ray thought, this decision is going to hurt not only me, but also Susan, or Dee, as well. He sat down at the chair by the desk and stared into space.
DeShana went over to the closet and pulled out an outfit for Aylana and laid it on the bed. She then picked out something for herself and started putting it on. Once she was dressed, she looked into a small room off from the main. "Lana, dear, are you awake?"
"Yes, Mommy," a small voice answered. "Just playing with the stuffed animal Arlene gave me."
"Come on in and get dressed."
The little girl came into the main room. Dee started to put the dress on, but Lana began to pout and pushed her hands away. "I can do this, Mommy."
"Thats my big girl," Dee responded. "If you need any help, just let me know."
Dee walked over to stand behind Ray. Putting her hands on his shoulders, she started massaging them. She bent down and whispered in his ear. "No matter what, Ray, I will always love you. I dont think I would have survived without you." Then she gave him a light kiss on the ear.
"Thank you, Dee," he smiled and put his hand on her cheek.
"Is this right, Mommy?" Lana asked a moment later.
Dee turned and looked at her daughter. She had put the clothes on perfectly. "Yes, Lana, thats very good." Going over to the crib, she picked up the sleeping baby and turned toward Ray. "I guess we shouldnt keep the admiral waiting, Ray."
"I guess not," he answered, stood up and headed for the door. They walked together down the hall toward Admiral Williams quarters.
A yeoman had just put the cups of coffee in front of them when the door chimed. Susan Williams got up and answered. Ray and DeShana, with all the kids, were standing in the hall. "Come on in," she said. Squatting down to look at Aylana, she smiled. "My, arent we all pretty this morning?"
"Thanks, Aunt Susan," Aylana said shyly and then looked up at her mother to make sure shed done right. She got a nod from her and then she turned and gave Aunt Susan a big smile. Reaching forward, she gave her a big hug.
"Oh, my," Susan responded, but gave a hug back. She then picked her up before facing the two adults. "Aunt Susan, hmm, I think thatll work. Aunt Susan it will be. Come on in and join us for coffee," she said as she indicated the table.
A yeoman was standing by with the coffee carafe. There was a glass of orange juice in front of a chair just perfect for Aylana, which she quickly climbed up on. She smiled at the glass of liquid, grabbed it and downed it in one drink. "Can I have another?" she asked, looking at the yeoman nearby. He smiled and came back with a pitcher of the orange liquid and refilled the glass.
"Lana," DeShana said as she put the baby carrier down next to the next seat over. "Not so fast this time. Youll get sick." Then she looked at Susan. "Shes not used to all this food yet."
"I completely understand," Susan responded. Then she looked at the server. "You can serve breakfast now, Yeoman."
"Yes, sir," the yeoman responded and left the room for the kitchen. A moment later he came back in with a tray full of foodscrambled eggs, bacon, sausage, pancakes with three flavors of syrup, and French toast with powdered sugar on top.
Aylanas eyes got real big as she looked at the feast. "This is just for one meal, Aunt Susan?" she asked, awe filling her voice.
"Yes, Lana," Susan responded. "I cant eat it all, so youre going to have to help."
"This could have fed all the families in the cave!" Lana continued.
Susan was just a bit embarrassed by that observation, but it was understandable. "I imagine so."
There was only the clink of silverware on dishes for the longest time, but soon everyones appetite was sated.
Arlene knew something important was about to happen by the look on her mothers face. She wasnt surprised when Susan made eye contact with Ray.
"Ray, we need to talk," she asked Ray. "Lets go to my office. Ive set aside the whole morning in my schedule so we wont be interrupted."
"Can DeShana come as well?" Ray asked.
"Not this time," Susan responded. "But later on, yes."
Ray nodded his head in agreement, and then turned to DeShana. "Stay here with Shaun and Arlene. Everything will be all right."
"I hope so," DeShana answered and gave Ray a slight kiss on the cheek.
This immediately embarrassed both Susan and Ray. Sliding the chairs out from under the table, they both stood up.
"Please," Susan said to her guests. "Enjoy the hospitality of my quarters. We shant be long."
"Thanks, Mum," Arlene responded.
"Yes, maam," DeShana replied and then picked up Syljon and held him in her arms.
Susan and Ray Williams left the quarters and entered the corridor outside.
The silence was deafening at first, and then the baby cooed in reaction to DeShana playing with him. There was an instant reaction within Arlene. "Can I hold him?"
"Of course," DeShana answered. "No mother of a newborn turns down an offer like that."
Arlene came over and looked down at the baby in DeShanas arms and immediately melted inside. "Hes so cute," she said in a very low voice as she accepted the proffered baby. She tickled his cheek with her finger, and Syljon reflexively turned his face in that direction, looking for a breast. Changing her target, she began to tickle his neck below his chin and was rewarded with a big, toothless grin. This triggered something new inside, something shed buried quite often and now holding a newborn, instantly came to the forefront.
"So, Dee," Kelsey began. "Can I call you Dee?"
"Sure," DeShana answered. "As long as I can call you Shaun."
"Fair enough," Kelsey agreed. "How does it feel to be back in civilization?"
"Its not so much the civilization thats a relief," Dee answered, "its just such a relief not being afraid for your life or your childrens every moment of every day from the Jellies."
"Why do you call the Kelvans Jellies?" asked Kelsey.
"Because they look like floating jellyfish," Arlene Williams answered.
Kelsey looked over at his wife and saw how she was cooing and playing with Syljon. Shes trying the baby on for size, he thought. It will change her plans, though I wouldnt mind one way, or the other, he smiled with the thought of this process.
"But I want you to know, Captain, that I am very grateful for our rescue," Dee said and smiled. "For me, my children and my husband."
"Hey," Kelsey, as usual, waved the compliment off, "all in a days work, maam."
"Is there ever a time when he isnt this cute?" Arlene interrupted from where she was holding the baby and rocking slightly.
"When he wakes you at two in the morning, hes not cute, believe me," Dee answered.
"Doesnt Dad help you with that?"
Dee smiled, "Hes not really built for that," she said, indicating her breasts and then laughed. Arlene and Shaun joined her.
"Ive heard about plenty of ways around that," Arlene countered, not taking her eyes off the childs face.
"Not where we were," Dee explained. "Now, even though it is a pain getting up like that, I wouldnt have it any other way."
"I think I understand that," Arlene continued. I wonder what its like to feed a child like that?
Kelsey knew this next question was going to be a touchy one. "So, what are your plans now?"
Dee hesitated for a moment. "That all depends on what goes on out there," she answered, pointing at the door.
Ray and Susan entered her office. She insured the door was closed and then locked. She wanted no interruptions.
"Please be comfortable, Ray," Susan offered, indicating a cushioned sofa chair. Opposite was another one just like it. He sat down on the furthest one from the door.
"Thats very kind of you, Susan."
She stood there looking at him, without any emotion showing on her face. Ray was beginning to become very uncomfortable until he saw her eyes begin to water and a tear rolled down her cheek. He knew she was an indomitable individualHow else does one become an Admiral in Starfleet?but that tear was like the first drop of water coming through a dam, which eventually tears it down. Her resolve was near to breaking, and he knew it. He quickly stood back up, walked over to her and took her in his arms. "Im here, Susan. Im here."
"Oh, Ray, I missed you so much," as the dam broke and she began to sob. "I just knew you werent dead. I just knew it."
"Shhh, dear," Ray tried to soothe her. "Everythings going to be all right."
"No, Ray," Susan said after awhile. "Its not."
"I agree that what we have here is a difficult situation, but I think we can see it through, if we just study it sensibly." He paused for a second and then led her over to the chairs. He sat her down in one, and he sat down in the opposite one. He got and held her gaze as he began. "I love you, Susan; I have since school. I want to spend the rest of my life with you."
"And that wasnt enough for you?" she responded, a little bit of anger in her voice.
"It has always been enough," he answered back.
"Then why DeShana and her children?"
"We," he started, "were in a terrible situation with the Kelvan. They were eating us just like you and I would eat an apple from our fridge. Then they put us down on that planet so they wouldnt have to use their resources to support us. We would have to fend for ourselves. However, that didnt mean they stayed away; they hunted us. And they relished in the hunt. Thousands died, Susan." His face clouded over darkly in the recollection.
"Ive been away for long periods of time when on missions," Susan offered. "And never once did I stray from our marital vows."
"Its not the same," Ray said. "You knew that unless you were killed, you would be coming back; you would survive. We had no such assurances where we were. In fact, the only assurance we had was that sooner, or later, we were going to be captured and eaten.
"We formed into groups to support each other in communities and from that each took partners, wing men of sorts, according to their species, if possible."
"Did your partner have to be a woman?" Susan argued. "You couldnt partner up with a man?"
"Yes, I suppose I could have," he responded. "But as the leader of our group, I was last to pick and all the other men had already chosen partners. There were more females than males in the groups and some of the groups had multiple females. DeShana was the only Human left without a partner, so we agreed to team up."
"Okay," Susan admitted. "I can understand the survival aspects, but you fell in love with her, didnt you?"
"Yes," Ray replied, "after many seasons together. We had grown so comfortable together that love developed. Obviously, we also made love because of this as demonstrated by the children." Ray became a little frustrated at trying to explain himself. "Cant you see? We had no idea where we were? Federation space? Romulan space? We just didnt know. Nor did we know when, or if," he emphasized the last word, "we were ever going to be rescued. What happened between DeShana and I was only natural, given the circumstances. Of course, the children were bound to happen; we had no resources to stop that from happening."
"All right," Susan said, nodding her head. "I guess I can understand the situation surrounding why it happened, and I can put that aside."
"Thank you, Susan."
"That begs the question about what youre going to do now?"
"That is a bit of a sticky wicket," Ray answered.
"You cant have us both," Susan continued. "DeShana may allow it, but I certainly wont."
"Susan, the moment we were rescued, I discontinued my physical relationship with DeShana. It has broken her heart, but she understands."
"Then why do you still live with her? You couldve requested separate quarters!"
"Nothing is going to take the dark memories of those times from me, nor the one bright spot that came of it. I have stayed with DeShana for the sake of the children, Susan. No matter what else may transpire from this point on, those are still my children. I have physically protected them their whole lives, and it would drive me crazy not knowing if theyre being cared for and supported properly."
I can see the difficulty hes experiencing about this in his face, she thought. One look in his eyes, and I can tell he still loves me. With that I will take him back. "All right," she said after a moments contemplation, "I can accept that as part of the conditions we are going to have to set up. The next question is: How? We are going to need some sort of protocol to proceed."
Leave it to Susan to slip into Starfleet language, he thought with a bit of humor. "At this point, I dont know, Susan."
"Obviously, she cant stay in our quarters."
"It wouldnt do for you to see her at all outside visitation with the kids," she continued. "And even then, I want to be present."
"I agree," he answered, "But where is she going to stay? I know she will not accept charity from even me. While we were in that hellhole, she insisted on farming by my side right up until she went into labor with the kids. How will she survive? Do you know of any positions here that would allow her to support herself honorably and still take care of the children?"
"I think thats a problem we can work out later," Susan concluded. "Weve accomplished enough for now."
"I agree," he concluded as well and then stood up.
She did as well and for a moment they just looked at each other. Spontaneously, they moved forward and entered each others arms. They kissed each other lightly on the lips the first time, and then another, much more searching one, re-igniting a relationship that events had threatened to snuff out. Both had tears rolling down their cheeks when they pulled back and looked into the others eyes.
"I dont want to leave you again," he said in a voice just above a whisper. "Do you think they have a position for an old business man here on New Saar?"
"We can explore that, Ray," she answered, "as well as my retirement."
"Youd do that?"
"If it means never leaving your side again?" she asked. "In a heart beat."
They hugged and kissed once more and then pulled apart.
"I think we have family waiting for us, dear," she said, not letting her gaze leave his.
"Youre right," he answered. "Shall we re-join them?"
The tour of the facility went as quickly as was expected. Since it was a research and development operation, most of it was classified. Besides, it really wasnt a good place for a toddler. It was fourteen hundred hours before it was finished, and since the weather report promised at least another day of the fine weather theyd had today, Shaun and Arlene decided to postpone their visit to the local city and its wineries till then.
Arlene is taken by the baby, Shaun thought as he watched his wife holding Syljon in her arms back at the Admirals quarters. Im no expert at predicting the opposite sex, but I think I see the feminine urge for a child coming on strong within her.
"Would you care for another beer, Captain?" the yeoman asked as he noticed Kelseys empty mug.
"Yes, I think so, Yeoman."
"Another Stout then?"
"Not this time," Kelsey answered. "Do you have a local suggestion you might bring?"
"We do have a splendid Weissenbier, sirboth light and dunkel, or dark in standard. Both can be served with a lemon slice floating on top, but I wouldnt suggest it for the dark."
"Dark it is," Kelsey said, nodding his head and handing the yeoman his empty glass. "With no lemon, as suggested."
He came back a moment later with a tall glass of dark liquid. There was a thick, light brown head of froth on top and small streams of bubbles rising from the inside surface of the container. "Here you go, sir."
"Thank you," Kelsey said and then tried a sip of the beer. The Weissenbier had a distinctive flavor, having been initially drawn from the bottom of the brewing barrel. He noted the light layer of sediment in the bottom. It was the unique flavor that caught his attention right away. "This beer isnt made the same way as others, is it, Yeoman?" Kelsey asked, one eyebrow going up.
"No, sir," the yeoman answered. "Its made from wheat, instead of barley malts."
"Its very good," Kelsey added. "Thank you." The yeoman nodded his head and then went over to service one of the other guests. He took another sip while watching the others in the room. Mum and Da Williams are definitely back together, he thought as he watched the unspoken conversation between them. The meeting must have gone well.
To her credit, DeShana has noticed this as well. She isnt exhibiting surprise, though she has become depressed in her interactions with the children. I dont know how this relationship is going to end, but at this moment, I think DeShana is going to have her heart broken. I hope she prepared herself for this eventuality when they were rescued.
Aylana on the other hand, he thought as he took another sip of beer and watched her sitting contentedly on Das lap. Definitely has him wrapped around her little finger. Da loves her greatly. I wonder if Arlene had the same relationship with him as she grew up.
"So, Captain," Susan began, breaking into his reverie.
"Yes, sir?" Kelsey answered and came to attention.
"Susan, or Mum, would suffice in my quarters."
"Not a good habit to get into, sir, especially since you addressed me as Captain."
"Do you also argue with Admirals, Shaun?"
"No, sir, ah, Mum," he corrected himself. He noted the mischeivous smile on her face.
"Then sit down and enjoy your beer. Now Shaun," she continued, making it easier for Kelsey to relax. "How deep do you think the relations between the Romulans and Tholians go?"
"That is very hard to tell, Mum," he answered, remembering to use the correct honorific. I think the Romulans must have a small amount of rapport with the quartz-heads," using a rather derogatory slang term for them, "or else theyd run into the same rigid territorial dogma weve experienced up till now."
"I read your report, Shaun. In it you hypothesize that the Tholians ignore areas and systems without the radiation they thrive on."
Kelsey took another sip before answering. "That was my thought, but I wouldnt want to assume it in future relations with them."
"I should think not," Susan responded and then finished the light amber wine from the glass she was holding. Turning her attention to the yeoman, she ordered another. "Can I have another glass of the Spätlesse?"
"Yes, sir," the yeoman responded and brought over a brown bottle of the wine and filled her glass.
"Fine year," she said after taking a sip. Looking over at her daughter she saw the attention being given to the baby as well. "Be careful, Arlene. Those are contagious."
Arlene was oblivious to her Mum.
"I hope you are observing this," Susan whispered to Shaun.
He only just nodded his head.
"So, whats next for the Chosin?" she asked changing the subject.
"I havent the vaguest idea, Mum. Im hoping something a little less edgy."
"It is my experience that missions such as that are few and far between in Starfleet."
"Remind me to tell you about the time the Chosin was delivering sushi..." He smiled. "But hopefully I can find one between the two extremes of the rescue of the Kelvan prisoners and the delivery of unusual foodstuffs for an extremely important ambassador."
The admiral took another sip of the wine and then turned to watch Aylana in her husbands lap. Ray had the same sort of attachment to Arlene when she was this age. Then her gaze went to DeShana. Susan could see the anxiety written all over the dark face, and she felt her heart sink in an empathic reaction to it. For so long, Ray was her whole world, she thought. How are we going to do the right thing? Im going to have to have a talk with her as well, she determined, though I dont know how its going to be taken by her, or by the rest either. So she did the traditional thing that women have been doing to get together outside the group. She made eye contact with DeShana and said, "I think I need to powder my nose".
The younger woman nodded. "Me, too," DeShana responded.
"Here, let me show you to the powder room."
Shaun looked down at the toes of his boots at this point, scratched a spot next to his eye and then looked at Ray. The man knew what was going on, and it showed on his face. However Aylana was demanding his attention so he couldnt dwell on it. Arlene was paying too close attention to Syljon to see any of this. I cant think if her reaction to the child is good, or bad, he asked himself. Whatever makes her happy, he decided a moment later, and then took a healthy drink of his Weissenbier.
Instead of going to the bathroom, as insinuated by the phrase shed used to leave the group, they headed for Admiral Williams study. There were numerous items there to create a relaxed atmosphere, not the least of which was a pair of well-padded faux leather sofa chairs that were off to the side from the desk. There was also an arrangement of exotic liquors on a cart nearby. Evidently, the meeting was expected as there was ice present.
"Come on in, Dee," Susan offered as she walked through the door. "Have a seat," she indicated the chairs.
"Thank you, Susan," DeShana responded and then sat in the soft chair.
"Can I offer you anything?" Susan asked as she walked over to the liquor cart, picked up a glass and began putting ice in it.
"Soda and a slice of lemon will be just fine," DeShana answered. "I think Syljon is a bit young to be drinking."
Susan chuckled and then poured herself a small amount of a deep amber liquid into the ice, and then poured soda water in a second glass, topping it off with a slice of lemon from a bowl nearby. She then took a seat in the other chair. There was a long pause as they both sipped from their drinks.
"I swear, Syljon seems to be growing right in front of my eyes," Susan said, breaking the silence.
"Yes, maam, he is thriving," Dee answered. "Now that Im getting regular, high calorie meals."
There was another long pause.
I guess I need to treat this just like a staff meeting, Susan thought as she took another sip of her drink. And just dive right into it. "We have a situation here, Dee."
"Its Susan, Dee, please. Youre not in Starfleet, and were peers in this discussion."
"I agree, and thank you, Susan," she visibly relaxed.
"I think we both agree that we each love Ray," Susan started.
"Yes, I agree."
"Me, for the first thirty years of our marriage, and you for the past ten."
"Yes, but may I add that our ten years were during a time where our lives hung in the balance each and every day."
"That is very true," Susan responded, nodding her head. "Im not trying to down play any of this. He has responsibility for the children, and hes already taken that on without hesitation. He doesnt want to be separated from them, nor am I requesting it."
The ice in Dees glass clinked as she took a sip and then she sighed in resignation. "Ray and I have already talked about this. Weve been in the same suite since we were rescued, but we havent slept together."
As a woman, I can empathize with her, Susan thought, but as a wife... that thought went unfinished.
"This is a bit of a sticky wicket isnt it?" the admiral muttered aloud.
"That is pretty accurate. So what do we do?"
"I offer to let you stay with us, if you like, if that isnt insulting to you," Susan offered. "If everything returns to as it was before he was taken, hell be off-planet quite a bit. But I will not allow him to be alone with you. And I must ask, what would it do to you seeing him every day, but not being able to be with him?"
"I would go insane."
Susan took another sip of her drink. Then her face lit up as she remembered what Ray and she had talked about earlier. "I think Ray and I have come up with the solution."
"And that is?"
"Ray and I can retire. Weve both had our fair share of life, and weve put away plenty towards this. In that way you can stay with us. I will always be around to head off any problems, and the kids will be where their Dad can be with them as long as hes supposed to be."
"You would give up Starfleet?"
"Id just be leaving active duty. If it comes down to it, they can call me back at any time."
Dee flourished her hands to indicate the suite. "But Susan, this place is not designed for more than two people."
"This is just the quarters that Starfleet provides me," Susan responded. "I have a country house thats much bigger and has more than enough room for us, you and the kids." Susan then took a hefty drink from her glass, emptying it. "Of course. You and Ray can never be alone together. He is still a Human male, with all that goes with that, and you are, of course, encouraged to establish your own relationship with another."
"Thats going to be the hardest part."
"Not being alone with Ray?"
"Well, that, too. The establishing of a new relationship, if an opportunity presents itself. Im going to feel like Im being unfaithful."
Susans gaze went unfocused for a moment, and then she looked up, a blush tinting her cheeks. "Im sorry." She took a deep drink from her cup. "Youll have to forgive me, but I havent researched your background yet. Im not even aware of what you used to do... before you were captured by the Kelvans."
"I have two doctorates," Dee answered. "One is in warp technology and the other in theoretical faster-than-light propulsion."
"Excellent. I think we can get you a position here in the research and development facility."
"I was going to ask about that," Dee went on. "I am going to be a bit rusty, but I wouldnt mind staying with Ray and you at your country house. I can care for the children and work on projects from there. Since hell be retired, Ray can help with the kids."
Susan almost sprayed the air with the new drink she'd just gotten. "Ray? A stay-at-home Dad? This," she added, "Ive got to see."
"I think hes going to surprise you in this arena," Dee offered. "Does your land have room for a garden?"
"Of course," Susan answered. "Why?"
"Hes a very talented farmer."
"My Ray?" Susan said after a momentary chuckle. "The one who only has to look at a plant, and it shrivels?"
"The same," Dee joined the other. "He was the biggest provider out there."
"Well, Ill be."
Back in the dining area, Arlene continued to coo and cuddle Syljon, while Ray busied himself with Aylana. Kelsey was contentedly sipping his beer.
Its been a long time since I could just sit someplace and think about nothing, Kelsey thought. Though observing Arlenes interaction with the baby is both interesting and disturbing at the same time. He had a typical male reaction to both possibilities.
"So, Dad," Arlene started after playing a little more with Syljon. "What was it like?"
"On their mother ship, or after they dropped us off on the planet?"
"It wasnt the horror of seeing what the Kelvan did to the captives," Ray answered, visibly shaking at having to talk about it. "It was not knowing who would be next. On the planet, it was knowing that you were constantly being hunted. I think Humans have long forgotten that concept. It was worse once Dee and I paired off since I then felt compelled to protect them as well."
"Tsk," Arlene made a snapping sound with her tongue against her teeth. "You ought to know better than to believe a woman needs the protection of a man." She was relating the typical modern view.
"When youre in that type of situation," Ray said, with a knowing smile on his face. "Things change."
"How?" Arlene asked, her attention shifted while she absent-mindedly minded the baby. "Ive been on life or death missions with males and never once did we revert to that kind of relationship. Hell, Dad, I would have resented it."
"I can attest to that," Kelsey interjected, raising his half glass of beer in a salute.
"Apples and oranges, my dear," Ray said.
"You were protecting yourself and your comrades in arms. I will grant you that that sort of relationship does produce strong ties, but..."
"Are there any toys?" Aylana interrupted, gently touching Rays cheek. "I want to play."
"Do you and Mom still maintain a room for me here?" Arlene asked.
"Of course," Ray answered. "I wouldnt have it any other way, not for my daughter." He winked at Arlene and then at Aylana as well.
"I think I can help there," Arlene said as she stood up.
"Ill take Syljon of your hands," Ray said, reaching for the baby.
Oh, no, Kelsey thought as she saw the mischievous look on his wifes face and saw her turn toward him.
"No, thanks," Arlene said, with a slight shake of her head. She made eye contact with Kelsey and headed his way.
Ray immediately knew what was going on and sat back with a slight smile on his face. He knew what that look on his daughters faceheck, any womans facemeant.
"Ah, Arlene," Kelsey sputtered quickly finding someplace to put his glass. "Are you sure about this? I mean, Ive never..."
That answer has two meanings, on different levels, Kelsey thought as trepidation filled his mind.
"Youll do just fine," Arlene answered. "Just hold him exactly how I am, supporting his head in the crook of your arm." She then held the baby out to be taken by Kelsey.
"Are you sure?" he asked, this question on both the same levels. Of all the situations Kelsey had been in, this one all of a sudden scared him the most.
"Oh, yeah," Arlene answered.
Kelsey took the baby and held him exactly how hed seen him in Arlenes arms. He sat back and then looked down at the dark skinned face that was looking back at him. He reached in and tickled Syljon under his chin with his fingertip.
"Hey, boyo, how are you today?" he said in a quiet voice and was immediately rewarded with a big smile. "Hey," he said as he looked up at Arlene, "he smiled at me."
Arlene knew her husband was hooked and smiled down at him as he played with the baby. She then turned to her dad and smiled at him as well before holding her hand out to Aylana. "Come on, Lana," she said. "Let me show you my secret stash." She led the little girl out of the room.
When theyd left Ray looked at Kelsey. I have always seen cold steel in those blue eyes before, Ray thought as he watched the interaction. Now I see a warm spring sky.
"You watch yourself, son," Ray said a moment later. "They are addictive."
"Hmm?" Kelsey looked up and asked a moment later.
"Those," Ray repeated pointing at the bundle in Kelseys arms, "they are extremely addictive."
"Yeah," Kelsey responded, a smile spreading across his face. "I know."
Arlene sat in front of the mirror and brushed her shoulder length dark, almost black, hair. Her ministrations had it soft and glistening. This activity was mechanical though, and it wasnt what she was looking at while she continued to pull the brush through the strands. In the reflection was her husband. He was sitting at the desk, reading through the reports that had been sent to him from Commander Thorrell aboard the Chosinchanging some and approving others with the placement of his thumbprint.
Hes in his element now, she thought as she watched. In command of his ship. A brief moment of jealousy sparked in her heart, but was immediately extinguished. The ship will always be his mistress, which I accepted when I agreed to his proposal.
"Hows it going with the repairs and refit?" she asked. The Chosin was in Earth orbit right now, hundreds of lightyears from New Saar.
"Slow, but steady," Kelsey answered, putting his thumbprint on another report. "Thorrell and Stronton have it well in hand."
"Theyre going to need a leave of absence as well," Arlene offered. "Once the repairs are done."
"Yeah, I know," he answered. "Once I get back, Ill send Thorrell packing, and Im sure Commander Stronton has a junior engineer who can stand in for him." A moment later, he made some corrections to the final report and then hit send. All of it would be sent via sub-space transmission and be read by the officers and men of the Chosin not long from now. Standing, he stretched, luxuriating in the feeling it brought from muscles ignored by sitting so long. It felt so good; he decided to do a full set of stretching exercises. Taking the loose robe off, so it wouldnt get in the way, he began the first one.
Arlene watched him in the mirror and was especially interested when the robe came off. He was nude, which was normal for when they were preparing for bed. Later, they would sleep that way as well, letting every inch of their bodies touch each other. Intellectually, she knew he wasnt built any better or worse than the average male in Starfleet for his age, but to her mind, he was no less than Adonis himself. The sight of his muscles rippling under his skin created an intense set of reactions in her, amplified more so by the thoughts that had been warping through her conscious and sub-conscious mind ever since seeing Syljon the first time.
Something ancient was stirring inside, something no amount of civilization could erase. He finished a moment later and then retired to bed, reclining against the headboard so he could read. She noted it was a novel this time instead of reports. She continued to brush her hair.
"Where do you want to live once we retire, Shaun?" she asked a moment later.
"I dont know," he answered, looking up from his reading. "Havent given it much thought. Thats too far into the future."
"But if you were to think about it," she continued. "Where do you think youd prefer? On a starbase, a colony world, or maybe an established community?"
"I suppose they all have their advantages," he replied, putting the book down as he realized that she was working the conversation around to something that was important. "Why?"
"Oh, I dont know. I was thinking that maybe we should put someplace aside for when we finally decide to do so. Maybe work on the house a little bit at a time. Some place we could go when were like we are right now, not involved with a mission."
"Sounds like it could be a good idea." He already knew the answer to his next question, but it bore asking anyway. "You have any place in mind?"
"Oh, I dont know," she answered, stopping her brushing mid way down her hair. "Here on New Saar would be nice," she said, as she put down the brush and pivoted on the chair to face him. "Dont you just love the slow-paced, country atmosphere?"
"I do love the beer and wine they produce, thats for sure."
"Leave it to a man to make that distinction."
"Well, its true," he responded. "It is a nice place though. Not at all like Ireland, but then theres no place like that in the whole, wide universe." He could see expectation on her face as she thought through the next question. "I take it you already have someplace in mind?"
"No, but Im sure Mom knows of some places nearby." She paused for a moment as she formulated her next statements. This is scary, she thought as she tried to work through how to present them. Scarier than even a Dreamcatcher. I dont know how hes going to react. Its what I want, and I know he loves me, so I shouldnt be worried, but... Her thoughts paused, and she noted he was watching her with an expectant look on his face. He knows Im stuck on something, and Ill bet he already knows what it is. The jerk is going to just sit there and let me stew, enjoying every moment. She put her hands in her lap and stared at them for a moment. Finally working up enough confidence in what she was going to ask, she looked up and saw him looking back with his blue eyes. "What do you think of Syljon?"
"I think both of your fathers children are cute as a button on a leprechauns coat."
"Me, too," she answered and her gaze went to her lap again. "Shaun?"
"Mlady, you know I love you, and you can ask anything of me. Im your knight, and Ill do everything I can to give it to you."
Whenever he used that on her, she knew he was trying to calm her nerves because she knew hed be there for her. "Shaun, I..."
"Shhh," Kelsey said. Got out of bed and walked over to where she was sitting. Squatting in front of her, he took her hands and looked straight into her green eyes. "Id be honored."
"You dont even..."
"Yes, I do. You think me blind?"
"Of course not, Shaun, but..."
"Then, yes, if its really what you want."
She looked deep into those blue eyes and saw the sincerity there. "You know Im talking about having a baby dont you," she asked, "not something else?"
She dropped from the bench and grabbed his neck in a tight hug and gave him a kiss. This sudden move knocked him off balance, and they landed on the floorhim on his back and her straddling his abdomen with her legs.
"This will work," he said with a chuckle as he felt himself react to the situation.
"Yes it will," she responded, feeling this fact, too.
"Shall we start right away?"
"Ah, Shaun," she whispered, after giving him a light kiss. "You know it will be at least a week after the doctor stops the contraceptive that Ill be fertile."
"There you go, ruining the atmosphere with science," he answered with a silly grin on his face. "This is the first time Ive done this, and its going to take some practice to get it right."
"But the doctor..."
"Ah, ah, ah," Kelsey answered, putting his finger to her lips. "You know Im just a simple, country boy. I still like the old-fashioned ways of doing things."
"So Ive noticed," she whispered, her voice full of emotion. Sliding her hips down his abdomen, she lifted them slightly and slowly took him in. "Shall we begin the practice then?"
"Aye, lass," he whispered back, his Irish brogue filled with pleasure. "Im always ready."
"I know."Stardate 9591.5
"I should arrive there in about three days," Kelsey said to his first officer. Theyd been on New Saar two weeks, and this was the first time hed made face-to-face contact with his second in command.
"I trust you and Commander Williams vacation was restful and uneventful," Thorrell said, his antennae in a relaxed position though facing forward.
"I wouldnt say its been uneventful."
"Hows that?" Thorrells antennae straightened out.
"Weve been looking at residences here on New Saar."
Thorrell pondered that remark, with a hint of foreboding. Its not unusual for Starfleet officers to have residences outside of the quarters assigned them, he thought. "Oh, really?"
"Weve found a nice little two bedroom house overlooking a terraced valley of grape vines," he said and then sent a picture.
"Ah, very beautiful," Thorrell said a moment later. "As far as Earth environments go. Too green for my tastes. Is that all?"
"Were going to need to find a new chief science officer," Kelsey said, maintaining eye contact.
It took a moment for that to sink in. "What?"
"When I get there, have a short list of candidates for me to look over," Kelsey continued without explanation. "Whats the name of the science officer on the second watch? Mister Forkes?"
"Yes, sir, but..."
"If you think hes a prime candidate, let me know; Id rather keep this position within house."
"Thats fine, sir, but" Thorrell continued.
"But what, Thorrell?" Kelsey asked. "Youve never had a hard time expressing yourself before."
"Whats happened to Commander Williams?"
"Oh, no, what happened. Shes not hurt bad is she?"
"No, Id say shes doing fine. Actually, more than fine."
Thorrells eyebrows scrunched together in confusion and his antennae pointed more forward. "I dont understand, sir. Is she all right or not?"
"Shes all right, Thorrell, but she is pregnant."
"Shes what, when, how..."
"Well, actually its very simple, really, and quite fun. A male and female get together and..."
"No, you stupid Reggie, I know how you Humans do it," he sputtered. "What changed her mind?"
"She saw her step-brother Syljon, and the biological trigger went off."
"But she doesnt have to leave Starfleet to have a kit. Plenty of females carry their young to full term, have the baby and then return to duty."
"We dont believe a child should be brought up by someone other than the parents."
Thorrell thought on it for awhile. "This wouldnt happen if you had four members of a marriage instead of two."
"We can discuss it more at length when I get there," Kelsey continued the transmission. "Have the list ready and be ready to take leave yourself when I get there."
"Aye, sir," Thorrell answered. "You give my regards to the mother-to-be, and Ill see you soon."
"I will, Kelsey out."
"Male or female?"
Kelsey chuckled. He would have preferred the entire process to have been the old-fashioned way, but because of his having to report to the ship so soon, they had opted for medical help. Because of this, they had the choice of sexes. Though the discussion had been long, the pros and cons discussed, it had come down to the flip of a coin and male had won.
"My choice as well," Thorrell said through a smile. "Nothing like having a male as the first born kit. Have you already picked out a name? You probably will be in deep space when hes born..."
"Yes, we have," Kelsey answered. "Galen Michael."
"Galen Michael Kelsey," Thorrell repeated. "Galen Michael Kelsey. Yes, its a good warrior name."
"Actually, Galen means healer," Kelsey added, "but Im sure thats not important. It does ring, though. Well talk more when I get there. Captain out." He cut the transmission, and the Federations symbol came onto the screen.
It had been a week since the impregnation, and he could hear Arlene in the bathroom, throwing up. I know about morning sickness, he thought as he tried to ignore the sound lest it cause him to lose his breakfast as well. All the other ladies of the family say its nothing to worry about, but it hurts me to see her in such distress.
"You going to be all right, Arlene?" There was another retch, and he winced as she sounded like she was in pain. Then he could hear her panting. Shes going to be emaciated by the time she gets full term, he thought. I guess maybe this is why later, once the morning sickness lets up, they eat so much.
"What?" she said in a moment.
"Are you going to be well enough to see me off?"
"Of course, Shaun," she answered. "Give me a moment to freshen up."
He sat down on the couch theyd set up near the door. Their house had no where near enough furniture to be comfortable yet, but Arlene promised to have that fixed by the time he came home the next time. She came out of the bedroom a few minutes later. Her clothing showed conscious effort in matching, but her face was white as a sheet and she was obviously in physical distress.
"Oh my God, Arlene," he said, getting to his feet. "You look awful. Are you sure youre up to this?"
"Of course, Shaun," she responded. "Just a little morning sickness. Every woman knows about it. Lets go before you miss your transport."
He took her into his arms and held her as if it was the last time hed see her. She held him back.
This is worse than when we separated for different commands over the years, he thought. "Are you sure, dear?"
"Yes," she answered a moment later. "Lets go."
The walk to the transporter station was short and silent. None of the rest of the family were there, by special request. They stood holding each others hands and looked into each others eyes. He could see how sick she really was, though she was being brave about it. In turn, she could see the worry on his face about her condition.
"I can tell Thorrell to take over if you need me here?" he offered one more time.
"Captain Shaun Kelsey of the United Star Ship Chosin, you have a duty to perform, and you must get there as soon as possible. If not, Thorrell and Stronton will no doubt have overhauled the ship so much that shell be unrecognizable!" she scolded him, and then became soft. "I am not going through anything different then women have been going through for millennia. Dont worry; it will pass."
"You know best, Arlene." He leaned forward and gave her kiss. She kissed him back. He stepped onto the transporter station. "I want a daily report, Commander," he said in his best command voice, though emotion threatened to break through.
"Energize," he ordered and blue transport energy enveloped him, taking him away.
She stood and stared at the empty platform for a long moment. A now familiar feeling came over her and she ran for the nearby bathroom.Stardate 9592.7
"So what youre saying, Mister Stronton," Kelsey responded from the chair behind his desk, "is that she is even faster than she was before."
"Aye, sir, by half a warp factor. We can now do Warp Factor 14.6."
Which would influence the performance of my ship substantially, Kelseys thoughts ran as he considered the data. "How soon till this is all in place?"
"Its ready for space trials now, sir," Stronton reported with not just a little bit of pride in his voice.
"That may be true," Thorrell interrupted. "But we have a few other systems that have to be completed before shes mission ready."
"Like what, Number One?"
"The weapons systems are still going through an upgrade. Plus there are quite a few other systems that arent quite ready yet. Although they are minor to the Chosins overall readiness, they are still important."
"How much longer till the ships mission-ready?" Kelsey asked the bottom line question.
"One week, maybe two at the most," Thorrell said, looking at the faces of the other section chiefs and seeing them nod their heads.
"Good. Ill make my report to the Admiralty. Youre all dismissed to your duties." He saw them all get up from their chairs except one, who remained seated. "You ready for your leave, Number One?"
"Of course," Thorrell answered. "Got a suite reserved on the Andorian colony world Arpinza and a berth on a local civilian transport." He shook his head. "Its too bad the Chosin cant take me there. I could be there a day and a half sooner and have more time to take advantage of the facilities." He winked and chuckled at Kelsey after saying that.
"Yeah, I know what you mean about the civilian transports. It took me three days to get here from New Saar where, if Mister Stronton is correct, it would only take a day with my ship."
"We all know what the bosses think of using government resources for private gain, now dont we?" Thorrell interjected, his antennae focusing everywhere but to the front as he spoke, showing the distraction he was really feeling.
"Whats wrong, Number One?"
"Come off it, man," Kelsey used a bit of his Irish accent. "Ive been working with you long enough to know that when your antennae threaten to get tangled because of that, youre stewing on something other than the subject at hand."
"Oh, them? Thorrell chuckled as he looked up for a moment. "Dont mind them. Sometimes I cant figure them out either."
"Have you heard from Commander Williams?" Thorrell changed the subject.
"This morning, right on time, though it was late at night there."
"I heard shes been sick. Hows she doing?"
"Just morning sickness, Thorrell," Kelsey scoffed. "Something about half of all Human females go through in the first few weeks of a pregnancy. Its caused by the rapid change of hormones in her system as her body prepares to support the baby."
"I have heard of this before, just not as close to my person as this. So hows she doing?"
"Maintaining a stable orbit."
"You said the babys male?"
"Yes," Kelsey said, trying to keep the pride from his voice at this aspect.
"By the way, howd you talk her into that again?"
"Do you think she had a choice?" Kelsey responded with mirth in his voice.
"Pffft," Thorrell made a typical Human sound of disdain. "Of course. So howd you do it?"
"Tradition is more powerful than personal preference any time, Number One. We both agreed that it was better to have the first born be a boy." The captain chuckled. "Besides, we flipped a coin."
"Im sure everythings going to work out fine. With the medical knowledge we have now, shell have the baby; itll be healthy and shell be back to work in no time."
"That is the hope of all married couples Im sure," Kelsey responded as he picked up a report from his desk.
"You hungry, sir?"
Thats an odd question from him, Kelsey thought. "I could eat. Why?"
"I think Chef Jeremy is putting on something good tonight, and I thought I could bring you up to speed on the unofficial events of the last few weeks over a bite to eat."
"Well, I do want to look at this phaser assembly reconfiguration..."
"That can wait, sir," Thorrell said. "Lets go."
Theres something to his voice, Kelsey identified. Hes up to something. "Lead the way."
"Of course," Thorrell said in a louder than normal voice. "Super Novas always lead the way."
Kelsey shook his head, sighed and then indicated the door. "Go on, you jerk."
"Thats Super Nova jerk, sir."
The door to the ready room opened, and Kelsey stifled his response. As they walked through the bridge, he noted that there was only a skeleton crew staffing it. As they continued, he noted that the corridors were devoid of people. When they passed the dining facility without going in, Kelsey stopped and grabbed Thorrell by the shoulder.
"Okay. What gives?"
"Chef Jeremy said something about called a barbecue and wanting to have it in Shuttle Bay Alpha so it would seem more like a picnic." The Andorian looked annoyed at using the Terran terms. "I do wish your language was less incomprehensible."
Kelsey looked at him with a question in his gaze. This is something entirely new and unexpected. I know it cant be a real open fire, but Chef Jeremy usually outdoes himself on this sort of thing. "All right, lets go."
They went further down the corridor and then stopped in front of door with a plaque next to it saying "Cargo Bay Alpha." It opened and the smell of a hickory smoke fire wafted out. There were a few people sitting at tables inside.
"That certainly smells authentic," Kelsey observed.
"Chef Jeremy has assured me that it is," Thorrell responded.
"I wonder how he managed to get the fire suppression systems not to engage..."
"After you, sir." Thorrell motioned with his hand and arm for Kelsey to enter the bay.
Kelsey had no sooner gotten passed the edge of the door when the relative silence of a moment ago erupted in cheering and applause. Hanging from one of the balconies was a banner reading "Congratulations Captain Kelsey and Commander Williams!" and there were blue and pink babies floating around the lettering. There was a table set up, and it was covered in presents.
"What the..." Kelsey stammered, though he pretty well knew.
"The junior officers tell me that its appropriate to have a party like this for just this kind of occasion," Thorrell said, having to raise his voice a bit to be heard.
"You mean a baby shower?" Kelsey asked. "Thats for the motherfor Commander Williams, if she was here."
"Well, shes not and cant be. The crew wanted to show their happiness over the event, and youre the only one present. So enjoy."
"Aye, aye, sir," Kelsey responded and walked toward the center of the group. He held up his hands over his head to lower the volume a bit. "I am indeed surprised. For Commander Williams and me I thank you. We are recording this arent we?"
"Yes," came a voice from the back of the group.
"Then she will indeed enjoy it. For those who gave presents for the mother, theyll be deeply appreciated." He paused for a moment trying to figure what else to say and then gave up. "Again, thank you and bon appetit."
Another cheer went up at the completion of the speech and then conversation broke out everywhere. Kelsey was never left alone, as crewmen from all sections of the ship wanted to congratulate him. He had to keep reminding them that he didnt have to do any of the work, but they would have nothing of it, so he promised to pass the well wishes along. Someone in the crowd handed him a hamburger, and he took a bite of it. It was grilled to perfection and tasted of hickory smoke. He looked at it closely and noted that it indeed did look like it had been cooked over a fire. Now how in Hell did Chef Jeremy do this?
He glanced over at his Tellarite weapons officer who was devouring a pulled-pork sandwich. "Hrisch?" he asked incredulously.
"Dont worry, Captain. Its not anyone I would know."Stardate 9594.2
How could there be nothing there? Arlene asked herself as she looked into the sink she was leaning on. I thought maybe my stomach had come up there. The adrenalin rush of vomiting was making her head swim. Or is it because I havent been able to eat in three days? She looked at the chronometer on the wall nearby and noticed the time. Oh my God, Ive got to freshen up. Dee and the kids are coming over and should be here soon.
She tried to stand up straight, but the world began to spin, and she needed the sink again. When the convulsions ended, her head was still spinning wildly, and now she had a splitting headache. Opening her eyes only served to make them hurt as well and find that she couldnt focus on the face in the mirror though there was one thing that got her attention right away: the iron taste of blood and a trickle of the precious liquid running from the corner of her mouth. Then she felt something warm run down her leg. Looking down, she saw another trickle of red.
"Oh, my God," she said. "The baby! My God, my God!" She kept saying as she tried to step out of the bathroom and get to the comm unit in the kitchen. Dizziness and confusion took her, and then she slipped on something on the floor, landing hard on her knees. Her head felt like it would explode from the pain this created as stars floated in front of her eyes. Darkness began to invade the edges of her vision. "The baby," she gasped as the darkness won, and she collapsed on her face.
"Were here, Arlene," Aylana said as she came in the front door, not bothering to knock. There was only silence instead of the expected response. "Arlene, were here?" Still nothing. "Mommy? Wheres Arlene?" she asked Dee when she caught up to her with Syljon.
"I dont know, Lana. She said she was going to be here. She hasnt been feeling good. Maybe shes in the bathroom washing up."
"Yeah!" Aylana yelled. "Ill go find her."
"If the doors closed, Lana. What have we talked about that?"
Aylana studied her toes for a moment and then mumbled. "We knock first."
"Thats right. Go ahead."
A moment later, a little girls scream filled the air. "Mommy! Mommy! Theyre back! You said they were gone! Theyre back!"
"What?!" Dee said. "Whos back?" She came around the corner and saw Arlene on the floor with blood all around her. Aylana was running back toward her and grabbed her by the knees. "The Jellies! You said theyre gone, but theyre here!"
"No, Lana. Those monsters arent here," she tried to console the girl. Lana buried her face and screamed. Untangling Aylana from her legs the best she could, Dee went over to Arlene and put a finger to her neck above her carotid artery, looking for life. There was a pulse, but it was faint.
"Is she dead, Mommy?"
"No, Lana, but shes hurt. Come with me."
Aylana had a tight hold on her mothers hand and followed. She startled at every door way and sound. Dee took her to the couch in the family room. "Lana, please sit here and take care of your brother."
"But Mommy, the Jellies! Dont leave me; Im scared!"
"The Jellies arent here, and I need to help your big sister. Can you be brave for her and me?"
At first, Aylana shook her head "no" but then nodded weakly, taking Syljon in her arms. But she was still weeping as Dee ran to the BellComm terminal. She first contacted the emergency room of the medical facility.
"State the nature of the emergency," the nurse queried.
"I have a pregnant woman passed out on the floor in the hallway of this home. She is bleeding from both her mouth and hip region."
"You say shes unconscious?"
"Barely and her heartbeat is weak."
"We have your coordinates," the nurse said. "Stand by."
The sound of a transporter carrier wave began and then blue energies surrounded Arlene. A moment later, she was gone.
"Were you there when she collapsed?"
"No, I came to visit and found her as you see here now."
"Was she complaining of any problems before this?"
"Shes only a little bit along in her pregnancy and has been complaining of morning sickness, but nothing more than that."
"Are you family?"
"Not really; shes sort of my step-daughter," Dee answered what she hoped was the last question. "Her mother is Admiral Williams."
"Has the admiral been contacted yet?"
"Thats my next call."
"Very well. Thank you for your prompt call." The screen went dark.
"Admiral Williams office," Dee queried the comm unit.
A moment later, a young officer came onto the screen. "Admiral Williams office. Can I help you?"
"Tell the admiral that her daughter is in the Starfleet medical facility, bleeding and unconscious."
"My God," the officer said. "What happened to her?"
"Unknown. Tell her quick."
"Aye," and the screen went blank.
A moment later, the comm unit rang. Dee noted it was Ray. She didnt even let him ask any questions. "Ray, Arlene is in the medical facility. I found her here in her home bleeding and unconscious."
"Did you find her, Dee?" Ray asked.
"No, Aylana did."
"She has to be terrified."
"She is," Dee answered. "Ill take care of her and Jon, dont you worry. You go and take care of your first born."
"Thanks, Dee." And the screen went blank again.
That was all she could do. Now it was up to the Creator to take care of Arlene. Walking back into the family room she found Aylana under a table, clutching Syljon tight to her, still weeping quietly. Sitting down next to her, she took the child in her arms and held her. It was then that her tears began to flow.
Oh, Lord, she began to silently pray. Watch over your servant Arlene in her time of great need...
"What made her change her mind about children?" Thorrell asked as he sat down across the table from Kelsey. He had a plate full of food from many cultures.
"From the moment she held Syljon, I could tell she wanted one of her own," Kelsey answered, and then took another bite of his hamburger. The hickory flavoring created an aura of pleasure within him that was intensified by the brown sugar smell of the baked beans on the plate.
"Biological trigger went off, so to speak?"
"That about describes it to a tee."
"Bridge to Captain," the intercom called, its echoes in the hangar deck somewhat ominous.
Kelsey looked at Thorrell with a look that said, What can this be all about? He made his way to the nearest wallcomm. "Captain here."
"Emergency message for you."
"Pipe it down here," Kelsey ordered. No use ruining a good hamburger by letting it get cold.
"Shaun?" came a female voice from the comm unit.
"Admiral Williams?" Kelsey said as he recognized the voice. He could also hear worry in her tone. "Whats wrong?"
"Youve got to come back here. Arlene is in a coma, and the doctors dont know why yet."
"My God," Kelsey responded, forgetting protocol. "Whats causing it?"
"Dont waste time with questions. Get home now."
"Itll take me three days to get there."
"Youll be here quicker than that," Admiral Williams said, the worry in her voice replaced by command. "Your orders should be arriving shortly. I think the Chosin can make the trip a lot faster."
Get the ship ready to depart space dock, he mouthed to Thorrell.
Thorrell was up and running.
"Pulled a few strings. Get home!" Admiral Williams command voice brooked no question. The connection went dead.
Alert klaxons were going off and echoing down the corridors when Kelsey exited the shuttle bay and headed for the nearest turbolift. When he got to the bridge, there was controlled chaos as the first shift took over. Thorrell was standing in the middle of it like the Rock of Gibraltar. He took a step to one side, when he saw Kelsey enter the bridge, ready to make his report.
"We just received orders from Starfleet that were cleared to depart for New Saar," Lieutenant Aherrowla reported from the helm. "Space dock is even now disconnecting all tethers."
"Engines are warming up and will be ready for maximum warp soon after we pull out of the dock," Commander Stronton reported from engineering.
A moment later, the bridge became very quiet. "Were ready, sir," Thorrell said from right beside Kelsey."
"Take her out, Mister Aherrowla," Kelsey ordered, sitting down in the command chair. "One tenth impulse. Mister Roberts, plot a course to New Saar, maximum warp."
Twin "ayes" followed the orders, and the two officers went to work.
The Chosin slipped from the space dock and maneuvered around till she was pointing in the right direction.
"Course plotted and speed set," Roberts reported. "ETA, twelve hours and thirty-three minutes."
"Engage," Kelsey ordered. A dark cloud formed inside his emotions, and it showed on his face.
Everyone on the bridge knew not to approach him and instead went to Thorrell for instruction. Thorrell went over to Hrisch at the weapons console and whispered, "Heaven help anybody, or anything that gets in our way right now."
Hrisch looked at the captain and then made a Tellarite snort of agreement. "It would be fun though."Stardate 9594.6
She looks so small, Kelsey thought as he looked at Arlene in the life support mechanism of the intensive care unit. Her complexion was white as snow, her lips almost blue and her eyes sunken into their sockets with black surrounding them. The status board above her head was beating a very slow heartbeat and showed shallow breathing. There were other critical readings being shown, and all of them were in the dangerously low range.
There was a team of doctors working on and around her. He was waiting for the lead doctor to come out so he could get the most up to date information on her condition.
"Dee found her in your home," Admiral Williams said as she stood next to Kelsey in the observation station.
"What happened, Mom?" Kelsey asked. "Was there any sign of trauma at the scene?"
"Not from what everyone has said. She was laying in the coma when Dee found her."
"Have the doctors been able to find anything?" Kelsey couldnt help but keep glancing back at his wife.
"They told me she is very close to death, but they havent found the cause yet."
Kelsey then asked the question he had been dreading from the moment he arrived. "What about the baby?"
"They havent said anything about that."
They both were silent as they watched the events unfolding inside. The sound of the heartbeat slowed to the point that in between each of them Kelsey held his breath coaching the next to come. Then came a moment when no amount of coaching brought it back. The doctors inside went into a frenzy, bringing the might of modern medicine to bear.
"Oh God, no!" Admiral Williams moaned and turned to hold Murray, who was standing silently by her side, but tears running down his face.
Kelsey couldnt stand there and watch any longer. He stepped to the door and went inside.
"Please, sir!" one of the nurses warned him as he approached the table. "You need to stay outside!"
"Shes my wife, and you had better not try to stop me."
Just the look on his face was enough to dissuade the nurse from any further attempt to stop him. He took his wifes hand and held it while looking at her face. "Dont go, Arlene," he said, his voice choking at the beginning of tears. "I love you; dont you leave me."
The doctors were doing everything they knew to resuscitate her, but the readings remained flat.
He put his face close to hers, his blue eyes, now surrounded by red and whispered. "Dont go where I cant follow," and then he lightly kissed her on the lips. They felt so cold. "Come back, Arlene. Come back."
The doctors were backing off, waiting to see if any of their attempts to treat her would work. The board remained flat.
Kelsey put his lips right next to her ear and whispered, "I love you, Arlene. Dont go. Come back." He rotated up to face her and kissed her, gently squeezing her hand. There was the sound of a heartbeat from the board. Kelsey felt a light breath on his cheek, and her hand feebly squeezed his.
The readings on the board came back up slightly. They were still dangerously low, but they were better than they had been.
"Thats my girl," Kelsey whispered. "I knew you could do it."
Arlenes eyes fluttered open a bit, but they had a far away look in them. "Shaun?"
"Yes, Angel?" he responded.
Kelsey looked at the doctor. "She wants to know about our baby."
"It was gone before she got here," the doctor whispered. "I am terribly sorry."
He returned his attention to Arlene. "Dont worry about the baby right now, dear. I need you to get better."
"Poor Galen," she said as a tear escaped from the corner of her eye. Unconsciousness overwhelmed her again, but her vitals remained low but steady, if not creeping upward.
"Sir, could you go back to the waiting room now?" a mans voice said from nearby.
"What?" Kelsey said after a bit.
"We need to give her more help, and you are in the way right now. Could you go back to the other room? Well let you know if anything more happens."
Kelsey looked at him, but didnt see him. He then looked back at Arlenes face. A moment later, a more familiar voice talked to him.
"Shaunsoncome with us now." It was Murray Williams. "Youve done a great thing just now. Youve brought her back. Now let the doctors help her more."
"Is she still here?"
"Yes, son. Now come with us, and well wait together."
Kelsey felt Murrays strong hands take hold of his upper arm and pull gently. He went with it, but his gaze never left Arlene. A moment later, they joined Admiral Williams in the waiting room and sat down. The night would be a long one.Stardate 9598.1
Her color is improving even though her eyes still seem sunken into her skull, Kelsey thought as he silently watched Arlene. The doctors say she is now sleeping soundly, and thats a big plus. He took her hand and held it between both of his. How small, how frail it seems. As are we all in the grand scheme of things. But her hand is warm now.
"Shaun?" Arlene whispered.
He hadnt seen her eyes open. "Hey, kiddo. Youve been away for awhile. How you feeling today?"
"Two weeks. Its Christmas day, my love. Merry Christmas."
"So tired. Rode hard and put away wet."
"And then some, I know, dear. You go back to sleep and catch up."
"Are you sure you feel up to that?"
"I think so."
"Evidently, when we were down on the Dream-Catcher planet, everyone down there contracted a virus. Males carry it, but it remains in a dormant, non-transmittable lysogenic phase. Females, too, but if they get pregnant, one of the hormones causes it to become active in a lytic stage. It almost took the doctors too long to figure it out. Thank God we are in a research and development facility with all the up-to-date biomedical technology. They now have a test and inoculation for the virus, and everyone who was on that away mission is being taken care of."
"Did I almost die?"
"Are you sure youre up to this?"
"Tell me, Shaun. Did I almost die?"
"You did die for a short period of time."
Her eyes became unfocused, and it was obvious she was thinking on something. Suddenly, her face became very sad, and her eyes watered. "The baby, Shaun, what about the baby?"
Kelsey couldnt say the answer, he was too choked up and tears were running down his cheeks. He just shook his head slowly.
"Oh, Shaun, I lost our baby," she said as she wept. "Can you ever forgive me?"
"Arlene, there is nothing to forgive; it wasnt your fault. All that matters now is that youre still alive."
Tears streamed down her face for some time, and her body shook with sobs. He held her as close as the life support system would let him until exhaustion took her, and she went back to sleep.
"Thats not the worst of it," Kelsey whispered. "But we will get through this, of that Im sure."
The garden was filled with the golden light of the setting sun of New Saar. It had been a fairly warm day, perfect for the final ripening of the grapes on the terraced hills nearby. From the single story house came the sounds of a family in preparation for the evening meal. The aroma of the food came casually on the breeze. On a bench, Shaun and Arlene sat, silently holding hands, absorbing the moment.
"I should be back on the Chosin next week," Williams stated.
"You take your time, Arlene," Kelsey responded. "I want you healthy, not just there and I dont think theres any place better than this for a full recuperation."
They sat in silence for a bit longer.
"I had news from the doctors this morning," Williams said, looking down at the toes of her shoes.
"A full bill of health I hope."
"Everywhere except one place."
"Where?" Kelsey was more than a little interested about this.
"My womb," Williams mumbled, all of sudden ready to cry again, "has lost the ability to create the lining necessary to support a baby."
"And the medicine of our time cant fix that?"
"Apparently not. We could create one in a lab and find a birth mother to carry the child if we want."
He was bothered by this, but he didnt feel he should show how much, and she looked like she needed her mood bolstered. "Arlene, the important thing is that you are alive."
"Dont you get it?" Williams said, all of a sudden very angry.
"I guess not," Kelsey back-peddled a bit.
"That part of me that makes me a womana motheris gone. I cant have children, Shaun."
"Youre as much a woman to me now as you ever have been," he tried to calm her down. Its a good thing shes seeing a psychiatrist.
"Stupid men," she scoffed. "All you see is what pleasures you."
"We can always hire a birth mother, if you want, or even adopt a child," he said, trying to deflect her emotions.
"Not the same," Williams answered. "Since I could pick up a doll, Ive wanted children of my own. To feel one growing inside me, to give birth, to suckle one at my breast. All of it, Shaun, I wanted all of it, and now its gone forever."
This is one of those times when I shouldnt try to fix the situation, he thought. The best I can do is to be here for her and listen. "Is there anything I can do?"
She leaned against him and put her head on his shoulder. "Hold me, Shaun."
That I can do, he thought as he put his arm around her and pulled her close. He could tell she was crying again and knew this was going to be going on for a long time. She may be over the physical aspects of the disease, but the psychological symptoms are still there, he thought as he leaned his head back a bit and enjoyed the smell of some of the local flowers.
A meter in front of them, in the middle of a pool, was a statue of a little boy with an angel standing behind him comforting him with a hand on his shoulder. On its base were the words:
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