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Randall Landers

December 6, 2295

Sulu was not a happy man.

Only slightly more than a year ago, he’d nearly sundered one of his true friendships. Over thepast year, together, they’d rebuilt it.

Two days ago, he’d destroyed it completely.

So here he was in Greece, sitting on a broken column on a mountainside, staring across at a collection of ancient ruins. He’d never been to Greece in all his years, and he felt it was probably the last place anyone would look for him. He’d already removed his communicator and left it in San Francisco along with all of his other personal belongings.

They’d look for him there first, of course. He’d been born there. They’d look for him in Kyoto, but his grandparents wouldn’t know where he was. He hadn’t spoken with them in years. Natasha might be able to track him down, but again, the Greek mountains would not ever come to her as a place to start, so he doubted that his ex-wife would have any real success either, despite her remarkable skills as a master of espionage and intelligence gathering.

He’d come here to think, and he wanted to be left alone.

Sulu’s mind drifted back to the time Jim Kirk had taken him to a small river in Italy and had given him a history lesson on Julius Caesar, how by crossing the Rubicon the Roman general had set into effect a series of events that would lead to his conquest of the republic of Rome and the establishment of the Roman empire.

Kirk had recounted his own Rubicon, the time when as a lieutenant commander aboard the Farragut he had violated the sanctity of the Efrosian border in order to stop a war. He’d violated Starfleet’s orders, he’d disobeyed his commanding officer, and he’d betrayed a friend’s secret in order to stop the war that was beginning to blossom.

It had earned Jim Kirk fame, of course, and made him a hero to the Federation. It had also made him a few enemies, and he soon found himself in command of a small scout ship rather than serving as executive officer on a capital ship. But fate would not be dissuaded, and a difficult mission and a subsequent tragedy had made Jim Kirk a hero yet again. This time, Starfleet realized that James T. Kirk was destined for greatness, and had given him the command of the U.S.S. Enterprise.

Sulu sighed at the recollection, wondering if he would ever be regarded as such a hero.

"Now now, at any rate," he said aloud as he focused on the clouds above the ruins. The sun was shining brightly, and rays of the early morning sunshine struck the sides of the hills, lighting up their features. He turned and looked around as one sunbeam illuminated a cleft in the rocks.

A beautiful place. It’s a wonder that the Greeks never rebuilt this area. There was a very faint tremor in the ground, and he remembered that this region had been subject to earthquakes over the centuries. As a native San Franciscan, he never gave the rumblings beneath the ground much thought.

Behind him, a faint mist rose from the cleft. He smiled ruefully and turned his attention back to his problem. He’d made a fool of himself in front of Chekov and Admiral Davis. He had called into question Davis’ judgment and Chekov’s ability to command. He knew he had brokered utter contempt in Commander-Starfleet. He knew there would never be redemption in her eyes. Ever. She’d made that perfectly clear to him, but Chekov...

Pavel will have to come around, he thought decidedly. He just has to!

"He will not," a woman’s voice said behind him.

Sulu turned with a start. Walking from out of the mists was a middle-aged woman, wearing a soft gray robe. She had deep, dark eyes and a classical Greek nose. Her countenance shone darkly, and he wasn’t sure if she was even Human.

"I beg your pardon?" he asked.

"Forgive me for startling you. It was not my intent. But I read your thoughts and felt you needed to know the truth."

A Betazoid, Sulu decided. A tourist who’s gotten separated from her party.

"I am no tourist, Hikaru Sulu. You may address me as Pythia."

He smiled. "Pleased to meet you, Pythia. I haven’t met many telepaths from your world."

She did not reply. Instead, she looked toward the sun, and stretched languidly in its rays.

"There is much which troubles you," she said after a while.

"That’s a bit of an understatement." He met her piercing gaze. "But there’s nothing I would trouble you with. I have made my own mess; I must deal with it."

"Indeed. And you will do so in time."

He almost snorted, but instead it came out as a soft hmm. "There’s nothing I can do to restore my honor among my friends and superiors."

"That is true. Your friendship with Pavel Chekov is over. You have seen to that."

"I know," he admitted glumly.

"Your career in Starfleet is now at a dead end. You will advance no further in rank or status. You will remain a captain for the rest of your career. Again, you have seen to that."

He sighed. "You are reading my mind, Pythia, without my permission."

"I seek only to answer your questions, Hikaru Sulu."

"Then tell me what I’m supposed to do. My career is over!"

"It is not," she answered. "You will not gain the admiralcy you have long sought, but I foretell that you will be as highly regarded, only in a direction you have not yet considered."

"I only wanted to be a starship captain," he asserted.

She studied his face. "You lie to yourself, then? No matter, then I say unto you that you have achieved your desire. You must now choose to either make the best of it or the worst of it. You could have greatness and admiration, or be reviled as a miscreant and despised by all who know you."

"I want to make the best of it, but how can I do that when I’ve thrown away my friendships and put my career on hold?"

"By focusing your efforts on doing the best job you can possibly do, no matter how menial or seemingly unimportant the task may seem. If you do so, you will be gain the respect you once had, though not with your former friend nor your commanding officer. For them, you will always remain a thorn. But they will come to understand the importance a thorn has to the blossom of the rose bush."

"You’re very philosophical."

She tilted her head in acknowledgment. "It is a gift." She glanced up toward the sun.

"Well, I guess I should be returning to Excelsior now...before I lose my commission. Thank you for your insights, Pythia."

"You are most welcome."

He stretched languidly. "Can I offer you a ride? I have a flitter not far from here."

She smiled. "I have no need for transportation. I am where I have always been, and where I always shall be. Remember that, too. For if you need insight into yourself and cannot find it, you can always find it here in Delphi."

There was a brief flash of sunlight as she retreated back toward the cleft.

"Oh, my..."

She faded into the mists, and for a long while Sulu doubted what he’d seen...but never what he had heard...

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