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Rob Morris

December 9, 2295

Her hair had bleach-blonde highlights streaked throughout, and she had obnoxiously large sunglasses, patterned after those worn by a flamboyant singer of Earth’s late 20th century. They were so large that they completely obscured everything but the top of her nose. The scarf was a gift from Pavel Chekov, quite literally a babushka, one knitted by his grandmother. It completed covered her head and neck, and even part of her chin. To seal the deal, she had a top-of-the-line image scrambler, given to Leonard McCoy by Ariel Cord. During his recent return from Qo’noS to Earth aboard the Excelsior, he mentioned he’d wanted to buy him one ‘to protect my privacy.’ Doctor Cord apparently had one shipped from Chrysalis, one that her father, the famous entertainment mogul Aaron Cord, had used from time to time. The letter enclosed therein offered assurances that no one using any sort of holovid or televid camera or sound monitoring equipment would even gain a clue as to her facial structure or her voice print.

But that wasn’t what would keep the vultures off her, she knew. It was her breasts. In her new body and new life, Teri McCoy had a much smaller bra size. And while she had a decent pair of breasts, in the eyes of the vidarazzi, the late Princess Teresa Morales de la Vega Ruiz Mendoza McCoy had actually been a huge pair of breasts. Whoever the elusive new Mrs. McCoy was, in their eyes, she certainly was no Princess Teresa.

"Boob logic," she muttered well under her breath.

Needless to say, this line of thinking was little more than a brief second’s respite from coping and helping her husband cope with this very odd situation. They were certainly there to grieve and quite legitimately so. But among the people they were mourning was herself, or rather the original from which she herself had been cloned. Despite knowing her own grisly fate rather well, she sometimes imagined that the form everyone knew as Princess Teresa lay in that empty grave, waiting to rise and sweep her away as some sort of cloned pretender. *Science-bred puta! You are not fit for him, not for any of my men. Keep away from my boys! All my boys!*

Leonard McCoy broke her out of this self-doubt/self-pity with a sudden embrace. While his touch was sincere, the embrace had a decidedly ulterior motive. He whispered to her, "Teri, two people are about to beam in, just before the graves. One of them knows. Thiel will catch most of the other’s attention. Do not react. I mean it. Not the slightest peep, not a wayward glance, not even a friendly smile. The current Mrs. McCoy doesn’t know him from Adam. Please, honey. For me?"

The first form that materialized was Spock’s. Private words concerning the passing of Lady Amanda would be exchanged later under very controlled circumstances. Because Spock knew who she was, and had been there to see her back into the arms of her overwhelmed husband. The second form beamed in, and she felt her husband block the involuntary surge forward.

"Don’t," McCoy told his wife so softly that even Spock couldn’t hear. "That young man couldn’t handle it. If you love him, then be dead to him."

Thiel spoke with Peter Kirk, advising him to keep silent at the graves, for fear of undetected recording devices. The young man’s head briefly nodded at the new married couple obscured by sunlight on the hillside above him, then went about his silent monologue, his back turned, the remote possibility of his identifying the woman he saw now made nil.

Teri McCoy spoke as softly as her husband had. "If I love him? How do you not love your little brother?"

A shoulder to cry on. A hand to raise her up when she had fallen. A friend to her lost little ones. Finally, a man who loved her too much to let her die, when it was within his power to prevent. More than a brother? Si, at times. But exactly that, when she had needed him most of all. It struck her in the gut that the cruelest thing she could possibly do would be to run up and embrace him. Knowing that Spock would also disapprove of this made it only a little easier to bear.

She studied his features, and was thrown by his growing resemblance to his famous uncle. "Saavik is a lucky woman—and she is not good enough for him."

A voice was heard at last by the graves. "Kirk to Enterprise. Two to beam up." Peter Kirk and Ambassador Spock dematerialized.

Teri McCoy swooned at that all too familiar phrase, and fell into her husband’s arms. McCoy gestured to the palace security chief, and they were quickly led away by the Andorian. If Thiel somehow someway knew the unguessable secret of his charges, then he had plenty enough discretion to do nothing more than place them in the palace ‘safe’ house as a courtesy. This had been arranged in advance, but this was no mere card they were playing. Her pillar, worn to his foundations, was shaking like a leaf, and she herself had almost fainted as Kirk and Spock returned to the Enterprise.

"Leonard, will you and your wife be all right in here?"

"Don’t worry none about us in here, Thiel. Most folks think this safe-house is an antique power station, anyhow. Are you all right?"

The Andorian nodded. It was clear that he was a man very much in mourning himself. "Seeing Peter Kirk, really the last student Connor ever had, was an important closure for her warrior’s spirit. The other part will come when the first politician steps out of line. I will forcefully remove them in her memory. So, she may continue to rest in both peace and laughter."

"She would like that. Hope you find some peace, Thiel."

"Of late, Doctor, this place I serve as caretaker knows nothing but peace. I lament this daily, and not merely as a warrior."

After Thiel left, McCoy scanned the area with a security tricorder he had concealed under his jacket. "This room is clean. No outgoing transmissions or recordings detected."

Teri McCoy pressed a button on the table top, and suddenly the walls came to life with cameras focussed on various locations of the Royal Estate. A few more clicks, and the screens came to life with the memorial proceedings and the guests, mostly Carlos’ family members, the Mendozas, but it was plain that nearly every official on Serenidad was making an appearance.

"I wonder if any one of them will have the guts to just say what a power-hungry slut they thought I was," Teri muttered aloud. "Or a spoiled brat."

Despite this misgiving, Teri knew that many of the memorial attendees had honestly been friends, some despite vociferous anti-royal feelings. Lady Juana Artiles of Nueva Navarro was relating the story that she had once joked with Teresa that she was too good a caudilla, that they’d never get the monarchy abolished with her around. "Without missing a beat, the princess offered to make me an honorary scullery maid, if that would help the cause. I laughingly told her that such duties would be a welcome respite from the dealings in the council chambers. She promised that sooner or later, preferably sooner, the monarchy on Serenidad would turn over the government to the people. I just wish it hadn’t been like this", the now-grieving politician said on-screen.

Another dignitary stepped to the microphone. It was Doņa Christina Mendoza, holding her baby boy Castulo. After a brief acknowledgement of her murdered cousin Carlos, she looked at her notes, and tossed them aside. "I thought she was the devil," she said into the microphone, and the audience gasped audibly. She added, "Now though, I’d pay the devil to have her back. I should say that not every member of my family has realized that Teresa was the life and youth of Serenidad. Now, without her, it is merely just another planet, one of thousands in the Federation."

Teri actually smiled briefly at that. "God bless you, Chrissy. A fight with you was always an open and honest one. No rhetorical cloaking devices for you."

Don Alvarez Diego began his recitation of his own personal loss, and how great Princess Teresa’s reign had been.

Doctor McCoy was not amused. "All the while, failing to mention his attempt to seize the throne. Or that he pulled that while you were undergoing medical rehab after Khalian kidnapped you."

Teri neither added on nor cut him off, concerning a man she had long known to be a hypocrite, even by the standards of his profession and the worst of the Mendozas. This thing, this whole weird thing, was for the benefit of both Leonard and Teri McCoy, and she would let him vent as he needed to.

And vent he did: "We won’t even be able to get near the boys' graves for at least the rest of the day. The Enterprise will have to beam us back up within an hour. The best we can do is focus on them with the cameras in this place. Damn them all! Most of them hated you, and thought I was some dirty old man for marrying a woman less than half of my age. Why can’t they just snub this ceremony like they did most of the others!?"

She fixed the cameras on the chilling but tender sight, and then held her man tight. The strain of lying to strangers, enemies, and friends finally proving too much. There were reasons why people from Jim Kirk’s bridge crew to her former personal physician Calita Iberez were not there, but for the moment that was of no concern to the grieving couple. The only way to maintain her personal safety was this deception, one of such a magnitude that it was almost impossible to bear.

Teri McCoy held her husband very, very tightly. The great man was coherent, but only just so.

"There are times, ya know, Teri, that I want to put blankets on the graves, because I’m afraid it might be cold down there. Then I remember that wherever they are, it’s always warm, and that Jim Kirk, Montgomery Scott, Connor Randolph, Demora Sulu, Natira, and so many other loved ones are looking after our boys."

Teri McCoy had a boy on Qo’noS, boys on the Enterprise, and boys buried only a few hundred meters from where they stood. Cruel fate would once more force her to leave Serenidad itself, lest the phony well-wishers become honest partisans in a fierce and deadly civil war. For then and there, the woman who once was and who had never been Princess Teresa held closely the dearest boy of all, his wrinkled brow fooling her not at all.

"Let’s go home, Leonard. Back to Georgia."

He nodded. "Sure, Teri." He opened up his communicator, and she pressed a button releasing the communication-blanketing fields. "McCoy to Enterprise. Two to beam up."

As the transporter beam took them, she favored her husband with a devoted gaze. She loved all her boys, but this one she most certainly loved best of all.

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