STAR TREK- The Original Series/Captain Sulu

SUMMARY: Captain Sulu is in command of the Excelsior and his longstanding friendship with a member of his crew, is about to be put to the test in a most unexpected way and in the line of duty.

DISCLAIMER: Paramount owns the rights and gets to spend all the money and we get to have all the fun just for a little while.

"Unavoidable Destinies"

By Gayle Rochefort-Potts
Original concept: May 1996
Final: December 1998


Standard Terran Year: 2295.2

The ground was definitely hard. The rocks were making it impossible to get comfortable. She was relieved that the Starfleet tunics were cushiony and somewhat warm. She had lay here unmoving for almost two hours, hearing only the sound of breathing behind her. She looked back as much as she could without changing position. She spoke in a soft and quiet tone knowing that her partner would hear her. "Do you think we should attempt a scan?"

The other's eyes opened, she had been meditating as they waited. Not a deep meditation, just enough to refresh her energies and to begin the healing process on her injury. "It is now or never, I presume." Her hand touched the tricorder at her belt and brought it up slowly; careful not to disturb the surrounding brush they had found safety under. She passed it over her head to the other, she was in no condition to read the viewer and her right arm was, at the moment, quite useless.

The first lieutenant took the offered tricorder, set the scan to work silently and then moved it in a sweeping motion. She looked at the readings. "Nothing." She closed the tricorder, placed it on the ground beside her then turned over onto her stomach. "At least we can chance some movement." She lay her phaser-rifle at her side then reached to the other's shoulder. "How are you doing?"

"The pain is under control." She stated clearly. "The bleeding has slowed."

"But it hasn't stopped?" She crawled a little closer, reached to her rifle and tricorder to pulled them closer. "You know, Vulcan, one of these days you will actually die! And I will be very angry."

"I shall take that into consideration." She paused to breathe slowly. "For the next time."

"You do that little thing." She examined the Vulcan's injury again and from what she could gather, it was not advisable to move her. She shifted onto her side, head propped up and staring at the Vulcan. "Captain Sulu is going to chew you out."

"Why would the captain even..... " She stopped suddenly then turned slowly and painfully to the Human. "You are using one of your colloquialisms."

The Human nodded. "He's going to yell at you."

"Due to the injury."

The Human nodded. "Stepping in front of me and taking the brunt of the explosion was not a...." She grinned. ".... logical move."

"No it was not." She had regretted her actions the moment she had begun to move but the human's reaction time was down, they were both tired. She knew if she had called out, Maggie would have turned to face her before moving and in that time, she would have died. She could not have dealt with that.

Maggie reached to her communicator. "Think we should try?"

"I do not believe that the Excelsior has returned. It has only been four point one hours since we beamed down. To travel to the Starbase and return, even at maximum warp would take five point two hours." The sun had started to rise and increase the surface temperature. This, she would welcome!

Maggie opened the communicator then set the scan feature for surface communications. "If anyone else is trying this, it will lock on." She placed it on the ground just above Am'ath's head. "I've muted the pick-up. Burgh's team should be within contact distance by now."

Maggie had stretched slightly to look around. The attack was not totally unexpected. What was unexpected was the type of attack they would be under. The aliens that had attacked the colony had modern phasers on their ships but on the surface they used antiquated exploding projectiles. They were just heading for this cover when the incoming fire came too close for comfort and she was pushed from behind into this grouping of boulders and brush. Am'ath fell unconscious beside her and it had taken a full hour of listening to the explosions around her before Am'ath regained her faculties. A long time for a Vulcan.

Excelsior had signaled them that they were taking the survivors and injured to Starbase Four-Five. At that time, there were no injuries among the crew and there had been no attacks. The landing party had been assigned to determine damage and search for any other survivors. The mineral content of this planet made it difficult to be certain of any readings from the ship. It was a landing party of six and they had split up into teams to search the site.

Maggie noticed that Am'ath had closed her eyes again. "Not doing too well?" She brushed some dirt off Am'ath's face gently then looked to the green stain on this side of her uniform. It was still glistening and that meant that it was still wet and still bleeding. The side of her face had some severe cuts and had begun to swell. Her right arm had been placed close to her body, unmoving. Am'ath had told her that there was damage, nothing more. She lay her head against her arm and closed her eyes for a few minutes. Fatigue was setting in and it was hard to stay alert and awake.

"Athy.... Care to try a competition when we get back?" She opened her eyes to the dark ones... well one that searched her out.

"Why do you insist on referring to me in that manner?" She had found it curious the first time and with the increasing use of it, had become annoying.

Maggie shrugged then smiled. "Guess it's a human thing." She let her hand reach to hold Am'ath's. "Why are you still bothered by it?"

"I would assume it is a Vulcan thing."

"I thought you were supposed to be practicing the Mastery of the Unavoidable?"

Am'ath thought about it for a moment. "It appears that it is unavoidable."

"You'd miss it if I stopped." She sat up slowly trying to look around; she reached for the tricorder.

"I would be willing to attempt to prove that theory."

Maggie halted her movements for a second then grinned. "I thought Vulcans didn't understand humor?" She scanned the area again and this time picked up some faint readings. She sat up a little bit more as she re-scanned the direction of the signals. "Readings appear Human."

"But we do not know what the readings are for the others." The tone of their voices had changed automatically. "Pass the communicator."

"Keep it brief." She reminded her partner as she continued scanning. She pulled the rifle closer then looked for Am'ath's weapon; it was right by her left hand. "Try it now."

Am'ath tapped the sending frequency for a split second then paused and tapped it twice.

The signals came back then a third pattern was added.

"It is Commander Burgh's party." She changed the setting on the unit, then spoke into it. "Party three." She closed the channel then waited for a response. It was awkward to have only one arm functional. She placed the communicator on her chest to manage the adjustments. The communicator bleeped again, she opened it. "Lieutenant Am'ath here."

"Whoever was attacking seems to have left the area. Are you both behind the rocks?"


"On our way. Give us some cover."

"Affirmative." She closed the channel. "You heard?"

"Yeah. I see them now." Maggie looked across the expanse of parkland to the opposite side and spotted some movement. She lifted the rifle in case it was needed. The two officers headed quickly in their direction, weaving slightly then dove into the safety of the rocks.

Commander Burgh drew in a deep breath. He nodded to Maggie. "Report, Mr. Henley." He looked to Am'ath.

"We were under attack. Lieutenant Am'ath caught the brunt of an explosion from a mine of some type. It didn't register on the tricorder. Appears to have injuries to most of the right side of her body. She was unconscious for a good hour. Lost a lot of blood and her arm is unusable. Temperature is up a little and she has been asleep or meditating for most of the time." She left the lookout position for Lieutenant-Commander MacNichols. "The scans of area show no other life forms but our own."

Burgh nodded. "Excelsior should be here soon."

"Let's hope in time." Maggie added.

"I shall endeavor to remain alive until such time."

"Well manage it a little longer please?"

"One hundred and two years sufficient?"

"It'll do." Maggie smiled, her voice sounded as if the time frame was something she would settle for. "Guess I'll have to find someone to take over from me, since you live longer than I do?"

"It was my impression that you planned to live as long as I do."

Maggie looked up to the sky and shook her head, smiling. "Vulcan, you don't ask for much do you?"

"No. I do not." Her voice fell suddenly soft.

Maggie moved to her side. "Don't you dare....!" She threatened with a firm and low voice.

Burgh turned. "What is it?"

"She's going into cardiac arrest." She had the tricorder set for the Vulcan norms in no time. Her hands moved into the awkward position. The Vulcan heart was located on their left side. She pushed against the Vulcan's side. "This isn't going to work!" She adjusted her position to administer mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. "Try the ship."

Burgh had his communicator out as she spoke. He opened the hand held unit; it had more power than the comm-pins and was often used by at least one person on any survey team. "Excelsior. This is Commander Burgh."

They listened to the silent beat.

"Excelsior, this is Commander Burgh."

There was the sound of static and then a voice. "Commander Burgh, Excelsior here. We are fifteen minutes away."

"Better step on the gas, Excelsior. We have injured personnel and we need immediate help."

There was a pause, no doubt to relay information. "Commander Burgh. Sickbay will be standing by. Keep your communicator open. Will beam you up as soon as you are in range. Excelsior standing-by."

Burgh placed the communicator near the two officers. "Just be prepared for the beam out, Henley." He knew how disorienting it could be. He sat back and watched Maggie continue to keep the Vulcan alive. He knew it would do no good to offer to take over, Henley wouldn't have allowed it until she could no longer continue. This wasn't the first time these two were in this type of situation and it would not be the last. The last time it was the Vulcan working on the Human and with no less emotion.

There was a beep from the communicator and the air around him started to buzz. "Good luck, Henley... see her through."

Henley acknowledged the comment with a raised thumb and kept breathing for the Vulcan. She felt the tingling begin and at some point, could not breath anymore. That was a normal sensation but it was isolated by her attempt to keep her friend alive.

The image began to appear on the surgical table. The doctor signaled for two of the orderlies to move around to the other side of the table, to catch Henley as she materialized. She wasn't positioned totally on the table, just her knees.

The alarms were the first to register the almost dead life form. The panel jumped to life then the indicators slowly died. As the orderlies caught Henley and then sat her down, the doctor moved into position and began to administer the treatments that would hopefully keep this crewmember alive.

An orderly moved from Henley and began to expertly work around the doctor removing the uniform of the patient. The pieces were dropped into the disposal unit as they were cut and taken off. The full damage was revealed slowly. Shrapnel had been imbedded in her skin, cuts and tears in her skin, her side had a burn that revealed portions of her ribcage.

"She stayed alive for how long?" The doctor asked in amazement of the Vulcan stamina and not for the first time in her life.

"Two hours." Maggie had removed her own tunic and tossed it aside. She had finally recovered from trying to inflate Vulcan lungs and the tri-ox compound she had been injected with, helped. She stood and slowly moved out of the way. "Will she live?"

The doctor smiled. "If I read my Vulcans correctly.... more than likely." She remained busy with the procedures that were required to repair this body. "You know how stubborn they can be..."

"Tell me about it." Maggie felt her body relax with the sound that registered the beating of her friend's heart. She knew Am'ath was in good hands. She forced herself to move away even further. "I have to report to the Captain."

"I'll let you know..."

"Okay." She forced herself to turn away then double-timed it to the bridge.


Captain Hikaru Sulu moved through the darkened room. It was early in the day, four hundred fifteen hours to be exact and most of the personnel were fast asleep. He bowed his head slightly to the orderly that was restocking the supply cabinet.

"Doctor Chapel's in her office, sir."

"Thank you." Sulu headed towards the brighter light then stood in the doorway watching her for a second. She looked tired. She was sitting back in the chair with her portable keyboard sitting across her lap. The stack of slates looked as if it would tip any second. "You have picked up some bad habits, Chris."

She looked up as she drank her coffee. "Like what?"

"Staying up all night to monitor a patient. Working on reports by hand rather than dictating them." He sat down in the offered chair then smiled. "I gather she's improving?"

Chapel nodded. "Vulcan stamina hasn't gotten any weaker."

"Ever wonder what McCoy would think of the two of them?"

"He'd probably think the same as we do." She reached into a pile of slates and pulled one out. The stack did not fall, but she gave it a slight straightening. "Report for your records. She was lucky Henley was there."

Sulu agreed. "Seems to me that's what you said about Henley when she was injured about a year ago." He stood. "Do you think they keep score?"

"Jim and Spock never did. They still don't."

"Can she have company?"

"Henley's there. Fast asleep beside her, curled up in a chair." Chapel stood and moved around the desk to stand in front of the captain. "Don't stay too long. Am'ath is heavily sedated and she is still in the regen tank."

"Just want to check on her for myself."

Chapel grinned. "Guess we both have picked up bad habits from our superiors."

Sulu slipped the slate into his tunic pocket. "I guess we have."

The room was lit by the glow of the tank. An eerie yellowish-green gel held her body suspended and protected while her injuries healed. The diagnostic panel beeped a little quieter in here. Chapel was right; Henley was curled up in the chair using her tunic as a cover. She stirred slightly as the door slid closed behind the captain.

Henley blinked a few times then looked up to see who had come in this time. She sat a little straighter when she identified the visitor. "Captain?" Her voice was sleepy.

"Stay put." He reached to the folded blanket on the shelf. He let it fall open then he covered the helm officer. "This works better than trying to get your feet under that." He stood beside the tank, his hands went behind his back and he watched her for a moment. "Do you think you have a harder time watching over her. Or is her watch over you more difficult?" He tilted his head slightly waiting for her answer.

Henley grinned. "Not sure, Captain. I will bring it up when she's up to it and get her opinion." She stretched, yawned then pulled the cover around her shoulders.

"Why are you sleeping here?"

Henley shrugged. "Quarters seemed empty. No one to talk to." She grinned then chuckled. "Believe me, this is the only opportunity I have to win any argument or discussion with her."


"No, Vulcan." She sighed.

"Wouldn't you be more comfortable in your quarters?"

"I am getting as much sleep here as I would in my quarters. Probably more. I'm not walking the floor when I'm here." She yawned again, covering it with the blanket and her hand.

Sulu cleared his throat. "Well, you get some sleep. I am turning in for a few hours." He started towards the door. "I expect you on duty day after tomorrow, Lieutenant Henley."

"Aye, sir." She yawned.

Sulu headed out of sickbay after calling goodnight to Christine and headed to his quarters. Having a large vessel had its advantages, like having large quarters. Too big sometimes and he really felt it after visiting Am'ath in sickbay. She had become one of the few crewmembers that would challenge him to ... anything. Rank was not an issue with her and it had become an interesting friendship. He had also discovered that Henley was an excellent partner for cards and at those stuffy formal social affairs that required dancing.

He slipped off the tunic and dropped it over the back of the chair. He ordered some green tea, kicked off his boots and padded over to the couch. He stretched out; sipped on his tea then reached to the book he was reading. He had promised himself to read only one chapter. The book had been a gift from Captain Kirk when he received this captaincy. A copy of the book, Shogun, set in the 1600's about Feudal Japan and the hierarchy of the Samurai warrior.


Standard Terran Year: 2279

First Day at the Academy, twelve years previous to present events.

The heavy duffel bag was tossed on the, as yet, unmade bed. The young female then sat down heavily on the bed beside the bag. She sighed. "I'm really here." She looked around the room and allowed the reality to sink in. Her brothers had been right. It was overwhelming and a rush at the same time. She had been born the year Brian had entered the Academy and this had become like a second home to her. Visits over the years to the six siblings that preceded her. The annual ceremonies and the odd time they received special awards had dotted the previous twenty-one years of her life.

Now, it would be her turn to make her mark in the Academy. They had teased her about her choice in study. Telling her that the only reason she had chosen navigation was to find her way home... from anywhere! They had not relented until her mother ordered them to. Her parents were in Starfleet as well. Her mother, Commander Marion Henley, was a sociologist that helped put together the command staff of a starship. It was not done haphazardly as some may have thought and it did not always work out as planned. Her father, Commander Franklin Henley, was one of the engineering instructors in the Academy and his students were usually the ones that practiced by repairing the simulators after battles.

Maggie Henley had been pleased but not really surprised at discovering just how much support she had from 'the irritants', as she lovingly refers to them. Each of them had sent her a message of luck and a note to carry on the traditions of the Henley Clan.

"Well, time to unpack and settle. Inspection will be at twenty hundred tonight." She reminded herself. Her first action was to dump out the duffel bag's contents and then claim her side of the room. It was strange putting her clothes into these drawers and not helping one of her brother's packs.

After things had been sorted out, Maggie began to wonder where her roommate was? Or would she be getting one? She looked to the time and decided that she had time to check out the area and find out who would be her navigational instructor. She had debated changing into her civvies but decided against it. Uniforms felt comfortable to her.

The comm-unit sounded. She looked at it and wondered who would be calling? She shrugged and tapped the frequency open. "Cadet Henley."

"Cadet Henley, glad I caught you. Could you find your way back down to the admin office?"

"Yes, ma'am. Be right there." She tapped the circuit closed. Checked her uniform and then headed down to the lower floor and the office that was unusually quiet for the first day of check-ins.

She stood at attention when she found the only desk that was occupied and waited.

The officer sighed then looked up from the screen she was studying. "Cadet Henley, please sit down." The officer leaned back in the chair. "I have a problem and I need you to help with the solution."

"If I can, ma'am." Henley stopped herself from frowning but had managed to relax a little.

"When cadets are considered for the Academy, they are asked to fill out the forms if they require housing." Administrations Officer Lange had been through one of those years today and this was the proverbial icing on that proverbial cake. "One of the things that we ask is if there are any reluctance to boarding with other races."

"Yes, ma'am." She had filled out her form and remembered that she had made a notation that she had no restrictions for her choices of roommates. She had more or less expected that to be the norm, but from this discussion she could only assume it wasn't.

"The reason for that is to help integrate people and break-down some of the prejudices that people have over time. "

"Understood. Why am I here?"

"I have a cadet that needs to be housed and I do not have anyone that is willing to room with her. She comes from off-world and quite honestly, you are the only cadet this year that has not listed any restrictions to your roomy."

Henley expected it to be someone that needed an environmental suit or had eight arms or two heads.... She did mind. "Which world?"

"Vulcan." The officer stood and headed out of the office, gestured for Henley to follow. "She is due in..." She checked the timepiece on her wrist. "... in four minutes." She was meeting this cadet personally because she was the last to arrive and the transport vessel fell into orbit after their usual intake hours.

"If nothing else, Vulcans are punctual." Henley smiled at Lange. "You had problems getting someone to board with a Vulcan?" She was honestly surprised. Part of the reason for being here was to experience the other races before you had to serve with them.

"First year is always the hardest. It's mostly dealing with the unknown. Most of the time by the second year no one cares who they room with as long as they get along." Lange had seen the sequence enough times to place her confidence in it. She looked at the padd for the Vulcan's name. "Her name is Am'ath."

Henley considered the name. "She's not bonded."

Lange frowned. "How did you know?"

Henley smiled. "Brothers posted everywhere and you find out the stupidest things from the conversations they have with one another." She rounded the corner just ahead of Lange as they headed to the transport platform. "No tee in her name."

Lange had a feeling this pairing wasn't going to be a mistake... at least on Henley's part. Now if Am'ath was just as accepting this year's cadets would be the easiest on record.

The intercom sounded the warning beep of transport. The center disc and the one to the portside began to glow. The energy forming into a humanoid shape and the unmistakable shape of an issued duffel bag. The forms solidified and the Vulcan wasted no time in reaching to the intercom. "Transport completed. Cadet Am'ath out." She went back to the duffel bag then stepped down off the platform. She stood in front of Lange. "Am I correct in assuming that you are Administrations Officer Lange."

"You are. Welcome to Earth." Lange would never cease to be amazed by Vulcans.

Am'ath's head bowed slightly. "The appropriate response is ... thank you."

Lange nodded. She stepped to the side then gestured towards Henley. "Your roommate, Cadet Maggie Henley. Her specialty is navigation."

Henley raised her hand in the ta'al. "Na'shaya Am'ath."

"Na'shaya, Cadet Henley." Am'ath had raised her eyebrow slightly. The accent was passable but needed work. "You have knowledge of Vulcan or merely key phrases?"

"Just the key phrases." She grinned.

Am'ath turned to Lange. "I was not expecting to be housed with another. This is common?"

"I am afraid so."

"Gives us time to learn about each other." Henley added. "What is your major?"

"Helm and engineering."

Henley nodded. She was definitely going to enjoy her time at the Academy.

Lange turned to Henley. "I expect that you can manage to find your way back?"

"Yes, ma'am."

Am'ath followed the Human as they navigated the corridors. This would prove to be a most interesting time. She experienced a moment of wonder at the opportunity to learn about Humans. She shivered as they made their way through the corridors. "Is there an individual environmental control in the room?"

"Yes, there is." Henley turned. "Just not above ninety. Any higher and I melt."

"I trust this is a human colloquialism and not fact."

"More of an idiom." Henley stepped into the room first.

Maggie gestured towards the empty side of the room. "Your home away from home." She crossed her arms as Am'ath placed her bag on the bed.

Am'ath lifted one eyebrow. "I trust you will be a considerate neighbour?"

Henley grinned. "I'll try." This was going to be interesting and not half as difficult as she though it would be.

"Mess call is in fourteen minutes." Henley watched as the Vulcan pulled items out of the duffel bag. She was looking forward to this year and now it had an added attraction, an interesting roommate. "Exactly how warm did you want the room anyway?"

U.S.S. Excelsior, 2290.1

The two cubes dominated recreation bay four. Slightly larger than a standard shuttle and giving no hint as to what was inside, they sat at angles to one another. Between the two stood a console with dual controls, a monitor for each side. The only sounds that could be heard were the faint bleeps from the monitoring station.

The officer that watched the screens had taken the liberty of resting herself into one chair and her feet on the other. It had been a long wait, expectedly so. She had taken off her tunic and dropped it onto the back of the chair about two hours ago. She stretched as she waited for the two officers to complete this friendly challenge. She wondered if there would be trouble for this! She had been the one to arrange this, with one of the competitors not knowing whom she was competing against.

"Can't wait to see Athy's face when she finds out!" She chuckled to herself as she glanced at the monitors. "Another scenario...?" She sighed as she told herself that she should have known better than to initiate a challenge between the top helm officers in Starfleet! Her challenge had been open to anyone. Her 'champion' was her partner at the helm on her shift, one that she knew very well! So far twenty officers had lost to the newcomer, including the present helm officer! Then, much to her surprise, she was approached by the commanding officer himself!

He requesting time with this 'champion', he smiled slightly then added. "This must be done without knowledge of my identity, Lt. Henley."

She remembered nodding then setting up this session. Six hours ago! She smiled, she wasn't leaving until this was settled! She drank the cooling coffee that sat on the console, made a face and decided it was too cold to finish. She sighed then went over to the disposal unit and tossed the coffee and cup into it. She paced a few steps in one direction then returned to the console. She had watched both survive battle after simulated battle. Ship designs were changed, at the discretion of the other, manually communicating only through the computer's interfaces, not by voice.

She wondered for the umpteenth time if this had really been a good idea! On the one hand, she wanted Am'ath to win, her 'champion' would remain undefeated! However, she was not certain how Captain Hikaru Sulu would accept defeat and being her commanding officer, wanted him to win!

This was definitely an awkward situation for her!

Maggie glanced again at the screen; it had gone dark! They had reached the limits determined at the beginning, ten vessels, and ten scenarios of which five had to be battles. Turns had been taken setting them up and so far as she could tell, it was a tie! Her head turned to the door that had suddenly appeared from the apparently seamless side. She smiled at her friend's continuous accomplishments but had recognized her irritation at not knowing her challenger.

"The other has departed?" Lieutenant Am'ath jumped easily down to the decking. She smoothed her tunic and did not look as if she had just spent six hours stuck inside this enclosure! Not a hair out of place or an additional crease in her uniform.

"Not even out yet." She looked to the other cube as the door popped open then slid to the side. She looked to Am'ath as her challenger revealed himself. "Priceless!" Her whisper referred to the look on the Vulcan's face.

Captain Sulu jumped down to the decking easily, his tunic held in his free hand. He slipped in on as he enjoyed the sight of a surprised Vulcan! He smiled then bowed his head to her. "A worthy opponent, Lt. Henley. It has been an honor, Lieutenant. Am'ath."

"The honor is mine, Captain Sulu." She glanced in Maggie's direction, aware that the Human had taken great pleasure in retaining this secret.

"I stand by my agreement with whomever matched or broke my records, for a drink of their choosing." Sulu had his tunic in place and shared Am'ath's ability at looking as if he had just stepped freshly attired. "I am aware that Vulcans do not usually indulge in alcoholic beverages but I am sure I can afford whatever you chose."

"There is not necessity for payment..." She heard Maggie clear her throat slightly. She paused then understood. "This is an expression. It is not meant as it was stated?" She arched an eyebrow in Maggie's direction; she nodded once. "As you wish, Captain." She was still unsure of the necessity for this 'payment'.

Maggie felt suddenly like a 'third wheel'. She picked up her tunic then announced that she was off to find some food. "... since I had to sit here and monitor the two of you for so long!" She grinned. "See you later, Am'ath." She turned to her commanding officer. "Captain." She sighed then headed off to the mess.

Captain Sulu took a step closer to the officer. "Congratulations on our draw. I never thought I would find someone that could manage the combination of Romulans and Klingons as the attackers. I always found it challenging to do battle against a cloaked ship."

"One must have an understanding of the enemy and their tactics." Am'ath fell into step with Captain Sulu as they moved into the corridor and off to the officer's mess. "I must admit surprise to the unexpected identity of my honored opponent."

Sulu smiled. "Not often someone manages to surprise a Vulcan." He paused at the lift as he allowed her to step in first, a Human courtesy but one he was bred not to ignore. "Are you finding your assignment on the Excelsior satisfactory?" He knew he had to re-word questions when conversing with Vulcans.

"I am finding it a challenge." She was unsure what information he required of her, other than this might have constituted what Maggie once described as 'small talk'. An exchange of unimportant information between people usually used to find a common interest. "I have spoken to Chief Engineer Isaac concerning the possibility of a second specialty in engineering."

They stepped out of the lift in reverse order.

"He needed to think about it?" Sulu recalled how Mr. Scott was continually trying to convince Spock to change his specialty to engineering.

"Mr. Isaac relayed that he was required to confirm through the chain of command before the matter could be finalized." She remained a half step behind him, a Vulcan trait she was bred to. "I am to expect an answer by end of watch."

Sulu knew he had some 'paperwork' waiting for him and no doubt that request was among it. He was planning on returning to his office within the hour. "You have that much time on your hands?"

"Lt. Henley states that it is the quandary of being Vulcan. I understand the puzzlement of Humans to surmise that Vulcans require less rest. I do not believe that I would classify this as a quandary, but Lt. Henley seems to refer to it as such."

Sulu chuckled a little. "I understand that it would not be considered a quandary by a Vulcan. I am not sure if I would consider it a problem but I can see how others would feel that it is. I would assume that Lieutenant Henley is being sarcastic." He led the way to an empty table near the wall-size viewing port. "Mr. Am'ath, do you trust me enough to choose a beverage for you?"

Her head bowed. "Of course, Captain." She sat in the comfortably padded seat, partially facing the view. She had been unsettled momentarily at the identity of her opponent and was uncertain who had requested the anonymity. She remembered the words of her t'kahr at the academy, Captain Spock, when he spoke to her of her assignment here. Spock had stated that Captain Sulu was worthy of her trust. Am'ath had not discovered any reason to believe anything to the contrary.

Sulu returned to the table with two tall-stylized cups and a plate of biscuits. He sat across from her; his view was directly facing the stars. He passed her one of the cups; a long handled spoon and placed the plate of biscuits between them. "This is capuccino. A mixture of coffee and chocolate. The topping is whipped cream and the biscuits are biscotti, almond flavored." He stirred the cream into the coffee then picked up a biscuit. "You have to dip the biscuit because it is rock hard. The mixture of the two is interesting." He took a bite of the biscuit then looked to Am'ath. "Try at least the coffee."

Am'ath stirred the drink then tasted the hot beverage. It was an interesting flavor and one she could actually taste! Vulcans did not have the sensitive palate that Humans possessed and most foods were bland tasting to them. Coffee was one that Am'ath did not find very palatable. However, this drink had its possibilities.

"So, what do you think?"

"A stronger taste than the usual coffee. I am able to discern it." She lifted one of the biscuits, dipped the end as she had seen Sulu do. She bit into it and was surprised that the flavors were distinct. "This is palatable as well."


"There is a biscuit I ate as a child, kreyla. It is of a similar consistency."

He was enjoying her surprise. "I have seen you playing chess. Do you enjoy any other games?"


Sulu sat back a little surprised. "Pool...?" He thought about the principles of the game and realized that the game was similar to plotting a course. Getting from one point to another without hitting anything in between. The planning was similar, but he was never proficient at it. "I am not very good but I do enjoy the game." His comm-pin sounded. "Sulu here."

"Captain, I have received a message from Command for you, coded."

Sulu sighed. "Send it down to my office. I will be down directly."

"Aye sir."

"Thank you Lt. Collins." He tapped the circuit closed, then sat back. "Can I get a rain check for a game of chess?"

"Why would a rain check be...." She sighed softly. "You wish to postpone the game?"

Sulu grinned. "You're catching on." He stood, draining his drink. "One hour, my office. It will be quiet there." He leaned forward slightly. "We'll order more capuccinos."

Am'ath stood, her head bowed. "As you wish, Captain." She picked up the collection of dishes and headed for the disposal unit.

That was how the friendship began to flourish between the Captain and his Helm officer. It remained a friendship, and nothing more. Their interests expanded slowly to include chess, fencing, pool and martial arts of both worlds. It was a friendship that came easily. Sulu had found someone that, unlike Sencus, his Vulcan science officer, could appreciate a Human's idiosyncrasies and craved the privacy that his rank demanded.

Am'ath had found in Sulu, one that was comfortable with the friendship of a Vulcan and their need for privacy. He had even managed to teach her to swim. Maj jong, a game that can be played as a tile matching or a gambling game from his heritage, was a past time they enjoyed as well. She had even begun to teach him the fundamentals of the krakroa wh'ltri, a method that Vulcans used to control emotions and find an inner calm.

They were often found in the recreation area, in one of the more private rooms for their friendly competitions. There had been rumors as to their actual activities but most were shrugged off by most of the personnel that heard them.

It was not a possibility. End of subject. Ask either of them!

Standard Terran Year: 2295: approximately six months after Am'ath's injury....

The darkness that he was moving in was almost stifling. He hated total darkness. He hated the silence as well. It was disquieting but necessary to hone the skills of combat. He had even learned to wear his ghi differently to keep the silk from making any sound. He concentrated on listening for any sound that hinted at his opponent's position. A part of him realized instinctively that the opponent had moved behind him; he turned slowly and as silently as he knew how.

He heard the whisper at his ear and knew he had been defeated. The cold blade touched his right ear. He froze. "How do you do it?" He whispered.

"Practice. Concentration. Nothing more."

He relaxed. One hand released its hold on the hilt of the samurai sword and removed the blindfold. He heard the other's movements as well. "Computer. Half-lights." He smiled at his opponent. "I don't think I will ever master this."

"Your progression has been at an accelerated level. I have no doubt that you will master this one day, Captain." She moved with him to the side of the room to where the sword casing sat. She slipped the sheath from her back then replaced the sword partway. Her fingertip was presses against the blade just enough to break the skin. A green drop of blood swelled from the minute cut, the small piece of silk wiped the blade clean and then was pressed against her finger. The white silk was folded and placed back into the small matching bag then tucked close to the hilt.

Sulu crouched down beside her, mirroring her moves including the ritual spilling of blood. He set the blade after cleaning it, placed the sheathing into place and sat back. He licked the drop of blood off his fingertip; the bleeding had stopped already. "How's the arm?"

"It is fully functional." She sat on the padded deck facing her commanding officer. "Dr. Chapel has judged that by all medical standards, I have full use of the arm." She had been disquieted by the fact that for the first month of her recovering, her arm was not fully functional. The damaged muscle had been regenerated but had none of the strength or dexterity to which she was accustomed.

"It worked well today." Sulu smiled then passed her one of the bottles of water. He opened the cap and drank a fair bit of his. His heart rate was still high and his adrenaline level was on its way down. His breathing had been even all the way through, a distinct improvement over the last time they tried this.

As they sat facing one another, Am'ath removed the tightly wrapped hood and her hair spilled over her shoulder. She smoothed it with her fingers then braided it, applying a fastener that seemed to appear out of the air. She drank only a small portion of the water. "You made mention of a chess game. Is this the activity that you prefer?"

Sulu nodded as he swallowed another mouthful of water. "A shower first, change in uniform and a quick tour of the bridge and then I am yours."

Her eyebrow raised. "I trust you are not speaking literally, Captain?"

He smiled. "No. What I mean is that I will have the time then for our game."

"I had obtained the correct meaning." She said it somewhat relieved. "Why do humans retain these inaccurate statements?"

He stood then shrugged. "Just being human I suppose." He bowed at his waist; his hands pressed together adding to the gesture. "And I, on behalf of the human population, thank you for your patience with us." He straightened and was amused by the expression on her face. She was considering the statement. Weighting it against the reality of the statement against its possible meaning. He had seen her do this before, many times, mostly with Maggie Henley.

Am'ath bowed her head. "From all of Vulcan, you are.... Welcome."

Sulu grinned. He had never seen her eyes flash as they just did. He recognized it the moment after it happened; it was her way of smiling, of understanding his humor. His grin broadened then he laughed; a deep and halting laugh, very distinctive.

Am'ath stood, collecting the two bottles as she did then headed for the recycler. Inwardly she was pleased at Sulu's reaction; she was learning slowly about humor and found it to be.... enlightening. "Would twenty minutes be a sufficient amount of time?"

"Perfect." He had recovered and was closing the sword casing. "I will meet you in my office."

She bowed her head. "As you wish, Captain."


Henley stepped off the lift and headed directly for her quarters. She stepped in and poked her head into her roommate's bedroom. She frowned. "She's not back?" She shrugged then went to her side of the quarters and pulled out the loose fitting pants and top. She hung most of her uniform up, took down her hair and then had a shower.

She wrapped the large towel around her torso, tucking in the corner then wrapped her hair in a smaller towel. She ordered a cup of coffee from the processor then sat on the foot of her bed. She looked to the time. Am'ath had gone to the recreation deck about seven hours ago. She wasn't here when Maggie went for her relief duty four hours ago and Maggie was sure she would have been back by now. Half way through the coffee, she decided to get ready for sleep.

The book that she had started to read was slipped into the portable reader and the 'bookmark' was activated and the screen displayed the page she had been reading. It was a mystery and she was about half way through and had two possible suspects for the murderer. This was one she would suggest Am'ath read, it was a little more complicated then some of the others she had read. She had challenged Am'ath to guess at the outcome before finishing the books, most of the time she was right.

She stretched out and moved onto her side. She pulled the pillows in closer and re-arranged them so she was totally comfortable, that of course was her downfall and the reason she fell asleep.


Sulu tipped his queen over. "I give. That is the fourth game you have won." He sighed. He tried to sip at the non-existent coffee. He stood with the empty cup. "More tea?"

"Yes." Am'ath reset the board as he filled the cups.

Sulu sat down at the table passing her the cup of tea. He leaned back in the chair. "I had some time scheduled in the pool, care to join me?"

"I do not swim well." She sipped on the tea. "I believe that I should allow you time to yourself."

"Why? I haven't been this relaxed in a long time." Sulu had removed his tunic when they first entered his office. "Besides, neither of us have duty for the next ten hours."

"But you require a rest period." She could not quite understand the reasoning for the amount of time Captain Sulu would spend with her. She was at a loss to comprehend why he did seem to want to spend any of his free time with anyone else. She was halfway through her tea and she had decided to leave then.

"After the swim I promise to get some sleep." He sat forward, his forearms resting on the table and his cup was set down. He played with the cup for a moment as if considering what he was going to say next. "But only if you come with me." He smiled at the raised eyebrow.

"I would not wish to contribute to your inability to rest, Captain Sulu. That would be most unacceptable." She drained the cup then set in on the saucer. "My abilities are quite limited."

"Then we will see what we can do to improve those abilities." He was enjoying her company. For the first time since serving with Chekov, someone was treating him as a person and not 'the commanding officer', to be either feared or placated. That was the hardest part of being in command of such a large vessel and as he was learning on this second mission, command was often quite lonely.

Sulu slipped his tunic on then headed out into the corridor. With a gesture Am'ath had followed then fell into step with him. On board the Excelsior were housed four pools of varying sizes. Three of them were of the smaller size with the ability to accommodate a small group of people. The fourth was the largest, Olympic size and used by the most serious of the swimmers or for the occasional friendly competitions. The largest one was open to the crew, twenty-four hours a day. During certain maneuvers or during battle, the pool was closed and the water would be pumped into a reservoir. No one wanted that amount of water to be floating free.

Sulu touched the palm ident-panel, the read-out confirmed the fact that he had reserved the pool and granted him entrance. He reached to the control to check the temperature. "Is the temperature usually a little cold for you?"

"It is unnecessary to adjust it."

"I did not ask if it was."

"An additional ten degrees would improve the comfort level." She opened her tunic and slipped it off. She placed it on the shelving that ran along the wall; stacks of towels were distributed along its length.

"Ten degrees it is." Sulu tapped the changes into the computer-controlled environment. "According to the read-out, it should be warm enough in about twenty-minutes."

Am'ath bowed her head then excused herself to change. The room that was available had ten stalls with a replicator at the door and a recycling unit closer to the showers. She tapped in the coding for the swimsuit along with her size.

Sulu had followed her into the room then moved off to another stall. Privacy was still provided for those that wished it. He had his suit and reached to close the retracting door most of the way. "Where did you learn to swim?"

"At the Academy. Lieutenant Henley felt that it was necessary that I become, as she stated, unsinkable."

"Did you succeed?" He would definitely get a full night's rest because of all this activity. He folded his uniform and left it on the small shelf. He left the stall once he was changed and headed for the pool.

"I do not believe so." Am'ath followed him out, feeling a little uncomfortable in the suit. She sat on the edge of the pool and watched as Sulu dove in.

He felt the warm water surround him. It felt smooth against his skin as he moved through the water then surfaced just before reaching the opposite end. He took in a few deep breaths as he treaded water then headed underwater again. He broke the surface; his hand reaching to the edge as the other hand wiped the water from his face.

"Your abilities are more than adequate." Am'ath slipped into the water.

Sulu smiled and kept the giggle to himself, because even now, Am'ath seemed to standing 'at attention'. She also seemed awkward and uncomfortable. There did not seem to be a relaxed state for Vulcans, yet he had seen her when he knew she was relaxed. Once. "Show me what you can do." He brushed his hair back; the water had been dripping onto his nose.

He watched as Am'ath pushed off and managed to remain afloat, just barely. Henley had been right she was not unsinkable. Am'ath did not seem comfortable or relaxed in the least and that was the first issue he had to deal with. He watched her swim back. "Are you afraid of being under the water?"

"It is a discomfort, nothing more." She felt the water lapping at her body requiring her to adjust her balance.

"You seem uncomfortable." He tilted his head wondering how he could rid her of the awkwardness. He thought of only one way but he was not sure that she would be willing. "How much do you trust me?"

"Define the parameters." She was uncertain as to the meaning.

"That I will not permit you to be injured or drown."

Her head tilted. "What is the purpose?"

"To play in the water. A way for you to get comfortable, pulling one another, chasing, playing tag."


"A game that the pursuer becomes the pursued after contact is made."

"Define contact."

"A tap or touch on the extremities." He could feel his grin spreading with each question. He had to remind himself that she had never experienced this before. "When I was young this was the way I learned to feel comfortable in the water. To expect the unexpected. And not to feel so clumsy in the water." He thought of something. "How did you do in E.V.A training?"

"I scored a ninety-four." She had not been impressed by the experience. He was referring to the training that all cadets received, learning how to maneuver in the weightlessness of space. She had not experienced the awe that others seemed to.

"Then think of this as E.V.A training, but you have to hold your breath." He did not yet see the acceptance he had hoped for on her face. "Are you game?" He stopped her questioning. "Are you willing to participate?"

"If you believe that this is an acceptable training method, yes."

"Good." He reached out and tapped her shoulder; her eyes followed the movement. "Tag. You're it." He moved away from her slightly. "Now you have to chase me until you can tag me." He disappeared under the water leaving behind a slightly confused Vulcan.

He surfaced a little ways off. "You will never catch me that way, Mr. Am'ath."

Her eyes lowered for a moment, this seemed childish behaviour but one that seemed to have an understandable purpose. She took a breath then headed towards Sulu, awkwardly. She spotted him; he appeared to be sitting on the bottom of the pool. She went under the water then reached out her hand to him.... And he swam off before she had a chance. This was not going to be as easy as it had sounded.

She surfaced. The understanding of how this was to help her was beginning to be realized. Why did Maggie never use this method? Perhaps she felt it was too un-Vulcan like behaviour.

Sulu was leaning against the edge of the pool. "Are you not getting the idea or are you...belay that." He smiled as he shook his head. "Are you that self-conscious that you can not relax?"

"I do not know." She noted the amusement in his eyes. She waded towards him. "This is not usual behaviour for a Vulcan."

"Children play games, don't they?"

"Very young children. By the age of two, we are expected to exhibit some form of emotional control and to have adult-like manners. To play as you are suggesting is somewhat reckless. One must consider the safety factor."

Sulu nodded understanding her point of view. "Haven't played since the age of two.... How boring." He teased her. "To consider the safety factors is logical but in this instance, the only danger would be in drowning. I doubt I will, unless injured. I have assured you that you will not drown. Then there are the safeties that are incorporated into the ship's systems. If the sensors do not detect your life readings, it will automatically notify sickbay and if necessary will transport you to sickbay." >From the look on her face, he was winning. "The purpose of this exercise is to give you an improved comfort level in the water. To distract you from you're obvious awkwardness. It teaches you how to move more quickly, to hold your breath in unexpected situations and to improve your swimming." He paused. "Which you will have to do if you ever expect to catch me!" He sensed another problem. "I will not judge your Vulcan decorum here. I expect you to be more.... Human. Less controlled." He thought of another angle to help convince her. "I expect you to assert your.... possible superiority."

"I will attempt this, Captain." She was beginning to more fully understand what was expected of her. "This is in keeping with the theories of the obstacle course at the Academy. No apparent purpose initially, but it is said to improve character."

"Something like that." Sulu hesitated then disappeared under the water again but this time he did not swim away from her, instead he reached for her. His hand went around her ankle and he pulled her under then swam away.

Am'ath found her bearings quickly. She moved towards him at a much less thought-out manner. She reached him quickly, surfaced then touched his shoulder. "You have been tagged, Captain."

Sulu laughed. "Next time, just say, tag you're it."

"Very well, Captain." She moved off attempting to copy Sulu's movements under the water. This was much easier! She touched the end, surfaced and looked for him. His hand's movement was caught in her peripheral vision. She dropped under the water and pushed off with her feet. She swam half the length then surfaced. Staring into his face.

"Tag." He dropped into the water and the chase was on again.

Sulu had lost track of the time and was getting winded. He moved into the shallow end and stood. His hand reached to her as she surfaced. "I need a rest."

Am'ath nodded. Her hand brushed the water from her face, she found that her body required a pause in this activity as well.

"You're learning." Sulu smiled as he pulled himself out of the water. "It's getting too warm for me. Let me cool off then I will challenge you to a race." He reached for a towel and dried off his face and ran it over his hair. "Are you enjoying this?"

"It is an interesting activity."

"Your skill is definitely improving."

"Moving under the surface is easier."

"You'll be able to move faster if you streamline your moves." He tossed the towel off to the side then slipped back into the water. He named a few of the differing strokes and demonstrated a few. He had her trying some of them. "When I swim the length, I prefer using my body rather than a stroke."

"Your hands remain at your sides and you undulate your body's length." She had noticed this when she first observed him swimming.

"Ready for that race?"

"If that is your desire."

"Count of three." He took a breath and began the count. He waited as he watched Am'ath begin then followed her. He passed her almost immediately, reached the opposite side then somersaulted and headed back.

He surfaced then as he waited for her, glanced at the time. She surfaced directly in front of him. "We have been here for over two hours. No wonder I am tired."

"It has been a most interesting time, Captain."

Sulu pulled himself out then went for the larger towels. He held hers open as she pulled herself out. She hesitated uncertain of his actions; then she was told to turn around. The towel was wrapped around her shoulders and he pulled her braid out from under the towel. He picked up his towel and dried himself off quickly.

"I will definitely sleep tonight."

"You have been experiencing difficulties?"

"Too many thoughts wandering around. Too much to think about and I can't seem to shut it off some nights." He was relaxed. "The responsibilities of command."

"There are meditation methods that would solve that difficulty."

"It seems we have a great deal to teach each other." Sulu wrapped the towel around his neck. "It sounds like a good idea. My quarters?"

Her head bowed. "As you wish, Captain."


"At your convenience."

"I'll meet you in the corridor in ten minutes then." Sulu started towards the change area. He headed straight to the stall that held his uniform. He wondered, and not for the first time, why he felt so comfortable with Am'ath. Was it because she did not require any type of commitment from him? Or that he knew that she did not expect her to be anything more than her commanding officer? For whatever reason, he trusted that this friendship would last a long time.


Henley hated wake-up calls. She touched the button that would stop hers. She stretched and yawned. The reader fell onto the floor. She reached to pick it up and began to realize that she had fallen asleep reading and had duty in an hour.

She stood, picked up the forgotten cup of cold coffee, cycled it and programmed a fresh cup. She sipped on it a few times then walked over to Am'ath's sleep area. "Well, when did you..." No Vulcan. She blinked then frowned. No evidence anywhere that Am'ath had returned. She leaned against the frame and looked around the room for clues.

Am'ath was so meticulous that Maggie wondered how she would have known that Am'ath had been there or not? But she did. Something told her that Am'ath had not returned to the quarters since sometime yesterday. Even the firepot was cold.

Maggie turned as the door into the cabin opened. "Finally!" She grinned at the Vulcan. "Where have you been?"

"I informed you of my activities." Am'ath removed her tunic and placed it in the closet. The rest of her uniform was stripped off and placed in the recycler.

Maggie moved back to the desk and sat down, giving Am'ath some privacy. "You've spent all this time with Captain Sulu?" This was waking her up faster than the coffee would. "Doing what?" She turned in the chair to face Am'ath's room as the conversation continued.

"Self defense, chess, swimming and meditation."

Maggie chuckled. "You went swimming?" Getting her in the water had been as easy as getting a cat into water. Not much luck and a great deal of protesting. "What's his secret?"

There was no answer, then Maggie heard the sonic shower, and it had a gentle hum to it. She finished her coffee then moved back to her side to dress. She kept one ear tuned to Am'ath's movements. They were both on bridge duty and Am'ath was only on her second day without a rest period. If Am'ath had spent all this time with Captain Sulu, what condition would he be in?

Uniform in place, she began to work on getting her hair up. Regulations allowed that you could have your hair down but cadet training was ingrained; besides it looked better. The red hair was twisted then fastened down, the last of the pins being pushed into position when she heard Am'ath.

"Mathy, what have you and our illustrious captain been up to?" She picked up her tunic as she headed into the common area. She slipped the tunic into place then fastened her belt, the rest she would seal as they headed to the lift.

"Up to? Our activities are as I informed you." Am'ath sealed the front of her tunic then fastened the belt as she stepped into the common area. She ran a visual check of Maggie's uniform then nodded. A habit that had begun in the first year at the Academy, with no logical reason for it to continue. Nothing was every out of place on either uniform.

"You sure nothing else is going on?" Maggie followed her through the door, then fell into step as they headed to the lift.

"To what are you referring?" Am'ath stepped into the lift then activated the command code for a direct route to the bridge.

Maggie looked to the decking for a second. "Something more personal?"

Am'ath raised an eyebrow. "In what regard?" >{?Maggie sighed. She stepped forward; the doors would be opening. "A relationship."


"It isn't."

The doors opened stopping the conversation. Am'ath stepped out first. She headed straight for the helm console. Her head bowed to Captain Sulu as the change in shift took place.

Maggie moved around the back of the command chair. "Morning, Captain."

"Good morning, Mr. Henley." Sulu signed the report then settled back in the chair. "Enjoy your day off?"

"Yes, sir. Caught up on some reading and managed to read through the latest charts from Starfleet." She slid into the position and ran the check of her board. "How was your day off?"

Sulu grinned. "I managed to keep myself out of my quarters, out of trouble and away from my office for a change. It was relaxing." He thanked the yeoman with a nod for the tea that was left for him. Nothing interesting for a few hours just a matter of traveling from here to their stop for shore leave.

"Glad to hear it sir." Maggie glanced Am'ath's way and noticed that the Vulcan's jaw was clenched. She leaned her way slightly. "What is it?"

Am'ath found the calm she needed and her body relaxed. She was not comfortable at all with the comment that Maggie had made and what was even more uncomfortable, was that she did not know why. "We are on duty."

Maggie straightened. In other words, she did not want to discuss it and what ever 'it' was had ruffled those Vulcan feathers and she did not want to admit to it. Maggie checked her board then thought about what might have bothered Am'ath so much. She recalled the last of the conversation in their quarters and then as they walked to the lift. The few comments made there and then when they arrived on the bridge the conversation stopped.

"Irrelevant?" She whispered it but it made Am'ath turn. She had heard her. Maggie leaned back in the chair careful about what was said next. She met the Vulcan's dark eyes and was aware of just how much the comment meant.

Am'ath had never experienced a sense of panic before this but did so as Maggie's eyes met hers. She lowered her eyes for a moment, a request for Mags to 'drop the subject'. Nothing more was said and Maggie's attention returned to the board. Am'ath felt the relief flood over her; until Maggie had made the comment, it had not occurred to her how others may have perceived the time she spent with Captain Sulu. This must not happen and she would make a concerted effort to reduce the time spent in his presence.


The spaceport that was in orbit around this world was designed to repair and restock the large interstellar vessels that comprised the Starfleet. Capable of working on numerous sizes and classes within the same station made this a busy port of call. Early in this shift, arrangements had to be made to accommodate the size of the Excelsior. It was not very often that a vessel of that size was brought into a spaceport this far out.

Captain Sulu had finished speaking to the science officer, Mr. Sencus, concerning an upcoming mission. He had the Vulcan's report and was checking through the notations. Sulu then took his customary turn around the bridge and was just stepping down into the command well, when Commander Ian Burgh stepped onto the bridge. The officer that had initially been assigned as his first officer had been injured. Ian Burgh was assigned and had been an acceptable addition to the crew.

Burgh stopped as he reached the command chair, his head bowed slightly a smile playing at his lips. "Morning Captain." He stood with his hands clasped behind his back.

Sulu smiled slightly. "Good morning, Mr. Burgh. A quiet day during your shift yesterday?"

"Just routine stuff."

Sulu moved into the command chair, his arms rested on the chair's armrests. "Good to hear it." Sulu made the mistake of yawning at that point.

Burgh leaned slightly towards the commanding officer. "If you'd like, sir, I could initiate the reclining feature...." He hid his smile with his hand. "Couldn't resist."

"Yes, you could have." Sulu enjoyed this banter that had begun between them. He looked to Burgh. "Have you grown since I saw you last?" Burgh was just over six feet tall, bald at the present and sporting a full blonde beard. A direct opposite, visually, to Captain Sulu. They had both suspected that because of these differences began their camaraderie.

"No, sir." He stated it quite seriously. "Maybe it was the swim you took yesterday, sir."

Sulu frowned. He was going to hate himself for asking him to clarify this statement but he could not fathom where this was going! He cleared his throat softly. "Okay, Mr. Burgh, I'll bite; what do you mean?"

Burgh fought to keep a straight face. "Well sir, with the warmer water,... you must have shrunk, sir." He met the Captain's eyes then felt his own slip as the chuckle escaped his lips.

Sulu grinned. He covered the grin with his hand and tried to stop his own laughter from beginning but the image he had was funny and he had to give this man credit for originality. He laughed.

A few other crewmembers had been heard to chuckle over the comment. The only one that seemed to be unaffected was Am'ath. The laughter seemed to grow but nothing out of control.

"I will give you that one, Burgh." Sulu took a breath then reached for his tea. He shook his head slightly then took a sip of tea. The cliches had been used early on. They were moving into more subtle comments now. Burgh had even had a small maintenance anti-grav platform coloured with the bridge markings and had it resting beside the command chair with the words 'For the Captain's Use Only" emblazoned across the surface.

In retaliation, Sulu had the command chair's footrest made adjustable to accommodate Burgh's long legs, as well as a warning beep that sounded every time it was used. And had the maintenance division mark the doorways off the bridge 'increase opening by one foot' and had the requisition form included in the day's reports. That had earned a round of giggles for a few days. Then matters returned to normal for a time and these 'stunts' were usually carried out at a time when the ship was usually pulling in for shore leave.

"Captain." Henley turned to face him. "Station is coming up on sensors and should enter sensor range in four seconds."

"Should, Mr. Henley?"

She grinned. "Well if they haven't moved it and if I have the right charts then it will be there." She paused. "Captain." She turned back to her station. "Yep, there it is..."

Sulu turned to the communication officer. "Commander Rand, notify Station four four nine. Inform them of our approach."

"Aye, sir."

The activity on the bridge fell into the familiar routine.

The station's docking bay circled the world and it resembled a frozen spider's cocoon. It glittered in the dark sky and dominated the screen.

"Station's dockmaster, Commander Henley is on line. He has a question about your approach." Rand grinned. She knew what Sulu was planning but she was certain that no one else did.

Sulu nodded then touched the tie-in. "Captain Sulu here."

"Commander Brian Henley here. Captain, your request for approach is unorthodoxed at best."


"No, sir but you would have to have a very good helm officer."

"And I do, Commander Henley." Captain Sulu stood, remaining on the raised platform.

"Very well, Captain. You are cleared for approach, course heading is being sent to you. You are to dock in bay four, it will be on the port side."

Sulu looked to Henley for acknowledgement of the headings. She nodded. "Course heading has been received beginning our approach in... twenty seconds. Excelsior on stand-by."

"Confirming that approach will be handled manually." Commander Henley's voice stated.

Am'ath turned her chair slightly, her eyebrow raised in question to Sulu.

"Excelsior confirms." Sulu stated calmly. He looked to her. "A problem, Mr. Am'ath?"

"No, Captain." She turned back to the board and began her scans and planning of her course.

Burgh moved from his post to stand next to Captain Sulu. "Manually?"

Sulu nodded. He was aware the Burgh had a nervousness whenever a ship of this size was handled manually. This was an out of the ordinary request but nothing that was outside of Am'ath's or the Excelsior's capabilities. "Manually."

"Manually." Ian muttered nervously. He straightened his stance and bit the inside of his cheek. Sulu was not going to see how nervous he was about this in the least. He hoped.

"Your discretion, Mr. Am'ath." Sulu settled into the chair. He had always wanted to do this and he had never had a command officer that would allow this. Secretly he would have preferred doing it himself.

"Aye, sir."

The view of the docking bay swung gently with the course change. Am'ath seemed to be whispering the minute changes needed to Henley as she brought the ship in a tight arc to line-up with the docking bay doors. Henley would nod her head occasionally and make a few adjustments on her board. Sulu looked around the bridge and most of the personnel were watching the screen with a fascination. Burgh had a tinge of fear in his.

"Preparing for entry." Am'ath stated, her hands danced across the board. "Reducing to half impulse." There was a silence as the view of the docking doors began to part. "Clearance alarms are set."

Burgh leaned towards Sulu; helm was not his specialty. "Clearance alarms?"

"It will notify us if she gets too close to the structure. Wouldn't want to knock it out of orbit or anything like that." Sulu spoke casually but noting the concern in Burgh's face.

"No. Wouldn't want to do that." Burgh swallowed.

Sulu nodded slightly as he compared the course heading with the view of the bay doors. She was doing fine. He wasn't sure if he could have managed it any better. He rested his cheek against his raised hand, his elbow on the padded arm. "Nervous, Burgh?"

Burgh shook his head a little too fast then looked to Sulu. The officer was grinning and enjoying every moment of this. He cleared his throat then looked to the decking, a quick glance at the screen and his hand moved to hold on to the arm of the command chair.

The sides of the doors loomed closer. Am'ath slowed the vessel even more then waited as the vessel cleared the doors. She counted out the timeframe she had determined it would take then looked to Henley for confirmation.

"We're clear." Henley felt that connection the two shared. She tried to keep one eye on the screen and one eye on the grid that marked their course. "Two degrees port."

"Aye." Am'ath acknowledged as she made the adjustment.

"The bay is twenty degrees port."

"Aye." Am'ath's fingers moved across the board. "Point two five impulse. Maneuvering jets in five.... Four.... Three.... Two.... One." Her fingers touched a series of buttons along the top of the board. The screen's image seemed to stop for a second then the sign marking the space began to grow.

Maggie Henley tapped a series of buttons then leaned back slightly, one hand left the board and rested in her lap. She kept her eyes on the grid.

"Maneuvering jets at half." She kept her eyes on the screen as her hands continued with a sudden flurry of movements. This part was the most difficult. It was very simple to 'burn' the jet a nanosecond too long and the ship would drift right into the structure. "Shutting down starboard side." There was a momentary pause and the screen was dominated by the signage. "Port side shut down. Station keeping only". A few more adjustments and she turned to Sulu. "Excelsior is docked. External hook-ups are moving into place."

Sulu bowed his head. "Good work, Mr. Henley."

"Excelsior. Commander Henley here." There was a momentary pause. "Docking Bay staff wish to compliment your helm and nav officers. Compliments to you, sir on your choices. Docking was text-book perfect."

"Thank you, Commander Henley. Lieutenant Am'ath and Lieutenant Henley acknowledge the compliments."

There was a laugh over the intercom. "You mean you've got my baby sister piloting that thing! You are a brave man sir. Mags wasn't able to find her way out of our yard back home without getting lost."

Sulu smiled at the blush that was evident on Maggie's face. He nodded at her.

"Commander Henley?" She stated as officially as she could at the moment.

"Yes, Lieutenant Henley." The humour was there in his voice.

"You owe me a drink."

"Are you old enough, Mister?"

"Old enough and capable enough, Commander Henley." She was busting to see her older brother; it had been a year after she entered the Academy when she had seen him last.

"Just contact me when you are able, Sis."

"Yes, sir I will."

"Docking bay clear."

"Excelsior clear and standing by for further orders." Rand took over the communications.

Sulu stood. "Well folks, time to shut her down and relax for a few days." He stepped down from the command chair. "Mr. Burgh you have the con. Mr. Am'ath and Mr. Henley. As soon as you are shut down, my office."

"Aye, sir." Henley swung back to her board.

"Yes, Captain." Am'ath turned her attention back to the board and the remaining steps to shutdown this console.

The two officers stepped into the captain's office. They remained at attention until he addressed them. "Are you at least curious as to why I called you here?"

"Yes, sir." Henley stated.

Captain Sulu moved around his desk until he stood in front of the officers. "Mr. Am'ath?"

"Sir." She looked to him.

Sulu smiled then looked to Henley. "Well, when you meet your brother, you'll be able to give him another surprise." He reached to the case on his desk. "I don't believe in formal promotions. I like to do it myself and face to face."

"Sir?" Henley was shocked. She looked to Am'ath, her eyebrow was raised just a bit.

"It is my pleasure to present to you..." He reached to the rank pin that was on Henley's uniform at the moment then dropped it into her hand. ".... Your new rank of Lieutenant Commander." He fastened it down then reached to her sleeve. The rank pin there was changed as well. "Congratulations, Lieutenant Commander Henley." He shook her hand and grinned at her surprise. "I received the package just the other day and this is the first opportunity I have had to present them to you."

"Thank you, sir."

"You earned it, Mr. Henley." Sulu reached for the casing, closed it and handed it to her.

He reached around to the remaining case removing the tab pin only. He moved in front of Am'ath removed the rank pin then replaced it with the new rank. He placed the lieutenant's pin into the case then handed the case to Am'ath. He lifted his hand in the ta'al. "Congratulations, Lieutenant Commander Am'ath."

Am'ath bowed her head as she accepted the case. "Thank you, Captain Sulu."

"I am extremely proud to have you both as members of my crew. Your shore leave begins later and I want to extend an invitation to you both to join the Excelsior's customary shore leave dinner.

Maggie grinned. "I'd be more than pleased, Captain." She didn't think it was necessary to inform him that she had already been invited to attend as Commander Burgh's guest.

"I must decline, Captain. I have made plans." Am'ath stated with a slight bow of her head.

Sulu hid his disappointment. "Well if anything changes, the invite stands." He paused for a moment. "Lieutenant Commander Henley, Am'ath... you are dismissed."

"Thank you again sir." Henley grinned then headed out with Am'ath leading the way.


Captain Sulu slipped on the loose fitting shirt. He was scheduled to meet Mr. Am'ath for more lessons in a Vulcan are. V'asami. She had called it. It resembled the oriental style that he had studied as a young boy but with some interesting variations. He had been learning it by mirroring her moves. He stepped out onto the exercise floor and began his stretching.

He was early.

Am'ath stepped in already attired, immediately beginning her stretch routine.

He marveled at how flexible she was!

"You are prepared to attempt the entire v'asumi?"

"As ready as I will ever be."

He moved to the center of the matting. Am'ath moved to face him, an arm's length away from each other. Her head bowed slightly then she began the thirty-minute 'dance'. Her moves were done slowly for her but at a reasonable pace. As she stepped back, he stepped forward. Her hands remained a hair's breaths away from him as she symbolically pushed him back. He stepped back. Later in the moves, he would be the one to 'push' her back.

Sulu felt quite comfortable with the first half of this, it was the ending series of movements that gave him difficulty and would occasionally lose his pace. His tutoring in the ancient art had begun almost a year ago! Am'ath's explanation included the fact that children are taught this from the time they began to walk. It improves posture and balance. He could not envision a group of children running through some of the moves!

He took the step that placed him very close to her. He took his deep breath as he was supposed to and then moved to the right. He had stepped too close! Her breath out was felt on his neck. His balance was off as he tried to step away from her and somehow tipped towards her.

Her arms went out to steady him, as his went around her waist to steady himself.

"Sorry." He laid his forehead on her shoulder for a second then changed his stance to a more confident one.

"You are not concentrating." She relaxed her arms waiting for him to indicate that he was balanced again. She had expected him to release her sooner than he did. His face flushed slightly as their eyes met. She felt the brief whisper of thought passed between them. Her hands were snapped away from him. Her eyes lowered and she stepped back from him. She took a deep breath, calming her reactions.

Sulu moved his hands from her waist slowly, cleared his throat. Something had happened. He felt light-headed suddenly then it was gone. "No, I guess I'm not." He found himself wondering what she would do if he kissed her? Why would that thought have occurred to him now?

Someone had to end this awkward silence.

Something told him that this silence that seemed to go one forever, had been only a second or two long, but it sure did not feel that way! He cleared his throat again. "This is the part I always have trouble with. I feel myself hesitating at the moves, not quite sure I am doing it right I guess."

She nodded. "Perhaps if I watch you. Correct anything that you may be doing incorrectly."

"Good idea." Sulu moved back slightly. "Where so you want me to start?"

"Ri'ti'krat." She paused to see if her student remembered where the sixteenth cycle began.

Sulu thought about it then stood, feet slightly apart, his arms bent, hands touching palms. He looked to her with a grin. "Is this it?"

"You learn well, Captain."

"I try." He sounded satisfied with himself.

"Felikal." She stated softly.

As Sulu began the movements she moved around him, checking his placement of his feet, body and arms. She had found him to be a quick student, with a tendency to move too quickly. "Kro'el'rai." She looked to his face. He had not understood. "Move slowly."

Sulu smiled then stepped forward; this was where he had lost his balance.

"Kroy'kah." She held up her hand as she spoke softly.

Sulu froze in position, awkwardly.

"Your feet should not be so straight. You require balance. Your feet are to be angled." She moved beside him, copying his position but in the correct pose. "Do you see?"

Sulu nodded. He stepped out of the position then checked her stance. "Okay." He moved to match her. "This feels better."

"Its movements are not supposed to feel unnatural or awkward." She looked to him. "You have been doing this on your own as well?"

"Found the file and I used it as a guide." He took a deep breath then released it slowly. "I also have found that if I do this before bed, I sleep better."

"There is another to help sleep. You should have informed me that you were having difficulty."

"It wasn't something I thought you could help with...." He continued the thought to himself as he considered how she could help his sleep patterns. By being next to me, he thought to himself, but that was not possible. Or something he should even be thinking about.

They had been spending more and more time together lately and it had not occurred to him just how much until today. Commander Burgh made the comment and had brought up the fact that Lieutenant Henley had been looking for Am'ath. Mentioning that there were only three places she could be.... on duty, in her quarters or in the Captain's company. A harmless comment, it was just that Sulu had not thought of his time with Am'ath had been that obvious to others.

"Captain?" She had begun to show him another series of stretching exercises that could improve his sleep, but he wasn't paying attention. "Captain?"

Sulu heard her that time. "I am sorry, I can't seem to stay focused on this." He moved away from her, turning his back to her for a moment as he tried to find the concentration he needed.

"Do you wish to attempt this at another time?" She could not quite understand why Humans could be so easily distracted especially Maggie. Captain Sulu was an individual that she did not place in this category.

Sulu shook himself. "Maybe I need to so something that takes less concentration." He smiled slightly. "I apologize for wasting your time today."

"My time with you is not considered a waste." She tilted her head slightly. "You are usually able to concentrate. This can be rescheduled at any time." Her head bowed and she started out.

"Am'ath." He called to her and when she turned, he wasn't sure what he wanted to say to her. A game of chess or pool seemed a lame substitute, but he wanted her company. He took a breath then his shoulders sagged. He could not think of a thing to say. He could think of all the things not to say. Come to my quarters and we can talk. Let me show you how I really want to spend time with you. He looked to her and wanted to ask her if she had ever considered him as a possible lover, because for the last few days he had been considering her as his lover!

He smiled shyly. "None of my thoughts seem to be working...."

Her head bowed. "Do you wish to re-schedule our chess game?"

"No!" He stated it too quickly. "I have some reports to catch up on, I'll need the distraction."

"I do not wish to distract you from your duty, Captain." She stated honestly.

"You aren't...." He lied then nodded when she stated she would be returning to her quarters. He watched her walk off. This was hitting him like a ton of durasteele. He had to pull back; he had to get some distance from this.... And her!

"Fraternizing with your crew is not a good hobby to take up, Hikaru." He spoke softly to himself. He nodded in answer to the suggestion. He would have a very cold shower and lose himself in some work before the chess match!


Margaret Henley had been asleep. She turned over in the bed, opened her eyes and was marginally aware of someone moving around. She rubbed her eyes, took a breath then looked to the time. "Athy?"

"I disturbed you?" The Vulcan's voice was low. "My apologies. It was not my intent."

Am'ath moved to the edge of the room's divider. They shared quarters, as most junior officers did. Their friendship spanned over ten years and had shared quarters for the duration of their time together. On the Excelsior, with the exception of the year that Am'ath was assigned to the diplomatic vessel, they had asked to be billeted together. Something that added to, rather than worked against, their ease of managing duty shifts together.

The Vulcan stood in a meditation robe; her long dark hair fell almost to her knees. She moved into the room a little more. "You require rest. I did not mean to..."

"Don't worry. I didn't except you this... early?" Maggie sat up; her arms that went around her legs as she pulled them up, her head rested on her knee. "Been playing chess all this time?"

Am'ath nodded. "The time passed before it was realized."

"Is he a good chess player?" Maggie yawned. "Sorry."

"He is more challenging then most."

Maggie tapped the bed. Am'ath sat down facing her friend. Her legs folded under her robe, her hands moved together then folded. "What's he like?"

"Explain." Her head tilted slightly.

"How does Captain Sulu act? The same as he does on duty or when any of us see him? Or is he different in private?" She brushed the strand of hair that fell forward.

"He is as he always appears to be." Am'ath was not totally understanding of the inquiry. "Why do you ask?"

"Because you and he seemed to be comfortable with each other."

"Very well." She accepted her statement as fact then started to move from the bed but was stopped by Maggie's hand. She looked back to her. "I require time to meditate before my duty later today."

"I forgot sometimes that your boundaries are different than mine." She smiled slightly. "I was just projecting the human standards of being with the C.O. alone. A lot of females on board would be very envious of your time." She lifted her head then stretched. It was almost time for her to get up anyway. She had pulled an early shift, Am'ath would join her on the bridge in four hours. Normally, they were on the same schedule functioning as a team but today she had pulled extra duty.

Am'ath paused and considered the information, her eyebrow raised. "You are referring to Human mating habits."

Maggie laughed, every time Am'ath would refer to dating as 'mating habits'. She shook her head slightly. "Yes. That's what I meant."

"Why would you expect these considerations to be applied to the time I spent with him?"

Maggie sighed. "I thought Vulcans were supposed to be logical?" It has always surprised her, even after this long together, how naive Am'ath was at times. Or was she just being dense? No, she told herself, she was being Vulcan! "Never mind."

"You wish me to comprehend something...?" She stood then folded her arms across her chest. "Something pertaining to Captain Sulu and me."

Maggie nodded as she tried to stretch again to wake herself up. "Yes. But don't worry about it. I was just making an observation. A wrong one, but one never the less." She smiled at Am'ath. "Go meditate. We have one duty shift then shore leave to look forward to. Can't have you falling asleep in the middle of the celebrations."

Am'ath started to reply but stopped. Maggie was well aware that she would not fall asleep during any social function. The correct amount of rest was always attained. "Humour?"

"Humour." Maggie headed into her bathroom for a shower.

Am'ath shook her head slightly. "Humour." She attempted to understand this but there was a portion that seemed to escape her understanding. She sighed, a Human trait she had absorbed from her long association with Maggie. She moved to her side of the quarters and made herself comfortable on the meditation stone. A deep breath and she began to sink into the deeper levels of the wh'ltri. She would wake in two hours without prompting. Her breathing slowed, her heart rate lowered and her eyes closed. The world around her would not exist as she called on her body's systems to produce the effects of a long, restful Human's sleep.


Maggie brushed back the upsweep of hair then nodded to her reflection. "You clean up good!" She turned, first one way then the other, checking her reflection and the effect her manner of dress had.

The deep gold silk dress glided over her curves. Curves that were appreciated by the officer that had caught her eye, and he had captured hers. The drape in the neckline showed just enough cleavage and the thin straps were just enough to hold everything in place.

She turned to the sound of the quarter's door opening. "Hurry up, you are going to make me late for once!" She went to see how Am'ath was doing in her preparations for tonight. She stopped in her tracks, totally surprised that her friend was still in uniform. "We are due at the restaurant in about twenty minutes."

"I was not planning on attending this dinner." She stated plainly.

"Oh yes you are!" She moved Am'ath into her bedroom. "Where's your dress?" She was beginning to search through the orderly clothes hanging in the closet.

"I do not have a dress for this type of occasion."

Maggie took her hand then lead her into her own bedroom. "I've got one you can wear." She pulled out a black silk dress. "This one has a cape to match, I just bought it on our last stop at Risa. It's Deltan silk." She smiled at Am'ath. "Please." She reached to her friend as she turned away. "Athy. Even you need to let your hair down occasionally." Her voice was soft. "Look, you need to eat, come have dinner and then you can leave." She paused hoping Am'ath would change her mind. "I want you to meet my brother, Brian. Besides, he owes you a few drinks.... time to collect."

"Why are you so insistent?"

"Because of all those times that I swept out of here and back at the Academy that I had wished you were out with me, because I like your company. Because I want to know that you are not sitting here all by yourself, while I'm out having fun." Maggie smiled. "I start to feel guilty." She lifted her hand stopping Am'ath's comment. "It's a Human thing." She tilted her head. "Just dinner."

"My dress uniform is more than appropriate..."

"But not as much fun! Come on!" She sighed. "I could dress you myself..." She threatened.

"I do not think that would be appropriate." She looked to the dress and then back to Maggie. She was going to regret this! She would end up staying longer than just the dinner then she would have to complete her studies tomorrow. She stared at her friend for another long moment then began the removal of her uniform tunic.

"Yes!" Maggie sighed, satisfied with the effort. "Your hair, you should wear it down."

"Earlier you suggested that..." She stopped. "Letting one's hair down refers to relaxing, does it not?"

Maggie nodded. "I'll let them know we will be a few minutes late."

The dining room that had been chosen had the ambiance of the old style-dining clubs. The tasteful marquee held the name of "The Twilight Room" high above the two-story building. Large round tables, twelve to a table... the Excelsior had reserved four for each shift. There was, at this time of the day, a live band and the dance floor was open to all. Tables had been covered in a linen type fabric; the napkins matched and were folded elegantly in the stemmed glasses. Cutlery was polished and the lighting was low.

A romantic setting.

Commander Burgh turned to Isaac. "So, do you think we should commandeer a section of the rec. deck and fashion our own Twilight Room?" He leaned back in the chair as he tried to keep an eye on the door. His date was late and he was anxious to spend quality time, dining and dancing with his Mags Henley.

Isaac looked to the Captain for a reaction. "If we can get Captain Sulu to agree... Sir?"

Sulu looked to the two, he hadn't been listening. His thoughts were wondering why he continually subjected himself to these... mixers. He usually sat with whoever did not have company. More often than not, he headed back to the Excelsior with his hands tucked in his pocket and walking the corridors of the quiet ship. He did not expect tonight would be any different. "Sorry, I wasn't listening."

"We noticed." Burgh smiled. "We were just discussing how we should take a section of the rec deck and design our own Twilight Room. We need your permission."

"If we did that, Mr. Burgh, what would be the point of shore leave?"

"Point made, sir." He reached over to Sulu's arm, indicating the entrance with his other hand. "Looks like Mags talked her room-mate into joining her..."

Sulu turned and smiled at the change in Margaret Henley. She entered on the arm of her brother, who had obviously brought his own date. But Ian had said that this was her roommate? That would mean that his date was Am'ath! He sighed, and it took you a whole two minutes to remember that! You do need a vacation! He accepted the brandy that was placed in front of him then stood with the others as Maggie, Am'ath and Brian approached the table.

Maggie moved into Ian's hold and kissed him. "Sorry, we are late but talking Vulcans into doing things takes time." She sat in the seat beside him. She looked over to Am'ath as her brother took over as her escort for the evening. She could relax; Athy was in good hands!

Brian offered to take her cape but she preferred to leave it on. "I find the temperature cool."

"Okay." Brian sat in the empty seat between Am'ath and Sulu. He nodded to each person as Maggie made the introductions. He ordered his drink and was surprised that a brandy already sat in front of Am'ath. He lifted his glass. "To the most interesting... ship we have had berthed for a long time! And to its helm and nav officers, a team second to none."

The "here, here's" was heard all the way around. Mags and Am'ath accepted the compliments with a bow of their heads. Conversation started up again and dinner was served to the crew. The music played in the background and every now and then a head was turned to watch the couples dancing.

Maggie sat back after finishing her meal. "Well, I can't eat anymore!" She picked up her glass of wine, sipping on that for the moment. "I need to dance this off... Any takers?"

Ian stood. "As if I would not take that offer?" He was taller than Maggie was. His very close haircut was something he had done on a dare and had liked the look, so he kept it! He had been watching Mags since he signed onboard the Excelsior. It had taken him over a year to catch her eye and allow himself to be 'captured'.

He moved onto the dance floor, Maggie in tow gathered her into his arms then swung into the rhythm of the dancers. He held her close, his arms around her. He leaned down and whispered in her ear, that he loved her. She kissed his neck then kissed his mouth.

"How much persuading did it take for you to convince Am'ath?" He moved to the slow beat of the music.

"Not too much, just a lot of fast talking." She smiled at him. "If she ever takes the cape off, I might even have to remind you that you're mine!" She laughed at the surprise on his face.

"That good?" He looked towards the table then began to tease her by straining to see Am'ath. He ignored her tap on his shoulder until she threatened to throw him. He smiled at her. "Want to stay on the base for the night?"

"I'd love to..." Her fingers caressed his lips then she kissed him. Her body wanted his... very badly! She laid her head on his shoulder as they continued to enjoy the music. She felt her body sway with his to the beat as they moved around the dance floor. He was good at this and they indulged in this activity as much as they could, even aboard the ship. "I'll have to go back for a change of clothes."

"We'll splurge and buy something here. Toothbrush included."


The others had followed Ian and Maggie onto the dance floor. Brian had asked if Am'ath wanted to dance, since he was her unofficial escort, but she refused. She had explained that she was returning to the vessel in a short time. Brian ended up asking Dr. Chapel and the two seemed to enjoy each other's company.

Am'ath finished her meal. She had emptied her glass of water and stood. "I will be returning to the ship, Captain Sulu."

He stood as he realized that they were the only two remaining. He cleared his throat. "Awfully early to call it a night?" He noted her slight frown. " return to the ship." He moved his chair. "I would hate for you to return without experiencing at least one dance."

"Do you assume I have not experienced dancing before?"

"I meant tonight." He bowed his head. "May I have the pleasure, T'sai Am'ath?"

"I do not believe that it would be appropriate."

"I brought my gloves...?" He was aware of that most Vulcans would avoid contact. He had also danced with her only once before, that was at a diplomatic function about a year ago.

Am'ath looked around the room then at Captain Sulu. "I do not believe that...."

"I'll walk back with you then." Sulu waved to Commander Isaac. He received a small wave back. "I thought that you would stay for a little while longer..."

"Am'ath!" Maggie was moving quickly towards the departing couple. "You are not leaving yet!"

Am'ath looked to her friend's disappointment. "The agreement was for dinner."

"You know me, always want that little bit more..." She sighed. "Sure you won't stay for one dance?" She looked to Captain Sulu. "Ask her to dance, sir?"

"Already have." Sulu looked between the two and decided to give them some privacy. He moved back to the table and ordered another drink. He felt awkward and when he glanced towards the two women, he was surprised to see them heading back to the table. He stood.

"I've talked her into staying a little longer." She looked to Ian. "I'm game for some more dancing if you are?"

"Sure." Ian beamed as he led her back out onto the dance floor.

"Awkward, isn't it?" Sulu pulled out a chair for Am'ath.

"What is?"

"Having well meaning friends." He sat down as he turned his chair towards her. He signaled for the waiter then ordered two cappuccinos. He smiled and sat back in the chair. "Amazing how different people are in different situations."

"Yes." She looked to the couples then back to Captain Sulu. "Have you decided what we will practice with tomorrow?"

"I'm game to try the Vulcan swords you've been telling me about."

"You will need to use the v'asumi steps you have been learning."

"I have been practicing!" He admitted. The coffees had come and he was stirring the drink a little too long. "Have you had an opportunity to swim lately?"

"No." Am'ath drank some of her coffee.

"I know you refused before but if we dance, the time will not be so hard to fill?"

She bowed to the logic of his statement. She stood and reached to the clip at her throat.

Sulu reached to take the cape, he felt his breath catch as her attire was revealed. He swallowed as he tried very hard not to stare or react visibly. He placed the cape over the back of her chair then reached into his pocket for his gloves. "T'sai Am'ath?" He offered his arm to her then guided her onto the dance floor.

The black silk dress flowed over her. The neckline dipped far lower that she was totally comfortable with, but the feel of the seamless dress was a pleasure that even a Master of Gol would have to admit to! The dress threatened to slip off her shoulders; the long sleeves were belled and were as long as the dress when her hands were down. She held the slight train of the dress with the loop that slipped onto her finger.

He had finally found his voice after clearing his throat. "Your gown reminds me of the medieval styles of Earth. It suits you." He felt her warmth through his glove at her waist as well as the other that held her hand. "I expect that this was not your idea?"

"No. My preference was for the dress uniform." She kept her shielding in place so as not to disturb Sulu's privacy. "This is Margaret's gown."

"Remind me to compliment her on her taste." He took a step that would prevent them from bumping into another couple. His hand pulled her closer for the moment. He found himself wanting to hold her closer. The music flowed from one directly into another new tune. This one had a slightly faster beat. Even though they had not really danced together before, Sulu seemed to know just how to move with her. "Those v'asumi lessons pay off in more ways than one, don't they?"

"It would appear that it has given us a familiarity with each other." She had the same passing thought a few moments ago but had not voiced it.

More couples had moved onto the already crowded dance floor, Sulu pulled her closer as they avoided them. He breathed in the perfume that had become familiar to him. The music slowed, then stopped. Everyone on the dance floor offered applause.

"The next one is a Vulcan step-dance." The conductor announced. "The title translates as 'A Time of Reflection'. I have been informed that it is played at most wedding celebrations." He turned back to his band as he waited for the movements of the couples died down. The showing of the ones that could manage this was dwindling.

"The steps of the asumi are the steps to this." Am'ath offered as they began to move from the dance floor.

"Do you trust me?" Sulu grinned; it sounded as if she really wanted to do this!

"The hands are placed palms touching, never holding. They are not to become separated."

He bowed. "I will do my best, T'sai Am'ath."

He moved with her to the small group of dancers, most of them... Vulcan, logically!

The music began, a light bouncy tune, by Human standards and as the couples began to move, it was noted that it was just fast enough to manage all of the steps easily. Sulu tried not to watch the others. He knew he would get mixed up for sure! He was surprised at how easy this was for him! So far!

Am'ath had not performed this dance since leaving Vulcan, twenty years ago! She moved easily with Captain Sulu, she was pleased at his ability at this. She leaned closer to him. "The steps will cycle again then it will be over."

He nodded, smiling at her. "I'll never live this down!" He had taken a brief look at the uniforms that dotted the room, very few were on the dance floor and even fewer above the rank of Lieutenant Commander!

The music softened as the beat slowed. It stopped and the room filled with applause. Sulu looked around as he applauded and caught his breath. He also noted that he was the only non-Vulcan that had finished. He leaned towards Am'ath. "Would you care to indulge a preference of mine?"

"If I am able." She assumed he had meant a dance.

Sulu leaned a little closer. "Do you tango?"

"The basic steps are understood."

He grinned. "Good enough." Sulu moved to the conductor to make his request.

The gentlemen clad in a classic black tuxedo, with tails, nodded to the officer. He turned to the musicians and whispered the request. He turned to the audience and announced the piece.

Sulu took her hand and led her to the center of the dance floor. He took a deep breath and hoped that he would remember all the steps, it had been a long time since he had managed this!

Am'ath lowered her eyes as the music began, her concentration on the movements were required as well as maintaining her distance from Captain Sulu. This was a dance that required a specific set of movements performed in perfect unison with a partner. She had never danced with Captain Sulu in such a manner before this. His steps were in time to the music, he had not mis-stepped once nor did she expect him to. She felt very little tension in his body; he was comfortable with this dance.

The spins, turns and the steps that were required seemed to be second nature to them. They did not attempt any unnecessary flourishes and stuck to the basic steps. It surprised and pleased Captain Sulu.

Maggie and Ian stood off to the side, neither of them had the skill for this dance but they did have an appreciation for the ones that did. She looked up to Ian; totally surprised at the skills her best friend seemed to have been hiding. "I never thought she knew how to manage any more than a waltz, this totally floors me."

"After seeing her in that dress, I wouldn't be surprised at anything she managed." Ian grinned then met Maggie's eyes. "Wonder what other hidden talents she'll be sharing with the captain?" He kissed her then pulled her closer to him.

"At this point I wouldn't even hazard a guess..." Margaret Henley had made a mental note to discuss, with her Vulcan friend, any other secret talents she may have tucked away.

As the music moved to a close, the five couples that had managed this 'dance of passion', ended it with the appropriate flourish and with the gentlemen down on one knee. Most of them moved off hand-in-hand. Sulu bowed his head, Am'ath's bowed in answer to his compliment then they headed back to the table. Am'ath stopped to talk to Maggie for a moment, Sulu continued to the table.

Doctor Chapel leaned towards Burgh as they sat down. "How do we ignore this? Treat it as if it's an everyday occurrence. Our commanding officer dancing the tango with a Vulcan female?"

Burgh grinned. "Be glad it wasn't a Vulcan male?" He laughed at the surprise on Chapel's face then at her laughter that followed.

Sulu leaned over Burgh's shoulder slightly. "You are not behaving." He reached for Am'ath's cloak that had been placed there over an hour ago. "Good-night. Enjoy the rest of your evening. I am off to find a chess board."

They wished him a goodnight as well. Commander Isaac came to him and added that he should not do anything he'd be sorry for in the morning.

Sulu nodded slightly then headed back to where Am'ath waited for him. He had seen little point in both of them returning to the table and it allowed the others to make the comments they would have 'sat on' had Am'ath been with him. He placed the cape around her shoulders as he suggested a short but enjoyable walk through the gardens, before returning to the ship.

"Very well." Am'ath fastened the clasp on the cape then lifted the loose fitting hood.

The garden had it's own lighting along the edge of the pathways. Tonight, it was really necessary as the moon was full and the reflected light was adequate. They walked along at a leisurely pace for a time before either said anything.

"Do you think they will survive the shock?" Sulu smiled slightly. He felt awkward as he walked beside her with his hands clasped behind his back. He felt he should have been holding her hand or her hand should be wrapped around his arm, at the very least. A Human's expectation and he was fully aware that she did not share this. "The last thing they expected me to be doing was the tango with you."

"I find that Humans usually have limited views of what one is capable of." She pulled the cloak in closer; she began to feel the dampness in the air. "Are you referring to the abilities or the situation?"

Sulu looked to her and thought about it for a moment. "I suppose more the situation. But you are right, we do underestimate one another's abilities." He stopped as he heard the soft cry of a bird. His hand touched her arm. "Listen." He smiled at the repeated sound. "Sounds like a canary. I had a canary when I was young.. well, I thought it belonged to me. It had made a home in the garden outside of our home. I would go out and leave food for it. No matter what, I was firmly convinced that it was mine." He listened with a smile as the song of the night bird sounded.

"Vulcans do not retain captive animals."

"Spock told us about having a sehlat when he was young." Sulu looked to her eyes, wondering which of her parents had given her soft gray eyes.

"A sehlat is an animal that closely resembles the Earth panda. However, the sehlats have large fangs. One had to become attuned to the animal's moods or one could be injured. It was not a pet as much as a companion. Nourishment was seen to and more than likely a space was set aside for its sleep area." She walked with Sulu as he continued along the pathway. "If the sehlat chose to leave and move out into the Forge, it was not prevented from doing so."

"Did you have one?"

"My home was in the city and there was not the necessity for the protection the sehlat offers."

"Protection from what?"

"Le-matya. A carnivore that roams the sands of the Forge. The image of the le-matya is often used as a fire-pot. It was reported to have signified the burning of the venom from the claws and teeth."

Sulu listened with surprise. He had never thought of Vulcan as being dangerous in the least. "I do remember Sarek telling us to remain in the city at night."

"You were there for a time?"

"Not to see the sights. We were hiding out from Starfleet after the Genesis incident. Spock had to be returned to Vulcan and the Fal-tor-pan was performed."

"I recall the events being discussed." She thought about her home and how different her upbringing had been compared to Spock's.

Sulu stopped at a bench then suggested that they sit and watch the stars. "We spend most of our lives out there and on shore leave all I seem to do is stare at the stars." He took a deep breath and sighed. "You know the doctor is right, I need to find...." He looked to her as he realized what he was about to say. "I didn't mean to ramble."

"No offense has been taken, Captain."

"No one around at all. I guess we are the only two that would enjoy a garden at night." He leaned his head back against the back of the bench. The silence stretched and the sounds that he had heard earlier seemed to be diminishing. "Can you hear the surf?"

"Yes." She tilted her head for a moment. "Ten meters, ten degrees to the left."

Sulu allowed a grin to creep across his face. He sat up then looked to her as he took her hand in his still gloved one. "Come on, a walk along the beach."

Am'ath was up and walking along the sand before she could say anything. He had picked up his pace for a time then slowed to a leisurely stroll again. "You enjoy this activity, Captain?"

"At home, I try to spend at least one night on some beach. Often times, I manage more."

"Why do you choose this activity?"

Sulu looked to the ground watching his feet for a few moments, then stopped. "I would take a sleeping bag out onto the beach. Build a fire. I loved to listen to the sounds. Very restful."

"These sounds are available in the files..."

"Not the same." Sulu shook his head. "I guess the only way is to show you." He looked around for a small shelter and found an outcropping of rocks. He took her hand and guided her down the beach towards it. "Wait here." He moved away from her slightly then touched his comm-pin. "Sulu here. Could you beam down two thermal covers and a carafe of hot cappuccino? Four cups and a small decanter of brandy." As he spoke he pulled off his gloves and tucked them into his pocket.

"Aye sir." The officer sounded totally confused. "Moment sir."

"Sure." Sulu looked around at his surroundings as he waited for the ship to fill his order. The ship's circuit had opened a little too soon and he caught the tail end of the conversation between his officers in the transporter room.

".... think I'm going to ask? Think again. He's the captain. If he asked me to beam down anti-matter I would." There was a pause and some whispering. "Sorry sir. It's on its way. Energizing now."

The small collection of articles appeared on the sand about a meter away. He picked up the blankets; the two carafes and the cups were hooked onto his fingers. He covered the short distance to where Am'ath stood.

She reached to the cups then took the carafes and crouched down to placed them in the sand. She looked up to him. "What is the purpose...?"

"Spending time on the beach. I know you are bothered by the lower temperatures." He opened up one blanket then spread it on the sand in front of him. "Sit down." He offered his hand but she managed without the offered support. He sat down; the other blanket was flipped open over them. He reached for the carafes and checked the contents. He poured out the coffee and added a bit of brandy to both then handed one to Am'ath. He made himself comfortable leaning against the rock. "Now, we just lean back and listen..." His hand reached to her shoulder as he suggested that she lean back as well. "Close your eyes and just listen."

Am'ath leaned back as suggested then looked to Sulu as he followed his own suggested actions. His face showed how relaxing he found this to be. He sipped on the coffee and listened to the surf. As she sipped on the hot beverage she wondered why this Human seemed to favour her company. She could return none of the affection nor would she be agreeable to any other form of relationship with him, due to the fact that.... Her thoughts stopped. She lifted her chin slightly as she realized that there should have been a reason. Another sip of the coffee and she realized that slowly over the past six years as she had begun to become a part of his crew that he had shared his world with her. Not the same way that Maggie had done. Differently. He had not required anything from her except to be... herself.

"I received a few transfers today. I wasn't sure why they were leaving except it was marked for personal and medical needs. Commander She'ak and Lieutenant Commander T'Valys. According to Healer Sajak it is within the possibilities that they are nearing their Time." Sulu had asked all of the truly gauche questions of Sajak, which he could not ask, of his crewmembers. He had also received a warning from Sajak about what should not be discussed. He did need to know why they were leaving and that explanation was acceptable to him.

He sat up and looked to her, meeting her eyes. "Will I lose you to that fever any time soon?"

Am'ath met his eyes then looked down suddenly in silence.

Sulu sat with his mouth slightly open, he was only supposed to think that thought! Every now and then he was truly amazed as this force took over his speech and he would end up with his foot in his mouth every time! "I'm sorry." He swore to himself under his breath. "I don't know why I said that out loud." He ran his hand along his forehead. "It was unforgivable. I am sorry."

"There is no offense taken." Her voice was not as strong as she had hoped it would be.

"I thought Vulcans didn't lie?" He glanced in her direction but could not meet her eyes.

"I am not lying. I am uncomfortable with the question but I do not take offense at the inquiry." She pulled her cloak in tighter. "I am not certain why you have asked or wish to know."

Sulu adjusted the covers around her, giving up his half. He wasn't cold. Humiliated beyond belief but not cold. "I'm not sure either." He looked out to the surf, sitting in silence for a time. He pulled up his knees and rested his chin on his knees. "I don't feel alone with you around." He waited then looked to her. "Do you understand what I mean?"

"I believe so." It was Am'ath's turn to pour the coffee. It curbed her need to leave here and this time did not add any brandy. In her opinion, it was not required.

"After this, I'll walk with you back to the beam-down point."

"You are not returning?"

"Tomorrow." Sulu thought he would return here and discuss with himself just how stupid someone can become with time. Age did not cure stupidity, that he was sure of now. He drank down the coffee then stood. He moved away from the blankets and her for a time as he thought about how he needed to fix this.

He heard her movements and turned back to help her with the blankets. He offered his hand to help her stand. Her warm hand curled around his as he helped lift her to her feet. She was on an angle and stepped forward suddenly. He grabbed for her, thinking she was falling and pulled her close.

"Okay?" He met her eyes and then he discovered his lips pressing against hers and she was kissing him as well. He wrapped his arms around her and his hand moved into her hair. He felt her touch at his shoulders and the gentle pressure that meant this had to stop. He moved from her slowly. He took a breath and released it slowly. His eyes opened to hers.

"This cannot happen." She spoke softly.

"I know." Sulu sighed.

"It is not logical."

"No, it isn't." A sudden breath as her fingertips touched his lips. "Not at all." He had not expected to see her face so flushed and her eyes darken.

She felt the coolness of his hand brush her hair back. His touch at the side of her face, she pressed her cheek against his palm. She closed her eyes as she breathed out slowly. She sensed the inner conflict with this. The logic in returning to the vessel and never speaking of this again. The desire to remain with him... but he was not hers. "Most curious..."

His face moved closer to hers and their lips touched again. This time the pressure increased as his arm pulled her closer. She began to identify all the changes that occurred within her... this should not be happening! There was such a thing as control. She stepped back from him suddenly.

He had not expected to feel this much from her. Nor from his own need. He took a deep breath apologizing as he let it out softly. His body ached to touch her again as he realized that this should not have happened to begin with.

She reminded herself about controlling her emotions as he drew her cloak tighter and shivered.

Sulu spoke her name in a whisper. He stepped forward, his hands went to her arms and he began rubbing them, trying to warm her.

She lowered her eyes, grateful for the shadows.

He pulled her into his arms again, holding her close and resting his cheek on the top of her head. He could barely feel his own body but he sensed her close to him. He breathed in her scent and closed his eyes.

"You will not lose me to my time, Captain." She felt his body tense for a moment. "A mate was never chosen before I left."

He lifted her chin then his lips brushed hers. "Why not?" His lips pressed against hers softly. He wanted to know but at the moment he didn't care. "Why did you come with me tonight?"

Am'ath lowered her eyes for a moment. "You wished to leave the room full of people. I wished to leave as well. I have learned that in social situations it is easier to leave a group with company than to merely state that one wishes to leave. Humans appear to have this impression that if one wishes to leave it is for other purposes. The purpose that Margaret seems to experience is the perception that I am dissatisfied with the situation." She met his eyes and not for the first time, noticed how much his eyes resembled a Vulcan's. "I perceived a dissatisfaction within you for the company of the officers."

"How did you come to that conclusion?"

"You did not engage in conversations. You did not ask anyone else to dance. And you did not wish to return to the table after we had danced."

"Logical." He reached to her, lifting her chin slightly. He wet his lips. "Vulcans talk too much...." He touched her lips with his. He felt her sudden jump then she moved away. His hand went to her neck as he kissed her again.

Her hand pushed gently against his chest, as she straightened and sat back. "Do not."

"Why not?" His breathing was deep, his voice soft.

"Regulations state that..."

"Regulations." He interrupted her. He looked to her eyes, his fingers brushed along her lips. Her eyes closed. "I am asking you, not Starfleet."

"This can not happen, Captain." She opened her eyes slowly to his dark eyes. She had to master the draw he had on her!

"Why not?" He felt a hesitation in her voice. "Tell me why not, and I will never give this another thought." His fingers caressed the warmth along her neck. She was so hard to resist! He had started to notice this after their last few workouts. He had felt it over take him while they were dancing. Now, he just wanted to feel her close to him!

"We are not of the same world." She heard her mother's voice with that statement. She felt him move away. She took a breath. She regretted the words. She did not believe them! He was not prepared for a relationship with a Vulcan. There was much that had to be learned, much that had to be explained and she had no idea how to explain any of this to him! "There is so much that is unknown..." She whispered as she looked to him. "Why do you seek this?"

Sulu shrugged. "I don't know." He frowned. "You can't tell me that I am the only one that feels like this!"

"No, you are not." She pulled the cape around her; she felt her body shiver but it was not the coolness of the air that made her react this way. "Until a few moments ago I had not considered this." She held her breath as he moved closer to her. She reached out, her hand resting against his chest. "I am not prepared for your emotions." She shivered again then took a deep breath. Her hand moved back under the cape.

"I can't do anything about them... except keep them to myself. Is that what you want?" He moved closer to her. He lifted her chin; his fingers caressed her throat slowly. His hand moved into her soft dark hair and he brushed his lips against hers. "Please... let's try..." He pressed his lips against hers, his arm went around her waist and he pulled her to him. Her body was so warm compared to his. He could feel her relax against him.

Am'ath's hands rested on his shoulders. She breathed in the scent of this male and felt her body react to him! His kiss deepened, awakening a craving in her she had not experienced before. Her fingers moved to the contact points that would allow her to touch his thoughts.

The liquid fire slowly crept into his thoughts, his body shivered and he lifted his head with his need to breathe! He moaned as the fire moved through his body. He pulled her closer; his hands ran along her body. The cape fell to the ground as his arms wrapped around her. He ached for her! He felt engulfed by her! Her hot breath touched his neck; her whispers brushed his ear. He shivered again.

"Kroy'kah!" She sighed as her body shivered. Her hands moved from his thoughts as she moved from him. He would not release her; both breathing heavily, both surprised at how strong this was!

"You were saying about not being ready for my emotions...." He looked to her with a smile. "You forgot to prepare me for yours!" He sighed then shifted slightly, moving his body closer to hers. He brushed back her hair as he spoke to her. "I have never felt anything like that!" He ran his hand along her length pulling her to him.

Her hands caressed his face. "I should not have done that..." She closed her eyes, this was more than she had expected! "I did not have your permission..."

"You did. You just didn't ask for it..." His mouth closed over hers, his tongue reached into her warm mouth tasting the difference in her. "What now?"

"This must stop." She moved from his hold, even though her body ached to be held! "You need to learn about melds. You have to be prepared." She was breathing fast, her hands clenched so that she would not reach for him. "There is arie'mnu that must be learned."

"What's that?" He sensed her pulling away from him.

"Mastery of this... passion." She took a very deep breath then stood. "Nothing can happen until you have prepared."


"Your mind is not ready for this..."

"Try me.." He stood then held her.

"No!" She moved from him again.

"Don't you want this?"

"More than you know..." She whispered. "A bonding is not to be taken lightly..."

"I want you..."

"I am quite aware of your needs, Captain."

Sulu laughed. "Hikaru." He met her dark eyes. "I don't want to make love to my helm officer, but this woman..." He brushed his fingers through her soft hair, his hand clenched in it. "... is another matter." His lips brushed the tip of her ear as he whispered her name, his arms wrapped around her. Her hands ran slowly along his. "I want to make love to you. I want to feel you close to me." He took a deep breath; his lips brushed her hair.

"If I choose this.... I will be vrekasht. I had not considered this." She took a breath and turned in his arms. "There are matters that affect more than just you and me."

"What do you mean?"

"My family. Your family. There are consequences to our decision..."

"What is vrekasht?"

"An outcast."

"Why?" He lifted her chin, meeting her eyes.

"My family do not believe that Vulcans should bond outside of their world. They are Purists. That is against the nature of Vulcans. They feel it will be the destruction of all that we know as Vulcans." The words seemed to be tumbling out of her.

A thought occurred to him suddenly, and it made him feel sick. "There is someone waiting...."

"No." She caressed his face as the relief came to it. "No betrothal... until now." Her head tilted slightly. "If that is what you wish?"

"More than you know..." He loved feeling her touch on his face. "I don't want to wait."

"I do not know if I can give you want you want right now." She leaned forward, brushed his throat with her lips. "It is because of the bonding and the mental control that you will need after."

"I'll find it." He bent his head and kissed her. "Starfleet is not a safe job. We do not know how many tomorrow's we have. I want to feel you. I want to be so close to you, we can't find each other.... just for one night.... just one time."

She found herself nodding. "It must remain private, this joining."

"Just you and me, promise." Sulu took a step back then reached to her cape. He wrapped her cape around her shoulders. His hands cupped her face. "I love you, Am'ath. With all my heart and soul..." He smiled at her bright eyes, his lips brushed hers, his tongue wet her lips then he kissed her, deeply, passionately, as he pulled her close.


Hikaru Sulu turned the heat in the room up and the lights down. He had pulled blankets out of the storage compartment from under the couch in his office. He had poured a brandy for both of them and after setting up the 'bed' on the floor; he took the glass to her. She was standing at the viewing port in his office; her cape had been discarded over the back of the chair.

"Is it warm enough now?"


"But not as warm as you'd like it.."

"It is comfortable." She sipped on the brandy. "This is most difficult for me."

"What is?" Sulu leaned on the arm of the chair.

"Being here with you. It is not the relationship that I am prepared for. You are not the species that I was trained to deal with. Your requirements are not what I know."

He reached to her arm and pulled her closer. "That makes two of us..." He smiled. "I am not prepared for all that you require of me." He drank down the rest of the brandy; the empty glass was placed on the side table. "But I have waited a long time..." He moved her to stand in front of him, between his legs. " hold you." The back of his fingers ran up her sleeve. "This is the softest fabric I have ever touched." He spread his hand at her shoulder then moved down her back. "Feels just like warm skin."

"It is Deltan silk. No seams, no fastenings. Nothing to irritate the body in the least."

"Have you ever worked with a Deltan?" His hands continued to discover her.

"No." She placed the glass on the table with his. "You?"

Sulu nodded. "Long time ago." He laughed as he remembered how flustered he had become. "Nearly crashed the ship because of her radiating pheromones." He rested his hands on her hips. He closed his eyes as her warm touch moved up his arms, her hands massaged his shoulders and neck.

She leaned forward and surprised him with a kiss. "A most pleasurable touch." Her fingers ran over his mouth, then she kissed him again. She lifted one of his hands then placed it against her palm. His fingers wrapped around her hand. She lowered some of her shielding and through the contact, 'kissed' him in Vulcan fashion. A brushing of thoughts.

"Like a whisper in my head." He breathed slowly as he felt his body began to ache for her again. His lips brushed her lips then made a path of touches to her ear. "You taste like cinnamon." The path continued down her neck. "And almonds..." Then down to the neckline of her dress, she inhaled suddenly at his touch.

Her hands held his face gently. "Your touch is like a fire." She ran her fingers through his soft hair as his touch continued. His fingers slid the fabric from her shoulders. Her body shuddered, her lips touched his hair as the fabric slipped down and his tongue tasted her skin softly. She moaned softly, with an uncontrollable urge to be closer to him! Her hands slipped under his sweater then lifted it over his head.

Sulu slipped into the chair, pulling her with him. The armchair was large enough for the two of them. Sulu leaned into one corner and she rested against the opposite arm. He closed his eyes as her hands began to discover his body and the taste of it. He moaned as her lips brushed his chest. His position was becoming uncomfortable, so he shifted in the chair slightly.

The intercom sounded.

He ignored it as he pulled her close to taste her lips. His tongue moved into her mouth tasting the brandy mixed with her alien flavor.

The intercom sounded again.

He rested his head back and took a deep breath. He looked to the dark eyes that had captured his heart then sighed.

Without a word, Am'ath moved from him, slipping her dress back into place as she stood.

Sulu stood and moved to his desk, he touched the tie-in just as it sounded again. "Sulu here."

"Sir, Commodore Toliver is standing by. He says it's an emergency."

"Put it through." He tapped the video closed; this would be a voice only conversation.

"Captain Sulu?" The disembodied voice asked with a slight panic in his voice.

"Yes, Commodore."

"Hikaru, I have a problem and need your help."

"If I can, you know I will do whatever I can." He sat back in the chair, his eyes trying to avoid Am'ath.

"We received an emergency beacon from the Select. She's a Starfleet registered freighter and she's having problems with her core. We sent one shuttle to her but apparently lost it to the dense field of asteroids she's drifted into. I know this is an imposition, with your crew on shore leave and all, but I was wondering if your helm and nav officers would go with my team to repair the damage." He paused and it sounded as if he was talking to someone else. "We have a warp courier ship. She's fast but my best pilot was lost with the other ship. Other than yourself, we have no other ship big enough to even tractor it out. Your engines are shut down and it would take a good ten hours to fire them up."

"Six. But that still won't help." He looked to Am'ath then asked Eric to stand-by. He touched the mute button; no one would hear them talking. "This will be voluntary."

"I wish to see the charts of the area first and the vessel. It must have adequate shielding." Her mannerisms had changed totally. "Equipped with standard phasers and I will not go without Mr. Henley."

Sulu nodded. He flicked the switch. "Eric. We need the charts of the area and the specs on the vessel. We need time to make modifications. How much time to we have?"

"Four hours maximum."

Sulu looked to her for an opinion. She nodded. "I'll contact the others and call you back in one hour. Unless there is a problem, we can manage it."

"Thanks. I owe you one."

"Don't worry about it. All part of the job." He transferred to the bridge.

"Bridge. Sencus here."

"Contact Mr. Henley, Commanders Burgh and Isaac and have them report back to the ship. Special mission, they will be briefed when they arrive. Co-ordinates will be transmitted from Toliver and I want the chart sent down to briefing room four."

"Aye sir."

"Another thing... Briefing with the call backs, yourself and Am'ath in twenty minutes."

"Yes, Captain."

He closed the circuit then looked to his guest. "We have to wait after all...." He stood and moved to her. Her hands ran across his chest and her lips touched his neck. He wrapped his arms around her and pulled her close. "This is not fair!" He lifted her chin and kissed her hard, passionately, putting every bit of feelings he had for her into it. "While you are gone... I'm resigning so we won't be disturbed again..." He smiled at her raised eyebrow.

Her fingers moved into position on his face, her lips brushed his ear. "Do you wish me to form a link. We will know of each other through it."

His head nodded.

The touch was as if a flame shot through his head and then a sudden pain that was agonizing for a split second then it was gone! He took a breath of air and relaxed his body. He felt something; almost as if there was something that he was supposed to remember but couldn't quite think of it.


"It is not a true bond, but you will know when I return." She kissed him gently.

Sulu pulled her body against his and continued the kiss. He wasn't quite ready to let her go. His hands ran down her body pulling her closer. He tasted a path along her jaw to her ear then moved down her throat. "I don't want you to leave." He rested his head on her shoulder, her fingers stroking the back of his neck. He leaned back against his desk and adjusting his position so that she stood between his legs again. His body shivered when her body's warmth was felt against him. This did not help the need that his body had for her.

And he wrapped his arms tightly around her then captured her mouth. His tongue reached in to taste her and he moaned.




A breath was tried and was abandoned, too much pain!

Darkness took over, an inviting warmth.


Sulu looked to the officers that had barely made it back from the mission. He stood slowly as he searched their faces. He controlled the panic that was rising in him. "What do you mean Mr. Am'ath was not with you!" He took a breath and frowned. "She was the helm officer." This was not the least bit funny, if they were trying to be. "Henley, you teased her about playing pin-ball with the asteroids." He felt the knot in his stomach tighten as Henley shook her head. "Then explain to me where she is?"

Henley sat back totally surprised at the Captain's reactions. "Sir, she asked for a leave of absence. She went home for a visit." She couldn't understand why he would have forgotten! "You signed the papers! And cut the orders that allowed her to travel back with the Lexington."

"The Lexington?" Sulu took a breath, he was very grateful for the Vulcan techniques he had learned, otherwise he would have been standing and screaming at the lot of them. His voice did hardened slightly. "Cut the joke. It is not funny anymore!"

Henley looked to Burgh; he looked to the Starbase officer that traveled with them. He shrugged.

"Captain, we never had a Vulcan on board." He stated honestly and calmly.

"Then who piloted the ship?"

"Rawlings, from the base." Burgh stated sarcastically.

"According to Commodore Toliver, there is no Rawlings."

Burgh leaned forward, his arms resting on the tabletop. "Permission to speak freely, sir."

"Granted." Sulu kept his hands on the edge of the table, if they kept using that condescending tone with him... he'd deck them all!

"I know that she did not travel with us. Mr. Am'ath left for Vulcan right after the dinner. We saw her off. You, myself and Mags." He paused as he debated asking the next question. "Are you sure that maybe you .... don't need a little bit more shore leave, sir?"

Sulu sighed audibly. "I am beginning to wonder."

Commander Rand lifted her head from the small console. "Captain, I have the recordings of the departure from the base's shuttle bay."

"Proceed." He sat down. Maybe this would convince them that Am'ath was with them.

They turned to face the larger screen that dominated the far wall. The images that came up were the ones he remembered. He had stood near-by as his crew entered the shuttle.

Three of his officers, Lieutenant Commander Henley went in first. Commander Isaac followed. The three-person engineering crew from the Starbase went in next. Commodore Toliver had introduced them as they walked by. Then Am'ath came into view from the right, she had been going over the 'paperwork' for the use of the shuttle as well as the pre-launch check list. She stopped in front of Sulu for a moment, he remembered it feeling like hours, then entered the shuttle pulling the door closed as she did. The personnel that were milling around the bay moved back into a corridor. The bay doors opened slowly and the craft lifted gently then sailed out the bay.

The screen went dark.

Everyone turned back to the meeting.

"Well?" Sulu looked to the faces that stared back at him.

"Sir, I remember everything as it happened... but Am'ath was not with us!" Henley was sure about that much. Why would she forget that Athy had traveled with them? If she had, they may not have lost the vessel to the damage caused by the asteroid belt.

Sulu stood. "Report to sickbay for a full physical and a psyche-assessment." He looked to Dr. Chapel standing near-by. "They are to remain there until further notice. I am assigning three security to be with them any time they leave sickbay."

Chapel nodded. She and Sulu had a discussion on all of this as it had started to unfold a few hours ago. They had talked about all the possibilities. "Reports should be completed in two hours."

Sulu nodded. He waited as the three officers left with the guards and Dr. Chapel. He looked to the officer that remained. "You are to report to Commodore Toliver and I am requesting that you be kept under close supervision as well. Lieutenant Potters will escort you to his office. Base security will take over then."

"Aye sir." He stood, shook Sulu's hand then headed out with the security guard. He looked to the well-muscled individual. "Has he been captain long?"

The door closed before the guard answered him.

Sulu sat down heavily in the chair and released an audible sigh.

"I am sure things will get sorted out..." Rand stood. She wasn't sure what could be done for him. She knew that Am'ath was on the shuttle, she spoke with her. She was the one that reported to Captain Sulu that there was a problem but couldn't get it sorted out right away. She was the one that had to call back everyone from shore leave, and co-ordinate the system checks to get Excelsior out of the starbase in record time!

"I'll be in my quarters." Sulu stood and headed out.



The smells were ones that associated with sickbay.

A breath was tried again. Less pain.

The cushioned surface registered. A soft fabric covering.

A deeper breath was tried but was painful.

Movement was attempted; it brought a wave of overwhelming nausea and pain. The stomach's contents came up with painful spasms, thankfully she had been placed on her side. A comforting hand was felt, as well as a cold cloth on the back of the neck. A hypospray was touched to her neck and her body relaxed. A cloth was used on her face.

"Breathe slowly." The male voice stated softly. "I gave you a pain medication. I do not have anything for the nausea. Your chemistry is just different enough that the meds do not work." He knew he was rattling on, to a point, but he had found that if a patient had a focus it was much easier to shake off the effects of the anesthetic.

A slow breath was attempted; there was mild pain. A voice moaned.

"Take it slow."

The words were understood but it was not a language that was.... comfortable. The realization was there! Romulan...! The lips attempted to speak, how it sounded or what it sounded like was not certain. An attempt was made to wet lips to make it's voice heard. Nothing worked correctly!

Calm! The inner voice stated. What can be done, is being done...

A tube was touch on her lips. "A very small sip." It was held as her mouth pulled on the cool liquid. It almost burned going down!

"Don't move! You'll be sick again." There was a certainty to the voice.

Her lips were licked again. "Others?" The concern for their lives was important to her. Why? She wasn't certain of that yet.

"There were no others." His hand brushed her hair back with a damp cloth. "You were the only one we found in the wreckage."

"Wreckage...?" Another piece to the puzzle. She had repeated the word in the language she had understood him to use. It was not her usual manner of speech but it was familiar.

"You need to rest." He straightened from the crouched position.

She identified the movements of others in the room as her eyes closed.

"How is she?" A calm voice.

"Just gave her a light sedative with a pain inhibitor." He moved over to the desk on the far side of the room from his patient. He tapped a few keys and the screen changed. "The bones have been realigned and are healing. Her internal damage is repairing at a very high rate. Her functions are improving and the support system will be removed by tonight. If she can keep some food down, her condition will improve even faster." He poured two cups of a hot dark liquid, handing one to the uniformed ranking officer. "The physiology differences are presenting a slight problem..."

"The anti-nausea meds is one, I gather." He leaned against the desk as he sipped on the coffee. "I should notify command."

"You haven't yet!" He was surprised. The female had been recovered and operated on four days ago, it wasn't like Commander Rahl to disregard standard protocols. "When do you plan to inform them?"

"When I know if she will live." He drank the remainder of the kafik. "No point in informing them we have a prisoner, if all we have is a corpse." He looked over to the female that had been pulled from the wreckage found on the near-by planet. "Being this far out has it's advantages, Sh'rien."

Sh'rien stretched his neck trying to rid himself of the fatigue that was slowly winning the war with his body. He had not had a reasonable length of sleep in four days. Surgeries, resetting bones and monitoring a barely life filled body was draining. "The vessel?"

"Nothing new. New outer design but the technologies are nothing new. Nothing to report other than it's existence." He turned to face the sleeping form. "Has she spoken?"

"Briefly. She asked about the others. I informed her there were no others and this seemed to confuse her." He poured another cup of the kafik, he had been drinking so much of it, and its taste was becoming offensive! "Memory will be sketchy at best. I would not depend on anything she says for a time." He turned at the sound of the door opening. "Good, you're here. Now I can get some food!"

The doctor's assistant smiled. "If she remains stable, sleep would be a good suggestion as well."

"Do I look like I need it?" He knew how bad he looked; he had shocked himself earlier when he caught his reflection in the mirror.

R'Aden laughed. "No. A burial casket perhaps..." He grinned as the doctor headed out with the commanding officer. He picked up the chart that Sh'rien had been recording her progress. He checked the readings then settled into the normal routine of tidying up and re-stocking. Nothing more was required until she was awake and that wouldn't be for hours.


Lt. Rebecca Hart balanced the tray in one hand and touched the door chime for the third time. She activated the speaker. "Captain?"

The door swished open, he was in his thick bathrobe and was towel drying his hair.

"Sorry, sir." She placed the tray on his desk then the reports beside it. "I thought maybe you were sleeping and..."

"Understood, Lt. What do you have for me?"

"A meal. Not sure what to call it..." She was hinting that he had not been keeping his usually tight and predictable schedule. "Reports. Need to be signed. New duty schedule for Alpha shift.." She noted his slight reaction. She would make a note of it to Chapel, as she had been requested to do. She pulled a slate from her pocket. "Message from your Chief Medical Officer, Christine Chapel and your acting first officer, Mr. Sencus, and I quote. Cute. Also unacceptable. End of subject. End quote." She grinned slightly. "You didn't think they would accept your resignation did you?"

"A guy can dream, can't he?" Sulu shrugged his shoulders a few times then resigned himself to feeling the tension that had been building for days. He leaned forward, resting his elbows on the desk and resting his mouth on the clasped hands. "What poison did Chapel send me?"

"She said that you had a choice..." She lifted the cover off the plate. "Sushi, rice and some vegetables. Or..." She uncovered a thick green liquid that had been poured onto a tall glass, with an old-style paper umbrella. She met his questioning look. "I wouldn't ask. I'd just drink it."

"You're brave." Sulu lifted out the umbrella and lifted the glass for inspection. It didn't smell too bad, but the colour was somewhere between green and purple. Like a bruise, changing colour! He shook his head.

"I'm Starfleet, sir!" She exaggerated the sentiment. She had managed to make him smile... a little. She tilted her head. "Sorry sir."

"Then you drink it and say I did..." He offered her the glass but she backed away.

"Dr. Chapel stated that it was designed especially for your metabolism and with you being a man, slightly older and...."

"Chicken!" He put the glass back.

"But a Starfleet Chicken, sir." She said with mocked pride then started giggling.

"Go away, you are bothering me." Sulu played back. He rolled his head trying to loosen some of the knots in his back and neck.

She picked up on the problem. "Have any oil? I can massage your neck, sir." She headed into his sleep area without waiting for an answer. "Found some..." She opened the bottle and sniffed it. "This is nice." She looked at the bottle then at Sulu. "Where did you get this?"

"A gift." He sighed remembering that Am'ath had given it to him years ago when they started the v'asumi classes. He closed his eyes and allowed his yeoman to massage his neck and shoulders. He breathed in the scent, it was the same scent of the soap that Am'ath used all the time. She had told him that she found it illogical that medications should smell and taste as badly as Human medications often did. "Don't use too much, it has a pain killer in it."


"It was to relieve sore muscles." He felt the strength in her hands and the way the knots were loosening. He dropped his head down as she worked her hands across his shoulders. "Feels good."

"I'm glad." She pressed her fingers gently into a hard spot and worked at it until it softened. "You haven't been working out at all, have you?"

"Not really." He tipped his head back as he was instructed to do. He hadn't felt like doing much of anything. He took his duty, stretched it out as long as he could stand then try sleeping. When the nightmares would let him sleep it wasn't too bad... but it had been a week now and all the patrols in the world, were not going to tell him what really happened! The part that really got to him was the crew that kept insisting that Am'ath was never there! He knew he would not be able to keep them in sickbay much longer! It had been seven days since the departure of the shuttle. He had opted for patrol duties along the Romulan border, hoping that they would come across a beacon or.... A wreckage soon.

"Captain?" She concentrated on one shoulder.


"Do you think she's alive?" She felt his body tense. She closed her eyes; she had really put her foot in her mouth this time. "Forget I asked, sir." She took a step back. She reached for the small towel she had pulled out when she found the oil. She wiped her hands. "Listen, I have some other things that need to get screwed up... so I'll get to it."

"Rebecca." He stated softly. He stood and turned to face her. She had been his yeoman for two years now; he could trust her to understand. "I may have lost the best helm officer Starfleet will see in a while. Am'ath was also a friend. But as captain of this vessel, she is my responsibility and what really bothers me, is the not understanding what went on. If she is alive, and I really do hope so. Then I trust with all of her Starfleet and Vulcan training that, barring injury, she will find a way to contact us. If she is severely injured, I wish her a quick death. If the Romulans have her.." He took a deep breath at this point because this was the nightmare he kept having. "... then I hope she has found an humane captor." He reached out and lifted her chin then smiled slightly. "I have been in Starfleet long enough to know that not everyone goes home. And just for the record, it doesn't get easier, you just learn what to expect."

"Yes, sir." She lifted her chin from his hand.

"It's the unasked queries that hurt the most." He crossed his arms over his chest. "It's the personal that stare at you and you know they want to ask..." He looked to the decking. "... and they never do. It's like they have decided already. Never mind the possibilities, she is not here so we won't talk about it." He looked over to the chessboard that sat on the ledge above his desk. He was rambling and couldn't stop. "I never played chess with anyone else but her on that board. If not for any particular reason except, there hasn't been anyone to play chess with. I know I will not touch that board until I know one way or the other. It will be either to pack it away, not touch it until I have to or to set it up for our next game. Those are my choices. But I won't know what it will be until I have to decide."

"Understood, sir." She started out the door but turned back. "And don't forget to eat or I have to tell on you."

Sulu bowed his head. "Understood, Lt."

She grinned then headed off to find some company for her lunch.


There was a sound that she could not quite identify. Someone was humming. She took a slow and steady breath; there was no pain. She opened her eyes, blinked a few times to clear her vision. Her hand lifted from under the covers, it felt heavy and slow.

"Finally awake." The male officer came over. He took out a hand held scanner from the pocket of his overtunic. He ran it along her length, approximately a hand's height above her. He looked to the readings and nodded. "How are you feeling?"

"Somewhat functional." She had heard a different language before. "You speak standard?"

"Enough." He turned from her for a moment then produced a glass of red-orange juice. "You need to work on eating now." He touched the bed's controls and the head of her bed rose slowly to a slightly elevated position. "Try this, it's kessa juice with some nutrients."

She managed to hold the glass; just long enough to take two sips then it was handed back.

"Are you up for some company? Commander Rahl wanted to talk with you as soon as possible." He placed the drink on the side table. "I am the medical officer, Sh'rien."

Her head bowed slightly. "I can assume your skills were used to retain my life. I am honored by your abilities, Healer Sh'rien."

"I have done no more than my duty." He bowed his head slightly then moved away to inform the officer that she was awake. He remained occupied; checking instruments and helping her with more juice until Commander Rahl entered. "Commander, do not tire her."

"Of course not!" The tall officer carried a chair over to sit beside this female. "You are beginning to resemble a life form." He smiled slightly. "When I found you, we were not even certain of your species or gender." He did not know where to begin. How much to ask or offer this fascinating Vulcan female. "You were found within the wreckage of a Federation shuttle. Do you recall the events leading you here?"

"No." She closed her eyes for a moment. "I do not even recall ... I recall nothing that would be of any assistance to you. At this point, I would estimate your knowledge to be more reliable than mine." She allowed herself to look around the room for the first time. She had a vague recollection of the pain and the difficulty she was having breathing. The five other beds in the room were vacant. The usual collection of medical equipment, none of it seemed to be anything other than what she expected. The medical officer was busy on the other side of the room.

"The only information that I have been able to confirm is that your vessel was caught in a phaser exchange between a Romulan and Federation vessel. My officer stated that for some unknown reason the Federation vessel pushed your vessel, with a deflector beam, into the line of fire. Your engines were damaged and we surmised that you attempted to land on the nearest habitable body."

She sensed he was being truthful, but she had no memories that would verify his facts. "I can neither confirm or deny this. I have no memory of the events."

"What do you remember?" He lifted his leg; his ankle rested on the other knee.

"Waking in this room and vomiting."

"Your name?"

She paused then shook her head marginally.

"You understand Romulan. Standard as the doctor spoke to you in. I would assume that you have knowledge of the Vulcan language as well."


He reached to a disc that was on the side table. He offered it to her. "Because you are Vulcan."

Her eyebrow raised as she studied her reflection on the mirror. The one feature that seemed to be the confirmation was the length of her ears, slightly longer in the tapering of the tips. "Obviously." She stated from observing her features, some still swollen from the injuries. She laid the mirror down on the covers then reached for the juice. Her hand shook as she lifted it. Rahl reached over to steady it. "It appears that my recovery will take some time." She sipped on the juice, managing more of it than before.

"If this remains in your system, Sh'rien has a list of foods that you may try." Rahl stood. "I will allow you to sleep."

"Commander." Her head bowed slightly. She watched as he went over to speak with the doctor and fell asleep soon after.


Sulu looked to the main screen. He was getting tired of traveling back and forth along the border. Ten days and they were no further ahead than the first time. He accepted the report, signed it then handed it back. He smiled slightly at Rebecca Hart and watched her leave the bridge.

The tie-in to the bridge sounded. He tapped on the circuit. "Bridge. Sulu here."

"Captain, could I see you down in sickbay." Chapel's voice held a note of anticipation.

"Sure. Be down directly." Sulu stood then stepped down into the well. "Mr. Henley, you have the conn. Inform Mr. Sencus that I can be found in sickbay if I am needed."

"Aye, sir."

Sulu smoothed his tunic then climbed the stairs and stepped into the lift. "Sickbay." He stated to the controls. He waited patiently then stepped out when the lift's doors opened. He entered sickbay and went directly to Chapel's office. "You wanted to see me?"

She stood. "I have discovered something interesting." She moved into the main room, tapping in the sequence that she was looking at earlier. "Since the mission, I've had the crew report back here for a scan ever two days. I thought something would show eventually."

"Did it?"

"Sure. Not sure what it is, but this morning during the scans, everyone complained about dreams they were having."

"The point?" Sulu clasped his hands at his back. He wasn't going to get his hopes up yet! "Everyone dreams.."

"But they haven't since that mission. The eight of them started last night." She leaned against the desk and grinned. "The other crewman from the base. I've had the doctor there mirror all of my testing. He contacted me earlier about it."

"And this means...?"

"For all of them to be affected to this point, it has to be something that happened while on the shuttle." She cleared her throat. "My suggestion is to start questioning them again. Their answers may be different."

Sulu nodded. "Set it up. Give me an hour."

"Aye, sir."

Captain Sulu walked into the briefing room that was connected to the sickbay. He sat down with a collection of slates. He sat forward resting his arms on the tabletop. "Starfleet is not satisfied with the answers you have given me. They want me to go through everything again and then question you on certain details."

Burgh sat back. "You are joking?"

"No." He looked to the three faces. "Who wants to go first?"

Margaret Henley sighed. "I will." She poured herself a glass of water that was sitting in the center of the table. She took a breath. "Okay. We were called back to the ship. We had the briefing. We went back into the base and boarded the shuttle."

"Who was there?"

"I was. Commanders Burgh and Isaac. The team from the station. Seven in all."

"No." Burgh looked at her. "There were eight of us."

"Who's missing?" Sulu scribbled something down on the padd.

Burgh started to answer him then closed his mouth without saying anything. He looked from face to face, ending with Sulu. "I don't know." He seemed surprised at the answer.

"Isaac? Is anyone missing?"

"There were eight of us, the shuttle was full."

Maggie nodded. She tapped her fingers on the desk for a bit. "We traveled to the freighter. No problems. Docked. Transferred the supplies then we helped get the core stabilized and we returned to.... no, we had to beam back after the freighter was repaired!" She looked to the others for confirmation. They were both nodding.

"Why did you not bring the shuttle back?" Sulu looked to the faces as the frowns started.

"I don't know. It was damaged somehow." Isaac's frown deepened. He looked to Burgh. "How did it get damaged?" His hands moved into tight fists as the talking continued. "We had drinks with the crew, talking about the pro's and con's to space travel. The usual kind of stuff." He rubbed the back of his neck for a moment. "What were we drinking?"

Burgh shook his head. "Can't think of what it was..." He stretched his legs out, his arm went over the back of the chair and he started to tap on the back of the chair.

"I can't remember having those drinks..." She looked to Isaac, her voice was quiet. "It's like watching a vid. You know it happened but there is no sense of being there!" She held her breath, and then her heart started to beat faster. She frowned as she continued to stare at the two men. "Who did pilot the ship?"

"Rawlings." They stated together.

Sulu looked at the three as they began to frown. He sat forward; he shot a glance at Chapel. She nodded a few times. "Describe him?"

"He was...." Isaac looked to the others. "Shit! I can not remember!"

Sulu cleared his throat. "Tell me about the crew of the freighter."

"I did not like the so-called captain. Miller?" She shivered. "He gave me the creeps. He gave me the once over." She lowered her eyes then raised them, demonstrating the look she had been treated to. "Demeaning. You would think he had never seen a female before!"

Sulu looked to her. "Why didn't you mention this before?"

Margaret shrugged. "I really don't know."

Isaac's started to softly knock on the desktop. "The rest seemed to be your run of the mill freighter crew. A little slack in discipline, standard uniforms not spit and polish. They seem to know what they were doing...."

"Yea." Burgh's hand tapped a little faster on the chair back. "The crew from the base seemed to know one or two of them. They were friendly." He looked to Maggie. "They did seem to have a preoccupation with Mags, but that was only after she started... shouting at them...." He frowned. "What were you so angry about?"

Mags looked confused for a minute. "Angry about? Nothing. I don't even remember shouting at anyone."

Christine Chapel was making notes as fast as they could be spoken. There were a lot of changes in their stories.... too many. "How were you feeling while you were aboard the Select?"

Isaac sat forward as he shifted in his chair. "Okay, I guess."

"A little hung over from the dinner." Burgh grinned. The others nodded agreement.

Sulu felt the tension that was beginning in them. "Let's take a break." He sat back. "Chris, contact the base. Talk to the medical staff there and suggest that they question Lieutenant Commander Ray Maggon and the engineering crew that went over. If they give you any problems, let me know. Let's say, two hours from now..."

The group nodded or stated their agreements then headed out.

Sulu called Maggie. "You said Mr. Am'ath was on hiatus on Vulcan. For how long?"

Maggie thought about it. "I don't remember her stating how long she would be away."

"That's not like her."

"No, sir, it isn't." It had Maggie thinking now. She headed out of the briefing room trying to remember the conversation she had with her about the leave.

Sulu waited until the door closed, leaving Chapel and himself alone. "Something happened."

"Looks like it did." She spoke softly. She had been racking her brains trying to think of the possible causes for this.

"I don't like this." He felt that knot in his stomach tighten and that sinking feeling hit him.

"Neither do I."

"Called Starfleet Medical?"

"Put a call into Captain McCoy this morning."

"I'm suggesting that Mr. Sencus join us later."

"Good idea."

Neither of them looked at the other as they were talking. They were both getting the feeling that they would not like what they were about to discover.

"I'll be in my office."

Sulu nodded. He sat down slowly as Dr. Chapel headed out. He looked down at his notes. "Don't like this at all."


"There is some indication in her demeanour that tells me that she, honestly, does not know who she is or what she is doing here. It has been a month since her arrival and only a few days since... she has been able to move around unaided. She has weight to gain and the scaring according to the medical reports is minimal and can be eliminated at a future date.

"Sh'rien has kept her under observation and feels that her physical recovery will be complete. It appears to be guesswork as to the degree of recoverable memories. She appears to be handling the situation, perhaps a little too easily.

"I can not help but wonder at how I would react if the situation were reversed. If I had no past and no future, would I be aware of who my enemies were? Would I instinctively know whom to trust? Would I base it on the way I was treated? Surely some degree of trust is assumed if someone is cared for in a protective manner. And if that trust is breached, how will one react to the dishonour?"

Commander Rahl closed the frequency. He leaned back; his fingers tapped his lips as he thought of the possibility of what he was going to propose. It was going to be the biggest risk in his career. If he were found out, it would mean his death. Conspiring with the enemy was not going to be appreciated by High Command if.... and that was the key, if, he were to be found out.

There was a tapping on the door. "Come."

Sh'rien entered with a computer slate in his hand. "Well, I have the figures. It is possible. With the transfusions, it would take about a year. She would be genetically close enough to pass for a Romulan/Vulcan hybrid." He sat in the seat opposite Rahl. He tossed the slate onto the desk. "I hope you know what you are doing. You are putting yourself in a very precarious situation. One that may not work. She may not want it."

"She will choose."

"Does she really have a choice?"

Rahl did not answer him right away. He reached into one of the drawers; he pulled out a scrap of fabric then another computer slate labeled with Human script. "She will know who she is supposed to be, before I suggest the alternative."

"And if she chooses to remain as a Federation member?" He looked to his friend's face; there was a battle within himself. This interest in the female had begun shortly after she became conscious. He had heard it in Rahl's voice when they started talking.

"Then... I will deal with it."

"Five years from now... if she..."

"Do you know what you will be doing or saying five years from now?" Rahl sighed then looked to the ceiling. "Sh'rien, you and I have traveled the Empire together for just over thirty years. We do not have a high position. We do not have anything to look forward to in our old age." He smiled. "I do not go to the recreational hiatus because I derive no pleasure from it any longer. I want more than just someone to warm the bed for one night."

"We are secure in our positions."

"We used to be assigned to only the best of the fighting vessels, Sh'rien. The only reason you were able to operate on her is because of all the battles we have been in. I am not proud of everything in my career, some of it was done because we were young and we knew no better." Rahl stood and looked out the window. "I am due to join her for a walk in the gardens. Care to join us?"

Sh'rien shook his head. "Be careful."

"I will be." Rahl picked up the cloth and the slate and dropped them into his pants pocket. He stopped beside Sh'rien, his hand rested on the other's shoulder. "Keep this between us. Few of the others know she survived."

Sh'rien nodded.

Rahl headed out and then down the hallway towards his private suite of rooms and to the room that had been prepared for her. The personal guard unlocked the door as Rahl approached. "You can take your meal."

"As you command." The officer bowed his head slightly then headed off towards the dining area.

Rahl slid the door open after knocking. His eyes went directly to the bed, but she was not there. He looked to the large comfortable armchair that he had moved for her, only yesterday. She was reading. "You are well enough for that walk?"

Her head bowed. The reader was turned off and placed on the side table. Her hand flipped the cover off then stood and folded it. She wore the bodysuit of a Romulan officer; the tall boots went up to her thighs. She did not wear an officer's tunic; instead she reached to the heavy cape that he had found for her. She found the temperature on this world, cool and due to her recovery, found it difficult to adapt to this weather.

Rahl had provided her with this room, a bed with plenty of covers. A reader with a seemingly endless supply of Romulan reading materials. A brush, mirror, night clothes and uniforms. That was all he could obtain for the present without arousing suspicion. She was restricted to this room and a guard was at the door at all times.

She had sensed a reservation about him, in that, she had not remembered much more than she had the day she awoke. She followed Rahl as they walked down the long corridor then he tapped in the coding to open the door. She moved past him then waited for him as he locked the door. She had been up and around, without assistance for only two days now. This walk was suggested as a change of scenery and exercise.

Rahl moved to the small gate then opened it to reveal a pathway. He slowed his pace to accommodate her. "There is a spot that you can look out into the valley. A calming sight." He looked up in the sky as the cry of the bird was heard. "It is a bird of prey. We call them Hunters. They appear to be native to this world... If they are caught when they are young, they make an excellent meal."

She shuddered at the thought. "Vulcans are habitually vegetarian." She was surprised at the statement, yet it felt right. There had been many statements or thoughts that she had experienced that seemingly came out of the air, but she sensed a truth to them.

"I meant no disrespect. It was conversation only."

"How long have you been stationed here?"

"Too long." Rahl sighed. "It had been just over six years. Too long for a warrior to remain out of battle." He stopped then turned down the adjoining path. The pathways were lined with small dense bushes. Small flowers of all colors grew on them. They came to an opening with a bench, he suggested that they sit for a bit. "There is no reason for you to become overtired."

She sat down drawing the cloak tighter around herself. He sat beside her and turned slightly to face her. "It is a most interesting view." She looked out over the expanse of the blue grass and the blue-green variegated trees. The bird he had pointed out earlier swooped down then headed for the lake.

"It appears that he will be eating fish tonight." He smiled slightly as she nodded. It was obvious the notion of eating fish bothered her as well. "I have been known to sit here for hours." Rahl closed his eyes and enjoyed the warmth on his face. "You have not remembered any more?"

"No." She felt a shiver of discomfort. This situation was a most awkward one. She did not know what to talk about, she had little to relate to and she was uncertain of her future. When a subject was brought up, many times she had knowledge of it, where it was learned was uncertain. Could one have a future without a past? How do you know which direction to turn, if you do not know where you have begun?

He reached into his pocket and pulled out the piece of fabric. He knew what it was and what it represented but he needed to know if she did. "This was found in the wreckage." He left it spread out on his palm, offering it to her. He watched her face; there was a flicker of something in her face then she looked to him.

"It is a rank insignia."

He nodded, not adding any information.

"I assume it is mine."


"Because it is familiar." Her fingers ran over the pin and the connected fabric. A flash of recall informed her that it was part of the sleeve. She placed it just above her opposite wrist. "It belongs here." She spoke softly.

Rahl rested his ankle on the opposite knee. He smoothed his hand along the polished surface of his boot. "Do you know the rank?"

She shook her head.

"Your name?"

She paused. "No.

"Can you be trusted?"

"I do not know. I can only offer my word that I will speak to no one of this conversation."

He pulled out the computer slate. "The manifest for the equipment you carried in the shuttle."

"I will take your word." She looked to the officer. "If we are enemies I am not aware of this except in the manner that I have been confined."

"There is only two Vulcan names on it. One is Sencus."

"That is a name one would assign to a male."

"How do you know?"

"It is a sense of what is.... a truth."


"If I am to assume that I was the only female, then I would assume that it would be my name."

He reached into the pocket of his tunic and pulled out a printout. "This is how it is written."

She took the 'paper' from him. She turned the sheet around. "It appears familiar as the fabric does. Her finger traced the scrolled word. "House of S'harien." She looked to him. "You have doubts about my lack of memory."

"Yes, I do." He continued to absently caress the warm leather like fabric of his boot. "I have not been out of touch so long as to forget how the enemy can behave." He wrapped his hand around his ankle.

"In that statement I am to assume that I am your enemy?" There was not one bit of hesitation within her. Not one bit of mistrust or caution about this man. "Or am I being used to become an enemy?"

Rahl smiled then laughed. "That thought had not occurred to me!" He looked out to the scenery, it was a warm day but there was a cool breeze. His assumption of her intelligence was not misplaced. "Shall we continue?" He stood.

"As you wish, Commander." She slipped the fabric and the paper into the inside pocket of the cape. She lifted the hood and walked with Rahl down the path.

The path took them into a wooded area; Rahl stopped in the center of the opening. He looked up through the opening in the branches. "I will bring you out here one night. The stars are quite a sight. When the weather chances, there is a ribbon of color that weaves a path across the sky. I have called it a fire curtain." He looked to her for a moment, she did not seem too interested in the sight but she was listening. He paused as he searched her eyes for any deception. "I can offer you a different future."

"Different than what?" She took a few steps then turned to face him. "I remember nothing of my past. How could I possibly have an alternate future?"

"I know you are of the Federation. Vulcan. No doubt highly trained. You were alone in the vessel; you have the skills to pilot these crafts. Your ranking was Lieutenant Commander." He took a breath as he considered his words. "If you wish to make a future here, there is a way."

"With you?" She stated the obvious.

Rahl nodded then looked to the ground. "I have spent my life alone, I want to have some one to share what is left."

"My memory. What happens if it returns."

"It will be dealt with as you choose to deal with it." Rahl cleared his throat. "Perhaps even after you remember, you will choose to remain."

"How am I to be explained?" She tried smiling at him slightly. It felt... strange. This officer had been nothing but amenable to her. There was no reason not to trust what he said, unless of course it was all a carefully planned-out deception.

"There is a faction of society, the Ancients, Romulans that are genetically guided to have the features of Vulcans. It was a fad at one point, returning to the beginning and such." He had not even so much as touched her hand yet. He had been hesitant because of all the stories he had heard about a Vulcan's mental abilities. "The wreckage has not been reported yet. You could be introduced as my courtesan or my consort. Whichever pleases you. You will be expected to be intelligent and look the way you do." He crossed his arms over his chest, one hand lifted as he tapped his lips. "Your name need not change except to add a private name and possibly my name to yours. The prefix must not be used. That is not Romulan."

"Tradition." She nodded. "A most logical solution." She considered the idea. She had no past that could be recalled. She had knowledge of skills yet no recollection of learning them. She had no where else to go. She had no reason to mistrust Commander Rahl and no reason to trust either. If she were returned to Federation space, whom would she contact? Who would know? Was there anyone that cared? "Tradition, as I have read, dictates a time frame?"

"It is up to the individuals. The consort will often visit to curb the wanderlust that young men suffer from."

"And you are no longer... young?" She was teasing, playing her part? Seeing how it would feel within herself. Could she manage the deception? She had no idea at his age or of his importance in the grand scheme of things.

"I am not in my prime." He smiled as he looked to her from the corner of his eye. "But I am not useless."

She smiled for a moment. "As consort, it would be expected that I would possess some knowledge of you. Perhaps it would be simpler to serve as your courtesan for a period of time." She spoke with the sound of Vulcan logic. She moved to stand more in his line of vision. "As either, it is a comfort to know that that an intended mate is not.... useless." She tilted her head as she waited for his response. If this were to be the beginning he offered to her then that is what she would work with. Without reference points for behaviour or customs that she should follow, she would have to rely on his word and her instincts.

Rahl laughed. Not in the mild fashion he had used earlier but a full laugh. It brought tears to his eyes and an aching to his face. He looked to her as he wiped the tears from his eyes. She could at least smile. He had not felt this alive in a very long time! He smoothed his tunic as he took a final deep calming breath. He also recalled Sh'rien's words to take care.

He held out his hand to her. "Come, Am'ath, there are arrangements that must be made to plan your introduction. I report to command, in person, in a week. You will accompany me, it will seem the natural course of our relationship." He held his breath as her hand moved into his, he squeezed it lightly then kissed the back. "You will not regret your choice, My Lady."

They continued along the path, talking about the arrangements that would have to be put into place. A past life for her, how they met and their future plans. He spoke of how he would take her to a near-by-trading world to obtain appropriate clothing and anything else she required.

Am'ath followed. Her heart was not in this as of yet, but there was little else to plan for. She had also considered the fact that if she did not accept his offer, it would mean that she would be treated as a Federation captive. She held no Federation secrets that she could recall and it was logical to assume that she would not survive an interrogation. Life was always a logical and preferable choice over death.


"Captain!" Chapel had used her medical override to enter the Captain's quarters. She had already signaled twice and did not get a response. She knew he would not object to this intrusion when he learned the reason. She hesitated before stepping into his sleep area... What if he wasn't alone? She hadn't thought of that! "Captain Sulu!" She'd apologize profusely later! She reached the bed then tapped his shoulder. "Captain, I have found something..."

"Christine..?" He sighed as he turned over. "I am not awake yet." He sat up, supported with one arm; his hand ran through his hair for some semblance of neatness. He adjusted the covers for his comfort and looked to the doctor. "This had better be good!"

She smiled warmly. "I'll get you a tea." She moved to the servitor and called up a hot cup of green tea for him and a coffee for her. "McCoy contacted me. He suggested a certain series of blood tests that I had really thought would be a long shot. I mean really out-there type of long shot."

"They weren't?" He sipped on the tea, beginning to wake up. He held in the comments and hid his amusement as Chris sat on the foot of his bed. She was oblivious to his state of undress for the moment. The urgency of the situation made it acceptable and understandable that she would be here.

"No, not at all! I had seen this in the lab reports before but had attributed it to the stimulant residue. McCoy reminded me of the actual use of this drug. It was banned about forty years ago, he remembered it because during his internship, he had worked with some of the 'victims' of its use." She took a breath. "It was used to erase the memories of criminals." She waited for his reaction, it didn't take long.

Sulu's eyes locked hers; his face slowly showed just how much he had understood! "I suppose this stuff is obtainable in the Black Market?"

"You guessed it."


"No, but it can be stopped. That is, it can be neutralized so that the memory does not degrade any more. All of them have showed some evidence of forgetting trivial things. But it's the forgetting that was the key, that McCoy noticed." She sighed. "The bad news is that... if it is used on Vulcans, the prognosis is not good. It can cause a form of amnesia. Sometimes irreversible."

Sulu took a very deep breath. He still felt that connection to her! He still knew she was alive! He sipped on the tea as he considered the ramifications of this. "You realize what this means..?"

Chapel nodded. "You say it first...."

"Starfleet personnel have caused premeditated physical harm to another...." He looked down into the cooling tea. There wasn't much left, he drank it. "We have to notify Command."

Chapel nodded. "I have the lab working on the neutralizer now. Should be ready soon. McCoy said within a twenty-four hour period there should be evidence of the memory correcting. Backtracking will help as well as what we have been doing. Questioning the events."

"Why the false memories?"

"To cover what was actually done. They would have to give them memory to cover the time frame that was to be forgotten. But they have remembered some already. It's possible that if one of them remembers one thing, another remembers what happened next, we may get all the information that way."

Sulu nodded. "Contact the base, get the crew and the medical officer over here. We have to solve this."

Chapel nodded, then realized that Sulu was still sitting in the bed. "So, call Command... what are you waiting for?"

Sulu gestured for her to lean closer. He grinned slightly, then spoke in lowered tones. "Chris, I have no objections to having a female CMO. But I draw the line when she's sitting in my bed and expects me to get up and I am naked under here...."

Chris sat up slowly, she nodded then stood. "Sorry, sir. Just got carried away with this information." She covered the grin that was starting then apologized again. "I will be in sickbay..." She headed out then stopped just before the doorway, Sulu was just about to flip the covers off but he stopped and looked at her.


"Just wanted to let you know that if I had seen anything I hadn't before.... I would have shot it."

Sulu sat back with a patient sigh. "Christine.... I am not sure how comforting that is?"

"Okay." She smiled then headed out, feeling much better about things than she had in a long time!


The factual events had finally been revealed, thanks to the neutralizer. The source had even been found on the starbase and that situation was being dealt with as well! Days after the discrepancies began; none of them had even imagined the true nature of the deception. This would be a definite black mark on Starfleet if it weren't handled properly.

Maggie sat in the same chair she had for the past four days. She had finished with the tears and the anger and the arguments of hindsight. She sighed then looked to Captain Sulu. "Now, what do we do?"

"Prepare a report to Starfleet. A copy will proceed it to Dr. McCoy, as well as Captain Spock. These are individuals that I can trust to see that this is followed through on correctly." He looked at the faces that surrounded the table. The group now had included the engineering crew from the station. They had traveled over four days ago along with their CMO. "We will more than likely be called in from duty for the inquiry. All of this will have to be discussed more times than you have already. Be prepared." He sighed. "All of you are on leave for the next two days. Relax. That's an order."

"Aye, sir." Maggie grinned slightly.

"You are dismissed. Mr. Burgh, would you show the Base crew to the guest quarters. No point in staying in sickbay any longer. Do remember though, if any of you have any problems, see the CMO immediately. Even a headache I want on record."

Nods and answers came from everyone.


Captain Hikaru Sulu looked up from the report he had just finished. It had taken him most of the night to write it out and he sat back with a sigh. He reached to the brandy and finished it. Rubbing his eyes and yawning as the door chime sounded. "Enter." He even sounded tired. He turned the chair to face his visitor. "Mr. Henley?"

"Captain. I wanted to ask you about something but you're tired and it can wait." She smiled then turned to leave.

"Mr. Henley." He stood and walked around the desk, he leaned on the edge. "What is it?"

She returned to stand in front of him. "I received a posting for different quarters...." She took a breath and held it for a second. "Do you not think she's alive? Have you declared her M.I.A?"

Sulu shook his head. "No. It's the usual change in quarters issued when you are promoted. She requested specific criteria for her quarters and stated to me that there was no rush. I had forgotten...." He sighed. "Do you want new quarters?"

"What happens to her things?"

"Storage. They'll be packed and stored the way we usually do for..."

"Crew that have died?" She wanted to take the words back; she saw the hurt on his face. "Sorry, sir. It just fell out." She looked to the flooring then back to her command officer.

"It's something that I am reminded about every day. It's part of my daily reports. After a certain time frame it is automatic. Today, Mr. Am'ath officially is listed as missing in action." Sulu gestured for Maggie to sit in the armchair. He moved to the one facing her. "I understand how close you were to her. I also understand that you are feeling a great deal of guilt concerning her disappearance."

"I just get this impression that I could have done something to change the outcome."

"If I had not put her on that assignment, it would not have happened."

"But you were assigning her because she was the best for the job?"

Sulu nodded. "Nothing could have been done about this. It wasn't something we expected at all. "He took a deep breath, his body wanted to relax and sleep, he had too much to still do. "She's alive."

Maggie smiled then nodded. "Understood, sir. Positive thinking."

"No. Fact." Sulu looked to the doubt on her face, he hadn't meant to blurt it out like that. He realized that he had to share this with someone! Who better than her 'sister-friend'?

"How would you know?" She titled her head as she began to guess at his 'facts'. She looked to his eyes. "Something happened after the dinner. You did not escort her straight to the ship?"

"No." Sulu smiled slightly. "We went for a walk in the garden and we talked."

"Just talked?" She had heard the rumors of Sulu's conquests and something had told her that most of them were just that... rumors. Now as to his ability at winning Am'ath's confidence, he was quite capable and charming enough to do it. "Somehow I doubt it..."

His hands moved together, fingers wrapping around the other hand. He looked at the hands together and remembered... a Vulcan's kiss. "We both discovered that our feelings were more than shipmates and that we wanted more.."

"I knew it...!" She grinned, propped her head up and shook it. "That Vulcan is so tight lipped..." She smiled as she thought of the conversation they would have about this! She was pleased. "I call her Athy. She hates it! I mean really hates it!" A little laugh bubbled out for a second then her face went stoic. "Did you form a link with her?"

Sulu nodded. "She described it as not quite a betrothal. I would know, as she does, that we live and when..." He took a sudden breath! He had not thought of this before. He felt the tears prick at his eyes. What would he do if he felt her.... die? He held the breath then let it out slowly. He wiped his eyes, keeping them hidden as he found the control he needed.

"She taught you that too...?"

"Command laid the ground work. Her methods sharpened my skills that are no where near hers!" He lifted his face to Maggie. "No one can know about the link to her."

"Dr. Chapel should know."


"In case..." She swallowed, she couldn't say it either but she had thought of this possibility a lot more than Sulu had. "We had a sharing link. I could have conversations with her and sense how she felt." Her voice softened. "I will know when she dies because I have felt her injuries before. I didn't feel anything this time but it could have been because of the drug."

Sulu nodded as he silently chose not to tell her what may have happened to their Vulcan friend if she was exposed to the drug. "Keep the present quarters if you want. We have a few spare quarters yet." He leaned back into the chair. "We will find her. The report is going out to Command as soon as I kick you out and then I am getting some shut-eye."

Maggie stood. "You'll let me know?"

"Sure. You'll be among the first to know."

"That you sir." She turned to leave then stopped. "Let me know if anything else is...."

"I will." Sulu shooed her out with a grin. He sighed after the door closed. He turned the monitor screen towards him. "Communications."

"Rand here."

"Janice. There's file on my station. It is to be sent to Command. It is to be tagged with a double urgent and encrypted. To be read immediately upon receipt. Copies to Captains McCoy and Spock."

"Aye, sir. Do you want me to wake you when I receive the response?"

"Yes. From any of them. I'll be in my... I'll be here."

"Understood, Captain. Rand out."

Sulu closed the circuit then headed for the comfort of the couch and a once shared cover. It held her scent still, faintly. He had wrapped her in it while the room warmed up for her. He closed his eyes and sleep took him.


"Check-mate." Rahl sat back in the chair, placing his arms on the chair's armrests. "Your game is off tonight?"

"I have found my thoughts to be pre-occupied." The Vulcan female lifted the glass of Romulan ale to her lips and drank it down. It helped her sleep. To chase away the shadows that had invaded her dreams. She said nothing as he filled her glass again; her fingertip went around the rim after he finished.

He had noted that she was increasing her consumption of the ale the last few days. "You are enjoying the ale?" He watched as she drained half the glass then licked the slight foam that remained on her lips. "Do monitor the consumption of it, it is said to arouse the ancient passions..."

"It should be remembered that one must have knowledge of the ancient passions before they can be aroused, Commander." She pushed the glass aside as it occurred to her that perhaps she was enjoying the euphoria a little too much. Her finger ran along the carvings on the arm. "Is this the normal quality of workmanship?" She looked to the furnishings as if seeing them for the first time.

"It is the norm for the outer regions. Older craftsmanship." He ran his hand along the familiar but neglected wood. "I prefer it."

"I will note it for future reference." She reached to the glass of ale and drank another mouthful. "Another game?"

"Would you prefer a walk under the stars?" He did not wish to remain seated any longer. He would be leaving her to go on patrol in the morning. They had been to the trade center, obtaining new clothing for her and supplies for the compound. Am'ath of S'harien, First daughter of Tal, had been introduced to his command on their return. The few officers that had seen her had been trusted to keep the secret of her true nature.

"A short one perhaps. I am finding the nights damp." She had taken down the warm lined cloak, wrapped it around her shoulders then closed the clasp.

"On Romulus, we will find warmer clothing for you." He followed her through the door then matched her stride as they headed down the corridor. A touch on her shoulder stopped her, he stuck his head in the office and informed his officer, S'kar, that they would be outside if needed.

They headed outside, into the darkness. He reached to her hand and held it as they made their way down the path. A familiar habit of late and threatening to stop if he did not find warmer clothes for her. "I am looking forward to introducing you around..." He slowed his pace as they came to the usual path through the woods. "Most will be quite envious of my possession of you." He smiled.

"You do not possess me." She interjected, unsure of the reason. She moved her hand from his, tucking it under the cape's warmth. He said nothing.

He took a deep breath of the cool air; he did not know what was bothering her. He had run into her room twice in as many nights because of her screams and tears while she slept. Dr. Sh'rien cautioned her that her memories may have begun to surface. He had cautioned him not to press the matter in the least. He had discovered that Romulans had learned all they could about the Federation for a time and he did not think it worth to give over another Federation life to further the cause.

He continued along the path, she followed him. Rahl turned to face her so suddenly she almost bumped into him. "Can you not allow some degree of role playing...?"

"You wish a puppet?"

"No." He answered too fast. "That is not what I desire."

"What do you desire, Commander Rahl?" She turned from him slightly, not understanding her own snippiness lately. She had begun the 'treatments' of altering her blood's chemistry and to alter her skin colour. She was not sleeping well. She turned back to his silence, her eyes meeting his unsure if she wanted to hear the answer or not.

He wet his lips, opened his mouth to answer her but decided against it. He started down the path they had taken every day for the passed month. He knew she would follow. He could hear her footfalls behind him and was becoming uncomfortably aware of exactly what his desires were becoming. He kept the thoughts to himself for now.

The double moons were both high in the sky and cast a red hue over most of the scenery. He stopped at a lookout. There was a stone bench and a waist level stone railing that followed the contour of the precipice. He rested his hands around the cold stone as he looked out over the valley. She moved to sit on the bench, he could tell from the rustling of the fabrics she wore. Even this regular activity had taken on a different meaning to him. No one could see or hear them here. They could speak freely out hear without having to be concerned they were being overheard.

There was a long contemplative silence.

"What I desire, Mistress Am'ath, can not be obtained in Romulan Empire." He looked out to the scenery that lay in night shadows before him. Off in the distance, he could see the lake, just a sliver of it. He listened to the quiet that descended over the compound at night. The diminishing sounds of his soldiers preparing for sleep and duty. The sounds of the nocturnal animals that were beginning to awaken. He turned to face her, leaning against the railing. "What do you desire?"

"My past." She held the cape tightly around her.

"And if you find it, what will you do then?" He spoke softly, trying not to disturb the quiet.

"Return to it." She stated as if it should have been a fore-gone conclusion. Her eyes tracked a small animal as it scurried from one bush to another. "If I am permitted to...." Her eyes moved up to his face.

"We have spoken of this before." He folded his arms across his chest, one ankle crossed over the other as he leaned against the railing. "Have you not noticed that the Romulans here do not have the facial ridges?"

"It had been noted." She had seen an information recording of events on the Homeworld; she had asked him about these individuals. "Your explanation does not seem valid. Why would someone that is less than perfect, be left to monitor the border between the Federation and the Empire."

"Because we are expendable. We are of the old Romulans. The ones that wished even an unspoken but understood truce with the Federation. A trust perhaps. Mostly, because the loss of lives did not seem to matter. They were still there. We will not leave. We are not the ones that were chosen for the alterations. The rejects?" He sighed. "I am no longer one of the Empire's elite." He wondered why he was bothering to explain this to her. Sympathy for his position? A reason for her to want to stay with him? He wasn't sure. "Have your dreams stopped?" He met her eyes. "I thought not." He looked up to the night sky for a moment. "You cry at night. Did you know that?"

"No." She lowered her eyes, a part of her uncomfortable with these shadow dreams. She knew she would have to meditate to control her emotions.... she had remembered that shortly after the operation.

"You mumble in Vulcan. Most of which I can not translate."

She stood and turned from him, she understood that this could be a problem if the wrong individual over heard it.

"I will make a list the next time, you can translate them for me. There is one that has a sound to it that intrigues me."

"And the word is..?" She did not comfortable with the notion of translating for him, her shadows.

"T'hy'la." He noticed her stance straighten, if at all possible!

"A private word." She paused, licked her lips. "It is a word that has many meanings. A friend. A sister or brother by choice. A lover. It is one that shares."

He accepted it in silence. She had seemed remote the last day or so. "Do you wish to go back in?"

"No." Her voice had softened.

"I remain out here many nights. I find this peaceful. Occasionally, the fresh air helps me sort through matters I have no immediate answers for." He looked to the worn path that led into the woods. His private place. "Come." He took her hand and guided her behind the bench then along the narrow path. The pathway twisted then stopped and opened into a small clearing. He stopped and held her shoulders. "Come sit with me." He crossed his ankles and lowered himself to the ground. He was pleased when she followed. "I wish to ask something of you..."

"I can not promise anything more than my attention." She wondered about this male most of her waking hours. She had learned what she could by studying traditions and the Romulan ways of life. She had spoken to Sh'rien concerning Rahl's personality. She had learned a great deal from just being with him but both of them were cautious.

"Tell me something that will make me understand you as no other does." He leaned forward slightly, his arms resting on his folded legs, almost a meditative pose.

She allowed his gentle caress on her hand. "I know nothing of myself that we have not learned together..."

"There must be something!" He sat up; maybe part of the problem was that he had no conception of what it would be like to not know all about the face that stared back from the mirror.

She looked up to the sky and began to feel lost again. She had never felt this before! She had the sense that she had always known where or what she was before this! Her eyes closed as the panic and fear began to surface. She felt the tears well up in her eyes then spill down her face. She jumped at his touch then settled as his arms moved protectively around her.

"I had not meant to upset you." He spoke softly, close to her ear. "I wanted a friendship and for another to share in the pleasures of life." He held her tightly as he felt her body tense. "I wanted to share this with you. My private place. When weather permits, I have even slept out here staring at the stars...." He laughed lightly. "Thankfully, no one else has found me. They think I stand out here and think great thoughts..." He inhaled suddenly and held the breath. "I wish I had taken the time to find one that could share my life with me. I have missed that most of all...." He leaned back against the tree directly behind him; his arms still around her. He adjusted his position so she could lean into him more. "Have you ever swam in a lake before?"


He barely heard her. He smiled as he began to tell her of the last time he had managed to get away from all of this and indulged. "I did so the last time, at night." There was silence for a time. "I had managed to rid myself of most of the personnel with a leave. I walked to the lake, stripped off my uniform and dove in. I remained there for hours." He heard himself sigh. "Perhaps next time, you could...." He stopped mid-sentence as he realized how silly this sounded. Cautiously, he asked her another question. "Do you recall if you have a mate?"

She sat up and stared at him then looked away. She searched her thoughts for the branding that happened during a Vulcan bonding.... she sensed something. But it was not a bonding. It was not a strong emanation...? "I do not find the evidence of one.... but there is something." She frowned slightly as she looked back to him.

He felt a shiver of relief go through him. He lifted his hand and rested it on her shoulder. "To be alone... is not a desirable thing."

"No, it is not." She watched as his hand moved down her arm, reaching into her cape to hold her hand.

"How much have our races changed over the century?" He held her hand gently. "There is an old tale of the Ancients being driven to take a mate. To engage in combat for one another..."

"... to mate or die." She finished his thought, softly, as her eyes met his. "It is the Way of Vulcans. The Ancients, before the Reform, would mate or challenge a fight until death."

Rahl's eyes were wide. "It is not a myth?"

Her head shook. "In the Ancient times, before the Reform when the Seheik left. There were few battles still fought for mates." She slipped her hand from his slowly. "There are many that still believe this. If Vulcans release themselves from the Logic of Control that it would be as it was. That one would fight to the death to satisfy the lust that was felt among them. To control the Passions is of paramount importance, that is what brings about the Pon farr... the suppression of the Drive, becomes too great."

"I have read about it." He was definitely interested in the theories. "Pon farr, it translates as the mating fire?"

"No. Mating time." She wondered where all this information stemmed from. "Plak tow is the blood fever." It was there! Yet as she searched for more memories... there were none. She did not feel uncomfortable about discussing this, as she had been when she spoke to...? There was someone! The image of the face drifted from her thoughts too quickly to retain the image, just a sense of someone. She frowned. "I have not experienced this."

He smiled as he stretched out on his side in front of her; his head propped up with one hand. "It is rumored to be something one does not forget." He watched her eyes. "It is said to have been bred out of the Romulan people. Now, one needs aphrodisiacs to mate."

Her head tilted. "Really?"

"To experience the fire." He lifted a leaf and turned the stem in his fingers. The leaf spun in front of his face a few times as he considered the conversation, and then he tossed it away. "I will never experience this!" He sounded resigned to the fact. He looked to the trees around him and slowly rolled onto his back. "To not be a Commander would be... different."

"Then what would your occupation be?" He held her interest with this obvious game.

He laughed as he covered his eyes with his arm. He had missed seeing her smile.

"What would it be?"

He had settled from the laughter as he felt her lift his arm from across his eyes. She was leaning towards him, his hand lifted to the back of her neck and pulled her down to him as he answered. "To be of service..." His lips touched hers, softly at first then his other arm wrapped around her. The kiss deepened as he pulled her on top of him. He felt no resistance to this, yet there was no..... joining in. He guided her head to rest on his shoulder. "Stay for a moment, Am'ath... I do not think I can face you yet.... or listen to your logical reprimands." His body ached to hold her closer.

Rahl's hand moved from her, she moved from him without a word. They turned from each other and the silence around them was deafening.


The door to the closet was closed and after a breath, the security seal was pressed on the closure. She took a deep breath then moved to the dresser. The few items were placed in the top drawer and the security guard lay the seal against the length. He looked around the room at the articles still out. He pointed to the chest that sat above the bed on the shelf.

"How about the rest of the articles. We are supposed to seal the quarters totally."

"I know." She looked around the room. Can we compromise and just place it in her foot locker?"

"Sure, as long as it can be locked." He looked to the tall ornate statue. "How about that? What is it?" He touched the damp stone that held what looked like ashes. He looked under it then to Margaret Henley; she was just closing the locker and keying the lock.

"It's a firepot. The statue represents a god that was worshipped in the Time before the Reform. Am'ath would burn incense in it every day when she would meditate. No one will take it." Maggie sighed. "Couldn't you just seal the entrance to her side and leave it at that?"

He shrugged. "I wouldn't mind, but I am not sure about my orders..."

"Check with Commander Mordred and let me know. I will keep my door locked and believe me that no one else ever comes in here." She grinned. She reached to the dress tunic and left the Vulcan's side of her quarters. She waited as the door, that was never closed, was closed and sealed. "Thanks, Ray."

"No problem." He looked around satisfied with the job he had done. He pulled out a small padd from his belt then handed Mags a stylus. "I need you to just sign, proof that we have put things away safely. I understand why you don't want this packed up..." He offered her a weak grin.

"Thanks again." She looked to the time. "I have to meet Captain Sulu in the docking bay. The decision of the Board of Inquiry is today." She slipped on her tunic then sealed the opening and fastened the belt. She followed the security guard out then locked the door. She tapped the door. "First time that lock's been used in years."

Lt. Raymond Batters frowned.

"Vulcans don't lock doors." She headed off down the corridor to the lift.


The room was monotone. Starfleet grays, beiges and browns. It was large with rows of seating that seemed to be too many right now. The long polished table, which sat at one end of the room, was slightly raised and offered the only color to the room. Even the burgundy dress tunics seemed only to add to the somber mood. The room had been very quiet as the officers filed in. Commander Sencus, Captain Sulu, Lieutenant Commander Henley, Commanders Burgh, Rand and Dr. Chapel moved into place.

Christine Chapel had brought the usual med-kit with her, just in case. She had no idea how Captain Sulu or Margaret Henley would react to whatever was decided today. She felt a touch on her hand and turned to face Dr. McCoy. She smiled and held back the urge to hug him and asking him to make it all work, just like he used to for the crew of the Enterprise. Her fingers returned the touch then sat down.

Two weeks of statements had been made by the individuals involved and revealed the problems that had to be dealt with. Ones that everyone knew was out there but refused to believe it had entered the ranks of Starfleet with such violence as this! Eyes looked to one another asking the unspoken questions, asking silently if this was going to be the end of it and each of them knowing it wasn't. All of them waiting for the three officers that would make the decision as to whether or not they slept peacefully tonight.

The side door opened, the properly attired officers of the U.S.S Select walked in under guard. One assigned to each prisoner and they filed into the spot reserved for them. The armed military guards stood unmoving behind each charge. The faces of the prisoners seemed deceptively calm.

The opposite door opened, Admirals Fred Conners, Rebecca Jackson and Bertram Marks entered and took their places at the bench, everyone stood. There was a rustling of papers, slates stacked and soft whispers as they settled into place. Admiral Conners announced that everyone could be seated.

"Amazing how noisy that could be." Henley whispered to Captain Sulu.

He nodded; his hand clenched and unclenched trying to calm himself. Too many things had to be admitted to today. Too many decisions had to be made that he did not agree with. Referring her as 'presumed dead' was one. But to admit to 'feeling' her alive was to possibly end his career. He had finally admitted it to Christine last night. He had gone to sickbay for a headache remedy.

Admiral Conners stood; he rang the ship's bell to sound the hour. It was four bells on the forenoon watch or ten hundred hours. He cleared his throat. "This hearing is called to order." He sat down then looked down at the printout in front of him. "The final decision of this court has been reached. The accused will stand as their names are read." He paused. "Captain William Miller. Commander Marc Bond. Commander Roberta Cana. Lieutenant Eric Billings. Lieutenant Michael Visroy." He had met the gaze of each officer as they stood. "Upon hearing the statements and questioning of any and all persons directly and indirectly associated with the incident of the Starbase Eight Six and the aide provided to the U.S.S. Select, on this September 24, 2296 has reached the final decision and sentence pertaining to the following charges." He glanced around the room quickly. "The above named officers charges are as follows, with knowledge and forethought causing bodily harm to the following officers, Commander Ian Burgh, Commander Ryan Isaac, Commander Ray Maggon, Lieutenant Commander Margaret Henley, Lt. Roy Miller and Lt. David Reels. On the Stardate 9507.22, the banned substance 5638 was used with the knowledge of the irreparable damage to the memories of the shuttle crew. Further, that the substance 5638 was used on Lieutenant Commander Am'ath cha'Sholtan, House of S'harien causing possible death. Lieutenant Commander Am'ath has of this date been listed as Missing in Action, presumed dead." He took a breath and glanced towards Captain Sulu, who was taking this very hard. He looked to the impassive faces of the prisoners and shook his head, then continued. "The use of the banned substance was to alter the memories of the witnesses to the xenophobic actions of the Select's crew.

"Upon docking with the Select, the crew moved onto the vessel. When Lieutenant Commander Am'ath began to board, she was forced back into the shuttle and instructed to remain on the shuttle due to her heritage. Numerous racial slurs were made and the remaining shuttle crew found this unacceptable. An argument began and in the confusion, the shuttle crew had been injected with sedatives and subsequently, the substance 5638. Memories were altered as to the actual events that took place and it was not until weeks later that the truth began to surface.

"The Select crew had disengaged the shuttle, beamed a canister of substance 5638 aboard and using the deflector beams, proceeded to push the shuttle into Romulan space. The canister released the chemical in gaseous form. It is unknown, at this time, if Lieutenant Commander Am'ath survived." He paused to take a breath of air and a drink of water. This information was definitely leaving him with a nauseous feeling. He could only imagine what it was doing to Captain Sulu, considering this was about a long-standing member of his bridge crew.

"When the repairs were made, the Select moved out of the asteroid field and then was engaged in battle by a Romulan Bird of Prey, the shuttle was used to protect the Select and it's crew, and in the process was damaged. It is presumed the shuttle crashed with its sole occupant." He took a breath and fought down the nausea that threatened again. He reached for his glass of water and drank half down. "Before I read the sentence, I would like to address the Starfleet personnel here.

"We are all given testing that weed out the worst of the lot as far as xenophobics. From the time we are billeted in the Academy to the duty assignments we are given during our years of service. Sometimes, it does not show until there are encounters with other species. Sometimes, it is developed over time. Bigotry is not dead! It never will be as long as there is a perceived difference between people, down to the color, flavor or sex of any individual. There will always be someone that feels that they have more rights than another individuals. Let's be on the lookout for any evidence of this within our ranks. Talk to the individual. Report it if necessary. Admittedly, there are some that can keep their bigotry to themselves, those are not the individuals I am talking about. The ones that I want to see stopped are the ones that impose their beliefs on others and act on their beliefs. We have come too far to slide back into accepting this type of behavior."

Conners took a breath. "The following actions will be taken against the prisoners.. All honors, ranking and positions will be stripped. Dishonorable discharge will be entered into the record and the reason for this dismissal will be spelled out. Any licenses that have been granted will be canceled. Commander Marc Bond will lose his medical standing. The prisoners will face a sentence of twenty years in a penal colony under psychiatric care or until such time that they are determined safe to other lifeforms. At the end of twenty years, the sentence may be extended, if it is determined that these persons are not determined safe to other lifeforms."

Admiral Conners nodded to the guard. "As I call the names, the prisoners are to stand, acknowledge their understanding of the proceedings then be taken to the holding cells until transport is arranged." He called out the names, verified the fact that they were present and understood all the proceedings and the decision of the court. Once that was confirmed, the prisoner was escorted off.

Admiral Rebecca Jackson stood. She looked over the faces and felt that somehow, everyone had been let down. She asked for everyone to stand. She thanked everyone for his or her patience and co-operation then struck the bell to sound the closing of the session.

Personnel filed out slowly. The members of the Excelsior crew remained seated; none of them wanted to be the first to leave. Dr. McCoy stood and moved to Chapel's side.

"Captain Sulu.." He waited for Sulu to face him. "If you need anything.... don't hesitate..."

"Understood, Doctor. Thank you." Sulu placed his hand on the bench back in front of him and stood. He took a deep breath. "Come on. We have work to do..."

The other officers stood and moved out.

Janice Rand went over to McCoy and gave him a hug.

Christine hugged him as well. She spoke softly to him after they moved out of the way. "Hikaru hasn't dealt with this yet. He has.... had? a personal relationship with Am'ath." She wasn't surprised at McCoy's raised eyebrow.

"Really?" He looked to the floor then back to Chris. "Watch him. Closely. If he has formed a bond of any kind...." He sighed; no one really knew how another would be affected by the bondings. He had spoken to Spock earlier in the week and was told to pass on the suggestion to Dr. Chapel that there may have been a bond formed between Am'ath and Margaret. McCoy repeated the message to her.

She nodded. Her hand squeezed his arm. "Take care. I'll contact you in a week or so."

"Do that!" McCoy watched the officers leave the room. He headed out soon after.


The officers stopped in for a drink at the near-by hangout. It was crowded and dark. As the officers filed in and were recognized, a path was cleared to an empty table. Sulu ordered Vulcan ales for everyone as requested.

Commander Isaac stood with the glass slightly raised. "To Lieutenant Commander Am'ath cha'Sholtan, House of S'harien. May she rest easy.... where ever she is." His voice softened.

Glasses were raised and the toast repeated.


CONTINUED IN Unavoidable Hopes