Author's Note:  Gee, what a delay.  I am glad to be able to work on this story, it has been such a long time!  I am finally getting to the plot of this happenstance, and I bet you were wondering if there were one!  I have a surprising number of reviews for a story that doesn't have much to do with any of the series, and I am very grateful.  Thanks again to the real life inspirations for a good deal of my characters and especially to the people behind Akira, Ayuiij, Siyana, and Kali—they have been most supportive about this endeavor.   I hope you enjoy.

Disclaimer:  Star Trek is not mine—but many of the characters and ideas in this story are in the sense of them coming to be in my mind, but I claim no ownership as such.

Chapter 4

            Akira Te'yas watched her companions at the table in the rec room.  People-watching was one of her favorite pastimes, and most humans and persons at the Academy were oblivious enough not to notice her doing it.  Or, of course, they didn't care.  For once, Kali, Yoshi, Elora and Siyana had a legitimate excuse to be sitting at the table—they were eating lunch.  Often enough, the group simply coalesced to sit at the table and do nothing but talk, argue, and tell inane puns, jokes, and stories.

            "I hate that class," Kali said passionately.  Generally self-described as apathetic, Kali rarely said anything with "zest" or enthusiasm, but now she repeated the sentence, "I really hate that class."

            "Come on now," Yoshi said, her voice unusually conciliatory.  "No need to be redundant."

            "Oh, but there is," Kali fired back.  Siyana smirked darkly at Kali.

            "What class are you talking about?"  Elora asked, sympathy flowing through her soft voice.

            "Elora, what other class would I be talking about?"  Kali said, rather condescendingly.

            "I don't know!"  Elora protested, taking no offense.  "You hate calculus and—"

            "What does Kali hate more than anything else?"  Yoshi asked, interrupting Elora.  When Elora continued to look confused and somewhat exasperated, Yoshi slammed an emphatic hand down on the table.  "Physical activity!"

            The look Elora gave Kali was not quite that a look of scorn or annoyance—but it wasn't a look one would appreciate being given either, Akira reflected.  Kali amused her—Elora was entertaining as well, but not quite in the same way.  Yoshi was funny—she had even less of the "accidental" amusement that Kali or Elora provided.  "Kali," Elora said severely.

            "You know what," Kali said threateningly (although she was not about to deliver a threat).  "Because Commander freaking Keating thinks I would get myself killed, I have to practice with Sayel three times a week."

            Yoshi chortled.  "He-he-he—I bet she kicks your ass every day!"

            Kali glowered at her.  "I hate you," she informed her friend brightly.

            Siyana and Akira both laughed at this, but Elora shook her head.  "Ayuiij tutors me and Jori tutors Lael—you aren't the only one."

            "Yeah . . . but," and here Kali dropped her voice a little.  "Sayel's intimidating."

            "And Ayuiij and Jori aren't?"  Yoshi scoffed.

            "Ayuiij is insane," Kali corrected, smiling for the first time.  "Jori is down-right scary, but Ayuiij is just insane."

            "Jori can be scary," Siyana agreed, "But that's just cause she acts like she doesn't give a crap.  Sayel's . . . friendly."

            "Sayel is friendly," Kali agreed quickly.  "Unnaturally so for a Vulcan, but she's still intimidating."

            "Oh, brother," Yoshi groaned.  "You're all a bunch of wusses."

            "Right," Kali shot back, "why do you think we're intimidated?"

            "Where is Sayel?"  Elora asked earnestly, "doesn't she normally eat with us now?"

            When no one answered her, Akira did.  "Yes, I saw her at the end of class—she was talking to Cadet Trusk."

            "He-he-he," Kali cackled, unconsciously imitating Yoshi.  "Arguing with him, you mean."  Akira just shrugged.  Trusk liked to shout, but Sayel seemed to have mastered the art of raising her voice without sounding overly emotional.

            Just then, Sayel strode in through the door with her easily distinguishable purposeful walk.  She instantly walked over to the chair Siyana gestured for her to take and sat down between Kali and Siyana.

            "Arguing with Trusk?"  Siyana asked sweetly.  Then she spoiled the illusion by dissolving into mischievous laughter.

            Sayel arched an eyebrow at her.  "That would have been a generous description," she admitted, rising again to get something from the replicator.

            "Let me guess," Yoshi said, pitching her voice loud enough so Sayel could hear—although, because Sayel was a Vulcan, that was probably not necessary.  "He said something stupid and you couldn't help but argue with it?"

            "A failing I find that most Vulcans have with the perpetually illogical," Sayel acknowledged.  She returned to her seat with a tray.  She paused and stared a moment at her salad.  "Tell me, Kali," she said, her voice somewhat dry.  "Do you think non-replicated food is better than replicated food?"

            "It depends on whose making it," Kali rejoined, smiling.  "I can't cook."

            "I can," Yoshi interrupted.  "And replicated food is inferior," she said, as if pronouncing judgment on it.  She even shot an accusatory glare at the food in front of her.

            "How can it be inferior?"  Siyana asked, disdain at her companions' illogic coloring her voice.  "It's genetically identical."

            "But do you think it is more real?"  Sayel asked.

            "It can't be," Siyana argued.  "It's exactly the same thing."

            "I suppose you could argue that a non-replicated meal is more real," Kali said, her eyes fixed elsewhere.  Or, perhaps, on itna, as Siyana would say, Akira thought, amused by the philosophic change of conversation.  "Not the food itself, but the meal—the concept of it."

            "Ah—more real like the object is more real than its reflected image?"  Sayel mused.

            "Wouldn't have come up with that, but yes," Kali responded.

            "You come up with weird questions," Siyana said, facing Sayel.

            "Thank you, Siyana," Sayel said in such a way that suggested she was rather more insulted than gratified.

            "I didn't mean it like that, but you're always . . . philosophical and obscure."

            "And you are always enigmatic," Sayel challenged as Yoshi stole a crouton from her salad.  "You are welcome," she told the girl.

            "That takes the fun out of stealing," Yoshi grumbled.

            "Enigmatic?"  Siyana said, her eyes lighting up.  "I like being enigmatic."

            "Yeah, but it sucks for everyone else," Yoshi commented.  "Me, I'm an open book.  Do you ever wonder what I'm feeling?  The answers is no."

            "Or moops," Kali answered slyly.  Yoshi and Kali then broke out in to laughter while everyone stared at them in confusion.  "It was on this—never mind," Kali said with a sigh.

            "You, my friend, are an opened book," Sayel replied, ignoring the digression.  "But I doubt anyone could open it further if he tried."

            To that, Yoshi agreed, "true enough."

            "I try to be a closed one," Kali said, almost mournfully.  She then shot a somewhat disgusted look at Yoshi.  "But apparently I have crappy walls."

            To this, Yoshi clapped her hands and laughed delightedly.  "Yeah," she said, laughing again.

            "What?"  Akira asked, curious.  "What about walls?"

            "Long story," Yoshi replied, still laughing.  When she saw she still had the attention of the group, she capitulated.  "Okay—this goes back to sophomore or junior year in high school, so don't expect me to remember all the details.  Kali, I and a friend or two of ours were in the bio room and I asked Kali something about some guy she liked."  Kali promptly turned red.  "I sort of forced her to tell me what it was, and then she was mad 'cause I got her to talk.  I told her it wasn't my fault that she had walls of cardboard or cheese or something."

            "Cheese?"  Sayel echoed wryly, a glimmer of a smile at her lips.  Elora looked somewhat disgusted.

            "Yeah, I don't remember."  Then Yoshi narrowed her eyes and glared at Elora.  "You got something against cheese?"

            "It's disgusting," Elora said, making a face.  "Eww."

            With a perfectly straight face, Sayel said, "'"Treason!" cried the speaker'."

            Kali laughed, but Siyana and everyone else gave Sayel a confused look.  After a moment of belated realization, Yoshi smiled.  "Oh, just got it, I'm slow—don't mind me!"

            "Speech to the Virginia Convention?"  Sayel asked.  "Patrick Henry?"

            "Right," Siyana said in such a way that communicated she didn't know what Sayel was talking about.

            "U. S. literature . . . and history," Kali informed her.  "Don't worry, he said it about six hundred years ago, it doesn't really matter now."

            And then Sayel, Kali, and Yoshi launched into a fairly short argument about how the speech really did matter, because if Patrick Henry hadn't made it, there would be no Virginian involvement in the Revolutionary War, probably no United States, then no League of Nations, no United Nations, and no United Federation of Planets.  Akira smiled at her friends, then gently told them that it was time to go to class.  A collection of weeping and gnashing of teeth ensued—from all but Sayel—but the entourage quickly left the rec room for their respective classes.

"You know," Kali said to Lael Daemas, "that man's insane if he thinks I'm going to teach myself this crap."

            Lael Daemas rested in the soft green grass, her head buried in a book.  The bright summer sun—without UV radiation—and a soft summer breeze—but no bugs—floated through the flowered fields.  "You know Sayel is coming," Lael remarked disinterestedly.  "She'll be here."

            As if on cue, the tall Vulcan walked through the holographic doors and into the convincing summer afternoon.  She held a staff in hand and wore traditional Vulcan workout clothes.

            "Where have you been?"  Kali demanded, faking annoyance.

            "Scotland," Sayel replied, a bit of a challenge in her voice.

            "Oh," Kali responded ingeniously.  "Well, that's fun."

            That is fun, Lael said, speaking into Sayel's mind while physically giving a little wave.  Hi, Sayel.  Sayel turned to Lael and bowed a little, but choose to respond verbally:

            "Hello to you as well, Lael."

            "You said something telepathically, didn't you?"  Kali asked, grumbling.  "I'm jealous."

            "Jealous?"  Sayel asked, sounding genuinely surprised as Lael went back to the book Siyana had leant her.  "That's hardly logical."

            "No, but it's not fair."

            "Kali," Lael muttered, disapprovingly—then smiled.  Lael was a much better telepath than she was an empath—thoughts were easy compared to the elusive nuances of emotion that flowed through the minds of all sentient creatures.  But her proclivity for telepathy didn't help her with people like Sayel—and incidentally, Yoshi—who tended to say exactly what they thought.  One had to dig much deeper to find the true motivations they had for various things.  Naturally, Lael wasn't extremely perceptive—not like Yoshi and Sayel who both had an annoying tendency to notice everything.  I would say it's because Sayel's half-Betazoid, half-Vulcan, but what's Yoshi's excuse? 

            "You know what's not fair," she said, putting down her book, "it's not fair that I fell into the weirdest group at the Academy.  I can't read Siyana well 'cause she's Kamari, I can barely read Sayel—and she's half-Betazoid, I can't read Jori because she's frickin' mysterious, and Ayuiij doesn't make sense."

            "You cannot read me well?"  Sayel interrupted, surprised.

            Lael scrutinized the other girl for a moment.  "I don't know, you feel off somehow and I have no clue why."

            "Way to be vague, Lael," Kali said, baiting her.

            "Not my fault!"  Lael exclaimed, throwing up her hands into the air.  "You want to tell me why?" she demanded.

            "I could," Sayel said, almost as she were still debating on the subject.

            "Want to share, then?"  Kali said, a trifle obnoxiously.

            Sayel gave her a look.  "Not especially, no.  But I will," she added, before either could say anything.  Not taking her eyes from Kali, she spoke: "I used to be a telepath of some skill—for either a Vulcan or a Betazoid."

            "Used to be," Kali said, patiently stating the obvious—she made a gesture that suggested continuation with her hands.

            "After an unexpected contact with an Underlier, I lost all of my telepathic and empathic senses and abilities."

            "An Underlier," Kali exclaimed as Lael concentrated on what Sayel had said.  "You're kidding."

            "What's an Underlier?"  Lael said, confused by Kali's reaction—the skepticism was pouring off her in waves.

            "A . . . thing in Vulcan mythology—I don't know, they're weird and appear to random people.  Unlocking mysteries of the universe that no one can remember afterward and all of that," Kali said, still staring at Sayel.

            "I saw no mysteries of the universe," Sayel said, completely seriously.  "But seven months ago, I could have showed you what I saw and you would have believed me—I could have showed either of you."

            "Oh, I believe that you saw it," Kali said.  "Maybe if it were someone else, but Vulcans tend not to lie or make things up.  I guess it wasn't a hallucination?"

            Here Sayel shook her head.  "Siyana saw it, too."

            "Oh." Kali said and was silent.  After a moment, she spoke: "And the odds of you both being crazy and hallucinating the same thing are . . . ?"

            "About as long as the odds of us actually encountering an Underlier," Sayel responded, seeming genuinely amused for a moment.

            "Well, that's weird," Lael pronounced for lack of anything else to say.

            "I think we established that," Kali replied, laughing a bit.  "Did it, I don't know, say anything to you?"

            "Nothing that I understand," Sayel commented.  "Enough—we came here to practice—let us practice."

            Lael returned to her book, and read contentedly for a few moments, hearing the sounds of staffs colliding.  Suddenly, she heard a curse, and a burst of emotion emanating independently from both Kali and Sayel.

            "Watch out!"  Sayel shouted, warning her.  Lael looked up just in time to block the air-born staff with her book.  Luckily, it clattered off her book and hit the ground, bouncing once before it was still.  Sayel looked degrees less amicable than she had when they had been speaking previously.

            "Geez, way to try to kill me!"  Lael said as Sayel bent over and picked up the staff.

            "My apologies," Sayel said coolly—then she promptly turned her attention to Kali.  "Have you practiced since we began?"

            "Yes!"  Kali retorted defensively.

            Lael looked up, wincing as she instantly perceived that Kali was lying.  Without even looking to Lael for confirmation, Sayel said: "Are you lying?"

            "Yes," Kali said, becoming less verbally defensive—but she also turned an intriguing shade of red.

            "Kali, this is not an option for you.  The commander has given you no choice whether you may take this class.  And if you do not study with me, you will fail."

            "You know what, maybe I don't care," Kali grumbled.

            Now Sayel turned very cold, and Lael couldn't help but watch as the two . . . dissented.  "Kali, you will get yourself killed.  That is why Commander Keating assigned you to Commander Hawkins' class—not for some gratuitous reason."

            "Well, if I get myself killed, that's my problem, now isn't it?" Kali asked, thoroughly annoyed.

            A flash of resounding anger sparked through Lael's mind from Sayel.  "Perhaps I would not trouble myself," her voice without any hint of sympathetic emotion whatsoever, "but you are likely to get your fellow officers killed as well.  If you wish to be so irresponsible, then you should not even be at the Academy."

            "Thanks, Sayel, maybe I'll just quit, then," Kali snapped.

            "An illogical decision, but it is yours to make," Sayel responded, refusing to yield.  With that comment, Kali tossed her staff down and fairly stalked out of the room.

            "That wasn't very nice of you," Lael said as Sayel very slowly knelt down to pick up Kali's discarded staff.

            "Good," Sayel replied.  "I was not trying to be nice—Kali doesn't need me to be nice, she needs a tutor, and she needs to be held responsible for her actions."

            "Maybe she doesn't want her friends to be on her case—we have instructors for that."

            This time, Sayel turned to Lael with very little patience.  "Perhaps we have different philosophies on friendship, Lael," she said in a voice devoid of sympathy.  "I do not value my friends based on them telling me what I want to hear, but what they think I should know.  And the truth is a good place to start."  With that, she ended the conversation and walked out of the room.

Kali was still steaming when she met Yoshi and Ayuiij in her room.  Yoshi was to introduce them to an archaic game that she wanted to turn into a mini-holodeck program—as well as show them the other she had been working on, based on a twentieth/twenty-first century role playing game.  Kali was there because she knew something about old style gaming systems—Ayuiij was there because she had nothing better to do and because Yoshi had told her that the game was a fighting game.

            "What's up with you?"  Yoshi asked, when Kali came through the door, still a little red.  "Aren't you supposed to be practicing with Sayel now?"

            "Yeah, well, we got into a disagreement."  Kali briefly described it and got a snort of disgust from Ayuiij.

            "You're both stupid," Ayuiij said, continuing to follow Yoshi's directions and setting up the gaming system.

            "Yeah, well, I'm ignoring you," Kali said, briefly angered by her words.  Yoshi's eyebrows just arched in the way that suggested she didn't quite agree with Ayuiij . . . but she also thought something that Kali probably wouldn't like.

            "You're going to tell me I'm being an idiot, aren't you?"  Kali said, feeling defeated.

            "I wasn't going to tell you anything," Yoshi said dismissively.  "Not if you don't want to know and you'll get all angry about it."

            "No, I want to know what you think," Kali said reluctantly.

            Yoshi looked up at Kali after starting up the computer system.  "So maybe Sayel wasn't being particularly nice, but she wasn't being mean either."

            "And she was right?"  Kali asked, almost bitterly.

            Yoshi smiled ruefully.  "I was getting there," she replied.  "Lael could kick your ass."

            "Thanks, Yoshi," Kali muttered, feeling worse.

            "Go apologize if you see her and Sayel won't care," Ayuiij advised, "it would be illogical to hold a grudge, wouldn't it?"

            "Sure . . . ." Kali said.  "And she's all philosophical and whatever—she believes whatever Elora believes, doesn't she?"

            "Yeah," Yoshi said.  "They talk about it enough—and they quote from some book of Elora's religion in Trill so no one else knows what the hell they're talking about."

            "I don't think that's why," Kali said, "I think they just read it in that language, and they speak the language, so it's logical to quote in that language."

            "I thought you were mad at her, so why are you defending her?"  Yoshi said in an intentionally petty tone of voice.

            "Okay, I'll go talk to her!"  Kali said, getting up while glaring at both Yoshi and Ayuiij—she walked out of the room.

            "So what's this game called anyway?"  Ayuiij asked.

            "Uh, the one I already made, or the fighting one?"


            "The roll playing game is called Zelda©--I already showed it to Sayel and Jori for a few minutes and they looked interested."

            Ayuiij snorted.  "Is Jori interested in anything?"

            "She seems to like violent things," Yoshi said dryly.  "Maybe like you!"

            Ayuiij snickered a bit, and Yoshi went on to say that they could save the role-playing game until after Kali got back.  Fortuitously, the door chime sounded.  Yoshi reached over, turned on the ancient "TV" and then grabbed a tricorder she had rested on Kali's desk.  She pointed toward the door, punched a variety of keys, and the tricorder made a series of beeps.  Yoshi stabbed a final key and the door opened, leaving Ayuiij staring at her, impressed.  "I'm lazy," Yoshi said with a shrug.

            Their visitor slowly poked his head in the door, leaning half-way over before spotting the two in the middle of the floor toward the other side of the room.  He wore a typical cadet's uniform, but it was the medical Academy's uniform rather than the one Yoshi and Ayuiij currently sported.  As it was, Yoshi had never seen him a day in her life.  "Know him?"  Yoshi asked Ayuiij.

            "Unless I was unconscious when we met, no," Ayuiij said quite seriously before earning a look of incredulity/disdain from Yoshi.  Then the Andorian broke out into laughter.

            "Well, what do you want?" Yoshi asked the stranger as she smiled reluctantly at Ayuiij's antics.

            Both of the strangers eyebrows went up and he took a step in the room, allowing the doors to close behind him.

            "Hey, no one said you could come in," Ayuiij said in a spirit of quarrelsomeness.

            "You were being rude," the stranger announced dryly and with a slight accent, "I decided that I could return the favor in some small way."

            Ayuiij's eyebrows shot up and she laughed a little.  But Yoshi only continued to look annoyed.  "And you are here why . . . ?"

            "This is Sayel's room—I had expected that she or her roommate would be here."

            "Well, she isn't," Yoshi informed him condescendingly.

            The stranger tipped his head and fairly glowered at Yoshi, and that was when Ayuiij saw a hint of the elfin ears, and noted the blond hair and blue-green eyes.  Something about him sounded familiar, and Ayuiij frowned, trying to remember what it was.  Was it something Siyana said . . . ?

            "Indeed," he snapped, his Scottish accent deepening.  "Would you happen to know where she was?  Never mind, I shall find her later!"  With that, he turned away sharply and hit the door release.

            "Oh, wait . . . you're elf-boy!"  Ayuiij exclaimed, waiving her arms in frustration as she tried to remember what Siyana had said.  "Siyana met you on Vulcan with Sayel . . . . what is your name . . .?  Arrg.  Dominic, that's it, it's Dominic.  Sayel's probably in the rec room nearest here."

            "Thanks ever so," he replied dryly, walking out of the room with some amount of gusto.

            When Ayuiij returned her attention to Yoshi, she found herself the subject of a fierce glare.  "What?" she asked defensively.

            "You told him where Sayel was," Yoshi grumbled, fiddling with one of the game controllers.

            "So . . . ?  Siyana knows him and I guess Sayel does too."

            "Still," Yoshi insisted, but try as she might, Ayuiij could not get an explanation of what this "still" meant.  Deciding she didn't care anymore, Ayuiij pointed at the thing Yoshi and Kali had referred to as a "television screen".

            "What is this?" she asked as a colorful picture appeared on the screen.

            Yoshi waited a few moments, selecting an option that said "Arcade mode" on the screen.  A moment later, the picture changed to reveal small boxes with what appeared to Ayuiij to be heads—and just the heads—of various small people . . . or she thought they were people.  As her eyes examined the screen, she saw that one individual had some sort of mask, another appeared to be made from metal, and still others seemed to be various animals, some of which Ayuiij knew the name to, some of which (like the kangaroo or the raptor) she had never seen before.

            Yoshi's eyes fairly gleamed as she grinned at the screen.  "This," she pronounced with some pride and some glee, "is Tekken©."

Kali had joined Akira, Sayel, and Siyana in the rec room, where they were in the "usual" location they inhabited in their mutual downtime.  She had begun a somewhat labored apology but, as Sayel saw that Kali was apologizing, she had interrupted her speech to say "all is forgiven—won't you join us?" and that was that.  Sayel was not one to dwell on the mistakes of the past, and she was rather impressed that Kali had both the sense, courage, and humility to apologize to her.  And one does need all three, Sayel mused as they carried on with their original conversation.  I have seen many with the sense and courage to know that they have need of forgiveness, but they would not allow themselves to be humbled.

            "Speak of the devil and you see his horns," Sayel blurted out, interrupting Siyana and surprising all three of her companions.  She gathered herself fairly quickly and gazed at the object of her surprise with raised eyebrows, wondering if he had heard her.

            "What devil?" Kali asked cheerfully.  She was in a quite better mood now.  "Are you anthropomorphizing things again, Sayel?"

            "What does that have to do with anything?" Siyana asked her.

            Akira laughed, "Kali just wanted to use that word."

            "And if I were anthropomorphizing anything, it would be you, Kali—seeing as you have the name of a Hindu god."

            "I hope you aren't talking about me," Dominic said as he strode over to their table.  (So he had heard her.)  "Though, sense it gave Kali here the chance to use anthropomorphizing, perhaps I'll forgive it.  I do say," he went on, "the way that girl—the Terran gal, not the Andorian—reacted to me, you might have thought I was the devil, or at least one of his minions."  He said most of it rather thoughtfully, and he seemed somewhat bemused by the situation.  "She was frightfully rude."

             "Well now," Kali said, not missing a beat, "before you mentioned 'not the Andorian' I didn't know which you were talking about.  Yoshi and Ayuiij are both 'frightfully rude' at times.  Not that I even know who you are."

            "Hi, Dominic," Siyana said cheerfully, smiling up at him.  "It's good to see you—I didn't know you were planning to enter the Academy."
            "Nor did I—and it is good to see you too, although I rather knew you at least were here."

            "Akira, Kali—this is Dominic Hawkins.  Dominic, this is Kali Samsara of Earth and Vulcan, and Akira Te'yas of Trill."

"It's a pleasure to meet the both of you," Dominic said.  Then, because he was Dominic, he cut to the chase and turned to Sayel.  "Sayel, may we talk for a minute?"

            Instead of responding, Sayel merely got up and walked around the table, nodding at her three friends that she would be back.  As they stepped outside the rec room, she heard Kali give a gusty sigh and Siyana say: "Is it just Scottish people that sound cool?  When I first met Dominic, I thought the Terran accent was so cool.   But no one else talks like he does."

            "Scottish is cool," Kali said mournfully, "I tried to fake a British accent for a while."

            And that was all Sayel could hear before the door shut to the rec room, leaving  them standing out in the hall alone.  Dominic looked at her and raised his eyebrows, his expression questioning.  Sayel just shrugged and said dryly, "What can I say to appease you, Dominic?—the Scottish accent appears to be universally irresistible."

            He laughed easily then, and that made Sayel relax a bit herself.  "Friends of yours, then?"

            "Yes, Akira is Siyana's roommate and Kali is mine—but they are, as you would say, 'gold'."

            "Gold, eh?"  Dominic asked, then he slapped his leg enthusiastically.  "Sayel, there's this chap that you have simply got to meet.  He's one of those Kamari folk—Aelon a'Emman—and he's nobility back on Kamara and he is just our sort.  Oh and there's a Terran chap by the name of Joshua that you'll like—but look here," he said, interrupting himself.  "More about that later.  Why on earth didn't you tell me?" he demanded.  "Come on Sayel, Starfleet?  Starfleet?  That was my dream, not yours."

            Sayel blinked, covering her surprise.  "When we were children, certainly . . . ."

            "No," Dominic cut in, "always.  I just heard that it was "illogical" so many times I stopped mentioning it.  I never stopped thinking about it.  And after our practice went to seed, I planned on the Academy.  But I wasn't expecting a call from my father saying that you had visited him at home and had left a message for me—and that you were at the Academy.  Oh wait, I know, Siyana talked you into it."

            "She suggested it, I did not need to be convinced."  Sayel held up a hand to stop his response.  "I am sorry, Dominic.  I should have told you and I should not have left Vulcan when I did—"

            "Oh that," he said scornfully.  "You could have left sooner, if you ask me.  By the time I got out of there I was already spitting fire."

            "Then, I should have told you about it," Sayel said, curbing her impatience.  "As it is, why are you attending the medical academy—you have the title of Healer."

            "I'm only in the four year program," he said.  Then his eyes widened a little with remembrance.   "Sayel—did you hear about what happened?"

            "What happened where?"  Sayel rejoined.

            "At the Vulcan Embassy!"

            "There is no need to shout, Dominic.  And if you insist upon being vague, it is unlikely that I shall ever find out."

            He skewered her with a glare.  "Hilarious," he muttered.  "But look, a Terran gal—one of ours—was murdered."

            Stunned, Sayel was completely silent for a moment.  Murder?  That has not happened on Earth in years—and certainly not at the Vulcan Embassy.  "One of ours, a Starfleet officer?"

            "Yes," Dominic said unhappily.  "I had wondered whether it was an assassination—"

            "It was not?"

            "No, no—she was only an ensign and no one can see why anyone would have wanted to kill her.  Starfleet's befuddled—they aren't acting all mysterious though, you know, when the ensign is really Starfleet Security or a plant or—"

            Sayel had barely seen how it happened.  One moment, Dominic was talking to her, the next moment, Akira was crashing into him, cutting off his words and knocking him to the floor.  Beyond mere confusion, Sayel looked first to Akira—who it had appeared fell backward into Dominic—and then Sayel looked at the wall Akira had come through.

            "What on earth?" Dominic asked as he helped Akira to her feet.  "You came from nowhere."

            "I . . . I don't know what happened."  Akira cast an uneasy glance at the wall Sayel was still staring at, in a sort of well-controlled astonishment.

            "Sayel—what are you staring at?" Dominic asked, now becoming uneasy at the expression on Sayel's normally calm features.

            Hesitantly, Sayel reached out a hand and touched the wall, half-expecting her hands to pass through it.  But no, her fingers brushed the cool, not-quite smooth surface.  She withdrew her hand immediately and straightened up.  "Akira . . . you just fell  . . . through the wall."

            "I . . . know that," Akira said, surprising Sayel by laughing—a nervous laugh, she realized. 

            Dominic couldn't resist touching the wall, and as he did so, Kali and Siyana flew out of the rec room, saw them and halted their mad dash.

            "Did you see that?" Siyana asked.

            "Now that's impossible!" Kali said, as if she were torn between amusement and anger.  "What the hell is going on?"

            Sayel was still staring at the wall with up-raised eyebrows.  "This is . . ." and she searched quickly through her vocabulary to find the proper word " . . . fascinating."

Author's Note:  Chortle—you will get an explanation next chapter.