Everyone was surprised but me when my first training assignment turned out to be on the Baltimore, a Marine ship heading out for the edges of the quadrant. I used the excuse that it was an excellent ship to learn to pilot on. It was small, maneuverable, and headed for possibly lots of peacekeeping action. I was the back-up helmsman and comms. West was in command. I found myself actually looking forward to it.

Before I left I caught up with Spock at his parents'. He seemed preoccupied. "I wanted to say goodbye. I am heading out for my first training mission."

He looked up, his gaze focusing on me as if for the first time. "Yes, I heard. An odd choice for you. I was surprised that the fleet selected it for someone so young."

"I finished the term second in my class, sir. And I wish to learn the helm, I have made that very clear to my instructors. I believe this will be a beneficial tour."

"As you say. I wished to congratulate you on your high placement. You and Cadet Drake have vied for the number one spot all year. You have done extremely well, Valeris."

"Thank you, Sir. I have only done my best."

He rose and walked toward me. "You lack pride. That is a good thing, very Vulcan."

"I *am* a Vulcan," I said evenly as I turned to look out the window. I sensed him coming up behind me. I was shocked to feel his hand on my hair. "Sir?"

"You have your hair down today, Valeris. It makes you look softer. It is most becoming."

I told myself not to panic. He would never hurt me. "It is not regulation, Sir."

His voice was soft in my ear. "Can you not call me Spock, Valeris?"

I pulled away from him. Without turning to look at him I said "It would not be seemly, Sir." I sought to distract him. "So where are you off to now, I see you have bags packed." I had passed them sitting by the door as I came into the office.

"I am on a mission of some importance."

"To where?"

"I am not at liberty to say."

"It must be very sensitive to have you so tight-lipped, Sir."

"Valeris, why this sudden interest in my whereabouts?"

I wanted to know where he was going, I justified my actions with this fact. "Sir," I trailed off as if too shy to go on.


"I must confess to curiosity. You are often gone and I thought perhaps you have a woman on some other planet. I must confess this idea makes me feel strange."

He looked up, I was chagrined to see hope in his eyes. "Strange, how?"

I pretended to think it over. "Edgy? Not at ease?. Uncomfortable at the idea. I know I am only a child to you, but I do not like the idea of you with another woman."

He gave me a small smile. "You have never been just a child to me, Valeris. Never."

I swallowed back bile. I hated doing this but I had to know where he was going. "Then if I am not a child why will you not share your destination with me?"

He sighed and turned to look out the window. I thought I had lost. Just as I was ready to turn and walk out his voice came out softly, "I am going to Kronos."

I tried to keep the triumph I felt out of my voice and show only amazement. "Kronos? The home world of the Klingon Empire? Why?"

"Because it is time for peace, and I am one of the few that can help bring it about. Or more accurately one of the few willing to bring it about."

I hid my revulsion for his cause. "But that is amazing! And you have been there before? You are making progress?"

He seemed to almost bask in my youthful zeal, "Yes, things are progressing. I am extremely satisfied with the steps we have made so far."

"Do you think there will be peace soon, Sir?"

"Soon? Soon in a relative sense, yes. Perhaps in as little as twenty years. Sooner if some catastrophe occurs to cause the Klingons to desire a treaty. It is a slow process but we could see peace in our lifetime." He looked at me sternly. "There are many who do not want us to forge a peace with the Klingon Empire, Valeris. You must speak of this to no one."

I gave him my most earnest look, "I would never betray a confidence, Sir."

"I know that, l'kch'aya. I know that."


I stopped in the library on my way out to look up the word Spock had used. It meant *spring flower.* It was an endearment. So things were progressing. I shuddered to think of him touching my hair.

Almost running from my grandparents' house, I found the nearest hair stylist. They had an appointment available and I sat in the chair as the young woman ran her fingers through my long black hair.

"Cut it off."

"Why? It is so beautiful, so soft."

I grabbed a holostill I had found while I had been waiting for her. It showed a blunt cut, very severe, cut out sharply over the ears. The effect was harsh. "I want this."

She was clearly resistant, "Your hair is the wrong texture, it will just fall into your face"

I pointed to a silver headband on sale at the counter. Cadets often came here because this shop carried the few that were regulation. "So I'll wear one of those. Just do it."

"Look you didn't just break up with your boyfriend did you? 'Cuz that is what so many women do, they come in all 'cut it all off' but they really don't mean it and then they are so sorry and there is no way to fix it."

I made to rise from the chair. "If you won't do it, I'll find someone that will."

She pushed me back down. "Ok, ok. I'll do it. It'll probably look good on you. You've got the bone structure for it."

An hour later, I was transformed. I stared in the mirror at the woman that looked back at me.

"You look fantastic. You sure were right about this style for you."

I tipped her and paid the bill, walking slowly to the dorm. I felt as if I had shed far more than the 15 or so inches of hair the stylist had removed. She had asked me if I wanted the hair, I had shaken my head, "Burn it."

I felt as if the part of me that was Rise Chapel was getting harder and harder to find. Would I wake up one day and find her not here at all?

I thought Cassie was going to scream when she saw me. "What have you done, Valeris? Oh my god, turn around." She studied me from many angles. "Damn you! You look great! Nobody should look that good in a haircut that bizarre! What made you do it?"

I shrugged. I had become much more relaxed with her in private since the day she had comforted me. "Seemed like it would be easier to care for this way. And I am tired of looking like a little girl."

"Well you definitely look like a woman now. A rather scary woman, but a woman. When you get to the Baltimore, you're going to have to beat those Marines off with a stick."


The Baltimore turned out to be a small and very sleek little ship. Used primarily for patrol or rescue missions she could maneuver quickly and was packed with firepower at odds with her small size. I was given ample opportunity to pilot on our way out to the sector of space we had identified as most in need of our protection.

I had expected West to be a hard master and something of a problem but he was very fair and obviously well liked by his crew. His first officer, Major Nelkin, went out of her way to welcome me as well.

"We don't get many cadets on a ship this size, Valeris. You're going to get a lot of attention and practice. I think you'll like it here."

And she was right. For the most part I did like it. The marines were a tough crew, physically impressive and rowdier than I was used to at the Academy. They accepted me as a little sister, and I was always being teased or asked to join a group of them in a game of poker or to watch a holovid. Cassie had been right that most of the men, and not a few of the women, had asked me to interact privately. I always turned them down. Most of them took it in good humor. One did not. His name was Sandeau. He was a cocky sergeant, and he and his buddy Burke were always hanging around me. I knew that West noticed them bothering me, but he did nothing to rein them in.

Burke at least was not aggressive, preferring to just stare at me with his large sad eyes. "Hello, Valeris," he would say whenever he saw me off duty. "It's nice to see you." I would give him a gentle nod.

But Sandeau invariably turned the conversation into something sordid. After a week of his taunts and leers I was ready to scream. I was in the mess and had just taken my tray to a table. I saw him say something to his table mates. Burke looked upset and tried to hold him back, but Sandeau pulled away and walked to my table.

"Hey, Valeris." His tone was sleazy.

"Go away, Sandeau." I kept eating and did not even look up at him.

Suddenly his hands slammed down on the table in front of me. He leaned toward me, fingers spread on the plastic, eyes glaring. "I've had enough of your attitude, Valeris. I say it's time you and me worked out our differences, if you know what I mean," he thrust his hips at me in an obscene gesture. "Or maybe you'd rather get it on with your sugar daddy West?"

Something snapped in me. I grabbed my knife and brought it down in a savage thrust. It caught him right in the webbing between his thumb and forefinger and bit deep into the plastic, pinning his hand to the table. His scream rang out and everything stopped in the room.

Colonel West called out from the mess line. "Is everything alright over there?"

I ignored the angry Sandeau who was attempting to pull the knife out of the table. "Yes sir." I looked up at my commanding officer, "except I seem to have misplaced my knife."

West laughed. "I'll bring you a new one." He handed me a fresh knife as he looked over at Sandeau. "Got him right where it wouldn't do any permanent damage. I'm impressed." He gave his injured crewman a disapproving look, "Sandeau, don't you have something to say to Cadet Valeris."

Sandeau gave up on the knife and looked at me. "I'm sorry, Sir. It won't happen again."

I looked at his face and saw pure hatred and grudging respect. "Would you like some help with that," I indicated the knife.

"Please." He said between clenched teeth

I reached over and had to give the handle quite a jerk before it came loose. I had no idea that I was that strong.

West gestured with his head to the door, "Get to sickbay and have that tended." The man cradled his hand and left the mess, trailed as always by Burke. The colonel sat down across from me. "So what exactly did he say to you?"

I returned to eating even though my heart was pounding. "It was nothing, Sir."

"Well if that's the case you're a raving lunatic, cadet. Is that what you want me to think, that you stab men for nothing?"

"He implied that I was sleeping with you." I looked up at him, anger in my eyes that I could not hold back," Is that the way to get ahead on this ship, Sir?"

He stared back at me calmly. "If it is somebody forgot to tell me." He grinned at me. "Look, if it had been anybody else I'd have pulled Sandeau off you long ago, but I wanted to see how you would react to him. He's a good man, loyal to me and that's important. But at times he can be an ass."

"An ass? He is a pig! He is worse than a pig, he is a." I realized I didn't know any word that did him justice. "He disgusts me."

"Yeah, well he won't bother you again. You scared the hell out of him with that little stunt." He went back to eating. "Oh and by the way, both Nelkin and I were impressed with the way you piloted today. Well done."

The pleasure I felt nearly caused me to smile outright. "Thank you, Sir."

He grunted in response, then we ate the rest of our meal in silence.


Five weeks later we were on our last patrol run. We had seen ships crewed by Ferengi, Rigellians, Cardassians, and just about every other species under the multiple suns but no Klingons. But just because we hadn't seen any didn't mean they weren't busy. We had rescued one group of people set adrift on a midsize pleasure yacht. And later we investigated an attack on a Toroni supply ship. In both cases the injured parties described their attackers as Klingons in a small but fully-armed ship.

So now we were looking for these Klingons, and had been for the last few weeks. It was the late shift, I was at the helm but like the rest of the bridge crew boredom had set me to studying the sensors, trying to see something, anything at all that looked vaguely Klingon-like. I rubbed my eyes and looked up and for a moment saw something shimmer on the vuscreen.

"Major! I think I saw something. Mark 411 dead ahead."

"Full stop, shields up," Nelkin was behind me, hands on my chair. "Show me."

I scanned furiously. "There! No.there." I pointed to some strange energy surges. "Sir!"

"Red alert," she yelled. The Klingon ship materialized only long enough to fire. "Incoming."

Our shields took most of the hit but it still caused quite a bit of shaking.

Nelkin was back in the command chair. "Lester, prepare to fire phasers. Valeris, give him the coordinates."

I tracked the screen furiously, looking for the anomaly I had found. There. "Transferring coordinates, now."


The Klingon ship briefly appeared in the afterglow of the phaser hit. It was a small scout vessel, just as the people we had rescued had described. And much like the one that had fired at the Miranda so long ago.

Lester yelled out the damage reports on the Klingon vessel. The lift doors opened and West ran in.

"What have we got?"

Nelkin moved smoothly aside. "Klingon scout, fired on us without provocation. We returned fire. They are only slightly damaged. We are not hurt at all."

The ship decloaked again to launch torpedoes.

"Brace for impact," I said. The shields held but there was substantial rattling, several crewmembers were thrown from their seats.

"Valeris?" Nelkin called.

I scanned again. It was somewhere, it had to be. I looked in the logical direction from where they had been. Then I looked in the other direction. "Found it. Transferring now."

"Fire torpedoes, Lester. And make it good." West sat forward in anticipation.

The torpedoes screamed toward empty space. If I had been wrong.but the dark sky was ripped apart by the explosion of a Klingon scout ship in full destruction.

"Yes!" West sounded jubilant. "Well done, Lester. Well done, Valeris."

The bridge crew was beaming and I found it difficult not to let my own excitement overcome me.

"Survivors?" West asked.

I scanned. "No sir."

He sat back in his chair. "Too bad."

Nelkin grinned at me, "So how did you like your first Klingon hunt, cadet?"

I kept my face emotionless, but I knew my eyes were dancing. "An exhilarating experience, Major."


It was hard to believe that my six-week training cruise was already over. I was packing the last of my things as we approached spacedock. The doorchime rang. "Come."

West stepped in. "Valeris, you ready to go?"

"Almost, Sir."

He sat down in the room's sole chair. "I've got to confess, I didn't believe in you. But you've handled yourself well here. You'll be a fine officer. And I think a fine patriot for the Federation."

I stopped my packing and turned to him. "If you mean our common cause, I believe I am more zealous than ever."

He grinned fiercely, "Liked killing Klingons, didn't you?"

"Very much, Sir."

"I have a proposal for you, Cadet. This year I'll be shipping out as head of the marine contingent on board the destroyer Endymion. It would be an excellent posting for your final training cruise. I can probably grease a few wheels if you want to come. You could rotate all over the ship. Spend your summer in the same place."

"Would Sandeau be there?" I raised an eyebrow.

"Probably. Are you going to let that stop you?"

"Why do you want me there, Sir?"

"Nothing like that, young lady." He looked embarrassed. "I like you, Valeris. And I treasure those I can trust. And I have a feeling I can trust you. So what do you say?"

"I will look forward to it, Sir."

He rose and walked to the door. "Good, I'll be in touch when I'm on earth. Maybe we can have dinner and you can tell me who else you've done bodily harm to?"

"Sir, I had every reason to."

He laughed as the door opened. "Save it, Valeris. Save it for someone who doesn't know you."


When I arrived back on campus I found it deserted. I went to the upperclassmen dorm where Cassie and I would be living. As juniors, we had the option of single rooms but by this time we were so accustomed to living together that we had selected one of the bigger double rooms. In addition to the sleeping area it had a small sitting room that made it seem like a little apartment.

I palmed open the door and passed through the sitting room to put my things down on the bed. It was unmade. The room was clean but empty. Cartons containing our things were stacked neatly, waiting for us to return to unpack them. I considered starting to make the room look like home but found I had no energy for that exercise. I opened the carton that contained my off-duty clothing and selected some outfits, which I put into a satchel that I dug out of another box. I grabbed my toiletries bag from the carryall I had taken onboard the Baltimore and left the room.

Several hours later I was opening the door to Shayla's house. Cameron's house now. I had hoped that he would be here but the house was locked up tight. One look at the dust-covered cloths covering the furniture and I knew that he had not been her for some time. I stood in the living room, still holding my bag. I would have to clean up just to sit down. Sighing I turned around and walked back outside, locking the door behind me.

I stood in front of the house for few moments. Then, hoisting my bag over my shoulder, I started walking. At first I thought I was just aimlessly wandering. But as the cemetery came into view I realized that my subconscious had known where it was going the whole time.

I found the graves with little effort. Setting my bag on a nearby bench, I sank to my knees in front of my mother and aunt's graves. I sat for a long time just staring at the markers. Here lies. Who? What would they put on my marker? Would anyone know to bring me back here? Here lies Rise Chapel. Who? Here lies Valeris. Who? My mind would not leave it alone. Who am I? Who do I want to be?

I got up. Enough of this torture. "Goodbye, Mother. I love you," I touched her marker for a moment, trying to visualize her face, and having a hard time. It was so like Shayla's, but hers was fading fast too. "Goodbye, Shayla. I love you." As I walked to the bench I paused for a moment at Phillip's grave. "Sleep well, Bones." Then I gathered up my bag again and went back to San Francisco.

The dorm room looked exactly as it had when I had left it only hours before. I went to the comm unit and dialed up Sarek's residence. A young Vulcan answered, he recognized me.

"Ah, Cadet Valeris. The Ambassador and his wife are on Vulcan."

"Is Captain Spock there?"

"No. He has been off world for some time."

Still on Kronos then. "What about Lt. Saavik?"

"Lt. Saavik has reported back to full duty. She shipped out on the science vessel Corona. If I might be so bold, Cadet, you are welcome to come over to the residence. We could use your touch with Freya."

I thanked him but refused. Hanging up I noticed that the computer had sent me my messages, my first call out being the signal that I was back. There were three messages. One was from Amanda, telling me that they were heading back to Vulcan but would return to Earth in time for Thanksgiving and that I was welcome to spend the long weekend with them. The second was from Cassie.

"Valeris, if you don't have plans for our post-cruise break you should come to Albuquerque. My parents are really looking forward to meeting you. And so is my kid brother, he can't wait to see a real live Vulcan. Give me a call."

The third message was a surprise. It was from Colonel West. "Valeris. I'm shipping out sooner than expected so I called AC about the Endymion. He thinks it is an excellent idea, especially after I told him about the knife incident." I laughed out loud. "I just wanted you to know that your final training cruise on the Endymion will be all taken care of, my dear. Stick with me and the future will be a brilliant place for us all." I smiled at his enthusiasm. And I was touched by his thoughfulness. I had not expected to become so fond of a man who had spent most of our first meeting with a phaser aimed at my head.

Before I erased the message off the server, I encrypted a copy to save to my private file. Then I called Cassie. I felt a warm flush at seeing my friend's face on the vuscreen. When I asked her if she still desired my presence, she squealed in delight.

"Are you kidding. You just try to stay away. And you're in for a treat! We're having green chili enchiladas tonight. We'll just see how far that Vulcan stoicism goes when you taste some of our hatch chilis! Oh this is so great."

She gave me directions to her house and I grabbed my satchel and locked up the dorm room again. In two hours I was greeted with a terrific hug from my friend and was quickly caught up in her loving family. Her parents welcomed me like any school friend of Cassie, they paid no attention to the fact that I was Vulcan. But Cassie's six-year old brother, Nathan, followed me around like a puppy. He was full of questions about Vulcan that I couldn't answer. I finally had to explain that I was from a destroyed colony world. He looked very sad.

"It's alright, Nathan. It was a long time ago."

"So you don't really have a home?"

I swallowed hard. "No, I guess I really don't."

He thought about that for a second then he got up, grabbed my hand, and led me into his room. He let go of me at the door and began to clean off the bottom half of his bunk beds. Then suddenly he stopped and looked up at me. "You don't like the top best do you?"

"The bottom is good. But what are you doing, Nathan?"

He looked at me as if I was just a little slow. Very carefully he said, "I'm making you a home."

I felt tears well up in my eyes and I blinked furiously. "Thank you, Nathan. That's very sweet."

"You're crying, Valeris. I thought Vulcan's don't cry."

I wiped the tears away. "We're not supposed to. You won't tell on me, will you?"

He shook his head solemnly. "No way. We're roommates now."

Cassie poked her head into the room. "Well I think Mom might have something to say about that, young man. Go wash up." She moved aside as he ran for the bathroom. "Sorry if he is bothering you."

"He's not. I find him very welcoming."

Cassie smiled at me. "I've missed you, Valeris. Now come on, we've got some authentic New Mexican cuisine to introduce you to! And I have to tell you about this ensign I met on the Grissom. Oh my god, he was so cute, and so smart. And I want to hear all about the Baltimore."

I followed my friend down the hall. For the first time since I had returned to Earth I began to relax.


Classes started up again a week later. Despite the wonderful time I had spent with Cassie's family I was glad to get back into the Academy routine. I didn't have many classes with my roommate, our chosen careers--hers science, mine piloting--would now take us in different academic directions.

I did not look forward to seeing Spock again. Our last meeting had been the day that I had my hair cut off, the day he had touched me, the day I had pretended to be jealous. I thought back to a conversation I had had with Colonel West just before the Baltimore returned to Earth. It had been late and I was in the mess having coffee. He had come in and joined me. The room had been empty, giving us a rare opportunity to really talk about the Klingons, and the efforts of Spock and Sarek to bring a peace about.

"Sir" I had ventured nervously, "I do not know how effective a spy I will be for you."

"What do you mean?"

I had swallowed audibly, "To get Spock to trust me would require me to get very close to him. And."

He had interrupted, "And I can see by the look on your face that you find that idea abhorrent. Fine, then don't do it."

"But I said I would. To prove my loyalty."

He had smiled wolfishly, "Oh, you'll serve. You'll serve as an officer. And who knows, someday that access to your *mentor* Spock might come in handy. But I will not ask you to sacrifice yourself for information we could probably get elsewhere. Anybody that says differently can take it up with me."

"Yes sir, but how will I serve the cause then?"

He had smiled wolfishly, "Oh, you'll serve. Someday that access to your *mentor* Spock might come in handy. You'll serve as an officer. Anybody that says differently can take it up with me."

He had put my mind at ease then, but now I was nervous that Spock would not accept my backpedaling after my behavior. But several days later, when he returned from Kronos, he did not seem to even notice the distance I was trying to reinsert in our relationship. He was distant and preoccupied, even a tiny bit irritated. I assumed the mission had not gone well.

"Sir. Welcome home."

"Valeris. Thank you." He barely glanced at me.

So much for my worries, I thought wryly. "I take it your trip was not a success?"

"Hmmm?" He looked up from his computer. "You must forget I ever told you about my mission. We will not speak of it again."

"Of course, Sir." I turned to leave but stopped when I heard his voice call my name.

"Valeris, what have you done to your hair?"

I turned back smartly. "I had it cut, Sir. It seemed to fit better on a marine ship."

"It makes you look harsh."

I gave him a bitter little smile. "I take it you don't like it?"

"I preferred it the other way. But how you wear your hair is of course your business."

"Of course, Sir." I turned again to walk away.

"Colonel West gave you excellent marks, Valeris. It appears your first training voyage was a great success."

I did not turn around as I answered. "Yes, Sir. I believe it was most beneficial."

"I hope you will try for something bigger for your second cruise."

I turned to face him. "Sir, if I may speak plainly?" When he nodded I continued. "Not all of us will be lucky enough to end up on a Starship. Some of us will not make it off of Earth. You were extremely fortunate to be allowed to spend nearly your whole career on one ship. Extremely fortunate, or extremely limited. You should perhaps refrain from forcing your own choices on me." I stopped and stared at him challengingly. I did not know why his words enflamed me so, but they did. How dare he try to make my choices for me.

His expression turned hard for a moment. Then he relaxed. "I believe I once said the same thing to Sarek. It is humbling to hear those thoughts now come from the mouth of my protégé. I apologize, Valeris. I will attempt to not force-fit you into a mold of my own making."

In that moment I felt an overwhelming affection for the man. If only we could be this way all the time. Like a real father and daughter. But it was too late for that. The game was too far gone.

"It is good to have you home, Sir."

His look was warm, "It is good to be home, Valeris."


It was the weekend and I was in Seattle. It had been months since I had heard from Cameron so I had come back to my hometown to use the comm system in the old house. I didn't want my call to be traced. I did a little rerouting of the lines before placing a call to Cassius Miranda.

"Well, hello there."

I noticed he was careful not to use my name, either of them. I did him the same courtesy. "Hello. I seem to have misplaced my friend. The one that I gave your card to. I have tried to track him down, but he is not an easy man to locate when he does not want to be found. Do you have any word?"

Cassius looked genuinely concerned. "I have wondered the same thing. I have made some inquiries through my own channels. Nobody has any word of him. And believe me if these people can't find him, he may not be out there at all."

"You mean dead?" I felt my heart begin to pound faster.

He held up a hand as if to calm me. "Now don't go jumping to the direst conclusion. He may just be lying low. He doesn't have a ship of his own so he could be on some back of beyond dust world waiting for the next yearly transport. I think if he were dead I would have heard about it."

I couldn't decide if that made me feel better or not. "Thank you sir. I'm sorry to have bothered you."

He smiled warmly. "Not at all, my dear. I'm always here for you. Just as I said the day of the funeral." He reached over and cut the connection.

Cameron, where are you? Miranda was probably right. He was no doubt stuck on some god awful planet waiting to be picked up. Just don't be dead too, Cameron, I thought somewhat desperately. I really didn't think I could survive it.


The first half of the term sped by. We studied. We met up with friends at parties or at cadet hangouts like Sekhmet. I spent time with my grandparents, and I especially enjoyed just sitting and talking with Amanda. She had led such an interesting life. Now that I knew Sarek better, it was clear to me what a deep and abiding affection he bore his wife. And he seemed to be growing rather fond of me as well.

"Valeris, you look well. The Academy obviously agrees with you."

"Oh, it does, Sir. I find it a challenge to constantly strive to knock my roommate off the number one slot. But I have not done it yet."

"It is hard for Vulcans. That you are in second place is nothing short of extraordinary. Your ability to adapt does you credit."

I wondered if he would believe that if he knew the truth.

My relationship with Spock was fortunately disrupted by his frequent absences. Just as he would get comfortable enough to touch me or start to speak of his feelings he would be called away again, I assumed to Kronos but he never said.


For my 21st (15th to me) birthday Cassie organized a party in one of the private rooms at Sekhmet. I was amazed to see how many good friends I had made in such a short time. One of them, Tom Cranston, stood up to offer a toast.

"A long time ago a person's 21st birthday was a time for much revelry and drunkenness." Hoots and hollers met his words. He winked at me. "As you can see, nothing has changed. I give you the woman of the hour, our Valeris. Her brains are matched only by her beauty and her gentle spirit."

"Oh for god's sake just shut up and kiss her," someone yelled.

He walked up to me. "I know you are a Vulcan and I shouldn't do this. But it is tradition." He leaned over and kissed me softly on the lips. "Happy Birthday, Valeris."

I did not react I was too shocked. As he was pulling away our eyes met and I saw in his earnest longing and a gentle affection.

"I wish I wasn't shipping out this summer, Valeris." he whispered. "I'd really like to know you better."

"Some things just aren't meant to be, Tom," I said gently. I realized as I said it that I actually felt regret.


The school year wound down and before I knew it we were all preparing for our final training cruise. As I had known I would be, I was assigned to the Endymion. Spock refrained from comment but I could tell he was pleased with the posting, although I suspected he would have preferred to see me on a starship.

"A destroyer is an excellent learning ground for you, Valeris. You will have many diverse opportunities."

"Yes, sir."

He looked at the crew manifest. "Did you not serve with Lt. Colonel West on the Baltimore?"

"Yes sir. Colonel West was the CO."

Spock looked momentarily concerned. "You would tell me if there were a reason that you are serving with him again, wouldn't you?"

Not you too, I thought. In a clipped tone, I said, "I respect his command abilities and trust his judgment implicitly. But he is not my *sugar daddy* if that is what you are implying, Sir."

Spock was taken aback. "I am not sure that I meant precisely that. But I am gratified to know it is not the case."


I was amazed at how happy I was to meet up with some of my old marine friends again. And seeing West waiting for me to arrive on the marine deck made me feel safer. Just having him near was a comfort. Seeing Sandeau waiting next to him nearly spoiled my little homecoming.

"Cadet, Valeris. Welcome aboard. Sandeau, will show you to your quarters. Then come to my office at 0900. We have much to discuss about your training."

"Yes, Sir." I followed my old nemesis out.

"How have you been, ma'am?"

I turned to look at him. As I suspected he did not look as if he particularly cared. But his protocol was impeccable. He had dropped the "Sir" of the marine ship and now referred to me in the more common way of the naval-based Starfleet. I decided I preferred "Sir."

"Well enough, Sandeau. Although I know that you don't really care one way or the other. So let's cut the social chit chat, ok. Just show me to my quarters."

He pulled me into a small corridor, pushed me up against the wall, he had one hand against my throat while the other held my right arm. His body pushed against me, holding the other arm down. "Don't think I've forgotten what you did to me, Valeris. And I don't see any knife this time. His grip on my throat tightened. I found it difficult to breathe.

"I don't need," I took a deep breath and smashed my head into his. "any damn knife" I slammed into him again, "to take care of space garbage" again my head made contact with his, "like you."

He fell like a stone at my feet.

I walked to the comm box. "Cadet Valeris to sickbay."

"Go ahead, cadet."

"I believe yeoman Sandeau needs medical assistance. And could you bring some analgesic. I have a splitting headache."

"Where are you, Cadet?"

I looked around for a marker. "Deck 4, sector D2."

"We'll be right there."

Good, I thought to myself. And make it quick before my head explodes. I returned to where Sandeau was lying. I sank down next to him. Moans from his direction told me he was waking up. The man must have an iron skull, I mused. I briefly contemplated punching him to put him back out, but did not relish explaining a headache and a broken hand. So I watched dispassionately as he came around.

"Oh, man," he groaned loudly. "You are such a damn bitch."

"And perhaps next time you will remember that. I let you live because we are all working together here. But if you touch me again, I swear I'll kill you. Do you understand me?"

Hatred vied with fear for dominion, fear finally won out. "I understand you perfectly, ma'am."


Despite my little altercation with Sandeau I managed to make it on time to West's office. After I rang the chime, the door opened and he motioned me in from where he sat at his desk still in conversation with someone on the comm unit. I busied myself with looking at the pictures that covered his walls. Some showed him as a young man at the Academy, others were informal shots with crewmembers. There were no family pictures. Commendations were scattered among the holo-stills. "Major Jackson West, for service above and beyond the call of duty." "For uncommon valor." "For sustaining personal injury." "Outstanding marine CO, Lt. Colonel Jackson West."

"Where is Sandeau?"

I turned away from the wall and sat in the chair across from his desk. "It was the strangest thing, Sir. A bizarre corridor accident. Severe head trauma but he'll be fine."

West looked at me sternly, "Do I want to know about this?"

"Probably not. I believe Sandeau and I have reestablished our understanding."

He seemed to accept that. "Good. Then we won't speak of it again." He handed over some printouts. "This is your schedule for the summer. It is quite ambitious as you can see. I intend for you to learn as much as possible."

I scanned the list as he spoke; it was indeed packed full. Two weeks in engineering learning propulsion systems, two weeks in computer science getting to know the sensor and navigational programming, two weeks at helm, two weeks in stellar cartography, two weeks in security, then three weeks again at helm. "I understand how most of this relates to being a pilot. But cartography? Security?"

He smiled at me. "The cartography department has just taken delivery of a new remote sensing device. It should allow them to chart inside a nebula and other difficult phenomena. It should be very interesting. You may not always want to be a pilot, Varleris. It is a good idea to gain exposure to other areas."

"But security, Sir?"

"In the future, for the cause, it may be necessary to have you involved in that. I want you to know how it operates, how things really work on a vessel this size. It should be eye opening. It will also make you a better officer. And I want to make you the best officer I can."

"Why, Sir? Why have you taken such an interest in me?"

He busied himself with some papers. "I've told you before, Valeris, you have excellent potential. It only makes sense to encourage you."

I found I could not let it rest. "That does not explain why sometimes when you look at me you have such a sad expression on your face. Or why you are so protective of me."

He did not look up. His voice was very soft. "I had a daughter. Looked a lot like you. Would have been about your age too."

Would have been? "She died?"

He looked up. His eyes were harsh." She was murdered. She and her mother were on their way to see my wife's parents on Sigmus IX. The ship they were on was hit by an ion storm. All navigational instruments were off line. Propulsion was failing. They drifted into the neutral zone. They were completely unarmed. The Klingons found them there. Gave them virtually no time to get out given the ship's condition. Fired on them as they were trying to make it back to Federation space. The ship had minimal shielding. Everyone was lost."

We were silent for a long moment. Finally I spoke, very softly. "The Klingons killed my guardian, and the two women that had raised me as their own. Fired on them without provocation."

His eyes gentled as he looked at me. "Is it any wonder that we hate Klingons, you and I?"

I leaned forward. I knew my eyes were dangerous. "Tell me that we will make them pay, Colonel. That they will hurt for having taken away those we loved the most."

His eyes gleamed as he said, "Oh we'll make them pay, Valeris. We will make them all pay."


I did not expect to enjoy my engineering assignment but I found it fascinating to learn the ins and outs of the main engines, the propulsion systems. I soaked up as much information as I could and quickly had the basic lessons they had intended for me to learn down pat. I stared to put in extra time. Commander Parks, the head of engineering, would often catch me boning up on some obscure feature of the ship.

"Here," she said, handing me some blueprints. "Study these. And whatever you don't understand we'll talk about."

I was in heaven. Late at night I would sit with her in the mess hall going over the ship's design. After a week there was little I didn't know about the Endymion.

One night over coffee she handed me another blueprint, this time for the flagship of the fleet, a starship, the Enterprise. "I want you to compare the two. Tell me what the differences are and why you think they are there."

I poured over the charts for the much larger ship. Noted every discrepancy I found and tried to speculate the reasons for it. Parks and I had many lively debates over those, for as it turned out she didn't know all the answers either.

At the end of my tour she handed me copies of schematics. "To remember us by," she smiled. "You're getting a fantastic eval from me, Valeris. I hope you do as well in your other assignments."


I had expected to ace my stint in computer science. And I did indeed already know much of what they were trying to teach me. But I found out quickly that the section head did not like my *creative solutions* for some of the more sticky problems.

"Hacking into a system is not the approved manner, Cadet Valeris." Lt. Kincaid was a tall, slender man, with no charisma and not a wit of humor. "You need to get to the systems through the front door. There has to be a trail so those that come after you can see what you've done. The way you do things, you could hide anything. Very disturbing."

So for the next week and a half I pretended to enjoy programming but I put in no extra time and could hardly wait to get up to the bridge.


"Warp 3, Mr. Valeris."

As I moved the ship into warp, I replied, "Aye aye, Sir." I loved this. Piloting the Baltimore had been fun, but steering the Endymion was an awesome task. It was bigger, and heavier. Everything had to be more controlled, more thought out. This was no sleek little sports car, this was a tank.

"Course, Sir?" Lt. Bakker at Navigation asked.

Captain Rishov answered back, "The Mnemosyne Nubula. You'll be leaving us soon to go work with cartography on the project to map this part of space, right Valeris?"

I swiveled in my chair, "Yes sir. I am looking forward to it."

He smiled at me. "You probably are. I'd be bored stiff. Give me a big ship and let me sit on the bridge and I'll be happy forever."

I knew my eyes were twinkling. "Well, Sir, I can say that I am looking forward to my eventual return to the helm even more."

"Goes without saying, Cadet," he gave me a big grin. "Goes without saying."


I was in the mess hall on a break from cartography. I had my head buried in some charts we had recently scanned from the nebula. West had been right, it was an unprecedented opportunity to take part in this exercise.


I looked up. It was Burke. "I didn't know you were on this ship? I haven't seen you with Sandeau."

"Oh we're on different schedules right now, so I don't see much of him. But we're still friends if that is what you mean?"

"Sit down, Burke, you're giving me a crick staring up at you."

He slid into the booth. "Rick and I had a falling out for while. Over you."

I stared at him in shock. "Over me?"

He nodded. "Yeah. I kept telling him to leave you alone. But he just couldn't. Never seen him that obsessed before. Anyway, he got mad at me when I took up for you. Wouldn't talk to me for a week."

"And that was a bad thing why?"

He looked up and laughed. "Hey you're funny. I wish I knew you better, Valeris. I'm not like him, you know."

"I know you're not. But you like to spend time with him so some part of you must resonate with what he does."

He shrugged. "I don't know about that. He's always looked out for me. And included me. Whenever he's involved it's a good time. Things happen around him. Like girls and stuff. I never had much luck when I tried it alone."

I suddenly felt very sad for this man. "John, I'm sorry. I don't dislike you, really. But nothing is going to happen between us. We all work for West. That's the extent of our relationship."

He eased himself out of the booth. "OK. I just didn't want you to be mad at me because of what Rick tried in the corridor."

"I'm not mad at you."

He looked relieved. His next look was one of complete earnestness. "Good because I would die for you, Valeris. I really would."


I was actually sorry to see my stint in cartography come to an end. I had learned so much and had a chance to be part of some groundbreaking research. It had been an exhilarating two weeks.

West had laughed when I told him this. "Guess this old man knows more than you thought, eh?"

I had given him a small smile back, "So it would appear, Sir."


I reported to Lt. Commander Harris in Security. I was immediately assigned to help with an investigation into illegal use of the computers. I found the investigative process mesmerizing. Just when we would get close to the person that was using the onboard systems to run a gambling service the trail would go dead as the perpetrator rerouted to another channel. What made it so frustrating was that I knew I could catch the person if just allowed to go through the back door.

Harris came in one day as we watched six hours work go cold as we again lost the trail. "I just had a most interesting conversation with Lt. Kincaid after staff meeting, Cadet. Why didn't you tell me you could hack?"

"Sir, Lt. Kincaid clearly said it was not an approved method. He was quite firm."

"Kincaid's an old stick in the mud. And in this office it is more than approved, it is recommended. Now if you have been holding back on us, I suggest you rectify that at once."

"Yes sir." My hands were already rerouting some lines. I was inside the system yet in places that the normal programmers would never see. The lines of the gambling ring were quite clear from this vantage point. I followed them down to the source. "Put a trace on the subsystem ending at Ensign Reshal's room."

Harris reached over to do that and we watched as the records starting dumping right into our laps. After about an hour of evidence collecting, Harris sent a team out to bring him in. I was allowed to sit through the questioning and subsequent confession.

As I was leaving for the day, Harris looked over and gave me a look of approval. "Nice work, Valeris."

"Thank you, Sir!"


"Helm, half right rudder might be advisable." Rishov's voice was calm.

I felt decidedly less so. This was my first time piloting a ship to dock with a space station. Everywhere I looked there seemed to be something to hit.

"You're doing fine, Valeris. Just take it slow." Bakker whispered.

The ship touched with barely a bump. I felt an immeasurable surge of triumph. "Full stop, Sir. Docking clamps engaged. Thrusters off." I resisted the urge to slump in nervous exhaustion over my station.

"Well done, Helm! First time and you didn't shear off an antenna or anything, I'm impressed!" Rishov laughed, "You should have seen my first docking attempt. They had no holovids for a week. I was not a popular person on that station I can tell you!"

I gave him a half smile. "I am fortunate then."

His expression became serious, "Not a damn bit of luck involved, Valeris. You are a skilled pilot and that is all there is to it. Now I believe we all have some shore leave coming as soon as our replacements get here. First round of drinks are on me."


I could not believe my training cruise was over already. It was my last day at the helm. Captain Rishov walked over and handed me a going away gift. It was a small model of the Endymion.

He grinned at my expression. "Didn't want you to forget about us, Valeris." His expression became more serious, "We're up for some crew rotations next summer. Helm is one of them. If you want it, the job's yours."

"Sir?" I couldn't believe my ears.

"I'm serious, you just say the word and I'll tell fleet I want you driving this ship."

I nearly laughed out loud. "Oh yes sir. The word is given, Sir!"

He turned back to his chair with a satisfied smile. "Then considered yourself employed, Cadet."

As soon as my shift was over I hurried to West's office. He was alone and I rushed in.

He took in my flushed appearance and rose quickly from his chair, "Valeris? Are you all right? Did Sandeau do something."

I couldn't help it. I laughed. His eyes widened at the sound. "I get to come back here, Sir! The helm position is mine when I graduate. And we can serve together!"

His face burst into a huge smile. "That's great! I knew you'd do well here. I could not be prouder of you!"

He reached into his credenza and pulled out a blue bottle.

My eyebrows nearly hit my scalp. "Romulan ale, Sir?"

"Never know when it might ease a tense situation. You'll find it on any ship containing a marine contingent."

I looked doubtfully at the bottle, "I don't know sir?"

He took a big drink from his glass. "Don't be silly, Valeris. Time to celebrate!"


The next morning I could barely raise my head off the pillow. "Oh my god, did I get in a fight with someone?" Everything was too loud, my head ached, my tongue was covered with fuzz, and then my stomach started to cramp, "Did I eat something spoiled."

Two hours later I called West and told him I thought I was dying of some terrible disease. He laughed at me and said he would bring over some anti- tox. I nearly gagged getting it down, but a few hours after I took it I felt completely recovered. I had to hurry to pack my bags and say my good- byes before the ship rendezvoused with the shuttle that would carry me and four other cadets back to Earth. I was sorry to say goodbye to my shipmates, but in this case the normal bittersweet pain of bidding new friends farewell was tempered by the knowledge that I would be back with most of them as soon as I graduated.

West was waiting for me at the departure area, just as he had been there when I arrived. This time he did not bring Sandeau.

"Goodbye, Sir."

His eyes were moist. "Goodbye, my dear. Do well in your classes. And be careful on the final scenario exam. They love to throw in a curve." He looked around and seeing no one in the vicinity threw his arms around me and gave me quick hug. "I'll miss you, Valeris."

I gave him a full sad smile and hugged him back. "I'll miss you too, Sir."


I was one of the last cadets to arrive back at the Academy so there were no worries about where to spend break. I had one day to relax and unpack and then classes started back up. Cassie and I caught up in many late night talking sessions. She had loved her training experience and had served on a large science vessel, working on one project the entire time. She was amazed that I had rotated to so many departments. I was glad I had been given such a diverse opportunity.

When we had finished our junior year Cassie had again been in the lead for number one. But that changed quickly in our senior year. It was the ship's systems class that did it. Cassie had been on a ship as big as the Endymion but she had not spent any time getting to know the parts of it that she did not use on a daily basis. I had the advantage of those conversations with Commander Parks, and I really did know a destroyer inside out. Most of the smaller ships were modeled on that type of ship. Starships were tougher but I had studied the Enterprise so I had a much more solid grounding than most of my classmates. I barely studied for the tests while Cassie struggled through the blueprints. I knew that the cold drawings meant little without being able to walk the corridors, tubes, or rooms you were studying. By the time we finished the term I was ahead for the first time.

I was so busy with school the first half of my last year that I rarely had time to visit Sarek and Amanda. They were often back on Vulcan, or at least she was. I suspected that Sarek was on Kronos with his son.

I was relieved to not have to deal with my father. It had become more uncomfortable being around me. His feelings were unmistakable, I wondered that I had ever not realized what he wanted from me. When I actually thought about him I would often find myself disappointed that things had turned out as they had. I sometimes wondered how they might be different now if I had just come out as his daughter right after my mother died. But I knew that at the time I had truly felt that this was the only way. I could not change things. If I told him the truth now he would never forgive me for letting him carry on in such an inappropriate way with his own child.

To be honest I was only mildly fond of my father. I had expected to either love him or hate him. I had not expected this lukewarm affection I held toward him. I was never completely comfortable with him, but at the same time I could often enjoy his company. Since West had let me off the hook with the spy business I had avoided spending too much time with Spock, and had never repeated my flirtatious behavior. I don't know if Spock noticed; he was so frequently off world working with the Klingon diplomats.

During the term break I went back to Albuquerque with Cassie. Her family again welcomed me in as one of their own. I appreciated it, as I had no one left to call family. I had contacted Cassius Miranda as soon as I got back to Earth but he still had not heard from or about Cameron. Just give him up, I thought harshly to myself. Give him up and accept that your past is dead. It was a hard pill to swallow.


Our final term at the Academy was packed with tests of all kinds. We were given full batteries of psych and medical assessments. I had to ask Miranda to find me a doctor that could do the kind of tests necessary without reporting back on my mixed heritage. Only my Valkyrian history kept me out of Starfleet medical.

We also had to run scenario after scenario. Some of the tests were impossible to win, like the old Kobayashi Maru, others were used to evaluate integrity, innovation, initiative, judgment, and courage. I did well on them all as did Cassie. We were pretty much assured of the best assignments if we finished one and two so we kept the pressure on each other.

Academic finals were rigorous and when they were finally over we celebrated with a huge dinner at Sekhmet with all our closest classmates.

"To finally being done," one of them said, raising his glass of beer.

"Here, here!" was the resounding reply.

We all discussed our first assignments. There were a lot of jealous looks that I would be piloting a ship as big as the Endymion. Cassie too garnered envy when she announced she had been assigned to the Science vessel Kaplan.

"Guess it pays to finish one and two," someone noted sardonically.

We smiled at each other, we still had not seen our final standing but we knew that there was no way we would not finish in the top two, we were just not sure which of use would grab the top honor.

"It really doesn't matter to me, Valeris." Cassie said that night when we returned to our dorm room. "As long as I lose to you I'll be ok with that."

I gave her one of my rare smiles. "I feel the same way, Cassie. We both did great." I started to pack up some of my things. I was startled to hear sobs coming from her side of the room.

"Cassie? What's wrong?"

She just cried harder. I sat next to her and tentatively put my arms around her. "Shhh. Shhh. What's wrong, Cassie? Tell me what's wrong."

"It's silly."

"Just tell me."

She sat up and pulled a tissue out of the box. "It's just that we've been working so hard for this moment. And now it is here. And I am so sad. Like I feel this enormous let down and you're going away and so am I and everything will be different and we'll never get this back and I'm just so confused."

I raised an eyebrow at her words. "I know. But we'll always be friends, Cassie. Nothing can change that."

"Promise?" she smiled at the childish sound of her word.

"Promise. Friends forever?"

She nodded, "Forever and ever."


The speeches were interminable at our graduation. We listened to speaker after speaker exhort us to do our best, to rise to any challenge, to give 110 percent. We were all too excited to start our careers to be able to sit through the several hours of talking heads without fidgeting. Cassie and I sat together in our new dress uniforms. We stood to take the oath and finally it was over. We were no longer cadets. I turned to Cassie.

"May I be the first to wish you good afternoon, Ensign Drake?"

She grinned, "Indeed you may. And may I return the favor, Ensign Valeris?"

"You may."

We were both silent then. Her family was waiting for me. I had no one in the audience, my adopted Vulcan family being away again. This was the moment we both dreaded.

Don't cry, I admonished myself. Do not cry.

"Let's make this quick," Cassie said as her eyes began to well. "I promise to write whenever I can."

"Me too."

She stood awkwardly; I knew she wanted to hug me but was afraid of insulting me. Finally I just held my arms open and she wrapped herself around me fiercely.

"Oh Valeris, I'm going to miss you so much!"

"And I will miss you, my dearest friend."

In an unspoken accord we both turned and went our separate ways. As I walked down the aisle to exit quietly, a familiar voice rang out from behind me. "Well, *Ensign* Valeris, I see you managed to graduate number one after all."

I spun and had to fight a huge smile as I saw Lt. Colonel, no wait, full Colonel West standing in front of me. "Sir! You've been promoted, congratulations!"

He looked pleased. "Yes, guess my number came up. But what about you, young lady, how did you manage to pull the first place from your friend?"

"It was all due to you, Sir. You and your rotations." As I gave him a sheepish look he grinned. "Knowing so much about the ship helped me ace the ship's systems classes. That was the only thing that pulled me out in front."

"Well I'm glad I could be of service."

"I'm glad you came, Sir."

"Miss your graduation? Not on your life!" He straightened the bar on my uniform regalia that indicated I had graduated at the top of my class. "I'm leaving for the Endymion tomorrow, Valeris, if you want to accompany me?"

I nodded and let eyes dance with happiness. "That would be great."

"What are you doing tonight? Some celebration party?"

I tried to keep my face expressionless. "No. I'm just going to take it easy."

He studied me. "No. No, you're not. I'm going to take you to the best damn restaurant in this city and we are going to celebrate!"

"Sir, you don't have to."

"Better shut up, Ensign, before you make me very mad. If I say we're going to celebrate, then we are going to celebrate!"

I allowed myself a smile. "All right then. But no Romulan ale this time."

He snorted in disgust at my suggestion. "Of course no Romulan ale. We're going to do this right. Champagne is what we are going to drink far too much of tonight."

"Then we are stopping at the pharmacy first. I want to make sure I have the anti-tox before I wake up feeling like I was run over by a shuttlecraft."

"You're getting the hang of this, Valeris. You are really getting the hang of this."


As I sat at the helm of the Endymion I realized that I had never been happier in my life, at least not since my mother died. The job was so satisfying, the crew I served with so professional, the Captain so encouraging that I quickly acclimated to full time life aboard ship.

And of course I had Colonel West as a mentor and friend. We often spent time together. Some of the marines from the Baltimore had also found their way to the destroyer so I often attended their parties. It made me the envy and curiosity of my regular fleet friends. Marines were notoriously clannish, but they adopted me as one of their own and I was always welcome in their lounge. It didn't hurt that my 9-ball game was as good, if not better, than any of theirs. I was always being challenged and racked up quite a few credits over the months I had been onboard.

There were times that piloting was not so exciting. There was little to do when I was not actively steering. I had several programs I ran in the down times, trying to figure out the most efficient trajectory for various voyages. It was a way of testing myself and keeping sharp when things got boring.

But things were not boring today. We had just entered the neutral zone on a rescue mission of a private transport ship that had broken down and was drifting dangerously close to Klingon Space. We had beamed some repair crews over to help get their engines back on line after it had been decided that towing them out would put too great a strain on our engines.

"Captain," I spoke as I watched two Klingon Birds of Prey appear on the sensors. As others on the bridge crew went about opening hailing frequencies and raising shields, I began to scan for any anomalous readings. I found two.

I turned to Rishov who was busy with a belligerent Klingon commander. "This is a rescue mission, repeat a rescue mission. We do not intend to engage with you."

The Klingon was undeterred. "You have one minute to leave our territory or you will be fired upon."

I scanned the freighter. It was full of dilithium. No wonder they wanted it.

I caught Rishov's attention, indicating by hand signal that I needed to tell him something offline. A sign from him and the communications officer began to fill the channel with interference.

"This is Endymion. We are setting to new channel. Please stand by," he nodded to Rishov that we were clear.

The captain turned to me, "What did you find?"

"I think there are two more ships, cloaked, both approaching from behind the other two. They'll have us surrounded if we don't do something."

Rishov walked over to my readings. "Damn them. This is just a rescue mission."

"It's a dilithium freighter sir, fully loaded. The Klingons have so few sources of their own. They may think taking us on is worth the risk for a prize this big."

Rishov frowned then reached over to the comm unit on my console. "Engineering, I know you said no tractor beam. But if it were that or a being in a major conflict?"

Park's voice came back instantly. "Understood, Sir. I'm diverting power to all non-essential systems. Tractor at my mark. 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, Mark!"

"Go, Valeris." He said, then ordered the computer to go to Red Alert.

I had already punched in the coordinates that would allow us to accelerate smartly without ripping the towed freighter apart. In seconds we were out of the neutral zone. The Klingons followed us into Federation space.

I did some quick calculations. "We're not going to outrun them at this speed, Sir. But at Warp 6 I could."

Rishov was back on the comm, "Parks, we need Warp 6."

There was silence for a second then her voice came across. "Ok, but that means life support will be affected."

"Do it."

Parks' voice was calm. "Keep talking to a minimum, and don't move around. You've got the extra power, Valeris.now!"

I urged the ship into the higher warp. When we hit warp 6 we began to outdistance the Klingon ships. But the air was getting thinner and thinner as the ship's energy went into dragging the heavy freighter behind us at such a high speed. The bridge was uncomfortably hot and stuffy. "Just a few more minutes," I encouraged the rest of the bridge. I watched as the Klingons finally veered off course and headed back to the Neutral Zone. I searched the sensors for any sign of the cloaked ships but they appeared to have broken away as well. "One more minute." I called down to Engineering, "Ready to restore ships functions at my mark."

"Roger," was Park's breathless reply.

"3, 2, 1 Mark." I slowed the Endymion as Parks cut back on the systems. Cool air began to flood the bridge. I found myself gulping it in gratefully.

The rest of the crew went into action.

Lt. Bakker smiled at me and said softly. "No sign of them. Way to go, Valeris."

The comms officer reported that all hands on the freighter were a bit shaken up but fine.

Rishov smiled at me, "Why do I think you purposely saved doing something this spectacular for the day before the ensign promotion panel?"

"Pure coincidence, Sir." I gave him my smile expression. I had perfected it in the last months. I let my eyes dance and allowed the corners of my mouth to turn up ever so slightly. I had found my crewmates reacted to it as if I had let loose a big belly laugh. And it allowed me some relief from the constant fight to be the stoic Vulcan.

"Well whatever it was, Ensign, it was damn fine work!"


I sat in West's office. We were both off work and we had kicked back with some tequila. I was becoming quite the adventurer when it came to alcohol. I often teased him that he was a very bad influence. He would retort that it was all my fault. If I would quit giving him reasons to celebrate we wouldn't have to drink.

He kicked back another shot. We both had injections of detox waiting that would make sure we were instantly sober in case of an emergency. If none arose we would take antitox before bed and let the buzz wear off more naturally.

"Well, Lieutenant Valeris, you got your promotion in record time. My hat is off to you."

I drained my glass. "Sir, you don't wear a hat."

We both laughed at that. I had given up all pretense with him. He had never asked me about my emotionalism but he knew of my Valkyrian history and probably thought my ability to show my feelings was because of that.

"You know," he poured us both another shot. "I think it is high time that you quit calling me Sir in private."

"What should I call you?"

"Well how about my name? Try it out, see if it rolls off your tongue."

"Jackson," I said tentatively.

He slammed down his drink. "Yeah, that sounds good." He looked at me shyly, "So will you? Nobody here ever calls me anything but Colonel West, or Sir, or that old bastard."

We both laughed again. "I'll call you Jackson if it would make you happy."

"Good." He refilled his glass. "Valeris.you're the best thing that ever happened to me. Brought me back to life." He slouched in his chair. "I know you're someone else's daughter but I think of you as my own."

I looked at him affectionately. "I'd be so proud to be your daughter, Sir."

His eyes were slightly teary but he shook his finger at me sternly. "What did we just agree?"

I rolled my eyes in pretend irritation. "I'd be so proud to be your daughter, Jackson."

"That's better." He poured us each another. "To us, my dear. A finer team there never was!"

"Damn straight," I smiled as we both threw back the fiery liquid.


I stood alone at the departure lounge at Starbase 15 waiting for my shuttle to begin boarding. I had beamed down two days ago and had killed time here waiting to get back to Earth. Rishov had been sorry to see me go but understood my desire to get the coveted helm position on the Enterprise. He did not realize that I would have preferred to stay on the Endymion where I was happy. But the cause had called and I had answered.

West had left a month before, but his tour was up so that was not unusual. I would catch up with him during the briefing period on Earth before I reported to Enterprise. Sandeau and Burke would also be on the Enterprise, but detached to security. Something big was happening and we would be a part of it.

As the shuttle crew announced boarding I chose a seat in the back and thought of what could possibly be going on. West had instructed me to volunteer for the Enterprise. The admiral had no doubt greased the skids for me, although my record alone might have been enough to get me on. I bit back the sadness I felt at leaving behind the bridge crew on Endymion. Maybe when this was all over I could arrange to get back there. I drew comfort from that thought.

The trip home was uneventful and I was soon back in San Francisco. I stayed with West at his sister's apartment. I purposely did not contact Spock or his family. I would be on Earth such a short time I should be able to get up to the Enterprise without seeing him.

I was surprised when I heard at the briefing the next day that not only would I have to see Spock but I would also be serving with him on the Enterprise.

Cartwright looked at me sternly, "Do you have a problem with that, Lieutenant?"

I held my head up, "No problem, Sir."

"Good. Then lets get started. I want to play you something. This is why we are having Jim Kirk lead this mission."

Over the speakers a conversation began. The first voice I did not recognize.

"They're animals."

"Jim, there is an historic opportunity here," I instantly recognized my father's low voice and his disapproving tone.

So this was Kirk. "Don't believe them. Don't trust them." I sympathized with him.

"They are dying."

"Let them die."

Cartwright turned off the recording. "Kirk lost his only son to the Klingons. Cold blooded murder. He hates them as much as any of us. He won't like what is going to happen on his ship but he won't stand in the way of the inevitable. He doesn't want this peace. In the end we can count on that."

Ambassador Nanclus turned to me, "Do you understand your part in all this?"

I nodded. "Perfectly, Sir. It is an ingenious plan."

West interjected, "Valeris will have no problem with the computer or with keeping Kirk and Spock off balance when it comes to finding out what happened."

I looked up from the operations plan I had memorized. "I don't understand how you got General Chang involved?"

Nanclus shrugged, "It was a stroke of pure luck. We can count on his help."

"He would betray his own people?"

Cartwright looked at me sternly. "That's what people will assume we are doing if this thing goes south."

"But we are saving the Federation, Admiral. Surely anyone can understand that?"

He looked grim, "I wish that were so, Lieutenant. I really do."


The next day as I prepared to leave the house for transport up to spacedock, West pulled me into the study. "I wanted to talk to you before you left. Be careful, Valeris. Be very careful."

"I will."

He took a deep breath then said, "If things go wrong, if it looks like you might get caught, I want you to get rid of Sandeau and Burke. It will be much harder to pin anything on you if the others are dead."

"Kill our own people?"

His hand reached out and stroked my hair. "They're good men but they're not you. Nothing must happen to you. If it's a choice then you are under orders to make sure you survive. Do you understand?"

I leaned into his hand. His touch on my hair was comforting. "I understand, Jackson."

He pulled me into a quick hug. I felt his lips on my forehead. "Good luck, Valeris. Remember what we are doing now will resonate into the future."

I leaned up and kissed his cheek. "I will see you when I get back."


Being on the Enterprise was more exciting than I expected. The ship practically hummed with power, even at a full stop in Space Dock. I could not imagine what piloting her would be like. I took my blueprints with me as I prowled the corridors and tubes getting to know the ship. I also found time to lay in the computer programs and routines that I would need to override the existing data when our operation began.

Sandeau and Burke were already onboard. Sandeau only glared as he saluted me but I saw the same adoring expression on Burke's face. I sighed as I realized the man would never get over his crush on me. In private we discussed our mission, going over every possible thing that could go wrong and how to recover. By the time the rest of the bridge crew arrived we were ready.


I was sitting in the captain's chair when Kirk and the rest of the bridge crew arrived. I saw the door open out of the corner of my eye, heard the captain's voice, and sprang to my feet. " Captain on the bridge"

Kirk stopped and looked over bridge. Spock, Commanders Uhura and Chekov, and Dr. McCoy were also with him. The captain turned to me, "As you were, Lieutenant.?"

"Valeris, Sir. I was told that you needed a helmsman. So I volunteered."

Spock's voice was pleased; he had perhaps not expected me to be here. "Lieutenant, it is agreeable to see you again." He turned to Kirk. "The lieutenant was the first Vulcan to be graduated at the top of her class at the Academy."

Kirk turned to me. "You must be very proud."

I gave him my best Vulcan detachment. "I don't believe so, Sir."

The doctor chimed in. "She's a Vulcan alright." His tone was mocking. I decided I didn't like him. I also wondered why he was on the bridge. The medical staff on Endymion did not as a rule lounge around the operations center.

Kirk wasted no more time with pleasantries. I took my seat at the helm at his next orders. "Let's get this over with. Departure stations."

There was the usual controlled chaos on the bridge as we prepared to get underway. Calls to engineering and spacedock control. Finally we had permission to depart."

I started the process, "Clear all moorings."

Kirk's voice sounded like a little boy trying to stay calm, "Waiting port gates this mark."

I confirmed status. "Aft thrusters."

His next order was unexpected. "Thank you, Lieutenant. One-quarter impulse power."

I swiveled in the chair to face him "Captain, may I remind you that regulations specify thrusters only while in space dock."

I saw Uhura shake her head. She clucked her tongue. Spock cleared his throat. I looked over at him confused. What had I said that was so wrong?

McCoy leaned over to the captain, "Jim."

Kirk gave me a devilish and at the same time put-upon grin, "You heard the order, Lieutenant."

"Aye sir," I turned back and commenced leaving spacedock at far too fast a speed. It was one of the most daring things I had ever done. I started appreciating this man who had been the great friend of my father's life.


I stood outside Kirk's cabin. The recorder I wore was capturing everything he said as he hung his bags up. The largest satchel had been left in the door, preventing it from closing. I had come to relay a message but his diatribe was too useful to pass up.

"I've never trusted Klingons and I never will. I can never forgive them for the death of my boy. Spock says this could be an historic occasion, and I'd like to believe him, but how on Earth can history get past people like me."

I turned off the recorder and cleared my throat. "Sorry."

He seemed irritated. "You could have knocked."

On what, I wondered? "We are almost at the rendezvous, Sir. I thought that you would like to know." I reached down and picked up the suitcase. The door closed behind me I placed the bag on the chair. "Permission to speak freely, Sir? It is an honor to serve with you."

He picked up the bag and threw it onto the bed. "You piloted well out of space dock, Lieutenant."

I knew he could tell I was fighting a grin, "I've always wanted to try that, Sir."

He laughed. "What would Captain Spock say to that?"

"I won't tell him if you won't."

He laughed again. "You've got yourself a deal, Lieutenant. Now get out of here and let me unpack."

"Yes, Sir." I headed for the door.

"Oh Lieutenant. Since you are on this floor why don't you go tell Spock that we are almost there."

My heart sank. I had hoped to put off this meeting. "Of course, Sir."


I stood outside Kirk's quarters. Spock's door was just down the hall. I did not want to do this. I reached for the chain I had worn since my first year in the Academy. Unclasping it I took my grandmother's ring off and slid it onto my finger. It gleamed as if to give me strength. I put the chain back around my neck and moved to my father's quarters. I rang the chime.


I walked in. Spock looked up from meditating. "Valeris."

"I am disturbing your contemplation, Sir. I came only to tell you we are almost at the rendezvous site." I turned to leave.

"Stay." He rose. He had removed his uniform, which was folded neatly on his bed. The black robe he wore was detailed with rich embroidery. He moved to the bureau and lit a candle. Reaching for an elaborate glass cup he began to prepare M'lak ta, a Vulcan ritual beverage.

I did not want to watch the deep precision he would no doubt give to the mixing of the drink. I moved to study his painting, a new one. It looked like a Chagall.

"You've done well, Valeris. As your sponsor at the Academy I have followed your career with satisfaction. And as a Vulcan you've exceeded my expectation."

I did not turn around, nor did I acknowledge his praise. I changed the subject. "I do not understand this representation."

"It is a depiction from ancient Earth mythology, the expulsion from paradise."

Interesting theme for him to pick. "Why keep it in your quarters?"

"It is a reminder to me that all things end."

I felt the old anger fill me. I wanted to yell at him, "Like your marriage to my mother ended?" But I did not. I heard him continue to mix the elaborate drink. Suddenly I didn't want to be angry at this man anymore. I just wanted to enjoy him. I wanted to stop being afraid around him. I wanted to scream the truth at him. Maybe if I started with something small, or at least smaller. I turned to him, moved closer. "It is of endings that I wish to speak. Sir, I address you as a kindred intellect. Do you not recognize that a turning point has been reached in the affairs of the Federation."

"Hmm, history is replete with turning points, Lieutenant. You must have faith." He turned to face me.

"Faith?" This was going nowhere fast.

"That the universe will unfold as it should."

I looked at him, I hoped my face did not betray my disbelief. The universe had never unfolded the way I thought it should. "But is that logical, surely."

"Logic, logic, and logic. Logic is the beginning of wisdom, Valeris, not the end."

Now I truly did not understand him. Or perhaps I understood him too well. A shudder traveled down my spine. Do not let this mean what I think it does.

He handed me the cup. "This will be my final voyage on board this vessel as a member of her crew. Nature abhors a vacuum. I intend you to replace me."

I stood shocked. Too stunned probably for any of it to show on my face. Replace him? As what? For Science Officer I was not qualified. For first officer I did not have enough experience. What did he mean? What could he have planned? Did he plan on grooming me, shaping me, taking away my choices to make me like himself. He waited for an answer. I gave him an honest one. "I could only succeed you, Sir."

I was afraid that I would gag on the M'lak ta. I lifted the cup to my lips but did not drink.

The ship wide announcement sounded, ""Now here this, all officers to the bridge. Klingon battlecruiser off the port bow, all officers to the bridge."

I breathed a huge sigh of relief. This meeting was over. I handed the cup back to him and watched horrified as he drank from it. We stared at each other for a moment. His face dark with emotion. Mine forced into immovability as I fought my urge to scream.

"I will wait for you at the lift."

"There is no need to go." I was afraid for a moment he would change in front of me but he collected his uniform and headed to the bathroom.

I toyed with the ring on my finger. I should put it back on its chain but I found I could not bear to. I would wear it in full view. I needed the strength it would give me.


Spock and I arrived on the bridge in time to see the battlecruiser looming over us on the viewer. I was as stunned as the rest when Kirk invited the Klingons aboard to dine. This was not one of the scenarios we had practiced for. I thought quickly. Pictures of West and I drinking into the night came to me. This could work even better than expected. So it was I that suggested serving the Romulan ale.

And I was in the transporter room, hidden in a side room, when the Klingon Chancellor and his party beamed aboard. Sandeau and Burke were on guard duty. Sandeau had to pipe the Klingons aboard. Must have made him slightly sick to give them such an honor. I watched from the shadows as introductions were made. Then they were gone and my men were walking toward me.

Burke remarked, "They all look alike." Bless his heart he probably meant that honestly.

Sandeau of course had a smart retort. "What about that smell? You know only the top of the line models can even talk."

They nearly walked into me. "You men have work?"

"Yes, Ma'am"

"Then snap to it." I stood, pleased with how things were going. Everything was proceeding just as it should.


The attack had gone exactly as planned. Perfectly executed. Our ship's computers said we had fired, just as I had instructed them to. Chang's ship lay underneath us. I could see it in the sensors but I knew what to look for. Spock had almost come across it but then the firing began. Sandeau and Burke had done their job without a misstep. Gorkon was dead. And so was any chance for peace. We would have a small skirmish here and then we would return to the quadrant. A terrible misunderstanding, nothing more.

I watched as Change came on the video screen. Just as we had arranged. His acting skills were amazing. But not so surprising for a man so in love with Shakespeare. "Have you not a shred of decency in you, Kirk? We come in peace and you blatantly defile that peace. For that I shall blow you out of the stars."

I saw the ship move into position, "Captain, they're coming about."

He did nothing.

Spock warned, "They're preparing to fire."

Still he did nothing.

Chekov sounded unsure. "Shields up, Captain?"

Nothing. Where was the Kirk that hated Klingons? The Kirk that had never lost to them? I tried to shake him out of his immobility, "Captain, our shields?"

Chekov pleaded, "Shields *up,* Captain?"

Kirk finally moved. And he said the most terrible thing possible. "Signal our surrender."

We all sat shocked. Uhura finally voiced our disbelief, "Captain?"

He snapped at her, at us all. "We surrender."

Suddenly something had gone very wrong with the plan. The man who would never want peace had just sacrificed us all for the sake of preserving it.


We sat helplessly as the Captain and Doctor McCoy beamed over. We did nothing except notify Starfleet command as the Klingons arrested them.

I turned on Spock, who had taken command, "We cannot allow them to be taken back to Kronos as prisoners."

He did not stop moving, "What do you suggest Lieutenant? Opening fire will not retrieve them and an armed conflict is precisely what the Captain wished to avoid. We *will* be able to follow the Captain's movements."

I was perplexed. They would be deep in Klingon space with no way to track them unless we acted now. "How did you achieve this, Sir?"

He was impatient with me, already he was working to save them, but in his own way, not mine, not the cause's. "Time is precious, Lieutenant. We must endeavor to piece together what happened here tonight."

And from that moment on we were playing a game. A deadly game with lives at stake but a game nonetheless. Spock was the detective that wouldn't sleep. And I worked by his side. For the first time in our relationship I actually had fun being with him. It made no sense to me because he was in deadly earnest, but the chase was intoxicating. Especially when I knew that me and mine were the quarry. When Starfleet ordered us back to Earth I planted a seed in Uhura and Chekov's minds.

"400 years ago on the planet Earth, workers who felt their livelihood threatened by automation flung their wooden shoes called Sabot into the machines to stop them."

The expressions they exchanged implied they thought I had gone crazy. I continued, "Hence the word sabotage."

They looked at me with new appreciation as they practiced excuses they would give Starfleet.


I was watching the holovid on the bridge when the news came on. The headlines were astounding. I ran to tell Spock. I heard his voice in the torpedo storage area. He was telling Mr. Scott they would have to do a visual count. I needed to get down to them quickly. I saw the pole and wrapping my leg around it descended quickly, landing just as Spock walked up. "Gorkon's daughter has been named chancellor. It is on the news."

Mr. Scott reacted viciously, "I bet that Klingon bitch killed her father."

Spock was aghast. "Her own father?"

I couldn't resist. "It is an old story, Sir."

Scotty continued his tirade. "They don't place the same value on life as we do, Spock, you know that. Take my word she did not shed one bloody tear."

Spock was unimpressed, "Hardly conclusive, Mr. Scott, since Klingons have no tear ducts." He turned to me. "Lieutenant, any response from Starfleet since our dispatch."

"Yes, sir." I looked at him calmly.

He waited for me to continue. Finally he prompted, "And?"

"Commander Uhura is experiencing technical difficulties, Sir."

He understood at once. I saw approval in his eyes. "Curious. Very well, for twenty-four hours we'll agree this conversation did not take place."

"A lie?" I asked in surprise.

"An omission." As he walked off with Mr. Scott to count torpedoes I pondered his words.


We all sat stunned as the verdict came in. "Guilty. Rura Pente." I tried to imagine what must have been going on back at fleet headquarters. I knew that West would be incensed. James T. Kirk was one of his personal heroes. Spock wasted no time getting back to the investigation. I was astounded when he claimed we were descended from Sherlock Holmes. I wondered at that. I would have to ask my grandmother.

He put me in charge of the investigation. I was to search the ship looking for evidence.

Chekov was perplexed. "What are we looking for?"

Spock turned to me, "Lieutenant?"

I answered unhesitatingly, "Two pairs of gravity boots."


The crew turned the ship inside out. They looked everywhere and I led them in that effort. Well, not quite everywhere. My cabin was overlooked, just as I suspected Spock's was.

Watching Spock I was struck by his dedication to clearing his friends. No wonder my mother had been jealous of Kirk. And probably of McCoy to a lesser extent. My mother had probably never felt that she had that kind of devotion from him.

He let me run the investigation as I saw fit. His indulgence of me was incredible. I knew it was not the fond tolerance of a father and that distressed me. But I still played it. Firing the phaser in the mess hall just to prove a point was the final test. I should have been verbally reprimanded; instead I sensed only approval in his look.

And then I again witnessed him in a lie. After prompting Mr. Scott for false damage reports, he turned to me and instructed, "Valeris, please inform Starfleet command that our warp drive is inoperative."

"A lie?" I asked.

"An error," he corrected.


The game was no longer fun. We were getting too close. Chekov had found the blood on the transporter pad and now all the uniforms were being collected. Spock had been right, the boots were hanging around our necks like a pair of Tiberian bats. I planted one pair in crewman Dax's quarters. I wanted to throw off the searchers but I was not interested in framing an innocent man. I knew his lizard-like feet would remove him from the lists of suspects. I hoped that my finding the boots, and obvious chagrin over the incident would throw suspicion off me later.

But still Spock worked to find the truth. He had figured out that there was a cloaked ship beneath us, that it was this ship that really fired. He had the blood. And one pair of boots. And now we were miraculously on our way to rescue the Captain.

I had to move the suits. But where? Somewhere they would quickly be found, but in a way that would look like they had been there for a long time. The conference room. It had a ventilation shaft that would fit the suits. No meetings had been held there. Now I needed to get someone in there. And I knew who.

"Mr. Scott?"

He was carrying a cup of tea. "Aye, Lieutenant."

"I've been going over every possible hiding place on the ship. And I remembered that I had these blueprints for studying for my finals at the Academy. I thought they might come in handy. But I am not that familiar with a starship. Perhaps you could help me?"

He nodded and I said, "We need somewhere we can spread these out, somewhere quiet, where we won't be disturbed."

He started off. "Let's just commandeer the conference room, why don't we."

A few minutes late he was settling down at the table. The computer suddenly paged me. "Lt. Valeris, Lt. Valeris, please report to deck 3 security."

Scott looked up from the drawings. "You go on. I'll stay here and see what I come up with."

"If you're sure you don't mind."

"Not at all."

I left. I had one more thing to do.


Five minutes later, I was standing in the tunnel that led from the main transporter room, trying to get Sandeau and Burke to shut up.

"Gentlemen this is a public place. We need to have this discussion somewhere else. Let's go to one of the Jeffries tubes."

Sandeau moved toward me, "Like hell, Valeris. I'm so sick of you ordering us around. This whole thing's going to hell. They're going to find us. And you just sit there playing detective while we try to hide the evidence. Then you go and move it again! Why?"

"They need to find it. Or they will never stop looking."

Sandeau's expression darkened even more. "They find those uniforms, they find us. What are you playing at?"

"They'll never be able to pin it on you, I told you I have entries of you using the computer during the time of the attack."

Sandeau's hand slapped me across the face before I could react. "What can be added, can just as easily be erased. You're planning a doublecross aren't you?"

Burke spoke up for the first time, "She wouldn't do that to us, Rick. Don't hit her again."

Sandeau turned on Burke, "Open your eyes, John! She doesn't care about you. Or me. We're liabilities now." His hand whipped out again but this time I was ready. I caught it with my own and stopped it from hitting me in the face.

"Do you remember what I told you I'd do if you touched me again, you pig?" I reached behind me and with my other hand drew out the phaser I had hidden underneath the jacket in the back of my uniform.

"Oh yeah, and what are you going to do to me, Valeris. Go ahead. Show me how scared I should be." He shook free of my hand and spread his arms wide. "C'mon lets see what you can do, you pointy-eared bitch."

The gun was to his temple before he realized what was happening. A long burst on stun and he fell to the ground and did not move again.

I looked over at Burke who was staring in confusion at his friend's body. I made my voice very small and afraid. "He would have hurt me, John. You know that? I had to do it."

He looked so confused. His eyes stared at his friend on the floor. "You killed him, Valeris. I don't understand?"

I pushed myself against him, wrapped my arms around him, felt his own arms come around me. "He would have hurt me, John. He would have hurt me so bad."

His embrace tightened as he murmured, "Shhh. It's all right then. I couldn't let him hurt you. I couldn't live with myself if anything happened to you."

I looked up at him and then I kissed him, a long sweet kiss. The sweetest I could give him. As he looked at me with adoration, I whispered to him, "Do you remember when you said you would die for me, John? Did you mean that?"

He reached his hand out to stroke my cheek, so gently. "With all my heart. I've loved you for so long. I'd willingly give my life for yours."

My left hand reached up to cover his. I pressed it hard into my face so that I could feel his emotions. With bitterness in my heart I lifted my other hand, laid the phaser against his temple. "I'm afraid I'm going to have to ask you to do just that."

There was no fear, no anger. Just confusion.and love. My eyes filled with tears as I pulled the trigger. I felt his shock, his mental cry of *Valeris?* I released his hand before I could feel his spark of personality turn to nothingness. His body fell to the ground next to Sandeau.

I left them there to be discovered. I knew it was just a matter of time now. I barely made it back to my quarters before the sobs I had been holding in came out.

What had I become? What kind of monster had I become?


I was in my quarters. My eyes hurt from crying. My head ached from the tension that seemed always to be with me now. So many loose ends, I thought, so many things that won't make sense. I stared at the last pair of gravity boots. I would stash them in engineering, near enough to the engines that there could conceivably have been interference. I was planning how best to get them there undetected when the ship-wide announcement began.

"Now hear this, now hear this. Court reporter to sickbay, code blue urgent. Statements to be taken at once from Yeomen Burke and Sandeau. Repeat, court reporter to sickbay."

There was no way they were alive. A phaser on stun at close range if aimed at just the right place was as lethal as one on the higher setting. West had taught me that. Was it possible that I had miscalculated? That my two accomplices were alive and mad and ready to turn me in? I didn't stop to think. I grabbed my phaser and hurried to sickbay. When I got there the room was darkened. Only the signals over the biobeds and the night lighting allowed me to see where I was going. I moved deliberately, phaser at the ready, this time I would not miss.

I heard a rustle then the light came on. Spock lay in the biobed, his face as angry as I had ever seen it. I tried to hide my shock, but his words took me aback.

"You have to shoot." He sat up, got off the bed. As I backed up he stalked toward me. "If you *are* logical you have to shoot."

I could feel my eyes tear up. The phaser shook in my hand. One shot, one shot. But I couldn't. I had murdered once in anger, and once in necessity. I found now that I could not add my father to my list of victims. "I do not want to."

He moved so close to me I could feel his rage. "What you want is irrelevant. What you have chosen is at hand."

Kirk sat up in the other bed. "I'd just as soon you didn't."

I looked helplessly back up at Spock. His eyes were furious as he slapped the phaser from my hand so hard I felt bones snap. The weapon went flying. Tears of pain and confusion spilled from my eyes.

McCoy walked into the room from his office. His voice was cold. "The operation is over."

Kirk made a call on the comm unit. Three security guards came in from the corridor.

Spock was breathing hard, obviously fighting for control. I had the sense that he would tear me apart limb by limb if he did not succeed.

Kirk touched him gently. I watched my father respond to his friend. "Come on, Spock." He looked at McCoy, "Bring her up to the bridge in ten minutes. I need to talk to Spock first."

The doctor nodded. "You've got it." He looked at me with dislike. Then he noticed that I was cradling my broken hand. "Here, let me fix that."

"Kindness, Doctor?"

His look was devoid of warmth. "Not at all. Just don't want anything to distract you from telling the truth."

"Where is your healer's compassion?"

"I left it on Rura Pente."


I stood in front of them all. Alone. I was extremely uncooperative. "I did not fire. You cannot prove anything."

Kirk was quick to disagree, "Yes I can. At my trial my personal log was used against me. How long did you wait outside my quarters before I noticed you?"

I ignored him and turned to Spock. "You knew? I tried to tell you but you would not listen."

Spock was still clearly angry, but a veneer of control was back n place. "Neither of us was hearing very well that night, Lieutenant. There were things I tried to tell you, about having faith."

I looked around the bridge. "You betrayed the Federation, all of you."

McCoy was incredulous. "And what do you think you've been doing."

"Saving Starfleet. Klingons cannot be trusted." I appealed to Kirk, "Sir, you said so yourself, they killed your son, did you not wish Gorkon dead? Let them die, you said. Did I misinterpret you?" He looked down as he heard his words. I tried to press my advantage, "And you were right. They conspired with us to assassinate their own Chancellor. How trustworthy can they be?"

McCoy broke the moment, "Klingons and federation members conspiring together."

Kirk looked at me with resolve. Our fragile sympathy was broken. "Who is *us*?"

"Everyone who stands to lose from peace."

He was impatient, "Names, Lieutenant."

I made sure that my voice was now as coldly Vulcan as I could make it. "My comrades will make certain all your ship to shore transmissions are jammed."

"Names, Lieutenant!" Kirk was getting angry.

"I do not.remember." I turned my back on them all to look out at empty space.

Spock's voice rang out. "A lie?"

He was using my own words against me. But I was as clever as he. I looked at him over my shoulder as I replied, "A choice."

He looked at me as we both realized what that simple word meant. I was not choosing him. He thought as a lover. I knew as a father. In any case, I was rejecting him and all that he stood for.

Kirk said one word, "Spock."

I waited for the rest of his order. It did not come. Spock was coming down the stairs. I could hear him approaching me. I didn't understand what was happening. Then I could feel him behind me, his hand on my arm, the grip savage. He wrenched me roughly back to face him. Then he reached for my face. I could not believe he would do this. Not without my permission. I pulled away but he yanked me back to him. His anger fairly pulsated as he reached for my face.

Then he was inside me, and his anger was the only thing I knew. His mind- fingers tore through my thoughts, my memories, searching for the names of the conspirators. I tried to build shields but each time he ripped through them. The pain was unimaginable. I dodged and ran and tried to block him but it was too late, he had found the information that he wanted.

Our voices rang out together, "Admiral Cartwright."

I was dimly aware of Chekov's incredulous "From Starfleet?"

Then Kirk's voice rang out. "Who else?"

We spoke again, "General Chang."

"Who else?"

"Romulan Ambassador Nanclus."

Spock quit looking then. Before he could make me betray West also.

Kirk's voice was louder as I attempted to pull away from Spock. "Where is the Peace Conference?"

I could feel tears on my face. Spock's anger battered at me. I tried to hide from him.

"Where is the Peace Conference?"

I felt Spock's other hand come up, tighten the meld, and the searing pain turned into an inferno. His mind was everywhere, ripping at me, slashing what it touched. I had never felt such violation. I retreated, and he advanced, I cried out, *Leave me alone* and he advanced.

*Tell me!* his mind-voice was a raging storm as he reached for me again.

I was deep in my mind. I could go no further because something blocked my path. My weapon, my dagger, my hatred, my pain. *I'll tell you, you son of a bitch. I'll tell you*

With an audible cry I let it fly at him. The feeling of it rushing past me, free at last after all these years caused me to cry out again. I grabbed the pain that I felt at that moment, the terror at his mad rage and added that to the mix. My sounds of triumph, of pure rage, must have seemed like cries of pain to those watching.

But the one in pain made no sound. I felt his mind absorb the memories, retreat frantically from my own mind. I followed him screaming all the way to the doorway of his own mind. Would have followed him in there too but he dropped his hands abruptly, severing the link and leaving us both disoriented.

"She does not know." In that moment, as we looked at each other, I saw a broken man. And in the wreckage of my shattered soul I felt a burst of compassion for him. Tears threatened. But the moment was over, the burst of compassion imploded, when he turned his back on me and returned to his captain.

I was no longer listening as they contacted Excelsior. I was suddenly so exhausted I could barely stand. But I did stand, far longer than I thought I could. Long enough to know that there had been no reason for Kirk to get the location from me. That Sulu had known it all along. In my incredulous anger I again lost track of the conversation, till Kirk snapped at me.

"How many of those things are there?"

They had been talking about the ship that could fire when cloaked. I just stared at him.

"Come on, Lieutenant."

There was nothing left to gain by not answering. "Just the prototype."


The ship turned for Khitomer and McCoy stepped up and led me from the bridge. Three guards followed us to the brig. I stepped into the cell and the forcefield came up. McCoy studied me.

"Kindness, Doctor?"

He shook his head. "Empathy. He did it to me once."

"Spock did?"

"In another reality. A mirror reality." He shook his head as he looked at me. "I would have bet money that our Spock could never do something that barbaric."

"Well he did. You saw it yourself."

"Yes." His face went hard, "You have a lot to answer for, Valeris. I hope you rot in hell."

"I've lived there for years, Doctor, this won't be any different."

"Well I imagine you'll have plenty of time to discuss that with the psychiatrist they assign you in the penal institution. Plenty of time. Your whole damn life if there's any justice." He turned on his heel and left.


Later in the brig I felt the ship shudder as it was hit by enemy fire. Chang, I thought. He, of all of us, will not let this peace happen. He hated us as much if not more than we hated him. I had never met him but West had told me what a zealot he was.

As the battle continued I waited for the end. We could surely not win against a cloaked bird of prey. I was thrown from the bunk several times then suddenly I felt the umistakeable feel of our ship firing weapons. What had happened? Then there was silence. Only silence.

I could not believe it. Chang had lost. He was our last best hope to stop this peace. All was lost now. All was truly lost.


On the ground at Camp Khitomer, Sarek did not look at me as he held me in the background with McCoy.

Kirk had saved the President from our assassin.

Cartwright did his best to bluff his way out. He pointed to the Enterprise crew. "Arrest those men."

Sarek handed me to his son. "Arrest yourself," he said as Spock pulled me out into full view.

McCoy explained, "We've got a full confession."

Suddenly a scream echoed and a Klingon crashed through the glass panels near the ceiling and fell like a stone to the floor. I looked over in shock, thinking it was one of Chang's men. Then, like the Klingon attending him, I notice the blood was red, not pink. The mask was pulled up and it was West. I felt my legs nearly collapse. Only Spock's hand on my arm kept me upright.

Azetbur pushed her way out of the circle of Klingons protecting her. "What's happened? What's the meaning of all of this?"

Kirk helped the President back to the podium then turned to her. "It's about the future, Madame Chancellor. Some people think the future means the end of history. Well, we haven't run out of history quite yet." He looked at me for a moment, then turned back to her. "Your father called the future the undiscovered country. People can be very frightened of change."

The Klingon Chancellor gave me a long look as well. But her words were for Kirk. "You've restored my father's faith."

Kirk smiled at her, "And you've restored my son's."

And I wanted to throw up. I was being held by the man who should have restored mine. And in the meantime, my beloved West was lying in a puddle of blood not ten steps away. He lay dead and Spock and the rest lived. And the Klingons would live too, live in peace. Vicious animals sharing our universe and everyone clapping and cheering. I was my most Vulcan. I did not betray anything or anyone. My father and grandfather barely looked at me. And I didn't spare them a glance.


I was transferred to the Federation authorities. The guards tried to frighten me with tales of extradition, but I was relatively certain that Starfleet officials would not let us go until they had assured themselves that all the perpetrators were in custody or dead. We were taken to Earth for questioning.

I was unreachable. Stoic, impassive, a true Vulcan. It was laughable. For I was so far from a Vulcan at that moment. I was merely a human that had lost every single thing I cared about. It no longer mattered to me whether I lived or died. I could not imagine feeling any worse.

A few days after I'd been transferred to the holding facility in San Francisco, I had a visitor. A red-haired woman approached my cell slowly.

"Cassie!" I was up and at the forcefield without conscious thought. "Cassie, god I'm so glad you came."

She stared at me like I was some unknown life form.


Her voice was dead. "You lied to me. Everything you said was lie."

I reached out for her, pulled back as I felt the sting of the forcefield. "Not everything. Our friendship was never a lie. Never."

"How can you say that? The woman who was my friend doesn't exist!" Her tone was savage now. "You're not even Vulcan."

"I am Vulcan, just not full. But none of that matters, don't you see. The person I am, the real me, was the one that lived with you. That loved you. Cassie, let me prove it, let me meld with you. I can show you it was real. I can show you that my friendship for you has never wavered."

She looked at me in fear and disgust. "Let you touch me? Let you meld me with me? You're insane. I never want to see you again!"

I was desperate now, "Cassie. We said friends forever, remember? Forever and ever?"

She was as cold as any Vulcan. "The woman that was my friend is dead. And you, you I never want to see again. Not ever."

She fled from the room. I walked to my bunk, tears blinding my eyes. I had been wrong. The pain was now ten times worse.


Spock had not been by to see me. I surmised that, like Cassie, he would want nothing more to do with me. So I was surprised to hear his voice calling me from the dozing and daydreaming I had taken up to fill the days. I looked over to see him at the forcefield. His look was distant. He looked fifty years older.


"Valeris. Or do you prefer to be called Rise Chapel?"

I rose and walked toward him. "I would rather not hear that name coming from you."

He nodded, his look was bitter. "Of course."

"I did not expect to see you here."

"I did not expect to come. But I have found that I cannot make sense of what has happened. I wish to try to understand why you did what you did."

"My betrayal?" At his nod, I continued, "My betrayal of you or of the peace process."

"You did not betray just the peace process you jeopardized every man, woman, and child in the Federation."

"I will never see it that way."

"You had reason to hate them, just as Jim did. But he found the strength to put aside his hatred. Why could you not do that?"

"I did not wish to."

"You are a spoiled child, Valeris."

"You are half right, I am still a child. I am only 17. Did you realize that?" I shrugged casually, "But I'm not using that as an excuse. I have spent much of my time here looking back. Trying to see where things went wrong. And I can see all the turning points where I refused to veer from the road I had chosen. But for all the things I have done, for all the betrayals and lies, I learned of love, I learned of courage, and I learned that blood can ultimately mean very little. I understand now that our family are the people we choose to love, not necessarily the ones that share our blood."

"Colonel West would have been family then?"


He walked over to a machine, punched in a code, the vid screen outside my cell lit up. "There is something I want you to see. Do you know what kind of rifle your West was using at the conference?"

"Probably a sniper rifle. One with a vid scope."

"Yes. And Mr. Scott, after shooting him, was able to retrieve the gun and save the footage. We are going to use it as evidence. But I wanted you to see one little part. I think you will find it enlightening."

I watched the video. West had captured the chaos in the hall. He had frantically scanned each person till the scope had come to rest on me. For several long seconds the gun was trained on me, then suddenly the picture jerked upward, settling on a view of the ceiling, and then went dead.

Spock's voice was chillingly triumphant. "You thought of West as a father, didn't you?"

"I still do."

"Unfortunate. As he clearly intended to kill you to save himself. Perhaps you should watch it again."

"I do not need to. You are going with the darkest alternative. That is another thing I have decided in here. I am tired of living in this eternal blackness. I am tired of always being suspicious, on guard, afraid. I am glad to be free of that."

"So you think there is another explanation for why of all the people down there he chose to target you in his sighting mechanism?"

"Yes. A far simpler one. Love."

He cocked his eyebrow in disbelief. "Please explain."

"He may well have intended to kill me. But if he did it was to protect me in the same twisted way that my mother thought keeping me a secret from you would keep me safe. I have learned that parents do rather drastic things to protect their young. West may well have feared that I would be sent to Rura Pente or executed by the Klingons. He may have intended to spare me that."

I could see Spock's acceptance of that answer.

"But there are still other alternatives. It is also very possible that in the next second the scope would have swung up to you. You were standing next to me, holding me. If he had shot you I might have been able to escape."

Again I saw grudging acceptance.

"But there is an alternative I prefer even more. He could not see well from his vantage point except through the scope. It is possible he was merely making sure that I was there. The scope was trained on me for quite a while, yet he did not fire. He was a professional. He would never have not taken such an easy shot. I think he just wanted to make sure that I was unharmed."

Spock looked angry.

"You came to shake my faith in the man. You wanted to hurt me." I gave him a bitter human smile. "Don't you understand that you can't hurt me anymore. You can't touch me now. I am beyond that."

He began to speak in archaic Vulcan. I had some difficulty following but knew what he was doing. "You are no longer of my house. You are no longer the child of my body. You will never see the faces of your family; we shall turn our backs to you. Our doors shall be locked against you. Our wealth will never succor you. Our honor will never sustain you. You are k'l'k'fara. You are nothing. You are no one. You have no name. You have no house."

When he finished I looked at him emotionlessly. "I was never of your house, Spock of Vulcan, he who is no longer my father. I never wanted your wealth and I don't believe in your honor!"

"Do not disparage my honor, Valeris."

"Is it honorable to rape a mind? To tear through private memories because you have been betrayed. Is that your version of honor, to violate someone in that manner?"

His eyes were cast down. I could feel the shame flowing off him. "I regret that I did such a thing with such dark intentions. I was angry."

"Yes. And in a way I understand that. But do not preach to me then of Vulcan honor." I pulled myself up haughtily. "I am content with being no one in your world. I do not want your name, I have never had it, and I make no claim on it now. I do not want to be a part of your house, I shall make my own."

He looked utterly defeated. "You should have told me, Valeris. You caused me to act in such a shameful manner. You were my own daughter and you let me fall in love with you."

"And I regret that. But I was a child when we first me, by the time I realized what was happening it was already too late. The damage was done."

Spock began again to speak in Vulcan. This time it was only to say, "You are no one so there is no reason to bid you long life. You are nothing so I do not wish prosperity to be wasted."

I stared at him impassively. I did not have to fight back tears. There were none. What had been between my father and I was forever done.

With one last look he turned around and walked out of my life.


So that is the end of my story. What do you think of it? The doctors would kill to hear it. As far as I can tell Spock has told no one the truth. Not even his captain. I certainly don't plan to shame my mother's name with a full confession. Although sometimes I think it should be out there. The truth. And it may still come to light if they ever decide to do a DNA match. But somehow I think that Spock will get my records buried almost as effectively as Cassius Miranda would. And in the long run what does it matter who my parents were? *I* am the traitor and in the Federation's view nothing will ever excuse that.

I do not know what is they have planned for me. They may yet decide to extradite me to the Klingons. I had begun to worry about that a bit until something changed all that. Someone actually. For you see one of the newer guards here, a shaggy beast of a man, has taken a very big interest in me. At first I was repulsed. Until one day I looked into his eyes and thought I saw something familiar. Something I thought I would never see again. It was love.

"Cameron?" I whispered unbelievingly.

"Rise," he said. "Rise."

I felt joy suffuse me, joy I had thought was now lost to me forever.

"I thought you were dead!"

He laughed softly, "I probably should have been several times over. Let's just say I ran into some trouble on a very strict world. Spent some time in their version of this," he gestured to my cell. "This is paradise compared to that."

I still couldn't believe he was really here, standing before me. He was an older man now than the last time I saw him. But his golden eyes were the same.

He smiled at me tenderly. "I was back on Earth just as the whole conspiracy thing broke. When I heard your name I was determined to rescue you. Miranda got me the necessary credentials to be assigned to your section."

Now when he is on duty his ruse is to come to the side of my cell and try to get me to talk to him. I sit with my head down and ignore him. Or so it looks to the other guards, who tease him unmercifully for being fixated with a villainess. He tells me they disgust him. That he'd like to pummel them into the ground for saying such a thing about a woman he considers his own daughter.

And so night after night, Cameron comes to me and tells me the latest news. He has been working for some time on the construction of a new ship. And in two days time the Shayla will be ready to go. He worries that all his funds have gone into building this amazing update to the Miranda. That he will break me out of this holding facility only to have us wander the galaxy with nothing. I laugh and murmur that money will never be a worry for us because of Shayla. She will carry us to safety and once we are there she will ensure nobody ever harms us.

Oh, not that they won't look for us. But both of us will be a changed person. Literally. Cameron has arranged with Miranda for us to have new identities. He will be William Thompson. He left it up to me to pick the first name that would proceed his surname. We will also have some cosmetic surgery performed when we get safely away from this sector. Cameron will have just a few changes done for very few people will see the handsome man I remember in the shaggy brute that guards me. And for me? With a skilled surgeon and a little time to recover I will finally look like what I really am. A human. And not one that looks anything like Rise Chapel or Valeris. They will change my features, my hair color, my eye color, my blood color if I have my way. I will be transformed yet again.

We will go far away and live off the considerable sum of latinum Shayla left for me. Or perhaps we will embark on a life of smuggling. Or maybe we will settle down on some world and I will again work with animals. We have not decided yet. We can do anything, go anywhere. But for now our main goal is to get away from here.

I have already decided on a name. Kitt Thompson. My little joke. Khitomer was supposed to spell the end of my life. Instead it will be the beginning of a whole new one. If I need a middle name it will be Jacqueline, for the man who loved me, the man I will never believe planned to kill me.

And perhaps someday I will cross paths with my father again. And if I do, what then? Will I kill him for hurting me? Will I betray him to his enemies? Will I seek to befriend him? None of those things. If I see Spock of Vulcan again, he who sired me, I will turn and walk the other way.

For I will be Kitt Thompson and what could she possibly want with him?