Author's Note: Well, here we are. This is the epilogue, as you may have guessed, and a bit of a promise. While it may be some time before I return to Trip and T'Pol on the Heronas, there will be more. I like this ship and her crew. I have at least five stories outlined, with character growth, running plot arcs and Trek-y goodness planned, so the tale does not end here. Far from it.

Unfortunately I'm also writing ten or so other stories (seriously...I get easily distracted and my overactive imagination shoots a thousand story ideas at me every day), so it'll be a while before the next one.

So while our T&T couple might be still on the out and outs, well...let's just say I'm a sucker for happy endings.

And with that, I give you a slight taste of things to come.


Vildraxa IV

The storm outside was whipping the small spaceport with all the fury of the planet's tilted climate. Once the planet had been a paradise, but a meteor strike a few centuries ago had tilted the planet on its axis, subtly altered the orbit and caused a severe climate change followed by massive storms that swept the surface clean of life within a few decades. Now all that remained were slowly eroding empty cities that made perfect hideouts for smugglers, pirates, slavers and other such genteel folk.

Rukon had been smuggling things in and out of Tellarite space for six years now, after the altercation with his old captain that had lead to him being the new owner of the beat-up old freighter currently hidden in an old building not twenty meters from the raunchy tavern he was currently trying very hard to get drunk in.

It had been a temple, someone had told him. The Vildraxans, bless their extinct little souls, had been very devout, worshiping a pantheon of somewhat irate deities who demanded minor sacrifices and gave nothing back. The spaceport had been a center of learning, and here lay old libraries, temples and universities which now served as docking bays, taverns and cheap warehouses for anyone who disliked actual legalities and authorities.

"I tell you that was a bit of a scare, no problems, yes?" He ran a hand over his jowl ridges to soothe his nervousness. "There I am, grounded, while the humans and Romulans are fighting in orbit. I could have been searched properly! Thankfully they didn't look to closely at an old spacer making a run for it in all that chaos. Now, if-"

Someone gripped his shoulder quite firmly. Enough to make him wince, in fact. He tried to look around but only caught a glimpse of someone big dressed in black and silver.

A woman seated herself in front of him. A Vulcan? She was dressed in an expensive burgundy-red coat the likes he'd have to do three runs to be able to afford for one of his wives back home, and her head was in an unusual style for her people. She smiled at him, which made him feel even more ill at ease.

What kind of a Vulcan smiles?

"You are captain Rukon of the freighter Yugassa. You departed Gamma Hydra II less than two weeks ago. Correct?"

He felt himself go cold. Was she some kind of law enforcer? He'd heard the Vulcans and Tellarites had started working together, but policing? "Maybe I am. What's it to you?"

Her smile stayed, but her eyes...the grip on his shoulder shifted, and blazing pain shot down his side. He tried to scream, but all he could manage was a silent squeak. "I ask, you answer. Or my friend behind you gets creative. He knows many ways of making this conversation unpleasant. Now, am I correct?"

He tried to answer, but nothing came out. Finally she glanced at her goon, who shifted the grip back to mere incapacitation. The pain went away as quickly as it came. "Yes! Yes, I am him."

Her smile widened, and he caught a glimpse of perfect white teeth. "Good. I do so hate having to repeat my questions. Now, you were saying you left right after the battle in orbit ended?"

He nodded. "Yes. Yes I did."

The smile vanished as she pursed her lips thoughtfully. Goodness, even for an unridged female she was attractive. It was an odd, almost threatening beauty. "There was a ship that fired the weapon that incapacitated the lead vessel of the Romulan force. Tell me what ship that was."

He frowned. "You...well, it's no secret. A human ship. A new type, I heard said, small and fast. They claimed it was running at warp six point five in order to make it there on time. Now that's speed! I hear even the Andorians and Bajorans have trouble getting to those speeds!"

The woman smiled, and suddenly there was pain again. She leaned up close to him, and spoke into his ear. "You are a fool, Rukon. But you will tell me what I know and your death will be painless. Tell me who commanded that ship. Tell me who killed my father."

Her father? But why would a Vulcan have a father on a-

The grip shifted again, and he started talking.


In A Palace By A Lake By A Mountain...

...sat a ruler bored out of her skull. Every day the same. Up early in the morning to dress in impractical, heavy gowns, carry out state business before breakfast, break fast with whomever suited the court's political ambitions at the moment, then inspect troops in their gaudy, ridiculous uniforms in a dozen colors (a stark blue would be so much more debonair in its simplicity), after which it was spiced tea and luncheon with yet another supplicant, then smile and nod and pretend to listen to a dozen or more self-absorbed suitors more enamored by her title than her self, then banquet, audience with commoners...

It was enough to make you want to gag.

The suns were setting, and she pondered moving home to the capitol soon. Her palace here was gorgeous, but she missed the drier, cooler winds of her home world. Also, they weren't so conservative there. Oh, she had tried. She really had. But changing the way a star nation is can be so difficult. Some parts of her great nation even still used metamorphs to cement deals, a barbaric, misogynist custom in her eyes.

Well, at least they weren't Valtese. She could still remember the young Valtese noble who had attempted to woo her with talk of finances and taxes. Dull as dishwater, as a very dear friend would have said.

The memory made her smile. Such beautiful eyes, he had. Not to mention that the rest of him had been quite well-turned also. Ah, regrets. There were so many. He was one of them. She could have brought him along and watched him sweep them off their feet, but she had been responsible and dutiful and far too prim and proper to give in to such an idea.

More fool me.

She suppressed a sigh. "Give me the latest news."

Her herald opened his mouth to begin yelling out whatever tidbits of information was deemed of interest to her, but she stopped him with an imperious finger raised high. "No. Your padd. Give it to me."

He stared at her in shock. "Your majesty, I could not-"

"Majesty. Yes, that would be me. I am ordering you to bring me your padd."

The poor man paled, then blushed, then paled again. Finally he handed over the small octagonal device, his hands trembling. She snatched it away and waved him off.

So, what were the news? Nothing interesting. Trade embargoes, war between the Klingons and whomever they were angry with this week, more wild reports of the mythical Planet-Slayer, Ferengi caught smuggling at the borders...she flipped through headline after headline, nothing really catching her attention-

Oh.

Her cheeks heated. Her eyes grew wide. Her hearts were beating out of rhythm. He was alive? He was alive! And a captain! Oh, this was too good to be true! Hero of some place called Gamma Hydra, wherever that was. Tellarite space, perhaps. A colony? Something like that. She stared at the three-dimensional photo. He looked thin, but it was...it was him. It was definitely him. Looking very dashing and brave.

First Monarch Kaitaama VI of the Krios Prime Star Nation smiled. Oh, the galaxy was starting to regain the luster she had been lacking for far too long now. "Bring me my scribes and lawmakers! It's time we began reviewing our trade agreement with Earth..."


Betazoid.

-Well. This is an ugly one.

-You think so?

Captain Gol of the Planetary Civilian Authority frowned at what seemed to be the remains of a young woman, late twenties, pale blonde-blue hair, dressed in an evening gown of a popular design...

-Yes. I do think so.

He leaned down and looked at his recently assigned partner.

-See these bruises? See the way her arms seem to be broken in several place right along where the bruises are? Someone very, very strong manhandled her.

-Manhandled?

He shrugged. Trust lieutenant Troi to nitpick a thought.

-However you want to phrase it. These are not bruises from a beating, Troi. These are from where her assailant held her. Her killer held her with so much strength that it broke the bones in her arms by sheer force of his or her hands. We're talking someone stronger than a Klingon. Now who could be our suspect?

Troi frowned in deep thought and Gol had to keep a stray exasperated emotion from tainting his surface gestalt. The man was a fairly strong empath and telepath, and had recently married into one of the finest families on the planet, but logic was not his strong suit. Nor was tact, but his wife's house was notorious for being overly familiar and rude. He waited.

-...an Orion?

-Can you really imagine a seven foot or taller Orion male escaping notice on this planet? Most of us are barely six feet, if that. No, someone as strong as an Orion male, but no bigger than a Betazed.

Again the younger detective frowned.

-I am sorry, I do not see an answer to your question.

Gol nodded.

-That's because there isn't one. Not yet. Witnesses claim to have seen her conversing with a man a few hours before she was found, but they did not leave together, and they seemed to be friendly to one another. Besides, the man she was seen with was a Vulcan, and can you really see a Vulcan do anything like this?

They both chuckled. Nearby, a young Trill working on a cultural exchange program with their department frowned at them.

"You guys do realize it's creepy when you have long conversations in your head, right?

-Sorry.

-Sorry.

"Gah! Stop that! Spare me from telepaths..." He wandered off, leaving them to grin at one another.

-Mindblinds, eh?

-I know. It's a wonder they get anything done.

Gol stood back up and stared into the face of the woman. Pretty. Or she had been. And someone had beaten her to a pulp in a savage rage. Horrible. Just horrible. What kind of monster could do that to someone?


The End.

For now...