He really didn't want to go back there.

It was the last thing he wanted to do.

But it was his family that was at stake, so he put everything aside, and went anyway.

Could he put back what had gone haywire?

Star Trek
Enterprise

Temper

A Star Trek Fan Fiction By
J. R. Gershen-Siegel

Rated M

TrekUnited Publishing

This is a fan written work

The copyrights & trademarks of Star Trek are owned by
Paramount Pictures, CBS Corporation and their licensee, Pocket Books. Any attempt to sell or rent this book should be reported to the copyright owners for their action

First pdf online edition 03/01/2011

*1

Thwack! Thwack!

Two phase bows fired at almost the same time. One quantum packet of light hit its target, flashing acid yellowy-green on a tree. The other missed and flew out to parts unknown.

"No, no, Melissa. You've gotta keep your elbow up," Doug said, "Watch."

He aimed and fired, and the acid yellow-green light again hit the tree. It didn't make a permanent mark, just showed where he had hit and then vanished.

"Okay, okay, sheesh! You're such a pain!" she said, "This thing is heavy."

"I got you a lighter one. I didn't get you a kids' version, though. You won't be able to hunt effectively with a kids' version. Now, here, I'll guide you."

He got behind her and held her elbow up, breathing gently. She fired again, and missed again.

"Your form was better that time," he said, "but why are you still missing?"

"'Cause you're close by, Captain Beckett. It's ... distracting."

"Oh," he said. He turned and faced her, and kissed her, "We still have to bring at least one of these things down before we're done. Otherwise, Lili won't have anything to serve on the sixth."

"It's only the first," she said, "So I was thinking. We could spend our time today doing something ... else."

He smiled at her, eyes a bit more crinkly and hair a bit more steely-looking these days, "What do you suppose we eat tonight if we don't bring down a perrazin?"

"One of those little scampery things."

"A linfep? There's a reason they're called that."

"Which is?" she asked.

"The name means little mouthful. The fep part of a Calafan word always meanslittle.So we'll need to catch a lot of them in order to have any sort of a decent meal at all. Plus they're fast."

"But they can't outrun a quantum light packet, right?"

"No, they can't. But you still need to aim better. Now, let's try again. Elbow up. Aim for the tree."

She shot again. This time, she hit the target.

"Much better that time," he said, "Now let's take it off the lowest setting."

"It's still heavy."

"Yanno, we practiced this while dreaming, Melissa."

"I know. And we did a lotta other things as well," she smiled, "But I always dreamt of a phase bow as being lighter than it really is. Huh."

"Okay, my bad. I shoulda given you that info before we started hunting at night. C'mon, you're strong. You can lift a phase bow. Aim for, uh," he looked around, "Shh. Over there," he pointed to where the undergrowth was slightly disturbed.

She shot again. There was the slightest of rustles in the undergrowth. She reached in and pulled out a linfep. It looked like a rabbit – more or less, if rabbits had tusks, "Dinner is served," she said triumphantly.

"Okay. Much better," he kissed her, "Let's head back to camp."

"And let's eat later," she said.

"Ah ha. You have plans?"

"Of course I do."

"You really want another baby, Melissa?"

"I do indeed. And with you, you icky boy."

"Me?" he smiled at her as they walked, "You sure you don't wanna do the whole lab thing? I gotta figure your partner would prefer that."

"She's not the one having the kid. Let's conceive this one in love."

"That'll work for me," he said, "Lili's winding down anyway. This one should be my last child."

"That's a little bittersweet to you, eh?" Melissa said, "What do you think of Neil as a name?"

"Neil? We haven't even done it yet and you've already got a name picked out?"

"It's to honor Norri. Somebody should be kinda, sorta, named after her."

"Then you should name the kid Leonard or something, for Leonora."

"Ha, no. Reed is, like, the only person she seems to let call her that."

"Ha, Reed. He's at my house by now," Doug said, stopping for a second.

"You jealous, Doug?"

"Nah. Well, a tiny bit. I work on that," he said, "Now, let's go make a baby."

=/\=

Malcolm was there. The shuttle had let him off and he stood at the end of the little path leading to the house's front door. She wasn't outside yet, probably getting a little face washed or something like that, he figured. He held a duffle in one hand and presents in the other. And the smallest present was in one pocket. He had checked and double-checked to be sure it was there, and intact. It was in the pocket right over his heart, which was pounding like a schoolboy's.

"C'mon, Joss! Let's go! Marie Patrice! Let's go!" he could hear her say, a slight tremor in her voice betraying her own excitement.

She came out with the two kids, hand in hand with each of them. They struggled to get free so she released them and they hugged him excitedly, "Mackum! Mackum!" they both yelled.

Marie Patrice, the daughter, was a toddler of a year's age, with blonde curls and chubby, rosy cheeks. She looked and acted like a three-year-old. Joss was older – almost exactly two and a half chronologically, but he looked and acted as if he was already five. He was shedding his baby fat and looking much more like a little boy than a baby.

Malcolm knelt down to greet them. He smiled up at Lili as she came over, "They have not talked about anything else since you and Melissa agreed to come over. I'm glad the Enterprisecould get close by."

"Lili-Flower, you look wonderful," he said, "A glorious sight."

"Even though I've got peanut butter in my hair?" she said.

He straightened up, and they hugged, "More later," she whispered in his ear, "When we get to the hotel."

He nodded and smiled a little, a private signal between the two of them, "Who wants a present?!"

The two children jumped up and down and shrieked.

"All right. We'll do this in the house if you can wait a few moments," he said, "I need to put my other things down."

They followed him and Lili in.

The house was small and there was a new addition, partially constructed, to the side. Malcolm noticed it and asked, "What's that going to be?"

"Marie Patrice's room. Right now what we're using gets a lot of light. So somebody doesn't sleep that well. We'll convert her old room into a sunroom I think. Or maybe it'll be for guests. Right now, it's turning our lives upside down."

"I can imagine. All right, now, let's see," he exaggerated a careful perusal of the presents, "Here's one that says Marie Patriceon it, I think. And we all know it was her birthday recently, so she should go first. Can you read that, Joss?"

"M-A-R...," he read off slowly, "Yes! It says Marie Patrice."

She tore it open and looked at it, "Ball?" she asked.

"Yes. It's a soccer – sorry – football," Lili explained, "You can kick it. But only outside."

"J-O ... this one is mine. Thank you, Mackum," Joss said.

"He's very responsible," Lili said, "Marie Patrice, what do you say?"

"T'ank you," she took her treasure and ran outside.

"One of my second-favorite girls," Malcolm said.

"It's a shuttle model!" Joss exclaimed.

"Yes. And you can also configure the pieces to make an old-fashioned train if you like. See the picture?" Malcolm said, "And the pieces aren't small. No worries with Marie Patrice."

Joss took his gift outside, "Empy! Empy!" he yelled, "Come see what I got!"

"Empy?" Malcolm asked.

"M. P. is Marie Patrice – he couldn't say her whole name when she first arrived on the scene," she smiled, "It's just us. Come close a sec, before they get back here."

He did, and they kissed.

"Oh, I have missed you," he said.

"You see me every night."

"I know, my love. But it's different in person. Why is this meeting happening at all? No complaints, I'm just wondering."

"Melissa wants to have another baby. Didn't she tell you?"

"I think I filed that information away. The last bits of the Earth-Romulan war were rather ... busy," And bloody.

"I was so worried about you," she said.

"I'm all right. And so are most of the people you know," he smiled, "The war's over. Time to get back to the best parts of our lives."

They were about to kiss again when the door opened.

"Ah, Yimar!" Lili said, "Thanks for taking them for a few days."

"Oh, they're not a lotta trouble. Hiya, Malcolm," she said. She was a native Calafan girl, eighteen years old and becoming poised and confident. Her silver arms shimmered.

"You're looking very mature," he said.

"Yeah, I guess so," she said, "The kids are excited that we're gonna go ride on the big transport."

"We're gonna take the car," Lili said, "Call me if you need me."

"They'll be fine. We're gonna go see the big animals at the zoo on Lafa IX," Yimar said, "Don't tell them. It's a surprise."

"Not a word," Lili said, "Joss already knows what he wants to be when he grows up."

"Oh?" Malcolm asked.

"A veterinarian. Although he can't quite say it right yet."

"C'mon, who's going on the transport with me?" Yimar opened the front door and called outside.

The children ran back, Marie Patrice kicking the ball. She didn't have good aim yet, but a lot of power.

"I said no kicking in the house," Lili said.

"Yes, Mommy," Marie Patrice said, "We're going to Lafa uh, nigh-yin," she explained to Malcolm.

"Yes, I understand that. You're going to have a wonderful time," he said.

"Come with us!" Joss said.

"We have, a, uh, a grown-ups holiday planned," Malcolm said, "Very dull for such clever children as yourselves."

"C'mon, let's head to the transport," Yimar said. After many hugs and kisses, she departed with the kids.

"Just about ready to go?" Malcolm asked, just a tiny bit anxious. He really wanted this vacation to go well. The littlest gift was still burning a hole in his pocket.

"Yes. I do have a quick question for you. You give the greatest presents, Malcolm. And you have been so kind to send peanut butter and all sorts of jams for the kids. They never seem to run out."

"I don't want them to," Malcolm said, "They aren't mine and I know I don't need to provide for them, but I do care about them. And if they can have their peanut butter sandwiches then I know that it makes things easier for you, my love."

"Thanks. It definitely does," she kissed him, "But the lone jar of orange marmalade. You know I love it but I think there's more to it than that, in particular as it's the only one from Fortnum & Mason."

"Oh, you noticed that," he smiled, very, very pleased, "Of course it has significance. It's the oranges. Do you recall, a few years ago, when you were still working on the Enterprise, there was this one day when Chef made everything with oranges in it?"

"Of course I remember," She said, "I chopped oranges for hours that day. It was the morning after I had first made contact with Doug."

"Yes. And you were suddenly, you were switched on. You turned into such a lovely creature suddenly. That was, it was the day that I realized I was, well, I was developing feelings for you."

"Really?"

"Oh, yes. That morning. You were, uh, you were wearing that chef's uniform you used to wear."

"Chef's whites."

"Yes," he said, "And I was eating with Captain Archer for some reason or another. And there you were, in chef's whites and this New England Red Soxbaseball cap to keep back your hair. And you leaned over and you asked me if I had everything I wanted. It was, uh, there was French toast."

"Yeah. I probably put orange zest in the batter," she said, "What did you say back?"

"You just, you smelled of oranges. And it was like sunshine and, and happiness. And I subconsciously began to understand that I was tired of darkness and shadows and wanted the sunlight. So I, I stumbled a bit over my words and I said, 'Almost.' Ha, and you asked me if I wanted syrup and all of that and I can't recall how I saved face and what I said to you but it became clear to me that I didn't have everything I wanted, because I wanted something new," he kissed her.

"We better get to the hotel in Fep City," she said, "We gotta respect Doug's boundaries."

"I know. And I do respect them," Malcolm said, "Sharing your time – I suspect it's not always easy for him. Much like sharing Melissa's time may not be so easy for Leonora to do. But we persevere. The rewards are too great to not make the effort, my love."

"There are very great rewards," she said, smiling at him and grabbing her bag, "Once we get to the hotel, I'll make sure you get more than a few."

*2

He looked at her. "I love you, you know."

"Those are still three difficult words for you, aren't they, Doug?"

"Yeah. I'm an action guy. Talking isn't always easy for me."

"Then let's get some action going."

He kissed her again.

She shivered a little, "It's cold here."

"Yeah. I'm not a fan of the cold. This is nothing like Ganymede."

"Here, let's warm up," she said.

"You've gotten a lot more aggressive. I like it."

"Well, when you and I originally got together, I didn't have experience," she said, "Now I do. Ah, I see you're thinking about starting."

"I am thinking about starting, and doing, and especially finishing," he said, nibbling her ear.

He began to kiss her deeply.

"Huh? I thought we were making a baby," she said, "Shouldn't you position yourself, uh, guarantee that?"

"This will definitely work. Trust me," he breathed. He grabbed their discarded clothes and put them behind her back, "Nice and slow."

She kissed him back and leaned to the side, "I want you."

"Be patient," he said, "It's worth it," he kissed her.

"C'mon," she breathed, "Do it."

He just kept kissing her and didn't respond to her entreaties. Finally, it was too much for him, and he let go.

"Holy cow. Do that again," she said.

"It's not possible – not for a few days – for me to go quite like that. But I can do the whole conventional thing," he said, "Keep kissing, and pulsing, and moving just like that, and we can get going the usual way."

"Oh, like that, eh? I think I can be persuaded," she said, "The usual way is quite wonderful, too, Doug."

=/\=

It was one of those times together when you cannot be apart for more than a few moments.

They stayed in bed, mostly, only getting up for necessities. They mainly stayed naked, and the hotel room was warm and comfortable, albeit a bit spartanly furnished. The only time they actually put on clothes was to accept Room Service. Then they would, once the door was closed again, shed robes and eat together. They usually kept physical contact as well – no mean feat as they were both right-handed. Sometimes it was difficult to wield a fork while holding hands. Half the time, they just dipped their fingers into the food and fed each other. There was very little talking, for you don't talk while kissing. And there was a lot of kissing.

Finally, on the fourth of February – after three days of almost continual contact – Malcolm said, "May I take you to supper?"

"Sure," she said, smiling, "I take it you mean to actually leave this room."

"Yes," he said. They stood in front of the window, naked, except for a dull metallic grey cuff on Malcolm's left hand and Lili's wedding ring on hers, with a matching thin chain around her neck, looking out at Fep City below. There was all manner of construction going on, with high rises going up all around the hotel, "Take you downstairs – not too far from our, ahem, home base of operations, and we can eat with knives and forks and get a chance to actually wear a bit of the clothing we both brought."

"All right," she said, "I know just what to wear."

"Terrific. Would you want to go walking 'round the city?"

"There's too much construction going on right now. It's gotten loud. I hope all the humans coming in don't ruin Fep City. It's got a great, funky vibe to it."

"And Reversalis at the center of that," he said, kissing her neck, "You are a celebrity chef, my love."

"Eh, I dunno. They just love humans. The Calafans are probably more excited about settlers coming than we are. I mean, I'd like some human company," she kissed him, "don't get me wrong. But I have very particular ideas about my company."

"I see. Do they – do the Calafans like humans a lot?"

"Oh, do you mean, do they see us as potential lovers? The answer is hell yeah. Even when I was about nine months pregnant with Marie Patrice, I'd get stared at. And I don't mean because I was huge – although I was – it was more like leering. I wonder what'll happen when the Calafans start seeing really good-looking human women."

"They already have," he said, kissing her, and then turning her to face him.

"Can you, eh, wait just a little bit for dinner?" she asked.

"More than a little bit," he said, "Let's go back to bed."

=/\=

"I love you," he breathed. She couldn't answer, just nodded and gasped.

He maintained contact for a while, and they lay together, smiling at each other and kissing on occasion, "Now that was one of the best times. With very, uh, stiff competition," she said.

"Definitely," he replied, "There is nothing like love."

"Nothing," she said.

"Is the dinner invitation still open?" she asked.

"Of course. And then dessert."

"Oh, yeah!"

=/\=

"Okay, now, remember, elbow up," he said.

"These are dangerous critters, aren't they?" Melissa asked.

"Yep. Look over there, see 'em?" he pointed to a herd.

"I don't have eyesight like you do," she said, "Where?"

"There. Beyond that tree, where there's a clearing – look to the left."

"Ahhh. They look a little like big blonde buffalo. I mean, buffalo aren't good when they stampede, but how bad can these perrazin be?"

"You didn't read the stuff I sent," he complained.

"I've got an almost one-year-old at home, remember? I don't exactly have time to go over documents."

"Okay. I'll explain. They are like buffalo, or cows, in the sense that they herd and they eat grass and they have four stomachs. However," he added, "they also eat meat. They have fangs. There's a kind of a hierarchy like in a wolf pack, and some of the pack are designated as hunters."

"Like you and me."

"Yes, a bit like us," he said, "They bring down the game. It's usually smaller stuff than us. Perrazin are lazy if they can get away with it. They'd rather not work too hard for a meal, so the linfep are a big part of their diet. And they'll graze if things get too complicated. They'll also attack us if we're not careful. So, plan of attack?"

"Circle around to the side," she said, "Away from the hunters – you can tell which ones they are, right?"

"Yes. They're mostly likely the ones over there," he pointed, "nearest to the water. Anyway, if they attack, run, and fire behind you. Assuming I'm not behind you, of course."

"Of course. What if they catch up to me?"

"It'll take them a while – they're not as fast as we are and they sometimes give up. Like I said, they can be lazy. But if they do catch you, climb an olowa tree. Throw down the grey olowa fruit if they really won't leave you alone, as that fruit is petrified. It'll clonk 'em but good. Ready?"

"Ready, Captain!"

"Don't call me that. I got enough fun with Calafan recruits. This is a vacation. I mean, I might have to make you do push-ups."

"Only if you're under me," she said, "Let's go."

=/\=

Jonathan Archer sat in his Ready Room on the Enterprise.They were lazily circling around the Lafa System. They had delivered supplies to the new office of the envoy and were enjoying some easy surveying of the area. Heads of proposed settlements would occasionally contact them but otherwise it was an easy detail, and very welcome after the horrors of the recently concluded Earth-Romulan War.

There was a communications chime. He answered it.

"Message from Admiral Black," Hoshi said.

"Put 'im through."

Jonathan smiled, but that smile vanished when he saw the Admiral's face.

"Jonathan," the Admiral said, "we've got a situation."

Dinner was good, a combination of Calafan and human specialties. Lili didn't bother to complain that the pasta was a bit overcooked. She knew the Calafans were trying very, very hard to make the human settlers feel welcome. She asked Malcolm, "So, tell me the gossip from the ship."

"Gossip? I do not gossip."

"All right, then tell me the news. The juicier, the better."

He laughed a little, "Very well. Did I write to you about Masterson and Haddon?"

"No, I don't think you did."

"Well," Malcolm said, warming to the subject, "they have been going out for a good year. And she recently proposed to him."

"She did, eh? What did he say?"

"Oh, he agreed to it. I think he's a bit afraid of her. She can be rather intimidating when she wants to be."

"Too funny," Lili said, "What about Karin and Andrew?"

"There is no more Karin and Andrew. There is Karin and Ethan."

"Oh. Huh, that makes sense. Anybody else?"

"There was José and Shelby for a while. Huh, I wonder about the mechanics of that."

"Yeah, the height difference must be a good half a meter," she said, "Not as good a fit as you and me."

He reached for her hand, but then there was a communications chime.

"That's an emergency signal," he said, and they both fumbled for their Communicators.

"Not me," she said, relieved that the kids and Doug were all right.

"Reed here," he was already on his Communicator.

"We've got a problem," Jonathan said, "There's an incoherent energy wave coming through. It looks like we'll need to reconfigure most of the hull plating polarization protocols. Tripp says he thinks the frequencies will have to modulate and remodulate very quickly, as in down to fractions of seconds."

"Oh, how's he doing with that?" Malcolm asked.

"Good, but MacKenzie doesn't have your experience. I'm sorry to cut your vacation short, but I'll need for you to transport back, and soon."

"How soon, sir?"

"Now would be good."

"Allow me a few minutes to gather my things. I'll signal you when I'm ready. Reed out," he closed the Communicator.

"Oh, Lili-Flower, I am so sorry," he said, but she was already signing the bill over to the room.

"Let's go back to the room," she said.

=/\=

The perrazin didn't see them at first. Doug got one shot off, to a male that was cut off from the herd and over to the side. He knew that the animals were likely shunning that one for some reason, possibly some sort of as-yet unseen injury. The animal, lumbering, began to run.

Melissa fanned over to the side, keeping the hunter group off to her left. She put her elbow up and fired, hitting the animal in its right front shoulder.

Doug looked back, "Behind you!" he yelled.

She ran, turned, and fired behind her. There were six perrazin coming after her. They weren't quite up to top speed so she had some lead on them.

"Go right!" he yelled. He was torn between following the injured game and helping her, but only for a second. The game could wait. He doubled back and cocked the bow. The one in front didn't even know that he'd made a good hit. This brought down not only that animal but another one right behind it, which crashed into it and fell, legs entangled.

"Not outta the woods yet!" she yelled, then aimed her bow at a charging group. She fired, missing the lead animal but hitting one behind it. That just made them madder.

"Those are the hunters!" he yelled, "Tree! Climb a tree! Over there!"

She sprinted, and ended up leaping over a baby perrazin that was dumbly in her way. She climbed up, faster than she'd ever climbed anything. Panting, she looked down. The hunters were all surrounding Doug, and he didn't have an outlet. He was firing at the animals, wheeling around and alternating, trying to get them to go down like dominoes or at least pay attention to each other. She whistled, loudly, two fingers in her mouth. The perrazin looked up and some of them cantered over. The largest one butted at the tree she was in, making it sway and rock. A little sick, she looked around her. Grey fruit, grey fruit. Nothing was really grey yet. She grabbed a purple piece and twisted it off a branch, "This'll have to do," she said to herself, "Come 'n get it!" she yelled, throwing it like a grenade.

Doug had an outlet again and was able to run past the hunter group. He wheeled back when he heard snorting behind him. He turned slightly. It was the animal he'd initially wounded. It was pawing at the ground and bleeding. Ignoring the charging hunter group, he fired at the wounded animal, putting it out of its misery. The hunter group set upon the corpse and messily dived in as blood flew.

He was able to get over to the tree where she was still sitting, "It's okay, you can come down now."

"Huh? Aren't they gonna charge again?"

"Nope. We just bought them dinner."

"You didn't tell me they were cannibals," she said, climbing down.

"Only sometimes. Like I said, they're lazy SOBs. Here, we can take this one. They won't even notice. And, good thing not killing off all the hunters. Otherwise, the herd can't survive."

"Heh. That wasn't my plan," she said, "I guess I just missed some of 'em. I know, I know, keep my elbow up."

=/\=

Back in the room, Lili fretted while Malcolm packed, "Is this very dangerous?"

"I don't know," he said, stuffing unused socks into the duffle, "Complicated, that's for sure. Otherwise I suppose Aidan would take care of it in my stead."

"Let me know when it's done," she said, "And, and during. Okay, maybe not during – I just want you to be safe and all."

"My self-preservation is very important to me as well," he said, finishing up and smiling at her, "You are right here, always," he said, patting over his heart. Then he realized – oops – he hadn't given her the little gift yet. He made a slight face.

"What's the matter?"

"Other than my having to leave you, my love, oh, nothing," he smiled, "I know that we shall see one another in our dreams – I can certainly promise you that – but I just, it's a bit of unfinished business and, well," he took the gift out, "I was waiting for the right moment and to not be rushed but I guess this moment will have to do," he presented it to her.

She took it, "I like the wrapping," she said. It was a bit of turquoise fabric, bound together with a broad royal blue ribbon that was dark, almost indigo. She took off the ribbon, "I bet I could wear this in my hair."

"Yes, I'd like you to. If, if you would like to, that is. And the fabric, I suppose you could use it as a handkerchief or some such."

"I'm not gonna blow my nose in it," she laughed, "I love the colors. You know these are my absolute favorites."

"Wait a moment before you look at the last of it," he said, "I wish to tell you something. I love you beyond all reason, beyond all hope, beyond all belief and beyond all faith," he kissed her.

She unfolded the fabric, "It's like an old-fashioned skeleton key," she unclasped the chain around her neck and put the key on it, then gave it to him.

He clasped it behind her neck, and then kissed her neck, "I should not give you a ring. That would not be right. But I can give you this. It means not just an unlocking of, of me, but also key as in important. You have always made me feel important, and I want you to know how important, how key you are, to me as well. And, and, I hope you will wear this some days, and look at this, and think of me, sometimes."

"I don't need to look at this to think about you. I already do. I love it. Really, totally love it. And I will wear it every day. It's just right."

Their kiss was interrupted by another urgent communications chime.

"I must go," he said, "There's never been anything I've wanted to do less."

"I'll stay here tonight, sleep in this bed one more time, smell your smells, think of you, dream of you, of course."

"Of course. And I shall dream of you," he kissed her one last time and then answered the wailing Communicator, "Energize."

*3

"Did it work, Masterson?"

"I have to admit, Empress, I'm not sure," he said, looking over the readings at the

Defiant's Tactical station.

"Not sure?"

"Well, it's like this. I know we got off the shot. And I know it was composed of pulsed light vibrating in a twenty-one centimeter radiation band. And I know it went straight into the thickest concentration of dishes on Lafa II, on a rise the natives call Point Abic," he replied.

"And?" she prompted, a little peeved, shifting in the command chair. She was getting huge again, and was less than comfortable.

"And then the shot just disappears. So I figure we've got two possible choices. One is that we've just broken the laws of physics. You know, matter and energy are interchangeable, they can be neither created nor destroyed, only transformed, and now that shot's just gone completely," he explained.

"So you lost the shot?" Travis asked, looking up from piloting.

"Travis, I am working," The Empress said annoyedly, "Go on, Masterson."

"Very well. So yeah, the shot's lost. But I think it's lost in another universe. The one where the

Defiant came from in the first place."

Science Officer Lucy Stone looked up from her instruments, "The energy is definitely lost ... somewhere."

"Well, that's not good enough," The Empress snapped, "I don't need someplace, somehow, some, uh, when," she smiled a little, pleased at coining a neologism. She still loved language, despite her status, "I need to be able to

aim the energy pulse with the Defiant'sphasers. You do realize that, don't you?"

"Yes, Empress, of course," Lucy said, a tad nervously.

"This is just the testing phase," Chip Masterson interjected, "We can test some more, see if we get some readings. The first one emitted the right frequency to generate a bit of a whistling sound, far as I could tell. Strange."

The Empress punched a few keys on the console on her chair, "Ramirez!"

"Yeah," he said, getting on the line, "Empress, my apologies, I was just running a sensor diagnostic."

"Stop with the damned diagnostics. What the hell happened with the pulse shot?"

"Well, I calibrated the main phaser to twenty-one centimeters just like Stoney said to. And then I turned it all over to Masterson."

"Did you get it right?" she demanded.

"'Course I did. If there's a failure, it happened further down the stream. I gotta work on sensor relays. Ramirez out."

"Well?" the Empress asked.

"According to the calculations the Vulcan slaves made," Lucy said, checking a PADD, "everything in our universe vibrates in a twenty centimeter radiation band. Except for the

Defiant, and everything that came over from the other universe – the other side of the pond – with it. So we had Ramirez calibrate to twenty-one centimeters to match the Defiant."

"What about the time issue? I want to be getting into the

Defiant's time period. I need more ships like this one. Worlds to conquer are great, but I need ships," The Empress said, shifting positions again.

"Are you comfortable?" Travis looked back, concerned. He came over and was solicitous.

"Get away from me," she seethed, "Rub my feet later."

"Empress, the slaves and I figure that the shifting of the pulse moves it through time. This is, like Masterson said, a test," Lucy said.

"When will we know results?" The Empress got up this time. Sitting was not working for her. Her ankles were killing her.

"Could be a few hours, or maybe even a few years. I dunno," Chip said, then immediately regretted letting that slip.

"Years? I do not have the time for that. I want this settled before this one," she patted her huge belly, "hits West Point."

"Empress, it looks like there's a communiqué coming in," Lucy said, looking over at the Communications station.

The Empress herself answered it, "It's an Andorian uprising. We will have to leave this little, heh, garden spot. But we're not done yet. We'll get back here, find out the results. Head to Andoria. Warp Seven."

Once he'd gotten everything going, Travis threw the ship onto auto and joined her in the Ready Room.

"Careful with the stressing," he said, "That's my kid in there," he bent down and started to rub her feet.

=/\=

Lili felt a bit dejected. She'd seen Malcolm that night, and it was good, but she had to admit that being together in person was far preferable. Still, it was what they had. She didn't go straight home, and instead headed for the market. Even though Malcolm wouldn't be with them, everyone else would be, and she needed something to feed them with in case Melissa and Doug hadn't brought down any perrazin. She was picking up and squeezing olowa fruit when a Calafan workman came close and eyed her. He flicked his fingers twice. Calafans didn't whistle – she knew that – but the finger-flicking was the same sort of a signal. He had, essentially, just made a cat call at her.

She turned away, "Are you a human?" he asked. Completely bald, with solid silver arms, she estimated his age at less than twenty-five.

She rolled up a sleeve, revealing a sinuous silver tattoo on her arm, courtesy of the Calafans, "No. I'm one of you. And I'm way too old for you," she said, turning back, "And married."

"But maybe you need some nighttime spice," he persisted.

"I already have it," she said, annoyed, "And my husband and my lover are very jealous men."

"Oh. Didn't mean any disrespect," he said, and left her alone.

The encounter rattled her enough that she almost got into an accident on her way home. A little shaken, once she'd gotten the groceries in, she opened her Communicator, "Yimar."

"Yo," said the girl.

"Can you bring the kids home a day early? Please?"

"Oh, sure, they're getting kinda antsy anyway. Did uh, is something wrong?"

"Malcolm left early," Lili said.

"Did you two have a fight?"

"No. Enterprise business."

"Okay. We'll be there in a few hours. Sit tight. Yimar out."

While waiting – because Malcolm wasn't coming – she hauled out a bunch of dairy recipes, and ended up making a Boston Cream Pie.

Once it was cooling, she sat and cried just a little, then reached in and pulled out the key. That made her feel a bit better, "I bet this was made by a Calafan metalsmith," she said to herself, looking at it and turning it over in her hands. The shade of the metal matched her wedding ring, which was made of a Calafan alloy, "And a solid handle on the end – this was certainly made by someone who had never seen a skeleton key before. But I still love it. And the man who gave it to me."

She cried just a little bit more, stopping when she heard Yimar and the children outside, "Empanadas – I'll tell them we're making empanadas tonight. We'll make them extra spicy. And then they won't ask about why my eyes are red."