Part II: Closing Time

This portion of the story features the following NPCs:

USS Hawking
Conference Room - Deck 14

Harry paused to take another swig of the now-chilled coffee, which was still a better blend than the last he'd tasted. Across the table, the calm and somewhat mysterious Lt. Commander Vail of Starfleet Intelligence was listening patiently to Mr. Finn's report.

He was surprised not to have been asked sooner but, once on the runabout, Vail had gone to the cockpit with the Caitian, who Harry had learned was now part of the Hawking's Security force, along with the Klingon twins. Govan had made quiet introductions while getting Tenanji settled with some basic first aid and painkillers.

"Did she make it?" Harry asked, joining Tenanji and ignoring Govan as the Cardassian began to carefully remove the half-assed bandaging Harry had wrapped around his many-times broken hand. "Kerrin… did she?"

Beginning to fade from the tranqs, Usher opened his serious eyes to Finn's desperately questioning stare, "Yes, she did, they all made it. It's how we knew to look for you…"

Hearing that, knowing that he'd managed to save at least one, Harry leaned back in his seat and, against all odds, fell into an immediate and, thankfully dreamless, sleep.

He'd woken in sickbay, mostly in tact. Jillian had been there to quietly inform him of the extensive repairs she and her team had performed (apparently Lammas Ren was only so-so at putting things back together) and that his hand would need two more sessions of microsurgery and some PT before it was back to functioning level.

"Good thing I'm left-handed," he quipped but she didn't seem to see any humor, which wasn't like her.

He hadn't seen anyone, beyond the medical staff and the security detail which had escorted him to this room (more new faces), since returning to the Hawking.

Probably that was just as well, since, listening to himself tell Vail everything he'd done on Kendrassi Prime (Full disclosure, he had no reasons left to hide), Harry doubted he'd be on the ship long enough for any worthwhile meetings. He'd liked to have seen Jenny, though…

Putting down the cup, he looked at Vail, "I still don't know the name of the woman who came to the cell," he continued, "but… given her telepathic nature… I think she may have had something to do with my escape." It had been, he realized, now that he'd finally had some down time to process, way too simple. Too many coincidental screw-ups by Ren and his flunkies. "I don't know why, though," he tapped the table, fought down the urge to get up and start pacing, "I don't know what she had to gain…"

Callan nodded thoughtfully. "I don't know either…" The way he said it made it abundantly clear that he didn't like not knowing something. Intelligence in the Gamma Quadrant, especially this far from the wormhole was hard to come by. Which in truth, was part of the reason for his visit. "Perhaps that will become clear with time." After a momentary glance at his Padd, he set it down and leaned forward. "If I may, Harry… May I call you Harry? I really only have one question regarding your report… Why?"

Harry didn't miss a beat, "Because somebody had to… and no one else would."

"Hmmm…" His eyes twinkled. "Well, I think that's plenty for this report…" Callan stood and turned towards the viewport. The stars shone distant and cold. They were so foriegn this far from the Alpha Quadrant. "And now… What do you want? Where will you go?"

"I… what?" Harry blinked, stared at the other man, "I didn't think I had a choice in the matter…" Certainly Admiral Nechayev's orders had made that much clear.

Callan did smile, but didn't turn around to reveal it. "Harry, we all have choices. Nechayev's orders are specific, but not the final word at Starfleet Command. Let's just say… You have options. But I need assurance that this…episode…is over. It may not be completely forgotten. But it must be over." He slowly spun on his heel and examined the former officer. "Thoughts?"

Harry also rose, preferring to be on equal footing, physically at least, "Given that I had no expectations of… well, I didn't expect to survive this… episode," he quirked a small grin at the man responsible for altering those expectations, "but, okay, here we are. I know I can't put an end to all the crime in the galaxy; I never… I'm not Don Quixote," Harry waved off the idea of tilting at that impossibly huge windmill, "This was… it was a special case… and now it's closed. But," cause of course, there's always a 'but', "I don't think I can… I don't feel it's appropriate for me to go on as if nothing happened. I crossed a line… with Booth… even under the circumstances, I stepped over a line and… it wasn't easy," he admitted, looking down, and inside for a moment, "but, also," now he looked up and saw that Vail's expression, too, had gone serious, "it wasn't hard enough."

"There really isn't absolution… And that's not what I'm offering you. But neither need there be the condemnation of a good man to a wasted life. Your best destiny is clearly in the 'Fleet. And if you're willing, there are actions that can offer… not forgiveness… but a clean… cleaner slate." Callan took a small step forward and rested his hands on the back of the chair he'd been sitting in. "Your report and your role in the removal of a known threat to Federation security is highly classifiable. I believe you're familiar with the notion of sweeping a little past under the rug… It doesn't vanish, but it's harder to see. I'm telling you this because I want you in a 'Fleet I am proud to serve." His eyes grew distant. His long life and vast panorama of experience scrolled by…agonizingly so. "There are types that would change what we are founded on. And lines that shouldn't be crossed are toed all too often. You know the line. You've crossed it, and you know what it's like. People like you and I owe a debt… A debt to guard that line with what is left of our full self."

People like you and I… Maybe he shouldn't have been surprised that Lt. Commander Callan Vail of Intelligence had a past. A long one, more than like. Still, Harry wasn't good with words, so he knew nothing he could say would match the gift Vail was offering him, the continued chance to make things better, even if they could never be all the way right but, "I'd be… honored," he began, more formally than most anyone had ever seen him, "to take any opportunity to repay that debt, with… whatever is left."

"I'm not sure if you're aware of this, but I just learned that Admiral D'Rinax has placed Torrik Nils in Command of the Hawking," Vail said seriously. "I personally question the validity of that order, but it is what it is… I think that one so young could benefit greatly from a little," he paused and grinned. There was still much boyish innocence in his smile. "From some tempered experience. Ever thought of leaving Security for Command?"

"What happened to Benjamin?" Harry completely missed Vail's proposal as he'd been deafened by the blood surging to his head. If anything had happened to Nate…

"It appears that following an incident with a Breen cruiser, his implants took no a life of their own. He attempted to assimilate a few members of your crew, I believe… Unsuccessfully, of course." Callan shrugged. "He's fine. But he's resigned his commission."

"Well, hell," Harry ran a hand through his hair; Jenny was probably wrecked, "Okay, well, I guess that's… I mean I get it." Tough on Nate but maybe… maybe he could enjoy life as an actual teenager, now. It helped to try and think so, anyway. "So… Torrik, huh?" It was impossible not to grin because Harry could easily imagine the scientist's response to such an advancement, "I wonder if there's a pool on who gets the XO spot?"

"I'm not a gambling man, but if I were my money would be on one Harry Finn… I think it's a good fit." Callan regarded Harry seriously.

"Well, if you want to lose your shirt," Harry began, with a chuckle, then, "Wait… what… seriously?" Then he actually looked at the other man and while it was possible Callan Vail had hidden talents as a thespian, his face said he meant business and seeing that, for a moment, Harry felt the universe grind to a halt and in that moment of stillness he saw, for the first time in over five years, possibilities. "Okay," he said, then realized that response might be a wee bit casual, under the circumstances, "I mean, if… you know, if… I'd… yes, yes if you mean it, if Command would go there… I'd… yes."

He really did need to work on his communication skills.

Callan Vail stretched out his hand. "Congratulations then, Harry. Give me twelve hours to make all of this official… Make that twenty-four. You look like you could use a break. Orders will hit your quarters soon enough."

Dazed but feeling something strangely reminiscent of happiness, Harry took the offered hand. As Vail released the grip and turned to go, Harry, acting on instinct, stepped forward, "Sir?" the word was enough to make Callan pause, "I was just wondering," People like you and I…, "Your own… episode… is it over, yet?"

Callan held Harry's gaze and a sad smile spread slowly across his face. Yes…he'd made a good call here. "Parts of it never end, Mister Finn. Parts of it never end."

JP with Harry Finn, featuring NPC Callan Vail
Originally Posted 7-30-2008

-Holodeck 3-
-USS Hawking-

You not the boss of me!" Eli screamed shrilly as Tee tucked him under her arm and carted him away from the squalling Lia. "I am not attempting to boss you I am simply trying to ascertain…" Why am I trying to reason with a toddler? "Right now, yes I am, and I say you need to take a deep breath, come on now Eli, deep breath with me." And he did, which only served to fuel his next rage filled scream. Throwing a frazzled look over his head to Javier, T'Shaini shook her head. "I have no idea what happened."

"Daaaaaddy," Lia bawled as she ran to him. "Eli wanted my Flotter!" The engineer looked at the three people in the room and the little white dog that was hiding under the table and wondered how things could have gone so wrong so fast. Only moments before he had gone into the small kitchen area to get everyone their favorite drink. Guava juice for Eli and Lia, green tea for T'Shaini and coffee for himself. The peaceful atmosphere he had left seemed to have suffered a disaster of epic proportions while he was away.

"Did you share..?" An angry screech cut through the air. "Honey, you know you're supposed to share with your friends," Javier said as he put down the drinks and knelt beside Lia. "Eli probably.."

"It's my Flotter!" Lia protested as she held the stuffed animal in her arms tightly.

Javier felt a twinge of irritation as he realized that Lia was being selfish with her toys. He had been raised with eight older siblings so nothing had been personal property during his childhood. He didn't have a lot of things to call his own but selfish behavior was something he couldn't tolerate. "Lia, if you're not going to share I'm going to give Mr. Flotter to some other kid," he told his daughter matter of factly.

"Mine. MINE. MINE." The octave of Lia's voice getting louder at each repetition of the word, as she shook her head in defiance.

"Okay," Javier said as he picked up the child and took the Flotter toy away. Lia shrieked and cried in protest. "Both of you are going to bed early tonight, as in right now."

"Not that I am an expert in early childhood behavior, that was not my focus, but I believe that a period of intense ownership is normal under…" T'Shaini broke off as Eli squirmed out of her grip and she had to lunge after him, after a rather a longer chase than warranted considering the relative length of their legs she carried him over to Javier. "but perhaps a 'time out' is in order."

"Bed time is time out," Javier said stubbornly as he carried a crying Lia towards the room where she and Eli's beds were situated. He plopped her down on her bed. "You and Eli need to stay on your beds and be quiet. If I hear you fussing or arguing I'm going to spank you." Lia's face registered surprise and Eli swallowed and looked at Javier. It took a large measure of control for him not to laugh at the expression on the children's faces, but the engineer put on his best 'annoyed with an errant engineer frown' for the benefit of the children.

T'Shaini watched open mouthed as Javier scolded the children with an implacable edge to his voice that she did not even know existed. When he closed the door behind him she ventured quietly. "Are you truly that upset with them?"

He took T'Shaini by the arm and steered her out of the kid's hearing distance. "No," he remarked with a sigh, once they were out of earshot. "I nearly lost the frown and gave in when I saw Eli's lip quiver. I'm not sending them to bed for the night, just giving them a time out..but they don't know that." He winked at her. "In fifteen minutes I'll go get them up. We're having a marshmallow roast tonight, that should cheer them up."

"Oh, I misunderstood." It all made much more sense now. "Katie always tells me that I am not allowed in the school room with the young ones because I do not properly understand how to discipline them and therefore only seem to incite them to riot."

"A Vulcan inciting a riot?" Javier raised one eyebrow mimicking Vulcan shock. He could never pull it off as well as T'Shaini could though. "I suppose I should 'discipline' you for inciting bad behavior," he teased. "We have fifteen minutes; will that be enough for disciplining?"

JP with T'Shaini, Eli, Lia and the Big Bad Wolf
Originally Posted 7-30-2008 by Javier Costala

USS Hawking
Office, ComSecOps - Deck 14

“Sir?” Jenny entered the office, wondering why LT would be calling her in so late, and where he’d been for the past day and a half… shore leave my ass.

“Anderson,” Usher Tenanji rose from his desk, awkward with more than the soreness of his recently healed plasma burns. “I… there’s some… I wanted to tell you,” his hand waved generally towards a chair, “would you care to sit?”

Everything in her went cold. “Who died?”

“No one… well, no, that’s not right,” Usher cursed under his breath. Maybe this should have waited until tomorrow, when the painkillers had worn off a bit but, no… by tomorrow the Hawking would be buzzing with the news of Finn’s return and, quite possibly, his impending arrest and damned if he wanted the young woman standing before him to hear any of that in the form of scuttlebutt. “I’m sorry,” he took a breath, then, “I wanted you to know, as soon as possible, from me, that is, that Harry Finn is on board…”

The tiny, quickly contained gasp betrayed the mixed reaction, which was no more than he would have expected. She clearly cared deeply for her godfather… her ‘Uncle Harry’. And because of that, Chuck Berkowski, the amoral telepath who’d caused so very much grief for the crew in general and Jenny Anderson in particular, had used her own memories of Finn to abuse the young woman… a fact Tenanji would never have known but for the fact that Chuck had kept a record of his invasive depredations.

He gave her a moment, hoping the joy would outstrip Chuck’s manufactured fear. Once her breathing seemed to settle, Usher continued, “There is very little I can tell you about Finn’s… mission…” he confessed, “but I believe, and I’m sure he would agree, that you should know… Shaun Ryan Acker is dead.” Which was all he’d say on the matter, the details wouldn’t do her any good. “He’s gone,” Tenanji continued, as Jenny seemed unlikely to speak, as yet. “And I know this doesn’t bring your father back, but… it does… it does make your own future a bit less complicated.”

He waited but, still, the young crewman remained silent, eyes wide. “Anderson?”

Jenny shuddered, once, then blinked for the first time since she’d asked who died. “Thank you, sir,” she realized that, in fact, Tenanji didn’t look all that spry at the moment. “I appreciate your letting me know, before…” before what? Her brow furrowed as she looked at him.

“I don’t know,” he answered, truthfully enough. “Hopefully, by tomorrow we’ll have some news as to his future… disposition.”

“Okay, yes, thank you, sir, umm, was there… anything else?”

“No,” he finally allowed himself to sit… he’d have to get some sleep, soon. “That will be all… I’ll let you know if I hear anything.”

“Thank you,” she said, again, turning to the door, then she looked back, realizing finally where her superior had been, and who he’d been helping, “for everything.”

Then she was in her quarters. She didn’t remember the trip from Tenanji’s office… she just walked out the door and the next thing, here she was. Darby was sound asleep so Jen quietly went into the bathroom where she locked the door, turned on the faucet, using up what water rations were available and, under cover of that small waterfall, let out the choking sobs she’d been holding in from the moment she’d heard the words, ‘Shaun Ryan Acker is dead’.

Turns out, a person never really did run out of tears.

Featuring NPC's Usher Tenanji and Jenny Anderson
Originally Posted 7-30-2008 by Harry Finn

USS Hawking
Dedicated Lab 1138

It had been the strangest sensation, walking through the now-busy corridors of the Hawking… he'd been at home here, only weeks ago… but now, there were so many unknown faces in the familiar uniforms, even those he recognized were, in a way, now strangers.

Everything changes…. who had said that?

Whatever. Now he was here, staring at the door and people were walking past and around as if he weren't there. Maybe he wasn't. Maybe this was all a dream and he was still in Lammas Ren's perverted lab but… no… no. What had followed, the confrontation with Shaun and it's cold, cold ending… that had been too visceral to ever be a dream.

Breathing through the memory, he finally came close enough to activate the door's sensors and, as it whisked aside, crossed the threshold.

"Shooo! Go away! I told you I have nothing for you to do until I start to organize the findings from…" Kerrin stopped dead in her tirade to the everpresent Jason…because it was most decidedly not Jason. Knees wobbly, she grabbed onto the edge of the table to steady herself. "Oh god, you aren't dead, I told them you weren't but I wasn't even sure I believed it myself, but I knew if I thought so…" Get it together woman. With a watery laugh Kerrin quickly crossed the room and hugged him fiercely for a long moment. "I am glad I was right." She whispered into his shoulder.

For a long, long moment, that was enough, the feel of her, wrapped around him, his own arms, tentative at first, uncertain of their reception, winding about her and, as she stayed, pulling her closer… it didn't seem possible that they could ever be close enough. Laying a gentle kiss on the top her head, he whispered through an unfamiliar thickness in his throat, "They didn't take you away… I was… even after you and Hallows left, I wasn't sure… not 'til Tenanji told me."

Kerrin snorted lightly. "Poor Jason, if you crossed a wet cat with an octopus I think it would have been easier to wrangle than I was." She hugged him tighter. "I couldn't believe we were supposed to just leave you. I still don't…how?"

"Oh, that's a long, long… highly classified story," he pulled back just enough to see her face, to smile at the curiosity in her eyes, knowing he'd never tell her… not even the parts that Vail cleared. "But I had a little… a lot… of help… from Tenanji and his team… and someone else." not knowing how public Commander Vail's presence was, he glossed over that, as well.

Kerrin returned his smile even while internally she felt a little 'click' of realization that no matter how much he meant to her, or even her to him, there was a large part of Harry Finn that she would never be allowed to be a part of…and after seeing what he was capable of, maybe that was the best thing. But can I live with it? Tabling that thought for the moment, Kerrin's brow furrowed. "What next?"

"I'm not sure," he said, his hands trailing down her arms to take hold of hers. Unable to resist, he raised his right, bandaged hand, and laid a gentle kiss on Kerrin's work-roughened palm. Into that enticing hollow he continued, "I might be allowed to stay… in a different position," unwilling to voice the actual words until Vail… and Torrik for that matter, confirmed… "I hope I will be." He glanced up, wondering. "What about you? The dig…?"

"Shut down." Her face fell. "The Kendrassi were spooked by the bombings so they locked us out…god, I sound so cold. I mean I understand why they did it, but it just seems like cutting off your nose to spite your face. We were close, I could feel it and it could have given them a sense of unity that only…" Kerrin wrinkled her nose. "Rambling…sorry."

But of course, he'd been enjoying the ramble… the passion for her work reminded him of her passion for… other things. "Never apologize for loving what you do," he said, tilting up her chin, noting that the swelling and the livid bruises Booth had put on her had been healed.

The air around them suddenly zipped with electricity. Damn him, why do I always react... No one ever 'looked' at her the way Harry did. "I..uh…yeah, I love what I do." Ahh so smooth.

The smallest smile curved his lips… he still made her nervous. "So," he said, leaning close, inhaling the unique Kerrinness of her hair, "I've been pretty out of it… don't even know what time it is," he pulled back again, holding her gaze, "Don't suppose it's anywhere near lunch, is it?"

Ay yi yi…if anyone had ever told me that being sniffed would be a turn on I would smack them. "Erm, yes? Near enough…you hungry?"

But he was already pushing her back to the wall, eyes devouring hers, "Starving," the word was practically a growl as his lips found hers and his one good hand started towards the buttons… Gods, I love this sweater…

All her 'this would be a bad idea right now' thoughts went out the window as he pressed against her. "Are you…I don't want to hurt…want to be careful of your hand." Kerrin hiccuped out between kisses trying to help him as he worked on her top one handed.

"No worries… I'm a lefty…" he began to drop kisses down her neck, to her collarbone… he'd just reached that tempting swell above the lace, thrilling to the music of her sighs when…

"I hope I am not interrupting…" Jason folded his arms across his chest and leaned against the now closed door. They hadn't even heard him come in…bad. "Or maybe I hope I am."

JP of a CF with Harry Finn, featuring Kerrin Schaeffer
Originally Posted 7-31-2008 by T'Shaini

USS Hawking
Dedicated Lab 1138 (which just got REAL crowded)

It was worse than a bucket of cold water… well, not really. "What the hell are you doing here?" Finn turned just enough that his body blocked Hallows' view of Kerrin, then peered over his shoulder at the now-desperately re-buttoning woman damn. "What the hell is he doing here?"

If there is a god, please strike me dead right now. Kerrin slammed her eyes shut in the hopes that this whole thing would just go away. No dice. Mortified, but now less exposed, Kerrin stepped to the side. "We got beamed here, and then the dig shut down andBaya is teaching and…" Shit shit shit "I needed the help and he wanted the work." Finally daring to look up at Jason, who's normally mobile face was icy cold Kerrin shrank to about 10 centimeters tall inside. Who ever thinks it would be fun to have two men interested in her needs their head examined. She stumbled a couple of steps toward Jason then looked back at Harry. "And really, he is the best." Which was just the truth.

"I'll bet he is," Harry replied, joining Kerrin and wrapping a blatantly possessive arm around her waist. He held the other man's eyes for a long moment, then, "Thank you, for getting her out." he held out his hand, then remembered it was wrapped in a cast yet. "Well, thanks, anyway."

"I didn't do it for you." Jason walked up, noting Kerrin's panic and dropped his hand on her shoulder and squeezed it lightly. "But you are welcome."

"Aahhhhhhhhhh." Kerrin danced out from between the two men in a flurry of discombobulation. "Good, now we have that squared away. Time for lunch?" Ever the master of diversion.

"Sure," Harry said, his eyes never once leaving Hallows', "I was just telling Kerrin how hungry I was."

"I could see that." You could almost hear the spurs as they squared off like gunslingers. Jason was full aware of the irony that if push came to shove he would be mincemeat, but that wasn't what this was about. Hmmm. Or perhaps he should play to his strengths. Throwing a reassuring smile to Kerrin, he chuckled warmly and grabbed Harry's left hand. "Okay, so we both 'marked our territory' so to speak, nothing more to do for now but sit back and let the lady decide," The lady in question eyes were wide and bewildered. "if there is anything left to decide." He finished with a self deprecating nod to Harry.

Harry's own response was a weary smile, "We all have choices," he said quietly, as if quoting someone, then turned a much softer eye to the flustered lady, "but maybe something simple to start, like… the mess or Ten Forward?"

Too much, too much of everything, Kerrin felt like her head was going to explode. What was the phrase? An embarrassment of riches. All she could do was shake her head. "Ummm, sure…mess sounds good." Can I have ice cream for lunch? Then she turned her confused gaze on Jason. "Coming?"

"Wouldn't dream of missing it." Jason's answering smile lit the room. "If nothing else it will be interesting.

"Not on my account," Harry responded with a casual, 'you first' gesture, "I'm dull as dirt." And, as Hallows took the hint and led the way, with Kerrin following did she know she blushed?, Harry left the lab thinking that Vail had damn well better come through with that job, or Harry might have to sign on as the Hawking's new janitor.

JP featuring Kerrin and the Alpha Wolves (AKA Tee as K&J and HF as… HF)
Originally Posted 7-31-2008 by Harry Finn

USS Hawking
Gym - Deck 5

When all else fails, go beat the crap out of something. It had been Seth’s method of dealing with stress, Harry had pretty much raised it to an art form and, as he approached the young woman pounding at the wing chun dummy, it was apparent that Jenny was making her own masterpiece of sorrows.

He’d gone looking for her, after the… interesting… lunch with Hallows and Kerrin. Clearly the reunion there was not going to be easy… but then, did he deserve easy?

"You know the line. You’ve crossed it."

So he’d gone looking for Jenny, contacting Tenanji to find out her schedule… and been asked to come to the ComSecOps office and, once there, been given a report… a report on certain… events… which had occurred during the ‘Fleet race from Megiddo and…

”And he’s dead?” Harry, newly sworn off vengeance, had a hard time holding to that ideology, had a hard time seeing past the words on the PADD Usher had handed him.

“Yes… shortly after… it’s all there but,” with surprising gentleness Tenanji drew the PADD out of Finn’s hand, “I just wanted… before you saw her it seemed best that you know, her reception may be…”

Fear. She might be afraid of him… her godfather… Seth’s best friend and the guy who’d played tag with her and given piggy back rides and, later, taught her how to really swear.

”She’s been having trouble,” the lieutenant had continued, “separating the nightmare from reality. She came very close to killing Jameson and… there’s a skittishness that is currently keeping her on light duty, no weapons.

“I’m hoping to get her through a friendly fire test this week… see how she does… with Counselor T’Shaini’s approval, of course.”

And after all that, Hawking’s latest Security Chief explained how he’d already told her about Acker’s death, as he’d been worried that perhaps Harry might not get the chance.

Now in the gym he stood back and watched as her blows, a set, repeating pattern, sped up with each rep, in theory building strength and focus, making the body a weapon and not (and this was key) dulled by the distraction of emotion. Emotions were the children of the will…

As he watched, however, her hits started to go a bit… wild… she’d miss the palm and her forearm would take the brunt… her kicks went too high or started too far back and Jenny’s balance deteriorated. Worried that, if she continued, she might do harm to herself, Harry stepped in…

… and just managed to block the backhand that came his way.

Unfortunately, he blocked it with the broken hand.

“Oh, God, oh… Uncle Harry…” Jenny stood, shaking with exhaustion and shame and relief and joy and… too many emotions for one person to process. “I’m sorry…”

Shaking off the grayness of the pain, he knew she wasn’t just apologizing for the backhand. “No… no,” he took a tentative step towards her, “You have nothing to be sorry for.”

Jen’s gray eyes were haunted as she met his, “You talked to LT,” she said, matter-of-factly.

“Yeah,” he looked down at his feet, wishing he could erase the words he’d read… wishing more he could erase the images he now knew were lodged inside her psyche. Looking up, again, “You have nothing to be sorry for,” he repeated.

“But,” Jenny’s hand brushed at the soft flow of tears that had, of course, begun when she’d seen Harry, “I do. I… he surprised me… I shouldn’t have let him touch me with that hypo… I shouldn’t have gone into the cargo hold alone… I caused so much trouble and now… now I can’t even do the job.”

“Hey,” he didn’t go closer but he did hold out his hand, the good one, and she, bless her, she took it. “You didn’t do anything wrong,” repetition is key, right? “He was a telepath, Jenny… from the report… from your report… you said you felt compelled to go check out that hold. Compelled… against your own better judgment.”

“But still…”

He gave the small hand in his a squeeze, “Jen,” he began then he took another moment, and a deep breath, “here’s the thing… and it’s a thing everyone on the job finds out, eventually, you just found out sooner than a lot of folks…” he paused again and, once he was sure she was listening, continued, “The thing is, no matter how tough you are, or how smart, or how strong or how fast… no matter who you are… no matter what… there will always, somewhere, there will always be a bigger dog. There will always be someone out there who is tougher, stronger, smarter or faster than you and if you’re lucky, you get to walk away from that bigger dog… if you’re really lucky you get to walk away with all your teeth.”

“Did you?” she asked, her eyes desperate, “I mean, have you met a bigger dog?”

“Ahh, Jen,” and now she wasn’t the only one with damp cheeks, “I think I’ve met the whole damn pack.”

Nodding, practically choking on the amalgam of emotions boiling within, Jenny gave in and dove into Harry’s arms, and he took her in like the child he’d never had, “I missed you,” she finally managed, thoroughly wetting his shirt.

Holding her close, his heart breaking anew for what she’d suffered, Harry lay his cheek against her hair… he’d be damned if he left her to face anything like this alone, again. I’m sorry, Seth. “I missed you, too.”

Featuring NPC's Jenny Anderson and Usher Tenanji
Originally Posted 7-31-2008 by Harry Finn

USS Hawking
Executiive Officer's Quarters

"And I thought the Security Chief's berth was posh," Harry Finn stood in the middle of the sitting room, staring at the space… and the port! And… the space.

He'd been tracked down by Yeoman T'Landra bearing a stone cold glare and a PADD with the missive, 'All went as expected and you'd better find some uniforms… oh, and take possession of the XO's quarters, while you're at it.' Which was all Commander Vail seemed to have to say on the matter.

So he'd ordered up some uniforms (no more mustard yellow… that would be weird) and reported to the rooms. Of course… he had nothing to unpack. All the belongings he'd had were on the Outpost… and Stearns' army had pretty much trashed everything in their search for Finn. "Huh," he really didn't know what to do with himself.

The door chime sounded, "Yo… ah, sir!" Harry turned to see his brand-spanking new CO and he smiled, "It's good to see you… Captain."

"Harry," Nils said his dark demeanor breaking into a half-hearted smile. "So the rumors are true. Our Security Chief is back… Except he's no longer the Security Chief." Nils stepped into the XO quarters and looked around. "But it looks like you already got that message." Missing this room was one thing he thought he'd never do. But he did. "Harry, how are you?" Genuine concern softened the usually surly Bajoran's tone and tempermant. He sounded almost…warm.

"Good… I think, I'm…" he let out a long breath… there were so many things he just wasn't ready to talk about… and more he wasn't allowed to. "Let's just say it's good to be home… if it is, I mean, I know Vail was all gung ho to get me into the XO slot but, if it's not what you want…"

"I have to admit I was shocked when I spoke to Admiral Reid at Command… But over the last several days it's become abundantly clear that what I want is pretty irrelevant."

The reluctant CO instantly wished he could pull those words back. They conveyed the wrong message - the exact opposite one, in fact. "No, Harry, I'm actually quite relieved they chose you to take the spot. I don't think I can do this… Not on my own. And some no name from Alpha filling the XO role would've only made it more difficult." No, it was definately good news that Harry Finn would be Nils support. "Vail, huh? I probably should have guessed that. After I spoke to Reid I went after your records. You have to admit that in light of your departure a promotion is pretty odd. Turns out I don't have clearance to read your records…" A glint of humor shone in the Bajoran's eye. He left that unspoken statement to float around between them. This story was Harry's to tell, and not his to pry into.

"Oddly, I don't think I have the clearance to read my records," Finn replied, though his smile was a bit forced. "But, you should know… what happened before I left… the reason I left… that won't come back on the Hawking. You… we… won't have to worry about… that… ever happening again." Uncomfortable, Harry started to shove his hands in his pockets but, ha, the bandage wouldn't fit.

For a moment, Nils closed his eyes and said a silent prayer for the dead. Not Acker of course… That wraith spawn deserved no prayer. But with his passing, perhaps the pagh of so many others could finally rest peacefully. Dana, thought the faithful Bajoran remembering his friend and the void her death brougth to so many on board this ship. "I'm glad to hear that." To avoid any more discomfort he pressed on, "But the next time you see fit to invite me into one of your convoluted plots… Don't!" Memories of a holodeck program gone wild and giant spiders crept through his mind. He almost smiled. "I'm happy in my own brand of misery. I don't need yours to add to it."

"No worries," was all Harry said, hoping that Torrik Nils never experienced the kind of miseries which had accompanied his search for Shaun Ryan Acker. Gently rubbing at the ache in his hand he shrugged, "So, the uniforms are ordered, I've got a place to sleep and I'm cleared for duty as of tomorrow, first shift… anything I should know, going in?"

"State of the ship? Repairs are complete for the most part. Engineering is still wrestling with Gorsky's duck program, but they say it shouldn't be much longer." Nils paused considering how to proceed. "There's also something you should probably know…" Despite his height, the younger man felt as if he were shrinking. With flushed cheeks and a quickly sickening stomach he continued. "Jenny Anderson… While you were away she was abducted under my watch. The reports show some rather…" He didn't want to broach the topic in too much detail. "She was subjected too a lot and I feel… It was my fault for not protecting the crew sooner. I want to apologize to you for that…" And to Jenny too… someday. "It seems she was…"

"I know… I… got the report from Tenanji," and he still felt the queasy mix of rage and helplessness, "and she… we talked." Harry shook it off, "And, reading that report, I don't believe you can blame yourself… you will anyway," didn't Harry blame himself for not being there, not being able to protect her? "But I don't."

Nils nodded, ready to move on. The sooner they jumped from this topic the better. Finn may not blame him verbally…but Nils felt hard condemnation from the newly assigned XO whether it was there or not. He knew he was projecting it, but it didn't matter. He fled from the 'awkward' to the first subject that came to mind…

"There is one other thing. It's silly, so I feel…" No need to get any more personal, Nils thought pulling back from that conversational tack. He drew in a breath and spat it out. "I would like to keep Yeoman T'Landra as my admin staff. We've formed a working relationship that I don't feel like trying to reestablish with someone else. The problem is…officially she is assigned to the First Officer… To you."

"Score!… Oh, I mean… no, no, absolutely, you should certainly keep the staff that works for you," Harry grinned at his own tactlessness and Nils' raised eyebrow, "What can I say? She scares the crap out of me."

"Her…eccentricities work well with mine," Nils conceded with a nod. "But her presence can be harsh if you're not expecting it. I appreciate her efficience." And her Vulcan lack of involvement in my life. "Thank you." One more time, the CO glanced around the room. "Is there anything I can do to help get you settled? I barely had anything in here, and I spent most of my time on Constitution while these were supposed to be my quarters so there shouldn't be much to overhaul…"

"Nah," Harry shrugged again, looking down, "what you see is what you get. But that's okay," he looked up, meeting the eyes of his captain and… he thought… his friend, "this way, there's no baggage to deal with."

"Not as much as before anyway," Nils pondered aloud. He wasn't sure if Harry caught the double meaning, but it was more for his own benefit. Life was moving forward. Things were returning to normal ship board life. All the unbearable things from before were becoming…bearable… "Well… Congratulations on the promotion. I'll see you on the bridge at Alpha shift." He turned to leave but caught himself in time. "And welcome back, Harry. It really hasn't been the same without you."

"Thanks," Harry smiled, "see you then… Captain Torrik. Don't worry," he laughed at Nils' obvious wince, "you'll get used to it… in about a decade."

A Joint effort by Finn and Torrik
Originally Posted 8-1-2008 by Torrik Nils

"Lia and me got a fish!" Eli said excitedly as he nodded his head. The little boy had started his abbreviated account of the past four days as soon as he had reached the Ibrahim's quarters. Javier watched as Katie and Mustapha followed along with the tale, smiling and laughing at the children's exploits. The engineer could tell that the couple had had a pleasant vacation. They both seemed more at ease in their own ways, Katie energetic and happy while Mustapha reclined easily on the furniture, the tension of the last mission gone from his tall frame. I hope the last four days was somewhat relaxing for T'Shaini. Javier thought.

"And Mister Javier said he was going to spank me," Eli recounted, causing Javier to resurface from his thoughts and focus on the Ibrahims. Mustapha looked at Javier in surprise then laughed good-naturedly. "And my guess would be that you deserved a hiding for your behavior," Mustapha said as he placed his hand on the top of Eli's head in a sign of affection. "You would get more hidings here but your mother gets to you before I can."

"And I find that a good time out works wonders…right Eli?" Katie looked down in mock disapproval. Then smiling up at Javier and T'Shaini she bounded over to give each of them a quick hug. "I can't thank you enough." She leaned in between the two and whispered. "As much as I love him it was wonderful to be alone with Mustapha. I may have to bribe you to do this more often." Katie said with a wink before bouncing back to scoop up Eli and hang him upside-down.

"I am certain there will be no bribes needed…" T'Shaini said smoothly. "of course if you ever felt so inclined I would venture that the reverse arrangement would also be welcome."

Javier nodded in agreement. "We have to shift out time-table around nap times and there's always the chance of Lia waking up," he said looking down at the little girl that was swinging on his arm. "Which I'm sure you two know all about..I guess we had better go on home. Alpha shift starts early."

"Do we have to go back so soon?" Mustapha asked in good humor, feigning remorse.

"Unfortunately..yes," Javier said with a sigh. He grinned quickly then said, "But that's tomorrow, I'm going to go home now and play with my two favorite girls."

"Daddy, I'm your girl," Lia suddenly said.

Katie shot a 'good luck' look over Lia's head at the clearly startled counselor. Ahh, more issues of ownership, Lia has been in an unsettled environment or rather environments for quite some time now. "Of course you are his girl Lia, but I hope that you will be willing to share him."

"Uh-uh." Lia replied before hugging on to Javier's leg. The engineer picked her up and held Lia. "You're my girl but so is T'Shaini," he told her. "Nuh-uh," Lia said before burying her head in his shoulder. Not wishing to have a scene unfold in the Ibrahim's living quarters, Javier took his leave of the family. Once out in the corridor he tried to put Lia down but she clung to him fiercely. "I'm your girl and she needs to go," the four year old suddenly said then stuck her tongue out at T'Shaini.

"Lia, don't be ugly," Javier scolded as he grew tired of the child's attitude and let the girl down onto the deck. She began to bawl.

Watching the situation begin to spiral out of control T'Shaini tried to whisper to Javier, then realizing the futility….raised her voice. "Perhaps she just needs a few days to adjust so she is not so leery of losing you, I can stay in my office." Before the argument she could see was coming began she leaned over to the unhappy girl. "Lia, would you rather if I…OW." The unsuspecting counselor jumped back and rubbed the sore spot on her shin where she had been kicked. Round one to the four year old.

"LIA, NO," the engineer stated after he had watched in surprise as the child kicked T'Shaini. Frustrated with his daughter and irritated by the sudden display of brattiness, Javier delivered two well-placed smacks to Lia's behind. The spanking only caused Lia to cry more. "We're not going to have that sort of behaviour young lady. Apologize to T'Shaini." The blubbering began to siphon off but started up again when he leaned over to check on T'Shaini. "Lia, hush now and say you're sorry!"

"I am fine, it did not hurt..more startled me, and I understand." T'Shaini began to lean in to kiss Javier on the cheek then as the wailing escalated, thought better of it and took a step back. "She needs time. Time to know, " She tapped her fingers on her heart. "that she will not lose you."

"You're right," he admitted, looking down at the crying child who had latched on to his hand with a deathgrip. "But she needs to realize that you are just as much a part of my life as she is going to be," Javier said as he took T'Shaini's hand. The crying increased an octave but that didn't stop the engineer. "Eventually she'll cry herself out. And no, there's not going to be anyone sleeping or staying in offices." He turned to look at Lia who was taking deep breaths to catch up from all the time she had spent bawling. "T'Shaini is staying with us Lia," he told the child. Lia began to blubber again. "She gets her temperament from her mother," Javier said in a low tone.

"And perhaps her stubbornness from you." T'Shaini said with a smile. If she had learned nothing else from Katie she knew to not contradict a parent when they were parenting. Deliberately she walked to the door, signaled for it to open then stepped inside. Peering back out into the corridor at the odd couple T'Shaini winced at the simultaneous crescendo of crying with her reappearance. "My goodness it is late, I think I will go to bed…" And with that the Vulcan beat a hasty retreat.

"I think we all should," Javier voiced as he looked down at Lia. "Wow this parenting stuff is so much fun!"

JP Javi, Tee and Action figure Lia with Kung fu grip
Originally Posted 8-1-2008 by T'Shaini

.: Outpost Jericho Samaria (Orbital Platform) | Docking Ring 10-B:.

The future, once laid out in a “Starfleet clean” sort of path, was now sat sprawled in front of him like a road covered in the densest fog. Yep. For the first time since Nathan Benjamin could remember, he didn’t have the slightest clue what tomorrow would bring. If things when according to the haphazard plan he’d set in motion on the Hawking some three hours prior, he and his little doppleganger would be tucked away on the Bajoran transport Tal’Fhar en route to meet another transport at Deep Space Nine. And if the Bajoran’s Prophets smiled on the pair, they’d find a ship that would take them straight to Cestus III. He didn’t count on that. Of course there was the alternative to Nathan’s plan. That would be Admiral D’rinax’s plan which involved him being arrested and questioned for the attempted assimilation of two of his former crew members and the fifty some members of the Breen pirate ship.

Of course he thought with a slight smirk, Lady Cutsforth’s report no doubt would raise a few questions at that meeting as well. But Nathan had no intentions of answering any of those questions. Nor did he intend for himself and Nathaniel to become the stuff of some new Borg research initiative.

“When will we come back to the Hawking?” Nathaniel asked quietly. The boy had been unusually quiet since their hasty departure from the ship. Most likely sensing the urgency in his older counterpart, the boy had silenty and quickly packed his most treasured belongings as instructed and followed Nathan off the vessel. They’d been waiting on the transport for almost twenty minutes before he’d even spoken.

“We’re not.” Nathan replied plainly, standing on the tips of his toes to see over the head of an Andorian in front of them.

The boy didn’t immediately respond. Jarred no doubt by the revelation that his time on the Hawking, which he’d come to embrace as his new family, was at an end, he digested the information silently. After watching Nathan check his chrono, followed by the double doors to the loading center, and the status of their transport again, he looked up at the teen.

“Why not? Where are we going?” He asked without pause.

Nathan finally looked down. He didn’t have to look, and he wouldn’t have if not for the mixture of emotions that ran through not only the boy’s voice, but also their shared neural link. A tinge of sadness, uncertainty and fear tugged at the teen. He was feeling the same, but as he’d trained himself to do over the course of a brief starfleet career, his purpose kept those unproductive emotions at bay just enough to concentrate on the misson. “We’re going to Cestus III.” He informed the wide eyed little Borg. “And we’re going because we can’t stay here anymore.”


It wasn’t supposed to be this hard. It hadn’t seemed like it when he’d informed the white haired admiral whose name he couldn’t recall. He was finished. He was going home. But then Jenny had come in and he’d hung up on the man. Later, still cleaning his ready room Nils had come in and informed him of a very brief conversation that he’d had with Admiral D’Rinax. Apparently he’d missed out on a very imporant detail with the other admiral. He was finished with Starfleet, but Starfleet it seemed, wasn’t finished with him.

Taking another quick glance at the double doors leading into the loading center, Nathan struggled with how to explain it. Nathaniel, in addition to being an identical clone was a pretty close match to Nathan when he’d been his age. Very adept at school and study but still perplexed at the workings of the adult world. In his mind, Nathan was the captain. the Hawking was HIS ship. Therefore, the Hawking was Nathaniel’s ship as well. More than that, it was the only real home he’d ever known. And up until the time he’d laid his pips on the oak topped desk in the ready room it’d been his home as well.

“Because,…” Nathan replied looking down at the boy once again. “Starfleet wants to use us to understand the Borg.”

“The Borg are not complex.” Three asserted. “The have a simple nature.”

The older Benjamin stifled a grin. “Yeah. But Starfleet wants to use us to figure out a way to stop them. They want to keep us here to help them.”

“Can’t we do that on the Hawking? I could help them after school.” Nathaniel asked quickly. He already knew that Nathan had made up his mind, but like most boys that age couldn't help but try one last time.

Nathan was about to reply, in the negative of course when his voice was lost in the loudspeakers announcing the transport's readiness to be boarded. Seeing that the coase was lost, and perhaps deciding the further interrogation would prove futile now, Nathaniel picked up his bulging backpack and began slowly for the entrance. Nathan gave one last fleeting look to the bustling Skydock beyond the large transparasteel doors before turning and following the boy through the airlock and onto the waiting vessel. As he made his way toward the airlock, surrounded by his fellow passengers, the teen wondered if he'd ever see this side of the wormhole again. And he also wondered genuinely, for the first time since coming to the Gamma quadrant as a fresh faced crewman aboard the Presidio, exactly what his future held in store for him.

There was regret, and maybe a little sadness, but moreso there was a sense of wonder. An excitement one gets when stepping into the unknown. That was something that had been missing for the past months. It wasn't consuming as it had been in those early days on the Presidio, and subsequently when he'd happily taken the Hawking. But it was there. And it was a feeling that Nathan was happy to see still existed in himself. And though he was still concerned for the two of them, he didn't board the Tal'Afar with a worried scowl on his face. He bore the look of someone who'd just been relieved of a burden. His steps had purpose but were light. He was very much aware of his surroundings, but for the most part they held little interest.

Soon Nathan Benjamin would be on his way to Cestus III and the beautiful summertime beaches around Pike City. He was going back to the rock strewn hills and oak clad forests that had been there when he'd been recovered from the Borg. And as the former Starfleet officer stepped aboard the Tal'Afar, ready to embrace his new beginning, he paused briefly to glance out past the transparasteel doors and over to the other side of the docking ring. Just barely he could make out the subtle blue hue of the Hawking as she lay nestled in her berth. Silently he wished the ship and her crew, his friends the best of luck in whatever endeavors they were about to undertake.

As quickly as he'd turned to look back the teen turned his eyes back to the airlock and boarded the ship, blending into the other passengers as he disappeared into the little transport.

Originally Posted 8-2-2008 by Nathan Benjamin

Having practiced, breakfasted and seen Javier off to the schoolroom with a much subdued Lia, we will see how long that lasts, T'Shaini made her way to her office. Drinking in the welcome familiarity of the Hawking and her inhabitants, the counselor took pleasure in the many greetings she received in the corridors. It is so good to be home. Home. It meant so many things. Surroundings that resonated with meaning, whatever you regard as 'family' near, and an undefinable sense of belonging. This is what the Hawking had become to her, and as with so many things it only became clear when it was temporarily lost. Her hand hovered over the door plate as she thought back to the previous evening, when a quick errand while Javier was putting Lia to bed bore unexpected dividends.

Not bothering to turn on the lights, T'Shaini started across her office when a voice broke the stillness.

"Hello, Wendy."

"Thank you for the book."

Harry's smile flashed bright in the darkness, "I hope you liked it." Then, before she could respond, the smile faded and he said the first of the things he'd come to say, "It's over."

T'Shaini let out a sigh. "And you?"

"I'm… staying," the simple statement which, because he knew she knew him, would mean more to her than just his continued presence on the Hawking.


One hip perched on the edge of the couch T'Shaini looked down at the bandaged hand. "How…" She knew it was ridiculous to ask, and that it was likely the least of his wounds, but it just slipped out.

Harry looked down at his parting gift from Lammas Ren. "Acker wanted some payback… had a professional torturer on staff," which led to the second thing he'd come to say, "One of his… punishments… was whiskey… a lot of it." His eyes sought hers, glowing warm in the dim light of her office, "I want more."

T'Shaini flinched inwardly at the words 'professional torturer', but at least he is still alive. Face serene, the counselor nodded. "Of course, it would be more surprising if you did not. Would it be worth it?"

"Not anymore," his voice was rough and he had to look away.

There was a shift, not the sense of completion, though that was there, something…darker. "How far?" She started to deflect her pointed question then something made her press. "How far did you have to go?"

In his memory, Harry felt it, again. "Don't worry," he said to the perversion of life in his hands, "this will only hurt a bit," and giving a quick, sharp twist up and sideways, he felt the sickening snap of Booth's neck all the way through to his gut. "Only a bit," he whispered, allowing Gavin's body to slide softly to the floor as it parted company with its life.

In the here and now he looked at Wendy and told her the third, and last thing, "All the way." His voice, difficult before, finally broke, "and I'd do it again but…" by now his entire frame was shaking as the moment came back on him… the moment he'd crossed the line. "I'd do it, again…"

T'Shaini held her breath as the unimaginable happened. Even in the dim half-light of the office she could see it, she watched him break…Oh Harry. But he was back, he was here and that meant everything. "How far we will go to 'protect what matters'" His conversation after her breakdown on the outpost echoed in her head. "Did you protect what mattered?"

But by now his head was buried in his hands and, though he heard his own words, returning to him in her soft voice, all he could manage was one short nod and hope she understood. It had been too many days, holding it in, the fear and the hate and the regret and the pain… endless, uncountable hours of that… and the knowledge he was never going to survive… and then the shock when he had, even after all the deaths, he survived. All of it now came out and it just kept on coming… three years worth of rigid control fell all to pieces: shards of ice cold crystal into the clear pool of Wendy's presence until, eventually, all that was left was the man, utterly spent and, perhaps, finally free.

Seeing his body sag with exhaustion, T'Shaini gently guided him down and watched him drop into a dreamless slumber. I did not get the chance to tell him of Jenny. Standing over him she sent a prayer to whomever might be listening for this to be the turning point for Harry Finn. And perchance they will heal together.

The door slid open with a swish. Empty. Crossing the room T'Shaini sat in the dreaded 'comfy chair' and folded her legs beneath her. Everything had been meticulously replaced, pillows rearranged, not even a dent to show that he had been there. She was certain that by now he would have not only found quarters, but a job…or really for Harry, 'The Job'. Searching within for reaction she encountered something she did not expect…a sense of pride. Pride that he so trusted her, pride that he had reached a place where things mattered, but most of all pride that when he had needed sanctuary, it was here that he came.

Welcome home JP with Harry Finn!
Originally Posted 8-3-2008 by T'Shaini

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.5 License.