Independence begins and ends in early 2192, for Leah Benson and her counterpart as they face challenges in both universes.
Enterprise, Mirror Universe, Expanded Universes Characters:
Archer, Jonathan, Sato, Hoshi
In Between Days
12 Mar 2013 Updated:
15 Mar 2013
1. Chapter 1 by jespah
2. Chapter 2 by jespah
3. Chapter 3 by jespah
4. Chapter 4 by jespah
Baruch atah Adonai eloheinu melech ha’alom ha’motzi lechem min ha’aretz.
The ancient words were like a talisman, but Leah Benson had learned to never, ever say them out loud. It wasn’t that prayer was illegal – for it wasn’t. At least, it wasn’t strictly illegal – but rather it was because, to pray openly, one would make the mistake of admitting that one might not be thinking of the Empress Hoshi Sato 24/7.
Someone was always watching, and listening. As the Empress had aged, her secret network had grown, and changed. First, it was Mayweather and his cronies. But he’d gotten himself killed during a slave uprising on a rock called Lafa II. Torres would have been next up, but he had met his end there, too.
Their children had grown up – four of them. One from Mayweather, another most likely from Torres – or maybe Ramirez – a third from the disgraced Tactical Officer, MacKenzie, and one from a time traveler named Ritchie Daniels. There were two other royal children, but they and their father, Chip Masterson, were gone, and it was forbidden to ever speak of them. Leah – or anyone else – would be facing the agony booth if Takara or Takeo Masterson was ever mentioned.
But the others were adults, and were being groomed to take over. Jun, who was the son of Daniels, had learned communications. Arashi, who was either the son of Torres, or maybe of Ramirez, he ran the treasury. MacKenzie’s son, Kira, ran the science station. And Mayweather’s own, the youngest, Izo, ran the secret police.
None of them were pilots, though, and so that was one reason why Leah had a job at all. But she was also kept on because, being a lesbian, she was not in competition as the Empress, in her sixties, continued to try to make conquests of younger and younger crew members. This all happened despite the fact that there was an official royal consort, Andrew Miller, a guy who had been a guard and had then been in science, before he’d been, eventually, tapped for his current, somewhat earthier role. Leah was not in competition for Andrew or any of them.
But Leah still knew enough not to pray in public.
Baruch atah Adonai eloheinu melech ha’alom ha’motzi lechem min ha’aretz.
“And now I will recite the blessing over the bread in English,” announced the Starfleet Rabbi, Leah Benson. She stood at the front of a large room, full of dignitaries. There were two challahs in front of her. One was traditionally made. It was braided and its shiny crust meant that it had been brushed with an egg wash before baking. The other was more of a loaf and did not have a shiny crust – it was vegan. “Blessed art Thou, O Lord our God, King of the universe, who brings forth bread from the earth.”
“Thank you, Rabbi Benson,” President Jonathan Archer nodded and Leah sat down with other Earth religious representatives. “Today is an auspicious occasion, for today marks a day of complete cooperation among our species. When we created the Coalition of Planets, back in 2155, we hoped that eventually it would begin to accept new member states. And then when we signed the Federation Charter in 2161, that hope was renewed. But it wasn’t until now, on April fourth of 2192, that that hope has finally come to fruition. Distinguished guests,” he smiled at his audience, “I am pleased to announce that, by unanimous vote, we are admitting three new worlds.”
Tellarite Representative Gral caught Leah’s eye for a moment. He had an impressive beard which reminded her of ancient rabbis. Then again, his wife was also bearded.
“The three new member worlds are,” Archer continued, “the Caitian home world, Denobula, and the Xyrillian home world. Please join me in welcoming them to the United Federation of Planets!”
Ambassador Soval of Vulcan led the applause, gesturing slightly to Jonathan’s aide, a young Vulcan man.
The Andorian representative, T’therin, stood. “With nearly twice as many member worlds, the work will not be halved, I fear. But I welcome the added burdens, as they are shared. Let us break bread!”
He took a hunk of the challah from a server and ate it with gusto. The vegan version was served to the Vulcan delegation and they, too, ate as did everyone else.
Other representatives of Earth’s many religions performed blessings over other parts of the meal and the banquet, including a Wiccan blessing over the gathering itself, a Catholic prayer over the wine and a Hindu verse was recited over nuts and sweets that were also passed around.
The Starfleet Imam was sitting near Leah. “You are wearing a most agreeable outfit today.”
“Oh, this old thing?” she joked, for she was in a modest evening gown. “You look good, too, Mahmout.”
“My wife picked out the tunic.”
“My wife dressed me, too,” Leah admitted.
The Buddhist monk, resplendent in saffron robes, gave a thumbs up. “Both women have good taste,” interjected the Starfleet Protestant Interdenominational Chaplain.
On the ISS Defiant, there were neither coalitions nor official alliances or federations. Your allegiance could only, openly, go one way.
Leah ate her modest meal in the mess hall. At least there had been bread. For so long, there hadn’t been any. Their meals had often been little more than gruel, unless the MACOs had gone out hunting.
"How ya doin’?” asked one of the older Security guys – Josh Rosen.
"All right,” she replied quietly.
"This seat taken?” She waved at it as she ate, barely looking up. “We’re gonna go hunting again soon,” he told her. “Rumor has it; we’re taking a detour before we head into Romulan space. I hear the Empress wants us all hopped up on protein before we conquer ‘em.”
“I could get you some of whatever we bring down,” he offered.
“I got nothing to trade you for it,” Leah pointed out.
“C’mon,” he coaxed, “look, there aren’t a lotta honeys on board, yanno.”
“Yeah, I noticed.”
“So, you and me?” She was a good fifteen years older than him – already in her mid-seventies – but the Defiant had a horribly skewed gender ratio. Less than one-tenth of the crew was female. In part, that was the fault of the Y Chromosome Skew, a genetic mutation that assured that about three-quarters of all pregnancies would result in the births of sons. But the other reason was the Empress herself – she didn’t want a lot of bedroom competition. Keeping other women off meant that even very young fellows would follow her around like trained Rottweilers. “Well?” he persisted after a while. Anything seemed better than absolutely no one.
She looked up from her food. “I got nothin’ for ya.”
The light dawned. “Oh. I guess all you pilot honeys are. I remember Madden, that old night shifter, she was. And Pike, she’s still the day shifter, I think it don’t matter to her,” he opined.
Leah raised an eyebrow but kept on eating. Pike had been on her radar for a while, but that woman always seemed to be busy, or working it.
“Listen,” he said softly, “even if you can’t or won’t trade, uh, that,” he looked around furtively, “I’m sure you got other stuff.”
“You know, intel. Or maybe you could get a lead on something or other. You pilot the shuttles sometimes and do recon, right? And you were in Tactical for a while there, too. You’ve got more going on upstairs than most.” She nodded in acknowledgement and tore off a hunk of her bread and dipped it into her food. “Well,” Josh continued, “you get the lay of the land before most people, right?”
“And you know this, and you could tell me. And in trade, whenever I bring down game, I’ll make sure you get some. And you know I can help you out in case anyone gets too, er, frisky.”
“Why me?” Leah finally asked. “And don’t tell me it’s ‘cause of the lack of honeys, ‘cause there’s Porter, and there’s Socorro, too. Balcescu, even. All of ‘em are a lot younger than me. I’ll be eighty in less than half a decade, if I should live so long.”
He looked both ways before speaking. Izo Mayweather Sato, the Empress’s youngest, was a little too close for comfort. He came over. “Hey, Rosen, you’re on the next hunt, right?”
“Uh, yeah, Izo.”
“Better not screw it up.”
“Never, sir,” Josh spat out the second word. Izo and his siblings were little more than privileged brats.
“Just don’t. And Benson?”
“What?” Leah snarled. She had no love lost for the Sato clan, either.
“Come to my quarters and I’ll give you a job to do.”
Leah knew what kind of a job that would be. “I have to do checks on the shuttles,” she lied. “Rosen here is going to assist.”
“That can wait,” Izo commanded.
“Your mother,” Leah played the trump card, “insisted that we do the checks. It’s in preparation for the Romulan invasion.”
“I’ll see about that.” Izo flipped open his communicator.
“You don’t wanna do that,” Josh cautioned.
“Your mother’s off with Miller and I think Crewman Tiberius Kirk. You know what happens when she gets disturbed in the middle of those kinds of goings on.”
“It doesn’t matter,” Izo bragged, “I’m her son.”
“And you’ve got three older brothers, in case you’ve forgotten,” Leah reminded him even though, technically, he actually had four older brothers and a sister.
“So if she gets royally pissed off enough,” Josh cautioned, “She’s got three other choices for the succession.”
Leah shot him a look. Don’t lay it on too thickly, her brain screamed. Outwardly, she maintained a veneer of calm. “I gotta go do those checks. This is all fascinating, but those shuttles won’t check themselves.” She got up. “Coming?” she asked Rosen.
They left the loud, dirty, crowded mess hall as Izo stood there, wondering what to do next and wondering if maybe his dear old mother didn’t need him so much after all.
“For our allies,” President Archer stated, “I suppose it’s a little strange to be showing you some of our many faiths. But we decided on this for a reason.”
Ambassador Soval rose. “Unlike in many other cultures, humans do not have just one belief system. Rather, there are several, some of which are represented here this evening. Wars have been fought over these religions. Yet they survive.” He sat back down.
Representative Gral got up. “These faiths – many of which are conflicting – have made peace. Let us hear from them.”
“In my faith,” stated a representative Catholic priest, “we were originally persecuted for our beliefs. When the religion was very young, it was nearly wiped out, as Christians were thrown to lions.”
The Caitian representative asked, “Lions?”
President Archer smiled a little. “They’re felines, Representative Gopalahr.” A nod to his aide and the young Vulcan man showed a PADD to Gopalahr.
“A few centuries after we were persecuted, we turned around and did it to others,” the Catholic priest confessed. “During a time period referred to as the Inquisition, heretics, both real and imagined, were often burned to death. Jews and Muslims were slaughtered for our view of piety.” He sat down.
The Imam got up and picked up the thread of the narrative. “My faith,” began Mahmout, “it was also both the persecuted and the persecutor. It depended, often, upon location and the date in history. We conquered much of a continent called Europe. In part, the Inquisition was in response to that. And there were innocents, too, who were killed during the Christian Crusades. Those were brutal times.” He sat down, shaking his head a little.
Other representatives of the Earth’s religions stood and offered what was essentially testimony of how they had treated other faiths, or they had been treated. Finally, it was Leah’s turn to speak. “The Jewish people have often been a paradox. We refer to ourselves as the Chosen People, yet that seems to have created so much resentment over the millennia that we often wonder whether this being chosen business is at all positive. And we have been conquerors, and slaveholders, and annexers of territory. We have neither a monopoly on suffering, nor on causing it. Our hands are far from clean.” She, too, sat down.
President Archer again spoke. “I know that this may seem strange, but we are showing you our many faiths, warts and all, as a way of demonstrating to you that we understand differences. And we understand ideologies and even a bit of fanaticism. As we have gone into the greater community of space, we have learned that that fanaticism, and those kinds of ideologies, and certainly there are differences, and all of these things are out here. They are all magnified when we have misunderstandings. It is painfully easy to lose our way.”
He paused and cleared his throat a bit. “But these faiths also do an enormous amount of good. They were the first of our philosophies, and often were the very beginnings of our sciences. They were our first charities, and our first governments at times. Even during the harshest of times, such as during our Third World War, they were often our only social safety net. They offer comfort to the bereaved and can provide a basic moral path for the unsure. And they have even adapted over time, and have learned to embrace not only each other, but even the skeptical agnostic and the fervently nonbelieving atheist.”
He paused again briefly. “We offer then as a snapshot of our evolution as a civilization and as a symbol of our adaptability as a people.” He looked around the room, as there were not only the member states’ representatives, but there were even people there who represented other species that had not yet joined their new alliance. “We also offer them up as a means of communicating to you that we are open to working with people at all stages of development. We want you to know that space is not a monolith. It is not all about humans, or Vulcans, or Andorians, or Tellarites. The Federation is not in the business of making the galaxy just like the Alpha Quadrant. Daranaeans aren’t going to be chastised for not being Caitians. Enolians are not going to be persecuted for failing to be Xyrillians. And the Xindi will not face destruction because they just aren’t Denobulans. We have set aside our internal differences, but we also celebrate them. We have not forgotten them. And we feel, truly, that they should be celebrated rather than swept aside.”
His eyes scanned the room, taking in a Calafan representative, a Takret, a Tandaran, a Vissian and more. “Our differences are our strengths. Together, I am certain; we will be greater than the sum of our parts. On behalf of all of us – on Earth, on Denobula, on Tellar, on the Xyrillian home world, on Vulcan, on the Caitian home world and here on Andoria, we offer a myriad of opinions and cultures. All are important, and all are to be maintained. We are strong together, as we celebrate infinite diversity in infinite combinations. And I thank you.”
The shuttle bay was quiet. The two of them worked together, with Leah on her back, working on the underside of one of the shuttles. “Hand me that spanner,” Leah commanded as Josh stood nearby and pretended to take notes on his PADD.
“Uh, sure. Listen,” he began, “I wanna thank you for including me. Izo is, well, let’s just say of the four of them, I put him at number three for my choices to become the next Emperor.”
“I take it Arashi is number four,” she murmured as she worked.
“You got it. I bet he’d set up listening stations and hidden cameras. About the only reason we don’t have those now is the Empress doesn’t like a record of when she makes her conquests.”
“Right. You got a preference between Kira and Jun?”
“Not particularly,” he admitted. “Kira is at least a little bit influenced by MacKenzie, but he’s a bit of a wimp. If the Empress gets her hooks into the Romulan Star Empire, I doubt he’d be able to hold it.”
“Perhaps. Hand me the magnetic wrench.”
“No, to the left. Your other left.”
“Oh, uh, yeah. As for Jun, he’s kind of a wild card. I think he’d –”
The door swished open and he immediately stopped talking.
There were two people coming in – the day shift pilot, Shelby Pike, and the Chief Engineer, Frank Ramirez. They didn’t see Josh and Leah, and looked around furtively, and then kissed.
From their hidden vantage point, Leah and Josh exchanged a look.
“I wish we could meet more openly,” Shelby breathed.
“C’mon,” Frank encouraged, “the shuttles are clear. We can do it in one of ‘em.”
“They aren’t clear,” Josh announced, showing himself and drawing his phaser.
“Oh!” Shelby exclaimed. “We didn’t know.”
Leah got up and came over. “Listen, you’re not exactly being careful about this.”
“Don’t tell her,” Frank requested. Nobody had to be told who that was.
“You owe us,” Josh declared, resheathing his phaser.
“What is it that you want?” Shelby inquired, stepping a little closer to Frank and putting a hand on his arm. Frank was taller than Josh, but Josh was armed.
Leah thought quickly. “I, I wanna get out of here. We’ll stay quiet, but I’ve gotta get off this boat. I don’t wanna be eighty and have Izo Sato leering at me. I hardly know why he’s bothering.”
“I think he’s looking for someone who’s easy. He seems to need a success,” Shelby mused. Leah shot her a look, so she added, “Hey, I’m not the one who’s really thinking this.”
“And you?” Frank asked Josh. “You looking to head out, too?”
“I dunno. But I’m not getting any younger, either. At some point, I will probably get dumped on some rock. I’d rather at least get my choice of rock. Maybe this can be a test run for that.”
Shelby and Frank moved over to the side. He quietly said to her, “This might be a way for us to figure out our own endgame. I’m not interested in dying here.”
“I feel the same,” she replied. “But I say we only do it if we can learn something, and turn it to our advantage. If we get in trouble, I’m not taking the fall for either of ‘em.”
“Agreed,” He murmured, “I’ll take a risk, sure, but I’m not sticking my neck out for them.”
“A practice run, huh? Well it might not just be a practice run for you. Huh. None of that’ll be easy,” Shelby said more loudly as she and Frank returned to where the others were. She paused for a moment, and then added, “But it’s not impossible.”
“A shuttle could, I dunno, crash. It could be cover for all sorts of things. There are all kinds of ways for things to … fail,” Frank thought out loud.
“Where are we going next?” Josh asked.
“Orders came down today,” Shelby reported, “We’re going to Andoria for a hunt before heading to the Romulan Star Empire.”
“We can work with this,” Leah decided. “Let’s get there – I’d estimate two days?”
“One and a half if we go full-tilt,” Shelby stated. “And we all know she’d rather go full-tilt.”
“Okay,” Josh said, “we got less than two days to plan this.”
“Why are you two working together, anyway?” Shelby inquired.
“We’re members of the same tribe,” explained Josh. “There aren’t a lot of us left. My, heh, my mother sent me a last message last week, before she died. She said I should look out for anybody in the tribe.”
“That explains it, then,” Leah murmured to herself. Josh had never taken an interest in her well-being before.
“The Empress’ll put it all together, you know,” Frank cautioned. “Well, don’t look at me. Even if Shelby and I stay quiet, someone else is bound to figure all that out.”
“Then we’ll have to create a diversion, or some sort of a pretext,” Leah mused.
“The hunt,” Josh decided, “that’ll be the cover. Plus it’s cold there. That’s gotta be good for something.”
Two days after the banquet had ended; Leah got her coat and walked outside to get some air and take a break after days of meetings and social gatherings. They were on Andoria, and the surface was frigid. “May I ask you a question?” came a voice.
Startled, Leah turned. It was a person she had not spoken with for the past few days – the Daranaean ambassador. He was grey and as furry as a Caitian. The Daranaeans were the only sentient marsupial canid species in the galaxy, so far as anyone knew. “I do not believe we were ever actually introduced,” he began, “my name is Boestus.”
“I’m Leah Benson. What do you wanna know?”
“I recall from a few days ago, most of the human religious leaders were males. But you are a human female, are you not?”
“On my world, we have three feminine castes. We take a wife from each of these castes.”
“But our women are, well, they are of course citizens of Daranaea. But their rights are limited. They can neither vote nor hold property. A woman, not even a Prime Wife, cannot testify in open court without male corroboration. Third caste females cannot venture out of their homes without male escorts, even a male infant Daranaean can be an escort, and that seems absurd as I tell it to you. But it has, during my lifetime, there have been some changes. We used to refer to them as last caste females. And we would euthanize them when they became menopausal.”
“It was our tradition,” Boestus informed her, “but it was wrong. It took some doing, some understanding that the remainder of even a third caste female’s life, it can have value. And the remainder of the galaxy, you are not like us.”
“No, I don’t believe we are. You had a question?”
“Yes. You see, I was wondering, about your faith, and the other faiths, are any of them, or were any of them, were they unfairly biased in favor of men, ever?” He tilted his grey furred head slightly, and that emphasized his canid appearance.
“There is a Hebrew prayer, actually,” Leah admitted, “It’s out of favor, but it still exists, as a daily prayer for men. It is only used by the most traditional.” She sighed.
Shelo asani goy, shelo asani aved, shelo asani isha.
“Here’s what it means in English – I thank God who did not make me a non-Jew, who did not make me a slave, and who did not make me a woman,” Leah explained.
“I can understand the first two parts,” Boestus stated. “I suppose most can. You would be grateful to be a member of your own faith, as opposed to another. And you would of course be grateful for freedom. Our wives, they are not so free, I think. You see, I was the Alpha of my people for a while there. That is what we call our leader. And I was the conservative standard-bearer, thundering from a podium in favor of traditions and the old school. I was brought up in a household where the women served the man faithfully, and without question. And being the man, anyone can see that that is an easy way to be. It would make a great deal of sense, I suspect, for a male Daranaean to thank a supreme being for being born male, it would be logical, as the Vulcans say. What does your husband say?”
Leah smiled at that. “I don’t have a husband, I have a wife.”
He cocked his head again. “How is that possible?”
“Aren’t there male Daranaeans who prefer other males? Or females who prefer other females?”
“I, I do not know,” he admitted. “Perhaps they are secretive.”
“This has been a most interesting few days,” he allowed, “but I would like to return to my home. I am the Daranaean ambassador to Vulcan these days. I am an old man and it is much warmer there. This is not so easy for my old bones.”
“Why wasn’t the Daranaean ambassador to Andoria sent to this meeting?”
“He has been taken ill, it seems. Are you a resident of this planet?”
“Me? Oh, no. My wife and I live in the Sol System, on Io. It’s also a chilly place, but not as cold as here.”
“I suppose you are ready to return home as well.”
“I am,” Leah admitted.
The ISS Defiant orbited Andoria. Except for a few people on the Bridge, like Shelby, as she was piloting, and Jun Daniels Sato, who was trying his hand at command, most of them were in the mess hall. In order to be safer, Frank, Josh and Leah were in the mess but were not standing anywhere near each other. The Empress stood at the front of the room and spoke. “You are gonna need protein before we go into the Romulan Star Empire! I have handpicked only a few to go along with Izo. I expect a successful hunt, in preparation for a successful conquest. Do me proud, and the rewards will be great. Fail, and find yourselves on a rock. I trust I make myself clear.”
Everyone on the crew, even her sons, saluted the Empress. A salute was made with a closed fist, held at chest level and then the arm was extended out in front of the body as, simultaneously, the fingers of the hand were spread out and into a straight configuration. You made a delta with your hand.
Leah was standing near one of the few other women, Tara Balcescu. Tara did the salute incorrectly for some reason, and seemed to have forgotten to splay out her fingers into the delta shape. The Empress saw, and hopped off a small riser she’d been standing on.
The Empress sauntered over. The years had not been kind to her. The uniforms still looked the same – they were still midriff-baring little numbers. But these days, the Empress’s uniform waistband was a little higher and stretchier than it had been, as there was a secret that wasn’t so much of a secret anymore – there was an ever-growing muffin top.
She stood in front of Balcescu. “Do it again.”
“Do what again, Empress?”
“The salute, you dolt.”
Tara repeated herself and, again, was wrong. Leah and the others looked over in horror. Did Tara not know what she was doing? Did she not give a damn anymore?
“You will do it right.” Insisted Empress Hoshi.
“Or you’ll learn how to do it right in the agony booth.”
“Yes, Empress. A thousand apologies.” The salute was correctly performed by a rather cowed Tara Balcescu as the rest of them watched but said and did nothing.
“It was good chatting with you,” Boestus stated, “It is a bit encouraging, frankly, to see a civilization that started out, perhaps, more like ours than it would care to admit.”
“I don’t know.”
“As I have aged,” the furry man admitted, “I have gone the opposite of many of my peers. Instead of becoming more conservative, I have turned a bit more liberal. I think there is hope for us Daranaeans yet.” They shook hands and he departed.
Leah flipped open her communicator. “I’d like to talk to Diana Jones, on Io.”
“Connecting you now,” replied the relayer.
“Huh, oh, hi,” said Diana, her voice tinny in the device’s little speaker. “Who is this?”
“Oh! Oh! Where have you been? I’ve been looking all over for you. There’s a strange woman here.”
“Don’t you remember?” Leah asked, “I told you that I would be on Andoria for a few days. Tallinaria has been there at home with you, taking care of you. You know her.”
“I do?” Diana’s tone was one of confusion.
“Can I talk to her?” Leah asked.
“You mean the Andorian?”
“Yes, I do.”
“Uh, okay. Miss?” Diana yelled. The communicator on that side was, evidently, handed over.
“How are ya doing there?” Leah asked.
“She knows me less and less, and has looked all over for you. I’ve told her that you’re coming home tomorrow, but she either doesn’t believe me, or she just forgets.”
Leah sighed. “I bet it’s both. So she’s worse?”
“Definitely,” reported the Andorian. “I wish that wasn’t the case. I had hoped to give you good news when you returned.”
“These are the cards we’ve been dealt. I wonder how long I can go on trips like this, and have some measure of independence. I think that, as Diana’s world gets smaller, so does mine.”
“Until she is completely forgetful, and utterly fearful of me, I suppose you can maintain some independence. But I must tell you, that may not be long from now.”
“Thanks, Tallinaria; you’ve been amazing.”
“It is my job, I suppose. Is my planet is one piece?”
“Absolutely. It’s flurrying here.”
“I miss that a bit. I’ll get her for you again.” There was a pause. “Diana?” The communicator, again, changed hands.
“Who am I speaking with?” Diana inquired.
“It’s me, Leah.”
“Leah! I have to tell you, there’s a strange Andorian woman here.”
“Don’t worry,” Leah assured her, “she’s friendly. Do you remember how we got together?”
Diana thought for a moment. “I remember your parents thought it strange, that a rabbi would take up with a non-Jew. Your brother thought I was not a good match for you.”
“That was, uh, that was my father, actually.”
“Yeah. Look, Diana, I don’t think I’ll be going away anymore.”
“But I think you love going away. And you value your independence.” For once, in a long while, Diana was suddenly coherent and perceptive.
“I – my independence needs to take a back seat to you, I think.”
Just as quickly as it had come, the coherence and the perception were both lost. “Did you know there’s a strange Andorian woman here?”
“She’s harmless. I’ll be home tomorrow. I love you.”
“I love you, too. See ya.”
“Do you know anyone on Andoria?” Josh asked. They were walking down a corridor, heading for the shuttle bay. Fortunately, they were alone.
“One person, if she’s still there at all.”
“Can she help us? Uh, you?”
“I dunno. Our relationship was, uh, it was kinda rocky. I was much more of a tequila drinker then. She convinced me to quit, cold turkey.”
“Well, that’s a good thing, isn’t it?”
“Withdrawal stinks,” Leah stated unequivocally. “But she also found out what had happened to my last honey before her, and she ended it between us.”
He stopped for a second. “So, what did happen? With that other honey, I mean.”
“Like I said, I was a boozehound. The previous honey was Leonora Digiorno. I made her go out and get me more. When she refused, I offed her.”
“Oh. Holy cow.” He gulped. Leah Benson had seemed like a harmless enough choice for an ally. He’d have to rethink his judgment of her.
“It was maybe a year later when I met Diana. She was in the Science Department, back when the royal children were small. We hit it off, you know, that sorta thing. Then she found out, and got herself dumped on Andoria. That was after Mayweather was fragged.”
“Lotsa stuff happened then.”
“Sure. By that point, I think just about everyone on the old NX-01’s senior staff was dead except for the Empress. Tucker and Cutler and Hayes, I remember, they were gone somehow, and now I wanna be gone, too. I know my history as well as anyone.”
“Right,” Josh grunted. They had arrived at the shuttle bay. Together, they looked around. “Okay, one last time,” he reminded her, “Let’s go over the plan.”
“Ramirez rigged the shuttle”, Leah stated. “You and I go to the surface alone – everybody else takes the other shuttle. The pretext is that the carcasses will be flown up by me.”
“And she’ll buy that?”
“Beaming can be tricky, or at least that’s what Ramirez will confirm as the cover. You and I fly down.”
“Right. You land and we get out, to a safe distance away, going in opposite directions. You make sure the others don’t see you.”
“Uh huh,” Leah confirmed. “Then I hit this remote, and the shuttle goes boom. You claim I was in it, make a big show of trying to find me, you get the picture. I head underground – there are tons of subterranean passageways on Andoria.”
“Exactly,” Josh agreed, “and depending on how well this goes, maybe I’ll get my turn on the next rock.”
“Now, are you sure they won’t check for a body after you’ve done your thing?”
“I am. Sorry to say it, Benson, but the Empress mainly sees people like you and me as being expendable. Plus Pike’ll be flying the other shuttle. She’ll turn it and provide whatever cover she can, and so will I, but otherwise you’re on your own. If you’re caught, we don’t know anything about it.”
“Right,” Leah nodded, “and –”
The door swished open, and the remainder of the hunting party, including the other pilot, Shelby Pike, walked in. Izo was with them. “Why are we all crowding on the one shuttle?” he demanded to know.
“This one needs to be clear for game,” Leah explained.
“Plus its environmental controls are on the fritz,” Josh lied, “Andoria’s cold, and this one’ll be almost as cold as that.”
“I can take the cold,” Izo decided.
There were a few MACOs ready for the hunt. “I wanna ride with Pike,” declared one of them. He got closer to her, “And then afterwards?”
The younger woman glared at him. “I don’t think so.”
“See, that’s the problem with the hotter ones,” Izo explained, “they’ve all got attitudes – sticks where the sun don’t shine. But Benson here? Nice and compliant, right?”
“I’m here to fly the shuttle,” Leah stated, staring straight ahead. “Nothing more.”
Quietly, Josh dialed the control on his phaser to the lightest possible stun setting. That one would be quiet. “Well, I’m ready to go in the cold shuttle,” he announced.
“Ramirez had some reason why we weren’t all just gonna beam down,” Shelby announced, flipping open her communicator.
“What are you doing?” Izo snarled.
“I am asking him. I wanna confirm it.”
“Forget it,” Izo looked at her, menacing, “I say we just go.”
“Suit yourself,” she shrugged. “But it’s on your head if it doesn’t work out the way you want it to.”
He grabbed her arm roughly. “It’ll work out just fine. Now Rosen, you get on the other shuttle.”
“Sir,” Josh spat out the word, “you said we shouldn’t all just crowd onto one shuttle. If you just switch places with me, that doesn’t even out the numbers at all.”
Izo narrowed his eyes and stared at Leah. “He better not be your man.”
“I don’t have a man,” Leah answered.
“Then we go together. Just you and me.”
Rosen again made as if to get onto Leah’s shuttle. Izo gave Josh a look. Leah stepped between them. “There are always bad storms on Andoria. That’s why we’re taking the shuttles in the first place. At least, that’s my understanding.”
“That’s right,” Pike interjected, “I remember the details now. Ramirez says it interferes with the transporter somehow.”
“Exactly,” Leah confirmed. “So autopilot is a very bad idea. One could crash. Hell, a shuttle could crash, even without it.”
“Then it’ll be during the hunt,” Izo told her, coming close and looking her up and down.
“Why me?” Leah finally asked.
“You should feel honored,” Izo sneered. “I don’t have to explain myself to the likes of you.”
The doors to the shuttle bay swished open. It was the Empress Hoshi Sato herself, with her consort, First Officer Andrew Miller. She surveyed them all haughtily as Miller stepped back and looked uncomfortable. “Today will be a glorious day!” she enthused. “For this is just the start of our conquest of the Romulan Star Empire! Bring back the tastiest and choicest cuts! Consider them a kind of spoils in advance.”
“Yes, Mother,” Izo bowed to her.
“You will succeed,” she told him, sounding a little menacing, even though he was one of her own. “You’ve been rather short on successes lately.”
“I, I am trying, Mother.”
“Then try harder!” She commanded. “Even you should know that there’s a limit to how many times you can fail me. Now go!”
They all saluted her, and she and Miller left. Well, that explains Izo, Leah thought to herself, he must think he can’t possibly lose. “Check with me one last time, Rosen,” she ordered, and then her voice turned more pleasant as she added, “and why don’t you go ahead and get in, Izo?”
He got into the shuttle and then turned to face them from its opened hatch. “I will not fail.”
“Don’t you worry about a thing,” Josh stated, following Leah to the front of the shuttle. He drew her attention to his phaser and its setting. “It’ll be quiet,” he murmured softly, hoping she’d understand what that meant.
Leah watched the snow falling, and it began to get a bit more unpleasant, so she ducked under an eave. She flipped open her communicator again. “I’d like to see President Archer. It’s Rabbi Benson.”
The Vulcan aide replied, after checking something or other, “You may see him right away. He is in his office.”
She thanked him and headed to Archer’s office, a place she knew well. He stood up when he saw her. “What brings you here? I’d’ve thought, after the last few days, you’d be sick of all of us.”
“Not quite yet,” she smiled. “Sir, you know I married Diana Jones, right? She was on the NX-01, in the Science Department.”
“I remember her not only from there, but also from the Cochrane. I think she may have been on Captain Reed’s ship, too. How is she?”
“Uh, not so good.”
“I’m sorry to hear that. Is there anything I can do? I’m in touch with all sorts of doctors.”
“I don’t know. We – it’s a kind of senility, or at least it seems that way,” Leah sighed. “She’s just slipping away. It’s very hard to watch. You know how smart she, she was.”
“Do you need to take time off? I don’t think we’ll be doing a big production like this again anytime soon,” he offered.
“I think maybe I should leave entirely,” Leah stated. “It’s, well, I see her world shrinking. It seems only fair that mine should shrink, too.”
“Take as much time as you need to,” Jonathan suggested, “but you don’t have to just up and quit.”
“I, I don’t know.”
“You have been affiliated with Starfleet about as long as I have,” he reminded her.
“Yeah, I suppose so.”
“And do you remember, we launched the NX-01, and there was the thought that, in deep space, people might need a little spiritual guidance.”
“I imagine a part of that was to give Dr. Phlox a break as well,” she opined, “I didn’t have much to do for the first few years.”
“That’s right, I remember now,” he agreed, “and then, after the Xindi probe hit Earth, we got four Jewish crew members. Three were fresh out of school, and the fourth was a little older, and he was commissioned as a Science Ensign. Do you recall their names?”
“I sure do,” Leah confirmed, “They were Ethan Shapiro, Karin Bernstein, Josh Rosen and Andrew Miller. I recall a few long talks with Ethan, about Karin. I was so pleased when I learned they had decided to get married,” she sighed. “It’s a partnership, you know, and it can color every other piece of your life. But that runs both ways. And I’ll tell you,” Leah admitted, “it’s so much harder when you can see and feel that partnership is crumbling.”
President Archer thought for a moment, and then offered, “You can have someone help you, all right? And that person can do all of the traveling, and anything else that’s too involved, or that you just plain don’t want to do.”
“Stay, at least in an abbreviated capacity. Because there’s one thing I know about caregiving – you may find you want to escape into work sometimes. My father suffered from Clarke’s Disease. I was only a kid, but I could see how my mother’s mood changed on the days she went to work. She never wanted to admit it, but I think she was somewhat relieved on those days.”
“Diana’s only going to get more and more dependent on me.”
“Cross that bridge when you get to it. For right now, though, you’re still independent. And, at least a little bit, so is Diana.”
The shuttles took off and approached the surface. “Once we’ve landed,” Izo commanded, “you need to get lost, Rosen. Go hunt whatever the hell they got here for game.”
“We’ll have to load up this shuttle with the kills,” Josh pointed out.
“You can delay that,” Izo put a hand on Leah’s knee. “We’ll be busy.”
“I am busy right now,” Leah stated slowly. “I need to concentrate on the approach vector. Look at that snow.”
“So?” Izo was uncomprehending as the storm worsened.
“It’s looking bad,” Josh observed. “What’s the wind speed out there?”
She checked a display. “Huh. Man oh man, this is not good.” She flipped a switch. “Benson to Pike, are you getting a handle on the weather?”
“I am,” came the somewhat staticky reply from the other shuttle. “There are gale force winds, ah, there’s a gust to hurricane strength. This is one ugly little snow squall. If it keeps up for a few hours, we can call it a blizzard.”
Izo asked, “Is this a dangerous landing?”
“Yes!” Shelby yelled from the other shuttle.
“Turn back,” he commanded Leah.
“You heard me. Now turn back.”
Josh unsheathed his weapon. At point blank range, he fired at Izo’s back. The Empress’s youngest fell forward. “We’ve got less than a minute before he wakes up,” he cautioned.
“Then stun him again and heavier this time. We’re goin’ to the surface.” She descended at a steep angle and got the shuttle nearer to the surface. Just before getting there, she opened the channel back up to the other shuttle. “May day! May day!” she called out, lying, “I’ve got engine failure!”
Pike looked back at the MACOs in her shuttle. “I can’t be going after them. You see what it’s like out there.”
One of the MACOs – E. Hamboyan was on his uni patch – looked at her grimly. “We are all gonna end up in the agony booth if we just leave Izo down there. You better do whatever you can to land this thing.”
She sighed. “Okay, but don’t blame me if we can’t get back in the air.”
On the other shuttle, Josh stunned Izo again, just to be sure. “He’ll be dead weight. Here, you gotta help me get him out.”
“Right.” Together, they lifted him out and deposited him on the snow-covered landscape. “I better make it look like I’m going back in. Then I’ll hit the remote.”
“And then boom,” he confirmed.
Leah nodded. “G’bye, Josh, and thanks. Your time will come, and Shelby’s and Frank’s times, too. You’ll get out.”
“Say the prayers,” he told her, “you’re a member of the tribe and I know we can’t say ‘em openly on the Defiant. So say them on Andoria, okay? You keep alive now, ya hear?”
“I will.” She smiled. She raced back to the shuttle and entered it briefly to grab the first portable thing she could see. It was a medical kit. She had no extra clothes, no food and barely any money, but at least this was something to trade if necessary.
She didn’t even bother to close the hatch, and could see the landing lights for the shuttle that Shelby was piloting. “You better not get too close,” she murmured as she dashed away from the shuttle. Seeing a small snow-covered embankment, she got behind it and hit the remote. As Frank Ramirez had promised, the shuttle exploded in a mass of flame.
Leah glanced around for a second and saw a gateway to a subterranean passage. She dashed in, not knowing what she’d find on the other side.
Once the shuttle had gone up in flames, Josh noticed Izo stirring a bit, and did not stun him again. Groggily, Izo asked, “What the hell just happened?”
“The, the storm, man. Benson lost control, and it was a hard landing. She and I got you out here – you musta hit your head, or something. She ran back to get the med kit, but it looks like the fuel tank must’ve ruptured. I, I think she must be dead.”
“Uh, she’s landing now.” Josh got up and helped Izo up. They walked over to Pike’s shuttle as Izo roused himself.
The snow was falling even more rapidly. Pike opened the hatch to her shuttle. “I think we’d better just head back to the ship,” she suggested.
“I said we were going on a hunt,” Izo commanded angrily. It seemed that he had changed his mind. “One shuttle is gone, and a pilot is dead. I’m not going back empty-handed, long as we’re all here.”
“Somebody needs to stay behind and help me shovel snow,” Pike said. “Otherwise, we could be frozen here all week.”
“I’ll shovel snow,” Rosen volunteered.
“Suit yourself,” Izo sneered. He and Hamboyan and the others departed.
Once they were out of earshot, Shelby asked, “Do you think she got out?”
“I guarantee it.”
Leah entered the subterranean tunnel and was immediately accosted by Andorian security personnel. She put the med kit down and raised both hands over her head. “I’m defecting,” she declared. “My dagger is in a sheath on my left side. This case I’m carrying is a medical kit. I am a trained pilot and I know the Empress’s defenses and her next destination.”
An Andorian security guard eyed her. “We’ll be very displeased if you’re lying. General Shran doesn’t like that.” He relieved her of her dagger as his partner opened up the medical kit and displayed its contents. “You will need a sponsor. We can’t just have everybody and his brother defecting from the Terran Empire.”
“I only know one person on Andoria. And she might be gone, anyway.”
“Give me her name.”
He flipped open his communicator. “Get me Diana Jones.”
There was a pause, and a voice could be heard through the device’s small, tinny speaker. “My name is Tallinaria. Miss Jones can’t be disturbed right now.”
The guard looked at Leah. “Start talking.”
“My name is Leah Benson. I knew Diana years ago. I’m sure she’ll remember me.”
“Don’t be so sure,” Tallinaria replied, “for she knows nearly no one these days.”
“Come to the main tunnel,” the guard suggested, “and you can meet in the main security office. Give us a few minutes to get there.”
“We’ll be there. Tallinaria out.”
“Why are you doing this?” Leah inquired.
“If you know what you claim to, General Shran will be most interested. And if you don’t, well, at least we’ll know.” He tapped out a quick message on his PADD – General, we have a defector who claims to know Empress Sato’s next moves. Meet us at the main security office.
“You may be right,” Leah admitted to President Archer. “But I don’t know how long I can even be on limited duty. It’s, well, it takes a lot out of you.”
“I remember my father, in the final stages of Clarke’s Disease. He had hallucinations about all sorts of things – giant rabbits, aliens with pointed teeth, a barrier at the edge of the galaxy, composed of pure energy. If he’d been at all coherent and organized, I suppose he could’ve even written a book. I can get you the names of the neurologists we used. I can’t say if any of them are still practicing medicine, but they might have people they can recommend to you.”
Leah thanked him. “I think I should start heading home today. I would just feel better about things.”
“Don’t stand on ceremony,” he told her, “I’m sure you can get a ride with Ambassador T’therin or anyone else who’s heading out. And Rabbi?”
“I do know quite a bit about what you’re going through. If you ever want to talk, I am happy to do so. You’re not alone.”
Diana and Tallinaria arrived, but they weren’t alone. General Shran came in right after them.
Diana was a woman who had once been lovely, but her illness was robbing her of everything. She eyed Leah cautiously. “Do I know her?” she asked Tallinaria, who was a middle-aged Andorian.
“You tell me,” replied the Andorian woman.
“Years ago,” Leah explained, “You and I were together. We were on the Defiant. You convinced me to quit drinking. And in return, I taught you the secret prayers of my faith.”
“Faith?” Diana was still not comprehending.
“Yes,” Leah nodded encouragingly. “I am a Jew, and you aren’t, but we got together anyway, and I taught you my prayers because, well, because I wanted you to know that big secret about me. There were prayers over candles, and vegetables, and wine. And there was a prayer over bread. Can you, Diana, can you say that prayer over the bread with me?” She looked Shran in the eye. “That should prove it, right?”
“Agreed, pink skin.”
“Baruch …” Leah began.
But it was as if a switch had been flipped, and Diana finished the prayer for her, intoning and ending with, “min ha’aretz.” She looked up. “I haven’t said those words in, in, I don’t know how long.”
“She knows me,” Leah insisted, “so can I stay?”
Shran looked at them. “You will tell me all you know, about the Defiant and the Empress Hoshi Sato and anything else that can assist the Independent Andorian Government in Exile.”
“Yes, sir.” Leah finally let out the breath that she had been holding for how long? Perhaps it had been held for all of her life.
On an Andorian ship, Leah walked out of a small guest bunk. “It pays to know the President,” she murmured to herself. She walked along the ship’s corridors. Her destination was the vessel’s small mess.
When she got there, she stood in front of a replicator, not understanding the printed directions, which were written in Andorian script. “Here, let me help you,” came a familiar voice.
“I don’t mind,” he said, “Now, here, it’s set to a voice command, but if I change it to touch screen, I can put it in your language.” He fiddled with keys until the screen changed. “Ah, that’s it. Now, there aren’t too many human foods programmed in.” He stepped back.
Leah scanned the list – there were pictures with print under them. Orange juice, roast chicken, mashed potatoes, broccoli, vanilla ice cream, sour cream, butter, a plain salad, vinaigrette dressing, oatmeal ….
Finally, she found what she wanted. She hit the key under the picture of bread and then, when a symbol of a flame came up, she hit it. “I guess that’s wheat toast.” A few more images were offered, such as the ones for butter and jam, but she bypassed them. There was a brief flash as the machine fulfilled her request.
She took her toast and sat at an empty table. She flipped open her communicator. “I’d like to talk to Diana Jones, on Io.”
“Connecting you now,” replied the relayer.
“Leah! There’s a strange Andorian woman here.”
“Uh, she’s friendly. Listen, do you remember when we first started going out?”
“A little. Your family wasn’t sure they liked you being with a non-Jew.”
“That’s right,” Leah confirmed. “But we won them over, in part, because I had taught you the prayers. Do you remember the prayers? Because I’m about to have some bread, and I’d really love it if you would pray with me. Okay?”
And, together, they recited.
Baruch atah Adonai eloheinu melech ha’alom ha’motzi lechem min ha’aretz.
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