“Half-breed! Greenskin! Orion wannabe! Pinkskin lover!”
The names were nothing new to Talla, but they hurt just the same. Half-Andorian and half-Aenar, her skin was the color of pea soup. As a child, she had been saved by humans, acting with her father, Thy’lek Shran. One of them had ended up paying the ultimate price.
And now she was twenty-one – it was 2177 – and was beginning to think about mating and all of that but her very appearance made that nigh well impossible. There were so few Aenar-Andorian crosses, despite the fact that the two species were related, and could interbreed with ease. It was something, perhaps, about the lack of Andorian patience with Aenar blindness. Or maybe it was pure, unadulterated prejudice. Whatever it was, Talla was feeling the brunt of it.
She returned home from her advanced education one day to find her parents at home. That was odd. “Father, why are you not working?” she asked.
“I have to lay low a bit, again,” he said, “it is much like when you were kidnapped in ’61.”
“Oh. Will you be gone long?”
“I, I don’t know.”
Talla’s mother, Jhamel, got up cautiously. “I will pack for you.” She was a slight thing, as pale as skim milk, in contrast to her husband’s robust blue complexion.
“No – we, we have to make it look as if the leave-taking was in haste,” Shran said.
“Perhaps we can pretend to have argued,” Jhamel suggested.
“That could work. I will contact Archer,” Shran said, “He can help me.”
“And then you will owe him again,” Jhamel pointed out. “Are you sure you wish to?”
“It is the only way. Archer will be able to find some place for me, I believe. It may be on his planet. I don’t know.”
“I want to go with you, Father. And why can’t Mother come along as well?”
“No!” Shran yelled, and then he reeled his temper back in. “No. We are to falsify my death. It has to be believable. So no packing, no traveling companions, nothing. I will depart tonight.”
“I will miss you,” Talla said, hugging him. Overcome, she ran into her room.
She could hear her father engaging a communicator on a secured channel. “I want to talk to Archer.”
There was a pause, and a tinny response. “Archer here.”
“I need help,” her father said, “I need to disappear for a while.”
“I see,” was the response.
“I do not know how much danger there is,” Shran said, “but your planet, it might be known to my enemies.”
“So, somewhere else? Hmm,” said Archer. “I can make a few inquiries.”
“Good. Pinkskin, I will owe you again. I don’t enjoy this.”
“We’ll figure something out,” was the reply. “Archer out.”
Talla heard little else as her father hastily put together a small bag of meager possessions.
In perhaps an hour, he was ready to go. He knocked on her door. “Talla, there is something for you to do for me.”
“Take care of your mother.”
“Because you can’t?”
“Yes,” Shran admitted. “It is shameful. But I must go or you will both be in peril as well.”
“Why are you with Mother, anyway?” Talla asked. She was emboldened with the little time that was left.
“Why do you think, child? I love her."
“Then prove it by taking her along.”
“It’s not that simple! I must go.”
Annoyed, he left her room. She cracked the door open, peering out. She saw her parents kiss and then her father left.
Her mother, groping, pawed at the air a little. “Talla?” she finally called out.
“I’m right here.” Talla came over to be with her mother, and they touched hands.
“I am dependent upon you, child.”
“I, I know.” Talla sighed.
The next day, her classmates were as taunting as ever. They were adults, but it hardly mattered. “Abandoned!” they yelled, and “Forgotten!”
She turned to face her tormentors. “You know nothing. If you have any courage at all, it is of empty words, yelled as you cower behind your PADDs and hope that no one says anything in return! You are the children of the simple-minded and slow, the cowards and the critics!”
“You say this,” said the lead tormentor, a tall Andorian boy who had a vacant stare much of the time, “yet your father, the great Shran, has left you and your poor old mother to fend for yourselves. If he had mated with a proper Andorian, at least your mother wouldn’t need constant care. And you – you’d at least be acceptable. Someone like me might even take an interest.” He turned and his companions laughed.
She tapped him on the shoulder and hit him with a right cross. He went down like a glacier does, after a sudden, swift temperature rise. She beat a hasty retreat out of there.
At home, Jhamel scolded her a little. “You cannot solve all of your problems with brute force, you know.”
“But Father does!”
“And look where it has gotten him,” Jhamel replied.
Talla could see that her mother was distressed. She backed off.
Shran had been beamed onto a human ship, the USS Zefram Cochrane. He knew her acting Captain, but not well. “You are Reed,” he said to the man who greeted him.
“I am,” replied the man, who was almost sixty-five, with hair going a steely grey. “What is it this time?”
“They think I’ve got the Teneebian amethyst again,” replied the Andorian.
“Wasn’t that settled over a dozen years ago?” remarked Acting Captain Malcolm Reed.
“Apparently not in their eyes.”
“The worst of it is,” said Malcolm, “Tripp lost his life then. And now they want to do it all over again. It’s absurd greed, is what it is.”
“Yes,” allowed Shran. “At least they do not appear to be targeting my family this time.”
“There’s something. Now, what shall we do?”
“Bring in Archer.”
“He’s a Federation Representative!”
“He’s also a former Ambassador to Andoria. And,” said Shran, “he is my friend.”
“Very well,” sighed Reed. He clicked open his communicator as they were still in the transporter area. “Mrs. Kimura, our guest has arrived. Kindly get me Representative Archer.”
“Right away,” replied Hoshi Sato Kimura from the Bridge. There was a pause. “I’ve got him.”
“Pinkskin!” thundered Shran, “I have similar troubles to ’61. Those pirates, they still think I’ve got the Teneebian amethyst.”
“And just where did they get that idea?”
Shran glanced at Reed who got the hint. “I have something to check.” He departed into the Botany Lab, a place where he never went. The Botanist almost dropped her PADD when she saw him enter.
“Archer,” Shran said, “it was my daughter. It was a foolish thing. But she is young, and it is hard for her.”
“She is called by names. It hurts her. And so she bragged that we had wealth that we do not have.” He sighed. “Be happy that you are not blessed with children.”
Jonathan Archer smiled a tight little smile. “I don’t think you really mean that. Huh, well, all right. I’ve got an idea. Can you contact the pirates’ ship?”
“I suppose so. But why?”
“Never mind that for now. Can you bring Acting Captain Reed back? I think this might work.”
It took them nearly two hours to get ready and to find and contact the pirates’ ship. Standing on the Bridge, Reed said to the pirates, “I have Shran. Come and claim him.”
The pirates’ leader said, “We will dock with your vessel.”
“Oh, and we also have the amethyst,” Reed said. He yawned.
“What?!” was the response from the pirates.
“Oh, we’ve got lots of them,” said Malcolm. He motioned to Hoshi and she showed a panning view around the Cochrane’s Bridge. And that’s when they saw them.
There was an amethyst at the Science station. There was another one at the pilot’s station. Another one was at Tactical and the Tactical Officer, Lieutenant Aidan MacKenzie, was fondling it, mooning over it as if it were his girlfriend. There was another amethyst at the Communications station, where Hoshi put a sash around it and drew a smilie face on it with her lipstick. There were two in the Captain’s chair.
A Tactical Ensign came over – Ethan Shapiro. He had three amethysts in his hands and began juggling them expertly. The remainder of the Bridge crew applauded their approval of his entertainment.
“Which amethyst would you like?” Reed asked, smiling at the pirates’ leader.
The leader just looked dumbfounded. “But, but there is only one. What is this game? We will not stand for this ruse.”
“Come back when you can be more specific,” the Acting Captain said. He motioned to Aidan, who polarized the hull plating, just in case. He turned back to the main viewer. “I’ve got no time for this. It’s dreadfully dull. Reed out.”
The small pirates’ vessel fired one shot, but it was easily deflected. “Permission to take out their weapons?” asked Aidan.
“By all means, Mister MacKenzie,” replied Malcolm.
One shot did it – they were grossly overmatched compared to the Cochrane. The pirates limped away, no longer a threat.
Shran turned to Reed. “What did you use for amethysts?”
Malcolm picked up one from the Captain’s chair and tore off a hunk. He tasted a piece and offered another piece to the Andorian. “It’s sourdough bread with food coloring. Chef Delacroix made four hundred amethyst-shaped loaves. We could have been boarded and then they’d have seen – everyone had an amethyst, and a lot of people had two. We had amethysts in every hall, and at every doorway as well.”
Shran looked at him, a plan forming in his head. “May I take these with me?”
“I don’t see any reason why not,” replied Malcolm.
Back home, Shran and Jhamel threw open their doors to their neighbors and invited them in. Classmates of Talla’s came as well – even the fellow she had decked the previous day. “We are here to share our wealth with you,” Shran said.
There was a lot of whispering. Greed got the better of many of them, and they pushed and shoved to get to the front. “We have the Teneebian amethyst,” Shran said, “and now you may have it as well.”
Talla picked up an armful of loaves and handed them out to their neighbors and her classmates, even to the most hateful fellow. He looked at her in disgust. “It’s just a loaf of bread.”
“Our pinkskin friends say, ‘Half a loaf is better than none’,” she replied, and then she looked at all of them and added, “And being half an Andorian is better than none.”