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Hearing her door chime, Captain Elizabeth Shelby ordered the computer to lower the volume of the mid-22nd century neo-classical rock tune she was listening to as she looked up. “Come on in Commander,” She called out as the door slid open to admit her first officer, Commander Christopher Hobson. Entering the room, Hobson paused for a moment to admire the Kama Sutra etching hanging on the wall near a replicated Degas painting.

“Do you like it?” Liz asked with a mischievous smirk as she saw her XO appraising the print.

“It’s a very well done impression.” Hobson replied knowledgeably, “The artist obviously made every effort to maintain continuity with the original style. However, if you look here…” He said pointing towards one of the women on the print, “…and here…” He pointed out, drawing the captain’s attention towards one of the man, “…you can see how the artist, through his use of shading, allows some of his own creativity to emerge.”

“I’m impressed.” Liz remarked sincerely. “I can see that you’ve had at least one of Professor Davin’s courses on aesthetics while you were at the Academy.”

“Several, actually.” The Iceman replied, a note of fondness slipping out from his normal patrician tone.

“I did as well.” Liz agreed as she motioned for her first officer to sit down opposite her, the hedonistic captain barely repressing an amused grin as her fastidiously correct executive officer almost sighed in undisguised luxuriance as he settled into the plush and comfortable chair. “In fact, he was one of my favorite professors.” Her lips turning up into a warm smile, she related. “I remember when I took his introductory course as a sophomore with Jadzia; I so did not want to be there…”

“Why did you take him then?” Chris inquired, genuinely curious. “None of his courses are required…”

Chuckling merrily, Liz responded, “Two people actually more or less forced me to. Jadzia wanted to take the course but didn’t want to take it alone and…well…you don’t know just how persistent Jadz can be when she wants to be—and this was long before she had the Dax symbiote!”

Allowing a slight grin to cross his normally icy countenance, the first officer brought his captain back to his original line of inquiry, “And the second person?”

“Boothby.” Liz answered back, her laughter now replaced by a warm smile as Hobson nodded his head in understanding. “Every time I went out to admire his roses, he would ask me the same question: ‘When was I going to finally get off my ass and take Professor Davin’s course?’” Her smile again turning into gentle laughter, Shelby finished her story, “I finally got the hints in my second year and signed up for his course. And well…one course led to another and then another…”

“I know what you mean.” Chris responded as yet another note of fondness escaped his carefully modulated voice. “Boothby also encouraged me to take the Professor’s course.”

“It’s amazing—isn’t it?” Liz observed, “At just how influential that gentle, crotchety, old groundskeeper has been in so many of our lives.” Pausing for a moment to collect her thoughts, the captain finally got to the point. “Here’s the reason why I asked you to come here, Chris.” She said as she handed a padd to her first officer. “We just got new orders from Admiral Ross…”

“Oh…” Chris vocalized as he perused the padd. “I see…well…to be honest, I’m glad to see them.” His poker face hiding the emotions seething beneath, he declared, “The ship and crew could use a break in the routine. I know that frustration has been mounting over the rules of engagement Starfleet has imposed on us since the crisis with the Klingons began…”

“Tell me about it.” Liz affirmed with a melodramatic sigh. “Those asinine rules are hamstringing us. Ships are being lost and crews are dying because Starfleet and the Federation Council insist on ‘avoiding confrontations’!” Barely keeping her volatile temper in check, Shelby spat out. “What that duranium bottom Shanthi doesn’t understand is that as far as the Klingons are concerned we’re already at war. They’re locked and loaded when they meet up with us…there’s no ‘avoiding a confrontation’—it already is a fracking confrontation!”

“Well…” Hobson remarked, as he attempted to deflect his captain from yet another withering rant against her favorite bete-noire, “At least Starfleet Command did one thing right…”

“Yeah…” Liz agreed, willing herself to calmness, “They allowed us to take our civilians off. It appears they learned something at least from Wolf 359.” Shaking her head, the captain brought the conversation back to the original topic. “But yes…I think the crew will benefit from this mission…”

“Agreed.” Hobson acknowledged, “It’ll give some of our junior officers a little exposure to diplomacy.” He then asked, “Have you decided on someone to act as aide to Ambassador Offenhouse yet?”

“Yes, I have.” Liz replied with a mischievous grin as she carefully observed the reaction on her first officer’s face, “I was thinking about Lieutenant Rysyl.”

“A good choice.” Hobson deadpanned, not giving away even the slightest hint of emotion. “Her empathic abilities will serve in good stead and she is interested in pursuing a command track.”

“I thought you’d agree,” Liz remarked, not showing any dismay at her failure to get an emotional response from the Iceman. “I also have another piece of good news for you…” she teased as she activated the monitor display on her wall, revealing the frozen image of her and Hobson’s old mentor. “The Zeons are sending Professor Davin as their emissary to Ekos. Flashing a slight grin as she caught the slightest hint of anticipation in the features of her stony faced XO, Shelby continued, “I thought you might like to hear part of the letter that he sent me…”

You have no idea how happy it made me to hear that it would be your ship that would be bringing the Federation diplomat to Ekos, Elizabeth. The Ekosians have worked so hard for this day. It has been a long, hard road for them since the overthrow of the Nazis—I am truly happy for them now that they stand poised to join the galactic community as full fledged members of the Federation. A warm grin crossing his features, he continued, I also look forward to renewing our friendship and to seeing Christopher as well—it has been too long, my former students, since we have sat and talked. Distracted by shouting in the background, the old man turned around and shouted out a brief reply. I’m sorry, Elizabeth—that was my wife and she has informed me that the evening meal awaits. I look forward to seeing you and Christopher soon. Pleasant and safe journeys.

Same here, Professor Davin
. Liz thought, maintaining her warm smile until Lieutenant Atoa’s voice, coming through the intercom, disrupted her thoughts.

“Captain?”

“Yes, Mr. Atoa?” Shelby responded in a quiet voice as she terminated the image on her screen.

“We’ve picked up the Los Angeles on our sensors, sir and should be in transporter range in twenty minutes,” The tactical officer reported.

“Very good, Lieutenant,” Liz acknowledged. “We’re on our way to the bridge.” As she and her first officer stood up simultaneously, Shelby remarked as she motioned towards the door, “Well, Commander…shall we…”

*******************************

Nodding his head in satisfaction as he toured his section, Lt. Commander Jadon Tol, Chief Engineer aboard the USS Sutherland halted his progress at the station of one of his subordinates, Ensign Angela ‘Treasure’ Barrows, who was at that moment monitoring the operations of the massive starship’s warp core, pulsating as it powered the ship through the phenomenal energy released by its controlled matter-antimatter reactions.

Glancing at the lovely blonde manning the console before turning his attention back once again to the powerful engines, the Trill engineer remarked, his voice tinged with just a touch of awe as he plastered on his usual half grin, “Takes your breath away, doesn’t it, Treasure?”

“Wha…” Startled by her superior’s near stealthy approach, Angela’s head jerked up. “Sir…” She exclaimed in the Texas accent common to those who came from her home planet of North Star in what was once the Delphic Expanses, “…don’t do that! Ya’ll scared me half to death!”

“Sorry about that, Ensign.” Jadon apologized, only half repentant. “I was talking about the engines. The sight and sound of them in full operation…”

“I know what you mean, Sir.” Treasure acknowledged, nodding her head in agreement. “All that power…” She flirted, flashing a teasing grin, “…just strainin’ to bust out…”

Chuckling, the Trill chief engineer asked as he got down to business, “So…how’re your readings?”

Glancing down at her panel, the Ensign quickly answered back, all traces of her previous flirtation absent from her voice, “Just fine, sir. Matter-antimatter containment is well within tolerance levels and plasma conversion is going at the proper rate.”

“Excellent.” Jadon responded, then, tilting his head to the left for a moment, listened quietly. “Hmmm…” He vocalized before requesting, “Check the power transfer distribution, would you Treasure? It sounds off.”

“Sure, boss…” The young engineer acknowledged after giving her superior a momentary askance look. Checking her readouts, she mumbled just loud enough to be audible, “Well I’ll be…” Glancing back up from her console, Angela spoke up, “There’s a slight variance in the flow from EPS tap 25 Bravo. Nothing serious but…”

“But I don’t like it when my engines are off key,” Tol finished, his normal affable grin not hiding his intensity. “Especially when we have Klingons on the prowl.”

“I’ll get it taken care of right away, sir.” Ensign Barrows promised.

“That’s what I like to hear.” Jadon replied with a smile as he turned to leave Barrow’s station. “If you need me, I’ll be on the bridge.” Before leaving he leaned over close enough to whisper in the young officer’s ear, “Don’t forget, Treasure…special staff meeting in my quarters at 2200 hours.”

Flashing a sly grin of her own, the buxom ensign responded, “I’ll be there…”

*************************************************

Humming an ancient Andorian song as he strode down the corridor, Jadon’s lips turned up into a broad grin as he spied Lieutenant Rysyl at the turbolift door. “Anara! Hold the door for me!” He called out as he picked up his pace. “Thanks!” He said as the pair entered the lift together.

“Bridge.” Lieutenant Rysyl requested in her usual lyric voice. Looking up at the taller Trill, she smiled, “Where are you going, Jadon?”

“Same place.” Tol answered back. “Probably for the same reason you are. Got the word that we’re about to meet up with the Los Angeles.”

“Yes.” Anara frowned, “…and I was looking forward so much to going off duty until I received Manny’s message.

“Long day?” Jadon inquired as the turbo lift shifted directions from horizontal to vertical.

“You could say that.” The Deltan woman sighed. “Started out having to conduct a level eight diagnostic on the sensors and got worse from there. All I wanted to do when I got to my quarters was to take a long hot bath before meeting Denise for dinner. But now…” She mock groused as she shrugged her shoulders

Chuckling as the turbolift doors opened on to the bridge, Jadon quipped, “Well, Lieutenant, no one ever said that the life of a Starfleet officer was easy.”

“I know…” Anara joked back, “But no one ever said that it had to be so grungy either.”

***********************************************

Walking on to the bridge, Captain Shelby smiled as she caught sight of the Ambassador class Los Angeles on the viewscreen.

“Looking forward on catching up on the latest gossip, Captain?” Jadon quipped from his engineering console.

“You might say that,“ Liz smirked. “T’Greth fancies himself a skilled card player and challenged me to a poker game…”

“So…” Sam Lavelle interjected from his station, “What happened?”

“He lost.” Liz smirked as Lieutenant Atoa announced that the Los Angeles was hailing the Sutherland.

“Hello Captain T’Greth.” Liz greeted with a mischievous grin as the image of the Los Angeles was replaced by that of its captain, a portly Tellarite who addressed Captain Shelby with a thick gravelly voice.

“Greetings Captain Shelby.” The Tellarite exclaimed, a broad smile on his face. “Ambassador Offenhouse will be ready to transport over to your ship in ten standard minutes.”

“Excellent, Captain T’Greth.” Liz replied with a smile. “Tell him we have quarters all ready for him and we look forward to his arrival.”

“Will do.” His smile vanishing, the Tellarite captain inquired, “Did you hear about the Cumberland?”

“No,” Shelby replied, a lump forming in her throat. “Last I heard, it was supposed to be on patrol.”

“We lost communications with it in the Twilight Zone.” T’Greth said somberly, referring to the nickname given by Starfleet to the Perdita Expanse, the dangerous, yet strategically important, area of space touching the Argellius and Bajoran sectors and bordering on both Klingon and Cardassian space. “They haven’t been heard from in several days.”

“Damn,” Liz cursed in a low voice. “Klingons?”

“No one’s sure,” the Los Angeles’ captain replied, shaking his head. “You know how ships have a tendency to just disappear out there.” He said, his voice dropping to a whisper as his hands made a gesture that Liz immediately recognized as a ritualistic warding symbol of the dominant religion on Tellar. T’Greth then added, the gravelly quality to his voice returning, “But it’s a possibility given how active the Klingons have been recently.” His eyes now taking on a predatory gleam, he declared, “After we drop off the ambassador, we’re headed out there to coordinate recovery efforts.”

Her eyes narrowing into angry slits, Liz spat out, releasing all her frustrations at both the Klingons and Starfleet Command in her voice, “If it was Klingons…give them a phaser blast for me.”

“Consider it done.” T’Greth replied in a grim tone as his intercom button beeped, “I’ve just been informed that the ambassador is about to beam over to your ship. He’s your problem now.” He then flashed a mischievous grin, “Take care of yourself, Liz…and try to behave. I don’t want to lose my favorite poker opponent to a pissed off admiral.”

Appearing innocent, Captain Shelby rejoined, “Me…misbehave?” Seeing the skeptical look on T’Greth face, Liz amended, “Well…alright…I’ll try…but no promises!” Then, before cutting off communications, she added in a sincere voice, “And you watch yourself in the Zone, T’Greth…you still owe me from our last game.”

***********************************

Immediately after terminating communications with her counterpart on the Los Angeles, Shelby addressed her first officer, “Commander Hobson? You and Messrs. Rysyl and Varok will accompany me to the transporter room.” Then, turning towards Lieutenant Commander Tol, she said as she vacated the command chair, “Mr. Tol—the bridge is yours.”

“Aye, Sir.” Both Tol and Hobson replied in unison, Tol taking the chair recently vacated by the captain as Hobson motioned Anara and Varok to join him and the captain at the turbolift.

As the foursome entered the elevator, Anara ventured, “I understand that Ambassador Offenhouse has an interesting history.”

“You could say that.” Liz replied with an amused grin. “He and two others were found in cryonic suspension aboard a derelict spaceship from the 21st century that had somehow found itself near the Romulan neutral zone about nine years ago by the Enterprise.

Picking up where the captain left off, Varok continued the narrative, “They had all died of conditions that, while easily treatable now, were during that time fatal. The Enterprise’s chief medical officer treated the medical problems and restored them to health.”

Shaking her head in astonishment, Anara then asked, “How did their ship get so far out?”

“No one knows for sure.” Liz answered back. “The current theory holds their ship most likely got sucked into a mini-wormhole that probably destroyed an experimental shuttle launched at that time.”

“That would be a logical supposition,” Varok interjected.

“But what about the shuttle?” Anara inquired, her curiosity aroused. “Wouldn’t it have been deposited near their ship?”

“Not necessarily,” The Vulcan replied. “The shuttle could easily have drifted away.” Then, further warming to the topic, he added. “Also, there are many theories regarding the nature of wormholes. For instance, while one theory does hold that there is a more or less straight path leading invariably from point A to point B—such as in the case of the stable wormhole near Deep Space Nine, there is another that contends that wormholes could also possess a variety of trunks with currents and eddies that can carry an object into a variety of different locations—possibly even into different universes or dimensions.”

“So…” Hobson joining the discussion, hypothesized, “…it should be possible to use wormholes to travel to these different universes.”

“Possible,” Varok confirmed, “But very risky.” He then explained, “The laws of physics in this universe are very finely balanced to support life. There is no guarantee that those laws would apply in another—in fact, the probabilities of their doing so are remote. For example, something as seemingly trivial as a slightly greater mass for neutrons or protons could have a deciding effect on whether life is feasible or not.”

“While this is a most fascinating discussion…” Captain Shelby said, reluctantly interrupting as they drew nearer the transporter room, “I’m afraid that we’re going to have to table it for now.” Then, turning toward her Deltan operations officer, she announced, “Lieutenant…the reason why I asked you to join us is that, if you want that third pip and eventually a command of your own, you’re going to have to get experience in handling diplomatic situations. So…” Liz said with a grin, “I’m designating you as liaison officer to Ambassador Offenhouse. It will be your duty to make sure that he’s happy and to convey to me any needs that he might have.”

“In other words,” Anara quipped, “I’m to keep him out of your way as much as possible.”

Laughing, Liz answered back, “Lieutenant, I have a feeling you’re going to go far.”

***********************************

Taking stock of the figure that had just materialized on the transporter pad, Shelby and her officers saw a human being of average height and weight, appearing to be approximately fifty years old, with an angular face and seal brown hair touched by gray and wearing a slate grey well tailored business suit. So…that’s what a four hundred year old man looks like. Liz thought, singularly unimpressed. Taking a deep breath, she cleared her throat and announced in a formal tone, “Ambassador Offenhouse? Welcome to the USS Sutherland. I am Captain Elizabeth Shelby and I would like to introduce you to some of my senior officers.” She then motioned towards where Hobson and the other officers were gathered behind her as she introduced first her first officer and then Mr. Varok. Coming to Anara, the captain said, “And this is Lieutenant Anara Rysyl. She will act as your liaison during this mission.”

“Thank you.” The ambassador replied in a clipped voice as he stepped off the transporter pad. Then, regarding the Deltan woman to whom he had just been introduced, a slight smile crossed his normally severe features. “Ms. Rysyl should be most acceptable.”

“Excellent.” Shelby responded. “The lieutenant will show you to your quarters and help you to get settled in. Afterwards, if you’d like, she can arrange a tour of the ship for you and, if you don’t mind, perhaps you can join me and the senior staff for dinner this evening.”

“Thank you again, Captain. That would be delightful.” Ambassador Offenhouse said before inquiring, “Can you tell me how long it will be before we reach the Zeon system?”

“I’ve already ordered the helm to set a course for the system, ambassador.” Liz replied. “At warp five we should be there in approximately thirty-six hours.”

“Excellent, Captain.” The ambassador replied with a perfect poker face, “I can’t emphasize how important this mission is to Ekos.” His lips turning down into a frown, he added, “Also, to be honest, I’m curious to see firsthand how their society is doing after Professor Gill’s interference.”

“I have to admit to being more than a little curious about that myself.” Liz admitted. “Perhaps we can discuss this topic at length during dinner?”

“Perhaps,” Offenhouse replied noncommittally. “But for now…if it’s alright with you, I’d like to get settled in…”

“Of course, sir,” Captain Shelby, momentarily blushing at keeping the ambassador waiting, motioned for Anara to join them. “Mr. Rysyl will escort you to your quarters now and I will see you at dinner tonight.”

********************************************

“You set a fine table, Captain.” Ambassador Offenhouse praised as he took in the table setting. Milky white porcelain plates, gleaming silverware and translucent crystal all sitting on an immaculate white linen table cloth lent an air of elegant grace that perfectly complemented the Chopin piece playing in the background.

“Thank you, sir.” Liz resplendent in her dress uniform replied as she took her seat. “We’re not much for formal occasions on the Sutherland,” She explained as the rest of her command staff took their seats, “But this is a special occasion.”

“Dr. Murakawa…” Ambassador Offenhouse exclaimed on seeing the ship’s chief medical officer attired in a pale blue Ionic chiton, her gold crucifix hanging from her neck. “You look beautiful in that. Centauran, I take it?”

“Yes.” Denise, blushing, responded with a shy smile, “My mother’s. She gave it to me while I was at home before reporting aboard the Sutherland.” She then glanced in Lt. Rysyl’s direction, “I was going to wear my dress uniform, but Anara talked me into wearing this instead.”

“It’s a shame that such a striking gown should stay hanging in a closet unappreciated by others.” The Deltan woman explained as she gently chided the often socially insecure and shy doctor, “Beauty should never be hidden away.”

‘Hear…Hear!” Jadon exclaimed as he stood up. “I’d like to propose a toast!” Picking up his wine glass, he eyed each of the women at the table, his eyes pausing to linger on Anara for just a few seconds longer, much to the consternation of the stoic first officer sitting next to her, “To beauty!”

“Well…” Liz chuckled as she picked up her glass, “I’ll drink to that!”

“As will I…” Hobson agreed as he looked deep into Anara’s eyes. Lifting his glass, he then stated in a soft, barely audible voice, “To beauty.”

As the first course, a salad made of Vulcan vegetables and vichyssoise was brought in by volunteer stewards, Anara ventured, “I am curious, Ambassador…how did someone such as yourself become a diplomat?”

“You mean how did someone born four hundred years before you were born decide to become a Federation diplomat…” Ralph interjected with a crooked grin.

Chuckling, the Deltan lieutenant nodded her head, “Yes, sir…if I’m not being rude…”

“Oh, not at all!” The ambassador protested. “Before…I was a businessman—a highly successful one,” He said with pride, “Then, I…died. As you probably already know, before dying, I had arranged to have my body put into cryonic suspension,” Chuckling, he quipped, “One of the others revived with me called it a ‘freeze you now and heal you later’ deal. When I got back to Earth, I spent some time trying to figure out what I was going to do with my new life.” His voice growing more solemn, he said, “You have to understand—I spent my entire life trying to acquire wealth and power—but really, for me it wasn’t the actual victory…” He went on, a predatory gleam appearing in his eyes, “…it was the struggle—the hunt if you will that mattered.”

Looking around the table, he saw a look of disapproval from the Vulcan and some of the humans around the table. No surprise there, Offenhouse thought; Vulcans can be so predictable and as for the human crew—what else should I expect, they’ve been brought up believing that they’ve ‘grown up’. Well…let them enjoy their conceit a little while longer—if things break like I think they’re going to with the Dominion, that and a whole lot more is going to get knocked out of them. The wily diplomat also noted confused regret on the part of his Deltan aide; and, to his surprise, in the eyes of the captain and her first officer, not only understanding, but also agreement. As he exchanged looks with both Shelby and Hobson, he nodded his head gently and continued his narrative. “At first, I thought I would start a new business somewhere outside the Federation—possibly dilithium speculation…” The ambassador then sighed, “But then I remembered something that Captain Picard said about enriching myself. So…I took him up on his challenge.”

“That’s a fascinating story, Ambassador,” Dr. Murakawa exclaimed. “I read Dr. Crusher’s report about your…resuscitation. I was wondering…how did you find things on first arriving on Earth?”

“Well…as you might imagine, it was confusing to say the least,” Chuckling, he related anecdotes of learning how to cope with 24th century life where everything from sonic showers to the climate control net was a marvel to him. Then, turning serious, he admitted, “For a while I drifted—I felt like an anachronism…a relic, if you will. I needed a challenge—to match my wits against an opponent…”

“So you chose diplomacy.” Hobson interjected.

Nodding his head, Offenhouse proclaimed, “The true game of kings.”

Shifting subjects, Lieutenant Atoa asked, “Mr. Ambassador? If I might ask, how do you view Professor Gill’s interference on Ekos?”

Shifting somewhat uncomfortably in his seat, Ralph thought for what seemed several minutes before carefully replying. “You have to understand, Mr. Atoa, I’m Jewish…so I have some very real issues with the Professor’s actions.”

“How do you mean?” Anara asked, her face reflecting her confusion.

“How familiar are you with mid-twentieth century Earth history?” The ambassador queried back.

“I’m not.” The Deltan woman replied honestly.

His expression and voice taking on a grim tone, the man from Earth’s past explained about the original Nazis and the Holocaust and the legacy of hate they left behind. Taking a deep breath, Ralph then added his own reminiscences, “I remember as a child watching the march through Skokie on the television. I can still see my grandfather—a survivor of Buchenwald…I can still see the tears in his eyes…” Taking a sip of water, he apologized, “I’m sorry…please give me a moment…”

“It’s all right, sir,” Liz replied in a soft voice. “Take as much time as you need.”

“Thank you.” The ambassador responded, having collected himself. “As I was saying…the legacy of hate left behind by the Nazis was a profound one—one that took centuries for humans to move beyond…” If we truly have done so…he didn’t add, “One of the questions I want answered to my satisfaction before making my recommendation to the Federation Council is whether the Ekosians have truly put the Nazis behind them or not.”

“You sound like you don’t think they have.” Manuele stated flatly.

“To be honest, Mr. Atoa…” Ralph replied in a soft voice, “You’re right. I don’t think they have. Poison like that is not purged so easily—but we’ll see…” He said quietly as he remembered the identification tattoo on his grandfather’s arm, “…maybe I’m wrong this time.”

**************************************

Returning to her quarters after the lengthy formal dinner, Liz stripped off her uniform as she entered the sonic shower. Allowing the vibrations to remove the day’s dirt and grime from her body, she thought about what Ambassador Offenhouse had said regarding Ekos’ entry into the Federation. Getting out of the shower, she slipped on a translucent gossamer chemise made of the finest Andorian spider-silk. Luxuriating in the cool gentle touch of the fabric on her smooth skin, the hedonistic captain walked to her replicator.

“Mimosa…chilled.” Picking up the icy cool drink, she reclined on the plush couch in the middle of her sumptuously furnished suite. Taking a sip from her drink, she then commanded, “Computer…search for and play the captain’s log for the USS Enterprise, Stardate 2534.0.” As Shelby listened to the legendary starship captain’s words, her mind drifted back to the recent dinner and the topic of conversation for much of the meal—John Gill and Ekos…

“Ambassador Offenhouse?” Anara asked as the volunteer stewards brought in the main course. “I still can’t understand what motivated John Gill to violate the Prime Directive by introducing Nazism?”

Barely hiding her snort of derision, Ensign Django added with just the slightest touch of sarcasm in her voice, “Yeah…I’d like to know that too.”

Addressing the table, the ambassador spoke in a tense voice. “Captain Kirk, in his report to Starfleet Command on the affair, stated that Professor Gill believed that bringing in a ‘benign’ form of Nazism would provide structure to the Ekosians’ otherwise violent and anarchic culture at the time.”

“His reasoning was entirely illogical…” Varok stated in his usual matter of fact tone. “…as well as factually and theoretically flawed.”

“Quite correct.” Offenhouse agreed, nodding his head. “Professor Gill fell into an old trap with his analysis of Earth history during that period.”

“How so?” Dr. Murakawa asked, her curiosity drawing her into the conversation.

“First…” Ralph replied, “He forgot that Nazism was born from the anger, resentment, and insecurity that Germans felt following the end of the First World War and second, he forgot that racism is the core component of Nazi ideology. Hitler and the Nazis played upon those feelings as well as a deeply ingrained culturally based anti-Semitism to turn Jews and other ‘undesirables’ into scapegoats for people’s wrath. In Ekos’ case, the Zeons who had come to Ekos as immigrants and who supplied the majority of the administrative, commercial, and professional class became the scapegoats.” Pausing for a moment, Offenhouse ended his discussion on a grim note, “Had Captain Kirk not acted when he did…had Melakon succeeded in his plan to invade Zeon…I’m afraid we would have been confronted with an Ekosian ‘Final Solution’ that would have been as tragic as the Nazi Holocaust on Earth.”

“When I think about how close we came to a second Nazi Holocaust…hundreds of years and light years away from Earth…

Her mind brought back by the rare, mournful tone in James Kirk’s voice, Elizabeth paid closer attention as the Enterprise captain concluded his log entry.

“I cannot understand why a man as good…as gentle…as John Gill could have made such a horrible mistake. A lifetime of scholarship and teaching—of molding minds—and…” Shelby could almost see the legendary captain standing before her, wearing the gold shirt and black pants and boots of that time, shaking his head sadly as he spoke, “…and now…the man that I looked up to as a mentor…and friend…will forever be known to future generations as the man who committed the most heinous violation of the Prime Directive in the history of the Federation…as a cautionary reminder of the danger of false pride. And as for Ekos…Daras and Eneg say that they will reverse Melakon’s policies. I wish them well, but the legacy of the Nazis is not such an easy one to undo. I told Mr. Spock that one day both Zeon and Ekos will take their places as members of the Federation…but…I fear…for Ekos at least…it won’t be in my lifetime. Conclude Captain’s log entry, Stardate 2534.0, Kirk, commanding Enterprise out.

Yawning, Liz finished her mimosa. Getting up, she set the empty glass down on the coffee table in front of the couch as she stood up. Stripping off her chemise, she slipped into bed. However, sleep would not come easily this night watch for Elizabeth as both James Kirk’s and Ralph Offenhouse’s words intruded into her thoughts leaving the troubled captain with a deep sense of foreboding.

*****************************************************

Walking on to the bridge, a bleary-eyed Liz nodded her head at Lieutenant Nyota Dryer, the on duty tactical officer. “Lieutenant.”

“Morning, Captain.” The ebony skinned security officer replied. Seeing the lines on her commanding officer’s face, Nyota asked tentatively, “Rough night last night, Captain?”

“Yeah...you could say that.” The captain replied, giving her subordinate a slight smile. Looking at the viewscreen, she immediately recognized the planet Zeon, its largest continent currently centered on the screen. “I see we’ve assumed orbit, Lieutenant Dryer. When can we expect the Zeon delegation?

“They’ve signaled that they’ll be ready to beam up in approximately thirty minutes, Sir.” The recent transferee from the USS Cuffe crisply replied.

“Very good, Lieutenant.” Shelby acknowledged. “Have the senior staff meet in Transporter Room One in twenty minutes and ask Ambassador Offenhouse if he would care to join us.” Then, turning towards her Vulcan science officer, standing at his science station, Liz gestured, “Mr. Varok, would you join me?”

“Of course, Sir.” Varok replied as he turned his duties over to Ensign Johnson who had just arrived on the bridge.

As the pair walked down the corridor towards the Captain’s quarters, Liz inquired, “I know it’s a long shot, Mr. Varok, but…seeing as how your first assignment out of the Academy was on the Enterprise-A under the command of Captain Kirk, I was wondering if you might have…”

“I’m sorry, Captain.” The Vulcan science officer interjected, shaking his head, “I know what you’re going to ask but, as you pointed out, at that time I was merely an ensign on my first assignment. I regret I was not privy to the conversations of the senior officers.”

“I didn’t expect you would be…” Shelby replied, a bit more abruptly than she intended. Looking up at the placid face of the elderly Vulcan, she softened her tone. “As I said…it was a long shot.” Exhaling, the captain continued, “It’s just that any information I can get…no matter how anecdotal…could prove helpful.” Shaking her head, Elizabeth confessed, “Mr. Varok…I know Vulcans don’t believe in hunches or anything like that…but I have a feeling about this mission…a bad feeling.”

“Captain…” Varok responded in a voice that seemed to Liz to be almost encouraging, “…while I might not see the logic in the human tendency to rely on intuition…I have seen in my years of service that frequently playing a…hunch…has proven most successful.” He then sounded a note of warning as the pair neared the door to the Captain’s quarters. “I have also seen the result of what happens when human intuition goes wrong on more than one occasion as well.”

“Thank you, Mr. Varok…” Liz replied, acknowledging the older officer’s words. Then, as the door slid open, she smiled, “I’ll see you in about fifteen minutes.”

****************************************

Entering the transporter room, Liz was immediately greeted by her entire senior staff, along with Ambassador Offenhouse. “Captain,” Commander Hobson exclaimed, his face, as usual, showing no signs of emotion.

“Commander,” Liz nodded her head in response. “Is the Zeon delegation ready for transport?”

“Yes Sir,” The first officer replied.

“Very well, then,” Shelby said, turning towards the transporter chief, “Let’s get this show on the road.”

Upon hearing the captain’s order, the chief activated his console. Almost immediately, four of the transporter pads lit up as the delegation materialized. “Elizabeth!” The lead figure, an elderly man approximately Shelby’s height and wearing a distinguished blue suit and carrying a valise, promptly called out with a smile as he immediately recognized his former student. “Quickly…what is the difference between astonishment and the unexpected?”

Smiling back at her former teacher, Liz promptly responded, “Astonishment looks outward—losing the self while being caught up in the excitement of the experience of something high, distant, and immensely powerful and is pre-modern while the unexpected looks inward -- as the self asks why it has not found what it expected, and does that unexpectedness follow the discovery of something new to everyone, or just new to self and is modern—a goal for those who make science and fashion.”

“Very good, Elizabeth.” The old man beamed proudly down on his protégé as he stepped off the transporter pad. “Now…do you think your officers would feel astonishment if you gave your old professor a hug—or would it be unexpected?”

“Both, I think.” Liz smiled back as she hugged her former mentor. Then stepping back, she introduced her senior staff and then remarked, “You’re looking good…”

“I have a wife who makes sure I eat right and never lets me have any fun.” Davin playfully whined as the rest of the Zeon delegation stepped off the pad to join their leader. Turning toward Ambassador Offenhouse, the professor stated formally, “This is an important occasion for both Zeon and Ekos. We have worked long and hard with the Ekosians to make Federation membership a reality for them and now, that it is almost here, I feel a measure of both pride and relief.”

“I’m looking forward to seeing what you’ve done.” Ralph replied noncommittally as he shook the professor’s hand. “And I look forward to hearing your presentation on the similarities and differences between Ekosian Nazi and Earth Nazi art as propaganda at the conference.”

“Yes, Professor,” Varok politely interjected. “Having followed your work, I must admit to finding your theories regarding Ekosian cultural adaptations to human socialist realist art most…intriguing.”

“High praise indeed from a Vulcan as distinguished as yourself,” Davin replied modestly. Smiling, he added, “We most definitely should get together—I would be most interested in your opinions.” Turning towards Commander Hobson, the Zeon academic maintained his smile, “Christopher! I’m pleased to see that you’re Elizabeth’s first officer!” His face beaming with fatherly pride, Ledron praised, “My two best students working together…what more could a teacher want?”

“Professor,” Chris greeted back, a slight smile cracking through his normal icy exterior. “It’s a pleasure to see you again as well.”

“We must get together, Christopher,” Davin said cheerily before addressing Captain Shelby once again, “I don’t mean to sound rude, Elizabeth, but how long should it take for us to reach Ekos?”

Chuckling at her old mentor’s impatience, Liz activated her comm. badge, “Mr. Lavelle? Take us to Ekos—maximum impulse.”

After hearing her helmsman’s acknowledgement, the captain returned to her guest, “We should be in orbit around Ekos soon, Professor. So…why don’t I show you to your quarters and then later you can join me in the lounge…”

“By all means, Elizabeth,” The professor smiled back as he offered his former student his arm. “It has been too long since we’ve talked.”

**********************************

“And this is ‘Rick’s, Professor!” Liz smiled as she motioned with her hand towards the Sutherland’s lounge.

“Rick’s?” Davin asked, raising an eyebrow. “Is Rick the owner?”

“No…” Liz replied with a chuckle. “The former captain called it that,” She said as the pair took in the 1940s themed lounge complete with a replicated wood bar and grand piano. “It seems that he was into early 20th century entertainment and saw this movie called ‘Casablanca’ and fell in love with it.”

“I can see why…” Ledron said as a waiter, wearing a white dinner jacket and bow tie, came bearing their drinks. Taking a sip of his drink, the teacher regarded his student, “So…how have you been, Elizabeth?”

“Not bad,” Liz said as she tossed back her drink. “Took some settling in time to get used to my new command, but things are going pretty smoothly now,” The captain said as she motioned for the waiter to refresh her drink and then added with a grin, “Did you know Jadzia’s stationed on Deep Space Nine?”

“Jadzia Idaris?” The professor, his lips curling up into a grin, exclaimed. “I remember how you two were almost always either buried in your work to the point of exhaustion or you were getting into some sort of trouble or other—usually over the young men. Although in your case….” He added with a wink, “…it was also young women too, as I recall.”

Chuckling merrily, Liz quipped, “You know me too well, Professor. Anyway, she’s Jadzia Dax now,” Shelby corrected with a grin, “And she’s even worse now that she’s been joined.”

“You mean she got the Dax symbiote?” Davin asked, surprised. “I knew that Curzon had died, but I never heard who had gotten the symbiote, although I couldn’t think of a more appropriate host than Jadzia.”

“I’m surprised,” Liz responded. “It happened about the same time I was working for Admiral Hanson. I’d have been sure someone like you would have known…”

“You’re forgetting, I’m retired, Elizabeth,” The old man pointed out with more than a little regret, “And I’ve been working so hard on the Ekos project…So I’m not as up to date as I used to be.”

Liz then spent several minutes filling her old teacher in on how Jadzia had taken a leave of absence from Starfleet, reapplied to the initiate program, and passed it—hardly ever leaving the initiate complex for three years while she underwent her training. “I mean…Professor…” Shelby said her exasperation with her friend during that period in her life showing, “I hardly ever saw her during that time—she was so driven…”

“So…” Liz asked, changing the subject, “Do you really think Ekos is ready for full membership? I’ve been boning up on my old Earth history and from what I’ve read; Earth didn’t really get rid of the Nazi legacy until after the Eugenics Wars—over a hundred years after World War II.”

“Ekos isn’t Earth,” Davin gently, but firmly, pointed out. “Even though both planets were settled with human stock by the Preservers thousands of years ago—we’re not quite the same. Ekosian culture and society evolved differently than Earth…”

“But the Ekosians very quickly accepted Nazism once John Gill introduced it,” Captain Shelby rebutted, “And…even though Gill tried to institute a more…benign…form, it very quickly turned into something very similar to the way it developed on Earth—right up to the point where the Ekosians had their very own Kristallnacht.”

“I know…I know,” The old professor said somewhat testily. “My father was there—remember? His fiancé at the time was murdered by the Nazis.” Taking a deep breath, Ledron took several moments to collect his thoughts. “I understand your concerns, Elizabeth… but believe me, I wouldn’t have signed on to this if I weren’t absolutely sure that the Ekosians have put the Nazis behind them once and for all.”

“I know, Professor,” Liz replied, placing her hand on top of his, “And I’m sure you’re right—it’s just…”

“It’s a painful legacy…I know, Elizabeth,” Davin said gently, “But you’ll see…Ekos has grown up.”

“I hope you’re right, Professor,” Liz said thoughtfully as her doubts returned. Finishing her drink, she uttered a silent prayer as she looked on fondly at the old man sitting opposite her, “I really do.”


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