Origins, Chapter 18




Author: Apollo Racer
Title: Origins
Characters: New Crew/Star Trek: TOS/Star Trek TOS: Animated Series.
Rating: PG-13
Summary: In a bizarre twist of fate, a young man from the 21st century is trapped
in a frozen coffin as he drifts along the tides of time to be awakened 200 years

Chapter Eighteen

Apollo\’s shuttle approached the Valiant\’s shuttle bay. He felt that if he were going to command the ship, he wanted to view her from the outside. Traveling by transporter was fine, but it took away some of the majesty of traveling through space. What good was boarding a ship if you didn\’t inspect her lines? It was just Apollo\’s way of carrying on tradition, although these days, instead of checking for seaworthiness, it was spaceworthiness.

His shuttle landed, and he stepped out. He looked toward the gaping maw he just entered and silently praised the inventor of the atmospheric force field. He turned toward the exit into the ship and was met by a familiar face. \”Thelem! Good to see you, old friend!\”

\”Welcome aboard, Captain,\” responded the Andorian. \”We\’ve been expecting you.\”

Apollo thought for a moment. \”Weren\’t you supposed to go to the Jocasta?\”

\”The Jocasta suffered the misfortune of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Since she won\’t be going anywhere for another two weeks, replacements slated for that ship have been switched to this one.\”

\”I see. So, when do we get underway?\”

\”One thing I\’ve learned from your people is that the application of patience makes the forthcoming experience sweeter. You would do well to exhibit some of that patience now.\” The statement surprised Apollo. Andorians are a race of warriors, who favored the tactic of shooting first and asking questions later. To hear this one talk of waiting for something brought a smile to his lips. \”Besides, we have not received our full crew yet. Some of the crew aboard the disabled ship were replacements… you were supposed to select from the personnel as crew for the Firestone. The remainder would switch off with people from this ship and the Oberth. They have yet to be cleared by the medical staff.\”

\”Well, I didn\’t get the Firestone, did I?\” the captain said in an in-your-face tone.

\”Unfortunately.\” The sarcasm was evident in Thelem\’s voice. \”Then I would command either ship remaining.\”

\”Sorry to hold back your career.\” Anyone who served with the two officers on the Oberth knew that their bickering was just for show… they were actually good friends. \”I take it then that they\’ll be… straggling on as the situation permits.\”

\”You could say that,\” Thelem said.

As if on cue, the comlink in the shuttle bay\’s control room beeped. Apollo strode over and answered it. \”Racer.\”

\”Welcome aboard, sir.\” A bouncy female voice prattled over the speaker. \”Transporter Chief Robinson here. Your first batch of crew replacements are ready to beam aboard.\”

\”I\’m on my way.\” Apollo shut down the comlink and left the bay with Thelem in tow.

They made their way to the main transporter room in silent anticipation. They arrived just as Robinson initiated the transport sequence. The six pads lit up, columns of shimmering blue light appeared over them, and humanoid forms sparkled into existence. He greeted them and Thelem showed them to their quarters. While Thelem was gone, Apollo got to know Robinson a little better. He found her to be a very friendly person. As she was probably the first person someone saw when they beamed aboard, Apollo decided that she was just the right person for the job.

Thelem returned to the transporter room. \”Captain, transporter rooms two and four are also participating in crew beam ups. This won\’t take long.\”

Robinson chimed in. \”In fact, I\’m getting confirmation that I\’ll only get two people this time. They\’re the last ones for today.\”

\”Today?\” Apollo questioned.

\”Yes sir. Medical projects that our crew won\’t be fully aboard until the end of the week.\”

Thelem leaned over to his captain. \”You know, sir, you don\’t have to stay and greet people. Such a menial task is why they created the first officer\’s position.\”

Apollo mocked a startled look. \”Bite your tongue. I\’d like to meet my crew. I don\’t mind welcoming them aboard.\”

Thelem stuck his tongue out and felt it, as if seriously considering the captain\’s suggestion. Seeing the look on his friend\’s face made him realize that it was just a figure of speech. \”I\’m sure you will have plenty of opportunity to meet them before we get under way. Besides, how do you propose to be in every transporter room at the same time?\”

Apollo thought about that, without much hope for an answer. \”I see your point.\”

Robinson sighed. \”They\’re waiting, sir.\”

Realizing his faux pas, Apollo got back to the task at hand. \”Oh… yes, right. Energize.\”

The transporter activated again. Two figures formed. Apollo didn\’t see the first person step off the pad. He was staring at the second one, realizing that he was looking at a dream. She was wearing a sling on her left arm, and Apollo made the connection… she was the one he saw on the starbase, at the triage scene, staring out the viewport. Without any regard to protocol, he rushed up and scooped Samantha into his arms. At that point, time seemed to stop. He gazed into her tear-brimmed eyes, moving in to kiss her.

\”I take it you two know each other.\”

Thelem\’s comment brought both of them back to the present. Apollo looked at the room\’s other occupants. Thelem was smiling; The officer who arrived with Sam was staring at them nervously. Robinson was fully blushed, smiling and looking at them in a very cutesy way… the way he thought she would look at a little bunny, her eyes all huge and sparkly.

Apollo cleared his throat. \”Uh, ahem, Thelem. This is…\” he looked at Sam\’s shoulder, \”Commander Taylor. She is… uh… that is, she…\” He was looking at her, puzzled.

\”Your new science officer, reporting for duty, sir,\” Sam said, bailing him out. The look on her face told him that she was thoroughly enjoying this.

\”Ob… da… yes. Well, Thelem, looks like you won\’t have to double for me on this ship.\” He turned to Sam to explain. \”Thelem was both my science officer and first officer on the Oberth.\”

\”I see. Well, Captain, I appreciate the warm welcome. But according to doctor\’s orders, I was supposed to rest after coming aboard, so if I could be shown to my quarters.\”

Instantly, Apollo\’s bearing snapped back into place. \”Indeed.\” He stepped down and shook the other officer\’s hand. \”Sorry about that. Didn\’t want you to think I was neglecting you.\”

\”Tha-that\’s okay, sir. Lieutenant Gerard reporting,\” he said. He was obviously still baffled by the scene which played out before him.

\”If you two won\’t mind, Commander Thelem will show you to your quarters. And if the doctor said rest, then I expect you to do so. No roaming the ship.\” This was directed toward Sam. But she gave no quarrel, and the three of them left the room. Apollo leaned against the transporter console and wiped his brow. He then realized he wasn\’t alone, and turned toward Robinson. She was still looking at him with doe-eyes. Her blush was almost gone, but once the captain\’s attention was back on her, it returned in full force. Apollo stood straight, tugged on his jacket and marched out of the room. Just before the doors could close he stopped and looked back at Robinson. After a moment, he smiled exuberantly and allowed the doors to close, where she could finally indulge in some good-natured giggling.

~ * ~

\”Captain on the bridge.\”

Apollo stepped out of the turbolift. He waved them all back to what they were doing. \”All right, knock it off. Captain\’s standing order: next person who says that in my presence again gets flushed out an airlock in their skivvies.\”

He was joking, but his meaning was clear. His bridge crew kept the response to a brief chuckle. He looked around the bridge at his crew. Thelem was standing near the command chair. They should have a seat for him, too, he thought. Perhaps next to the captain. Maybe in my next report to Starfleet, I\’ll mention it. Sam was at the science station, performing a diagnostic on the systems. He then noticed his communications officer, M\’Ress, and Arex, his helmsman. He recalled in reviewing their records that they had served aboard the Enterprise shortly before the end of her first five-year mission, before her major refit. M\’Ress was a Caitian… her felinoid features were all too obvious. He had served with Caitians before, and was glad to have her. He noted with a smile that her tail twitched lazily back and forth, showing contentment with her task.

He then turned his attention toward Arex. He had never seen an Triexian before, let alone served with one. He nodded with approval that the quartermaster had altered his chair accordingly. Humanoids could still sit in it with comfort, but the seat was more of a U-shape, to accommodate Arex\’s third leg. Arex noticed Apollo studying him. He turned his head and, while doing a system\’s check with two hands, saluted him with a third. Apollo winked and walked toward his seat.

His navigator, Ensign Turner, whirled around in his seat. \”Sir, navigation systems check out just fine, sir.\”

Apollo looked toward Thelem, who rolled his eyes toward the ceiling. They were going to have to work on Turner\’s overenthusiasm… if it was anything that rubbed Apollo the wrong way, it was a brown-noser. \”That\’s… just fine, Ensign. Carry on,\” he said, patronizing the eager young officer.

He made a final scan of his bridge. He then hit the com control on his chair arm. \”Engineering, how\’s it look down there?\”

\”Commander McCormick here, sir. Everythin\’ down here is just bonny, Cap\’n.\” The voice on the other end had an unmistakable accent of a Scot.

The captain smiled. \”Very good, Mr. McCormick.\” He switched off, then turned back to Thelem. \”Well, I think we\’re ready to get under way. Mr. M\’Ress, contact starbase, request clearance to depart.\”

\”Aye, sir.\” She turned to her board. A moment later, she said, \”Captain, starbase gives us clearance to depart. They tell us good luck and Godspeed.\”

\”Thank them. Helm, reverse thrusters. Take us out slowly.\” He felt a slight shift as the ship moved. The screen was giving them the view from aft, so they watched as the spacedock doors grew on the screen. Just as the outside edges started to disappear from view, the doors began to open. The ship eased through the portal into space beyond.

\”Nicely done. Bring us about to 239 mark 70.\”

Turner responded smartly, repeating the course heading. The Valiant swung gracefully around to the prescribed heading. \”Reading a heading of 239 mark 70, sir.\”

Apollo nodded. \”Mr. Arex, ahead one-half impulse. When we reach the edge of the system, go to warp three.\” The Edoan acknowledged the order. Apollo waited until he could watch the transition to warp speed; then he headed for the turbo lift. \”M\’Ress, let my senior staff know that I\’d like a meeting with them in the conference room in half an hour.\”

He stepped in the lift. It was about to close when a hand came between the doors. They reopened, and Sam came in. \”Deck eight,\” Apollo called out. The lift started to move.

\”Hold lift.\” It stopped in transit. Apollo looked at her quizzically. She turned to face him. \”Well, Captain, you seem to fit the part quite well. I\’m glad you reached your goal.\”

Apollo could sense something wrong. Sam\’s comment should have made him feel good, yet there was a cold edge to her tone that made him feel uncomfortable. While he tried to figure her train of thought out, he decided to take her comment at face value. \”Thank you, Commander.\” He tried to follow up with something, but couldn\’t, and the silence made things more awkward. \”I\’m assuming that since you stopped the lift, you have something you wish to say to me privately.\”

\”Oh, I\’m just wondering why I didn\’t find out you made captain until I saw you in the transporter room.\”

\”I don\’t understand.\” Apollo had an idea where this was going, but he let the cards play themselves out.

\”Why didn\’t you contact me sooner? Why didn\’t you try to get assigned with me? And what the hell happened to you?\” She moved from side to side, studying him. \”You\’ve changed so much. You\’re so… different.\” As she spoke, the discomfort he sensed became more clear as her anger grew.

\”I tried getting in touch with you. As time progressed, your messages became more… infrequent. Some of them even seemed a bit formal and distant. Then I wasn\’t getting any messages all together. I heard about the Lexington, and I was afraid…\”

\”By the time of Lexington\’s destruction, I had been halfway into my tour on another vessel. And I had been writing frequently, and some of them certainly weren\’t formal. What\’s your excuse?\”

The realization struck him from out of the blue. \”That bastard…\” he whispered.

Sam had crossed her arms, displaying how disturbed she was toward him. She tilted her head as though she hadn\’t heard what he said. \”Come again?\”

Apollo\’s mind raced through his memories. He started losing contact with Sam while on the Merrimac. By the time he had moved on to his next ships, the damage had already been done. \”Sam, I\’ve been a fool.\”

She nodded. \”That much is certain. With that brilliant mind of yours, I\’m surprised it took you this long to figure that out.\”

\”Nonono… that\’s not what I meant.\” He sighed, putting a hand to his forehead. She wanted to stay mad at him, but his poise and attitude hinted at something he truly did just realize. \”Sam, I… my first assignment wasn\’t everything I\’d expected it to be.\”

She did some recalling of her own. \”Well… if I remember the messages I got from you at the time, you did seem to be having some difficulties. But that doesn\’t explain…\”

\”It explains a lot more than you think it does. I don\’t know if you\’ll believe this… but I\’ve been a terrible victim of circumstances. In a nutshell, I dealt with extreme adversity on my first ship, and with fear on the next. By the time I reached the Excalibur, I…\” he trailed off. Her resolve was fading fast… his expression displayed a pain that haunted him. \”I did write frequently. But when I lost contact completely, it… it was a lot to deal with.\”

The silence dragged on as Sam didn\’t know how to respond to what he said. He finally looked up at her again, and she realized his eyes did still display emotions… as he explained his plight on his past assignments, the light in his eyes was hard and sharp… it almost hurt to look into them. Now, however, they emitted a soft glow that almost caressed her. She had to remind herself that there was a reason why she was mad at him, that she shouldn\’t shudder in front of him just now. \”As for the changes you see in me… that\’s going to take a little time, and right now, I don\’t have it.\” He could tell she was skeptical, but he couldn\’t help her now. Not when they had a job to do. \”Lift, resume.\”

As they continued to their destination, he turned and gripped her shoulders. She didn\’t move away, but she didn\’t relax, either. \”I know it\’s been hard, but trust me, I will tell you everything. Right now, all I ask is that you don\’t let your personal feelings for me, whatever they may be at this time, to get in the way of our mission. Can I expect that much from you?\”

She looked at him hard, then slowly nodded. \”Yes, sir.\” He accepted that for now. Just before the lift stopped, she told him, \”By the way, I like what you did to your eyes.\” The doors opened and she stepped out. His friends who knew him before the Excalibur always said that upon meeting him again. Just one more thing to explain, he sighed.

~ * ~

Thirty minutes later, Apollo strode through the door to the conference room. His senior staff were already there, patiently waiting. He smiled at their punctuality, and headed toward his position at the head of the table; he didn\’t sit down, though. \”Greetings,\” he started out, making eye contact with everyone there. \”Some of you already know me from serving with me in the past. Some of you haven\’t served with me at all. Those of you who knew me before I served on the Excalibur, let me just get this out of the way now. This,\” he waved his hand in front of his eyes, \”is not artificial. These are my real eyes. If they cause you some discomfort, I apologize. It\’s not something I can turn on and off. Deal with it. Those of you who want to know more about it, I hold an open door policy… if I\’m not doing anything important at the time, I\’ll be happy to tell you all about it.

\”That\’s not the reason I called you here, though.\” He paused and was a little disappointed. Were he on one of his previous ships, someone would have made some type of crack. The room here remained silent. \”Our first mission sounds simpler than it really is.\” He sat down, hitting a few controls in front of him as he did so. An image of the Firestone sprang into existence a foot and a half above the table. The hologram slowly rotated on all axes so everyone could get a complete view of it. \”We have to find this ship. She\’s the USS Firestone. About five years ago, Starfleet attempted to build a dreadnought. This battle cruiser is the second generation of their attempt. She\’s the most powerful ship that Starfleet has constructed. Powerful, but not invincible. Those of you who have read those specs would know its capabilities: trinary-shielding, honeycomb superstructure support, with a hull made of a new substance, designed to absorb and distribute energy more efficiently than any ship we\’ve got.\”

McCormick partially raised a hand. \”Beggin\’ yer pardon fer interruptin\’, sir, but I happened to have read the specs on the Firestone. \’Efficient\’ would not be a word I\’d use for that behemoth.\”

\”You\’re right, Mr. McCormick. There were still a few bugs to work out. The third nacelle may help to provide a more stable warp field, but this ship can\’t go that much faster than ours. It\’s primarily a power supply for their upgraded weapons and shielding. It affords them the extra warp power they\’d otherwise have to route from propulsion. Now, as difficult as it sounds, our mission is not to destroy the ship, merely disable it… Starfleet doesn\’t want to lose its prototype.

\”As McCormick revealed, you all should have received a file of the specs. Any insight you might have to help out our mission, no matter how insignificant you think it would be, will be greatly appreciated.\” When no one spoke up immediately, he continued his briefing. \”Anyone who\’s served with me will know I have a firm belief that it\’s a ship\’s crew, not the ship itself, that will truly make or break a mission. And this is the person we have to deal with on this one.\” He switched images over, and the battle cruiser gave way to a personnel file. \”This is Ted Stevens. He used to be in Starfleet, but when he was first officer of the Merrimac, he ran a corruption ring that infiltrated that ship deep into his personnel infrastructure. A lot of people were affected by the scandal. Stevens was stripped of his rank and dismissed from Starfleet.\”

\”Pardon me, sir,\” Thelem interrupted, \”but didn\’t you serve aboard the Merrimac?\”

Apollo looked at his first officer, also seeing Sam as she sat next to him. Her face betrayed how stunned she was. \”Yes, Commander, I did. You can look up the entire incident, but I\’ll save you some time… I was the one who exposed the scandal.\”

No one said it aloud, but he could tell it was speculated by some in the room that he may have in some way caused the situation they were in now. That no one mentioned the possibility told him they were doing their best to give him the respect a captain required of his officers. He had to smile inwardly at that. \”Do I think that it\’s possible that we wouldn\’t be chasing Stevens now if I hadn\’t acted as I did?\” He shrugged. \”Perhaps. It equally likely that he may have pulled this anyway. If anything, I learned that he\’s a cunning individual. He\’s not afraid to use the resources at his disposal to get what he wants. But here\’s the kicker… I had an opportunity to have a conversation with this man recently. It\’s my opinion that he\’s not exactly in his right mind.\”

\”If he is insane, that will make him unpredictable,\” the CMO said. \”This makes him all the more dangerous.\”

Apollo nodded. \”Those are my worries exactly.\” He paused to take in the faces of the people around the table, trying to gauge their reactions to all this. \”I know this is a lot to think about. It\’s not exactly the best way to start our first mission together. But most of you have enough experience to know that the unexpected happens a lot out here, and we need to be ready for it. He waited to give anyone who wanted to say something a chance to say it. When he got back nothing but silence, he stood up. \”Those of you who don\’t work on the Bridge, I shall visit your departments soon for a more proper introduction. As I mentioned from the start, I\’ll be available to whoever has any questions. Dismissed.\” He watched them as they filed out. Before Sam went out the door, she turned and caught his eye. Something told Apollo that she would be the first person to see him about some explanations.

~ * ~

He had returned to the bridge for the rest of his shift. There was basically nothing for him to do. He sat back and closed his eyes, listening to the running of the ship: the movements and conversations of the crew as they walked from station to station or in and out of the turbolift; the various electronic noises everyone\’s consoles made; or most especially, the thrumming of power that traveled through the ship, causing the deckplates under his feet to vibrate. Occasionally, he would glance at the science station, but if Sam saw him, she took no note; she kept busy at her post, whether because of normal duties or as a way of avoiding contact with him was unknown to him.

When the end of his shift came, he was relieved by Thelem; he then headed off the Bridge to make his rounds. He started at Engineering, getting more acquainted with McCormick, or Mac, to his friends. He was a cheerful soul who loved his engines and enjoyed friendly conversation. He reminded Apollo off Mr. Scott, Kirk\’s engineer, and he wondered further if these traits were typical for Scotsman. The ones he had met so far had all been born engineers and very social. If everything went true, this man also had a phenomenal temper, but since things were running like clockwork in the bowels of his ship, he doubted there\’d be anything to currently test his patience.

He continued up through the ship. When he reached Sickbay, he met his CMO, Sorel. \”Greetings, doctor.\” He raised his hand in a split-fingered salute, his common practice for any contact with a Vulcan. \”I trust that everything here is to your preferences.\”

If Vulcans smiled, Sorel would have done so. Honor clearly showed in his expression. \”Thank you, Captain. Everything is indeed satisfactory.\”

After a second of silence, Apollo gave Sorel a sideways glance. \”This is the first time you\’ve served aboard a starship.\”

Sorel raised an eyebrow. \”You are very perceptive. Before the Valiant, I was a healer at the Vulcan Science Academy. I worked there with Dr. Daniel Corrigan. Remarkably, I am here at Starfleet\’s request.\”

Apollo did Sorel one better, raising both eyebrows. \”Starfleet recommended you? Well, I\’ve heard enough about your reputation on Vulcan to say I\’m quite honored to have you as part of my crew.\” Thinking back, Apollo recalled reading sometime while at the Academy that Kirk had been on Vulcan, solving a murder. He remembered Sorel\’s name being mentioned in the article. \”Is Dr. Corrigan here as well?\”

\”Unfortunately, no. Dr. Corrigan died 1.7 years ago.\”

\”Oh. My grievances go with you.\” Another memory hit Apollo, and he wasn\’t fast enough to keep a smile from creeping on his face. \”The last time I was in the presence of a Vulcan medical officer aboard a ship, it was on the science vessel Surak. His name was Selek.\”

Sorel nodded. \”He now teaches medicine at the Science Academy. A very honorable man. It was under his tutelage that I received my training.\”

\”You had a very good teacher.\”

Then it hit Sorel. \”You are the one… the one he spoke of.\”

Apollo was thrown. \”Excuse me?\”

\”There is one story that Selek was quite interested in telling to each of his classes. It was of the time he was assigned to the Surak… they had rescued a ship frozen in a cometary fragment. The human pilot was in a state of cryogenic stasis, having apparently been so for two centuries.\” He paused before adding, \”You are that pilot.\”

The captain shrugged. \”Small galaxy.\”

He could have sworn that Sorel had just bowed, though anyone else would have simply perceived the doctor as merely nodding his head. \”I had always been interested in the fate of that pilot. It is indeed a privilege to be in your service.\”

Apollo wanted to clap Sorel on the shoulder, but he naturally refrained from doing so. \”Thank you. Knowing you\’re here bolsters my confidence in the medical staff.\”

As he headed for the door, Sorel said to him, \”I shall see you soon, since as you probably already know, your physical examination is due.\”

Apollo smirked at him as he headed for the door and shook his head. \”Doctors… always wanting to poke and prod.\” Sorel realized the captain was being sarcastic, but he put on an innocent expression nonetheless. Apollo chuckled as he left Sickbay. It was true that he was more wary than others about being examined, having been subjected to it so much in the past. Still, it felt good to have a Vulcan on board.

He was so deep in thought that he didn\’t see someone coming around the bend. Sam ran into him full tilt and wound up sitting on the deck. Apollo merely looked down at her and raised an eyebrow. \”Where\’s the fire, Commander?\” He proffered a hand to help her up, which she gracefully took.

\”I, uh, I was looking for you, Captain. Thelem told me that you usually take a stroll through the ship when your shift ends. Then I remembered you said you were going to the departments for more informal introductions.\”

He smiled. \”What\’s on your mind?\”

\”I wanted to take you up on your offer. For a further explanation. Sir.\” She had said the last word with a slight smile.

Apollo simply shook his head, still grinning. \”You know, I had a hunch you would be the first, though I\’m sure the doctor will be next. He reminded me of an exam I have due.\”

\”You always hated exams,\” she said coyly.

\”I always felt that I had too many of them. They could have found something else to do.\” He jerked his head in his direction. \”Walk with me.\” As he continued, she slipped beside him, reminding him of the times they always took walks at the Academy. They both allowed silence to dominate for a while, then he said, \”It\’s been a while.\”

\”Hmm? Since what?\” she asked.

\”Since we\’ve taken a walk together,\” he said quietly.

She nodded. \”Mmm-hm. This is nice.\” She had noticed they moved back down through the ship. When he guided her through a door, she wasn\’t surprised to find herself in the arboretum.

He answered her unspoken question. \”I always found it more comfortable to be here when I talk about unofficial matters.\”

She nodded. \”It certainly looks appropriate.\” When they reached the floor-to-ceiling viewports looking out to the stars, streaking by at warp speed, they stopped and she turned to him. \”So, I assume the titles can be dropped here.\” He nodded. \”Would you mind telling me now what happened to your eyes, and whatever else might have changed?\”

He led her to a nearby bench and they sat down. He thought hard about where to start, and what to tell. Since he had already touched upon his experiences on the Merrimac, both in their conversation in the turbolift and in the conference room, he decided that anything else she wanted to know was either in the records or she could ask about it later. So he began by telling her about serving aboard the Monitor. Sam listened intently, asking pointed questions through his tale.

He tried his best to answer them, although after being rescued from the Excalibur, it was more difficult. He could tell her about his physical changes, but as far as his new abilities, such as his eye blasts and being able to fly, he decided to keep that a secret until he was either ready to tell her or it came out on its own unexpectedly. Granted, he realized the latter wouldn\’t look too good… Oh, this? Hehehe… didn\’t I mention I could fly? Silly me. Guess it just slipped my mind, he thought sarcastically… but in his opinion, he could afford to take that risk for now.

When he finished, Sam just sat there for a moment, feeling overwhelmed. So much had happened to him since they had last seen each other. What saddened her the most was that she knew how he felt about being in Starfleet… at the Academy, his confidence was so strong. He was so eager to be a part of it. Yet most of what he told her seemed so terrible. Yet despite it all, he managed to achieve what he wanted… he regained the rank he held in his old military and he was commanding a starship. But what he had to go through to get there…

Sam didn\’t realize she was swaying until she felt his hand on her arm, steadying her. \”Are you okay?\” he asked.

She looked at him… the concern on his face and in his question moved her. It came from the man she had fallen in love with so long ago. But… \”Yeah… I\’m just trying to get this straight. You\’re saying that you\’re not a cyborg anymore, but rather something all together different.\”

He nodded. \”If anything, I guess you could say that the whole has become more than the sum of the parts.\” He paused. \”Are you okay with that?\”

She got up and slowly walked to the viewport, putting her hand on the cool metal. \”I don\’t know. I could deal with you before, but now…\” she turned to face him. \”It\’s just so much. You\’re completely different. Hell, I don\’t know if you even can be considered human anymore.\” She turned away from him again. \”I\’m just not sure…\”

He sat there watching her, aggrieved that his circumstances might push scare her away. Apollo felt if he didn\’t say or do something, he might lose her, but he didn\’t know what that something was. Then a memory surfaced, and suddenly he knew. Apollo slowly stood and came up behind her. He placed his hands gently on her shoulders and softly said into her ear, \”Do you remember what I said, all those years ago? When you questioned my humanity then, too?\”

Sam looked up and turned to face him, her cheeks wet with tears. The look in her eyes told him she remembered. He smiled warmly. \”My heart is still human, Sam.\”

For some reason, that statement hit home. He got up and went over to her. Taking her by the shoulders, he asked her to look at him. She did, finding it not at all difficult to stare into his eyes. \”I told you years ago that as long as my heart remained whole, I\’ll always be human.\”

She sniffed. \”Is it?\”

It was a simple question, one to which demanded a simple answer. He placed his fingers under her chin and gently, slowly, tipped her face up as he brought his closer. When he kissed her a wave of emotion, long shut away by distance and inaccessibility, suddenly washed over him in a flood. They both melted in each other\’s arms. It was obvious that this contact was what they needed… they had been apart far too long. They held each other so closely that a piece of paper couldn\’t fit between them.

After what seemed like forever, they separated. They each found themselves breathing a little heavily, Sam\’s fingers resting on his cheeks. When they embraced again, it was in a friendly hug. \”God, I\’ve missed you, Sam,\” Apollo whispered. They held each other at arm\’s length, and Sam noticed a tear trail down Apollo\’s cheek. It, like his eyes, glowed, though a paler blue than its source. \”I\’ve missed you so much. I\’ve always thought about you, wondered what you were doing, wondered if you were thinking of me. Sometimes, I think I could actually tell that you were.\”

Sam felt a little giddy with this emotion. She let out a laugh that was half a gasp. \”I felt the same way. I\’m sorry for my attitude earlier… that I accused you of forgetting about me. I felt guilty as soon as I had said it… I should have known that you were never the type to do that.\” She traced her foot across the floor, again acting coy. \”Do you… suppose we could pick up where we left off?\”

\”I don\’t know. A lot of time has passed.\” His expression was too serious, and her breath caught in her throat, but her apprehension was without warrant. \”I mean, as you can see, I am a different person now.\”

\”But you\’re also the same… what makes you you is the same, anyway.\” She put a finger on his chest, and traced a heart-shaped pattern there. Then she looked up at him, and the adoration in her eyes sent his heart soaring. \”I\’m glad we\’re together again.\”

\”So am I,\” he said, looking out at the stars. It was almost perfect.

Sam could sense his mood change. \”What is it?\”

He sighed. \”I was thinking of Skip. He should\’ve been here, too. This was something I wanted all of us to share.\”

\”Well, it\’s close enough,\” she said.

Apollo took a step back. He studied her for a moment, then said, \”You know something I don\’t.\”

She smiled cattily. \”My, my. Always the perceptive one. All right, Captain Know-It-All, tell me what I know. And if I catch you trying to read my mind, I\’ll make sure you walk funny for a week.\”

He grimaced at that thought, but refrained from telling her that he doesn\’t read minds. So he simply studied her… God, she looks good in that uniform, he thought.

Sam realized he was staring at her and felt flattered that she could turn his brain to mush. She brought a hand up and stroked his cheek. \”Are you okay? I\’m not making things too hard for you, am I?\” The double entendre wasn\’t lost on him. Her eyes brightened when she saw him blush, though it was a little weird that the color was bluish now rather than red. She chuckled, kissed his cheek and hugged him. \”You\’re sweet. I suppose I can let you off the hook because of that.\” She smiled, a twinkle in her eye. \”Karen came back to Starfleet. She\’s in Stellar Cartography, and she also doubles as a geophysicist. So… she won\’t exactly have much reason to go to the Bridge, but she\’s here.\”

Apollo\’s face lit up with excitement. \”That\’s wonderful! But who\’s watching Ethan?\”

Sam looked confused. \”Ethan…? Oh, her son. She has a sister who\’s watching him. As soon as he\’s old enough, she\’ll send for him.\”

Apollo gave her a wary look. \”Define \’old enough\’.\” He didn\’t much like the idea of having children aboard a ship that just might get the stuffing kicked out of it by one of their own ships, never mind Klingons or Romulans.

\”I don\’t know. She gave the impression that it would be soon, at least while she\’s here.\”

\”That much I figured out.\” He gazed out of the viewport. \”Well, I\’m sure she knows what she\’s doing. Hey, I\’m hungry. You up for something to eat?\”

She thought for a second. \”Now that you mention it, a bite sounds pretty good right about now.\”

\”Great. Let\’s do it.\” He offered his arm.

\”Okay.\” She took his arm, and used it as leverage to lean up and bite his neck.

\”Ow! I thought you wanted something to eat.\” She gave him a predatory smile… he knew how to deal with that. He reached out and grabbed her sides, tickling her until she collapsed, kicking and screaming in a fit of laughter. He could only be glad that at this time, they were the only ones in the arboretum. He would have had a hard time explaining their behavior.

After a few minutes, he helped her up; she was gasping and holding her side. \”Oh,\” she groaned, \”I give, I give. Can we go now?\”

\”Yeah, I think we can.\” He again offered her his arm. This time she accepted it without mischief.



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