Heather F.

Star Trek Universe


Sick Bay was a hurricane of activity. Teams of doctors and nurses worked over three diagnostic beds. A neurologic specialist had been contacted and he directed the actions of one team via monitor. JD's arm had already been immobilized and fused. The ribs had been re-aligned and mended. The head wound though serious was not deadly. Proper medical intervention would prevent any kind of lasting ill effects. The work took hours.

On the next bed over, a soft tissue expert ran his magic over the First Officer. The delicate bones of the face were manipulated back into place and fused. The heavy bruising slowly faded leaving only a hint of the battering. Lacerations disappeared from sight as torn tissue was mended. Blood vessels reconstructed under the accelerated healing of regenerating packs. The First Officer's bloated torn features were slowing beginning to take on their normal appearance. The specialist had requested the mustache be removed....thankfully a fellow doctor prevented the hasty act. She liked a rogue with a mustache.

Jackson worked furiously over Tanner. Vulcan physiology gave the human no trouble. Nathan new his anatomy and physiology inside and out. Under the guide of lasers and computers the doctor quickly and efficiently found and repaired battered torn and abused organs. Though the life signs dipped precariously a time or two Jackson forged on ahead. He did not think on the wounded patient as Vin Tanner. He could not stare at the young features of the Vulcan that had become a fast friend. Nathan did not allow his mind or emotions to wonder over what had happened and why...what would happen if Vin should..... Not once did Dr. Jackson deviate his gaze down toward the figure that stood like a dark specter in the corner of the room. Never did Nathan let his mind even consider what would happen to Captain Larabee should Vin not survive.

Nathan did not have the luxury to think about anything but what immediately lay before him. He focused sorely on the patient. Orders were crisp and clear but not scathing. Instruments appeared in his hands before he uttered a request. His team was made of the best. He never gave any indication that a world outside the small surgical site he worked on even existed. To Nathan it did not exist. Until he finished, his world, his entire focus, was set on what his hands, mind and sensors told him. Vin needed that concentration to survive.

+ + + + + + +

Josiah organized the security detail. Chaplain was placed in the brig with two details watching him. Mary Travis was summoned and under the escort of yet another security detail led the Emperor and Admiral to their quarters.

Sanchez found himself standing alone in the shuttle bay. Blood marred the floor. The congealing pool that had surrounded JD's head...the green marks where Vin had been dragged as a shield and the fat drops of blood that herald the breaking of Wilmington's nose, lips and teeth.

Josiah sighed tiredly. The damage did not stop with the blood. Sanchez left the Shuttle bay as a maintenance crew arrived.

+ + + + + + +

The counselor slid into the darkened rooms. The security chief's quarters were spartan at best. The typical Starfleet issue furniture decorated the rooms. Very little else showed anything of the man that lived behind these doors. In contrast, JD's quarters always appeared like a tornado had run through it. The 'kid' collected gadgets and souvenirs from all over the universe. Buck's quarters were not much better but the First Officer did have sense enough to toss all things unattached to the floor into the closest should guests arrive. There were a few times he simply transported discarded laundry to Vin's quarters. Josiah chuckled at the memory. In return Tanner had transported the belongings off ship. Even Vin's living area took on a sense of a rustic home.

Here though, in Standish's quarters, it was only a shell. A simple area to lay his head when time permitted. It fit his basic needs. It was utilitarian. The only evidence someone lived here was the form curled under a blanket in the bedroom.

Sanchez took a breath and entered the sleeping area.

"Ezra?" his voice was low but loud enough to roust someone sleeping. Josiah slid further into the room. "Ezra?" He stood at the edge of the bed. Only the matted dark top of Standish's hair was visible under the blankets. "Come on Ezra we need to get you back to sick bay." Sanchez sat carefully on the side of the bed. He eased the blankets from the hidden face.

With a resigned sigh Sanchez laid a hand over the sleeping man's forehead. It was something he had seen on primitive worlds as a kid. A simple way to test for a fever...not terribly accurate but helpful. Standish still radiated the sharp, dry, heat of a high fever.

With no response and anxious to get to med lab the giant preacher merely hauled the smaller man into a sitting position. It woke his charge enough to get him moving.

+ + + + + + +

Larabee watched silently in the background as Nathan finally stepped away from Vin's bed. The small smile tossed his way was enough to reassure the captain.

"He's gonna be ok Chris....jist needs some rest." Jackson turned his attention back to the other diagnostic beds. "I'll go check on the other two."

Larabee merely nodded. The captain had already spoken to the doctor's that had tended Buck and JD. They would be back to duty in a few days.

Chris did not find his anger dissipating. His anxiety merely turned a different direction. It churned and fueled the frustration that had gnawed at him from the beginning of this fiasco. Without a word Larabee stormed from med lab.

+ + + + + + +

Josiah guided the faltering steps of Standish down the corridor. Sanchez readjusted his grip on Ezra's upper arm taking more of the weight. At this pace, the counselor was seriously considering tossing the half awares man over his shoulder.

They rounded the corner and came face to face with the captain.

"How are they?" Josiah noticed the burning rage in the Larabee's eyes. He even saw the clenched fists. Sanchez never expected Chris to close in on them swinging.

Ezra's chin snapped around to his right shoulder spraying the adjacent wall with flecks of spittle and blood. A fist crashed into the corner of his left eye driving him from Sanchez's grasp to the floor.

Josiah grabbed Larabee by the front of his uniform and propelled the man across the corridor into the parallel wall.

"What the hell are you doin'?" Sanchez held his grip keeping the younger man pinned.

"He had it figured before any of us," Larabee's voice hissed out with venom. He turned his hardened gaze from the fallen figure on the floor to the officer who kept him restrained to the wall. "All he had to do was trust someone.....the son of a bitch."

Josiah barked out a laugh, "trust? If I recall he was in the process of telling us his finding when he took sick." Sanchez's mirth quickly vanished and a somber expression fell, "you knew what kind of man you were taking on board when you signed him on....he's turning out to be more than you bargained for...but I suspect you knew exactly what was under that gambler skin of his....I suggest you start living with the consequences."

"I don't have too." Larabee's mind still saw the jagged knife wound his com officer. He could still picture JD's head engulfed in the thick darkness of his own blood; the mangled distorted torn flesh that had once been Buck's face....all still vividly visual.

"Did you ever think that the notes were crypted from us as a whole and not you personally?" Admiral Travis's cool voice dampened the building flames. Orrin grimaced at the disarray in the normally pristine corridors. The Maverick Maintenance crew would be experts in removing blood stains before their tour came to a close.

"Your not talking straight." Chris unpried himself from Josiah's hold. Damn man was strong.

"Your not thinking straight," Travis countered. He stared at the struggling Security Chief.

A pregnant pause held the three until Josiah finely spoke out softly, "Who contracted this debacle?"

"Exactly." The Admiral stared from man to man his mind turning with a hundred possibilities.

"You mean someone in StarFleet hired Chaplain?" Larabee muttered in disbelief. The probability of the scenario was not improbable. He finally began to see past the anger and frustration. It was with some new clarity he began to unravel what Standish and subsequently Vin and JD had found tangled just under their feet.

Travis stared from Captain to Counselor, "Who else would have known what name Laddis was traveling under?" Orrin brought his hand to his chin as the thoughts began to line themselves out, "You didn't even know he was coming on board. Damn one here knew...Hell no one was suppose to know.....How high up does this conspiracy go?" Travis's eyes fell to the carpeted flooring as his voice tapered with hushed doom. His mind ran rampart with the possibilities, "Who has the most to gain...or lose..if Laddis is killed...what benefits could possibly arise from the disruptions it would cause?" Orrin Travis raised his eyes and stared hard at the captain as if trying to divine answers.

Josiah watched with fascination as Admiral Travis tapped into the controlled energy that wildly raged just below the calm demeanor of Chris Larabee. Travis gave it direction.

Chris met the older man's gaze and slowly allowed his hazel eyes to fall toward the Commander on the ground.

Standish had managed to draw his knees under himself and pull his forearms close to his chest.

"Would explain why Ezra disguised his notes....didn't want to tip off whoever could or would break into his files.....just hedgin his bets," Sanchez offered in defense to the man dazed at his feet.

Larabee nodded. "Josiah can you read or figure out anything that he has got down?"

"Some...its slow going...I was tempted to key a few phrases for the computer but now that does not seem like a good idea."

"I guess we wait for Ezra to tell us." Larabee stared past the counselor to the spot where Standish struggled from his hands and knees to his feet. Fat lazy drops of blood dripped from Ezra's nose and cut lips. His back muscles quivered with exertion, his arms and legs trembled.

"Come on Commander lets get you back on your feet." Larabee circumvented the counselor and grabbed the Security Chief by the upper arm hauling him to unsteady feet.

Josiah secured Standish's right arm preventing a struggle before it ensued. Sanchez held Larabee's gaze, "you feel the need to hit him best search me out us both some time."

Admiral Travis stood back watching...wondering what type of adhesive kept this dynamic group together. Blood was thicker than water...but if there was no blood between the men then water would suffice.

+ + + + + + +

Jackson fretted and reread his diagnostics. He gazed with frustration at the fever that would not break but simply climb. The moment of clarity his patient exuded in the Shuttle bay must have been the eye of the storm. How much worse would it get? Nothing was working to bring the fever down.

Nettie Wells sat between Vin and JD's diagnostic beds. Buck snored softly on the bed adjacent to the young ensign. Nathan watched relieved when Nettie started whispering to the young Vulcan. A leg shifted under a blanket and hand weakly raised itself only to be grasped in the tough, callused hands of Ms. Wells.

Jackson moved toward the duo and quietly stood at the end of the bed. He watched as Tanner gazed briefly at the older woman trying to re-assure her...relieve her fears. His attempts were muted at best and within moments his eyes fluttered closed without Tanner uttering a sound. Nettie patted the bruised hand softly and layed it back on the bed.

"He's going to be alright Ms Nettie." A weak smile feathered across his features. Vin seemingly had a life threatening injury and he would pull through...same with JD and Buck....yet Standish had a simple illness and Nathan now questioned whether or not the gambler would survive.

The old frontiers woman returned the smile and unconsciously squeezed the hand of the Vulcan. She knew Vin Tanner would see another day. The young Vulcan was to stubborn to do anything else. Nettie had etched her life on a harsh planet, having lost her husband in the efforts to terra form a new world. She had lost her sons to Starfleet and in turn they had lost their lives. She only had Casey left...her niece. Nettie Wells would be damned if she lost any more family without her by their side fighting for them. StarFleet understood this and under the guise of 'relocating' a stubborn old women allowed her to find her way onto the same ship that her niece toured.

Nettie was not much different than Vin Tanner. She was tough and wiry. The old lady could read trail signs with the best of them and could hold her own in most wildernesses. It was with very little difficulty that she could read Nathan's unease.

"It's Mr. Standish you are not so sure about?" Wells cast her gaze down the row of beds. On the farthest bed the Security Chief listlessly moved about in irritated gestures.

Nathan inhaled deeply and shut his eyes briefly. The doctor finally met Nettie's gaze, "Fever should have broken by now....instead it's gone up." Jackson turned his gaze briefly to the man alone at the end of the row, "can't get it to come keeps going like this and...." his voice faded off with some despair. It was just a fever....not some exotic illness or parasite....or any number of terrifying ailments that they terrorize new cadets with at the academy. It was just a simple, ordinary sickness with a few tweaks.

"When my boys used ta take ill.....and couldn't git a fever down." Nettie held Nathan's gaze, "I put them in a cold water or ice bath...worked every time."

Nathan started to argue. This was not some frontier wilderness....they were on a starship...a starship with top of the line, cutting edge medical technology....and it wasn't working...not worth a damn.

It was just a simple fever....maybe it needed a simple solution.


Josiah pinched the bridge of his nose. Patience..One must have patience. Sanchez stared at the data pad and then his translations. He spoke the words out loud. Mimicked the sounds and imagined how they would appear in symbols. He read and reread the little blurb Standish had originally muttered. He matched shapes and lines with what he hoped was the correct word or words.

Sanchez counted to ten...then twenty...thirty passed by and forty was lost somewhere in between and by the time he hit fifty....a chair was knocked over and kicked with vehemence.

Counting never seemed to worked.

Travis merely raised his eye brows, "Having difficulties?" He and Larabee scoured through the list of dignitaries. Who would benefit from such a strike? Worse yet how was it connected to StarFleet if in fact there was a connection?

"I'll strangle him myself," Sanchez muttered hotly. He stalked over to the misused chair and righted it. When he got his hands on Standish he would beat trust into the Commander with his bare hands.

The Admiral watched as the Counselor slam the offending chair upright. It was time for redirection.

"Maybe we should go ask'im?"

This was met with silence. They had been down that road.

+ + + + + + +

Buck watched quietly from his bed. His vision was still fuzzy around the edges. He knew he should hurt but for some reason he felt....Nothing. Comfortably numb. Wilmington on first opening his eyes made sure the kid was ok...then Vin. It bothered him to know that the ordeal was not over. He could sense it in the ship...crazy as it sounded. The ole girl was just not sending out the right signals. Despite the lovely nurses and doctors that smiled and flirted with him...the sense of dread remained. No one was speaking to him. The medics just checked his vitals and asked him nonsensical questions. They would smile sweetly offer some sympathy and disappear. Yet something was off, something lurked under the surface...worry and duress seemed to emanate just out his line of sight. There was concern obviously for Vin and JD but this uneasy feeling involved more than just his friends. No...something was seriously wrong...things were not finished.

Wilmington would be damned if he was not going to find out for himself.

Nathan had finally started offering some real information when Buck struggled to climb out of bed. If no one was going to talk to him , that was all well and good, he would get answers on his own.

Jackson's hands had been ice cold and wet when he pushed the struggling Wilmington back onto the bed. A sharp litany of curses were uttered by the First Officer when the iced hands restrained him. Nathan's explanation was simply to gaze down the row of beds to the 'tub' of ice water and the person three quarters of the way submerged with in it.

Nathan then quietly added, "Seems to be working." Jackson would have to make it a point to thank Nettie.

Buck furrowed his brow at the presence of Chris, Josiah and Travis. "What's going on?"

It was then Jackson delved into the meat of the matter. JD and Vin listened quietly from their beds.

+ + + + + + +

Chaplain sat with apparent unconcern in his cell. He gazed up at the three intruders outside the shimmering restraint field with mild interest.

"Who hired you?" Larabee approached the cell with the calculated finesse of a shark. They had managed to get Standish to read the encrypted data aloud. Sanchez had merely listened. They had a they needed confirmation.

Larabee was met with silence.

"Your cooperation will only aid your current situation." The Admiral stepped forward backing his captain.

"My current situation will not last," Ganain Chaplain smiled and sat back against the wall. "Tell me has Sullivan died yet?" His inquiry was met with confused glances. With a frustrated dismissive wave of his hand he corrected himself, "Standish...has the whelp fallen to his fever?"

"Does this concern you?" Josiah's voice rumbled from the background.

Chaplain chuckled for a bit and abruptly abbreviated it , "Not at all."

"Then why ask?" Sanchez pushed further. There was a connection between those two that they did not understand.

Chaplain sat forward resting his forearms on his knees. He glared from man to man, as if searching for something. Then with an almost teasing chuckle leaned back against the wall.

"Tell me, was it the Vulcan or the Ensign that followed Standish's trail?" Before the others could answer he continued, "they should be commended." He laughed harshly at the assumed deaths. The foolish Vulcan thought he so proud to challenge me.

Vin and JD had found the same name that linked Chaplain to the assassination attempt. Yet their source of information was still dubious. They merely followed Standish's trail. Their efforts though admirable would not be enough to bring forth an accusation strong enough to garner action. Travis and Chris needed something more than the dark, twisted, trail woven by a 'black balled' officer like Standish. If Larabee or Travis were to present the supposed contractor to the powers that be...they would be condemning Vin and JD to intense scrutiny. Their actions in obtaining said proof was not legitimate. Who would believe the findings of an Ensign and Navigation officer? Especially when their discoveries were merely the tracings of Standish? and involved illegal entry into encrypted files of StarFleet Command?

The Admiral unfortunately needed more....and so did Chris. The name offered by Ezra and confirmed in the notes compiled by JD and Vin was outrageous. Indignation and fury directed at the three young officers poured from Travis at the initial discovery.

Another Admiral had been indicated. Hell, not indicated, but flatly accused. Travis had been beguiled and blinded momentarily by loyalty and friendship. He struck out briefly but brilliantly at the three who dare stand and point fingers at one so distinguished as Admiral Jimmy Fitzpatrick. Yet those three were in no shape to be standing. Their discoveries had nearly led to their deaths.

Chris and Josiah rightly feared that if Admiral Orrin Travis could for even the briefest moments become lost in fury and objectively refuse to believe the evidence before him...placed there by officers he knew and trusted....then wouldn't it be safe to think that the same would be true of the Admiralty. Would they not close rank and protect one of their own from the sharp injustices of a treacherous gambler, untrained Vulcan and an untried Ensign. By presenting the findings without more 'stable' resources, Admiral Travis and Captain Larabee would be tipping their hands to Fitzpatrick. Worse yet they could bring ruin to two promising careers and squelch the struggles of one trying to salvage a career.

"We know who hired you." Larabee leaned against the wall with arms crossed effecting a stance of nonchalance.

"Then accuse him on the evidence you have," Chaplain challenged from his cot. The assassin sat smugly, his confidence never wavering.

He knew they could not...he understood their need for confirmation. Chaplain lived by certain codes. Maintaining the confidences of his employers was one of them.

"You trust the Vulcan...that is plain to see." Gainain leaned forward again, "Its been a while since I've had the privilege of spilling green blood.....They do run hot don't they?" Chaplain pushed himself to his feet and stepped forward, "You know...Thomas wanted me to kill Sullivan...Standish...right off. I told him you'd hunt us down to the ends of the galaxy.....I'm not so sure I didn't make a mistake....the Vulcan yes...the Ensign...your First Officer would give up everything to avenge the kid...but Standish?"

Chaplain let his smile leech across his face at the sudden anger building in the captain.

"You keep referring back to Ezra? Why is that?" Josiah stepped closer to the Captain. He knew Chris found the gambler frustrating on a good day but what neither, Captain and Security Chief, realized was, in a pinch, they would unflinchingly defend one another. Not in the same manner, never. They were too much a part, too opposite, to even consider the idea. The fact remained they would cross what ever imaginary line they drew to protect each other or any one of the other six.

It was indeed a brotherhood. Unfortunately, Ezra never had a brother...he did not understand the give and take and sometimes brutal honesty brothers wrought on one another. Chris was blind to the oppressive role of eldest. He smothered Standish with his expectations and disciplines. Like a true family, the seven were brothers...fighting, squabbling and pointing out one another's weaknesses for the pure benefit of brotherly torture. It was the way of large families. One either rolled with the punches, dove into the fight with spit and vinegar or took their digs with silent angst and built your own stock pile of insecurities. Standish frequently dove into the fight with Nathan, more commonly he rolled with the punches thrown by Buck, JD and Vin...but almost tragically he stockpiled the insecurities Chris unwittingly bared. It was a chasm that had yet to be breached by the two. Neither the oldest nor the youngest...not the leader nor the doctor who was friends to everyone...Standish distinguished himself from his six impressive counterparts by being the gambler, the conman and notorious cheater.

Like the river boat gamblers from centuries ago, Standish flourished within the undercurrent of deceit. Underhanded tricks were as accepted and as part of the games as the cards themselves. It permeated the profession...the very life style. It was with willing knowledge people tried their luck against gamblers. The river boat hustlers were known for their dark, underhanded dealings. It made the risk and temptation all the more alluring. People were not innocently duped into losing their fortunes when they sat down to a card game or tempted fate with the Three Card Monte. Heavens no. They tried their luck, tried their powers and lost their wages. If those wages slowly became fortunes...does one blame the beneficiary of such fool hardy endeavors or does one blame the fool who kept thinking they would win the next one.

Sanchez knew the answer....Fault fell to the winner. It was easier to place anger on another than on oneself. Blame the cat that ate the canary...but don't find fault with the canary that sits within reach of the cat. Just as a predator will kill or scavenge to survive and gambler would invoke his dexterous, gifted, hands to ensure his immediate fortune. It is no secret a wild predator will kill for his is not a shock that Larabee would kill to defend his crew...No one blinks an eye when Buck's charisma lands him another lady...Or that Nathan could slice you six ways to Sunday without breaking a sweat.... Vin's uncanny marksmanship is awed. It is with great disdain, with scathing self righteousness that others condemn a gambler for slight of hand.

Should the river boat gambler leave his watery home and forge a life by settling down in a small town. Then suddenly the one time scourge of the river becomes a respected member of society. He or she becomes a person to whom others seek advice. They become known to play a 'square' game and more importantly ensure an honest game is played within 'his' town.

It was the dichotomy of the relationship that had Sanchez marveling. In one environment trickery was accepted and almost expected but those perpetrating such slight of hand were cursed. Yet should that same tainted, gifted, individual make a home in an established town he became a respected member of that citizenry. Environment marked the gambler. In a small town his skill alone was enough that it kept his stomach full and himself warm and dry. The others trusted him. Place the same man on a river boat and once again his reputation slithered to the level of filth.

Ezra had at some point left his preverbal riverboat....yet for some reason the black taint of his profession hung on him like dung gnats. Instead of becoming a respected officer amongst the elite of his crew...he ported mistrust. With the stigma attached and his own facade of indifference the gambler became a hobo of sorts....bouncing from ship to ship; crew to crew....

Larabee latched onto him. Not only the Captain but his senior officers as well. Amongst the other misfits and outcasts the gambler found a niche. Instead of settling into it peacefully, rather than work comfortably within the notch that accommodated him, Standish balked and fought. It was not the same angry fight that would flare across Vin's eyes from time to time; nor was it the same as the tight controlled frustration that would burn within Nathan. The gambler struggled against them with easy laughter and an unconcerned air. "Take me or leave me but don't expect me to change..."

Everyone expected a change....and one had begun occurring but it was not truly a metamorphose...not at all. It was merely an emergence of something long buried or hidden. Something spirited away so long ago that even Ezra forgot its existence. A fledgling conscience? Maybe...the distrust, the machiavellian schemes...would they ever go away? Josiah nearly probably brought a certain charm to their southerner.

The others were not blind to the shifting within Standish's moral character. Friendships had begun to bud and independence had started to take a slight step backward.

Except the Captain...It appeared he still judged the Southerner based on past experience. Worse yet Standish fueled the flames of discontent. Yet Larabee had hand picked Ezra so somewhere there had to exist some level of trust. Standish accepted the posting...knowing the kind of man his new Captain why the friction? Why the reciprocity of distrust? Like a Grizzly Bear and a Badger...each living in the same territory, no reason for competition but they circled around one another with bared teeth. A natural path of the relationship. Somehow in this aggressive and defensive posturing...Josiah needed to find a common ground for both to settle their hackles. The presence of Chaplain merely tossed a meaty bone between the two. The fluctuating heaving relationship between the Larabee and Standish seemed to rear and bristle to a greater degree.

Well founded? Josiah could not be sure. Somehow Gainain, a killer, had touched the life of their gambler and influenced it. Josiah hoped it did not deepen the unbridged canyon between Larabee and Standish. The counselor could not help but consider the possibility that the relationship between killer and security chief reflected in any way to the turbulent friction between Chris and Ezra. Was there something of a connection or parallel from one to the other?

Gainan stood with ease before the three men. He stared at the older Counselor then the Admiral and finally the Captain. Travis held the reins on Larabee but it was tenuous at more real control than a man holding a Lion by a leash made of twine. Chaplain silently congratulated Travis on his subtle technique.

Chaplain bore his gaze into the Captain. Larabee merely met it unflinchingly and returned it. The assassin had no hope of instilling fear into the man...there would be no backing physical confrontation for victory. Chris Larabee would ignore the dance of predators and dive right for the jugglers.

The Captain was a man who had nothing to lose. It made him exceptionally dangerous. Life held as much pain for Larabee as did death. Gainan could not hope to gain anything positive with force. Even amongst predators there is a hierarchy that demanded recognition. A wolf would not fare well against a shark in water....and a shark would not prevail on shore.

The situation and territory did not bode favorably for Gainan. He would change the nature of the fight.

Josiah saw the change in body language...realized a battle would be waged on a different front. Sanchez reacted first.

"What have you done to Ezra?"

Chaplain raised an eyebrow at the unexpected question. He leaned back slightly, creating some distance perhaps from the question asked.

"Done with him?....Surely your medical people have discovered the nature of his illness." Gainan crossed his arms. His grey eyes darted from Larabee to Sanchez.

"I'm not asking about that," Josiah pressed again.

The killer nodded his head in understanding. "Know him?...How did he come to study under me?" An unpleasant laugh crackled forth, "a damn nuisance was what he higher than my waist...yet he was gifted in the art of deception. He knew how to make marks look left while he stole from their right." Gainain stepped forward, "Even at that age he could smile at you and lie like a prophet....but what marked him above the rest....he expected no more from others than what he gave them." Chaplain leaned against the wall staring past Sanchez and his questions. Instead his mind recalled the dimpled, green, eyed face that would have you believing in miracles. Under that beguiling innocence lay a thresher shark but even under that huddled a lonely child.

"and..." Sanchez gently pushed.

Gainain straightened out, "Maude came back into his life one day and pulled him from school....I have not seen him since, well, until here....close to some thirty standard years."

Chris had begun to lose interest in the conversation and made to leave. Let the counselor sort out the sordid details of the crew's history. Larabee had bigger problems at hand. Something, however, stopped him. Just under two and a half decades and his Security Chief still felt the pull of the killer behind the restraint field.

"Yet he remembers you and your lessons?" Sanchez remarked slightly, unbelieving, but putting words to Larabee's thoughts.

"I simply offered him protection and friendship when he had neither." Chaplain's eyes held Larabee's for the briefest moment.

Sanchez watched the exchanged. Offer scraps to a starving dog and you had a loyal companion for life. Did Chris understand?


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