I've always found it... interesting how opposite Han and Isolder are.
Here we go!
*****Chapter Ten: Wedding Bells and PaperworkCaptain's log, Stardate 58497.54. It is with no small sense of honor that the
Enterprise and her crew deliver President Bacco to Hapes Prime for what will hopefully be a landmark conference.
And on a more personal note, I and several members of my crew have been invited to the wedding of Jacen Solo and Tenel Ka Djo, along with Captain Riker and Councilor Troi-Riker from the
Titan. I look forward to seeing Will and Deanna once more.
Queen Mother Teneniel Djo stood in one of the numerous empty rooms of the Fountain Palace, her husband Prince Isolder by her side. Several guards in ceremonial armor and aides with datapads and comms stood around near the walls, looks of anticipation almost visible on their beautiful faces.
Teneniel cleared her throat, getting everyone's attention. "When the... transportation is complete, I wish for all of you to drop your guards and show your honest emotion." She looked around the room at everyone through the half-veil she wore. "This will be the first ever occurrence of the transportation on Hapes, and reactions to it must be measured."
An aide stepped forward and held out an ornate communicator. "Ta'a Chume, the Enterprise
calls," she said, dropping to one knee.
Teneniel suppressed a sigh and took the communicator. "Yes?"
A vaguely male voice came over. "Fountain Palace, we are ready to transport on your signal."
The Queen Mother ran through a quick calming exercise Luke Skywalker had taught her before speaking. "Proceed." Her head shot up. Was that the proper command? Was it not along the lines of... energizing?
Her fears were allayed when four columns of silvery energy appeared, quickly fading into four humanoids and one equinoid. Federation President Nanietta Bacco stood in a blue dress, while Captain Picard, Commander Data and Lieutenant Lusa flanked her in Starfleet dress uniforms. And finally, Spock stood in Vulcan ambassadorial robes with a Starfleet combadge pinned to a flap and lightsaber hanging from his belt.
Bacco held out her thin, wrinkled hands and bowed. "I greet you, Queen Mother," she said in a commanding voice, confirming what Teneniel could feel through the Force.
Teneniel returned the bow, then extended her weathered hand to Bacco. "And I welcome you to Hapes and the Fountain Palace." She stepped back and looked Bacco over. "It... didn't hurt?"
The president blinked. "What didn't hurt?"
Teneniel waved a hand at her, Picard, Data, Spock and Lusa. "The transportation." She leaned forward. "Truth be told, this is the first such occurrence in the Hapes Consortium."
Bacco opened her mouth slightly and nodded. "Oh, no." She held up a hand and waved it at Teneniel. "You don't feel a thing."
Picard stepped forward. "If you'd like, I could arrange transporter demonstrations for you if you're curious." He smiled faintly. "Some Jedi have found it a rather enlightening experience, actually."
Teneniel paused before nodding. "I thank you, Captain, and shall consider it." She turned to Bacco once more. "The Fountain Palace is yours, President Bacco." She clapped her hands and a pair of servants approached, baskets of native fruits in hand.
Bacco's mouth opened and closed before she finally cleared her throat. "Perhaps later, when I've settled in a bit." She turned to the rest of the landing party. "Ambassador Spock and I would like a look of the conference room, please." She leaned back and pasted a smile on her face as she looked at the Vulcan. "Right?"
The Queen Mother inclined her head and turned to the door. "Of course." She waited for Bacco to stand by her side before the two women walked off.
Spock turned to Picard. "I take my leave of you, Captain. Thank you for the ride." He held his hand up and splayed the fingers in the traditional Vulcan Salute. "Peace and long life."
Picard held up his hand and returned the salute. "Live long and prosper," he said as Spock turned and followed Bacco and Teneniel out of the room. The Captain looked to the remainder of his landing party. "Well, it appears we must make do for a bit on our own."
At that, Isolder stepped forward. "If you would allow me, Captain," he said in a clipped accent. "I would be happy to show you around."
Picard bowed to the prince. "I would be honored, Prince Isolder. And on another note, I would
like to thank you for sending those Battle Dragons and other ships along during the attack on the Unicomplex. I had an opportunity to speak to the fleet commander, an Admiral Advis. A somewhat... interesting man, considering your culture."
Isolder chuckled, causing wrinkles in his usually smooth face. "Uncle is an independent, headstrong man trying to forge his own destiny in the galaxy. Among Hapan males, that is somewhat rare." He stepped back and motioned to the door. "The wedding is in two hours, Captain. May I end the tour by showing you to the hall and seats?"
Picard nodded and smiled. "Thank you, Prince Isolder." He, Data and Lusa followed the prince out of the room, servants and guards trailing slightly behind. "I was wondering if any artifacts of the old Lorell Raiders survived, and if they were open to examination."
Isolder glanced at the Captain. "A bit of a historian?"
A rather large grin crossed Picard's face. "It's a passion of mine. A strong foundation must be built in order to move on."
Isolder nodded as they turned a corridor. "But one must not be looking back while moving forward all the time, unless you want to run into a wall." He stopped in his tracks and focused on Lusa. "Speaking of the future, I must give my thanks to a representative of it." He approached the young Starfleet officer and bowed at the waist. "Thank you for helping my precious daughter in one of her most difficult times. Neither Teneniel nor I could be there, but I'm glad someone was."
Lusa blushed slightly, but she went down on one foreleg and bowed her humanoid body, sweeping her arm out. "I was honored to aid a friend, Prince Isolder." She straightened up and smiled. "The Force... was with us."
Tenel Ka stared at herself in the mirror, not entirely sure what she was looking at. She rubbed her hands over the green wedding dress she wore, pausing over her belly and the 'baby bump' showing. She scanned the child, feeling the link it represented between her and Jacen. Will you be like him, or I? A combination of us?
Jaina walked over, adjusting the shoulder straps on her black bridesmaid's dress and stumbling slightly in her heels. "I hate heels. I hate heels," she mumbled. She finally stomped on the carpeted floor, breaking off the heels. "Much better!" she exclaimed, grinning. She looked up at Tenel Ka in the mirror and smiled warmly at her old friend. "You look beautiful."
Tenel Ka glanced over and returned the smile. "Thank you, friend Jaina." She looked back at the mirror and sighed. "I still cannot believe this day is upon me. Marriage to Jacen..." Her words drifted off and she looked to the high-arched ceiling.
Jaina looked at her, waving a gloved hand in front of Tenel Ka's blank face. "Tenel Ka? Hello, anyone in there?" She glanced around at the servants. "I think she blew a cyber-fuse or something."
Gray eyes blinked and Tenel Ka shook her head. "I am fine," she said, shaking her head. "And that is a fact." She suddenly looked to the door and smiled as it opened. "Mother!"
Queen Mother Teneniel Djo walked into the room, followed by Bacco and several aides. "My apologies," she said to the Federation president, "but I must attend to my daughter on this important day of hers." She glanced at an aide. "Show President Bacco to the wedding hall."
Bacco nodded. "Of course, Teneniel. I'd be disappointed if you didn't attend to this." She turned to the door, but stopped when she lay eyes on Tenel Ka. She stepped to the princess. "A green dress?"
Tenel Ka looked herself over. "Yes, President Bacco. It is to honor Jacen's Corellian heritage." She pointed to the carpet. "To honor his Alderaanian heritage, we'll be kneeling before the official."
Bacco nodded slowly. "And to honor your own heritage?"
A smirk crossed Tenel Ka's mouth. "To honor my Dathomiran heritage, he will be wearing a collar around his neck. And to honor my Hapan heritage, he has his left wrist tied up." She raised her right hand. "And to honor him
, I shall be bound to him by the same length of rope."
Bacco smiled. "Something old, something new. Something borrowed and something blue."
Teneniel and Tenel Ka looked at her. "What?" Teneniel asked, face scrunching.
The president chuckled slightly. "Sorry, old Earth custom." She looked around the room, seeing Jaina. "Anyone else part of the wedding party?"
Tenel Ka shook her head. "Only one will stand by me, and only one will stand by Jacen when we wed. It's a galactic tradition among most human cultures." She held up her right hand. "Although like Earth, we'll have rings."
Bacco bowed slightly at the waist at Tenel Ka, then turned to Teneniel and bowed once more. "Thank you," she said before walking to the door. She motioned to her attending aide before following him out.
Jacen tugged on his tie, sighing. He traced the collar around his neck with his finger. "An hour and a half," he muttered. "I can't believe it." He turned around and looked over his shoulder at Anakin. "Can you?"
Anakin leaned against the far wall, smirking slightly. "Cold feet?"
Jacen swallowed and looked back to the mirror. His stomach flopped about and he turned once more to his younger brother. He walked over to Anakin. "Anakin... " He glanced down at the floor and blinked. "I still can't get it out of my mind. I don't think I'll ever
get it out of my mind. The things he did, the people he killed."
The youngest of the Solo clan paused before nodding. "It'd be a waste of time to tell you not to think of the other Jacen." he reached over and patted Jacen on the shoulder. "And it's not a bad thing to avoid evil either," he said, winking. "Just don't let it rule your life and you'll be fine."
Jacen nodded, his smile returning. "Thanks, bro," he said, returning the pat. "And if I don't marry Tenel Ka, she'll probably kill me," he finished. "Or Aunt Mara will." He suddenly paused. "Force, I hope she'd kill me and not the other way..." He let out a growl and held his hands up, shaking his head. "Never mind, never mind!"
Anakin shrugged and waved his hand to the door. "Well, shall we make way to the hall so you may get married?"
Jacen held up his left hand and clenched it. He reached out with the Force, feeling his connection with Tenel Ka and blushing slightly. "Yeah. Let's go." He looked to the various servants around the room and waved. "Thank you for all your help."
The two brothers walked out of the room, Anakin slightly ahead. He looked back at his older brother. "So, any idea what to name the kid?"
Jacen paused in midstride, his head cocking to the side. He nodded slightly and smiled. "Yeah, good idea." He continued walking down the corridor, taking a left at the first intersection. "We were thinking of a name from Earth..."
Luke stood in his finest Jedi robes and black suit, staring out at the sea of people gathered to witness Jacen and Tenel Ka's wedding. He looked down at the front rows in front and focused, reaching out with the Force. "Commander Data?"
Data shot out of his seat, sliding along from his seat near the center to the aisle. He walked up to Luke at the dais. "Master Skywalker, what may I do for you?"
The Jedi Master motioned to the rows upon rows of spectators on the ground floor, the balconies, and lining the walls. He looked down at the immediate front rows and spoke up. "How many people are in attendance at the moment?"
Data scanned each face with his optics, recording each one. "There are currently nine hundred forty-seven sapient beings, not counting guards." He looked to Luke and grinned. "And when Jacen and Tenel Ka are married, they shall be observing you as well." He patted Luke on the shoulder somewhat hard, causing the Jedi Master to stumble. "Is that not exciting?"
Luke paled and swallowed. His eyes darted about and he reached up and wiped his brow, noticing sweat that wasn't there a moment ago. "Well, I think... perhaps..." His throat dried up and he blinked. "Perhaps-"
Mara appeared by his side, red dress hiked up around her ankles. "Luke, you all right?" she asked, concern plain on her face. She took his hand and patted it. "Don't worry, farmboy. The crowd will be focused on the two kids, not you."
Han rose from his seat in the front row and approached the dais. "Kid, you all right?" He crossed his arms and leaned forward. "If you need someone to hold you up, that's fine," he said, smirking.
Luke's lips twitched. "Very funny, Han." He glanced to Mara and his hand moved around, giving Mara's a quick squeeze. "Thanks for the actual
support, hon," he said, eyes shining.
Han held up his right hand, palm out. "Okay, okay. In all seriousness, thanks for getting the one-day license and officiating the ceremony. Jacen and Tenel Ka were thrilled when you accepted their proposal to you." He looked off to the side and held up his arm, waving. "Hey, Lando!"
The handsome head of Tendrando Manufacturing and one of Han's oldest friends walked up. He flashed a dazzling smile, cape fluttering behind him. "Thanks for the invitation, Han," he said, smile dropping from his face. He looked away and scowled. "After what I did-or rather, didn't do-I'm surprised."
Han's brow wrinkled. "Lando... what are you talking about?" He groaned and rubbed his face. "Lando, you and Tendra were sort of cut off from the rest of the galaxy when the Borg took Corellia. You two had your hands full with three million refugees, for Force sake!" He reached over and patted his old friend on the back. "Nothing to worry about, Lando. You two had your hands full."
Lando's smile regained some of its sparkle. He returned the pat and nodded. "Thanks, old buddy," he said before turning and walking back to his seat.
Han chuckled. He suddenly checked his wrist chrono and followed, sitting next to a quietly crying Leia. Mara soon followed even as Isolder and Teneniel took their own places with the family.
The gathered masses quieted down and all turned to a huge set of double doors at the far
end of the hall. The ornately-decorated doors slid open and Jacen and Tenel Ka entered, the strains of stringed instrumnets wafting through speakers embedded in the ceiling and walls. Jaina and Zekk followed behind and the doors closed.
Jacen and Tenel Ka approached the dais and knelt before Luke, their bond in the Force almost visible. They stopped before Luke and separated, facing each other before kneeling.
Luke looked down at the two and spread his arms out. "Love can hurt, love can heal. It can damn, and save. With these two, it healed and saved." He looked down at the smiling lovers and a grin slowly spread across his own face. "Jacen Solo and Tenel Ka Djo kneel before you all, honoring their different heritages and sharing with you their love and commitment to each other. Now they make the commitment permanent."
The Jedi Master dropped to one knee as Jacen held up his left hand and a length of red ribbon tied around it. He took it even as Tenel Ka raised her right hand. "Tenel Ka wears Corellian wedding attire, while they kneel as Alderaanians do. Jacen wears a collar, like the males of Dathomir." He paused as a wave of laughter swept the audience. "And to honor her Hapan heritage, he is bound." He took a bit of string not wrapped around Jacen's hand and tied it around Tenel Ka's. "And Tenel Ka is bound as well, to honor him
Luke stood back up and glanced to his right. Artoo rolled out and a small hatch opened on his squat, cylindrical body. A fine manipulator arm extended, the pincers clutching a small, velvet-covered box. Luke took the box and opened it, revealing two corusca-studded rings. "Rings are a symbol of commitment, in our galaxy and many cultures of the Milky Way. The two here will wear them now to symbolize their commitment and love." He stepped back and held out his hands. "Please rise."
Jacen and Tenel Ka stood up, Jacen groaning slightly as blood rushed back into his legs. He held up his free hand while Tenel Ka took one of the rings and, with both hands, slid it onto his ring finger. He swayed and stumbled a bit from his left hand being bound to Tenel Ka's, but kept his footing. He then took the other ring and slid it onto Tenel Ka's free hand. He locked eyes with her through her half-veil and swallowed. I love you.
I love you as well. Our child loves you.
Luke smiled. "If there is anyone who objects, speak now." He paused as silence descended, then continued. "Jacen Solo, do you take Tenel Ka Djo as your wife, in good and bad times, for as long as you live?"
Jacen nodded. "I do."
Luke turned to the Hapan princess. "Tenel Ka Djo, do you take Jacen Solo as your husband, in good and bad times, for as long as you live?"
Tenel Ka half-smiled and shook her head. "No, I take him as my husband even beyond death. If I go before him, then I shall welcome him into the Force. And if he goes before I do, then he shall not be lonely for long." The half-smile widened. "And that is a fact."
Luke chuckled. "Then by the power vested in me, by the Jedi Order and the New Republic Judicial System, I pronounce you man and wife." He glanced at them. "You may kiss the bride."
Jacen reached over and, with shaking hands, pulled Tenel Ka's veil up and over her head. He leaned forward, but Tenel Ka grabbed his shoulder with her untied hand, pulling him forward and locking lips with him. Their bond intensified, their thoughts of two people... yet one.
Tenel Ka broke the kiss, taking a deep breath. She and Jacen turned to the crowd as they stood up from their seats, clapping as the two walked down the aisle and out, to begin their life.
*****One hour later
Captain Picard tugged on his dress uniform and sighed. He adjusted the shoulders and scowled. "I think the replicator is malfunctioning. My uniform doesn't fit."
Will Riker turned to him and shook his head. "No, Jean-Luc. All Starfleet dress uniforms are designed to be not only ill-fitting, but hideous as well." He raised his glass of wine, letting it hide a bit of his smirk. "Wouldn't you agree?"
By his side, Deanna Troi-Riker nodded. She waved her hand over the starch-white overcoat with gold embroidery. "Fully, my dear." She brought her hand up and tossed a bit of her long, dark red hair. "Honestly, wearing this too long and I might become a Nightsister."
Riker's eyebrows shot up. "I don't think they're that
." He reached over and picked at the gold trailing down the front. "Maybe a fallen Jedi, but I don't think you'll burst a blood vessel."
Deanna's hand went to her face and she brushed her cheek. "Maybe we'd better stop joking about this," she admitted, red coloring her cheek. She glanced around at everyone in the reception, feelings of love and happiness flooding through her. "Ah, the perfect antidote to such words." She raised her glass. "A toast to-"
"Excuse me, aren't you waiters supposed to be waiting on people?"
Deanna's head shot around. "Excuse me?" she blurted out, lips twisting. She eyed Wes Janson and Hobbie Kilvian as the two fighter pilots approached. "Do we look like waiters to you?"
Wes looked up and down, rubbing his chin. "Yes," he pronounced. "All three of you look like waiters." He turned his head to Hobbie. "Major, would you say these three fine upstanding Starfleet officers look like they should be serving drinks at the Twenty-third Hour?"
Hobbie nodded. "Serving drinks and busing tables." he held up his hand and snapped his fingers. "Chop chop, as they say on Earth! We need our drinks and little snacks with cheeses on them!"
Wedge approached from another angle, a look of exasperation on his face. "Sorry, Captain," he said. "I'm afraid those two have the mental age only slightly lower than their shoe sizes." He looked at the pair. "Don't you have some Hapans to flirt with?"
Wes smiled and saluted before he and Hobbie walked off, making a beeline for a pair of guards near a door.
Next to Wedge, his lovely wife Iella Wessiri-Antilles nodded, locks of her short, blond-brown hair sliding into her eyes. "Play nice, Wes," she said, calling after them. "I'm sure you wouldn't want your molecules scrambled during transport." She looked to Picard and smiled. "Sorry about that, Captain. How are you enjoying Hapes?"
Picard smiled slightly. He picked up a canape and nibbled on it. "The cuisine is quite rich. Fortunately, I'm used to it." He looked at Wedge and Iella, noticing their slumped shoulders and dark circles around their eyes. "What news of the Corellia Sector?"
Iella's eyes turned slightly glassy. "After the wedding and a briefing by Ackbar, we're taking an extended leave. All the sons and daughters of Corellia, Selonia, Drall, Talus and Tralus are converging to help. It won't be easy, and it won't be overnight, but she will be healed."
Picard lowered his glass and nodded. "If there is anything Starfleet can do, we shall. Our own wounds are nothing compared to what happened to other nations."
Iella smiled, though it failed to reach her eyes. "Thanks, but you've still got other concerns closer to home."
Wedge opened his mouth, but his eyes shot to the right, followed by his head. "Hey, who are-"
A young man in a brown pinstriped suit ran up to Picard, hand extended. "Are you Captain Jean-Luc Picard?" he bellowed, eyes flashing. "Are you? Oh, please say that you're the captain of the Enterprise
!" His head darted around. "Ooh, you are
Deanna's dark eyes widened and she tapped a spot right behind her right ear. "What-who are you?" she asked, hand straying down to the lightsaber at her belt.
"I'm the Doctor, and you don't need that," the 'Doctor' said, frowning slightly. He reached around Picard and grabbed a glass of wine. "Come on, it's a wedding. Weddings are fun!" He took a sip of the clear-colored wine and shuddered. "Ooh, Gallinore vintage! I haven't had that in a few hundred years." He looked over his shoulder and waved. "Rose, come on over! It's Captain Picard!"
Picard's brow furrowed and he crossed his arms. "Doctor... do I know you? And if not, how do you know me?"
The Doctor smiled. "Oh, ho! The paradox, Captain! Stardate 47988.0!" He patted Picard on the upper arms, the smile dropping away. "You saw time as it was, as it is and how it would be and you beat the Continuum."
Picard's mouth dropped. "That was classified above top secret, Doctor," he said, eyes narrowing. "So I ask again, how do you know me?"
Deanna cleared her throat. "Captain, you won't get any answers from him. He's beyond... us?" She cocked her head to the side as the Doctor's aura wavered, seeming to be there and also somewhere else. " She focused on him. "Are you a Traveler, Doctor?"
The Doctor turned to her and shook his head, smiling slightly. "Oh, no, Deanna. I'm not really beyond you." He glanced over his shoulder. "As for being from Tau Alpha C, nope." He waved his hand around his head. "Still got all my hair, after all." he looked over his shoulder. "Ah, there you are!" He stepped back as a blond-haired humanoid walked over, eight months pregnant and glowing. "This is my wife, Rose Tyler." He suddenly stepped over next to Picard. "Rose, this is him!"
Rose leaned back slightly, eyeing Picard. "What, him?" she said, pointing. "Come on, Doctor. You made him sound so impressive. He doesn't even have all his hair!"
The Doctor's mouth opened in an 'O' of shock. "Rose!" he scratched the side of his forehead. "Sorry, I'm so sorry."
Deanna covered her mouth with her hand, hiding her smirk. "She's actually kidding," she said.
Wedge held up a hand and cleared his throat. "Should Iella and I take off?" he asked, head bobbing slightly. "You folks seem to have your hands full here."
The Doctor looked over and stepped forward, taking Wedge and Iella by the hands. "No, nononononoNO! You two come on, come on!" He led them a few steps closer. "This is Rose. Rose, this is..."
"Wedge Antilles and Iella Wessiri-Antilles," Iella said, motioning to Wedge while introducing themselves. "So, Doctor. What's your field of study? Is it medicinal or some other field?"
Rose spoke up. "The Doctor here is the foremost expert on temporal mechanics and quantum string theory, along with alternate reality substrata." She suddenly frowned. "Did I just say that?" she asked out loud, cocking her head to the side.
The Doctor shoved his hands into his pockets and shrugged, his shoulders almost dislocating. "Hang around me long enough and you'd be most
surprised at what you'd say. I almost had good old James talking like that before..." A cloud passed over him before he pasted a grin back on his face. "Well, anyway!" He reached over and picked up another glass of wine, holding it up. "To absent friends."
An air of solemnity descended. Riker, silent while the Doctor spoke, held his own glass of wine up. "To absent friends."
Picard, Deanna, Wedge and Iella also raised their glasses, nodding and murmuring .*****
Lusa approached the main table Jacen and Tenel Ka sat at and bowed, going to one foreleg. "Congratulations," she said, smiling broadly.
Jacen rose from his seat and held up his hand. "Oh, come on, Lusa!" he said, rolling his eyes. "You don't have to bow before me or anything like that. We're old friends, after all!"
Tenel Ka stood up as well. "That is a fact, friend Lusa." She placed her artificial left hand over her heart. "If it wasn't for you, I would've been enslaved by the Collective as well."
Jacen nodded, smiling. "And then there'd have been no hope at all." His eyes strayed to Lusa's collarbone and her rank pips. "Hey, did you get promoted?"
Lusa reached up and fingered the two solid-colored pips. "First-grade," she said, beaming. She looked to her left as Raynar walked over and took a proffered glass of juice. "Thank you," she said, sipping the ruby-red liquid.
Raynar held up his own glass. He was dressed rather conservatively, the colors of the Bornaryn House muted in color and hidden somewhat. He looked to Tenel Ka and Jacen and grinned, his blue eyes sparkling. "To the happy couple."
Jacen held up his own glass of fruit juice and took a rather large gulp, letting out a gasp. "Ooh, that's good," he said. He looked at Raynar and frowned slightly. "Problem?"
The younger man and future merchant shrugged. "I'll be heading to the Tradewyn
next week. We'll be a big part of getting relief supplies to the liberated Chiss Ascendancy." His eyes narrowed and the grip on his juice glass tightened slightly. "I've seen preliminary reports and it's not pretty there."
Lusa's hand reached out and took Raynar's free hand, squeezing it tightly. "Be safe," she said. Her eyes fluttered close for a moment as she reached out with the Force. "It'll be dangerous," she murmured.
Raynar half-smiled and leaned over, kissing Lusa lightly on the mouth. He brushed his hand against her long, curly hair before pulling back from a blushing but beaming Lusa. "I'll be fine. I know the name of at least one ship that'll be sent there for escort duty." He rocked back and forth on his heels as he sensed her astonishment and happiness. "Of course, unless you'd like to be going to the Delta Quadrant..."
Lusa threw her arms around Raynar, hugging him tightly. She finally let go and eyed him, cocking an eyebrow. "Wait, you didn't try a mind trick on Captain Picard, did you?"
Tenel Ka snorted. "He did not, Lusa, and that is a fact." Her lips moved up slightly. "After all, he's still standing here."
Scotty raised his shot glass of Romulan ale high and leaned back, downing the electric-blue liquid with one gulp. He turned the glass over and placed it neatly on the greel-wood bar and smiled. "Your turn, laddie," he said, words on the barest edge of slurred.
Chancellor Martok grunted and blinked, shaking his head and tossing his shaggy hair about. He reached over and grabbed the shot glass, slowly bringing it up. He turned to a dozing Praetor Tomalak and scowled. "S-hut up," he said before sipping on the ale, finally tipping his head back and drinking it all.
Han patted Scotty on the arm. "You can do it, Scotty! Just a few more!"
Geordi nodded in agreement and looked Martok over with his cybernetic eyes, scanning the Klingon. "He's out on his feet, Scotty," he said, grinning.
Scotty took another glass of ale. He held it up and looked to the sky. "Here's to ye," he said before draining it dry. He turned it over and placed it on the bar. "Another round, Chancellor?" he asked, eyes twinkling.
Martok grabbed the shot glass with both hands. He slowly brought it up to his lips-and tilted back, sliding off his barstool. He glanced off Tomalak, hitting the floor with a crash
and falling asleep.
Han and Geordi both let out whoops of triumph as an entourage of Klingons stood there in silence. Finally, General Klag thumped his chest. "Qap'la
, Scotty," he said, bowing slightly. The rest followed suit.
Scotty tossed the Klingons a salute before getting off his barstool. He wavered slightly and blinked. "Aye, not as young as I used ta' be," he said, accepting Han and Geordi's arms. He leaned over and waved at Martok. "next time, laddie, we'll use real liquor and not this dressed-up milk." And with that, he turned and walked off.
Klag shook his head at Scotty. "They don't make humans like that anymore." he bent over and, with another Klingon's help, grabbed Martok and set him back onto the barstool, leaning him forward onto the bar itself. "Sleep well, Chancellor," he said, grinning.
Near one of the far corners, several guests clustered around, unseen by almost all. Bones waved his hand at the waiters. "Hey, you folks mind bringing me something to drink? Even ghosts get parched!"
He sighed, more out of reflex than need. "Jim, you mind telling me why we're not conjuring drinks out of the ether like in the afterlife?"
Jim shrugged. He held his right hand up and gestured slightly. "We'd put out too much of a presence doing that on this plane of existence."
A waiter walked over with a tray of drinks, face blank. The late Starfleet captain reached out and cupped the glasses, each one fading and turning translucent. He took each glass off and passed them around. "To marriage,"
he said, raising it high.
Bones and a younger-looking woman raised their glasses in response, clinking them together with Jim's. "And may it be a long and happy one,"
Tonia Barrow-McCoy said, smiling. She took a sip of her ghostly concoction, swishing it around in her mouth. "I don't believe I've drank this before. Is it from the New Republic?"
McCoy half-drained his glass, grimacing slightly. "I don't think so, dear. Might be one of those Romulan drinks now that the Neutral Zone is down."
He grinned at her and slid his arm around hers. "Then again, I'm just an old country doctor who managed to marry above his station. What do I know from Romulan drinks?"
Tonia slid her own arm around McCoy's waist and squeezed. "Why I do declare I might just get the vapors!!"
she exclaimed, fanning herself with her drink hand. "Is there a doctor in the house?"
Jim turned to his left and the fourth being there. "Ben... was all of this forbidden during your Order?"
he asked, waving his ethereal hand around at the party. "I'm no expert, but it hardly seems of the Dark Side to me."
He held up his free hand, palm out. "If I am wrong, though, please correct. Like I said, hardly an expert."
The Jedi Master's countenance wavered, shifting from his youthful self in the prime of his life to how he was at the twilight, wrinkles furrowing his brow and hair lightening. "You must understand, Jim. The Jedi had just come off one of the most destructive periods of war with the Sith until Palpatine. Many of us descended into barbarism and our enemy's own level. After that..."
He sighed and spotted Tenel Ka and Jacen sitting at the head table, holding hands. His eyes lit upon her belly and their child. His gaze then flickered to Luke and Mara, standing off to the side and talking with Han and Leia. "Still, sometimes love
can conquer all."
McCoy looked around. "Speaking of which, Jim. Where's that Setsuna you introduced me to when I came over?I know she's probably a busy lady, but being master of time
should leave her able to stop by when her beau has an important date."
Jim rubbed his chin and sighed, looking almost pensive. "She'll be along. Some pressing matters had to be attended to first..."
I am sorry, Usagi and Jaina. I shall be gone before you return from your destiny.
A blue cloud faded into view, coalescing and focusing into that of Setsuna. She smiled at Jim and took his hand. "All finished,"
she said. She held out her hand and an ornate staff appeared. She tapped it on the ground. "Q!"
A flash of light heralded the arrival of the trickster godling. He stared at the translucent Setsuna and his eyes narrowed slightly. "You're a lot more powerful than before,"
he observed. His metaphorical Adam's apple bobbed slightly. "The preparations are complete. But are you sure about this? I'm calling in a lot of favors here."
The guardian of time nodded, scarlet eyes flashing. "I'm sure, Q. A little gift for those who saved the galaxy is a small thing for beings like us."
She cocked her head to the side and glanced over at Luke. "So different, and so the same."
Picard approached Luke and Mara. "It's good to see you two," he said, smiling. "Are you well, Master Skywalker?"
Luke extended his gloved hand, shaking Picard's own and nodding. "Doctor Crusher performed her usual miracles and has declared me 'cured' of the physical aspects of assimilation." His hand brushed past a few new scars and lines on his face. "Although the mental effects are still difficult to deal with." He glanced to his right and Mara by his side. "Fortunately, I have help."
Mara squeezed his hand. "It's been rough. Luke's had... bad dreams about the whole experience." She turned her head and studied a painting on the far side of the cavernous ballroom. "He's not the only one," she admitted, her cheeks blushing.
A sigh escaped the Captain's lips. "Mara, there is no shame in 'bad dreams' with the Borg. The Collective was a blight upon the Milky Way for over five thousand years. Now is the time for healing, for reaching across and-" A high-pitched whine suddenly filled the room. Picard and Luke suddenly vanished in a flash of white light, disappearing from this plane of existence.
Mara's eyes bugged out. "LUKE!" she shouted, drawing the attention of several partiers close by. She cast her senses out, searching for the link she shared with Luke... and finding it blocked. Not cut, but as if an impenetrable wall had sprung up between them.
Deanna and Beverly ran up. Deanna took Mara's hand, projecting soothing thoughts through the physical contact. "Mara, what's going on?" she asked, locking eyes with the distraught redhead.
Mara blinked and rocked slightly, breathing in through the nose and out through the mouth. "Luke and Johnny were standing here," she said slowly, pacing around. "There was a bright flash of light and then they disappeared." Her head shot up. "Well, come on! Get out your tricorders and start scanning, Deanna! Some hostile force has just beamed away Luke Skywalker and Jean-Luc Picard!"
Beverly shook her head. "Bright light? Was it a flash that seemed to radiate from a central point before vanishing abruptly?"
The Jedi Master blinked. "Yeah," she mumbled.
Beverly and Deanna locked eyes with each other and groaned. "Q."
Picard and Luke appeared in a large, stone chamber. Benches lined one wall, while large banners were draped across the otherwise bare walls, flanking an ornate doorway set flush into the wall. Picard's eyes narrowed and his jaw set. "Q!" he barked, walking up to the doorway. "What is it this time, Q? Why are Luke and I here in this courtroom?"
Luke stepped forward, beside Picard. "Where are we? Who or what is 'Q'?" His eyes narrowed. "Jean-Luc, I'm sensing a bit of anger from you."
A flash of light drew their attention to the opposite side of the courtroom. Q strode forward, wearing a flag officer's uniform. "Have to hand it to you, mon capitan
," he said, smiling. "A lesser being would have condemned Queen Jaina and the entire Collective to oblivion. Instead, you speak of forgiveness. How almost Q-like." He glanced to Luke and chuckled. "Oh, please. In maybe
a million years. But now? You're an overly-developed amoeba trying to understand life outside the petri dish."
The Jedi rubbed his forehead, pushing his sandy-blond bangs away from his eyes. "You're right," he admitted. He flashed a grin. "Still, can't blame me for trying."
The double doors of the gate swung open, an ethereal fog billowing out. A tall, long-legged woman with tanned skin and scarlet eyes emerged, clad in a dark-green miniskirt and white top. She held a long staff topped by a blood-red, glowing orb. She stepped to the side as more figures appeared in the fog. "For those who have given much," Setsuna intoned, half-smiling. "You are owed this... Q!" she suddenly barked, snarling. "Where is Leia?"
Q's Adam's apple bobbed up and down. "Sorry," he said, chuckling nervously. He snapped his fingers and Leia appeared next to Luke. "Better?"
"-this Q sounds dangerous. Maybe-" Leia suddenly dropped to one knee. Her hand went to her thigh as the slit exposed a holdout blaster strapped to her toned leg. She pulled it out and held it up, waving it about. "What the hell happened?"
Luke placed a hand on Leia's shoulder. "Easy, sis," he said. "It seems we're among friends." He eyed Setsuna as she stared back. "Right?"
A sad smile crossed Setsuna's face. "In another time and place, yes." She broke eye contact and motioned to the gate as two beings emerged. "First, though, a little reunion."
Luke gasped as Anakin and Padme walked out. Anakin was his younger self, a cocky smirk on his face and wild, unkempt hair. Padme wore a simple dress, with her long hair tied up in braids. "I don't believe it," he murmured.
Yoda emerged, almost completely enshrouded by the fog. "And yet, you succeed," he said, tapping his cane on the stone floor. He waited until Luke was a meter away before smiling. "And a fine job you did, Luke. Restore the Order, and your father."
Anakin smirked. "He's his father's son, after all." He and Padme walked up to Luke and wrapped their arms around him, enveloping him in a hug. "Thank you, Luke," Anakin said, voice hoarse.
Leia approached the group, mouth agape. "This can't be real!" she said, holstering her blaster. She held her hand up to Padme, fingers twitching. "Mom?" she finally asked.
Padme broke her embrace with Luke and swallowed. She stepped forward, arms out. "You're so beautiful, Leia. I missed you so much."
Leia blinked and looked away, swallowing as her throat threatened to close up. "I..." She stopped speaking as Padme hugged her, tears streaming from her eyes. "I can't believe this! How?"
Padme smiled through her own tears. "A little gift, for everything you've done." She stepped back and looked Leia over. "You have your father's spirit-and that's a compliment!" she blurted out, noticing Leia's scowl.
"Yes, Mother," Leia muttered, a smirk tugging at the corner of her mouth.
Padme looked over and caught Picard's eye. She strode over, smiling. "My thanks, Captain," she said. "You saved my children from one of the worse fates out there."
Picard held up a hand. "No thanks are necessary, Misses Skywalker. It is the duty of a Starfleet officer to aid those in need."
Q snapped his fingers and disappeared, reappearing right next to Picard. He threw his left arm around Picard's shoulders and hugged him. "Oh, so modest! So heroic! So bland." He let go and motioned to the gate. "But do not worry, good sir. Luke and Leia aren't the only ones to see some faces from the past."
An older man emerged, dressed in a brown coat and pants. His lower lip stuck out slightly and he squinted at Picard. "Well, well," Robert Picard said, smiling slightly. He walked over to the astonished Captain and held out his hand. "I'm sorry to have saddened you like that, Jean-Luc."
Picard's facade crumbled. "Robert!" he cried out, hugging his departed brother and rocking him back and forth. "Robert, I missed you so much!" Tears streamed from his eyes and a smile lit his features. "Oh, this is so wonderful!"
A younger man walked out of the gate, his face not yet lined and his head full of curly brown hair. "Hello, Uncle," Rene Picard said, walking up to Robert and Jean-Luc Picard.
Picard slowly let go of his brother and approached his nephew. He breathed deeply and centered himself before speaking. "Rene," he breathed out, the single word laden with emotion.
Rene clasped his uncle's outstretched hand and shook it, smiling. "I'm sorry I wasn't able to go into space," the younger man said, his smile faltering. "And I'm sorry you were in such pain, Uncle. But please don't be sad. Father and I are fine."
Picard squeezed Rene's hand and smiled. "Thank you, Rene. I'll... try not to be sad."
Padme shook her head at Picard and chuckled. "So none of the Jedi in the room say it, Captain, do or do not. There is no try."
Picard glanced to his side at the young woman. "I'm sorry?" he asked, brow furrowing. "How does that work, precisely?" He let go of Rene's hand and advanced upon Padme, rubbing his chin. "If you do something, then you're automatically trying
to do it, are you not?"
Padme glanced to the side. "I... suppose? " She shrugged. "Sorry, Captain. I was merely a senator for Naboo, and before that its queen."
"The queen?" he asked, jaw working slightly. He bowed slightly at the waist. "My apologies then, your majesty. It must've been rough for you to take the reins at such a young age."
Padme sighed and nodded. "Yes, it was. To be elected at the tender age of fourteen, not to-"
"I'm sorry, what?"
There was a pause before Padme continued. "To be elected at fourteen?"
Picard's mouth opened slightly before he spoke. "You were... elected
queen of a planet at the age of fourteen?" His right eyebrow quirked upward. "That is a rather... young age to be ruling a planet."
Robert frowned slightly. "Jean-Luc, don't be starting anything with the young mademoiselle. It's their system of government and it seems to work fine for them."
Padme held up her hand at Robert. "Don't worry, Mister Picard. I think I can hold my own here." She focused on the younger brother and cracked her knuckles. "I may have been elected young, but I spent a long time in the political trenches beforehand."
Picard snorted. "A mere babe in the woods, I'm afraid. Real leadership takes more than being able to hold mock debates. All I knew at your age was that I wanted to go into space. I hadn't even settled on Starfleet by then."
While Picard and Padme started in, Q slipped up to Setsuna. "He'll be at that for hours," he groused.
Setsuna blinked and turned her head enough to acknowledge his presence. "And your point?" She waved her hand at the group. Leia was approaching Anakin, while Ben Kenobi and Jim Kirk had emerged from the gate. "I will send Jean-Luc and Luke back to two minutes after they left. No harm shall be done, Q."
Q crossed his arms and glared at the guardian of time. "It's my head if this ends badly."
Setsuna smiled faintly. "So you'll lose the part you've used the least since the First Great Expansion. Not much of a loss there, old friend." Chapter Eleven: Moving on, Moving up and Moving backwardsThe next day
President Bacco and Fleet Admiral Ross walked down a rather nondescript corridor, a pair of MACO's in front a a pair in back. Bacco held up a PADD and looked it over. "We were damned lucky," she commented. "I almost want to thank the Dominion for their war, as sick as it sounds. We needed that kick to the butt to get us out of our complacency." They turned a corner and approached a door at the end of the corridor with two Hapan guards flanking it. "Only six months to replace our losses?"
Ross nodded, glancing over Bacco's shoulder at the PADD. "We never went back to pre-war levels of manufacturing and recruitment. There's a move to have those levels increased again
One of the Hapan guards held out a flat sheet of plastic. First Bacco, then Ross placed their hand on the palmprint scanner. A beam of light swept across the plastic's face, checking their fingerprints and DNA. One of the guards nodded and pressed a series of buttons on a control panel mounted next to the door and it slid open, allowing the sextet entrance into the conference room..
It was a rather large room, dominated by a large circular table in the middle and chairs set up at regular intervals. A large holo-emitter was mounted into the center of the table, while a pair of viewscreens were mounted on the walls opposite each other. A long table ran along one wall, laden with food and drink from various worlds. Servants bustled about, placing silverware and glasses in front of the various chairs arrayed around the table.
Queen Mother Teneniel Djo and an older man were already sitting. The older man, dressed in a Hapan military uniform with flag officer ranks on his shoulder,s had steel-gray hair and a small scar on his weathered right cheek. He looked Bacco and Ross over with bright, inquisitive eyes and inclined his head slightly. "You're early," Fleet Admiral Remmis Advis said.
Ross pulled out the nearest chair for Bacco to sit in before taking his own seat. "Better early than late," he said. He looked around, then turned around completely as the door once more slid open, allowing Martok and General Goluk of the Klingon Defense Force to enter with a pair of beqqs
. "Chancellor," he said, smiling.
Martok waved him off and stumbled to the nearest seat. He banged the side of his head before dropping down into the nearest seat. Goluk simply walked over and sat, grinning all the while. "Apologies," the Klingon said. "Chancellor One-Eye had a rough night."
"A... rough night?" Bacco echoed, blinking. She leaned over and looked across Ross to Martok, but before she could speak, the door opened once more and Tomalak and two uhlans
walked in. The Praetor stumbled slightly, glassy-eyed. "Praetor?!"
Tomalak and Martok both winced. "Not so loud!" Tomalak whispered, waving her off. "I had a rough night at the reception."
Ross' right eyebrow quirked. "A rough night? What in heaven's name did you two do
Martok grunted. "Drinking contest with Captain Scott," he said through clenched teeth and buttoned lips. He rubbed his forehead crest. "The first time I've lost a drinking contest, too."
Bacco nodded in understanding. "I'm surprised you two made it to the meeting," she confessed.
Goluk barked a short laugh. "So am I, Madame President. Against almost anyone else, Martok and Tomalak would be shamed. Against Scotty, though, it was honorable to last as long as they did!" He slapped Martok on the back. "Right, Chancellor?"
Martok groaned and held up his hand. "Right. Now remove your hand, Goluk. For I shall be sober and dangerous in an hour!" He looked across at Bacco and smiled through the pain. "For a Klingon, this is little more than an inconvenience." He looked around and bared his filed teeth in a grin. "And I see Goluk and I were still able to arrive before some of our more sober guests." He grabbed a cup of water placed in front of him and drank it, sloshing water on his armor and cloak of office.
Chief of State Triebakk and Admiral Ackbar of the New Republic entered next, followed by Grand Admiral Pellaeon and Admiral Vana Dorja. Minister Gulaws and General Sslaag of the Gorn Hegemony followed, the reptiloids eschewing chairs and instead leaning back on their muscular tails, all accompanied by ceremonial guards. Finally, Ambassador Formbi of the Chiss Ascendancy walked in, his eyes darting back and forth. He sat down and massaged his scarred forehead, swallowing.
Bacco waited a moment before standing up. She cleared her throat, getting everyone in the room to focus on the eighty-nine year old woman with white hair and shaky hands. "I'd like to thank our hosts," she began, motioning to Teneniel and Remmis, "for the lovely food and drink." Her smile tightened and her eyes hardened. "Now, then. Bottom of the ninth, but we pulled out a fly ball to center field. The Borg Collective is gone, but the hardest part is to come."
Tomalak spoke up. "The rebuilding, you refer to?"
Bacco inclined her head to him and smiled. "Precisely. Both galaxies have suffered. Grievous wounds have been inflicted. It would be easy, almost expected to fall apart." She held her hands up and clasped them together. "But now is the time to come together, to help our neighbors."
She held her hand out to Tomalak. "The first meeting between Earth and Romulus was war. We fought and bled each other dry. Some people would laugh at your misfortune and say it served you right. I am not one of those people. What the Federation can do to help, it will."
Tomalak stood up and slowly walked over to Bacco. He looked down at her outstretched arm before slowly raising his own and clasping the thin hand and shaking it. "My people are dominated by pride," he said. "It is admittedly difficult to accept your offer, but the alternative is extinction. 'Pride goes before the fall' is the human saying, am I correct?"
The Federation president nodded. "Good work, Praetor."
Martok suddenly bolted from his seat, the chair sliding out and tipping back. He turned to Tomalak and Bacco, thumping his armored chest with his fist. "You honored us by fighting side by side in battle, Tomalak. For a Klingon, there is no greater bond than that forged in battle." He bared his teeth in a savage grin. "I'm not sure what the future holds-I'm not a Jedi, after all-but I know that for the moment, we are allies."
Goluk stood up and thumped his chest as well. "Martok speaks for all of us. My own ship was saved by a pair of Romulan warbirds during the Borg attack. They fought well."
Tomalak broke the handshake with Bacco and turned to the pair of Klingons. He tapped his padded jacket with his hand and bowed slightly. "My thanks, Chancellor and General. Perhaps now a new age can dawn in our part of the Milky Way."
Triebakk roared and growled from his own chair. [I feel inadequate following that,] he said, his Shyriiwook translated by a universal translator mounted onto his baldric, [but I offer the same pledge to Formbi here.] He waved his long, furry arms around. [What we can spare is yours.]
Formbi sighed and seemed to shrink into his seat. "Thank you," he said. "I was a drone aboard a cube attacking Bastion. It was... horrifying." He closed his scarlet eyes for a moment before continuing. "The Ascendancy has been devastated. We were almost entirely assimilated. Our worlds have been torn up, our fleet destroyed and our people still drones. We have to tear everything down before we can even rebuild!"
Pellaeon leaned forward and clasped his hands together in front of his face. "Bastion and Yaga Minor suffered damage, but compared to you, it was minor. We'll rebuild our shipyards and buildings, but we'll aid you, old friend."
Bacco looked over from her little group. "I've already got a task force assembling that'll be there in a month, Ambassador. It'll be small, but we'll do what we can."
Pelleaon looked up at Bacco and smiled, his mustache twitching. "Thank you, Madam President." His smile widened into a grin. "You're most generous."
Bacco smirked. "Thanks, Grand Admiral."
The Old Man chuckled and held up a hand. "Please, call me Gilad."
"Only if you call me Nanietta," she rejoined.
Ackbar's eyes swiveled around. "If we could return to the task at hand," he growled out, chin barbels twitching.
Both Bacco and Pellaeon blushed slightly. "Sorry," Bacco mumbled, siting down.
[I'll never understand humans,] Triebakk rumbled. He looked around and smoothed out his facial fur. [Shall we get down to durasteel fasteners?]
Bacco sat back down, with Tomalak, Martok and Goluk also sitting. "Excellent idea," Bacco said. She pressed a set of controls mounted on the table and the holo-emitter flared to life. "Now, about the Ascendancy..."
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