Parker was alone in his office on Deck 4 when Yeoman Galvarez reported that Commander Razmara had arrived. He bid her over the intercom to tell Razmara to come in and looked up from his plain oak desk to see her enter, hands at her sides as usual. Her eyes briefly looked around the office, as if to remind herself of how Parker had furnished it. Aside from his leather office chair and the two smaller vinyl chairs, he had a cabinent filled with mementos from his careers. Awards, commendations, replicas of various ships he had served on - a model of the Akira-class U.S.S. Salamis was now displayed beside the Galaxy-class Yamato - and pictures of his family and childhood home adorned the various shelves. Razmara realized that she had never heard Parker speak of his family before and thought about inquiring into it for small talk at a later date.
She also, for the first time, noticed a picture of Parker with Deanna Troi. They were in civilian clothes, in a daylight setting. No wonder you've been so apprehensive... She stood at attention and waited for Parker to motion for her to relax. He did so in his usual fashion when he was occupied, a nod of the head, and she walked up to his desk. A copy of a leather-bound hardcover book was on the desk, a bookmark sticking out about two-fifths through. She looked at the cover. "John Archer's memoirs?" Razmara slipped into one of the seats facing Parker. "You actually bought the physical copy?"
"No, I inherited from my grandfather, John Harriman." Parker looked up from where he had been reading a report. "And yes, that John Harriman. Ironic, I suppose, that I ended up with a ship named Enterprise like he did. Maybe my tenure will be just as quiet as his was."
"Well, Harriman is called one of the most boring of the Enterprise captains for a reason I guess," Razmara said. "Didn't they blame Jim Kirk's death on him? During the Lakul Incident?"
"Contemporary press did. Pavel Chekov even made a public spectacle of it, though years later he apologized. Of course, I heard through my mother that Grandpa Harriman had little choice in the matter. The desk jockeys at Starfleet Operations wanted the Enterprise-B's launch done on schedule. After all, who knew they'd have to go racing off after some weird subspace ribbon to save a shipload of El Aurians?" Parker smirked and tapped a button to turn his monitor off. He stood up, picking up the book from his desk to return it to a shelf. "My father never approved of my desire to join Starfleet. He wanted me to take up the family's auto shop business. Most of his big fights with Mom were over her 'filling my head with Starfleet nonsense'." Parker put the book onto a shelf with a handful of other books. "Parker's Auto Body... Grandpa Parker swore up and down it'd been in the family since the 20th Century."
Razmara smiled diplomatically. "I don't think being an auto mechanic would have fulfilled you, Captain. It can't compare to being Captain of the Starship Enterprise."
"Can't it?" Parker leveled a gaze at her. "The family business was good enough for my sister Amanda."
For a moment Razmara thought of what to say. Before she could speak, though, Parker continued, "Grandpa Harriman bought Archer's book because he knew he wasn't going to follow Kirk's model, so he wanted another famous captain of an Enterprise for his inspiration. Archer, despite all the claims of his exploits, had a rather boring career up until the Romulan War, and afterward he spent his days as one of the Federation Starfleet's first leading admirals."
"Archer's U.S.S. Enterprise was the first Earth ship built under Starfleet, wasn't it?"
"Of course not, but it was the first constructed under the Naval Construction Contract registration system. Hence NCC-01 for it's number. And it was U.E.S. Enterprise. United Earth Ship." Parker folded his hands together on the desk. "And before you ask, no, he did not have a dog named Porthos on board and no, he did not have a Vulcan XO or a Denobulan CMO. The Denobulans were isolationist and barely warp-capable and Earth-Vulcan relations were rather strained in the early 22nd Century, what with the Vulcans insisting on Earth adhering to their interstellar treaties and regs. That schtick is purely the invention of Berstein and Bragg."
"Well, everyone knows holoshows about Starfleet and the military tend to be inaccurate anyway." A smirk appeared on Razmara's face. "Though I found the guy who played Archer to be handsome."
Parker chuckled at that. "So, Commander, any news of note?"
"None. Some leave requests, and by your orders we're only allowing that on a limited basis for off-duty personnel. Chief Watson and her people are keeping tabs on everyone who goes down for immediate beamup if you order it."
"Good, very good." Parker kept his hands on the desk. "Commander, would you mind if I asked you a bit of a personal question?"
"Depends, sir, on the question."
Parker nodded and crossed his arms. "How do you do it? Maintain your relationship?"
"Relationship?" Realization immediately dawned on her. "You mean Jack?"
"Yes, Jack Kelvin. How do you keep that flame going even when you see him so infrequently?"
Razmara tried, and failed, to hide her pain. Her heart immediately began to pine for Jack. "I don't know," she confessed. "I guess, in a way, I make myself forget about it most of the time."
"But you miss him?"
"Terribly." Razmara folded her arms on her lap. "We've never had it easy. We met in the Academy as roommates, fell in love by our third year, and have spent most of the last eighteen years just trying to see each other. We managed one year together when we were both posted to the same ship. And then he retired from Starfleet eight years ago and went into the private sector. I mean, I don't blame him for it. As a megaton freighter captain he earns great money, probably more than both of us combined. But it makes meeting him so much harder. I mean, before we were together in May, the last time I saw him was March of last year when I was about to go out on the Phoenix." She scoffed, looking down at her lap. "He offered to make me his first mate if I retired. Then we'd work together for a while, retire at 40 and get a nice piece of land on some mid-range world with a lake shore or maybe something on an ocean coast. Live out the rest of our days together, living off stock dividends and bank interest."
Parker nodded. "Sounds good."
"Well, it also helps that we fully understand each other. We haven't exactly been faithful in these past few years." Razmara looked up at Parker, who seemed a bit surprised at the admission. "It first happened at the same time for us. We admitted it to each other and, well, after a good deal of fuss we realized it was something to be expected when you're alone out here. So we gave each other permission, if you will, to look around. After all, no use pining for each other if what we have isn't that strong." Razmara shrugged. "Though maybe in the end that's just an excuse for both of us. I'm not sure I know."
"Neither am I." Parker smirked. "So, any plans to eventually leave Starfleet and end that problem?"
"Oh, yes. In fact, I had my mind made up about sixteen months ago. After I ended my year as XO on the Phoenix, I was going to retire and meet up with Jack. Then Captain Harburton offered me the XO spot on the Enterprise. And, really, who can turn down a senior position on the Enterprise? That's the pinnacle of any Starfleet officer's career, when you think about it. I mean, there are officers would gladly fly survey ships for their entire careers if they got to at least have one stint on the Starship Enterprise."
"I understand it completely," Parker said. "And now that you're here, I'm sure you'll be angling on getting the chair one day, right?"
"Maybe when they add two more ships to our squadron and make you an Admiral," Razmara said with a grin. "Though I'm probably not anywhere on the list of potential Enterprise COs after you."
"If I ever think of leaving, I'll have to change that."
"Thinking about her, huh?"
"Deanna? Yes." Parker sighed. For a moment he considered speaking with Razmara about it, but something was stopping him. He hadn't really known her very long, just a couple of months now. And while she was competent, well.... Virshk had been competent too, but Parker had never even considered opening up to him back on the Salamis.
Before he had to make any kind of decision, his intercom system beeped. Usually it would be the commbadge, but since he was in his office the computer automatically routed control to his desk. He tapped a button with his right index finger. "Parker here."
Lieutenant O'Keefe's Australian accent was as pronounced as ever over the comm link. "Captain, you've got a private channel waitin' for you."
Parker almost immediately knew who it was. "Patch it down here, I'll take it in a moment." He looked back to Razmara. "Commander, you are dismissed. Maybe you would like to go planetside?"
"I have no reason too," Razmara answered. "I'm heading to the command bridge now. Commander Williams needs to be relieved."
"Very well. I'll see you later." Parker made sure Razmara was out the door and that it was closing before he hit the receive key. Deanna's face blipped into view on his desk monitor. She was still wearing the same clothes from earlier, though her hair seemed a little more disheveled. "Hello Deanna."
"Adrian." She showed the slight hint of a smile. "I just got a room down on the planet, and there's a nice roadside diner down the street. I was wondering if you would mind coming down for dinner?"
Compared to the coldness earlier, Deanna was coming off as surprisingly warm now. Almost as if she and Parker had never broken off. Parker looked at the screen for a moment before nodding. "I, uh, I've got a clean schedule after 1800. I mean, relatively clean."
"Then 1830? I'm staying about four kilometers from the planetary government complex in Waipahu. The Hiller-Jennings Coastal Hotel."
"I'll meet you out front. See you in a couple hours." Her image disappeared from the screen.
Parker drew in a breath. He'd been hoping to talk to her, to settle things, but he hadn't expected it to come like this. He turned an eye back to paperwork and the other to the clock, which told him he had an hour before he had to get ready. His hand went to the comm button on his desk and he opened a channel to Data to let him know he'd be having a bridge watch tonight.
And as he did so, he began to think of what could happen, and what he would say to Deanna.
Phong was staring blankly at his monitor, ignoring the medical requistion orders on the screen as he fought the drooping of his eyelids. He stifled a yawn and rubbed his eyes. He hadn't gotten much sleep lately because of his work and the emergency situation had drained him rather well.
Just as the thought came to him of replicating some black coffee, a shrill wailing came from outside his office. Phong winced as an immediate reaction and jumped to his feet, fully awakened. "Just what the hell is that?!"
As he came out of the office, one of Alpha Shift's nurses bumped into him on her way into the door. "Is there a problem, Nurse?"
"The boy just woke up, and he started making this awful screeching sound. I... I don't know why, the scanners on the bed don't see anything wrong with him...."
Phong walked around her and into the medical room where Jono had been brought. He was sitting up, his mouth hanging open and wail after wail erupting from his throat. "Stop that immediately!"
To his surprise, the boy's mouth closed without hesitation.
"That's better." Phong crossed his arms. "Now what was all that about?
"The Ba'nar. And I will continue it until you return me to my people." And without further hesitation, he began to make the awful wailing noise again.
"Not around my other patients, you won't," Phong countered loudly. "You will knock that off immediately." He noticed Jono stop once more. "You're not a prisoner here. You needed medical treatment to save your life."
"I will not be your slave," Jono said defiantly.
"We don't want you to be one. As I said, you needed surgery and we brought you here for that purpose. That's why you've got an entirely new set of lungs in your chest."
The boy looked down. "Does my father know what you have done to me?!" Jono demanded.
Meeting Jono's gaze without flinching, Phong nodded. "He watched the procedure, young man."
"Then where is he? Why did he not wait for me to awaken?"
"He had duties to attend to," Phong lied. No need telling the boy that his father had to be removed because of a rather nasty spat over his custody. "I need to keep you for observation over the next twenty-four hours at least, to make sure your body completely accepts the replicated organs."
"I want to be returned to my father."
"Not until I know you're made a full recovery. It's my obligation as a doctor to ensure that you are fully healed before releasing you." His already-slim eyes narrowed further for effect. "You wouldn't want me to shirk my obligations, would you?"
The harshness of the question had the desired effect. Jono gave an understanding nod and spoke no more of the subject. Moral and ethical obligations were quite highly regarded among the Talarians, after all.
After looking over the boy for a moment, Phong walked a little closer. "Tell me, young man... how much do you know about yourself?"
"What do you mean?" Jono had a quizzical expression on his face at Phong's question.
"You have to know that you're different, physically, from other Talarians. Has it ever been explained to you?"
Jono did not answer at first. "I am the son of my father's slain enemy. My father adopted me for Geje'hut to honor his slain foe and restore the balance of his own lost son."
"'Restore the balance'?"
"The Universe desires balance," was Jono's reply. "My father Endar lost a son to the Federation, and he adopted me from the Federation. The Universe clearly arranged this."
Phong nodded with an "ahhh" sound to show understanding. "But what I mean, Jono, is what you know about yourself. About being Human."
"I am not Human. I am Talarian."
"Maybe in spirit," Phong admitted, "but genetics has its own mind and according to your genes, your body is Human. Do you understand that? The things that make you different, physically, from other Talarians?"
Now Jono seemed a little irritated. "I am aware of some things. I have tried to change them, but..."
"Unfortunately Jono..." Phong sighed and shook his head. "Give me a few minutes, I have to go do something."
After Jono nodded, Phong left for his office. His hand tapped his commbadge and he asked the computer to connect him to Commander Carter. Though he could just as easily use his authority to call the Talara'Sathra to talk to Endar, he preferred working with his crewmates and Carter was the Security Officer for the ship. By the time he had closed the door to the office, Carter was responding over the ship's intercom. "Doctor, what can I do for you?"
"I'm requesting an open channel to the Talarian flagship. I need to speak with Captain Endar."
"Certainly, Doctor," Carter replied. "I'll have Communications connect you right away."
Phong turned to the monitor on his wall and waited until the comm was answered. After about four minutes, Endar appeared on the screen with some concern visible in his features. "Doctor, has something happened?"
"Nothing, actually," Phong answered. "Jono is awake and doing well, though I'll want to keep him for observation over the next twenty-four standard hours to make sure his body accepts the new organs. I called you for a different reason." Drawing in a breath, Phong thought of how to phrase things properly before continuing, "How much does Jono know about himself?"
"What do you mean by that?"
"How much does Jono know about being a Human?" To forestall the protest he was certain would be developing, Phong raised a hand. "I'm not here to debate the legality or morality of your adopting him, or whether he is a Talarian at heart. He is Human, physically, and our peoples have some differences. Differences that could make his life difficult in some cases."
Endar didn't seem very happy with where the conversation was going. He seemed to think for a moment before saying, "What differences do you speak of?"
"For instance, your people place a great deal of importance in having children to carry on the family, right?" He waited for Endar to nod in affirmation before continuing. "Jono... cannot have a child with a Talarian woman. On the T'Ral-Hawkins Scale of Interspecies Compatibility, a Human/Talarian pairing ranks as 3. You need a 5 using modern medicine to be capable of producing a child in an interspecies pairing."
Endar nodded slowly. "I have... already heard this. It is a problem I hoped could be handled in time."
"Outside of adoption, it can't be fixed. And beyond that, humans don't have the pheromone-based mating drive that Talarians do, nor are we compatible with Talarians in that fashion. And then there's the fact that human bones are less dense than Talarian ones, some of the nutritional differences..." Phong noticed the expression on Endar's face growing darker. "I've called, Captain, to ask if you would permit me to discuss these issues with Jono. To teach him about his body, how it works and what it needs and how those things differ from Talarian norms. That way he knows how to care for himself."
Endar nodded silently, as if in thought. After a few moments, he spoke in agreement. "You have my permission." A quizzical look crossed Endar's face. "Doctor, if I might ask, why did you come to me for this permission?"
"Jono is underaged. As a doctor, I am ethically required to seek permission from his parents, or guardian, before doing anything or saying anything to him."
There was a hint of bitterness to Endar's voice when he said, "I think your Admiral Rossa would not be pleased to hear of you coming to me for permission, and not coming to her."
"Frankly, Captain, I'm not sure about the legal or moral issues here, and those aren't my concern. Your son is my patient; I have an obligation to do what I think is best for his health. Having spoken to him, I can clearly see that he considers you to be his father, his parent, and he certainly does not know who Admiral Rossa is. You are, by all appearances, his father, so I have asked you. And that's exactly what I'll tell her if it comes to that."
Endar nodded in reply. There was some respect showing on his face when Endar said, "Well, Doctor, I thank you for this. You have my permission to tell Jono all he needs to know. And if you would, please tell my son that I am very proud of what he did and that I shall see him again soon enough."
"Of course." Phong nodded one last time to Endar before the Talarian captain cut out the signal. He sat down at his desk for a moment, thinking about how he was going to approach Jono.
Parker had changed out of uniform before beaming down. Since it was just before sunset in Waipahu he knew it would still be warm, so he dressed light; a red and white-line patterned collared pull-over shirt and knee-length black trousers were his outfit, and he made sure to bring his wallet and a hand-held comm device, a Qualcomm, so that anyone back on the ship could call him if a need arised.
The Hiller-Jennings Hotel wasn't as large or fancy as he thought it'd be, but then again, Deanna had never been one to delve into the trappings of royalty like her mother, who was staying in a suite in an expensive Radisson hotel on one of the nearby islands. She was waiting for him outside, wearing more modest clothing than before. A blue blouse of more conventional material than the fancy silks she'd been wearing earlier, sleeves cut at the elbows, and a skirt that went to her knees. The blouse was open at the neck, but didn't plunge down to her cleavage like some of her fancier dresses and suits did. When he walked up, Deanna smiled at him - smiled - and walked up to him. "Hello Adrian," she said in a sweet, if not overjoyous, tone. "Happy to have some dirt under your feet and a sky overhead?"
Parker smiled at that and nodded. "Yes, I suppose I am. So, where is it you want to go?"
"Just a short walk down the street."
Parker nodded and went to take her arm, but she didn't seem to accept the gesture. He wasn't surprised and was now wondering if Deanna had less friendly thoughts under her friendly demeanor.
The diner she had spoken of was small. What little ornamentation it had was set up to emulate North America in the 1950s, complete with a scale replica of a Thunderbird beside the door. A waitress of tan complexion and Polynesian features greeted them, wearing a blouse and skirt from the same time frame the restaurant was evoking. Parker mentally judged her no older than 25, possibly even teenage; her nametag had "Lila" written on it. Deanna allowed him to ask for a booth in the corner, where they were seated. Though he kept an eye on Deanna, Parker gladly took in the aromas of the diner. The smell of fresh cooked food, not replicated but the "real" thing, was as welcome as ever. There was slight chatter all around the restaurant, including a few people talking about the arrival of the Talarians.
Once at their booth, Deanna took the seat against the wall and Parker sat across from her. They ordered sodas and, after quietly contemplating their menus, summoned Lila back to make their orders. After they had ordered the main meal, Parker made sure to add that Deanna would want the chocolate sundae on the desert menu, drawing an amused grin from her as Lila scribbled it down with pen and paper - Honest to God pen and paper! Parker realized how used he was to the digital PADDs and stencil writers used by Starfleet - and walked away. After a few moments of silence, Parker finally said, "You look good, Deanna."
"Thank you. I've had to watch the weight recently. That sundae you just ordered will be my chocolate for the week."
Parker smiled and shook his head. "You used to eat chocolate all the time. Couldn't get enough of it."
"Well, people change sometimes." Deanna folded her hands on the table. "How's Amanda and the kids?"
"Oh, they're fine. Charlie is about fourteen now, Frank is ten. And she had a third one, Jamie, he's six."
"That's nice." Deanna's gentle smile slowly faded into a look of sadness. "I met Chief Winters a few years ago and he told me about Lisa. I'm very sorry, Adrian."
Parker nearly choked. He had hoped a little too greatly that Deanna wouldn't have known about that. "Thank you, Deanna," he managed to say, not wanting to indulge the memory. To change the subject he swallowed and said, "So, you went from psychology to diplomacy. Interesting change."
"It was right after I got my doctorate. I am technically Doctor Deanna Troi, you know." She grinned at him while they waited for the waitress Lila to place their sodas onto the table in real glasses, with straws, after which the waitress walked off. "I was still looking for a firm to intern in when my mother asked me to join her team as a specialist. It's my job to judge the psychology of the people she's dealing with. Learn what they might want, personally and professionally, so she can better understand them. Not a bad job, but a little boring compared to being the Captain of the Enterprise."
Parker tried not to smirk at that. "I'm sure diplomatic teams get their fill of tall tales."
It was at that moment that they chose to sip at their drinks, long enough for Lila to bring their meals. Though it was clear Deanna was waiting to say something, and Parker knew and dreaded what it would be, they began to eat quietly. Both took their time, yet felt rushed, as if fearing and wanting a resumption of their conversation at the same time.
It was only when they were finished eating that Deanna finally spoke up again. "Well, now that we've got the pleasantries and the dinner out of the way, I suppose it's time to get to the point." Her expression grew cold. "You never answered the question."
Parker didn't need to ask which question she was talking about. Why would he have to? It was the question. The question that had come to him again and again, demanding answers and never getting them. Even here, now, eight years later and with Deanna sitting right in front of him, he couldn't answer it.
There was no reply from Deanna while his silence stretched into a minute. In fact, she took the moment to almost non-chalantly slip her currency chip into the feeder on the table to pay for the meal electronically. Being an empath, she no doubt sensed the doubt and anxiety in Parker's mind. But after the minute passed, she folded her hands on the table. "I'm still waiting for an answer."
Parker had to answer with the truth. "I don't have one."
"Of course you don't." She sighed with exasperation. "Adrian, you've had eight years to decide if you had any kind of feelings for me and you still don't know? I find it hard to believe that even your meteoric rise in Starfleet was so overbearing that you couldn't lay down at night and think about me."
"I have. More times than I can count."
"Oh, but you still can't decide, 'Hmm, maybe I really didn't love Deanna', or something to that effect? No, you still string this out. You were awfully decisive about leaving me to further your career, but you still can't decide if you loved me at all?" Deanna's voice had started raising in volume. "You can't have it both ways, Adrian. You can't leave me behind as if I meant nothing but still want to leave open the door. Either you love me or you don't."
"And what about you? After eight years, do you still love me?"
"Oh no. I asked first."
"Yes, but as you said, eight years have passed." Parker folded his hands on the table. "Even if I decided I still loved you, I would do so under the memories of what happened before. How do I know you haven't already moved on?"
"Moved on?! Adrian, I turned down the betrothal my mother arranged when I was still a child because I still had a slight hope, a damned slight hope, that maybe what happened between us was something more than just a fling!"
Parker swallowed from a strange feeling in his heart and stomach, a contradictory mixture of happiness and dread. After all this time, Deanna still had feelings for him, but at the same time, he now felt a familiar fear of what to do. He ran a hand through the hair above his right temple, trying to think.
"Are you going to answer the question today or not?" Deanna's voice had become deceptively calm, but in her eyes Parker could still see smoldering anger. And he couldn't blame her for it at all.
"You don't think I've spent these eight years trying to answer it to myself?" Irritation at his inability to do just that now crept into Parker's voice.
"It's not a hard question, Adrian! Did you love me or not?"
"You're the empath, Deanna, you tell me."
"That's not how it works and you know it. I only sense general feeling. I know you're confused and upset, but why, I'm not sure of. Seriously, Adrian, if you're just afraid of hurting my feelings, don't, because you did a good enough job of that eight years ago when you pushed me away and I'm quite used to that now."
"I wasn't trying to hurt your feelings," was Parker's meek reply.
"What did you think would happen to me then?! After all the times we shared together, did you think I could just turn those feelings and memories off like a switch?! You stood there and told me to forget it ever happened and to go on with my life. My life is intertwined with your's, Adrian!"
"Maybe it was, but not anymore. Look, Deanna, at what we've become. I'm the Captain of the Enterprise and you're a key member of your mother's diplomatic team, one of the best in the...." Parker noticed Deanna's expression change slightly. He had said something that made her angry - which she already was - but now he could see shame and embarrassment in her features. "What is it?"
"Look, I don't want to discuss my work with my mother in public."
"Then we'll go somewhere we can."
Deanna glared at him. "What do you care?"
"I... I thought you had made a good life for yourself, but you don't seem to think so. I want to know why. Listen, Deanna..." Parker drew in a breath and took her right hand into his hands. "I want to answer the question, to give us both some peace of mind. But I need to know everything about what we are now before I can honestly answer it."
"What I am now doesn't change what I was then, Adrian."
"No, but.... please, indulge me on this. I feel as if it's important to know. When we split, I thought you had a good future, a career, in store for you. If that's not true, it means I was wrong for what I did back then. Do you understand, Deanna?"
There was no immediate reaction. She was judging his sincerity, or, perhaps, searching for a glimmer within him that the answer she wanted from the question would be given. Finally she said, "Let's go back to my room."
Parker nodded and agreed. Before getting up he reached into his pocket and pulled out a silver dollar coin from North America, flipping it onto the table as a tip. He didn't know if they used Earth currency out here on the frontier, but he figured the waitress could just cash it into the bank for a couple Federation credits. He walked away as it landed on it's heads side in the middle of the table.
Their walk back to the hotel was quiet. An elevator brought them to Deanna's fifth floor suite, which faced the turquoise sea on the sunrise side. Parker looked around the suite's living room; it was a one bedroom deal, with a king-sized bed in the adjacent bedroom to the right and a small kitchenette on the left. Ahead, of course, was the balcony, complete with plastic patio chairs. The living room was well-furnished, with a couch, a love seat, a couple of chairs, a coffee table, and set on a table beside the door to the bedroom there was a vidscreen. Deanna set her keycard beside the vidscreen and slipped into a seat. Parker took the loveseat, which was opposite from her. "Adrian, I entered psychology because I felt that I could use it to help people. I hope you understand that was my motivation. Helping others."
"I know that."
"When I got my doctorate, well, I wasn't exactly the most coveted new doctor in the Federation. I got a few offers from some minor psychology firms, that was all. I considered going into teaching for a short while before my mother came along and offered me the chance to work with her. She gave me the speech that my natural talents, my empathy from being half-Betazoid, would work well with my education and allow me to help her negotiate lasting treaties and all the usual things. It took me about a year, though, to really understand why she wanted me."
Parker remained quiet as he watched Deanna slump back into her chair. "I wasn't there to be her advisor, Adrian." Deanna's expression darkened. "Mother wanted me to be a distraction. She always got me the least modest suits she could find, she was always bragging about how I was unattached, everything so that men on the other side of the table would be paying a bit more attention to me and not to the issues." Deanna put a hand on her temple. "She dresses me up like some high-priced whore on Betazed and lets me get all the attention so she can outmaneuver them in the negotiations."
Parker really couldn't reply at this point. He had always thought Deanna would have a good career in her field, but to see her talents used like this? A part of Parker wanted to blame himself. Hadn't he set it up by making Deanna leave him?
Deanna didn't notice Parker's growing agitation with her mother and himself. "My mother meant well, I want to think. The excuses just keep coming through my head. She thought she was doing me a favor by letting me work with her. She wants me to follow her into the diplomatic corps, since Kestra chose the Imperial Navy. She wants me to have companionship. But dammit, Adrian, sometimes I feel like I'm being used. Like I'm nothing more than a piece of meat that my mother parades around for her own purposes."
"I'm sorry, I had no idea."
"Of course not. Do you think I'd go around telling everyone what my mother does? It would be a scandal, every good thing she's worked for would fall apart." Deanna put her hands together on her lap. "So I'm stuck. I have to act like a whore to help my mother do her work and let my talents, all of those years of education, go to waste. And I feel you getting angry, so don't."
Parker shook his head, smiling in spite of himself. "I don't know, Deanna. That, to me, is very wrong. Your mother is wasting your talents."
"Nothing else I can do, Adrian. We all have to live somehow." Deanna looked around her room. "This is pretty modest compared to what I'm used to, but...."
Deanna looked up at him and smiled a little. "I didn't want you to think I was trying to insult you by renting a room you could never afford on your salary."
There was something in Deanna's smile that made Parker break out laughing at that. To his surprise, Deanna joined in. It felt good, considering that barely fifteen minutes ago they had been shouting at each other. "Deanna, you're right." Parker looked down. "You deserve an answer. God knows I've been trying to find one for all this time. It's just not something that's coming easily."
At the restaurant Deanna's response would have been angry. Here, though, having just revealed the great shameful secret of her life these past years, Deanna could only smile weakly. "I believe you, Adrian." She walked over and sat beside him. "I hope you'll say yes. Because back then, I know I was in love with you."
Parker took her hand. "And I want to say yes. But I'm not going to lie about it."
Being so close now, Parker could feel a pull, magnetic in it's intensity, drawing him toward her. Years of loneliness - his handful of attempts to find another woman had failed quite spectacularly - and memories long pushed to the back of his mind were now at the forefront. He imagined what it would be like to be back then again. Still in his thirties, the prime of his life, with Deanna as radiant as she was now but with that youthful twinkle in her lovely dark eyes returned. Eyes that had since had to hide the frustrations of all her desires in life being thwarted.
No, don't do this to yourself, he thought. And he could see Deanna was feeling it too, both her own and his feelings. "I'm...."
"Don't fight it, Adrian, not if you feel it." Her smile turned sweet. So where her lips when they came to his in a kiss. First gentle, then growing in intensity and passion, the kiss was something Parker would have given everything in the world for at times in the past years. He put his hands on her neck and held her head close so he could return the kiss with equal fervor.
And where would it go from here? A mere kiss, to relive a past he hadn't yet made peace with? Or something more? A rekindling of the fire that once burned within him, something that made him look at Deanna Troi and see everything his heart wanted in a companion.
Neither got the chance to find out if the other wanted to take the next step. A loud beeping sound came from Parker's pocket. The kiss seperated, forlorn looks on both their faces. Parker's left hand reached into his pocket and pulled the flip-cover comm unit out. He flipped it open and noticed the incoming call was from the Enterprise, one of the open communication lines. He hit the receive button as Deanna watched and said, "Parker here."
The voice on the other end was Data's. "Captain, you may need to return to the ship. Admiral Rossa has beamed aboard and is insisting on being allowed to visit her grandson, which Doctor Phong has refused."
Deanna overheard what Data said, and felt Parker's irritation grow tenfold. "Alright, I'll be right back up. Lock onto my signal and beam..."
"Adrian." Deanna got his attention and put a hand on the phone's receiver. "Let me help you with this."
"Yes. Between Admiral Rossa's state of mind and the boy's, you're going to need me."
"Deanna, we're talking about a Starfleet admiral and a Talarian national with some rather big family connections. This is a dangerous...."
"Please Adrian." Her eyes were wide, and Parker saw in them her desperation. "Remember what I told you? This is my chance to finally do something with my talents. To help people. Please, let me help."
Parker sighed and indicated for her to uncover the receiver. "Mister Data, signal Transporter Room 1 to beam me and the person sitting beside me directly to my quarters. I need to change before seeing the Admiral."
"Yes Captain. Standby."
Parker looked back at her and tried to grin. "Well, at least I've got some help in fixing this mess," he said to Deanna before the Enterprise's transporters whisked them away.
Ten minutes later, Parker and Deanna entered Conference Room 1 on the Enterprise. Phong, Data, and Rossa were waiting for him. "Captain Parker, your doctor continues to refuse to let me see my grandson," Rossa said icily.
"I trust Doctor Nguyen's judgement, Admiral," Parker replied briskly and, without waiting for her to say more, he stepped into the room. "Admiral, this is a complex situation, and I think you need to realize...."
"Complex? I don't see anything complex." Rossa remained standing even as Parker sat. "My grandson was presumed dead. He is alive. Legally he's my responsibility, and I insist on being allowed to see him."
This time it was Phong, not Parker, that spoke up against her while taking a seat beside Parker. "Admiral, you're simplifying things greatly. The boy has been raised by Talarians. He doesn't think of himself as human and he considers Endar his father."
"It should also be noted, Admiral, that the Jashklu Family is highly ranked on Talar, and Jono is considered one of it's best prodigies at the moment." Data sat down as well, this time across the table from Rossa, while Deanna took up the other seat beside Parker. "To try and take..."
"His name is Jeremiah," Rossa snapped.
"Not to him, it isn't." Phong steepled his fingers in his hands. "Admiral, I've been speaking to the boy, explaining the physical aspects of his body that are different from Talarians. He didn't seem to consider himself a Human at all, not even when I showed him the differences in baseline Talarian and Human DNA. As far as he sees himself, he is Jono ku'Jashklu, not Jeremiah Rossa."
"It's very obvious that the Talarians brainwashed him, Doctor. This wouldn't be the first time an alien aggressor has turned our own people against us."
"Considering the data on the Talarians, I cannot agree with that assessment of their motives, Admiral."
"Your agreement isn't necessary, Commander Data."
"Admiral, you're not thinking about this rationally," Deanna said, cutting in.
"So I'm being irrational? Miss Troi, I've mourned my grandson for twelve years and now I've found out that he's been alive this entire time, raised as someone he was never meant to be!" Rossa's face flushed with rage. "He's been denied his human heritage and made to think he's one of them!"
"I think the problem, Admiral, is that you are operating from an assumption of malice on the part of the Talarians that the data does not justify." Again it was Data speaking to Rossa. "The practice of Geje'hut, the adoption of a fallen enemy's children, is an honored one in Talarian society."
"I don't care, Commander Data. Legally, they have no grounds for adopting my grandson, not without pursuing the matter in Federation courts."
"I doubt the Federation courts are well-equipped to handle a custody case like this," Phong said softly.
"Federation law is clear. I am within my rights, and authority, to order Jeremiah held here until we can reach through to him and clear out his brainwashing."
"Admiral, shouldn't you be thinking about what's best for Jeremiah?" Deanna's expression became the same mask of determination as Rossa's. "He's lived with the Talarians his entire life. That is what he feels himself to be. If you take him away from that you will tear him apart!"
"He deserves to know who he is, Miss Troi!"
"But you're talking about taking him away from everything he's ever known!"
"No, I'm asserting my rights as his guardian under Federation law, and by that same law and the treaty between the Talarians and Federation, all Federation nationals were to be returned to us, including Jeremiah!"
"What you are asking for is going to destroy him!" Deanna's face turned red and she slammed a fist on the table. "You're being selfish and you don't even see it!"
"Admiral, Doctor, please." Parker now stood. "Screaming at each other is not going to calm this situation."
"You're quite right, Captain. You have your orders. Jeremiah is staying here, and he is not to have contact with the Talarians, at all."
"I have already made assurances to Endar that he will get to speak to his son later."
Rossa glared hate at Phong for that remark. "You have no right to do that!"
"I have every right to do as I see fit so long as it benefits my patient, and letting him speak to the man he considers his father is perfectly in line with that!"
In reaction Rossa jumped to her feet and shouted, "This is an abuse of your authority!"
"And your orders to Captain Parker are an abuse of your's!" Phong shot back, now standing and leaning against the table in her direction. "This entire meeting has been an exercise in futility because you're so damned pigheaded!"
"I'll have you court-martialed! Do you hear me?! I don't care how loudly the bureaucrats at Medical howl, you have gone too far and I will have you court-martialed!"
"You may find yourself before..."
"That's enough!" Parker's shout, and the accompanying thump as he slammed his palms on the table and jumped out of his chair, silenced the room. "Admiral Rossa, I will remind you that this squadron is under the direct command of Admiral Pressman and is outside of the conventional Starfleet command system. Your authority here is based solely upon your rank and upon the regulations of Starfleet, which allow us to ignore it if you begin issuing orders detrimental to the duties we have been assigned, as you are now! My orders are to do anything necessary and within reason to ensure the Talarian Steadhold signs the planned treaty with the Federation. This issue with your grandson and your reaction to it are a danger to that end. Furthermore, you have been less than reasonable this entire time." Parker stopped for a moment, but before Rossa could do more than open her mouth, he continued. "I understand, Admiral, that this is a great shock and I don't blame you for wanting your grandson back. I sympathize with you, I really do, but this is not the way to do it. I really must insist you allow the diplomats to handle this."
By this point, the fire Rossa had possessed was gone, as if it had burned itself out finally. She slumped back into her chair, very much the old woman she was, with an expression devoid of emotion and a failing energy not up to the task of maintaining the fight. "I want to see my grandson."
"Captain..." Phong looked at Parker and shook his head, his disapproval obvious.
"Please. I... I will withdraw my opposition to Endar seeing Jeremiah, just let me see him first. He... he was only three when I last saw him. It's been so long..."
Parker looked back to Phong. "Doctor, you have an objection?"
"Jono, Jeremiah, doesn't even know who she is, Captain. This could agitate him in ways I can't begin to fathom. He's already paranoid that we're going to take him as a prisoner."
Parker nodded and looked to Deanna. She shrugged. "He might be right, Captain. I can't form an educated opinion because I haven't interviewed him."
After looking between them, and then back to Rossa, Parker sighed. "Very well. Doctor, please show Admiral Rossa to sickbay."
"Captain, you don't have the authority..."
"And you didn't have the authority to go over my head and talk to Endar!" Parker and Phong now faced off, their eyes focused intently as the others watched in silence. "I fail to see how letting the Admiral see her grandson will do any kind of physical harm to him. You are not a psychologist, Doctor. You have no authority, whatsoever, to bar her from visiting her grandson, especially as he is a minor and under Federation law she has a strong claim to legal custody!"
"Captain, the boy is an adult to the Talarians, and in his own mind! He doesn't even know this woman, and he's already paranoid that we're going to take him as a prisoner! You don't realize..."
"Admiral Rossa has waited twelve years for this! Twelve years!" Parker smacked an open palm on the glossy black surface of the table. "I have an obligation, moral and legal, to at least let her see him." Before Phong could protest again, Parker stepped away from the table. "My decision stands. Admiral, I will show you to sick bay."
"Thank you Captain." Rossa stood, but only barely; the strain from her emotions was becoming overwhelming. Phong sighed and stood to follow, as did Deanna and Data.
The door to sickbay opened and admitted Parker and Rossa, with the others not so far behind. Phong quickly passed both of them and stood in the doorway to the examination wing. "Admiral, keep in mind that he does not know you and will not recognize you."
"Yes, Doctor," Rossa said, rather dispassionately at that. She seemed weak and Parker imagined that any more stress would literally make her legs quiver from the effort of keeping her up.
Such stress seemed unavoidable as they actually walked into the exam room that Phong had assigned Jono to. He was sitting upright, looking about and rather tense. Parker wondered just what he had been taught about the Federation to think that he was a captive. He began to reconsider giving in to Rossa's request.
But it was too late for that now. Rossa walked into the room, standing near the door and not daring to move at first. When she finally did, it was a few tenative steps. Still, Jono did not react to her. He seemed more occupied staring into empty space, if one could look occupied in doing such a thing. Rossa waited until she was just about five feet away from him before she actually spoke to him. "Hello." When she received no response, Rossa went on. "Jer... Jono, I am your grandmother. I..." With no response forthcoming, she waited a moment before pressing on. "I haven't seen you in person since you were a baby."
Parker watched intently. Jono wasn't responding to Rossa at all. Deanna walked up beside him and whispered, "I don't think this is going to work."
"I hope you're wrong," was his reply.
"Please say something! I'm your grandmother! I've spent all these years thinking you were dead, that I had nothing left, and to know you're alive has changed everything! Jeremiah!"
Something jolted Jono. His eyes opened a little more and his jaw tightened. Deanna took Parker's hand to get his attention. "She just triggered something. A repressed memory."
Rossa appeared to notice it too. "Do you remember? You were the pride of your parents. I still remember how happy Connor was when you were born. How happy I was. You were my first grandchild. When they brought you out of the hospital I gave you a stuffed bear, the same kind your father had when he was a child. Bright blue, with a white belly that had little blue and green flowers...."
Deanna's eyes widened just a moment before Jono acted. He jumped off the bed and ran toward the door, knocking Rossa over in the process. One of Phong's orderlies tried to stop him and received a punch for it. Phong instinctively went to his fallen subordinate.
Parker was now the last person between Jono and the door. Jono cried out, a similar cry to what Parker had heard when the boy had jumped on the assassin earlier in the day, and came straight at Parker. Parker adopted a defensive stance and was about to tackle Jono when the boy, rather unexpectedly, ran into him. Had Parker been solid on his feet, his superior mass would probably have absorbed the hit and brought Jono down. But as he had been off-balance in preparation for his own lunge, Jono's speed and mass were enough to knock him over. Parker felt onto his back and Jono was clear into the next room.
He barely took a few steps inside before Carter stopped him cold. He didn't even notice her until her outstretched arm caught Jono square across the chest. He had lost too much of his velocity from hitting Parker and Carter's arm was too strong to knock out of the way. He didn't quite have the chance to get knocked down as would have happened, however, as the arm grabbed him and pulled hard, causing Jono to whip around. Carter tossed him up against the wall with a grunt, knocking the air out of Jono's lungs from the sudden impact. Before he could recover, Deanna came from the other room and pressed a hypospray of sedative to his neck. Within moments Jono went limp and was unconscious.
Phong had a couple of orderlies take Jono from Carter and bring him to a bed. Parker was back on his feet as well, dusting himself off by habit. "Commander Carter, that was rather excellent timing."
"I was on my way to speak with Doctor Nguyen." Carter stepped into the exam room alongside Parker and watched Phong secure Jono into a bed. A flip of a switch and a forcefield around the bed area would keep Jono from trying to run off again. "Captain Endar is asking to see his son. He won't want to be kept waiting, though I imagine he'd be even nastier if he knew precisely what just happened. So..." Carter surveyed the room, noting the orderly with the swelling jaw and the need for another to help Rossa to her feet. "...what just happened?"
"I'm not sure. The Admiral must have said something?" Parker looked at Deanna. "Deanna? You seemed to be feeling something."
"Given the sudden sense of shock and confusion I felt in his mind, I believe Admiral Rossa's pleadings brought up repressed memories. Probably of his early childhood."
"He wasn't yet four when the Galen colony was overrun," Carter said. "I don't know about you two, but I don't remember very much from six on down."
"Still, it is there and has remained repressed until the Admiral brought it out." Deanna looked to Rossa, who seemed shaken enough that she might collapse again at any moment. "She got through to something, but I'm not sure what."
Wearing an unpleasant expression, Phong walked over and leveled a glare at Parker before he turned to Rossa. "Admiral, you should go sit down. Let's go to my office and talk."
Rossa did not argue or even verbally agree. She seemed dazed and rather bewildered. Parker followed behind her just to make sure she didn't collapse. After everyone slipped into Phong's office, Parker helped Rossa into one of the chairs while Deanna took the other. "Admiral." Phong put his hands together and on the desk. "As you can see, Jono - Jeremiah - has no clear memories of you."
"He remembered something, I'm sure of it," Rossa said, very meekly. "Why else did he act that way?"
"I'm not debating that he may have recalled a repressed memory, and Doctor Troi here would be a better authority on that issue anyway, but even if it was one, I'll remind you that your grandson was still a toddler when he was taken. At that age, memories are sporadic and distorted anyway." Phong handed her a PADD with a display on it. "This is his physical. As you can see, he's mostly healthy, and what few problems I've seen are the result of incompatibilies between Human and Talarian diets. Something I've already taken measures to correct. But what you have to accept is that your grandson has no memories of you or his biological family. All he knows is the Talarian family that raised him. For all intents and purposes, Admiral, Jeremiah is Jono, a Talarian."
"But he's Human," Rossa protested.
"Biologically, yes, Culturally? No."
Rossa simply stared into space for the moment before looking back at the PADD. Phong looked back to Parker. "As you can see, Captain, I had a good reason for wanting to avoid this. Now I'm going to have to go to Endar and let him know what happened. He won't be happy."
"Doctor, while I appreciate your commitment to ethics, the fact is that Admiral Rossa is the boy's grandmother and has every right to at least see him. And that's not getting into the legal issues involved." Parker drew in a sigh while getting a cup of Bolian tonic water from the replicator. "This is a whole damned mess."
"That is true." Phong looked to Deanna. "Doctor Troi, any opinions?"
"Without an actual interview, all I can say is the obvious. He's been raised Talarian. He knows nothing of being Human and any attempt to compel him to be Human will only draw violent reactions like that. The Talarians, socially, border on irrational xenophobia. They don't work well with aliens at all, it's a miracle Jono was even accepted by them."
"Endar's family is highly placed, they may have sheltered him to some extents. Made him wear helmets and such." Parker took a sip of the tonic water. "Of course, I suppose Humanity wouldn't have been so open if our first contact with aliens consisted of those aliens trying to exterminate us."
"Probably not," Phong agreed.
"Doctor..." Rossa suddenly looked up. "These marks on Jeremiah's skeleton, what are they?"
"Various fractures and injuries to his bones," was Phong's immediate reply.
"He's got so many." Rossa handed Phong the PADD. "Why so many injuries?"
"Well, I can't be sure. They're old, received over the previous ten years or so."
Rossa didn't seem so convinced. "Doctor, how do we know that they haven't abused him?"
"Well, from a stricter sense, there's no way to know without Jono actually telling us. Some species have a lot of rituals or sports their young males play that could produce such injuries. And my own findings have shown that Talarian skeletal structure is about ten percent stronger than Human. Things that Talarian bones can withstand would fracture Human bones."
"How do we know that for sure? How do we know they didn't abuse him to make him be like them? It wouldn't be the first time!"
Parker did not reply at first, though he too had some serious questions he wanted to ask Endar. Phong sighed and looked to Deanna. "Well, Doctor Troi, your opinions?"
"Aside from repressed memory, I cannot see any normal signs of intended abuse, Doctor Nguyen. But I would have to interview him to make sure."
"It doesn't matter! You have said it yourself, Doctor, that Jeremiah considers himself Talarian. He might think his abuse is just a part of being Talarian."
"That is pure speculation..."
"Doctor, I insist that he be held here now. We can't turn him back over to the Talarians if they're abusing him!"
Deanna stepped in, shaking her head vigorously. "Admiral, if you don't turn him back over it will just verify all of his suspicions in his own mind! He believes we intend to kidnap and enslave him!"
"Jeremiah is a Federation citizen. He has never renounced that. We have a legal obligation to make sure he's not being abused!"
"Yes, Admiral, we do," Parker agreed. Before Deanna and Phong could protest, Parker added, "And we will do so, in a civil a way as possible. Doctor," Parker looked to Phong, "do you think you've gotten close enough to Jono that he'll be willing to talk to you about this?"
"Well, he won't be suspicious of me asking about the injuries. I've already talked to him about various things. Differences in the Talarian and Human dietary requirements, hygiene differences..."
"Good." Parker turned his head to Deanna. "Deanna, if you don't mind, I'd like it if you were nearby when this happens. You can determine if Jono's hiding anything or not."
"When are we going to do this?"
Phong looked at his watch. "Well, you gave him a strong sedative dose. And I want to keep him inactive long enough to make sure that nothing's happened internally, so the morning should suffice. About ten or so hours from now, 0700 hours ship time."
"Fine, I'll do it."
"Then I'll make sure you're given a secure channel for the transporter room in the morn..." Parker's comm badge beeped and he tapped it. "Parker here."
As expected, it was O'Keefe on the other end. "Captain, we're gettin' a hail from the surface. Ambassador Troi wants to know if her daughter is up here."
"Yes, she is."
"Okay sir. Seems the Ambassador wants to speak with her. Normal diplomatic stuff or somethin'."
Deanna heard that and stood up, straightening out her blouse while Parker told O'Keefe she was on her way to the transporter room, then cut the channel. "Zero seven hundred still good?"
"Yes, it is. Doctor, Captain..." Deanna excused herself from the room and left.
When she was gone, Parker went over to Rossa. "Admiral?"
"Captain, if he's been abused by them, you won't turn him over, will you?" Rossa looked up at Parker.
"If Doctors Nguyen and Troi tell me not to, I will not. But Admiral, you must understand that he has been raised Talarian. He does not know what it is to be Human and he has no Human ties. Unless I have good reason not to, I'm going to have him returned to the Sathra as soon as Doctor Nguyen clears him."
Rossa didn't reply, though Parker knew this wouldn't be the end of the matter. Not by a long shot.
”A Radical is a man with both feet planted firmly in the air.” – Franklin Delano Roosevelt
"No folly is more costly than the folly of intolerant idealism." - Sir Winston L. S. Churchill, Princips Britannia
American Conservatism is about the exercise of personal responsibility without state interference in the lives of the citizenry..... unless, of course, it involves using the bludgeon of state power to suppress things Conservatives do not like.
Moderator of SDN, Former Spacebattles Super-Mod, Veteran Chatnik