Raising the Stakes

by David and Cheryl Petterson

(Standard Year 2252)

Return to Valjiir Stories

Return to Valjiir Continnum

Return To Part One

Return To Part Two


“She looks like a demented raspberry,” was Rivka’s first statement. She had a sensor schematic of the High Stakes on the screen in the briefing room. Lian stood, arms folded, shaking her head.

“Mok, Mok,” she sighed to herself. “What have you done to her?”

“All those pods are specialized lab equipment, computers, living quarters... gevault it’s a flying experiment!”

“Any unusual weapons or shielding readings?” Tara wanted to know.

Rivka keyed in a few queries. “No, nothing out of the... wait. There’s a thermal vent in one of the cabins. But it doesn’t seem to be venting anything now.”

“Then what’s it for?”

“I can’t tell unless it’s working. Then I could follow the emission.”

“But it couldn’t be used against another ship.”

“I don’t see how.” Rivka looked up, grinning. “Unless they wanted to broil us to death.”

Tara nodded. “Anything else unusual?”

“No, unless you consider the crew unusual.”

Lian snorted. “Honey, all Haven crews are...”

“It’s not a Haven crew.”

“What?” Lian and Tara said together.

Rivka studied the read-outs on the screen. “Sensors are reading nine life-forms; one Human, a Vulcan, a Haven, an Indiian, an Antari, two Caitians, an Andorian...” She looked up, her forehead creasing in worry. “...and a Klingon.”

“Shit,” Tara breathed. “We’d better tell Sulu right away.”

“Why?” Lian asked. “Knowing Mok, it isn’t anything we need to be concerned with.”

“The captain isn’t always - um - rational when it comes to Klingons,” Tara explained.

Rivka was already at the com. “Mr. Rawson, has the Captain arrived yet?” she asked the transporter chief.

“He’s just coming in now, ma’am. Captain, Lt. Commander Mazar wishes to speak with you.”

Seconds later, Sulu’s voice came over the com. “What is it, Rivka?”

“Sensors show a Klingon aboard the High Stakes, sir,” she replied.

There was a pause. “Tara, get down here,” Sulu said.

“Aye, sir,” she replied, and immediately left the briefing room.

“Lian, any advice?” Sulu asked.

“I don’t think it’s a problem,” Lian returned, “but I have to admit there’s no record of any Klingon working with Mok.” She shrugged. “It might just be some hooker he picked up.”

“Might be,” Sulu replied, but his voice was carefully noncommittal. “Thanks, Rivi. Sulu out.”

Rivka raised her eyebrows. “`Rivi?’“ she asked.

Lian shrugged. “So he knows Israeli nicknames.”

“How did a man so informal ever get to be a Starfleet captain?”

Lian grinned. “Check his records. If anyone deserved this posting, it’s Sulu Takeda.”


“A Klingon,” Sulu muttered, turning from the transporter console. “What the hell is a Haven trader doing with a Klingon?”

“The Klingons are one of the humanoid races of this section of the galaxy,” Jerel replied, his voice low.

Sulu scowled. “Seeders,” he returned, his voice as low. “I don’t like the idea of being a cousin to that race of...”

“Coordinates received and locked in, sir,” Lieutenant Rawson reported. “The High Stakes reports ready.”

“Give Security a minute to get here,” Sulu said.

“Your prejudice is showing, Captain,” Jerel put in.

“Better safe, Mr. Courtland.”

“Aye, sir.”

Moments later, Tara entered the transporter room, nodding at Sulu. He turned back to Rawson. “Energize, Lieutenant.”

Six figures materialized on the platform. Sulu barely had time to feel any concern over the fact that one of them was Klingon. The sight of an Antari, an Indiian, an Andorian, and a Human, in addition to the Klingon and the Haven captain, was quite enough to occupy his thoughts.

“This is your crew, Captain Mokallian?” he asked.

Bek Mokallian shrugged. “Sort of. They’re the people I have to work with. So glad to meet you, Majesty.”

Sulu frowned. “My name is Sulu.”

Mok smiled. “I know your name.” He gestured to the others on the platform. “Majesty, this is Eontril Plad and his attached Goddess, Tharas, Ballerina and Hands-Off, if you get my meaning.”

“Rian ani Rina,” the attached Goddess corrected. Then she smiled, and Sulu had to consciously slow his heartrate. “You know ani Ramy!” she said delightedly.

“Yes, Keheil, I do,” Sulu responded. “She told me it wasn’t polite to gather information without permission.”

Rian looked startled. “I was not,” she said. “Your body exudes knowledge of...”

“I see. My apologies,” Sulu put in quickly. Eontril chuckled. Sulu glanced at him.

“Pardon me,” Eontril replied. “It’s just that I know the feeling.” He stepped forward. “At least Mokallian got my name right. Success to you, Captain.”

Sulu shook the offered hand. “In all things,” he returned.

Eontril grinned at the proper verbal response. “If we have time, it would be nice to be able to discuss the unique experience of Antaris.”

“I doubt we will, Mr. Plad.”

Eontril’s eyebrows suddenly lowered in confusion. “This is an unpleasant memory, Captain?”

“No, simply a private one.” At Eontril’s skeptical look, Sulu continued, “Discussing it is an uncomfortable idea for me.”

“Ah,” Eontril said, nodding in understanding.

“We didn’t come here to stand around and chit-chat,” Tharas suddenly rumbled. How an Andorian could make his voice rumble, Sulu didn’t know.

“He’s got to check us all out, Tharas,” the Human who Mok had introduced as `Ballerina’ cut in. Then she smiled brightly at Sulu. “My name’s Ballerina, but you can call me Christy.” Then she winked. “I already know your name, but I assume Captain Sulu will do.”

Jerel whinnied, and Sulu frowned. “Nicely, thank you.”

“Mok didn’t bother to introduce me,” the Klingon put in. “The only being who can tell anyone ‘hands-off’ about me is me. My name is Kila and I don’t trust you.”

Sulu found himself staring at the young woman. She was dressed in a very form-fitting, very short dress, her dark hair just reaching her copper-colored shoulders. Her eyes were a scintillating black beneath her bifurcated brows, her mouth set but sensual nonetheless. The realization that he thought her attractive - and not simply ‘for a Klingon’ - startled him.

He cleared his throat. “Well, Miss Kila, I don’t trust you. That makes us even.”

She showed her teeth. “An honest Fed. What a surprise.”

“An honest Klingon, a bigger one,” Sulu returned.

“Captain,” Jerel said pointedly. Sulu took a breath.

“Yes. Ladies, gentlemen, this is my First Officer and Chief of Science, Commander Courtland.” He gestured to Tara. “My Security Chief, Miss Ryan. If you’ll follow us to the briefing room, we can get this transfer of information started.”

“Of course, Captain,” Christy replied delightedly.

“Anything for you, Captain,” Kila added in perfect mockery of Christy’s tone.

“Shut up!” Christy hissed.

“Children...” Rian began gently.

“Can it!” Tharas snapped.

Mok shrugged, putting a friendly arm around Sulu’s shoulders. “Subordinates can be a real pain, can’t they, Majesty?”

Sulu sighed. Someday, Admiral Brezhnova, I’ll get you for this.


Once in the briefing room, introductions were made all around. Mok and Lian exchanged a greeting of obvious passion, then proceeded, as was the way with Havens, to bait one another at every opportunity. Rian somehow got it into her head that Rivka, being Israeli and having a name beginning with ‘R,’ must be a cousin to Ruth ani Ramy, and took to her like long-lost family. Tara and Kila regarded each other with equal mistrust. As far as Sulu could tell, Tharas regarded everyone with equal mistrust. The fireworks came with Tristan’s entrance.

What,” the Indiian stated as he stopped in his tracks just inside the briefing room door, “is that doing here?”

Eontril bristled. “I’m half the counseling team of the High Stakes, if it’s any of your business.”

Tristan turned to Sulu. “Captain, I refuse to participate in any meeting at which this... this Roshian is present.”

“That’s not an insult, you know,” Eontril replied with a fierce grin.

“Hold on,” Sulu interrupted. “Mr. Vale, you obviously know Mr. Plad...”

“No, I don’t, but I don’t need to know him - sir,” Tristan answered. Sulu caught the hesitation.

“Mr. Vale, whatever your differences might be...”

“He’s just a self-righteous Aeman nut,” Eontril explained. “I’ve met the type before.”

“And I’ve met your type before,” Tristan hissed. “You have no respect for tradition, none for truth, none for...”

“Your truth isn’t the only truth in the galaxy!” Eontril returned.

“The only one for Indiians!”

“For Aemans!”

Gentlemen,” Sulu broke in, “this is not conducive to the completion of our business.”

“This - being - offends my soul, Captain,” Tristan said, his voice dark. “I will not deal with the likes of him.” He paused, his grey eyes fixing on Sulu with distaste. “Unless I’m so ordered - sir.”

Again Sulu noted the hesitation. He met Tristan’s stare. “Mr. Vale, you are the Chief of Communications for this ship. However, as it appears Captain Mokallian is prepared to deliver his information personally, I suppose we can dispense with the need for your presence.” Tristan saluted and pivoted toward the door. “But send in your second, Lieutenant. And I’ll expect you in my office when this is finished.”

“Yes, sir,” was thrown over Tristan’s shoulder as the Indiian left the room.

Sulu shook his head, then noticed that all eyes were on him. He cleared his throat. “Excuse the delay, Captain Mokallian. We’ll have to wait for a communications officer.”

Mok shrugged. Rian had moved to Eontril’s side, gently touching his arm. Sulu recognized the calming intent and grinned to himself.

“Captain,” Christy said. Sulu turned to her. There was awe in her blue eyes, and more than a touch of a groupie’s invitation. “Perhaps it would explain things to know that Eontril is of a religious minority on Indi, called...”

“Roshians,” Sulu said. “I know of the schism, Miss - Christy.”

“You do?!” Eontril exclaimed, breaking from Rian’s touch.

“Yes. I’m married to an Indiian.”

Christy murmured, “Shit,” and Sulu gave a mental sigh of relief. The statement did not, however, seem to please Eontril.

“Oh,” he said, with a face that looked like it had just tasted sour milk.

“Something wrong with that, Mr. Plad?” Sulu asked.

“Not if you like barbaric blood-letting ceremonies to ancient, discredited, vengeful bitches.”

Sulu bit his tongue. “I can see why my Communications Chief didn’t want to be in the same room with you.”

“And are you going to protect your ignorance by leaving as well?” Eontril sneered.

“No,” Sulu replied. “I’m not Indiian.” As proof, he held out his left hand, clearly showing the unscarred palm. Eontril’s eyes went wide.

“But...” he began.

“I said I was married, not mnorindar,” Sulu explained.

“Captain Sulu, my deepest apologies...” Eontril began. Sulu waved it away.

“Understood, Mr. Plad. One should never be certain of one’s foregone conclusions.” He caught Mok’s voice speaking to Lian.

“Kam sounds like a Vulcan, cuz.”

“Probably because he served with one for so long, cuz,” was Lian’s reply.

“Ladies, gentlemen,” Sulu said, “Let’s get back on track. Please, take your seats.”


The replacement officer arrived within minutes and took an unobtrusive seat next to Rivka. Sulu spread his hands on the table. “So, Captain Mokallian, what do you have for me?”

Mok grinned. “I could let Christy answer that.” Christy punched him on the arm. Kila hissed her displeasure. Again Rian said, “Children,” and again Tharas snapped, “Can it!”

“This is highly sensitive material, Captain,” Tharas continued. “We don’t know what to make of it, but we’re not blind to its potential importance.” Eontril fidgeted. Rian touched his arm. “Simply put, we’ve found life forms where there should be no life forms. Not once, but three times.”

Mok leaned back in his chair. “You know the old saw about once being an anomaly, twice a coincidence.”

“And three times is a pattern,” Sulu completed.

“So, we’ve got ourselves a pattern, Kam.”

Sulu sighed. “Sulu, please.”

“Right, Majesty.”

“Just where have these life forms appeared?” Jerel asked.

“Well, I wouldn’t exactly say ‘appeared’...” Mok replied.

“It’s always been in conjunction with some seemingly unrelated - um - business,” Christy put in. “The first time, we discovered it completely by accident. I was being beamed aboard from a needle wreck, and Saran - he’s our scientist - picked up the other reading while scanning for mine.”

“Inside a comet,” Eontril said calmly.

“A comet?!” burst from Jerel, Rivka, Lian and Sulu simultaneously.

“Is there an echo in here?” Mok deadpanned, looking around with feigned curiosity.

“I was occupied with Christy, and unable to reach the being in time to sustain its life,” Rian said. The tone of her voice reminded Sulu of the quietly despairing aftermath of one of Ruth’s failed healing attempts. Eontril gently stroked Rian’s hair.

“We have no idea what it was,” Tharas said, “except that it wanted us to relay a message to someone named ‘Rainen.’“

“And the message?” Sulu asked.

“To help his children,” Kila answered. Sulu’s gaze fell on her, noting the bored, almost mocking expression on her face.

“Do you know what he meant?”

Kila shrugged. “Some plea for help for the weak, no doubt.” She examined her nails. “Something to concern you Feds, not a Klingon.”

“Yes, compassion never was one of your strong points,” Sulu observed.

Kila bared her teeth. “True. Compassion is a weakness.”

“Kila, shut up,” Christy said.

“He started it,” Kila pointed out.

“I’m stopping it,” Tharas growled.

“Captain, I think it would be best...” Jerel began.

Sulu scowled. “Of course, you’re right, Commander.” He forced a smile. “My apologies, Miss Kila. My words aren’t helpful here.”

“But true,” Eontril said with a grin.

“Yes,” was Sulu’s response.

“Still honest,” Kila muttered. “There’s a shock.”

“Can we get on with this?” Mok asked. “I don’t exactly have all day here.”

“Suddenly have profits to make?” Lian put in. “That should make the Monolems so happy, Mok.”

Mok grumbled. Lian chuckled.

“The second encounter was in the heart of a newly exploded nova,” Christy rejoined.

“We were on our way through the system,” Tharas explained. “We took readings as a matter of course.”

“We didn’t have time to get that one on board before it faded,” Christy went on, “but the readings are documented.” She smiled at Sulu. “Vulcans are very thorough about things like that.”

Sulu nodded. “Yes, I’m aware of that, Miss Christy.”

“Ballerina’s very thorough about other things,” Mok snorted. “She’d love to tell you all about it.”

“Can we please keep to the subject?” Rivka abruptly snapped.

Mok raised his eyebrows. “Testy, isn’t she, Majesty?” he commented to Sulu.

“Some of us have work to get back to,” Rivka returned.

“Like this isn’t the most important thing to come along since venus,” Mok continued conspiratorially.

“We could do with a little more decorum,” Christy said.

“She simpered, trying to sound all-Fed,” Kila remarked.

Christy swiveled in her chair. “I’ve had just about enough of you...” she began.

“Children, I must insist!” Rian protested.

“If I have to say ‘can it’ once more...” Tharas threatened.

“SHUT UP ALL OF YOU!” Sulu interrupted, standing up from his seat. All eyes turned to him. “Thank you,” he went on, and sat back down. “If you’d be so kind as to complete your report...” His eyes swept over the High Stakes crew, finally settling on Tharas. “...Mr. Tharas.”

Christy frowned. Kila whispered, “Aw, poor groupie.” Tharas cleared his throat menacingly.

“After the nova, we began casual but continual scanning for life form readings in unusual places,” he said. “The last one we found was, believe it or not, coming from the edge of a black hole.”

“How can you take a life form reading, or any other kind, for that matter, from the edge of a black hole?” Jerel wanted to know. “The very nature of the phenomenon would preclude...”

“Yes, I know,” Tharas rejoined. “But it was there. And we got readings, though we were as unable to take any other kind of readings as would be expected.”

“She is still there,” Rian said quietly.

“`She?’“ Sulu questioned.

“Rian - attempted a contact,” Eontril replied, his hand reaching for hers. “It was very traumatic, but not very helpful.”

“All I know is that she still lives, through what agency I cannot fathom,” Rian added.

There was silence for a long moment.

“You have the coordinates for all these - sightings?” Sulu asked.

“Well, two of them no longer exist, Captain,” Eontril reminded.

“True, but there may be some - evidence, some clues in the systems where they were found.”

“Can do, Majesty,” Mok put in. He handed over a set of tapes to Jerel. “Which brings us to ‘that’s about it’ time.”

“You can tell us nothing else?” Jerel asked.

Mok simply shook his head, but his dark eyes were smiling at Sulu. “We find anything else, we’ll be in touch, if that’s alright with you, Majesty.”

“That’s what we’re here for,” Sulu returned, appreciating the fact that Havens could, when required, be the epitome of subtlety.

“Funny, I thought you were here to impose your idea of order on the rest of the galaxy,” Kila murmured.

“No, Miss Kila, we’ll leave totalitarianism to the Klingons,” Sulu replied. “After all, you’re the experts at tyranny.”

“And I thought all Terrans were experts at duplicity,” Kila remarked. “It’s nice to be proven wrong once in a while.” She grinned, all teeth. “It makes the rest of the time so much more satisfying.”

“I’ll take that as a compliment, Miss Kila.”

“Take it any way you like, Captain.”

“Now don’t you wish you’d said that?” Mok said to Christy.

“Give it up, Mok,” Christy snarled.

“One more thing,” Eontril put in. Sulu turned his attention to the Indiian. “These life forms. They all were advanced. Very advanced.”

“To live in a comet or a nova, no shit,” Lian observed.

“And they all were certain they had been deliberately assassinated. Their tia left no doubt of that.”

Jerel whistled. Sulu took a deep breath. Lian and Rivka exchanged glances.

“Makes you kind of wonder who would be powerful enough to do that to the likes of them, doesn’t it?” Mok put in cheerfully.

“It makes me shake right down to my bones,” Tara Ryan remarked from her place at the door.

“Also makes you wonder whose side they’re on,” Lian added.

“If we were to make enemies of their enemies...” Rivka said, then let the sentence drop.

Sulu exhaled. “Well, you’ve certainly given us something to talk about,” he said to Mok. “Is that all?”

“That’s it, Majesty.”

“That’s enough,” Lian muttered.

Sulu rose from his seat. “Thank you for this information, Captain Mokallian. We most certainly will be in touch.”

Mok, too, rose. “Say, Kam, you wouldn’t have any time to give a young racer the thrill of her life, would you?”

“Captain Mokallian...” Sulu began.

Mok grinned. “I didn’t think so, but she’d never forgive me if I didn’t ask.” Sulu glanced at Christy, who was beet red and glaring at Mok. He turned to her.

“Miss Christy, as I said before, I’m married.” He smiled. “But if I wasn’t, believe me, your charms would not be lost on me.”

Christy smiled back. “You’re sweet, Captain.”

“Just honest.”

“He is, you know,” Eontril put in, winking at Christy. She blushed again. Kila snarled. Sulu bit his tongue, then turned to face her.

“I can’t say it’s been a pleasure,” he told her, “but no one’s been killed. Where Klingons are concerned, that’s a definite improvement.”

“Not necessarily from the Klingon point of view,” she returned.

“Can’t resist the bluster, can you?”

“Anymore than you can, Captain.”

“Get off my ship, Miss Kila.”

She grinned, rising from her chair. “Refreshing,” she remarked, and sauntered over to Mok.

“Captain, give my greeting to ani Ramy when next you meet,” Rian said, claiming Sulu’s attention.

“Certainly, Keheil,” Sulu replied.

“And convey the same to your wife,” Eontril added.

Sulu shook his head. “She may not accept them.”

Eontril’s eyes widened. “Why not?”

“She’s Aeman.”

“But if she didn’t demand mnorindar...”

“It’s a long story, Mr. Plad.”

It was Eontril’s turn to shake his head. “Damned rigid religious fanatics.” He gracefully took Rian’s arm, and they, too, moved to stand with Mok.

“Captain,” Tharas said abruptly. Sulu faced him. “Be very careful with this information. I don’t like the feel of it all.”

“I intend to use the utmost caution, Mr. Tharas.”

“Be sure you do.”

Sulu nodded.

“We’ll be beaming off now, Majesty,” Mok called from the doorway of the briefing room. “Lian, dear, so glad to see you. Give my love to the Monolems.” He showed his teeth. “But not my address.”

“Tara, if you’ll escort our guests back to the transporter,” Sulu said.

With an airy wave from Christy, and a final growl from Kila, the crew of the High Stakes left the briefing room.

“Well,” Sulu said, sitting back down. “What do we make of all that?”

“Other than it’s a miracle they manage to fly a ship?” Rivka wanted to know.

Sulu grinned. “Other than that.”

“I’ll prepare a transmission to Starfleet right away,” said the communications officer, who up until that time hadn’t said a word.

“We’d better encode it top priority,” Jerel said.

“As well as top security,” Lian added.

“But what do you make of it,” Sulu insisted.

“It doesn’t seem possible,” Jerel said quietly. “I’ll have to study their tapes.”

“If it is accurate, these beings have constitutions I’d give my eye teeth for,” Lian rejoined.

“Not to mention the technological level of the beings who are assassinating them,” Rivka stated.

“To imprison someone in a comet, or the center of a star...” Jerel mused.

“Or at the edge of a black hole, don’t forget that,” Rivka said.

“And, of course, the power necessary to enable that being to stay at the edge of a black hole for gods know how long...” Lian commented.

“Looks like you’ve got your work cut out for you,” Sulu said.

Jerel whinnied. “For the next decade or so, yes, Captain.”

“Study the tapes, make your reports. I’m sure Starfleet will want this information yesterday.” Sulu glanced at the communications officer. “And Mr. Arden, tell your chief I want him in my office - on the double.”

“Aye, sir,” the ensign replied.

“Dismissed,” Sulu said. Jerel waited until the others had left.

“Seeders,” he said.

“And they have enemies,” Sulu responded.

“`Holy shit’ seems appropriate, sir.”

“It sure as hell does, Jerel.”


U.S.S. Drake
NCC 541
Command Office

U.S.S. Enterprise
NCC 1701
Chief of Security


Hi, Jer - Where are you when I need you?

Remember my complaint about Tristan Vale? I found out why he hates me. I should’ve known.

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

Tristan entered Sulu’s office, his face set in determined resentment. “Reporting as ordered, sir,” he snapped.

Sulu sighed. “At ease, Mr. Vale.” The Indiian didn’t move. “Sit down,” Sulu clarified, gesturing to a chair in front of his desk.

“I’ll stand - sir,” was the sharp response.

Sulu nodded to himself, standing from his own chair. “I don’t like your tone, Mr. Vale.”

“I am Indiian, sir. A certain amount of leeway in personal expression is traditionally given to...”

“I’m aware of that, but I’ll bet VonHels didn’t,” Sulu broke in.

“No, sir, but, as you’re so fond of pointing out, Captain VonHels no longer commands this ship.”

“And you wish he did.”

“I find the present command - distasteful, yes, sir.”

“Why? What have I ever done to you?”

Tristan glared at him for a second, then his eyes returned to staring at the bulkhead behind his captain. “I prefer not to discuss it, sir.”

“I’m not asking you for your preference, Mr. Vale.”

“Very well - sir. Then say I refuse to discuss it,” Tristan snarled.

“And if I make it an order?”

The Indiian’s voice was dark. “You won’t like what you hear - sir.”

Sulu moved away from his desk, coming to stand directly in front of Tristan. “I think I’ve had enough of ‘sirs’ that make ‘motherfucker’ sound like a compliment.”

“In your case - sir...” Tristan bit off the words that had obviously slipped out unintentionally.

Sulu bristled, his jaw tightening. “Say your piece, Mr. Vale.”

“Off the record, Captain?”

Sulu studied the derision in the young man’s eyes. “Very well,” he said. “Off the record. In my case - what?”

Tristan took a deep breath. “In your case, Captain Sulu, if I understand the Terran epithet correctly, ‘motherfucker’ IS a compliment.”

“Meaning?” Sulu growled.

Tristan stared in disbelief. “I’m Indiian,” he said.

“Yes, I’ve noticed.”

“I’m Aeman.”


“By the Beggars, do I have to spell it out!?!” Tristan exploded.

It was Sulu’s turn to stare. “Yes, Mr. Vale, you do.”

T-e-l-m-n-o-r!” Tristan spat.

Sulu took a step back, inhaling deeply. He found he had to swallow before speaking. “Mr. Vale, I’m not Indiian.” He held out his left hand, turning it, displaying the unmarked palm.

Tristan refused to look at it, or him. “My brother is an aide to Ambassador Costain,” was all he said.

“Shit,” Sulu muttered.

“An appropriate description - sir,” Tristan commented.

Sulu scrubbed his hands over his face. He took several deep breaths. After two or three false starts, he spoke. “Mr. Vale, I can understand the - revulsion - you feel. There are factors which are unique, not only to this - situation - but to the very nature of... the one of whom you cannot speak. I realize that your religious conviction is important for you, but... First and foremost, you are an officer in Starfleet. You took an oath. I’m your captain, and I deserve your respect for that, whether or not you can or do respect my personal life. I won’t tolerate less. Second, it might serve you better to withhold judgement. If I understand Indiian religion, that’s reserved for one higher than yourself.”

Tristan gulped. “Aema has judged...” he began.

“Yes, but not me, Mr. Vale.”

Tristan blinked, looking at Sulu for perhaps the first time. “Yet...yet, you...accept...”

Sulu shrugged. “I’m not Indiian.”

“You aid in blasphemy!” The voice was a whisper.

“You can’t condemn me, Mr. Vale. I’m NOT Indiian.”

The grey eyes grew confused. “My brother...”

“Met me on the Enterprise?” Sulu asked. Tristan nodded. “I’m sorry he was distressed.” Sulu paused. “I regret my command distresses you. I can arrange for a transfer if you wish.”

Tristan frowned. “You accept - that one.”

“Yes. But I also accept Aema’s judgement of her. It simply isn’t binding on me. I’m a Buddhist.”

“How can...?” Tristan began, puzzled.

“That would take a long time to explain, Mr. Vale.”

Tristan cocked his head. “I have the time, if you do - sir.” This time, the word was cautious and neutral.

Sulu couldn’t help the grin. “If you think you can refrain from calling me ‘sir’, Mr. Vale.”

The beginnings of a twinkle came into Tristan’s eyes. “I think I can comply - Captain.”

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

....so I spent the next two hours trying to put the whole thing into perspective for him. It’s so damned bizarre - yeah, even after all these years - to ride on an Indiian roller coaster. I don’t understand how he could hate my guts one minute, grieve with me the next; judge me, then accept me, then understand - all without any approval. You’d think I’d be used to it, but Jilla and I came to our understanding so long ago...and it’s not something we bring up at the end of a busy day. But he says he doesn’t want a transfer - at least not now. He’s willing to give me a chance. Typical Indiian tolerance once I got it through his thick skull that I wasn’t Indiian. I suppose I should be flattered for Jilla’s sake. In a very backhanded way, it’s a compliment to her that other Indiians would naturally assume I accept Aeman religion.

Just don’t ever tell her I said that.

Come to think of it, I mentioned him in my tape to her. She probably knew right away why he didn’t like me. I hope it didn’t hurt her too much. I hope she’s all right. I hope the rest of this year goes by fast. I hope I don’t burn up with need before I see her again. And speaking of need...

...no, I don’t think I’ll do that, however much you might want me to, masochist.

Say hello to everyone. I’ll tell Tara you miss her. I sure as hell miss you. Take care of Jilla for me (no, not that way, obnoxious). Take care of yourself till I see you again.

After that, you can let yourself go (joke).

Love you, Jer.




Sulu returned to his cabin after a long workout in the gym. The tensions of the day had gotten to him, and he’d needed some time to turn off his brain. Sheer, physical action had always worked before. Somehow, he wasn’t too terribly surprised when it didn’t work this time. Explaining his life to Tristan Vale had made his temporary separation a keening stab of loss. An ice-cold shower didn’t help, either. It was useless to try to sleep in his condition, so he sat at the work station in his cabin, doing everything he would’ve normally been doing the next day in his office. He wondered fleetingly what, then, he was going to do in the morning, but he’d been a First Officer long enough to know that Jerel would think of something.

It was nearing 0400 when he decided to try and rest.

It was 0430 when he got up and switched on his personal log recorder

“My first week, almost, of command. I seem to be settling in well, everyone seems to approve of the change in atmosphere. I’m even square with Tristan Vale. It looks like continued contact with the High Stakes is inevitable. I wish I knew how much they weren’t telling me.

I wish I could sleep.

I wish Jilla were here.

I wish I was sure Fleet will grant us dependency posting.

I wish I knew how I’m gonna be able to take another 346 days of this.

Three hundred and forty-six - and counting.”

The End

To go to the next story in chronological sequence, click here

Return to Valjiir Stories

Return to Valjiir Continnum