My apologies for the delay on both this and the ME/ST variant but my life, both personal and professional has been chaotic/troubled for the last few months.

I will continue this story, and it should settle into a schedule of an update at least once a month from Sept/Oct on.

10: Dearly Departed

Romulus System

USS Vanguard

Cargo Bay 2:

MacLeod stood at the podium and looked at the crew standing around in the hanger bay. They should have used the rec-room but it was still way down the repair list, sometime next week according to Varik's new deputy, Lieutenant Sarq. MacLeod still found the idea of a Tellarite and a Vulcan working that close together amusing.

Slowly he scanned the eyes of every person in the room, the pain and suffering was now being allowed out after a week of fixing the ship, and it showed.

"We have lost so many, and know that even more of our friends and loved ones died fighting the Borg in our galaxy that I honestly don't know what to say, or how to comfort you." He paused and looked down at the list of names on the padd on the podium.

"I wish I could guarantee that we will get back home, and that it would all be worth it, but I can't. All I can promise is to do everything in my power to make that happen and keep you safe from the dangers in this universe." He paused, thinking of the giant spider-ship and fought off the shiver creeping up his spine. He looked into the eyes of his bridge officers.

"We have been battered, we have been bruised but we have not been broken. We stand tall and we will survive and grow strong and whatever this new universe decides to throw at us, we will not back down from it. We will protect each other, survive and grow strong.

"We will find a way and forge our own path. This is the Vanguard and we will lead the way!"

He looked around again; the heads of the crew were up now. While it was clear that everyone was still hurting, he could see a glimmer of hope now in the expressions of many of the crew assembled.

He looked at the crewmen standing and the door and gave a nod. The crewman blew on the whistle he had, and in time honoured tradition, the sharp distinct sound called everyone to attention.

MacLeod looked stood ram-rod straight as he spoke; "From the stars we come, to the stars we return. From now until the end of time. We therefore commit these bodies to the deep."

"Captain Joseph Willard."

"Commander Shar."

"Lieutenant Commander T'Vor."

"Lieutenant Commander Stuart Silsbury."


Personal Log: Stardate 56487.1

Local Date: 23:30 August 12th 2258

Two hundred and sixty-eight names. Two hundred sixty-eight dead crewmates. Almost my entire first and second security teams. Seventy percent of the medical staff is gone and sixty percent of the engineering staff are dead…

All xenobiologists and anthropologists are gone, not that we had many to start with, so the best people to figure out the new local species are gone.

Only good news is most of our pilots are fine…. Least we can still fight…

How can I protect these people? I'm not ready. I don't know how…

I'm not even thirty and now I have to command a starship lost in another dimension. Until this jump I'd only ever had command of the bridge for a few days total…. Oh god what do I do?

I don't want this. What happens if I become like my ancestors? What happens when the crew find out about my family? My history?

Two hundred and sixty-two crew are left…. One hundred and seventy-four Humans, a few dozen Vulcans, an equal number of Romulans and Andorians. Smaller numbers of Tellarites, Bajorans, Bolians, Betazoids and a handful of other minor Federation races….

Even a joined Trill….

And they all look to me to lead them… How?

On Betazed it was easy.

Kill the Jem Ha'dar until they were all dead or you died yourself.

Nice, simple, easy.

This… gods what do I do? How are we going to get back home? What happens if we can't find a way and months become years?

All the counsellors are dead…. Seventy percent of the medical staff is gone… Did I say that already?

Oh god… what Do I do?

He looked up and paused the recording and the door sounded. "Enter."

She walked in only a few steps; the room was dark, with the only light coming from the open terminal and the planet Romulus outside. "Erik…." She looked at him; the pain in his face was clear to see.

Without saying a word she moved next to him and wrapped her arms around him.

He never said a word, didn't offer any resistance and she pulled him into her arms.

"What do I do? How do I lead them? I can't do it, I'm not ready!"

He didn't cry openly, but she could feel him sob as she gently rocked him in her arms.

"It's ok. You'll know what to do. I have faith in you."

"Why? How?"

"Because I trust you. I've seen your heart, as you've seen mine. I'll be here for you as you were there for me."

He didn't say anything, he just cried softly against her shoulder.

She remembered when she'd cried like this so many years ago, and the secret he'd told her as he took her into his heart.

She'd been shocked; though if it was more that he told her than what he said she did not know, but she knew then he would always be there for her.

And now she could be there for him.

As she'd stood in the cargo bay and watched him read out all the names of the dead crew she knew he was putting on a hard face, but she knew him well enough to know that he was dying a little inside as he read those names and it hurt her to not be able to take his hand.

She knew he needed to be strong for the crew but she could clearly see that he was hurting more than them as the weight of the ship came to rest on his shoulders.

After the memorial service, she'd watched him leave as soon as he could and waited for as short a time as she could to avoid suspicion and the rumours that she knew where going around about them.

She didn't care about those rumours; he needed her and she was there.

For a long time they just sat there; he let his pain and worries out and she sat with him, providing an anchor for him as he drifted in his personal sea of torment.

She had no idea how long it she had sat there when he finally lifted his head. It hurt her to see him in so much pain, but she waited him for to talk first.

He looked at her and smiled. It was a sad smile but an honest one.

He leaned in close and kissed her cheek. It wasn't romantic; it was merely a mark of how close they were.

"Thank you."

She smiled and stood slowly. "No need."

He stood too, and this time wrapped her in his arms as a brother would a sister. "Still, thank you. I'm glad you're here with me."

"Wish I wasn't." They both laughed gently.

He brushed a strand of hair from her face and smiled. "I'll get you home, or die trying."

"Home is where you make it." She squeezed his hand before turning and walking out, calm now that he was ready to protect them and lead them, whatever may come.