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Epilogue

Lieutenant Hoshi Sato sat under a tree near the temple, her PADD next to her. She blinked in confusion as her awareness came back to her in a rush. What the—? A low bell echoed over the temple, calling the devout to prayer. An Aronian priestess stood on the marble steps, her arms raised over her head, chanting a welcome to the gods. Without breaking cadence, she glanced at Hoshi and gave the communications officer a bright smile. It reminded Hoshi of her grandmother, Oba-san.

She tucked a stray strand of hair back into her bun. It was noon and the heat and humidity had climbed steadily since morning. Her PADD held a comparative analysis of Ancient Aronian and Old High Vulcan. There were some similarities, considering their shared history, but enough deviation to ensure their unique cultural developments.

"Mh'ayna, su ra'heihain liea'da?" came a voice at her elbow.

She blinked again and she saw the green eyes of a girl, perhaps twelve or thirteen years old. The child wore a flowing costume of blue silk that brought out the color. Hoshi's mind automatically broke the question into words and translated them: Lady, are you well? Is there anything I can do? The spoken language was relatively simple for her because it was similar to T'Pol's dialect of Vulcan.

"I'm sorry," she replied in the same dialect. "My mind was elsewhere."

The child laughed, her voice like bells. The happiness lit up her face like a candle, and Hoshi suddenly realized how pretty she was. Just like her father, the high consul of Aronia. Captain Archer and Commander T'Pol were deep in negotiations with Consul Hu'dom'nar, while Malcolm was reviewing the Aronian troops with their Planetary Commander. Trip and the Aronian engineers were hammering out an agreement for spare parts for Enterprise.

"Mh'ayna, I am your escort through the marketplace. My name is Leen'la." The girl curtsied. "I am the daughter of Re'na and Su'rat'se, bonded to Nu'bah."

Hoshi nodded gravely at the formal introduction. "My name is Hoshi. I am the daughter of Ryu and Michio, bonded to Malcolm."

"Ma'com? The Weaponsmaster? He is your bondmate?" Leen'la's eyes went wide. Suddenly, Hoshi had to suppress an urge to laugh herself; there was a gleam of hero-worship in the girl's eyes. If Hoshi didn't know better, she would've said Leen'la had a crush on Malcolm.

"Yes," she said with a chuckle. "Have you met him?"

"No, but I watched as Father talked with him and the Master Builder...Father said he was the Weaponsmaster for your ship of the stars," Leen'la chattered. "I am in training to be a Warrior and I am curious about the fighting styles of other worlds and—"

"Your father is the High Consul?" Hoshi smiled. "Su'rat'se?"

She blushed. "Yes, Mh'ayna. Forgive my boldness. It's just that I've never met anyone like you and your bondmate, though Humans come here all the time to trade."

"There's nothing to forgive."

"The Master Builder and the Weaponsmaster are Gei'du, aren't they?"

"Gei'du?"

"Brothers? Not by blood, but—" Leen'la gestured in the air as she tried to put the concepts into words. "—by fire. All three of them, the two and your caap'teen." She said the title in English.

Hoshi thought for a moment. Interesting that she was able to deduce that just by seeing them once. This girl's special, I can see that already. "Yes, that's a good way to put it. How could you tell?"

"I can tell." Leen'la only shrugged and smiled.

Hoshi's grin grew wider. "Very perceptive, Lady Leen'la. Can you show me your marketplace? I must find a birthday gift for the Weaponsmaster."

"Of course, Mh'ayna. Come this way." She led Hoshi past the main temple and into the market square. People of many worlds gathered here to sell, buy and barter, and the babble of different languages rose above it. The signs on the stalls were in three languages: Earth Standard English, Modern Aronian, and Vulcan. Hoshi smiled; the Vulcans and the Aronians had met not long after Surak's death, and his teaching had influenced both cultures.

Both of them turned away from war to a culture of peace, but not passivity. Hoshi sighed and glanced around her. She felt at home here, which was odd, but she welcomed the feeling.

"Come, Leen'la. Let's look around."

*****

A brown-haired Human in the clothes of a trader watched them from a nearby stall. He smiled to himself. The Enterprise crew had exceeded his expectations again. They would have no memory of the flawed timeline; according to them, the Aronians had always existed. In this new history, the Gods had sent rain to disable the platforms, and Hu'fase's forces and the Shadows had fought to a stand still. Eventually, Hu'fase extended the hand of peace and united the planet under his guidance. Years later, the Vulcans arrived in their version of First Contact, a year to the day that both Hu'fase and Surak had died. Two great men at the same time, on different worlds and both held in reverence.

Daniels's smile faded as he focused on the future. The threat wasn't gone, by any means. He knew that Future Guy (he had to chuckle at the name. It still sounded like something Commander Tucker would say) would be back and plot his revenge on Daniels and the Enterprise. He'd need their help again, sooner or later, but now that the timeline was now on track, there were certain momentous occasions he looked forward to.

He watched Hoshi Sato as she and Leen'la disappeared in the hubbub of the Aronian marketplace. Daniels's smile returned as he regarded Hoshi's retreating figure.

"You don't know it yet, but you and the Weaponsmaster will receive a gift in the very near future, Hoshi," he said softly. "The very near future."

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May 2012

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