Captain’s Ready Room
Ispaoreai Hyps’rat (Onyx Station)
As she finished the recording of Kalara’s betrayal one last time, Prin resisted the urge to slam her fist into the screen. It would make her feel better, but at this point that was all it would do. It certainly wouldn’t provide her with the answers she was looking for.
The commanding tones of General K’mpak filtered out through the static.
"You whine like a Ferengi, kapamai. I am in command of this fleet. I will decide what targets to attack.”
Massaging the back of her neck, she leant back in Ba’el’s chair, her eyes glued to the screen. By this point she could almost repeat K’mpak’s lines word for word, like a favourite holo serial. If only it was that simple. If only I could say “Computer, end program” and watch all of this dissolve away.
“Do not try my patience, kapami. We will be at your location in seven hours.”
Kalara hesitated slightly at K’mpak’s words, as if she were about to make some other demand. Prin mouthed the next words along with her. “Then I wish you success. Qapl’a, General.”
The screen in the recording went black, leaving Kalara’s face lit only by the dim lighting of Doctor Malok’s office. Prin watched once again as Kalara snarled, ripping the communication’s interface from the computer and throwing it to the floor. As she stamped down on it, the static that had been interfering with the recording swelled up one final time, washing the images away in a wave of black and white lines.
Prin let her head fall back against the chair, letting out a heavy sigh. Even after this umpteenth – a word her human captain on the Invincible
had loved to use - run-through, she was no closer to figuring out what was bothering her. And yet something was. Something about the whole situation was very, very wrong.
The door chimed. Finally. Shutting down the screen, she sighed, rubbed at her eyes, and spoke to the door. “Come in.”
With a whoosh of compressed air, it slid open. A ghost stood on the other side.
Or as close as. Commander Ianto stepped through the door, standing at military attention. He wore what appeared to be a Starfleet uniform, though not one she recognised. The cut was softer for one and the colour scheme was different. Though the trousers and most of the jacket were black, the area around the shoulders was grey, with a red shirt showing beneath the collar.
“You asked to see me, commander.”
Prin forced her eyes away from the uniform and nodded. “Yes, Mr Ianto. Come in.”
He walked over to the seat opposite her and sat down. Up close, Prin noted the small metal box affixed to the upper arm of his uniform for the first time. She couldn’t resist asking about it. “How is the emitter holding up?”
She had been intrigued to hear about Ianto’s work with the old technology. One of her guilty pleasures during the long years of the Resistance had been studying pre-Occupation Federation tech. The holographic emitter had never appeared in any of the reports she had read, though the Voyager Doctor had.
He had done an amazing job of rebuilding it. The emitter worked like a charm. If she hadn’t known better she would have sworn he was there in flesh and blood. Or in cybernetic wiring and bioplast sheeting, anyway.
“My mobile emitter is working within normal parameters,” Ianto replied finally.
She frowned, taken aback by the cold, robotic tension in his voice. “I’m… glad to hear that, Mr Ianto.”
He cocked his head for a moment, and a hint of emotion leaked into his expression, a loosening of the tension around the mouth and a softening of the eyes.
“Apologies, commander. The connection between my holographic matrix and my primary memory banks remains a little… glitchy. My emotion sub-routines are especially susceptible. They often switch off without me realising.”
Thank the Prophets.
She had been dreading this meeting for the last half hour. His tone of voice just seemed to have confirmed her fears. Feeling relieved, she nodded. “That must be… Irritating.”
“Only when the sub-routines are on.” He stared at her for a moment, then smiled gently. “That was a joke, commander.”
She shook her head, smiling back. “It’s been a long day.”
“So I have heard.”
There was the slightest hint of censure in his voice. “You are aware of what happened with Lieutenant-Commander Kalara, then.”
“I know that she has been accused of treason and imprisoned in the brig, yes.”
“I understand that the Lieutenant-Commander and you were close.”
“We still are.”
He resents what I’ve done.
“And what do you think of the charges?”
“As a logical android and loyal member of Starfleet? Or as her friend?”
Prin thought about it for a moment. This
is what you called him here for.
“I think my father would have put it best. Bullshit.”
Prin laughed, a short back that she quickly controlled. The word had been so unexpected, and delivered with such a dead-pan expression, she had been taken by surprise. Recovering, she forced a more serious expression on her face.
“And as a logical android and loyal member of Starfleet?”
“That was it. I would have been much more eloquent as Kalara’s friend.”
This time, Prin didn’t laugh. “You really believe she is innocent?” He nodded. “And you would feel the same without your emotional subroutines?”
“Commander. You didn’t call me here because of my lack of emotions. If you had wanted an emotionless, logical response, you would have asked the computer to run a projection. You called me here because you wanted to hear the opinion of someone who considers Lieutenant-Commander Kalara a friend.”
Prin nodded carefully. “You seem very sure of yourself.”
“Am I wrong?”
Instead of answering him, Prin stood, walking around Ba’el’s desk to the window. She stared out at the stars. He wasn’t wrong. After Ba’el had returned to his quarters, she had stayed behind to study the recording. The Klingon’s words haunted her. I wasn’t sure whether you would believe me.
When she had joined Starfleet, she had taken an oath to protect and uphold the ideals of the Alliance of Federated Worlds. Though many former rebels privately scoffed at the Federation charter, calling it idealistic mumbo jumbo, Prin didn’t count herself amongst their number. She had fought for more than just freedom from the Dominion – she had fought for those very ideals. Once she joined Starfleet, she took those oaths very seriously.
Including the one that promises Federation citizens a fair trial.
As much as she hated to admit it, Kalara might not receive that in the current climate. Ba’el himself was far from clear headed when it came to the Klingon lieutenant. And if she was telling the truth…
Making up her mind, she turned back to Ianto.
“You’re not wrong. I did want your opinion, as Kalara’s friend. In fact, I’ve been sat here for the past hour struggling with this whole situation. Something about it has me on edge and I can’t put my finger on what.” She walked back over to the desk. “I would like to show you something.”
Spinning her screen around, she activated the recording again. She had no need to watch the screen herself. Not anymore. Instead, she studied Ianto. The former android turned hologram never blinked nor widened his eyes as he watched his friend betrayed the Federation. No sign of his thoughts or emotions broke through that calm, collected exterior. Once the video had finished, he looked up at her.
“I see your problem.”
She sighed, dropping back into the chair. She had been hoping for something more… More positive. “I have studied it from every angle, trying to find something that might indicate it is a forgery, but--”
“You won’t. The video is most definitely real. According to my internal processing systems, I would say to within 99.91456 percent.”
“Then you believe she is guilty?” Prin asked, hoping against hope that he would say no.
“I never said that, commander. The video is real. Whether that is really Commander Kalara…”
She frowned. “We’ve run every possible test, voice recognition, pattern confirmation and – By the Prophets!”
Instead of responding, Ianto had reached up and tapped his holo emitter. As she talked, he shifted - there was no other word for it. One moment he was sat there and the next the Empress of the Klingon Empire was in his place.
She looked as regal and ferocious in person as she did in the holorecordings. Body armour shaped her ample curves. Knives hung from her belt, and a pistol sat in her palm. She stared at Prin and growled, showing feral pointed teeth. Those clear blue eyes burned with hatred.
Despite herself, Prin felt a surge of adrenaline and her fingers twitched towards her phaser. The moment passed, though, and then Ianto was back in the chair.
“Appearances can be deceiving,” he said with a small smile.
“Or a holographic emitter designed to overlay the real person. Or genetic resequencing. Or any number of other ways someone could have replaced their own image with that of Kalara.”
“Ease of access? To create a fissure between the Klingons and the rest of the Federation? Any number of reasons.” When he saw her expression, he sighed. “I understand that all of this seems far fetched. Like clutching at straws, in fact. What you need to understand is that all you and Captain Sarine have to base your findings on is the evidence of your own eyes and the little experience you have had with Kalara. All bad in Captain Sarine’s case.”
Prin couldn’t argue with that. “I have something more,” he went on. “Years of experience working side by side with Commander Kalara. And those years of experience tell me that she would not have done this.”
“You have a great deal of respect for her, don’t you?”
Ianto nodded. “As much as you seem to have for Captain Sarine.”
She didn’t respond immediately, weighing what she was about to say. Ba’el would not be pleased with the decision she had made. But he had left her in command. As far as she was concerned, that gave her a certain amount of leeway. She nodded, her mind made up.
“I know that you have yet to be formally reactivated, Mr Ianto, but if you’re interested I have an assignment for you.”
“I want you to run a counter investigation into these accusations. Go back over everything, check the recording, interrogate anyone who might have some kind of information that could clear Kalara. You find something to clear her name, I swear I will take it to Captain Sarine myself.”
Ianto took a moment before responding. “I feel I should point out that I am far from an unbiased party.”
“From everything I have read about you, I believe you will carry out this assignment to the best of your ability, friendship or no friendship. However, even if your investigation were slanted, maybe it will help counterbalance the other, official investigation.” One which I am afraid is going to turn into a witch hunt.
Ianto took a moment before responding. Just as he opened his mouth to respond, though, the comm line chirped. Prin frowned at the interruption, tapping her chest.
Lieutenant Barani’s mellow tone was unusually clipped. “I think we need you out here, commander.”
Prin glanced at Ianto. His eyes had grow distant the moment the comm line activated. His pupils flickered for a moment, and then he focused on her again.
“She’s right, commander. There’s something wrong with the station.”
Before he had finished speaking, Prin was up and out of the ready room.
An ensign waiting outside the door handed her a headset, which she quickly eased over her forehead. Dropping the viewfinder over her eye and activating the external sensors, she called out for Barani – just standing up from the conn – to report.
“We started to get some strange reading about five minutes ago, commander, centred on what appears to be the station’s central nervous system. I ordered a full sensor sweep – non-invasive of course –,“ she added when she saw the look of disapproval on Prin’s face, “and then a few seconds ago everything went crazy.”
Prin saw what she meant. Ripples of matter cascaded down the station’s central stalk, twitching the tendrils that sprouted every few kilometres. The whole structure appeared to writhe like an animal in pain. Waves of colour erupted along different tendrils, spread for a few seconds and then faded, only to be replaced by others moments later. For anyone onboard, it must seem like living through an earthquake.
“My God...” someone breathed from one of the science stations nearby.
“Something is breaking away from the station, commander.”
She had seen it. A strange craft was trying to tear itself away from one of the station’s upper bays. Literally. The space ship seemed to be caught in some kind of organic tractor beam, which it was struggling to escape from.
Zooming in, Prin saw that the craft had roughly the same shape as a Cardassian watervole – a bulbous head tapering back into a fine tail. From beside her, she heard Ianto compare it to something called a tadpole. She shook her head. Whatever it was, it was putting up quite a fight, dancing and writhing in the entrapment.
Suddenly, with a burst of green energy, the watervole ship broke free. Its tail ignited, sending it diving for interstellar space. Moments later, three more of the craft left the station’s superstructure. These ones were released cleanly, without needing to escape from the dark matter stream. Pursuit vessels, Prin assumed.
As she watched, they began to belch green liquid energy at the escapee, which jinked and rolled in space, narrowly avoiding the weapons’ fire.
“Orders, commander?” Lieutenant L’wynd asked from Tactical.
Prin hesitated. A little voice in her head – which just happened to sound exactly like Ba’el – suggested that she step in between the two opposing forces and be damned the consequences. She shook her head imperceptibly. When she had still been part of the Resistance, she would probably have followed that course. That was then, though. She had changed. A lot.
“Do not interfere,” she ordered. “This is an internal matter, and we don’t have enough information to make a proper judgement. Get me the station, though. I want to know if this is some kind of exercice.”
Her words rang hollow moments later, though, when the escaping watervole ship fired its own volley back at its pursuers. One of the bursts caught the left-most starfighter, engulfing it in crackling energy. In a ball of molten fire, it vanished.
Over at Tactical, L’wynd’s skin hardened in a flicker of crystal and then reverted back again. Have to get her to control that better
, Prin thought as the young woman called out. “Commander, we can’t just…”
“Hold your station, lieutenant.”
A few seconds later, the escapee reached some kind of safe distance. With a flash of blue light, it vanished, escaping into warp, or slipstream space. The others followed shortly behind.
“What the hell was that?” Barani asked.
“Where are we on the station?” Prin demanded, trying to regain some kind of control over her shaken bridge crew. “I want to know if they require assistance.”
And whether our people are in any danger.
Barani shook herself, and then nodded, before finishing the walk to Ops. She replaced a Ferengi ensign at the station, dragging the holographic consoles back around her. Prin moved over to the edge of the Pit, leaning on the railing as she looked down at. She sensed Ianto move up to stand beside her. She felt surprisingly grateful for his presence.
After moving around a handful of holographic symbols, Barani frowned. She checked the readouts, two, three times, then shook her head as if she couldn’t make sense of what she saw.
“What is it Lieutenant?”
“I… I can’t hail the station.” She looked up through the interface. “Some kind of communication’s dampener has just gone up.”
“Up as well.” She shook her head, studying the readouts. “I can’t get through to any member of the diplomatic party. I can’t even pick up their bioreadings.”
Prin fought back a surge of fear, maintaining a firm, even tone of voice. “Keep trying, Lieutenant. Let’s make sure our people are alright.”
As Barani turned back to her station, though, L’wynd called out from Tactical.
Prin checked her view finder again in time to see five Behemoths break away from the station and head towards them. She studied the readouts from the sensors, her stomach dropping. When Barani called out from Ops, she already had a good idea of what she was going to say.
“We’re being hailed. The lead Behemoth.” She listened for a moment, then turned to Prin, her eyes wide. “They claim there has been some kind of attack on the station. A… A murder. They’re ordering us to power down our weapons and prepare to be boarded!”