Doctor Andrew Keene, who had once been known as L’goth, made his way through the chaos aboard USS Redemption
, hand keeping a firm grip on the hypospray he had hidden in his pocket.
A sudden shake sent him stumbling into the far well, where he remained for a moment, waiting for the shock to fade. A few minutes before there had seemed to be a respite while the ship rested. The battle raging around them had fallen away, but now it seemed that the ship had thrown itself back into the fray.
The battle had already slowed him down in his mission. As he had made his way from sickbay to Jasto Dax’s quarters, he had been forced to use the stairwells after Security prevented access to the turbolifts for anyone without at least a Level 5 security clearance. As he had hurried down through the decks, he had been forced to stop again and again to stop poor whining Federationers.
. More than once, he had thought about throwing off the white coat.
The ship shook once again, the bulkheads crying out around him. Keene’s blood sang out in response, humming with battle lust. More than anything, he wanted to be in the middle of it. Some parts of his heritage he was finding harder and harder to deny. There were days – days that came more and more frequently recently – when he wanted to throw everything to the wind and embrace who he truly was. And his mission be damned.
He focused on the corridor ahead, forcing himself to concentrate. There were more important things at stake here.
He was only a few minutes away from his prey’s quarters. After the last crewmember who had begged him for help, cradling an arm with a vicious plasma burn, Keene had moved into the less frequented corridors.
Now, turning the corner, he saw Dax’s quarters, easily identified by the two security guards stood outside. A human and a Romulan. Keene spared another thought for Federation madness – even with the ship stuck in the middle of what seemed to have turned into a war zone, they still spared these two warriors for what amounted to little more than babysitting duty. Sarine should have ordered the Trill phasered and be done with it.
It would have made his job that much easier.
Both security officers looked up at him as he approached. Keene forced himself to breathe in and out irregularly, bending over and holding his stomach as if he had been running. Make yourself look as feeble as possible
. A hard lesson for a Klingon to learn, but one that his instructors in the Imperial Security Committee had taught him all too well.
“I- I- I’m here to relieve Doctor Malok,” he wheezed.
The human – the superior officer according to his arm pips – nodded, standing aside. The door slid open.
Keene slipped inside. Malok towered over two prone figures – Jasto Dax and the Vulcan navigational officer, Q’sar. Keene spared the pointy eared youth a glance – his briefing materials had included few mentions of him, though they had raised a number of question about how he had come to survive the Dominion’s last assault on his home world. Every other Vulcan on record had succumbed to the Sickness. Why this boy was different was a mystery no one – not the human who had taken him in, not the Romulans who had studied him, nor the Klingons who had spied on him – had been able to fathom.
Malok turned at the sound of the opening door, his lips drawn back in a snarl of frustration.
“What took you so long?”
Keene suppressed his instinctual reaction, forcing an apologetic grin instead. Damned humans and their constant need to apologise. “I’m sorry, Doctor. With the turbolifts out, I…”
“No matter.” Malok cut him off with a wave of his hand. Keene felt his lips drawing back and dropped his gaze to the floor to hide it. His fellow Klingon turned back to his patients. “They seem to be stuck in what appears to be a recursive cerebral event. Their vitals are stable, but their brain patterns are stuck – joined together in some kind of cohesive feedback loop. I’ve never seen anything like it.”
As if you could have ever seen a mindmeld before
, Keene thought sourly. Outwardly, though, he nodded, accepting the tricorder Malok held out to him. He scanned the readings without really paying attention to what they indicated.
“I see,” he lied. “I’ll keep an eye on them. I imagine you want to be informed if there is the slightest change?”
Malok nodded, his eyes still fixed on both men. “Yes.” He shook his head. “Maybe I should stay. I’m sure Doctor-“
“No!” When the doctor finally turned away from Dax and Q’sar, eyes wide in surprise, Keene realised he may have sounded a little frantic. He forced his voice to calm. “No. You are needed in sickbay, Doctor. Your presence will have… A calming effect. On the others.” He was waffling, but he would say anything – anything
- to get the damned fool out of there. “I can take care of this. I promise, I will contact you the moment anything changes.”
Before Malok could come up with any other reasons to contradict him, the ship shook, more violently this time. Both men were thrown to the deck amidst the flotsam and jetsam of Jasto Dax’s personal effects. Keene only just managed to arrest his fall with one hand, narrowing avoiding crushing the vial of poison beneath his body.
The ship continued to shake. Once it stopped, Malok was up before Keene was. He walked over, offering his fellow doctor a helping hand. Though Keene hated to, he accepted it, brushing himself off as he stood.
“You’re welcome.” A secondary tremor ran through the deck. Malok looked up, then sighed. “I suppose you’re right. My place is in sickbay.”
He turned, walking over to the bed and studied the two men for a moment. Keene watched him go, trying not to urge him on. He only relaxed when Malok gave a heavy sigh and turned away. “You will tell me the moment anything changes?” he asked, meeting Keene’s eyes.
“You have my word.”
The larger man grunted, but Keene’s promise seemed to have mollified him a little. Just leave you old bastard!
Malok took his time gathering his coat, shrugging it over his shoulders. “I will check in with you in an hour.
If we’re all still here by then
, Keene thought as another quake seized the ship.
Malok nodded and pushed past him. Keene caught a glimpse of the two security officers through the open door, and then the other doctor was gone. Leaving him alone with Dax and Q’sar. Finally. He had started to wonder whether Malok would ever leave.
Now that he was alone, Keene reached into his pocket and pulled out the hypospray and the vial. He held them in his hands for a moment, fingers wrapped firmly around them in case they were hit by another barrage.
This is it
, he thought. This one last thing and I can get on with my mission again. That bitch Williams won’t have anything else to hold over me.
He breathed in and let out a deep sigh of relief at the thought. He would have to start thinking about taking care of Williams. Permanently.
First, though… Charging the hypo, he stalked over to the two sleeping officers.
“Tishara squadron, fire at will.”
Prin glanced into her viewfinder, the Laurentii voice echoing across the bridge comm. system. Seven small craft – what the pilots of Starburst Squadron had begun tagging as tadpoles – squirmed out of formation, leaving behind trails of emerald energy as they attacked the first wave of enemy vessels.
Not that anyone can really tell who is an enemy or a friend out there
, Prin thought. How the hell did we end up in the middle of a civil war?
The Laurentii commander’s order had come one second too late, she saw. The Laurentii fleet opened fire, destroying several of Tishara squadron’s fighters in a squall of brilliant rays too swift to follow. The remaining tadpoles retaliated in kind, expelling wave after wave of viridian fire at the centre of the Laurentii curtain. Prin fought not to flinch at the sudden destruction, maintaining her impassive mask as Redemption and her allies entered the fray.
is taking heavy fire,” L’wynd barked. “I’m not sure how long they’re going to be able to hold out.”
Prin glanced at the upper leftmost screen of the five she had hovering in the air around her. She saw immediately what her tactical officer was talking about. The Shyraztarai, one of the Behemoths protecting the Federation ship, hung above them in the formation. Two enemy Behemoths and a varied handful of smaller vessels seemed to be focusing all of their fire on her.
“Lieutenat, contact our allies,” Prin ordered Barani. “Tell varec Kh’ylat on Oerdonna to move some ships to support the Shyraztarai.”
“Aye, sir,” the Ops officer responded. “Five tendrils are moving in to intercept.”
Prin saw them on another of the screens. Not sure how much good they’re going to do.
Turning her head slightly, she caught L’wynd’s eye. “Tell Starburst Squadron to stay close. We may need some protection from incoming fire.”
Prin’s heart clenched as the Crystat officer relayed the order. She was almost certainly keeping those men and women safe only to send them to their deaths later. She refused to think about it, though. Not now. She had to concentrate on the bigger picture – getting her ship into a position to launch the shuttle. Get her people out.
This is a hell of way to end a diplomatic mission, though.
Prin saw it happen a moment before L’wynd shouted from behind her.
is breaking up!”
Dragging the screen from the lower right to the centre of her view, she saw the tendril ships pull away. The Behemoth had begun to shudder, her tail and flipper like side protrusions flailing wildly. Liquid spewed into space from gaping wounds, while the enemy fire flayed more and more flesh from her haunches. Though she felt sick to her stomach, Prin couldn’t look away. Those are living things out there, she thought. Their technology might be advanced, but do we really want a treaty with a people who can throw living creatures into battle like this?
She shook her head.
The Behemoth’s death throws ended in a series of explosions, the metallic modules embedded in her body cracking and leaking fire. By the time those flames died, Shyraztarai
was a corpse.
moving in to take her place,” Barani said, her voice subdued. Prin could hardly blame her.
Dammit. They were getting slaughtered out there. If only they could get some kind of opening, something that would allow them to punch through the line of Behemoths… Prin was starting to worry that the only way that was going to happen was if the Laurentii made a mistake. She couldn’t depend on that. She needed a plan.
The problem was, she couldn’t think of one.
Hypo loaded, Keene stopped above Jasto and Q’sar. He stood there for a moment, waiting for a lull in the rocking of the ship, and studied the two men. Jasto’s face was lined, his lips tight and scrunched downwards in a frown. Q’sar, though, looked serene. The only sign of his distress was the rapid flickering of his eyes behind their lids. Both men were totally helpless.
Steadying the hypo, Keene lowered it until it pressed against Jasto’s neck. He took a deep breath, ready to depress the button and inject the poison as soon as Redemption stopped shaking. His finger was shaking from the tension.
The shaking eased.
“What are you doing?”
Keene’s whole hand jerked upwards. His finger depressed the hypo’s activation stud, but the hypo had already moved away from Jasto’s skin. He spun.
Standing in the doorway, phaser in hand, Doctor Malok glared at him. When Keene failed to answer, he spoke again.
“I asked you a question, doctor. And you’d better have a bloody good answer.”