Trelzak stood in front of a holographic communication system briefing his employer from five hundred years in the future.
The Sindareen pirate was now the leader of a faction in the Temporal Cold War after Tor Vot was killed on Minos when Captain Limis and her team escaped his custody. Even though part of the expedition there had been successful, Trelzak’s contact still had a few harsh words for him. He could only communicate back into the past, with a black silhouette projection of himself appearing on a holographic generator.
“My associates still fulfilled the primary mission,” Trelzak insisted. He stammered nervously, but remained at a loss for further words. “And that it did succeed was rather unexpected considering Tor Vot’s incompetence in past assignments…” His words slowly trailed off with the realization that his contact from the future wouldn’t buy his disparaging of his former superior.
“Too much could have still gone wrong on the fourth planet of the Beta Minos system,”
replied an ominous baritone voice from the holographic generator. “Thankfully, the activation of the relays on the fifth planet of Epsilon Minos did not require much direct action. Activating the relays in Sector 3785 without arousing suspicions will be more difficult.”
“That’s near the Federation-Romulan border,” Trelzak recalled from his recent study of a Federation star chart.
“Precisely. I will not be as lenient as I was with your predecessor, should you fail at your upcoming task.”
“I promise you I will not fail you,” Trelzak coyly answered with a stutter, as if he were suddenly afraid for his life.
Green laser bolts fired at small asteroids, blowing them to bits.
The USS Lambda Paz
was situated in an asteroid field to test the reverse engineered weapon system salvaged from the planet Minos. The near impossible-to-detect weapon drones were positioned to port and starboard, firing at asteroids. Once a few of the asteroids were destroyed, two shuttles swooped in and fired phasers at the extrapolated location of the drones.
“That’s ten misses now with still no hits,”
a masculine voice reported over the ship-to-ship comm-lines.
“That’s enough for today,” Ronnie Kozar replied. “Return to base.” He paced from the tactical station to the two command chairs. He looked at Limis, who gave an approving nod.
“End simulation,” Limis added.
Less than a second later, a chime sounded at ops. The Tellarite ensign at the port station saw his communications board blinking. “We’re picking up a distress call, Captain,” Goris misch Rev reported. “A disabled Federation freighter just over a light year from our position.”
Limis leaned back in her chair and arched her head towards M’Rev. “Any other ships in the area?” she inquired.
“Six Starfleet signatures in a five light-year radius, sir,” M’Rev plainly replied, “but we’re the closest and in the best shape to mount a rescue.”
Limis then turned her eyes to the helm, where Rebecca Sullivan was seated. “Ensign Sullivan, fix source coordinates and lay in a course at warp nine,” she instructed. “Mister Morrison, are we in any position to take on a Jem’Hadar armada on our own
“No, we’re not,” Mandel Morrison candidly answered. “But the message does indicate that unexplained gravimetric energy fluctuations disabled the ship, not a Dominion attack.”
“It could still be a carefully laid trap,” Kozar offered.
“That we know all too well,” Limis agreed, remembering numerous instances where the ship had been lured in with fake distress calls. “Mister Morrison, notify all other ships in the best position to mount a rescue. You and M’Rev, keep an eye out for Dominion and Dominion-allied ships on long-range sensors. And make sure the region is clear of ‘unexplained gravimetric energy fluctuations.’”
Kozar leaned over the right arm of his chair to address the captain more privately. “Captain, you’re not suggesting abandoning rescue at the first sign of danger?” he asked in a hushed tone.
“I’m trying to be practical, Kozar,” Limis replied with a hissing whisper. “What good would it do to come to a downed freighter’s rescue if we are disabled or destroyed, along with those who follow us and those who follow them? We’ll cross that Kobayashi Maru bridge when we get to it.” She then looked back at ops to issue additional orders. “Monitor all comm frequencies for any follow-up hails, Mister M’Rev. I don’t want to be caught off guard.”
A little less than half an hour later, much of the bridge crew was still at their stations— Morrison at tactical, Sullivan at conn, M’Rev at ops. Erhlich Tarlazzi was now at the port mission ops station, while Logan and a Denobulan male engineering officer were at port engineering. Limis and Kozar sat silently in their two respective command chairs waiting to hear something.
Even though this would be the third time she would be asking, Limis arched her head at tactical hoping to fill the long silence throughout the bridge. “Any sign of Dominion ships within half a light year?” she asked Morrison, as if expecting the same answer as before. On the other hand, maybe they were hiding and there would be some clue on someone’s sensor readings. Or the worst-case scenario was that enemy ships were hiding and they wouldn’t know it until they were on top of them.
“No, sir,” Morrison flatly replied.
Looking over to the helm, she then asked, “Time to intercept the freighter?”
“Ten minutes,” Rebecca answered.
Limis entered a set of calculations on the keypad to the right of her chair. “Increase speed to warp nine point six,” she commanded after the display indicated the ship would reach the freighter a lot sooner at that velocity.
“Any unusually high gravimetric energy readings in that vicinity?” Kozar asked both M’Rev and Tarlazzi.
“None, sir,” Tarlazzi replied. “All energy readings within specified norms.”
“Logan,” added Kozar, “be ready to route as much auxiliary power as you can to the shields in case that changes.”
“No problem, sir,” Logan deftly responded. He then turned to the other officer at the station with a few instructions.
“Approaching the freighter,” Rebecca called.
“Take us out of warp,” Limis ordered, “slow to half impulse.”
Morrison looked up from his console while comm chimes were growing faster and more frequent. “They’re hailing us,” he said. To summarize the rather coarse language appearing on his comm panel, he added, “The freighter’s captain is demanding to speak to you.”
“Put it up,” the captain eagerly instructed, though expecting the freighter’s captain to be plenty pissed off judging from Morrison’s ominous tone. “This is Captain Limis Vircona, USS Lambda Paz
. How may we be of assistance?”
A portly Tellarite with a long scraggly beard and nostrils wide enough to see nose hairs suddenly appeared on the screen. His grumpiness made every person on the bridge cringe. Some were resisting the urge to look over at M’Rev after brief reminders to themselves that he wouldn’t know the freighter captain simply because they were both Tellarites.
the freighter captain groaned. “I sent a distress call an hour ago. What took you so long?”
“Our tardiness couldn’t be helped,” Limis replied with a silent reminder to herself not to offer an explicit apology. “We had to make sure we weren’t being lured in with a fake distress call. Or that we weren’t facing the exact same danger you were. You know the drill.”
“I’m a merchant, not a soldier, dear lady,”
Glar spat. He was slurring his almost as if he was intoxicated. “Still seems Starfleet is too concerned with their own safety to help a lowly freighter these days.”
“We’re here now,” Limis reassured the grumpy Tellarite. “We’ll be sending repair teams to your vessel.”
“I should hope so. My second will make sure they don’t break anything else while I’ll come aboard to explain our predicament. Screen off.”
Even knowing Glar’s rudeness was a Tellarite cultural idiosyncrasy, many of the bridge officers still seemed put out by his disposition, and they exchanged a few muddled stares and light eye rolls.
“Charming by Tellarite standards,” Morrison remarked.
Kozar grinned as he opened a comm channel at his keypad. “Bridge to transporter bays: we’re sending away teams to the freighter. And prepare to receive a guest from the freighter.”
a feminine voice replied on the speakers.
Limis, Kozar, and Tarlazzi then gathered near the engineering station with Logan. With sh’Aqba’s recent illness, Tarlazzi was now the senior engineer. But since he was also on supervised duty, he had to deal with Logan looking over his shoulder. He kept glancing over at Logan, hoping that the commander would not be included in any of the repair teams even though he knew better.
“Is Lieutenant sh’Aqba fit to return to duty?” Kozar inquired.
“Yes, sir,” Logan replied. “But she’s restricted to lighter duties for the next three days.”
“What exactly is wrong with her?” Tarlazzi asked.
“Just a bout of the flu,” Limis hurriedly replied, as if she didn’t know that for sure, but wanted to give the lieutenant a concrete explanation for sh’Aqba having fallen ill. “That’s why you’ll lead the repair crews. Logan, you’ll supervise.”
Tarlazzi scoffed and shook his head in annoyance as he trudged towards the port turbolift. “Like I need a fragging babysitter,” he muttered.
“What was that, Lieutenant?” Kozar demanded, having heard the tail end of what Tarlazzi was muttering.
Tarlazzi stopped, turned around, and looked at Kozar, then Limis. “Nothing, sirs,” he said with a professional tone. He continued towards the turbolift, shaking his head in annoyance. Shinar would not even be part of any of the repair teams, yet he was being kept on a short leash. Maybe he was being closely observed as an assurance that whatever was afflicting Shinar was not a source of distraction. Whatever the reasoning, this situation still seemed unfair after the proverbial training wheels had been removed, even though his own indiscretions resulted in his duties being closely monitored.
Shinar Sh’Aqba did not know how to process that news while she was seated in one of the guest chair’s in the chief medical officer’s office. Her relationship with Erhlich was the one thing in her life that did not seem like a very huge responsibility. And now Doctor Markalis sent that notion crashing down with this news. Having children hadn’t been something Shinar had seriously considered even when she was facing the pressure of strictly adhering Andorian marriage and mating traditions, and so becoming pregnant was the farthest thing from her mind. To add insult to injury, carrying a non-Andorian’s child without outside medical assistance seemed highly improbable.
“Yes,” Aurellan dispassionately replied. “You’ve been subjecting yourself to a lot of stress lately. But now you’re responsible for two lives. You have to take it easy.”
True, doctors had to maintain a certain emotional distance from their patients. However, the tone in Aurellan’s voice seemed to indicated a complete lack of empathy for Shinar’s current situation. But that was beside the point. “No, no,” Shinar said with a shake of her head. “I’m on a tight leash because of my repeated tardiness for my shifts. I have to observe each and every one of them.”
“Not when your health and the health of your unborn child are at risk,” Aurellan insisted.
“That’s the least of it. You are aware that Andorians have four sexes?”
“I am a Starfleet doctor.”
Sh’Aqba knew that response was a yes and continued. “Then you know that shens
are nothing more than go-betweens in the sheltreth
,” she explained. “Mating in groups of four is still largely encouraged even after genetic damage resulting from a radiation disaster fifty thousand years ago has largely subsided.
“I am familiar with your race’s biological idiosyncrasies,” Markalis said with a nod. “You won’t be able to carry the baby to term, though. In cases of tezha
that involve a shen
, the couple usually calls on a zhen
to act as a surrogate. So you’ll have to three to four months to find a surrogate.”
Sh’Aqba stood up and faced away from the doctor with a sigh. “If only it were that simple,” she lamented.
“What do you mean?” Aurellan asked with a look of confusion.
“Ever since I announced my intention not to go through with the bonding ceremony,” Shinar explained while still looking away, “my family wants nothing to do with me. I am an outcast. Finding a surrogate will be very difficult, if not impossible.”
“I don’t want to get involved in your personal affairs. But for medical record keeping purposes, do you know who the father might be?”
Shinar took a long look through the entryway to the sickbay’s primary ICU, then through the entryway into the lab. Once satisfied that no one else was within earshot, she looked straight at Aurellan. “Lieutenant Tarlazzi,” she confidently answered. While Starfleet doctors were sworn to uphold doctor-patient confidentiality, she did not want to take any risks that someone might overhear and this news would get to Erhlich before she could tell him.
“You’re certain?” Aurellan skeptically asked.
“It’s two weeks, right?”
Aurellan silently nodded.
“Then yes.” Shinar turned her back to Aurellan again and headed for the corridor exit.
Markalis circled her desk and took a few steps closer to sh’Aqba. “I am not obligated to inform him,” she reminded the Andorian woman. “But will you?”
“I don’t know,” sh’Aqba stammered while staring at the door in front of her. “I never wanted it to come to this…” At this very moment, she could not face anyone. She simply stepped through the doorway once the doors parted without saying another word.
“We were on a routine freight run from Rigel Twelve to Sentinel Minor Four when, out of nowhere, our warp field collapsed.”
Glar sat at one end of the meeting table in the briefing room explaining how his freighter became disabled. At the other end of the table, closest to the viewport, was Limis, with Kozar at her right and M’Rev at her left. During Glar’s description of events, he and M’Rev exchanged snorts of derision, which would usually suggest to most observers that the two Tellarites had some kind of ongoing adversarial relationship. But being aware of the argumentative nature of Tellarite social interactions, the human and the Bajoran in the room knew to ignore it.
“Suddenly,” Glar continued, “there were these high levels of gravimetric energy that weren’t there before. All of our systems were winking out one at a time. Our propulsion systems went off-line. It was almost like we were being sucked into… something. Then whatever was disabling our ship was gone. Problem is, our sensors aren’t as sophisticated as those on this fine ship of yours.”
Limis still couldn’t help but roll her eyes when she heard sarcasm in Glar’s voice when complementing her ship. “Mister M’Rev is our resident astrophysics expert,” she said nodding to the ensign on her left. “He has a few preliminary findings.”
“I have a hard time believing a lowly ensign is an expert on anything,” Glar retorted.
“As a member of Starfleet, I have more expertise than you could only dream of achieving in your entire lifetime,” M’Rev shot back while working a padd in front of him. “The levels of gravimetric energy are consistent with those of the Nexus.” Sensing another insult on the tip of Glar’s tongue, M’Rev looked sternly in his direction while addressing his superior officers. “It won’t pass through our galaxy again for another thirty-five years, but it does provide us with a point of comparison to this
“Any theories as to why everything suddenly returned to normal?” Limis asked, trying to avoid Glar’s contemptuous glare.
“None,” M’Rev replied while also trying not to look in Glar’s direction.
“Perhaps this plargush
isn’t as smart as he thinks,” Glar offered.
“Furthermore,” Kozar chimed in. “Mister Morrison has advised all ships in this sector and adjacent sectors to keep an eye out for this phenomenon. Two Starfleet vessels have already reported seeing atypical gravimetric energy readings. One of them has intercepted communications chatter about gravimetric spikes as far as the Romulan border.”
Kozar slid a padd over to Limis with containing additional data on what he had just reported. She took glances at both of them and nodded even though she could not entirely make sense of all the numbers being displayed.
“Mister M’Rev,” she said, returning the padd he had previously given her with Kozar’s, “compile a database on these occurrences. See if there’s any kind of pattern and determine the worst possible danger they pose. Number One, escort Mister Glar back to his ship. Dismissed.”
Kozar rose from his seat and took a few steps towards Glar. The Tellarite captain snickered while mumbling, “Like I need to lead about like some gumpa
“This way, sir,” Kozar plainly said, indicating the side entrance with his right hand. The commander then sauntered towards the doorway, and Glar obligingly followed.
Limis continued studying the data Kozar and M’Rev had provided her, which had been copied to a padd in her hand. She was so caught up in what was on the screen at the moment of entry into the ready room, that she did not see the shadow of a humanoid figure creeping up on her. She looked up, and was startled to see a youthful looking man seated behind the desk.
In terms of appearance, he was mostly human. He also had barely visible markings running from his temples and his neck, indicating some Trill ancestry, and less pronounced ridges on the bridge of his nose than those of Limis’s.
“Hello again, Captain,” Jonas Grabowski said both cheerfully and professionally.
Chapter End Notes:
Tezha refers to Andorian mating in groups of two, as opposed to
shel'treth involving groups of four.
Plargush is a Tellarite derogatory term for the elite members of their society.
Gumpa based on the context in which it was uttered roughly translates as "drunk bum".