Chapter 4 <cont'd>
Two Starfleet Marines and Vice Admiral Jellico’s adjutant had given their lives in his defense, for all the good it had done. It was a brief, yet brutal struggle that had left the bulkheads of Jellico’s office, the adjutant’s foyer, and the corridor outside pock-marked with phaser and disruptor strikes. Furniture was smashed and strewn haphazardly, while the acrid smell of burning plastics and humanoid flesh permeated the air.
Commander Arwen Larissa had been destined for her own command after two years of faithful service as Jellico’s personal assistant. The newly christened Intrepid
was scheduled to arrive via warp-sled within weeks, and it was to have become Larissa’s first command.
Now the commander lay sprawled across an overturned settee, her eyes open but unseeing as smoke wafted upwards from the tight grouping of disruptor impacts stitched across her chest.
Ramirez pushed Larissa’s body off the settee as if it were of no consequence before righting the divan and plopping down atop it. “Well, that was a refreshing little scrape, wasn’t it, Edward?”
Jellico remained silent from where he sat on the floor with his back against the bulkhead. His eyes were fixed on Larissa’s lifeless counterparts. He seemed more shocked by the death of his adjutant than he did with the disruptor burn that had scorched across his upper left shoulder, or the uppercut blow Ramirez had delivered that had caused his legs to buckle.
The admiral finally tore his eyes away from his subordinate’s and looked at Ramirez, seeing her as an individual for the first time and not simply one of a pack of heavily-armed thugs who’d unexpectedly blasted their way into his office, killing anyone who got in their way.
“Liana?” he croaked. “Liana… Ramirez?” He stared at her, dumbfounded.
She smiled brightly in response. “Ed, good to see you still remember me. It’s been a long time since we served aboard Cairo.”
“You’re dead,” he mumbled, shaking his head to try and clear it of the shock. “You’re supposed to be dead.”
There was a flash from the corridor outside, accompanied by a jolt felt through the deck plates and a muted thump as one of her team’s anti-personnel munitions detonated.
“See, Ed, they’re still trying to come to your rescue.” She rotated her head around as if trying to work out a kink in her neck. “Back in the day that would have been me, charging to your rescue.” Ramirez took a moment to glance around at the ruined compartment. “We took the bridge first, of course. It’s funny to be on this side of things, for a change. I lost track of how many times we had to repel boarders on Gibraltar.
I’d always thought about how I’d go about it, if I were one of the ‘bad guys.’” She reached out and slapped his leg playfully with one hand. “How’s that for irony, eh?”
Jellico stared at her, his eyes narrowing. “You’re mad,” he assessed gravely.
“You’re goddamn right about that, Ed. I am
mad. Mad as hell. And I’m going to make Starfleet feel every ounce of that rage in their bones.”
“What… what do you want?”
“A body count, for starters,” she replied evenly. “You see, Ed, to get at some people, all you have to do is cause sufficient pain to them directly. But Donald’s not like that, is he? No, the best way to get at Donald is to hurt the people he cares about, his friends, his comrades-in-arms. Make them bleed, make them suffer terribly, and he will know agony far beyond what I could ever inflict on him personally.”
“But why Sandhurst? He was your captain, just as I was. What the hell is driving this, Liana?”
Ramirez rested her elbows on her knees, letting her arms dangle, and allowing the disruptor clutched in her hand to sway back and forth like a lethal pendulum. “He killed me, Ed. He took my future and denied me my destiny. After everything I suffered to earn a captaincy, after all the happiness I deferred, all the sacrifices I made, he cut me down in an instant for the sake of convenience.”
“No choice,” Jellico offered dully. “He was faced with two horrible options, and he chose the lesser of two evils.”
“I will never be the lesser
of evils,” Ramirez hissed darkly. “Never again.”
Her wristcomm chirped. “This is Parlan. The morphic generator is in place and the clock is running. Four minutes, thirty seconds.”
“Acknowledged,” she replied. Ramirez stood and knelt next to Jellico, batting aside his half-hearted attempt at a punch aimed at her head. “Oh, let’s play nice now, Admiral.” She placed a transport transponder on his shoulder before plucking his combadge from his uniform and flinging it away. “We’d best be on our way, Ed. Very shortly this ship is going to become a thoroughly unpleasant place to be.”
Jellico actually chuckled at that, gesturing weakly to the surrounding devastation. “Really? Worse than this?”
Ramirez touched a finger to her wristcomm, and as she and Jellico dematerialized, she enthused, “You have no