Chapter 6 <cont'd>
The cryogenic stasis tank containing the Baron resided in one of the ancillary medical wards on Deck 5. He’d been placed in stasis after it had become apparent that none of their medical technology seemed capable of reversing or even arresting the unknown force behind the Baron’s neural degradation.
Putting him ‘on ice’ as it were had seemed to slow the rate of cerebral decay by a third, and so he had remained while Dr. Multorlo and Lt. Taiee researched his condition when not consumed by other medical emergencies. Utilizing the LMH’s vast database, the pair had examined and discarded dozens of possibilities, leaving an infinite number of others yet to check.
A discrete subspace signal, very nearly indistinguishable from the background radiation of the nearest pulsar, was received by a sub-micron transceiver disguised as one of the Baron’s cellular ribosomes. The signal initiated a chemical cascade that spread throughout his body, slowly at first, given the lethargy of his cryogenically suspended physiology.
It would take some time for the plan to come to fruition, but the die had been cast.
Sandhurst brought the captain’s yacht out of warp and coasted into the system, coming to rest in orbit of a frozen Class-L planetoid.
Verrik was still trying to determine what this common rock in this unremarkable system had to do with the Amon when he became aware that Sandhurst was facing his direction with a phaser trained on him.
“That escape was far too easy,” Sandhurst offered. “And if I’m not mistaken, I believe you’d removed yourself from duty over a week ago due to unspecified ‘personal issues.’”
The Operative in command of Verrik’s body was suitably impressed. She wasn’t easy to dupe, and yet she’d suspected nothing untoward on the brief journey here. To make matters worse, she had not even perceived the danger posed by Sandhurst until it was too late.
“Your point?” Verrik replied calmly.
“I suspect that you are also part of Pava’s little cabal. It makes sense that he’d take you completely offline in order to allow you to investigate the alterations I’d made to Europa’s systems without drawing attention to yourself.”
“That’s a very logical supposition, Commodore,” Verrik said. “However, it’s also completely incorrect. Verrik took himself off duty because he suspected that his psyche may have been compromised.”
Sandhurst gave him a curious look. “Do you often talk about yourself in the third person?”
Verrik smiled, and Sandhurst found the gesture from the normally Surak-adhering Vulcan to be disturbing. “I usually try not to,” he answered with a hint of playfulness in his voice. “It usually generates unwelcome attention.”
you?” Sandhurst asked. The fine edge to his tone suggested that further evasion would be met with harsh reprisals.
“I’ve served with you two and a half years, Commodore, first as Olivia Juneau, and now as Verrik. I represent a faction of devout Federation patriots for whom the preservation of our grand union is the highest calling.”
Sandhurst’s eyes narrowed. “Both Juneau and Verrik?” he asked, clearly incredulous.
“What better covert operative could you have than one who can remain hidden in plain sight? I’m what’s known as a neuro-adaptive personality matrix, an intact mind-state that can, with some difficulty, transfer from person to person. I hide behind the scenes, watching and waiting, only coming to the fore when absolutely necessary to accomplish my assigned tasks.”
Verrik saw the light of realization take hold in Sandhurst’s gaze. “Juneau’s seemingly inexplicable displays of bravery and tactical acumen… that was you.”
“Yes,” Verrik answered.
“I’m guessing you belong to one of those secretive cabals we’ve had hints of in the past, like the organization that destroyed Captain Aurelia’s ship.”
“Yes. Pity about Independence
and her crew.”
A scowl swept across Sandhurst’s countenance, like a dark storm front. “Wait… Aurelia’s turncoat officer, the one she suspected of being the saboteur, she died under highly improbable circumstances. Was that your doing?”
“It was,” Verrik confirmed. “She’d blown her cover and jeopardized our organization in an egotistical display that was unworthy of the trust that had been placed in her. I eliminated the threat she posed.”
“So, you’re an assassin?”
“I’m an operative, Commodore. I fulfill my assignments in order to defend the Federation against threats both foreign and domestic. Sometimes that necessitates taking lives for the greater good.”
“Given your track record,” Sandhurst asked in a reasonable tone, “how am I supposed to trust you?”
Verrik’s reply was immediate, and voiced just as sensibly. “I saved your life and the lives of your crew at Lakesh.”
Sandhurst nodded knowingly. “The mystery device affixed to the structural integrity field.”
A wistful smile was Verrik’s only confirmation.
“It appears that you’re the only ally I have left,” Sandhurst noted.
“So it would seem.”
Sandhurst lowered the phaser and turned back to his flight controls. “Seeing as I'm suffering from a decided lack of options, you'll have to do.”