Chapter 6 <cont'd>
Verrik and Sandhurst materialized in the center of a large, brightly lit compartment whose periphery was marked by organic-looking structural support ribs. The once very Borg interior had been exhaustively redesigned to reflect the Amon aesthetic.
The Vulcan was instantly paralyzed by some manner of invisible containment field, unable to move other than for his eyes, though Sandhurst was not similarly restrained.
A voice called out, projected into the chamber with significant volume that caused the Operative to curse Verrik’s Vulcan ears.
“Zeischt, you are a welcome sight. You have returned to the fold.”
“I had no choice, as you well know.”
“You speak of it as though it were a tragedy, not an occasion for rejoicing.”
“Our cousins have killed millions for sport. That’s nothing to celebrate,” Sandhurst answered hotly.
“Regardless, it pleases us greatly to see you among us once again.”
“There is much to do,” Sandhurst replied. He turned to look at the immobilized Verrik before announcing, “This one has a second consciousness superimposed over that of the host body. Is it possible for us to separate the two?”
“It is possible, though it is not something undertaken lightly. It will take significant effort and great delicacy.”
“Then please begin.” Sandhurst moved deeper into the chamber, removing his uniform as if shedding an ill-fitting skin. Graceful humanoid figures emerged from out of the surrounding light, moving to dress him gently in the flowing, stylized garments of the Amon.
“How far are we from Transcendant
?” he inquired.
“A few days journey.”
“I need to speak with the elders and BattleMasters about our cousins. They cannot be allowed to continue their campaign of slaughter against the peoples of this galaxy.”
“It will be done.”
USS Europa, Captain's Ready Room
Newly promoted Rear Admiral Isaac Gareth studied the image of Pava Lar’ragos from his own ready room aboard the Astraeus
-class explorer Helios
“No two ways about it, Commander, you’re in it up to your neck,” the admiral summarized.
Lar’ragos inclined his head in agreement. “Which is precisely why I’m requesting clarification of our orders, sir. I’d understand if you’d rather someone more experienced make First Contact with the Ferou.“
“Even if I weren’t comfortable with your abilities, Mister Lar’ragos, there’s nobody else in range. The rest of the task force is spread out across the adjoining sectors.”
“I see, sir.” Lar’ragos replied neutrally. It wasn’t exactly a ringing endorsement, but it wasn’t having the carpet pulled out from under him, either.
Gareth sat back in his chair, intertwining his fingers above his lap. “Given the shakeups in your senior staff that Europa's
suffered the past few weeks, I’d ideally return you to Galaxy Station to take on additional personnel. However, we haven’t the time, so you’ll have to make do.”
“Do you have any instructions on how to reorganize my senior officers, sir?”
Gareth’s smile was almost imperceptible. “I’m not my predecessor, Commander. You know your people far better than I. Adjust their assignments to fill your staffing vacancies as you see fit. You’re in command now, Mister Lar’ragos.”
The El Aurian nodded reluctantly in response. “And the matter of Commodore Sandhurst?”
A visible wave of regret swept across Gareth’s features before the man’s expression hardened. “For the record, promoting him to commodore and giving him free reign to run amok was entirely my fault, and I take full responsibility for that decision. I’m grateful that you and your officers discovered the truth about what was happening behind the scenes. We’ll continue to search for both Sandhurst and Lieutenant Verrik, but in the end they’re only two men weighed against the billions back home we're trying to safeguard.”
“And off the record, Lar’ragos, if Donald finds his way back to the Amon and can do something to bring their vicious kinsmen to heel, all the better.”
Lar’ragos’ eyes narrowed at this admission. “So, we’re leaving him in the wind on purpose?”
“I’m hedging my bets,” Gareth confessed. “Though I’m loath to admit it, all the decisions that Sandhurst’s made recently from establishing Galaxy Station to the attack on the En-Il-Que were the right calls from the perspective of the Federation’s goals. I’m hoping the man hasn’t gone as far off the reservation as it seems. He may have had ulterior motives, but the results were in lock-step with our mission’s objectives.”
A faint flutter of hope stirred to life in Pava’s chest. “Yes, sir.”
“Proceed to First Contact with the Ferou. Based on the results of that effort, further instructions will follow. Continue to try and reinstate Sandhurst’s transwarp drive if at all possible, but not at the risk of damaging your existing propulsion systems. Should you detect any signs of your missing captain’s gig or your two AWOL officers, I want to know about it before you do anything
. Is that understood?”
“Crystal clear, Admiral,” Lar’ragos replied obediently.
“Very well,” Gareth said by way of sendoff. “Best of fortune to you and your crew, Captain. Helios
Lar’ragos was left staring at the Starfleet delta image for a long moment as he processed the contents of the exchange and their import. He then reached out to call up the senior staff roster, his eyes drawn to the void at the Security/Tactical department head’s post.
“Marine Lieutenant Tiedermeyer, report to the captain’s ready room,” Lar’ragos called out.