~~~ ~~~~ ~~~
After the rest of the group cleared out, Mr. Blake addressed the fifteen Police Officers. “Ladies and gentlemen, there are a couple extra issues to discuss that we didn’t need to bring up in front of the others. First, there’s the matter of fugitives from law. According to Justice Department reports, there are at least fifty-eight wanted felons living freely in the Klingon Empire, not counting pirates. As you probably know, we do not have a formal extradition treaty with either the Klingons or Kzintis. There is some debate regarding recent Supreme Court rulings suggesting that an unlawful arrest can be grounds for dismissal of charges. Taken to the logical conclusion, if you extradite any of these criminals against their will, they may walk on all charges.”
“That’s insane,” Commander Christensen responded. “These scum have been duly charged and skipped bail. Hell, some of them were tried and convicted before they escaped custody! No judge would dare let them off on such a ridiculous technicality.”
“Some might. We’d fight it, of course. However, as the Supreme Court has always ruled in favor of the bail-bondsmen and their hired bounty hunters, we shouldn’t need to.” He paused and smiled for dramatic effect. “The day after tomorrow, the President is giving a speech on fighting crime. In it he will announce, as an initiative to get criminals off the street, the Federation will double the repayment of withheld bail if the fugitive returns to court within ninety days. We’re also offering a reward for escaped convicts, no matter where they’re hiding.”
“Wow. Hunting season is open,” Lieutenant Commander Isenberg commented in awe.
Blake nodded. “Yes. Isn’t it great? Okay, here’s where things stand for you. As officers of the court, it’s your duty to arrest criminals. But if you arrest them in foreign territory, you could be charged with kidnapping. Ergo, you are not allowed to do your duty. However, if the fugitive voluntarily gives himself up, then it’s legal. Also, if they return on their own free will, the bail refund will be paid to them, but if their bail-bondsman brings them in, he’ll get the money instead. Tell them that. Make sure you record the conversation for the court.”
Blake waited for any more comments on that subject. As there wasn’t any, he continued, “The other issue is spies. We expect the Klingons will attempt to smuggle some spies in with the refugees. In fact, we’re hoping they do.”
“You want them to sneak spies into the Federation? In God’s name, why?”
“That is none of your concern, Lieutenant Faucheux. All you need to know is they might try it. You will make an obvious attempt to locate any such agents. If, by chance, you do identify one, you will do nothing. Act as if you failed. Other than taking standard precautions against sabotage, you will take no action against any suspected spy. Inform Star Fleet Intelligence during your debriefing, of course.”
“We should just space them,” Fauchex muttered. Christensen gave him a hard look and shook her head in disgust.
Lieutenant Kingsley had a thoughtful look on his face. “You know, speaking of spies,” he began slowly. After a long moment, Ryan realized everyone was waiting for him to Finnish the thought. “Never mind. It was a stupid idea.”
“That never stopped you from opening your mouth before,” Lieutenant Commander DeCosimo, the LaMagne’s skipper, ribbed him.
Kignsley glanced at Isenberg before he hem-hawed, “Well, ah, I was going to say, ahem, why don’t we try to plant our own spies in while we’re in the Klingon Empire. But that’s a dumb idea ... we can’t very well leave humans behind while we’re evacuating them.”
Isenberg looked at his First Officer. Good recovery, he thought. He knew Ryan was about to say something about the spy Zychowski was looking for. The Marine Lieutenant had briefed them of his mission last evening and asked them to keep it under wraps for now. Both of the Police officers felt he was holding something back.
“No, we can’t,” Blake said, “but don’t think we didn’t consider it. One last item. The Kzintis know their backs are against the wall. They had to mobilize everything they have. Including the Yellow Squadron.”
“The Yellow Squadron?” DeCosimo asked. “What are they -- a group of cowardly cats?”
“Hardly. They’re actually pretty fierce warriors. And very anti-human; their feelings for us goes beyond loathing,” Blake explained. “They fell out of political favor a few years back, during the initial peace talks that led to the current treaty. We never thought we’d see them onboard warships again. We think they’re all on the Lyran front, but be very careful if you run into any of them. Well, that’s all I have for you. If there aren’t any other questions,” which there wasn’t, “I must be going. Good luck and bring them home safe.”
After the diplomat left, DeCosimo mussed, “The Yellow Squadron. I never heard of them. Wonder why they’re called that.”
Captain Littleton chuckled. “That’s a long story, Commander. Goes back about fifty years to Endeara Prime ....” and she sat down as she launched into the story.
Chief Guzman got up quietly and wandered away from the group, having heard the story from Big Guns himself, and sauntered up next to Commander Sahani. She was standing in front of the view screen with her arms folded across her chest. “Commander.”
“Senior Chief.” Her eyes never left the screen. “You’re looking well.”
“As are you.” He waited for nearly thirty seconds. “What’s wrong, Shimmer?”
“You know I don’t like to be called that.”
He glanced over his shoulder at the group. “You never liked to be called Risha, either.”
She gave a little shrug and a sigh. “I’ve learned to make allowances.”
“Will miracles never cease?” They stood in silence for several moments. “So, are you going to answer my question?”
“One must believe in miracles before one can determine whether they’ll continue,” she replied. There was no inflection in her voice, no sarcasm or other emotion whatsoever.
He pursed his lips. “Now you’re being evasive. I’ll bet you found yourself another Vulcan mentor. So, what’s wrong?”
She didn’t move or even blink. The group behind them erupted in laughter. “What makes you think there’s anything wrong, Chief?”
“Because I know you, Commander.” Guzman stated matter-of-factly. “We’ve known each other too long and too well to try to hide things from each other.” He studied the map. “You think you’ve missed something, don’t you? If you have, I sure don’t see it. Nobody in this room would find it.” Commander Sahani was the most meticulous person he’d ever met. If she developed a plan for something, she tried to cover every detail and predict every contingency no matter how trivial or far-fetched it seemed. Given the constraints she was working with, this was a wonderful plan.
She shook her head slightly. “It’s not that. I’m always worried I’ll miss something. You know why, of course.” Yes, he did. The same painful memories haunted his dreams, too. “We’ve run this through the sims a hundred times, and the best outcome was at least two ships lost.”
He tilted his head slowly to one side, then the other and back, as if changing the perspective of the map would reveal a hidden clue. “That’s only what the computer says. Sims only go so far; real life has too many variables to calculate. Trust your people to do the right thing when the time comes. It’ll all turn out just fine.”
Sahani sighed again. “I hope you’re right, Chief. I’m praying that you’re right.” There was more laughter from the group. Their joyfulness did little to dispel her melancholy. “Speaking of real life, how’s Susan?”
“Susan? You mean Cathy. Susan was before Kim-Yi. Both of them want more alimony.”
She shook her head as if to clear the cobwebs. “Donna, Julie, Cassandra, Amy, Nicole, then Julie again, Susan, Kim-Yi, and now Cathy. Did I miss any? You’re worse than Amanda. So, how’re things going with Cathy?”
“Circling the drain. My going back to a ship was a trial separation. I suspect we’ll be seeing some lawyers when I get back from this mission.” He sighed heavily. “By the way, Julie and I never tied the knot.”
“Really? I thought you had. I’m sorry to hear about Susan. And Cathy. I think I know her, don’t I?”
“Yep. You introduced us, as a matter of fact, right after Susan and I got married. Guess it just wasn’t meant to be.”
She nodded absentmindedly as she pointed a finger at the screen, drawing invisibly in mid-air. The longest Roger Guzman was ever married to any one woman was three years, to his first wife, before he came into the service. “Well, I hope that you meet the right woman one of these days.”
“I did, once, a long time ago.”
“And what happened?”
“She took a commission.”
After a long moment, she allowed herself to acknowledge his meaning. She turned to face him and looked into his eyes. Memories flooded her mind; emotions flooded her heart. She reached a hand up to cup his cheek, then pulled it back as if to brush his neatly-trimmed beard with the back of her fingers. A crooked smile tugged at her lips as she remembered how she teased him so when he first attempted to grow it. “Oh, Roger.” Grey had crept into his beard and laugh-lines surrounded his eyes, yet when she looked into those eyes she saw the same man she’d met oh so long ago. It seemed like a million years ago and yet only yesterday. They had served together onboard the J. Wilson
for nearly two years in their younger days.
Two years that was a lifetime. He told her he loved her; he told her he hated her. He threatened to kill her once, and he saved her life a dozen times over. He defended her honor and expressed his desire for her. They laughed together and they cried together. They cried for each other. He was the shoulder she leaned on more than once; she rocked him like a baby when his first son died. He knew her secrets, her heart and her soul better than she knew herself. And she knew him better than any of his ex-wives ever could. She never lied to him but often lied to herself. She never told him that she loved him. She told herself she didn’t love him, but yet she knew she did and always would.
She was suddenly aware of her hand lightly touching his chest over his heart. She pulled it back and crossed her arms over her chest. “Roger, we’d never be able to make it work,” she stated firmly. Of course, she could never tell him, never tell anyone, the real reason they could never be together.
“I don’t know about that,” he replied, “but either way, it’d be one hell of a ride.”
A little smile crossed her lips. “That ... is putting it mildly.” The Commander turned back to the map. “What if we moved a Light Cruiser and a pair of Destroyers to here,” she pointed to a base near the Klingon border, “as a show of force? That way, they’d be ready for a rescue mission in case there’s trouble. What do you think?”
Chief Guzman considered the proposal. He wasn’t near the tactician Commander Sahani was, not by a long shot, but he was better than most junior officers. “I think you’re over-thinking it, Sarisha. A show of force like that could be all the excuse the Klingons need to impound all our rescue ships. Take a break and let it go. It’s a good plan -- quit trying to make it better.”
“I can’t. Believe me, I’ve tried, but I just can’t get it off my mind. If I could get the sims to come out with all ships recovered just once, maybe I’ll be able to get some rest.”
Guzman mulled this over. “How about a puzzle? I’ve got one for you: a Patrol Cutter follows a tramp freighter into a medium-large sized class-eight asteroid field. How do you track it?”
She waved her hand as if batting the idea away. “Easy. We’ve done that before, more than once. You know that.” She gave him a sideways look. “What’s the catch?”
“Heavy concentrations of aluminum, titanium and magnesium ore in the field. Mining grade deposits. But very little iron.”
“Wow. That would be ... interesting. How much titanium?” she asked. He recited the rough values from memory. “Wow,” she repeated and blinked several times. After a moment’s thought, she said again, “Wow. That might be difficult.”
The Chief looked at the map, pleased with himself for finding a way to take the Commander’s mind off the mission, if only for a little while. He considered her idea again. “What if you put one ship here, here and here?” he asked as he pointed to three different locations near the Neutral Zone. “It’s not the show of force you wanted, but it gives you your reinforcements.”
Sahani’s mind was elsewhere, working on the problem Guzman had presented, so she asked him to repeat his idea. She pinched her lower lip. “Brilliant. You’re a genius, Chief.” She activated the comm unit on the side wall and contacted her aid. She asked the Ensign on the other end to prepare to run some more sims, this time with warships factored in per Guzman’s proposal. She suggested several variations on the theme -- it was amazing how fast her mind worked sometimes. Then she asked him to schedule her some time in the training simulator. She looked at Guzman, “That tramp freighter wouldn’t happen to be the Santa Maria
, would it?”
“This is only a hypothetically scenario.” The Commander nodded knowingly, then asked her aid to download the Magnum’s sensor logs for the past three days to the simulator room’s computers. She told the Chief she had an idea she wanted to test out, and that she’d see him at dinner.
~~~ ~~~~ ~~~