Morrison sat at his desk staring at a padd when the doorbell chimed. He took another look at the security protocols he was revising and set the padd down. “Come in,” he said. Having realized he was dozing off, he paced towards the replicator and requested a hot cup of coffee. He blew on the boiling liquid and took a quick sip that partially reawakened him. Seeing that Lisa Neeley had entered office, he tensed up again. He gently set his coffee mug on the desk in anticipation of another heated argument.
Seeing the angst in his face, Neeley smirked lightly in the hope of easing the tension in the room. “I just wanted to let you know,” she said, crossing her arms across her chest, “I’ll be withdrawing my request to serve here. I have no right to cause you further emotional turmoil. I’d just keep trying to string you along while you try to seek a more committed relationship that I’m just not ready for. And that would make us even bigger liabilities in our positions.”
Morrison was expecting something like that these last few days. And he suddenly felt both relief and guilt that he was getting his wish—to be rid of a woman who would only play games with his emotions. Though thinking back to the confrontation had shortly after the VIP guests came aboard, that would be selfish and rob his greenest crewmembers of a helpful mentor.
He sighed and sat at the front of his desk hoping not to step any closer to her. “You don’t have to leave on my account,” he offered. “Like you said, you have a strong rapport with a lot of the Marine and security officers. Some of them are still rather young and inexperienced. I wouldn’t want you leaving here because of a personal conflict with your superior officer.”
“You may be okay with my being here now,” Neeley replied, unfolding her arms and taking tiny steps closer to the desk. “But what about later on down the road?”
Morrison stayed put and tightly gripped the edge of his desk. “When I walked in on you with another man, it hit me really hard. I was upset and I acted childishly. What we both seem to forget is that we had a good working relationship for nearly a year, though, before things got personal between us.”
Neeley sighed, nodding in agreement. “Before hormones got the best of us. So it’s probably a good idea to go back to keeping our relationship professional from here on out.”
“You’re absolutely right that we should do everything we can to keep it professional,” Morrison concurred. “If, in a year though, I’m still single and you’re still single and you’re ready for a more serious commitment, I reserve the right to change my mind.”
Neeley chuckled mildly. “I wouldn’t bank on it though,” she said with a smile. “I’m just hoping our plans for the here and now work out.”
They quickly shook hands to finalize their verbal contract. Afterwards, they quickly walked off in opposite directions to avoid an awkward silence that was usually the build-up to some of some of their sexual escapades. Morrison felt that whole exchange was too easy until he saw that Neeley was gone upon sitting back behind his desk. His only question now was whether he could honor the agreement he had just made knowing it was easier said than done.
Limis quickly marched into the briefing room, where Wozniak was staring at crew logs on the primary monitor. She paced right past him while he making notes on a padd and sidled closer to him. “If the brass still wants to keep me around, but on a tight leash,” she said. “I have a counterproposal.”
Wozniak sighed, indicating annoyance with her rather discrete approach, and turned around to face Limis. “Go on,” he said, making no effort to hide his exasperation.
“Obviously, a few admirals at Command still feel a need for my services,” Limis continued, “but it’ll have to be under the same conditions as when I had agreed to re-enlist two years ago. Ensign Sullivan, Ensign M’Rev, and all the other Maquis will continue to serve aboard this vessel.”
“I will relay your message,” Wozniak replied with no hesitation in his voice. “I should be able to pull a few strings. I still can’t promise anything.”
Limis silently gloated that her bluff was not called. That told her that a few admirals did, in fact, value the kind of out-of-the-box thinker she was. “Do what you can,” she said, keeping a blank expression, “but anything less than what I am demanding and I walk.”
Less than an hour later, the captain and first officer saw off the investigating team. Commander Logan was alongside them slowly sauntering through the corridor. That both Wozniak and Katel seemed in no hurry to leave the ship seemed to Limis to be the universe playing a cruel trick—making her and the rest of the crew continue to wonder when they would leave.
“I will make my recommendation,” Wozniak cryptically remarked, “and you should know their decision about who stays and who goes in three days.”
Limis nodded lightly and turned her head to her left to address Logan. “And what about this ship passing inspection?”
“Based on everything we’ve seen,” Logan candidly replied, “the ship should certainly pass inspection with flying colors.”
“Anything less than that would be blow to your ego,” Kozar added with feigned cheerfulness.
“And that’s when you don’t want to be around me,” Logan said, even knowing nobody else would be amused by that remark.
The group stepped into the transporter room. Katel and Logan stepped onto the padd while Wozniak offered Limis a courtesy handshake. “Here’s hoping you and your crew well, Captain.”
“Thank you, Director,” Limis replied with a polite grin while accepting the handshake.
Wozniak nodded at Kozar and stepped onto the transporter pad. The transporter chief did not need an order from the captain to beam the visitors away. Katel flashed a twinkling smile in Kozar’s direction as all three of them dematerialized.
Kozar and Limis then exchanged quick glances, both feeling relieved that those two inquisitors had left the ship. Limis then stared at the empty transporter pad as another thought crossed her mind. Very soon, the Lambda Paz
would leave spacedock on its first postwar mission.
Hence, business as usual again.
Mariana Katel entered her office on Earth not expecting any visitors to be waiting on her. She set her briefcase down on the desk and opened it. While she was sorting through a stack of padds, the chair behind the desk spun around. A tall and barrel-chested blond-haired man was sitting in the chair, and he was dressed in the black leather jumpsuit of Section 31.
“Did everything go as planned?” Cole eagerly inquired. “Will Director Wozniak recommend that Captain Limis be kept on a tighter leash?”
“Not exactly,” Katel answered after a brief hesitation. “She bribed the Director into recommending that she retain command and that her crew remain intact.”
Cole clicked his tongue and nodded, expressing disappointment and admiration. “The Bureau’s taught her well—maybe a little too well. The unfortunate result is that she remains in a good position to continue to try to derail us. But we have an ace in the hole that is guaranteed to end her Starfleet career.”
He turned the desk monitor around so that Katel could see the screen. The service record of Ziminske Aris, the supposedly deceased first officer of the Starfleet hospital ship Semmelweis
was displayed on the screen. Doctor Aurellan Markalis had turned Ziminske in to Lambda Paz
security after Ziminske admitted to having been involved in covering up Section 31’s creation of the disease that very nearly eradicated the Founders. To prevent herself from implicating her co-conspirators, Ziminske had faked her death by escaping aboard a shuttle that was quickly destroyed. Cole had already attempted to rattle Limis by reconstituting surveillance footage from the Starbase G-6 holding cells of Limis threatening and assaulting Ziminske; evidence with which Admiral Jellico confronted Limis.
“We’ll redouble our efforts,” Cole declared, “to implicate Limis in the apparent death of one of our agents.”