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Old June 18 2009, 02:25 AM   #1
Goliath
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Star Trek: Supermax (Season Two Redux)

Okay--here we go. Episode 206 isn't finished yet, but it's long enough to be broken up into two parts, the first of which is now done.

Anyone who has read the first four stories before: please note the new order in which they occur.

Of the four, Episode 201 is the most heavily revised, and should be re-read in its entirety. (Note that this episode is the new canon: disregard anything from Season One if it contradicts this story)

Episode 202 is virtually unchanged. Episodes 203 and 204 have been lightly revised, and have had some new material added, especially toward the end. If you don't feel like reading the whole thing again, just skim to the end.

Episodes 205 and 206, Part I are completely new. I should have Episode 206, Part II finished before too long. Consider this your first cliffhanger.
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Old June 18 2009, 02:30 AM   #2
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Re: Star Trek: Supermax (Season Two Redux)

Supermax 201: Fast One


CONFIDENTIAL

From: kim.nguyen@sb8.sf.ufp
Stardate: 56131.5
To: james.lane@oig.sf.ufp
Subject: Inspection of prison ship USS Lilienthal at 61 Virginis II

Deputy Assistant Inspector General:

1. On Stardate 56123 I inspected the Federation prison ship USS Lilienthal NCC 53660.

2. USS Lilienthal is a converted starship, Oberth-class. It was commissioned on Stardate 05330, and remained in service for thirty-five years. It was decommissioned on Stardate 40665, and placed in long-term storage at the Starship Maintenance and Regeneration Center, in orbit around 61 Virginis VIII.

3. It was recommissioned as a prison ship on Stardate 55245, and is presently stationed at the Sundancer Penal Colony, in orbit around 61 Virginis II. The decision to recommission the Lilienthal (along with a second Oberth-class vessel, USS Le Verrier NCC 53636) was made after the construction of additional sub-surface prison housing units was temporarily halted. (See Appendix A).


***

Three months after I came on board, the Commandant decided it was safe to let me out of protective custody and put me in the Lilienthal’s general population.

I had mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, I was the only prisoner in protective custody, down in the ship’s brig on Deck Four, which made it a lot like solitary confinement. On the other hand, I was pretty sure the Orion Syndicate wasn’t ready to forgive and forget after just three months. I’d tricked the local syndic into murdering his lieutenant, and then ratted him out for the murder. That’s why he was deep underground, in Unit Zero, and I was up in orbit, on a prison ship

But I guess nobody cared how I felt. One day, after the evening meal, Chief Guzman just showed up at the doorway to my cell, lowered the force field, and said, “Pack up your mierda, Jaffar. We’re moving you to gen-pop.”

So I packed up my shit, left my cell, and followed him down the corridor to the turbolift.

My new cell was up on Deck Two: at least they weren’t putting me in the dorms, down on Three. I stood and waited, with my bundle of bedding and personal items in my arms, while the Chief tapped his combadge. “Guzman here,” he said. “Open Door Two-Twenty-Three.”

The door slid open. I stepped inside. The door slid shut, and that was that.

My new cellmate, a Markalian, was lying on the top bunk. Like all Markalians, he looked like a man-sized and man-shaped iguana. His skin was thorny and scaly, and a spiny dewlap hung from his chin. The back of his bald, earless head had stripes, like some kind of poisonous reptile. He’d been reading a padd when the cell door opened, but now he was looking at me. He didn’t blink.

“Hey,” I said.

“Hey,” he said.

I looked around, put my bundle down on the floor by the bottom bunk, and started unpacking. My cellmate went back to reading. “My name’s Jaffar,” I said.

“Pak,” he said.

I had put the fitted bottom sheet on the mattress, and was flipping out the top sheet when it hit me: Pak, the Markalian? “I’ve heard of you,” I said.

“Yeah?” he said, up above.

I started making hospital corners, like they taught us in the Academy. “I heard you knocked over a Ferengi casino ship,” I said.

“Yeah?” he said. Then, when I laid out my blanket, he said: “I heard you’re a snitch.”

I stopped what I was doing, stood up, and looked him in the eye. He looked back, impassively. “You heard wrong,” I said.

Our little stare-down continued for a moment. Then, he broke eye contact and started reading again. “Okay,” he said.

I went back to tucking in my blanket. Truth to tell, I was a little relieved. Hopefully, now that we’d both growled a bit, and sniffed each other’s butts, and marked our territories, we wouldn’t have any more problems.

When my bed was made, I lay down, stared at the bottom of Pak’s bunk, and waited for lights out.

It seemed like a long wait. It always does.

***

4. USS Lilienthal has been extensively refitted for its current mission. Its warp drive, armament, and long-range sensors have been removed. Its internal-security systems have been upgraded, and the bridge on Deck One has been modified to serve as control centre.

5. The crew quarters on Deck Two have been removed: each double-occupancy crew cabin has been replaced with two double-occupancy prisoner cells. The two cargo bays on Deck Three have been converted into prisoner dormitories, each capable of housing fifty prisoners. The captain’s and first officer’s quarters on Deck Three have been converted into six single-occupancy segregation cells, while the brig on Deck Four now serves as a protective-custody unit.

6. Additional crew quarters for Starfleet Security personnel have been added to Deck Four.


***

18:58…18:59…19:00 hours. The lights went down. I sighed: finally. I sat up, opened my paper sack, and started eating my dinner.

Pak had already washed, gotten undressed, and gotten back into his bunk. Up above me, I heard him say: “Jaffar.”

“Yeah?” I said.

“What are you doing?” he said.

“Eating,” I said.

There was a pause. Then: “Are you trying to get us in trouble?”

Damn, I thought. I should have explained earlier. “I have special permission to eat in my cell at this time of year,” I said. “For religious reasons.”

Another pause. “How did you manage that?”

I glanced upward. “Weren’t you here, then?”

“I guess not,” he said.

“Huh,” I said.

So I told him.

***

It all happened about a year ago, I said, when I was down on the planet, in Unit Seven. Security was tight. It wasn’t long after someone had murdered a friend of mine—an inmate named Bunny. It’s a long and messy story—and by the time it was over, three more people were dead, including two correctional officers.

If I remember correctly, I went to see the Alpha-Shift Supervisor on the twenty-eighth day of Sha’ban.

The Alpha Supervisor was a Vulcan—Officer Tomak. Tomak had been promoted after the Unit Supervisor, Commander Sinclair, committed suicide. He was standing in the Tower, one hand behind his back, the other on the handle of his stun baton, scanning the security monitors. He looked like a statue. They don’t call him roboguard and superhack for nothing.

He didn’t look at me when I approached. He just kept scanning the monitors and said: “What do you want, Jaffar?”

I said: “Ramadan starts the day after tomorrow.”

He finally looked at me. “Ramadan,” he said.

“The Muslim holy month,” I said.

“I see,” he said. He waited for a second. “Is that all?”

“Well, no,” I said. I told him how devout Muslims fast during Ramadan, touching neither food nor water from sunrise to sunset.

(Of course, the sun doesn’t rise or set over Supermax: the prison is deep underground, on the dark side of 61 Virginis II, which is tidally locked with 61 Virginis. But I was pretty sure that lights-on to lights-off was an acceptable substitute.)

Anyway, as a devout Muslim, I would be fasting for thirty days, and I wouldn’t be able to eat in the Mess Hall at meal times. I asked to have some food brought to my pod after lights out.

He stared at me without blinking. “You are not a religious person, Jaffar.”

“That’s not true,” I protested. “I’ve always been a good believer.”

Actually, I’m a lousy believer. A devout Muslim prays every day. I only prayed when my wife—my ex-wife, Kalila—came to visit. But I’d recently spoken to Kalila over subspace, and she’d reminded me that Ramadan was coming soon. I’d forgotten.

Tomak continued to stare. “You have never fasted before,” he said.

“My wife has been a good influence on me,” I said.

Tomak’s face was expressionless, but I could tell he didn’t believe me. Finally, he shook his head. “No,” he said. “You will take your meals in the Mess Hall, with the rest of the prisoners, at the appointed times. No exceptions.”

I said: “This is a violation of my religious freedoms. Those freedoms are guaranteed by the Federation Charter.” I couldn’t remember exactly which Guarantee that was. I made a mental note to look it up.

He said: “You must have religious faith to have religious rights. I have made my decision. The answer is no. Go back to the common area.”

I said: “I want to appeal your decision to the Unit Supervisor.”

Tomak nodded. “You have that right.” He tapped his combadge and called Lieutenant-Commander Norng, who had also been promoted after Sinclair’s suicide. I was in luck. Norng would see me right away. Officer Stott escorted me to the Unit Supervisor’s office, and I made my appeal.

Norng didn’t even wait for me to finish. “Forget it,” he said. “No way.”

“Why the hell not?” I said. “This is a violation of my Charter rights!”

He said: “The Mess Hall is closed by lights-out. I’m not going to reopen the kitchen just to cater to some so-called Muslim.”

“Use the craplicator in the hack’s mess,” I said.

His flat Southeast-Asian face twisted into a sneer. “You’d like that, wouldn’t you?” he said. “A correctional officer serving you food from the officer’s mess? Forget it, god-boy. You want to fast, go ahead and fast. But we’re not serving you meals in your pod.”

“I can’t do that,” I said. “I’ll starve!”

“Not my problem,” said Norng. “Appeal denied.”

I said: “I want to see the Commandant.”

I made an appointment to see the Commandant, Captain Manning, the next day. By then, I’d had a chance to re-read the Federation Charter in the Library. I did my best to convince Captain Manning that refusing my request would violate my religious freedoms under the Charter. I even quoted the Thirteenth Guarantee.

The Commandant shook his head. “No. Sorry. You’re forgetting that not all the Guarantees are absolute. The Reasonable Limits clause allows us to place some restrictions on some Charter freedoms. That includes religious practices.”

He leaned back in his chair and spread his hands. “We have almost as many belief systems here as we have prisoners, and I don’t have the resources to accommodate everyone. It’s hard enough just meeting everyone’s dietary requirements. The Federation Supreme Court has ruled that we’re allowed to restrict a prisoner’s religious freedoms, so long as these restrictions are reasonable and apply equally to everyone.”

“So long as we’re all oppressed equally,” I said.

He scowled, leaned forward, and said: “This isn’t a monastery, Jaffar. It’s a prison. Was there anything else?”

I stood up to leave. “You haven’t heard the last of this,” I said. “I’m going on a hunger strike, starting tomorrow.”

Captain Manning picked up a padd off his desk. “Enjoy yourself,” he said. “Guard, take this prisoner back to his unit.”

That afternoon, I used most of my remaining allowance of subspace time to call the Federation News Service on my home world, Minaret. I explained to them that I was going on a hunger strike starting tomorrow, the first day of Ramadan, as a protest against the Sundancer Penal Colony’s refusal to recognize my religious rights and freedoms. Either the Commandant would grant my small request, or I would starve to death, insha’Allah—as God willed. God is greatest.

I started ostentatiously abstaining from food and water the next day. I also started praying regularly, much to the amusement of my Caitian podmate, M’rorr, and many other prisoners. I didn’t care: praying helped take my mind off how hungry and thirsty I was. I would drink some water at night then start all over again the next day, fasting and praying. I wasn’t sure how long I was going to last, but I was going to give it my best shot.

On the morning of the third day, Norng came to see me while I was praying. “Jaffar,” he said.

“Just a minute,” I said: “I’m praying.”

He stood there, fuming, until I finished. “Yes?” I said innocently.

“It’s breakfast time,” he said. “Get your ass down to the Mess Hall.”

I shook my head, and said: “Sorry, Norng. I’m fasting. I’m also on a hunger strike, remember?”

He said: “Get down to the Mess Hall, or I’ll have Dr. Taylor force-feed you.”

I said: “You’re going to force-feed me for fasting in accordance with my religious beliefs?

He glared down at me. I could tell he was itching to practice his Muay Thai, with me as the practice dummy. I just knelt there, on my prayer rug, and waited.

“Damn you,” he said, finally. “Get down to the Mess Hall, or I’ll put you in Solitary.”

I chuckled. “You can’t put me in Solitary for following Islam,” I said.

He put me in Solitary.

I kept fasting, and praying, but it was getting pretty tough. Then I got word from a friendly hack that my case was causing a stir in the Federation media. Minaret’s representative had even mentioned me in the Federation Council, denouncing this latest example of religious discrimination by the UFP’s secularist majority.

I shrugged. Then he told me that I’d received a message from my wife. I had very little subspace time left, so Kalila kept it short, text-only. It said: PROUD OF YOU. LOVE YOU. KALILA.

I prayed and fasted even harder after that. After another couple of days, the Assistant Commandant, Commander Hagen, came to see me in Solitary. “If you don’t start taking nourishment,” she said, “we’re going to put you in Isolation.”

I didn’t laugh, this time. “You can’t put me in the Tank for following my religious beliefs!”

I should have known better. They put me in the Tank. Not for long, but long enough. I was ready to give up. I had mentally composed a press release, begging God and everyone else to forgive me for breaking my fast under torture. But they gave up first.

Here’s what happened. I was the only Muslim in Supermax. Still am, in fact. But when a couple of Pentecostals in Unit Eleven found out what was going on, they went on a hunger strike too. Pretty soon, followers of other faiths, in other units, were joining in as well. They sat around their Yards all day, fasting and praying their different prayers, demanding justice—for me. Weird.

This mass hunger strike brought a lot of unwelcome attention to the Sundancer Penal Colony. The representatives of every religious world in the Federation were making speeches in the Federation Council. From Ringstone to Zhen-Shan-Ren, from Deseret to New Graceland, believers across the UFP were complaining about systemic discrimination.

Finally, when the ambassador from Bajor inquired about my case, the Federation President decided enough was enough. The President leaned on Starfleet Command. Starfleet Command leaned on Vice-Admiral Golovko, at Starbase Eight. And Vice-Admiral Golovko leaned on Captain Manning.

The Commandant let me out of the Tank, and told me that if I stopped my hunger strike he’d allow me to eat in my pod after lights out, until the end of Ramadan. He was going to review the policy, he said, but this was purely an act of grace. I was a Starfleet veteran, after all—even if I had gone astray and deserted to the Maquis. But if I tried a stunt like this again, he was going to force-feed me, or just let me starve to death. I believed him.

I spent a couple of days in the Hospital, letting Dr. Taylor feed me through tubes—after lights out, of course. When I got back to Unit Seven, there was a lot of back-slapping and congratulating. Way to go, Jaff, they said. Fight the power. Even Death-Head the Cardassian was impressed. He told me so himself.

That night, after lights out, Officer Gleeson brought me my first meal in a week. I could hear the other inmates jeering as he walked across the Yard: “Room service!”; “Waiter!” By the time he got to my pod, his face was red.

“Here’s your goddamn dinner,” he snarled, throwing a paper sack at me.

I said: “Thanks, Gleeson.”

“Asshole,” he said, and walked away. Appearances are important in the Big Time.

I’m not sure what I was expecting: combat rations, maybe. But when I opened the sack, there was real food inside: a sandwich, carrot and celery sticks, some fruit, and a bottle of juice. Good deal, I thought.

Then I checked the sandwich. Ham and cheese. Har har.

“Hey, M’rorr,” I said, to my cellmate. “You want some ham?”

“Why?” he said. “What’s wrong with it?”

“Nothing,” I said. “It’s a religious thing.”

That was the best meal I’ve ever had in my life. When I was done, I slipped the packet of contraband out of the paper sack and under my clothes. Then I crumpled up the empty sack, threw it in the wastebasket, cleaned my teeth, got undressed, and got into bed. Once I was under the covers, I put the packet in a safe place

I wasn’t sure what it was. Drugs, probably. Whatever it was, it was in great demand. Like I said—security had been tight since those murders and suicides a little while back, and the flow of contraband had slowed to a trickle.

We’d have to be careful. I couldn’t do this too many times. The other hacks would be watching me. But I figured Gleeson could safely make a few more deliveries before the end of Ramadan.

I felt pretty smug. This would earn me some serious credit with the Fleet. I might even get a promotion. In addition, I’d struck a blow for the rights and freedoms of religious believers across the United Federation of Planets. And on top of all that, I figured I was scoring some big points with my wife, and with God.

A man can do anything if he’s properly motivated.

***

7. USS Lilienthal currently houses 96 inmates. They are supervised by 35 Starfleet Security personnel working in four shifts: 24 junior correctional officers (COs), 6 senior correctional officers, 4 shift supervisors, and 1 temporary unit supervisor. A permanent unit supervisor had not yet been appointed when I conducted my inspection, but I was assured that the colony’s administration was actively looking for an officer experienced in starship operations as well as corrections.

8. All ship systems are operational, and security procedures appear to be more than adequate. Crew fitness reports are satisfactory, but crew morale is low: the COs regard assignment to prison-ship detail as administrative punishment, though I was assured by Commandant Manning that this was not the case. The ship has been populated with comparatively low-risk prisoners, and there have been no serious incidents to date.

9. I do, however, see a number of potential problems.


***

I was done eating my supper. I crumpled up the empty sack, threw it in the wastebasket, cleaned my teeth, got undressed, and got into bed.

“That was nice work,” Pak said.

“Thanks,” I said.

“Are you still in the Fleet?” he said.

“No,” I said.

“Then why are you fasting, this time?” he said.

I thought about that. “I don’t know,” I said, finally.

“Is your wife coming to visit?”

My throat tightened, and my chest felt heavy. “No,” I said. “We’re divorced now.”

“Sorry,” he said.

“Don’t worry about it.”

“Well,” he said. “See you in the morning.”

“See you in the morning,” I said. But I didn’t fall asleep.

Not at first. Not for a while.

***
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Old June 18 2009, 02:31 AM   #3
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Re: Star Trek: Supermax (Season Two Redux)

10. USS Lilienthal’s conversion from starship to prison ship seems to have been hasty and ill-considered. (I have been informed that the ship was modified and refitted at 61 Virginis VIII starship graveyard, using whatever materials were available, instead of being rebuilt at a fleet yard)

11. The prisoner housing units are poorly designed. The converted crew cabins have sliding doors rather than force-field gates, and as a consequence, correctional officers cannot see what is happening inside without opening the door. Furthermore, dormitory-style housing is not appropriate for a maximum-security institution: in my opinion, the converted cargo bays are not safe, either for correctional officers, or for the prisoners housed therein.

12. The ship’s life-saving equipment is completely inadequate. USS Lilienthal has only enough lifeboats for its crew, and carries only three shuttlecraft (two Type-15 and one Type-6). To make matters worse, it has only two six-person transporter platforms. Most of the ship’s prisoners could not be evacuated quickly in an emergency.

13. In addition, the fact that the ship’s medical, educational, and recreational facilities were designed for a crew of 24 seems to have been overlooked. These facilities are adequate for the ship’s correctional officers and support staff, but no provision has been made for the ship’s 96 prisoners.

14. The ship is also under-staffed. USS Lilienthal is treated like a sub-surface housing unit for administrative purposes. Its correctional officers follow the same work schedule as their counterparts on the planet. As a consequence, there are never more than eighteen COs on board at any time (plus the unit supervisor). In fact, for twelve hours of every day, there are only seven COs actually on board.

15. To make matters worse, the correctional officers have not been provided with sufficient support staff. Medical and engineering personnel follow the same work schedule as the COs: as a consequence, there are never more than six onboard at any time. A ship’s counselor had not yet been appointed when I conducted my inspection, but I was assured that one would be transferred soon.

16. The small number of engineering personnel onboard is especially unsafe, given the fact that USS Lilienthal’s warp drive has been removed. Like all Federation starships, Oberth-class vessels are designed to draw power from their warp drives: the impulse drive is intended as a backup system, for emergencies. What is more, I was informed that, under the extreme conditions in orbit around 61 Virginis II, the ship could not survive long on battery power. Any interruption of impulse power could have disastrous consequences for everyone onboard.


***

The next morning, Pak walked into the Deck Two common room, looked around, then headed over to a table in the far corner, and sat down. There were two other Markalians at the table already—one of them older and heavier than Pak, the other younger and thinner.

“I hear you have a new cellmate,” said the older Markalian.

“Yeah,” said Pak.

“Who is it?” said the younger one.

“Jaffar,” said Pak.

“Jaffar? Jaffar, the snitch?

“Yeah. Him,” said Pak.

“Shit!” said the younger Markalian. “You know the Syndicate has a [/i]contract[i] out on him?

“I know,” said the older one.

The younger Markalian looked around. “You think the hacks are on to us?”

“I’m not sure,” said the older one.

“What do you want me to do?” said Pak.

The older Markalian considered. “Nothing,” he said, finally.

The younger one looked shocked. “We’re not going to take him out?”

“No,” said the elder.

“I could make it look like self-defence,” Pak said.

The older Markalian shook his head. “No. Too risky. Too much heat. We can’t afford to attract attention at this point. Besides…” he said, then fell silent.

“What?” said Pak.

“Nothing,” said the elder. “Maybe later. Just stick to the plan, for now.”

Pak nodded. “You’re the boss,” he said.

The older Markalian smiled. “Yes, I am,” he said.

***

RECOMMENDATIONS

17. USS Lilienthal’s prisoner-housing units should be redesigned and refitted with force-fields. The doors on the double-occupancy cells should be removed, and the dormitories should be partitioned into cubicles.

18. The ship should be provided with enough lifeboats and small craft to evacuate both prisoners and crew.

19. The prisoners should be provided with adequate medical, educational, and recreational facilities.

20. The number of correctional officers onboard should be increased.

21. The number of support staff onboard (and especially the number of Engineering personnel) should be increased.

22. In my opinion, it is ill-advised to keep a prison ship in orbit around a Class-B planet. All three prison ships currently in orbit at 61 Virginis II should be relocated to Starbase 8 at 61 Virginis V.

(Signed)

Lieutenant Kim Nguyen
Inspector
Office of the Inspector General
Starfleet



THE END
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Old June 18 2009, 02:33 AM   #4
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Re: Star Trek: Supermax (Season Two Redux)

Supermax 202 “Drawing Dead”

(Adapted from Stanley Kubrick’s The Killing)


TEASER

It was night on Markal IV, and Pak was walking down a residential street in the south sector of Belkalu City. Every house on the street was the same—a cheap steel-frame prefab module about the size of a tractor-trailer, with an oversailing roof, a timber floor, and a wraparound veranda.

Most of the houses had vehicles parked on the street in front of them. Some of them had light showing through their louvred windows. The house Pak was looking for, near the end of the block, was dark, and the street in front was empty. There was nobody home.

The Markalian walked up the steps onto the veranda. The darkened house had three doors—one in the front, facing the street, and two on the side. He looked off to his left. The house next door was dark as well. No one was watching.

He strolled down the veranda to the side door farthest from the street, slipped on a pair of gloves, and took another look around. Then he reached into his jacket, took out a short pry bar, stuck the business end into the seam between the doorjamb and the lock, and popped the door open.

There was no alarm. Moss always was a little careless.

Pak stepped inside quickly, closed the door behind him, took out a small flashlight, and looked around. He was in a bedroom. The bedroom door opened into a short hallway, with a bathroom on the left, and the second side-door on the right.

Keeping his pry bar ready in his right hand, he walked cautiously down the hallway, past the bathroom, past a kitchenette, into the dining room, then the living room, and arrived at the front door. Satisfied that he was alone, Pak put the pry bar back in his jacket, went back to the bedroom, and opened the closet.

He found what he was looking for up on the shelf: a metal carrying case. He carried the case over to the bed, put it down, and opened it. There were three hand weapons inside. He picked up a Klingon disruptor pistol, checked its charge, then set it for maximum and put it down on the bed. Then he closed up the carrying case and put it back in the closet.

Picking the disruptor up off the bedcover, he left the bedroom and went back down the hall to the living room. There was a couch and a cocktail table, an entertainment unit against the front wall of the house, and a chair off to the side. Pak sat down in the chair, and took aim at the door with his disruptor. Then he rested his gun hand on the arm of the chair, and settled in to wait.

After about an hour he heard a ground vehicle pull up outside. Its doors opened and closed. Someone laughed—a female. Footsteps on the stairs outside. A keycard in the lock. Then the front door opened, and two people stumbled in drunkenly, laughing—a male Markalian and a female Tailhead. As Pak sat and watched in the darkened corner of the living room, the two leaned against the far wall and began groping and kissing each other.

Pak stood up and aimed his disruptor at them. “Lights,” he said.

The living-room lights came on. The female Tailhead spotted him, over the shoulder of her companion as he was nuzzling her throat. She gasped, pushed the Markalian away, and shrank back into the far corner of the room. The Markalian turned around. When he saw Pak, his eyes widened.

“Pak,” he said.

“Hello, Moss,” Pak said. Then he fired.

The disruptor blast hit the Markalian in the chest. He staggered backward, his mouth opening in horror. Then he disintegrated, from his wound outward, leaving only a shadow on the wall behind him.

The female Tailhead screamed. Pak took a step forward and aimed his weapon at her. She stretched out her arms and held up her hands, trying to protect herself.

“No,” she whimpered, “no, no…


ACT ONE

The Tower of Silence was a roofless hollow cylinder of dry stone. Massive and low, it stood up on a mound, like a castle for the dead, in a forested park on what had once been the city’s eastern edge. Sacred Shuk-birds hovered and circled overhead, or stood around the tower’s rim, hissing and grunting.

Pak stood at the foot of the mound, his hands in the pockets of his black-leather coat, looking up at the tower. It was pretty much the way he remembered it—except, this time, he noticed how its outer wall was crusted and streaked with bird droppings. She goes to the sky, he thought, bitterly.

Pak had never known his father. His mother had died when he was a boy. His older sister had led him by the hand, behind the four acolytes who’d carried his mother’s body from the prayer-house to the tower. The procession had been led by a bell-ringing, chanting priest. “The double doors of heaven are open,” the priest had said, in song-speech. “Their bolts are unlocked.”

Her spirit flies away from you, ye living
She is not of the Earth
She is of the Sky
She flaps her wings like a Shuk-bird
She goes to the sky
She goes to the sky
On the wind
On the wind…


Later, the nuns at the orphanage had taught him that the Towers of Silence were the nests of the Earth. The sacred Shuk-birds were the sperm of the Sky, they’d said. The dead were laid within the Towers, like eggs, and their bodies nourished their spirits as they grew, until they hatched, and flew up to heaven.

In reality, the Towers of Silence were garbage-dumps for the dead. Their bodies were laid out on the ground in concentric rings within the Tower, around a deep central well, and exposed to the sun and the sacred Shuk-birds. Once the bones had been picked clean, they were thrown down the well.

Now, somewhere down there, jumbled together with his mother and all the rest, mixed with quicklime, slowly disintegrating, were the bones of Pak’s wife.

He wrinkled his nostrils at the smell of death and decay that surrounded the place. On the wind, he thought, bitterly. At least they got that part right.

He turned his head at the sound of approaching footsteps. Two more Markalians—Gorath and a bodyguard, Pak figured. Vehicles were not allowed in the tower park.

Gorath walked up to the foot of the mound, close to Pak, while his bodyguard kept a respectful distance. He looked up at the tower, then around, and finally shook his hairless head. “Funny place for a meeting,” he said.

“I need an address,” Pak said.

Gorath looked over at Pak and smiled. He said: “Lerzim said you weren’t much for small talk.”

Pak turned to look at Gorath, his face expressionless. After a moment, Gorath shrugged and looked up at the tower. “Have it your way,” he said.

Pak looked back at the tower as well. “I’m looking for Moss Mortas,” he said.

“Your old partner,” said Gorath.

“Yeah. Him.”

“What for?”

“What do you care?” said Pak.

Gorath shrugged. After a moment of silence, Pak said: “You know I just got out?”

“Of course,” Gorath said.

“I did five years in Kar Zartkaar,” Pak said.

Gorath nodded. “For manslaughter,” he said.

“Yeah,” said Pak. Then: “Only I didn’t do it. Moss did.”

Gorath looked at Pak again. “Oh?” he said, a little surprised. “How did that happen?”

There was another silence. Finally, Pak said: “Moss and I went way back. We did a lot of jobs together. I thought we were a team. I thought wrong.”

“So?” said Gorath.

“So Moss and I were planning to take down a jewellery store,” said Pak. “It should have been routine, but our driver got arrested just a few days before. We found a guy to replace him, but when the job was over, this guy tried to rip us off. So we deleted him, and dumped his body in the Wetlands.

“That would have been fine,” he continued, “except this guy came highly recommended by someone we trusted.”

“Radwor,” said Gorath.

“Yeah,” said Pak. “Moss was really angry—he thought maybe Radwor was in on it, somehow—like he and this guy were planning to rip us off all along. I told him to let it go, but he wouldn’t listen.

“The next thing I know, Moss is calling me in the middle of the night, telling me that he’s in big trouble. Radwor’s dead, he said. Moss had gone over to find out what happened, and wound up killing him, by accident. Somebody must have heard the noise and called the civil guard, ‘cause Moss barely got out of there in time.

“If Moss got caught, they were going to mindwipe him, for sure. So we made a deal. I had a clean record. If I confessed instead of him, I’d get maybe five to seven years. Moss was going to take care of Quelk until I got out.”

“Quelk,” said Gorath.

“My wife,” said Pak.

“Ah,” said Gorath. Then: “Let me guess. Moss didn’t keep his part of the deal.”

Pak shook his head. “Once I went to prison, Quelk never heard from him again. She was going to wait for me. Then, after about a year, she got sick, with Eera’s Disease. She didn’t have the money for the treatments, but she held on for about six months. Then, when she died, they buried her here.”

There was a moment of silence. Finally, Pak looked at Gorath. “So?” he said.

Gorath shrugged. “So, I might be able to find out where Moss is,” he said. “What do I get if I help you?”

“What do you want?” said Pak.

“Well, ordinarily, money,” said Gorath, chuckling. “Have you got any?”

“No,” said Pak.

“Well, then,” said Gorath. He paused. “Maybe you could do a little job for me, instead.”

“Like what?” said Pak.

“We’ll talk about that later,” said Gorath. “Where can I reach you, for now?”

“The Nasos. It’s a capsule hotel, on the north side. Ask for Smeel.”

Gorath looked at Pak, surprised. “A capsule hotel? How can you stand to stay in one of those coin-lockers?”

“It’s cheap. And it’s better than prison.”

Gorath shrugged. “All right,” he said. “I’ll talk to some people. Stay by the communicator in the evening. This could take a few days.”

“I can wait,” Pak said.

Gorath nodded. “I’ll bet you can.” Then he turned, and walked away, with his men.

***

Pak stayed in the tower park until the first sun set, then left, went back to his hotel, lay down in his capsule, and waited by the communicator.

Three nights later, the call came.

***

The disruptor blast hit Moss in the chest. He staggered backward, his eyes and mouth opening wide in horror. Then he disintegrated, from his wound outward, leaving only a shadow on the wall behind him.

The female Tailhead screamed. Pak took a step forward and aimed his weapon at her. She stretched out her arms and held up her hands, trying to protect herself.

“No,” she whimpered, “no, no…

Pak’s finger tightened on the trigger.

She goes to the sky, he thought.

Then…

He didn’t fire.

“Get out,” he snarled.

The female blinked, lowered her arms, moved sideways along the wall to the front door, then turned and ran off into the night.


ACT TWO

Pak walked into the bar at the Nasos and looked around, with his hands in his coat pockets: one of them held a small Type-I phaser. Gorath was in a corner booth, by himself, sipping a drink. His bodyguard from last week, at the Tower of Silence, was at the bar nearby.

After another look around, Pak let go of the concealed phaser, took his hands out of his pockets, walked over to the corner booth, and sat down across from Gorath. A waitress came over and asked if she could get him anything. Pak folded his hands on the table in front of him and shook his head.

“Can I get you another tranya?” she said, to Gorath.

He smiled. “No, thank you. We’re fine here.”

The waitress went away. Gorath took another sip. “I haven’t heard anything on the news,” he said. “Did you find what you were looking for?”

Pak nodded.

“Good,” said Gorath. He set down his drink and leaned forward, crossing his arms on the table. “I need someone for a job. Someone with your skill set.”

He paused. Pak waited. Finally, Gorath chuckled, leaned back, picked up his drink again, and said: “This is the part where you say, ‘what did you have in mind,’ or something.”

Pak shrugged. “What did you have in mind?” he said.

“Thank you,” said Gorath. He finished his drink, set the glass down on the table, and turned it slowly. “What would you say to knocking over a Ferengi casino ship?” he said.

Pak frowned. “Are you serious?” he said.

“Absolutely,” said Gorath.

“How?” said Pak.

“Are you interested?”

“Depends on how.”

“You and two other guys,” Gorath said. “In deep space.”

He paused, again. Pak waited again. “Now, this,” Gorath said, “is the part where you say that I’m crazy, and ask me how three guys are going to take down a casino ship in deep space.”

Pak leaned back, folded his arms across his chest, and looked hard at Gorath. Finally, he said: “What’s the plan?”

“So, you’re interested?”

Pak shrugged. “Depends on the plan,” he said.

“All right,” said Gorath. “But first, let me ask you: what’s the biggest problem with taking down a starship in deep space?”

“Getting away without being traced.”

Gorath nodded, impressed. “Lerzim was right about you,” he said. “You’re a cautious man.”

Pak shrugged again. “This is the part where you explain how we get away without being traced,” he said.

“Let’s assume that’s not a problem. What else?”

“Getting the take off the ship.”

“Also not a problem,” said Gorath, smiling. “Next?”

“Getting into the strong room.”

Gorath shook his head. “Not a problem.”

Pak frowned. “If that’s not a problem, then why bother with a casino ship? Why not take down a bank?”

“A few reasons,” Gorath said. “First, casino-ship security is designed to protect the ship from hijackers, and pirates, and theft by employees. Robbery-prevention measures are pretty basic, because, like you said, there’s no way to get the take off the ship.

“Second, you try to hit a bank on this planet, and armed-response teams will be transporting on-site within seconds. A casino ship in deep space is on its own. By the time Starfleet shows up, it’ll be too late. And even then, they’ll be following the wrong warp trail.

“Third, a job in deep space is nobody’s child. Starfleet won’t give a damn if some Ferengi gambling ship gets knocked over: they’re too busy trying to keep order in the Federation Occupation Zone. The ship’s owners will collect their insurance, and that’ll be that.”

For a moment, Pak said nothing. Gorath’s smile widened. “So, are you interested?” he asked.

“What’s the take?”

“As much gold-pressed latinum as you can carry. Between 100 and 150 bricks, divided five ways.”

Pak nodded. “All right,” he said. “I’m interested.”

“Good,” said Gorath. He took out an ink pen, set his glass aside, and wrote something on his cocktail napkin. “Be at this address tomorrow night, after second sunset.”

He slid the napkin across the table to Pak. Pak put the napkin in his jacket pocket without looking at it, slid out of the booth, and stood up.

“I’ll be there,” he said.

***
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Old June 18 2009, 02:36 AM   #5
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Re: Star Trek: Supermax (Season Two Redux)

The address on the napkin was a nondescript apartment building on the city’s west side. Pak walked into the entrance, checked the buzzer board, pressed a button, and waited. Finally, a voice said: “Hello?”

“It’s me,” said Pak.

The door buzzed. Pak walked inside, went over to the lift, and pressed the ‘up’ button.

A few minutes later, he was walking down a hallway on the eighth floor. The place was clean and well-maintained, but old. The hallway carpet was slightly worn. Finally, Pak stopped in front of the door marked 813 and pressed the doorbell.

There was a short pause. Then the door was opened by a light-skinned, middle-aged mammalian humanoid. It was female, and its hair was reddish, with a dark streak, but Pak didn’t recognize her species. “Come in,” she said, standing to the side.

Pak walked in, looking around automatically. Kitchenette on the right, closet on the left. A small open dining area on the other side of the kitchen counter. A living room beyond, with a couch facing a loveseat, and glass doors that opened onto the balcony. A short hallway on the right, with doors leading to a bedroom and a bathroom.

Gorath’s bodyguard was sitting at the kitchen table with a coffee mug in front of him. Gorath was in the living room, sitting in a chair. Two more humanoids were on the living room couch, turned to face the apartment door. One was an alien, the same species as the female at the door, and about the same age—but his hair was a dark, with a white streak. The other was a younger male—human.

“Can I take your coat?” said the female, closing the door.

Pak shook his head. “Can I get you something? Coffee?” she said.

“No,” Pak said. Then: “Thanks.”

“Come on in,” said Gorath. “Have a seat.”

Pak walked into the living room and sat down on the loveseat, with his back to the sliding balcony doors, facing the two unfamiliar males across a coffee table. The two of them looked at him appraisingly. Behind them, the female alien sat down at the dining table, with Gorath’s Markalian bodyguard, who took a sip from his mug.

“Now we can get started,” said Gorath. “As I was saying, we’ll be using aliases on this job. You know me, but there’s no reason for any of you to know anyone else.” He gestured at Pak. “Everyone, this is Mr. M. He’ll be the one doing the heavy lifting, on the ship.”

Pak nodded. The two aliens and the human nodded back. “This is Mr. and Mrs. R,” said Gorath, indicating the two aliens. “And this is Mr. H.”

“You’ve done this kind of thing before?” said the human, Mr. H.

Pak leaned back, frowned, and looked at Gorath. “Let’s avoid any discussion of people’s backgrounds,” Gorath said smoothly.

“Right,” said Mr. H. “Sorry.”

There was an uncomfortable silence. Finally, Pak said: “So what’s the plan?”

Gorath smiled, and handed a padd to Mr. R, who handed it to Pak. The display screen showed an image of a Ferengi casino ship.

“That’s the Flame Gem,” said Mr. R. “One week from tonight, it will arrive at Markal IV from Lissepia, spend a day in orbit, and then depart for Vivria.”

“Here’s how it’ll work,” said Gorath. “I’ll provide you with identification, book you a first-class cabin, and stake you some cash to gamble with.” He paused, and looked at Mr. and Mrs. R. “You both understand—I expect to be reimbursed off the top, before we split up the take.”

“Of course,” said Mrs. R. The male nodded.

“Good,” said Gorath. Then to Pak: “Before the ship leaves orbit, we’ll transport everything you’ll need onboard, into your cabin. Duffle bag, hand weapon, disguise—”

“Wait a minute,” said Pak. “Transport, how?”

Gorath looked at Mr. R. “Show him,” he said.

Mr. R picked a small device from the coffee table in front of the couch. “This is called an inverter,” he said. “It’s a folded-space transporter based on the Elway theorem. It can transport matter through shields, and can’t be tracked by sensors.”

He held it out for Pak. Pak took it, and looked at it sceptically. “You expect me to do this job with some kind of experimental transporter?” he said.

“It’s not experimental,” said Mr. R. “It’s a proven piece of technology.”

“It was invented by the Ansata separatists on Rutia IV,” said Mr. H. “Their leader, Kyril Finn, used it to kidnap the captain of the federation starship Enterprise, and to plant a bomb in the ship’s engine room.”

The two aliens looked uneasy. “Like I said, let’s focus on the future,” said Gorath.

Mr. H made an apologetic gesture, picked up a coffee mug from the table in front of him, and leaned back on the couch. Pak looked at Gorath. “Why have I never heard of this?” he said.

Gorath looked at Mr. R. The male alien hesitated, briefly. Then: “It has no commercial application. Repeated use leads to fatal cellular degeneration.”

“What?” said Pak, flatly.

“That won’t be a problem in this case,” said Mr. R, hurriedly.

“Why not?” said Pak.

“You’ll only have to use it twice,” said the female, Mrs. R. “That’s not enough to cause any damage. I’ve used it three times, myself.”

“And that,” said Gorath, gesturing at the device in Pak’s hands, “is why I said there’s no problem.”

Pak stared at Gorath for a moment, then took another look at the inverter. “I want to see how this thing works,” he said.

“Of course,” said Gorath. “Does that mean you’re in?”

Pak looked up, at the human, then the aliens, then back to Gorath.

“Yeah,” he said, finally. “I’m in.”

***

The Markalian and the Human—Mr. M and Mr. H—had left. Gorath stood in the doorway while his bodyguard helped him with his coat. “I’ll contact you again tomorrow,” he said.

Mr. R nodded. “Okay,” he said.

Gorath glanced back at the dining table. “Good night, Mrs. R,” he said.

“Good night,” she said.

The two Markalians walked out. Mr. R closed the apartment door behind them. He took a deep breath, let it out, and turned around. Mrs. R had picked up the empty coffee mugs. She scowled at him as she walked into the kitchenette.

“What’s wrong?” he said.

She started washing up. “Nothing,” she said.

Mr. R took a few steps toward her. “Come on, Shiri, what’s the matter?”

She didn’t look up from the sink. “I’m just glad Kyril isn’t alive to see this,” she said.

“What do you mean?” said Mr. R. “We’re doing this for Ansata. This is what Kyril would want.”

She stopped washing and looked at him angrily. “These people are criminals, Yan. They don’t care about the Movement. All they care about is money.”

“Bloor said we could trust them,” said Mr. R.

“Bloor is a criminal too.”

“What do you mean? Bloor is one of us.”

She went back to washing. “Fine,” she said. “Whatever.”

“Shiri, don’t be this way,” said Mr. R, moving closer. He put his hand on her shoulder, but she shrugged it off. “What?” he said, frustrated.

What,” she said, mockingly. Then: “You gave him the inverter, Yan. That—that gangster.”

“He needed it for the plan,” said Mr. R. “For the distraction. He wouldn’t help us without it.”

“Oh? And what makes you think he’ll help us now?”

“What do you mean?”

Think, Yan!” she said, angrily. “Will you think, for once? He has the inverter. He doesn’t need us anymore.”

“What are you saying?” he said.

“Do you really think he’s going to split the money with us?”

“Bloor said—”

“Bloor isn’t one of us, Yan. Not any more. Did you hear what he said? ‘I’m in the private sector now.’ Gorath could have paid him to say anything.”

“I don’t believe that.”

“No? How much do you think it would cost him to have us killed, Yan? How much?”

“I don’t know.”

“A lot less than our share, I can tell you that. I’ll bet that, that other one, what’s his name—”

“Mr. M?”

“I bet he’d kill us for a handful of stacies. These people kill each other all the time, Yan. There’s a swamp just outside of the city where they dump the bodies. Do you really think the Markalian civil guard is going to care about a couple of dead alien terrorists? Do you think they’ll even investigate?

For a moment, Mr. R did not reply. Then, finally, he said: “What do you want me to do?”


ACT THREE

The warehouse was abandoned, empty. Bars of sunlight slanted downward to the floor from dirty windows high overhead. Trash was piled in the shadowy corners, but a path from door to door had been swept clean.

Pak checked over his gear. A Cardassian disruptor rifle—simple and reliable. Black tactical jumpsuit, black gloves, black hood, black goggles, and medical-green shoe-covers—the Ferengi would scan every square centimeter of the ship for trace evidence. Padd with deck plans of the Flame Gem. Heavy-duty military duffle bag. A homing transponder—and an inverter.

“That’s the portable model you’ll be using on the job,” said Gorath. “Ordinarily, these things use broadcast power. That one has a power cell that’s good for three short-range transports.”

Pak picked up the strange device and looked at Gorath. “Let me see it work,” he said.

Gorath nodded. “Take these,” he said, holding out a tricorder and a communicator, “and stand over there, with Zoph.”

Pak handed over the inverter, took the communicator and the tricorder, and walked away, his footsteps echoing in the silence. Gorath’s bodyguard, Zoph, was waiting at the far door with a portable force-field generator. When Pak was close enough, Zoph turned on the generator, and the surrounding air crackled briefly.

Pak flipped open the tricorder and scanned around. The shield was up. His communicator chirped, and he activated it. “Yeah.”

“Ready?” It was Gorath’s voice, from across the warehouse.

Pak set the tricorder to scan for transporter beams. “Ready,” he said.

There was a dazzling flash of light. Pak looked, and saw the duffle bag sitting at his feet, inside the shield. He checked the tricorder. There was no trace of a transporter beam. He knelt down, opened the bag, and looked inside: disruptor rifle, coveralls, gloves, hood—

“Impressed?” said Gorath over the communicator.

Pak finished checking the bag. Finally, he said: “You’re sure this thing will penetrate a casino ship’s deflectors?”

“Absolutely. Like Mr. H said—the Ansata used inverters to beam through the shields of a Galaxy-class starship.”

Pak picked up the disruptor rifle and activated it. The weapon powered up immediately. A quick tricorder scan confirmed that it was fully-charged and ready to fire.

“Okay,” Pak said. “I’m impressed.”

***

The Danube-class runabout Miskatonic Flumen accelerated to Warp 5. Behind it, Markal IV quickly shrank until it vanished altogether. The Markalian suns shrank as well, until finally they were just another distant binary.

In the cockpit, sitting at the controls, Mr. H engaged the autopilot, and conducted a systems check. Satisfied, he stood up, walked back to the replicator, and ordered a raktajino. Then he went back to the pilot’s console, sat down, and stared out the porthole as the stars went streaking by.

Six days. That’s how long the mail run lasted from Markal IV to Vivria, and back. In six days, he’d be a rich man.

He sipped his coffee, and let his mind wander. Six days. Six years. His daughter had just turned six when she’d been diagnosed. Mild mental retardation, the doctors had called it. Developmental disability.

His wife had cried for days.

Why is mommy sad? Did I do something wrong?

No, sweetie. Nothing’s wrong. You’re a good girl. Mommy and daddy love you.


Goddamn doctors. No reason why she can’t live a rich, full life, they’d said, with special education and social support.

No, Lieutenant, they’d said, shaking their heads. We’re sorry, but that’s out of the question. It’s illegal. Your daughter’s not sick. Just developmentally-delayed. There’s nothing we can do.

Goddamn doctors. Goddamn Federation.

The doctors on Adigeon Prime were different. Easily-correctible, they’d said. DNA resequencing. Accelerated critical neural pathway formation. Why should a child’s development be held back by prejudice and fear? We can help your daughter achieve her full potential.

For a price.


In six days, he’d be able to pay their price.

***

The building reminded Pak of his childhood home, before his mother died. One of a row of small tenements on the central sector’s crumbling east side, it was long and narrow—just six metres wide, at the front, and six stories tall. He knew each floor would have three apartments: a five-room unit at the back, where the building widened out to eight metres; a four-room unit at the front; and a three-room unit in the middle.

Pak and his mother and sister had lived in a top-floor three-room. Later he found out those were the cheapest apartments available: none of these old tenements had elevators. The manager and his family had lived in the five-room on the ground floor.

Pak walked into the outer court, a narrow passage between the tenement and its neighbour, and rang the bell. After a moment, a voice responded. “Yeah?”

“I’m looking for Neph,” he said.

“Who’re you?”

“Lerzim sent me.”

“Lerzim who?”

“Lerzim Aloro.”

“How do you know Lerzim?”

“We were in residence together, at college, down south. My name is—”

“Don’t tell me your name.” The door buzzed. Pak walked in. The entrance hall was like the one he remembered: dimly lighted, with stairs leading up on the left, and two doors beyond—one on the left, under the stairs, and one on the right marked MANAGER.

The door on the right opened as Pak approached. A short, hard-faced Markalian male stood in the doorway. “Come in,” he said, moving to the side.

Pak went through the door into a kitchen. The manager let Pak pass him in the narrow doorway, then closed the door. A fat female stood up from the kitchen table without a word and left the room, closing the door behind herself.

“So what do you want?” said the manager.

“Just a room,” said Pak. “For a week. I won’t be in much, and I don’t want anyone else going in. I’m not expecting any visitors.”

“I can let you have a three-room suite on the top floor,” said the manager.

“That’ll be fine,” said Pak. He took out his wallet. “How much?”

“No charge,” said the manager. “You said Lerzim sent you.”

“Yeah,” said Pak. “He sent me. But he’s kind of a friend of mine, and I’d feel better if I paid.”

“All right,” said the manager. “Ten isiks a week.”

Pak handed over a ten-isik banknote. The manager pocketed the money, picked up a key card from a rack on the wall, and said, “Follow me.”

The two Markalians went up the six flights of stairs to the top floor, where the manager turned left, and opened a door marked 6B. Once again, he stepped aside.

Pak walked into the kitchen. Toilet on the left. Living room on the right, and a bedroom beyond. The rooms were smaller than he remembered. When he turned on the light, he saw the bedroom was about the size of his capsule at the Nasos.

After his mother died, his sister had tried to take care of him. When the authorities came to take him away, she’d screamed at them and fought them. Pak had cried. The social worker had tried to soothe him, told him not to worry, told him they were going to a wonderful place with lots of other children. Pak had kept crying, all the way to the orphanage, and all that first night.

That was the last time he could remember crying.

He turned to the manager. “This’ll be fine,” he said.

***

There was a knock. Gorath looked up from his desk. His bodyguard, Zoph, opened the door. “Mr. Gorath?” he said.

“Yes?” said Gorath.

“It’s the Xepolite.”

“Oh?” said Gorath, putting down a padd. “Well, send him in.”

Zoph nodded and stepped back smoothly, making room for the alien to enter Gorath’s office, then closed the door behind him. Gorath stood up to greet his visitor, smiling warmly, holding out his hand. “Hetman,” he said, “it’s good to see you again so soon.”

“Gorath,” said the Xepolite. He shook the Markalian’s hand limply.

Still smiling, Gorath sat back down, and gestured to the chairs in front of his desk. “Please,” he said. “Have a seat.”

Once the alien had seated himself, Gorath folded his hands in his lap, and leaned his chair back. Xepolites disgusted him. Their pale, smooth, spotty faces made them look like amphibian burn victims. But for a hundred bricks of gold-pressed latinum, Gorath was more than willing to tolerate the alien’s presence.

“I have a message from Legate Urlak,” said the Xepolite. “He has accepted your offer. The New Order has dispatched three Hideki-class attack ships to the appointed coordinates. They will be ready and waiting for the Ferengi ship, when it arrives.”

The smile on Gorath’s face widened. “Excellent,” he said.

“The Legate also wanted me to remind you of the terms of your agreement. He particularly wanted me to remind you that payment was not conditional on the success or failure of your own criminal scheme. Once his men complete their mission, he expects to be paid in full.”

Gorath nodded, his face turning serious. “Of course, I understand. I’ll have the device for you by the end of the week.” Then: “Was their anything else?”

The Xepolite shook its head, and stood up. “No,” he said. “That was all.”

Gorath stood as well, smiling once again. “Then I’ll be in touch. Good afternoon, Hetman.”

“Good afternoon,” said the Xepolite. Gorath pressed a virtual button on his desktop display. Zoph opened the door to the office, ushered the alien out, and closed the door behind him.

Gorath sat down again, still smiling. At least a hundred bricks of gold-pressed latinum—and all of it his. All for the lives of two Rutians, a Human, and—

Pak. For a moment, Gorath felt sorry about Pak. The man had his uses. And Lerzim had testified for him.

Ah, well, the Markalian thought. No sea without water.

After all—the creatures in the Wetlands got hungry, the same as any Shuk-bird.

***
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Old June 18 2009, 02:39 AM   #6
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Location: The Fifth Dimension
Re: Star Trek: Supermax (Season Two Redux)

Pak arrived at the Belkalu Starport an hour before the boarding time listed on his cruise ticket. A porter helped him load his two suitcases onto the appropriate trolley. Pak thanked him and tipped him two isiks. “Thank you sir,” the porter said.

Once inside the terminal, he checked in, passed through security, and proceeded to the departure lounge. His identification and cruise ticket were checked several times. Finally, he was issued a cruise ship ID card with his name—his fake name—his cabin number, his dining time, and table assignment. Before he boarded the ship, he was asked to insert his card in a kiosk, and stand in a designated spot. When the kiosk returned his card, it was imprinted with his holo-image.

Gorath had paid for a porthole cabin on the Flame Gem’s port side. Pak used his ID to open the door and walked in. The cabin was about the size of his tenement suite in Belkalu City. He hung up his coat, lay down on the bed, turned on the entertainment unit, and waited.

There was a knock on the door. It was another porter, with his luggage. Pak gave him another two-isik tip, unpacked, then lay back down and waited some more.

There was a flash of light. Pak looked over. The duffle bag from the warehouse was sitting on the deck in the middle of the cabin. Without hurrying, he got off the bed, picked up the bag, set it on top of the bed, opened it up and checked its contents. Satisfied, he closed it up, put it down on the deck, and pushed it under the bed, out of sight. Then he lay down again, and let the time pass until the ship departed.


ACT FOUR

In his tiny crew quarters, Lort finished his morning meal of jellied gree-worms and drank the last of his hot millipede juice. Then he put his dirty dishes in the replicator, recycled them, and got dressed. After adjusting his headcloth, he slipped on his paisley-patterned cutaway coat, and checked his appearance in the mirror.

Satisfied at last, the Ferengi went off to work.

As usual, he took a detour through the main gambling deck on his way to the strong room. Even at this early hour, it was half-full.

Lort never gambled. He’d counted enough of the Flame Gem’s profits to know that his cousin Bleet was right: gambling was a tax on stupidity. But he still enjoyed spending time on the main deck, and even took his evening meals there. The flashing lights, the ringing bells, the dabo girls in their sexy outfits—it was all so different from the strong room. The only sound in the strong room was the clink of latinum.

He got onto the turbolift at the end of the main hall, and rode it down to the center of the ship. His three Ferengi co-workers were already standing outside the strong room. They greeted him, and he greeted them. Then, when it was time, they lined up, inserted their keycards, put their palms on the scanners, and walked inside.

The night-shift workers were waiting for them, under the supervision of a bored-looking Nausicaan guard. There was a large sign on the wall that said SILENCE. Lort went over to the counting table, where he checked his night-shift counterpart’s totals, and initialed his tally sheet. They nodded at each other, the night-shift worker left. Lort knew the other Ferengi’s name—Garn—but only from his tally sheet. They’d never spoken to each other.

Then a buzzer sounded. Lort sat down, at the table, and began hard-counting slips of latinum: One, two, three…

***

The three Hideki-class attack ships lurked inside the Verusia Nebula. On the bridge of the Shirrcha, Gul Dakal waited impatiently, staring at the staticky, distorted image on the viewscreen.

The Ferengi vessel was due to arrive shortly, dropping out of warp and passing close enough to the nebula give its passengers a breathtaking view. At that point, the Cardassians would strike.

His assignment had seemed strange at first—absurd, even. Attack a casino ship? In Federation space? The plan made no military sense. But Legate Urlak’s orders had been explicit. The fate of the New Order was riding on this one small engagement, he’d said.

This is a new type of war, Dakal, the Legate had said. Our enemy may have crushed us underfoot, but like a serpent, we will bite his heel. You must not fail.

“Sir!”

Dakal looked away from the viewscreen. At last, he thought. “What is it Glinn?”

“Long-range scanners are picking up an approaching vessel.” A pause. Then: “It’s the Ferengi, sir.”

“Excellent,” said Gul Dakal. He pressed a button on the arm of his command chair. “All ships, prepare to engage.”

***

Ninety-seven…ninety-eight…ninety-nine…

Suddenly, there was the sound of an explosion. The deck of the Flame Gem lurched underfoot, throwing Lort against the edge of the counting table. Slips and strips and bars of latinum spilled off the table and jingled on the floor.

Damn it, thought the Ferengi. I lost count…

Then it occurred to him: What was that?

As the casino ship’s inertial stabilizers compensated, Lort regained his balance, and looked around the strong room. Like Lort, the remaining Ferengi money counters were standing around, looking confused.

“Did we hit something?” said Lort.

“No talking,” growled the Nausicaan. He stood up from his chair, by the door, and reached for the intercom.

Then there was another explosion, and the ship lurched again. The strong room’s lighting turned red, and alarm sirens went off.

BATTLE STATIONS. BATTLE STATIONS. ALL HANDS TO BATTLE STATIONS. ALL PASSENGERS TO THEIR CABINS. ALL PASSENGERS TO THEIR CABINS. THIS IS NOT A DRILL.

BATTLE STATIONS. BATTLE STATIONS…


The Ferengi money-counters looked around wildly. The Nausicaan drew his sidearm, and leveled it at them. “Clear table,” he bellowed. “Get money in vault. Now!

***

The Ferengi ship fired off a plasma spread and then shot away at high warp. The Shirrcha lurched when the plasma wave hit their shields. A console exploded on the starboard side of the bridge, and one of the Cardassian bridge crew cried out in pain

“After them!” snapped Gul Dakal.

The Shirrcha went to warp-speed, its two sister ships close behind.

***

ALL PASSENGERS TO THEIR CABINS. ALL PASSENGERS TO THEIR CABINS. THIS IS NOT A DRILL.

It was time.

Pak pulled the duffle bag out from under the bed, set it on top, and opened it. Out of habit, the first item he reached for was the pair of black gloves. He smiled to himself as he slipped them on. There wouldn’t be any fingerprints if the plan worked. And if the plan didn’t work, fingerprints wouldn’t matter.

He put on the black hood next, then the goggles, and then the black jumpsuit. Finally, he sat down on the edge of the bed, and slipped the medical shoe covers over his footwear. Now completely covered, from head to toe, he stood up, and reached into the bag once more.

He pulled out the disruptor rifle, activated it, set it on ‘safe’, and checked the power cell. Then he slung it over his shoulder. Then he took out the homing transponder, and set it aside, on the bed.

Finally, he took out the inverter, and activated it. He checked the power cell first, then the pre-programmed coordinates. Satisfied, he fastened the device around his left wrist. He picked the empty bag up off the bed, folded it up, and tucked it under his left arm.

Pak paused, took a deep breath, let it out, then raised his left wrist, and hit the inverter’s timer button with his right index finger. Then he unslung the disruptor rifle, set it on ‘kill’, held it up with both hands, and waited.

***

Down in the strong room, Lort and the other Ferengi were still carrying latinum to the vault when there was a flash of light. Startled, they looked around. A strange humanoid had appeared in one corner of the room, holding a disruptor rifle.

For a second or two, time seemed to slow down, and Lort saw the intruder with unnatural clarity. The intruder’s face was completely covered by a black hood and dark goggles. It was dressed entirely in black—except for its feet. In his panic-stricken state of heightened awareness, the Ferengi saw that the intruder’s feet were covered with ridiculous-looking green medical booties.

Then—

***

Pak shouted: “Nobody move!”

The four Ferengi froze. The Nausicaan guard snarled and took aim with its pistol. Pak fired. The disruptor blast hit the guard in the chest. There was an explosion of blood and sparks. The Nausicaan staggered backward, and collapsed, its weapon clattering across the deck.

One of the Ferengi screamed. Another dropped a box full of latinum strips. Pak raised his rifle and covered them. “Get your hands up, all of you!” he shouted.

The Ferengi raised their hands. “One move out of any of you,” said Pak, “and I start firing!”

The Ferengi stood still. Satisfied, Pak looked around quickly, then released the disruptor’s rear pistol grip, reached under his left arm for the duffle bag, and tossed it to the nearest Ferengi. “You,” he said, raising his disruptor once again. “Fill that bag up with bricks. The rest of you, get over there and face the wall.”

The frightened little aliens did as they were told. The Ferengi with the bag picked up a handful of bars from the counting table, and tossed them inside.

“I said bricks, you idiot,” Pak said. “Get over to that vault, and fill it up!”

***

Lort cringed at the sound of the alien’s voice, then scampered over to the vault, and started filling the bag with bricks of gold-pressed latinum.

I’m going to lose my job, was all he could think.

***

On the bridge of the Shirrcha, Gul Dakal said: “That’s far enough. All ships, disengage and set course for the Badlands, maximum warp. Helm, hard about.”

***

When Pak saw the bag was almost full, he said: “All right, all right, that’s enough. Leave it.” He gestured with the disruptor. “Get over there. Get out of the way.”

The Ferengi moved away from the vault. “You three,” said Pak, turning to the others. “Get down on the floor. Down on your faces. Don’t move.”

The trio lay down on the floor. Pak turned back to the first Ferengi. “All right, you,” he said.

***

The intruder stepped into the vault. “Close that door,” he said.

Lort hesitated. “What?” he said, his voice trembling.

From inside the vault, the black-clad humanoid raised its weapon. “I said close it! Close the door, and lock it. If any of you try to open it, I’m going to start shooting!”

Slowly, not believing his ears, Lort started to close the vault door. [i]“Now!”[/i] the intruder shouted.

With a cry, Lort slammed the heavy door shut, and hit the locking button, activating the containment field, trapping the intruder inside. Then he ran to the nearest intercom panel.

“Security!” he squealed. “Security to the strong room! Intruder in the strong room!

***

Light flashed, and Pak reappeared in his cabin. He staggered against the bulkhead and just stood there, for a moment, swaying, shaking his head, trying to clear it. Mr. R had warned him that a second transport so soon after the first might cause momentary disorientation.

Once the room stopped spinning, he started working quickly. He set the duffle bag down on the deck, unslung his disruptor rifle, and deactivated it. Then he opened the bag and stuffed the weapon inside.

He stepped over to the bed, took off the inverter, and set it down on the cover. He picked up the homing transponder, and set its timer. That went into the bag too.

Before long, he had stripped off his disguise: hood, goggles, shoe covers, jumpsuit, gloves—all of them went into the duffle bag, on top of the gold-pressed latinum. Finally, he retrieved the inverter, checked the coordinates, and activated its timer once again. He dropped the device into the duffle bag, closed the bag quickly, and stepped back.

In a flash, the bag was gone.

***

Down in the strong room, the squad of heavily-armed Nausicaans clustered around the vault, pointing their energy weapons at the door.

“Now!” said their leader.

One of them reached out and pressed the button to deactivate the containment field and open the vault. The door swung open slowly.

But there was no one inside.


ACT FIVE

Mr. H flushed the vomit down the toilet, rinsed his mouth out, splashed water on his face, and stared at his reflection in the bathroom mirror.

My God, he thought. What have I done?

The Miskatonic Flumen had left Vivria for Markal IV three days ago.

Two days ago, he’d picked up a general distress call: Ferengi cruise liner Flame Gem under attack by pirates. Mr. H had logged and relayed the call. Other, closer Federation starships had responded.

Reports came in. There were casualties on the Flame Gem—four passengers dead, along with two crew. That was bad enough. Then the Starfleet ships in pursuit of the ‘pirates’ broke the news: the ‘pirates’ were actually insurgents. Cardassian attack ships—Hideki class.

Nobody told me, thought Mr. H, as he stared at himself in the mirror. They said the plan was foolproof. They said nobody would get hurt. Nobody said anything about Cardassians.

Mr. H had stuck to the plan. Yesterday, passing close to the Verusia Nebula, he had picked up the duffle bag’s transponder signal, and beamed it aboard. He didn’t even bother to hide it. Who would suspect a Federation runabout?

Then, later, an Archer-class border cutter, the Nunki, had intercepted the Cardassians near the Badlands. Mr. H had followed the chatter over subspace. The Nunki was engaging. One insurgent ship destroyed. Two destroyed. Then—

Nothing. Nearby ships had called and called—Nunki, come in. Nunki, please respond. Still nothing.

Finally, when the Miskatonic Flumen was just an hour away from Markal IV, the report came in from USS Surveyor. The Nunki was gone. No escape pods. No survivors. Thirty-one people—dead.

A distraction, Gorath had said.

The face in the mirror stared back, accusingly.

Accomplice.

He’d followed the plan. He’d beamed the bag down to the coordinates that Mr. M had given him. He’d landed the runabout, and delivered the mail, as if nothing had happened.

Accessory.

Now it was time to collect his cut. His gold-pressed latinum. His thirty pieces of silver.

Murderer.

Before he left his quarters on the planetside starbase, dressed in civilian clothes, he picked up a hand phaser, and stuffed it into his coat pocket.

What are you planning to do with that, Lieutenant?

I didn’t know! I swear to God—I didn’t know!


He still didn’t.

***

Shawm sat in his rented ground car, watching Yan and Shiri’s building from across the street. He’d been surprised when they called, and even more surprised when they told him what they wanted. He’d thought his Ansata days were long behind him.

Shawm was in prison when the Rutians had murdered Kyril Finn, with Federation help. When he finally got out, the Movement had collapsed. Their leaders had called it a peace agreement. Shawm called it surrender.

Like many former prisoners, Shawm had tried to soldier on. But there just weren’t enough of them. The leader of his resistance cell had turned out to be an undercover cop. Shawm was the only one who got away when the Rutian tactical squad kicked in the door of their hideout.

Now, years later, the call had finally come. He remembered Yan and Shiri, from the old days. They’d been scientists—part of the team that had developed the inverter. They’d been trying to raise funds to get the Movement on its feet again, but they were sure their Markalian ‘business partner’ was going to double-cross them. Could Shawm help?

Yeah. He could help. The people of the Eastern Continent were starting to see that their leaders had sold them out. The Ansata was rising again—but they needed weapons and explosives.

A hundred bricks of latinum would buy plenty of both.

It was time. Yan and Shiri had told him to wait outside until second sunset. That’s when the gang would be meeting in their apartment, for the last time, to split up the loot.

The second sun had set. Shawm reached down behind the driver’s seat and picked up his phaser carbine. He powered it up and checked it over. Then he tucked it under his coat, got out of the ground car, and looked up and down the street as he closed the car door. Satisfied that the coast was clear, he started across the street, heading for Yan and Shiri’s apartment building.

***

Mr. H got off the lift on the eighth floor, walked down the hallway to Apartment 813, and pressed the doorbell. Mrs. R. opened the door, nodded, and stepped aside to let him enter.

Standing in the entrance hall, Mr. H looked around the apartment. Like before, Gorath was sitting in the chair, in the living room. Mr. R was on the couch, nearby. Gorath’s bodyguard was at the dining table, with a mug of coffee sitting in front of him. There was no sign of the other Markalian—Mr. M.

Mrs. R closed the door behind him. From his chair, Gorath said: “Come on in, Mr. H.”

Mr. H took a couple of steps toward the living room, and then stopped. “Where’s Mr. M?” he said.

“He’s on his way,” said Gorath. “His transport is running a little late.” The Markalian took out a fancy pocket timepiece and checked it. “He should be landing right about now, in fact.” Putting the timepiece away, he looked at Mr. H again. “How did things go on your end?”

Mr. H opened his mouth to speak, then closed it. Then, after a pause, he said: “You told me nobody would get hurt.”

Gorath shrugged. “Jobs like these are always risky. We did the best we could.”

“The Cardassians destroyed a border cutter,” said Mr. H. “They killed thirty-five people.”

Gorath shrugged. “No sea without water, Mr. H. Like I said—we did the best we could. Did you make the delivery, or not?”

There was another pause. Then, finally, Mr. H said: “Yes. I made the delivery.” He turned to Mrs. R. “I need to use the bathroom,” he said.

“Down the hall,” she said.

***

The human walked down the hall to the bathroom, stepped inside, and closed the door. Zoph looked at Gorath. “What’s his problem?”

“First-time shakes,” Gorath said. “Our Mr. H has never done this before. He’ll get over it when he sees all that latinum. What do you think, Mr. R?”

“I guess so,” said Mr. R.

Then the doorbell rang, again.

***
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Old June 18 2009, 02:40 AM   #7
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Re: Star Trek: Supermax (Season Two Redux)

Inside the washroom, Mr. H took out his hand phaser, leaned against the washstand, and closed his eyes.

I’m sorry, he thought. I’m so sorry, sweetie.

Daddy loves you.


Outside the washroom, he heard someone shout: “Nobody move!”

***

The Rutian male advanced into the apartment, his phaser carbine at the ready, switching his aim from Zoph, to Gorath, and back again. “Stay right where you are,” he said.

Gorath scowled. “What is this?” he said.

“Shut up,” said the intruder. Then, to Mrs. R: “Check them for weapons.”

Mrs. R moved over to Zoph, at the dining table, reached inside his jacket, and pulled out a phaser pistol.

In the living room, Mr. R stood up. “It’s too early,” he said.

Then, from the doorway to the washroom, Mr. H opened fire.

***

The phaser shot hit Shawm in the side, under the arm. The Ansata gunman cried out, bent sideways, and fell, firing his phaser carbine wildly.

The beam from Shawm’s carbine slashed across Mr. R’s face. Mr. R collapsed, like a puppet with its strings cut.

Mrs. R screamed, her attention torn away from Zoph, at the table. Behind her, the Markalian leapt up, pulled out a knife, and stabbed her in the kidney.

She gasped, and stiffened up straight. Then Zoph grabbed her by the hair, pulled her head back, and cut her throat.

Gorath scrambled for Shawm’s phaser carbine. Mr. H fired again, and hit Gorath in the chest. The Markalian was flung back against the wall, where he lay motionless, dead eyes open.

Mrs. R slumped to the floor, choking, clutching her throat with both hands. Blood gushed out from between her fingers.

Zoph snatched up his phaser, pointing it at Mr. H.

In the bathroom doorway, Mr. H pointed his weapon at Zoph.

The Human and the Markalian fired at the same time.

***

At the Belkalu starport, Pak was hurrying through the arrivals area, his irritation showing plainly on his face. He couldn’t believe it. He was late. His transport had arrived late, at Markal IV. Of all the things that could have gone wrong—

Suddenly, two green-uniformed civil guards blocked his path. He stopped and glanced behind him. More green uniforms, closing in, hands on their holsters.

Now what? he thought.

One of the guards—an officer—looked him in the eye and said: “Pak Yalpol?”

Pak looked back, steadily. “My name is Smeel,” he said.

“Whatever,” the officer said.

“ Pak Yalpol, you are under arrest—”

“—for the murder of Moss Mortas.”

***

I looked up in surprise.

“Oh, man,” I said. “The
girl gave you up? The female Tailhead? For killing Moss?”

“Yeah,” Pak said.

It was after lights-out. Pak was lying on the top bunk, and I was sitting on the bottom. Tomorrow was Eid-ul-Fitr. On my homeworld, Minaret, people would be celebrating the end of Ramadan. To the best of my knowledge, there were no celebrations planned on board the prison ship
Lilienthal, but somebody’d thrown a couple of cookies in with my evening meal, to mark the occasion. Knock yourself out, God-boy.

I bit into one of those cookies, chewed a bit, and washed it down with some juice. “So they never convicted you? For the casino ship?” I said.

“No,” said Pak.

“Well—what happened?” I said.

“My lawyer cut me a deal,” said Pak. “Plead guilty, no mindwipe. So they sent me back to Kar Zartkaar for twenty-five years.”

I finished my meal and threw my garbage in the can. “How’d you wind up here?” I said.

“I broke out of Kar Zartkaar,” he said.

“Ah,” I said. I got up to clean my teeth. I could see Pak’s reflection looking at me, in the washstand mirror

“I heard you broke out of Tantalus V,” he said.

I chuckled, spat, and rinsed. “Yeah,” I said. “You believe that?”

“What happened?” he said.

I got into my bunk, on the bottom. “It’s a lot easier to break out than it is to stay out,” I said.

“Yeah,” he said. “I hear you.”

There was a moment of silence. Then, I said: “Why didn’t you shoot that female?”

“She didn’t do anything,” he said.

Huh, I thought. “She was a witness,” I said. “If you could do it all over again, would you shoot her?”

“No,” he said.

“Why not?”

“She didn’t do anything.”

“Would you kill her now?”

There was another pause. “Maybe,” he said. Then: “No. That was my own stupid fault. I should have worn a mask, or let Gorath do the job.”

“Why didn’t you?”

“I wanted him to see me. I wanted him to know it was me, before I deleted him. I let it get personal.” Then: “So, you’re done fasting after tonight, right?”

“Yeah,” I said.

“You start eating again tomorrow?”

“Yeah.”

“Then come sit with me in the mess hall, at breakfast,” he said. “I want you to meet someone.”

We were both settling down to sleep, when something occurred to me. “Hey,” I said.

“What?” he said.

“Who got the money?”

“I don’t know,” he said. “The tenement manager, I guess. The Starfleet guy, Mr. H—he beamed everything down to my room on the sixth floor. I was on my way to pick it up when I got caught.”

“Oh,
man,” I said.


EPILOGUE

“Talk to me.”

“There’s been a problem. We’re still working on it.”

“What? What the hell happened?”

“The new unit supervisor red-flagged our hitter. We couldn’t get him transferred up to the
Lilienthal.”

“God
damn it! I want that rat bastard dead! Dead, do you hear me?”

“Like I said, we’re working on it. We’ve already got someone else lined up. It’s better this way, anyway.”

“Better, how?”

“Slower. More painful.”

“How painful?”

Very painful.”


THE END


Drawing dead, v. i.

A poker term that means, ‘trying to make a hand that cannot win,’ either because your opponent has a stronger hand, or because the cards you need are not in the deck.

If a player (for example) is trying to make a straight when their opponent has a full house, then they are ‘drawing dead’: even if they make their straight, they lose.


(Special thanks to Gibraltar for permission to use the character of Legate Urlak. For more on this nefarious Cardassian insurgent leader, read Star Trek: Gibraltar, “Embers of the Fire.”)
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Old June 18 2009, 02:42 AM   #8
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Re: Star Trek: Supermax (Season Two Redux)

Supermax 203: “Murtad”

(Inspired by Homicide: Life on the Street, “Prison Riot”)


Chief Petty Officer Guzman holstered his stun baton, took off his respirator, and looked around, disgusted. Animals, he thought.

The mess hall on Deck Four of the prison ship USS Lilienthal was a shambles. There were bodies everywhere, along with overturned tables and chairs, broken dishes, spilled food—and blood. Medics were treating the wounded and reviving the unconscious, while correctional officers hauled groggy-looking prisoners back to their cells.

A voice behind Guzman said: “What happened here, Chief?”

The Chief shook his head, but did not turn around. “What the hell does it look like?” he said, crossly.

There was a brief pause. Then: “What the hell does it look like, sir.”

Guzman turned around, then—too late. The voice belonged to a Starfleet officer—a Human woman, with two gold pips and one black on her mustard-coloured shirt collar—a lieutenant-commander.

The Chief came to attention: “Yes, sir,” he said, “Commander.”

“Captain, actually,” she said, looking around.

Oh—great, thought Guzman. The new unit supervisor. Way to make a good first impression, vato.

“Yes, sir,” he said. “As you can see, sir, the situation is under control. We were able to deploy the gas and neutralize the prisoners before too much damage was done.”

“Casualties?” she asked.

“Two dead,” said Guzman. “About two dozen wounded—maybe six or eight seriously, including two guards.”

She winced. “What started it?”

“Well, sir,” said the Chief: “we haven’t had a chance to review the visual logs, yet. But it looks like the trouble started over here, in the chow line. If you’ll come this way, Captain.”

Guzman led the Commander over to the chow line, where the floor was slippery with blood, and two bodies lay covered with sheets. The Chief knelt down carefully beside one of the bodies and pulled the sheet back from its dead face. “Prisoner Number 50217 Samsonov, Human,” he said. Then he stood up, moved to the second body, knelt, and uncovered that one’s face as well. “Prisoner 85182 Tholos, Andorian,” he said.

“From the guards’ initial reports,” he continued, “it seems the fight broke out between these two. Samsonov pulled out a shank and stabbed Tholos, in the heart. Then the riot started. At some point, Samsonov also received a fatal stab wound, in the neck.”

Guzman pointed at the dead human. “Notice the tattoos,” the Chief said: “Humanist Brotherhood. So, we figure the first stabbing was racially motivated. We still don’t know who shanked Samsonov, or why.”

As he straightened up and dusted off his hands, Guzman could see the dismay on Captain Hardcastle’s face, and felt a little sorry for her. She looked young, and green. Just her bad luck this happened on her first day.

“I’m sure the visual logs will clear up everything,” he suggested.

Hardcastle shook her head. “All right,” she said. “Thank you, Chief. Pull the mess-hall security logs and report to me as soon as possible. I want to know what happened down here.”

“Yes, Captain—Captain—?”

“Hardcastle,” she said. “Y tu?

A smile creased the Chief’s grim cholo features. “Chief Petty Officer Guzman, sir,” he said.

“Good to meet you, Chief,” she said. Then: “I’ll be in sick bay.”

***

Captain’s Log, Supplemental. Visual logs from the Mess Deck have confirmed initial reports from witnesses about the stabbing death of the Andorian prisoner, Tholos. But the death of his killer, Samsonov, remains a mystery. Whoever stabbed him took advantage of the melee to escape detection by visual sensors.

Chief Guzman tells me that three prisoners were standing nearby when Samsonov was killed. Two of them are the dead prisoners’ former cellmates: Prisoner Number 34145 Rennenkampf, another member of the Humanist Brotherhood prison gang; and Prisoner Number 10129 Shress, another Andorian. The third is a former Maquis, and a deserter from Starfleet—Prisoner Number 28914 Jaffar.

Chief Guzman seems to know these people—I’ve asked him to sit in with me at their interviews.


***

Rennenkampf sat alone in the interview room, idly stroking his bushy moustache. The light gleamed from his shaved head. Like his dead cellmate, he was heavily tattooed, and had cut the sleeves off his uniform shirt to show off his ink. The symbol of the Humanist Brotherhood—a circle within a triangle—was inscribed on his forehead.

Chief Guzman came into the room, followed by a female officer that Rennenkampf didn’t recognize—a lieutenant-commander. The prisoner looked at her curiously: tall, wavy dark hair, nice athletic-looking figure—not a bad-looking bitch, he decided. “So you’re the new unit supervisor,” he said.

“That’s right,” she said, sitting down across from Rennenkampf. The Chief sat down beside her, scowling. “Captain Hardcastle. Surprised?”

The prisoner nodded. “A little,” he said. “I heard it was going to be that Vulcan.”

Hardcastle glanced at Guzman. “Lieutenant-Commander Tomak,” the Chief said.

“Yeah, him,” said Rennenkampf. “Truth be told, I’m a little disappointed it’s not.”

“Oh?” said Hardcastle, leaning back, and crossing her arms, and legs. “I thought Humanists hated Vulcans.”

Rennenkampf shrugged. “They’re an inferior species,” he said. “But they’re almost as good as Humans. Not like Andorians. Andorians are just animals.”

“Animals.”

“Sure. Look at our biology. Vulcans can breed with Humans, like donkeys can with horses. But Andorians can’t breed with Humans.” He laughed. “Can you imagine fucking an Andorian?”

“Watch it, Rennenkampf,” the Chief growled.

Hardcastle shook her head. “I’ve honestly never thought about it.”

“Come on,” said the prisoner. “That’d be like—fucking a chimpanzee, or something. It’s disgusting.”

“If you say so. But enough about fucking,” said Hardcastle. “Let’s talk about the riot.”

“Okay,” said Rennenkampf, smiling and settling back in his own chair.

“You and Samsonov were cellmates. You went to the mess deck together. You were waiting in line together, for the afternoon meal.”

“That’s right.”

“What happened then?”

“Well, we got some food from the toilets. We were walking over to a table. Then Tholos bumped into Sam—accidentally, on purpose. Sam dropped his tray.”

Hardcastle nodded. This was all in the playback. “Then what happened?”

Rennenkampf shrugged. “Then Tholos got shanked.”

The Chief leaned forward. “Your idiot cellmate killed another prisoner for bumping into him, and spilling his tray?” he asked.

The prisoner shrugged again. “He was just an Andorian. And like I said, he did it on purpose.”

“Then what happened?” said Hardcastle.

“Then the riot started.”

“And then?”

“I don’t really remember,” said Rennenkampf, scratching his head. “The next thing I knew, I was waking up in my cell. That gas is really something.”

“Did you see who stabbed Samsonov?”

The prisoner shook his head. “No,” he said.

***

“That riot was crazy,” said Shress. “It was like, all-out war—everyone against everyone. Then the gas hit, and the next thing I knew—”

“You woke up in your cell,” said Hardcastle.

The Andorian nodded. “Yeah,” he said. His antennae twitched nervously. His thin face was badly bruised.

“Who did that to your face?” said the Chief.

“What?” said the Andorian.

“Your face,” the Chief said.

“Oh,” said Shress. “It was those Humanist bastards.”

“They attacked you, during the riot?” asked the Captain.

“No,” said the Andorian, shaking his head. “Before.”

“Before?”

“That’s what it was all about,” said Shress. “They jumped me, for my stash, yesterday morning.”

“They attacked you, for drugs,” said Hardcastle, thinking: on board a prison ship? Where did those come from?

She looked at the Chief again. He looked at her, and shrugged: the guards, of course. Where else?

The Captain turned back to Shress. “Why didn’t you report this?”

The Andorian laughed. “What?”

Hardcastle thought for a moment. “So. That’s why Tholos got in Samsonov’s face on the Mess Deck?”

“I guess so. He was pretty mad. That stuff was his too.”

“Did you see Samsonov stab your cellmate?”

“Yeah.”

“Did you see who stabbed Samsonov?”

“Me? No. Everybody started screaming and yelling. Then I got sucker-punched. I was down on the deck, and all I could see was this fist coming down—bam, bam!”

“Did you stab Samsonov?”

For a moment, Shress just stared at her. Then, he said: “No. No way. Not me.”

***

Jaffar leaned back in his chair and folded his arms across his chest, his handsome Levantine features impassive. “I didn’t see anything,” he said, flatly.

Hardcastle frowned. “How is that possible?” she said.

Jaffar shrugged. “You tell me.”

“Come on, Jaffar,” said the Chief. “You must have seen something. You were standing right next to Samsonov when he was killed.”

“Was I?”

“Yeah, you were,” said Hardcastle. “In fact, you were standing so close to Samsonov that the blood from his carotid artery splattered across your uniform.”

“Well, I must have gotten blood in my eyes, then, because I didn’t see anything.” Jaffar glanced around the room, then looked back at his interviewers. “Are we done here?”

***

A guard led Jaffar back to his cell. He flopped down on the bottom bunk, picked up his padd, and started searching the ship’s library catalogue. He had just settled on a documentary about the Earth-Romulan War when the screen suddenly froze. Letter by letter, as if it was being typed, a message appeared:

KEEP YOUR MOUTH SHUT SNITCH

Jaffar leapt up, cursing, and threw the padd at the wall. “I’m not a fucking snitch!” he shouted.

He looked around. His cellmate, Pak, lay on the top bunk, regarding him curiously.

Jaffar put his hands on his hips, lowered his eyes, and stood there for a moment, calming down. Finally, he muttered, “wallahi,” picked his padd up off the deck, and got back in his bunk.

***

Later, when Captain Hardcastle was in her ready room, behind her desk, she took a sip of Tarkalean tea. “So,” she said, “uh…”

“Captain?” said Guzman, from his own seat.

“What do you think, Chief?” said Hardcastle.

Ah, he thought. His opinion of the new unit supervisor went up a notch. Not too proud to ask for help. He considered, and sipped from his own cup before responding. “I’m not sure,” he said, finally. “I’d say Shress is the obvious suspect. But there’s no evidence connecting him to the crime.”

“Maybe Jaffar’s eyesight would improve if I sent him back down to the surface and put him in Isolation for a few days,” Hardcastle suggested.

Guzman shook his head. “That won’t scare him,” he said. “Jaffar is a tough-guy. A lot tougher than that tattooed Humanist maricòn, that’s for sure.”

Hardcastle put down her cup and saucer, and picked up a padd. “I was afraid of that,” she said. “I’ve been reviewing Jaffar’s file. It’s extraordinary.”

“I just don’t get his attitude,” said the Chief. “I mean, the guy was willing to inform before, when those two Starfleet Intelligence operatives got killed. Does he think his cherry’s going to grow back, or something? I mean, uh…Sir.”

Hardcastle glanced up, smiled, and went back to reading her padd. “Those two operatives had been his classmates at Starfleet Intelligence College,” she said, tapping at the screen. “He seems to value personal relationships and loyalties above… all…” Hardcastle stopped and stared as an update flashed across the screen.

“Captain?”

Hardcastle looked up again. “I think I just found something better than a few days in Isolation,” she said.

***
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Last edited by Goalie Mask; June 18 2009 at 03:05 AM.
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Old June 18 2009, 02:43 AM   #9
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Re: Star Trek: Supermax (Season Two Redux)

Hardcastle and Guzman walked into the interview room again, the following morning.

Jaffar was already seated across the table. “What now?” he said.

The two Starfleet Security personnel took their time sitting down. Hardcastle placed a padd on the table in front of her. “Mr. Jaffar,” he said. “Are you aware that your brother Abdullah has been arrested on your home world, Minaret, for the crime of apostasy?”

Jaffar blinked, opened his mouth, tried to speak, failed. Finally, he said: “What?”

“Your brother, Abdullah ibn-Jaffar al-Manari,” said Hardcastle. “Age 19. University student. Youngest of six children.”

“What about him?”

“Word is,” Guzman said, “your brother got arrested by the mutaween—the religious police—after somebody heard him saying God wasn’t real.”

“According to this report,” said Hardcastle, indicating the padd on the table, “your brother waived his rights, and confessed his apostasy before a magistrate. He was invited to repent, and refused.”

“He’s going to be sentenced tomorrow,” said Guzman.

“As I’m sure you know,” said Hardcastle, “the punishment for apostasy on your home world is permanent exile. Your brother will never be allowed to set foot on Minaret again. Pious Muslims will shun him wherever he goes.”

Guzman shook his head. “Your father’s some kind of religious leader, isn’t he Jaffar? An ‘imam’? Man, that’s gotta be tough for him. And your poor madre. One son in prison, and now the other, exiled.”

“I spoke to the authorities on Minaret last night,” said Hardcastle. “They said that, while apostates are not usually given a second chance to repent, your brother Abdullah has been showing signs of remorse, in jail. They have promised me that, if you cooperate fully, they’ll invite your brother to repent once again.”

Jaffar just sat, and stared. “Well?” said Guzman

“You bastards,” Jaffar said. “You dirty bastards—”

“Get a hold of yourself, Mister Jaffar,” said Hardcastle, calmly.

For a moment, Jaffar just sat there, breathing heavily, his eyes blazing. Finally, he said: “Let me see that.”

Hardcastle pushed the pad across the table. Jaffar picked it up, and started reading. “It’s all there,” said the Captain. “The terms are spelled out in writing. Tell us what you know about the murder of Samsonov, and your brother will get a second chance.”

“Do we have a deal?” said the Chief.

Jaffar looked up, glared first at Guzman, then Hardcastle. Finally, he said: “Yeah. We have a deal.”

“Who killed Samsonov?” said Hardcastle.

Jaffar sat silent. Keep your mouth shut, snitch, he thought.

“Mr. Jaffar?”

Then, it came to him.

“I did,” he said.

Guzman and Hardcastle straightened in surprise, looked at each other. “What?” said Guzman, flatly.

“I did it,” said Jaffar. “I killed him. I confess to the murder of Prisoner Samsonov.”

Frowning, Hardcastle said: “Why?”

Jaffar shrugged. “Why not?” He tossed the padd on the table. “Now call Minaret, and get my brother out of jail.”

***

There was a brief silence. Then, the Chief’s combadge chirped. He tapped it. “Guzman,” he said.

“Chief!” said the voice on the combadge. “Uh—you’d better get down to the starboard sonic showers. We’ve got a Code Black, here.”

Chingao,” the Chief swore. Code Black meant a dead body. “Uh, sorry, Captain. With your permission?”

“Dismissed, Chief,” said Hardcastle.

Guzman hurried out of the interview room. The doors closed behind him. For a long time afterward, Lieutenant-Commander Hardcastle just stared at the prisoner across the table. Then, her own combadge chirped.

“Guzman to Captain Hardcastle.”

After a moment, she responded. “Hardcastle here.”

“Captain, I think you should come down here. You’re going to want to see this for yourself.”

***

Hardcastle walked into the sonic shower. There was blood everywhere—on the floor, on the walls, even spattered on the ceiling. Most of it pooled around the hacked-up body sprawling naked on the floor. It was face down, but from the shaved head and the tattoos, its identity was easy to guess.

Chief Guzman was holding up a plastic evidence bag with a bloody shank inside. The Andorian prisoner, Shress, stood nearby, under guard, naked as well, with his hands cuffed behind his back. As the Captain entered the room, the blue-skinned humanoid looked up, hopefully. “Is he dead?” he said.

“Of course he’s dead,” said the Chief. “How many times did you stab him?”

“I don’t know,” said the Andorian.

“Is this what it looks like, Chief?” said Hardcastle.

“Pretty much,” said Guzman, disgustedly. He gestured with his chin at the dead man. “I told you this guy was a maricòn.”

The Captain put her hands on her hips and looked at Shress. “So—you killed Samsonov, after all.”

The Andorian looked at her, his antennae twitching wildly. “What?”

“You killed Samsonov. Rennenkampf came in here looking for some payback, and you killed him too.”

“No,” said Shress. “No.”

“Well, what then?” said Hardcastle.

He killed Sam,” said Shress. “Rennenkampf. He did it.”

“What?” said Guzman.

Hardcastle frowned. “Rennenkampf killed his own cellmate? His gang brother?”

“That’s right.”

Why?

“Because of me,” said Shress. Then, suddenly, he burst into tears. “Because of me,” he sobbed.

Guzman looked appalled. “What about you?” he said.

“Sam and me,” said Shress, “we—we loved each other. Sam—Sam was going to quit the Brotherhood, quit all that racist shit, for me. To be with me.

“Sam wasn’t a bad person,” he went on. “Not in his heart. Not like that piece of shit,” he said, indicating the body on the floor. “We were going to ask to share the same pod.”

“So, this wasn’t about stolen drugs,” said Hardcastle.

“No—I just made that up,” said Shress. “We were quiet, and careful. Sam said we were like Romeo and Juliet—you know, like in the Human play? But Tholos found out. And he beat me for it. He said, ‘no cellmate of mine is going to nest with a Humanist’. I tried to explain—but he wouldn’t listen. He wouldn’t listen.”

“The fight in the cafeteria,” said Guzman: “that was over you.”

“Yeah,” said Shress, snuffling. “Sam killed Tholos, for beating me. Then he killed Sam. He called him a race-traitor.”

“Oh, my God,” said Hardcastle.

Suddenly, through his tears, Shress smiled. “I read that play, you know,” he said. “I read it. And when I started giving it to that Humanist bastard—when I started shanking him—you know what I thought? I thought, ‘O happy dagger—this is thy sheath!’”

***

Hours later, after count, Jaffar was sitting on his bunk when the door to his cell slid open. Looking up, he saw the new unit supervisor, Captain Hardcastle, in the doorway.

“Captain,” he said.

“Jaffar,” she said. Then, after a pause: “Please—don’t get up. By all means: as you were.”

Jaffar smiled a little. “Sorry. I’ll remember next time.”

There was another pause. Finally, the Captain spoke again. “I suppose you’ve heard.”

“Yeah,” said Jaffar. “Love conquers all, huh?” Then: “What about my brother? Will he still get another chance?”

Captain Hardcastle frowned and crossed her arms. “I should say no,” she said. “But—yes. I don’t see why he should suffer for what you did.”

Jaffar shrugged. “I kept my part of the bargain. My confession was as good as anybody else’s.”

“Except it wasn’t true,” said Hardcastle.

“Yeah,” said Jaffar. “Well, you know what? You’re still new at this job, Captain Hardcastle. Once you’ve put in as many years as Chief Guzman, you won’t be looking any gift horses in the mouth.”

For a moment, the Lieutenant-Commander just stood there, silent. Then she turned to leave. “Good night, Mr. Jaffar.”

“Good night, Captain.”

The door slid shut. Inside the cell, Jaffar lay back in his bunk, picked up his padd, and started searching the ship’s library catalogue.

From the bunk above, Pak said: “Jaffar.”

“What?” said Jaffar.

“My people still want to talk to you. About that thing.”

“Yeah?” said Jaffar. Then: “Sorry about all this.”

“No problem,” said Pak. “How about tomorrow?”

“Okay. What do they want, anyway?”

“You’ll see.”

“If you’re looking for information, I haven’t got any,” said Jaffar.

“No,” said Pak. “It’s nothing like that.”

“Okay,” Jaffar said. Then he sniffed, grimaced, and looked around. “What the hell is that? Do you smell that?”

“What?” said Pak, sniffing.

“You don’t smell that?”

“My people’s noses aren’t as good as yours.”

“Lucky for you,” Jaffar said. Then “What is that?”


THE END
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Old June 18 2009, 02:45 AM   #10
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Re: Star Trek: Supermax (Season Two Redux)

Supermax 204: “Hard Site”


I woke up sitting in a chair, its metal surface cold against the skin of my naked back and buttocks. My arms were twisted behind me, and my hands were shackled to the chair back. My ankles were shackled to the chair legs, high enough so that my feet were off the floor. My whole body hurt.

“Look at me,” said a voice. Someone grabbed me by the hair, from behind, and yanked my head up.

I was in some kind of interview room. There was a metal table in front of me. The Vorta from the courtyard sat on the other side, his hands folded on the table top, a faint look of disgust on his face. The door to the room was behind him. A Jem’Hadar stood behind him as well, in the corner, standing at attention, staring straight ahead, with his polaron rifle at the port.

“This has gone on long enough,” said the Vorta. Then he looked to my left. “Release him,” he said.

The hand let go of my hair and gave my head a shove.

“Where is Kalila bint Ibrahim?” said the Vorta.

I looked left. A Cardassian soldier was standing behind the chair. I turned back to face the Vorta. “Who?” I said.

The Cardassian hit me in the back of the head, open-handed. The Vorta’s expression didn’t change, but he sighed softly, then leaned forward a bit. “Where,” he said, “is Kalila bint Ibrahim?”

“I don’t know who that is,” I said.

“Where is she, Jaffar?” said the Vorta.

“My name is Gamal,” I said.

“Your name,” he said, “is Dawud ibn Jaffar al-Manari. You are a terrorist, and an enemy of the Dominion, like your wife. Where is she, Jaffar?”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” I said.

The alien lifted its hands off the table, steepled its fingers, lowered its lips to the tips of its forefingers, and stared at me for a moment. Then it glanced to my left, and nodded: then turned its attention back to me.

The Cardassian moved around to face me, drew his disruptor pistol, and held it down by his thigh, shaking his wrist as if to loosen it. I looked up at him, from my chair, and he looked down at me, with a smirk on his face. He was going to enjoy this.

Across the table, the Vorta raised its head a bit, and said: “Where is Kalila bint Ibrahim?”

“I told you—I don’t know who that—”

The Cardassian whipped me across the face with his pistol. When I recovered, and looked up, he whipped me again, back-handed.

“Look at me,” said the Vorta.

I looked up at the Vorta, blinking away tears. He said: “Where is she, Jaffar?”

I glanced at the Cardassian, and saw that he’d shifted his grip on his weapon. Instead of holding it by the pistol grip, with his finger on the trigger, he was holding it by the frame, like it was a brick, or something. I looked back at the Vorta.

“My name is Gamal,” I said.

The Cardassian smashed me in the left eye with his weapon, once, twice. I shut my eyes tightly and sobbed from the pain.

“Look at me,” said the Vorta.

I opened my eyes, saw double, closed them and opened them again, trying to focus, and failing.

“No more games, human,” said the Vorta—both of them. I still couldn’t focus. The pain was agonizing. The Cardassian had fractured my eye socket.

The Vorta continued. “You have been sentenced to death,” he said. “Your only chance to save yourself is to tell me what I want to know.”

“Now,” he said. “I will ask you just one more time.”

I felt the muzzle of the Cardassian’s disruptor pistol press against the side of my head.

“Where,” said the Vorta, “is Kalila bint Ibrahim?”

***

New Palestine colony, the Demilitarized Zone. City of New Jerusalem.

I was in a safe-house in the Christian quarter when I got caught. The New Jerusalem Brigade had just pulled off a spectacular operation. We’d wired an empty old apartment building to implode, by attaching explosives to the support columns. Then we’d leaked false information about the Brigade Headquarters holding a meeting inside that building.

The enemy took the bait. At the moment the meeting was supposed to take place, they attacked. As we watched from a safe distance, a swarm of shuttles descended on that building, landed on its roof and the streets outside, and inserted a force of Jem’Hadar and Cardassian assault troops. Once they were inside, we blew the charges, and brought the whole structure down on top of them.

It was beautiful.

Before the dust had settled, we were gone—scattering all over the city. My wife and I split up. I promised to meet her at her cousin’s house, in the country, in a day or two. She kissed me goodbye, fiercely: then we both hurried away, to hide.

Like I said: I wound up in a safe-house in the Christian quarter—a secret room in a prostitute’s apartment. Her name was Rubi. I was just settling down for the night, in my hiding place, when I heard the noise—banging, male shouting, crashing, female screaming.

I sat there in the darkness and listened, trying to figure out what was happening. Did they know I was here? Or was it just a random door-to-door? Had Rubi sold me out? Would she give me up to save herself?

Finally, I heard a rough male voice on the other side of the wall. “You in there,” it said. “Come out with your hands up.”

I didn’t move. A fist banged on the wall. “We know you’re in there,” said the voice. “Come out with your hands up.”

I still didn’t move. No sense making it easy for them. Sooner or later, I figured, they’d get tired of waiting, send for explosives, and threaten to blast me out. Maybe then I’d surrender. Or maybe not.

I figured wrong. “Come out,” said the voice, “or we’ll kill the female.” Then, a woman cried out in pain—Rubi.

Shit! I thought.

“I’m going to count to three,” said the voice. “One…two…”

“All right!” I shouted.

Then I came out, with my hands up.

***

Sundancer Penal Colony, 61 Virginis II. Prison ship USS Lilienthal, in orbit.

Pak started awake.
What was that? he thought

The Markalian prisoner sat up and looked around. He was in his cell on Deck Two—a converted crew cabin. The stars were moving slowly past the porthole, behind him. The cell door beyond the foot of the bunk bed, was closed.

Pak himself was in bed, on the top bunk. He’d gone to bed when the lights went out—at 2300 hours. They were still out. What time was it?

Something had woken him up. Something was wrong. But—what?

Then, he noticed.

His cellmate Jaffar’s bed was empty. The blanket and sheet were half-pulled off, and Jaffar himself lay sprawled out on the deck, near the cell door.

“Jaffar?” Pak whispered.

No response.

“Jaffar!” he hissed.

Still nothing.

Slowly, quietly, Pak pulled back the covers, then swung his legs over the side of the bed, and hopped down to the deck. He moved over, bent down beside his human cellmate, and checked him for signs of life. Then he stood up, and pounded on the celldoor with his fist.

“Officer!” he shouted.
“Officer!”

***

New Palestine Colony. Al-Balat Detention Center, City of New Jerusalem.

Twenty-four hours.

That’s what they told us, in Starfleet Intelligence College. And that’s what I told recruits, in the New Palestine Maquis. In case of capture, say nothing for twenty-four hours. After that, you can say anything you want—anything that will make the pain stop. After twenty-four hours, you’ll have done your duty.

You’ll talk, I told them. Don’t kid yourselves. The Cardassians can make anybody talk. But if you can hold out for just twenty-four hours, then what you know can’t hurt us—or help them. Give us that much time, and you can tell them everything. After twenty-four hours, it won’t matter any more.

I never thought I’d have to try to follow my own orders.

In a way, I was lucky. I hadn’t been betrayed. The Cardassians hadn’t even known I was there. They simply threw a cordon around the city’s Christian quarter, searched every building, and found my rat-hole with a tricorder. I told them my name was Gamal Abdul Masihiri.

They knew I was in the Maquis. But they didn’t know who I was, or what I’d done, or what I knew. So they put me in the back of a transport, took me to the nearest detention center, and processed me. When dawn came, I was sitting in the courtyard at the Al-Balat, under guard, with about a hundred other detainees, all naked, shivering in the cold night air.

The yard was divided in half by a force-field wall. We all sat on one side. The other side was empty, except for a guillotine—a head-chopping machine: one of the Dominion’s little innovations. There was a large rectangular box sitting beside it, and a circular tub in front of it.

I was tonguing a painful hole in my gums where they’d pulled out a tooth, and wondering what came next, when a Cardassian Gul marched out onto the empty half of the courtyard, followed by a Vorta. The two of them advanced up close to the force-field and stopped. The Vorta stood a deferential step behind the Cardassian’s right shoulder and looked at us curiously. There was no curiosity on the Cardassian’s face—only contempt.

“Prisoners!” he shouted. “You have all been found guilty of treason, and sentenced to death.”

There was a shocked silence. The Cardassian officer looked back over his shoulder. “Bring him out,” he said. A mixed party of Cardassian and Jem’Hadar guards entered the courtyard with a human prisoner, his hands tied behind his back. They marched him over to the guillotine.

The prisoner’s face was grey with fear. He was saying something. At first I couldn’t make it out, but once he got closer I could hear him. He was reciting the Shahada, over and over, again and again. “There is no God but Allah,” he said, “and Muhammad is his prophet. There is no God, but Allah, and Muhammad is his prophet. There is no God but Allah…”

The guards led the prisoner over to the machine: one of them cranked a handle that lifted the blade, and another lifted the collar that would hold his head in place; the others tilted up a board with leather belts attached. He tried to struggle at that point: “No!” he cried. “No! No! No!” But it was no use. They belted him to the board, and tilted it down.

He began to recite again—faster this time, frantic. “There is no God but Allah,” he said. The guards slid him forward until his head was under the blade. “And Muhammad is his prophet,” he said. One guard grabbed him by the ears while another lowered the collar and fixed it in place around his neck. “There is no God but Allah,” he said.

Then the blade fell, and his head came off. Blood spurted, and began to pool on the ground, under the blade, as they unbelted his body from the tilting board. Then they tipped his body over into the coffin.

The Gul pointed at the guillotine. “That,” he said, “is the fate that awaits you all. There is no escape. Your only chance is to cooperate with your interrogators. Those who provide us with valuable information will have their sentences commuted. Tell us what we want to know, and save yourselves. That is all.”

He nodded to the guards at the guillotine. “Continue,” he said. Then he strode out of the courtyard, followed by the Vorta, while another prisoner was brought in.

And another.

And another.

***

Sundancer Penal Colony, 61 Virginis II. Prison ship USS Lilienthal, in orbit.

Jaffar lay on the biobed, in Sickbay, unconscious. The Ship’s Doctor stood on one side, scanning the prisoner with a medical tricorder and frowning. Captain Hardcastle stood on the other side of the bed, waiting. “Well?” she said.

Finally, the Doctor shook his head in frustration, looked up at the readouts above the head of the bed, and closed his tricorder. “I don’t understand,” he said. “I’d say this man was in a coma. Except…”

“Except, what?” said the Captain.

“Here,” said the Doctor, pointing at the readouts. “His limbic system. The parts of the brain that support emotions and long-term memory. I’ve never seen readings like this before.”

There was an electronic chirp.
“Chief Guzman to Captain Hardcastle.”

The Captain tapped her combadge. “Go ahead, Chief.”

“Captain, I’ve completed my interrogation of Jaffar’s cellmate. He says he doesn’t know anything. He woke up, and found Jaffar lying on the deck. I’m pretty sure he’s telling the truth.”

The Captain rubbed her eyes. “All right,” she said. “Thank you, Chief. Captain out.”

What on Earth is going on here, she wondered.

***

New Palestine Colony. Al-Balat Detention Center, City of New Jerusalem.

I don’t know how they found out who I was. I must have left some DNA behind, somewhere, after an operation. They must have matched it to the samples they took when they processed me.

All I know for sure is that the guards came to my cell, grabbed me, hauled me away to an interrogation room, and started questioning me about the ambush at the abandoned apartment building, the day before. When I stuck to my story, they got angry.

They shackled my hands, in front of me, and forced me to sit down, hugging my knees to my chest. They took a metal bar and passed it over my forearms and under my knees. Then they lifted me up, and put the bar on a rack, hanging me upside down. The parrot’s perch—an old Obsidian-Order favourite.

They kicked me with their boots and beat me with metal pipes. The pain was unbelievable. I screamed, and sobbed, and cried, but I wouldn’t talk. I kept thinking, twenty-four hours, twenty-four hours…

A Cardassian stood over me, screaming questions into my face. Who were my accomplices? Where were they? Confess! Confess!

I sobbed: “My name is Gamal Abdul…”

Then one of them hit me in the head. That’s when I blacked out, I think.

***

Sundancer Penal Colony, 61 Virginis II. Prison ship USS Lilienthal, in orbit.

The Ship’s Counselor was Betazoid. He stood beside Jaffar’s biobed, with one hand resting lightly on the unconscious prisoner’s forehead. His dark eyes were closed, and his brow furrowed with concentration. Captain Hardcastle, Chief Guzman, and the ship’s Doctor stood nearby, waiting, looking worried.

Finally, the Counselor opened his eyes, looked at the Captain, and nodded. “Definitely some kind of psychic damage,” he said.

Hardcastle’s jaw tightened. “From
where?” she said.

“I’m not sure,” said the Counselor. “I’m not even sure
how. It’s like…”

“What?”

The Counselor considered. Finally, he said: “It’s like he’s been attacked by a Lethean. But Letheans are touch-telepaths. We don’t have any Lethean prisoners onboard, do we?”

“No,” said the Captain.

The Counselor shook his head. “Then I don’t know how this could have happened.”

“Can you bring him out of it?” said the Doctor.

“I don’t think so,” said the Counselor.

“Can you reach him at all?” said the Captain?

The Counselor looked down at the unconscious prisoner, and sighed. “I can try,” he said. Then he closed his eyes again.


***
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Old June 18 2009, 02:46 AM   #11
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Re: Star Trek: Supermax (Season Two Redux)

New Palestine Colony. Al-Balat Detention Center, City of New Jerusalem.

I woke up sitting in a chair, its metal surface cold against the skin of my naked back and buttocks. My arms were twisted behind me, and my hands were shackled to the chair back. My ankles were shackled to the chair legs, high enough so that my feet were off the floor. My whole body hurt.

“Look at me,” said a voice. Someone grabbed me by the hair, from behind, and yanked my head up.

I was in some kind of interview room. There was a metal table in front of me. The Vorta from the courtyard sat on the other side, his hands folded on the table top, a faint look of disgust on his face. The door to the room was behind him. A Jem’Hadar stood behind him as well, in the corner, standing at attention, staring straight ahead, with his polaron rifle at the port.

“This has gone on long enough,” said the Vorta. Then he looked to my left. “Release him,” he said.

The hand let go of my hair and gave my head a shove.

“Where is Kalila bint Ibrahim?” said the Vorta.

I looked left. A Cardassian soldier was standing behind the chair. I turned back to face the Vorta. “Who?” I said.

The Cardassian hit me in the back of the head, open-handed. The Vorta’s expression didn’t change, but he sighed softly, then leaned forward a bit. “Where,” he said, “is Kalila bint Ibrahim?”

“I don’t know who that is,” I said.

“Where is she, Jaffar?” said the Vorta.

“My name is Gamal,” I said.

“Your name,” he said, “is Dawud ibn Jaffar al-Manari. You are a terrorist, and an enemy of the Dominion, like your wife. Where is she, Jaffar?”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” I said.

The alien lifted its hands off the table, steepled its fingers, lowered its lips to the tips of its forefingers, and stared at me for a moment. Then it glanced to my left, and nodded: then turned its attention back to me.

The Cardassian moved around to face me, drew his disruptor pistol, and held it down by his thigh, shaking his wrist as if to loosen it. I looked up at him, from my chair, and he looked down at me, with a smirk on his face. He was going to enjoy this.

Across the table, the Vorta raised its head a bit, and said: “Where is Kalila bint Ibrahim?”

“I told you—I don’t know who that—”

The Cardassian whipped me across the face with his pistol. When I recovered, and looked up, he whipped me again, back-handed.

“Look at me,” said the Vorta.

I looked up at the Vorta, blinking away tears. He said: “Where is she, Jaffar?”

I glanced at the Cardassian, and saw that he’d shifted his grip on his weapon. Instead of holding it by the pistol grip, with his finger on the trigger, he was holding it by the frame, like it was a brick, or something. I looked back at the Vorta.

“My name is Gamal,” I said.

The Cardassian smashed me in the left eye with his weapon, once, twice. I shut my eyes tightly and sobbed from the pain.

“Look at me,” said the Vorta.

I opened my eyes, saw double, closed them and opened them again, trying to focus, and failing.

“No more games, human,” said the Vorta—both of them. I still couldn’t focus. The pain was agonizing. The Cardassian had fractured my eye socket.

The Vorta continued. “You have been sentenced to death,” he said. “Your only chance to save yourself is to tell me what I want to know.”

“Now,” he said. “I will ask you just one more time.”

I felt the muzzle of the Cardassian’s disruptor pistol press against the side of my head.

“Where,” said the Vorta, “is Kalila bint Ibrahim?”

I closed my eyes again. In my mind’s eye, I saw Kalila’s face. Her mouth moved, silently. I love you.

“I don’t know,” I said.

“Jaffar.”

I waited for the shot.

“Jaffar, can you hear me?”

I opened my eyes. My double vision was worse. The Vorta was completely blurred.

“Can you hear me?”

“Yes,” I said.

“Jaffar, listen to me. None of this is real.”

“What?” I squinted, tried to focus through the pain. The Vorta looked… different. Its uniform… was that a Starfleet uniform?

“Jaffar, think,” he said, urgently. “Your attacker has made a mistake. You and your wife were captured by Starfleet, months before the Cardassians joined the Dominion. None of this is real. It never happened.”

I blinked, opened my mouth…

But it was the Vorta. It shook its head.

“Hood him,” it said.

And somebody pulled a hood over my head.

***

Sundancer Penal Colony, 61 Virginis II. Prison ship USS Lilienthal, in orbit.

“Definitely Lethean,” said the Counselor.

“But
how?” said Captain Hardcastle.

The Counselor threw up his hands. “I have no idea. Some kind of psionic amplifier, that would allow a touch-telepath to cast its thoughts through space? All I know for sure is, if we can’t stop it, he’ll die.”

“Computer,” said the Captain. “Are there any Lethean prisoners confined at the Sundancer Penal Colony?”

”Yes,” the computer said.

“How many?”

“One.”

“Where?”

“In Special Security.”

“Unit Zero,” said the Captain. She tapped her combadge. “USS
Lilienthal to—”

“Whoa,” said Chief Guzman. “Whoa, Captain, wait a minute.”

“What?” said the Captain.

“Think about this,” the Chief said. “The Counsellor says a Lethean would need a…a…”

“Psionic amplifier,” said the Counselor.

“Right,” said Guzman. “That prisoner is in
Unit Zero, Captain. The only way in or out is by transporter. Think about that.”

The Captain hesitated. Then, she said: “The guards. He must have bribed the guards.”

“Or somebody bribed the guards for him,” said Guzman. “Either way—we need to know who we can trust before we contact anyone.”

The Chief thought for a minute. Finally, he said: “I have an idea.” He tapped his combadge.


***

New Palestine Colony. Al-Balat Detention Center, City of New Jerusalem.

Through my hood, I heard the Vorta’s voice. “Take it off.”

Somebody pulled off my hood. I squinted in the harsh light of the interview room.

“Repair his eye. I want him to see this.”

A hand grabbed me by the chin, twisted my face to the right. I felt an electric tingle from the protoplaser. Slowly, the pain subsided, and my vision cleared. I could focus again.

“Look here, Jaffar.”

I turned back to look at the Vorta. He had something on the table in front of him. A container of some kind—a jar, filled with some kind of fluid, and—something else.

“Look closely,” said the Vorta.

I looked closely. Then I screamed. I screamed, and screamed, and fought against my shackles, trying to get out of my chair. But I couldn’t look away.

There was a head in the jar. It was the head of the executed prisoner—the one who’d kept reciting the Shahada. But that wasn’t what made me scream.

Its eyes were blinking. Its mouth was moving.

It was alive.

They were keeping the head alive, in a jar.

“Now you see,” said the Vorta.

One of my guards clapped a hand over my mouth to stop my screaming. I kept staring at that thing in the jar. I couldn’t stop myself.

“Tell us what we want to know,” said the Vorta. “Or I promise—you’ll be next.”

He put his hand on top of the jar, and said: “Where is Kalila bint Ibrahim?”

***

Sundancer Penal Colony, 61 Virginis II. Unit Zero, undergound.

Ensign Song looked up from his book, startled, when the transporter activated.

Three figures in Starfleet Security uniforms materialized on the transporter pad. One of them was a Vulcan, with a lieutenant-commander’s pips on his collar.

“Uh…commander?” said Song.

The Vulcan ignored him. “Follow me,” he said. The new arrivals hurried down off the platform and out of the transporter room.

“Hey,” said Song. “Are you—hey,
stop!” He tapped his combadge. “Song to Commander Steinbok! Emergency!”

***

New Palestine Colony. Al-Balat Detention Center, City of New Jerusalem.

The guards pushed me into the cell, from behind. I stumbled and fell to my hands and knees, weeping.

Behind me, one of them said: “Get dressed.” Then I heard the cell door close.

For a moment, I stayed where I was, down on my hands and knees, like a dog, sobbing, the tears dripping down onto the floor.

I’d told them.

I’d told them where Kalila was.

She’s at her cousin’s house, I said. Outside the city.

Give me a name, the Vorta said.

I gave him a name.

I talked. I couldn’t hold out. Not for twenty-four hours. Not for twenty-four minutes.

I gave her up. I betrayed my wife, to save myself—to keep my head out of that jar. The Cardassian assault shuttles were probably on their way right now.

Maybe she wouldn’t be there, I told myself. Maybe she’d heard that I’d been captured. Maybe she’d found someplace else to hide.

But deep down, I knew that wasn’t true. She’d be there when the Jem’Hadar kicked in the door. She’d be there, waiting for me.

If she was lucky, she’d die fighting. If she wasn’t…

If she wasn’t…

Oh, God.

Would she think of me?

Would she be worried about me? Would she pray for my safety?

Oh, my God.

What have I done?


Then, I remembered what the guard had said. Get dressed

I wiped the tears from my eyes, and the snot from my nose, and I turned around, on my hands and knees, to face the cell door. My street clothes were there, in a heap. My pants and shirt. My shoes and socks.

My belt.

I looked up. A couple of exposed pipes ran across the ceiling, from left to right.

I looked around. There was a bucket in the corner.

I picked up my belt.

I pulled the tongue through the buckle, to make a noose. Then I stood up, walked over to the corner, and picked up the bucket.

I turned the bucket upside down, and put it on the floor, beneath one of the pipes. Then I stepped up on top of the bucket.

It was just high enough.

I tossed the loose end of my belt over one of the pipes, and tied it in a knot. I tugged on it, to see if the pipe and the knot would hold.

I was worried that my head wouldn’t fit through the loop—that I wasn’t tall enough after all. But it finally fit, and I was ready.

I stepped off the bucket.

***

Sundancer Penal Colony, 61 Virginis II. Unit Zero, underground.

The Lethean sat on the stone floor of his cell, hunched over, with his back to the force-field gate.

Lieutenant-Commander Tomak hit the button on the control panel outside the cell, and the force-field came down.

“What are you doing?” he said.

The Lethean looked back over his shoulder, startled. “No!” he shouted. “No—I’m not finished!”

“Lie down on the floor,” said the Vulcan, “and put your hands behind your head.”

He advanced into the cell. The Lethean jumped to its feet, snarling, its hideous face contorted with rage. It was holding a glowing crystal sphere in his hands.

“Put that down,” said Tomak, still advancing.

The prisoner threw the glowing sphere at the Commander’s head and charged. The Vulcan ducked, and recovered just in time to catch the Lethean by the wrists.

The prisoner shrieked in pain and fell to his knees. “Let go!” he cried. “Let
go!

Finally, Tomak let go. The Lethean slumped to the floor, its injured wrists limp.

The Vulcan looked down at the prisoner without any apparent emotion. “Attacking a correctional officer is a serious violation of the code of conduct,” he said. “You are under arrest.”

He took out his stun baton.

The Lethean’s red eyes widened. “What are you doing?” he said.

“You are resisting arrest,” the Vulcan said, mildly. “Resisting arrest is a violation of the code of conduct.”

Behind him, the two guards glanced at each other. Then they each drew their own batons.

“I’m not resisting,” the Lethean whined.

“You are forcing us to defend ourselves.”

“I
surrender![i]”

“Subdue him,” Tomak said.

The Starfleet officers moved in.

***

Sundancer Penal Colony, 61 Virginis II. Prison ship USS Lilienthal, in orbit.

Jaffar thrashed on the biobed, gasped, opened his eyes, and looked around wildly.

“Jaffar,” said Captain Hardcastle. “Jaffar, can you hear me?”

Jaffar looked at the Captain, his face blank, uncomprehending.

“Can you hear me?” said the Captain. “Do you know where you are?”

The prisoner looked around again. “No,” he said.

“You’re on the USS Lilienthal,” the captain said. “You’re safe now. None of what you just experienced was real. Do you understand?”

Jaffar stared. His eyes welled up with tears, and he sobbed, shaking his head back and forth. “No,” he said.

“Jaffar?” said Hardcastle. She looked up. “Doctor, is he all right?”

“I’m not sure,” said the doctor. He picked up a hypospray. “I think I’d better sedate him.”

On the biobed, Jaffar curled up into the fetal position, sobbing and weeping. “No!” he cried, as the hypospray hissed.

“Oh, God—no.”

“No…”

***

Pak walked into the Deck Two common room and looked around. The two other Markalians were at their usual table, in the far corner—one of them older and heavier than Pak, the other younger and thinner. He walked over and sat down.

“What happened?” said the older Markalian.

Pak shrugged. “Some kind of telepathic attack.”

“Oh, shit,” said the younger one. “The Syndicate?”

“Probably,” said Pak.

“Is he going to live?” said the older one.

“Probably.”

“Look,” said the younger one. “I don’t like this. Jaffar is a heat score. I say we find someone else.”

“There isn’t anyone else,” Pak said.

“Are you sure we can trust him?” said the older one.

“I’m sure,” said Pak.

“Like you’re such a great judge of character,” said the younger one.

Pak turned to look at him. “Are you still talking?” he said.

“Easy,” said the older Markalian. He considered for a moment. Then: “How long will he be in Sickbay?”

“They don’t know,” said Pak.

The older one considered again. “All right,” he said, finally. “We have to wait, anyway.”

“What? Why?” said the younger one.

“The Ferengi are holding out on us,” the older one said.

“What do they want?” said Pak.

“Oddly enough,” said the older one, “they want our help.”

Then he sniffed, looked around, and said: “Do you smell something?”


THE END
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Old June 18 2009, 02:52 AM   #12
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Location: The Fifth Dimension
Re: Star Trek: Supermax (Season Two Redux)

Supermax 205: “Fathers and Sons”


Lorrak.

Markal IV. North of Belkalu City


I was dumping a body in the Wetlands when I got the call.

It was night, of course, and I was driving around slowly, looking for a good spot, when my communicator went off. I took it out and said: “Lorrak.”

I kept driving and looking around while my caller identified himself. “What do you want?” I said.

There, I thought. I pulled over, still listening. “Yeah, I know him,” I said.

I turned off the motor, got out of the car, walked around to the back, and opened the trunk. “Uh-huh,” I said. “Listen, hold on a second, will you?”

I put my communicator away, reached into the trunk, grabbed the dead guy under his armpits, pulled him out, and put him down on the ground. Then I grabbed him again, by his ankles, and pulled him off the road, into the tall grass.

When I got back to the car, I closed the trunk, and took out my communicator again. “Okay, go ahead,” I said.

I stood there, listening and looking at the city lights in the distance. “Uh-huh,” I said. “Uh-huh. Where’s that?”

Then, finally: “Okay, I’m on it.”

I closed the channel, got back in the car, put the communicator on the seat beside me, turned on the motor, did a three-point turn, and started driving back the way I came.

Then I picked up the communicator again, opened a channel, and called the starport.

***

Dawud Jaffar.

Sundancer Penal Colony, 61 Virginis II. Prison ship USS Lilienthal, in orbit.


I was trapped. I couldn’t move. I tried to scream, but no sound came out.

Then, I woke up.

After a couple of seconds, I remembered where I was: back in protective custody, in the brig, down on Deck Four, where I spent my first three months on board. They even put me back in the same cell. Home sweet home.

“Duwayd?”

At first, I thought I was still dreaming—dreaming that I was awake. That couldn’t be my mother’s voice.

“Duwayd?”

I turned my head to the right, and there she was, on the other side of the force-field gate, sitting in a chair with her hands folded in her lap. She wore a loose-fitting black abaya, and a black khimar wrapped around her head and neck, leaving only her face and hands exposed.

Ummi?” I said.

She smiled, but there were tears in her eyes. She made a tentative gesture with her right hand—a half-wave. “Duwayd,” she said.

I looked away. “Mother, please don’t call me that. You know I hate that.”

“I’m sorry,” she said. “I forgot. Dawud.”

I heard her voice break. I looked back. She was crying now, wiping her eyes, and I suddenly felt like a piece of shit. I hadn’t seen my mother in seven years. She’d come all the way from Mu Arae to visit me, and this is how I said hello?

I sat up. “No,” I said. “I’m sorry, ummi. That was very rude of me. Please forgive me.”

“Of course,” she said. “My dear Dawud. My darling boy. Are you all right?

Now I was crying. “I’m fine.”

“They said you’d been attacked. That they were keeping you here for your own safety.”

“I’m fine, ummi. Really. Everything’s all right.”

“God be praised,” she said. “I pray for you every day, Dawud.”

I didn’t know what to say to that. So I said: “How long have you been waiting?”

“Not long,” she said. “They said that when you woke up, you could sit out here, with us. We could have breakfast together.”

I nodded. Then it hit me: us?

My parents were pretty traditional, even by the standards of our home world, Minaret. My mother never left the house without my father’s permission, and never took a trip anywhere without her husband, or a mahram—a male relative, acting as her chaperone.

But if she was here now, that meant—

“Your father is waiting outside,” she said, as if she could read my thoughts. “In the security office. He wasn’t—he wasn’t sure if you would want to see him.”

“Father is here?” I said, shocked.

“Yes, Dawud. Can I…can I tell him to come in?”

I wasn’t sure how I felt about that. But I knew what my mother wanted me to say. So I said: “Of course.”

She stood up, smiling, and turned to go, to the door. Then she stopped, and looked back at me, her face uncertainly. “You won’t fight, will you?”

“No, ummi.”

“Please, Dawud—your father is a proud man. It took a lot for him to come here. Promise me you won’t fight.”

Some of the old bitterness came back, then. It took a lot for him to come here, I thought. But I forced the anger down, and said: “I promise, ummi.”

She smiled again, turned to the door panel, pressed a button, and spoke to the guard outside. I stood up, and straightened myself out.

The door to the outer office opened, and my father stepped inside. For a moment, he just stood there. My mother looked from one of us to the other, uncertainly.

As-salaamu alaykum, ab,” I said.

Alaykum as-salaam,” he said: Jaffar ibn Hussein al-Manari—my father.

***

Moore’s World (Gliese 442 V). Arrivals Concourse, Crater City Starport.

The Markalian was part of the small group of passengers who disembarked from the Queen of Heaven, after dusk. As the alien walked across the arrivals concourse, up to the information desk, the young woman working there hid her wariness behind a friendly smile. Every day, it seemed, the news feeds on Moore’s World were full of stories about Markalian gangs and murders and drugs.

“Good evening,” she said.

“Good evening,” he said. “You sell air-tram tickets here?”

“Yes, sir,” she said.

“Downtown,” he said.

After he paid for his ticket, she checked her computer screen, and said: “The next air tram will be departing in twenty minutes. You can have a seat over there.”

“Thanks,” he said. “Can you give me some information about hotels, downtown, for business travelers?”

“Yes, sir.”

He took some brochures. “Is the replimat still open?”

“Yes, sir. Eighteen hours a day, nine days a week.”

“Okay. Thanks.”

He walked away. Mentally, the woman chided herself. Just a businessman, she thought. When did you become so prejudiced?

The Markalian walked over to the replimat, purchased a large cup of bitter Tarkalean tea, then took a seat near the exit. He sat quietly, sipping his tea, watching a holographic display.

“Welcome to Moore’s World,” said the display, “the fifth planet of Gliese 442, a main-sequence star with a white-dwarf companion, approximately thirty light years from Earth.

“The Gliese 442 star system was first explored by Humans in the year 2137 by the starship
Virgo Ranger, the fifth in a block of seven starships built by the United Earth Space Probe Agency.”

A female alien walked up and sat nearby. She was bald, and yellow skinned, earless with large eye sockets and large slits for nostrils. She had a pronounced cranial crest, and the back of her head was dotted with jewels. She wore a long dress with a cutaway midriff, exposing the bottoms of her breasts.

The woman at the information desk looked askance at the yellow-skinned female alien. She was a regular at the starport bar. Everybody knew she was a prostitute, picking up travelers like that Markalian businessman. But she was just sitting there, and the Markalian paid her no attention.

“Named after constellations of the Zodiac and famous historical spacecraft, ships like the Virgo Ranger were built with Vulcan-type annular warp drives. Their mission—to explore nearby stars with habitable worlds.

“In the year 2135, the Virgo Ranger set out on a nine-year mission which took its crew to four different star systems. Gliese 442 was the second of those four.”


After a moment, the woman at the information desk looked away.

The female alien opened her purse, and began rummaging through it. She put an air-tram station locker key on the seat between her and the Markalian, and kept on rummaging. Finally, she closed her purse again, and sat there for a moment, looking bored. Then she got up and walked away.

“The Virgo Ranger was commanded by Major Tara Moore. Major Moore enjoyed a distinguished career after her return to Earth. In 2161 she became the Federation Starfleet’s first Chief of Staff. Moore’s World is named in her honor.”

“Moore’s World is smaller than humanity’s home world. Its mass is just 63 per cent of Earth’s, and surface gravity is 0.85 g. The local day is 18 hours and 12 minutes long.


The Markalian reached down casually, picked up the locker key, and put it in his jacket pocket.

“Most importantly, the atmosphere of Moore’s World is much thinner than Earth’s. Surface pressure is just 398 millibars—too thin to support human life.

“As a result, most of the world’s population lives inside a giant impact crater, more than 150 kilometers across and more than 10 kilometers deep. At the bottom of Tara’s Crater, the air is thick enough for most humanoids to breathe. Today, Crater City has a population of more than 250,000.”


The downtown air tram pulled up to the curb, in the rain, outside. The Markalian stood up, finished his tea, tossed his cup into the recycling bin, and went out the exit.

***

Lorrak.

Moore’s World (Gliese 442 V). Russell Street, Crater City.


The Terran said: “Rodak.”

I shook my head. “No,” I said, and started to push past him. He said “Rodak,” again. Then he fell in a heap on the wet sidewalk.

The street was dark, and there was no one around. I could have walked away. I started to walk away. But then I stopped, went back, stooped over him, and shook him.

“Hey,” I said. “Come on, you. Get up. Get out of the puddle.”

A taxi came around the corner and its headlights lit me up. There I was, bending over a drunken Terran who had me confused with some other Markalian. A Belkalu-City driver would have assumed it was a mugging and rolled on by.

But this wasn’t Belkalu City. The taxi pulled up to the curb, and rolled down its front-passenger window. I could see the face of the driver in the light of the instrument panel: another Terran—younger than the first. “Where to?” he said.

“Nowhere,” I said. Then I pointed my chin at the alien on the sidewalk. “Maybe you should take him to a medical center. He’s passed-out.”

The driver made that disapproving sound that Humans make, with their tongues. But he opened the rear passenger door. I grabbed the Terran under the armpits and heaved him up and into the back seat of the cab. He was heavy, and his body was completely limp. Good thing I’ve had a lot of practice.

Then I had an idea. I stuck my head in the cab and said: “You know a guy named Rodak? A Markalian, like me?”

The driver looked blank for a moment. Then he said: “Which one?”

“There’s more than one?”

“Yeah. Boss Tek, and Fen. They’re father and son. Tek’s the father—he owns a trading company. Fen runs a dom-jot bar. I’d stay away from both of them, if I were you.”

I got into the back, next to the passed-out Terran. “Let’s go see Fen,” I said.

We drove several blocks down the dark street. Then I rapped on the screen and waved the driver over to the curb. He stopped and slid the screen back.

“Tell me about Rodak,” I said.

He gave me a funny look. “I told you,” he said. “He runs a dom-jot bar.”

I said: “Listen. This guy came up to a few minutes ago and said ‘Rodak.’ Now he’s dead.”

The driver’s eyes widened. He looked like he was going to jump out of the cab.

I sat there and waited.

Finally, the driver said: “Let’s get rid of him.”

I shook my head and waited some more.

“Look,” he said, “Fen and his father—they’re both operators. And they don’t get along. They’ve been fighting for a week now. This is the fourth.” He jerked his head toward the corpse on the seat beside me.

“You know him?”

The driver shook his head, then—just to be sure—he turned on the overhead light to get a better look. “No,” he said.

I said: “Let’s go see Fen.”

“Are you crazy?” he said. “What if that’s one of his men? He’ll think we were—”

“Let’s go see Fen,” I said.

***

Fen Rodak was a fat Markalian with mottled skin, about forty years of age. He smiled a lot, and when he did, you could see his teeth were green from chewing nodwort.

We sat in a little office above his dom-jot bar. He smiled his greenish smile and said: “Well, now—what can I do for you?”

“My name is Lorrak,” I said. “I came here from the home world. I landed about a couple of hours ago.”

He said: “You’ve come a long way. What brings you to the Rust Belt?”

I said: “I had to leave Markalian space in a hurry.”

“Ah.” He nodded, and scratched, absent-minded, at the mottling on his face, making me wonder if he had a fungal infection of some kind.

I went on. “I heard that our people were making money here. I was hoping you could cut me in.”

He tried to look innocent. “I’m not sure I know what you mean,” he said. “What’s your game?”

“What’s yours?” I said.

He smiled again. “Well,” he said, “there’s all kinds of action going on downstairs.”

I said: “Come on. I didn’t come here to play dom-jot.”

“No?” he said, still trying to look innocent.

“I used to work for Stethwar, back home.”

“Who sent you to me?”

“A Terran called Obregon. That was the name on his ID, anyway. He’s dead.”

He shifted a bit in his chair, but his expression didn’t change.

“I came in tonight on the Queen of Heaven, and took the air tram downtown,” I said. “I was walking along Russell Street when Obregon came up to me, said ‘Rodak,’ and fell down. He’s in a cab downstairs, getting cold.”

Rodak looked up at the ceiling, then down at his desk. He said, “Well, well,” reached inside a leather pouch, took out some nodwort, stuffed it into his cheek, and chewed thoughtfully. He finally got around to looking at me again and said “Well, well” again.

I didn’t say anything.

He smiled again, and said: “How do I know I can trust you?”

I shrugged. “What do you think?”

He chuckled. “I like you, Lorrak,” he said. “Yeah. I like you.”

“Does that mean we can do some business?”

“Listen,” he said. “Tek Rodak has been running this town’s operation for thirty years. He’s not my real father. He married my mother, and made me take his name.”

I shrugged, and said: “So?”

“So, the old man and I didn’t get along. After my mother died, he kicked me out. I went back to the home world for about ten years. Then I went to the Ferengi Alliance for a few more. I came back here two years ago and everything was fine for a while. Then the old man and I started getting into it again.”

I nodded.

“He’s had everything his own way for too long. I opened this place three months ago and took a lot of his gambling business away—a lot of the dock workers and miners.”

He paused long enough to stuff more nodwort into his face.

“Tek went crazy,” he said. “He thought I was going to take it all away from him. And I am,” he said, slamming his fist on the desk. “Obregon is the third man I’ve lost in a week. Damn him. And this is just the beginning.”

“Any casualties on his side?”

“One. A crew chief.”

“So it’s not just about gambling?”

“Oh, no. Maybe that’s all it was at first. All I wanted was to make a living. But when a dockworker offered to steal some cargo to cover his losses, I started to see the possibilities. This may be a small world—but it’s the biggest transshipment port in the sector. This place is a latinum mine, and the old man is barely scratching the surface.”

I said: “Does he run this whole town himself?”

Fen shook his head. “No. He hardly ever shows his face in public nowadays. His underboss, Losh, takes care of the day-to-day operations.”

“What does Losh look like?”

“Tall—thinner than you. Scars on his neck and chin. Talks in a hoarse voice.”

“How much is he worth to you?”

Fen stood up and leaned across his desk, looking down at me. “Nothing,” he said. He was drooling green, and his pupils were big and black. “But the old man is worth twenty-five bars of gold-pressed latinum to you.”

I didn’t say anything. Fen sat back down, opened a drawer, took out a bottle of Andorian homeburn, and poured a couple of drinks.

“What I think you should do,” he said, “is go to Losh and give him the same proposition you gave me. Nobody saw you come in here. It’s the only way you can get near the old man.”

I nodded. We drank.

“I like your style, Lorrak,” he said. “It’s good to have someone here from the home world. I’ve been trying to get along with a bunch of alien trash.”

We smiled at each other. I was glad he said he liked me because he didn’t like me at all. But I had an advantage. I didn’t like him much either.

***
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Old June 18 2009, 02:54 AM   #13
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Re: Star Trek: Supermax (Season Two Redux)

Losh sat on the corner of another big desk, letting one of his long legs dangle.

“You made a deal with Fen,” he said. “How do we know you’ll be straight with us?” His hoarse voice was full of suspicion, and his eyes were hard, like stones.

I looked at the old man. “I don’t like that fat stepson of yours,” I said. “And I never double-cross the best offer.”

Boss Tek was thin and small, with a pinched face and withered skin. He sat in a big leather chair on the other side of the desk. The way his head and neck poked out of the folds of a heavy red robe reminded me of a turtle.

He looked at me sharply. “I don’t want any part of this,” he said.

I shrugged. “Then I’ll have to go with the best offer.”

Losh grinned.

The old man lurched up. “Damn you,” he said. He reached into the middle drawer of his desk and pulled out a small phaser. “I could kill you right now, hatchling. I could say you were a burglar, and no one will ever know the difference.”

I just looked at him. “You’ll know the difference,” I said, calmly. “You’ll know you didn’t take advantage of talent, when you had the chance.”

He thought about that. Then he put the phaser back in his pocket, sat back down, and looked at Losh.

Losh was looking at the floor. “Fifty bars if you wipe out the whole crew,” he said. “Run them off the planet, put them in prison, poison them… whatever.”

“Maybe you’d like a new air-tram station too.”

They didn’t say anything to that—just looked at me.

“No deal,” I said. “For fifty bars, I’ll get rid of junior. But if you want me to break up his whole operation, I’ll have to call home for a few friends—and that will cost you a lot more than fifty.”

The old man looked a little scared for a second. Then he said: “Fen will do.”

“How about a little something up front?”

“You must be joking,” said Losh.

The old man cackled. “You’ve got some nerve, my friend,” he said.

I shrugged again and stood up. “Fine,” I said. “Have a good night. Maybe I’ll call you in a couple of days.”

Losh came downstairs with me, smiling in a strange way. “I never knew the Boss to go for anything that looks as tricky as this,” he said. “I guess it’s because Fen thinks you’re working for him.”

I nodded, and said: “Uh-huh. Fen’s a nice boy. He’ll probably disintegrate me on sight.”

“I don’t think you’ll find him at his place again.”

I waited. Losh leaned against the door and said: “There’s a Ferengi prison gang that’s been stripping parts from the starship graveyard at 61 Virginis. They’ve been paying the Boss to smuggle them out of this sector for some time. They had to stop, for a while, after they got caught last year.”

“What happened?”

“They got greedy, and started stealing whole starships. Like Starfleet wouldn’t notice. Anyway, they’ve started up again. But their last two shipments were stolen off the south-side cargo docks.”

He paused, with a knowing look on his ruined face. “That was Fen. He’s been paying off one the dockers to lose the containers. There was another shipment due last night, but it didn’t show up. It’ll probably come in tonight—and that’s where Fen will be.”

I said: “Sounds good. How do I get there?”

He gave me directions. I thanked him, and went out.

But I didn’t go to the south-side cargo docks. I went down to the corner, took out my communicator, and called a cab. When it came, I got in and got the driver to park in a spot where I could watch the front door of Boss Tek’s house.

Losh came out after a while, got into a car parked out front, went whirring past us up the street, and turned at the corner. I told the driver to follow him. I don’t think the driver knew who it was. It didn’t matter a hell of a lot anyway.

***

Dawud Jaffar.

Sundancer Penal Colony, 61 Virginis II. Prison ship USS Lilienthal, in orbit.


A guard came into the room, deactivated the force-field gate to my cell, and let me out. Then he left us alone in the room. I seated my parents at the small table, then picked up the chair that my mother had been using, and sat down with them.

For a moment, none of us spoke. Father cleared his throat a couple of times. Mother put her hand on his arm. That’s when I first noticed how much older both of them looked. There were deep lines on their faces, and my father’s beard was turning grey. He also looked smaller than I remembered.

Finally, I said: “How was your trip?”

“Fine,” said Father, nodding.

I didn’t know what else to say. We hadn’t spoken in eighteen years. On the night I left for Starfleet Academy, my father had cursed me, and told me I was dead to him.

I’d been back to Minaret a few times, to visit my mother, and my sisters, and my brother Abdullah. But my father had always refused to see me. He hadn’t even come to my court-martial, after I’d been captured, though he’d consented to let my mother attend, with one of my uncles as her mahram. I guess that was something.

“You’re looking well,” he said.

“Thanks,” I said.

“You shaved off your beard again,” Mother said.

I nodded. I’d started shaving as soon as I was old enough, as an act of adolescent rebellion. Then, for some reason, I’d grown out my beard while I was at the Academy.

Kalila was the same. She’d always refused to wear a headscarf, when she was growing up on New Palestine. Then, when she was at the Academy, she’d started covering as much as regulations allowed.

“You should grow your beard,” said Mother. “You looked very handsome.”

Then Father spoke again: “The Prophet said, ‘Do the opposite of what the pagans do. Keep the beards and cut the moustaches short.’”

I sighed, leaned back in my chair, and folded my arms. I’d promised Mother I wouldn’t fight.

Mother said: “Please, Jaffar.”

Father looked at her, nodded, then looked down at the table.

There was another, even more uncomfortable silence. Then Mother said: “How is it here? Are they treating you all right?”

“I’m fine,” I said.

“This is a terrible place,” she said. “That planet…is it true the sun never shines there?”

I nodded. “It’s tidally locked with the local sun. The dark side is cold enough to freeze oxygen. The bright side is hot enough to melt lead.”

She shuddered and wrinkled her nose. “It stinks here, Dawud. The air on this ship is foul. Can’t they do something about that?”

“This is a prison, Fatima,” said Father.

“Still,” she said.

The air was pretty bad. I’d begun to notice the stink soon after they’d transferred me to the general population. I was beginning to wonder if there was something wrong with the Lilienthal’s life support systems.

“You get used to it,” I said. Then, I had an inspiration: “How is Abdullah?”

My parents looked at each other. Then Father said: “Your brother is well. He repented his apostasy, in court, and was sentenced to a term of religious instruction and community service.”

“Good,” I said. “I’m glad.”

“It’s just a phase he’s going through,” Mother said. “He’s a lot like you were, at that age, Dawud.”

“No,” said Father. “Dawud’s heart was much harder than Abdullah’s.”

“Jaffar,” said Mother.

“It’s all right, ummi,” I said. Here we go, I thought.

My father looked me in the eyes. “You would never have repented,” he said.

“Husband, please.” Mother was pleading, now.

I returned my father’s stare. “I might have,” I said, as calmly as I could. “If the situations were reversed.”

My father blinked, then looked down again. There was a strange expression on his face.

Mother turned to me. “Did you get into trouble, Dawud? For what you said?”

“No,” I said. “They caught the real killer that same day.”

“Why did you say you did it? Why didn’t you just tell them what really happened?”

“I couldn’t, ummi.”

“But why?

I threw up my hands. “I just couldn’t. It’s complicated.”

“The penalty for murder is life imprisonment, here,” said Father, slowly.

He still wasn’t looking at me. “I know that,” I said.

He looked up, again. “Were you really willing to serve a life sentence, to save your brother from exile?”

“Yes. Of course.”

“Why?”

“What do you mean, why?” I said. “Because he’s my brother. Do you—” I stopped, and fought to calm down, remembering my promise.

“Do I really think so little of you?” said Father.

For a moment, I just stared at him. Then I said: “Well?”

He considered. Then, finally, he said: “No. I did, once. But I was wrong. I was wrong, Dawud. And I thank God for letting me live long enough to see that.”

Mother took Father’s hand. “Dawud,” he said, slowly. “When you left our world, I cursed the day you were born. But I see now how wrong I was.”

“I was full of anger, and hurt pride. All I could think about was the shame you had brought on your family—on me. But I should have been thinking about my own failings, as your father.”

He paused. I just looked at him, stunned. Finally, he went on: “I don’t pretend to understand God’s plan for you. But everything happens according to His will. And your birth was a blessing to this family. So I came here…to ask you to forgive me. For thinking so little of you.”

Father looked at Mother. I could see her urging him on, wordlessly. He turned back to me, and said: “Can you forgive me? My son?”

I tried to speak, and it came out as a sob. I felt like something had broken, inside me. When I got myself back under control, I said, “Yes, Father.”

“Thank you,” he said.

For a moment, we all just sat around the table together, crying. Then, Mother got to her feet, a big smile on her face. “Well,” she said, “You men must be hungry. Is this the replicator, here? Dawud—show me how to work this!”

Father smiled. I laughed. “Yes, ummi,” I said.

***

Lorrak.

Moore’s World (Gliese 442 V). Russell Street, Crater City.


I paid the fare, got out of the cab, and walked on down Russell Street, keeping close to the fence. It was raining pretty hard again. It made me think: no wonder Fen had a skin condition.

I passed the place where Obregon had showed up, and went down to the corner. Then I went back the same way, till I came to the narrow gate I’d missed in the darkness.

It was more of a door than a gate, set flush with the high privacy fence. I took out my smartpick, worked on the lock for a while, then pushed the gate open slowly and went through. There was a yard on the other side, a big yard, full of old barrels and pallets and flatbed trailers—lots of stuff like that. There was a long shed along one side, and a small two-story building on the far side.

I stumbled along as quietly as I could, heading for the building. When I rounded a big pile of tires I found Losh’s car sitting there very dark and quiet in the rain. I went past it, up to the building and along the wall, until I saw the lighted window.

I looked around, found an old cargo crate, put it down under the window, and stood on it to see through. The glass was dirty. The inside looked like a shipping office. Losh and Fen Rodak were there, along with someone else—a Terran. They were arguing about something. Losh was walking around waving his arms. The Terran and Fen were sitting down. I couldn’t hear a word they said. The rain was drumming on the plastannum roof and all I could hear was the sound of their voices.

I didn’t stay there very long. It didn’t mean anything. I got down, put the crate back, and wandered around until I found Fen’s car. At least, I figured it was his car. It was a big luxury model and it was parked near the gate on the far side of the block from Russell street, where Losh had come in.

I opened the door lock, being careful not to trip the car alarm. Then I got into the back and sat on the seat. It was leather. The windows were deeply tinted, and it was nice to get out of the rain for a while.

After ten minutes or so, the light in the yard went out, and I could hear voices coming toward the car. I got down on the floor, behind the front seat, out of sight. The three of them stood outside for a minute, talking about “finding someone else.” Then Losh and the human went off to Losh’s car. Fen opened the door to his own car, squeezed into the driver’s seat, and activated the motor.

I waited until we were through the gate and halfway down the block, and then I put a disruptor against the back of Rodak’s neck. He straightened up in his seat and slowed the car down. I told him to go to the old man’s house.

***
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Old June 18 2009, 02:56 AM   #14
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Re: Star Trek: Supermax (Season Two Redux)

We were sitting in the office upstairs. The old man sat in the big chair behind the desk, and Fen sat across from him. I sprawled out in another chair, out of the light from the desk lamp, and held the disruptor in my lap.

The old man was furious. He was trembling with hatred and he kept glaring at Fen out of his little red-rimmed eyes.

I said: “Well, boss—if you’ll open your safe now, we can finish this business.”

The old man swallowed.

“I can open a channel to the local branch of the Bank of Bolius, and let you transfer your twenty-five bars into my account,” I said to Fen. “Then I’ll dust off both of you, and everyone’ll be happy.”

They must have thought I meant it. Fen got rigid. The old man cleared his throat, and made a slow move toward that middle desk drawer.

I turned my disruptor on him. The old man looked at it, and relaxed.

“But I’ll be honest,” I said. “That wouldn’t quite satisfy my weakness for efficiency. Maybe you two will settle your differences, and make me an offer for Losh. He’s the real star of this little holonovel—he’s been framing both of you.”

I don’t think Fen was very surprised—but Rodak Senior looked at me like I’d grown a second head.

“He’s been working with Fen on those cargo heists,” I went on. “Probably just waiting for the right time to get rid of you—getting to know your connections.”

“That’s a damned lie,” the old man said.

I shrugged. “If you say so.” Then, to Fen: “Losh offered me fifty bars to kill you, tonight, in Tek’s name. And he told me to look for you at the south-side cargo docks.” I thought for a moment. “Only you weren’t going there. You two had an argument. Something went wrong.”

Fen finally remembered how to smile. “I lost my connect. At the starport,” he said.

“That’s too bad,” I said. Fen started to say something else, but I interrupted him. “Where is Losh right now? At your place?”

“He went home,” Fen said. I took out my communicator, and he gave me the number. I opened a channel and called, but there wasn’t any answer.

We sat there without saying anything for several minutes. Then the door downstairs opened and closed and somebody came up.

I said to Fen: “What do you bet?”

The door to the office opened and Losh came in. He was wearing a long black overcoat, wet from the rain, and made him look even taller and thinner than he was. He stood in the doorway looking mostly at Boss Tek. Then he came in and sat down on a corner of the desk.

“Now that we’re all here,” I said, “you can start the bidding.”

The old man laughed, deep in his throat. Losh was watching me, his face and expressionless. Fen just sat there, smiling stupidly at his hands.

“I’m auctioning off the most profitable operation in the sector, gentlemen,” I said. “Gambling, smuggling, hijacking… drugs, nano, geno…”

I was having a good time.

The old man was glaring malevolently at Losh. “I’ll give you two hundred and fifty bars of latinum,” he said, “if you’ll give me that disruptor and get out of here.”

If I thought there was any chance of collecting, I might have considered it. Things happen that way some time.

Losh got up.

I raised the disruptor. “Easy, there, thin man,” I said. “You’re making me nervous.”

He stood there, staring at the disruptor. The water was running off his overcoat and collecting in a little dark pool at his feet.

He said: “What in the Sky’s name do you want?”

“I was just wondering,” I said. “Where do you people get rid of the bodies around here?”

I don’t think Losh could move. I think he tried to move sideways, or get his hand in his pocket, or something, but all he could do was take a deep breath. Then I shot him, in the stomach. He staggered back, hit the wall, and fell over.

Considering how fat he was, Fen could move pretty quickly. He was up and out the door at warp speed. That was okay with me.

I put the weapon away, stood up, and looked down at the old man. “Here’s the deal. Everything goes back to the way it was. You’ll get your money for moving those starship parts. Make sure they get where they’re going.”

He didn’t answer.

I was heading for the door when I heard a shot out in front of the house. I ran out of the office and down the stairs to the front door. It was open and Fen was lying there, face down, half way through. The rain was washing away some of the blood.

I ducked back up the hall and tried a couple of doors—locked. When I came down the hall again, the old man was down on his knees, beside Fen’s body, rocking back and forth and moaning a little.

I went through another room, into the kitchen, and out the back door. I ran across the back yard, went through the alley gate, and splashed through the mud until I came to a cross street. Then I went on down to the end of the block, on the opposite corner from the Rodak house.

A cab came humming down the street. I waited until it was almost at the corner, and stepped out in front of it. It screeched to a stop, then tried to take off, swerving around me. But I had my disruptor out, pointing at the driver through the window. The cab stopped again.

“Turn the motor off,” I said. He turned the motor off. “Keep your hands on the wheel,” I said.

I moved around to the front passenger side and opened the door. There was an old phase pistol sitting on the passenger seat. I picked it up and put it my coat pocket. Then I got in beside the cab driver.

It was the same Terran who’d picked me up earlier, with Obregon. He gave me a weak little grin and said: “Where to?”

“Just drive,” I said.

He started up the cab and we drove off, through the rain.

I said: “How did you know Fen shot Obregon?”

He kept his head down and his eyes ahead. “We used to work together, on the docks,” he said. “I got laid off, a couple of years ago. That’s when I started driving a cab. Then Obregon got mixed up with Fen.”

“Obregon won a lot of money, in one of Rodak’s double-deuce games, a couple of days ago, and Fen told him to kick it back. He said anyone who worked for him was automatically a shill and couldn’t play for keeps. But Obregon’s been losing every credit he makes for months, in that same game, and stealing cargo containers to cover his losses. That was okay with Fen. He could lose, but he couldn’t win.”

Stealing cargo containers, I thought. Huh. No wonder Losh and Fen had been arguing.

The driver said: “Fen shot Obregon tonight, at the game room on Russell Street. I knew it was him. Fen was nuts. He was always warped, stuffing his face with leaf. Obregon was afraid Fen would kill him. That’s why he said ‘Rodak.’”

“Did you know it was your friend when you picked us up?”

“Not until I turned on the light. Then, when we got to Fen’s, I saw him get out of his car and walk in ahead of you. That’s when I knew for sure.” He paused. “I took Obregon to his parents’ place after I dropped you off.”

I made him stop and wait, while I got rid of the weapons and the smartpick, down a storm drain. Then he took me to the air-tram station. The local night is pretty short, so the sun was coming up when we got there.

***

Dawud Jaffar.

Sundancer Penal Colony, 61 Virginis II. Prison ship USS Lilienthal, in orbit.


We ate breakfast, together, all three of us, for the first time in eighteen years.

When we were about done, the guard came in, and told my parents that their time was up. Mother hugged me tightly, and Father shook my hand, and we said our goodbyes, wishing each other peace, and mercy, and blessings. My parents promised to come back soon. Then they left, and I went back to my cell.

I couldn’t remember the last time I felt so good.

***

Moore’s World (Gliese 442 V). Departure Lounge, Crater City Starport.

The Markalian walked up to the information desk. The young man behind the desk smiled, trying to hide his nervousness. “Hello,” he said.

“Hello,” said the alien. “I need to make a subspace call.”

“Yes sir,” said the young man. “Upstairs. Take the escalator over there, and turn left.”

“Thanks.” The Markalian walked across the departure lounge, and rode the escalator up to the second floor. The man at the information desk watched him until he was out of sight. The news feeds had reported another murder, overnight.

The Markalian turned left at the top of the escalator and walked over to the long-distance communicator. He punched in his credit code, then opened a channel to Markal IV.

After a moment, he said. “It’s me. I took care of that thing. Yeah. No, no problems.”

Then he closed the channel.


***

Sundancer Penal Colony, 61 Virginis II. Prison ship USS Lilienthal, in orbit.

Jaffar and Fatima stepped out of the turbolift on Deck Three, followed by a correctional officer.

“This way, please,” said the CO.

As they walked down the curving corridor, they passed an elderly prisoner doing maintenance work.

“Officer Browning!” said the prisoner, putting down his equipment.

The CO paused at the doorway to the transporter room. “What is it, Simon?”

“Could I have a word, please?”

The guard hesitated. Then: “All right. Make it quick.”

The prisoner walked up to them. “Is your name Jaffar?” he said.

“Yes,” said Jaffar.

“Dawud Jaffar’s father?”

“Yes,” said Jaffar. “Do you know my son?”

“Yes, sir. I have a message for you,” said the prisoner.

Then he took out the shank he’d been palming, and stabbed Jaffar in the heart

Jaffar gasped, and slumped against the bulkhead, clutching at the handle of the shank protruding from his chest. Fatima screamed. The CO cursed, grabbed the prisoner, and pulled him away. The prisoner did not resist.

“Oh, God… Oh, my God…”

“Jaffar! Jaffar! Oh, God, help!

“Code red! Emergency! Deck Three, Transporter Room! Code red!


THE END

(Adapted in part from "Black" by Paul Cain)
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Old June 18 2009, 02:59 AM   #15
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Re: Star Trek: Supermax (Season Two Redux)

These stories are great, but there's just so much that it's hard to know where to start. Keep up the good work.
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