Star Trek: Restoration - Onyx

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction' started by CaptainSarine, Nov 27, 2009.

  1. CeJay

    CeJay Commodore Commodore

    Feb 5, 2006
    Qwert is one of those very rare Starfleet Admirals who actually comes across as a likable guy. Which is quite surprising considering his racial handicap.

    It was obvious that this deal with the Laurentii wasn't going to work out easily but I didn't expect them to be this divided. This is adding an interesting new dimension, not only to the Laurentii but to your story as well. My gut is telling me things can only go worse from here.
  2. CaptainSarine

    CaptainSarine Commander Red Shirt

    Aug 27, 2009
    Lyon, France

    LOL! No, definitely not. The Laurentii are not happy to see the Federation group, thus showing that the reason they are there may not be the one that Benjamani and the others thought it was.

    Glad you're enjoying Sarine vs. Benjamani. This was initially a really difficult chapter to write, but when I rewrote it in Qwert's POV it came together. He's a really fun character to write for, and he has a very particular way of looking at things.

    Yes, the Laurentii are as divided as other races, perhaps even more so because of the basis of their civilization, which we will learn about as the story progresses.

    Thanks for the comment!


    Thanks! As I said above, this was actually quite a difficult chapter to write until I moved into Qwert's POV - I'm glad you enjoyed the fleshing out of his character and his dynamic with the others. We'll be seeing more of him in the next few chapters.


    Yeah, Qwert is a likeable guy, but I hope this chapter also showed that he is also quite the sneaky tactician and a formidable warrior in the past.

    Yes, the Laurentii are divided. I think the next few chapters will show how much and by the end of the next ten chapters or so, you should be able to better understand why.

    Thanks to you all for your comments, really glad you're still interested in it!

    A new chapter should be up tonight!
  3. CaptainSarine

    CaptainSarine Commander Red Shirt

    Aug 27, 2009
    Lyon, France
    Chapter 11

    Chamber of the yaszmoot
    Ispaoreai Hyps’rat (Onyx Station)

    Ba’el rubbed his fingers against his temples as surreptitiously as possible, trying not to bring too much attention to himself.

    Beside him Benjamani and Qwert droned on, their voices echoing around the cavernous meeting room as they presented the Federation's hopes for peace and economic plenitude – Qwert’s own words – to the Laurentii yaszmoot. Even after what amounted to little more than diplomatic pleasantries, Ba'el could tell that things were not going well.

    Forcing his fingers down and trying to ignore his headache, Ba'el phased out Benjamani’s latest speel, studying the Laurentii themselves from his place at the far end of the table. Though he knew that all of the Laurentii present were high-up members of the ruling circle, he was trying his best to work out exactly who was in charge. Every little piece of information helped.

    He had more experience of the Laurentii than most, and yet he had still to make sense of exactly how they were organised. Though he had heard various terms banded back and forth - kruin, varec, havac - none of them seemed to indicate who was clearly in charge. If he had understood correctly, all of the members of the yaszmoot were havacs, though one of them had been called ish'kruin as well. He shook his head, then winced as pain lanced through his temples again.

    The headache had been growing steadily worse ever since he had touched the station’s wall, shortly after beam over. Starting slow, it had slowly grown until Ba’el had begun to worry that he might black out.

    Of course, the headache had not been the only thing that had happened when he touched the wall... For a single moment, he had heard a voice in his head. The voice hadn’t spoken, not in words, anyway. And yet Ba'el was sure it had been talking to him. If he closed his eyes and concentrated, he felt as though he would be able to make sense of...

    His eyes snapped open as he heard the slap of flesh against the table. One of the Laurentii, a havac who had introduced himself as Lkinym, had taken to his feet. With one hand pressed against the table, he was glaring at Qwert.

    "Do you think we care anything for commercial gain? For your latinum?" A little liquid spattered out from his ventral pouches, splashing on the table surface where it was quickly absorbed. "We are a sacred people, kruvat. We have no need for your latinum, or your assistance. Not when the--"

    One of the other Laurentii, tall with skin the bright orange of a setting sun, reached over and grabbed Lkinym's sleeve. Lkinym glanced at the fire-skinned havac, who shook his head. Lkinym bristled visibly, then subsided.

    This is getting out of hand, Ba'el thought. Knowing how Benjamani would take it - but not really caring at this point - he stood himself. All eyes turned to him, and he felt Benjamani's glower.

    "Perhaps now would be a good time for us to take a slight recess. I am sure we would all like to consult with our respective groupings and come back fresher and more able to talk."

    The yaszmoot seemed unsure, but Shy'at, the younger varec who had met them in the transporter room, interrupted.

    "That seems a good idea. We will arrange to have you shown to your temporary quarters."

    Qwert nodded. "A fine idea. I'm sure we could all use some time."

    After a moment of tense silence, the fire-skinned Laurentii who had calmed Lkinym nodded as well. "A good idea." He turned to look at Shy'at. "You will arrange it."

    Shy'at bowed and scurried over to another Laurentii stood beside the wall. Ba'el watched them whisper together, then another wave of pain washed over him and he stumbled down into his seat, clutching at his forehead.

    He felt a hand on his arm and opened his eyes long enough to see Kalara staring at him, worry lines evident on her face.

    "Are you alright?"

    He nodded, not even able to speak. Kalara didn't seem convinced, but she nodded and took her hand away.

    By the time one of the Laurentii came to lead him to his quarters, Ba'el could hardly stand. Forcing himself to his feet, it took him all of his concentration to continue putting one foot in front of the other. The headache seemed to have spread down to his neck and collar bone, a constant pounding, like drums in his mind. Careful not to touch the walls again, he stumbled after the Laurentii through corridors he hardly noticed, until one of the walls irised open to reveal a small chamber.

    As Ba'el stepped inside, his guide pointed to a table against the far wall.

    "We have installed technology much like your own to allow you to work or contact your ship if you need to," he said.

    Ba'el nodded a thank you.

    "I will return to collect you in one hour."

    Stepping back, the Laurentii pressed his fingers to the wall and the door irised closed again, leaving a perfectly uniform wall in its place. Normally, Ba'el would have felt worried at being trapped like this, but with the pain in his head, all he could manage was a controlled tumble down onto the bed behind him.

    As he fell, one of his hands straightened unvoluntarily and his fingers brushed against the wall behind him. Ba'el felt another surge of pain before darkness enveloped him and dragged him down into a vision.


    Ba'el screamed.

    The probe slid forward, the hard point piercing the skin just below his eye, drawing blood from his cheek and sending pain rushing through his body.

    "Why are you doing this?" he yelled, struggling wildly against the bonds that held him down to the table.

    He turned his head just enough to see one of the Laurentii looking down at him, his eye-strip white with sadness.

    "We had no other choice," the alien said, pressing the cold skin of his palm against Ba'el's forehead just as a second probe sliced through the skin on his belly...


    With a gasp, Ba'el jerked his hand away from the wall. His whole body was shivering in the aftermath of the vision.

    What the hell was that?

    The dream had been so real, as tangible as if Ba'el had lived through it seconds before. He shook his head, surprised to find that the headache was fading.

    What is going on here? he wondered, his breath coming out in great gulps for air. What is happening to me?

    Slowly, his breathing started to come back under control. With his headache fading, Ba'el was able to start thinking clearly. He replayed the vision in his head, trying to make sense of it. Had it been a memory? Something suppressed from his time amongst the Laurentii during the war? If so, what had they been doing to him? And why?

    He needed answers. The only place he could think to turn was Prin. He still hadn't had a chance to ask her about the missing time that Captain Robau had mentioned. Now seemed as good a time as any to talk about it.

    As he reached for his comm badge, though, he heard a beeping from beside him. He turned his head and saw a light flashing on the console fitted to the table beside him. Some kind of transmission.

    Hopeful it might be Prin, he sidled across the bed until he could reach the console. It seemed to be a standard Klingon interface, one that he had used before during the war. Making sense of the Klingonese writing, he activated the screen.

    It wasn't Prin. Instead, he saw the varec who had greeted them - Shy'at. He was about to ask the varec what he wanted when Shy'at spoke up.

    "Sorry to contact you this way, captain. I just wanted to ask you whether the headaches had started yet?"

    Ensign Zoraya’s Quarters
    USS Redemption

    Zoraya slammed a hand down on her desk in frustration, turning away from the console and running her other hand through her hair.


    She had been working on the encrypted transmission since she had gotten off shift. Checking her chrono, she realised that it had been over two hours. And she had still to find some way around the code.

    Pushing herself away from the desk, she stood up and stretched. She had been so hopeful after seeing the hidden tranmission appear on her system, but all of that hope had slowly drained away when faced with the obvious lack of progress. At this rate, I'm never going to decrypt it.

    She heard a tentative knock on her door and suppressed another sigh. Stretching again, she walked over and pressed her hand to the plate.

    The door slid open to reveal her roommate, Molna. The Ferengi smiled slightly, then peered past Zoraya at her room.

    "Are you alright?"

    Zoraya nodded. "I hit my knee against my desk," she said.

    Molna nodded, but her eyes were studying the room intently, as if hoping to find some clue as to what Zoraya had really been doing. Zoraya purposefully let her look - there was no way that the Ferengi would be able to make anything of the complex code scrolling across her screen, especially not from this distance.

    After a few moments, she coughed. "Do you need something?"

    Molna blinked and turned her attention back to Zoraya. "Oh. No. Just wanted to be sure you were alright."

    "I'm fine."

    "Oh. Good. Well, I'm going to the Alpha Quadrant with a few others in about half an hour. You want to come?"

    Zoraya opened her mouth to refuse, then remembered her training. She needed to maintain her cover just as much as she needed to decrypt that transmission. If anyone started to get suspicious... She forced a smile. "I'd love to."

    Molna seemed surprised. "Great," she said, not sounding all that enthusiastic. "Half an hour?"

    "I'll be ready."

    Then she reached over and tapped the door panel again, sealing the room. Damned nosy Ferengi with her stupid big ears!

    Cursing softly, she walked back to the desk, closing her eyes and massaging her temples. She sat down, took a deep breath, then opened her eyes and prepared to get back to work.

    Someone had sent her a message. A small rectangular box of text had appeared on her screen, over the top of the scrolling decryption software. Eight words.

    Have you tried a Klingon Intelligence Decryption Key?

    Zoraya blinked. Her heart beating faster, she called up a tracing bot from her inventory and activated it. As it tried to backtrack the origin of the message, she sat back and thought about what the message had said.

    A Klingon Intelligence key? She hadn't tried those yet, assuming that the spy onboard Redemption would have been using Federation tech so as not to set off any alarms. However, now that she thought about it, it made a certain amount of sense. The spy would need to have identified his or herself to the Klingon fleet, which meant some kind of Klingon Intelligence authentification.

    The bot returned after a few seconds, empty-handed. Zoraya shrugged - it had been a long shot anyway. She wondered who could have sent her the message. A friend? Or someone trying to use her? Her mind flashed back to the Cardassian she had met briefly on the shuttle, the one who had seemed slightly "off" to her. If he was another agent of S.I, maybe he was trying to help her. If so, why not do it upfront, though? Why go through back channels like this?

    Shaking her head, Zoraya pushed away the questions. Either way, it couldn't hurt to try the suggestion. Calling up the inventory of decryption keys she kept locked away in her personal console's memory, she ran a standard Klingon Intelligence key decryption. Minutes later, the transmission appeared on her screen.

    Feeling a surge of excitement, Zoraya sat forward intently. When she was who was on the screen, though, her excitement devolved into unease, shock and fear.

    This was... This was huge. If the transmission was real, then Lieutenant-Commander Kalara, Ambassador Benjamani's aide, was a spy and a traitor. If the transmission was real.

    Her mind was whirling with the implications. Zoraya forced herself to take a step back, both physically and mentally. Standing up, she walked away, closing her eyes and pacing the room while she counted to thirty. It was a little exercice that she had been taught during her training, allowing her to purge herself of the emotions that could cloud her judgement and would help her to concentrate on the situation at hand. By the time she reached thirty, she knew what she had to do.

    Returning to her desk, Zoraya sat down and started to write a message to her boss. She needed to talk to him no matter whether the transmission turned out to be real or not. As soon as she had dispatched the message requesting for him to contact her over secure channels, she turned back to the transmission and began to run it through every single authentification program she could think of.

    Diplomatic Quarters
    Onyx Station

    Ba'el felt a surge of anger, precipitated by the memory of his vision. Springing to his feet, he stalked towards the console screen, as if he could somehow reach through it and strangle the varec.

    "What the hell did you people do to me?" Ba'el growled.

    Shy'at lifted his hands up as if to ward Ba'el off.

    "Please, Captain Sarine, you have to understand that what we did, we did because we had no other choice."

    Ba'el reached the desk and leaned on it, peering down at Shy'at and glared. "You did something to me, last time I was here." It wasn't a question, but Shy'at nodded.

    "You played around with my mind, with my memories."

    Shy'at nodded again, then his lips pulled back and down in an approximation of a frown. "I can't talk about it."

    Ba'el felt the urge to laugh. "You can't talk about it? Then why the hell are you contacting me?"

    "I am working on behalf of someone who can talk about it, someone who is able to explain everything. He wishes to meet with you. In private."

    Suppressing a groan, Ba'el ran one hand over his face and through his hair. He missed having long hair sometimes.

    This is all I need, he thought. In the middle of what could be the most important negotiations that both the new or the old Federations had ever taken part in, and this man was trying to drag him into the middle of some kind of Laurentii power struggle. He wanted to tell the man to fuck off and leave him alone.

    He didn't, though. Part of him remembered that part of the reason he had agreed to this mission in the first place was to discover why the Laurentii had insisted on him leading it. That part of him had grown stronger since he had learned about the missing time from Robau. This was not a mystery he could just turn away from.

    "Who?" he asked finally. "Who wants to see me?"

    "Please, I don't know whether they will be able to listen in on our conversation, and we're running out of time. Will you agree to meet with him?"

    "Who?" Ba'el asked again. "Who is--"

    Shy'at wasn't looking at him anymore, his whole head turned away. Ba'el saw his eye-strip ripple, something he had learned to recognise as the Laurentii equivalent of widening eyes.

    "They're coming. I have to go." He turned back to Ba'el. "Please, will you come?"

    Struggling against the little voice in his head telling him this was a bad idea, Ba'el nodded. "I'll meet with your master."

    "Thank you. I will come for you as soon as I can, at night. Do not trust the yaszmoot. They do not like you, nor trust what you are."

    Before Ba'el could ask him what he meant, the line cut off, leaving the blank screen once again.

    Sitting back on the bed, Ba'el shook his head. What have you gotten yourself into now, Bay? he wondered. More trouble. Just what he needed.

    He needed to talk to someone about all of this, someone he could trust. Only one name came to mind.

    As he lifted his hand to call Prin, though, the wall before him swirled open and one of the Laurentii guards stepped through. Ba'el let his hand drop back to his leg.

    The Laurentii stood straight, as if about to salute.

    "The yaszmoot wish to recommence the negotiations."

    "Of course," Ba'el said, standing. "Lead the way."

    As he left, Ba'el vowed that he would find the time to talk to Prin. He needed to try and make sense out of all of this before he met whoever had sent Shy'at to speak with him.

    Before all hell broke loose.
  4. Mistral

    Mistral Vice Admiral Admiral

    Dec 5, 2007
    Between the candle and the flame
    What he is????? I caught that-now I'm pondering the meaning. Did you name that guy Shy'at because that's how the others treat him? :)
  5. Gibraltar

    Gibraltar Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Sep 25, 2005
    US Pacific Northwest
    The Laurentii are being revealed as an increasingly complex and fractured society, and with their previous manipulation of Ba'el, that undoubtedly spells potential disaster for the whole diplomatic mission.

    Loving this! :bolian:
  6. CaptainSarine

    CaptainSarine Commander Red Shirt

    Aug 27, 2009
    Lyon, France

    LOL, ie Shy'at - I never really thought about it until now but now that you mention it... :)

    Glad you picked up on that - there are strange revelations to come regarding Master Ba'el Sarine... ;)


    Glad you're enjoying this! Really means a lot. I'm glad the revelations about the Laurentii are working for you - they are a complex race, whose complexity is going to become more and more evident as this volume progresses! Thanks.
  7. TheLoneRedshirt

    TheLoneRedshirt Commodore Commodore

    May 22, 2007
    It's taking me a while to get caught up with the many good stories here, but this is proving to be exceptional! You've done a masterful job of creating not just a fascinating story but also memorable and complex characters. The tension between Sarine, Benjamani and Kalara is palpable. Qwert is an affable fellow for a Ferengi (I also enjoyed the chapter from his POV) and the Laurentii are about as alien as they come.

    So many interesting sub-plots, but I'm riveted on Sarine - what did the Laurentii do to him, and why?

    I guess you'll tell us in good time. ;)
  8. CaptainSarine

    CaptainSarine Commander Red Shirt

    Aug 27, 2009
    Lyon, France
    TLR!! Hey buddy, good to see you back!

    Thanks so much for the kind words on Volume III, I'm real glad you enjoyed it so far. It is so cool to know that you're appreciating these characters and the story I'm weaving for them.

    The tension between Sarine, Benjamani and Kalara is only going to get worse as certain revelations are made in upcoming chapters, trust me! And Qwert is a great character, I look forward to writing some more chapters through his POV.

    As to what the Laurentii did to Sarine... Definitely be revealed in good time.

    Thanks again!

  9. CaptainSarine

    CaptainSarine Commander Red Shirt

    Aug 27, 2009
    Lyon, France
    Chapter 12

    Jasto Dax’s Quarters
    USS Redemption
    Ispaoreai Hyps’rat (Onyx Station)

    Even taking into consideration all of the civilisations that had ever been part of the United Federation of Planets, Jasto Dax doubted that any of them had ever had a better representation of hell than what he had lived through since Captain Sarine ‘quarantined’ him to quarters.

    As he regained consciousness for the tenth time that day, his head still ringing from the side effects of the jalapamine, Jasto found himself in the middle of a disaster area. His bed lay on its side, up against the opposite wall to where it had been when he had blacked out, the side panels smashed into kindling. The pillows and sheets had been torn from their places and attacked by what looked like a wild animal, strips and stuffing scattered across the floor.

    Except it wasn’t a wild animal, Jasto reminded himself, looking down at his hands. It was you.

    No, it wasn’t me, he told himself. It was him. It had to have been him.


    Looking around as the voice echoed in his mind, Jasto caught sight of himself in the viewport. He was unshaven, his cheeks hollow, his eyes wide and wild-looking. He looked like a madman.


    Closing his eyes, he pressed his palms against them, almost as if he could exert enough pressure to force Haebron out. Except there was no way that would happen. Not any more.


    No! Leave me alone!

    Laughter greeted his plea.

    Opening his eyes again, Jasto peered at the chrono he had left on the wall. Three hours. Three hours since his last dose. Haebron was getting stronger.

    Stumbling to his feet, Jasto tripped across the remains of his furniture, and over to the bed. As he reached it, he fell to his knees and reached underneath until he found the medical kit he had left on the mattress. Pulling it out, he popped the locks, revealing three hypos, green liquid swirling in the glass canisters.

    Jalapamine. Doctor Malok had prescribed it about ten minutes after his first consultation, instructing Jasto to use half a hypo every three hours. After his second consultation less than a day later, he had upped the dose to two hypos every three hours.

    Now it looked like he was going to need all three.

    His hands shaking, Jasto brushed his fingertips over the first hypo just as the door to his quarters chimed.

    Jerking his head up – Haebron cackling madly in his mind – Jasto stared at the door for a moment, frowning. Doctor Malok shouldn’t be back to see him for another five hours, and no one else would have any reason to come to his quarters.

    The door chimed again. Pushing himself back against the wall, Jasto allowed himself to sink to a sitting position, and wrapped his arms around his knees. “Come.”

    Opening with a swushing sound, the open door revealed the hulking form of Doctor Malok, his white coat incongruous over his large frame. Beside him stood a smaller figure, dressed in a Starfleet uniform, his black hair cut close around his pointy ears. Q’sar, the Vulcan navigation’s officer. What is he doing here?

    “Hello Lieutenant,” Malok said. “May we come in?”

    Jasto hesitated for a moment, then nodded once. The movement turned into a jerky chopping of his head as Haebron screamed once, twice, a third time, in his head.

    By the time he looked back at the door, Malok had stepped inside, Q’sar remaining behind him in his shadow. The young ensign stood straight, staring around the ruined room with cool dispassionate eyes. He turned those eyes on Jasto. Jasto winced at another shrill scream, but the Vulcan did little more than lift a single eyebrow.

    Malok grunted at the sight of the medikit in Jasto’s hands, then shook his head. “Still not enough?”

    Jasto shook his head. “Can hear him,” he said, his voice coming out as a croak.

    “He did this?” Malok gestured at the mess.

    This time, Jasto nodded. “While I was asleep.”

    Growling to himself, Malok pulled out a tricorder, the small instrument dwarfed by the Klingon’s massive palm. Running it up and down Jasto’s form, he studied the readings and sighed.

    “Somehow, the former host is pushing your symbiont to secrete a hormone that is counteracting the jalapamine. The more I pump into your system, the more your symbiont fights it. If we continue to up your dose, eventually the Dax symbiont is going to give out.”

    It will die.

    “It will die,” Jasto repeated Haebron’s words, giggling slightly.

    “Yes,” Malok said. He frowned down at Jasto. “We need to do something different.”

    There’s nothing you can do.

    “There’s nothing you can do.” Jasto heard his voice, heard the snarl so reminiscent of Haebron.

    “Actually, you’re right.”

    This seemed to throw Haebron. Jasto could sense him circling warily, like a caged animal.

    “But,” the Klingon doctor went on, “I believe that there is something Ensign Q’sar here can do.”

    The Vulcan navigation’s officer stepped forward at the sound of his name, though his expression did not change. The younger man did not seem touched by emotion, and for a moment, Jasto envied him. I bet a Vulcan would be able to handle Haebron, he thought. You hear that, you bastard? I bet a Vulcan can handle you.

    Haebron’s cutting laughter was the only reply.

    “Wh-What? What can he do?”

    Malok looked around for a seat, then eventually settled down on his haunches, bringing his eyes down to just above the top of Jasto’s head. He studied Jasto’s eyes for a moment, and then he reached out and took the medikit. Checking the readout on one of the hypo’s, he pressed it to Jasto’s neck. Jasto heard a hiss of air, then felt the drug invade his system. Moments later, the laughter faded. He was alone again.

    Sighing, he opened his eyes to find Q’sar stood, looking down at them both with those cold eyes. Despite himself, he shivered.

    “Lieutenant?” Malok waited for him to tear his eyes away from the Vulcan and meet his gaze. “Q’sar is a Vulcan, you know that?”

    After Jasto nodded, Malok continued. “Before the… Incident, the Vulcans were known throughout the Alpha Quadrant as powerful mentalists, some even said telepaths. One part of those abilities involved what was known as a…” He trailed off and looked to Q’sar.

    “Mind. Meld.” The Vulcan ensign’s voice was as cold and controlled as his expression, but Jasto would have sworn he sensed a hint of distaste as he said the word.

    “A mindmeld. It involves creating a psychic connection between two minds, allowing the one in control of the meld – in this case, Q’sar – to delve deep into the psyche of the other person, and even to effectively repair damage caused to the mind.”

    “But my mind isn’t damaged,” Jasto whispered.

    “No, it isn’t. But there has been a psychic break between yourself and Haebron. I believe that if Q’sar does a mindmeld with you, you may be able to find some way of healing that break, or reintegrating Haebron into the wider sea of former hosts.”

    Jasto looked down, feeling his heart race a little at the prospect. To be free of Haebron permanently, to no longer have to worry about him being in his head, of taking control… He might be able to save his career, in some form or another. The only other possibility seemed to be spending the rest of his life in some mental institute on New Trill, until the day he died and they passed the Dax symbiont on to someone better able to handle Haebron. A wasted lifetime in the annals of a symbiont who had never wasted a lifetime in all of its history.

    When he looked back up, Malok was studying him hopefully. Jasto was about to agree when his eyes fell on Q’sar again. There was something in the back of his eyes, a hint of disgust and even fear. He doesn’t want to do this.

    Against his every instinct, Jasto shook his head. “I… I don’t think this is a good idea.”

    Malok frowned. “If you are afraid that it might cause the symbiont damage, I can assure you that- -“

    “It isn’t that.”

    “Then what?”

    “I can’t put someone else in danger just to help me.”

    Malok turned to Q’sar. “Ensign Q’sar will not be in any danger. I will maintain a close eye on the meld throughout, and I will make sure that - -“

    “Do you want to do this, ensign?”

    Q’sar raised an eyebrow, an expression Jasto was beginning to understand represented the extent the Vulcan could show surprise. Then he shook his head.

    “What I want is not important.”

    “But- -“

    “Lieutenant,” Malok interrupted, his tone insistent. “I cannot keep on pumping you full of drugs. If I do, I will do so much damage to your symbiont that I will be forced to remove it. And we both know what will happen then.”

    I will die, Jasto thought. Still, he was reluctant to put this young ensign at risk. He looked past Malok at Q’sar, as if hoping that he would say something, make some sign that he agreed to this of his own free will. Q’sar simply stared back, impassive. Finally, hating himself for it, Jasto nodded.

    “Alright. I’ll give it a try.”

    Malok grinned, showing a worrisome amount of serated teeth. “Qa’pla. Very good. I have brought everything I need to handle the meld, including cortical stimulators and a set of small brain scanners.”

    “How does this work?” Jasto asked weakly as the Klingon got up and began bustling around the room, single-handidly dragging the bed back in place.

    “We willl need to sit in close proximity,” Q’sar said, his eyes following Malok as he walked over to the single remaining chair. “I will need to touch you and you me for the meld to be effective.”

    “And then what?”

    “And then I will bring our minds into synch until our thoughts become one. Since I am initiating the meld, I will control the visual representation of our shared experience. Will my home planet be agreeable?”

    Jasto nodded. “Very well.”

    Malok returned to them, carefully lifting Jasto to his feet and helping him over to the chair. Q’sar stepped around them and took his own place on the bed facing him. Both men looked into each other’s eyes, while Malok connected the cortical stimulator and the small circular scanning devices to their temples. Once he had finished, Malok stepped back and pulled out his tricorder.

    “I will monitor your condition from here. If I see any problems, I will chemically terminate the meld using the stimulators. Alright?”

    Jasto nodded, while Q’sar simply lifted an eyebrow. “Very well,” Malok said. “As soon as you’re ready.”

    Q’sar reached up and placed his fingers, spread out, on Jasto’s face. He indicated to Jasto that he should do the same. He almost recoiled at the coldness of Q’sar’s skin. He could feel the Vulcan’s heartbeat through the veins running down his temple.

    “Close your eyes,” Q’sar said softly. Jasto did as he was told. He found that in the darkness, he could hear his own heartbeat.

    “Empty your mind of everything, listen only to my voice.”

    Jasto allowed the sound of his heartbeat to fade, until all he could hear was the sound of Q’sar breathing in time with his own. After a few seconds, he heard Q’sar’s voice, both outside and inside his head.

    “Your mind to my mind. Your thoughts to my thoughts.”

    And as the words echoed in his mind, Jasto allowed himself to give in to the meld.
  10. TheLoneRedshirt

    TheLoneRedshirt Commodore Commodore

    May 22, 2007
    Risky. Very risky.

    I think both the good doctor and Q'Sar underestimate what mischief Haebron may be able to stir up during the mind-meld, drugs or no. I'm getting the vibe from The Exorcist here, and not in a good way. :evil:

    Excellent chapter!
  11. kes7

    kes7 Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

    Jan 29, 2008
    Sector 001
    Oh, this is SO not a good idea. Remember what happened to Tuvok after Suder? Haebron is way, way crazier than Suder ever was. Poor Q'Sar ...

    This chapter was like the prelude to a train wreck -- in slow motion. I loved it, as always. Thanks for feeding my Restoration addiction, Joel. (And like one who deals in addictive substances, you give us just enough to leave us wanting more ... ;))
  12. Gibraltar

    Gibraltar Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Sep 25, 2005
    US Pacific Northwest
    Yeah, wow… so many ways that this could go terribly, terribly wrong.

    Jasto’s desperate to find some kind of solution, and I’ve got a queasy feeling that his first instinct not to allow Q’sar to try and help was the correct one. Even a relatively disciplined Vulcan mind may not be able to cope with the insanity and depravity of Haebron’s unchecked personality.

    Here’s hoping this turns out better than I expect…

    Wonderful segment, btw! :biggrin:
  13. Mistral

    Mistral Vice Admiral Admiral

    Dec 5, 2007
    Between the candle and the flame
    I see several bad conclusions here.
    1-Haebron breaks the ensign and we end up with a mad Vulcan roaming the ship during a crisis
    2-The ensign fails and Jasto slowly dies
    3-The ensign fails and Haebron reigns supreme
    4-the ensign succeeds and Jasto is cured-but Haebron infects the Vulcan's mind
    5-notice I'm not listing a bunch of happy outcomes?
  14. CaptainSarine

    CaptainSarine Commander Red Shirt

    Aug 27, 2009
    Lyon, France

    Thanks for the comment, glad you enjoyed the chapter.

    I like the Exorcist parallel, it's probably a good analogy for this situation. As to whether they are underestimating Haebron's power... I guess you'll have to wait and see in the next chapter! ;)


    Yes, I'm a proper dope master, dolling out the goods as slowly as possible... :lol: Glad you're enjoying Restoration enough to call me a drug mule! :lol:

    No, probably not a good idea here, Malok may be slightly too overconfident!


    Thanks so much, glad you enjoyed the chapter. Jasto's first instinct may well prove to be the right one... Or I may just decide to wrap up the whole Jasto storyline in one nice little bow and have everything go really really well... :devil:

    Thanks for reading!


    Thanks for these disastrous possibilities! :) And yeah, I did notice that none of these are happy outcomes... Guess we'll have to wait and see what happens next! :)

    Thanks to you all for your great comments!

    Back to work on the next chapter, I guess!

  15. CaptainSarine

    CaptainSarine Commander Red Shirt

    Aug 27, 2009
    Lyon, France
    Chapter 13

    Ensign Zoraya’s Quarters
    USS Redemption
    Ispaoreai Hyps’rat (Onyx Station)

    Zoraya paced across her room for what seemed like the nine-hundredth time. She had almost reached the bed when her console chimed to signal an incoming message. She hurried over to the desk and sat down, inputting her access code before her back had even touched the chair.

    The screen resolved into the familiar face of Parmek, her handler at Starfleet Intelligence. His Cardassian features were scrunched up, his forehead furrowed, as he stared at her.

    “What has happened?” he demanded.

    Zoraya quickly filled him in on her discoveries, though she glossed over the part where she had received the message offering her assistance. By the time she had finished, Parmek’s eyebrows had drawn down, his lips reduced to a narrow slit.

    “You’re sure?”

    Zoraya nodded. “I ran every possible check I could while I waited for you to contact me. The computer is 90% sure that the recording is genuine.”


    “I know, I would have preferred 100 as well, but considering how badly the transmission has survived, I doubt we’ll be able to get anything more certain than that.”

    Parmek nodded, but his frown deepened. “Very well.”

    “What do you want me to do with it?”

    “We don’t have any other choice. I would normally suggest that you handle the problem yourself,” – read kill Kalara, Zoraya knew – “but the Laurentii mission is too important for us to risk your cover that way. I think we’re going to have to trust to Sarine and his command crew to handle the problem themselves.”

    “You want me to tip them off.”

    “Discreetly,” Parmek confirmed. “Prepare an encrypted package and route it through incoming traffic buffers. I’ll provide you with some current comm satellite coding that should hide the fact that the tip-off came from on ship.”

    “Who do I send it to?”

    “Sarine is off ship?”

    Zoraya nodded. “His XO will have to do then.”

    “Yes, sir.”

    “Good work on this, agent,” Parmek said, then signed off.

    Zoraya sat there for a moment, processing what he had just ordered her to do. She didn’t like torpedoing someone’s career like this, not based on a transmission she couldn’t be 100% sure of. And the help she had received from her unknown benefactor did not sit well with her, either.

    Then why didn’t you tell him, she asked herself. She didn’t have an answer.

    Sighing, she shook her head. She had orders and a responsibility. Sitting forward, she started to prepare the transmission for Commander Ly’et.

    Unknown location

    When Jasto opened his eyes, his quarters had vanished.

    Sand and dust surrounded him on all sides, extending to the horizon which wavered in the distance due to the intense heat. His conscious mind knew that all of this existed only as an illusion, in a mindscape created by Q’sar as a reference point for their communion, and yet it seemed entirely too real. He could feel the sweat running down his back and the itchy burning in his eyes. For all intents and purposes, he was in the middle of a desert.

    Taking in a scalding breath that seemed to be trying to incinerate his lungs, he looked around for Q’sar. He found the Vulcan, still dressed in his ensign’s uniform, a few steps away, studying the desert around them. Jasto would have sworn that he saw the slightest hint of homesickness in the depths of those deep blue eyes.

    “It’s hot,” he said after a moment.

    “It generally is,” Q’sar said. Jasto studied him for a moment. Did he just make a joke?

    Before he could ask him, the Vulcan turned and looked towards the horizon. “He is waiting for us.”

    Jasto started. “Who? Haebron?”

    Q’sar nodded, his eyes distant. “He knows we are here, but he has decided to wait us out.”

    “He’s in here, with us?”

    Q’sar turned back to Jasto. “Of course. That is the objective of this exercice, Lieutenant Dax. To force you and Haebron to confront one another. To work out your differences. That would not be possible unless you were both here.”

    Jasto nodded, though he didn’t feel any better about the idea. “What do we do?”

    “We go to him.”

    As Q’sar began to walk off, Jasto reached out and grabbed the Vulcan’s arm. To his surprise, the young ensign swung round, a sudden warmth burning in those cold eyes.

    “Do. Not. Touch. Me.”

    Jasto pulled his hand away as if he had been burned. “I- I’m sorry. I…”

    Q’sar seemed to be struggling to pull himself together. After a moment, he nodded curtly. “For future reference, know that Vulcans do not like to be touched unless invited.”

    For future reference. Right. Jasto knew that he should have known that, that parts of him did know that, but the jalapamine interfered with his access to the other hosts. He nodded. “Sorry.”

    The Vulcan turned away. “Apologies are irrevelant, you did not have sufficient knowledge to make the correct decision. Now, come.”

    Jasto watched him walk off into the desert, his heart sinking. This is a really bad idea, he thought. Not that I have any choice. Burying his fears as best he could, Jasto sighed and followed the Vulcan into the heart of the desert.


    It felt as though they had been walking for hours. The heat had become a constant companion, an unceasing weight on Jasto’s shoulders. He felt as though he had time travelled back to his time in the Academy, trudging through the Kish’baher desert on Romulus during survival training. He had hated it then, and he hated it now.

    He didn’t feel thirsty, he realised after a while. He didn’t even feel the need to drink. They had been walking for so long that he should have keeled over from dehydration by now. He tried to use that knowledge, to tell himself that his body was actually nice and cool in his quarters back on Redemption. It didn’t work.

    His guide, however, didn’t even seem to feel the heat. Whether that was just normal Vulcan behaviour or whether he simply had better control over his construct body, Jasto had no idea. He just wished that he would share whatever trick was allowing Q’sar to walk across the sand as if he were strolling through a meadow.

    The desert didn’t seem to change around them, an endless array of white and yellow grains of sand, broken every so often by regular outcroppings of dark grey rock. Jasto never saw a single animal, nor a bird in the sky – that made sense if the whole thing was just a creation of their joint imaginations. Still, he wished that something would break the monotony.

    After what seemed like a half day of hiking through the sand, Jasto thought he saw something up ahead, a smudge of black on the horizon. Wonderful, he thought. Now I’m hallucinating. As their trek went on, though, he realised that what he had seen was real.

    It was a camp site. As they drew nearer, Jasto saw that there were tents, plural, gathered around what appeared to be a rather large fire pit. A handful of implements hung from a wooden frame, and a large tarpaulin had been strung out over the top, providing shade. Jasto started to quicken his pace, desperate to get out of the sun. He was moving so fast he almost didn’t see Haebron until it was too late.

    The former Dax host sat cross legged on a mat beside the empty fire pit. He had a knife in his hand and a sonic pommel that he dragged along the blade every few seconds. The sound sent shivers down Jasto’s back. He knew that sound, had heard it echoing in his head late at night.

    While he held back, Q’sar walked purposefully towards the camp, forcing Jasto to follow him. By the time they reached the outskirts, Haebron was on his feet, smiling widely.

    “Hello strangers,” he said. “Welcome to my home away from home.”

    Q’sar turned and looked at Jasto, one eyebrow raised. Jasto just shrugged. This wasn’t what he had been expecting either.

    “Please,” Haebron went on. “Join me.”

    Both officers held back, unsure how to proceed. Haebron seemed to sense that and his eyes narrowed slightly.

    “I said. Join me.”

    Jasto decided it would probably be best to get the confrontation over and done with. Standing his ground, he shook his head.

    “No. Not until we have a chance to talk.”

    “What do you want to talk to about?” Haebron seemed genuinely confused, though his voice remained deathly cold.

    “About your hounding me. It’s time you let go, Haebron. It’s time you gave it up.”

    Haebron simply stared at him for a moment, then he threw his head back and laughed. The sound was so familiar to Jasto from the darker parts of his mind that he felt himself go cold. When Haebron went suddenly silent, though, that cold turned to ice. Haebron glared at him.

    “You think you understand? You think you know what is happening? What I am doing? You think you know what I have been through?”

    He lifted his hand and gestured to the left. Jasto felt an unseen force grab him and throw him to the side. He had time to shriek briefly before all the breath was forced from his body by the impact of his landing. He gasped, pain throbbing in his left arm.

    “You think you know what I’ve been through?” he heard Haebron scream. ‘You think you can understand?”

    His voice thundered and as if in answer, Jasto felt a hot wind blow past him, stinging his cheek and lips with sand and grit.

    “You think you can tell me to let it go?!!!”

    The wind turned to a gale. Jasto couldn’t see anything more than a few paces in front of him. He opened his mouth to beg Haebron to stop, to order Q’sar to get them out of this, but the sand surged forward, filling his mouth with dry dirt. He spat it out, but more poured in. It seemed like the wind was creating some kind of a funnel, designed to allow as much sand as possible to infiltrate Jasto’s open mouth. He tried to scream, but all he managed was choking sound.

    When the sand began to fill his nostrils as well, Jasto started to suffocate. Waving his hands wildly as if he could somehow move the sand away manually, he fell to his knees. He didn’t dare open his eyes – he was sure that the sand would easily scour them from their sockets. Trying to get a breath, he sent out a silent plea.

    Please, end this, pl--

    Jasto Dax’s Quarters


    Jasto’s eyes flew open and he found that he was able to take a breath. For a moment, he found himself propelled back in time, to the day when he first received Dax. He could see it clearly, the flickering light on the cave walls, the sensation of vertigo that came over him and a sudden breathlessness as the symbiont passed from Haebron to him… He let the breath out in a shuddering rasp.

    As he tried to calm his beating heart, Jasto heard a moan sound from somewhere nearby. He forced himself to focus long enough to see Q’sar, in the process of raising his head from the bed where he had fallen. His eyes were closed and an expression of pain was plastered on his face, the first expression of any emotion that he had seen, apart from the sudden anger in the desert.

    Taking a few deep breaths, Jasto tried to banish the phantom sensation of sand filling his lungs and the echoes of memory from his Joining. He turned his head slightly, wincing as his muscles creaked, and saw Doctor Malok staring at both of them, a snarl on his face.

    “What happened?” Jasto asked, his voice coming out as a croak.

    “You…” The big Klingon trailed off, looking stricken. He took a deep breath before continuing. “Both of your lifesigns began to spike. Heart rate, blood pressure, endorphin levels – they all flew off the chart. I had to terminate the mind-meld to bring you back.”

    “Thank you,” Jasto managed to whisper.

    “What- What happened in there?”

    “Haebron Dax did not seem amenable to conversation,” Q’sar responded. Jasto glanced at the Vulcan and saw that he seemed to have regained his former control.

    “That’s an understatement, “Jasto snapped. “He lost it and attacked us with a sand storm. He tried to kill us.”

    “Unlikely,” Q’sar interrupted. “If he had truly intended to kill you, Lieutenant, he would have done so. I believe he was merely trying to frighten you.”

    “Frighten me? Well he succeeded.”

    “A pity.”

    Jasto stared at Q’sar, eyes wide as he realised what the Vulcan was implying. “He just tried to suffocate us with sand. You don’t really think I’m going back in there?”

    “As I said, your former host seemed to wish to frighten us. He recognised me, he knew where we were and I believe he knew the limits of his power. The question you should be asking yourself is, if he was trying to frighten you, what is he so afraid of?”

    Jasto opened his mouth to refute what the Vulcan had said, then he thought about it for a moment. If Haebron had really been trying to scare them away, stop them from coming back, it might mean that he believed Jasto had a chance of getting rid of him by continuing. Maybe he knows something about this I don’t. The thought was worth considering.

    After a few moments, he shrugged. “Maybe you’re right. I need some time to think about it.”

    Q’sar nodded. “That is acceptable. You may contact me when you have decided.”

    With that, the Vulcan turned and walked out, leaving Jasto to stare after him, his head throbbing. Part of him rebelled at the mere idea of going back into his mind to track Haebron down, but another part wondered whether the gains weren’t worth the risk. This is going to take some thought.

    He looked up to see Doctor Malok studying him anxiously. When Jasto smiled in an effort to reassure him, the massive Klingon grinned, showing teeth sharp enough to make Jasto’s stomach roil.

    “Well,” Malok said happily, “that could have been worse.”

    Jasto started to laugh.

    Captain’s Ready Room

    Prin groaned as she stood up from Bay’s desk and walked over to the replicator. Pressing her hand against the wall, she leaned in.

    “Raktajino, Cardassian variety B14, hot.”

    With a hum, the replicator transmuted molecules taken from throughout the ship’s recycling systems into a silver Starfleet mug, steam wafting up from the liquid contents. Prin reached in and grabbed the cup around the middle, lifting it to take a deep breath of the coarse, bracing drink.

    Her synapses seemed to snap all at once as the smell hit her senses, reminding her of long, boring patrol missions along the Andorian border. Raktajino was the only thing that had kept her going during her stint onboard the Invincible. Say one thing about Redemption, she thought, it is never boring.

    Of course, back on the Invincible, she hadn’t had access to replicators either. They were considered a luxury on most Starfleet vessels, considering the dire need for them on the various rebuilding projects throughout Federation space. Redemption was the only ship to have had them installed, as far as she knew.

    Slightly more awake than she had been, Prin walked back to the desk and settled back into the seat. Rubbing a hand over her neck, pressing her fingertips into the soft skin between her ridges and her shoulderblades, she tried to concentrate on the duty roster’s again.

    Ever since Ba’el had beamed over to Onyx Station, Prin had been pulling almost non-stop duty shifts. She was having to juggle the job of a captain, a first officer and – in the absence of Dax – second officer, as well. No wonder I need a pick-me-up, she thought.

    Her eyes scanned the list of recommendations, names of officers, non-coms and cadets blurring into a misty whole as seconds turned into minutes. If it hadn’t been for the message that suddenly appeared on her screen, she would probably have fallen asleep.

    Blinking her eyes, Prin frowned at the small rectangle announcing that someone had sent her a message. Pressing her thumb against the screen, she called it up.

    There was no introductory text, or even a signature. Instead, the moment she opened the message, another screen popped up, some kind of camera recording. It took Prin a moment to make sense of what she was seeing, but when she did, she felt her blood congeal.

    Oh no. No, it can’t be. She shook her head, as if the simple motion could wipe away what she was seeing. This has to be a trick, a hoax of some kind. In her inner self, though, she knew that it wasn’t. Considering how things had already developed onboard Redemption, this could only be real.

    Once the recording had finished, Prin sat there for a moment, trying to process what she had seen. After a moment, she reached forward and began the playback again.

    After the fourth viewing, Prin started to run a battery of tests, probing the recording for any signs of tampering. While the computer did its thing, she walked over to the replicator and ordered another raktajino. Taking it over to the viewport, she stared out at Onyx Station as it spun before her, trying not to think too much about what she had seen.

    The computer beeped. Fearing what she would see, Prin walked slowly back to the desk and stared down at the results. 97%. 97% probability that the recording was real. Damn.

    She couldn’t put it off any further. Not something this important. Hating herself for what she was about to do, Prin reached up and tapped her comm badge.
  16. CaptainSarine

    CaptainSarine Commander Red Shirt

    Aug 27, 2009
    Lyon, France
    Not sure why, this one ended up posting twice... Edited to remove the second copy
  17. Mistral

    Mistral Vice Admiral Admiral

    Dec 5, 2007
    Between the candle and the flame
    Ok, the Vulcan desert scene rocked. How the situation resolves should prove interesting. The bit about the transmission-that's just going to get ugly.
  18. TheLoneRedshirt

    TheLoneRedshirt Commodore Commodore

    May 22, 2007
    Great job portraying the mind-meld, particularly the imagery of Vulcan. The results were about what I anticipated - still, there's a glimmer of hope if Haebron was indeed fearful (though I'm not convinced of that). Haebron still seems to have the upper hand and gaining strength.

    I agree with Mistral - the bit about the transmission does not bode well.
  19. kes7

    kes7 Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

    Jan 29, 2008
    Sector 001
    I have to pretty much echo Mistral here, too. The mind meld was well done, creepy and exquisitely described. I loved Q'Sar's logical reaction to it all.

    I also agree that I think the situation with Kalara is about to get seriously ugly. I almost feel like I have to cover my eyes and read the coming segments through my fingers like a kid hiding from a scary movie -- between whatever is about to happen with Sarine on that station and the situation with Kalara and the spies ... oh, boy, some rocky stuff ahead!

    Fantastic, as always.
  20. CaptainSarine

    CaptainSarine Commander Red Shirt

    Aug 27, 2009
    Lyon, France
    Chapter 14

    Council Chamber
    Ispaoreai Hyps’rat (Onyx Station)

    The second day of negotiations did not go any better than the first.

    Sat two chairs down from Benjamani, Kalara tried to keep her concentration on the talks, although all she wanted to do was scream.

    One of the key reasons for that was the Laurentii. In two days of negotiations, the furthest the negotiating team had been able to get was in convincing them to admit that they did want the negotiations to go forth - and that was only because Admiral Qwert had threatened to walk out unless they did. The ambassador had not reacted well to that.

    Benjamani was the second reason Kalara wanted to scream. With everything that she had seen about Benjamani aboard Redemption, notably her way of reacting to Sarine, Kalara had expected the human woman to be a cold-hearted negotiator, a predator circling her prey. Instead, Benjamani was acting like a wounded targ-pup facing a kispahound - she spent most of her time whimpering and keening, trying to convince the Laurentii that she was a friend and not a threat.

    Case in point, Kalara thought, her thoughts returning to the talks as Benjamani spoke over Admiral Qwert. The Ferengi had been scornfully dismissing a proposal for commercial exchanges of mineral deposits when the ambassador interrupted.

    "What my esteemed colleague is trying to say," she said, glowering at the admiral, "is that we will be more than willing to discuss financial implications at a later date."

    "Actually," Qwert insisted, "I was saying that as far as I'm concerned, the commercial proposals being made are worth as much as my moogies old--"

    "That is enough, admiral!" Benjamani snapped.

    Qwert seemed so surprised by her reaction that he actually did what she asked.

    "As I was saying," Benjamani went on, "commercial transactions are better discussed once we have a firm commitment from both parties to..."

    Kalara tuned the ambassador's voice out. She could hardly believe that the woman had so openly slapped Qwert down, in front of the Laurentii and the other Starfleet officers. I don't think she realises what thin ice she is walking on, she thought.

    A sound from behind her caught Kalara's attention - the familiar chirp of a comm badge. She twisted her head around slightly in time to see a Romulan security officer reach up and tap his badge, responding to the hail. She turned back to face the Laurentii, then twisted around again when she heard her name.

    The security officer was staring at her, but the moment he saw her watching, he dropped his gaze. Kalara frowned, wondering what the hell was going on. She turned back to the table in time to see Benjamani glaring at her as one of the Laurentii took up the negotiations. Kalara shrugged and tried to pretend to be listening to what the alien was saying.

    A minute later, she sensed the security officer approaching her from behind. A hand appeared over her shoulder and a single finger tapped her on the shoulder.

    Kalara craned her head round to stare up at the Romulan. She noticed that he had dark brown hair, almost black, cut close around his pointed ears. His eyes, though, were blue, the colour of the sky over Khitomer in the middle of summer. His face had that expressionless quality that all security officers seemed to put on along with their uniforms.

    "I need you to come with me, Lieutenant-Commander."

    Kalara frowned and indicated the table with her head. "Can't it wait?"

    The man shook his head. "I'm sorry but I really need you to come with me.

    Kalara was about to argue when she realised that the Laurentii had stopped speaking and was staring at her. She didn't even need to turn her head to know that Benjamani would be glaring. She was really beginning to wonder whether the woman had any other facial expression.

    Refusing to bow or scrape to these diplomats, she stood from her chair. "If you would excuse me," she said, never losing eye contact with the Laurentii. The male stared back at her, then nodded his head. It was difficult to tell with those eye strips instead of eyes but Kalara liked to think that there was the slightest hint of respect in that silver strip.

    Turning, she accompanied the security officer out of the negotiating room. As the wall irised open before her, she stepped outside, opening her mouth already to demand what the hell was going on. She closed it again when she saw Lieutenant Vareen standing there, her insectile body straight as a rod.

    "Lieutenant? What is wrong?" She felt a cold blade in her heart. Damien. Something had happened to...

    "Lieutenant-Commander, I have been ordered to escort you back to the ship."

    Kalara blinked. "What has happened to Damien?"

    The Xindi security chief frowned. "Damien? I am not sure what you are referring to."

    "My husband. Has something happened to him?"

    Shaking her head, Vareen took a step forward. "I have been ordered by Captain Sarine to see you back to the ship. He wishes to speak with you."

    "About what?"

    "I'm not privy to that information, Lieutenant-Commander. I have my orders."

    Kalara felt a surge of anger. "You mean to tell me that you've dragged me out of these negotiations because Sarine wants a chat?"

    "The captain," Vareen placed special emphasis on the title, "needs to see you regarding an important matter."

    "Well, he can take it up with the ambassador, I answer to her not to Captain Sarine."

    To her surprise, the Xindi took another step forward and put her hand around Kalara's arm. Kalara became very still, her eyes boring into Vareen's.

    "If you value your life, you'll get your hand off me, Lieutenant."

    "And if you value yours, you will come with me."

    The two women faced off, Kalara tensing up in preparation for the fight she knew was coming. She had no idea what this was all about, but she outranked the security officer and she wasn't going to allow her to manhandle her. She had clenched her fist, ready to break Vareen's hold on her arm when the wall behind her irised open again.

    Benjamani barrelled out of the negotiating room. "What the hell is--" She trailed off when she saw what was happening. Her eyes widened for an instant, then narrowed. "Are you out of your minds?" she hissed.

    She took a step towards the two women, then seemed to think better of it, her feet stalling. Her voice, though, was as sharp as d'ktagh knife. "We are in the middle of the most important negotiations the Federation may ever participate in and the two of you are fighting in the middle of the corridor? Is this the best Starfleet has to offer? Get away from one another. Now!"

    Kalara reflexively took a step back, at the same time as Vareen released her hold on her arm. The two women split apart, though neither one truly relaxed.

    "Now what the hell is all this about?"

    Kalara spoke before Vareen could. "Lieutenant Vareen has been sent by Captain Sarine to bring me back to the ship."

    "What for?"

    "I was not informed of the reasons why, Ambassador, but my orders were strict. I am to bring the Lieutenant-Commander back to the ship and she is to report to Captain Sarine's ready room."

    Kalara expected Benjamani to tell Vareen to return to the ship and tell Sarine to keep out of the negotiating team's affairs, but instead Benjamani turned on her.

    "And you refused?"

    "I-- Of course I refused. Sarine has no authority to order me back to the ship."

    Benjamani stepped closer to Kalara. "Do you really think this is the time for us to show any kind of disunity to the Laurentii? They cannot be shown any weakness."

    Kalara thought about reminding Benjamani of her own weakling stance towards the Laurentii negotiators, not to mention her outburst against Admiral Qwert, but she decided there was no point. Despite her own failings, Benjamani had a point. Honour required that she support her commanding officer - even if that officer was a p’tagh negotiator - to the best of her ability. She bowed her head.

    "Of course, ambassador. I will report to Captain Sarine immediately."

    "Good. As soon as Sarine is done with you, return here. I will need your help with Qwert this evening."

    Without waiting to see whether Kalara ackowledged her order, the ambassador turned and swept back through the wall, into the negotiating chamber. Kalara felt her anger rise up like a firestorm on the moons of Kevek, but she tamped it down with difficulty. If things continued this way, she was going to have to book a full day on the holodeck to unwind.

    Turning away from the wall, Kalara faced Vareen proudly. "You may escort me to the transporter room," she said.

    As she followed the Xindi security chief down the corridor, though, Kalara felt a tendril of doubt slip through the cracks in her confidence. What the hell could Sarine want?

    USS Redemption

    Ten minutes later, Kalara stepped off the turbolift and onto the bridge, Vareen at her side.

    The security chief had insisted on seeing Kalara all the way to Sarine's ready room, which Kalara couldn't understand. She knew that the Xindi officer had been uncomfortable around her ever since the infamous face down with Sarine in the aftermath of the Klingon attack, doing everything she could to prove to Sarine that she was a loyal crewmember now that he was in charge. Still, that couldn't really explain her obvious anger against her.

    A handful of the officers looked up at Kalara as she passed, most of them nodding genialy at her. She recognised one or two of them from their Starfleet service records, identifying them as people she had chosen to serve onboard Redemption. She felt a familiar pang, which she pushed down. No point worrying over spilled cheese, she thought, repeating one of Damien's nonsensical expressions with an inner smile.

    Arriving at the doors to the ready room, Vareen stepped in front of Kalara and pressed the door chime. The doors opened of their own volition seconds later and Kalara stepped inside.

    Sarine stood behind his desk, Prin Ly'et at his side. His eyes glowed with more anger than Kalara had ever seen in them. Ly'et seemed uncomfortable, as if she wanted to be somewhere else.

    "Reporting as ordered," Kalara said, keeping her voice low and full of ice. Just like mother's, she thought wryly. She didn't want to give Sarine the satisfaction of thinking he could just order her around whenever he wanted.


    Kalara blinked despite herself. "Excuse me?"

    "Reporting as ordered, captain."

    "Bay..." Prin whispered, still not meeting Kalara's eyes.

    For the first time, Kalara felt a twinge of fear beneath her anger. The tone of Sarine's voice... He sounded furious.

    "Why am I here?"

    Sarine didn't respond. His eyes boring into Kalara's, he reached forward and spun round the console on his desk. Kalara took an involuntary step forward to be able to better see the screen as Sarine pressed a button on the side.

    She frowned as she saw herself on the screen. She recognised the room around her as Doctor Malok's office down in sickbay, but the doctor wasn't there. The image crackled, white noise disrupting the recording. When it snapped back into focus, Kalara saw herself move around the desk and sit down in Malok's chair. Her frown deepened.

    I never--

    Her thoughts shattered as the audio began to play in the room. As Kalara listened, she felt her hearts begin to beat faster, soon so loud that she could hardly hear her voice over the speakers as she spoke to General K’mpak. Her mouth grew dry and she shook her head. No. No, this isn't possible. It can't be.

    The recording became more and more distorted as it progressed, but the damage was done. Kalara clearly heard herself providing General K’mpak with the codes and all the information he needed to carry out his attack on Romulus. The only conscious thought going through her mind was This isn't possible. This isn't possible. This...

    Dissolving into a final burst of static, the recording ended. Kalara stood there, staring at the black screen. She might have stood there for eternity if Sarine hadn't spoken.

    "What do you have to say for yourself, Lieutenant?"

    Her mind numb, Kalara looked up at the captain. Vaguely, she realised that his hand was shaking on the console. Repressed anger.


    "This is damning evidence, Lieutenant-Commander," Prin Ly'et said. "If you have any information that can help us make sense of what we just saw, you need to give it to us now."


    "Dammit, Lieutenant! Say something!"

    "It wasn't me."

    Even as she said the words, Kalara knew how laughable they sounded.

    "Of course it wasn't," Sarine spat.

    "It wasn't."

    "We've run every test imaginable," Sarine went on as if she hadn't spoken. "Every single one proves conclusively that the recording is real. Image and voice recognition programs have also confirmed that it is you on there."

    Kalara shook her head. "No. No, I--"

    "Please, Lieutenant-Commander," Ly'et pressed. "If you have an explanation..."

    "Malok!" Kalara spat out suddenly. "Doctor Malok, he knows. He approached me when I returned to Redemption, claimed that he had spoken to me on the day of the launch. I told him I hadn't been on the ship then."

    "Why didn't you mention this sooner?" Ly'et asked.

    "I..." I wanted to solve the mystery on my own, Kalara thought. Of course, with everything that had happened since then, she had found herself pushing her search for the doppleganger further and further back in her list of priorities. "I was not sure you would believe me."

    "You were not sure we would believe you? Why is that? Perhaps because you have no proof."

    Kalara felt a surge of anger overcome her fear and her disarray, washing everything away in a wave of fire. "Or maybe because you have wanted to see the back of me since I stood up to you on the bridge during the Klingon attack."

    "An attack that you precipitated," Sarine snapped. "That certainly puts a new spin on your refusal to follow my orders and destroy that ship, doesn't it? Perhaps you were simply trying to protect your true colleagues."

    Kalara didn't realise she had moved until she was half across Sarine's desk. Her hands curled into claws, she reached for his throat. A veil of pure red fury obscured her vision, her breath coming in a series of short gasps as her whole body tensed for battle. Red hot anger leant her a speed and agility beyond even her usual standards. If Ly'et hadn't intervened, she would have ripped Sarine’s throat out.

    As it was, Ly'et reached over and grabbed one of Kalara's wrists. To Kalara's surprise, the Cardassian woman put pressure on a specific point just below her palm and a torrent of pain rushed through her body, washing away the anger like a river might tear down a tree. Screaming out, Kalara felt her body spasm and she crashed down on the desk.

    Distantly, she heard Sarine call out for security and moments later rough hands grabbed at her and dragged her off the wooden surface. Kalara bit back another scream - this time of fury - as the security guards hauled her to her feet in front of the deck.

    Sarine stared at her, his eyes cold. Beside him, Ly'et seemed to be slightly uneasy at the turn things had taken, but Kalara could not see any pity or regret in those reptilian eyes.

    "Lieutenant-Commander Kalara," Sarine began, his voice flint-hard and inflectionless, "I hereby place you under arrest according to Starfleet Regulation 798.0. You are accused of treason against the Federation and are henceforth stripped of your rank."

    He looked past Kalara at the two security guards. "Take her down to the brig. I want round the clock security on her, understood?"

    "Aye, captain."

    As the two security guards dragged her away, Kalara's eyes never left Sarine's. "You'll regret this, Sarine. I swear to you, you'll regret this."

    Then the doors sliced shut, cutting him off from view.

    Ready Room

    As soon as the doors closed, Prin felt all of the pent up tension rush out of her in a flood. She put both her hands on the desk, leaning all of her body weight on her upper arms, and drew a ragged breath.

    "Are you alright?" Bay asked from beside her.

    She turned her head to look at him. He had beamed over as soon as she had contacted him about the recording. They had watched it together, and she had been surprised to see the look of disappointment on his face as he watched Kalara sell the Federation's secrets to the Klingons. After everything that had happened, she had expected him to be exultant. Instead, he had just looked tired.

    He still looked tired now, the righteous fury he had shown Kalara vanishing the moment she was out of sight. He made an obvious effort to overcome it, though, obviously worried about her. She took a page from his book, straightening. "I'm fine."

    "Thank you."

    "For what?"

    "For saving my neck from another angry Klingon."

    Prin laughed hollowly, remembering the brawl on Risa during the war. "You owe me."

    "Put it on my tab."

    This time, neither of them smiled.

    "Do you think we did the right thing?" Prin asked finally.

    Bay shook his head. "I don't see what else we could have done."

    "What if she's telling the truth?"

    "Then we'll find some kind of evidence to disculpate her. But do you really think we could leave her on the bridge until then?"

    Prin shook her head. "I guess not." She took a moment to collect herself, then straightened up from the desk. "I assume you'll be returning to the station?"

    He nodded. "Someone is going to have to tell Ambassador Benjamani." He winced. "Not something I'm looking forward to."

    "No, I guess not."

    "You did good, Prin. Real good."

    Although she smiled, Prin couldn't share the sentiment. If I've done good, she thought, how come I feel like I've just made a huge mistake?