UT10: Dark Territory: Conspirata

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction' started by DarKush, Dec 25, 2016.

  1. DarKush

    DarKush Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Nov 18, 2005
    Happy Holidays everyone! As the year is nearing a close and the 10th anniversary of United Trek is almost over, I wanted to post my contributions to that great collective. I had hoped that the story would be finished by the new year but that might not be the case. However I can at least get the ball rolling.

    I want to thank CeJay, Galen, and The Lone Redshirt for their work in commemorating and celebrating the anniversary and all of United Trek for creating this really cool writing collective.

    My own entry "Conspirata" is chock full of UT references but also other references to other fan fiction series/ships that influenced my own foray into Trek fanfic. I hope no one is offended if you see a familiar ship name, it is meant as an homage only.

    Before I get to the story I want to thank everyone who writes for the UT for creating this great shared experience, but also all the readers and commenters over the last ten years. I wish you all the best in the years to come.

    Historian's Note: "Conspirata" takes place after the Dark Territory story "Parasite Eve" which ran concurrently with the TNG episode "Conspiracy". The events of this story also occur after the TNG episode "The Neutral Zone".
     
    Last edited: Dec 25, 2016
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  2. DarKush

    DarKush Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Nov 18, 2005
    DARK TERRITORY:

    CONSPIRATA

    PART ONE: DEN OF LIONS

    USS Renegade

    Tigon Sector

    Late 2364


    “These bastards didn’t get the get the memo the war’s over,” Commander Frederick Holmes groused, standing at the prow of the bridge. The man was staring hard at the main viewer. The sleek, blood-red star ship filled the viewer. It was heavily streaming plasma.

    “Lt. Neela, target their propulsion system,” Lt. Commander Glover ordered. The man forced himself to remain seated. He felt he should be standing beside Holmes; actually he should be standing at the bridge’s bow by himself.

    “Aye sir,” the Andorian tactical officer replied. Seconds later, two lances of phaser fire pierced the benighted ship with such force that it spun it around.

    “The raider is powering forward disruptors,” Glover announced. Holmes grunted.

    “Make them regret it Neela,” Holmes said, turning his back to the viewer.

    “Yes sir,” Neela promised. Glover didn’t have to look at the woman to see that she was smiling; he could hear it in her voice. Two photon torpedoes later the Renegade flew through the atomized remnants of the raider.

    “Bring us about,” Holmes commanded. “And take us back to Tigon Outpost. We’ve still got some cleaning up to do.”

    *************************************************************************

    Tigon Outpost

    Tigon III


    As soon as Commander Glover materialized on the station, he felt a strange sense of relief. It felt good to be free of the Renegade, if only for a moment. He breathed in the tang of fired circuits and spent ozone. The corridor was wrecked, with cut, sparking cables hanging from the bulkheads and wall consoles shattered.

    “I love the smell of battle too,” Neela said, brushing against him as she rushed forward, a phaser in one hand and an ushaan-tor in the other. Glover thought about calling the woman back. He liked taking lead on away missions, but then he shrugged. He glanced at the other members of the landing party.

    “Let’s go,” he prodded. The Security Officers Diggs and Hallford both nodded curtly before falling behind Glover.

    The away team didn’t encounter much resistance as they made their way through the station. What they had encountered unfortunately was a lot of death and devastation.

    “The kitties did quite a bit of damage,” Hallford muttered.

    “Yeah,” Diggs replied.

    Glover both gave them a hard look and both security officers immediately quieted and gripped their phaser rifles tighter. Terrence pointed to one of his ears. “If the Tzenkethi are lurking about, they can hear you,” he whispered.

    “They probably can smell us,” Neela also whispered. “They have an excellent sense of smell,” she added. Terrence nodded in agreement.

    “But why did they do this?” Hallford prompted. Glover frowned at the woman’s outburst, even though she whispered it.

    “We don’t know,” Glover said. And that lack of knowledge was troubling. The ink probably hadn’t even dried on the peace treaty ending the years long war with the Tzenkethi and now a force had attacked Tigon Station. Was it the start of renewed hostilities?

    “And it doesn’t really matter,” Neela replied, with an eagerness that Glover also found troubling. Neela was one of the newer members of the crew, brought in by Commander Holmes and approved by Captain Scott. Her file noted her record fighting in some of the most heated battles of the wars with both the Cardassians and Tzenkethi. The woman had also fought against the Tholians. There was nothing in her psych profile that had caused Glover alarm, but maybe the shrinks missed something.

    He resolved to keep his eye on Neela along with whatever Tzenkethi might be out there. To that, Glover flipped open his tricorder and waved it about.

    “Any bio-signs sir?” Diggs asked. Holmes had decided to drop them in this section of the space station because it wasn’t marred by venting radiation and electric and plasma fire, which interfered with Renegade’s sensors.

    Glover wanted to make it to the command center to check on the senior staff and also to secure the starbase’s important systems. The ship’s second officer, Lt. Commander Rocha was leading the engineering team to the station’s reactor room.

    Terrence wanted to make sure he could lend Rocha a hand if necessary. Beyond that he wanted to accomplish his task before the second officer did, to be on hand when or if Rocha called up to the command center. Glover wanted to show the man that he was on top of things and not someone to be trifled with.

    Aleixo Rocha was also another one of Holmes’s picks. When Holmes had become acting captain, and Glover had been bumped up to executive officer, that left a vacancy in both the second officer and operations officer slots. Rocha filled both.

    The first officer had learned from service files, not from Holmes since the man didn’t talk much about his personal life and certainly wouldn’t with Glover, that Holmes had served with Rocha’s mother years before on the Calypso. And the scuttlebutt was that Holmes and Rocha’s mother had been more than colleagues and that the stern old sinoraptor actually looked upon Aleixo like the son he never had.

    It made Terrence even more suspicious that Holmes was using Captain Scott’s long convalescence after the neural parasite incident to solidify his grip on the ship. He was already remaking it in his image, replacing key personnel that had requested transfers, or in Mr. Gart’s case, were court martialed.

    Glover had tried to talk to Tryla about it, but she hadn’t taken any of his calls. Things were still on the outs with them. Tryla had told him it was over after the parasites had been defeated, but Terrence hadn’t accepted that, couldn’t accept it. Tryla was his captain, and his mentor, but more importantly, she had been his lover and his friend.

    He wanted to be there for her, somehow, but she had kept pushing him away. She had told him to leave, but all that had done was make him stay, in the hopes that they could patch things up. He owed her that much.

    “Any lifesigns sir?” Diggs gingerly asked again. Glover blinked, squinted at the man, and then remembered the scanner in his hands. He glanced down at it. “Around this corner, several signs…indistinct,” he replied, frowning. “The radiation is still screwing with this thing. It can’t tell whether the lifesigns are Tzenkethi or non-Tzenkethi.”

    “There’s only one way to find out sir,” Lt. Neela grinned. She took off around the corner before Glover could stop her.

    Seconds later he heard a fearsome growl, a terrible crunch, a ghastly scream and then nothing. Glover stared hard at the two younger crewmen. He wanted to steel their spines and his own. He held up his phaser and nodded. “One three….” But Glover was already taking the corner before he got to two.


    *************************************************************************
     
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  3. DarKush

    DarKush Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Nov 18, 2005
    *************************************************************************

    Tigon Outpost

    Tigon III



    Glover hesitated, momentarily overcome by horror. The three Tzenkethi warriors were crouching in the corridor, and still nearly reached the ceiling. He had never faced the Tzenkethi in hand-to-hand combat. His one tour of duty in the Tzenkethi war zone had been the crushing loss in the Rolor Nebula, and Terrence wasn’t looking forward to the fight that was brewing, but he would do his best to stand tall at the end of it. The biggest warrior held Neela’s arm between his large jaws and was chewing slowly, the bones splintering with each bite.

    The woman’s blue blood was smeared across the felinoid’s breastplate and ran down his chest. At his clawed feet Neela was crumbled, blood still gushing from the stump of her arm. Glover knew that the woman only had seconds, if that, before she bled to death. But her end might come even faster as the other two Tzenkethi hovered over her, both salivating, thick drops of saliva falling over the downed woman.

    The three warriors turned at the arrival of the rest of the away team. “Fire,” Glover found his voice. “Expanding energy pulse,” he ordered. Both Hallford and Diggs swung up their phaser rifles and began pouring out phaser fire.

    One of the Tzenkethi leering over Neela was felled instantly. The other moved with devilish quickness, jumping high in the air, issuing a harrowing roar. Glover took aim at the biggest Tzenkethi, but the creature beat him to the punch, throwing Neela’s severed limb at him, smacking Glover’s arm and making his shot go to the side. Before Glover could recover, the warrior was in the air.

    Terrence tried to fire but the mass of brown fur and claws crashed into him, knocking him to the ground. Glover threw up his forearm underneath the warrior’s chin, pushing into his throat to keep him from making Glover’s face a meal. And the Tzenkethi was trying to do just that, striking down, with bloodied, flashing fangs, as he attempted to take a big chunk of out of the first officer’s face. And when he was diving in for dinner he was ripping and tearing into Glover with his claws, both on his hands and feet.

    It was all Glover could do to keep the man’s head back. He tried to wriggle free of the warrior, but even with the minimal armor he wore; it felt the Tzenkethi weighed a ton. The warrior kept him pinned and knew it was only a matter of time before Glover’s resistance would wane and the Tzenkethi would have his supper.

    Despite the mountain on him, with his free hand Glover was searching for his phaser. He shifted, jabbing his elbow into the big cat’s throat, making the warrior squeal, and Glover took a bigger stab to find the phaser. But the Tzenkethi shifted to, stopping Terrence’s momentum.

    The creature hissed, thick spittle dropping on Glover’s face, “You know not what you unearth,” he said, “But your kind never does.”

    “What are you talking about?” He asked, but he was barely paying attention. Glover’s fingers found purchase. Not on his small phaser. It was something cool, metallic, and sharp. It took him only a moment to grasp the treasure he had found: Neela’s ushaan-tor!

    As carefully as possible, to avoid loping off his fingers, Glover maneuvered the serrated weapon around until he had it gripped into his hand. Terrence took one of the sharp ends of the weapon and pierced the warrior’s side. But Glover didn’t stop there; he tore across the man’s side, splitting open the flesh, the creature’s hot blood spewing out.

    The warrior jerked back his head, and shrieked. Glover began furiously stabbing. The Tzenkethi writhed in agony and then began diving at Glover, his jaws snapping madly. Terrence dodged his head as best as possible, wincing as the warrior took a tip of his ear. He used the pain to fuel his attack.

    Eventually it forced the warrior to push off Glover. He stumbled back, trying to clutch his torn side. He glared at Glover, his mouth opening into a wide grin. “You, your kind, your arrogance, we tried to warn you, tried to stop you, but now…there is nothing for you.”

    “Yeah, save it for the judge,” Terrence said. While the Tzenkethi had been backing away, he had recovered his phaser. It took four shots to down the injured warrior.

    Once the first officer was confident the warrior was down for the count, he looked around for the rest of the away team. Thankfully both Diggs and Hallford had survived, though both had seen better days. The two security guards, Diggs on one knee and leaning against his rifle, and Hallford, sitting, a stunned expression on her face were beside the smoking body of the still Tzenkethi warrior. Glover could tell the man was taking a permanent nap.

    “Are you two okay?” He asked as he rose on unsteady legs.

    “Yes sir,” they both said their voices as shaky as his legs.

    “You did good work, the both of you,” Glover said. “But Lt. Neela needs medical attention.”

    He walked stiffly over to the woman, his knees creaking as he leaned down. She was so still, so quiet, so pale, that he feared the worse. Terrence gingerly searched for the woman’s pulse. It was weak, but thankfully still there.

    He tapped his combadge. It took a moment to connect to the Renegade. He was surprised to hear Holmes voice, and not that of the communications officer. “Glover, what’s going on down there?”

    Terrence ignored him. “Sir, Lt. Neela has been critically injured. We need an emergency transport to sickbay.”

    It took Holmes a few seconds to respond. “Operations is telling me that section of the outpost is interfering with a transporter lock. Can Neela be moved to another part of the outpost?”

    “Negative,” Glover said before sighing. Did he have to tell Holmes and the ops guy who to do their jobs? “Have the transporter chief to boost the annular confinement beam,” he said.

    After a burst of static Holmes said, “That won’t account for the interference.”

    “Hallford, Diggs, your compins,” Terrence ordered. Diggs tossed the two delta-shaped devices over to Glover; he caught them and then detached his own. He placed them on gingerly on Neela’s body. “I’ve just jury rigged a pattern enhancer. Have the chief lock on the four communicators.”

    “That might not be sufficient,” Holmes said.

    Glover swallowed his frustration. “It’s the best we got sir, and Neela is fading.”

    “Understood,” the acting captain said. “Chief, energize.”

    The first officer’s heart caught in his throat as the whine of four transporter beams emerged from thin air and Neela’s body began to dematerialize. There was a fluctuation and the woman resolved back on the ground.

    “Again,” Glover muttered, not realizing that Holmes and Renegade didn’t hear him. Fortunately he didn’t need to prod them, because the beam took hold again, this time successfully scooping up the Andorian. He just hoped that Neela rematerialized in one piece in Sickbay.

    “We’re on our own now,” Glover said. He picked up the ushaan-tor he had dropped before checking on Neela.

    “Has it ever been different?” Hallford asked, blowing a strand of hair from her smudged face.

    “I like you,” Glover grinned. “Let’s get back to it.”

    **************************************************************************

    Tigon Outpost

    Tigon III


    “How do I know who you say you are?” The man’s voice was calm, but as hard as rodinium. The door to the commander’s office was scarred by both disruptor and claw marks, however it had held. The rest of the operations center had been wrecked, with a few bodies strewn about, both Starfleet and Tzenkethi.

    Glover had noted a stout woman, in security red, with her fingers dug into the throat of a dead-eyed Tzenkethi, the tip of a wicked blade poking up from her back, the two locked in a deathly embrace.

    “Probably the security chief,” Hallford had muttered to Diggs as they bypassed the woman. Once the control room had been swept to insure no Tzenkethi were lying in wait, Glover had moved to the door leading to the commander’s office.

    “Can’t you perform a scan?” Glover asked.

    “Scans can be falsified,” the man replied.

    The first officer glanced at both of his subordinates. He rolled his eyes, and then thought of another tactic. “I’ll give you my serial number. Your computers can verify it.”

    “Proceed,” the man said. Glover rattled off the long string of letters and numbers.

    “Terrence Glover?” Another voice, another male, asked. The voice was unfamiliar to Glover, but it did sound like the man knew him, or of him.

    “Yes,” Glover said slowly, a question underlining the answer.

    “Sheldon’s nephew?” The man ventured.

    “Yes,” Terrence said with more authority, but even more questions. How did this man know his Uncle Sheldon. Unlike Terrence, his father, or a long line of Glovers, Sheldon had eschewed joining Starfleet to pursue a career in archeology.

    “Open the door Varok,” the man now said; in a tone that Glover knew only came from those used to giving orders.

    The door slowly slid open. Glover’s eyes widened as an older Vulcan man stood in the doorway, a phaser pointed right at Terrence’s nose. Behind him, he heard both Hallford and Diggs going for their weapons.

    Before he could stop them, the other man inside the room spoke again. “Put that away Commander Varok.” The Vulcan hesitated, and Glover’s eyes nearly crossed as they focused on the depthless blackness of the emitter cone. “These are obviously not Tzenkethi. I am assuming that that threat has been neutralized.”

    The Vulcan slowly withdrew the weapon. He placed it on a holster at his hip, and Terrence saw that the man was wearing a utility coverall, sciences blue. Glover’s eyes refocused and he shifted his gaze to the tall, brown-skinned man smiling at him, beneath a thick grayish mustache. The man wore command red, the four pips on his collar revealing his rank. Terrence stood at attention.

    “Sir,” he addressed the superior officer.

    The man continued smiling. He said, “At ease Mr. Glover. I’m Captain Donald Varley,” he said. He glanced at the Vulcan. “And this is Lt. Commander Varok of the Starship Indefatigable, but on loan from the Vulcan Science Academy.”

    Varley asked, “How bad is our situation?”

    “Not good,” Glover said. He paused to send Diggs and Hallford over to the center’s communication console to contact both Commander Rocha and the Renegade. The first officer continued. “We haven’t encountered any other survivors amongst the outpost’s personnel,” he sadly informed them. Varok remained stoic while Varley’s face contorted with grief.

    “And the science colony?” The captain asked.

    “We had initially thought our shielding was sufficient against the assault,” The Vulcan added. “Once the shield deflectors were rendered inoperable, we alerted the colony’s residents to seek refuge in emergency shelters.”

    Glover frowned. “To be honest, we haven’t checked on the status of the scientists,” he admitted. “It appears the attack was centered on the outpost, and that Renegade arrived in just enough time to chase the Tzenkethi raider away and prevent them from sending down more soldiers or causing more damage to the colony.”
    “That is a relief at least,” Varley said.

    “If, I may ask,” Terrence ventured, with uncustomary reluctance, “Why did the Tzenkethi attack this outpost? Doing so, shortly after the conclusion of the war, it could render the peace treaty void. Is this a resuscitation of hostilities?”

    Varley looked at Varok, as if seeking permission. The Vulcan replied. “Do the Tzenkethi need a reason? They are a most illogical species.” The answer was too coy for Glover and he was about to say so, but Varley spoke instead.

    “Come with us Mr. Glover,” the captain said. Varok raised a protest, but Varley dismissed it.

    “If Mr. Glover is anything like his uncle I am sure he will appreciate what we have found here. And he is a good officer, he will keep this information to himself,” the man paused and looked at Glover, waiting until the younger man nodded in agreement. Once that was secured, Varley led him into the office. Varok stood watch by the door.

    On a room’s conference table sat a device Terrence never thought he would see again. It was a darkened box with alien metallic script spread across it. He had seen such a box light up before and he had barely survived that encounter, and Glover definitely didn’t want a repeat of that experience.

    Varley grunted, in obvious surprise. “So I see we’re not the only ones who harbor secrets, eh Mr. Glover?”

    “I-I suppose not sir,” he admitted.

    “I’m dying to ask you what you know about this thing,” Varley said, “But I got the inkling you’ve been sworn to secrecy about it.”

    “That would be correct sir,” Glover replied. He leaned close to the man and lowered his voice, “If…it talks to you, don’t listen.”

    “Talks?” Varley was skeptical.

    “Not literally talks…it’s more like, just a voice, a thought, thoughts, invades your mind, like tendrils,” Glover intimated. “I suggest that you lock this somewhere in a deep hold and don’t do any more investigations or scans until you’ve reached your destination.”

    “I see,” the captain rubbed his chin, his skepticism giving way to a concerned scowl. “Is this artifact dangerous?”

    “You have no idea,” Glover said, “and thankfully I don’t either, I don’t think any of us know the level of power or devastation contained in these artifacts,” he replied, “I’ve said too much.”

    “Can you at least tell me if it is Iconian in origin?” Varley asked. “I’ve already ruled out the Tzenkethi, Vhorani, Promellians, Hur’q, Preservers, Menthar, Progenitors, and Hyterians.” Recognition dawned in Glover’s eyes.

    “You’re Donnie?”

    Varley’s eyes twinkled. “I haven’t been called that in a long time. But yes, I used to go by that name.”

    “Uncle Sheldon did mention you,” Terrence said. “You were one of his classmates in Professor Galen’s class.”

    “Yes,” the captain said.

    “He had said you had a bee in your bonnet about the ancient Iconians,” Glover continued. “I’m, uh, sorry sir.”

    “No need to apologize,” Varley chuckled. “Never much for tact either and he was correct then and now still. I’ve been working with the Daystrom Institute on a joint project with the Science Academy. I believe that if we can discover Iconia and recover its ancient technology it will provide a great cultural and technological boon, and a boost to our own knowledge of the galaxy and even, quite possibly, revolutionize how we travel from planet to planet, and beyond. Imagine no more starships,” he marveled.

    “Actually sir, I rather like starship travel,” Terrence admitted.

    Varley merely laughed. “You know Mr. Glover, when I was a boy I read everything I could about Dr. Emory Erickson, inventor of the transporter, and fell in love with the idea of sub-quantum teleportation. However I never had much skill with engineering, but still that idea of traveling from planet to planet without starships stuck with me. And later on, when I learned of the Iconians, and their fabled gateways, it became a passion to find Iconia, and bring their gateway technology to our times.”

    “Sir, I don’t think this…container…is of Iconian design,” Glover revealed. “It could be much, much older.”

    “I see,” the captain’s expression was a mix of fascination and disappointment.

    “Beyond leaving it closed, I’m sorry sir but I can’t say more.”

    “No, no, I understand. At least we have found something of some value, obviously it drew the Tzenkethi here and made them risk restarting a war,” Varley surmised. “I just hope that this device was worth all the people who have died for it.”

    Glover wanted to tell the man that it wasn’t, that in fact it cause carnage on a much larger scale. All he would give is, “Time will tell sir.”

    “I suppose,” Varley said. He clapped his hands, letting it go. “Something tells me that this find is out of our hands now. Commander Varok will not be pleased,” he nodded the Vulcan’s direction.

    “Do you think he ever is?” Terrence smiled.

    The captain laughed. “I didn’t think humor was part of the Glover makeup,” he said. Terrence understood. Uncle Sheldon could be intense.

    “We’re full of surprises sir,” Glover replied.

    “Is that so?” Varley said, clapping Terrence on the back. “Well, then always remain so. Always keep them guessing.”

    “I’ll keep that in mind sir,” Glover nodded.

    “Time to attend to our real duties, eh?” Varley said. He led Terrence back out into the operations center. Commander Rocha and his team were in the room and the second officer was directing efforts. He was bent over the chair where the assistant chief engineer was sitting.

    “What’s our status Mr. Rocha?” Glover asked. The blond man looked up, his handsome face wreathed with concern.

    “The fusion reactors that power the outpost and the colony, they were destabilized during the attack, and since have ruptured,” Rocha said. “The reactors have gone into meltdown. We only have ten minutes. Chief Tog is trying to get us more time, but still, this outpost is done.” Glover glanced at the querulous Tellarite, another Holmes’s pick, who was rattling off a string of curses while she pounded out calculations on the console.

    “The colonists,” Varok said, with a hitch in his voice that belied his cool exterior.

    “I’m already ahead of you,” Glover said, racing to the communications terminal. Hallford was at the station.

    “Get Captain Holmes on the horn,” Glover said.

    “Holmes here,” the man’s voice crackled over the comm. Terrence told him about the reactor.

    “I’ve already sent shuttles down to help in the evacuation, and I’ve moved the ship closer to the planet to boost transporter strength if we have to do emergency beam outs.” Holmes said.

    “I-I wasn’t aware you were abreast of the situation sir,” Glover said tightly.

    “Commander Rocha informed me,” Holmes said. Glover’s jaw shifted, but he tamped down on his anger. Why hadn’t the second officer informed him as well?

    “I…see…sir,” Glover said.

    “I want you to work with Commander Rocha to get as many survivors as possible out of there, to the shuttles,” Holmes ordered.

    “Aye sir,” Terrence said crisply. He put his annoyance to the side. He had a job to do, and he would settle up with Rocha after.

    *************************************************************************
     
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  4. DarKush

    DarKush Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Nov 18, 2005
    *************************************************************************

    USS Renegade

    Phaser Range



    Terrence really didn’t give a damn about decorum, but he asked anyway, “Care if I join in?”

    Lt. Commander Rocha got off another shot before shrugging, “Sure, why not? That is…if you’re up to it sir?”

    Glover stepped into the circular stage, taking place on the blue portion. Rocha remained on the golden side of the illuminated stage. Terrence stared out into the darkness. He rolled his shoulders, the soreness from the fight with the Tzenkethi hadn’t completely receded, neither had the scratches, but none of it had been debilitating. Terrence had looked forward to getting back to work, but even more to after his shift was over so he could have words with the ship’s second officer.

    “I’m fine,” Glover said, quickly nailing a blue sphere of light with his phaser.

    “Good shot,” Rocha replied. “How is Lt. Neela by the way?”

    Terrence had checked on the woman before he began his shift. “Dr. Izaro said she’s resting. In addition to her arm, she suffered some massive internal bleeding.”

    “Damn shame,” The second officer dipped his head for just a moment, but popping it back up to tag a fast moving green burst.

    “Why didn’t you inform me about the fusion reactors first?” Glover asked, not wanting to prolong the issue.

    “It was a time issue sir,” The Portuguese man smoothly replied while hitting another photonic ball. This one had been even faster.

    “Enough so to forgo protocol?” Glover asked. He aimed at a yellow sphere, missing it by a hair. “Damn it.”

    Rocha looked at him and smiled, “Sir, I know you’re quite the pilot. I heard about that Nova Squad from ’54 when I was at the Academy, so I know you’re great at the helm, but I’m an excellent shot.”

    “Is that so?” Terrence frowned. To prove his point, Rocha aimed while still looking at Glover and found the silver sphere streaking by.

    “Yes, high marksman grades,” Rocha said. “Won highest honors at the last palio on Coridan. Probably could’ve been of some use there against those Tzenkethi soldiers you encountered in the corridor.”

    Glover shifted his jaw, his anger rising to the fore. Had the subordinate just questioned Terrence’s ability to perform his duties?

    “I suppose you want to add another Karagite medal to your collection?” Glover quipped, keeping his frustration below the surface.

    Rocha shrugged. “It was a great honor, for sure sir. But I left that thing with my mother; didn’t feel like lugging it around.” Shortly after graduating from the Academy, Rocha had been awarded the prestigious Karagite Order of Heroism for saving the lives of both his crew and a Tholian warship, after both ships gotten caught in a distortion ring. In addition to the award, Command had promoted the man up two ranks. And Rocha had achieved the lieutenant commander rank before Glover did, and at the rate he was going, Rocha would be sitting in a captain’s chair long before Terrence, and that rankled.

    “Nothing to hold down your career huh?”

    “Exactly,” The man said, pausing to look at Glover. “I knew you would understand.”

    “What’s that supposed to mean?”

    “I wasn’t kidding when I said I heard about your exploits at the Academy,” Rocha said. “Quite impressive, the career path you set out for yourself. When I got to the Academy I was looking at the notable graduates, role models, and I looked at you, among others.”

    Terrence was taken aback by that, not quite sure what to say. He didn’t know how to feel about, a mix of pride and disbelief.

    “I can tell you weren’t expecting that sir,” Rocha laughed.

    “No,” Glover said, hitting another sphere. “I didn’t.”

    “We don’t have to be at loggerheads,” Rocha offered. “I get the sense that you and Captain Holmes don’t see eye-to-eye, and I can understand your trepidation that you’re looking at all the crew changes lately and perhaps feeling encircled.”

    Is that a wrong assumption? Glover thought, but kept it to himself.

    “I did my research before taking this posting,” Rocha continued. “The captain of the Atlantis had invited me to join her crew, but my mom and the captain leaned hard on me to join the Renegade crew.”

    Aren’t we so lucky? Terrence also kept that quip to himself. The revelation about the Atlantis did miff him a little though; Atlantis was one of the new Galaxy-class ships, and senior officer postings aboard any of them were premium choices. Glover had been offered a posting aboard the Galaxy-class Tshwane, but Terrence had decided to hitch his wagon to Tryla Scott’s star. Glover tried not to even consider regret in his life, but the mention of the Atlantis lifted the rock on all the little doubts wriggling underneath.

    “And I think Renegade’s a good fit,” Rocha nodded, taking out another ball. “I mean there will be more opportunities here.”

    “How so?” Glover finally spoke. He also hit his sphere.

    “You’re pretty good at this sir,” Rocha didn’t hide his surprise. “How about we up it a level?”

    Glover grinned. “I was waiting for you to ask.” The second officer increased the difficulty level. The spheres started zipping by faster. “So, Mr. Rocha, you were saying?”

    “I assume you’ll be leaving along with Captain Scott, leaving the executive officer slot here open.”

    “What?” Terrence sputtered, missing the ball, in more ways than one.

    Rocha looked at him askance, his confusion evident. “Well, I thought you knew.”

    “Knew what?” Glover demanded, the game now forgotten. Rocha hesitated. “Out with it Commander!” Terrence ordered.

    “I…well, I don’t know if it’s my place to say sir,” Rocha dodged.

    “You don’t seem to have an issue respecting boundaries otherwise, why start now?” Terrence said.

    “That’s not fair sir.”

    “I ask you, no I order you to answer my question,” Glover said, drawing to his full height.

    “Alright sir,” Rocha slumped his shoulders. “End game.” The balls disappeared and the room slowly illuminated. The man placed his phaser into a holster. “Listen, I didn’t mean to intrude, or overstep.”

    “Fine,” Glover said curtly, “Now what’s this about Captain Scott?”

    “Captain Holmes has been a friend of my family for a long time. He served with my mother aboard the Calypso, an old Merced-class …”

    “I didn’t ask you for your life story!”

    “Yeah, okay, I’m sorry,” Rocha placed up both hands in a placating gesture. “I just wanted you to understand that my relationship with Captain Holmes goes beyond the professional. He’s like an uncle.”

    “So?”

    “Well, we talk… like family, and he told me he had spoken to Captain Scott and that she had given him permission to rebuild the crew to his liking, the captain had intimated that she was pondering transferring full command to him once her convalescence had ended.”

    “I see,” Glover said quietly, though things had never been as opaque.

    “Captain Holmes had told me, knowing Captain Scott as well as he did, that she was already out the door, but just hadn’t come to the realization herself. He said that Captain Scott was supremely confident and the hesitation she was displaying now was a sign that she had made a decision, a decision to leave that she was struggling with.”

    “I…I don’t believe it,” Glover muttered.

    “That’s was Captain Holmes’s judgment,” Rocha said, a bit defensive.

    “No,” Terrence shook his head, “Not that, not that at all. I’m not talking about Holmes. I don’t care about Holmes.”

    “Sir, I don’t think that’s appropriate to talk about the captain in that tone,” Rocha said.

    Your captain!” Glover flared. “And right now I’m going to talk to the real captain.”

    ******************************************************************

    USS Renegade

    Executive Officer’s Quarters



    Glover’s emotions roiled when Tryla Scott appeared on the small desktop monitor screen. It was great to see his lover again, but he was concerned by her drawn face, sunken cheeks, and the dark circles around her eyes.

    “Terrence,” she said, her voice emotionless. A lump formed in Glover’s throat. There was no expression on her face, no sign that she was happy to see him. It had been several months since they had seen each other. During their last tortured conversation, Terrence had tried to convince himself that it was over between them, that he could exit her private life, but the woman still held a magnetic pull on him.

    “Is it true?” He asked. The captain merely looked at him. “Is it?” Glover pressed.

    “Yes,” she answered, her voice quiet.

    “Why?” Glover asked.

    “I just, I just can’t do it anymore Terrence,” Scott looked away from the monitor before facing him again. “I can’t look you or any of the crew in the eye after betraying them.”

    “That wasn’t you,” Glover pleaded, though he really wanted to shout. He wanted to roar the truth into the woman. “That was the neural parasite.”

    “It was my voice, my body,” Scott said. “I betrayed the uniform, everything it stands for.”

    “But you were not in control,” Terrence countered.

    “That doesn’t erase my guilt,” Tryla intoned. “It’s my burden to carry, not yours. I told you to move on Terrence, but yet you stay.”

    “I want to be here for you, I wasn’t lying about that,” Glover said.

    Now the woman smiled, but it was a sad, pitying expression. “My dear Terrence, so young,” she said.

    “You’re not much older than me.”

    “Age wise, perhaps not, but living,” the woman’s expression grew dour. “It’s been lifetimes now.” She sighed. “That thing being inside my body, invading my mind, I saw things, worlds, species on the far side of the galaxy, and I saw glimmers of the destruction those things have wrought, a bloody pathway cut through the stars.”

    “We stopped them,” Glover said. “We’re safe now.”

    The pitying smile returned. “You have no clue what’s out there, dangers even greater than the parasites.”

    “We’ll face them together,” Terrence declared.

    “We won’t,” Scott shook her head. “I only accepted this call because I knew why you were calling, and I owed you that much, but my feelings about us hasn’t changed. It’s over for us Terrence, move on and be the great captain I know you will be.”

    “And what about you?” His eyes began to water. “What about you?!”

    “I’m no longer your concern,” she said, her smile dying like sunlight right before night. “Goodbye Terrence.”

    **********************************************************************
     
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  5. DarKush

    DarKush Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Nov 18, 2005
    **********************************************************************

    USS Renegade

    Executive Officer’s Quarters


    “Lucky you that we’re patrolling the Temecklia system,” Lt. Pell Ojana said. The auburn-haired Bajoran was one of his closest friends and he was heartened to see her. It was good fortune indeed that the Serapis had been assigned to patrol the Federation-Tzenkethi border.

    Glover held up the bottle of Trakian ale and took a swig. “We’re practically neighbors,” he said after wincing at the burn. The fair-skinned woman rolled her eyes.

    “We were reassigned, due to the heightened tensions with the Tzenkethi Coalition,” the Bajoran woman added. “If not for the attack on the science colony we would be heading out to the Molari Badlands.”

    “You’re welcome,” Terrence jauntily held up the bottle.

    Pell pursed her lips. “Captain Sorak isn’t as sanguine as you are.”

    “Is he ever?” Glover thought. “When isn’t he saturnine?”

    The woman chuckled. “He would call it acting logically.”

    “Yeah, I’m sure he would,” Terrence agreed.

    “So, how are you doing?” Pell shifted her eyes at the ale and frowned. “I guess you’re floating right now.”

    “Don’t be that way,” Glover took another drink. “I need some distraction right now.”

    “So that’s why you called?”

    “Nah, oh come on Ojana,” Terrence said.

    “You’ve talked to Tryla, haven’t you?”

    “What is it with everyone being a mind reader these days?” Glover asked, thinking of Rocha, Tryla, and now Pell.

    “What do you mean?”

    “Nothing,” he shrugged. “I-I guess I just needed to talk to someone.”

    “Okay,” Pell said, still with a concerned expression. “So, spill.”

    Terrence sighed. “Oh, well, nothing.”

    “Come on Terrence,” the Bajoran said, “You didn’t call me to talk and then say nothing. I know whatever it is it’s got to be hard for you. I can’t think of anything that drove you to drink before.”

    The woman’s words made him look at the bottle of ale, and he saw it for the first time for the crutch that it was. He capped the bottle and tossed it into the trash receptacle.

    “It’s over Ojana,” Glover admitted, the reality cutting through the alcoholic haze. “It’s really over.”

    “I’m sorry Terrence,” Pell touched the screen. “I know how much you care about her.”

    “Yeah,” was all Glover could muster. The two fell into an unsettling quiet, Pell knowing him well enough to give him the necessary space.

    “I just, I don’t know what to do,” Glover admitted, the words feeling alien even to him. He had always known what to do, where he was going, but now…

    “This is a time of transition for you, and it will be arduous,” Pell said, not sugarcoating it. “You’re still in the process of becoming, and if I might be frank…”

    “Of course,” Glover said.

    “You’ve spent too much time aboard the Renegade. It was a great posting, you’ve done good work there, but the Terrence I know wants the big missions, the opportunities to really make an impact, to add to the Glover legacy.”

    “It’s not easy being a Glover,” Terrence admitted. “My family’s Starfleet service record predates the Federation.”

    “I also know a thing or two about family legacies, and obligations, and the shadows they cast,” Pell said quietly. Glover nodded in understanding, and the two let the matter lie.

    “I…think Tryla is doing you a favor,” Pell said after another period of silence, wincing afterward, in anticipation of an outburst.

    “Why would you say that?” Glover didn’t erupt. He was too stung by Pell’s statement to be angered by it.

    “She’s dealing with a lot,” Pell said. “She was violated in a way only those who have suffered similar horrors can relate to. I remember the comfort women I tried to help on Valo II,” she shook her head, a shadow crossing her expression.

    “Valo II,” Glover replied, “Where I contracted Orkett’s Disease.”

    “Yes,” Pell said, “How we met.”

    “You saved my life,” Terrence said.

    “The best thing I was able to accomplish on Valo II,” Pell replied. “There was just so much suffering; I struggled not to get lost in the tide.”

    “You rode the waves,” Glover said.

    “I’m still making amends,” Pell confessed.

    “None of it was your fault,” Terrence said, the conversation’s turn reminding him of his recent talk with Tryla.

    “And this thing with Tryla, is not your fault,” Pell said. “It’s a fork in the road now, for both of you.”

    “Are you going to tell me this is the Will of the Prophets?”

    “I hope you’re not disparaging my peoples’ faith,” Pell admonished, though her chiding was belied by an askew smile.

    “You know I would never do that,” Glover said.

    The Bajoran nodded, “I know, and it wouldn’t matter anyway. Your pagh is strong, regardless whether you believe or not. And because your pagh is strong you will endure this and you will thrive.”

    “Thank you Ojana, I really needed to hear it.”

    “Here’s something else you need to hear,” Pell prefaced her words, “You’ve got to get off that ship.”

    “I’m XO here,” Glover said.

    “Yeah, but under a captain you don’t like,” Pell said bluntly.

    “Holmes has been in the Fleet a long time,” Terrence said defensively.

    “And he’s been a Number One for quite some time, and even now is still an acting captain,” the Bajoran shot back. “I know you well enough to know how much you admire and respect ambition. You don’t respect Holmes, do you?”

    It took him a moment to admit it. “See?” Pell said. “You can’t serve under someone you don’t respect, and to be honest, you’ve outgrown the Renegade. You need to be on a Nebula or Galaxy class, absent that taking command of one of the older ships.”

    “Captain Kincaid, from the Solstice, has made an offer,” Glover intimated.

    Solstice is a good ship, Ambassador-class,” Pell pointed out. “I’ve heard that Captain Kincaid is a taskmaster.”

    “Which isn’t a problem,” Terrence stated. “But the Ambassador-class,” he shook his head, “My mother served on the Adelphi, and serving on the same class, it’s illogical, but it just doesn’t feel right.”

    “I understand,” Pell replied sympathetically.

    “There had been another opening, this time on the Righteous.”

    The Bajoran raised both eyebrows, “That name is telling isn’t it?”

    “Very funny,” Terrence didn’t hide his drollness. “But Captain Andropov went with Ben Walker.”

    “Andropov’s another hard ass,” Pell laughed, “You seem to have a type.”

    “You’re a regular Stano Riga today,” Glover joked. Pell looked lost, her eyes crinkling, her nose ridges bunching up on a scrunched face.

    “Riga was a 23rd century comedian,” Terrence explained.

    “I see,” Ojana said, “Humans and your ideas of humor. It is something I still don’t comprehend fully.”

    “It’s okay, give it a few more decades,” the man laughed. “Though I think you get the gist of human comedy just fine.” The Bajoran chuckled.

    “Seriously though, I’ve heard of Walker, from the Triton,” Pell said, her brow furrowing. “That ship was one of the vessels destroyed during the last great battle in the Beloti Sector, from what I heard. A lot of good people were lost.” The woman shook her head, her expression sad. “A pure baptism of fire,” she added.

    “So you’re saying Walker is a better choice than me?” Glover decided to bring the conversation back on the lighter side.

    Pell chuckled. “Of course not,” she batted her eyes. “I could never conceive such a thing.”

    Terrence laughed. “Well, there are two offers hanging out there. One from Captain Reynolds. He’s taking command of the Narcissus, a Galaxy-class, as soon as it comes off the line.”

    “Another telling choice,” Pell laughed. Terrence rolled his eyes and blew through his teeth.

    “So when will the Narcissus be ready?” The Bajoran asked.

    “That’s the rub,” Glover grimaced. “It will be another six months.”

    “Lots of time being idle,” Pell said, “And you don’t do idle well.”

    “You’re right about that,” Terrence replied.

    “So, what’s the second option?” Pell asked.

    “The other offer is from Captain Zihar on the Gadsden.”

    “Interesting,” Pell said, her eyes taking on a distant look as if she was accessing her own memory banks. “Gadsden is Cheyenne-class right?”

    “Your ship knowledge is pretty impressive.”

    “I’ve had plenty time on my own idle hands,” the Bajoran admitted. “After our last tour on the Cardassian front we spent eight months studying gaseous anomalies in the Beta Quadrant, which provided a lot of downtime that I needed to fill up some way. Between scouring the ship’s library and learning anbo-jyutsu, it helped during the slow times.”

    “Well, you are looking pretty fit,” Terrence offered. Pell brightened at the compliment.

    “So, the Cheyenne-class boasts four nacelles, a unique design.”

    “It does,” Terrence agreed. “Reminds me a bit of the Kitty Hawk.” Glover had left the old, sturdy Constellation-class ship to take a position on the Renegade several years ago.

    “How is that old boat doing by the way?” Pell asked.

    “They are decommissioning her from active service in the Fleet,” Terrence was a bit glum, “Making way for the newer ships.”

    “I’m sorry to hear that,” Pell said. “I remember Captain Gorik. I thought he would die on the bridge of that ship.”

    “Yeah, me too,” Glover smiled, remembering his former captain. “Captain Awokou had told me Command offered Gorik an admiral’s rank and a desk job, but the man still wanted to stretch his space legs. Banti told me Gorik is joining the Border Service.”

    “You know that’s actually a pretty good fit for him, come to think of it,” Pell laughed, “But I feel sad for anyone that gets on his bad side.”

    “Which will be everyone he encounters,” Terrence laughed; recalling the testy Tellarite’s eruptions, but after a while no one took it personally. It was more of a Tellarite cultural tic.

    “And maybe it’s not so dour for you either,” Pell said.

    “Oh?”

    “Yes,” The Bajoran said with assurance. “You’re career is just starting. It will be long and illustrious.”

    “Thanks Pell,” Glover said, heartened by the woman’s confidence in him.

    “I just wish there was an opening here on the Serapis for you. It would be great serving with you.”

    “Perhaps one day,” Terrence said, smiling wistfully.

    “Well, I can’t say it’s a completely innocent wish,” the Bajoran smiled, “I think Captain Sorak would find you quite vexing and that could be fun to watch.”

    Terrence rolled his eyes. “If it’s that boring on the Serapis, maybe you need a change.”

    “Since you mentioned it,” Pell said, “I have been thinking of taking a new assignment, aboard the Cuffe. You heard anything about the ship or its captain?”

    “The ship, a Nebula, yeah, but not the CO,” Glover said. “Who sits in the center chair?”

    “Sabrina Diaz,” Pell answered, “She has a distinguished record in the service, been involved in a lot of conflicts with everyone from the Talarians to the Cardassians.”

    “The Talarians,” Glover nodded; his expression darkening as his memory stirred. “My first war,” he laughed without mirth. “If Captain Diaz made her bones fighting against both the Talarians and Cardassians, sounds like a seasoned CO to me,” he concluded, “Could be a good fit for you.”

    “Well, I’m just mulling it over right now,” Pell said, adding, “It is good to have options.”

    “Yeah,” Glover began thinking more of the Gadsden. He had never been afraid to leap before, but he was hesitating now. With his relationship with Tryla over, and most of his friends moved on, there was nothing left keeping him on the Renegade, but yet…he sensed that he was out on a ledge, and below him gaped an abyss. He didn’t know, this time, if he was strong enough to make the leap, to get to the other side.

    “I’ve got to go Terrence,” Pell was regretful. “Duty calls.”

    “It does,” Glover said, “For all of us. And maybe, just maybe, I should start listening to it again.”

    ************************************************************************

    USS Renegade

    Executive Officer’s Quarters

    The Next Day…



    “You’re not happy to see me?” The woman asked, a pinched expression accentuating the ridge bifurcating her bluish-gray face. The Bolian ran a nervous hand through her long platinum braids.

    “You changed your hair,” Glover observed. The last time he had seen Susan Bano, she had been sporting a closed crop hairdo.

    “Yeah,” she smiled, her whole being brightening, and lifting Terrence as well.

    “It is good to see you Susan,” Terrence said, “But not what I’m sure you’re calling me about.”

    “I see,” the Bolian answered; the pinched expression returning. “You’re right.”

    “It’s the box,” Glover replied, his expression growing somber.

    “Yes,” she admitted, leaning forward, lowering her voice, even though Glover was certain she had encrypted the communication. “The Pandora’s Box.”

    “Well, now we know there’s more than one,” Terrence shook his head. Glover and Susan had first encountered one of the devices within the Pandorian system; ergo Terrence’s name for the thing, during a fateful family excursion several years ago, the last time all the Glovers had been together. Terrence had been expecting much different fireworks from a gathering of Glovers than what they got; the discovery of the artifact had almost ignited a conflagration between the Federation and the Alshain Exarchate. Thankfully that had been averted, and the device had been taken by Special Investigations. He had hoped it would be the last he would ever see of the thing, and to know there were others out there did not sit well with him.

    “Yes, we do,” Susan’s expression was equally grim.

    “I’m certain it’s been catalogued and stored away with the other one, wherever you Special Investigations folks hide things.”

    “It has been secured,” was all Bano would say. She paused, before adding, “I saw to it personally.”

    It was then that Glover noticed the extra pip on the woman’s collar. Beside the two golden circular pips was a third with a darkened center. “Susan, you’ve been promoted,” he grinned, “Well, congratulations Lieutenant Commander!”

    “Oh,” the woman blushed as she brushed the three pips at her collar.

    “I’m sure it’s well deserved,” Terrence said, “It appears switching to Special Investigations has been a good move career-wise. Has it been in other ways?”

    Susan arched an eyebrow at him. “Terrence, are you inquiring about my love life?”

    “Why, not, uh, of course not,” It wasn’t the first time Glover was glad his darkened complexion masked how warmed his cheeks had become.

    “Of course not,” Susan repeated, her tone neutral, and Terrence didn’t know what to make of that. And he wasn’t sure he wanted to make anything of it. He was still grappling with the end of his relationship with Tryla, and seeing Susan again should’ve been distressing to him, a reminder of another failed pairing, but he had to admit he was happy to see another familiar face just like Pell, one associated with a happier, less complicated time in his life.

    The two fell into an uncomfortable silence. Susan finally broke it. “When you encountered this Pandora’s Box, did you experience anything unusual?” She finally broached.

    “No,” Glover shook his head slowly. “No, not like last time,” he said. “Did Captain Varley or Lt. Commander Varok report anything?”

    Susan’s eyes narrowed and Glover could tell that the Bolian was considering whether to confide in him. Terrence thought of prodding her, was ready to remind her that she knew him, that she could trust him. But could he really be sure of that anymore? And more troubling, could he now trust her? Glover hated not knowing the answer to either question, and going against his nature, he decided not to force the issue.

    “It’s…ah…Captain Varley,” Bano quietly ventured a few moments later.

    “What’s happened?” Glover asked, dreading that the man attempted to access the box.

    “It…communicated with him, through his dreams,” the Bolian revealed. She ran another hand through her hair and then wet her lips before continuing. “It told him of a star map, a guide to Iconia.”

    “A star map? To Iconia? Seriously?” Glover was incredulous. “I mean, I guess it’s not outside the realm of possibility when it comes to these things, yet the Pandora’s Box we encountered before, it used telepathic communication.”

    “We don’t know what these things are,” Susan bit her bottom lip, a cute tic, when she sometimes poured on the brain power. “Believe me, we’ve ran the box we had discovered through various tests, as we are this new one, and yet, we still can’t even confidently ascertain if the artifacts are even from our dimension or quantum reality, or extradimensional in origin or heck, things of pure magic.”

    “There’s no such thing as magic,” Terrence scoffed. The woman smiled.

    “Don’t be so closed minded,” she chided.

    “Are you telling me that you, a Science Officer, believe in magic?”

    “I believe there is some technology so advanced, some science so far beyond our understanding that it would be indistinguishable from magic.”

    “Ha,” Glover laughed.

    “Tell that to the Q Continuum,” Susan shot back, and that quieted Terrence.

    “So Captain Varley believes this dream?” Glover asked.

    “I can’t say does completely, no,” the Bolian replied, “However it left a powerful impression. He did promise to investigate it further, once he could spare the time from his command duties.”

    “Command duties?”

    “He’s taken command of the Yamamoto,” Susan pointed out.

    Terrence nodded appreciatively, “A good ship. Captain McKenzie must be stepping down.”

    “He’s been promoted and taking command of Starbase Yorktown,” Susan explained.

    “That ramshackle monstrosity?” Glover was incredulous. “I’m surprised it hasn’t been decommissioned yet or simply fell apart.”

    Susan took offense. “Hey, it was once the crown jewel of starbases, an engineering marvel, on the very edge of the final frontier.”

    “One that’s been surpassed decades ago,” Terrence rejoined. “We’ve gone far beyond Yorktown.”

    “Terrence you were never one to have a proper respect for history. It was always bigger, faster, shinier, the new, latest and greatest with you.” Susan shook her head, her smile belying her chiding tone.

    “I’ve never seen much value in sitting on your laurels, romanticizing the past. We build on the past, to catapult us further,” Terrence said.

    “Still, an appreciation for what came before, and the sacrifices that were made, is something we should value and respect,” Susan replied. Glover shrugged.

    “Back to Captain Varley,” Terrence shifted the conversation, “So Special Investigations just let the man go like that, even with Varley knowing something of what the Pandora’s Box is capable of?” Glover asked.

    “Special Investigations let you go, didn’t they?” The Bolian rejoined.

    “Not really, no,” Terrence said. “They got you in exchange. They know I would never put you in danger by exposing anything about the artifacts.”

    Susan brightened. “You still care?”

    “I never stopped,” Glover admitted. “I know…it’s been a long time….”

    “Too long,” the Bolian quickly added.

    “I…just hope you’re happy,” Terrence said, his gaze searching. He wished he were there, with her, to look into her eyes and feel her warmth and really get a good sense that she was satisfied with her life and with how things had turned out between them.

    “Well, it’s not how I envisioned my career would be after the Kitty Hawk,” Susan admitted, “Or that we would be talking across space right now instead of wrapped in each other’s arms.”

    “I agree,” Glover nodded.

    “But it wasn’t meant to be, not for us,” Susan said, her expression both reflective and sad. “You’re first love is command, your muse is glory, and you have a greater destiny before you.”

    “I wish that it included you,” Terrence said, honest enough not to feign modesty.

    “I am with you,” Susan declared, “But as a friend.”

    “I value that friendship,” Terrence replied. “And I hope we see each other soon.”

    “Well, that might take a little while,” Susan smiled, “Because like you suspected Special Investigations didn’t just let Captain Varley completely off the hook.”

    “Oh?”

    “The promotion goes with my new assignment,” Susan grinned, “As chief science officer aboard the Yamato.”

    *********************************************************************
     
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  6. DarKush

    DarKush Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Nov 18, 2005
    *********************************************************************



    USS Renegade

    Sickbay

    The Next Day…




    Glover stepped hesitantly into the infirmary, as if noise would injure Lt. Neela further. The ship’s new medic hovered over her, medical tricorder in one hand. Dr. Eknath had taken a position at Starfleet Medical a month ago. Dr. Izaro wasn’t one of the Holmes hires. The old Saurian sawbones had recommended the Boslic take over on Renegade.

    Glover cleared his throat. “Doctor,” he said.

    The woman jumped with a start, “Oh, Commander Glover,” she looked up from her tricorder, down again, and then back up. She ran a nervous hand through her long violet hair. Terrence normally would like the extra attention, but the young woman was a bit too anxious around him. “How are you doing?” Izaro asked him. “I wasn’t expecting you.”

    “I came to check in on Lt. Neela again,” Glover said, with added seriousness.

    “Oh, umm, of course,” Izaro said. She took a step back and looked down at the woman on the biobed. Glover saw the woman was sleeping, her expression peaceful, yet at odds with the nasty scar over the smoothed stump of her arm. “Lt. Neela is currently sleeping.”

    I can see that, Glover thought, but he kept the thought to himself, and he also refrained from rolling his eyes. “How did the surgery go?”

    “Well, it was more a blood infusion than surgery,” Izaro informed him. A shadow crossed her face. “Unfortunately we weren’t able to reattach her arm. I’ve already been researching prosthetic options for the Lieutenant once she has is ready for rehabilitation.”

    “I see,” Glover said, looking down at the Andorian. His severe expression softened. He blamed himself for the woman’s injury. He should have pulled the reins on her harder. If anything it should be him on that biobed.

    And he was beating himself up wondering why he hadn’t pulled her back. Was it because he was starting to feel like a stranger on his own ship? A first officer in name only? Glover just didn’t know and it was nettling him.

    “Thank you Doctor Izaro,” Glover nodded. “Please inform me if there is a change in her condition.”

    “I will sir,” the medic said. Terrence’s face hardened and his gaze shifted over to the biobed in the far corner, one that he could hear the hum of a forcefield around. Despite the forcefield, Holmes had insisted that the Tzenkethi warrior Glover had incapacitated be shackled to the biobed.

    Glover hadn’t offered up much protest, but Dr. Izaro’s strong protest had been a point in her favor. “And the prisoner?”

    “He lost a lot of blood, and since we had not readily available supply of Tzenkethi blood available, I had to synthesize some blood for him. It is adequate, but will not sustain him long term.” The man had been unconscious since their fight on Tigon III.

    “Good that we’re giving him back Tzenkethi authorities then, huh?” Glover didn’t hide his sarcasm.

    “Uh, sir, do you believe their story that this was a band of brigands, acting without official sanction?”

    “No,” Glover shook his head. He didn’t want to delve too deeply into the why though. Captain Varley and Varok had already departed, with the device they found, aboard a shuttle, on the orders of Rear Admiral Brennan at Helaspont Station. The shuttle was headed to the other side of the Federation border with the Tzenkethi Coalition, and be dropped off at Helaspont Station. From there, who knew where Varley and the Vulcan scientist would go, and if the device would go with them. Terrence knew that Holmes didn’t even know what Varley was carrying with him, and he also knew he couldn’t utter a word about it. Having one up on Holmes did make him smile though.

    Renegade will be rendezvousing with the Tzenkethi in three days,” he said. “Also inform me about any change with the prisoner.”

    “Will do sir,” Izaro gave a big nod. Terrence headed toward the exit. “Uh, Commander?” The Boslic called out. Glover stopped, and turned crisply.

    “What is it?” He didn’t hide his annoyance.

    “Well, I, uh,” Izaro said.

    “Listen Doctor Izaro…” Glover realized his tone was a bit too harsh, but couldn’t help himself. “Lezeta, I think I know what you’re going to ask, and I suggest you don’t. It won’t work out, and I don’t want anyone to get hurt.”

    “Oh, uh,” Izaro took a step back, as if she had been slapped. She squeezed the tricorder against her chest. Her cheeks purpled.

    “Believe me, it’s for the best.” And Terrence left the woman with that.

    ***********************************************************************

    USS Renegade

    Commander’s Quarters


    “Good you let her down easy,” Hallford said. Glover sat up on his bed, his muscles spent almost as much as after his fight with the Tzenkethi. He didn’t know why he had told the security officer about his one-sided conversation with Dr. Izaro. But he guessed he needed to share something personal after spending the night with her.

    Which prompted another question, why he had brought Hallford to his quarters to begin with? Glover hadn’t hidden his relationship with Tryla onboard, and he knew some of the old hands still on Renegade would raise eyebrows or the equivalent if they saw him bringing Hallford to his quarters.

    Leaving Sickbay, Terrence, off duty, had made his way over to the Jolly Roger, the ship’s main recreation lounge.

    It just so happened that Hallford had been there, along with Diggs, both them drawing down a bottle of Saurian brandy. The two security guards had invited him over, and Glover had stayed after Diggs called it a night.

    A few more drinks later, Glover and Hallford did the same thing. And now here they were, and Glover didn’t know what to do.

    Hallford shifted on the bed. He felt the mattress lift and then the security officer’s weight pushed it back down. She placed her hands on his shoulders, her fingers kneading them. “Hey,” she said, “I get it. I’ve heard about you and Captain Scott. This doesn’t have to be anything more than it is.”

    Terrence frowned. He pulled away from her. “What have you heard?” He demanded.

    Hallford smiled awkwardly, “Well, just that you, you two, you know, had a thing.”

    “ ‘Had’?” Glover queried.

    “Well, yeah,” Hallford shrugged. “Hey, no worries, and no judgments.”

    Terrence’s eyes narrowed. “I didn’t ask for your concern, nor care about your judgment.” Now Hallford frowned. She pulled the covers tighter around her.

    “Hey Terrence, why are you acting like that? I didn’t mean anything by it.”

    “This shouldn’t have happened,” the first officer said. “Let’s just chalk it up as too much Saurian brandy.”

    “Are you serious?”

    “Didn’t you say this didn’t have to be any more than what it is?” He charged.

    “But I’m not trash, to be tossed out like space debris.”

    “I didn’t say you were,” Glover said.

    “That’s basically what you just did say,” Hallford’s eyes flashed with anger. “They told me you were screwed up, but I didn’t realize how badly.”

    “Who?” Terrence demanded, “Who told you that?” He didn’t like the idea of his private life being the subject of discussion aboard the ship.

    Granted he hadn’t tried hiding his relationship with Captain Scott. He had been proud of it, and in awe of her, that the youngest captain in the history of the Fleet, with nothing but the stars in front of her, would see likewise in him.

    However he hadn’t thought that the crew would be talking about their problems, or that they would consider him torn up because of them. Glover wondered if he had lost the respect of the crew.

    More stuff to cut himself up over, he sighed. Before the self-mutilation began, he said, “I think you should go.”

    “You’re really kicking me out? Over this?” Hallford was beside herself.

    “You want to stay?” Glover was as incredulous.

    “No, I want us to talk things out…like adults,” the security officer declared.

    “What is there to discuss?” Terrence shrugged. “You screwed up a ‘screwed up’ guy, end of story.”

    “I can’t believe you’re being this way, this obstinate,” Hallford said.

    “Believe it,” Glover replied. He stood up, the sheet falling, the air cool over his naked flesh. His back was to Hallford but he heard the woman’s sharp intake of breath. Get a good look the first officer thought, because it will be your last.

    ***************************************************************************
     
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  7. DarKush

    DarKush Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Nov 18, 2005
    ***************************************************************************

    USS Renegade

    Main Bridge


    Glover took the conn, after Holmes had retreated to his ready room. Terrence winced, and reeled that thought back in. It’s still Tryla’s room, he reminded himself, as he often had to these days that this was still Captain Scott’s ship until she officially relinquished it, and Holmes was just a caretaker.

    But deep down, he didn’t believe it anymore. He was afraid at any moment they would finally get a communique from Command that Tryla had transferred control to Holmes or even worse, had resigned her commission.

    The last two days had been tension filled, especially whenever Hallford had taken over duties at the tactical station. He did his best to avoid eye contact and to keep their conversations terse and professional. He imagined he could feel the woman’s eyes boring into his back, but he would never turn around to confirm it.

    And when he was off duty he went straight to his quarters and stayed there, not even taking any messages from his family or friends. The only person he wanted to hear from right now was Tryla and she was the one person who didn’t want to have anything to do with him.

    “Captain,” Commander Rocha said from the ops console. Glover liked the sound of that, and as he turned to the second officer, he recalled his promise to talk with Rocha. “Sensors are detecting a Tzenkethi corvette on an intercept course.”

    “Are their ship’s raised or weapons powered up?” Glover asked. He admired the sleek, tubular look of the blood red ship. It reminded him of an old Earth submarine, with two wings containing weapons pods on each end, as well as two disruptors jutting from the primary hull like pincers.

    “No sir,” Rocha said. The first officer, with some reluctance, alerted the captain. Holmes strode onto the bridge.

    With his deep Southern drawl, he said, “Hail them Aleixo.” Terrence, with more reluctance, slid out of the command chair.

    Rocha replied, “Tzenkethi have received our message and our responding.”

    “What the hell?” Holmes didn’t hide his shock, and for once Glover agreed with him.

    A petite, wizened human woman sat languidly in the too large command chair, which clearly was not designed for her. She smiled, pleased that she had stunned the Renegade bridge into silence. “What’s wrong gentlemen?” Admiral Nyota Uhura asked sweetly, “Cat got your tongue?”

    ***********************************************************************
     
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  8. CeJay

    CeJay Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    Feb 5, 2006
    I enjoy reading about Glover's early days on the Renegade and seeing an old foe in the Tzenkethi again. So far this is giving us a little bit of everything, Terrence career and personal drama, love story, mystery and action. Also terrific cliffhanger with bringing in someone nobody expected in the end.

    And I finally figured out Terrence's kryptonite. Well, maybe I knew it all along. But its clearly women. It is almost surprising how he managed to keep so many female friends.
     
  9. DarKush

    DarKush Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Nov 18, 2005
    Thanks CeJay,

    I thought there was a lot of space to play around with Glover's early career. I hadn't written much about his time on the Renegade. And I hadn't done much at all with the Tzenkethi. This story is going to include a lot of stuff I've loved writing about, and like I said I've tried to put references to just about every UT series, plus other fan fiction series and fan film series that I've enjoyed over the years. I really hope you continue to enjoy the story. It is my valentine to the UT and Trek fan fiction as well.I also wanted to pay tribute to Trek's 50th anniversary as well in my own way.

    Thanks also for allowing me to use So'Dan Leva when I had started this story a long time ago. As the story was coming together I decided to go another way, but still thanks for allowing me to include him.

    I hadn't considered Glover having that many female friends, but yeah, I guess so. I mean, Glover would doubtless have no question about that. He sees himself as irresistible.
     
    Last edited: Dec 27, 2016
  10. DarKush

    DarKush Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Nov 18, 2005
    ***********************************************************************

    Tzenkethi Corvette Klorantha


    “I can say I never expected to be on the bridge of a Tzenkethi warship when I woke up this morning,” Glover said. Uhura laughed. She rubbed the leather on the armrest-well Glover hoped it was leather. He took a look around the cramped, circular bridge, seeing walls of fur, as the backs of the hulking Tzenkethi warriors were attending their stations. The only other person that looked completely out of place, and just as uncomfortable was a raw-boned, Vulcanoid man with pointed ears and a slight v-shaped ridge line on his forehead. Terrence surmised that the man was Uhura’s bodyguard since he stood protectively at her side.

    “This ship’s not so bad,” the legendary admiral said, “Nothing a few tons of water and soap wouldn’t cure.” On that point, Glover could relate. The stench was nearly overwhelming. The admiral’s comment prompted a series of growls from the bridge crew. Uhura merely laughed again. The woman, dressed in an unadorned brown utility jumpsuit, she was the very model of composure. “Commander Ravus, you know I positively adore your fine ship.” She glanced down at the chains around the chair. “You even removed your prey for me. Don’t believe that I, and the Federation, do not appreciate it.”

    A lean Tzenkethi, with knotted, overly muscular shoulders stepped from behind one of the ship’s aft banks. He loomed over both Glover and the fragile looking admiral. Terrence’s heartbeat rose and his muscles tensed as he tried to read the man. Admiral Uhura, on the other hand, was completely unperturbed. The Vulcanoid-her bodyguard?-moved forward but was stayed by a quick hand gesture from the admiral.

    “If the Autarch had not inveighed upon me personally to accommodate you, I would gut you all,” he said, his long claws digging so hard into his hands that they drew blood.

    Uhura merely looked up at the man, her smile dimming slightly, “And like any good automaton, you will do as you’re told.” The shift in her voice chilled Glover. He knew that this was a person not to be trifled with, despite her advanced age.

    “You can have your seat back now,” Uhura said, standing up from it. She then looked at the main viewer. Holmes had been waiting the whole time, and didn’t hide his impatience.

    “I promise to return Mr. Glover to you in one piece,” the admiral said, the honey returning to her voice. The Renegade commander began to ask, but Uhura made a motion and the quick acting Tzenkethi at the communications station cut the line to the Starfleet vessel.

    Terrence wished he could see Holmes’s face right then. He bet the man was Thallonian red, completely apoplectic. “You liked that I see,” Uhura said, getting close to the younger man.

    “I don’t think it would be wise to lie to you,” Glover admitted.

    “A wise man,” the admiral said. “Jonathan was right about you.”

    He immediately got the reference. His expression became wary. That didn’t set back Uhura. “I see your guard is up now,” she said, “Like Mr. Owens said, wise.”

    **************************************************************************

    Tzenkethi Corvette Klorantha



    “It’s okay, we can talk here,” Admiral Uhura somehow made herself comfortable on the hard slab that passed for a bed. “I’ve made sure this room is soundproofed.” She patted the space beside her. “Have a seat.”

    “I would prefer to stand, Admiral,” Glover said, purposely eyeing the Vulcanoid who was also remained on his feet, but by the door. The woman smiled and patted the seat again. Terrence sighed and slumped his shoulders. He took a seat beside her. Glover paused to take the moment in, sitting beside a living legend. The lined face, the sharp dark eyes, the wreath of pure white hair, Terrence could only imagine the wonders had seen and history the woman had also seen, participated in, and made herself. Sensing his need to geek out, Uhura charitably allowed the reverential inspection.

    “We’re going to have to do something about that uniform,” Uhura said, tugging at his sleeve. “I’ll see what Ravus can rustle up.” Terrence looked again at the Vulcanoid. Similar to Uhura, he was dressed in an inconspicuous outfit, his though consisted of a drab gray tunic, pants, and matching boots. An average observer would peg the man a Vulcan and move on, but there was something off about him, an edginess that seemed to make him not an adherent to strict Vulcan logic, or a very loose interpreter of it at that.

    “Admiral, I don’t understand what this is all about?” Glover asked.

    “Jonathan Owens speaks highly of you, and of course Samson does,” she said. “And even when you don’t intend to, you wind up assisting the Federation in countless ways, like at the Tigon science colony. That’s what I call luck, like a certain young captain I used to know,” Uhura’s eyes twinkled, before her expression turned somber.

    Glover’s chest swelled at the comparison. There could only be one young captain that she was referring to. “Admiral, I thought you were Starfleet Intelligence, not from the Department of Special Affairs and Investigations.”

    Uhura chuckled, “I officially retired from Starfleet Intelligence three years ago,” she said, and the commander noted that she emphasized the word “official”. The admiral patted his shoulder. “But I have a lot of friends.”

    “I see,” Glover said.

    “You’re trying,” the admiral replied, “And that’s admirable.”

    Terrence turned his attention back to the bodyguard. Uhura noticed the shift. “This is Xinran, of the Vulcan Science Directorate,” she explained.

    “What ship did you serve on?” Glover asked. The man arched an eyebrow and glanced at Uhura. The admiral smirked.

    “Pretty perceptive Mr. Glover,” Uhura nodded appreciatively. “Go ahead Mr. Xinran.”

    “I served…aboard the USS Goshawk,” the man said tightly.

    Terrence tilted his head, scouring his memory. He shrugged, coming up short. “I’ve never heard of the Goshawk before.”

    The admiral prompted the man. “The Goshawk was a Kestrel-class ship.”

    Terrence shrugged again before scratching his chin. “Kestrel-class ships were decommissioned decades ago.” Understanding finally started to dawn. He gave the bodyguard a strong once over. “You’re older than you look Mr. Xinran.”

    “Correct Commander,” Uhura said.

    “Furthermore, you’re not Vulcan, you’re Romulan,” Glover added. Xinran’s jaw clenched. Terrence had been guessing, but saw he hit pay dirt, and continued as if had been completely certain the whole time.

    “You are perceptive,” he spat through clenched teeth, “for a human.”

    “How did you surmise that Mr. Glover?” Uhura was intrigued. “How did you peg Mr. Xinran to be Romulan? Few make that call. Most do see him as a Vulcan and think nothing of it. The more perceptive might consider him a V’tosh ka’tur Vulcan or Rigelian. But you made the right call, and I want to know why?”

    Glover shrugged and then gave the edgy Xinran a once over. “V’tosh ka’ tur I’ve met are generally not as uptight as Mr. Xinran here, and as for being Rigelian, I just guessed with this being all hush-hush, the Romulans just had to be in the mix somewhere, since they’re back on the galactic scene.”

    Uhura chuckled and turned to Xinran. “See, I told you Commander Glover had a keen eye. He would have to be to be such an ace pilot.”

    Terrence couldn’t help but grin. He had never been complimented by a Starfleet icon before.

    “Any other insights you care to share Mr. Glover?” Xinran’s tone was challenging.

    “Vulcan. Science. Directorate,” Glover said, measuring each word carefully. “There’s more to you than that.” Terrence smirked. “More like Vulcan Security Directorate.”

    The wizened admiral chuckled while Xinran’s eyes flashed with surprise.

    “Jonathan did say you were quick on your feet,” she marveled. Glover glanced back just enough to see the woman smiling, and golden flecks in her twinkling eyes. He had never noticed the flecks before. Before he could investigate further, the Romulan spoke up.

    “A Romulan working for the Vulcan Security Directorate,” Terrence mulled the idea over. “So what’s the rest of your story Mr. Xinran?” Glover asked. The Romulan looked around Glover, to Uhura.

    “Go on Xinran,” the admiral encouraged.

    The man shifted his jaw, his expression darkening. “I am Romulan,” he admitted, “I was born in the Empire, but left with my father when I was a child. We traveled to several worlds in the Klingon Empire and the Federation, eventually settling on P’Jem.”

    “The Vulcan planet?” Glover looked questioningly at Uhura. Xinran scowled that his story would need validation, but the admiral merely nodded in the affirmative.

    “My father was a religious scholar,” Xinran continued. “After learning about the Klingon faith on Boreth, he took me to the Federation, to P’Jem to study the religion of our Vulcan ancestors, to find the common threads that still bound our estranged peoples.”

    “I see,” Terrence rubbed his chin, which also annoyed Xinran. His eyes became slits.

    “It’s alright Mr. Xinran,” Uhura gently prodded, “Continue.”

    “I would, if not for the interruptions,” he spat back. Terrence rolled his eyes, and Uhura chuckled again.

    “You bet me to that Commander,” she winked.

    “Before I was interrupted,” Xinran began.

    “Wait,” Terrence interjected, with a pointed finger. “When did this happen? There hasn’t been official contact between the Federation and Star Empire for decades now, following the Tomed Incident. So, this had to have happened….last century.” The realization gave Glover pause. Just how old was this man?

    “Now you’re catching on,” the admiral said. “Mr. Xinran did serve in Starfleet, all too briefly in my opinion, but he is also a man of many talents, science being one of them. He can be a great help in this mission; if that were not the case, he wouldn’t be here, and neither would you.”

    “Well, this is getting more interesting by the nanosecond,” Glover admitted. “I for sure thought Mr. Xinran was one of the denizens of Santora Prime.” The planet’s mention drew sharply arched eyebrows from both the Romulan and the admiral.

    “And what do you know of Santora Prime?” Xinran asked.

    “The Federation colony of Romulan defectors and exiles,” shrugged, “My dad is a Rihannsu-phile, the most prominent expert in the Federation on the Romulan history. I’ve accompanied him several times to Santora Prime.”

    Xinran’s eyes gleamed with understanding. “I’ve read some of Admiral Glover’s work; impressive….for a human.” Again Glover didn’t take the bait. “I have been to Santora Prime on occasion, but could never stay. The denizens there, they have real memories of the Empire, mine are…scant to say the least. And not all of them fond. I am an outsider, even among outsiders,” the man said, with grim punctuation.

    Uhura eased in. “Xinran has been of great service to the Federation, serving in Starfleet, teaching at the Vulcan Institute for Defensive Arts, and for Vulcan Security.”

    “The V’Shar,” Xinran clarified.

    “Hmm,” Glover rubbed his chin. “That’s a pretty damn fascinating resume,” he said, his eyes narrowing. “I’m sure there’s more to it than that.” The Romulan’s eyes flashed with anger, and Glover shifted on the bed to confront him. Uhura placed a hand on Terrence’s bicep.

    “Due to our long history with the Romulans, I understand your suspicion Mr. Glover…Terrence,” the admiral said, the weariness in her voice showing her age. “Believe me, I understand, but I trust Mr. Xinran, as much as I trust you, and I need you both for what is to come.”

    “And what is to come?” Terrence asked, both intrigued and dreadful. At that moment there was a knock at the door. Uhura smiled.

    “Right on schedule,” the woman said, “Enter.”

    Terrence stood, his mouth gaping in shock. He hadn’t been expecting a surprise greater today than being greeted by Admiral Uhura aboard a Tzenkethi warship. And while this new twist wasn’t as earth shattering, it damn near close.

    As if sharing one mind, as they often had, the two men rushed to each other and embraced. Terrence pulled back, and blinked, making sure his eyes weren’t deceiving him. “Cal Hudson, what the hell are you doing here?”

    ************************************************************************
     
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  11. DarKush

    DarKush Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Nov 18, 2005
    ************************************************************************

    Tzenkethi Corvette Klorantha


    Terrence gave his old friend a quick once over. Cal was wearing a roughhewn gray tunic and black pants. “You’re going incognito too,” Glover said, looking from the admiral back to his old friend. “It’s great to see you, but why are you here? And what’s this all about?” He looked back to the admiral, before swinging his head back toward his friend. “Wait a moment; I thought you were on Romulus?”

    “I was,” Cal nodded, his smile dimming. “I was assigned to the Federation Embassy that we just reestablished there after the Romulans returned to the intergalactic stage. I was just settling in when…” Hudson paused and looked respectfully at the admiral, seeking her permission to continue.”

    “I’ll take it from here Calvin,” Uhura said. Hudson bowed his head in respect. Glover turned to the woman.

    “The incident that prompted the Romulans to forgo their self-imposed exile was the destruction of several outposts on both sides of the Neutral Zone. It was the Enterprise-D that made contact,” the admiral paused, her eyes sparkling. Glover surmised that the woman was proud that another Enterprise was making history.

    “Both the Enterprise and their Romulan counterparts had agreed to work together to solve the cause of the widespread destruction,” the admiral continued. “However little information was gleaned during that rapprochement; the Enterprise was reassigned shortly thereafter, but Special Affairs and Intelligence continued investigating; yet so far our efforts have not born much fruit, but that being said…” She looked at Cal. “Mr. Hudson, would you be so kind?”

    He nodded, swallowed hard. “Of course Admiral,” the man said, “While at one of the many Embassy dinners I was approached by a Romulan officer.”

    “Hey, did you tell Gretchen?” Glover joked weakly.

    Hudson smiled wanly, rolling his eyes. “Still got to work on your sense of humor I see.”

    “Gentlemen,” Uhura gently prodded.

    “Ah, yes, sorry,” Glover smiled. “Just trying to inject some levity.”

    “I understand Mr. Glover, Terrence,” the admiral’s expression was sympathetic. “This is a very unusual situation I’ve tossed you into, both of you, and you both have my apologies.”

    Both men nearly tripped over each other denying any hardships. After the tumult had died down, Hudson continued. “This officer palmed an isolinear chip, of Starfleet manufacture-how she got it I don’t know. As soon as I was able I took it to my superiors. The encryption was simple. The messages, and its deliverer, are anything but.”

    That made Glover even more intrigued. “What was the message? Who was the messenger?”

    Hudson parted his lips and then looked back at Admiral Uhura. Her expression hardened, and Terrence saw embers of fire in her eyes. Eventually she spoke, “Commander, have you ever heard the name Valeris?”

    ***********************************************************************

    Tzenkethi Corvette Klorantha


    Terrence composed himself before speaking, “Admiral, how can you trust her?”

    “I don’t,” Uhura said tightly. “That’s why I’m here. I want to look her in the eye myself; I’m sorry but I don’t trust anyone else to do it.”

    “You, coming with us into Romulan space?” Glover was incredulous. “Impossible. That’s not happening.”

    “Excuse me?” One graying eyebrow shot up on the woman’s forehead; if she had possessed pointed ears, the admiral would’ve easily passed for Vulcan. “You’re not giving orders here Mr. Glover!”

    “Admiral,” Glover didn’t back down, “You’re not thinking this through. This could all be part of some elaborate trap. The idea that we bring them the former head of Starfleet Intelligence on a platter, I can’t allow that.”

    “You will follow orders Mr. Glover, my orders, is that clear?” Uhura’s tone brooked no debate.

    “Believe me Terrence,” Calvin clapped his shoulder. “I’ve had this same discussion with her, as has your father.”

    “My Dad?” Glover asked, momentarily confused and then a bit peeved that his father hadn’t shared this with him, even though he had likely been sworn to secrecy.

    “Yes, Admiral Glover,” Uhura nodded, “I wasn’t about to traipse into Romulan space without talking to the Fleet’s foremost expert on the Romulans. I had to use all of my considerable charm to keep him from this mission. I’m almost past my sell date, but if the Romulans got their clutches on Samson, that would be a disaster.”

    “Did my Dad recommend me for this mission?” Terrence didn’t hide his curiosity.

    “No,” Uhura said, “Jonathan Owens did. Seems you’ve made friends in all the right places kid.”

    “And when I looked at your file, you’re uniquely qualified for this mission, and there’s only one other man Mr. Hudson trusts and he’s on the Okinawa, on the far side of the Beta Quadrant right now.”

    “Ben,” Glover nodded. “Well, I was your first choice, right Cal?” The other man just grinned.

    “Granted admiral, I am uniquely qualified, for many things,” Glover said, without irony or self-deprecation. “But how am I suited for this mission?”

    “I need a damn good pilot son,” Uhura said, “And Hikaru is too busy right now. So, I think you’ll work in a pinch.”

    *************************************************************************

    Tzenkethi Corvette Klorantha


    Glover was propped against an unforgiving bulkhead, trying to keep his attention on the PADD. On the bed-slab Admiral Uhura was asleep or at least appeared to be. The woman’s chest was rising and lowering slowly and she was softly snoring.

    Terrence’s stomach growled and he tried to ignore it. Just like he tried to blot out the putrid smell from the bowl Cal clutched in one hand; with the other he was digging a spoon in for another bite.

    Hudson had been in the mess hall when Uhura had first brought him to the room, and after the admiral had drifted off, the man had gone back. Xinran was tempting the fates there now in the eatery. Uhura had wisely brought some rations and offered to share them, but Glover didn’t want to eat up the woman’s food. He would eat sparingly, until he could find something more edible.

    “Ugh,” Terrence scrunched up his face. “How can you eat that stuff?”

    Hudson swallowed before laughing. “We got to keep our strength up.”

    “You don’t even know what that stuff is you’re eating,” Glover pointed out. To that Calvin shrugged.

    “At least it wasn’t alive; the meat was cooked, for the most part.”

    “Gretchen must find it pretty easy to cook for you,” Terrence said. Hudson lit up at the mention of his wife.

    “You know I was never a picky eater,” he replied.

    “True,” Glover said. “I remember when Ben’s dad would prepare those feasts for us, and you were just as happy there as you were at the Academy café.”

    “As long as it’s hot,” Hudson said.

    “And not alive, remember?” Glover added. The two men laughed.

    “So how’s Gretchen?”

    “On tour of the Rigel system right now, singing lead in Gav’ot toH’va,” Hudson beamed.

    “Ah, that’s a great opera,” Terrence said. “I remember seeing the rendition from the Academy Opera Troupe.”

    “I should’ve known you knew that opera, you being such a fan of Klingon culture,” Cal smiled. “That won’t affect your feelings about this mission, will it?”

    “Come on,” Glover said. “Can’t believe you asked that,” he added. “I do admire the Klingons and while the Romulans have steered clear of us since Tomed, they’ve continued to antagonize the Klingon Empire.”

    “Poking the proverbial sabre bear,” Hudson nodded, “Never wise.”

    Glover nodded, “You’re right. But that whole relationship between the Klingons and Romulans is long and knotty as hell. No clean hands on either side of that one. But I will say, that the sneak attacks the Romulans have resorted to, those were way out of bounds.”

    “You’ll get no argument from me on that account,” Hudson said.

    “So, what are they like?” Terrence asked.

    “The Romulans?” Cal shrugged. “Well, let me see…Romulan society is very stratified,” Hudson began. “And I mostly interacted with only a segment of it, diplomats, politicians, and military commanders, the top of the hill. I tried interacting with the citizenry, at various markets, but many merchants and citizens were reluctant to downright hostile.”

    “Why?” Glover asked.

    “The Tal Shiar,” Hudson explained, “Some form of secret police. I was told they were everywhere, often disguised as citizens, and obsessively seeking to root out any dissent or treachery among the people. Couple that with the xenophobia I saw regularly exhibited, some perhaps for the benefit of any hidden Tal Shiar agents, I believe it will take quite some time for the Federation and the Romulans to become allies, and even more to become trusted allies.”

    “You’re prognosis belies either thing occurring,” Terrence said.

    Hudson gave a ghost of a smile. “Believe me, it wasn’t all bad. Despite the reputation for duplicity, the Romulans are an honorable people…in their own way. And the few times they let their hair down, so to speak, quite a fun people as well. My time there has been very illuminating to say the least.”

    “Well you always did have a gift for diplomacy,” Glover replied. “I don’t know why you haven’t joined the Diplomatic Corps by now anyway.”

    “Gretchen says the same thing,” Cal grinned. “But I just like serving aboard starships, I like space exploration. Maybe one day I will change course, but right now, it’s Starfleet all the way for me.”

    “In light of your experiences on Romulus, what do you make of our own resident Romulan, Mr. Xinran?” The commander asked.

    Hudson shrugged. “Seems like a good enough fellow to me. Has a chip on his shoulder, though.”

    “You think he can be trusted?” Glover cut to the point.

    “The admiral does,” Hudson’s eyes sparked with fire. “That’s enough for me.”

    “Yeah,” Terrence pulled back, stung. “It’s just, the Romulans. You know what they did to my mother.”

    Cal’s expression softened. “Yes, and I’m sorry.” Deitra Glover had been on the ill-fated Starship Tombaugh, lost with all hands, three years ago. It had taken Glover a long time to accept that he would never see his mother again. Deitra’s life had not been an easy one. Before making it to the Federation, she had been a prisoner of the Romulans, one of the few survivors of the infamous Norkan Massacre.

    “No, I’m the one who should be sorry,” Glover said. “It’s not fair to blame Xinran for what Romulans born decades or a century before him had done to my mother. And like my mother, Xinran is an exile of the Star Empire too. That being said, I can’t deny I’m suspicious.”

    Hudson said. “We’re going into some unknown territory here, but I caution that you try to keep an open mind regarding Xinran and treat him with the respect he deserves not only as a Starfleet officer but a sapient being. And that you trust the admiral’s judgment.”

    “Fair enough,” Glover said tightly. He handed the PADD to his old friend. “So what do you make of this Valeris?”

    Cal took the proffered device. He nodded, with an admiring expression on his face. “She’s a looker,” he said. “The headband and the mole especially are really cute.”

    Terrence rolled his eyes. “Seriously Cal?”

    Hudson blew through his teeth, and took another look. “Graduating at the top of her class at the Academy, the first Vulcan to do so, highly impressive,” the man replied, “Though a bit surprising that she would be the first one, with all the other Vulcans who had served throughout Starfleet’s history, but in any event, it foretold what should have been a glittering career.”

    “Yeah,” Terrence nodded, “Until she conspired to assassinate the Klingon Chancellor and then the Federation President.”

    “What could possess her to do such a thing?” Hudson pondered.

    “Believe it or not, Valeris wasn’t all bad.” Terrence wasn’t as surprised as Cal to hear the admiral speak. Both men shifted to her, and the woman propped herself up on her elbows.

    “Even her views, as detestable as they were about the Klingons, we all held them,” the admiral admitted. “But her actions, it went against everything we hold dear and almost plunged us into a devastating war.”

    “One the Romulans would have likely benefitted from,” Terrence said. “My father had told me about how the Romulans had allied with the Klingons and the Federation at different points, and was also part of the conspiracy. They were the likely beneficiaries of any war waged between the Klingons and Federation, all they had to do was wait until both sides had destroyed each other and swoop in.”

    “So you see why the Romulans accepted Valeris’s defection,” Uhura nodded. “She almost did something no Romulan commander, not Valdore or Keras could pull off.”

    “But why is she reaching out to us now?” Glover asked. “If she’s being feted by the Romulans why would she want to come back to the Federation? Her crimes are almost a century old, but the shadow of them is long, and they have not been forgotten. She is, and would remain a pariah here.”

    “She is claiming that she has information of such vital importance that she is willing to risk her position in the Empire, and her life,” the admiral said.

    “And that brings me to the officer who brought us Valeris’s message,” Terrence said.

    Hudson spoke up, “Lt. Leta is a relatively young, very severe woman. Leta was one of the military liaisons assigned to the embassy. We struck up something of a rapport, but nothing of significance, at least on my part. We didn’t spend a lot of time together at the embassy function in question, only a few minutes. After exchanging pleasantries she made to shake my hand, approximating the human gesture, but leaving the isolinear chip in my hand. I did my best to play it off. Before I could ask any questions, the woman had disappeared into the throng of partiers. I had considered going after her, but reminded myself of the eyes everywhere, and somewhat thankfully a long-winded scholar from the Astrophysical Academy pinned me in.”

    Glover chuckled. “Sucks to be you.”

    Hudson drolly replied, “Ha.”

    “So not much to glean from this Lt. Leta I see,” Terrence said.

    “No,” Cal answered, not pleased he couldn’t offer more.

    Terrence understood though. There were some questions they couldn’t answer right now, or maybe either, though another query swam to the forefront of his mind. “Admiral, this ship, how did you get the Tzekenthi to agree to any of this?”

    Admiral, still on her elbows, smiled. “Remember when I told you have I have friends? Well, they aren’t all from the Federation,” she said cryptically. “Before the treaty was signed the old Autarch was…removed, and the new Autarch, is a sweetheart, as much as dictator can be. He understood the importance of maintaining the new peace, even if some diehards among the clans do not. It was easy to convince him to help us, to avoid a renewal of hostilities or even sanctions being placed on his fledging government. And the Federation Council was more concerned about retrieving Valeris and any information she could give us about what happened along the Neutral Zone, or anything else regarding the Star Empire.”

    “But people died on Tigon,” Glover replied tightly.

    “Yes,” Uhura’s eyes crinkled with sadness, “And there is nothing to be done about that now. What we are tasked to do is to prevent even more loss of life.”

    “And are the people who died just forgotten, swept under the rug?” Terrence’s voice rose, but he didn’t care. “How can an attack on a Federation science colony be ignored?”

    The admiral smiled, “What attack?”

    “Excuse me,” Glover did a double take. “The attack we helped stop by blowing that Tzenkethi raider straight to hell. My tactical officer lost her arm during the course of the fighting.”

    “That is most unfortunate Terrence,” Uhura said, “But officially, the tragedy at Tigon II has been deemed the result of a malfunctioning fusion reactor.”

    “I can’t believe the Federation Council would do something like that!”

    “It’s true,” she nodded, her expression sympathetic. “And you, and your colleagues on the Renegade, will keep this matter quiet, by order of Starfleet Command.”

    “You can’t do that,” Terrence argued. “People need to know the truth.”

    “Why?” She shrugged, looking to either man as if she really didn’t know the answer to that.

    “Because,” Glover shrugged right back, “It’s the truth.”

    “Oh, and you think the truth makes you free?” Uhura’s smile was pitying, “I suppose, in some instances it does, it certainly helped when the truth came about the Gorkon assassination,” she admitted. “Though the truth can also cause terrible harm; irreparable harm. It was a lesson I’ve had to learn the hard way, and its one I fear you will learn one day yourself, I just hope you survive the lesson.”

    “Maybe Admiral, you’ve just been in the shadows so long you’ve lost perspective,” Terrence challenged.

    “Terrence!” Hudson admonished.

    “No, it’s quite alright Mr. Hudson,” Uhura said. “You might be right.” She smiled. “I haven’t been as young as you in a long time Mr. Glover. I can imagine if I was your age and being confronted with this stance from an elder I would have made the same arguments. I could dismiss it as naivety on your part but I won’t; sometimes we do need reminders of what we once were, not everything from youth has to be discarded as he wind our way through adulthood and its hard choices.”

    “So will you talk to the Federation Council and Starfleet Command about this cover-up?” The commander asked.

    Uhura shook her head, “No, I won’t.”

    “I don’t understand.”

    “You make a good point Mr. Glover, and I appreciate your willingness to stand up to me. I know each of you, Mr. Hudson, Mr. Xinran, and yourself, you will all not blindly follow orders, and that’s in part why you’re here, I don’t want yes men. But in this instance, the security of the Federation and the Tzenkethi Coalition is more important than the truth of what happened on Tigon II. I know you’ve fought in both wars, against the Cardassians and the Tzenkethi, and if you could prevent such a thing from happening again, and it required you to hold back the truth, or lie even to do so, would you?”

    “Well, I, well, yes, I would,” Glover said quietly, lowering his head.

    “Not so naïve,” Uhura smiled again. “You’ll make a fine captain one day.”

    Terrence perked up. “Captain? You really think so?”

    “Of course,” the admiral said. “We admirals talk about such things, from time to time, you know.”

    “Are you serious?” Glover said, unable to hide his smile.

    “Well, it’s not all sunshine and rainbows where you are concerned,” Uhura’s smile grew. “Hikaru has quite a bone to pick with you.”

    “Really?” Hudson said, elbowing Glover. “You didn’t tell me that story buddy.”

    “Oh, well it was nothing really; one, I thought the commodore would appreciate the run through the Sol asteroid belt on the way to Jupiter Station, one pilot to another. And two, I didn’t realize that was his great granddaughter.” Both Uhura and Hudson laughed.

    Once the laughter had died down and the heat had emanated enough off Glover’s face, he asked, “Admiral, why the Tzenkethi though? Why are we on this ship?”

    “Ah, now we get to the heart of the matter,” the admiral said. She sat up on the slab. “Valeris wants out of the Empire. We’re going to get her out. But we damn well can’t take a starship into the Neutral Zone. Tensions are heightened now that the Romulans have sought to reengage with us. We have strong information, though the Tzenkethi would never confirm, that the Romulans have provided material support for the Coalition during its war with us, same with the Cardassians, but despite that the Coalition and the Star Empire are on friendly terms. Long story short, the Tzenkethi is more trusted among the Romulans and would not arouse suspicion.”

    “So this corvette is going to take us to Valeris?” Glover asked. “If so, what do you need my piloting skills for?”

    “The Klorantha is just crossing the Temecklia system, and entering Romulan space without raising any hackles. But they are not going all the way, the Autarch was adamant about that. He doesn’t want a war with the Romulans any more than another one with us.”

    “I’m not even going to pretend I’m not confused here,” Terrence admitted.

    Uhura chuckled. “Commander Ravus will drop us off just inside Romulan space, where I’ve already purchased a vessel, and that’s where you come in Mr. Glover,” she paused for dramatic effect, “ You’re going to take us deeper into the Star Empire.”

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  12. DarKush

    DarKush Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Nov 18, 2005
    ***************************************************************************

    PART TWO: NEST OF VIPERS

    Vokar’s Spaceship Emporium

    Vokar’s Moon

    Loculus Sector


    “Welcome to Vokar’s Emporium,” the corpulent man clapped his hands before holding them wide, as if seeking an embrace. “The finest space ship and parts store in the Beta Quadrant!” The man smiled, revealing too many small, sharp teeth. The Tzenkethi corvette had beamed them down to a desolate moon, inside a dusty lunar hangar reeking of oil and other fluids. Glover had been glad to be off the corvette, but he wasn’t so sure this place was better from an olfactory sense. The bulbous man stood between two shuttles in various stages of disrepair.

    Cal nudged Terrence, leaned close to his ear, and did his best to whisper. “That’s a Ferengi?” His incredulousness matched Glover’s. The short, fat man was orange-brown in coloration, his enlarged skull hairless, and his ears were nearly the size of his thick head. He wore a striped fur vest over his brown tunic, and furry boots covered his feet. Half covering the back of the man’s head was a glittery brown metallic headdress, which matched the tunic. A whip was curled conspicuously at his hip, surprisingly not obscured by the girth.

    The smiling man laughed. He touched the rim of one of his large ears. “I can hear you my friends, and yes I am a Ferengi. DaiMon Snark,” he took a short bow, “I opened many a market for the great Ferengi Alliance.”

    “It’s been many a moon-not this one-since you sat at the prow of a marauder,” Admiral Uhura quipped.

    “Yes, quite some time I am afraid,” Snark agreed, oblivious of the woman’s jab, or perhaps not caring. “I was betrayed, marooned by my crew…led by my own nephew…but one day, I shall avenge myself upon that skritz Drux!” Animatedly, the Ferengi thrust one finger into the air. His face contorting with rage, he turned away for a moment. When he faced them again, Snark was all smiles. “But that is an occasion for another day. Today, my friends we have business to conduct, and a dream to help you realize.”

    “Where is the ship?” Uhura asked, completely disbelieving the man’s sincerity. Glover was still getting over that this portly alien was a Ferengi. The tall tales about them were they were fearsome, human-eating monsters.

    “That’s what I like about you hew-mons, so down to the point,” Snark winked.

    “We’re Eminians,” Uhura replied smoothly. “Traders,” she added. Unbidden Glover glanced down at his dark clothing to see if there was anything out of order. His uniform, including his combadge, had been vaporized. Catching the self-conscious gesture, Snark grinned; this time the gesture taking on a nasty tone.

    “Even the ones with the ears eh?” He pointed a blue-finger nailed finger at Xinran . The Romulan glowered at the man.

    “Ears?” The V’Shar agent riposted. “You’re one to talk.”

    Snark laughed, clutching his ample midsection. “Quite amusing, you bunch. But I am no fool, despite my current loss of favor on Ferenginar. I know a hew-mon when I see one. Now I wonder why would you be here, in Romulan space, seeking to purchase a Romulan spacecraft from a humble, honest merchant like myself? Deign to enlighten?”

    “You’ve already received payment,” Uhura said, her voice hot.

    “Yes, yes, that is true and for that I thank you,” Snark said. “The ship is yours; there is no question about that, me being an honest broker and all. However leaving this moon without my informing the authorities of your arrival, as well as the make and transponder signal of your purchased vessel, well…” The man left the rest hanging. His smile took on a predatory cast.

    Glover and Cal stepped from behind the admiral, both knowing a con when they heard one. “The…our friend has already paid you, and it would be unwise to act in bad faith,” Terrence hissed through clenched teeth.

    “I wouldn’t dream of it,” Snark replied with a mock frown, though the man stepped back. There was a rustling from among the rusting hulks, and two living hulks emerged. The gray skinned, muscled Barolians both clutched cannon-sized disruptors.

    Terrence glanced at Cal, and saw the man was similarly smiling. “Reminds me of that time on Rigel X,” Glover muttered. The two Starfleet officers faced down the Barolians.

    “Please,” Uhura held up a hand. “Stop gentlemen.” She nodded at Xinran. “I believe the Major would like to speak.” Glover looked at Cal, and saw the man was looking at him, both with confused expressions. Snark was similarly confused, though he tried to smile away his nervousness.

    “Major, you say?”

    “Of the Tal Shiar,” Uhura was smooth as Andorian silk. “Well the major can tell you all about it.”

    Snark’s smile dropped. His beady eyes darted from Uhura to Xinran. “I don’t believe you,” he challenged.

    Xinran said nothing. The man stood there stoically, and then he smiled. Even Glover was chilled, but the Ferengi was mortified. The man almost fell over backing away from the silent Romulan. He bumped into a wall and threw his hands up as if avoid a pummeling or being vaporized.

    “We’ll be taking the ship now,” Uhura said. “And we should not anticipate you informing anyone of our presence here, shall we?”

    “Of course, of course not,” Snark was quaking. He frantically waved at his Barolian muscle, to back off. “I’m, I’m a loyal, and grateful expatriate of the Romulan state. They took me in, allowed me to eke out an existence here, away from those that would most wish me harm. In fact I service a lot of the Tal Shiar agent, for a reduced fee, practically a steal, as a sign of my patriotism.”

    “Why do you think the major choose you to do business with?” Uhura asked, her voice as sugary as Kaferian apple pie.

    “Really?” Snark breathed. “I have gained a reputation among the Tal Shiar?”

    “Yes,” Uhura smiled, but there was nothing sweet behind the gesture. “You have.”

    The Ferengi’s face fell. “What does that mean?” He asked. Uhura nodded to the rest of them, and then Xinran stepped forward and they followed him.

    “I think we can find our way from here,” the woman looked back over her shoulder.

    “What do you mean?” He kept pleading, following behind them. “Please, what do you mean?”

    ***************************************************************************

    Romulan Imperial Shuttle Patronus


    “My Dad would kill to be here right now,” Glover said as he accommodated himself to the controls of the scout ship. Thanks to Admiral Glover, he knew enough Romulan to be somewhat dangerous, but he was happy, for the second time today, that Xinran was in the cockpit beside him. Together the two men had figured out how to exit the moon’s hangar and had been streaking through Romulan space for over an hour at full impulse.

    The admiral had wisely suggested that they conducted a systems check, and also an inspection for any booby traps or trackers that the good DaiMon Snark might have snuck onboard.

    The Ferengi had nervously stood at the open hatch, whining about how above board he was as a merchant. The admiral shut him up when she tossed the tracker she discovered at him. Snark awkwardly reached to catch that. “Do you know how much that cost?” He screeched.

    “Are there any other surprises?” Uhura had asked coldly.

    “No, no of course not,” The Ferengi had promised as he gingerly placed the tracking device beside him.

    “There better not be,” the admiral had declared. “Or we will be back, and next time, we won’t be so…understanding.”

    “Ah yes,” Glover said, beaming, “A manual steering column,” he said.

    “Auxiliary purposes only Terrence,” Cal clapped his shoulder. “I remember that joyride around Saturn with those two butterfly dancers. You took so many barrel rolls I threw up on the purple one, you remember?”

    “That’s one I will never forget,” Terrence laughed.

    “At least he didn’t cheat us out of the cloaking device,” Uhura said, stepping into the cockpit. Since they had been underway the admiral had been in the back of the ship, tinkering at Terrence’s best guess. He hoped that the woman had found the ship’s replicator, or whatever passed for one on a Romulan ship. He wasn’t the biggest fan or Romulan cuisine; or rather his father’s attempt at it, but Terrence was certain anything was better than what was on that Tzenkethi ship. Glover swallowed hard at the admiral’s revelation and shared a look with Cal.

    “A cloaking device?” Both men asked.

    “Yes,” the admiral replied. “All Aquila-class scout ships are equipped with them, though it’s of a design I’m not familiar with. Much more elaborate than the one the Enterprise once procured. Now you see why I was interested in young Mr. Sisko,” Uhura smiled. “I needed someone with his engineering skills.”

    “I can take a look at it,” Hudson offered. “I’m no Ben, but I did alright in my engineering courses back in the Academy.”

    “Please,” Uhura said. Cal took off to the back of the shuttle. The woman took a seat behind Glover.

    “Admiral, I’m curious,” Terrence ventured. “If I’m here for my piloting skill, and I assume Xinran is here for his language and science skills among other things that will facilitate our way through Romulan space, but what is Cal doing here?”

    “Believe me Commander Glover, I’m not needlessly risking Mr. Hudson’s life, or any of yours or that matter. This mission doesn’t happen without Mr. Hudson’s involvement.”

    “Why is that?” Terrence frowned. He didn’t like the woman dancing around the question.

    “What is our heading Mr. Xinran?” Uhura asked. Glover swallowed his frustration. The Romulan replied.

    “You’re about to get your answer Terrence,” Uhura said. “Xinran, be a dear and open hailing frequencies.”

    “Hailing frequencies?” Glover looked back at her, and saw the woman smiling. “Who are we contacting? There’s no one out there.”

    “Reading a massive tachyon surge off our bow,” Xinran said.

    “What Xinran?” Terrence turned back to the V’Shar agent. A flicker caught the edge of his eye and he looked out the wrap-around v-shaped porthole. A massive patch of space was twisting and distorting in front of them, taking on a large avian shape.

    “It’s a warbird sir,” Xinran replied, both his expression and tone deadly serious. “Shall I raise shields, prime the weapons?”

    Besides the cloaking device, the scout ship had deflector shields, one disruptor, and one plasma torpedo launcher, though Snark had only supplied them with a single torpedo. There wasn’t much in the way of armaments, so winning a fight against the monster before them wasn’t an option. Glover was about to order that Xinran strike the warbird before it raised it shields and then he was going to take the scout to maximum warp and hope that the warbird didn’t overtake them.

    “Don’t do anything Mr. Xinran,” Uhura ordered.

    “Admiral, that’s a Romulan warbird out there,” Glover said, his pulse quickening, even as he took a moment to admire the humongous green death machine. The warbird had a unique open shell design, which made its twin nacelles resemble wings. The ship was one of the largest warships he had ever seen, nearly twice as long as a Galaxy-class starship. Despite its hulking size, the warbird had a graceful avian design, its prominent forward hull looking like a beak.

    The console beeped, and Xinran looked from Glover to the admiral, a perplexing look on his face. “The warbird is hailing us,” Uhura said with certainty. “Mr. Xinran, you’re on.”

    ****************************************************************************
     
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  13. DarKush

    DarKush Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Nov 18, 2005
    ****************************************************************************

    RIS Patronus


    Glover’s throat tightened and his fingers hovered over the helm. This isn’t working, he thought, but wisely kept his mouth shut. Beside him, Xinran maintained a calm expression, but being up close to the Romulan, Terrence could see the beads of sweat on his ridged brow.

    “So you’re saying that your viewscreen is malfunctioning?” The voice issuing from the audio speakers was dripping with skepticism. “Our sensors do not detect any problems with your shuttle’s systems,” the man said.

    “You’re not over here,” Xinran said, trying to add edge and authority to his voice. He would need to sell the warbird commander on his Tal Shiar bonafides, but Glover knew it would much harder; especially that Admiral Uhura couldn’t do the talking for him. The commander looked again at the large warbird hanging above them as if poised to strike.

    “What was your identification code again, Major…Lluadh?” The commander demanded. Xinran skeptically looked back at Uhura. The woman, sitting on the edge of her seat, nodded at him to answer. Xinran repeated the identification code. Cal, seated opposite form the admiral, also had a worried look on his face.

    Terrence exhaled after a few moments when the commander replied, “The identification code has been confirmed.” There was a pause, and then, “Our sensors are reading four life signs on your vessel…one Romulan, three…Eminian?”

    Glover looked at Uhura. The woman flashed a smile. So that’s must have been part of what she had been doing in the back of the shuttle, masking their biosigns.

    “What is the purpose of your mission Major?” The voice pressed. “And why do you need Eminians to accomplish it?”

    “That is no concern of yours,” Xinran said, though Glover felt without enough force. The man was folding, cracking under the strain of the deception, and who could blame him, with their destruction swirling in the warbird’s disruptor banks.

    “Furthermore, and more importantly, why do you need one of my crew, my science officer no less, for this mysterious mission?”

    “That is also not your concern,” the Romulan said, strength returning to his voice.

    “What if I refused your request?” The commander challenged. “What if my science officer were to remain aboard this vessel, attending to her duties instead?”

    Another flash on the console display showed that the warbird had powered weapons. Glover stared hard at Xinran. The Romulan looked to Uhura. The admiral calmly gestured for Xinran to continue.

    “That would be unwise,” Xinran said, with a rodinium-laced tone. “Commander?”

    There was no response, but Terrence noted that the warbird’s weapons were fully charged.

    Xinran looked to Uhura again, and the admiral silently made a pushing gesture. “Commander,” the operative said again, his voice indignant, and Glover could see that that part at least wasn’t an act. “I asked you a question.”

    There was continued silence for a moment, before the other man replied, “Maec,” he said, and then with more authority, “Commander Maec of the…”

    Imperial Warbird Lucian,” Xinran interrupted; his tone now dismissive. “Commander Maec of the Imperial Warbird Lucian you’ve impeded my mission long enough. Now, you will comply, or…I will have to report your defiance to headquarters.”

    Xinran cut the transmission. The man exhaled and slumped in his chair. Uhura squeezed his shoulder. “You did well Mr. Xinran.” Cal also added his encouragement, but Terrence was too busy looking from the shuttle’s sensor readings to the ship hovering above them.

    “The Lucian has raised shields and targeted weapons,” Glover said, unable to keep the anxiety out of his voice. “Admiral, I think we should do likewise.”

    “No,” Uhura said.

    “At least enact evasive maneuvers,” Terrence requested.

    “No,” the admiral shook her head.

    “I can contact them again,” Xinran offered.

    “You will do no such thing,” the admiral said, and sat back in her chair. She crossed her arms over her chest, her face impassive, but her eyes burned like coals. “This is nothing more than a game of chicken.”

    Xinran was confused, but Cal grinned after a moment, and nodded at Glover. “You remember that race you had with Justine Haas to reach the sun? Neither one of you backed off, until Justine finally came to her senses, but you just had to keep going. Damn near got cooked by a solar flare for that stunt too.”

    “Well, hey, I won didn’t I?” Terrence grinned.

    “And winning is what I hope will happen for all of us just now, but patience is required,” the admiral said with an enviable sagacity.

    The console beeped again. “It’s the Lucian,” Xinran said, with obvious relief. “She’s hailing us.”

    “Wait,” Uhura held up a hand.

    The atmosphere inside the cockpit grew thick with anxiety as the seconds seemed to stretch into eons. Every time Xinran even looked like he wanted to open the channel, the admiral stopped him.

    More sensors lit up on the console. “Lucian is powering down weapons and lowering shields,” he replied, relief warring with surprise.

    The admiral nodded. “Now, answer the hail Mr. Xinran. But let Commander Maec speak first.”

    The operative nodded. He activated the link between the vessel, and he admirably held his tongue until a reluctant Maec spoke up.

    “I will accede to your request Major,” the stricken man replied. “I had to ascertain if you were in fact a member of the Tal Shiar. With the renewal of our relations with the Federation, we all have to be vigilant of alien infiltration,” the man added.

    “Enough,” Xinran sounded bored. “You’ve shown your crew that you can stand up to the dreaded Tal Shiar, and if this mission wasn’t more pressing, I would show you the error of engaging in such misguided actions.” The man didn’t need to be told this time to end communication with the Lucian.

    Uhura smiled with satisfaction. “Excellent work Mr. Xinran; for a moment there you convinced me that you actually were a Tal Shiar agent.”

    The man’s face pinched. “I don’t know if that’s a compliment or an insult, to be honest admiral.”

    “Believe me it’s a compliment,” Uhura said. “Great job.” Seconds later the cockpit filled with the familiar whine of a transporter beam. The shuttle’s tiny pad was in the hold.

    Terrence’s eyes widened in surprise, but his stomach tightened with worry. He wondered what the Romulans had just beamed aboard the shuttle.

    “Mr. Hudson,” Uhura said. “I think we should greet our new guest; you first.”

    “Of course,” Cal got up from his seat.

    “Wait, why Cal?” Glover asked, concerned for his friend.

    Uhura looked back. “You had asked why Mr. Hudson was part of this mission, and now you’re about to find out.” Without saying more, the admiral left the cockpit. Glover was quick on her heels.

    ****************************************************************************

    RIS Patronus


    Jolan Tru,” Admiral Uhura said, with a respectful nod.

    The woman stepped off the transporter pad, dropping the large jade duffel bag that hung from her shoulder. She glared at the wizened legend. “How do you know our tongue?”

    “I don’t think that’s the appropriate response to a greeting,” Uhura responded, before smiling. The woman continued glowering. “Young lady, I was studying Romulan language before you were born.”

    The Romulan science officer was not mollified by that. “More than likely one of the Starfleet operatives rife throughout the Empire told you our greetings,” she surmised. “I wonder what else they have told you.” She huffed.

    “Spoken like a woman who just willingly beamed onto a ship full of Starfleet officers,” Glover shot off. Uhura scowled at him before shrugging her shoulders. The woman turned her ire to him. “Lt. Leta I presume?”

    “And who are you?” She demanded.

    “Hey, let’s tone it down a bit here,” Cal stepped forward, putting on his most soothing tone. Terrence had seen his friend utilize that tone before, though for less platonic reasons. “You gave the isolinear chip to me, you initiated this, and the accusatory tone is not beneficial.”

    A nasty retort was brimming on the edge of the woman’s tongue, Glover was certain, but she reined it in. With precision she turned to Hudson. “Lt. Hudson, it is agreeable to see you again.” The woman’s fires dimmed somewhat.

    “Same here,” Hudson replied, “Though I wish the circumstances were much different.” As the tension diffused Terrence took in their newest guest. The woman was tall, and striking, with her almond eyes giving her longish face a vaguely Asiatic cast. Her skin was bronzed while her hair was jet black and almost touched her shoulders. He noticed that it was shaved on each side, making her pointed ears more prominent.

    Glover also took a look at the Romulan uniform. He was one of the few Starfleet officers who had seen a Romulan this close up in several decades. The Romulan uniform had changed a great deal since the ones from last century. Leta wore a thick, padded silver gray jacket with jutting shoulders, and a harness that split at the sternum and went around both shoulders. In the center of the harness was the shiny avian crest of the Star Empire.

    Terrence also took note of the sleek, green disruptor at the woman’s right hip and the jeweled hilt of blade on her left. Of course it had to be that moment that Leta took notice of him. Her face twisted with disgust, “You humans are as lecherous as Ferengi!” She spat. Cal rolled his eyes. The admiral shrugged again.

    “I was just admiring your uniform,” Glover replied, “And that didn’t take long.”

    Veruul!” The woman hissed.

    PetaQ!” Glover barked back. That incensed the woman even more. For a second Terrence thought he might have to grab his sonic disruptor.

    “I should expect barbarian behavior from beings that cavort with Klingons!” the woman nearly screeched. “And you even use their pathetic attempts at language.”

    “It was the best I could do in a pinch,” Terrence shrugged. “We’ve largely eliminated really good swear words on Earth.”

    “Another reason why this alliance is ill-advised, and will be extremely temporary on my part!” Leta stated.

    “Which goes back to my original statement,” Terrence said, “Why are you here?”

    “I’m a patriot!” The science officer declared, getting in Glover’s face. He didn’t back away. In fact he found the woman’s scent mildly alluring, and her breath carried a whiff of something that smelled like cinnamon.

    “I didn’t say you weren’t,” Terrence replied, “But that still doesn’t explain why you’re here! If you hate humans and the Federation so much, why are you helping us?!”

    The woman twitched, as if she was going to strike him. But once again she pulled back. Showing off her precision again, she turned from Glover and retrieved her bag. She stomped off to the sleeping compartment as if she knew the way.

    After she was gone, Uhura looked bemused. Terrence turned to Hudson.

    “Cal, what the hell was that about?”

    His old friend smiled, “She never acted that way around me, all professional, at times perfunctorily. But not so with you,” he laughed. He punched Glover’s bicep. “I think she really likes you.”

    ************************************************************************

    RIS Patronus


    Terrence thought he would feel better once they were past the Lucian, but who knew how many other warbirds were lurking around, under cloak, out there? Despite Cal being presently at the controls, he was still troubled by the prospect that they were not alone. For all he knew the Lucian was pursuing them now.

    Glover tried not to think about that as he sat at the table in the makeshift conference room. Normally serving as a kitchen, the shuttle’s crew all sat around the table. Terrence couldn’t get what Cal had said out of his head about the tempestuous science officer, and found himself sneaking looks at her. But this time Leta didn’t catch him because her attention was on Xinran.

    Likewise, the V’Shar agent was glaring at the woman, and the hate between them was palpable. Despite that, Glover felt a silly little pang of jealousy that the two had a forged such an intense connection.

    “So, Valeris is in the Romii system,” Admiral Uhura said. The woman’s hands were wrapped around a mug of a steaming beverage called tarka. The woman had seemed to be enjoying the drink. Leta had recommended that it be served hot. The science officer had also suggested other food choices, and Terrence had to admit the meatroll he had just finished was tasty. Every now and then he sipped the sweet, but tart carallun, a citrus drink Leta had been surprised to find among the replicator’s options. She had informed them that carallun was rarely imbibed off world.

    “A system close to the hearthworlds,” Xinran said. The man elaborated, “Romulus and Remus,” after he caught that Glover didn’t know what he had meant. “This mission is getting more dangerous by the nanosecond.”

    “Yes,” Glover concurred. “We’re taking a lightly armed shuttle, with one of the highest ranking officers in Starfleet into the heart of the Star Empire. So far the Tal Shiar trick has worked, but I’m concerned that that bag of tricks will soon run out. And then what? Here deep in Romulan space, with no back up.”

    “The answer is quite simple Mr. Glover,” Uhura said, “We don’t get caught.”

    “Oh well, that clears it up,” Leta quipped, and Glover hated to find himself in agreement with her, and was pleased the woman could display something beyond anger. He was also pleased to see that the woman had doffed her uniform and was now wearing a form fitting green tunic and tight darker green pants; the tunic also sporting shoulder pads. What was up with these people and shoulder pads? Glover wondered.

    “While I am certain your skills are commensurate with Starfleet service, evading the Imperial Fleet might prove an impossible task,” Leta added. Terrence pursed his lips.

    “We’ve done alright so far Lieutenant,” he jauntily replied.

    The woman snorted. “Commander Maec? Believe me; it does not take great skill to deceive him. Despite his bluster, he is deathly afraid of the Tal Shiar.” The woman glared again at Xinran. “I do find it surprising that a Terran puppet could convey their swaggering arrogance.”

    The admiral’s lips drew into a tight line at the insult. Xinran did his best to maintain his composure, though his cheeks had greened slightly.

    Leta’s smile was nasty. “I bet they’ve even domesticated you so much you have a human wife and mongrel progeny, a complete bastardization of your bloodline.”

    “I will not tolerate such language directed at anyone, especially someone under my charge,” Uhura warned.

    Leta turned to the older woman. “I’m not under your charge!” She replied, “And can’t the Raalar-lover speak in his own defense?”

    Xinran smacked the table with both fists, and Terrence thought the man had left him impressions in the plasteel table. He bolted up, his chest heaving, his nostrils flaring. “You will not insult my paramour ever again!” Leta was on her feet in seconds, as was everyone else.

    “Everything okay back there?!” Cal called out from the cockpit.

    “Yeah, err, I think so,” Terrence yelled back.

    Glover almost reached for his sidearm, but stopped when he saw Leta smiling. “Ha,” she nodded, “I see that your diluted blood burns like the sands of the Ar’hael,” the science officer replied. “One would think, living amongst all these humans, sharing your birthright with them even, that it would weaken you, extinguish the maelstrom raging in the hearts of all Rihannsu.”

    “If you test me further, I will show you exactly how Romulan I am,” Xinran warned, with a venom in his voice that unsettled Terrence. Just who was this man Uhura had brought aboard, and did even she know?

    “I might take you up on that offer one day, Xinran or should I call you Terran,” Leta smirked before adding, “But at the moment, we have business, of a kind that is of great import to our nations.”

    “Let us return to it please,” Uhura said, reminding Glover of an exasperated school principal. The quartet retained their seats.

    “None of this adds up, if I’m being honest,” Glover ventured. He considered both the admiral and Leta before continuing, “Lt. Leta, you’ve made your feelings about the Federation and its denizens quite clear, yet you’re helping us extract a defector who claims to have vital information that I’m damn sure the Romulan authorities don’t want us to have. Is that correct?”

    The woman nodded curtly.

    “And you make contact with Lt. Hudson and insist that he be the one to accompany you on this mission.”

    “I did not make that request,” the woman said. Glover pulled back, perplexed. He looked at Uhura, but got no help there. The woman’s expression was neutral, but he could see the wheels behind her eyes spinning.

    “Well, if you didn’t, who did?” The commander pressed.

    “Valeris,” Leta answered. Seeing Glover was about to ask another question, the woman huffed before adding, “When I recounted my interactions with the embassy personnel, she seized on Hudson. She liked it when I told her that during our discussions, Lt. Hudson had told me that he and his wife were attempting to have children.”

    “I don’t understand what that has to do with anything at all,” Terrence said.

    “Valeris had said that any person seeking to have children would not want them born in a galaxy at war, that Hudson was a man that could be trusted. I disagreed,” she said, her eyes narrowing. “I don’t trust any of you.”

    “That being said, why did you accede to Valeris’s wishes? Or orders? Who is she to you?”

    That last question actually put a cork in the woman. She struggled to formulate a reply.

    “Isn’t it obvious Commander Glover?” Uhura carefully interjected, “Valeris is Leta’s mother.”

    *************************************************************************
     
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  14. DarKush

    DarKush Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Nov 18, 2005
    *************************************************************************

    RIS Patronus


    Glover was stunned, but Xinran roared with laughter. Leta stared honor blades at the man. “So you’re the half-breed I see,” the V’Shar operative said, and all Leta could do was stew.

    “Admiral Uhura, you knew about this?” Terrence asked. He was getting tired of the woman withholding information, living legend or not.

    “No, I didn’t Mr. Glover,” the admiral said, “However I suspected. An old friend of mine often said, ‘that if you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.’ With Lt. Leta’s open hostility to us, and our mission, I could only conclude that she was helping us for personal reasons that superseded even her loyalty to the Romulan state. And what bond could be stronger than loyalty to country? Friendship or blood. And blood ties are very important to the Romulans. So Leta being Valeris’s daughter made the most sense,” the woman paused, smiled, and raised one white eyebrow, “It was only logical.”

    “Logic!” Leta spat. “You sound like a damn Vulcan!”

    “Like your mother then,” Xinran laughed again. With surprising speed, Leta jumped across the table, crashing into Xinran and knocking him onto the ground. She rode with him, landing on top. Glover heard Xinran groan. He was out of his seat in seconds, and if he had taken a moment later, the Romulan might have been wearing a permanent grin.

    Leta held her jeweled dagger aloft, poised to strike. Like a madman, Xinran grinned through the green blood pouring from his nose. “Do it,” he taunted, “Do it!”

    Terrence pulled out his sonic disruptor and fumbled with the settings. It wasn’t like a standard Starfleet issue phaser. Sonic disruptors could both stun and kill and he wanted to make sure he didn’t press the wrong setting.

    “Stop her Mr. Glover!” Uhura commanded.

    “Screw it,” Glover twisted the gun around in his hand, gripping the barrel. He then brought the handle down against Leta’s head. The woman fell off Xinran and hard to the deck.

    At that moment Cal rushed into the room. He looked around, an expression of horror on his face when he saw the unconscious Leta and the still grinning V’Shar agent.

    **************************************************************************

    RIS Patronus


    “When Leta wakes up, she’s going to be pretty pissed,” Cal smirked.

    Glover playfully smacked his forehead. “Don’t I know it?”

    “So what did I miss?” Hudson asked. Once Xinran had attended to his own minor injuries, he had assumed piloting duties. Admiral Uhura had tended to Leta and was checking in on her again now. They didn’t have space in the shuttle for an infirmary so Uhura had transformed the science officer’s sleeping compartment into a makeshift one.

    Glover recounted the conversation, with Cal animating the discussion with a variety of facial expressions, covering the gamut from mortified to amused. By the time Terrence had finished, Uhura had emerged from Leta’s compartment and had taken a seat back at the time.

    The woman’s age was showing in how slowly she plopped into the chair. That made Glover worried how well the woman could hold up if things got intense during the extraction.

    “Leta and I had struck up a little rapport, but I never thought she would take an aside I made after one diplomat gave birth-the first human born on Romulus, in…who knows when, but still I hadn’t thought she would tell that to Valeris, or anyone really.”

    “She’s a Romulan,” Uhura said, “Valeris is likely not the only one Leta shared that information with. Don’t take it personal Mr. Hudson. It’s the way she was taught. If she hadn’t reported it, it could’ve resulted in her arrest, execution, or even worse, disgrace to her family.”

    “I see,” Hudson said, though he was still unsettled.

    “I wonder what other surprises Leta, this Valeris, or you admiral for that matter, have in store for us?” Glover said.

    The woman didn’t take the bait. She smiled instead, stoking the commander’s anger.

    “Entering the Romii system,” Xinran’s voice came through the intercom.

    “So what’s the plan?” Hudson asked, wanting to get the conversation back on track.

    “Valeris is on the fourth planet in the system, a resort planet,” Uhura said.

    “At least we’ll be dying in paradise,” Glover quipped. This time the admiral was not amused.

    “Terrence,” Hudson chided.

    “Alright,” Glover groused. “I’ll keep my witty retorts to myself.”

    “‘Witty’?” Uhura harrumphed.

    “Ouch,” Hudson said with a smile. Glover smiled too, but kept his word and his lips sealed.

    “Before her unexpected nap, Leta had handed me over the codes that should allow us to land at the spaceport on Romii IV. From there Leta, accompanied by Xinran ….”

    “Do you think it’s wise to put those two together?” Hudson took the question straight from Glover’s mind.

    “Mr. Xinran will do his duty,” Uhura said.

    “I’m not concerned about Mr. Xinran,” Glover said.

    “I’m with Terrence on that,” Cal added. “This version of Leta on this shuttle is not the same person I talked with in the embassy, and I don’t whatever facets of her personality she has kept hidden from us.”

    “I trust Mr. Xinran’s judgment and his ability to handle himself,” Uhura said. “I didn’t choose him at random. He’s been an exemplary scientist, among other things.”

    “Of that I have little doubt, but this is a highly stressful situation we’ve all been placed under, and I can tell the man is sensitive about his heritage. What if encounters others who take issue with it when he is on the planet?”

    “I will talk with Xinran, to inveigh on him the importance that he maintains his composure,” Uhura said, “And to keep an eye on Leta.”

    “I think he’s doing a pretty good job with that already, and so is Terrence,” Hudson joked. Terrence rolled his eyes. Uhura laughed.

    “I’m glad you both can keep a sense of humor about all this,” the woman said, the façade dropping for just a moment, revealing a deep sadness. “It can help you through some really tough times.”

    The conversation paused, until Hudson said, “So, Xinran and Leta will retrieve Valeris. What will we be doing?”

    “The hardest part of the mission,” the admiral said. “You’ll be waiting.”

    “We?” Glover looked at Cal. “What about you Admiral?”

    “You really thought I was going to let those two crazy kids go off on their own?” Uhura was incredulous. Then her expression grew somber. “There’s no way I’m taking Valeris anywhere until I look in the eye.”

    ****************************************************************************

    RIS Patronus

    Dagarth Spaceport

    Spaceport Hold-966

    Romii IV


    “I can’t believe she didn’t take us,” Glover groused. He rapped the silver helmet on his head. The ear-obscuring helmets, along with two ill-fitting silver-gray uniforms were just a few of the items Leta had magically pulled from the large duffel she had brought aboard the Patronus. “I mean with this thing on, no one can tell us apart from any other Romulan.”

    Hudson laughed, “You know what Leta said, despite the uniforms, we wouldn’t come off as Romulan, in our behavior.” Cal was wearing a similar helmet. “And she didn’t want to add to the risk of discovery.”

    “Yeah, and also she said our smell would give us away,” Terrence griped, “But I think she was talking about you instead of me.”

    “Very funny,” Cal punched his arm.

    “I don’t see why we even have to wear these blasted things even inside the shuttle,” Terrence said.

    “Eyes everywhere, remember?” Hudson reminded him.

    “Yeah, whatever,” Glover replied. “Leta stuffs us into these padded uniforms and all she gave the Admiral was a cloak.”

    “I’m worried about her too,” Cal admitted. He checked the chronometer again.

    “How long has it been?”

    “Two hours,” Hudson answered.

    “And who knows how long it will take for them to get back here,” Terrence sighed. He rapped his knuckles against the console. “Do you think the scientist will be alright?”

    “Mr. Xinran?” Cal asked. “Yeah, I think he will keep his cool.”

    “Yeah, I hope so,” Glover said, with less confident. The image of Xinran pounding the table flashed through his mind. “Leta can be pretty needling.”

    “Is that all she can be?” Hudson grinned.

    Glover sighed again. “Sure, she’s…hot, I can’t lie about that, but she’s a Romulan.”

    “So?” Cal was still smiling.

    “Fair point,” Terrence conceded. “But there’s that one little issue of that she hates our guts,” he added.

    “Yeah,” Hudson’s smile dimmed. “And I wonder why that is? It’s a deep-seated anger, it seems personal to me.”

    “Maybe she’s bitter about what happened to her mother?” Glover offered.

    “Perhaps,” Cal said, though he wasn’t convinced.

    “We could get more answers if we weren’t stuck on this bucket,” Terrence groused.

    “Terrence, you know the admiral orders,” Hudson reminded him. “We stay on the shuttle.”

    “Yeah,” Glover said, but he gestured at the porthole. “But there’s so much life out there. This might be my only chance to set foot on Romulan soil; I mean not everyone gets to wine and dine at the embassy on Romulus.”

    “Oh please,” Cal laughed.

    “But seriously,” Terrence said, looking back out the porthole. “Look at all the life out there,” pointing out beyond the shuttle. Hudson followed his pointed finger.

    The spaceport was bustling, giving both men a good macrocosm of the Romulan citizenry. He saw Romulans of varying skin tones, forehead shapes, ages, and body types, in all manner of dress, from stately robes to tattered, ragged clothing. Glover could count on one hand the number of non-Romulans he saw. He spotted a Barolian, two Koltaari, one Tholian draped in an environmental suit as it skittered down the throughway. There were even the occasional brave panhandler but they moved on quickly whenever officers of the Compliance Division walked through.

    The Compliance Division officers were dressed in metallic black broad shouldered uniforms, with knee-length trousers, shiny black boots, and the requisite scowls.

    The men tapped truncheons against their legs as they parted the crowds, their heads seemingly on swivels as they sought out any infractions. Once the officers had made their rounds, some of the panhandlers would return.

    Terrence was enjoying the people watching until he noted a thickset, iron-gray Romulan, in a fine-tailored white and gold tunic trailed by a retinue. What caught his eye was a young pallid, hairless alien that was definitely not Romulan at the tail end of the entourage.

    The alien looked like an adolescent, and was dressed in rough cut clothing compared to the Romulans walking in front of him. And he struggled carrying a load of luggage, latched onto his back and also holding two bulging suitcases in his hands.

    The young man stumbled and fell, the luggage crashing to the ground, some knocked open and clothing and other trinkets spilled out. The portly Romulan wheeled around with surprising speed. The retinue scattered as the man upbraided the alien, who was struggling to get up. The man kicked him in the midsection and the teen fell back to the ground. Some of the other Romulans in the retinue began laughing.

    The corpulent Romulan continued kicking the alien, who scrambled to his back and kept backing away; throwing up his hands, but nothing stopped the older Romulans assault.

    “You know what Admiral Uhura said,” Hudson warned.

    “And you know I’m putting a stop to this,” Glover declared.

    “I was hoping you were going to say that,” Cal replied. “Let’s go.”

    **************************************************************************
     
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  15. DarKush

    DarKush Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Nov 18, 2005
    **************************************************************************

    Dagarth Spaceport


    “You there!” Glover used his best command voice. “What you are doing?!” The entourage melted away, but the heavy Romulan continued pummeling the alabaster alien. Glover grabbed the man’s arm in mid-swing. The Romulan glared at him and ripped his arm away.

    “How dare you!” The man spat. “You dare put your hand on me Decurion?” The man turned to backhand Glover, but Terrence grabbed the bigger man’s hand and dug his fingers into the soft flesh.

    “I ask the questions here!” Glover barked, drawing gasps from the retinue and other onlookers.

    “What’s your name Decurion? Who is your commander?” The man demanded. The man reeked of something alcoholic.

    “You are in no position to ask any questions here,” Hudson said, backing Glover up. The fat man glared at both of them, before his face split into a nasty grin.

    “You two must be from backwater worlds, the Outmarches perhaps?” Terrence looked at Cal, and the other man seemed just as perplexed by the question. “It is obvious you don’t know who I am. I am a member of the Imperial Senate! And you’re impeding my return to Romulus to attend to important business!”

    “And what does that have to do with assaulting this being?” Glover still held the senator’s arm. He looked down at the still cowering alien. He noticed that the young man was wearing dark goggles.

    The senator’s laughter was grating. “You don’t assault your property.”

    “Property?” Hudson asked, his mouth drawing into a tight line. The senator looked at them both, seeing if either man was being serious.

    “You two need to lay off the ale,” the senator said. “Believe me.” He pulled his arm free of the commander’s grasp, swaying as he did so.

    “Are you saying this child is your slave?” Glover asked, his anger rising.

    “Of course,” the senator said. “Now you,” he gestured to alien. “Get up and collect our things. Once we are aboard, I will instruct you on the perils of clumsiness.”

    “You will do no such thing,” Cal declared, stepping in front of the alien.

    “Come now, you’ve had your fun,” the senator’s mirth faded. “The only reason I have indulged us thus far is because of those uniforms. Everyone knows that I am a firm backer of the Imperial forces; I served myself, aboard the Talok, an old Vas Hatham, when the Empire was on the rise.

    I was centurion on the Talok when we clutched the Glintara system in our talons, but now, the Cardassians lord over that system…it’s been nothing but a steady erosion of our power and prestige, despite the campaigns against the Taurhai and Klingons.” The man shook his gray head and placed a hand on Glover’s shoulder. “And now, some in the Senate are even talking about peace, peace with the Federation, even after what they did at Tomed or Narendra III!” Some of the senator’s hangers-on gasped on cue.

    “Perish the thought,” Hudson muttered sarcastically.

    “Indeed,” the senator sighed, lost in his reveries. Suddenly he looked up, his eyes gleaming. “It’s up to you fine warriors, your generation, to erase the stain of our failure.”

    “Is everything okay here Senator Penv?” Five Compliance Division officers pushed through the gathered crowd. The man looked at the ascetic man who had asked the question, blinked, and then snarled.

    “Of course it is! Did I call upon you?”

    “No, uh, no sir you didn’t, but we got several reports that you were being accosted by two soldiers,” the policeman replied.

    “Does it look like these men are threatening me?” Penv challenged. He awkwardly wrapped an arm around Glover’s shoulder and pulled him close. It was all Terrence could do to not elbow the man in his ample gut. “We were just sharing war stories. Perhaps you would understand the language of warriors if you weren’t wearing a child’s uniform,” the senator laughed, and Hudson joined him. Glover reluctantly followed suit. A spell of awkward laughter ensued. The lead Compliance officer’s face was burning green.

    “Now begone, the lot of you!” Penv flicked his hand at the policemen. “I have pressing matters to see to.” Terrence could tell the Compliance leader wanted to say more, but wisely remained silent. The quintet backed away, but didn’t leave the spaceport. In fact, Glover was certain the officers were looking right at him and Cal, but he didn’t want to turn around and make them aware he knew it.

    Hudson grabbed Glover’s bicep. He whispered, “I think that’s out cue.”

    “But what about the boy?” Terrence asked, pulling away from his friend. The senator had already forgotten about them. He kicked the young alien, prompting the servant to get on his feet. Then the senator stood over him, with both hands on his

    “There’s nothing we can do about that,” Cal said.

    “We can’t just let them take him. You know what Penv has threatened to do to him.”

    “Yes,” Hudson said, “But what do you propose, we take out five policemen, Penv’s entourage, and then go calmly wait in the shuttle until our friends return?”

    “No, of course not,” Terrence hotly replied. “That sounds ridiculous.”

    “And that’s exactly how you’re talking and acting right now,” Hudson said. “We can’t right this society’s wrongs, not here, not now, despite how much it galls us. We have a mission and we need to return to it.”

    “This, this just isn’t right,” Glover was now almost pleading. The young man had recovered the luggage and it was awkwardly placed on his back. He was trudging away, behind the chattering retinue, Senator Penv at its head.

    “It’s the Romulan way,” Hudson said. “You wanted to get a slice of Romulan life, and you’ve gotten it.”

    “Yeah,” Glover glowered. “It’s something I won’t forget,” he promised.

    *************************************************************************

    Dagarth Spaceport


    Glover had nudged Cal past the Patronus. He leaned close to them. “The Compliance officers are following us.”

    “Great,” Hudson huffed. “You just had to interfere and draw attention to us, didn’t you?”

    “If I recall, you were the one who said ‘Let’s go’,” Terrence said.

    “I was caught up in the moment,” Hudson breezily replied.

    “Now the goal is not to get caught period,” Terrence said.

    “Is it time to start running?” Cal asked.

    “Not yet,” he said, taking a chance and pausing at the base of a gleaming statue of a hard-faced woman, a raptor gripping her shoulder. Glover took a moment to gauge where the officers were.

    Hudson read the inscription at the statue’s base. He first read the words in the original Romulan before whispering, “Admiral Dagarth, conqueror of Haakona Prime,” before taking another look at the woman’s likeness.

    “Your Romulan is coming along nicely,” Glover replied.

    “Where are our friends now?” Hudson said, still pretending to study the statue.

    “They are closing in, from five different directions. I’m guessing they want to minimize casualties.”

    “It’s still pretty packed here,” Hudson said. “I think it might be best to continue moving with the flow.”

    “I agree,” Glover said. Before they entered the throng, he whispered, “And Dagarth was no hero; my dad told me how she unleashed a mutagenic virus on the Haakonans, eradicating them.”

    “My God,” Hudson said.

    “The Romulan way,” Terrence sadly shook his head.

    They didn’t get far before a voice called out. “Halt!” Terrence looked at Cal.

    “Is it time now?”

    “Nah, let’s just play this out.”

    “Oh boy,” Cal rolled his eyes.

    “Just follow my lead.”

    “The last time that happened we spent two days in detention on Wrigley’s Pleasure Planet.”

    “Well, getting there was fun,” Terrence offered.

    “That’s never the issue,” Cal rejoined. “It’s getting out of the jams is where it gets sticky.”

    “Fair enough,” Glover said.

    “I said halt!” The man repeated, and Terrence heard a vicious crackling and people screaming.

    At the base of another smaller statue, Terrence turned with military precision, his shoulders bunching, taking on a wrathful expression. “Are you talking to us?!” He figured since angry indignation worked for Penv, he might as well give it a go.

    “Yes,” the austere Compliance officer replied. “Produce your identification.” He pointed his baton at Glover, its tip sparking.

    “We will not,” Hudson said, standing beside Glover and getting easily into the act.

    The man eyed Cal and then Glover. He motioned and the other officers came through the crowd. Glover quickly looked around and each of them was clutching a crackling truncheon.

    “You can furnish your identification here, or at the station,” the man said.

    “We are on a mission of the utmost importance to the Empire,” Glover said. “Interfering with our completion of the mission would unwise.”

    The officer gave an unnerving smile. “Does this crucial mission involve accosting a senator and then spending time marveling at the Admiral Dagarth statue?”

    “That is no concern of yours!” Hudson snapped.

    “We are the law here, not you,” the man shot back.

    “So, the Compliance Division,” Terrence said loudly, and with scorn, “Supersedes the Imperial Fleet?”

    This time the man was not cowed. “That line might work for a well-known senator, but not for two unknown soldiers in ill-fitting uniforms. Uniforms that could have been stolen.”

    “‘Stolen?’” Glover chuckled and Cal joined him. “Who would dare?”

    “There are dissidents and infiltrators everywhere. For all I know, you’re both Klingons,” the man said.

    “I don’t smell them over here, so they can’t be Klingons,” one of the other police officers joked, incurring a hard stare from the leader. When the leader faced them again, his eyes narrowed.

    “Remove your helmets,” the leader said. “You could be smooth paned Klingons, or even humans; they’re everywhere now, like nhaidh.”

    “We’ve entertained this enough,” Glover said, his stomach starting to churn. This was going on too long; they were drawing too much attention. And if Romulan authorities had eyes everywhere, Terrence didn’t know who else was watching them now, or whatever force could be brought together against them at any moment.

    Glover instinctively reached for his disruptor. He grimaced, remembering he had left his weapon on the Patronus. He glanced at Cal. Hudson had a similar constrained look on his face.

    He caught Terrence’s eye and gave a little nod. The hard way then, Glover read in his friend’s eyes. Glover began checking for the two guys at his side and sizing up the leader. He knew that Cal was doing likewise.

    “I am giving you one final opportunity to comply,” the lead officer said, though he began stepping forward, and his men mimicked him. Glover and Cal went back to back.

    “That’s enough!” A sharp voice broke up the brewing fight. Glover looked at the speaker with a mix of relief and annoyance. He was still angered by how the senator had treated the alien servant and he wanted to unload on someone, and these officers were asking for it.

    His anger receded once his mind grasped who the woman was. He had only seen her image on a PADD, and though that image had been recorded almost a century ago, the woman had barely aged.

    Her fair skin was still tight, yet supple, the mole just below her lips alluring as it had been in the image. Her black hair was cut shorter, in a pixie style, and the headband was gone, but the sharpness in her gaze remained. She wore an expensive violet robe and cloak, with a turquoise-jeweled necklace glinting in the waning sunlight.

    The lead officer stood up straighter, “Lady Valeris,” he said quickly. “Please keep your distance. These are likely spies!”

    The woman laughed, and Glover gave Cal a sidelong glance. Granted he had never met the woman but he did know she was a Vulcan and to see her break out into full throated laughter was unsettling. Despite knowing some vo’tosh ka’tur Vulcans, old stereotypes were hard to get rid of.

    “These men are old veterans of my husband’s campaigns,” she said, gliding easily between the lead officer and the humans. She glanced over them and pursed her lips. “You can see those uniforms barely fit them. They’ve been planet bound too long; enjoying too much viinerine.”

    Hudson nudged Terrence and both men laughed. The lead officer reluctantly joined in. “My apologies Quaestor,” she dipped her head respectfully. “They are mud boots from the Diodor sector,” she explained and the quaestor’s eyes widened in understanding.

    “You are far from your home sector,” he said.

    “The literal fringe,” Valeris nodded. “And they have traveled far, to join with me, and travel some more to the Hearthworlds for a reunion of the Brutus crew.”

    The quaestor nodded somberly. “My father served with your honored husband years ago, shortly after Tomed. My father had been lost in Breen space years before Narendra III.”

    Valeris patted his shoulder. “Martius spoke of your father with pride. If he had been with him at Narendra, maybe things would’ve been different…for all of us.”

    “You honor me and mine with your words,” the officer gave an overly formal bow. He cleared his throat and nodded curtly at Terrence and Hudson. “My apologies.”

    “You were doing your duty, and there are no injured feelings because of it,” Hudson said. Glover merely nodded in affirmation.

    Once the Compliance officers had left, Glover allowed himself to relax, just a little. He looked around the Vulcan woman. “Where are the others?”

    “I sent them on to the transportation you procured,” Valeris said. “I thought it would be better if I handled this alone. Uhura protested of course,” the woman gave a slight smile, “But she eventually relented.”

    “I suggest we make haste,” Valeris added. “The quaestor is an overly sentimental sort, but not many in the Compliance Division are.”

    “It would seem so,” Glover said, “And he reveres you.”

    “Not me,” the woman pointed behind the men. Both Terrence and Cal turned around. This stone figure held aloft a trident, a fierce expression they had of him.

    “That was my husband,” Valeris said, “Martius was lost with his crew at Narendra III…” her voice lowered, and grew pained, “Destroyed in battle against the Enterprise-C. The universe is ironic isn’t it? The namesake I betrayed eventually got its revenge.”

    Terrence asked, “Is that why you’re doing this, to make amends?”

    “No,” the woman said, her face taking on a determined cast. “The past is the past. It is…illogical to dwell on it. My concern now is the future, and at the moment, it is perilously close to the precipice.”

    ************************************************************************

    Dagarth Spaceport

    Spaceport Hold-987

    Romii IV



    “I never thought I would ever see the inside of one of these things,” Glover didn’t hide his wonderment. He glanced around the darkened ship, admiring the classic design.

    “Can you believe these ships almost conquered Earth?” Hudson breezed past him. Uhura shuddered. Such a prospect made Xinran look grimmer.

    “I remember our face off against one of the Vas Hatham-class along the Neutral Zone nearly a hundred years ago,” Uhura said, “There is not much to admire about this vessel, whether it’s a predecessor or not as far as I’m concerned.”

    The woman’s words sobered Glover. He reined in his enthusiasm. “I lost relatives in the Earth-Romulan War,” he added, a bit defensively, “On the Mendi, among other ships and planets.”

    “So did I,” Hudson chimed in. “Not fighting the war though,” the man added. “They were Boomers, their ship destroyed when the Romulans attacked Draylax.”

    “So we do take this seriously Admiral,” Glover intoned, “But yet, we still can marvel at the design, the history of this vessel.”

    “Which is a completely logical position,” Valeris smoothly interjected. The laughing woman at the outset had disappeared, and a composed, emotionless Vulcan had taken her place, or merely resurfaced. “This Bird-of-Prey saw action in several major engagements of the Earth-Romulan War, and was present at the fateful Battle of Cheron.”

    She placed a hand tenderly against a curving pylon. “Both of Martius’s parents fought in that war. His mother had served on this very vessel. Once it had been decommissioned, Martius bought it to honor her, and used it for personal transport.”

    “Whoa, I wish I had a baby like this to putter around space,” Hudson replied. “Gretchen barely lets me take the shuttle I do have for a spin around Sol whenever I’m back home.”

    “Unlike many Romulans, the Martius clan were not chastened by the Star Empire’s defeat by Earth; they saw the war as a noble endeavor, despite the outcome,” the Vulcan added. “His views were unique for a Romulan of his class…one of the many things that I found…intriguing.” Lt. Leta, standing quietly behind her mother, shifted uncomfortably. The young Romulan likely didn’t like Valeris sharing personal stories about her family.

    “How did you meet Commander Martius?” Glover asked, because he wanted to know more about Valeris and keep Leta squirming.

    “General actually,” Valeris said. “As I said, he wasn’t like many of the other Romulans I encountered. He was a patriot, but not a chauvinist. It took me a while to realize that distinction though. We met at the Imperial War College. I was teaching Vulcan history there.”

    “The Imperial War College is pretty prestigious,” Cal said. “And they let you teach there?”

    The woman smiled, “You forgot to add, a traitor like me.”

    “I didn’t say that,” Hudson replied, a bit taken aback.

    “But you were thinking it,” The Vulcan nodded, “And it is a logical assumption. My defection to the Star Empire, after serving my sentence on 60 Virginis II, was viewed suspiciously on both sides. It took two decades from the moment I crossed into Romulan space to be granted the opportunity to teach at the Imperial War College, and even then I have been under surveillance.”

    “Are you under surveillance now?” Glover looked troubled.

    “Of course,” Valeris said matter-of-fact.

    “So they know we’re here?” Hudson frowned.

    “No,” The woman shook her head, “They still think I am entertaining visitors back at Stronghold Martius,” the woman said. “Give me some credit, I can elude simple watchers.”

    “She’s right about that,” Uhura muttered, her expression dark. The woman had been oddly quiet, and it left Glover wondering how what had happened when the admiral reunited with Valeris. He looked at the stewing Xinran and debated whether the man would be forthcoming about that meeting.

    “Mother…I do think it wise not to tempt fate though,” Leta added.

    “My daughter is correct,” Valeris said. “We should exit this spaceport with haste. Perhaps I overestimate my own clandestine abilities. It has been a while since I’ve fully employed them.”

    Terrence wanted to know about Valeris, Martius, Leta, and their family dynamics, but he also wanted to get his hands on the controls of a 22nd century Bird-of-Prey. He used to play with toy replicas and built a model of his own.

    “Show me the helm,” Glover said. Valeris nodded at Leta. The woman scowled at both her mother and Glover before stiffly marching to a door off to the side. Terrence glanced at Hudson, and his friend gave a knowing smile.

    Cal leaned close to him and lowered his voice. “Some alone time might be good for you both.”

    “I can hear you Mr. Hudson,” Valeris said, pointing to one of her tapered ears.

    The man looked embarrassed, “Well, I, uh, was just joking.”

    “Sure,” the woman was highly skeptical. “But in any case, Mr. Glover my daughter is waiting on you, and she is not a woman to keep waiting.”

    ***********************************************************************
     
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  16. DarKush

    DarKush Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Nov 18, 2005
    ***********************************************************************

    Dagarth Spaceport

    Spaceport Hold-987

    Romii IV


    “You hit like a Breen,” Leta sneered. She sat across from him at the cockpit.

    “Look, I’m sorry about knocking you out,” Terrence said, feeling anxious but relieved to finally be able to talk to the woman about it. “But things were getting out of hand. And I had to get control of the situation before either you or Xinran killed each other.”

    The Romulan touched her head and laughed. “It was nothing. I’ve been hit much harder in combat practice.”

    “Is that so?” Terrence grinned.

    “Humans, you are a weaker species, simple genetics,” Leta stated.

    “Perhaps we are not as physically strong as Vulcanoids,” Glover conceded, “But we are full of surprises, and can compensate for the strength disparity. Remember that little thing called the Earth-Romulan War?”

    The woman glowered at him. “Mere luck,” she scoffed. “If the other species hadn’t aided you, the great wings of the raptor would still be spread across Earth.”

    Glover laughed. “You don’t give an inch do you?”

    “Would you prefer otherwise?” The woman asked, with the glimmer of a smile.

    “No,” Terrence said. “I would not.”

    “Perhaps human constitutions have to be handled with care,” the Romulan opined.

    “We’re pretty durable,” Terrence asserted, winking at her. “Care to find out?” He couldn’t believe what he had just proposed, but it felt like the right thing to do. Before he could never imagine being attracted to a “Romulan”, he saw them as a mass, an entity, one that had hurt his mother deeply, and had caused untold misery to countless millions in their wars of conquest, but here, on this ship, in this cockpit, was just a woman, an extremely beautiful woman at that, hard, proud, fierce, but also, and Terrence was never wrong about these things, interested, and the commander just decided to roll with it and see where it took them.

    The woman frowned at him and then snorted. “In your dreams.”

    “What? You’ve got a mind sifter aboard this thing too?” Glover joked.

    Leta rolled her eyes. “You’re incorrigible.”

    “Hey, I’ve been called worse,” Terrence grinned.

    “Now that your amorous attempts have failed would you like to continue learning about this ship’s systems?” Leta asked. Glover laughed.

    The man shrugged. “This was just the opening round,” he promised, “but sure.”

    Glover leaned back in the seat and took a look at the helm’s controls. “So, what’s this ship’s name?”

    “The Odaus,” Leta answered, standing behind him. “An honored name,” she added. Terrence marveled at the ancient flight control station, with actual buttons and levers. He was going to enjoy this vessel, though there was a pang of regret that they had left the Patronus behind. He had liked the sleek shuttle, its nacelles designed to look like wings pressed against the body of the vessel, as if the shuttle was permanently diving toward prey. The Odaus was more graceful, with its two curving wings ending at daggered nacelles. To him, the Vas Hatham-class looked more rudimentary, despite coming on the scene nearly a century later. The Vas Hathams were merely functional, while the Odaus was a work of art.

    Leta stepped forward and began instructing him about the various controls on the main bridge.

    “What kind of weapons does this thing have?” Terrence asked.

    Leta’s face pinched.

    “Listen, if the journey across the Neutral Zone doesn’t go smoothly, I need to know what we have to keep this ship in one piece,” Glover added.

    The Romulan eventually relented. “The disruptor cannons still work, that’s it.”

    “Shields?” Glover asked. The woman nodded in the affirmative.

    “What about a cloaking device?” Terrence asked. “If I recall from my history books, these old vultures used to have cloaks.”

    The woman glowered at him.

    “Out with it,” Terrence urged.

    The woman stared daggers at him. “Yes, my father wrangled to retain the ship’s cloaking device.”

    “Is it still functional?”

    “Of course,” the woman huffed, insulted by the question.

    “A two century old cloaking device,” Glover was impressed, “Still operating.”

    “Romulans build things to last,” Leta said proudly, “We respect tradition, we are proud of our history, our accomplishments.”

    “Some might say that Romulans are so proud of their accomplishments because they claim everyone else’s.”

    “Show me this ‘someone’ and I will gut them where they stand,” Leta’s look was predacious.

    “I surrender,” Glover threw up his hands and laughed. He had to admit that he was drawn to the woman’s fierceness, also her pride in her heritage. The woman crossed her arms tightly over her chest, her guard still up.

    “If you’re finished, I will continue instructing you about the rest of the bridge.”

    “Of course,” Terrence said, still smiling. Together they walked around the bridge, Leta talking, though Glover half paid attention because the woman’s nearness, her scent even was distracting.

    “What perfume are you wearing?” Terrence eventually asked, when the two were standing over the environmental control terminal.

    Leta blinked. “Excuse me?”

    “You’ve put on perfume,” Glover said. “What is it?”

    The Romulan woman glowered at him. “How did you detect that?”

    “You are…pretty close to me,” Terrence said, enjoying both the woman’s scent and her warmth. Leta scowled and then put distance between them. Glover smirked. “Still avoiding my question?”

    Leta grunted, she glared at him, jutting her chin out. “I evade nothing.”

    “Okay then,” Glover said, shrugging.

    “It was a gift, from my sibling Taev,” Leta said, her hardened countenance cracking just a bit. “From the Placidus system.”

    “So you have a brother,” Glover said, “And where is he?”

    The woman’s face hardened again. “He died,” her voice was clipped. “He’s joined my father now in Vorta Vor.”

    “I’m sorry to hear that,” Glover offered. The woman’s eyes burned like supernovas.

    “I didn’t ask for your sympathy! And I don’t care for your lies!”

    “Hey, I wasn’t lying, I’m sorry for your loss,” Terrence said, reining his temper. He understood how emotional the death of a loved one could make a person.

    “You’re probably relieved that there is one less enemy for you to slaughter!” Leta charged.

    “That’s really unfair!” Glover flared.

    “Is it? Your kind murdered my father at Narendra!” Leta pointed her finger like a dagger. And it made Terrence think of the blade still at the woman’s hip.

    Glover bit back an angry retort. “The Enterprise-C responded to a distress call,” he said as calmly as he could. “That’s standard protocol. Four warbirds sneak attacked a Klingon colony, killing not only men, not only Klingon warriors, but civilians as well.”

    “There are no innocents among those savages,” the woman spat. “They’ve slaughtered my people by the thousands! We were only defending ourselves.”

    “By a sneak attack?” Glover sneered. “Doesn’t sound like that was defending yourself at all. And it doesn’t say much about your vaunted honor either!”

    “How dare you!” Leta reached for her dagger.

    “Go for it,” Glover said calmly, his eyes boring into her. “You’ll regret it.”

    For the first time the woman blinked. Not physically, but her left hand hovered over the blade. Eventually she forced it by her side. The woman continued boiling however.

    “You don’t have to like me, or even trust me, but for the time being, we need to work together,” Terrence said. “Getting your mother safely back to the Federation is in the best interest of both our peoples.”

    The woman eyes were as hard as marbles. She wasn’t giving another inch. Glover shrugged. “Suit yourself.” He sat back down at the helm and began a diagnostic. He was ready to get this thing space borne.

    The thickened air was cut when Valeris and Admiral Uhura, with Hudson and Xinran quick behind them, all poured onto the bridge.

    “We heard shouting,” The Vulcan said, looking from Glover to Leta. “Is everything okay?”

    “It is fine mother,” Leta said through clenched teeth. Valeris raised an arched eyebrow.

    “Do you concur Mr. Glover?”

    “Just peachy,” Terrence shrugged. He decided to switch gears. “I’m glad you are here…Lady Valeris. The exit codes to leave the spaceport were not in the ship’s system. I will also need a flight plan, doctored or otherwise. We just need to get out of here to start our way to the Neutral Zone and then into the Federation.”

    “About that,” Valeris began, drawing a curious look not only from Glover, but Cal, Xinran, and even Leta. The admiral’s expression was suspicious.

    “I knew it,” Uhura said, her face contorting with uncharacteristic disgust. “I knew this was some kind of trap.”

    “It isn’t!” Valeris rounded on the elderly woman, with a surprising and dangerous ferocity. Even the normally unflappable Uhura took a step back. Though Glover, Cal, and Xinran all moved to prevent the Vulcan from harming the admiral. Leta drew her blade to defend her mother.

    “Stop it, all of you, please!” Valeris said. She lowered her voice and dipped her head in a sign of penitence, “My apologies Admiral; I’ve been under a tremendous strain as of late. However that is no excuse to treat you so poorly. You’ve risked your life, and the lives of these brave men, based on nothing more than my word; the word of a traitor in your eyes.”

    “And not in yours?” Uhura shot back. “Did you learn nothing from your twenty-year stay at Sundancer?”

    “Yes, I did,” Valeris’s voice softened even more, “I did have regrets. I took lives, I deceived my colleagues, my friends…Spock,” she paused, trembling, her eyes glistening. “I hurt him…and he…he…”

    Uhura’s mouth gaped open and she covered it with one hand. Her eyes moistened too. Glover looked at Cal, who glanced at Xinran who finished the circle with Leta. None of them knew what was transpiring between Valeris and Uhura, what dark memory the two women shared.

    “Spock never talked to me about that,” Uhura admitted, “But I had served with the man for almost thirty years. All that time and I could see through his impassive façade. It hurt him, what he did to you. It scarred him.”

    “I know,” Valeris smiled, but there was no mirth in it. “He invaded my mind…but I was also in his.”

    Uhura reached out to the woman and touched her shoulder. “So you know he regretted it. In his own way, he loved you.”

    “I know,” she nodded, “And I him.”

    “But he did what he needed to do, what he had to do, to stop the conspirators from destroying the last chance for peace,” Uhura declared, with a desperate conviction.

    “The needs of the many outweigh the few,” Valeris began.

    “Or the one,” the admiral finished hollowly.

    Valeris wiped her eyes. “And it is in that spirit, that I must undertake this mission, sacrificing the lives we have built here, the acclaim, the friendships, because the future is at stake.” The woman looked sadly at her daughter, but Leta’s face was stony.

    “This information that you have,” Uhura said. “You didn’t give it to me at your residence, but are you willing to trust me with it now?”

    Valeris’s smile was sad. “Admiral…Uhura…Nyota, I have always trusted you. It was the Klingons I never trusted. They massacred my family on P’Jem. I could never forgive them for that, no matter how much logic dictated that I did. And even now, I still don’t.”

    “If you still distrust us, why did you ask to defect back to the Federation?” Uhura didn’t mask her confusion.

    “I don’t distrust the Federation in all matters, just where the alliance with the Klingons is concerned, and I am certain that the alliance, as rocky as it has been, will eventually collapse. The Klingon-Romulan alliance should have been a cautionary tale, but it was one that has remained unheeded in the halls of the Federation Council.”

    “So if you trust me,” Uhura said, “Where is the information?”

    What is the information?” Glover butted in, drawing a baleful stare from the admiral. Terrence took a step back.

    “I am the information,” Valeris said. “I would never place the data where it could be found by the Tal Shiar or other security forces.”

    “McCoy always did say Vulcans were like walking computers,” Uhura muttered. She winked at Glover, “Now, echoing the impudent Mr. Glover, what is the information?”

    “That I will not share,” Valeris said, “Not yet.”

    “Excuse me?” Terrence huffed. Cal and Uhura also frowned. Xinran simply had an I-told-you-so look on his face.

    “The information I have obtained is merely a start,” the Vulcan said, unruffled by the glowers. “I now seek to acquire definitive, physical proof.”

    “And just how do you plan to do that?” Cal beat everyone to the punch.

    “Mr. Hudson, we’re going to the Arx.”

    The Starfleet officers looked confused, but Leta paled. At least someone knew what the Vulcan was talking about.

    “Mother, how did you know about the Arx?” She asked.

    Valeris smiled. “My search for answers led me there.”

    “That’s impossible,” the Romulan lieutenant shook her head. “Only members of the Imperial Fleet are privy to that information and you have not served in almost thirty years.”

    “I had help,” Valeris’s smile dimmed.

    “From who?” Leta demanded.

    “Your brother,” the Vulcan said softly.

    “What do you mean? How is that possible? Taev is dead!”

    “He’s alive,” Valeris declared with maternal certainty…or delusion. “He’s alive, and he’s there, at the Arx, and we’re going to rescue him.”

    ************************************************************************
     
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  17. DarKush

    DarKush Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Nov 18, 2005
    ************************************************************************

    PART THREE: WAKE OF VULTURES

    Imperial Bird-of-Prey Odaus


    “I didn’t sign up for any of this!” Glover declared.

    “Yes, Terrence is right,” Cal backed him up. “We’ve already tempted fate far too many times on this mission as is, but to now go into the Arx.” Hudson was sitting across from Glover, at the navigation station.

    “A hidden research facility,” Admiral Uhura said quietly, her tone and countenance contemplative. Valeris had ceded the command chair to the venerable admiral.

    “Yes, one that not even you Mother was supposed to know about,” Leta groused. The young woman and Xinran had argued over the weapons console, until Valeris had stepped in and convinced Leta to take over the operations terminal. Xinran now sat beside the weapons station.

    “I didn’t know, until Taev contacted me,” Valeris said. The woman sat at the communications console.

    “Taev is dead!” The lieutenant shot back.

    “He is alive,” Valeris said, with an unshakable faith.

    “No mother, no he isn’t,” Leta said, her voice fraying.

    “They never returned his body, we have never seen his remains,” Valeris replied. “We only have what the official story that the Imperial Fleet concocted, that Taev’s vessel was lost in a subspace particle storm.”

    “But that was not the truth. Taev’s ship responded to an attack in the Devron system. The same mysterious attackers that also laid waste to several outposts on the Federation side of the Zone.”

    “How do you know that?” Uhura asked.

    Glover looked back and saw the Vulcan tilt her head, a curious expression on her face. “I gleaned the information from the Central Information Net.”

    “You hacked into the information net?” Leta was incredulous.

    “I know a lie when I hear one daughter,” Valeris simply stated. She paused, assuredly waiting for Uhura to get a dig in. However the admiral demurred. The Vulcan continued, “I began investigating and uncovered the logs from the Vicia.”

    “Taev’s ship,” Leta muttered.

    “The Vicia had confirmed a similar signature technique to the destroyed Federation outposts, from the information culled from Starfleet’s inquiries into the destruction of their outposts.”

    “Why didn’t Romulan authorities inform us?” Uhura demanded.

    “It is likely the Romulans working with Starfleet to investigate the disappearances of these outposts were not aware.”

    “But why would the Romulan High Command or the Senate for that matter, sit on this information, when it impacts us both?” Glover asked.

    “And what does this have to do with the Arx?” Hudson added.

    “That’s where the Vicia was taken,” Valeris answered.

    “And how do you know this?” Terrence prodded.

    “Taev,” the Vulcan said, her voice growing softer. Leta exhaled loudly and threw up her arms. The younger woman stormed off the bridge. Valeris looked in her direction, Terrence figured the Vulcan was contemplating going after her daughter, but then Valeris looked back at him, a steeliness coming over her features. “I anticipated that you would not accept my word.”

    “What gave you that impression?” Uhura’s incredulousness was thicker than duranium.

    The Vulcan dipped her head respectfully. When she raised it, a small smile played on her lips. The woman pulled a silvery data disk from the folds of her cloak.

    “I thought you said you didn’t store any information,” Xinran groused, beating the Starfleet officers to the point.

    “She lied Mr. Xinran,” Uhura said, her anger simmering. “And I’m not surprised.”

    “It was not a falsehood,” Valeris said.

    “Then what do you call it?” Hudson demanded.

    “An omission,” Valeris replied, tilting her head.

    “Great Bird of the Galaxy!” The admiral threw up her hands.

    “If I had supplied the information, you would not go to the Arx; you might even have left me and Leta on Romii IV.”

    “Unlike you Valeris, my relationship with the truth is less tenuous than yours,” Uhura said. “I told you I would get you across the Neutral Zone and I meant it.”

    “Of course Admiral…Uhura,” Valeris was penitent. “Perhaps I have spent too long in the Star Empire; trust is the first casualty in order to survive.

    “Further,” Valeris continued, “I decided to be more transparent to convince you of the gravity of the situation that confronts, and that it is imperative that we infiltrate the Arx and rescue my son.”

    The Vulcan inserted the disk into a receptacle in her terminal. The main viewer’s large monitor shifted from the starfield to another bridge. Glover’s eyes widened at the dark shape dominating the other view screen.

    “What’s that?” He asked.

    “Looks like a giant sphere,” Hudson said, his voice laden with questions. Both men turned to Valeris. The woman’s eyes were glued to the screen, her face had paled.

    “What is that thing?” Cal beat him Terrence to the quick.

    Before the Vulcan answered, Uhura gasped, “My God.”

    *************************************************************************

    Imperial Warbird Vicia

    Traveling Under Cloak


    “Commander’s Log, Supplemental: Responding to a distress call from the Sector 1393 outpost, in the Devron system, we have encountered a vessel of unknown origin exiting the planetoid that housed this sector’s outpost, the outpost was obliterated. We will now engage the alien vessel.”

    Centurion Taev’s stomach churned as Commander Alaris ended her recording. The finality of the woman’s curt message meant that the only thing left was the battle ahead. The communications officer had already sent the space buoy with the woman’s words, quite possibly the last words from Vicia that the Imperial Fleet would hear.

    “Lower the cloaking device,” Subcommander Crito ordered. “Raise shields and charge weapons.”

    The main bridge dimmed and then brightened as the warbird pulled back its cloak. A massive spheroid hung over the benighted planetoid, as if waiting for them.

    Taev thought of his mother and his sister, but then grasped those distracting thoughts and pushed them away into the back of his mind. He would see them again, he promised.

    “Our readings confirm that the vessel possesses the same signature technique from the attacks in Sectors 9873, 52017, 11695, and 92601,” Science Officer Sabia informed the bridge, confirming what Taev and everyone else already knew.

    “Is it the Federation?” Crito asked, his thirst for combat contorting his patrician features. Like Taev, Crito had also lost family at Narendra III, yet it had not consumed him with a desire to avenge himself against Starfleet, like it had Crito, and Leta, his own sister, he had to admit.

    Alaris scowled, shifting in her chair. “No, I’ve never seen any Federation ship with that kind of design; they do ascribe to a certain aesthetic, bland though it may be.”

    The woman standing at the commander’s side laughed, the sound scraping. Taev glanced around the bridge and saw that he wasn’t the only one displeased. Major Cassia of the Tal Shiar stood at the commander’s side, one hand on the center chair, symbolizing the hold the intelligence organization had over the Imperial Fleet. Unlike the senior staff, the petite woman wore a different uniform that discarded the dark sashes adorning the bridge crews’ uniforms for a harness that ran up her torso and split at her shoulders.

    “Which means nothing Commander,” Cassia replied, “This could be an attempt at Federation deceit,” the woman replied, her eyes glittering like jade, “A poor one at that.”

    “The paranoia of the Tal Shiar, notwithstanding,” Alaris said with customary defiance, “I will not feed the furnace of war the Tal Shiar continually wishes to stoke, without definitive proof that these ship is in fact of Federation origin or under Starfleet control.”

    Cassia merely smiled, and that chilled Taev even more than if the woman had glowered. The Tal Shiar agent merely patted the chair’s headrest before standing primly at attention, her arms behind her back, her eyes peering across space, as if into the heart of the darkened sphere to ascertain who sat at its controls.

    Could it really be the Federation? Had Starfleet intruded upon the Empire’s self-imposed exile after all these years? There had been debate in the Senate about reengaging the galactic community again, and even a few voices called for challenging the Federation again.

    The hardliners felt the Federation had been weakened by decades of conflicts with the Talarians, Cardassians, Tzenkethi, and Tholians; all tiny cuts to be sure, but over time small wounds shed lifeblood as surely as death strokes. The Federation’s alliance with the Klingons was not strong, that savage empire riven by internal strife, and it was doubtful that the foreheads could aid the Federation if the Star Empire struck hard, and swiftly, according to men like Senator Penv.

    Taev held no love for Starfleet. Their Enterprise-C had murdered his father at Narendra III. But he was loath to pin these attacks on them to satiate his own vengeance. Major Cassia, and unfortunately his good friend Crito, were of the Senator Penv school of thought.

    “Scan that vessel,” Alaris ordered.

    It took several tense minutes before Sabia looked up from her scope. The woman’s voice was dry, her usual ebullience drained away. “The hull is composed of tritanium among multiple alloys, some from the Alpha and Beta Quadrants, but others…are not in our memory bank.”

    “So, are you saying that this vessel might not be from our space?” Crito didn’t hide his disappointment.

    “Yes Subcommander,” the science officer answered. “It is likely that this sphere came from the Gamma or Delta Quadrants, maybe even from the Andromeda galaxy or beyond.”

    “Is it also not outside the realm of possibility that the Federation have conjured new alloys and metals of which we are not aware?” Cassia asked.

    The science officer pursed her lips, clearly in disagreement with Cassia’s hypothesis, but being a scientist and well as wise, Sabia nodded. “That is a possibility Major.”

    “This could still be the precursor to invasion,” Cassia replied, folding her arms.

    “It could be…but not likely,” Alaris determined. This time Cassia did glower at the woman for contradicting her. Taev glanced at Sabia and saw the young woman brighten at the commander’s defense. It was good to see Sabia smiling again. She had been tense for days since the High Command had ordered Vicia to join in the investigations of the mysterious attacks on outposts along the Neutral Zone. One warbird, the Scelus, under General Hesporian, had already been lost responding to an attack in Sector 52017.

    “What about its weapons systems?” Crito asked, turning to Taev.

    Taev had already started scanning the anonymous ship for weapons. “Our scans detect no shields…or weapons,” he frowned, reviewing the readout again.

    “That’s impossible,” Cassia sneered as she moved over to his station and nudged him out of the way. The woman bent down to read the data herself. “This makes no sense.”

    “Perhaps the Federation has colluded with a superior power,” Crito offered.

    “Enough with the Federation Crito!” Alaris snapped.

    “If there are no weapons, what could account for the damage that ship had inflicted upon the outpost?” The Tal Shiar agent challenged. The woman’s words sadly stirred up memories of the remnants of the other outposts. They hadn’t been razed or flattened even; they had been scooped from the earth, as if a gigantic cosmic hand had reached down from on high and ripped the outposts, and all the souls within, from existence.

    Alaris ignored her, “Sabia, did your scans detect any life signs?”

    The science officer worked her console, but came up with a reply similar to Taev’s. And her expression was just as perplexing.

    “Could this ship be using some kind of sensor veil?” Cassia asked. “To trick our sensors?”

    “It is conceivable,” Taev admitted, “But that would portend that we are facing an opponent with a level of technology never encountered before.” He paused, looking at the woman and then Crito, “Including the Federation.”

    “Magnify the vessel on the main viewer,” Commander Alaris ordered. There were noticeable gasps, a complete breaking of decorum, but the commander didn’t reprimand anyone. Like Taev, and all the rest, he could see that Alaris was transfixed by the image nearly blotting out the screen.

    The sphere was vast, a motley collection of metal slates and piping, lit within by a green fire. “Hail them,” Alaris ordered. The young man at the communications console immediately did so.

    Alaris stood from her seat and stepped down of its pedestal onto the bridge. She locked her arms behind her back, her expression turning deadly serious. “Alien vessel, I am Commander Alaris…”

    “Commander Alaris,” a voice, actually a multitude of them all speaking at once, yet in unison, interrupted the woman. Something Taev had never witnessed without lethal repercussions. “Of the Imperial Romulan Warbird Vicia,” the voices continued. Taev noticed how emotionless they were, robotic even. “Species 3783, you will lower shields and prepare to be boarded. We will add your biological and technological distinctiveness to our own.”

    “Alien vessel, identify yourself,” Alaris demanded.

    “We are the Borg,” the voices calmly answered. The commander looked at Crito, Cassia, and then Taev. None of them had ever heard of the name. “Lower your shields and prepare to be boarded,” the voices added.

    “Are you responsible for the attacks which devastated this outpost and several others?” She demanded.

    “The outposts are irrelevant. Lower your shields and prepare to be boarded. We will add your biological….”

    “Alien vessel,” Alaris dropped the façade of civility, interrupting the mysterious speakers this time. “You have violated Romulan space and committed acts of war against the Romulan state. You will surrender immediately to be taken into custody to answer for your crimes…or you will be destroyed.”

    “Borg vessel is activating a tractor beam,” Sabia called out.

    “Evasive maneuvers!” Alaris ordered, with such suddenness that it caused the man at the helm to jump. But Sublieutenant Khaiell quickly complied, just jutting the ship away from the grasp of green tractor beam.

    “Fire forward disruptors, full spread” Crito ordered. Taev moved just as quickly as his counterpart at the helm. The Vicia was one of the D’deridex-class, one of the Empire’s most powerful warships, and Taev seldom was given the opportunity to fully unleash on an enemy. Most of the time the Vicia was assigned to patrols or carrying supplies to far flung outposts or to their Garidian allies. Occasionally some criminal or dissident would fall into his cross hairs, but none lately, and he had yet to test his mettle against the Klingons. He had been looking forward to being assigned near the Klingon border, until Admiral Goma himself had ordered Vicia to resolve the outpost disappearances.

    Disruptor beams and pulses slammed against the large sphere, enough firepower to demolish a moon.

    “Direct hits!” Taev couldn’t hide his excitement as his readings informed him of how much damage he was inflicting on the alien vessel. The viewscreen was filled with smoke and fire from explosions with each contact he made.

    “Halt,” Alaris barked. She turned to Taev. “Damage report!”

    “Twenty direct hits,” Taev replied, looking down at his screen.

    “Any damage to key systems, weapons, propulsion?” The commander demanded.

    Taev looked askance, and Sabia spoke up, “Our readings never ascertained where the propulsions, weapons, or even the commander center for the bridge were.”

    “What?” Alaris was incredulous.

    “Commander Alaris, I think we have more pressing concerns,” Cassia was uncharacteristically alarmed.

    “Great Halls of Erebus!” Crito gasped. Taev looked at the screen. He clutched his stomach, as if he had been gut punched. The sphere was repairing itself. How was that possible? In a few moments it would look like nothing had touched it all!

    “The Borg are hailing us,” the openly frightened communications officer said, dreading nearly clotting his voice.

    Alaris had to clear her own voice before saying, “On screen.” The viewer shifted from the outside of the ship into its vast interior. It went on forever, row after row, of what appeared to be humanoids, in black carapaces. A red light filled the screen, nearly blinding Taev. He threw up his hands and squinted through it. Once his eyes had adjusted he saw that the light emanated from a monocle covering the eye of a man as ghastly, pallid, and bald as a Reman. However this man’s tapered ears and blunt face were familiar.

    “General Hesporian,” Alaris croaked.

    The venerated soldier shifted his head, the red light bathing Alaris. “I am Dicentis…of Borg. I have been designated to speak on behalf of the Collective, to facilitate the assimilation of the Romulan people.”

    “Like Erebus you will,” Alaris declared. “Centurion, unload everything you have at that thing.”

    Before Taev could reply, several flashes of green resolved on the bridge and three wraiths covered in black carapaces, with elongated appendages replacing an arm, appeared on the bridge. Their armor was a nest of tubes, some sticking out of deadened skin, as if they were obscene walking replicas of the sphere that had spat them out. Each had appeared near important stations. Sabia screamed as one of the creatures pushed her out of the way and drove its appendage, with something that looked like a drill bit attached, into her console, causing sparks to run up its arm.

    “Isolate that console!” He heard the commander bark. Engineer Lerv tried to fight the apparition but the hefty man was tossed like a leaf. Crito fired at the one near the helm, knocking it the ground. The creature disappeared, leaving only a scorch mark.

    Taev wished he could help Sabia and the others but he was struggling himself. His wraith had been driving him back; it was all Taev could do to hold the creature’s arms aloft. The creature was pallid, and bald like Hesporian, but from a race the Romulan had never seen. Taev stared into its one organic eye, the other covered by an eyepiece. The Borg didn’t blink. There was nothing there, no emotion, colder even than a Vulcan, and oddly he smiled, thinking of his mother. If there was one thing he understood it was Vulcans.

    He wondered what she would do in this situation. And then it came to him. He remembered his teaching. Risking his life, he released one arm, moving quickly as it swung down like a hammer. With his free hand he reached out, for the creature’s neck, seeking purchase. He just hoped that this alien’s physiology contained the right bunch of nerves.

    The alien staggered, its single eye rolling up in its socket and then it crashed to the deck. “What did you do to it?!” Crito asked, shocked.

    “And you didn’t think it paid to be half-Vulcan,” Taev grinned. Crito often teased him about his heritage. Despite that the fact that the smooth-paned Crito resembled a Vulcan more than Taev, who had inherited his father’s proud brow.

    The subcommander held up his honor blade, thick with viscous blood. “I’m just fine being Romulan.”

    Alaris and Cassia were both bent over, driving their honor blades into a still twitching Borg. Taev pulled his own blade and slit the throat of the Borg he had knocked unconscious.

    Afterwards he searched for Sabia and was comforted to see the woman standing by her smashed console. She was shaken, holding herself, but in one piece.

    “Those things, they can adapt to our disruptors,” Crito said. “I got off a shot, so did Sub-lieutenant V’ret, but after that, these creatures had some kind of personal shielding which fended off further attacks.”

    “So we did it the old-fashioned way,” Alaris smirked, wiping her blade across a sleeve.

    “It’s not over yet,” Cassia warned.

    “And we lost Engineer Lerv,” one of the Decurions attached to the bridge was kneeling over the prone engineer, his neck bent at an unnatural angle.

    “Assume his post,” Alaris ordered and the Decurion quickly complied. The commander held aloft a small, circular object. “A circuit of some kind,” Alaris said, before tossing it to a startled Sabia. The woman almost tripped trying to catch it. “Reconfigure one of the auxiliary consoles for your station. Glean what you can from this.”

    “At once Commander,” Sabia said, rushing off to the aft section of the bridge. Alaris ordered the crew to begin picking clean the other corpses, for more clues to what they truly were and how they could be defeated.

    Taev had just begun his inspection when he jumped back as the Borg disappeared, along with the others.

    “I suggest we leave as well,” Cassia warned. “We have to inform the Praetor what we’ve discovered here.”

    “I concur,” Alaris said, taking her seat. “Helm, bring us about, maximum warp; take us into the electrokinetic storm we avoided on the way here.”

    “But Commander, seeking shelter inside that storm could be just as dangerous as facing these Borg,” Crito warned.

    The Vicia commander shrugged. “I don’t see what choice we have in the matter old friend,” she replied, using a term of endearment Taev had never heard the woman use before. Alaris added a wan smile, “It might even, even the odds.”

    “One can only hope, Commander,” Crito said, turning forward, his expression hardening.

    Taev went to his post, though he felt useless. He had thrown almost everything Vicia possessed at that sphere and it hadn’t been fazed at all. It sat there, over the planetoid, strangely not attacking, as if mocking them. Or toying with them.

    Perhaps the chase is what the Borg or Dicentis wanted. Hesporian was as great a hunter as he was a soldier of the empire.

    He felt the thrum of the engines, the strain on the ship’s struts as it powered up for warp. “Now,” Alaris commanded. Taev grabbed the edges of his station as the warbird bolted from the sphere.

    It was only a few moments before he heard the news that he dreaded most. It came from the helm. “The sphere is pursuing.”

    ****************************************************************************
     
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  18. DarKush

    DarKush Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Nov 18, 2005
    ****************************************************************************

    Imperial Bird-of-Prey Odaus


    “That’s all you footage you have?” Hudson’s disappointed mirrored Glover’s own. Terrence had been riveted by the life-and-death struggle that had taken place aboard the warbird.

    “Yes, there’s got to be more,” Terrence added.

    “There is,” Valeris admitted. “But I just wanted you to understand the threat we are facing.”

    “A threat Admiral Uhura recognizes,” Xinran spoke up, his voice clotted with surprise and suspicion. Glover turned to the older woman and saw that the look of horror had not left her face.

    “You know who, what, these Borg are?” Glover asked, his temper getting the best of him. “And you didn’t tell us?”

    “Or Starfleet Command,” Hudson added, with even more reproach.

    Uhura looked at each person on the bridge before she sighed, her age catching up to her. “Yes,” she said quietly, “I knew, or suspected. So did Command, that’s why I’m here, to confirm it.”

    “So what are we doing here exactly?” Terrence threw up his hands. “And why did Command send the Enterprise on that song and dance with the Romulans if they knew about these Borg?”

    “Suspected,” the admiral emphasized, her voice steeling. If Glover had been standing, he might have taken a step back. “Seventy-two years ago, during the maiden voyage of the Enterprise-B, the ship encountered a strange energy ribbon.”

    “Yes,” Glover interjected, as he recalled that fateful voyage from his history classes. “The mission where Captain Kirk died, but what does that have to do with the Borg?”

    Uhura glared at him until Glover’s contriteness made its way to his face. Satisfied the woman continued, “Two ships had been caught within the energy ribbon. The Enterprise was only able to save passengers from one of the ships. The passengers were refugees,” the woman said.

    “El-Aurians,” Hudson said, immediately apologizing. Uhura took a long look at him and then smiled.

    “Yes, Mr. Hudson, the El-Aurians. Their home system had been overrun by an enemy they called the Borg.”

    “So we’ve known about these Borg for damn near a hundred years?” Glover didn’t hide his incredulity.

    “Not quite,” the admiral replied. “We only had scant information about them. Very little empirical data,” she added. “We knew about cube ships, but not spheroids, and rumors that the Borg were cybernetically enhanced beings.”

    “And these were closely guarded secrets,” Valeris said, a small smile playing on her lips. The admiral glowered at the woman.

    “Command felt there was no need to create unnecessary hysteria, without proof,” Uhura said. “So, Special Affairs and Investigations, among others, sought out that proof. One of the most promising efforts came from the Federation Council of Exobiology and a couple…the Hansens. However, their ship, the Raven, was lost over a decade ago.”

    “Now you have your confirmation,” Valeris said.

    “My God,” the admiral shook her head. “They are real.”

    “And now they are here,” Xinran said, his voice filled with portent.

    “You said you have more,” Glover turned to Valeris. “Show us.”

    The Vulcan hesitated, her cool exterior cracking. “This is my son here,” she said. “He went through this, Taev and his compatriots…these things are difficult to re-watch.”

    “I understand,” Terrence said.

    “Valeris, I can’t grasp what you are feeling, but we need this information, we need to be as forearmed as possible before we reach the Arx,” Uhura said gently, motherly even.

    The Vulcan took a moment before saying, “I guess showing you the rest of the footage is the only…logical response,” she said, with a ghost of a smile.

    Uhura arched an eyebrow. Glover glanced at Hudson, and Cal chuckled.

    Valeris turned back to her terminal. Her fingers tapped the console and the star disappeared again, and was replaced by something far darker than the depths of space.

    *******************************************************************

    Imperial Warbird Vicia

    Traveling Under Cloak


    The deck trembled again and another console went up in flames, this time engulfing Sublieutenant V’ret. Centurion Taev held onto his terminal to keep his footing, blocking out the man’s cries. “Another direct hit!” he called out. Reaching the roiling maelstrom had thus far not been the sanctuary that Alaris had banked on. If the warbird wasn’t being pummeled by the Borg it was being buffeted with electromechanical discharges that were increasing in their intensity.

    “They can see through our cloak!” Major Cassia said.

    “General Hesporian,” Commander Alaris stated grimly, perched on the edge of her command chair.

    “No, not the general,” Subcommander Crito declared. “It’s that abomination that these Borg have twisted him into, this Discentis.”

    “In any event, drop the cloak, and transfer that energy to shields and weapons,” Alaris ordered.

    “What good will that do?” Cassia scoffed.

    Alaris glared at her. “If you wish to express such sentiments you can do that off the bridge!”

    “You remember who you are talking to,” the Tal Shiar agent warned.

    Alaris laughed. “You’re trotting out the Tal Shiar card now, when we’re facing that thing?” She pointed at the viewer. The Borg sphere was advancing on them.

    “The sphere will overtake us in five seconds,” Sublieutenant Khaiell informed them.

    “Drop us out of warp,” Alaris barked. “All stop!”

    “What?” Cassia was incredulous.

    “Remain silent, by choice or…” the commander left the rest of the statement hanging, but the ominous tone was enough. The Tal Shiar operative stepped back.

    Taev grasped his console again as Khaiell abruptly brought the ship to a halt. Other crew members weren’t as lucky, with several falling to the deck, Crito included. The sphere flew past them.

    “Centurion, fire everything we’ve got at that sphere.”

    “We’ve done that,” Cassia spoke up. “Their shielding absorbs our weapons.”

    “Modulate the resonance frequencies,” Alaris said.

    “At once,” Taev said. He moved quickly, changing the resonance for each hit. The fusillade ripped into the spheroid, stabbing deeply into its dark depths, causing gouts of flame and destruction. Against any other foe, Klingons, Breen, Taurhai, or the Federation, the victory would have been assured.

    But this time Taev didn’t even hold his breath. He knew what would still be intact after the smoke cleared. He did his duty however, informing the commander of the seeming success of the strike.

    “Incurring such damage should force them to take a few moments to repair,” Alaris said. “That’s all we’ve been given, so let’s make the most of it.” The commander ordered the helm to resume course, at full warp.

    “Erebus!” Crito spat as the bridge filled with shafts of green light. Borg swarmed all over the bridge, a repeat of the previous battle, but this time they came in droves.

    “Helm, get us out of here!” Alaris roared as she jumped to her feet. Sheets of black armor covered her, as if devouring her, and then Taev lost sight of her as the wraiths came for him.

    Taev pulled his honor blade, given to him by his father, a weapon that had been in the Martius Clan before the Sundering. One of his ancestors had even used it to shed blood during the Time of Awakening, and Taev thought of that venerated ancestor and the others as he drove the blade into the exposed flesh of the Borg, the blade poking right into the throat and out the back of the head.

    The Borg was wracked by spasms, but that didn’t deter Taev. He used the body as a shield as he drove back the other Borg behind them, using the dying alien as a battering ram as much as possible. Once the alien became dead weight, Taev ripped his blade free from him and rushed to join another battle.

    Melee weapons were one thing it seemed the Borg couldn’t adapt to; however the revenants were using their elongated appendages to parry blows. Some Borg though had torches or sharpened ends to their appendages and they used those accordingly.

    His ears twitched to the sound of the bridge doors parting, and Taev foolishly took a look back, to see gold-helmeted Tal Shava pouring from the lift.

    For his mistake he nearly lost his head. The Borg did cuff him severely, making the man’s eyes water. But his pain was consumed by the fires of his anger. He knew he would be facing his father and all of his ancestors soon and he wanted to be worthy to stand before them.

    The creature lumbered, raising its longer arm to bring down on Taev. Taev went inside, stabbing until he drew geysers of fluid, blood, or coolant, it didn’t matter which to him.

    He had moved on before the Borg had fallen to the deck. The centurion rushed to the aid of Crito and Cassia. Both Romulans were back-to-back, holding back a closing circle of Borg.

    Taev never thought he would see Crito working with the Tal Shiar, but this situation superseded his disdain for the Tal Shiar.

    Pulling his disruptor out and clutching the barrel, Taev used it like a club, smashing it into the head of one of the circling Borg.

    He tossed the Borg to the side and grabbed at another one, slicing the woman’s throat. She also got tossed to the side. Taev was moving on his third when he saw Crito, his face bloodied, but determined, lunge at a Borg and miss. The creature grabbed the man’s arm and roughly drew him forward. With his other hand, two gray tubules snaked from his wrist, puncturing Crito’s neck. The man sighed and stumbled.

    “Subcommander!” Taev yelled, his heart thudding as Crito sank to the ground. The centurion’s outburst distracted Cassia. The woman looked back, and that was all it took before tubules latched onto her neck like fangs.

    The subcommander fell to his knees, but his eyes were open, and they were changing, the flame of who he was, who had once been, was extinguishing, and Taev saw the man’s face rippling as if a nest of insects had been disturbed beneath his skin.

    “What did you do to him?!” Taev demanded, “What did you do?!” But none of the creatures answered. They carried on their deadly assault with even less emotion than his Vulcan cousins.

    “Centurion!” He heard Alaris’s voice shout above the din. The woman was somewhere in a sea of black armor.

    “I’m coming for you Commander!” Taev promised, elbowing a Borg away from him.

    “No!” She shouted. “To the helm. Prepare for ramming speed!”

    “But Commander,” he said.

    “Do as I command,” she ordered. “This will be the last I give you, now honor it.”

    “I will,” Taev quickly threw up a salute before he turned to helm. He saw that Khaiell was slumped over it, blood and flesh dripping onto the deck. It seemed the helmsmen had had an unfortunate encounter with one of the Borg torches.

    The centurion evaded and battled his way to the helm, protected by all the gods in the Romulan pantheon it appeared, and some likely not. He pushed Khaiell out of the chair and took control of the helm.

    He tried his best to concentrate on the task at hand, but every few seconds he looked back and around him, anticipating the cold sting of one of the Borg fangs at any second.

    To his comfort he saw the Tal Shava had cut through the black and were making their way to him, drawing the attention of the Borg. Taev put in the new directions.

    A hand touched his shoulder, causing him to jump. Taev drew his blade.

    “It’s me!” Sabia shouted. Taev blinked, unable to speak. “It’s really me!” She added. Her face was battered, but she managed to smile before wincing.

    “You’re alive,” Taev jumped from his chair and grabbed the science officer, so hard that the woman grimaced. “I…apologize.” He said, a bit sheepish. He had longed to embrace her, but had kept silent, for far too long, and now, it was too late. He cloaked his emotions and stood straighter, his face taking on a professional air.

    “For the time being,” she said. “I heard the commander’s order, and I’m here to get you the seconds you need.” Taev then noticed the bloody honor blade at the woman’s side.

    “Thank you Science Officer…Sabia,” he said, sitting back down. He powered up the warbird’s engines and angled it back toward the still sphere.

    In a sense the Vicia had become a large honor blade and he had been entrusted to wield it for the Star Empire. And there could be no greater honor than that.

    “Ramming speed! Now!” Alaris called, before she shrieked, and then went silent. Sabia gave a war cry and leaped at the Borg coming at them. The woman’s voice was tragically cut short.

    Taev forced himself to look ahead, at the damaged spheroid in front of him. He poured all his hate into the control column. He smacked the warp drive propulsion seconds before he felt the bite, a coldness that quickly turned to fire as it poured through his blood and across his skin.

    The centurion tore at his skin, wishing to rip the insects swarming through his body, their chittering forming into a song in his mind, a dirge that tugged on him, and a midnight chorus that beckoned him to join.

    He welcomed as the Vicia thrust forward, into the very mouth of the abyss and Taev welcomed, begged for the darkness.

    ************************************************************************
     
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  19. DarKush

    DarKush Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Nov 18, 2005
    ************************************************************************

    Imperial Bird-of-Prey Odaus


    “Oh gods, Taev,” Leta’s voice broke through the silence, and pained Glover’s heart. He turned from the screen to see the woman standing in front of the lift, shaking like a buoy in a hurricane. He couldn’t imagine the woman could ever be so rattled.

    “Yes Daughter,” Valeris said tenderly. “This is the last transmission from the Vicia, one that the High Command kept from us.”

    “One that you stole from the Central Information Net,” Leta charged, her anger overcoming her grief.

    “One that Taev sent to me,” Valeris gently corrected.

    The younger Romulan shook her head. “That’s not true,” she declared. “It’s all right there, his death is right there.”

    “It would appear so, but appearances can be deceiving,” the Vulcan said, glancing at Admiral Uhura. The woman returned a knowing gaze.

    “The only deceiver here is you!” Leta pointed an accusing finger at her mother. “Either you are making this up or you have kept the fact that Taev survived away from me, for all this time. You’ve left me to suffer alone; you left me when I needed you.”

    Valeris dipped her head, her cheeks growing green with what Glover figured was shame. As well she should, Terrence thought.

    “All I wanted was to learn the truth, of what really happened to the Vicia crew,” Valeris raised her head; her dark eyes were large and pleading. “I didn’t expect to find Taev alive, I didn’t know what to do, I don’t know now. But he’s alive. He’s at the Arx, and we must rescue him.”

    “And if any of that is true, then what Mother?” Leta threw up her hands. “We’ll live comfortable lives in the Federation? You’ll be a two-time traitor, and Taev and I will be encircled by our enemies, the ones who murdered our father!”

    “I was once a Starfleet officer,” Valeris pointed out.

    “That’s not helping your case Mother,” Leta rejoined.

    “The Federation isn’t as bad as you might think,” Xinran, who had heretofore stood silently at an aft bridge console, waded gingerly into the conversation. “If you do decide to stay there you will find its denizens quite welcoming.”

    “Maybe for a human lover like you,” Leta flared, “One can practically smell your Terran whore’s stink roiling off you. Of course they accept their lackeys, like one might accept a set’leth,” she smiled, the expression cruel. “You’re nothing more than a pet to them, and you’re self-hatred makes you too dimwitted to realize it.”

    “I’ve told you before about your language,” Uhura chided.

    This time Xinran didn’t rise to the bait. His smile was just as cruel. “Perhaps you’re looking in a mirror and don’t like the reflection you see, Vulcan.”

    Leta looked from Xinran to the admiral. She jutted out her chin, challenging both. “And what are you going to do about it? Any of you?”

    “Leta, daughter of Clan Martius, you will respect my compatriots.” Valeris was firm.

    “Respect my enemies, or you, a traitor to the Empire,” Leta flared.

    “Hey, cool your thrusters,” Terrence said.

    The Romulan woman rounded on him. “You don’t give me orders!”

    “I was just trying to say,” Glover made another attempt.

    “Mr. Glover this is a family matter,” Valeris said respectfully, but firmly. With some effort Terrence reeled in his reply.

    “I have no more words for a traitor,” Leta said, planting her boots and crossing her arms.

    Valeris looked at her daughter sympathetically. “How little you know child, how much I’ve kept from you, and Taev, to protect you both.”

    “What do you mean?”

    Valeris’s face contorted as the woman struggled with uncomfortable truths. “I am a traitor,” she confessed. “I’ve never left the service to Starfleet. I owed Starfleet my life and it is a debt I can never forsake.”

    “So you do finally admit it!” Leta said, “And you’ve damned me as well.”

    “I apologize for hurting you Daughter,” Valeris continued, “But now is the time for you to see the fullness of our lives, and the truth, and the lie behind our existence here in the Star Empire.”

    “What are you saying Mother?!”

    “I remained loyal to Starfleet, as a member of Section 31, an organization that was authorized in the original Starfleet Charter-Article 14, Section 31-and was charged with defending Earth and later the Federation entire from extreme threats.”

    “Section 31?” Hudson’s brow wrinkled. “Terrence you ever heard of them?”

    “No,” Glover replied, intrigued.

    “Neither have I,” Xinran added. The three men turned to Admiral Uhura. The woman’s eyes glinted with a dark recognition.

    “So you know what she’s talking about?” Glover surmised.

    The woman remained tight-lipped. Valeris smiled, “Now is not the time to hold to our secrets Admiral.”

    “I agree with Valeris,” Glover said. The admiral stewed for a moment.

    “Yes,” she said eventually, her voice cool. “I have heard of Section 31, nearly forty years ago, and I know what they are all about,” was all she said.

    “You think so?” Valeris tilted her head, her smile toying. “I don’t think so.”

    “So this is a real thing?” Hudson was surprised.

    “Very much so Mr. Hudson,” the Vulcan told him.

    “And you’re still a member?” Glover asked.

    “Yes,” Valeris nodded. “I have been for a long time.”

    “Admiral Cartwright, one of the ringleaders behind the assassination of Klingon Chancellor Gorkon, was purported to also be a member of this Section 31.”

    “And these guys are sanctioned by Starfleet or the Federation Council?” Cal was incredulous. So was Glover.

    “Not. Quite.” Valeris answered.

    “They operate with impunity, relying on anonymity and their ability to coerce people into silence about their existence,” Uhura said.

    “And Starfleet Command allows this?” Glover asked.

    “Many in Command are not aware of Section 31’s existence, believe it is overblown or a conspiracy theory,” the admiral replied. “I found it hard to fathom myself, though my investigation into the loss of the Enterprise-B yielded unexpected and troubling truths.”

    “This group isn’t sanctioned is it?” Hudson asked.

    “Not…officially,” Valeris answered. “However there are many Federation officials who are aware and supportive of Section 31’s actions.”

    “Care to name them?” Uhura asked with faux innocence. The Vulcan merely smiled.

    “What does this Section 31 have to do with anything?” Leta demanded.

    Valeris’s smile waned, her features became composed. “I didn’t work for Section 31 alone,” she said, her voice growing quiet. “Your father, Martius assisted me.”

    Leta stepped back, as if slapped. Her face blanched. “You’re lying!” She said. “That’s impossible! It’s not true!”

    “It is Leta,” Valeris said, her face impassive. “Martius understood how destructive a war with the Federation would be, and he understood the true threat…the Klingons.”

    “No, no, no,” The younger woman closed her eyes and placed her chin on her chest.

    “The histories often mention Admiral Cartwright and General Chang as conspirators in Gorkon’s removal.” Valeris explained.

    Assassination, not ‘removal’,” Uhura pointed out, “and you are also mentioned in the histories.”

    “Touché,” the Vulcan dipped her head. “Not much is discussed about Romulan Ambassador Nanclus’s role in the conspiracy. Martius was in the ambassador’s circle, one of the warriors ready to join with the Federation to eliminate the Klingon menace, until Kirk interfered.”

    “I was a part of that too,” Uhura added.

    “Yes,” Valeris cut her eyes at the admiral. “You were.”

    “My father would never betray the Empire!” Leta declared.

    “That is correct,” Valeris said. “Martius was a true patriot. And he understood that men like Senator Penv are the true danger to the Empire.”

    “Senator Penv believes in Romulan exceptionalism,” Leta retorted. “In the greatness of our people and nation!”

    “Penv believes in Romulan expansion which is not the same thing as greatness, and his chauvinism has only one expression, one method, which is utilizing military force. Despite the propaganda the Imperial Fleet is not the preeminent navy in the Alpha Quadrant. Martius understood that the Star Empire could not defeat the Klingon Empire or Cardassian Union outright, and not without much effort. He understood that another war against the Federation, especially after the Tomed Incident, would be suicidal.”

    “My father wasn’t afraid of the Federation!” Leta screamed.

    “Your father died in battle against Starfleet,” Valeris pointed out.

    “An enemy you still serve!” Leta charged, ripping her disruptor from her holster. “You’re a traitor!”

    Glover looked at Cal and then Xinran. Both men had tensed. Glover saw that the Romulan had his hand on the top of handle of his disruptor. Admiral Uhura looked troubled, but Valeris was the picture of calm.

    “If you feel it is your duty to claim my life I will not stop you,” Valeris said. “Nor will I judge you. It is only logical that you act out the patriotic duty that you have been conditioned with since birth.”

    “Enough with your damn logic!” Leta threw down the weapon and then threw up her hands. She cursed, in a string of invective so quick that Glover’s universal translator didn’t catch it.

    “You are right,” Valeris said after the woman burned through her rant. “My logic has failed me…more than once,” she turned to Uhura. “And it fails me now. I can’t leave Taev in the Arx. I am his mother. He needs me. And I must go to him.”

    “And risking us in the process,” Glover groused.

    “Providing you with crucial information Commander,” Valeris rejoined, “That Starfleet had not obtained. Once we have retrieved Taev, his personal experiences with these Borg, plus the knowledge from the Vicia’s logs will be invaluable to Starfleet.”

    “She’s right Mr. Glover,” Uhura said, though her tone was not pleased.

    “Can’t lie old buddy, but I’m damn curious to see what this Arx looks like,” Cal said. Glover groaned.

    “You too Cal?” His old friend merely smiled. “What about you Xinran ?”

    “The sooner we’re out of Romulan space the better,” the man replied.

    “At least someone still has some sense,” Glover joked.

    “How can any of you find levity in your impending deaths?” Leta flared. “If this was for anyone else, anyone but Taev, Mother you would be atoms right now.” Valeris took it evenly, but Uhura and Cal both gasped. The Romulan woman glared at each of them. “And I would gladly feed the rest of you to a pack of thrai.”

    “If I knew what that was, I guess I would be afraid,” Terrence smirked. The woman snorted before stomping off the bridge.

    “Someone should see after her,” Uhura suggested, though she looked squarely at Valeris. The Vulcan woman impassively looked at the closed door her daughter had just exited through.

    “I’ll go after her,” Xinran started from his post. “I don’t trust her unsupervised.”

    “I don’t think that would be wise Mr. Xinran,” Valeris said. “You and my daughter have a…combustible relationship to say the least. Your presence might antagonize her further.”

    “That might be the case, but I agree with the lieutenant,” Glover interjected. “Leta doesn’t need to be alone right now.”

    “You are correct Mr. Glover,” Valeris said evenly. “Please see after my daughter.”

    “Me?” Terrence was surprised that the Vulcan had charged him with the responsibility.

    “Yes,” Valeris replied.

    “Why me?”

    “Yeah, why him?” Hudson added.

    “Mr. Xinran isn’t the only person who provokes a response in my daughter,” Valeris said with a knowing smile. Uhura rumbled deep in her throat.

    “Something you wish to share Commander?” The admiral asked.

    “No, uh, no, of course not,” Glover reached for his collar, the temperature suddenly increasing.

    “A mother knows these things,” Valeris added. “Whether you…or Leta do not. Go to her Mr. Glover and bring her back. I will endeavor to make her see reason.”

    “Okay,” Terrence reluctantly agreed. In part to escape the heat in the room and also all the eyes that were boring into him.

    *********************************************************************

    Imperial Bird-of-Prey Odaus


    Glover searched the ship, his heart thudding, but he wasn’t sure why. He knew with Cal at the helm and on the controls, if Leta was crazy enough to sabotage the ship his old friend would inform him. And he hoped with Valeris still on the bridge she could counteract any damage that her daughter might cause.

    As Terrence raced through the ship, searching the most obvious places, starting with the woman’s quarters, he tried to ignore the thrill he felt at walking through history.

    During the brief respites off the bridge, he had sought to access the Odaus’s surprisingly still functioning memory bank.

    The history this ship had participated in was astounding, though, at the time they weren’t weighing the historical import Glover was sure, they were merely carrying out orders and trying to survive.

    Leta’s grandmother had been a centurion named T’Reni aboard Odaus. The woman’s service record, from what Terrence had been able to make out of it, had been impressive.

    T’Reni had even taken command of the ship at the Battle of the Luminaire Nebula. That name had brought Glover up short.

    The Palmer side of his family had suffered tragedy on the Mendi during the war, but one Glover had actually saw action in the Luminaire Nebula. His great-great-great Uncle Montague had served as a medical officer aboard the S.S. Liberty, one of the then new Christophers. Liberty had led a taskforce including quite a few notable ships of that war, Argus, Liberator, Adventure, Starlight, Swiftfire, Dragon, and Providence among them, into that cauldron, scoring one of Earth’s major victories in the process and helping decisively turn the tide against the Romulans.

    Many birds-of-prey had been lost in the Luminaire Nebula, and it was a sign of T’Reni’s skill that she had shepherded her ship out of it intact.

    Perhaps it was fate, or some winking deity that had placed him aboard this ship, seeking out the ancestor of a woman who had likely fought like hell to kill his own ancestor. “Small universe syndrome indeed,” Terrence muttered to himself right before he activated the lever on the combat room.

    Leta was inside, in the center of the room, stretching. Glover’s breath caught in his throat. The woman had shorn the tight-fitting uniform she had been wearing on the bridge. In fact, it lay crumbled off in the corner of the room. Glover wore a similar dark, checkerboard patterned outfit. He had been happy to take off the ill-fitting uniform from the Patronus to one from the uniforms still stocked in the Odaus. The old-style Romulan uniforms were tighter-fitting than the bulkier, blockier uniform Leta was wearing when she first aboard Patronus.

    Still though, the archaic uniforms weren’t as skin-tight as the current Starfleet uniforms that left very little to the imagination.

    But Leta was unencumbered by barely any clothes. The woman was dressed only in a jade tank top and matching shorts. She was stretching, her moves showing nearly every muscle in her angular frame.

    Terrence could only admire the woman’s graceful movements. Her back was turned to him and the woman seemed so intent on her movements that she hadn’t noticed him enter the room.

    Before the commander announced himself, Leta said, her back still turned to him, “Enjoying the view?”

    Glover’s cheeks warmed. “Oh, I, uh, I was just about to announce myself.”

    “Yeah,” Leta said, turning around, with a smile on her face. “Is the front as appealing as the back?” She held open her arms to the side, giving Terrence free reign. But this time he averted his eyes.

    “Listen, let’s start over,” he suggested.

    “How so?” The woman said. She walked toward him. Something in Glover told him to back away, but his feet were planted. She got close to him; her breath smelled as sweetly tart as an Osol Twist. She touched his face, and trailed a finger from his ear and down his jawline. Terrence heart raged against his chest and he shuddered involuntarily.

    Leta chuckled, the sound coming deep from her throat. “All that, just from a touch? Has it been that long Terrence? I can’t imagine that it is hard for you to take on lovers.”

    “Of course not,” Glover pulled away from her, though it was a struggle. “That’s not what I’m here for.”

    “I deal with my anger in two ways, fighting or…” she tugged at his belt. He placed a hand over hers.

    “Don’t,” he said.

    “Why not?” Leta challenged. “You will meet me in the center of the combat room, in battle…of one kind or other.”

    She dropped her hand and returned to the center of the room. “Join me Commander Glover. I’ve always wanted to test myself against the ‘best’ of Starfleet.”

    “At least you recognize that,” Glover smirked. The Romulan matched his smirk.

    “Not good at detecting sarcasm I see,” she said.

    “Alright, perhaps you will need some convincing,” Glover took off his jacket, and dropped the disruptor in his holster as well. He met Leta in the center of the room, dressed only in a black undershirt and black trousers. Since Leta was barefoot he decided to go shoeless as well.

    “So are we going to talk about what happened up on the bridge or not?” Glover asked.

    “There’s nothing to talk about,” Leta said as she crouched and began circling him. Glover copied her.

    He was looking for clues of how she would attack him. Glover knew nothing of Romulan fighting styles, and very little about Vulcan forms, which he assumed might be the basis of the Romulan fighting arts.

    “There’s a lot to talk about,” Terrence rejoined. “You got a lot dropped on you.”

    “Like what?” Leta shrugged, “Only that my mother is a traitor three times over, and that my father, from the Line of Clodius, a line unbroken since Worldfall, that he too betrayed the nation, the people, he had always taught me to put first, over my own life.”

    “Sometimes the truest form of patriotism is opposing a government’s unjust course of action,” Glover offered.

    “And would you do the same? If your precious Federation violated whatever you considered moral?” Leta asked, right before she lunged at him.

    Terrence easily evaded her grasp. His brows knit as he pondered the woman’s question. “I would like to think so,” he said, honestly, “but truthfully, I don’t know. I do place trust in Starfleet Command and my superior officers to be of sound enough mind and moral rectitude not make immoral choices, nor force me to do so.”

    Leta returned to her full height and laughed, “You are very naïve Terrence.”

    “Is that so?” Glover struck, sweeping the unsuspecting woman’s leg. She fell to the floor with, with Terrence’s hand behind her back, to ease her fall. He lowered himself over the woman, just above her.

    He took in her aroma, her sweat like some alluring spice. Terrence stared deep into the woman’s eyes. “Not so naïve after am I?”

    Leta shook her head and laughed. She reached up and kissed him, with such ferocity and it had Terrence falling back. The Romulan climbed on top of him.

    “Wasn’t expecting that were you?”

    “No,” Glover admitted, gulping air. The woman pinned his arms to the floor.

    “I win,” she declared.

    “Yes, but not in combat,” he said, pulling the woman closer. It took a moment for their bodies to meld, as they learned each other’s rhythm. Glover ran his fingers through the woman’s thick mane of hair, as she hungrily, angrily kissed him.

    “Ow,” Glover muttered as Leta pulled away from him, the man’s blood on her lips and teeth.

    “Very interesting taste, human blood,” she replied.

    “Okay, I’ve never heard that one before,” Terrence admitted.

    “I like it,” she said, and then she looked deeply at him. “And despite myself, I like you.”

    “Same here.”

    “Which is unfortunate.”

    “Why do you say that?”

    “It’s too late for you Commander Glover,” the woman said, her expression hardening. “It’s too late for any of you. I’ve sent them our location.”

    “What?” Glover was confused. “What are you talking about? Who?” The deck trembled and the air was rent by a siren.

    “Commander Glover…Terrence, we need you up here,” Cal called out from one of the bulkhead speakers.

    Glover didn’t move. Instead he looked at a slightly penitent Leta. “What did you do?” He asked.

    “My duty,” she said, pulling away from him. Glover grabbed her arm. The deck trembled again.

    “Commander Glover,” Hudson called again.

    “I actually am sorry,” Leta dipped her head. Behind her the air shimmered and several green shafts of light emerged as Glover’s ears filled with the whine of transporter beams.

    Terrence didn’t protest as the woman left him to join the hardened Romulan soldiers that had just appeared in the room. She saluted the vulpine-faced, dark eyed Romulan holding a disruptor in one gloved hand. Unlike most Romulan males who preferred the clean shaven look; this man had a thatch of black hair running beneath his bottom lip and down his chin. Another thing that stood out about the man was that his dark hair wasn’t in the nearly standard bowl cut style. The commander noticed that the other three Romulans also had their weapons trained on him. The interlopers were wearing a different kind of uniform than what Leta had worn before; their uniforms were darker, more streamlined, more like the old-style Odaus uniforms than the current, shoulder-padded, silvery uniforms Glover was more familiar with.

    “Colonel Crassus,” Leta said with cold formality. The man looked at her dispassionately and then behind her to Glover. Terrence’s skin crawled when the man smiled at him.

    “Lt. Commander Glover, of the Starship Renegade,” the man said with a lethal geniality, “I already know much about you, but I am looking forward to learning so much more.”

    **********************************************************************
     
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  20. DarKush

    DarKush Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Nov 18, 2005
    **********************************************************************

    Imperial Warbird L’Nar


    “I’m so pleased we didn’t have to vaporize any of you,” Colonel Crassus said, pausing to take a sip of a pale yellow beverage. “Though Xinran, son of Njal, did test my soldiers’ patience,” he shook a gloved finger at the security officer.

    Terrence looked at the other man. His face bore several dark green bruises. Glover could tell the man was just about to leap from his seat at Crassus.

    “Your passion is heartening Xinran,” Crassus nodded, “It shows that some Romulan fire remains in your wilted bloodstream.”

    “If you didn’t have weapons aimed at me, I would demonstrate how much fire I have,” Xinran promised.

    Crassus glanced at the guards posted in all four corners of what Glover surmised was a kind of wardroom. The colonel sat at the head of the table, with Leta standing at his side. Terrence, Valeris, and the other Starfleet officers sat around the table.

    Each had plates of food and drink placed before them, but Glover wasn’t feeling hungry or thirsty. He was still reeling from Leta’s betrayal. A few days ago, the idea of a Romulan being treacherous would have a no-brainer, but Leta had slipped past his personal shielding, he felt something for her and he thought she did likewise.

    He looked at her and the woman looked away. Perhaps she really did feel something after all, but if so, why?

    “It is truly an honor to have the venerated Admiral Uhura as my guest.”

    “You have a very unique definition of guest,” Uhura rejoined. Crassus gave another unnerving smile.

    “I look forward to you divulging much information about Starfleet’s secrets,” Crassus said. “Major Leta has provided the Tal Shiar a great boon, a great boon indeed.”

    Valeris raised an eyebrow. “Major?” Leta dipped her head.

    “Ah yes,” Crassus said, “Did you really think your own daughter, a woman of such ability, would still be a lowly lieutenant? Or resign herself to serving in the Imperial Fleet even. She was meant for bigger things, much more grand. And before we recruited her, she came to us.”

    “Leta, you are in the Tal Shiar,” Valeris stated. It wasn’t a question. The Vulcan was trying to grapple with the revelation, to process it.

    “Yes,” Crassus replied. “And she has been a valuable member. She provided detailed information on your intrusion into the Central Information Net. And she convinced us not to arrest you after you enlisted her into your plan to bring Admiral Uhura into Romulan space. How could we not allow such a treasure to literally fall into our laps?”

    “How could you do this Leta?” Uhura flared, seemingly angrier than Valeris. The Vulcan woman’s expression was closed off, but Glover was certain there was pain in her dark eyes. “How could you betray your own mother?!”

    Leta looked ahead, her expressions steely, but Terrence thought he saw the woman’s ridged brow furrowing just a little, then again, perhaps that was his imagination, and just what he wanted to see.

    “Leta understood the distress her diluted heritage caused among many,” Crassus paused and looked at Xinran. “As I am sure that Xinran also experienced something similar in the so-called egalitarian Federation.” The Romulan tensed.

    “Don’t let him goad you Mr. Xinran,” Uhura sympathetically, but firmly, advised.

    “What better way to prove herself worthy, truly patriotic than joining the Tal Shiar,” Crassus proposed. “And she rightly understood that if there was to be war with the Federation, the Tal Shiar would be instrumental to our winning it, and she so wanted that war, she so wanted to avenge her father’s murder. The fact that he turned out to be a traitor only stokes the fires more, that the Federation could lure a man of such stature to betray his own nation, to place a stain upon the entire Line of Clodius.”

    “When are you going to get to torturing us?” Cal asked, “Because I would rather go through that than sit here and have to listen to you ramble on.”

    Xinran snorted and grinned in solidarity. One of the soldiers moved in Cal’s direction, prompting Cal, Glover, and Xinran out of their seats.

    “Remain at your station,” Crassus ordered, holding up one hand. He hadn’t raised his voice, but his authority reverberated throughout the room. “Please gentlemen, return to your seats. Your viinerine is getting cold.”

    “Lt. Hudson, alas you are of little use to us,” Crassus continued after the men had sat down. “The only reason you are still breathing is because you can be useful as a bargaining chip for the others.”

    “Well, that’s nice to know,” Cal groused.

    “And what use am I?” Terrence charged.

    “Now you Mr. Glover, I am curious about the recent parasite infestation of Starfleet, but more so, with you, it’s your father, Samson Glover, the purported ‘expert’ on my people. I read his translation of the Eridam Papers. Quite an interesting take on their content,” Crassus concluded. “I look forward to discussing your father with you, and what other insights he might have about us. It’s a pity that Admiral Uhura didn’t bring him along instead of you.”

    “It doesn’t matter Colonel because he would tell you the same thing that I will,” Glover said.

    “And what would that be?”

    “Nothing,” Terrence riposted.

    “We’ll see if you will be so tight-lipped after a few sessions with a mind sifter. The Klingons are barbarians, but they do make excellent interrogation devices.”

    “Can I get an early start then?” Cal asked.

    “So eager Mr. Hudson,” Crassus replied. “Are you also so anxious around Gretchen?” Glover’s heart thudded at the mention of Cal’s wife, and Hudson stared daggers at the Tal Shiar colonel.

    “Don’t you ever mention my wife again,” he warned.

    The colonel put up a hand. “Out of respect for Federation-Star Empire relations I will not mention her again,” the colonel said, the unsettling smile returning. “I wanted you to know, all of you, that we know more about each of you than you realize and that we can reach any of your loved ones if you don’t comply with our wishes.”

    “You don’t scare me Colonel,” Uhura said, and Glover knew she meant it.

    Crassus nodded, realizing it as well. “Not yet,” he said, “Not yet Admiral. But soon,” he promised, “You’ll be positively terrified.”

    **********************************************************************

    Imperial Warbird L’Nar


    “Don’t Terrence,” Leta said quietly, but with force. She placed a restraining hand on his arm. Glover considered pulling away from her.

    But then he remembered where he was, and what was transpiring. His defiance could make things worse, for him, his friends, maybe even Leta. He dared looked back at her, but the woman was already pulling away from him.

    A loud cheer went up as a louder thud made the deck tremble. They were in a combat room, one much larger than on the Odaus. And the walls of this one were adorned with melee weapons, and not all Romulan. Glover had made out several Klingon weapons and even one sharpened Andorian hrisal.

    But none of the men fighting for the amusement of the L’Nar’s crew carried any weapons. Colonel Crassus had ordered his men not to kill Cal or Xinran, though he had not made a similar commandment to their Federation counterparts.

    Xinran was on the back of a downed Romulan. The V’Shar operative was noticeably trembling. The man was barely holding it together. His rage had almost crested.

    “Move Xinran!” Cal called out. The Romulan had taken his eye off his own opponent, catching a hard punch to the stomach. Hudson folded over. But his warning had been successful. Xinran moved to the side, just avoiding another Romulan diving in to tackle him. The soldier missed the tackle.

    Xinran jumped to his feet and kicked the man hard in the face, crunching bone. Glover winced. The Romulan placed his boot over the man’s throat.

    “Don’t do it,” Terrence muttered.

    “Do it,” the L’Nar’s first officer, a glacially beautiful dark-hued woman said louder. Despite the raucous atmosphere, the woman stood at attention, her arms behind her back.

    “Don’t Xinran!” Glover called out.

    “Prove yourself a Romulan,” the woman demanded. “Prove yourself worthy to be a son of ch’Rihan for once.” Xinran glared at the woman.

    Behind him, Hudson was still on his knees. “Decurion, put the human to sleep,” she ordered.

    “Cal!” Glover yelled out. He stepped toward the combat ring.

    “Do not interfere,” the first officer ordered, while still looking ahead.

    Glover glared at the woman. “You don’t give me orders!”

    “Yes, I do,” the first officer said, still not looking at him. “If you do not comply, I will have you restrained. The colonel’s orders were explicit, but still left a lot of latitude.”

    “I’m just going to have to test the limits of your latitude then,” Glover said and ran onto the combat floor.

    The decurion standing over Hudson looked at him. Cal, still on his knees, reached out, grabbed the man’s legs and took him off his feet. Hudson delivered an incapacitating elbow against the other man’s temple.

    Glover placed a hand on Xinran’s shoulder. “Don’t do it Mr. Xinran,” he demanded.

    The man looked up at him, his expression so lost and hurt, so roiling with anger that it hit Glover like a feedback loop.

    “You don’t understand Commander, my own people have taken so much from my family,” Xinran said, his voice cracking. He looked down, his face contorting with rage. “And this veruul dared dishonored my father.”

    “I don’t care about him,” Terrence said. “I just don’t want you to give these bastards what they want!” He pointed at the leering crowd. And then Glover glared at the first officer. He jutted out his chin, daring the woman to respond. The throng quieted after Xinran reluctantly removed his boot from over the downed man’s throat.

    “There are many ways to enforce compliance Commander Glover,” the first officer said. “Admiral Uhura and the Vulcan for example,” she said. “With one order I can deliver unto them unimaginable agony and there is nothing you could do about it.”

    “Damn it, she’s right Terrence,” Hudson muttered as he stood beside Glover. “We can’t endanger the admiral.”

    “I don’t think the situation can get more dangerous…for any of us,” Glover replied out of the corner of his mouth.

    “It can Commander, believe me,” the woman replied. She nodded curtly and the crowd began to encircle the Starfleet officers. The three men stood back to back. Terrence flexed his muscles, ready to fight.

    “Enough entertainment for today Subcommander,” Colonel Crassus’s voice cut through the thickening tensions. “We have entered the Chaltok system and I want you back on the bridge.”

    “I will be up once I take care of the refuse,” she answered.

    “See to it quickly T’Rhiel,” Crassus’s tone was even, but still carried portentous weight.

    “Yes Colonel,” T’Rhiel said. She pulled out her disruptor. Glover’s eyes narrowed. He straightened his back, preparing for the final burning of disintegration.

    She fired two shots, vaporizing the men that Xinran and Hudson had dropped. T’Rhiel looked at Glover coldly, purposely. “Refuse dispensed of. I would advise all of you to not become as useless,” she said. “Lt. Ehrek, return our guests to their quarters.”

    The beefy Romulan stepped forward, his disruptor already drawn. T’Rhiel turned quickly on her heels and moved toward the exit.

    “Subcommander T’Rhiel,” Glover dared call out. The woman paused, though she didn’t turn back to him. “Why are we in the Chaltok system? Where are you taking us?”

    Despite not being able to see her face, he heard the smile in her voice, “Why the Arx of course. Your mission will be completed after all.”

    ***********************************************************************
     
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