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
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    Imperial Warbird L’Nar


    Subcommander T’Rhiel didn’t escort Glover to the interrogation chamber. She arrived after he had been forcibly strapped into the chair. The Romulan dressed in white surgical scrubs moved out of the way and stood at attention. T’Rhiel stood over Glover. Behind her, the two guards that had forced him into the chair had taken up positions by the door. Terrence was pleased to see the bright green smear of blood on one of the guard’s busted mouth. The skin scraped from Glover’s knuckles didn’t trouble him one bit.

    T’Rhiel placed a finger under Glover’s chin and he attempted to jerk away, but his head was restricted by the restraining band that had been placed over his forehead.

    “Come now Commander Glover,” T’Rhiel pursed her lips. “Such defiance. We’ll see how defiant you will be after a few sessions with our mind probes.”

    “What happened to the mind-sifter?” Glover asked through gritted teeth.

    “The colonel wanted something left of you afterward, so he ordered that mind-sifter to be used on the Vulcan and the traitor.” Terrence was immediately fearful for both of them. “Too bad these interrogation chambers are soundproofed.”

    “If you hurt either of them, or any of my colleagues,” Glover warned.

    T’Rhiel shook her head. “Don’t waste my time with idle threats Mr. Glover.” She motioned to the white-haired doctor.

    The man produced two small rectangles, both glowing an ominous crimson. “These are mind probes,” the L’Nar first officer explained. “Doctor N’Ral will attach these to your forehead. Doctor, enlighten our guest as to what is about to happen.”

    “Of course Subcommander,” N’Ral said as he attached the devices on Glover’s head. Though the medic talked, Terrence continued staring daggers at T’Rhiel. “The mind probes will allow us to record your thoughts, which we will be able to view via this screen.” T’Rhiel patted the screen facing Glover. “It can cause distress if you are uncooperative,” the man said, with some concern. “This is a more civilized method of interrogation,” he added.

    “More humane,” T’Rhiel needled.

    “Yes, all together, a less messy alternative to the mind-sifter or other interrogation methods,” Dr. N’Ral concluded.

    “I feel so much better now,” Glover rolled his eyes.

    “Begin the interrogation Doctor,” the first officer ordered.

    Glover tried to steel himself as best as possible.

    “Dr. N’Ral suggested you don’t resist,” T’Rhiel said. “Though personally I hope that you do.”

    Glover bit back a retort. He knew the woman wanted to rile him, to knock off his concentration. “Do your worse,” he eventually said.

    “Oblige the commander,” T’Rhiel ordered.

    The red glow began growing; he could see it on the edges of his vision. And then he felt the fingers, digging into his mind, probing his thoughts. Terrence tried to put up mental blocks, to fight back with his anger, but the fingers were persistent, burrowing.

    “Interesting,” T’Rhiel said, one finger at her lips as images began to fill the screen. It was a mixed jumble, snatches from Glover’s life.

    “Tell me about the Starship Renegade. I want to know everything about the New Orleans-class.”

    “No,” Glover said, through gritted teeth. “I will never betray Starfleet.”

    “You don’t have a choice in the matter,” T’Rhiel replied. “Dr. N’Ral, increase the power of the mind probe.”

    The crimson light became blinding, pulling Glover out into a sea of red, an ocean of pain. It tore a cry of agony from him as the fingers became blades, fiery ones that slashed and burned through his brain.

    “No, no, no,” Terrence shouted, closing his eyes to the blinding light. He was bathed in sweat now, his muscles straining to the point of pain as he fought against his restraints.

    “This isn’t working,” T’Rhiel said, her voice distant, just on the precipice of the encroaching darkness, an abyss Glover would’ve welcomed. “Mr. Glover you appear to be more than what you appear to be. Humans, normal humans should not be able to withstand this level of probing. Dr. N’Ral, discontinue the probe.”

    The red sea receded, though the pain lingered in his mind. It took Glover a few moments to open his eyes. The regular light was now stinging. “Doctor, perform a genetic scan of the commander.”

    The medic ran their equivalent of a tricorder over Glover. The man shook his head, “I am no expert on human physiology,” the man offered, “but I see no abnormalities there.”

    “Because you don’t know where to look,” she said, snatching the tricorder from his hands. She frowned as she read the findings. She scanned Glover again, and took another look.

    “There are subtle alterations of your neural pathways, congenital in origin,” she concluded. Glover looked as confused as the medic. She pushed the tricorder into N’Ral’s chest. The man barely caught it before it fell to the deck. The first officer bent down and looked Terrence over, her interest piqued in him in a way Glover knew wouldn’t be beneficial to him.

    “One or both of your parents was genetically engineered,” she surmised. “Fascinating.”

    “Go to hell,” Terrence spat.

    “Dr. N’Ral, repower the mind probe,” she ordered. “But let’s not focus on Mr. Glover’s treasured oath to Starfleet. I find his personal life, those he loves, far more interesting.”

    “No, aahhh!” Glover screamed as the knives began stabbing, increasing in intensity as several lovers and friends came to the fore, leading eventually to a picture of his father and then his mother on the monitor. He could barely make out his mother’s proud visage through his tears.

    “Cease at once,” T’Rhiel said, and Terrence detected a troubled tone in the woman’s voice. She turned to him. “This…is your mother?” The superior air had evaporated and a shocked expression flashed across the woman’s face.

    “Yes,” he said, his voice ragged, his chest burning as if he had ran the Academy Marathon.

    She leaned closer, and whispered in his ear, “She lived on the Norkan colony.”

    He jerked up. “How did you know that?”

    “Where is she now?”

    “Use your scanner to find out,” Terrence remained defiant.

    “Dr. N’Ral,” she ordered. “Dig deeper.”

    Glover shivered as the agony began again. “Erebus,” the woman whispered, as she found Glover’s deeply buried pain. The scanner uncovered the small memorial service Samson and Glover had held for his mother after the Starship Tombaugh had been declared lost, with all hands.

    “What happened to her?” T’Rhiel demanded. Terrence refused to answer. She instructed N’Ral to turn up the juice.

    “She was lost, on the USS Tombaugh, all hands,” the words were ripped from Glover.

    “She’s dead,” T’Rhiel replied, her voice stricken. “Dr. N’Ral, stop the memory scanner.”

    The pain receded again. “Guards, unshackle the commander to his cell.”

    Glover wanted to fight, but his muscles failed him. The guards picked him up like a sack of green potatoes. “You know my mother,” Terrence said to the first officer. “How do you know her? What does she mean to you?”

    For once T’Rhiel was speechless. “Get him out of here,” she said eventually.

    “No,” Glover tried to plant his feet, but the guards forced him through the door. “Answer me!” He demanded before the door closed behind him.

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    Imperial Warbird L’Nar



    Glover was thrown back into the cell. He stumbled, almost falling, and damn near twisted his ankle as he turned around to confront the guard he had pushed him. But by that time the guard had activated the force field locking him in. The guard sneered at him.

    Terrence wished he could push through the energy field and strangle the man. He glared at the man. “Why don’t you drop the force field?”

    The guard placed his truncheon against the field, causing it to crackle. Despite wobbly legs, Glover stood firm, squinting as sparks shocked him.

    “Pretty fearless…for a human,” the other man laughed. “If I didn’t have my orders…”

    “Yeah, excuses, excuses,” Terrence threw up a hand and turned his back to the guard. “I see why you can’t defeat the Klingons, excuses.”

    “Listen to me, you nhaidh!” The guard bellowed, but Glover ignored him. He noticed Hudson lying in the corner of the cell. He went over to his friend. He knelt down.

    “Cal,” he said gently, “Cal, are you okay?” He gingerly touched the man’s shoulder. With a groan Hudson rolled over.

    He frowned at the two scorch marks on the man’s forehead. “Mind probe,” he said, to himself as much as to Hudson. He touched the bruises on his brow and winced.

    Hudson trembled and drew into himself more. “The mind probes affect everyone differently,” the voice made Terrence jump.

    He turned around quickly, his aching muscles as primed as possible for a fight. He could just make out Valeris sitting in a shadowed corner, kneeling, her hands in front of her, as if she was praying, or meditating.

    “Spock tried to teach me the value of meditation, but I had never put much stock into it. I saw how little praying or meditation did for my parents.” Valeris said. “My parents are the reason you are here Mr. Glover.”

    “What do you mean?” Terrence asked. He wanted to approach the woman, but something told him not too; he wasn’t sure if it was out of respect or fear. Did he really want to go through the door that the woman was now holding open for him?

    “Admiral Uhura,” Glover could hear the smile in the woman’s voice. “She’s become quite the manipulator in her advanced years.”

    “What are you talking about?” Glover tried to keep the impatience out of his voice.

    “My parents were part of the clergy on P’Jem,” the Vulcan said. “P’Jem was one of the planets attacked by the Klingons after the war.”

    “The Four Years War?” Terrence asked, still not sure how any of this had anything to do with the admiral choosing him for this mission.

    “No,” there was the smile again. “Not the Four Years War, that tragically forgotten war. How old do you think I am Mr. Glover?”

    “Oh, uh, well, I mean you, ah, do you look great,” Terrence fumbled about.

    “For my age you were going to add?”

    “No, of course, not I mean,” Glover continued flailing.

    “I am teasing Mr. Glover,” Valeris let him off the hook. “I have come not only to value meditation and reflection as I’ve matured, but also humor. We Vulcans do have emotions; we merely choose to suppress them.”

    “Yes,” Terrence nodded, “I get that.”

    “Well then,” the cheer drained from Valeris’s voice, and it took on a faraway cast. “During my childhood, P’Jem suffered two attacks by the Klingons. The first occurred during the brief war that was stopped by the Organians.”

    “Ah,” Glover said. “That war.”

    “Yes,” Valeris replied. “Not as long, or disastrous as the Four Years War which occurred some two decades before, but still a lot was lost in that brief exchange of hostilities, including our monastery.”

    “My parents decided to stay and help rebuild the monastery. They were unprepared when a conflagration between the Romulans and Klingons only a few years later spiraled into Federation space, and P’Jem was once again in the crosshairs. One of the Romulan priests studying at P’Jem was the scion of a powerful Romulan family, one that Klingon marauders hoped to capture for ransom. Their attack resulted in many deaths, including their purported captive, and my parents.”

    “I’m sorry for your loss Valeris.”

    “Thank you Mr. Glover,” the woman replied. “But it is I that remain in your debt.”

    That brought Glover up short. “I don’t understand.”

    “Your ancestor, your great grandfather, Hamilcar Glover, led a landing party to rescue the survivors of the attack. I had gone for days without food and water, hiding from Klingon warriors. Hamilcar saved my life. I am forever in the debt of the Glover family. And Uhura knew that, she knew my personal story. She thought your presence here would prevent any treacherous actions on my part.” Valeris paused, her emotional control slipping, “It is the same reason the admiral brought Xinran along as well.”

    “I don’t follow,” though there was something wiggling in the back of Glover’s brain that told him otherwise.

    “I met Xinran as a child, on P’Jem,” Valeris’s smile was elegiac. “His father was a visiting religious scholar, similar to my own parents’ vocation. Xinran and I were once friends. His father was who the Klingons were after. He lost his father when the Klingons attacked that second time.”

    Yes, Glover thought, but kept to himself. Xinran had mentioned coming living on P’Jem before, and as soon as Valeris had mentioned the planet he should’ve made the connection, but with everything in flux, Xinran’s recounting of his personal history, had dropped into the recesses of his mind. If he had had the time he would have kicked himself for that.

    The woman wiped her dry eyes, as if they were filled with tears. “Our pain bonded us, and we stayed in touch throughout the years. I tried to recruit him into the conspiracy; Xinran serving aboard the Goshawk at the time. He would have no part of it, yet his own honor kept him from informing the authorities. After the conspiracy had been foiled and all the investigations were done, Xinran’s career in Starfleet was ruined. Despite all the pain I have caused him, the river of anger between us, it has been…agreeable to see him again.”

    “Well, I’ll be damned,” Glover replied. There was so much family history, so many worlds the Glovers who had chosen Starfleet service had visited, and so many conflicts they had participated in, Terrence hadn’t remembered P’Jem.

    And to know that Uhura did and that she was using him to manipulate Valeris angered him, but also made him respect the admiral even more. She was thinking at a level Glover hadn’t fathomed. He was just glad Uhura was on their side.

    When the survivors arrived at Vulcan the priests offered me the fullara, a ritual to repress unwanted memories and emotions, to help me get over P’Jem, to move on, but I didn’t want to move on. I needed to hold on to my pain, I thought it would honor my parents’ lives and their sacrifices; but now, after all that transpired, perhaps things would have been different…maybe better, worse, who knows…”

    “We all have regrets,” Glover offered.

    “Surely not you Mr. Glover,” the smile had returned. “You are a young man that doesn’t seem to possess any.”

    “Perhaps I’m merely as good an actor as you and Admiral Uhura,” he rejoined.

    “Not quite,” she replied, and he could tell the smile was fuller now. “But in time you might become a master at it. The first part is learning how to lie to yourself.”

    “I see,” Glover pondered.

    “Once you are able to deceive yourself, doing so with others becomes facile,” the Vulcan added.

    “And what have you lied to yourself about?” Terrence asked.

    The woman sighed. “A great many things,” she answered. “But the most important self-deception as it pertains to our predicament is my miscalculation over Leta’s loyalty. I thought I could break through a lifetime of indoctrination, but even love wasn’t strong enough.”

    “If there is any bright side, at least we’re going to the Arx,” Glover knew the joke was flat before he finished it. But Valeris chuckled anyway, the sound musical.

    “Yes,” her voice grew grim. “However my plan was not only to visit the Arx, but to leave it as well. And this sojourn unfortunately has all the hallmarks of a one way trip.”

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    Imperial Warbird L’Nar

    Traveling Under Cloak


    The disruptor dug into Glover’s back. He elbowed the guard pushing him. The guard hissed. “You are eager to die today human.”

    “I won’t be going alone,” Terrence shot back, through clenched teeth.

    “Keep moving,” the guard warned, poking the weapon into Glover’s side again. Terrence whipped around and smashed the man in the face, cracking the guard’s nose.

    Other disruptors were shoved at Glover’s face, but the man stood over the downed guard, daring him to get up. Cal moved to help, but Terrence warded him off.

    “Enough Commander Glover,” Colonel Crassus said. “You’ve provided enough good sport for the evening.” The Tal Shiar commander had provided just enough distraction for rough hands to seize Glover’s arms. He struggled against them.

    “Terrence, don’t,” Uhura said quietly. He looked at the woman, heartened to see her alive and all the rest of his colleagues, though each one looked the worst for wear, with Xinran faring the worst.

    The Romulans had spent days interrogating him, the admiral, Valeris, and Cal, while subjecting Xinran to endless combat training rounds eager to test themselves against a V’Shar operative.

    “I would heed the admiral’s advice,” Crassus warned. “I have graciously allowed your party to come to my bridge, and any more disruptions I will consider disrespect,” the icy threat lie just beneath his calm tone.

    He turned his back to them and motioned from behind. “Come now. I want you to see this.”

    The rest of the captives trudged slowly behind the striding colonel, while two guards delighted in pushing Glover along. Crassus ordered them lined up, situated between his command chair and the long helm terminal. Crassus stood between Uhura and Glover.

    “Release him,” he ordered the guards. The men reluctantly complied. Though they took positions close by, and Glover didn’t have to look back to know they had their weapons at the ready. “Drop our cloak and helm, all stop.” The lighting on the bridge brightened, though the effect wasn’t disconcerting due in part to the room’s drab green and tan interior. The deck rumbled beneath Glover’s boots as the ship became stationary.

    “What do you want us to see Colonel?” Uhura asked, her voice imperious despite their current predicament.

    The woman’s tone amused the commander. “The Arx.”

    “There’s nothing out there,” Cal groused, not in the mood for Romulan games.

    “That’s where you’re wrong Mr. Hudson,” Crassus replied.

    “We are still in the Chaltok system,” Valeris said. “The Arx is located in the Hectori sector, 72.8 hours away.”

    Crassus smiled. “You continue to impress me,” he then looked at Major Leta. “Like mother, like daughter.” The woman was at a standing console beside the command chair. The woman couldn’t quite hide her pensiveness. Subcommander T’Rhiel stood impassively at another standing terminal on the opposite side of the empty command chair.

    The woman’s brows knit as she saw Glover looking at her. She briefly met his gaze and then shifted again. Terrence was surprised that for a brief moment her expression had become anxious.

    “Lt. Nalvin, contact the Arx,” Crassus said, smirking at Valeris. The woman’s eyebrow was arched, likely in curiosity.

    “No response sir,” the nervous man replied. Crassus frowned.

    “Hail them again.”

    The communications officer gulped before replying, “Still no response.”

    Crassus grabbed his chin. “Damn Admiral Danclus and his bureaucratic games.” He cleared his throat and barked at the jumpy Nalvin. “Open hailing frequencies again.”

    “Yes sir,” Nalvin said.

    “Admiral Danclus,” Crassus raised his voice. “This is the Tal Shiar Imperial Warbird L’Nar, demanding you approve entry into the Arx.”

    “Nothing still sir,” Nalvin said.

    “Imperial Fleet arrogance,” Crassus scoffed.

    “Perhaps a warning shot might encourage compliance,” the woman at the tactical station suggested. Crassus shook his head and gave a tight lipped smile.

    “It’s always disruptors first with you Sica,” the colonel said. “No,” he sighed. “Danclus is being particularly ornery today. Send one more entreaty,” he advised Nalvin. The man responded in the negative.

    “The Imperial Fleet still doesn’t understand the respect of the Tal Shiar,” Crassus replied. “Subcommander T’Rhiel, submit the override code.” The subcommander quickly input the information into her terminal.

    “What the hell?” Cal breathed as the space in front of them began to ripple. The void continued contorting as a new, massive shape emerged.

    “My God,” Uhura gasped as a hulking tetrahedron loomed over the L’Nar, as if threatening to devour the now tiny warbird.

    “You were right Lady Valeris,” Crassus said. “The Arx had been in the Hectori sector.”

    “But it moved,” Valeris replied.

    “Because it’s more than just a space station,” Glover interjected. “The Arx is a warp capable space station.”

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  2. DarKush

    DarKush Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Nov 18, 2005
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    Imperial Warbird L’Nar


    “Admiral Danclus, if you hadn’t been so obstinate, I would not have to force your hand,” Crassus said. “We should not have daggers drawn. We are both wings of the same raptor.”

    “The admiral is not responding.” Nalvin said.

    “Come now Danclus,” Crassus cajoled. “Let’s not pout. Give us entry into the Arx.” The colonel waited for a few tense minutes. Glover could tell the man’s irritation was growing.

    “It’s going to be one of those days,” the man eventually said. “T’Rhiel, open the gates.”

    “Colonel, perhaps the admiral can’t respond because there is a problem, communications or otherwise, aboard the Arx.”

    “Perhaps,” Crassus replied, “But the Arx’s shielding repels even our sensors.”

    There was a flicker of light within the mountain of darkness. A beast opened its mouth, its maw lit with infernal light.

    “Now Danclus sees reason,” Crassus muttered before saying louder, “Helm, take us in.”

    “Belay that,” T’Rhiel said. Crassus frowned, his dark eyes burned like coals.

    “How dare you,” he began.

    “The Arx is scanning us,” the subcommander said. The woman was clearly troubled.

    “Why would they do such a thing?”

    “The Arx, they are sending a message,” Nalvin interjected, his confusion consuming his anxiety.

    “Put it on screen,” Crassus barked.

    “Sir,” the communications officer hesitated. “It’s not for you…it’s for Lady Valeris.”

    Glover joined everyone on the bridge in looking to Valeris. The Vulcan calmly took in the scrutiny. “Colonel, if I may?” She asked.

    He nodded curtly, “Of course.”

    “Lieutenant Nalvin, accept the communique.”

    The image of the behemoth shifted to a darkened room with a pallid figure, face hidden in shadow.

    “I am Valeris,” the Vulcan said, her voice thick with caution. “You wished to speak to me.”

    The figure leaned forward. Leta gasped. Valeris blanched. “Mother,” the man said, touching the screen, with the drill that had replaced his hand. The man was pale, with dark pulsing veins. Half his head was shorn, the other half mottled and disfigured with electrodes. “The transformation….is nearing completion.”

    “Taev, my son, no,” Valeris shook her head, her voice breaking.

    “You are not supposed to be here, what are you doing here?” The man’s voice was so pained, even Terrence felt it.

    “What do you mean? You called for me?” Valeris was also hurting and not hiding it.

    “I…I was lashing out, trying to retain what little of myself was left, before it, before it’s taken from me,” Taev answered. “And I wanted to warn others. I didn’t expect that you would find it, or me.”

    “I will always find you,” Valeris promised.

    “I…I am not me anymore, now there is only death, and you must leave. Now.”

    “No,” Valeris shook her head, her expression hardening.

    “We’re coming for you,” Leta declared.

    “Little bird, it’s…too late for me,” Taev said. “Too late…I hear the song, it courses through my soul; soon…it will be all that I hear…all that I am.”

    “We’re going to rescue you,” Leta pleaded.

    “What happened to you son, what happened to the crew of Vicia?” Valeris asked.

    “We survived…” the man tried to smile, but the deadened muscles in his face wouldn’t allow it. “The desperate maneuver stopped the sphere, and we actually survived. It was not only the Borg that did this to me…it was our own scientists…here at the Arx.”

    “Good Lord,” Uhura muttered.

    “The sphere was recovered and taken to the Arx. The sphere is here now. And Imperial scientists were seeking to understand the transformation process, the assimilation process…to create an inoculation against it,” Taev added. “Who better to experiment on than the survivors of the Vicia, whom the Fleet had reported as having been lost?”

    “Typical,” Xinran spat.

    “Where is Admiral Danclus?” Crassus interrupted.

    “Admiral Danclus…along with many in his command staff, escaped from the Arx before…”

    “Before, before what?” Crassus demanded.

    “Before,” the man paused, the words caught in his throat. His eyes rolled back, exposing a cloudy whiteness, as the man’s body twitched. “The song, the song…I must….”

    “Sir, Arx is transmitting information, leagues of it,” Nalvin said.

    “This…this will help…it must help…before…before,” Taev was struggling to speak. “The song…is so…beautiful.” He threw his head back and fell out of his chair.

    “Taev!” Both Valeris and Leta screamed and both women ran to the main viewer, oblivious of guards and brushing past Crassus. The guards, as was Crassus and everyone else on the bridge were so transfixed by what was happening on the screen that they didn’t react, and barely noticed.

    Both women touched the screen. Taev was hunched over now, the muscles of his bare back contorting, things like insects rippling beneath his skin.

    “Colonel,” T’Rhiel said in a commanding voice that broke through the fog. “The Arx is activating tractor beams.”

    Taev shot up, his expression dead, his individuality stripped. “Imperial Warbird L’Nar, we are the Borg,” the words rattled out of his mouth, but Glover could tell the man was not their author. “You will lower shields and prepare to be boarded.”

    “Get us out of here!” Leta said.

    “Who, what is the Borg?” Crassus asked.

    “Get us out of here now!” Leta screamed.

    The colonel grabbed her arm. “You will answer my questions!”

    The woman elbowed the man in the throat. He went down gasping, clutching his throat. “We have no time for this.” Leta looked up and into the eyes of Sica who had her weapon aimed at the young major.

    “My daughter is correct,” Valeris said. “We have seen what these Borg are, and what they can do, if the Arx successfully attaches tractor beams to this vessel, our chance of surviving an encounter with the Borg drop precipitously.”

    “Understood,” T’Rhiel said. “Until Colonel Crassus recovers I’m assuming command. Helm, evasive maneuvers.”

    “You got to do more than that,” Glover said. “Get us the hell out of here, maximum warp!”

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

    Imperial Warbird L’Nar


    Glover was on edge. He had long ago learned to marshal his fear, to put it in the back of his mind in order to accomplish the mission at hand. But at the moment he had no mission, leaving the fear and anxiety to burrow into his core.

    Subcommander T’Rhiel had ordered the prisoners along with Leta into the stateroom adjoining the bridge, under a cohort of guards led by the brutish Lt. Ehrek. The hulking Romulan was sneering at his captives, tapping his drawn disruptor against his leg, as if daring someone to attack him. Glover could see that a fuming Xinran was weighing his options.

    “I need your attention here Mr. Xinran,” Admiral Uhura chided. The man grumbled before joining the rest of them as they huddled around the desktop in the office. On it played some of the footage that Taev had sent from the Arx.

    T’Rhiel had demanded that Valeris scour the data for any information that could help them survive. With each rattle the warbird took growing in intensity, Glover knew they didn’t have long. And he hated being stuck on the sidelines instead of either at the helm or in the command chair.

    A sharp jab in his side pulled Glover out of his commiserating reverie. “You want to move over?” Leta asked. Terrence bit back a retort. Despite the fact that the woman had betrayed them and might yet cost them their lives, she was still captivating.

    And now she was standing beside him, though her attention was on the screen. Her eyes widened. “Taev,” she murmured, her voice nearly hitching her throat. “Dear Taev…”

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

    Imperial Warbird Vicia


    He heard voices scraping along the edges of his consciousness like leaves pushed by the wind along the streets of Romii IV, ones he had once paraded down like a conquering hero, like his father….

    “Here’s one,” another voice, also distant, but strong enough to break through the others rustling in his mind. “He’s still alive.”

    “Great Halls of Erebus!” There was another voice, filled with horror. Taev tried to open his eyes, to see what had frightened the man so, but his eyelids wouldn’t move, neither would the rest of him body. “How is he even still breathing?”

    “Help me with him,” the first voice said.

    “No,” the other voice declared. Even beyond them he heard shouting and then screaming and then the voices inside him trilled as others joined the chorus. A new energy, as if new life itself now coursed through him. He tried to use the new energy to open his eyes, to move, but it was no use. He tried to part his lips, to greet his rescuers, and then to scream for help, but it was if his mouth no longer existed. Only Taev could hear his scream, and he feared that it would go on forever.


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


    He awoke again, this time not to darkness, but a faint grayness, as if there was a film over his eyes, or rather eye; one eye seemed permanently closed, if not missing altogether. If that was the case, Taev didn’t feel the pain of its removal; in fact he felt no physical sensations at all.

    “Fascinating,” a shadow fell over him. Taev squinted, trying to bring his working eye into focus. It took effort, but the shadow began to resolve into the shape of a man, a tall man, bent over, and his face near Taev’s. The man had patrician features, much like his own father.

    Nearby he heard a voice drenched in irritation, “What do you find so fascinating now, Doctor R’Mor?”

    The man stood up, his face now out of Taev’s vision. “Admiral Danclus,” this Dr. R’Mor formally addressed his superior. “This is a tremendous find. I have not discovered why this young man survived the crash of the Vicia into the alien spheroid, but I do think I have ascertained why the assimilation process that had overtaken other members of the Vicia had been halted in this instance.”

    Assimilation process? The other members of the Vicia? What had happened to them? What had the Borg done to them? What had the monsters done to him? He wanted to ask, but found he couldn’t speak, as if the Borg had taken his voice from him, and now even their voices were gone. He was trapped within himself.

    “And?” Danclus pressed.

    “It…appears,” R’Mor bent back down, so close that his nose nearly touched Taev’s face, though the man would not have felt the contact. “That the electromechanical discharges from the electrokinetic storm that had ensnared both the Vicia and the Borg sphere not only disabled the alien vessel, even more than the actions of the last ditch efforts of the Vicia crew, but electrocuted most of the drones within, and for the others…including Centurion Taev here, it severed his link to the hive mind connecting all the Borg on the ship.”

    “Is there some way to harness this power, to use it against the Borg?” Danclus asked, his voice no longer demanding though Taev could still detect calculation. “This sphere wasn’t the only Borg vessel; there had been reports of a cube that had attacked the science outpost at Tharos. So there are other Borg out there, and there will be more. They’re testing us, and we must be ready to meet the real challenge.”

    “To do that, we need to understand the full process of assimilation, including the connection of the affected to the hive mind.” R’Mor said. “We’ve salvaged some equipment from the sphere, including a distribution node that has provided a wealth of data on the Borg and several of what appear to be regeneration chambers for individual drones.”

    “You want to place the centurion inside one of these chambers to reconnect him to this hive mind?” The admiral asked.

    “Admiral, I caution against this course of action!” Another voice interjected. A female voice.

    “Senator Telaan,” Danclus said with barely concealed menace. “This is a military matter.”

    “And I have been a firm supporter of the Imperial Fleet,” the woman didn’t relent. “And these Borg are a threat to the Empire I have sworn to protect, the same as you.”

    “What do you say to that Doctor?” Danclus said.

    “The senator is wise to voice caution; however there is no discovery without risk. The Arx is the most heavily fortified research base in the Imperial Fleet,” R’Mor replied.

    “That you are aware of,” the senator interjected, and Taev could hear the smile in her voice.

    R’Mor swallowed hard. “Of course,” he paused, “Be that as it may, this is the safest location I know of where we can even attempt to initiate connect with the Borg hive mind, and with the unique features of this lab, we can escape if we detect any Borg vessels who have been alerted to our actions.”

    “The doctor is correct, Senator,” Danclus said. “Proceed R’Mor, and keep me…us, informed of your progress.”

    “Yes Admiral.”

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  3. DarKush

    DarKush Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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

    The Arx


    The shriek ripped through his raw throat with such ferocity that R’Mor and his assistants shrank back.

    “It appears the centurion is awake,” an attractive, stately woman, dressed in fine plum colored senatorial robes, replied, folding her arms.

    “Restrain him,” R’Mor said, his voice quavering. The guards at the door hesitated.

    “You heard him,” the woman snapped. That jolted the guards into action. They rushed to Taev, grabbing his arms roughly. He thrashed against them, twisting, trying to break free, but they pinned his arms to whatever he was resting on. He heard the clink of the restraining manacles over his biceps. Though secured, he bucked against them.

    For some reason the guards didn’t go for his legs. Taev decided to make them regret that. He lashed out, or tried to, but he felt nothing, and obviously neither guard was affected.

    Taev glanced down, seeing what they had done to his legs, and his anger was extinguished, just gone…like his legs. He blinked and then looked up at a sympathetic R’Mor.

    “My legs…my legs…what happened?”

    “You…were severely injured when Vicia crashed into the Borg vessel,” the doctor said. It was then that Taev realized the man and his assistants were dressed in white surgical scrubs. “Your partial assimilation by these Borg saved your life.”

    “What are you going to do to me?”

    “We are going to place you inside a Borg alcove; we are going to connect you fully with their hive mind.” His expression was sympathetic. “We are going to complete the assimilation process.”

    “No,” Taev wailed, “Please, don’t. You don’t know what it’s like.” He began pushing against his restraints.

    “No,” R’Mor admitted. “I don’t. Can you describe it?”

    “It’s…almost beyond words,” Taev said, his one working eye filling with moisture. “You are almost nothing, infinitesimal in the tide, the great chorus of voices, all murmuring, yet all speaking as one…melding together, held together, by something…someone greater even than the multitude.”

    “Someone?” The imperious woman stepped into view and R’Mor gave her respectful space. She peered down at Taev. “These Borg have a leader?”

    “Not…no,” he tried to shake his head but remembered he couldn’t move. “Not a leader, a queen.”

    “You will contact her,” another figure stepped into his view. It was Admiral Danclus. “You will ask her what she wants from us, and inform this ‘queen’ that further incursions will be responded to harshly.”

    If Taev could laugh he would have done so. The woman snorted.

    “Now is not the time for empty threats Admiral,” she chided.

    “Senator Telaan,” Danclus’s voice grated like broken glass. “These aliens have committed acts of war against the Star Empire. The idea of negotiating with them is preposterous, and it sounds more like an inane idea from your husband Flavius than one conceived by you.”

    “I would be mindful not to insult the husband of a senator, who also is a powerful procurator of the prosperous Didacti system in his own right,” Telaan warned.

    “And I would never dream of committing such a faux pas,” Danclus didn’t hide his insincerity.

    “Some leading our glorious Imperial Fleet have a tendency to jump to conclusions, victims of unwarranted paranoia. I seek not to negotiate with the Borg, or their queen, but to understand their nature, their mindset to better defeat them,” the senator explained. “And understanding what their ultimate goal is which is the first step in denying it to them.”

    Danclus nodded tightly. “I…concur.” He moved out of eyesight. “Proceed with the connection Dr. R’Mor.”

    “No, no,” Taev pleaded. “No!” He was powerless to resist as they wheeled him along. He couldn’t even twist his head to see the doom that awaited him.

    “Be gentle with him,” the doctor warned once the gurney had come to a stop. The guards placed firm, but not gouging grips on him as the removed his restrains. Taev considered fighting them, but knew it was futile. Even if he could break free, he had no legs to run away. “Gentle, gentle,” R’Mor pressed.

    “Don’t do this,” Taev begged. “And not for me…but for you.” R’Mor paused and turned to his superiors.

    “You have your orders Doctor,” Danclus flared. The senator looked grim, but didn’t protest.

    “Place the centurion into the alcove and secure him within,” the scientist said. This time Taev didn’t protest. Instead he centered himself, and steeled himself to hold on to as much of himself as he could once he was swept into the ocean.

    “Centurion Taev, once you are within the alcove, the instruments within should repower the dormant Borg nanoprobes in your bloodstream, connecting you to the hive mind.”

    “Subject is secured,” one guard said, out of Taev’s vision.

    Dr. R’Mor frowned. “He is not a subject, he is patriot.”

    “Yes, a proud son of Romulus,” Admiral Danclus added. “The scion of Martius.”

    “From the Line of Clodius,” the senator spoke. To hear such eminences speak of his family, of his blood line, in time’s past would’ve filled Taev’s heart with pride, but now he saw them as merely empty platitudes. Final words to send him to a fate worse than the bowels of Erebus.

    For the first time he felt the pinch and the coldness again. And then the voices began to pour into his mind, like an increasing rainstorm. Taev thought of his family, his sister and his mother, as the downpour grew in intensity. “Mother”, he screamed, as the water began to slash through his mind, seeking to tear away everything he was, to leave only the storm within its place.

    He could feel his power fading, a shadow covering his remaining eye, and then text and readings overlaid his vision and the voices grew stronger, comforting, as if they had been there all along, and he found himself missing them.

    With most of his last vestige of self Taev heaved his few bits of thoughts into space, in the hopes that someone wiser than Danclus and the other superiors aboard the Arx could use them to defend the Empire. Taev knew that the Arx was now a lost cause. As he slipped below the waves, into the churning waters, he held onto this the only piece of himself he could, the last time he saw his father, his mother, and his sister. He smiled as oblivion took him.

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

    Imperial Warbird L’Nar


    “That’s it?” Subcommander T’Rhiel asked, the question coated with a hint of frustration and fear. The ship continued rattling as the Arx’s weapons found purchase.

    “Why aren’t we dead already?” Xinran asked, drawing the woman’s ire.

    “Not helping,” Cal muttered to the V’Shar agent.

    “There’s nothing there but a funereal recounting,” T’Rhiel was disgusted. “Nothing to help us stop the Borg.”

    “Not true,” Admiral Uhura said. “The Borg sphere was stopped by severe electromechanical discharges.”

    “I don’t see any electrokinetic storms nearby, do you?” The subcommander rejoined. The admiral ignored the jibe.

    “That is correct, but we might have the next best thing,” Uhura said. “It is fortuitous that we are in the Chaltok system.”

    “Yes, I feel like I just won the lottery at Vokar’s Folly,” Ehrek muttered, eliciting a reproachful glare from T’Rhiel. The man turned a light shade of green.

    “What do you mean by our sudden good fortune Admiral?” T’Rhiel demanded.

    “Chaltok is rife with subspace anomalies,” Uhura pointed out.

    “How you would know that?” T’Rhiel was suspicious.

    Uhura chuckled, “I was alive when Chaltok IV was destroyed. The Enterprise escorted the Federation delegation that signed the Polaric Test Ban Treaty in the aftermath of that disastrous experiment.”

    “Ah, polaric ion energy,” Cal pointed out. “I recall learning about that treaty at the Academy.”

    “I did too actually,” Valeris added. “I’m not so old that the rudimentary history of the event wasn’t captured in our history texts.”

    “Care to enlighten us with some of that ancient history?” Glover asked. Uhura harrumphed at that and Hudson laughed.

    “If I may Admiral?” Valeris asked. Uhura nodded her assent. “A century ago, polaric ion energy was heralded as the solution to the energy needs across the Alpha and Beta Quadrants. Various powers sought to harness the unstable molecules to make use of the tremendous power they yielded.”

    Glover nodded, looking at the admiral and then subcommander. T’Rhiel scowled but also nodded in agreement.

    “The ions were highly unstable, and the devices created to generate them also were insufficient. A polaric ion disruption could not only eliminate all life on a planet in seconds but set off a series of subspace chain reactions.”

    “Not to mention the temporal properties,” Xinran added.

    “Temporal properties?” Cal asked, clearly not pleased. “Please don’t tell me this is going to wind up being another time travel thing?”

    “Yes, it could very well be just such a ‘thing’ Mr. Hudson,” the Romulan expatriate replied.

    “So what happened at Chaltok IV?” Glover wanted to get back on track.

    “Chaltok IV housed a research station that was conducting polaric ion experiments. There was a detonation that nearly destroyed the planet and led to the Polaric Test Ban Treaty.” The admiral explained.

    “In 2268,” Uhura further punctuated, cutting her eyes at Glover as if expecting a retort. Terrence wisely kept his mouth shut.

    “Okay, so am I going to have to be the one who asks, but what does that have to do with our current predicament?” Cal said.

    “The Chaltok IV tragedy littered this system with subspace fractures,” the admiral said, “which provided the Romulans the perfect cover to continue experimenting with polaric ion energy.”

    There was a rumbling among the Romulan captors and T’Rhiel hissed. She reached for her disruptor. “Mind your words Admiral Uhura.” Glover tensed, readying to take down the closest guard he could before the Romulans atomized them all.

    “The admiral is correct,” Valeris said, “I did not see it before, but it is logical,” she dipped her head in Uhura’s direction. T’Rhiel looked at both women, her face contorting between anger and confusion. Her hand hovered over her holster.

    Glover was just as confused as T’Rhiel appeared to be. “Am I going to be the one who has to say this?” Hudson interjected, “But what do you mean Admiral?”

    “The Arx,” Uhura said. “A massive structure like that can’t be powered by a forced quantum singularity, and multiple artificial quantum singularities inside a singular structure is inviting disaster. The reason why there are so many subspace fractures in this region nearly a century after the Chaltok IV tragedy is because some of them are new or were relatively recently created. The Romulans are using polaric ion energy to power the Arx.”



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  4. DarKush

    DarKush Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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

    Imperial Warbird L’Nar



    “I’ll be damned,” Cal beat Glover to the punch. The admiral looked at Valeris and in turn the Vulcan looked at T’Rhiel. The dark-skinned Romulan remained pensive.

    “Either you remain unwilling to state the obvious, or you are oblivious,” Valeris replied.

    “I don’t know what you mean,” T’Rhiel replied.

    “The Arx, among studying the Borg, was conducting illegal polaric ion experiments as well,” Valeris stated coldly, yet the words hit like hammers. The subcommander twitched at each blow.

    “That would be a violation of the Test Ban Treaty!” T’Rhiel charged, her anger taking over. “And even accusing the Star Empire of doing such a thing is inviting war!”

    “Perhaps not the Star Empire entire,” Valeris said calmly, “But the Tal Shiar, and perhaps other sympathetic segments of the Empire’s power elite.”

    “Working in contravention of the Romulan Senate or Praetor,” Uhura added, “And galactic law.”

    “I find that doubtful, but more likely there was just enough plausible deniability to shield the Praetor and the Senate from any fallout,” Xinran added. Glover and Cal both nodded at that. Even Leta was looking less certain herself.

    “I could have you all executed right now for the lies you’ve just spewed on the Praetor and Senate,” T’Rhiel warned.

    “But you won’t, because you know we are speaking the truth,” the admiral said. “The Arx generates polaric ions. Do a scan to prove us wrong?”

    “There is no need for even that,” Valeris said, “A deeper exploration of the data Taev sent us would likely yield the answer.”

    T’Rhiel glowered. “If what you said was true, hypothetically, how could we use that to our advantage?”

    “And this is when we call in Colonel Crassus,” Uhura said, with golden speckled twinkles in her eyes.

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

    Imperial Warbird L’Nar

    Stateroom



    “Out of the question!” Colonel Crassus pounded his fist against his desk, before favoring his bruised throat. He glowered at Major Leta. “And Subcommander T’Rhiel I could, and should, have you summarily executed for entertaining such treasonous ideas.”

    The Federation denizens were packed into the colonel’s office, along with Crassus, T’Rhiel, Leta, and several other Romulan officers. Guards were stationed at the doors which added to the room’s stuffiness.

    “Despite the histrionics you didn’t say our assertions were wrong,” Uhura pointed out. “The Arx is one big polaric ion generator, and we can use that to our advantage.”

    “I’m not confirming anything you suggest,” Crassus held his ground. “But to further suggest that we fly back to the Arx, that I send my men into its maw, to ignite the alleged polaric ion generator is madness. We have to get to far enough away from the Arx to warn the Fleet about the Borg threat.”

    “That’s not going to happen,” Valeris said, ignoring Crassus’s withering stare. Instead the Vulcan looked at the anxious engineering officer. “Your engineer knows that the Borg are altering the Arx’s propulsion exponentially. It can’t be too long before the reconstituted propulsion overtakes the L’Nar.”

    Crassus swiveled to the engineer. “Is that correct?” The scrawny man in question looked ashen. He swallowed before nodding in the affirmative.

    “So what are we to do?” T’Rhiel interjected. She had been standing behind Crassus’s chair, but stepped forward. The dark-hued woman ignored Crassus’s glower as well, though she did deferentially step back.

    Valeris parted her mouth and then dipped her head in Admiral Uhura’s direction. “I defer to you Admiral.”

    “Colonel Crassus I understand your trepidation about putting your ship and all the souls under your command at needless risk, however this is a necessary risk.”

    “As you and Lady Valeris have made me quite aware,” the Tal Shiar colonel said tightly. “I know the precariousness of our situation, but what are your solutions?”

    Uhura merely smiled. Even Terrence could tell that the Romulan commander was trying to hide his anxiety, was trying to reassert some semblance over a situation that was beyond his control, or any of their control.

    “I propose that you avail my team with one of your shuttles. We will journey to the Arx, get inside, and then ignite the polaric ion propulsion therein.”

    Crassus’s laugh was harsh, like metal scraping against metal. “Are you really trying to cloak your cowardice in an alleged act of self-sacrifice?”

    Uhura frowned, and Glover tensed. “I will not allow you to escape,” the colonel added. “Your fate will be ours.”

    “I’m trying to save you, can’t you see that?” Uhura’s frustration came to the fore. “But you’re too short-sighted, too caught up in your own web of deceit and paranoia to even trust that my offer is legitimate.”

    “I can vouch for Admiral Uhura’s veracity,” Valeris said. Crassus’s grin was just as nasty as his laugh had been.

    “Ah, the word of a traitor,” he replied. “I feel much better now.”

    “My mother is many things,” Major Leta stepped forward, “But she is no traitor. And though Admiral Uhura serves our enemies, she has done nothing but conduct herself with honor for the brief time I have known her. I have no cause to believe she would shirk that honor now.”

    Crassus considered Leta’s words. He shook his head. “I had hoped you would be stronger, that perhaps even your bastardized Vulcan blood would make your more dispassionate, but you are just as swayed by emotional attachment as any untrained Romulan, and so to that, I applaud you, Major Leta, you have overcome your defiled genetic makeup, but you have chosen the wrong loyalties. Obeisance to the Tal Shiar is beyond blood, is beyond…” The man never finished his sentence, and Glover found his last words about blood being grimly portentous. The man gurgled as jade-green blood spouted from around the dagger’s tip. It had entered the back of his neck and pushed through the soft, giving flesh of his thorax. The tip glinting with medal and lifeblood. Behind him T’Rhiel pulled the blade wetly from the dying Crassus. The room filled with the coppery tang of blood.

    The man rasped, grasping with his gloved hands spasmodically at the air as if it were a physical thing he could possess and then shove into his mouth.

    Glover winced as the man struggled on for a few more seconds to recapture his expiring life. And then the colonel fell forward.

    Every Romulan drew a weapon of some sort, either a disruptor or dagger. T’Rhiel held her own honor blade, still slick with Crassus’s blood, up, while she stared down every other person in the room. “I am now taking command of the L’Nar,” she declared. “Time is of the essence and we could no longer afford the colonel’s empty posturing. Subcenturion Sica, you are hereby promoted to full Centurion and are now first officer.”

    The other woman, her disruptor still in her hand, lowered it slowly, as the new reality dawned. She nodded curtly. “Noted.”

    “Now, my second act as commander of the L’Nar is to endorse Admiral Uhura’s plan,” T’Rhiel nodded to the woman.

    “Thank you...Commander T’Rhiel,” Uhura said carefully.

    The Romulan smiled, and Glover’s heart sank. He glanced at Cal, who was also scowling. There just had to be a catch, he read in his old friend’s expression.

    “Lt. Ehrek, two guards of his choosing, and Subcenturion Gielo,” she nodded at the scrawny engineer who couldn’t stop swallowing, will accompany your team. However, you Admiral will remain here…as my guest of course.”

    Uhura’s smile was frostier than the highest cliff on Efros, “Of course.”

    “Now what just a minute,” Glover stepped forward. “I don’t like the sound of that, or of Admiral Uhura being your prisoner.”

    “She’s already my prisoner, as are you,” T’Rhiel said, as she stroked the back of the chair that had once been lorded over by Crassus. “And would you rather your venerated icon journey to the Borg ship to face certain death…” Gielo’s swallow was so audible that T’Rhiel paused, and then she grunted with displeasure. “Would you not rather have Uhura here, relatively safe and sound aboard L’Nar?”

    “How safe can she be as your prisoner?” Cal shot back.

    “What’s the alternative?” T’Rhiel shrugged.

    “You’re in no position to make demands of us,” Xinran said hotly. “This was the admiral’s plan and now you are trying to keep her from being onboard the Arx to execute it. It seems to me that are still things aboard that monstrosity you don’t want us, particularly the admiral to see.”

    “I trust that your Vulcan Science Directorate tenure was legitimate,” T’Rhiel said instead. “I would hate to have to sacrifice my science officer or Major Leta, who will also remain onboard L’Nar.”

    “Commander,” Leta said as formerly as she could muster, “I would be of more benefit to the boarding party.”

    “Despite Crassus’s being a blowhard he was correct that your emotional state is of concern,” T’Rhiel said, “I will not jeopardize this mission even further.”

    “Nor will you give up an opportunity to keep Valeris in line,” Glover muttered. T’Rhiel smirked at him and Terrence recoiled.

    “We will need Major Leta’s help, at both the science and navigation consoles, as we continue making our way through the extant subspace anomalies in this system, and the new ones your fireworks display will cause…if you are successful of course.”

    Valeris looked at her daughter, the two women sharing a silent, knowing look. She then regarded T’Rhiel with chilly confidence. “I will see my daughter again.”

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

    Imperial Romulan Warbird L’Nar

    Main Shuttle Bay


    Glover ran his hand along the streamlined hull and around the jutting wing and its tapered nacelle. Cal nudged him. “You’re in love again,” he joked.

    Terrence chuckled. “I am going to enjoy getting in the cockpit of this baby.” This ship was larger than the Patronus, its prow more pronounced and sharper, and Glover didn’t have to check its systems to know the shuttle carried a larger complement of weapons. The engineer Gielo had mentioned that the ship belonged to the Pugio-class of shuttles.

    “You’ll be sitting in the hold, with the other prisoners,” Lt. Ehrek declared. Glover turned to the man.

    “If you want to get there and then back in one piece, you’ll want me piloting this ship,” he said.

    Ehrek laughed. “What do you know of Romulan spacecraft, human?”

    “Enough,” Glover said, stepping to the eager Romulan security officer. The two men bumped against each other. Terrence eyed the Romulan who stared right back at him.

    “Don’t press your luck,” Ehrek warned.

    “Stand down Lt. Ehrek,” Commander T’Rhiel ordered. “And Commander Glover will be piloting the Securis.”

    Glover smirked while the burly Romulan fumed. “Don’t get too overconfident Mr. Glover, I want my men keeping their eyes on you and the others and not worrying about being swallowed by a subspace tear.”

    “Whatever makes you sleep at night,” Terrence shrugged.

    “I will admit, that I am…familiar…with your Academy accomplishments,” T’Rhiel said, “Winning the Nova Cup in 2354; most impressive.”

    Terrence tried to play off how unnerving the woman’s knowledge of his backstory. “When did you find the time to rifle through my personnel files.”

    “How did she get those files?” Hudson groused.

    T’Rhiel’s laughter was musical. “Oh, the Tal Shiar knows all manner of ways of obtaining information.” That didn’t make Glover feel any better.

    T’Rhiel turned to Ehrek. A quartet of heavily armed men and women had formed behind him. All wore dark helmets covering their ears and body armor as well. Their battle suits were less padded than the standard issue Romulan uniform. Each also had a disruptor rifle slung across their shoulder, and Glover could only imagine all the weapons hidden in the recesses of their dark, glittery uniforms.

    “Are your soldiers ready Lieutenant?” T’Rhiel’s expression was now serious. Ehrek nodded. Gielo was already aboard, checking the Securis’s weapons and propulsion.

    Valeris, who had been silent to this point, spoke. Her expression was impassive, but her gaze imploring. “See that no harm befalls Leta.” She said to T’Rhiel.

    “Or Admiral Uhura,” Hudson added, but his words were more a warning than a plea. T’Rhiel took both in stride. She turned to Xinran, who looked coiled and tense, ready to strike, “And do you have anything to add Mr. Xinran?”

    “I’ve nothing more to say to,” The operative said. “I will do my best to save the L’Nar, my superseding my good judgment.” T’Rhiel laughed again.

    “Well, then all that’s left is to see to it,” The Tal Shiar commander said. She nodded to Ehrek who then directed everyone, his hand on his disruptor sidearm, for punctuation, into the Cornicen.

    “Commander Glover, a word,” T’Rhiel said. Ehrek paused, but the woman commanded him to continue herding the others. “I don’t think Mr. Glover would be foolish enough to jeopardize this mission to attack me.” Ehrek was skeptical about that. However after another glower, the man hustled everyone into the Securis.

    Terrence was on guard. He didn’t know what to expect, what shoe was about to drop. T’Rhiel approached him and Glover took a step back. The woman smiled, which made more nervous. “I’m not going to hurt you,” she promised, and now Glover tensed, preparing for a blow, physical or mental. “Seriously,” she added, her smile dimming. “There is no time for this.” She reached into the fold of her jacket and Terrence balled his fist. The woman carefully pulled out a blade, wrapped in a purple handkerchief.

    She stepped back but held the blade out to him, in both hands, as if it were a religious offering. He didn’t reach for it. Instead Glover looked at the proffered weapon as if it was diseased.

    “I see, you don’t understand,” T’Rhiel said. “This is an honor blade.” She carefully removed the dagger from the cloth. She held it aloft. The short blade was not as elaborate as the other blades he had seen, including the one hanging prominently from the commander’s hip.

    “I can see that,” Glover said.

    “Yes, but I don’t think you understand,” T’Rhiel said, “Your father, he will. And I give this blade to you now, in the certainty that you will survive this ordeal and pass this honored weapon on to Admiral Glover.”

    “Okay,” Glover said. She prompted him to take the dagger, but it took a few moments for Terrence to take the blade.

    “I would advise you that you keep this between us. Ehrek will not understand,” T’Rhiel said.

    “Why?” Was all Glover could muster.

    “Your father will understand,” T’Rhiel replied confidently. “And now, I wish you the best of luck. Trillions are counting on what is to happen next. As Old Earthlings once said ‘Godspeed, Mr. Glover, or should I say Shamshuni,” the woman replied, turning and leaving Glover in his shock.

    He was glad the woman had turned away from him. Glover was unsettled that the women knew his middle-name and said it with a kind of familiarity that she shouldn’t have had. Terrence didn’t know what kind of game the Tal Shiar agent was playing, but he had no time to be thrown by it. He would worry about T’Rhiel’s mind games later. Glover had a shuttle to pilot, in the maw of hell, and out again.

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  5. DarKush

    DarKush Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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

    Romulan Imperial Shuttle Securis


    “So you think they are just going to open the door for us and let us in nicely?” Cal scoffed. He sat opposite of Glover. Ehrek sat behind Terrence, and though Glover didn’t look back, he was certain the man’s firearm was out and pointed at Glover’s chair. Beside him sat a comely Romulan in the co-pilot’s console. The woman had removed her helmet, and cutely kept blowing away errant strands of russet hair out of her emerald eyes.

    “It doesn’t hurt to ask,” Glover said. He regarded his co-pilot. “What do you say Sublieutenant…” The woman smiled back, but before she could answer, Ehrek butted in.

    “Sublieutenant is fine. The only person whose name you need to know among my troops is mine,” the security officer declared. “And you will address me, not them.”

    “Sure makes flying harder if I got to go through a middle man, if things get thick,” Terrence rejoined.

    “I don’t care,” Ehrek said.

    “Sir, ah, Commander Glover is right,” the woman said. “It is tough enough navigating this sea of anomalies. We might encounter a patch that requires quicker reactions.”

    Ehrek snorted. “Fine, but just don’t get chatty with the human. Remember these are our enemies, Rhean.”

    “Ah, Rhean,” Glover grinned. “So that’s your name. I didn’t know there were redheaded Romulans.”

    Rhean smiled, her green eyes flashing with mischief. “I’m sure there are plenty of things about Romulans you don’t know Commander.”

    Ehrek poked the back of Terrence’s chair hard. “Keep your focus on getting us to the Arx,” he barked. Glover rolled his eyes.

    “Hold your horses, I’ll get us there.” Rhean raised an eyebrow. Terrence shrugged. “An Old Earth expression.”

    “You humans…are quite a curious species,” the woman replied.

    “Lady, that’s an understatement,” Cal chimed in.

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

    RIS Securis


    Traversing through the spatial anomaly wracked Chaltok system hadn’t been the minefield Glover had anticipated, and he was a bit disappointed. He wanted to both test his skills and also to let off some steam. But thus far the subspace tears had been far enough away for him to easily avoid.

    Perhaps fate was giving them a break, knowing what awaited them. Glover shuddered at the thought. To become one of the Borg, one of those things, was a nightmare he couldn’t even fathom. To lose his individuality, his personality, that little spark that made him, well, him, and impressed and also annoyed so many others, for that to be stripped from him, and then he was lumped in with a mass of beings, all shorn of their sparks, of their desires, their dreams…

    Terrence shuddered again. “Temperature not to your liking human?” The observant Ehrek asked.

    “I’m fine,” Glover brusquely replied. “If you don’t want me to send us through one of the tears and back to the Vulcan Reformation, I recommend keeping quiet and letting me do my job. And you get back to polishing your boots or whatever.”

    The man’s displeasing grunt was music go Terrence’s ears. He glanced over at Rhean and saw that the woman’s jade eyes sparkling. Out of the corner of his eye he saw Cal grinning as well, but then his friend’s expression crumbled. “My God,” Hudson muttered.

    Glover’s head snapped forward. “How did our sensors not detect it?” Ehrek demanded.

    “No time,” Terrence replied as he pulled the Securis hard to port, just missing hitting the hull of the Arx. The shuttle’s forward motion was arrested.

    “They’ve locked on a tractor beam,” Rhean said, trying to her best to remain calm. Glover thought the woman was doing an admirable job.

    “Fire weapons,” Ehrek commanded, “We’ve got to break their grip.”

    “No,” Glover replied.

    “No!” The large Romulan roared. “How dare you countermand my order, you Terran scum!” The man reached for his disruptor.

    Glover drilled the man with a hard stare. “The point is to gain entry into the Arx isn’t it?”

    “Not as their prisoners!” Ehrek ripped his disruptor from his holster. He pointed it at Glover. “You will do as I command!”

    “He will not,” Valeris replied calmly. Suddenly the woman was behind Ehrek, her fingers at his neck. “I could drop you before you could pull that trigger,” she said. “But I will not. I assume Commander Glover has something in mind to turn the tables back in our favor.”

    “That is correct Lady Valeris,” Glover said, with a triumphant smirk. “Let them bring us into the Arx, and as soon as we are in, and that tractor beam is off, we fly through there, making our way as best as possible, providing a distraction while we beam a landing party to the propulsion system. That is if Subcenturion Gielo can locate the polaric ion generators.”

    “Can you Chief Engineer?” Valeris asked, not taking her hand off the stewing Ehrek.

    “I think so…if I can get closer,” the man replied. “I have a pretty good guess now, but I would prefer confirmation.”

    “We’ll try to get you the time to do that,” Glover said. “And in the meantime I suggest we sit back and let them reel us in.” Terrence, Valeris, Cal, and Rhean all looked at Ehrek. The man cursed and then placed his sidearm back in its holster.

    “Once this is done human, it’s you and me,” he declared.

    “Now I do have something to live for,” Terrence quipped.

    The tractor beam gently brought the shuttle into the embrace of the massive space station, one of its openings resembling a gigantic mouth. The insides were lit with a greenish fire, like the gullet of a dragon. Glover had switched to shuttle’s main screen to the aft view to watch them being gobbled up. His heart thudded, but his hands were steady on the controls.

    As the shuttle crossed the threshold, Cal grumbled, “Now I know how Jonah felt about that whale.”

    “Another Old Earth saying?” Rhean asked.

    “Something to that affect,” Glover smirked.

    “Oh you humans,” She smiled. “I’m going to hate it when we plant our flag on Earth’s soil.”

    “First things first,” Terrence said before the ship was overtaken by darkness.

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

    RIS Securis



    “Great Shade of S’task,” Ehrek muttered, temporarily losing his composure, his face drawn and ashen. The shuttle hung inside the Arx, immobilized by several tractor beams, a fly caught in the deadliest of spider webs.

    The big Romulan was hovering over Glover’s seat, all in his personal space, but Terrence had other more pressing issues to deal with, they all did. Almost the entire contingent aboard the shuttle was in the cockpit, looking out of the view port.

    “What have they done to the station?” Gielo whispered, and the fascination and revulsion in the man’s voice was palpable. The station was vast, but now it was covered with menacing looking, dark technological splotches that seemed like growths over the typical brown-green interior Romulan aesthetic. And the most obscene growth was a partial Borg sphere, with a jagged chunk missing. The darkened sphere was also suspended by tractor beams.

    “How many life forms are you reading aboard this station?” Ehrek asked. He pointed at the sphere, “And on that thing?”

    It took Rhean a moment to break away. “Sir, I’m reading over eight thousand life forms aboard the station total, and five hundred of the total aboard that sphere.”

    “What is the standard capacity for a station this size?” Valeris asked.

    “I can’t be certain,” Gielo spoke up. “But it is likely seven thousand.”

    The Vulcan raised an eyebrow and pursed her lips. Glover’s stomach twisted. “How many of them are Romulan?” Valeris added.

    Rhean consulted her instrumentation again. She scrunched her face. “One thousand, two hundred are reading as Romulan.”

    “Is it just as Romulan or have they been altered, turned into Borg?” Glover asked.

    “I…can’t say,” Rhean replied. “My sensors are reading Romulan life-signs.”

    “It’s a safe bet that the Romulans who were not…assimilated,” Ehrek nearly spat the word, “were already killed. This is not a rescue mission.” Terrence was almost happy to see that the man was back to normal brute self.

    “It appears that the Borg on that sphere weren’t so out of the picture as we thought,” Cal surmised.

    “Yeah, and they’ve likely increased their numbers with the personnel from the Arx,” Glover added.

    “And Commander Glover, I thought you said these Borg would release us from the tractor beam?” The security officer charged. “Your ‘plan’ depends on it.” Ehrek scoffed.

    “Not, necessarily,” Terrence said. “Subcenturion Gielo, have you found the polaric ion generator yet?”

    The man, among the crowd, jumped with a start. “Ah, ah, yes, yes I have. The readings… I have located the generator.”

    “Rhean, is our transporter still operational?” Glover asked.

    “Just a minute, you don’t give orders to my subordinates!” Ehrek bellowed.

    Terrence riposted, “These aren’t orders, they’re questions.”

    “I’ve had about enough of you human,” Ehrek reached for his disruptor again.

    “Yes, Lt. Ehrek, the transporter is working,” Rhean said.

    “Good,” Glover clapped his hands, “Because I’ve got a new plan forming.”

    Before Terrence could elaborate, a voice, or rather a multitude of voices speaking as one invaded the ship’s communication system. “We are the Borg. You will be assimilated. Resistance if futile.”

    “About that plan,” Cal prodded.

    “We all beam to the location, and this shuttle becomes a very big firecracker,” Glover said.

    “And how are we then to get back to the L’Nar?” Gielo asked.

    “Chief, this was a one way trip,” Glover replied.

    “Oh,” the engineer’s gulp was audible, as much as his fear was palpable. And it was contagious, but Terrence didn’t allow it to cripple him. A soft green light swept over the ship.

    “We’ve just been scanned,” Rhean said. The ship shuddered as the tractor beams began to make it descend, and Glover didn’t want to see what was waiting on them below.

    “I’ve already set the engines for overload,” Terrence explained.

    “You what?!” Ehrek exploded, “Without my order?!”

    Terrence shrugged. “Couldn’t bet on you going along with my plan. Thanks for the vote of confidence by the way.”

    “Human, you better hope the Borg get to you before I do,” Ehrek promised.

    “Such a sweet talker you,” Terrence said. “I suggest we beam the hell out of here, like, right now!”

    Ehrek stanched his anger and began issuing orders. His soldiers formed up on the pad with Gielo, Xinran, and Valeris. “Beam them first,” the security officer barked. Glover bit back a retort while Rhean activated the transporter.

    The woman set up the transporter to beam automatically as the trio rushed to it. Glover eyed one of the disruptors still left in the shuttle’s small weapon’s case. “You don’t think I could grab one of those do you?”

    “Not on your life human, or mine,” Ehrek said, gesturing with his disruptor. Terrence stepped onto the platform. He touched the blade hidden within the folds of his tunic. At least he wasn’t completely jumping into hell unarmed and he could have that small satisfaction that Ehrek had been outplayed again.

    The shuttle rattled again and two greenish shafts of light began materializing near the cockpit. “Here they come,” Glover said, as Ehrek took aim.

    “And here we go,” Rhean replied. Terrence had never been so glad to hear the whine of a transporter beam in his life.

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

    The Arx


    As Glover became solid again, he really wished he had taken one of those disruptors. There was an army of Borg, some of Alpha Quadrant species that he was sadly familiar with, and others, from species he hadn’t heard of, or could barely imagine. Along the walls crawled insectoids, Borg-spider aliens, bathing them in crimson light from their eight-eyed heads. Their mandibles clicked in unison with their spidery legs. The deck trembled as Glover heard the explosion of the Securis in the distance. He tensed, expecting the Borg to swarm en masse at them, but the cyborgs didn’t seem perturbed in the slightest. They went about their way, working on their tasks as if nothing had happened, as if there wasn’t likely a gaping hole in the side of the station now.

    However he saw no one scrambling, no klaxons blaring. Glover looked askance at the rest of the landing party. Ehrek crossed his arms, a smug look on his brutish face. “So much for your grand distraction.”

    “At least we aren’t being attacked by those things!” Cal rushed to Glover’s defense.

    “It’s only a matter of time,” Ehrek replied, pointing in the direction of the generator. “We’ll have to part a sea of them to get to that engine, and you think that they are just going to let us traipse over there without making a fuss?”

    “I’m game to find out,” Cal shot back. “How about you?” Ehrek’s face greened with anger.

    “Can we keep our focus on what we came to do?” Rhean prodded, gently, but firmly. That interruption brought even Ehrek up short.

    The Borg stood between them and the polaric ion generator. The generator was nestled deep within what appeared to be a large, opened pyramid. There were stations surrounding the pyramid. Glover couldn’t see the inside, but pulsing shafts of reddish, hellish light shot up from the pyramid. Each pulse made Terrence’s neck hairs stand on end.

    “How are we going to blow up that thing?” Ehrek shouted, though he didn’t need to. In this instance, Glover could forgive the man for being high strung.

    “If I can reach the controls I can attempt to overload them,” Gielo said. Xinran nodded in agreement with them.

    “Is that doable Lady Valeris?” Ehrek asked. He looked around and then glared at Glover. “Where is she?” He snarled. Terrence looked around himself.

    “I don’t know,” he replied. “But I do have an idea.”

    “Damn it,” Ehrek cursed. “I knew you couldn’t be trusted.” He aimed his disruptor at Glover. Terrence stood firm, not fazed at all.

    “You need us, but he needs her,” He said. Ehrek snorted. Rhean’s eyes lit with understanding.

    “Lady Valeris has gone to find her son,” she said.

    “She would risk this mission on such a hopeless errand?” Ehrek was disbelieving and his weapon was still aimed at Glover.

    “It is a hopeless mission after all,” Terrence replied. “Maybe she just wanted to see her son one last time.”

    “Foolish sentiment,” Ehrek spat. “I thought Vulcans knew better.”

    “Maybe hanging around all you Romulans made her soft,” Glover quipped. Ehrek roared and charged Terrence.

    “We don’t have time for this sir!” Rhean said. But Ehrek was beyond hearing. His mission was falling apart and he needed someone to take his anger out on. It had been building for some time. So Glover was happy to be the recipient.

    Seeing that the Romulan was blinded by rage, Glover stepped out of the charging bull’s way and used an ax handle chop, applied swiftly and devastatingly to the back of the neck, to drop the man to his knees. To his credit it didn’t knock Ehrek out. The man staggered to his feet.

    While the security officer was finding his footing, Glover was finding his dropped disruptor. He tested the heft as he aimed it at the simmering Romulan. “Good fit,” he judged. “Now, let’s get back to the task at hand shall we?”

    “You don’t give orders here!” Ehrek said. The other Romulan soldiers turned their weapons on the Starfleet crew. “Drop the weapon now, or you all will be vaporized!”

    “Enough of this!” Xinran said. The man moved with preternatural speed, cupping the wrist of one startled Romulan guard, forcing the man to let go his disruptor. It fell into Xinran’s hand, and for the gift the guard received an elbow to the face.

    Xinran had already turned the gun on Ehrek before the guard had fallen to the ground. Ehrek grinned. “We still have three soldiers left, plus Rhean and Gielo. You two, draw your weapons, now!”

    The engineer looked at Rhean. “You heard me!” Ehrek barked. “If you don’t draw your weapons right now I’m going to….” His words became a scream as the man dissolved before them. Glover, along with everyone else, was stunned. Further, he was chilled by how easily Xinran had vaporized the man. He was nowhere near a fan of Ehrek, but the man was a sapient being, a patriot, and he was acting in part due to what he thought was right and proper, even if it was wrongheaded. And Glover found himself missing if not Ehrek, the extra muscle the man might have provided when things were going to go completely sideways.

    Xinran merely shrugged. “There is no time for typical Romulan arrogance. We have a mission to complete.” He placed his gun hand by his side, but nodded in Rhean’s direction. “I guess that makes you the commanding officer now.”

    “Yes,” Rhean said. She took a look at the spot where Ehrek had once stood; perhaps saying a prayer for the man, but Glover wasn’t sure. “Mr. Xinran, you will lead the remainder of the team to the polaric ion generator and then destroy it. I trust that your hatred of the Borg overshadows that for your own kind.”

    “Just barely,” Xinran gave a hint of a grin.

    “That’s enough for this mission,” Rhean said. “Commander Glover and I will retrieve Valeris.”

    “Why?” One of the guards grumbled. “She’s a lost cause.”

    “I’m not as fatalistic as you all seem to be,” Rhean replied. “We’re going to destroy this station, but we’re getting off this barge of the dead too.”

    “How are we going to do that?”

    “You’ll think of something Mr. Glover,” Rhean grinned. “Come on, let’s go.”

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

    DarKush Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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


    The Arx


    “Isn’t searching for a Vulcan among a station filled with Romulans a waste of time?” Glover asked. He had learned quickly, though reluctantly, not to reach for his weapon when the occasional Borg ambled by. The passed right by them as if they didn’t exist, their glowing red eyepieces the only thing that seemed alive on the Borgs’ uniformly slack faces.

    The woman waved her tricorder aloft along the shadowy corridor, intent on her search. “No,” she eventually answered. “There are slight physiological differences between Romulans and Vulcans.”

    “And you trust Xinran with your men while we search for Valeris?”

    “Do you trust Xinran?” Rhean pointedly asked.

    “I…don’t know, I thought I did, but the way he executed Ehrek,” Glover shook his head. “I really don’t know much about him. All I have to go on is Admiral Uhura’s word and her trust in him.”

    “Do you trust Admiral Uhura?”

    “Of course,” Terrence said, perhaps a bit too loudly. He didn’t like being questioned in that manner; about someone he had long seen as a hero. “And I also trust Cal. He won’t let Xinran get out of hand, or jeopardize this mission.”

    “Yet, here we are, looking for the Lady Valeris, who has jeopardized his mission.” Rhean pointed out, the sting of her comments softened just a bit by a wicked smile.

    Still the jibe rankled Glover. “Her emotions have gotten the best of her…I can’t blame her,” he paused, thinking of his mother. What would he do, what would he give, to see her just once more? “And with this being such an impossible mission, perhaps she wants to be with him when it all completely goes to hell.” His thoughts shifted to his father and his friends. Terrence hadn’t really accepted the idea that he would never see them again, that the universe would, could somehow go on without him.

    “Perhaps your right,” Rhean let up, waving the tricorder again. “I lost my brother during the last Gnawing outbreak a few years past now, and now I am the only one….” She let the sentence trail off, and Glover left the woman to her own sad reflections. He didn’t want to intrude upon her remembrances.

    The two continued walking deeper into the Arx, and it felt like traveling along the River Styx. The Borg influence grew stronger. Glover saw that the Borg had begun refashioning Romulan technology for their twisted purposes. The dark incongruous Borg technology looked like blotches, lesions spread along the walls and consoles they walked past. Glover made sure to give each a wide berth.

    He didn’t know if the Borg technology also could assimilate people like their drones did. As for the people, he noticed more alcoves, like standing coffins, with closed-eyed Borg stuffed inside them, their eyes twitching every once in a while, as if they were in communion with the ship or likely the dark intelligence that had enslaved their minds and warped their bodies.

    It was a fate he had to prevent from happening to any more planets in the Alpha Quadrant, even the Romulans.

    Terrence also noticed that their sojourn into Hades was taking them deeper into the ship and away from what Glover felt, though he really didn’t know, felt like where a command center or where the action on this monstrous station would be. And the clock was steadily ticking to doomsday. As if sensing his thoughts, Rhean said, “We are here.”

    She pulled up beside a door. “She’s in there,” Rhean said. Glover instinctively stepped in front of the woman. He pulled out the honor blade from the folds of his tunic. Rhean’s eyes widened and then narrowed. “Where did you get that?”

    “You didn’t think I would enter a slaughterhouse not prepared to do a little slaughter of my own did you?” Glover smirked. “I’ll take the lead.”

    “This is a Romulan station,” Rhean pointed out.

    “Not anymore,” Terrence said darkly. Before she could protest, he accessed the door panel, and rushed in. “What the…”

    The disruptor poked him in the small of the back. “I’m sorry,” Rhean said, and Glover believed her. “Drop the honor blade.” He didn’t do it until she jabbed him harder in the back. The honor blade clattered dishonorably on the deck by his boots.

    Before them were rows of shuttles. “I-I thought you said we were all getting off this station?” He asked.

    “That was a lie, and you had to have known that,” Rhean replied. “This was a hopeless mission, but I had to take it, it was my only chance.”

    “Only chance to do what?”

    “To escape.”

    “But, but you’re Tal Shiar, I thought you guys were the fanatical patriots.”

    “I am not Tal Shiar; just a member of the Imperial Fleet. The Tal Shiar often have Fleet members operate their vessels. There aren’t as many of them as they would have you believe. There’s a lot of the things the Empire would have others believe that isn’t so.”

    “Such as?” Glover asked, hoping to both learn what was behind Rhean’s betrayal but also to distract her until he could figure out a way to disarm her.

    “There is no time for that right now,” Rhean said. “I can explain it on the way.”

    “The way?”

    “We’re getting out of here,” Rhean said. “You’re going to fly us to the Federation.”

    “No, I’m not.”

    “Yes, you are.”

    “We have a mission.”

    “A doomed one.”

    “The fate of the galaxy, of the Romulan Empire, your people, is at stake!”

    “I don’t give a damn about the Empire! It’s taken everything from me! And as for my people, there are Romulan exiles and refugees in the Federation, like the aforementioned Mr. Xinran. I won’t be alone.”

    “Don’t do this Rhean.”

    “I-I don’t have a choice Terrence.”

    “Yes, you do. We all have choices. They might suck, but we deal with the cards we’re dealt.”

    “Curious. Another human expression?” He could sense a smile in the woman’s voice. Glover sighed. A different time, a different galaxy, and he would’ve liked to have met this woman at a bar or lounge somewhere. The conversation would’ve been good, and what came afterward would’ve been great.

    “I’m sorry,” he muttered.

    “What?” Glover turned quickly, so fast he strained a back muscle. But he ignored the pain and followed through, smashing an elbow into the woman’s cheek. She stumbled back. Unfortunately she didn’t drop the disruptor. She aimed it wildly, a green beam arcing just past Glover’s face, damn near singeing his cheek, as it cut into a bulkhead hanging above.

    Terrence grabbed the woman in a bear hug, squeezing her hard enough that she let the disruptor go. Between clenched teeth, the woman got out, “I did imagine being in your arms Terrence, but not this way.”

    “Same here Rhean,” Glover admitted. The woman head butted him. Her forehead ridges cut into the flesh above his eyes. Terrence dropped her. He tried to keep the blood out of his eyes while diving for the disruptor. Rhean was ahead of him. The two rolled around on the deck, both gripping the weapon. “Rhean, please, we don’t have time for this!” He huffed.

    “I-I have nothing left to lose.”

    “Then go, just go. I won’t stop you.”

    “I need you Terrence,” she replied. “I need a skilled pilot.”

    “I am not leaving.” He declared. “You can shoot me,” he said, as he gave up the fight. He rolled away from the woman. Glover slowly got to his knees. He dusted himself off. “My best friend is still onboard. This mission can still be a success, and if I leave…Cal’s chances dwindle severely. How could I live with myself if I didn’t do everything possible to make sure he got back home, to his wife?”

    Rhean was now on her feet. Her eyes were wet. “Sorry about the head butt,” she said. Glover wiped more blood from his forehead.

    “I’m sure there is an infirmary somewhere on this bucket. I’ll be alright. I’m more concerned about you.” He pointed to the woman’s bruised cheek. “Sorry,” he added.

    Rhean handed him the disruptor. “You’re going to need this.” Glover took and slid it into his belt.

    “You’re still going aren’t you?”

    “Yes,” She said. “I’ve got to.”

    “I understand,” Glover said. “We all have our reasons.” He opened his arms and the woman rushed into them. They held each other tightly. Rhean’s lips found his and they shared a hungry, desperate kiss.

    Glover did his best to quickly give her some piloting tips. “Be careful out there Rhean.”

    “How could I not?” She grinned, breaking Glover’s heart. “I’ve just gotten instructions from one of the best pilots in the galaxy.”

    “‘One of the best’?” Terrence took mostly mock offense. Rhean laughed.

    “Thank you Terrence, I needed that.” She picked up his honor blade, wiped it with her tunic and handed it back to him. “You’ve earned it.”

    Glover dipped his head in respect before placing the blade back into the folds of his tunic. The woman trotted off to a shuttle, a small green avian-looking number. The Romulans certainly did love their birds and the color green. “Godspeed Rhean,” Terrence called out as the woman walked up the gangplank.

    She turned around and asked, “Another expression?”

    “Yes,” Glover replied. “It means…”

    “I think I got the gist of it,” she cut him off, “And thank you. We’re both going to need it,” she said before disappearing into the shuttle. Glover wanted her to be free, but didn’t want her leave.

    With those two desires warring within him, he picked up the fallen tricorder and left Rhean to her fate.

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

    DarKush Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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



    The Arx


    As Glover ran through the station, he tried to keep his mind on his mission, on finding Valeris, but his thoughts kept swirling around Rhean and their last kiss. He hoped the woman made it out, that someone would. And then he thought of Leta, and wondered if what they had briefly shared was real, or just one of her games? Or Commander T’Rhiel who surreptitiously gave him that honor blade. And Lady Valeris who had seemingly just thrown away a century of service to the Federation. Or Admiral Uhura, who plucked him and Cal from all the people in Starfleet just for this mission, a likely doomed one from the start.

    And then there was Pell, Susan, and Captain Scott…Glover shook his head. Women. He grinned. He guessed he just had a way with them.

    Terrence held up the tricorder. He knew rudimentary Romulan, courtesy of his dad, and he just hoped the device was leading him in the right direction. He trusted that Rhean had set the scanner up to look for Vulcan biosigns, even if she misled him to the shuttle bay.

    He felt a familiar, and dreaded tickling in the back of his mind, and then a voice called out. “Commander Glover!”

    Terrence swung around, the disruptor up and ready to fire. “Put the gun down,” Valeris said, with a tone that didn’t brook debate. Still Glover slowly lowered the disruptor.

    “Lady Valeris, where have you been?” He demanded. He looked over the woman. He noticed the strap she held in one hand and the bag hanging off her back. “What’s that?” Terrence pointed with his empty hand.

    “There’s no time for an explanation,” Valeris replied. It was then that Glover noticed the woman was slightly out of breath and that a patina of sweat was on her brow. “Where are the others?”

    “What’s going on? Did you find Taev?”

    The woman raised an eyebrow. “Why would inquire about my son?”

    “That’s who you dashed off to see right? Perhaps to…be with when we destroyed the Arx,” Terrence said, though he now doubted his own words, if not his sanity as Valeris’s expression was perplexed.

    “It’s time to leave,” Valeris pressed.

    “No,” Glover planted his feet. “Not until I get answers.” The deck trembled and Valeris closed her eyes.

    “The landing party has succeeded in overloading the polaric ion generator,” she surmised. “It is imperative that we find them.”

    “This…this isn’t over,” Glover said as the ground shook beneath him. His concern about Cal overrode his refreshed suspicions about Valeris.

    “Lead the way Mr. Glover,” The Vulcan said. Glover turned around to point toward the way he had just ventured. He heard a quick, metallic skittering, and he turned back to catch fine green mist sprayed directly into his face. Unwittingly, he tasted the copper on his lips as the metallic tang filled his nostrils.

    “Lady Valeris!” He gasped as the woman was hoisted aloft, a wickedly sharp pincer sticking through her sternum. The woman was twitching, gasping, and struggling against the intruding metal. The pincer belonged to a gigantic, metallic spider-thing. Some kind of Borg arachnid! Glover began firing at the Borg, his first few blasts punching through its body, even taking out one of its eight legs. The alien stumbled but still maintained its death grip on Valeris.

    Glover aimed for the head, but this time the shot bounced off a square force field now protecting its head. The force field emerged as Terrence sought to find purchase elsewhere.

    “It’s…adapted,” Valeris spat, thick green blood now pouring from her lips. Eight red soulless eyes peered beyond the dying woman, directly at Glover.

    “Commander Glover!” Valeris said with surprising strength. “Take this!” She ripped the bag away from her and tossed it him. “Don’t let the Borg have this! Don’t let them discovered what’s inside.”

    Momentarily taken aback by the woman’s show of strength and her command, Glover awkwardly rushed to catch the bag. He missed.

    It smashed against the ground and fell out of the sack. Glover reared back. “Take it Mr. Glover!” The Vulcan commanded.

    “No,” Terrence said. Before him, looking surprisingly innocuous in the middle of Hell was another Pandora’s Box.

    “That’s what you broke off to retrieve,” he realized. “This wasn’t about your son, was it?” He glared at the woman.

    “Taev…lost,” the woman said, both her voice and strength fading. “Nothing…I could do. Had to…think of… the future.”

    “This Section 31 of yours….in possession of a Pandora’s Box?” Glover shook his head, his expression hardening. “I don’t know if that’s not as frightening a prospect as these Borg.”

    “Do…you really want to find out?” Valeris sputtered.

    “No,” Glover said. Behind the arachnid, he heard other skittering. There were more of those things coming. He bent down to recover the box. The spider threw Valeris at him, knocking Terrence backward.

    The woman shivered, her blood soaking Glover. He carefully moved her off him, wincing as the woman groaned in pain. She was whispering, muttering; her eyes open but no longer seeing. Glover could not make out the words. It was mostly in Vulcan, but he also heard bits of Romulan. He imagined it was a prayer.

    “Leta,” was the last word the woman said before she went still. Glover dipped his head in respect for her passing before making another dash for the box. He dove under the unsteady arachnid. Glover was pleased to see he had inflicted some damage on the beast, making it move awkward.

    Terrence reached the box, and pushed down his fear in order to touch it. His hands wrapped around it just before fiery pain flowed throughout his body. He didn’t have to look to know that he had been speared, just like Valeris, and that the fire rushing now rushing through him was driving his lifeblood out.

    The Borg held him up. Glover desperately held on to the infernal box. The creature would have to pry it from his dead hands, and Terrence knew it would not be too much longer now before it would get its prize.

    The fires had subsided and he felt the encroaching, final cold. His vision started to dim, but in his mind he saw his life unfold before him. So many friends, such enemies, all of it, now, meaning little and amounting to nothing. In the distance he saw a dimming light, a snuffed fire, and he imagined that that must have been his future, or how he had conceived it, but he would never have that future now. He would never sit in a command chair. He would never get married nor have children. He would never become a Starfleet legend.

    No, he would die here, in the literal bowels of Hell, this mission never spoken of; if that was that the Romulans or Federation could somehow defeat these Borg.

    But….perhaps there was something he could at least do about that. It was something he vowed he would never do again, but fate, like women, had a funny way of working in his life.

    He grinned, more blood pouring out of his mouth, his darkness almost upon him. With his remaining strength, Glover laughed as he opened Pandora’s Box.

    **********************************************************************
     
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  8. DarKush

    DarKush Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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

    Elsewhen….



    “Where? Where am I?” Glover asked. He squinted at the blinding white light all around him, suffusing him. Glover threw his hands over his eyes until they adjusted. Even after, he squinted at the intensity. He felt no pain, he felt…almost normal. Terrence patted down his body, and the hole the Borg’s pincer had surely made, wasn’t there. Wherever he was, he was wearing his proper Starfleet uniform again.

    He had been restored. By who, or by what? And where was he now?

    “I am certain you have a lot of questions,” a resonant and very familiar voice stated with an envious certainty. The white light’s brightness receded into a more comfortable, but still blanketing whiteness.

    Glover looked down and saw there was nothing before his boots. He was suspended in the air…or rather, something. “Who are you?” He asked the ether.

    “You know,” the voice took form before him, resolving into the shape of a man. A very familiar one. A friend at that. One of his closest.

    “Ben?” Terrence didn’t mask his confusion.

    “What are you doing here?” He asked. It was Ben Sisko alright, but he appeared older and far more austere. He was bald and wore a goatee. His uniform was different too. It was black, with a bluish-gray stripe along the shoulders. It was stately and severe, somber to match the man’s gaze and Glover’s likely circumstances. Terrence wanted to reach out to his old friend, but there was something unapproachable about him, untouchable...there was a chasm between them. Not in distance, but in something else…intangible…but there all the same. And his old friend seemed so very lonely upon his island.

    Ben gave a small smile. “My being here…it’s a long story,” he intoned, the rich baritone sounding just like the friend he remembered. “And one that is not as important as why you are here.”

    “Why am I here? Am I dead? Is this Heaven? Or some kind of afterlife? Are you really Ben, some other being, or just a figment of imagination?”

    Sisko smiled again. “Perhaps, all three.”

    “Really, if you are Ben, you know I don’t like being coy or cryptic, and neither does Ben.”

    “Things change old friend,” Ben’s smile faded. His expression grew sad. He held out a hand and within it materialized the box.

    Glover shrank back. “Ben, drop that thing. You don’t know what it can do!”

    Sisko grew more morose. “I do Terrence,” he shook his head sadly. “From my…perch, I have seen all of time, forward and backward. I have seen this device’s construction. I have seen it consume countless worlds, a multitude of vain, avaricious, and power hungry species…in the future, and in the past. It is not…of our time…yet it is here. Left here for the damned to find, to discover its mysteries or be seduced by them, to learn how to use it as a tool of improvement, but yet…none have passed that test.”

    “I-I don’t understand Ben,” Glover said. “What are you saying? Who built those things? Why are they testing us?”

    “What else do gods do, when they get bored?” Ben looked at him. The bemused expression was back. “It’s like scientist studying insects,” he paused, and then added, “It’s like children playing with toys.”

    “So you’re saying those things are divine? That gods really do exist?”

    “From a certain perspective,” was all Ben would say. Glover could feel his anger rising and was glad for it. At least he could still feel something familiar.

    “What role do I have to play in any of this?”

    Sisko pursed his lips. “Now, that is a mystery,” he admitted. “One that my perusing of the time stream has not yielded an answer for.” He looked down at the box. “Sometimes, it feels like just yesterday that I was with Kassidy…then Jennifer….and at other times, like that was a life lived by someone else, someone much lesser and yet much greater than I….a million years ago…or million years in the future.”

    Kassidy? Glover had never heard that name. But Jennifer. That was Ben’s wife. And also a close friend, though Jenn didn’t approve much of Glover’s catting about.

    “Ben,” Glover ventured, “What about Jennifer? Where is she? How are she and Jake?” Maybe mentioning Ben’s family would center the man and get him to answer questions more straightly.

    Sisko blinked. “Jennifer,” he gasped. His expression crumbled and Glover’s chest constricted.

    “Something happened to Jennifer? When?”

    “You will find that out…in time,” was all Ben said.

    “What about Jake?”

    “Jake…” Sisko’s expression softened. “Jake…I miss him. He is a much better man that I ever could have imagined.”

    “Why are you here, and not with them?” Glover asked. “Did you encounter one of the Pandora Boxes? Aboard the Okinawa?” Though Ben was wearing an entirely different uniform and was older, Terrence couldn’t think of anything but to reference the ship he knew Ben was serving on currently…or rather the last time he had spoken with him, before this damnable mission.

    “It is my destiny, my penance,” Sisko said, his expression severe. “And I must bear it, for the good of the galaxy, for all of creation.”

    “Ben, I don’t understand.”

    “Neither do I…Terrence,” Sisko spoke the name with such familiarity that it almost made Glover cry.

    “My time here, among the Prophets, at the gateway of time and space,” Ben went on, “has taught me many things. But there are greater riddles to the universe, and you,” he pointed at Glover, “and this,” he looked down at the Pandora’s Box, “are two of them.”

    “There is a great darkness coming, a Cataclysm,” Sisko intoned, “And you are to play a part in it…one of you, at least.”

    “One of…me?” Glover asked. Prophets? Cataclysm? Glover having a role in it all, what the frinx did any of it mean?

    “Yes,” Sisko said. Behind him, cracks appeared in the whiteness like cracks in glass. “Our universe is not alone. There are infinite alternate timelines, parallel universes including those composed of antimatter, quantum realities and divergences, a dark galaxy, even a realm of fluidic space.”

    But Glover was barely listening to his old friend now, or whatever being bore his likeness. Instead he was following along the spidery cracks, each a vein of space-time, showing him, but yet not him….
     
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  9. DarKush

    DarKush Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Nov 18, 2005
    ….......There was Glover, standing on a darkened, shattered bridge. He wore command red, in a uniform not much different than the kind the Fleet wore now. But there was a metallic Sam Browne-belt running across his shoulders. The holster it led to was empty. The phaser was in his hand, while in the other hand he held a dagger as bloodied as his face. Bodies littered the bridge’s floor.

    “I will not be as easy to defeat as that old grishnar K’Tan!” The young, red-haired Klingon leading the party that had intruded upon the bridge, boasted. The crimson lighting bathed the glinting mek’leth he gripped in his hand in the appropriate color.

    The other Glover glared at the circle of Klingons advancing on him. But instead of cowering, this Glover grinned. “Commander Konall, what is it your kind say, ‘Today is a good day to die!’?”

    And with that, Glover leaped to his fate….


    ….........A different bridge. Though still dark, it was burnished metal. Cold. Hard. As was the man commanding the center chair. It was Terrence again. But different. Head clean shaven, sporting a goatee, this Glover sat like a king on a throne, his arms rippling from a sleeveless blood red vest, with a golden sash at the waist. A vicious scar ran the length of Glover’s cheek. But the man’s smirk was more menacing.

    At his feet was a man on his knees. But not there by choice. Beside him stood two formidable guards, both holding him down. The pallid man’s face was colored by a violet mass of welts and bruises. “Lar’ragos, we showed your people kindness, and this is how you repay us?”

    “Kindness?” The battered man spat at Glover’s boots, leading to another round of pummeling. This twisted version of Glover eventually held up a hand.

    “At ease Mr. Donar.” The larger of the guards, a swarthy man whose face was a mass of scars, immediately restrained himself. Terrence chuckled. “See how well trained some of our subjects are. You should’ve learned from them. Your kind was given every opportunity.”

    The mirror Glover pursed his lips. “Now, Pava, I took you in, I promoted you to my security officer! Think of it? An alien serving aboard an Imperial vessel in such a capacity!” Glover looked around, drawing knowing sneers from his hostile looking crew. “You can’t imagine the flak I took for that! I put my career on the line, my life, for you.”

    “No,” Lar’ragos strongly shook his head. “You were just keeping me quiet, because I know how you really gained command!”

    Bin Nadal cuffed the man, beating Donar to the punch. Once Lar’ragos could pick his head back up, the man glared at Glover. The captain continued talking, “But you betrayed my generosity. Seducing Science Officer Leitjen, conspiring with her and Commander Hobson to assassinate me. And you almost succeeded. If Chief Rojas hadn’t been there to shield me, I would’ve been exposed to a lethal dosage of delta radiation. But you failed, and now you’ll watch your pitiful little allies in the rebellion do so as well.” Terrence was somewhat heartened to know that even in this twisted mirror version of his own life that Pedro Rojas remained a friend.

    “What did you do to Susan?!” Lar’ragos demanded. Glover looked at his guards and then at his crew. They all laughed.

    “I couldn’t wait to wipe away the stain of treachery. Her atoms are spread among the Tantalus field.”

    “No,” Lar’ragos bowed his head, and muttered what Terrence took to be a prayer.

    “Empress Saavik took your kind in and even after her regrettable reign and the old Empire was reorganized into the United Order of Planets thanks to Grand Admiral Terrell, we didn’t expel or eradicate the El-Aurians.”

    “You-You kept my people alive because you just wanted our knowledge about the Ocampa!” The other man charged. Even though he was now being held by the arms to keep from falling to the deck, Lar’ragos still remained defiant.

    “Yes,” the reverse Glover nodded with relish, “And your kind supplied it. And we thank you for that, and for your information on their adversaries, the Borg. The idea that anyone would peacefully join their Cooperative, to merge with them and become something beyond one’s self is obscene. Power must be taken, it can never be shared! When the Borg eventually seeks our aid in their war against the Ocampa, we will be ready for them,” Glover promised.

    “You think enslaving the Alpha Quadrant will keep you safe?” Lar’ragos asked. “It’s a fools’ security.”

    Donar raised a meaty hand again. Glover told him to stay his hand. He stepped down from his throne and crouched down. He grabbed Lar’ragos roughly by his stubbly chin.

    “I thought your kind were Listeners?” Glover scoffed. “Yet you couldn’t hear the chimes at midnight. You threw in with the rest of the alien scum, preferring a disorganized, discordant mass instead of an organized, unified empire to destroy these Ocampa.”

    “You, your United Order of Planets,” Lar’ragos spat at Glover’s feet again, this time a glob of blood splashed against his boot. Glover planted said boot into Lar’ragos’s midsection. The guards pushed him roughly to the deck. Terrence detached a small device from his belt.

    He grabbed the downed man roughly by the hair and shoved the small device into his face. “Dr. Katanga loves cutting on aliens and inserting pain receptors in them. He placed several subcutaneously across your body, as you are already well aware. And they are oh so receptive to this agonizer. One day I might forget myself and leave the agonizer on too long…”

    “Do it,” Lar’ragos challenged.

    “Don’t tempt me alien,” Glover threatened.

    “Captain, Captain,” Both Terrences’ attention was drawn to the alluring woman standing at the captain’s chair. One hand fondled the back of the chair. She was tall, dark brown, and statuesque, with warm caramel colored eyes that were incongruous with the cruel expression on her face. “If you kill the traitor now, he’ll miss the show,” she cooed. Glover grunted before driving the man’s head into the deck.

    She wore a black and gold uniform, cut at the midriff to reveal toned abs. Her golden sash was synched tight over promising hips, in painted on skintight black trousers. Both a phaser and a dagger were tucked into the sash. Long, black cornrows hung nearly to the woman’s waist.

    Glover stepped over Lar’ragos and swept the woman into his arms. He kissed her hungrily, without modesty, for all the bridge to see. And Terrence watched as some crewmembers leered while others burned with envy.

    “You…would…be weak enough to be swayed by a Captain’s Woman,” Lar’ragos laughed. “You forget that she was Akinola’s before she was yours.”

    The woman smiled devilishly, while Glover glared. Donar went in for the kill. “Stop Mr. Donar,” Glover commanded as he pulled reluctantly away from the intoxicating woman. “Prop him up. I want him to have a good front row seat. Jasmine is right,” the evil grin returned. “We are now at Tenaria Prime.”

    The screen filled with the lush world. The idyllic panorama was marred by the wreckage of the rebel fleet that had made their last stand here. The alien fools Astar and Ja-Inrosh and the human traitor Owens had led their miscreants to an ignoble defeat. The evil Glover frowned. Terrence could see the hate rolling off the man. “I knew the Tenarians were nothing but trouble makers. All their talk of ‘peace’ and ‘neutrality’, nothing but a cover to mask their true intentions. Sovereign Leyton had been a fool to tolerate them.”

    “Sovereign Shanthi is wiser,” Jasmine replied, slinking up to the other Glover. Her hand snaked over his bare arm, her fingers insinuating themselves into his opening hand. She nibbled one of his earlobes, and Terrence could see the woman had his doppelganger wrapped around her pretty, manicured fingers.

    “Captain Sandhurst didn’t leave any us ships to mop up,” Pedro Rojas whined as he stepped forward. Seeing his old friend, in such a twisted mirror house reflection, was more shocking to Terrence than seeing himself. This Pedro had a blocky frame, but was more muscular. He wore command red, though not a sleeveless vest. He sported a patchy beard, and also a bald head. Though Terrence wondered if by choice. Half of the man’s face had between contorted, with one eye translucent and sightless. The side of his face that looked damn near seared off accounted for the patchy beard. Terrence surmised that the man had just shaved his head, but for some reason kept the dicey beard.

    This Pedro dragged a deadened leg and slack arm along with him. Despite the cruel gleam in the man’s remaining good eye, Terrence still felt sympathy for him. He was glad his Pedro had not experienced such a fate.

    “I know,” Glover groused. “Grand Admiral Awokou allowed that sniveling glory hound to lead the assault to smash the last bit of resistance.”

    “But he left you to deliver the killing blow,” Jasmine reminded him, blowing into Glover’s ear.

    “That he did,” Glover grinned again. “Prepare the Genesis bomb. And now Mister Lar’ragos, watch as we cook Tenaria Prime and the last embers of defiance against us!”….


    ….Terrence turned away, not wishing to see the triumph of evil, especially an evil with his face….But he ran right into perhaps an even worse nightmare….


    …....... “Elizabeth,” another Terrence said, his voice choking on tears. He brushed the bloodstained blond curls away from the woman’s smudged face. But she was beyond his touch anymore. Regardless Glover cradled her. He rocked her and sang their favorite song.

    The world was crumbling around them. The small dank ship they were on was taking fire, and Glover was bathed in showers of sparks as yet another console went up in flames.

    “Terrence, we have to go.” It was Justine Haas, his old Academy rival. But now the woman had nothing but concern in her eyes. Her blond hair was pulled back into a tight bun and she wore roughhewn clothing. A disruptor hung limply in one hand. “The Alliance will be boarding the ship any moment. We’ve got to get out of here.”

    “She’s right,” Glover swung around to the other speaker. It was a man Terrence didn’t know, but the other Glover did. The dark-haired man had an elaborate forehead tattoo

    “Justine,” the other Glover said, “you and Chakotay get out of here.”

    “I’m not leaving without you Terrence,” Justine said. Damn, that woman was stubborn in any reality, Terrence realized.

    The ship rattled again. There were cries of pain off in the distance. “Shelby’s gone,” Chakotay said, with an apologetic look. “We have got to get to the escape pods. We have to get these plans to the resistance!”

    “Go on, without me,” Terrence said. “I’ll hold them off.”

    “No,” Justine declared again.

    “You don’t need me!” Terrence could feel the raw pain in the other Glover’s voice.

    “Elizabeth,” Justine said slowly, carefully, “Shelby doesn’t need you anymore.”

    “She…she was pregnant, with my child!” The words poured out of Glover like lava.

    “Oh God,” Justine replied, touching Glover’s shoulder. “I didn’t know.”

    “That’s how Elizabeth wanted it,” Glover replied. “It was going to be a surprise.”

    The ship rattled and off in the distance the angry buzz of disruptor fire could be heard. “We’re running out of time,” Chakotay pressed.

    “And that’s why you’re leaving now,” Terrence said. “I’ll hold them off.”

    Justine glared at him, refusing to budge. “My fight is over Justine,” Glover said softly, looking down at Elizabeth’s cooling body. “Let me do one last thing for the resistance.”

    She nodded and gave him a quick hug. Glover and Chakotay exchanged terse nods. “Tell Solok, I’ll have to kick his ass at Kal-toh again some other time.”

    The raven-haired man chuckled. “He’s still smarting about that one.” His expression grew serious. “Take care Terrence.”

    “You do the same Chakotay and make sure to get those plans back to base.” With nothing else needing to be said, they left.

    Glover rooted around the cockpit and armory, finding what he needed. Then he knelt back beside his wife.

    The man closed his eyes, centering himself. It wasn’t long before the shadows fell upon him. Looking up, he saw the Alliance soldiers, trigger happy Klingons and Cardassians, and one Bajoran woman.

    Terrence gasped. The woman was Pell Ojana!

    The other Glover didn’t recognize the woman, but she recognized him. Her eyes widened just slightly. “You…you look familiar…there was another like you, I met him, if you can believe it, in another quantum reality.” That made her soldiers laugh, until she glared them all into silence.

    “But you…are not him. He was…a warrior, a soldier…for his misbegotten empire,” she said. “But you, you’re nothing more than a traitor.”

    “Where are the other rebels? Where are the plans?” An overeager Cardassian woman stepped forward, the butt of her rifle primed to connect with the other Glover’s head.

    “Restrain yourself Panar,” Pell said, almost bored. “He’ll tell us,” she stared hard at Glover. “You’re not like the other one from across the stars. You’ll break.”

    “I’m, I’m already broken,” Glover said, opening his tunic, revealing the bomb strapped to his chest.

    “No,” Pell just got out before everything went white and then faded; the string evaporating.

    “That timeline…for you…is finished,” Sisko solemnly intoned.

    “But what, what about all the others?” Terrence asked. And there were so many others…
     
    Last edited: Dec 29, 2016
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  10. DarKush

    DarKush Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Nov 18, 2005
    …And blessedly many were happy….


    …......Glover on a white beach, with his parents and a beautiful Trill named Nya. A rambunctious little boy running around them, between them…


    …......A graying Glover meeting a tall, striking, athletic woman in command red, though in a uniform style different than he had seen before. In fact the full red tunic reminded him of an earlier era in the Federation. This Glover was in civilian clothes. He smiled as he stood to greet the woman. “Captain Dryer,” he dipped his head respectfully, “of the renowned Starship Dauntless.”

    Her grin was equally as large. “Defense Minister Glover,” she said in return. The woman looked around. The restaurant was buzzing. Sisko’s Creole Kitchen, in New Orleans, Terrence knew it by heart. And he was glad to see it existed in another universe or time.

    “It’s good to know you still know where the party is at,” she replied.

    “You’ve been gone a long time in the Delta Quadrant,” Glover replied, “But not that long. I will always know where the night life is.” Both of them shared a laugh.

    “It’s been a long time since I’ve heard that laugh Nyota”, this Glover said. He reached for the chair across him, pulling it out for her. “Too long.”

    “Sometimes, it takes a long time for things to line up just the way you need them to,” Nyota replied, accepting the proffered chair….


    …......There was Jasmine again. But this time the sneer was gone. She was dressed in a black uniform like Ben’s. She sat on a couch, cradling a Cardassian infant in one arm. Glover sat across from her, swinging around a gleefully squealing Cardassian girl….


    …......... “Don’t you think we’re too old for this Admiral?” A salt and pepper Glover joked. His voice sounded muffled to Terrence. The other Glover was wearing a dark blue helmet.

    “Not on your life,” a graying Tryla Scott replied, grinning. Scott was also wearing a helmet and heard the other Glover just fine. “And who are you calling old Admiral?” Terrence recognized both were in silvery blue outfits, which only meant they were preparing to do one thing.

    “I can think of better ways to celebrate peace with the Gorn,” the older Glover huffed.

    “You know damn well that’s not what this is about,” Tryla pursed her lips.

    “Heh,” Glover shrugged. “Well, the peace treaty is worth celebrating too.”

    The hold for whatever ship they were on opened, revealing the planet far below. “What a way to spend a 75th anniversary huh?” Scott laughed, before jumping. The other Glover dove after her….


    …........Glover leaned back just far enough to miss the sweeping arc of the bat’leth. But unfortunately too far and too quickly to keep upright. Glover fell over one of the many corpses littering the ground.

    The one-eyed Klingon leered over him, raising his wickedly curved blade, preparing to deliver a deathblow. Glover moved quickly, jabbing his old blade into the man’s midsection. The man doubled over as a large shape jumped on his back driving him into Glover.

    There was a mass of limbs as Glover struggled to get out from under what Terrence knew must surely be a crushing weight. He pushed the dead man off him. Crouched in front of him was a fearsome Klingon warrior. She smiled before leaping at Glover. Terrence winced; afraid the woman had the advantage. And he quickly realized she did. The woman pinned the other Glover against the dead warrior. Her head dove down, her black hair going everywhere, covering the other Glover’s face. The woman lifted her head back and laughed in exultation. “You’re blood tastes like fire, the blood of a warrior!”

    “Eh, Krastil, don’t you think this is not the best time for seloh,” the other Glover ventured. “Our forces have yet to take Lorath’s Villa.” In the distance the clash of arms and disruptor fire could still be heard.

    “Lorath!” Krastil spat. “He was a fool to side with the Duras, and he shall suffer a fool’s fate!”

    “That is all well and good,” Glover tried again. He hadn’t even tried to remove himself from under the woman.

    “Aren’t you glad you didn’t go back to the Federation?!” Krastil said. “That you resigned your commission to join this glorious crusade. The fate of the Empire and the Alpha Quadrant rests with us, with Gow’ron! The Duras and their Romulan masters will rue the day they set their designs on the Klingon Empire!”

    She took another kiss and ripped at his armor to get to the man inside. Glover’s hands grasped the woman’s back and then rooted deeply in her hair. He yanked on it hard, pulling the woman’s head back. While distracted, he used his hip to toss the woman off. And then Glover jumped on top of her.

    “What the hell was I thinking?” The other Glover asked. “This is the perfect time for seloh.”


    ….... “Seloh? At a time like this? You’ve got to be kidding?” Glover said, this time in gold, chancing another look behind the corrugated piece of wall. He was greeted by several disruptor shots.

    “I can’t help it Commander Glover, the tang of battle always gets me in the mood,” the woman sharing the wall with him replied. “The Tholians are on their last legs, and in their desperation, fighting with more honor than when they snuck onto Vulcan.” Terrence glanced at the attractive, cinnamon-hued woman, with the spots running down her face reminding him of chocolate chips. He knew the other Glover was contemplating the same thing as well.

    “How about we wait until Vulcan is liberated, and then…we’ll see Captain Kojo,” a bemused Glover offered.

    “To arms then,” Kojo replied, stepping out from behind the wall, firing double-handed. Glover shrugged and joined her. Terrence could read the man’s mind. He didn’t know which he would survive, the next few moments…or the night with a woman like Kojo….


    ….......Glover was in a different uniform again, this one gray with red across the shoulders. Rank insignia were on the right breast lapel. This Glover sported a neat mustache and goatee frosted with gray. He stood on the spacious bridge of a ship, and Terrence knew for certain it was his.

    Terrence looked around at the other Glover’s crew, some were familiar faces, others he had never seen before, or had yet to meet. Terrence’s eyes lit on the Cardassian and Tzenkethi officers on the bridge, both standing proud in their Starfleet colors. He didn’t think he would ever see a day when either race had members in Starfleet, or their nations would join the Federation. But they, like all the rest, were brimming with relief and hope that even Terrence felt across space and time.

    On the large wraparound view screen was a slow moving procession of large, heavily armed ships streaming past. If not for the beaming expressions from Glover’s crew, Terrence would’ve been suspicious.

    “Can you believe it sir?” asked Juanita Rojas, with a commander’s rank, and gray streaks. “The Iconians are actually withdrawing to their own space.”

    “That’s right, they are tired of getting their ass kicked,” Smirked a muscular Andorian. Rojas rolled her eyes.

    “Stow it Mr. Faltyne,” she said, with a grin.

    “This is a time for celebration,” the other Glover said, “This is a victory for the entire Quadrant, but one that was not without loss…terrible loss.”

    The attractive, brown-skinned woman standing at Glover’s side, dressed in sciences blue, hugged him. He placed his cheek against the top of her head, before saying, almost so softly that Terrence could barely hear his counterpart. “To our son,” he murmured. He paused a moment, and then said louder, “To President Sullivan, Fleet Admiral Leone, Admiral Donners, Fleet Captain Hiroko, Ambassador Deen, Captain Shon, Captain Erasia….”

    “To Admiral Aurelia, Commodore Forester, Captain Ridgeway, and Captain Ramirez” the woman added. Terrence noted her clipped British accent.

    “Solly Brin,” Juanita added with a sad smile. “Captain Amorin.” Several more bridge officers spoke names of friends, colleagues, and loved ones lost to this terrible future war.

    “To absent friends,” Glover said after the naming had stopped. The woman in blue kissed his cheek and pressed against him. Together, both placed hands on the shoulders of the young girl, who Terrence figured was around ten-years-old. Glover looked down at him, his expression softening. “I want you to pay close attention Deitra, you’re witnessing history…”
     
    Last edited: Dec 28, 2016
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  11. DarKush

    DarKush Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Nov 18, 2005
    ….Terrence had to tear himself away. There were so many other universes, other possibilities for his life. He could spend an eternity gazing into the cracked mirror Ben had provided for him.

    “Enough,” he said, nearly pleading. He lowered his head, and shut his eyes. Glover felt dizzy, his head spun, his heart both lifted and broke, at all the variations he had seen of his life. “How was that possible? How is any of this possible?”

    “It is the vagaries of time and space,” Ben said. The window into the other lives disappeared, suffused and covered by the gentle whitescape. “Even I have not spent enough time among the Prophets to ascertain the why, or the when, of existence. I am not even sure they comprehend such things.”

    “You keep referring to these ‘Prophets’,” Glover said. “Who are they, or what are they? Are they the Bajoran Prophets?”

    “In due time,” Sisko smiled again.

    “Well, seems like we, or rather you, have all the time in the world!” Terrence charged. Ben merely nodded.

    “I do,” he admitted. “But you do not.” He held the box aloft. It hovered over his outstretched palm. “When you first came into contact with an artifact like this in the Pandorian system, its technology was imprinted upon you, on a cellular level.”

    “Excuse me?”

    “You have the ability to be much more than you have been Terrence,” Sisko said. “Like me, though in a different way. And believe me; I didn’t take the news any better than you are doing right now.”

    That last sentence sounded more like the Ben he knew than anything else the man had said. “So, what’s going on, what is that thing?”

    “A relic of the past, and the future,” Sisko began, but he paused at Terrence’s confused look. Ben smiled, this time it felt more full and genuine. “Temporal travel can be…headache inducing.”

    “Yeah, I’m starting to see that,” Glover replied.

    “Many millennia from now, the Federation will be no more,” Ben said, “It will…reorganize…it will evolve…into a superorganism…into…Galactic Civilization.”

    “We already are a galactic civilization Ben,” Terrence pointed out.

    “You don’t understand,” Sisko replied. “Not ‘a’ civilization, simply Civilization. This Civilization will come to encompass all of this galaxy, all the old empires and nations and sovereign political bodies melded into one vast monoculture.”

    “That doesn’t sound like a bad thing to me,” Glover admitted. “I think that’s what many of us are striving for, a peaceful coexistence with our neighbors, strengthened by a shared respect for diversity and united in common purpose.”

    Sisko paused. “Once again…perhaps my words are inadequate to describe what it is our Federation is to become.”

    Ben turned away from Glover. With a flip of his hand the whiteness behind him became translucent, like a viewscreen. A viewscreen into the future.

    Terrence stepped back. He was stunned. “It’s…beautiful.” He could only marvel at what he was viewing. It was worlds he had never seen, ships, and species the Federation had yet to encounter, and likely wouldn’t for thousands of years.

    Large, graceful biomechanical constructs that sailed through space, though when Ben pulled back the curtains on one world, Glover saw that the gargantuan ships weren’t even needed by some species. Instant, sub-quantum teleportation had been perfected, and beings teleported not only from planet to planet, but across quadrants.

    “Where are the humans?” Terrence finally found his voice again.

    “Humanity is…no more,” Sisko replied.

    “What happened to us?”

    “Humanity evolved, Earthlings ascended and other humanoids did as well,” Sisko explained, “many thousands of years before what you are seeing now. There was a technological singularity, the merging of the organic and synthetic, into something more, something greater. The Federation gave way to a galaxy-spanning Civilization, guided by the Artilect, a gestalt of minds.”

    Terrence shuddered as the image shifted to what had once been Earth, though it was far more advanced than even today, a level of technological architecture that was mechanical, cold, and very much missing the human touch. Just beyond the still standing and now quaint looking Golden Gate Bridge, was a massive humanoid face, floating above the synchronized world. The face wasn’t quite human; it was amalgam of many species. There was a look of complete serenity on the large, near human face, its eyes half closed, though Glover could just make out beneath the half-lidded gaze streams of data flashing across the orbs.

    “The Artilect,” Glover realized, shivering again. He turned to Sisko. “So, this is what we’re to become? This is what all our efforts lead to?”

    Sisko nodded before replying, “On the present course,” he said.

    “What does that mean?”

    “Time…is not immutable,” Ben answered, which confused Terrence even more. “Time can change, even for those of us that travel its corridors. One must not become too certain that time will go as one has seen it.”

    “I-I don’t understand any of this,” Glover said. “And that…thing…that Artilect, it’s like we are no different than the Borg!”

    Sisko cocked his head, his smile cryptic. “Or you could say the Borg is no different than…you.” It was telling that Sisko didn’t say ‘us’. Just what had Ben become?

    Glover really wanted to shake his friend right now. Sensing the man’s building frustration, Sisko turned back to the screen. The images had changed again. Now they were looking at one of the massive space ships, a technological marvel. Sisko took them inside.

    Terrence gasped again. It was him. Sitting at the center seat, and dressed in a black one-piece suit, accented by a large, silver-gold delta running across the torso. No other crew or consoles for that matter were present. “I’m alive, thousands of years from now?”

    “No,” Sisko replied. “The Artilect had never completely jettisoned its organic forebears. The gestalt used photonics and algorithms to create holographic recreations of some of its former officers and other notables. That simulacrum is a composite of your mission profiles, your recorded engrams, but also similar data culled from many other Starfleet members. When Civilization encountered other organic beings that they wished to incorporate into the gestalt, they had found it best to communicate with them in a humanoid form.” The other Glover’s face was as serene as the Artilect floating over San Francisco. The placidness chilled Terrence.

    “Where is the rest of the crew?”

    “The ship creates the photonic command crew as needed,” Sisko explained. “And the pre-ascended member worlds also still piloted ships and served on Civilization vessels.”

    “Why are you showing me this?” Glover asked.

    “You asked of the Borg, you want to know why you are here,” Ben answered. “By this time Civilization had discovered how to use dark matter energy to propel its vessels and power its systems. It was more plentiful and less dangerous than polaric ion and Omega particles.”

    “Omega particles?”

    “In due time,” was all Sisko said about that matter. “There was a cost to this usage of dark energy however. Civilization discovered a dark galaxy, composed almost entirely of dark matter, enough not to allow them to preserve the dark matter existing in their galaxy. However, this dark galaxy had inhabitants.”

    “This doesn’t sound good,” Glover shook his head.

    “That…is an understatement,” Sisko replied. “The dark matter species attacked Civilization’s dark matter mining operations at the Stygian Gate, absorbing the entire operation, with hundreds of humanoid workers and denizens within its dark depths. There likely would have been more casualties, but Civilization soon discovered that the nature of our space was inimical to the attacking species, henceforth designated the Stygians.”

    The other Glover cocked his head, similar to what Sisko had done moments earlier. “This Captain Glover had been sent to negotiate with them for the release of the hostages and to offer reparations for any damage done to their species or space. He entered their space via the expanse.”

    The bridge on that future vessel lightened as waves of misshapen, contorting, howling beings, in obvious agony and rage poured in. Writhing, pulsing black splotches were moving on their skin, within their bodies, coating their eyes, dripping from their nostrils and mouths. “One of Civilization’s eminent non-ascended scholars, an enthusiast for Old Earth cultures, called them Revenants. The Artilect deemed it a worthy description.”

    The infected, or maybe the better word was possessed, swarmed the future Glover whose impression remained impassive, inquisitive even. “The Stygians could only enter our realm of space via beings that already existed here. What Glover uncovered and what Civilization would soon discover is that the Stygians had not taken hostages, but husks. The Stygians had collected host bodies for them to invade our galaxy.”

    “My God,” Terrence breathed as he watched the Revenants mob his future counterpart, overtaking him. It was then that Terrence noticed that some wore sleek black biomechanical armor with blades that looked like dewclaws protruding from their wrists. They drove the dewclaws into the future Glover and the man started dematerializing. “What’s happening?” Terrence asked Sisko.

    “The Revenants not only infected organic life but could use the dark energy powering the Civilization’s vessels and planets against them.” Ben said. “It was a danger Civilization had not encountered since the Amon, Inth, and H’lranthians.”

    “Never heard any of them,” Terrence replied.

    “You think the Borg is the Federation’s biggest challenge,” Sisko said. “Surprisingly, not even close. The Dominion, Kothlis’ Ka, Cha’lav, Species 8472, Vaadwaur, Aodh, Drai, Na’kuhl, cephalopods, and even the Sphere Builders a second time. There is no shortage of threats to the Federation, but yet Civilization had never encountered anything like the Stygians or their Revenants, no adversary that could use Civilization’s own power against it.”

    “So how did Civilization defeat them?” Glover asked as the images shifted to gargantuan ships clashing in space above burning planets.

    “They didn’t,” Ben answered solemnly. Terrence blinked.

    “What?” He asked, not sure he had heard Sisko correctly.

    “The Revenants spread like a contagion, corrupting member species of Civilization, raising a great army against Civilization forces. The climactic battle was in the Gluum Nebula. Civilization was routed, all Civilization ships were destroyed.”

    “My God,” Glover repeated.

    “Not all was lost,” Sisko said. “Civilization had not only mastered space, they had also mastered time. To preserve Civilization, aspects of the Artilect was taken by various captains and spread throughout space-time, even in parallel universes.”

    “These fragments of the Artilect, those shards are what you encountered in the Pandorian system, the Tigon sector, and the Arx, or perhaps they encountered you.”

    “Why me? Why do I keep finding these things?”

    “My best hypothesis is that the fragments are drawn to you. You being one of the subjects whose engrams the Artilect used to fashion their explorers, it seeks you out in this time, to restore it, to jumpstart Civilization this century, and not countless millennia from now,” Ben answered. The answer astounded Glover. That this thing, from the future, that used what was left of his essence thousands of years from now, had some kind of connection, or thought it did, to him. Way beyond creepy.

    “The Pandora’s Boxes contain this superintelligence?” Glover asked, not wanting to dwell on the ties the Artilect thought it shared with him.

    “What you call ‘Pandora’s Boxes’ are containers, specially designed to safeguard the fragments,” Sisko explained. “They were seeded across space and time, insuring that the Artilect would survive in some manner. I speculate that each seed, or fragment, is capable of producing a fully functioning Artilect, under the right conditions.”

    “And what were those ‘conditions’?”

    “The nascent Artilect would test the beings that found them to deem them worthy of ascension.”

    “And if they failed?”

    Ben lowered his head. Behind him Glover saw how the Artilect seeds cut a great swath through universal history, as failed beings and species misused its dark gifts. Some came close though, and some used the Artilect to traverse space and to move planets, but all failed, and they all were destroyed before the screen showed Glover another distant world, home to a species of humanoids afflicted with a great disease.

    “They called it the Scourge,” Sisko said softly. “It didn’t start out that way. It was meant to be a panacea, a nanite elixir, given to every member of this species that would theoretically cure all illness, and maybe even grant them immortality. But instead it brought the species to near extinction. Desperate scientific parties raced across their system in hopes of finding a cure. They found the Artilect instead.”

    The image shifted to a pale, hairless female holding a Pandora’s Box in her hands. It was amazing the pallid, emaciated woman could still stand to hold the box. It opened before the woman, bathing her gaunt face in a greenish glow. Her grin was rictus-like….

    “The origin of the Borg,” Sisko replied. “One of them, anyway.”

    “What does that mean?”

    “I think by now you grasp that there are infinite possibilities,” Ben said.

    “Why do I even bother?” Glover shrugged and blew through his teeth. “I’m never going to get a real straight answer out of you about what any of this is all about.”

    “If I told you, you wouldn’t find out for yourself,” Sisko said, “And where would the fun be in all that?” The jaunty question did remind Terrence very much of his old friend.

    “So why tell me this much to not tell me the rest?” Glover challenged.

    “I will return you to the timeline at a time that you can prevent your fate on the Arx, and stop the Borg or Romulans from gaining control of the Artilect,” Sisko said.

    “I thought the Borg already had one of them?”

    “You’ve seen what they became under one Artilect’s guidance. Do you want them to have two?” Ben asked.

    “Good point,” Glover replied. “I have to ask, is it right to alter the timeline this way? Don’t get me wrong, I do want to live, but is this my time to die?”

    Ben looked at him, his dark eyes boring straight through him. “No,” he declared firmly. “You were not supposed to die…yet, but the extradimensional nature of the Artilect fragments affects temporal mechanics. I don’t know if I am supposed to reset it, but so far none of the Prophets have intervened,” Sisko shrugged. “It is neither your time…nor Cal’s.”

    Glover stopped himself from inquiring when either man was supposed to die, or how. “And what of you Ben?”

    “It’s not my time either,” he gave a small smile. “Nor have I ventured to find out when that time will be. Somethings even a person who has all of time and space to explore likes to keep a mystery.”

    “Thank you,” Glover held out a hand. Sisko looked at it, but didn’t shake it, reminding Terrence of the gulf separating the men.

    “What you have learned here, you will not retain forever. It will slowly leave your mind as you readjust to the restored timeline, so you must act quickly,” Ben admonished. “You must save the Federation and the Romulan Star Empire.”

    “Sounds like a piece of cake,” Glover tipped an imaginary hat.

    “I do miss you Terrence,” Ben said, just before universe winked out.

    *********************************************************************
     
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  12. DarKush

    DarKush Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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


    PART FOUR: MIST OF PROPHECIES



    Dagarth Spaceport

    Spaceport Hold-987

    Romii IV


    All of it came back at him at once, nearly throwing him from the seat. “Are you okay?” He heard a concerned voice ask at the rim of the very long tunnel he had fallen down. Glover opened his eyes, not seeing where he was, but where he had been, and where he would be, or rather, so many versions of him across time and space.

    “Shall I call for the admiral?” Glover heard the voice again. Terrence closed his eyes and focused on that voice, grasping it like rope, and climbing from the pit, back into the present, back into this one reality, his reality, and leaving all the others behind.

    Still disoriented, Glover placed a shaky hand on Leta’s shoulder. “I-I’m okay,” he rasped.

    “You’re sweating,” Leta removed his hand gingerly, her nostrils twitched like she smelled something awful. “And your hand is clammy. Did you eat something that didn’t agree with you? I know that humans have delicate stomachs.”

    “And where did you hear that? The Tal Shiar?” Glover asked, as his hands rambled over the console, as if seeking purchase to keep him upright.

    The woman’s eyes narrowed. “That’s a poor attempt at humor Commander,” she tried to play it off, though there was a tremor in her voice.

    “I know,” he nodded, his glare hardening as he focused on her. His voice gained strength. “I know you’re a member of the Tal Shiar, Major Leta.” The woman’s mask crumbled and she reached for the disruptor at her hip. Glover placed his hand over hers. “I know,” he repeated, softer, yet insistent. “If you lure us to the L’Nar, it will result in all of our deaths.”

    “How?” Leta demanded. “How do you know these things?”

    “I-I,” Glover struggled to answer the question. He was there, with her, aboard the ancient Bird-of-Prey, yet spread across time and space. A deluge of images and emotions surged through him. “I-I can’t explain.”

    She shrugged his hand off, but she didn’t pull out her sidearm. “Do the others know? Does my mother?”

    “No, not yet,” Glover said, as he grasped that Ben had saved his life and throttled him back in time, to right before the fateful five lifted off, before Valeris’s revelation and Leta’s betrayal. “Why are you doing this? Why are you deceiving us?”

    “Says the man who has illegally infiltrated Romulan space?” Leta scoffed. “You Starfleet types are so hypocritical it’s nauseating.”

    “I get why you would feel that way about me,” Terrence said, “But what about your mother?”

    “She’s misguided, a fool, one who it appears never respected the welcome she received from the Empire, the chance at redemption. Where my mother failed, I will not. I will prove myself a loyal patriot, and a worthy protector of my father’s memory.”

    “Your father wasn’t all that you think he was,” Glover riposted.

    The woman reached for her weapon again. “Do not speak of my father,” she warned.

    “If you shoot me, your cover’s blown,” Terrence replied.

    “It’s already unraveled,” Leta said, pulling the disruptor from its holster.

    “Lower the weapon Leta,” Valeris’s voice was cutting. Leta head swiveled in its direction. Glover chopped down, knocking the sidearm to the deck. Snarling, Leta turned around and backhanded Terrence, nearly uprooting him from his seat.

    “That’s enough,” Xinran pushed past Valeris. He held an old-style disruptor in his hands. One he had likely pilfered from the ship’s armory. “Leta, don’t move.” He aimed it at the roiling young woman, daring her to defy him.

    “Lower your weapon Mr. Xinran,” Valeris said calmly, but in a voice that would not countenance debate.

    “Valeris you don’t give me orders,” Xinran said. “Never have, and never will.”

    “Are you going to say the same thing about me?” Admiral Uhura entered the room, with Cal trailing along. Hudson also brandished a sidearm, though his was pointing down. “Stand down Xinran,” the woman repeated, with duranium hardness.

    Xinran muttered a curse before reluctantly lowering the weapon. Leta whipped around to Glover. The man was still covering his stinging cheek. Her gaze burned like a supernova, making Terrence feel inexplicably guilty.

    “You said they didn’t know!”

    “That’s what my little piano playing was for,” Glover chucked one thumb back at the console, “After you removed my hand. I opened the ship wide channel.”

    “You’re a member of the Tal Shiar,” Valeris said. It wasn’t a question. And though the Vulcan did her best to hide her emotions, Glover could detect them roiling just beneath the surface. “When? And how long?”

    “That really doesn’t matter now,” Xinran said. “She’s been exposed, and that means the Tal Shiar know we are here. They are likely waiting for us either at this spaceport or above it.”

    “Is that true child?” Uhura gently asked. Leta sat up in her chair, her expression closed.

    “I will not answer your questions,” she declared.

    “You will answer mine,” Valeris approached her daughter.

    “Leta isn’t the only one harboring a secret though is she Lady Valeris…of Section 31?” That brought Valeris up short. The woman blinked at Terrence and then raised an eyebrow.

    “How did you ascertain that information?” She asked calmly, but Glover could see the woman was rattled.

    “See how I feel,” Leta muttered.

    “Valeris, you’re Section 31!” Uhura produced a disruptor and pointed it at the woman. Xinran aimed his weapon back at Leta. “Anyone else got a secret?” The admiral asked.

    “Valeris not only is Section 31, but she wants us to go to the Hectori sector,” Glover said, wanting to pour out the information because he could feel it slipping from his mind.

    Valeris raised another eyebrow. Uhura’s grip tightened on her weapon. “Is this true Valeris?”

    “Yes,” was all the woman said, her expression closing up like Leta’s.

    “Taev is not there,” Glover declared. Valeris’s calm exterior cracked. Leta boiled over.

    “What do you know about my brother?!” She roared. “He’s dead. Did the Federation have a hand in it?!”

    “No,” Terrence said, “Something far, far worse than any Starfleet armada. And the remnants of it are at the Arx, which your mother mistakenly thinks is in the Hectori sector.”

    “You know of the Arx as well?” Leta asked, though she wasn’t as incredulous as before. Uhura’s eyes narrowed.

    “How do you know all of this Commander?” The Starfleet legend asked. The woman’s hand wavered and for a moment Terrence thought she would put her weapon on him.

    “Admiral,” Glover shook his head wearily. “You wouldn’t believe me if I tried.”

    “Son, I’ve seen a giant green hand grasp a starship and space amoebas,” Uhura quipped. “I’m pretty flexible in the belief department.” Glover nodded, exhaled, and then told them.

    After he had finished, Glover felt exhausted, physically, mentally, and spiritually. Valeris, her expression reflective, said, “When Ambassador Spock and I were on much more collegial terms, I remember one of his oft repeated sayings, attributed to one of his ancestors…”

    Uhura’s eyes brightened. “I know that one,” she smiled wistfully, “If you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains…”

    Valeris smoothly interjected, “However improbable-must be the truth.”

    “In short Commander Glover, we believe you,” the admiral replied, and Terrence sighed with relief. He wasn’t crazy, or at least his tale didn’t sound as crazy to the others as it had believed it would, even as he was concocting it as he went along. He told them about the Chaltok system, using the very real spatial anomalies there and the polaric ion energies of the Arx to tell them that he escaped on a shuttle after the polaric engine was destabilized, but instead of making it back to the L’Nar, he had been gobbled up by a subspace tear that sent him back into time. He was certain Admiral Uhura, Valeris, and Xinran knew that polaric ions could produce temporal effects, so encountering an anomaly created by them conceivably could fling him through time.

    Terrence didn’t tell them anything about the far flung Civilization, the Stygians, Pandora Boxes, his multiple lives, or Sisko. He didn’t know how that would affect Cal and he couldn’t risk it troubling him and distracting him from their mission, nor could he risk Hudson not telling Ben when they returned.

    From the first run, Glover knew that his compatriots harbored secrets and had multiple agendas and he wanted to keep some things as close to his vest as he could, and if he was able to still retain the memories, he would reveal them if necessary for maximum gain or effect.

    Cal whistled. “Wow, Terrence, so you just time traveled. Temporal Investigations is not going to be pleased.”

    “I’ll handle the DTI,” Uhura winked.

    “Besides, none of that will matter if we can’t stop the Borg from taking over the Arx,” Xinran said, just having to splash the cold water.

    Valeris regarded Glover. “I can see the wheels spinning behind your eyes Mr. Glover. You’ve got a plan.”

    “What are thinking of Commander?” Uhura asked.

    “Yeah man, spill it,” Cal was less decorous.

    “Well,” Glover sighed. He looked at Leta. The sulking woman sensed his attention and turned to him, a mix of emotions on her face. “I’ve got the inklings of a plan,” he admitted. Glover paused and looked directly at Leta, into the woman’s eyes. “But in order for it to work I’m going to need buy-in, from everyone…”

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  13. DarKush

    DarKush Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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

    Imperial Bird-of-Prey Odaus


    The waiting was the worst part. Glover tried to comfort himself by looking out at the stars winking past, the ancient ship at full impulse. He wanted to make it look good, like the ship was really trying to make it to the Hectori sector at a good speed before the L’Nar materialized from the ether to swoop down on them. Terrence was alone in the cockpit, the other members of their band off making preparations for what was to come.

    Generally he was a social person. He liked parties, or rather being at the center of them, but for now he was glad for the quiet, for the solitude. Just him, his yoke, and all of the cosmos before him.

    It gave Terrence time to think. He began to wonder if any of what he had encountered with Ben and all those parallel universes had been real at all, or some kind of space psychosis. He almost wished it was a touch of madness instead of some of those nightmare realities he saw being real.

    The idea that it had actually occurred, that he had died, and been given a second chance…it was a lot to absorb. It made Terrence feel even more driven to make something of his life now, but in doing so, would it lead him to being chosen by the soulless minds of the Civilization for their composite captains, which in part led to the fragments of the Civilization spread throughout time to feel they had some kind of kinship with him?

    It was damn near too much to contemplate, when all he wanted to do right now was fly.

    “Care if I join you?” The question both annoyed and relieved Glover. It annoyed him because he really did want some time alone, but relieved him because he really didn’t need to be alone right now. But most of all, the question intrigued him because of the questioner.

    Terrence half-turned in his seat. “Mr. Xinran, have a seat, the more the merrier.”

    Xinran took the empty co-pilot’s chair. The man stared out at space a moment, before turning to Glover. “I hope this plan of yours works,” The Romulan said.

    “I think we all do Mr. Xinran,” Glover replied.

    “Though I was voted down, I still think we should make a stand,” Xinran said.

    “Against a D’deridex-class warbird, in a two century old bird-of-prey?” Terrence didn’t hide his incredulousness. “Listen, I’m a great pilot, but even I would not take those odds that I could evade a D’deridex for too long. This is not the best plan,” Glover admitted, “But it’s the best plan we’ve got.”

    “We’ll see if you’re right Commander Glover,” Xinran’s expression hardened. The man sighed and looked back out at the stars. “I have a confession to make,” he began.

    “Are you sure I should be the one hearing this?”

    “Why not? You’re hearing, while not of Vulcan or Romulan capability is sufficient,” Xinran said.

    “Why thank you,” Glover rolled his eyes. Xinran smiled at that before returning to gazing out at the void. Terrence could tell that the man didn’t want to make eye contact as he spoke, that he just had to get it out.

    “I hate my people, yet….yet I love them to,” Xinran lowered his head. “Just…just being back in the Empire, on Romii IV, the sights, sounds, smells of a Romulan world. It has been a lifetime since I’ve experienced it. I was just a child when I left with my father to study the great Alpha and Beta Quadrant religions. As much as my father enjoyed living among our Vulcan cousins on P’Jem and studying their ways, learning the commonalities that still existed between our people, he had informed me that we would be leaving P’Jem to travel to the planet Bajor. My father was intrigued by the Prophets of the Bajoran religion and the mystical artifacts they called orbs which were allegedly given to them by these said Prophets. Do you know anything about the Bajorans and their Prophets Mr. Glover?”

    The question rattled Glover. It brought him right back to Sisko. Were these the same Prophets? He had asked his old friend, but the man had demurred. Had the Bajoran deities plucked Ben from the time stream, from his life, had they turned into such a morose watcher of pan galactic calamities?

    “I-I have scant knowledge of them,” Glover coughed up, his throat drier than Torothan desert.

    “More than knowledge it would appear,” Xinran’s dark eyes narrowed and he studied Glover like a math problem. Terrence chafed under the scrutiny.

    “You were saying Mr. Xinran?” He pressed.

    “Yes,” Xinran nodded tightly. “My father wished to leave, and so did I, not to Bajor but back to the Empire. I missed my friends, my life there. Then the Klingons attacked…changing everything. My family had been influential in the Empire; I remember hearing talk that he might even be placed in succession to become Archpriest, the highest spiritual honor among my people. But Romulans being Romulans, my family’s prominence provoked envy, particularly among the Old Lines, the great families established during the Sundering and Worldfall. My family had only become prominent after the Earth War, and partly due to their ties to the Klingons.

    I’m sure those ties were the main reason that my father’s enemies sent Klingon brigands to abscond him. I came to find out later that the hostilities at that time between the Klingons and Romulans were used as cover for my families’ true enemies to strike at us. My father wasn’t the only casualty. Many more of my kinsmen died within the Empire, some branded as traitors for ‘colluding’ with the Klingons even though relations were patched up with them only months afterward.

    Even if I could’ve gone back to the Empire, there was no one of my blood to go back to. I would’ve been surrounded by enemies. I hadn’t wanted to hear that at first, but eventually I came to understand the precariousness of my situation,” Xinran paused, his expression crumbling. Terrence wanted to ask how he had learned that, but decided not to press the Romulan, to just let him get it off his chest in his own time and manner.

    “A Vulcan couple, their children already grown, took me in. It was…a difficult adjustment period. Though we share the same appearance, the same blood in many respects, the cleavages between our peoples now is too great. I actually found more affinity with the humans. And I rushed off to Starfleet as soon as I could.

    But that was not to last. Humans were fine with me…until they learned of my true heritage and then I saw how their gazes would cloud over, how they would create distance, tiny, yet to me it was a gulf, between us. I would find no peace in Starfleet, nor any trying adopting Vulcan ways. I was an outsider, and eventually I decided to make that work for me, or at least to pay the debt I owned to the Vulcans for taking me in. I joined the V’Shar, yet requested assignment in Cardassian space.

    It was there, among all places, among the secretive, paranoid, cryptic Cardassians, and their totalitarian regime that reminded me of Romulus more than anywhere else. I came to actually enjoy my time there. I took on the identity of a trader, in kevas and trillium, among many other things. My Romulan heritage did not arouse suspicion. In fact I came to find out that the Cardassians admired the Romulans quite a great deal.

    I found great success in the Avenall system, forging ties with many local Trade Ministry officials, even engaging in an affair with one of them, the widow of a Cardassian officer lost during the Betreka Nebula Incident. We had to keep our relationship circumspect due to Cardassian interspecies fraternization laws. However it was an open secret among the Ministry of Trade.

    Once war broke out between the Cardassians and the Federation, and my position became tenuous, I begged her to leave with me, but she wouldn’t. She stayed.” Xinran’s skin paled. His expression became hollow. “I have not heard from her or anything about her since. Their Obsidian Order is just as ruthless as the Tal Shiar. The idea that I caused her to fall into their clutches forever haunts me.”

    Glover wanted to say something to the man, to comfort him, but he didn’t know what to say. And really, Terrence knew there was nothing to say. The man had to carry that grief like a lodestone around his neck.

    “Leta’s olfactory sense wasn’t too far off,” Xinran said. “I am involved with a human female. A literary scholar who lives in Vulcana Regar. I attended one of her lectures about Iloja of Prim, a Cardassian who had lived on Vulcan in the 22nd century. I had learned of him while I was in Cardassian space, and his story, of being an exile, resonated. I conversed with this scholar and things became more. She thinks I am a member of the Vulcan National Merchant Fleet.”

    Glover merely nodded, not sure where this was going. Xinran caught on to the man’s confusion and smiled. “I’m telling you all this because if I do not return to Federation space, I want you to find her and tell her how much I cared about her.”

    Terrence placed both hands palms up, “Whoa, Mr. Xinran. Let’s not get too morbid here. We’re going to make it back. All of us.”

    “The…future…you saw did not portend that,” he replied.

    “Yeah, well we’re changing that,” Terrence smirked, though it was forced. “We’ve already changed that.”

    “And that does not concern you?” Xinran asked.

    “No,” Glover shook his head. “Why should it?”

    “Perhaps we’ve only made things worse,” the Romulan surmised.

    Terrence hadn’t thought of that, but now he couldn’t think of anything else. “I-I think you should get ready Mr. Xinran. We’re almost at the location where Leta said the Romulans would be lying in wait for us.”

    “Yes,” Xinran stood up. “I will be ready for them. I do not like this plan Mr. Glover, but I trust Admiral Uhura. She has faith in you, so I will extend you that courtesy.”

    “Thank you, I guess,” Terrence replied.

    “The admiral,” Xinran’s expression was wistful. “Is always several steps ahead of everyone. In many respects, she thinks like a Romulan.”

    “And that’s a compliment? Coming from you of all people, with your dislike of Romulans?”

    Xinran looked down at him, his expression growing serious. “In this case it is.” He clapped the back of Terrence’s chair. “Be steady when you steer us into the clutches of the raptor awaiting us Mr. Glover.”

    “Is that like a Romulan good luck saying?”

    “No,” Xinran plainly answered, “Just a hope that this plan of yours doesn’t get us all killed.”

    “Thanks for the vote of confidence,” Glover quipped, though he wished he didn’t feel the same way as Xinran.

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


    Glover only opened his eyes after the nudging became insistent. “Does he need another hypo?” He heard a voice far off in the distance.

    “No,” he caught another voice. “The effects of the gas affect everyone a bit differently.”

    “We don’t have time for this,” a cutting voice said. The nudge was harder this time. “Wake up human!”

    Terrence’s eyes fluttered open. He squinted as the harsh light flooded his eyes. He opened his mouth. His tongue felt swollen, his throat parched.

    “What, what happened?”

    “Heh. The human has forgotten his own plan,” the cutting voice scoffed.

    “Help him sit up right, that might clear his head,” the first voice said again. Glover focused on it, and the blob resolved into a person, and the kindly visage of Admiral Uhura.

    “Admiral,” Glover tried to stand, but found his legs useless.

    “Come on buddy,” arms gently locked under his and sat him up. It was Cal. Hudson propped him against a bulkhead. “I bet you’re thirsty as hell. I know I was.” His old friend produced a canteen and held it to Terrence’s lips. Glover wanted to drink it all down, but Hudson moderated the usage to keep Terrence’s thirst from choking him. The other members of their team circled around him, with varying looks of either concern or impatience.

    “I’m sorry Mr. Glover,” Valeris said. “The anesthetic gas used aboard Romulan starships does leave after effects, some more severe than others.”

    “It certainly isn’t Anesthizine,” Uhura said, rubbing her temple. “I have a headache something fierce.”

    “So,” Glover croaked. “It worked?” He looked at Leta. The woman glared at him.

    “Leta,” Valeris said gently, “Answer the commander.”

    “Yes,” she said through clenched teeth. “You’ve just made me a traitor to the Empire.”

    “We’re trying to save your Empire,” Uhura rejoined. “God help us.”

    “Help me up Cal,” Glover said. Hudson grabbed him again and gently lifted him up. Glover leaned back against the wall, testing the strength of his legs. He pushed off the wall, his legs wobbly, but he willed them to not to collapse.

    “Damn it, it actually worked,” He grinned. Glover’s plan had been for the L’Nar to capture the Odaus and then have Leta, who the Tal Shiar still trusted, flood the ship with an anesthetic gas, incapacitating the crew, and allowing them to take command of the warbird. And that was the easy part.

    “Alright,” Terrence clapped his hands. Up until being woken up, he wasn’t sure if Leta would go through with it. But she had. He smiled at her. The woman’s returned a frosty glare. Glover ignored it and just hoped she would come around in time. “Now, here comes the hard part.”

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

    DarKush Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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

    Imperial Warbird L’Nar

    Main Bridge


    With Leta’s knowledge of the ship’s systems, the team had beamed the crew to either holding cells, cargo bays, or locked them in their quarters, all confined by force fields. But they would need more access to the all of the ship’s systems than what Leta could provide.

    “Get out of that chair!” The dark-skinned Romulan woman fumed. If she had a disruptor on her, Glover knew that he would be atoms by this point.

    “He’s earned the right,” Uhura said. The admiral was at an aft console, overseeing the last transporting of the crew. Terrence thought the Starfleet icon got a kick out of locking up so many Romulans.

    While for this mission Glover would’ve preferred being at the helm, he thought it best to address T’Rhiel from a position of strength, and nothing connoted that more than sitting in the command chair of a warbird.

    Before, T’Rhiel had revealed an interest in Glover, beyond the normal, and he hoped to play on that this second go round.

    “We’ve taken command of this ship Subcommander T’Rhiel,” Terrence said. The woman cut her eyes to Leta at the weapon’s terminal.

    “You traitor!” She said, charging the woman.

    “Stop right there,” Xinran said. The man had been at the helm, but he moved quickly, and tackled the woman. They struggled, giving the rest of the crew enough time join in.

    Once the woman had been subdued, Glover addressed her again. “Subcommander T’Rhiel, we don’t want your ship, nor do we want to make you or your crew Federation prisoners. We have taken such drastic measures to save both our nations!”

    “More lies, more Federation propaganda!” She snarled, still struggling, even at the bottom of the pile.

    “We know what Colonel Crassus’s intentions were, and we know that the Arx is in the Chaltok system,” Glover said.

    T’Rhiel’s fires dimmed. She darted her eyes at Leta. “But no, you were not privy to that information.”

    “Get her up,” Glover said. “I won’t talk to her while we’ve got her held down.”

    Xinran and Cal helped the woman up. “You think this earns you some trust?” T’Rhiel asked.

    “No, but what I do think is that we need to speak…privately,” Glover replied.

    “Terrence that’s a bad idea,” Hudson said.

    “Cal, honestly, does it sound any crazier than anything else I’ve said recently?” Glover asked.

    “Well, when you put it that way,” Hudson shrugged.

    Glover turned to Uhura. “Admiral,” he dipped his head respectfully, “You have the conn.” He gestured to Xinran. The Romulan reluctantly handed over his disruptor. Glover motioned for T’Rhiel to go to a door off to the side of the bridge. “Subcommander you know where the ready room is.”

    “I do,” she said, scowling, “but how do you?”

    “You wouldn’t believe me if I told you,” Glover said, “But I’m going to tell you anyway.”

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

    Imperial Warbird L’Nar

    Ready Room


    Glover sat at the desk. He kept the disruptor trained on T’Rhiel, who stood primly in front of the desk. “This is preposterous!” The woman thundered.

    “Yeah, believe me, I know it’s a lot to swallow, but I did enter one of the temporal anomalies in this system and it sent me back through time.”

    “You really expect me to believe that?”

    “No, but what I do expect you to tell me is your interest in me. Before, when you were interrogating me, with one of your mind probes, you…saw things about my past. You had questions about my mother. When we left on our fateful mission, you handed me an honor blade.”

    “I would never do anything of the sort.”

    Glover ignored the woman’s protestation. “You told me my father would understand.”

    “This is insanity.”

    “What do you know about the Norkan colony?” Terrence asked. The woman blinked.

    “My mother was from that colony,” Glover said, not hiding his bitterness. “For years she was a prisoner of the Romulans.”

    “You-You’re mother was a Norkan survivor?” T’Rhiel asked, her indignation ebbing slightly.

    “Yes,” Terrence said. “And what does that mean to you?”

    “This-this is some trick?” T’Rhiel began looking around wildly. “Some holographic scenario or some drug induced deception to test my loyalty to the Empire.”

    “I don’t give a damn about your loyalty to the Empire!” Glover said. “I want to know why you care so much about my mother!”

    The woman continued looking around, trying to find the seams in the artifice, the holographic projectors weaving this lie. She cursed when she didn’t find what she was looking for. Eventually she turned back to Glover, and regarded him, squinting.

    “What do you want human?”

    “That’s not the answer to my question,” Terrence replied.

    “What are you doing here?”

    “You’re in no position to ask any questions,” Glover said. “I’ve already explained what happened before, and why we need to do things differently this time if we are to have any chance at success.”

    “You think that tale you concocted is anywhere near believable?”

    “No,” Glover said, “But nonetheless it is the truth. If I didn’t have knowledge of what had happened before, how could we have taken this ship?”

    “Major Leta,” T’Rhiel’s face contorted with rage. “The traitor!”

    “She was just as believing as you were,” Glover said. “At first.”

    “I will not help you,” the Romulan declared. “So you might as well kill me now.”

    “Deitra Khumalo was my mother,” Terrence said. The woman took a step back.

    “‘Was?’” Was all she was able to say.

    “Yes,” Glover nodded sadly. “She was lost in space some two years ago, on the USS Tombaugh.”

    “This is another lie, more fiction,” T’Rhiel said. She threw her head back, as if talking to any voices listening beyond them. “But if the Empire demands all of me, if the Tal Shiar wants the very core of me, it shall have it. I will enter the Halls of Erebus with no lies in my heart.”

    “I’m not following,” Glover admitted. “I don’t understand.

    T’Rhiel looked at him squarely. “Deitra Khumalo was my mother!”

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

    Imperial Warbird L’Nar

    Engine Room


    Glover had feigned helping Cal check on the status of the forced quantum singularity powering the warbird but really he needed some space, and time to process it all.

    “The Romulan subcommander is your sister?” Hudson didn’t disguise is incredulity. The man split his time between checking the black hole trapped within the rectangular engine core and Glover, who also had a maelstrom raging inside him.

    Terrence shook his head as he absently inspected the nullifier cores. “Half-sister, but sister and blood all the same. Damn it, Valeris confirmed it.”

    “You think Valeris can be trusted?”

    “Yeah,” Terrence shook his head. “I mean, everyone has an agenda on this boat it seems, except you and me, but yet I don’t see what Valeris would gain from lying to me about this.”

    “Well it does help bring T’Rhiel over to our side,” Cal pointed out.

    “I hadn’t considered that,” Glover admitted. “T’Rhiel had demanded we awaken the ship’s chief medic, but I’m not taking that risk. She’s dangerous enough to have awake on the ship. We don’t need two senior officers about.”

    “So, what’s the story?” Hudson asked, “But listen man, if you don’t want to discuss it.”

    “No, it’s okay,” Terrence said, smiling at his friend. “I need to discuss it, and I would rather do that with you than anyone else aboard.” Hudson nodded in understanding.

    “After the Romulans attacked the Norkan colony, my mother spent years as a prisoner. My father was part of the mission that rescued her from Romulan space. She never talked much about her time as a prisoner. And now I can see why. It appears one of the Romulans forced himself on her, and she conceived a child, a child taken from her. Though T’Rhiel sees it differently.”

    “How so?”

    “Her grandfather only told her of her true parentage on his deathbed. He told her that it had been a romance, one doomed by race and station. He told her that his son had loved my mother but that the family, including the grandfather, would not allow him to rescue her from bondage. Yet the son had compelled them to take T’Rhiel. That deathbed confession also revealed that they had surgically altered her appearance to look more Romulan.” Glover touched his forehead. Cal nodded in understanding.

    “That’s sick,” Hudson said, “All of it.”

    “Yes,” Glover replied. “It is. But it has left T’Rhiel searching for her mother. Deitra was one of a handful of candidates. Before, when they ripped out details of my personal life, the truth was confirmed for T’Rhiel.”

    “But this time she’s not buying?” Cal asked.

    “No, not yet, but I think the evidence is working its way to that for her, but it will take time.”

    “Which is something we don’t have much of,” Hudson elbowed Glover playfully. “We’re not all time travelers.”

    “Very funny,” Glover said. He looked back at the nullifier cores but wasn’t seeing them at all. “Having T’Rhiel’s buy-in would be great, but even that might not save us.”

    “We’ve just got to have faith,” Hudson clapped his shoulder.

    Glover smiled. “You’ve always had that in spades. I wish I could be more like you.”

    “Now, that’s one from you I’ve never heard before,” Cal winked.

    “No, seriously, I mean you and Gretchen. You share something I have yet to find.”

    “You’re not really looking. You’re still finding your place and the right woman for you,” Hudson rejoined. “And I’m not judging. Gretchen was a godsend, and I know Ben feels the same about Jennifer. It’ll happen for you one day, but only when you’re ready for it. If you rush it, it won’t turn out good for you.”

    “I’ll keep that in mind,” Glover smiled. “Man, what would I do without you?”

    “Admiral Uhura was wise to put me on the team,” Hudson joked.

    “If only Ben were here,” Terrence said.

    “Then we would be unstoppable. The Borg would sue for peace,” Hudson chuckled.

    “If only that were so,” Glover said.

    Hudson glanced back down at the terminal. “Everything checks out with the propulsion system as best I can tell.”

    “That’s good enough for me,” Glover said, glad that some of the weight had been lifted from his shoulders. He really was glad that Cal was here; it gave him even more incentive to get everyone out alive. “Let’s get back to it.”

    **********************************************************************
     
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  15. DarKush

    DarKush Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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

    Imperial Warbird L’Nar

    Main Bridge



    Glover had ceded the command chair to Admiral Uhura. He was content at the helm, using the rudimentary knowledge of the Romulan language that his father had taught him to pilot the ship. If the situation wasn’t so dire he would take a moment to revel in the fact that he was the first human to ever be behind the controls of a D’deridex. It was a heady experience, in spite of what awaited them. Or perhaps more so because of what lie in the depths.

    This might be the last ship he flew. Leta was sitting beside him, at the weapon’s console. He glanced at her, trying to get her attention, but the woman’s eyes were glued on the screen in front of them. As Glover’s should have been. But he had seen the Arx enough for a lifetime.

    Instead he glanced back over the bridge. Though his decision had not gone over well, Terrence had convinced the group to awaken Subcenturion Gielo and Sublieutenant Rhean. Though he trusted Cal, Glover felt better with the ship’s actual engineer in control of ship’s propulsion. Hudson was watching the lanky man like a Baneriam hawk though.

    There had been no good reason to awaken Rhean that Glover was willing to share. He just knew the woman’s desire to leave the Empire and he hoped to help her. Of course T’Rhiel hadn’t complained. She wanted as many Romulans awakened as possible when she tried to retake the ship, and having a security guard on her side, would increase her chances.

    But Glover doubted that T’Rhiel would get far with Xinran watching her while he was manning the operations station. Glover had placed Rhean at communications, hoping that would keep her safe enough from making any misguided attempt herself to fight back.

    Valeris was close enough, at environmental controls, to stop Rhean if she had any crazy ideas.

    T’Rhiel stood beside Uhura, with her arms folded tightly behind her back. The admiral wisely kept a disruptor in her lap.

    Reluctantly Glover looked at the screen. The darkened tetrahedron nearly blocked out the stars. He knew it was just his imagination, but the Arx exuded evil.

    “Lady Valeris,” he said.

    The woman cleared her throat, before addressing Rhean. “Open the channel.”

    “Channel open.” The security guard replied.

    “Taev,” Valeris called out gingerly at first, like she was dipping her toe into an ocean and wasn’t sure of how cold it would be. Glover just hoped that they had arrived before Taev had been completely consumed by the Borg.

    They waited pensively for minutes, hearing nothing but the crackle of static. Without being prompted, Xinran offered, “Ship’s sensors are detecting no weapons or propulsion changes with the Arx, for what it’s worth, but the shielding for that monstrosity is impervious to L’Nar’s sensors.

    “M-Mother,” the voice was scratchy, hesitant. Beside him, Leta’s eyes widened. She turned to her mother.

    “That’s his voice,” she said, half-disbelieving. “That’s really him?”

    “Taev,” Valeris reached out again, ignoring her daughter. “Taev, it is me. It is your mother.”

    “M-Mother,” the voice said again. The main viewer wavered, and the Arx’s exterior was replaced with the image of a dark room. Inside it sat what was once a man, but half of his body had been replaced by machinery that was connected to the walls, or were the walls surrounding him. Taev looked different than before, as if he was being consumed by the infernal machinery, or being transformed by it.

    “You have come for me,” he shook his head. “Mother, why?”

    “How could I not,” Valeris said. She rushed to the main viewer and placed her hand there, as if to touch his face. “What have they done to you?”

    “Oh Taev,” Leta was at her mother’s side. Taev’s one working eye blinked and then refocused on Leta.

    “Little bird, I-I have condemned you both to a fate…worse than death.”

    “We can save you, we will save you!” Leta promised.

    Taev managed a smile. To see such a personal gesture coming from a being losing their individuality made even Glover’s heart ache.

    “It…it is too late. The song I hear it. It is an old song, an ancient one, far older than our history, and I hear it, and I am to be…one with it. I-I do not wish the same of you. Turn around and leave now.”

    “Not without you!” Leta pounded both hands against the viewer, with such force that it caused the screen to rattle.

    Valeris tried to pull her back. “There is nothing we can do you son,” the woman said, her emotion control slipping. Tears poured from her eyes as she laid her head against the screen. But she held enough of her composure to say, “We can’t do anything for you, but…there is still time for you to do something for us, for the Empire and the Federation.”

    Taev’s one eye narrowed. “What…is it?”

    “Enough of this,” T’Rhiel snarled. Before anyone could react, the Romulan had taken the disruptor from Admiral Uhura. The older woman was slumped in the chair. “I don’t know what’s going on. It appears that the Federation and the Borg are in collusion and have taken over the Arx. This is an act of war I will not abide.” She waved the disruptor around. “Subcenturion Gielo and Sublieutenant Rhean disarm the enemy. If any of you resist,” she jabbed the weapon into the insensate admiral’s ribcage, “She dies.”

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

    Imperial Warbird L’Nar


    Glover stood up slowly. He nodded at a creeping Xinran and Cal to stay their hands, while he placed both his own hands in the open, so that T’Rhiel could see that he wasn’t reaching for his firearm. “We don’t have time for this Subcommander,” he said slowly, looking directly at the Romulan.

    “Gielo and Rhean, you heard me,” she barked. Either had yet to move.

    “Belay that order,” Glover replied.

    T’Rhiel’s laughter was harsh. “Though you stole an imperial warbird, which I admit is impressive, you dare to command officers of the Imperial Fleet?!”

    “Rhean,” Glover turned to her. “I know you. You don’t know that, you likely won’t believe it, but I know you. I know what you want most, and I can get it for you.”

    The woman’s face was a storm of emotions. She bit her lip, hope, fear, suspicion, and hate roiling in her gaze. “I know you want out,” Glover pressed. “I can get you asylum.”

    “Don’t listen to this drivel!” T’Rhiel commanded. “Both of you, I am ordering you to do your duty!”

    “Their duty should be to save the Empire,” Valeris turned away from the screen to face T’Rhiel. “That is what we are all trying to do, except you.”

    “Now a traitor to the Empire, a Vulcan at that, dares to tell me my duty?” T’Rhiel scoffed. “Once I vaporize this long-time thorn in the side of the Empire I should atomize you.”

    Leta stepped in front of her mother. “You’ll have to go through me first.”

    “Certainly traitor,” T’Rhiel leveled the weapon at her.

    Uhura moved quickly for a one hundred twenty-five year old woman. She thrust an open palmed hand up, knocking off the Romulan’s aim. The shot cut through the bulkhead as T’Rhiel stumbled back.

    Xinran leaped at the woman. Sensing it, she turned quickly and fired. The blast seared the air just above the flying Romulan as he crashed into her. Even Glover winced as he heard the sound of T’Rhiel’s head crack against the command chair. She fell to the deck, copper-scented blood quickly pooling around her head.

    “We got to get her to sickbay,” Glover ran to her.

    “We should let her bleed out,” Xinran said coldly. “She would do worse to us.”

    Terrence glared at the man. He wanted to bark back at the man, but if this were a Tzenkethi or Cardassian lying before him, would he feel the same way? Instead he said, “Someone beam us to the medical bay, quick! I won’t lose my sister!”

    ***********************************************************************
     
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  16. DarKush

    DarKush Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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

    Imperial Warbird L’Nar

    Medical Bay



    Dr. N’Ral pulled off his gloves. He took a towel from the tray of surgical equipment and wiped his sweaty brow. “I work much easier without duress,” he said. Glover didn’t remove his finger from the disruptor trigger.

    “Is she going to be alright?” The woman was unconscious in a stasis unit, a sheet pulled up to her shoulders. Her head was wrapped in bandages.

    “Yes,” the medic answered. “Subcommander T’Rhiel suffered a linear skull fracture as a result of blunt force trauma. It was worse than it looked. The blood came from a vicious cut she received courtesy of hitting the command chair.”

    “Thank you Doctor,” Glover nodded.

    “Why? I’ve patched her up only so you could torture her all over again!”

    “I did no such thing!” Terrence said, forcing himself not to point the weapon at the man.

    “Really?” N’Ral huffed. “Then what are you doing here? And how did T’Rhiel get injured, and in such a manner?”

    For a second Glover was going to refute then man, but then thought better of it. It might go easier on T’Rhiel if N’Ral thought she had been tortured by Starfleet marauders. “To reward you for your work, I’m going to put you back to sleep Doctor,” Glover put on an evil grin. “And if you resist, I’ll make it a permanent rest.” He wagged his disruptor at the medic. If he was going to be a bad guy, might as well have fun doing it.

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

    Imperial Warbird L’Nar

    Main Bridge


    When Glover got back to the bridge, he saw that Valeris and Leta were speaking with Taev again. Valeris turned to him. “Commander Glover, Taev will grant us access to the Arx.”

    He nodded tightly before looking at Rhean and Gielo. “I revived Chief Medic N’Ral to attend to the subcommander. She will be fine, though I placed her in a stasis chamber. She will not be causing us any more trouble. Will either of you?”

    “No,” Rhean said. “Somehow, you knew what I wanted, and now the subcommander knows as well. There is no safe place for me in the Empire now.” And the woman didn’t look as mollified by that revelation as Glover had assumed.

    “I will not abandon my duties,” Gielo stated, after swallowing the lump in his throat. “I’ll face the consequences later, but right now, whatever is happening aboard the Arx is a greater threat to the Empire than the Federation poses.”

    “Fair enough,” Uhura spoke up. The woman’s voice was more weathered than usual. The sucker punch from T’Rhiel and the admiral’s reaction might have been harder on her than Uhura was letting on. Glover, Cal, and Valeris, even Xinran had suggested the admiral at least undergo a medical scan, but she refused. “But if either one of you so much as look like you’re going to sabotage this mission I’ll place you in the airlock myself.”

    Hudson looked over at Glover with a troubled expression. The admiral’s words had chilled his marrow as well. The velvet had just been taken off the iron glove. And Terrence had no doubt that Uhura would carry out that threat. The stakes were too great to be sidetracked now with petty political gamesmanship. The very fate of the Alpha and Beta Quadrants were at stake.

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

    Imperial Warbird L’Nar

    Main Shuttle Bay


    Glover passed by the Securis, hardly giving that tainted shuttle a thought. He did find another shuttle, of the same class as Securis, but he hoped this time their luck would be different.

    Glover ran his fingers along the name stitched into the hull. “Cetratus, a proud name,” Rhean replied as she walked up to him. The woman was decked out in the black combat uniform that the rest of the landing party also wore. Rhean, like the rest, had left the helmets in the armory. But a disruptor rifle hung from the woman’s shoulder. Glover’s rifle was latched to his back by a strap running across his chest. Rhean had made certain they all carried small and sharp, double shadow knives. Of Reman manufacture the woman had told them. “The only good thing those people produced,” she had added with a disquieting derision.

    “I hope this shuttle lives up to the name and does us proud,” Admiral Uhura said before walking past them and entering the shuttle. The woman seemed weighted down by the combat suit’s armor. Glover suppressed a frown. He didn’t want the centenarian coming with them, but the admiral had insisted and she was way too formidable to resist. He also couldn’t argue with her rationale that changing up the lineup this time might better their odds.

    And to that, they had left Leta in command of the L’Nar, though she had put up one hell of a fight to join them, and Gielo keeping the engine running so they could escape quickly if things went sour and warn the Empire. Glover had wanted Cal to stay onboard the warbird but his old friend was insistent. Hudson was ready to face what was inside the Arx than potentially becoming a Romulan prisoner. The L’Nar’s crew was fully awake now and doubtlessly plotting to free themselves from their confinement. Valeris had advised that they couldn’t keep gassing the crew, because the effects of the gas could kill them. Leta had been more sanguine about taking that chance. However, Glover didn’t want the needless deaths of over a thousand Romulans. He just hoped that Leta could keep them at bay long enough for them to stop the Borg.

    Perhaps the story Glover had told him about his mother’s horrendous experience had shaped Cal’s decision.

    “Everything is ship shape,” Hudson said, poking his head out of the shuttle’s opening. It was as if Cal could read his mind. Terrence hoped Hudson couldn’t sense what he was thinking about right now.

    Uhura and Valeris were already aboard. Glover bowed and gestured gallantly to Rhean, “After you milady.”

    The woman chuckled. “Humans,” she muttered, shaking her head. She moved quickly up the gangplank, but not so quick that Glover didn’t receive a pleasing hip swing. Terrence smirked. He hoped he got to see where that sashay might lead to.

    ************************************************************************
     
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  17. DarKush

    DarKush Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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

    Romulan Imperial Shuttle Cetratus



    Glover brought the Cetratus down gently among the multitude of shuttlecraft in the Arx shuttle bay. This time he had convinced Valeris to have Taev, who seemed to have some control over the functions of the massive station to allow them into the shuttle bay instead of the front door.

    When the shuttle landed with a gentle clang, Terrence looked back at Valeris. The woman’s eyes were closed and she was muttering something too softly for his human ears to decipher. Rhean, sitting across from him, dipped her head in respect, and even Xinran, sitting at the very back of the shuttle was appropriately solemn.

    Glover and the other humans gave Valeris her moment. The woman opened her eyes, startled for just a second at being watched, before an impassive wall came down over her emotions. “According to Commander Glover’s plan, I will proceed to meet with my son, to convince him to overload the polaric ion generators. Mr. Xinran and Sublieutenant Rhean will accompany me.”

    Terrence nodded. “And Admiral Uhura, Cal, and I will proceed to the polaric ion generator chamber to set plasma charges.” Hudson held up a bag stuffed with the circular explosives. “This station is going to go boom one way or another.”

    “As humans are wont to say, ‘Sounds like a plan’,” Valeris actually smiled. This had the opposite effect on Glover than the woman likely thought it did. It was more disconcerting than reassuring. When the Vulcan dropped her adherence to a logical remove that told him she didn’t care anymore about appearances, and to Terrence that meant she had lost hope and maybe had already given up. Not a good sign, he thought, but Glover did return her smile.

    “Go see to your son Lady Valeris,” Terrence encouraged. “Free him from the Borg and we’ll take care of the rest.”

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

    The Arx


    Hudson wasn’t winded even though he lugged the bag of plasma charges on his back. Admiral Uhura was game, but the older woman was sucking wind. Glover wanted to stop, but there was no time. Around them full Borg and unfortunate Romulans was some Borg implants milled about, seemingly aimlessly, directed by commandments Terrence never hoped he would hear. The nearness of the Borg didn’t bother Glover because he remembered some of his first experience aboard the Arx. And to their credit, neither Cal nor the admiral got their nerves under control fairly quickly.

    “Where is the polaric ion generator chamber? I thought Taev had given Valeris the layout of his place?” Cal eventually asked. Glover had been dreading the question.

    “Yes,” the admiral added, between gulps of air. “Shouldn’t we be there by now?”

    Glover pulled up. He looked at them both. “We’re not going to the polaric ion chamber.”

    “What?” Hudson looked confused, while Uhura raised a Vulcan-like eyebrow.

    “Oh?” Was all the admiral said.

    “Yes,” Glover said. “I can’t explain it all now. But I didn’t tell you the whole story about what happened the first time we were here. There’s something aboard the Arx, an artifact of immense power, that could be more dangerous even than this Borg incursion. I don’t think the Romulans fully realize what they possess, but Valeris and Section 31 does. And we’ve got to stop her from obtaining it.”

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

    The Arx


    Glover didn’t know exactly where the Pandora Box was stored aboard the massive space station. So he concentrated and tried to open himself to it. Ben had told him the infernal things had a connection to him, and Terrence reached out to it.

    It didn’t take long before he felt icy tendrils in the back of his mind. He did his best to keep them there, to stop them from spreading across his consciousness, of taking deeper root inside him. Terrence didn’t know what might happen if that occurred.

    “Terrence I sure hope you know where you’re going,” Cal was now huffing. They had had to stop several times to allow Uhura to catch her breath. The legend was impressively only a few steps behind both men now.

    “See if you are in this good a shape when you’re past 120,” she had quipped the last time they checked on her.

    Terrence rounded a corner. “We’re here.” He said. He pulled out his disruptor pistol. Cal grasped the two-handed disruptor rifle. He tried to get in front of the admiral, but she was having none of it. Uhura brandished a disruptor as well.

    “Do you really think these weapons are necessary?” Uhura asked.

    “You know more about Section 31 and its operatives than either of us,” Glover said. “Do you think we need to go in armed and prepared for a fight?”

    Uhura held the pistol up. She nodded her head, her expression sad. “Yes,” she replied. “I-I had just hoped, after all this time, things could be different with Valeris. That she could be redeemed.”

    “Sometimes, some people are beyond redemption,” Glover intoned, “But Valeris, in the past, she did this only because she realized that she could not save Taev. She claimed taking control of the artifact would be a good thing.”

    “Well, if this is some all powerful weapon, do we really want the Romulans, or my God, the Borg, to have it?”

    Uhura squinted at Cal. “And you think an unlawful group of fanatics, without official sanction, is really going to work in the best interests of the Federation or galactic peace?” She rejoined.

    “Well, now that you put it that way,” Hudson said, shrugging and looking sheepish.

    “I am hoping, that since the timeline was changed that Valeris is attempting to save Taev before going for the artifact and we can secure it ourselves. But if that isn’t the case, we have to be ready to take it from her.”

    “What about Xinran, or the sublieutenant?” Cal frowned.

    “Valeris has killed before to further her mission,” Uhura said, regret clotting her voice. “I just hope she hasn’t turned down that road again.”

    Terrence approached the door and stood by it. He put his back to the door and used his free hand to activate its release. “We’re about to find out Admiral.”

    *************************************************************************
     
  18. DarKush

    DarKush Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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

    The Arx


    “I wasn’t expecting this,” Glover’s stomach dropped.

    “After such a long nap, I’m positively famished,” Colonel Crassus held Leta in front of him, the emitter from his disruptor pressed hard into the woman’s forehead.

    A group of soldiers, including the brutish Lt. Ehrek, fanned out around him. There were no Borg in the room. Perhaps the Borg infestation of the Arx’s systems had not catalogued this room.

    “How?” Uhura asked.

    “It was Gielo,” Leta said, clenching her teeth as Crassus squeezed her arm. The woman’s face was a patchwork of varying green bruises. Her cheeks were swollen and her lips split, and dribbled blood. It was all Terrence could do not to lunge at Crassus. “The little veruul tricked me,” the woman added. Crassus ground the pistol deeper into Leta’s temple. The woman winced.

    “Enough talking,” he commanded. Glover moved toward the colonel, drawing several weapons in his direction. “I wouldn’t take another step if I were you Commander Glover.”

    “Subcenturion, no, Centurion Gielo is a loyal soldier of the Empire,” Crassus explained. “Unlike this…mongrel here,” he spat, throwing the woman to the deck in front of Terrence. “I should’ve known you can’t trust a half breed.”

    “Where is the rest of your band?” Crassus inquired. He nodded for some of his soldiers to go out, in search of them.

    “I’m not telling you anything,” Terrence answered.

    Crassus stroked his tuft of black chin hair. “Perhaps all you need is the right motivation. A mind probe generally works. And if that fails, the mind-sifter never does.”

    “At least there is one Romulan that admits Klingon technology is better,” Glover quipped.

    Crassus frowned, and then he smiled. “Nice attempt to goad me Lieutenant Commander. I’m going to have a lot of fun with you. I have so many questions, many about your father. His knowledge of the Romulan Empire and my people is impressive…and troubling. I will find out how he has come by this knowledge.”

    “But first,” the man chanced to take his eyes off the Starfleet officers. He picked up the container resting on a stand. Glover’s chest thudded. The Romulan held the box in his gloved hand. “This is what you came for, isn’t it?” He waved it in the human’s direction and it lit with an unholy glow.

    “How-how did you know about the artifact?” Terrence asked, doing his best to keep his fear at bay. He prayed that the container didn’t open, even for Crassus’s sake.

    “I’m a colonel in the Tal Shiar,” Crassus said, as if that explained everything.

    “I’m sorry Terrence,” Leta said, still on her hands and knees. Her head was down, her hair covering her battered face, and she refused to look at him in the eyes. “Mother confided in me about the artifact…Colonel Crassus subjected me to a mind probe,” the woman shuddered and then fell to the ground.

    The colonel looked at Ehrek. “About Major Leta’s condition, well, she wasn’t the most cooperative interrogee, and Lt. Ehrek can be quite exuberant in his duties.” Glover glared at the man, and Ehrek grinned, eager for the challenge.

    Crassus glanced at back at the major dismissively, as if Leta was a piece of trash. “More importantly, how did you know about this artifact Mr. Glover? One of our science vessels discovered it among Debrune ruins on Yadalla Prime. So far the scientists here have not been able to ascertain its secrets, or even unlock it to see what’s inside.”

    “And you should be grateful for that,” Glover said.

    “Is that so?” Crassus pondered that for a moment, savoring his position of authority. “And how would you know that?”

    “We’ve…encountered similar artifacts before,” Glover admitted. “They are extremely destructive.”

    “Weapons you’re gathering to strike at the Empire,” the colonel charged.

    “No,” Terrence protested. “I didn’t say that!”

    “You didn’t need to,” Crassus’s expression hardened. “You were attempting to collect another one of these weapons to use against us. You didn’t care about the Arx or this Borg threat. As far as you were concerned, these cybernetic demons could consume the whole of the Star Empire!”

    “I didn’t say that either,” Glover hotly rejoined. “I would never want that!”

    “Perhaps everyone should calm down,” Uhura suggested.

    Crassus aimed his disruptor at the admiral. Uhura looked at it without blinking, her expression impassive. “Ah, the great, vaunted Admiral Uhura. For you to fall into my clutches is the accomplishment of a lifetime. I could ride that victory all the way to the Chairmanship of the Tal Shiar,” he paused to admire the alien script on the box, “But now, with this artifact in my possession, you seem so small bore.”

    The green beam spit out of the disruptor, catching Uhura squarely in the chest. The woman died silently, here one moment and then dissolved into green-tinged atoms a moment later.

    “My God! Admiral Uhura!” Cal rushed forward, prompting the Romulans to aim at him. Glover threw an arm up in front of his friend. Terrence marshalled his own anger and grief, which was helped by the numbing shock he felt.

    “Not only have I discovered a great weapon for the Empire, I am now the slayer of Admiral Uhura. She’s been an impediment to our plans for a long time, nearly a century,” Crassus was extremely confident. “Commander Charvanek is avenged.”

    “You bastard!” Hudson roared. Glover held his friend back.

    “No, Cal,” Terrence said, trying to hold it together himself. His emotions were surging. Uhura had been a hero of his because she had been a personal hero and role model for his grandmother. She had regaled him with tales about the legendary Enterprise and Uhura. And seeing the woman, in the flesh, reminded him of his grandmother, and Deitra, and Glover felt all of their losses at once.

    Terrence staggered, overcome with grief and shaking with rage. He was trying to keep the red curtain from covering his eyes and tossing his life away in a vain attempt to choke the life out of Crassus. Even if he could reach the smug Tal Shiar colonel, Ehrek would cut him down before he could touch the petaQ.

    “I find Lt. Commander Glover useful,” Crassus said, turning his disruptor to Cal. “But Lt. Hudson on the other hand…”

    “No,” Glover demanded. “Don’t!”

    “The lieutenant is a long way away from the embassy,” Crassus said. “Plenty of dangers in space travel. What do you think Lt. Ehrek, should a transporter accident suffice?”

    “Certainly sir,” Ehrek smirked. Hudson pressed against Terrence, prepared to go down fighting. Glover wanted to let the man go, but he couldn’t. If there was a chance of survival, for Cal to see Gretchen again, Glover had to figure it out and quickly.

    “You’ll have to kill us both,” Terrence declared.

    “Don’t tempt me,” Crassus pointed his pistol downward. “Hudson lives…for now, but certainly you have no further use for the mongrel; or rather I hope you got some use out of it.”

    “No!” Terrence broke for the colonel. He yanked for his disruptor, anticipating being vaporized at any second. But instead of the whine of disruptors, the room filled with the whine of transporters. Several green shafts appeared throughout the room, materializing into Borg drones.

    Stunned, Crassus stepped away from the downed woman and aimed his weapon hurriedly back at Glover.

    It was then that Leta struck. The woman lunged at Crassus, tackling him at the knees. She unintentionally saved the man’s life as the Romulan soldiers cut loose, the room seared and filled with the smell of disruptor fire as they attacked the drones. They took down the first wave easily, but not the second, and then the third.

    Crassus kicked wildly, smashing into Leta’s face. The woman let go and the colonel pulled roughly away from her. The Tal Shiar agent reached for the box that had skittered across the floor.

    Glover took immeasurable pleasure in hearing the bones crack in Crassus’s hand when he stomped down on the man’s hand. Crassus glared up at him, holding one hand. Glover aimed his disruptor at him. “This is for Admiral Uhura,” he said.

    “Down!” Cal shouted, knocking Glover to the ground, seconds before several disruptor beams would’ve sliced through him.

    Momentarily disoriented, Terrence looked around. “The box,” he muttered. “We’ve got to get the box.”

    Hudson was crouched over him, firing at the Romulans. “Another time buddy. I’ll be damned but I think these Borg are on our side!”

    Glover looked up and saw the drones marching on the Romulans. Glover caught Crassus, still cradling his hand, running behind a barricade the Romulans had constructed. Thankfully the man wasn’t holding the Pandora Box.

    If he didn’t have it, then who did? Cal tapped his shoulder, “Let’s find some cover.”

    “Leta,” Glover remembered. He saw the woman was stirring, with beams flying over her.

    “I’ll get her,” Cal pledged.

    “No,” Glover said. “You find us some cover. I’ll go get her.”

    “But you’re out of it,” Hudson wouldn’t budge.

    “That’s an order Lieutenant!” Glover snapped.

    “Damn you for pulling rank at a time like this,” Cal replied after firing off several shots. “Just take care out there buddy. I’ll cover you as best I can.”

    “We’re going to make it out of here Cal,” Glover promised. “I’ve been in worse situations.”

    “Name one?” Hudson challenged.

    “Now is not the time to test my veracity,” Terrence said. He lifted his pistol and took out a Romulan setting up a sniper’s perch on a second level of the room. The woman fell to the ground, within a swarm of Borg.

    Glover ran to Leta. “It’s me, Terrence,” he said quickly as the woman whipped around, ready to strike him. He held out a hand. “Come on.”

    He grabbed her under the arms before she could protest and half-dragged her to the crates Hudson had set up shop behind. “What the hell is going on with the drones?” He asked.

    Now, the remaining Romulans, including Crassus, had brandished their honor blades and were hacking at the Borg, their disruptors now useless against the drones’ personal shields.

    The colonel caught Glover’s gaze. He drew his blade across a drone’s throat, the dark liquid showering his face. He didn’t blink once. His glare could’ve burned through tritanium.

    Before other drones could attack him, the colonel pulled out a communicator and barked into it.

    “Damn it!” Glover said, tossing caution as he lunged from behind the crates and began shooting at Crassus. But it was too late. Crassus, Ehrek, and several other Romulans were teleported away.

    Once the Romulans had dematerialized, the Borg ceased fighting. The stood quietly, among a pile of dead Romulan soldiers. Hudson and Leta cautiously joined Glover from behind the crates.

    “Lower your weapon Cal,” Glover suggested. “Let’s not provoke these guys.”

    “Seems like they’ve fallen asleep,” Hudson replied, after giving them a once over. Glover retrieved the Pandora Box. Thankfully it was no longer glowing. It was almost like it was waiting, for what, Terrence didn’t want to know.

    “My mother,” Leta said, with a start, “Where is she? What have they done with her?”

    “I am here Daughter,” Valeris’s voice issued from somewhere above in the room. The trio looked up and around, but didn’t see any speakers.

    “Where are you?”

    “I am with Taev,” the Vulcan replied.

    “Taev?” Leta smiled through the bruises. Her eyes wet with tears. “Taev is alive? He’s okay?”

    “Taev is with me,” Valeris said cryptically. “But there is not much time. You must leave. Xinran and Rhean are already at the shuttle bay. And you need to leave now.”

    “But what about you and Taev?” Leta asked, a tremor in her voice.

    “I am staying…with Taev,” Valeris said, her tone unemotional, but Glover imagined he heard sadness underneath. “There isn’t much time for him. The Borg transformation is almost complete. The only thing keeping Taev my son, your brother, are my mind melds.”

    “No!” Leta declared. “I’m coming to you! If you stay, I’m staying with you and Taev!”

    “You are leaving,” Valeris replied, her tone final. “Mr. Glover, get Leta to safety. Clan Martius must continue.”

    “No, not without you!” Leta shrieked

    “It is too late for me,” Valeris said.

    “I’m not leaving!” The major declared.

    “Taev can’t hold back forever,” Valeris replied, her voice starting to sound mechanical, “I’ve heard the song. It is powerful, intoxicating…”

    “We’ve got to go,” Glover placed his hand gently on Leta’s shoulder. The woman yanked away from him.

    “I’m not going anywhere.”

    “Please…Daughter…please,” Valeris pleaded.

    “Fly…Little Bird,” Taev’s voice boomed through the room, rattling. “Taev…is disappearing. Discentis was lost, and the Collective needs a new speaker. I…have been chosen. I am being…changed…into…Canor. Canor…of Borg.”

    “We’ve got to get the hell out of here Terrence,” Hudson prodded.

    Glover grabbed Leta and held on to her. “We’re going and if I have to knock you out again, I’ll do it.”

    Leta glared at him through the tears. “But my mother and brother…”

    “They are holding back the Borg so that you can survive. To not go is to dishonor the sacrifices they are making,” Terrence replied.

    Leta lowered her head and shivered, grabbing herself. “Oh…okay.”

    “Let’s go,” Hudson turned toward the door.

    “Farewell,” Valeris said before three transporter beams snatched them.

    *************************************************************************
     
  19. DarKush

    DarKush Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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

    The Arx



    Glover stood in hell, or the closest thing he had ever seen of it. Slick, black, biomechanical tendrils ran from the floor and down the ceiling, all going into the pale figure hanging in front of him. Have the man’s head was bald, the other side sprouted with electrodes.

    “Taev,” Terrence said, looking up. He stanched his fear. The half-man/half-machine writhed before looking down at him. The bonds lifting him up moved as he moved down to look Glover in the eye. Terrence forced himself not to take a step back. The Romulan had one remaining eye. The other had been replaced by a crimson eyepiece that bathed Glover in an intense blood red light.

    The human squinted, but still maintained his gaze. With his one remaining arm, Taev pointed at the Pandora Box.

    Glover pulled it close to his chest. “No.”

    “Yes Mr. Glover,” Valeris said, suddenly behind him. Terrence jumped, nearly tripping on the cords coiled around the room like serpents. The woman was deathly pale, her green veins showing across her face. She lurched more than walked, clutching her midsection, her hands curled into claws.

    “Commander Glover, they know,” the Vulcan gasped. She touched Taev’s cheek with one clawing hand. The man closed his remaining eye, a serene smile replacing briefly replacing the machine coldness.

    Valeris still stroked her son’s cheek while she turned to Glover. “I’ve mind melded with Taev, I had to ascertain the Borg’s plans for the Empire and the Alpha Quadrant. But in our merging of minds, the call of the Collective was overwhelming. It scooped everything out of me, including what Section 31 had told me about the artifacts.”

    “I’m not handing it over, not to you and definitely not to the Borg,” Glover declared.

    “You have no choice in this,” Valeris said, struggling to stand upright. “It is taking everything I have to fight the nanites inside me, calling to me, even with Taev’s help. With what’s left of me, let me help you, let me do my duty and save the Federation.”

    In response, the Pandora Box began to glow and Glover felt it thrumming. “Oh no,” he muttered.

    “Yes,” Valeris replied. She straightened her fingers as best as possible and held out her hand. “Give it to me.”

    Terrence backed away. The cords wrapped around his legs, stopping him. “We…don’t have much time left,” Valeris warned. “Taev is becoming Canor…once that is complete, my son will be gone and all will be lost.”

    “Hurry…Mother,” Taev gasped before coughing up greenish black spittle. “It’s inside me, freezing my insides, deadening…”

    “I know the artifact is connected to you, I know what happened in the Pandorian system,” Valeris got out before both she and Taev convulsed at the same time.

    “I won’t give the Borg a weapon that can allow them to conquer the galaxy!” Glover roared. He fought against the tendrils sliding down his arms, snaking toward the box.

    “Resistance…is futile,” Valeris said, her voice replaced by something beyond emotion. “Your compliance is inevitable.”

    “The-the galaxy will fall to us,” Taev said. “But-but Commander, you can choose which galaxy.”

    “No, no,” Glover shook his head. “Don’t make me.”

    “It is not me,” Taev said. The spark of life left his one good eye before he was consumed by the tendrils.

    “It’s happening,” Valeris fell to the ground. On her hands and knees, she looked at Glover. Naked fear was in her eyes. The tendrils slithered over her, up her legs and arms, merging her with the floor.

    “You…decide.”

    “Oh God,” Terrence muttered. He hated himself but he rifled through the parallel realities Ben had showed him, one rising above the rapids of thoughts. And that nanosecond was all it took for the artifact seized on it. “No!” He tried to reach out, but the cords were too strong.

    The box floated from his hands. Inside it, the glowing grew with intensity.

    “It-it’s beautiful,” Valeris said as she looked up. The woman was crying. She turned to Glover. Her face wet, she smiled. “Thank you.” She lifted her arm, now a tendril at him. “Good-bye.”

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



    The Arx


    Glover emerged with a disruptor in his face. His recent fear was replaced by a more welcome one, as his eyes focused on the barrel, momentarily transfixed.

    “So you made it,” Xinran said, dropping his pistol. Glover uncrossed his eyes.

    “What the hell Xinran?” Hudson groused. Cal ran to Glover’s side and caught him as Terrence’s legs gave out. Cal sat him down gently on the deck.

    “What happened Terrence?” His friend asked. The deck trembled. Glover knew there wasn’t much time.

    “Where’s my mother?” Leta pressed as she joined Hudson.

    “Where’s that container?” Cal asked.

    “We-we,” he looked up at them both, unable to explain what had just happened to him. What he had just done. “We…have to leave…now.”

    “Mother,” Leta said, holding herself.

    “We will grieve later,” Glover said, using the closest bulkhead to push himself up. “I promise. But right now, we got to live this place…before…”

    “Before what?” Cal asked, hanging close by in case Glover’s legs collapsed again.

    “Before…we disappear with this station,” Terrence said. “It’s…leaving this realm of space, and we only have moments before it happens!”

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

    The Arx


    The shuttle bay doors cracked open. Glover mouthed a silent thanks to Valeris and Taev. Whatever was left of them, they were giving their last bit of individuality to helping them escape. Terrence always felt better behind the yoke and with this vessel it was no different. If he had the time to marvel being at the helm of a Vas Hatham he would’ve wasted it, but there was no time.

    “What’s the name of this tug anyway?” Terrence asked.

    “The Vrax,” Hudson called out. Glover nodded in appreciation.

    “Sounds like a good enough name to me.” He smiled at Leta’s snort behind him.

    Rhean sat across from him, at the ops console. “Have you ever flown a Vas Hatham Commander?” The woman teased and Glover was grateful for the flirtation. That was one distraction that would always be welcome.

    “I’m a quick learner,” Glover promised. He was happy to have his mind taken off what had happened with Admiral Uhura, Valeris, Taev, and where he knew the Pandora Box was sending the Arx.

    “This thing has a cloaking device?” Glover asked. He was pleased that the old bird-of-prey’s internal systems had been retrofitted. The interior didn’t look that different than what he saw on the L’Nar.

    “Yes,” Rhean said. “I’ve already checked.”

    “And the armaments?” Terrence asked. “What are we dealing with?”

    “A full complement, disruptors, phasers, and photon torpedoes,” Leta said from what had to be the weapons console.

    Glover whistled. “Nice.” Terrence noted that Cal and Xinran were huddled around what he assumed was the engineering console.

    “We’re going to need all of it,” Rhean said as she took over the operations station beside Glover. “The L’Nar is still out there. Waiting on us.”

    “You don’t think Colonel Crassus would’ve left to alert the Fleet?”

    “He’ll do that,” Rhean looked at him squarely, “After he’s finished with us.”

    *************************************************************************
     
  20. DarKush

    DarKush Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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

    Imperial Bird-of-Prey Vrax


    Glover took the Vrax through the half-opened bay. The doors had stopped opening as the station began to tremble harder. The dorsal side of the hull scraped against the top of the half opened door. The screeching metal resounded through the ship. Glover winced and saw Rhean was doing the same thing.

    “Fast learner huh?” Rhean asked, pursing her lips. Terrence shrugged and Cal chuckled. Rhean’s console blinked and she directed her attention to it. When she looked up, the smile was gone.

    “Sensors are detecting massive power fluctuations throughout the station,” Rhean reported.

    “What kind of fluctuations?” Glover asked.

    The woman glanced at the instrument panel again, her face scrunching up. “The fluctuations are both temporal and extradimensional in nature.”

    “What?” Xinran asked.

    “Yeah,” Hudson added, “Come again?”

    “We’ve got to leave now,” Glover said. “Take us to full warp.”

    “But what about the L’Nar?” Rhean asked.

    “Hopefully Crassus won’t guess what’s about to happen to the Arx and get caught in the wake,” Glover opined.

    “Spatial rifts are starting to open throughout the station,” Rhean informed them.

    “The propulsion system’s a go. Punch it Terrence,” Cal urged it, his voice on edge.

    “You don’t have tell me twice,” Glover said as he took them to warp and the stars stretched into infinity as the Arx was pulled beyond time and space.

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

    Imperial Bird-of-Prey Vrax


    The bird-of-prey snapped back into regular space like a rubber band. The action threw Glover against the console, knocking the air from his lungs. He rubbed his sore sternum as she sat back up. Immediately he turned to Rhean. The woman was looking at him with a concerned expression.

    Terrence’s discomfort was mollified when he saw that Rhean was strapped in. “When were you going to tell me the seats were equipped with seatbelts?”

    “You seemed to be so confident in your knowledge of the bird-of-prey I thought you would have figured it out,” the sublieutenant shrugged.

    “Funny,” Glover replied before he swiveled around to check on everyone else. He pursed his lips. “Really guys?” Everyone was secured in their chairs. “Was no one going to tell me this boat had seatbelts?” Rhean, Leta, and Hudson all laughed. Even Xinran smiled. The levity was needed, even if it came at Terrence’s expense.

    “So, where are we?” Leta eventually asked. Glover looked to Rhean.

    “On the edge of the Chaltok system,” she said after a moment.

    “Status report,” Glover requested. Everyone quickly chimed in. He was relieved that the ship hadn’t incurred any major damage beyond a few shorted circuits, which filled the control center with an unpleasant aroma. “Any sign of the L’Nar…”

    “Or the Arx?” Leta added.

    “No,” Rhean said, but she didn’t look pleased.

    “What’s wrong Rhean?” Terrence asked.

    “The L’Nar could be out there. The D’deridex-class has a superior cloak. If the attack us we won’t know until they are right up on us.”

    “Great,” Hudson groused. “We’re still not out of the woods yet.”

    “We won’t be until we cross the Neutral Zone,” Xinran said.

    “Let’s proceed to the Zone,” Glover said. “We’ve got to let Starfleet Command know about the Borg. There could be other Borg ships out there.”

    Terrence turned back to the helm. “This is going easier than expected,” Cal muttered. Glover tensed.

    “Why did you have to say that Cal?” Glover looked at the ceiling, but not back at his friend.

    “Oh, sorry, I was thinking out loud,” the man’s voice was sheepish. Before he could say more, Rhean bellowed.

    “Detecting massive tachyon spike!” The woman said.

    “Hit our cloak!” Glover barked. “Initiating evasive maneuvers, now!” But before Terrence inputted the change in direction, the ship was knocked sideways and Terrence was thrown from his seat.

    He scrambled to reclaim it, ignoring the aches running throughout his body. Though everyone else was still belted in, they didn’t look any better than he felt. He sat back down, his board filled with ominous green markers.

    The ship rumbled again as it was pelted by several more volleys. “Warp drive is down!” Hudson yelled. “We do have impulse engines!”

    “Cloaking device inoperative,” Xinran added.

    “What about weapons?!” Glover called out. The ship rattled again, this time causing several consoles to spark as the room filled with smoke. He heard a sigh of pain and then a heavy thud. Glover swiveled around.

    “It’s Xinran Terrence,” Hudson called out, “I got him!”

    “Weapons?! Weapons?! Leta!” Glover demanded as he sat forward again. He looked over at Rhean. The woman’s eyes were wet likely from the stinging smoke, but her glare was determined.

    “Our shields are barely holding but still have full weapons,” she answered after a moment. Her voice sounded odd, slightly gurgling. Terrence forced himself not to peer through the growing smoke to check on her. That would have to wait.

    “What are we going to do Commander?” Rhean asked.

    “The L’Nar just knocked on our door,” he replied, “I think we should greet them.”

    He swung the ship around hard, testing the warship’s already stressed structural integrity field.

    In the main viewer he saw the proud prow of the L’Nar. The massive green bird was waiting for them, a lazy predator toying with its food. Glover didn’t know if they would survive this, but at least he hoped to give that bastard Crassus a severe case of indigestion.

    “Major Leta, prime our weapons at the L’Nar,” Glover ordered. He hoped the woman was still conscious to carry that out.

    “Primed…Commander,” she sounded winded.

    L’Nar is hailing us,” Rhean said.

    “Screw him,” Glover replied.

    “Audio communication is coming in,” Rhean said.

    “I said,” Terrence replied.

    L’Nar overriding our communication system,” Rhean replied.

    “Damn that D’deridex advantage,” Glover groused.

    “Commander Glover, I can’t see you, but I know it’s you,” Crassus’s voice was light, conversational, and that infuriated Terrence even more. “Most impressive how you escaped from the Arx. And even more impressive that you destroyed it. Did you know that the station wasn’t built by the empire? We altered it to fit our needs of course, but the Arx itself, it was a structure we discovered, long abandoned by some now forgotten alien species, who no doubt were a great power…in their time. But now they are not even memories, and I do everything within my ability to insure that the Romulan Star Empire does not suffer the same fate. And you can help me in this noble endeavor. We lost that artifact unfortunately, but there are others…and you have a connection with them. I will divine why that is and use it to the benefit of the empire.”

    “Like hell,” Glover spat.

    “Well, it doesn’t have to be like Erebus,” Crassus replied, “Unless you are noncompliant.”

    “I would rather die than help you, or serve your empire!” Terrence declared.

    “Don’t test my patience,” Crassus warned. “I spared the Vrax to offer you this proposal. You don’t have just your life to consider, but those of your compatriots. I will let all of them go. The traitors can live in exile in your Federation, Lt. Hudson can go back to the embassy or wherever he prefers, but if you continue to defy me, I will slaughter them all and still capture you. Lower your shields and prepare to be boarded.”

    “Don’t listen to him Terrence,” Hudson said. The man was behind his chair now, like he had had Glover’s back all along. “I couldn’t live with myself if that happened. We got into this together, and we’ll die together if necessary.”

    Glover looked at Rhean. The woman nodded. “I do want to escape the empire, but if they have some nefarious plan for you that would increase their reach, then there’s really no escaping them.”

    “What about you Leta?” Glover asked. He was troubled when the woman didn’t answer.

    He looked up at Cal. Hudson scowled. “I’ll go check on her.” The man had trotted off before Glover remembered that Xinran had also gone silent.

    “I’ve listened to your compatriots’ prattle, but what is your answer Commander?” The colonel demanded.

    “You already have it,” Glover said. “All hands, brace for impact and prepare for ramming speed.” Crassus’s snorted before cutting the line.

    L’Nar is powering their forward weapons banks,” Rhean said, “And increasing their forward shielding.”

    “Good,” Terrence smirked. “That’s exactly what I would do if I expected to be hit with a fast moving object,” he input a course, “and that’s why we’re going under that beast.”

    Before Rhean could respond, Glover jerked the ship forward and under the L’Nar. Glover only had seconds to take in the massive bird itched into the ventral hull before Rhean unloaded, marring the artwork with nearly their full complement of weapons.

    They were past the L’Nar, moving at full impulse. Terrence hit the aft screens. He saw the great starship listing.

    Glover chuckled and Rhean clasped his shoulder and squeezed. “You did it Commander!” The woman beamed.

    “No, we did it,” Glover replied. “Now, let’s see how talkative Colonel Crassus is now. Open hailing frequencies.”

    The main viewer switched to a smoke-filled bridge. Colonel Crassus was hanging on to his command chair. A jagged green cut ran diagonally across his face. Glover’s heart pinched when he saw Subcommander T’Rhiel standing stoically behind him. Thankfully the woman had not been injured. He looked at her, and she met his gaze in response. Glover was hoping that something would pass between them, some spark or connection, but the woman’s expression was impassive.

    The idea that he had a sister out there, a Romulan sibling, and one that belonged to the dreaded Tal Shiar at that, was mind boggling, but it was down the list of fantastic things he had encountered on this mission. It would take time to process it all, but Glover couldn’t wait to get back to Federation space to tell his father.

    “It’s not over,” Crassus declared. “I will hunt you down. I will find you!”

    “After hours of repairs,” Glover said jauntily, “And we’ll be long gone by then.”

    “The Tal Shiar’s reach is vast,” the colonel boasted.

    “And you would admit your failures to the rest of the Tal Shiar?” Terrence challenged. “Under your watch you lost the Arx, the artifact, and you were bested by Starfleet officers in a century old bird-of-prey, I don’t think you will be crowing about that.”

    Crassus pulled himself up right. He swayed, but kept his eyes locked on Glover. “This isn’t over.”

    “Sir, we still have weapons,” Rhean muttered. “We can hit them where their shields are weakest, maybe cause the singularity to lose containment, and destroy the vessel before it can warn others.”

    Glover knew that was the smartest thing to do, but he couldn’t. He couldn’t consign T’Rhiel to death.

    “No,” he shook his head. “There’s been enough dying today. Let’s just get out of here.”

    “It’s not over!” Crassus shook his fist, enraged that Glover was already moving past him. Terrence had turned away from the braying Tal Shiar colonel to set a course for the Neutral Zone.

    “It is over,” Glover was pulled back to the screen at T’Rhiel’s voice. Crassus writhed and screamed as the tip of the subcommander’s honor blade poked through his abdomen, where Glover knew the Vulcan, and Vulcanoid heart resided. Crassus seized up, before T’Rhiel pulled the murder weapon roughly from the dying man.

    She eyed Glover, her expression darker than the deepest depths of space. “We will meet again Commander.” Was all she said before the image shifted back to the listing L’Nar.

    Rhean made a sound close to a human whistle. “Commander Glover, Subcommander T’Rhiel is not to be trifled with. You’ve just made a formidable enemy.”

    Glover smothered his smile. No, not an enemy, a sister. T’Rhiel had just saved her life, and his.

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