Star Trek: Lambda Paz-- "True Lies"

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction' started by Enterprise1981, Feb 16, 2011.

  1. Enterprise1981

    Enterprise1981 Vice Admiral Admiral

    Oct 23, 2008
    Tethered to a large plant
    Seeing as putting all my novella-length stories for this series in one thread was not a good approach, here some links to those previous stories.

    Revenge a Dish Best Served Cold (where it all begins)

    Moral Dilemma

    Divided Loyalties

    The Tides of War, Part I

    The Tides of War, Part II

    Faces in the Crowd (you've been forewarned that this story contains spoofs of cable news pundits on opposite sides of the political spectrum-- so not everyone will agree on the accuracy of those spoofs)

    Midnight Ride

    Religion To Do Good

    A Cause of Greater Worth
  2. Enterprise1981

    Enterprise1981 Vice Admiral Admiral

    Oct 23, 2008
    Tethered to a large plant
    Historian’s Note: The main events of this story take place concurrently with the events of “The Siege of AR-558” (DS9) and one month after the conclusion of “A Cause of Greater Worth”.


    Veronica Loomis heard a familiar voice calling to her. She looked up from her plate of barely eaten food and just saw the same thing she saw everyday during mealtime. Patients and orderlies milled around the eating area of a New York City mental hospital. No one was looking in her direction. She had become a patient at this hospital since the death of her son in a war that made very little sense to her. The Korean War was just another battleground in a larger battle for world supremacy.

    Weren’t the Russians our allies just eight years ago? she rhetorically asked herself over and over again. She began to have delusions that her son was still alive and being poked and prodded in an underground Chinese laboratory. That belief itself would seem like a delusion had the Nuremberg Trials not brought to light the horrible atrocities committed in Nazi concentration camps. The doctors had assured her that her son’s remains were positively identified in the carnage. Yet every fiber of her being told Veronica she was not crazy.

    She looked back down at her food, still not having much of an appetite. Then the voice called to her again. “Mother.”

    “Yegor,” Veronica gasped. She looked around to see the only response she was getting were cold stares from orderlies, as well as patients instructed not to validate her delusion in any way.

    “Mother, help me,” the voice called from down a hallway.

    “I’m coming, Yegor,” Veronica promised, racing out of the eating area and ran down the hall. She had named the boy Yegor after her grandfather, who had emigrated from Russia to escape religious persecution. Her son represented hope for a better future, and she would do anything for him. She knew for sure he was alive regardless of what anyone else told her.

    Veronica turned a corner-- orderlies fast giving chase-- and entered a room where she thought she heard Yegor calling to her. She entered a fellow patient’s room, certain she would come to her child’s rescue. But the setting quickly changed.

    She was now in a room that fit the description of that Deep Space Nine space station fellow patient Benny Russell had been writing about. It was a dimly lit room with one bright light glaring down on a patient on an operating table from the ceiling. Futuristic control panels and monitor screens lined the walls of the room. Words blinked on the screens in a foreign script, possibly Arabic. Only it wasn’t Deep Space Nine. And she was no longer Veronica Loomis.

    Limis Vircona stood in a room very similar to the intensive care unit of Deep Space Nine’s infirmary. A number of Cardassians wearing lab coats wandered about the room using different medical instruments on the patient. She moved closer to the operating table to see a familiar face. A blond haired Bajoran man laid on the table, held down by metal restraints. “Mother,” Yanith called out, helpless before the restraints and the Cardassians studying him.

    “I’ll get you out of here, son,” Vircona promised. She looked around the lab wondering what kind of opposition she would face. She would have to quickly improvise a way to incapacitate all three Cardassians.

    She walked towards the instrument tray next to the operating table, but a fourth Cardassian was now blocking her path. This one had pale skin by Cardassian standards. And while the other three scientists had purely black hair, this one’s hair had gone completely gray. He was Crell Moset, the infamous scientist from the days of the Cardassian Occupation of Bajor. He had been notorious for experimenting on living subjects all in the name of helping the Bajoran populace as a whole.

    “I wish I could help you, Vircona,” Moset taunted. “But we’re in a battle for survival. You should appreciate that. Your son is an important key to my race’s survival.” He picked up a knife off the instrument tray and jammed it in Yanith’s chest. “And if he should die because of our experiments, oh well. It’s all in a day’s work.”

    Typical Cardassian arrogance. Vircona wanted to strangle Moset to death. But something was holding her back.

    She suddenly awoke in her bed in her quarters aboard the USS Lambda Paz. It was all a dream. Or was it? She brushed the cold sweat trickling down her brow and headed for sink in an alcove adjacent to the bedroom. She splashed lukewarm water on her face. She slowly blinked her eyes open expecting her surroundings to change yet again. But that did not happen. She was still in her quarters on the Lambda Paz. But sooner or later, she would have to prevent that dream from becoming a reality.
  3. Enterprise1981

    Enterprise1981 Vice Admiral Admiral

    Oct 23, 2008
    Tethered to a large plant

    Edward Jellico scrolled down to the part of the fleet reports he dreaded reading. The last major engagement in the Kalandra sector resulted in a victory for the Federation Alliance—albeit a costly victory. Half the ships were lost, largely because of “Houdinis”, mines that burrowed in subspace and appeared at random inflicting heavy damage on starships.

    Jellico did not hesitate to turn the desk monitor off when the doorbell to his ready room aboard the USS Constantinople. Ronnie Kozar entered the office once the doors parted. The first officer of the Lambda Paz took slow paces towards the admiral’s desk uncertain why he had been summoned. Had he been granted that captaincy he sorely deserved? That would probably mean Jellico trusted Limis enough not to continue to have Kozar on as a nark.

    “You wanted to see me, sir?” he asked quizzically.

    “Yes, Ronnie, sit down,” Jellico answered indicating an empty guest chair. Before Kozar was even seated though, he continued. “I’ll come right to the point. As we push deeper into the Kalandra sector, we need officers up to the task. I can’t have ship captains going off on secret commando missions.”

    A year ago, Kozar would have jumped at the chance to unseat his captain. After one such attempt, Limis later threatened to have him thrown in the brig if any crewmember was even suspected of conspiracy to commit mutiny. With time he had come to see the value of her unconventional tactics, especially that prevented a group of human augments from unleashing a biological weapon on one of the Cardassian Union’s most historically significant planets. “With all due, sir,” he replied, “Captain Limis’s infiltration of the Phillip Green did buy time to prevent human augments from launching a biological attack on Ventani Two. And Starfleet reinstated her commission by way of Intelligence invoking the reserve activation clause. Surely, you considered that…”

    Jellico raised his clasped hands with his wrists still perched on the table. “In this latest incident,” he said, “she used technology not available to SFI. That suggests her affiliation with a rogue organization that has its own agenda while hiding behind the agency. And that’s where you come in, Ronnie.

    “I’ve already been overruled twice. You could relieve her on the grounds that she’s medically or psychologically unfit for command.”

    “In other words, violate doctor-patient confidentiality.”

    “You and your security chief broke into her files once before. You can do it again, but quietly this time.”

    Kozar rose from his chair. “No, sir,” he insisted. “I will do no such thing. I have had my doubts about Captain Limis myself. But she has not ever given me reason not to trust or to believe she shares Section 31’s MO.”

    Jellico’s brow twitched when he heard the mention of Section 31. He had heard rumblings of an autonomous intelligence organization within the Federation. Yet many of his inquiries remained unanswered. He wanted keep lower ranking officers in the dark as much as possible, but now the very mention of Section 31 meant Kozar was largely involved in Limis’s last covert operation to rescue Aurellan Markalis from incarceration by the augments she had infiltrated.

    “Her unorthodox strategies have delivered results,” Kozar continued. “And to be perfectly candid, a results-oriented commander such as yourself should appreciate that.”

    “I also expect the officers and crew to conform to Starfleet regulations and to uphold certain moral and ethical principles.”

    Kozar looked away from the admiral to hide his derision and rolled his eyes. “Is that so?” he rhetorically asked, heading for the door. “I’ve gotten a lot of good advice from you over the years, Ed. So let me try to return that favor. You should take a long and hard look in the mirror and ask yourself how many of your principles you are willing to compromise. I will not act in a manner unbecoming a Starfleet officer even if it’s to unseat a superior officer who doesn’t always play by the rules.”

    “Then congratulations, Ronnie,” Jellico said, standing up but staying behind the desk. “You passed.”

    Kozar was already on his way out when Jellico spoke those words, “’Passed’?” he repeated with confusion.

    “I need all hands on deck, Commander,” Jellico explained circling around the desk. “I wanted to make sure you weren’t blinded by personal ambition as you often have been before. We’ve had to reach far and wide for experienced senior officers. You’ll see what I mean at the next mission briefing.”

    Kozar just nodded sheepishly as headed out the door.

    Shinar sh’Aqba impatiently stormed into the living area of her quarters. She was in the process of putting on her gold uniform tunic over a gray tank top. “What?!” she snapped. It was an instinctive reaction to hearing her name uttered, although the computer continued, uninterrupted, telling her she had an incoming printout message from Andor. She had already overslept and had to rush a sonic shower.

    “Play message,” she said upon reaching the wall-mounted monitor.

    The computer chirped. The UFP logo on the screen faded, and in its place came a written message in Andorian script. She let out a slow and soft sigh through her nose as she absorbed the contents of the message. “No, no, no,” she muttered. “Absolutely not.”

    Sh’Aqba entered engineering through the main entrance, keeping a calm demeanor. She even smiled at a young human female officer who nodded a greeting in her direction. It seemed forced, but she had to show her crewmates she was not going to allow family obligations to interfere with a long day of work. Her feigned happiness was tempered by the sight of the EMH conversing with Erhlich Tarlazzi. Her eyes narrowed in confusion at this rather unusual sight.

    “Just the person I was looking for,” the holographic doctor stated as sh’Aqba sat down at a situation room console.

    “I’m already late with tons of things to do today,” sh’Aqba huffed, while entering commands into the console.

    “That’s all well and good, except you missed your annual physical yesterday.”

    “And so you came to make a house-call,” sh’Aqba quipped. “Though now is not the best time.”

    “I had hoped to arrange a more convenient appointment. I also can tell you haven’t eaten in almost twelve hours. You really need to take better care of yourself…”

    Sh’Aqba looked up, gritting her teeth. “I would thank you to vacate my engine room,” she snarled, “and stop medalling in my personal affairs, or I shall certainly break your holographic neck!”

    “Is that some kind of threat?” the EMH scoffed. “My neck is only a simulation.”

    “Get out!” sh’Aqba hissed, hitting her console with her fist. She entered a command that transferred the EMH back to sickbay.

    Tarlazzi gave a concerned look in sh’Aqba’s direction while reviewing a maintenance schedule with Rebecca Sullivan. Rebecca, however, saw right through her friend’s apparent concern. His cheeks were blushing and his pupils widened. Rebecca had seen it over the last year, but only recently deduced that sh’Aqba consistently elicited that reaction in Tarlazzi.

    She is an attractive woman, Rebecca privately acknowledged. Assuming shens are considered women. She knew that Andorians often married in groups of four, and their method of procreation was unlike that of most humanoids. Shinar was a woman by outward appearances, but Rebecca hoped that Erhlich would tread carefully with his immediate superior.

    “Wonder what’s bothering her… today,” Tarlazzi wondered aloud.

    “Same old stuff,” Sullivan retorted. She had noticed that sh’Aqba had felt a lot more overwhelmed now that senior engineer Chaz Logan had greater responsibilities. “Logan’s now chief engineer of the whole Seventh Fleet. A lot more of the work gets dumped on her.”

    “I’ve been swamped myself. You don’t see me threatening pompous EMH’s.”

    Sullivan looked around to make sure no one else was listening to their banter. “Maybe she’s going through the Andorian version of the pon farr,” she said in a hushed tone. Raising a finger as Tarlazzi opened his mouth to pseak, she added, “That’s speculation you should keep to yourself.”

    Erhlich motioned his thumb and forefinger over his lips. “My lips are sealed,” he said. He sauntered towards an auxiliary station near the main entrance. He gave a sly smile as he shot a quick glance at the Andorian woman’s tall, lithe figure. He quickly focused back on his work reminding himself that what he was thinking was no different than taking advantage of an intoxicated woman.

    Aurellan Markalis set down a stack of padds on her desk. She took the padd off the top of the stack and paced into the primary intensive care unit. She did not expect to be stopped in her tracks when the EMH materialized in front of her.

    “What a bitch,” the hologram was muttering as he appeared.

    “Excuse me?” Markalis asked.

    “No, not you, but Lieutenant sh’Aqba. Charming as ever.”

    “What happened?” Markalis asked with feigned curiosity, expecting that the holographic doctor had provoked sh’Aqba rather than the other way around.

    “The lieutenant had failed to report to sickbay for her annual physical,” the EMH explained, walking over to the diagnostic console with a limp in his right leg as a result of a minor optronic error. “I was hoping reschedule by paying a visit to engineering. She shooed me away, even threatening to ‘break my holographic neck’.”

    Aurellan gave a half-hearted frown, while accessing files on nanite regeneration treatment at the main diagnostic console. She had to remind herself to look away from her colleague. Most Starfleet personnel found sympathy towards hologram difficult, especially one with the often-abrasive disposition of the creator of the Emergency Medical Hologram. On the other hand, the Mark Three was better at reading facial expressions and would notice her lack of sincerity.

    “If I could give you a little advice,” Aurellan said calmly, “I’ve learned from experience not to hound your fellow officers. Ideally, everyone would show up for their checkups and show up on time. Yes, they are important. People still have a way of wanting to avoid what’s important to them.”

    The EMH twitched his lips in disbelief. “But doesn’t that go against all intelligent life possessing natural instincts for survival.”

    “Sentient beings can be notoriously stubborn as well.”

    “You’re one of those sentient beings, and you haven’t been such a cooperative patient as well.”

    Aurellan smirking, remembering the injuries inflicted upon her during an intelligence operation a month earlier. Despite the EMH’s insistence that she take it easy for at least a few days, she could not stay out of her office. “Doctors are the worst patients,” she said. “We devote our professional lives to the health of others. We can still be just as stubborn when it comes to our own health.”

    “Why do you say ‘we’?” the EMH asked with confusion. “I’m just a computer-generated image created by sentient beings.”

    “I don’t completely understand the engineering principles,” Aurellan replied, “and you haven’t been running that long. But you could eventually become as stubborn as the rest of us. I’ve had a harder time learning that. No matter how much medical knowledge I can absorb, the real world isn’t as black and white. We’re all independent thinkers who don’t always do what’s best for us. Lieutenant sh’Aqba might find you just as insufferable when it comes time for your next maintenance cycle.”

    The hologram nodded and rolled his eyes trying to make sense of everything Markalis had said. “So what you’re saying,” he said, “possessing a wealth of medical knowledge is very different from putting it into practice?”

    “Exactly,” Markalis replied with a wide smile. She removed a sample vial from the nearby replicator tray and headed for the research lab. Upon entering the lab, she looked back in the direction of the EMH-Mark Three. She couldn’t believe she had that conversation with a holographic doctor given the program’s reputation. The earlier editions were often difficult, but Aurellan was now seeing this version as something of a kindred spirit.

    Limis sorted through the appointment calendars of the ship’s holographic counselors on the desk monitor in her quarters. Ever since the EMH-Mark Two suggested a group of holographic counselors, crew performance and morale improved measurably. Even Limis, who prided herself on not requiring the services of a licensed therapist, began making appointments with one such counselor. She saw that the counselor designated Jillian was not presently engaged in another appointment. She entered commands into a control pad on her desk to summon the therapist.

    Jillian had the appearance of a blond-haired human woman between thirty and forty years of age. She materialized in front of Limis’s desk, at first unfamiliar with her surroundings. She turned around to face the captain. “Captain Limis,” she said in a professional, yet friendly, tone. “This isn’t a conventional means of requesting the services of your therapists.”

    “You’re right,” Limis replied with a sheepish grin. “I just felt like talking in my quarters.”

    “Of course.”

    To create a more friendly and non-judgmental environment, the counselors were dressed in civilian clothing. Jillian was dressed in a pink turleneck and a knee-length black skirt over thick black stockings. “How can I be of service?” Jillian asked with a friendly smile.

    “You still sound a bit too formal,” Limis retorted. “Someone might want to look in on that. She walked over to the replicator to replicate a mug of mint tea and then took a seat on the sofa. Jillian then seated herself on a chair on the opposite side pf the coffee table.

    Limis took a sip of tea, set the mug on the table, and then started awkwardly at the counselor. After about a ten second pause, the words came to her. “I’m having trouble sleeping again,” she said. “And I’ve been having those dreams again.”

    “I see,” Jillian replied with a soft nod. “Is this again regarding your missing son?”

    Vircona sighed heavily as she was again having difficulty summoning the words. “It starts where I’m this other person. When I was in the 31st century, I was living the life of a mental patient on Earth. It was like someone or something was trying to stop me from using the Orb of Time to return to the present. Her son had been killed in a war, but she believed he was still alive. He’s calling to her. She runs after him. Then I’m me again. Yanith is lying on an operating and these Cardassians are getting ready to perform these barbaric experiments.”

    “Has anything changed since our last meeting five months ago?” Jillian asked.

    Recalling the image of Crell Moset stabbing her son to death nearly brought tears to Limis’s eyes. She took another sip of tea to gather her thoughts. She considered at that moment whether she was more afraid that her offspring was still alive. If she came to his rescue, would he be angry with her for having abandoning him in favor of her surviving friends and colleagues in the Maquis? Of course not, Vircona, she mused. You want him to be alive. He’ll eventually forgive you if I can bring him back safely.

    Her own thoughts unknowingly became audible to Jillian. Jillian leaned over to make sense of what Limis was saying. “I’m sorry, Captain,” she said. “Could you repeat that?”

    Limis looked back at Jillian then considered the counselor’s last question. “It’s the same old routine. If the ship’s not at the front lines, I’m involved in mission briefings, overseeing repairs. I try to immerse myself in my work as much as possible.”

    “Maybe because you afraid to face your feelings,” Jillian offered. “Feelings of guilt and fear of not knowing whether he is dead or alive.”

    Vircona let a single tear fall from her eye, not wanting to consider that her son was dead and she didn’t try to save him. Jillian let the moment pass silently as Vircona brushed the tears from her cheeks.

    “During our last session,” Jillian said after Limis took a few slow and deep breaths, “I said you had a choice to make. And that you had to be content with that choice once it was made. You can either continue doing your duty to Starfleet. Or you can step down look for your son.”

    Limis sighed and took a small sip of her tea, which was getting cold. “I’m going to find him,” she said with determination. She wasn’t even considering how Jillian wasn’t sounding “too formal” as she poured her heart out to the holographic therapist. She now felt a fierce determination to save her child.

    “Where would you look?” Jillian half-rhetorically asked.

    “Sentok Nor, the Cardassian station orbiting Betazed.”

    “Why there?”

    “It’s where I was in the dream,” Limis explained, not even certain the setting of her dreams was in fact Sentok Nor or some other Cardassian space station. Remembering her reasoning behind traveling through treacherous desert conditions to find the Orb of Time. Though she did not believe in the Prophets of the Celestial Temple, all she could do was make a leap of faith.
    Last edited: Feb 16, 2011
  4. Enterprise1981

    Enterprise1981 Vice Admiral Admiral

    Oct 23, 2008
    Tethered to a large plant
    Chapter Two
    2347- Setlik III

    Explosions were heard all over the settlement. A contingent of Starfleet Marines was leading about a half-dozen adolescent humans out of the village as it was being leveled building by building. The Marines surrounded these young men and women on all sides to draw any fire from enemy ground troops.

    The human male soldier at point kept his eye out for aerial missile fire. When he heard a high-pitched whine become much louder, he called group to move to one side with the word “Incoming!”

    One of the civilians was Manny, a human boy of fifteen years. He was woken up early in the morning when the Cardassians began their attack on the village. His mother had already gone to work when the alert was sounded, and his father was stationed in another settlement for the Starfleet Marines. He did not have time to comb his unkempt dark hair. The Marines had told him to leave everything behind. Sure, that would increase his chances for survival, but some of his family’s priceless possessions would be lost.

    Everyone came out of that explosion unscathed. The group continued in formation moving towards the safety bunker in plain view of the point man. The soldier to the rear called for the group to disperse as another missile closed in. This time, unfortunately, another missile closed in from another direction. The rear soldier got caught in the explosion. The young men and women being escorted out of harm’s way froze in stunned disbelief seeing the man’s charred corpse.

    “Keep moving,” the other soldiers called to them. But the explosions kept coming. No matter which they all turned, more and more missiles came.

    Two more soldiers went down. A squad of eight Cardassian militia soldiers materialized in front of the group. The five surviving Marines began shooting at them, but the Cardassians ducked for cover.

    “Get to the bunker!” the lead soldier shouted.

    The young civilians ran towards the bunker single file. And the Marines kept shooting to protect them. That didn’t stop the Cardassians from targeting the civilians. They fell just as quickly as the Marines.

    What kind of monsters are these Cardassians? Manny wondered. He grabbed the rifle of the one of the fallen soldiers and began shooting to no avail. He had no military training whatsoever. But he had to defend himself if he was to have any hope of surviving. He ran into an alleyway with the Cardassians giving chase. The boy dove into the basement stairwell and covered his whole body with a large blanket. He hid there for a very long minute until he could no longer hear shouting and footsteps. During that time, he wondered if his parents were safe. He also wondered what these Cardassians wanted and why they were indiscriminately killing civilians, especially innocent children. In any case, he had to steer clear of them.

    As he emerged onto one of the streets, he continued dodging explosions and weaving through crowds of people too concerned with their own safety to notice him. He continued running until he stumbled across a flaming building. Women and children were calling out for help.

    Manny thought of turning back and asking one of the passing Marines on the main road to lend a hand. The ceiling inside was caving in too quickly. A human woman held a little girl in her arms even tighter, covering the child’s head as mortar continued falling. Only Manny could save those people’s lives. If only he could clear a path through the flames. The young man looked for something he could use to put out the flames. His heart pounded faster like it would leap out of his chest when he noticed a shovel down the road. Explosions kept going off around him. He began digging up dirt and pouring it over the flames. Sweat dripped down his face. He worked more frantically as missiles kept dropping and flames becoming more intense.

    He remained focused until a missile dropped just a few centimeters behind him. He dove out of the way of the explosion, as large dusty clouds billowed by the house. The women and girls screamed in terror. Manny lifted himself up and looked over to the house. Flames continued erupting. He looked at terrified faces of the younger children and decided to press on.

    But some indefinable force was holding him back. He considered his own brush with death and thought he wouldn’t be so lucky next time. Another missile was falling. As it got closer to the ground, Manny sped away. The shockwave of the explosion induced him to dive for cover even though he was safely out of the blast radius. This time, he did not get back up having completely succumb to his own terror.

    Mandel Morrison awoke with his face bathed in a cold sweat and his breathing slow and labored. He could barely see a few centimeters in front of him with the viewport sealed to prevent light from the star field from bleeding in, while light from the living area did gleam into the bedroom. He sat up on the side of the bed and looked behind himself to see Lisa Neeley in a deep sleep.

    Spending the night was optional under the terms of their friendship with benefits. Optional, but not prohibited. They both had long days. At least, he was under no obligation to open up to her about this traumatic memory that was haunting. He quickly slipped on a pair of thigh-length underpants and a pair of cotton sweat-pants.

    Mandel slowly walked over to the head and opened the water basin. He splashed cold water on his face and took a long look in the mirror. He was seeing a different person—the coward whose inaction caused the deaths of innocent children.

    Doctor Markalis hated the notion of getting less than eight hours of sleep. She valued that kind of predictability. But she was also perfectionist. The experimental nanites had still not sufficiently regenerated the cell samples. This nanite-regeneration therapy she was seeking to improve would go a long way towards saving lives. That was her priority, more so than a few more hours of unconsciousness. She handed off a padd to a Denobulan female nurse containing new replicator specifications for the nanites, and then ascended from her chair at the microscope station for a quick stretch.

    She slowly strode towards the replicator in her office. “Coffee, two crème, two sugar,” she mumbled almost incoherently. The computer could still comprehend her request and materialized a mug containing a light brown liquid. The first sip jolted her back awake. She turned her head to the right to see Limis slowly step into the office.

    Aurellan was quickly on a mental defensive. It was almost a learned reaction whenever a commanding officer entered the room. She forced a smile though, remembering an instance where Limis was there as her friend following their successful mission for Section 31. And during that visit, Aurellan poured her heart out, telling the captain she had a medical condition called Asperger’s syndrome that impaired her social functioning, but also gave her superior mental skills. Though Limis was the major authority figure in her life, Aurellan at least felt that she could confide in this person.

    “How are you?” Limis asked curiously.

    “I’m better,” Markalis lied, even knowing she was still far from fine after the many brushes with death during her mission a month earlier.”

    “Are you sure you’re not hiding from your feelings?”

    “I can talk about my feelings with Counselor Jillian. Really, Limis, I’m fine.”

    “She still comes off a bit cold sometimes,” Limis recalled of her last session with the holographic therapists. “And I feel I owe you an apology.”

    “Why?” Markalis asked with a partially amused smile. Very rarely did any of her superiors or her mother say such a thing.

    “I sent you on a mission you had no business participating in. I used you to satisfy my obsessions with bringing down Section 31. I was wrong to do that.”

    “Also known as ‘Voyeurs-are-Us’,” Aurellan retorted. “It was still a major learning experience for me. It expanded my horizons beyond what I thought possible.”

    “Even so, my motives were purely self-serving. So if you are not willing to contact Section 31 again for me, I will completely understand. I’ll get help finding my son somewhere else.”

    “Why not contact Cole yourself? He helped you out before.”

    “I don’t want to give him the satisfaction of letting him think I owe him.”

    Markalis looked away rolling her eyes while sauntering around her desk. Despite her façade during her undercover mission, she still did not fully comprehend these kinds of subtext. “After what you’ve done for me,” she said concentrating her gaze towards Limis, “I owe you this. I’d like to go with you wherever it is you’re going.”

    “No,” Limis firmly insisted. “You’ve been through enough already. I will not risk your safety on a more dangerous mission deep in enemy territory.”

    Markalis nodded softly, feeling a sense of relief that she wasn’t being asked too much.

    “But you are willing to contact Section 31?”

    “Of course.”

    A few hours later, Markalis was sleeping lightly in her quarters. She stayed in uniform, although the blue tunic and black and gray jacket were unzipped, being unable to determine exactly when Section 31’s representative would arrive. Of course, she had her Russell terrier as an early warning system. Milady rested her head on the side of the bed, eyes half opened. The arrival of an uninvited guest seated in a nearby chair soon caught the dog’s attention. Aurellan was quickly awakened by the animal’s barking.

    Instead of Agent Cole’s heavyset build, Aurellan saw a slimmer figure in the dark. She raised the light level on a nightstand control pad to see a tall dark-blonde Bajoran woman dressed in the signature black jumpsuit of Section 31. Aurellan knew her as the medical team leader of the hospital ship Semmelweis, as well as a Section 31 supervisor. “Hello, Ziminske,” she said with a devilish grin. “Assuming that’s your real name.”

    “Cole, or should I say Commander Johns,” Ziminske Aris replied referring to the fellow agent’s alias as a first officer of a ship in the Seventh Fleet, “was unavailable. I’m here in his place. What is this about, Aurellan? I thought you said you wanted nothing more to do with us.”

    “I don’t,” Markalis pointedly replied, sitting upright on the side of her bed. “I’m doing this for Limis. She has reason to believe her son is being held aboard Sentok Nor.”

    “The Cardassian station orbiting Betazed,” Ziminske affirmed. “But what makes her think Section 31 can help get her there? The whole sector is heavily fortified.”

    “The information Cole gave her to help my in rescue a month ago; it contained a file called ‘Special Operations in the Beta Veldonna System’.”

    Ziminske smirked. “You’re very direct,” she said. “Cole was right to choose you to go after Darcen despite my objections.”

    Aurellan tilted her head downward and gave an annoyed sigh at being reminded of the perils she had faced infiltrating a group of human augments intending to use a biological weapon against the Cardassians. Though she received high praise after her mission’s success, she was greatly traumatized by the instances where Rhys Darcen and his consort Ileana Roshanak had threatened to kill her. “Glad to hear it,” she sarcastically retorted. “But I don’t work for you people anymore.”

    “Of course you don’t. But we have the information your captain wants.”

    She stood up and sauntered into the living area. Aurellan slowly followed the Section 31 agent.
    Ziminske stood at the desk waiting for Markalis to join her. She then activated the desk monitor and placed a data chip in a side slot. The face of a middle-aged human male appeared on the screen. His thick dark hair with streaks of medium gray stood out along with the severe stare in his dark eyes. The man’s biographical profile appeared on the right side of the screen with the name Manuel Amaros in big red letters in the top right corner.

    Markalis read the man’s name aloud. She deduced that he would help Limis get aboard Sentok Nor until one contradictory detail got her attention. “This says he was killed in the Dominion’s extermination of the Maquis,” she said with a suspicious glare.

    “That was the official account,” Ziminske replied. “He faked his death as part of an emergency extraction. He was, or rather he still is, one of our operatives. He had been tasked with joining the Maquis to keep a close eye on the Cardassians in the former Demilitarized Zone. His more recent duties have included coordinating the activities of the Maquis survivors operating behind the lines and meeting with various inside informants.”

    “And he’ll get Limis on the station?”

    “Exactly,” said the agent, striding towards the door. “This puts you and your captain in our debt.” She shot Aurellan devilish smile and stepped outside the cabin once the doors parted.

    Aurellan let out a derisive snort once the doors slid closed. She sat down in the desk chair and turned the monitor off. She shook her head wondering how many more assignments she would have to accept from this officially non-existent organization. “Computer,” she said, knowing the response she would receive. “Locate Commander Ziminske Aris.”

    There is no Ziminske Aris aboard the Lambda Paz.”

    “You don’t say,” Markalis muttered with a scoff.

    Morrison entered one of the small crew lounges dressed in a sweat suit. After a light workout in the gymnasium, he still felt wide awake. He thought of turning the lights on to a low setting as he walked over to one of the wall-mounted replicators. He decided against it wanting to get back to sleep before his duty shift.

    He replicated a glass of warm milk and headed for an arrangement of sofas and chairs. He sighed uncomfortably at the sight of Sara Carson working a padd at a table. His former lover caught a quick glance at Mandel as he was taking a seat. He wondered if he should find someplace else to sit. But if someone walked in, he’d probably feel more awkward than he felt at this very moment. He was very private about his romantic partnerships even to his closest friends. If they were seated at opposite ends of the room, that would be enough of a clue to any passers-by. Lisa knew of Mandel’s past relationship with Sara just from how they reacted to each other.

    Sara shot Mandel a quick grin and focused back on the padd. To him, that was a far cry from her “You’re dead to me” glare when both were off duty. Their relationship seemed like a casual romance until Sara hinted that she was in love with him following an incident where he went against orders to save her life. Afterwards, Mandel seemed to go out of his way to avoid spending time with her.

    “Working on the Houdini problem?” Mandel asked, finding the mutual silence awkward.

    “A team at AR-558,” Sara replied while keeping her gaze on the padd, “was able to tie together the optronic and isodyne relays of a tricorder to access the mines. Applying that to the sensors is more tricky.”

    “How interesting,” Mandel quipped, quickly lunging to the table and snatching the padd while grinning playfully.

    Sara reached over to take the padd back, but Mandel tethered it from his extended right arm to keep it out of her reach. “I’m the senior tactical officer,” he insisted. “Don’t dismiss any ideas I might have.”

    Sara leaned back in her chair, not wanting to be in what could be construed as a compromising position. She was quickly reminded of similar encounters in the crew lounges when they were dating. “I know what you’re doing,” she said. “I’m not falling for it this time.”

    “Falling for what?” Mandel asked with feigned ignorance.
    “Was I just another naked woman in your bed?”

    Mandel scoffed in annoyance at her method of putting him on the spot. She employed a similar trick when suggesting that his actions to save her were taken out of love.

    Sara rolled her eyes mouthing the work okay, noticing a frustrating pattern in her ex. “Does Lieutenant Neeley find you this infuriating?” she asked aloud.

    “Why do you say that?”

    “I suppose Commander Kozar and Ensign Huckaby slap you on the ass,” Sara retorted in reference to two of Mandel’s male colleagues. “I’ve seen how you act around each other in those self-defense refresher classes.”

    “Ever hear of ‘friends with benefits’?”

    “That’s why I broke it off.” Sara rose from her seat and grabbed the padd. “Talking about your feelings doesn’t make you less of a man.”

    Sara then gingerly paced out of the room, leaving Mandel with a lot to consider. He was the stereotypical humanoid male staying tight-lipped about his own personal feelings. But what was he back on Setlik Three? He had an opportunity to save lives; but despite his fear, he only thought of his decision to flee was completely selfish.
  5. Enterprise1981

    Enterprise1981 Vice Admiral Admiral

    Oct 23, 2008
    Tethered to a large plant

    Admiral Jellico flung a padd at the end of the meeting table in Constantinople’s observation lounge.

    “That’s it?” replied Limis, who was standing to Jellico’s right. “Just ‘no’?”

    “Exactly,” Jellico shot back maintaining a stern glance at this subordinate. “You are a captain in the Seventh Fleet in addition to being an intelligence operative. Lately, you’ve been too much of the latter and not enough the former. And the details of your escape from Sindareen custody and your attempted rescue of your medical officer are implausible at best. I am not about to allow you to abandon your post for a much more personal quest.”

    “Sir,” Limis insisted, almost as if she was seeking a parent’s approval. “If you’ll just hear me out…”

    “I’ve made up my mind, Vircona,” Jellico interrupted, ascending from his chair. “I’m a parent myself. I’ve also been married twice. I’d stick by neck out for all my children, even the ones who are grown up, and so would both my ex-wives. But you don’t know for sure your son is on Sentok Nor. All you have to go on is dreams you’ve been having when you don’t even share most of your people’s perceptions of the Wormhole aliens. I can’t let you go on this fool’s errand even under the guise of resigning your commission or carrying out an operation for a legitimate intelligence organization.”

    The emphasis on ‘legitimate’ demonstrated that Jellico knew Limis had gotten help from Section 31, an organization whose cause she had claimed to despise.

    “And don’t try and pull that ask-permission-but-do-it-either-way routine,” Jellico continued firmly.

    “Yes, sir,” Limis answered, demurely but confidently. She headed for a port exit, then stopped momentarily. She considered how she handled those under her command in that kind of authoritative manner. She had such a conversation with Kozar after the first officer went against orders to come to her rescue prior to the aborted attack on Ventani Two. “I always pictured you a family man, sir,” she confessed. “You firmly lay down the law, but you also know when to go easy.”

    Having sat back down, Jellico grinned while still looking the opposite direction.

    “How many do you have?” Limis asked, turning back to face the admiral.

    Jellico swiveled his chair around. “A son and a daughter with my first wife,” he said. “Both are grown up and not in Starfleet. And two boys with the second. Being a CO can be just like being a parent; except with the officers I command, I’m almost always dealing with adults who can be as willful and stubborn as I can be.” The last statement reminded him of a former first officer of his. But maintaining a professional demeanor, he added, “I expect you at the next mission briefing at 1100 hours.”

    “Yes, sir,” Limis replied with a smile while trying to hold in a giggle at how easily she let down the admiral’s metaphorical shields.

    Shortly before the scheduled briefing was about to start, Jellico stepped into a blank-gridded holodeck chamber largely occupied by the captains and first officers of nearly a dozen ships from the Seventh Fleet. They were actually holographic projections of those officers appearing in Constantinople’s holodeck via the holo-communications system outfitted on many of the ships. Some of them appeared to be in a sitting position without the benefit of the chair.

    Jellico’s second-in-command, Commander Keith Ellison, had also accompanied the admiral to the briefing. “Admiral on deck,” he called, signaling the projections to stand at attention.

    Jellico gave a quick left-to-right glance of the room to be sure none of the projections shorted out. He then took a seat at a desk equipped with a control console to call up data and adjust communication system as he needed. “Before we begin,” he told the crowd, “there’s one other person who will be joining us.”

    Another holographic projection of a Starfleet officer materialized. Like many of the other projections, he was a captain.

    Kozar and Morrison, both standing to Limis’s right, instantly recognized the middle-aged human male even though his black hair had completely changed to a medium shade of gray. Kozar and Morrison exchanged surprised stares in reaction to seeing Benjamin Maxwell appear to the right of Jellico’s desk. Morrison had served under the former Cardassian War veteran in his youth. Kozar mostly knew Maxwell reputation. The biggest surprise was that Maxwell was back in uniform after his string of unprovoked attacks against the Cardassian Union that cost him his commission.
  6. fleetcaptain

    fleetcaptain Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

    Feb 9, 2005
    Virginia Beach, VA, USA
    That was a surprise. Nice tie to how Maxwell is back in Starfleet in The Helena Chronicles.
  7. Enterprise1981

    Enterprise1981 Vice Admiral Admiral

    Oct 23, 2008
    Tethered to a large plant
    ^ In this version, though, he's not suddenly Canadian. ;)
  8. fleetcaptain

    fleetcaptain Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

    Feb 9, 2005
    Virginia Beach, VA, USA
    LOL, never noticed that.
  9. Enterprise1981

    Enterprise1981 Vice Admiral Admiral

    Oct 23, 2008
    Tethered to a large plant
    Chapter Three

    In preparation for the next engagement, work crews throughout the ship were working tirelessly to upgrade the sensors. Engineers and sensor technicians had been called on to work double shifts to assure that the modifications were completed on time. Even Carson lent a hand in deflector control. With the help of several engineering technicians, she and Sullivan welded new circuits into the deflector’s central pulse array. A metallic catwalk surrounded the cylindrical circuit housing to allow personnel to perform maintenance and repairs.

    “How’s it look on your side?” Sara asked Rebecca, placing an access panel over the circuits she was adding.

    “Everything’s in place,” Rebecca answered. She opened her tricorder and scanned the long circuit housing.

    The two women then paced over to a pair of technicians still working further aft of the compartment. They gave quick visual inspections of the lower-ranking crewmembers’ work and gave approving nods. While they moved on to the next team of engineers, Rebecca hoped to fill the awkward silence.

    “Some of the engineering teams are heading to the starbase after this is finished,” she said. “I hear there’s this new holosuite program of Janaran Falls on Betazed.”

    Sara gave coy grin, considering how the real Janaran Falls would not be such a luxurious locale with the planet now in Dominion occupied territory. “I’ll have to take a rain check,” she said with a shrug. “I’ve got battle drills to oversee, field tests to run on the rest of the navigational sensors.”

    “Life is so much simpler as an ensign,” Rebecca remarked, indicating the lone gold pip on her collar. She was the flight controller on the gamma-shift, yet she did not have as much of the same responsibilities as Sara did as a second lieutenant. On the other hand, Rebecca’s semi-weekly shifts in engineering made up for those lesser responsibilities as a bridge officer on the night watch.

    “Amen to that,” Sara replied with a sheepish grin of nostalgia for her tour on the Defiant as an ensign. Of course, one of that ships missions she had wanted to forget was when the Defiant was crippled while in the atmosphere of a gas giant being hounded by Jem’Hadar fighters. She was anticipating more dangerous scenarios in the coming months.

    “Just don’t work yourself to death,” Rebecca suggested with a friendly smile.

    “Aye, aye, Ensign,” Sara quipped.

    “Looks like all systems go, Lieutenant,” said one of the technicians. The other engineers had completed their work and placed the access panels back on the circuit housing.
    Sara then tapped her combadge. “Carson to Huckaby. We’re ready to proceed.”

    “Understood,” Huckaby replied from engineering.

    The alpha shift operations manager was helping out there. Sensors were being routed through the field emitters in the warp nacelles, a delicate procedure designed to scan for objects buried in subspace. Huckaby was in engineering to make sure the warp field intensity would still be at optimum levels while the ship was at warp. The so-called Houdinis could appear at any time, so the tactical, helm, and operations officers needed to be ready to act at a moment’s notice.

    “Beginning field tests,” Huckaby continued, entering commands into a console situated in front of the warp drive. “Sensor resolution now at two million terradynes. Warp field efficiency still at specified norms. Warp field emitter strength is nominal… hold on. One of the emitters is out of sync.”

    “At least it’s not related to our work,” Carson teased. “Better get sh’Aqba on that.”

    “I’ll keep that in mind,” Huckaby said rolling his eyes. “Huckaby out. Huckaby to operations.”

    “This is M’Rev,” the officer on duty at Ops replied.

    “Field output on one of the nacelle’s emitters is out of sync. Try giving emitter seven delta a few more megawatts. Meantime, I’ll see if it’s a problem with the EPS flow.”

    “I’m on it.”

    Goris misch Rev grumbled over the unending requests from various departments during what was supposed to be Huckaby’s shift at Ops. And that was just three hours into a sixteen-hour day. He was tempted on a few occasions to tell one of those callers to shove it. Though Tellarites were well-known for being argumentative for the sake of being argumentative, M’Rev still considered it a failing among his race. Despite the Vulcan doctrine of IDIC, he had learned to practice some measure of restraint so he didn’t come off rude by the standards of other races.

    “’Reroute this, Mister M’Rev’,” he muttered, walking across the bridge to the port engineering station. “’Increase power to that, Mister M’Rev’.”

    M’Rev handed a padd to Commander Chaz Logan, who was aboard the Lambda Paz to oversee the various system upgrades.

    “Getting bored I see, Ensign?” Logan asked with a slightly teasing smile.

    M’Rev gave an embarrassed snort that the commander had heard him mumble his own frustrations. “Let’s just say that the three hours here have gotten quite monotonous,” M’Rev huffed.

    “I have a dozen other ships to inspect today. And I hear Starbase G-6 is looking for a new chief of operations.”

    M’Rev’s nostrils flared as he took the padd back from Logan, who had just signed the repair schedule on it. He headed back to his station while inaudibly mouthing a Tellarite swear.

    A holographic display of various fleet deployments filled the center of the holodeck briefing room on the Constantinople. Captain Lenaris Holem of the USS Derna and Lieutenant Commander Selek of the USS Epimetheus had the floor, describing the recent successes in the Chudala system and the Amducro Field. The holographic display consisted of mostly Starfleet insignias indicating the most updated ship movements. Both captains indicated the relative ease of defeating squadrons consisting exclusively of Cardassian warships and fighters. The biggest obstacles, of course, were those cursed Houdinis appearing completely at random making those victories harder to achieve than projected.

    “I guess we can be thankful that they’re not mining whole star systems with these things,” Maxwell remarked. “We’d be at an even bigger disadvantage.”

    “We have theorized that these mines are derived from subspace explosives used by the Son’a,” Selek replied. “The potential damage to subspace makes using these mines impractical. They are much more preferable for use on planetary surfaces.”

    “Either way,” Lenaris added, “They provide one hell of a psychological advantage over us.”

    “On the other hand,” said Jellico, “the efforts of officers and troops stationed on AR-558 might have turned the advantage back in our favor.”

    “Modifications to the sensor arrays and navigational deflectors are proceeding on schedule,” Limis chimed in. “We should be ready to depart at 0500 tomorrow as planned. We should be able to turn a few heads when we turn more of the Jemmies’ own weapons against them, not that they’ll easily give up on using those Houdinis.”

    “They’ll still have some surprises of their own,” Jellico added. Then to Lenaris and Selek, he asked, “What’s your status at Chudala and Amducro?”

    “The Epimetheus and the rest of the 273rd tactical wing have managed to drive off the last wave of Cardassian destroyers with minimal losses,” Selek replied. “Nevertheless, we require three additional squadrons of Klingon and Romulan destroyers.”

    Direct isn’t he, Jellico mused of the Vulcan post-captain. “What about you, Lenaris?” he asked.

    “The Derna and five other vessels sustained heavy damage from Houdinis earlier today,” the Bajoran captain replied. “The Cardies haven’t given us much trouble in the last eighteen hours. We should arrive at starbase shortly.”

    “A squadron led by the Kyoto and the Hermosa are on their way to relieve you,” Jellico said, entering a command into the keypad on the desk. “And I’ll see what General Gh’ralg and Admiral Temlek can spare at Amducro.”

    The holographic display of the Kalandra sector zoomed outward on Jellico’s command. He then zoomed the display in on the Zhamur and the Moreska star systems, which featured numerous Dominion and Cardassian logos. “Our recent successes at AR-558 have given us new data on enemy fleet movements nearest Betazed,” he explained. “Wings from the Eighth and Tenth Fleets will target Moreska. The Seventh will contribute a wing led by the Lambda Paz, the Vigilant, and the Endurance to Zhamur. The hope is to drive some of their forces from the Beta Veldona system to send in a few cavalry raids there.”

    Limis just stared contemplatively at the holographic display. Her mind seemed to elsewhere from the blankness in her stare. Again, she was forced to choose duty to the war effort over searching for her son. Again, she had to convince herself that more was at stake than one life even if that one life was the child she bore. For a brief moment, she could hear her son calling out to him.

    She was brought back to reality when she felt a hand clasp her right shoulder. “Captain,” Kozar said quietly.

    “Is there a problem, Captain?” Jellico asked her.

    “No,” she answered with an embarrassed shake of her head. “We’ll be ready to depart on time, sir.”

    “Captain Maxwell,” Jellico added. “You’ll be command of the Vigilant. Let’s get it done, people.”

    Jellico’s statement before his sign-off sent Morrison into a momentary daze. Both he and Kozar exchanged curious glances at each other. While Starfleet certainly needed experienced captains at this time, neither of them was certain as why Maxwell was being called back just now. Morrison was then lost in remembering when he met a much younger Benjamin Maxwell on Setlik Three.

    “What’s your name, kid?” asked a Starfleet captain then-fifteen year old Manny Morrison encountered. “Why are you by yourself out here?”

    Manny was barely able to speak, his lips trembling from the trauma having witnessed cruelty of the settlement’s attackers. “Those monsters killed them,” he murmured. “Soldiers, women, and children… they killed them all.”

    In his office, Morrison accessed Maxwell’s biographical profile to learn how his former captain was now once again in Starfleet’s good graces. According to the files available to the general public relating to Maxwell’s court-martial for unauthorized acts of aggression against the Cardassian Union eight years earlier, he was placed on a very strict probationary status. Citing early Starfleet history—specifically the vigilante acts of one James Tiberius Kirk in the 23rd century that would normally be frowned upon in the 24th century— Maxwell’s legal team was able to convince Judge Advocate General not to discharge him from Starfleet entirely. Since then, Maxwell had been restricted to desk jobs at various Starfleet installations. Furthermore, Maxwell had recently been doing work for Starfleet Intelligence since Cardassia had allied itself with the Dominion.

    “That information is restricted to Starfleet Intelligence officers clearance level ten or above,” the computer stated, when Morrison attempted to access further information on that topic. He had for a brief moment considered asking Limis she could break that seal, having recently become aware of her affiliation with Intelligence. He quickly decided against it since it wasn’t all that important.

    He was lost in those thoughts when door chimed. Morrison swiveled his chair around towards his desk and set down the padd that had been on his lap. “Come in,” he said.
    The doors parted to admit Kozar. Morrison then slid the padd towards the outward edge of the desk. “The new security arrangements you had requested.”

    “Thank you,” Kozar replied, whisking the padd off the desk. “I’ll take a minute to look these over.” He took a quick glance at the monitor screen behind the desk and instantly recognized the photograph of Maxwell. “Maxwell’s Starfleet profile?”

    Morrison looked back at the monitor, seeming visibly embarrassed that he had neglected to close that file. Despite Maxwell’s former mentor’s recent unlawful actions, Morrison still had great respect and admiration for the captain. His devotion to duty and sense of obligation he learned from Maxwell. That had not changed simply because of this war veteran’s fall from grace.

    “Yes,” Morrison quizzically answered. “It says that he was given nothing more than a slap on the wrist and reduced responsibilities. He’s been on a tight leash in peacetime. I always thought he was dishonorably discharged.”

    “Or maybe that was the story the JAG office sold the Cardassians to keep them at ease,” Kozar offered. “You served under him, right?”

    “On the Rutledge. My first assignment out of the Academy. Did you know him?”

    “Only by reputation. Twice received the Christopher Pike Medal of Valor. Maybe he didn’t know his place in peacetime. ‘Old soldiers never die. They just fade away.’”

    “MacArthur,” Mandel murmured, recalling the Earth general who spoke those more than four centuries earlier. “I suppose if Starfleet is willing to conscript an ex-Maquis, then there’s a place for Maxwell.”

    Ronnie made a beeline for the door, but then thought to address what he thought was on Mandel’s mind. Mandel had often praised Maxwell even after the events of eight years ago. He never sounded at all conflicted. Ronnie knew that getting Mandel to open up, even to his closest friends, was most often futile. That never stopped Ronnie from making any attempt. As his friend, he was willing to reach out, but as his superior, he had to be sure Mandel was not a liability. “Anything else you want to talk about?” he asked sheepishly, as if he knew the response he would get.

    “Been thinking about Setlik Three,” Mandel replied, hoping that would satisfy his friend.

    “I remember you said you let your fear get the best of you,” the commander recalled. “You never said exactly what happened.”

    “It was a long time ago. Almost thirty years.”

    “But it still haunts you from Major Davis’s accidental death to your retreat during the Coridan Massacre.”

    Goddamnit, Ronnie,” Mandel snapped, rising from his chair and sauntering towards the viewport. “Do we really have to go there?”

    Ronnie took slow steps towards his friend to offer some friendly advice. “The Dominion is going to fight for every cubic millimeter of the Kalandra sector,” he said. “I need to know that my chief of security is up for it. As your friend, I can suggest you discuss this with a counselor. I don’t want to have to make it an order.”

    “I suppose you’re right,” Morrison relented. “I’ll take your suggestion under advisement. Anything else, sir?”

    Kozar did not give a verbal reply. He just gave his answer by quietly exiting the office.

    Limis still had a lot of reports to submit to her superiors, as well as reports from all the department heads to sign off on. She was on her fifth mug of raktajino just after midnight in order to get through all the paperwork before the ship’s departure for the front. She flung a padd containing a mundane systems analysis aside and took a small slip of the still boiling hot coffee. That seemed like enough to keep her from drifting off to sleep. But she also heard a voice calling to her.

    “Mother, help me.”

    She gasped at the sound of her son’s voice. She reached into a drawer behind her desk for a hand phaser and strutted out of the ready room’s side door.

    Stepping into the corridor, Limis suddenly realized she was not on her ship, but in a corridor on Sentok Nor. Two Cardassian soldiers approached in front of her, while two Jem’Hadar came at her from the rear. She fired her phaser at the Jem’Hadar on her right, which surprisingly had no effect. One of the Cardassians grabbed her arm, shoved her to the bulkhead, and began strangling her.

    “Vira,” called out a familiar feminine voice as she lost consciousness.

    Rebecca crouched down towards Vircona’s unconscious form. “Sullivan to sickbay,” she said, tapping her combadge. “Medical emergency, deck one, starboard corridor.”
  10. Enterprise1981

    Enterprise1981 Vice Admiral Admiral

    Oct 23, 2008
    Tethered to a large plant
    Chapter Four

    Erhlich Tarlazzi entered the crew lounge on Starbase G-6. All the crew lounges on the Lambda Paz were a mess. Nothing the noncoms couldn’t handle, so Tarlazzi could excuse himself some brief R & R before the final checkup. He ordered a mug of beer from the replicator before walking towards a corner of the lounge where a group of Starfleet officers, Klingon soldiers, and civilians were gathered.

    Lieutenant sh’Aqba and a Klingon officer had their right hands locked together as part of the B’aht Qul challenge. They had held the other’s forearm in place for about the last ten minutes. On a few occasions, it appeared the Klingon would come out victorious. Each time, though, sh’Aqba was able to keep her forearm upright, but could not force her opponent’s hand to the table. Many of the Starfleet spectators were cheering for sh’Aqba, while the Klingons were being more raucous in rooting for their colleague.

    “Who’s winning?” Tarlazzi jokingly asked a male Starfleet ensign.

    “It’s tied,” the ensign quipped. “I think.”

    Sh’Aqba kept a look of fierce determination on her face staring straight into the eyes of her opponent. She inhaled slowly through her nose. Her antennae stiffened as she felt her hand move force the Klingon’s to her left. She breathed a low primal growl and forced the Klingon’s hand down on the table.

    The Klingon spectators chortled in laughter at the surprising defeat. Or they could have been showing their support for sh’Aqba. Tarlazzi wasn’t entirely sure since most Klingon belly laughs sounded alike to him.

    “You were quite a worthy opponent, Lieutenant sh’Aqba,” the Klingon growled humbly.

    “You as well, Commander Karlek,” Shinar answered cheerfully. She whisked up a mug of Klingon bloodwine from an adjacent table and took a sip. “Perhaps you wouldn’t mind a rematch after our victory at Zhamur.”

    “I would be honored,” Karlek replied. He then clanged his mug of bloodwine against sh’Aqba’s.

    “A little friendly advice,” sh’Aqba added, indicating her face. “Eyes up here.”

    The two opponents exchanged boisterous laughs, and then walked away in separate directions. Tarlazzi felt a pang of jealousy witnessing that exchange. Was she courting him, he wondered. He couldn’t exactly tell since from what he knew of both Andorian and Klingon cultures, nearly every one of their rituals involved brute force or bloodletting.

    He gave a congratulatory raise of his glass when Shinar passed by him. “A wise man once said though,” Ehrlich added with a mischievous grin, “Don’t count your ales before they’re poured.”

    “You mean ‘Don’t count your atliriths before they’re hatched’?” sh’Aqba replied, seating herself at an empty table. “I wasn’t exactly declaring victory prematurely. But you know Klingons, Mister Tarlazzi. They can’t always help being boastful.”

    “I guess that little arm-wrestling match is a better way of dealing with stress than popping off at the EMH,” Erhlich quipped, sitting across from the Andorian.

    Shinar turned away letting out an embarrassed sigh. “You saw that yesterday morning,” she said, even knowing he obviously had having passed by him prior to that hostile exchange. “They’re a good resource to have in an emergency. But the programmers seem to forget to program social skills into each new edition.”

    “Social skills haven’t been programmed into our ship’s flesh-and-blood doctor either. “You get along with her just fine.”

    “Doctor Markalis at least makes up for it with humility.”

    They both exchanged friendly grins. During the long silence, Erhlich considered taking advice Rebecca had given him about coping with how Shinar’s presence distracted him. He insisted then that courting a superior was not appropriate, but now he was thinking, To hell with what’s appropriate. At the very least, he thought he should try to reach out to someone who seemed to need a friend.

    “What other plans have you made for tonight?” he blurted out without much thought.

    “No offense, Lieutenant,” Shinar answered, finishing off the last of her wine. “But you’re not my type.”

    Shinar then sauntered off before he could respond. “That’s not what I meant,” he mumbled in frustration.

    Limis awoke on a secondary biobed in sickbay, unaware of having ended up there or having passed out. She saw that Sullivan was conferring with Markalis when her eyes blinked open. While raising herself into a halfway upright position, Limis had some idea of having ended up in the medical ward when she felt sharp pains in her temples. “How did I end up here?” she groaned. “I was in my ready room and I blacked out.”

    “I found you passed out in the corridor outside the ready room,” Rebecca explained, pacing over to her friend’s bedside.
    Limis flinched an embarrassed grin. “I could have sworn I heard my son calling out to me,” she added. Her memory was gradually returning. She was now remembering how she thought she was roaming the corridors of Sentok Nor and then an antiquated mental hospital on Earth. “I stepped outside into the corridor,” she recalled aloud. “And I was on Sentok Nor.”

    “Hallucinations are a symptom of sleep deprivation,” Markalis sternly replied. “You’ve had two hours of sleep in the last forty-eight hours. You’re overworking yourself.”

    “I know, I know,” Limis snapped in anticipation of the usual medical platitudes. “We leave the station at 0500 tomorrow and I have a lot of reports to file.”

    “That’s fine,” Aurelian insisted, “but make sure to get six hours of sleep before our departure.”

    “Four, if you saw how much of a mess my desk is.”

    Aurellan sighed in exasperation. She wanted to persist, but then remembered her discussion with the EMH about how stubborn people could be even to the point of neglecting their own health. “Just be in your quarters by 0030.”

    “I’ll make sure she’s there, Doc,” Rebecca said with conspiratorial nod.

    “Bridge to the captain.”

    Limis tapped her combadge upon hearing the chime. “Go ahead, Huckaby.”

    “Incoming subspace message for you. Coded personal.”

    “Route it to my quarters then.”

    Aurellan and Rebecca exchanged accusatory stares as Limis headed out of the ICU. That transmission coming in when it did could not have been a coincidence, they both considered. “I had nothing to do with it,” Rebecca insisted.

    “If only getting her to her quarters was that easy,” Aurellan retorted with a half shrug.

    “Quite an audacious plan.”

    Limis sat in front of the desk monitor in her quarters speaking to a former colleague in Intelligence. Sven Wallovski presented her with a two-pronged plan to liberate Betazed from Dominion occupation. Lieutenant Wallovski’s would be part of a planet-side team to consolidate the resistance in using telepathy to overpower the Jem’Hadar. The other half of the attack plan involved smuggling a team aboard Sentok Nor.

    Wallovski was still the baby-faced blond Limis knew nearly a decade earlier even into his thirties. Back then, his duties consisted of filing reports for his superiors. Limis saw great potential in him and was pleased to see Sven take on such a bold field assignment.

    “Commander Vaughn thought so, too when the Betazed resistance pitched it to him,” the young man replied. “But the attack on Starbase 19 has the Twelfth Fleet at less than half-strength. All we’ve been able to do is soften their defenses anyway. Despite the huge risks involved, Command is all for it considering the importance of liberating Betazed.”

    “How is Elias these days?” Limis eagerly asked of one of her old mentors from her early days in Starfleet Intelligence.

    “He’s still going strong even at the century mark,” Sven said of the eighty-year Starfleet veteran.

    I can only I’m still in good health at a hundred-plus, Limis thought with a smirk.

    “It took a lot of persuading on Vaughn’s part to get you on the team taking out Sentok Nor,” Sven continued. “The personal nature of this mission for you seems like a conflict of interest. Vaughn said that would only make you more determined.”

    “I’ll try not to make a liar of him. Good luck on your end, Sven.”

    “We’re going to need it. Wallovski out.”

    As the image of the young lieutenant was replaced by Starfleet insignia, Limis sat back in her seat sighing. Now was her best chance at finally reuniting with her missing son. Of course, she now had a much more pressing mission with that to undertake. Her only solace was that there was no turning back.

    The bridge of the USS Vigilant was crowded with officers and technicians conducting last minute repairs. Like all Defiant-class ships, the Vigilant’s bridge had a utilitarian layout giving the captain quick and easy access to the primary stations—primary and secondary tactical stations on the starboard side, engineering and communications stations on the port side, and the helm situated between the command chair and the viewscreen. As one of the more recent ships of this class, the bridge of the Vigilant featured a master situation monitor on a screen behind the command chair separating the multipurpose meeting area from the rest of the bridge.

    Kozar and Morrison entered the bridge from the port turbolift weaving their way through a crowd of four engineers walking towards the bridge’s aft. Benjamin Maxwell followed stepped off the lift as well, nodding at the engineers. Two older human officers working at the starboard stations said hello to him. Maxwell just nodded and sighed hoping his gray hair would have made him less recognizable. He did not know whether or not to be pleased that people still respected the former Cardassian War veteran after the incident that forced him into retirement.

    “They pack these ships these days,” Maxwell remarked in reference to limited space on the Vigilant. “One thing about the Rutledge I don’t miss.”

    “Being captain still has its privileges, sir,” Kozar retorted. “You get your own quarters.”

    “That didn’t stop the designers from putting bunk beds in all the crew quarters,” Maxwell replied as he continued his visual survey of the bridge.

    “Gets them off the assembly lines faster,” Morrison offered, recalling how cramped ships he had served on were. “It was that way on the Rutledge and the Horatio Nelson.”

    Kozar noticed in the corner of his eye that the technicians working on the command chair and the two controls pads on both sides of the chair had finished. He strutted around the back of the chair. The Vigilant was a ship he had occasionally commanded in order to offset personnel shortages. He had not grown too attached to this ship, yet still felt uneasy turning it over to someone else. It was the closest he had gotten to a command after being passed up for command of the Lambda Paz.

    “Captain Maxwell,” Kozar said, offering the captain the chair in a ritual relinquishing of command.

    Maxwell obligingly took a seat in the command chair. He swiveled back and forth a few times. It was a perfect fit for him, reminding him of his days on the Rutledge. “Feels a little wobbly,” he remarked to the two subordinate officers. “It’s been awhile since I was on a ship like this one. Being on the Phoenix had spoiled me.” He then looked around make sure the lower-ranking officers and crew were focused on their work than the presence of a living legend.

    “If you don’t mind my saying, gentlemen,” Maxwell continued in a hushed tone. “This does sort of feel like a demotion.”

    “How so, sir?” Morrison curiously inquired.

    “Smaller ship than the Phoenix,” Maxwell explained with a grin.

    “You’d be surprised how much firepower this ‘small ship’” Kozar retorted. “The Defiant-class and the Akira-class are tough little ships.”

    “I don’t doubt it, Mister Kozar,” Maxwell jovially said. Then with a more stern expression, he added, “I’ve waited a long time for a chance like this. I’ve also had eight years to reconsider some of my choices.”

    “Going after the Cardassians,” Morrison said, anticipating his former captain’s next words.

    “Exactly,” Maxwell replied with a nod. “My heart seemed to be in the right place then. I guess when you’re in the trenches for such a long time as I was; you’re not sure what exactly your role is in peacetime.”

    Morrison nodded at Kozar, remembering that his friend had something similar following the mission briefing.

    Maxwell then rose from the chair. “Big day tomorrow,” he said. “I better let you boys get back to your ship while I try to get to know mine.”

    “Thank you, sir,” Kozar replied, shaking Maxwell’s hand.

    “Good luck, sir,” Morrison added with a handshake.

    “Same to you,” Maxwell said with a tap on his former protégé’s shoulder.

    Captain Limis would later pay a visit to Jellico’s ready room on the Constantinople. She immediately noticed no fish tank behind the desk upon stepping inside the office. Or perhaps she was thinking of the ready room on another Sovereign-class ship. With a grin, Limis handed the admiral a large containing official orders from Starfleet Intelligence.

    Jellico took a brief glance at the padd’s readout screen, nodding once he saw the orders came from an authentic source. He then winced when one particular name caught his attention. “I had a feeling Vaughn had something to do with this,” he said with a roll of his eyes. “The senior admiralty defers to him about as often as they do to Picard.”

    “Sir?” Limis asked with a befuddled glance.

    “Forget it,” Jellico replied. He knew Jean-Luc Picard mostly by reputation. He had only once met him in person while temporarily assuming command of the Enterprise-D. Jellico was a by-the-book officer and leader who strictly adhered to the chain of command. So from his point of view, the brass often tended to provide special treatment to the likes of Picard and Elias Vaughn. He rose from his chair and put out his hand. “Good luck, then, in carrying out the mission and in finding your son.”

    “Thank you, sir,” Limis replied with a handshake. She then strutted out of the ready room through a side entrance containing her exuberance at having gotten the last laugh with Jellico.
  11. Enterprise1981

    Enterprise1981 Vice Admiral Admiral

    Oct 23, 2008
    Tethered to a large plant
    Chapter Five
    Manny continued running down the streets of Setlik Three settlement. He continued dodging aerial missile strikes. When was it going to end, he wondered. Soldiers were dying one by one. But that wasn’t enough for the Cardassians. They seemed determined to eliminate the entire settlement. But why? What exactly would they hope to accomplish?

    Turning a corner, Manny lost his footing and slipped in the sand. A six-person Starfleet unit passed by the lone adolescent boy. Two of the soldiers took point, aiming their rifles towards the sky. The unit leader was a heavyset male human with curly black hair, who towered over the young man. Just like everyone else in the unit, he wore blue vest to absorb phaser energy over a camouflage-colored jumpsuit.

    “What’s your name, kid?” the unit leader captain asked, speaking with a slight southern American accent. “Why are you by yourself out here?”

    Manny was barely able to speak, his lips trembling from the trauma having witnessed the cruelty of the settlement’s attackers. “Those monsters killed them,” he murmured, lunging himself upright. “Soldiers, women, and children… they killed them all.”

    “I know,” the unit leader said, putting a hand out to help Manny up. “Everyone here is in danger. We need to get you to one of the emergency shelters quickly.”

    “T-t-that’s… what the other soldiers… t-t-told me,” Manny stuttered. “But they’re all dead. They’ll kill all of us.”
    “We will everything humanly possible to make sure that doesn’t happen, son,” the unit leader promised. “I’m Captain Maxwell of the Rutledge. The reinforcements in orbit will try to stop all this shelling. I didn’t catch your name.”

    “Manny,” the boy answered timidly. “Manny Morrison.”

    “Just stick with us and we’ll make sure you don’t get hurt.”

    Manny just nodded with reserved optimism that the Starfleet could get him to safety. The last unit had the same promises before the soldiers and the escorted civilians all perished. Hopefully this Maxwell was correctly predicting a positive outcome and that Manny would survive this nightmare.

    Morrison was awakened from this dream by the sound of water running in the shower alcove. He sat up slowly trying to shake off the residual grogginess and grabbed a dark gray cotton bathrobe. He put both of us arms through the sleeves while still seated on the bed and tied it shut once he was standing upright. Steam billowed out of the circular enclosure. He grinned at the sight of a lithe figure behind the translucent screen. Upon reaching the doorway to the room containing the lavatory and shower alcove, the water stopped running.

    Neeley stepped out of the alcove smiling devilishly at her de facto cohabitant. She did not bother to cover herself, letting droplets of water trickle down her naked body. “Shower in my quarters is acting up,” she said with a smirk in one corner of her lips.

    “Is that so?” Mandel replied in response to her obvious falsehood.

    “You were tossing and turning all night last night,” Lisa added, grabbing a towel off a metal rack.

    Of course, she could have gone back to her own cabin if he was unable to fall asleep. After all, spending the night was optional per their partnership arrangement. Then it hit him. Lisa had a more subtle reason for using his shower. “I’ve had a lot on my mind,” he said, hoping to avoid a serious discussion on what was causing his insomnia.

    Lisa wrapped the towel around herself, and then took a second towel to dry her chest and shoulders, then her hair. “Worried about the usual?” she retorted with a hint of sarcasm. “Moving deeper and deeper into the Kalandra sector? Having to overcome these Houdinis? So am I and so are much of the crew.”

    “You get a degree in psychology I don’t know about?”

    “No, I’m not the ship’s counselor. But we are friends with benefits. We can still talk about the stuff that comes with friendship right?”

    Mandel rolled his eyes and sighed in exasperation. Even so, he was mostly impressed by how subtly persuasive Lisa could be. It was also a quality in Sara he found both attractive and infuriating. Speaking of whom, Mandel was now reminded of what Sara had told him a few nights ago. “You know about the Setlik Three Massacre?” he asked.

    “Who doesn’t?” Lisa replied, running a towel through her hair before sitting down at the foot of the bed next to Mandel? “It was quite a tragedy, all the civilians lives lost.”

    “What if I told you I could’ve stopped several of those deaths if I wasn’t such a coward?”

    Lisa just stared for several seconds not sure what to make of that question. “I don’t follow,” she said. “You were… thirteen, fourteen then? What difference could you have made?”

    “Fifteen, actually,” Mandel corrected. “I was being escorted to one of the safe houses with five or six other adolescents. We were doing everything possible to avoid the aerial assaults and the ground patrols when a squad of Cardassian militia beamed down in front of us. The Marines put up a valiant struggle to keep us safe. But within minutes, they were taken out and so were the other kids.”

    “My god,” Lisa gasped. “I’ve heard of how cruel the Cardies can be, but it never occurred to me that they would resort to that level of barbarism.”

    “I realized then that I had to fight back to stay alive,” Mandel continued. “I grabbed one of the rifles and started shooting. I was able to go into hiding until those Cardies gave up looking for me. I kept on going hoping to find another Starfleet unit. I happened by the burning house. Women and children were inside. I was the only who could help them. I tried to put out the fire by digging up dirt over the flames. Another missile hit, I was only concerned with my own safety, my own life. I just took off running. I was consumed by terror. What’s even worse, those poor children died because of me.”

    Lisa was about to put a hand on Mandel’s shoulder, but then remembered her own words defining their relationship. “None of that lovey-dovey stuff.” Instead, she just pulled her hand away and clasped his wrist. “You can’t blame yourself for that,” she insisted. “It was before you were in Starfleet. You couldn’t have been expected to deliver under that kind of pressure.”

    “I still had to try harder,” Mandel snapped. “It still haunts me today, nearly thirty years later. The same happened on Coridan just last year. Only I wasn’t so concerned about my own death, but about ordering others to their deaths. What if I should screw something else up in the near future?”

    “You can’t be afraid of what might go wrong,” Lisa insisted. “I go into every ground-based engagement certain that at least of one of my troops won’t come back alive because I know the stakes are far greater than a few dead soldiers. I don’t take pride in that, but it’s the only thing that keeps me pressing on.”

    “That’s made you into someone who doesn’t grow too attached,” Mandel replied with a sheepish grin.

    “And you are just as unattached,” Lisa retorted. “We can still be lonely and miserable together.”

    The pair both exchanged giggles. That conversation did put Mandel’s mind at ease, but he was still a long way from completely overcoming his own fears of ordering subordinates to their deaths. To avoid any immediate awkward silences, they quickly stood up and began gathering their clothes strewn across the floor on opposite sides of the bed.

    After getting a few hours of sleep as ordered by her doctor, Limis set aside enough time to pack for the trip to Sentok Nor. A duffle bag was draped across the sofa containing a few personal items and first aid supplies. At least she honored Aurellan’s order for her to get some sleep even if was considerably less than five hours, she told herself over and again while she was stowing several padds in standard Starfleet-issue carrying case. Plus, she got a certain measure contentment dumping the paperwork that needed completing on her first officer. It was just another one of her reminders that being captain of a crew of seven hundred involved a hell of a lot more paperwork than being captain of a frigate.

    The doorbell chimed as she was closing the carrying case. She took one last sip of her iced raktajino before placing the mug back in the replicator tray. “Come in,” she called eagerly, entering a command to dissolve the mug.

    Ensign M’Rev stepped through the open doorway after the doors parted. He looked around the cabin wondering why his captain was summoned him. “Ensign Goris misch Rev, reporting as ordered, sir,” he said demurely.

    “At ease, Ensign,” Limis replied, pacing over to the couch and moving the duffle to the floor on the sofa’s left. “Sit down.”

    M’Rev obliged, while Limis took a seat on one of the guest chairs at her desk hoping to get right to the point while making one of her crew feel right at home. “What are your piloting credentials, Ensign?” she asked.

    “I completed level four flight certification last year,” the Tellarite replied.

    Limis was almost anticipating that Goris would demand to know the purpose of this line of questioning. But maybe he wasn’t stereotypical Tellarite. “I also want you on this mission because I will be meeting someone with whom you are acquainted,” Limis added. She quickly accessed the file Section 31 had provided her by proxy. The photograph of Manuel Amaros quickly caught M’Rev’s attention. “Wasn’t this man part of your former Maquis cell led by the late Calvin Hudson?”

    “You are correct, except for one problem,” M’Rev replied. “He was killed in a skirmish with the Jem’Hadar.”

    “That was part of SI’s emergency extraction,” Limis corrected.

    The Tellarite’s eyes widened and his large nostrils flared. “He was spying on us the whole time?” he growled. “I always he was a little different from the others. Cal was a friend. He opened up to us despite all his Starfleet training. He truly believed in the Maquis and its goals. We knew nothing of Manuel other than the fact that he grew up in the Volan colonies. He played role of resistance fighter too well. I was told he assaulted a gul during an emergency town hall session five years ago.”

    “I sympathize with how you’re feeling now,” Limis said with a nod. “You know him and how he thinks. My source tells me he’s been coordinating the movements of what’s left of the Maquis behind enemy lines. And he can smuggle us aboard Sentok Nor.”

    Goris had a lot to take in. He had often found his position as beta shift operations manager to have the same monotonous routine day in and day out. Despite the upcoming mission, he was starting to prefer his current responsibilities over sneaking around a Cardassian space station without getting caught. “With respect, Captain,” he said sauntering towards the door, “I must decline your request.”

    “It’s not a request,” Limis snapped. “It’s an order. Have yourself aboard the runabout Potomac in half an hour.” Hoping to get through to the ensign with the directness of a Tellarite, she added, “And no dawdling.”

    “Yes, ma’am… sir,” Goris stuttered.

    Limis gave a grinning nod, and then saw him off.

    Various officers and crew filled the bridge of the Lambda Paz, putting last minute finishing touches on the bridge. Commander Logan, as acting first officer during Limis’s absence, oversaw various activities taking place at port auxiliary stations. Lieutenant sh’Aqba assisted Ensign Huckaby with power allocation protocols at operations. She kept her concentration on the console to avoid seeing Tarlazzi look in her direction from the forward engineering station. Doctor Markalis was at one of port auxiliary stations feeling slightly overwhelmed by people who pacing back and forth near her as she downloaded medical database files from the starbase’s computer systems.

    “The Potomac has gone to warp,” Huckaby reported to Logan as the commander headed for the first officer’s chair.

    “Thank you, Ensign,” Logan replied.

    On the opposite side of the bridge, Sullivan patted a human female technician on the shoulder, and then headed from a starboard auxiliary station to the helm where Carson and two male human technicians were rerouting circuits. “We’ve the corrected problem with the inertial compensators detected during gamma shift,” Rebecca told Sara cheerfully. “The gyros stabilizers are still a little sluggish. I’d avoid too many sudden course changes while we’re fixing it en route.”

    “I’m sure you’ll fix it in no time,” Sara replied after seeing off the two technicians.

    “You give me too much credit,” Rebecca retorted. “I do what I can.”

    Morrison caught a glimpse of their conversation sauntering from the starboard mission ops station to the tactical station. He felt a twinge in his stomach suggesting that the two women were more than friends. Or maybe it was just a perverted thought surfacing, especially when Sara gave Rebecca affectionate tap on the shoulder, to which Rebecca responded with a playful backhanded slap on Sara’s shoulder.

    “The pre-fire chamber in the dorsal phasers is in working order now,” Morrison told Kozar.

    “Very good,” Kozar replied making a beeline for the command chairs. “Stand by to get underway, people.”

    “All ship-to-ship communications in standby mode,” Huckaby reported.

    “All emergency systems are standing by,” sh’Aqba added.

    “Warp and impulse engines at optimum efficiency,” said Tarlazzi, winking in sh’Aqba’s direction. Sh’Aqba just rolled her eyes and sauntered towards the port turbolift.

    “Helm ready,” said Carson. “Warp and impulse power available at your command.”

    “All weapons and shields at full effectiveness,” Morrison finished.

    Commander Ellison relinquished the command chair on the bridge of the Constantinople at the moment Admiral Jellico stepped out of his ready room. The admiral looked around the bridge to see all of the bridge crew accounted for, and then looked to his first officer. “All ships report ready,” Ellison announced.

    “Thank you, Keith,” Jellico responded.

    Jellico then sat down in the command chair and entered a command on the right armrest panel to hail all ships in the fleet. “All ships, prepare to move out,” he said. “Four hundred years ago, a famous Earth general gave the following words of encouragement before the battle to liberate a conquered land.

    “’You are about to embark upon the Great Crusade, toward which we have striven these many months. The eyes of the world are upon you. The hopes and prayers of liberty-loving people everywhere march with you.

    “’The tide has turned! The free men of the world are marching together to victory! I have full confidence in your courage and devotion to duty and skill in battle. We will accept nothing less than full victory! Good luck! And let us beseech the blessing of Almighty God upon this great and noble undertaking.’

    “Helm, take us to the Moreska system. Warp eight.”

    “Aye, sir,” the female helm officer replied.

    The Constantinople slowly moved away from Starbase G-6. The Lambda Paz followed flanked by the Vigilant and the Endurance. Behind those ships was the rest of a large fleet of Federation, Klingon, and Romulan ships of various sizes and classification soaring off into the vastness of space. And it soon would embark on a great crusade to vanquish a powerful enemy with the eyes of Alpha Quadrant upon it.
  12. Enterprise1981

    Enterprise1981 Vice Admiral Admiral

    Oct 23, 2008
    Tethered to a large plant
    Chapter Six

    The communications monitor next to the Potomac’s primary pilot station indicated the team’s travel itinerary. On the left was a Starfleet delta symbolizing the Potomac. A red arrow connected the first symbol with a second Starfleet delta in the middle. The crest of the Cardassian Union was on the right side of the display to symbolize Sentok Nor. Limis had the rest of the team, consisting of M’Rev and four Starfleet Marine soldiers assigned to the Lambda Paz. Sergeant Samaritan Bowers was the ranking soldier. Mik Tannin, a Brikar who dwarfed everyone else in the cockpit, stood behind Bowers. The two other Marine soldiers were a human male, Paolo Ortega, and a Deltan female, who stood behind the copilot’s seat.

    “We should arrive at these coordinates,” Limis explained, indicating the delta with a set of Cartesian spatial coordinates in the middle of the display, “in eight hours. And from there, our contact will accompany us to Sentok Nor.”
    “That simple, huh?” Bowers replied skeptically. “It’s not like their going to just let us in.”

    “Amaros has an insider aboard the station,” M’Rev explained. “As you can see, the rendezvous coordinates are two point eight seven light years from Betazed. Dominion transporters have a maximum range of approximately three light years.”

    “I see,” Bowers said with a roll of his eyes as he sauntered over to the port auxiliary station to check the tactical systems one more time.

    “And how do we know he won’t turn us all in the second we materialize?” Tannin added.

    “Do you honestly believe we would entrust ourselves to someone who would sell us out that quickly, Mister Tannin?” M’Rev huffed. “How foolish do you think Amaros’s people are? Or should we send you back in an escape pod?”

    “I have the strength of five Jem’Hadar,” Tannin replied, trying to resist the urge to respond to Goris’s taunt. He knew from his first day of training that Tellarites were often insulting and argumentative for sporting purposes. Though the Brikar had similar traits, he was still insulted that someone was questioning his abilities. “I’ll manage,” he continued. “I’m more concerned about your ability to handle a phaser rifle.”

    Limis looked away from her co-pilot and shook her head wondering how much those two would argue during the journey. For now, she was relieved that this bickering ended with the first insult being returned with an equal insult, or so that was how she understood Brikar and Tellarite social idiosyncrasies.

    “You’ll have to forgive everyone’s skepticism, ma’am,” Bowers offered. “A lot is riding on trusting a Starfleet double agent and a former member of the Obsidian Order.”

    “That’s the risk that comes with these kinds of operations, Sergeant Bowers,” Limis replied. She expected Sam to continue to argue. All that accompanied her reply was total silence. It was far cry from a month ago when he nearly tried to attack the captain. Neeley intervened in order to “save him from a court martial” by punching him in the jaw.

    Perhaps, Limis thought, he was just testing her and his immediate superior. That’s what Kozar was doing during her first year on the Lambda Paz. The first officer still went out of his way to second guess her after she threatened throw him in the brig if further instances of attempted mutiny occurred. At least now, he was no longer looking for any type of pretext to usurp her position. Come to think of it, her son often tested her willingness to impose a consequence for misbehaving. Though it was a secondary goal of this mission, saving her biological offspring was her only concern at the moment.

    Eight hours later, the Potomac fell out of warp and arrived at empty space, empty in the sense that no other ships were at the designated coordinates. Bowers and M’Rev manned the controls when the runabout arrived, and appeared rather bewildered to see nothing in front of them. Limis, on the other hand, wasn’t at all surprised when she entered the cockpit from the aft compartment.

    “Captain, we’ve arrived at the designated coordinates,” Goris began.

    “But nothing is in front of us,” Limis calmly added. “I know.”
    She then entered a clearance code on the systems monitoring console behind the two piloting stations. After a few seconds, Sam’s panel chirped. He entered a command to open the message. “New course at three-four-three mark three six, ahead one hundred meters per second,” he read aloud. He shook his head before entering the new course.

    The runabout arched downward and starboard at the specified velocity. Out of nowhere ripples appeared through which the ship passed. What was open space to the runabout’s occupants just a few seconds earlier was now the interior of landing bay. Once the entire ship was inside the landing bay, four blue laser beams in a rectangular arrangement snared it. These tractor beams then pulled the ship down to the floor of the bay.

    Bowers looked up the top of the viewport to make a quick visual survey of their new surroundings. “This looks like a Starfleet shuttle bay,” he observed. “But the only Federation ship with a cloak is…”

    “The Defiant,” Limis interrupted. “At least officially, that is.”

    The Starfleet team stepped off the runabout through the starboard egress. The Marines were armed with phaser rifles, along with stun grenades and neural truncheons on their belts. Limis and M’Rev also had the same arms on them, as well as equipment packs latched around their shoulders. Manuel Amaros paced quickly into the landing bay to greet the team. He walked over to Goris; his arms open as the former colleagues joined in a friendly embrace. “Goris,” he roared. “I didn’t think we’d be meeting like this, old friend.”

    “Neither did I,” Goris replied. Taking note of how much Manuel had aged in such a short time, especially with his hair and beard having turned completely white, he added, “You’re just as ugly as the last time I saw you.”

    “And I can still smell your bad breath from a parsec away,” Manuel retorted.

    The rest of the team exchanged annoyed and amused glances. Limis was more amused, while considering that a Vulcan would be fond of pointing out that odors could not travel through the vacuum of space.

    “I believe you know Captain Limis,” Goris said after the old friends exchanged a few devilish grins.

    “Of course,” Manuel replied, shaking the captain’s hand. “Michael Eddington’s former second-in-command. My condolences to you and his widow.”

    “Thank you,” Limis said with a nod. She then began to introduce the rest of her team. She was only able to introduce Sergeant Bowers when Manuel put a hand up.
    “I know all their names, Captain,” Manuel said. “And I know how anxious you are to start this mission of yours.”

    Limis and Bowers just glanced at each other rolling their eyes suspiciously. “We’ll divide into three reconnaissance teams,” Limis said, addressing the whole team. “Bowers and Tannin will scout the lower levels of the central core. Ortega and Patal, the docking ring. M’Rev, Amaros, and I will take the habitat ring.”

    “Whoa,” Manuel gasped at the sound of his name. “I didn’t say I was coming along on this little suicide mission of yours.”

    “Your choice, Manuel,” M’Rev shot back removing an isolinear chip from his belt. “Unless you want Cal Hudson’s family to know your little secret.” He then removed a tricorder from his holster, opened it, and placed the chip above the scanner’s display screen. Manuel was certain Goris was bluffing since the tricorder by itself had a limited transmission range, not enough for any incriminating to be sent to anyone. He finally did relent when Goris placed a communications transtator on the side of the tricorder.

    “All right, all right,” Manuel insisted. “I’ll come along on this little fool’s errand.”

    “Let me be clear,” Limis continued, “this is not going to be a suicide mission. Everyone who goes in comes out alive. We’ll maintain communications silence until I signal the Twelfth Fleet’s arrival.”

    “What do they have to do with our mission?” Bowers inquired.

    “You needn’t concern yourself with that, Sergeant,” Limis replied. “Just carry out your orders.”

    “Okay, then,” Manuel chimed in. “Next stop, Sentok Nor.” He then entered a coded message, signaling the insider aboard the Cardassian station.

    By the way of the Dominion transporter effects, Limis and her team materialized in an empty storage bay on the Cardassian space station orbiting Betazed. A stocky Cardassian civilian armed with a scanning device linked into the station’s transporter system. Like most Cardassians with whom Limis and Amaros had dealt, he had a very cheerful demeanor indicative of great self-assuredness, sometimes to the point of arrogance, as a way to charm even those they considered enemies. Amaros never let that bother him even after some of his colleagues in the Maquis were just interested in hurting Cardassians. His relationship with Thalek was strictly professional even if the Cardassian informant suggested otherwise.

    “Welcome back to Sentok Nor as usual, Mister Amaros,” Thalek jovially greeted. With a smile that made Limis cringe, he added, “And you must the infamous Limis Vircona.”

    “Infamous?” Limis repeated with a smirk.

    “I know all about the bounty Gul Hadar has out on you,” Thalek replied. “And your approach to crashing the Fintar shipyard’s computer system was most ingenious.”

    “I’m sure,” Limis scoffed while rolling her eyes. True, she often admired the ingenuity of a number of Cardassians, but she would never give them the satisfaction of saying so to their faces. Furthermore, she did not wish to be reminded of Enic Hadar’s grudge against her. Most Cardassian guls she knew by reputation had no objections to targeting civilians in their offensives. Yet, Hadar was determined to avenge his civilian brother’s death at Limis’s hand.

    “Don’t be modest, Captain,” Thalek insisted. “Come, come. I’ve reviewed your mission itinerary. Quite daring if I may say so myself.”

    Bowers shot a skeptical glare at Limis. Limis couldn’t blame him though. She nodded in agreement of what Bowers was thinking. That a Cardassian would willingly participate in the destruction of the occupational forces’ main starbase seemed too good to be true. Of course, if this whole operation was a perfectly laid Dominion trap, all of them would have been shot on sight. That still did not mean that Thalek was one-hundred percent on their side. “I know what you’re going to say, Bowers,” she said handed Thalek her tricorder to be modified to emit a bio-dampening field. “But this is too important an operation to abandon. You all know your assigned areas, people.”

    Amaros scanned one of the circuit housings in the habitat ring. The scanner beeped when it located the right circuit to disable the surveillance sensors in that section. “Let’s go,” he whispered to the others on his team. Limis and M’Rev snuck out into the corridor and followed Manuel through the longer adjoining corridor.

    “So what’s this secret that Manuel doesn’t want Cal Hudson’s relatives to know?” Limis quietly asked Goris.

    “Let’s just say the official accounts of Cal’s death are not entirely accurate,” Goris replied.

    Limis just stared in Manuel’s direction while he was mulling which way to turn at an intersecting hallway. Before he could wave his colleagues towards him, a ceiling vent opened above him. A Cardassian soldier fell towards the floor knocking Manuel down with him. Limis and M’Rev threw themselves against the walls on both sides at the same moment two Jem’Hadar appeared next to them. They quickly took down their would-be attackers with their phaser rifles. Down the corridor, Manuel gathered himself and, finding himself with no weapons, slugged the Cardassian in the jaw. Unfazed the enemy soldier then shot Manuel point-blank in the chest.

    Limis and M’Rev, meanwhile, had two additional Jem’Hadar coming their way. They ducked against the wall to avoid the barrage of plasma rifle fire. The soldiers slowly sauntered towards them. One of them effortlessly yanked the rifle from Limis’s hands. She gave the Jem’Hadar a quick kick in the stomach, but he still grabbed her collar shoved her to the floor. She rolled on her back and grabbed her holstered phaser shooting her opponent in seemingly one motion. M’Rev didn’t have as much luck with a Jem’Hadar digging his claws into his chest. Limis came at that Jem’Hadar from behind, incapacitating him with her neural truncheon.

    Before Goris could thank his captain, he took a phaser beam in the back. Limis fired in the shooter’s direction, but the Cardassian quickly took cover. “I guess we all won’t be coming out alive,” he remarked weakly as Limis tried to drag his heavy body out of harm’s way. Another Cardassian was shooting at them. Limis fired back while propping Goris up against the wall. “You have to leave me, Captain,” the Tellarite implored, fading in and out of consciousness. “This operation is too important.”

    With no time to consider whether he was dead or alive, Limis continued laying down phaser fire while running down the corridor. All that was on her mind was her own survival and the success of this mission. The safe return of her son had barely entered her consciousness. She had to hide herself from the enemy with little room in her thoughts to wonder how the Cardassians and Jem’Hadar found her so fast and if the rest of the unit was still alive. For all she knew, she was on her own.

    In “Especially the Lies”​