Star Trek: Lambda Paz

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction' started by Enterprise1981, Dec 6, 2008.

  1. Enterprise1981

    Enterprise1981 Vice Admiral Admiral

    Oct 23, 2008
    Tethered to a large plant
    Chapter One
    Captain’s log, stardate 52038.1: The Lambda Paz is at Starbase G-6, site of a series of diplomatic meetings with the Bajoran government. Starfleet is seeking an exchange of personnel with the Bajoran militia, now that Bajor has withdrawn from its non-aggression treaty with the Dominion.

    Rebecca Sullivan walked through engineering having received a summons. Being called to engineering was not unusual for a starship’s flight controllers. However, she did not see either a tall middle aged human man nor a blue-skinned Andorian woman, the two officers designated chief engineers, per the practice of having multiple chief engineers during a new class of starship’s first year of operation. The page was marked urgent, so who was calling her down?

    Rebecca did see her former Maquis colleague Erhlich Tarlazzi near the warp core handing a technician a stack of padds. “I was told to come here,” she told the gray-haired Rigellian. “Where are Commander Logan and Lieutenant sh’Aqba?”

    “Off duty, obviously,” Tarlazzi blithely replied. “I’ve got the night shift.”

    “So Logan trusts you not to break his engines?”

    “I’m now a chief,” Tarlazzi explained pointing to the two solid gold pips on his collar, signifying his new rank of full lieutenant. “You’re looking at the new dilithium maintenance specialist.”

    “I’ll be sure to get my affairs in order.”

    “No need to worry just yet,” Tarlazzi replied with a grin. “What were talking about? Oh, one of the torque buffers is out of alignment.” He handed Sullivan a padd on a side console.

    “I’ll look into it,” Rebecca replied.

    Tarlazzi’s attention was now on the console with a screen blinking the words “Incoming transmission” in front of a Republic of Bajor logo. “If you will excuse me,” he said, pushing a key to accept the transmission.

    A middle-aged Bajoran man appeared on the screen. He was gesturing emphatically while addressing the sudden collapse of the Bajoran wormhole. Many on Bajor had taken this as a sign that the Prophets had abandoned them. The religion that had kept the Bajoran people united for ten millennia was becoming more factionalized. “So our Celestial Temple, poof, goes away, he stated, “and then our alien Emissary takes off. That can’t possibly be a coincidence."

    Sullivan’s eyebrows twitched upward when she heard mention of the Emissary. Benjamin Sisko, commander of Deep Space 9 and Emissary to the Prophets in Bajoran theology, had taken an indefinite leave of absence feeling that he had failed in both duties. This Bajoran was in process of suggesting that Sisko was somehow involved in the disappearance of the Wormhole and that he left Bajor in anarchy. “Who is this clown?” she asked of the red-haired man with streaks of gray across his temples.

    “Bek Gillen,” Tarlazzi replied. “He got this gig last year after the war broke out.”

    “And you believe this garbage?”

    “Of course not. He has a unique view of Bajoran politics though.”

    Bek walked over to a chalkboard filled with a list of words. As he read the words aloud, he circled the first letter of each word or grouping of words. “Today, we’re going to be talking about ‘Soulless Minions,’ ‘Entropy,’ the ‘Cardassian occupation,’ ‘Ulterior motives,’ ‘Lessons of the past,’ ‘Armies of Darkness,’ and ‘Revolution.’”

    He then wrote the letters he had just circled on the chalkboard to spell out the word secular. “S-E-C-U-L-A-R. This latest incident may be the first step towards becoming a godless, secular society. I don’t know if we are turning into a secular society or not, but you need ask yourself one question. Why? And unless you ask why, we’re going to transform into something.”

    Captain Limis Vircona was also watching this editorial program in her quarters. Rather than her Starfleet uniform, she was dressed in a loose fitting navy blue shirt and form-fitting black trousers. She moved a lock of her black hair aside while picking up a padd off the coffee table with her right hand and a mug of raktajino in the other.

    The doorbell chimed as she was taking a sip. “Computer, pause playback,” she said, setting the mug down. “Come in.”
    She was expecting one of the senior staff, but she froze when she saw a stocky, balding Bajoran man, dressed in an orange command division Bajoran militia uniform step through the door. “Colonel Lenaris,” she gasped, setting the padd down on the coffee table. She smiled and walked over to her former Bajoran Resistance colleague. They both came together in a friendly embrace.

    “So how long has it been?” Limis asked her old friend.
    “Fourteen years, seven months, fourteen days,” Lenaris replied, “give or take a few weeks. I heard what happened with Arnit last year.”

    “He was a good man, even if our marriage went bust. Would you care for some coffee or tea?”

    “No thank you.”

    “So what brings you here?” Limis inquired offering Lenaris a seat.

    The colonel sat down in a chair across from the sofa. “Your chief of security thought I should surprise you,” he began. “And I’m being considered for a command in the Seventh Fleet.”
    “Is that so?”
    “With the Alliance on the offensive, Bajor is better protected. We may not have strong enough ships to contribute to the war effort, but we have plenty of soldiers willing to stand against a superior enemy.”

    They both exchanged grins, remembering their victories as members of the Ornathia Resistance. “So how bad is it on Bajor?” Limis asked. “Not that I ever believed in those superstitions.”

    “It’s chaotic,” Lenaris stated bluntly. “Kai Winn is doing everything she can to reassure the people, but she’s no Opaka. The disappearance of the Celestial Temple has given credibility to the Cult of the Pah-Wraiths and their belief that the Prophets were never our gods to begin with.”

    “I learned in the Maquis there can be more than two sides to any argument. Some were just interested in hurting Cardassians while others were merely concerned for the welfare of Federation colonists in the DMZ.”

    “If only everyone was as enlightened as you,” Lenaris retorted, while walked over to replicator for a refill.
    “I understand this conference was relocated to a ‘starbase near the Briar Patch’,” Lenaris continued, “after someone believing ‘the Starfleets were coming to take our guns away’ killed and wounded several diplomats at the last session on Bajor.”

    Limis remembered a News Service report about Bek Gillen making that claim. She took a quick glance at the wall monitor behind the desk, relieved to see that it was still blank. She would be too embarrassed to admit to watching Bek’s program even if she did so for the purpose of gathering information for a news media watchdog group.

    Limis turned back to the replicator and entered a command into the computer terminal to refill her coffee mug. Brown liquid began bubbling, overflowing over the rim. The mug then dematerialized leaving spilled coffee on the replicator tray and dripping down the wall.

    “Not another replicator malfunction,” she groaned. With replicators as a low priority repair need during the war, any malfunction was a major inconvenience. Limis tapped her combadge hoping to get someone on it during the layover. “Limis to engineering: my replicator’s acting up again.”
    Instead of someone in engineering, Limis got a lot of overlapping comm chatter. Then the comm shorted out entirely.

    “Looks like you have more than a replicator malfunction,” Lenaris observed aloud.

    “I’ll head to engineering myself. Make yourself at home Colonel. And call Lieutenant Ra Hoth if you want to have a look around.”

    Limis headed straight to engineering thinking that Logan’s reservations about granting her Maquis cohort greater responsibilities were legitimate. Tarlazzi had a natural talent for crashing Cardassian computer systems, which came in handy in guerilla warfare against a superior enemy. But giving him seniority on a Federation starship was a whole different matter. Even his Maquis colleagues found his exuberance annoying.

    A dark-haired Bajoran man dressed in a gold technician’s jumpsuit stood on the catwalk, observing Limis approaching Tarlazzi down on the first level. He divided his attention back and forth between the first level and the padd in his right hand.

    “Please tell me you didn’t break my ship one day into your promotion,” she huffed upon reaching the dilithium chamber. “I had to use the crawlspaces to get here.”

    “I’m just as surprised as you, Captain,” Tarlazzi answered, handing off a padd to an Efrosian female technician. “One system after another has been going on and off-line. It’s like the ship has a mind of its own.”

    “Maybe we should run these Luna-class ships through a few more drawing boards,” a young man chimed in.

    Limis swung around to see a baby-faced young man with bleached blonde hair. She began to think that Starfleet was suffering a severe personnel shortage with this kid on her ship. After all, she was younger he looked when she was recruited into the Bajoran Resistance. “I don’t believe we’ve met, young man,” she said.

    “Petty officer Willem Margose, sir,” the young man replied. “I came aboard during the last crew rotation.”

    “Well then, petty officer Margose, have you found anything to explain these malfunctions?”

    “Since we’re dealing with two unrelated systems,” the young Betazoid nervously replied, “this could be a hardware problem in both systems. We’re doing a complete circuit overhaul.”

    “I know replicators are not a top priority,” said Limis, “but I could use a few decent cups of coffee before we head back to the front.”

    The Bajoran technician on the second level had since come down to the main level and began working the console in front of the warp core. He removed the tricorder from his holster and entered information off the console’s readout into the device.

    An alarm chirped on the main console. Tarlazzi took a seat to find out what was happening now. A computer chime then sounded with the main computer’s nasal feminine voice issuing an ominous warning. “Danger: antimatter containment failure imminent. Estimate release of antimatter in five minutes, seven seconds, six seconds… five seconds…

    Limis tapped her comm badge to hail the bridge. With various senior officers either transferred or temporarily reassigned, Ensign Willis Huckaby had the bridge during the night watch. She was reminded of that fact when he answered rather than the older Lieutenant Selek who was one of those officers recently transferred off.

    “We’ve got a possible anti-matter containment failure down here,” Limis called. “Be ready to evacuate the ship and alert the starbase.”

    “Understood,” Huckaby calmly replied, ascending from the command chair. “Sullivan, move us to a safe distance, but slowly so we don’t get out of transporter range.”
    “Aye, sir,” Sullivan answered. “Moving off at five thousand kph.”

    Tarlazzi, meanwhile, was feverishly working the controls to remedy the problem. “Damn it,” he growled. “Those emergency controls are off-line. Margose, get down to the antimatter pods to eject them manually.”

    “Got it,” Margose replied, bolting for the crawl-space entrance.

    “Captain, while you’re here,” Tarlazzi added, “would you mind evacuating this section? We may need to jettison the warp core.”

    “Aye, aye, Lieutenant,” Limis sarcastically replied. To the technicians in engineering, she shouted, “You heard him, let’s move out.”

    Danger,” the computer warned. “Antimatter containment failure in three minutes.”

    “Can’t we shut that thing up?” Limis complained.

    “It reminds me how little time we have,” Tarlazzi argued.

    A low-pitched hum began to increase in volume and pitch. The bars on a horizontal bar graph on a readout screen suddenly began to lengthen. “What the hell?” Tarlazzi mumbled.

    “What happened?” Limis asked.

    “Now all systems normal?”

    Limis tapped her comm badge. “Bridge, false alarm. How did the system repair itself?”

    “I have no fragging clue,” a bewildered Tarlazzi replied.
  2. Enterprise1981

    Enterprise1981 Vice Admiral Admiral

    Oct 23, 2008
    Tethered to a large plant
    Partial transcript of 6 February 2375 (Earth Gregorian calendar)/ 57th Day of Itara 9376 (Bajoran calendar) edition of The Bek Gillen Program

    Bek Gillen: I’m hearing about the abdication of our non-aggression pact with the Dominion and you know what I am thinking? You’ve got to be kidding me.

    First let me clarify. I was in no way for this farce of a peace agreement. The late Vedek Yasim was one of the first to warn that the treaty was just a subtle way to conquer our world little by little instead of in one fell swoop. At least we were safe from an all-out assault during the war. After the war would probably be a different matter. But given how terribly unprepared our supposed saviors were for this war; I can’t blame even our sanest of politicians for endorsing that treaty! I don’t know how much longer Shakaar can disenfranchise us.

    We’ve got programming editor. Bil Shulzak here to represent our average citizen.

    (Begins pouring water out of a gasoline canister onto Bil)

    The disappearance of our Celestial Temple was the first step. Then our own government adds to it by voiding the treaty with the Dominion. When those things weren’t enough, how about allowing a Romulan military presence in this sector? The Romulan Empire may be an important asset to the war effort, but that hardly means they’ll give up their conquering ways once the war is over. Whether that alliance wins or loses, neither outcome bodes well for Bajor. Either Bajor falls to the Dominion, or we’re at the mercy of the Klingons or the Romulans or Federation subversion through our own puppet leaders.

    (Discontinues the pouring. Person off-screen hands Bek a lit match)

    First Minister Shakaar, why don’t you just set us all on fire? For the love of the Prophets, what are you doing? Do you not hear the cries of people yelling, “STOP!” We would like some sanity on our planet for a second! When the Occupation ended, we had political opportunists fighting amongst themselves, forsaking all that we had accomplished in the previous fifty years.

    We didn’t vote to lose the Republic all over again. We voted for change. You know what that change was? The change we wanted was an end to the games! We wanted our elected representatives to stand for something. We just want some common sense. We can disagree on politics, but good lord almighty, man. You’ve seen one conqueror; you’ve seen them all. And our government is presiding over the end of Bajoran civilization, as we know it.
  3. Enterprise1981

    Enterprise1981 Vice Admiral Admiral

    Oct 23, 2008
    Tethered to a large plant
    Chapter Two
    “Everything just suddenly became all right,” Tarlazzi reported to Limis.

    The captain convened a meeting of the senior most engineers on duty. Tarlazzi and petty officer Margose were those engineers with Charles Logan, Shinar sh’Aqba and some of the engineering staff on special assignment for the Starfleet Corps of Engineers. “If I understand starship operations correctly,” Limis half-sarcastically replied, “the entire antimatter containment system doesn’t just suddenly crash out of the blue. That system has seven magnetic safety interlocks to prevent that.”

    “We just got lucky I guess,” Margose offered. “What’s suspicious is that a highly set of circumstances would need to take place even with the gel pack overhaul taking place, and then we were saved in the nick of time.

    “You’re right, I don’t buy that all these problems repaired themselves,” Limis insisted. The eerie quiet from the absences of first officer Ronnie Kozar and second officer Mandel Morrison, who were assigned to convoy duty along the Klingon border, was almost lulling her half to sleep. Looking to Tellarite Ensign Goris M’Rev, she said, “Mister M’Rev, could the proximity to the Briar Patch also be a factor?”

    “The metreon pockets cause disruptions to subspace,” M’Rev explained. “External subspace communications and warp drive are the most affected.”

    “We can’t afford to overlook anything,” Limis replied. “We’ll be rejoining the Seventh Fleet in a week. Keep a close eye on any possible future glitches. Dismissed.”

    The three crewmen filed out. Once the door leading to the side corridor closed, Limis tapped her combadge. “Lieutenant Ra Hoth,” she called. “Report to my ready room in five minutes.”

    Tirren Ra Hoth, a Triexian serving as acting chief of security in Morrison’s absence, waited in the ready room for the captain as ordered. Limis quickly paced into the office and took a seat behind the desk. She accessed the engineering duty roster for the gamma shift on the monitor and entered a command to download that file to a padd.

    “I’ll come right to the point, Lieutenant,” Limis said while the download was in progress. “We have a saboteur on board.”
    “Based on this near disaster?” Ra Hoth asked, taking a seat in one of the guest chairs.”

    “Too many variables don’t add up. The warp core doesn’t come close to breaching and suddenly become all right at the very last nanosecond.”

    Limis then handed Ra Hoth the padd with the fully downloaded file. “This is the engineering duty roster,” she said. “Per Starfleet protocol, the chief of security is to question everyone who was on duty at the time. But be discreet. I don’t want the whole ship knowing we have a saboteur.”

    “How do you expect to keep this on the down low? Even if you have the science and engineering departments investigating those other possibilities, they’ll eventually come to the same conclusion you have.”

    “Let me worry about that. You just do your job. Besides, this is a relatively unexplored sector of space full of endless mysteries. That should keep Tarlazzi and the others busy.”
    Ra Hoth stood up and headed for the door. He stopped and looked back at the desk. “A former colleague of mine once said one of the privileges of being a starship captain is you get to keep some things to yourself,” he stated. “But there is an old Triexian saying. Lack of evidence is often evidence of a conspiracy. You may be stoking the paranoia you hope to avoid.”

    “Carry on with the investigation, Mister Ra Hoth.”

    “State your name, rank, and position,” Ra Hoth requested of Margose in the security office.

    “Chief Petty Officer Willem Margose,” the Betazoid engineer confidently answered, “maintenance engineer.”

    “And what are your responsibilities?”

    “Maintaining dilithium, obviously,” Tarlazzi half-heartedly responded. “What is the point of these questions?”
    “I am following protocol. Your sarcasm could be construed as subterfuge.”

    “Construed as, but not proof of guilt.”

    “I am not suggesting that you deliberately caused the system malfunctions. But when a problem of this magnitude occurs, then at the very least, someone acted improperly.”

    “You believe me incompetent because I was Maquis,” grumbled Saul Mavik, the Bajoran technician on duty at the time disaster was averted.

    “I did not intend to suggest that. I am attempting to learn how such a highly improbable set of circumstances took place. And you were manning the matter-antimatter conversion monitor when containment began to collapse.”

    “Meaning what?”

    “Again, I am not specifically accusing anyone. What were you doing?”

    “I discovered a misalignment in the articulation frame,” the technician answered with a sigh. “I downloaded a set of technical specifications into my tricorder to refer to when I went to fix the problem. Starfleet technology is very complex. I was doing my job. That is hardly a crime.”

    “Of course not,” Ra Hoth calmly answered. “Your resistance to answering my questions does suggest you have something to hide.”

    “Can I assume you view a lot of 21st Century Earth crime dramas where the most argumentative suspect is guilty?”
    “That is often the case, but not always. But I have to ask that you swallow your pride and answer my questions as truthfully as you can.”

    Saul Mavik later crawled through a Jeffries’ tube on the lowest deck of the secondary hull. He entered a corridor that ended with a nearby hull breach incurred from the last skirmish. The crimson gases of the nearby Briar Patch had a certain beauty that could not be appreciated looking at them on a stellar cartography monitor. The imagery was also scary even knowing that as long as a forcefield was in place, he was in danger of meeting gruesome death.

    An arm grabbed both of Saul’s shoulders. Kelsen Daron, an older Bajoran man with graying brown hair, dressed in a Bajoran militia uniform pulled Saul into an empty storage locker. “I told you not to cause a near warp core breach just yet,” he growled. “You’ve already aroused suspicion.”

    “At least the security officer thinks it was a result of incompetence at best,” Saul replied calmly. “They do not believe they have a saboteur aboard yet. But we have to move up our plans.”

    “No!” the other Bajoran officer whispered loudly and emphatically. “Not without the proper equipment. But we should improvise. Come to my quarters on the starbase when your shift is over.”

    Kelsen’s combadge chirped. “Lenaris to Kelsen,” his superior called.

    “Kelsen here,” he replied tapping his combadge.
    “Where the hell are you, Major?” Lenaris demanded. “The next meeting is about to start.”

    “Sorry, sir. There was a mix up about the time.”

    Limis sat in her ready room, sipping a raktajino while engaging in some recreational reading. Morrison had suggested the stories of fictional Earth detective Dixon Hill. She found “The Big Goodbye” to be an intriguing story of murder, scandal and treachery. The narrative was difficult to understand, especially since the characters spoke a bizarre dialect of Federation Standard.

    A thumping noise in the ceiling caught her attention. She looked up, but the noise subsided. Maybe it was nothing. Looking back at the padd, she heard the thump again. “Hello?” she called out.

    Limis reached into a drawer behind the desk and grabbed a phaser. She stood up pointing the weapon at the ceiling. Some gold gelatinous material began spilling out of a hole in the ceiling. Immediately knowing that this was the remains of a Changeling, she tapped her combadge. “Security to captain’s ready room,” she called out.
  4. Enterprise1981

    Enterprise1981 Vice Admiral Admiral

    Oct 23, 2008
    Tethered to a large plant
    Partial transcript of 7 February 2375 Earth Gregorian calendar)/ 58th Day of Itara 9376 (Bajoran calendar) edition of The Bek Gillen Program

    Bek Gillen: I’ve got some reading material that will be of interest. I’ve gotten a lot of communiqués pointing out that the United Federation of Planets operates by a code of conduct unlike that of the Klingons, the Romulans, and most definitely the Cardassians and their Dominion allies. However, their own laws also indicate instances of when their citizens are allowed to ignore that same code of conduct. How convenient.

    First off, here is Starfleet General Order One. “Under no circumstances is any officer or enlistee in Starfleet, as a representative of the primary diplomatic, scientific, and military entity of the United Federation of Planets, to take action that could drastically impact the cultural practices, conceptions of the universe, or the natural social development of a sovereign planetary governing body.

    “The sovereignty of any civilization, including, but not limited to, those in a pre-warp or pre-industrial stage of technological development, is to be strictly honored. That is the right of a sentient species, even those with forbears common to one or more Federation member species, but not itself aligned with the UFP, to govern its own people must be observed.”

    The rest of it goes into great detail about Federation involvement in the internal affairs of space faring civilizations. Non-aligned worlds that have a formal alliance with the Federation are entitled to certain benefits. That is the case to a greater degree for member worlds, especially to “assure that the rights and liberties guaranteed to all citizens of the United Federation of Planets are observed.”

    The Cardassian Union has, or so it claimed sixty years ago, a similar non-interference directive. Of course, that alleged directive was thrown out the nearest airlock when it became inconvenient. Over the years after first contact, it was perfectly clear the spoonheads were in control. And they had no intention of relinquishing that control. Our world’s history before the Great Awakening is also filled with instances where conquerors greeted their future subjects with the words “We are your friends.” Even the “morally superior” United Federation of Planets has justifications for ignoring their own principles.

    Starfleet Special Order 66715: Starfleet personnel are granted authority to neutralize security threats to Deep Space 9 by any means necessary. Isn’t that stepping over the line when dealing with a planet not part of the club? True, some exceptions to the rules are necessary in wartime. If that doesn’t convince you, this will shock you.

    Article 14, Section 31 of the Federation Charter: “The provision of an independent and autonomous entity, which has broad discretionary authority to counter any threats to the security and prosperity of the United Federation of Planets.”

    This is not military information that must remain classified in order for that military to function effectively. This is the Federation Charter, available for any sentient to read. Always beware of the eye that will not see and the ear that will not hear.
  5. Enterprise1981

    Enterprise1981 Vice Admiral Admiral

    Oct 23, 2008
    Tethered to a large plant
    Chapter Three
    A team of security and medical officers reported to the ready room to investigate every centimeter of the room. Following the phaser sweeps of the entire ready room, the investigators conducted extensive scans for evidence that a Changeling had been there. Limis took a blood test to assure she was not a Changeling. One security officer stood on an anti-gravity lift to scan the part of the ceiling from which the gelatinous material came. Other security officers were using different scanning devices to check for cellular residue and traces of Changeling DNA.

    Doctor Aurellan Markalis and a male Denobulan medical technician, meanwhile, slowly transferred the gelatinous material into a sample container. All Limis could do was stand behind her desk and trust these officers knew how to operate all the different scanning devices. Markalis handed off the container to the med-tech and then reported to Limis.
    “It’s definitely the remains of a Changeling,” the doctor stated.

    “If it’s dead,” Limis replied, “wouldn’t it have turned to ash?”

    “The working theory is that Changeling’s have a genetically implanted suicide gland turning the dead body to ash. This sample does not contain enough mass to constitute a whole body. It’s more like a humanoid’s dead skin cells.”

    After conferring with one of the security deputies, Ra Hoth then walked over Limis’s desk. “From what we can tell,” he stated. “We can find no other evidence of a Changeling.”

    “Passing that blood test should have told you that,” Limis quipped. “At least we’re a step closer in the investigation. Round up the engineering crew to conduct blood screenings on each of them.”

    “Yes, ma’am.”


    Members of the gamma shift engineering staff walked into sickbay one at a time to submit a blood sample. Tarlazzi was the first as de facto chief engineer. He passed. Saul Mavik was next. He shot a hostile glare at Ra Hoth as Markalis applied the hypo-syringe. Markalis shook the small vial, but the blood stayed red. The glare transformed into a triumphant grin though Ra Hoth’s expression remained neutral.

    Willem Margose followed. Markalis slowly applied a hypo-syringe. Blood trickled into the vial. Once Markalis held it in front of her eyes, the blood morphed into Changeling protoplasm. Ra Hoth and the two human security guards flanking him raised their raised their phaser rifles. Margose’s eyes widened in disbelief.

    Margose was confined to the brig despite his insistence that he would put up more of a fight if he actually was a Changeling. That often was the modus operandi of a spy. On her way to the detention, Limis contemplated how easy apprehending the saboteur was. She had a gut feeling that whoever was the real saboteur was trying to throw off ship’s security.

    “He hasn’t been very cooperative,” Ra Hoth told Limis, upon her arrival. “He won’t even give his name.”

    Limis raised a hand asking the Triexian security officer to step aside. She stepped in front of the cell entrance shooting the prisoner a cold stare. “What did you hope to accomplish?” she asked “Were you hoping see how easily you could trigger a warp core breach?”

    Margose remained silent, leaving his interrogators to wonder if that was an indication of guilt.

    “What were you hoping to accomplish?” Limis continued. “To destroy this ship and other ships in the Seventh Fleet?”
    “I will not answer any questions without the benefit of legal counsel,” Margose angrily hissed.

    “You think hiding behind the rights of Federation citizens is going to get you off the hook? I’ll put a stop to whatever it is you are planning, with or without your cooperation. And then I’ll make sure you never see the light of day again.”

    Margose wanted to lunge at the forcefield that was incarcerating him. He chose not to act on that impulse, as that would make him appear guilty of sabotage. “My homeworld was invaded by the Dominion three months ago,” he said. “And now you are no better than they are.”

    Limis turned to look at Ra Hoth. “Walk with me, Lieutenant,” she whispered.

    The two officers stepped out into the corridor to discuss the next course of action. “With all due respect,” Ra Hoth stated, “that was rather harsh. Even if he is really a Changeling, we are still obligated to observe due process.”

    “It was a tactic,” Limis replied. “I wanted to see how he’d react; if I would be giving credibility to the Founders’ fear of ‘solids.’ Instead evoked feelings about the invasion of Betazed.

    “The real saboteur may have let his guard down,” Limis continued, as they stopped in front of a turbolift door. “But we want him to think we’re still looking for a Changeling.”

    “So do I set Margose free?” Ra Hoth inquired.

    “Hell no! My gut tells me we have the wrong man. I could still be wrong. I can’t take that chance. Luckily that core breach fixed itself. What if next time lives are lost?”

    Ra Hoth nodded slowly. He turned headed back for the brig without a word, while Limis stepped onto the arriving turbolift.

    Erhlich Tarlazzi and Rebecca Sullivan sat at a table together in the mess hall after their respective shifts. While it was morning by the ship’s clock, this time of day was dinnertime for those officers on the night shift. Tarlazzi stared at barely eaten chicken curry and rice, while Sullivan was quickly eating from a bowl of egg salad. She did not care that the food was really replicated protein molecules as her late husband Michael Eddington complained. She did not even take the time to notice her friend’s lack of eating.

    Rebecca did notice Erhlich’s somber mood when she saw Saul Mavik and blond human male engineering technician walk through the port entrance. She motioned them over to her table. The two young men walked over to the replicator to order their meals. “I would think you would more hungry after crawling around in Jeffries tubes for eight hours,” Rebecca remarked to Tarlazzi.

    “Being a chief means a lot more paper work,” Tarlazzi replied. “And security threw one of my crew in the brig.”

    “Did they find the person who nearly blew up the ship?” Saul asked, taking a seat at Sullivan’s left. The human accompanying him, Marc Ekbern, sat across from her.

    “Margose is a Changeling,” Tarlazzi replied. “What gets me how easy catching him was.”

    “Those blood screenings aren’t always accurate,” Saul offered.

    “How do we know the captain wasn’t by replaced by a Changeling?” grumbled Ekbern, who spoke with a light Scandinavian accent.

    “She was clean,” Sullivan insisted. “And we don’t know how many of those things are on board, if any.” She hesitated to use the word shape-shifter knowing that her late husband served alongside a Changeling on Deep Space 9. Many on that station trusted Odo with their lives. But after the Dominion did such a thorough job in trying to eradicate the Maquis, she couldn’t help but be a little more paranoid.

    “Plus whatever was in her ready room was already dead,” Tarlazzi added.

    “Maybe she’s not a shape-shifter,” Ekbern replied. “Maybe she’s like her husband.”

    Rebecca looked around to see that no one was watching them. “What do you know about her ex-husband?” she whispered, leaning over the table.

    “He was here about a year ago,” Ekbern quietly answered. “After we were spared the Jem’Hadar’s slaughter, I heard a rumor that he turned to their side. Maybe that’s why she and the rest of us were spared.”

    “You shouldn’t believe everything you hear,” Tarlazzi cautioned with a hint of hostility in his voice.

    “Yeah, well I would expect you guys to defend her,” Ekbern huffed. He threw his napkin down, stood up, and whisked his food tray off the table.

    In a fit of rage, Sullivan shoved the table in front of Ekbern. She walked towards him with Saul and Tarlazzi in stepping in front of her. “How dare you suggest some of our brethren are on their side,” Rebecca hissed. “Very few of us are left thanks to those monsters. And Michael gave his life to make sure some of us survived.”

    “Calm down, Becca,” Tarlazzi suggested calmly, while noticing that people stood up to see what all the commotion was about.

    Ekbern sauntered over to another table, Sullivan helped Tarlazzi and Saul clean up the mess she had made when knocking over the table.

    Saul later recalled the incident when he met with Kelsen in a vacant and poorly lit cargo bay on the starbase. They were awaiting the arrival of a cargo ship delivering supplies to carry out what they were planning. Kelsen was not even listening, while pacing back and forth impatiently.

    “She’s a feisty one,” Saul remarked, his cheeks blushing. “Too bad I’ll have to kill her and so many others.”

    “It’s a small price to pay if it will end hostilities,” Kelsen replied. “We must be willing to do what most of our brothers and sisters are too afraid to do. Bek Gillen has seen the light, and we must act.”

    A middle-aged Bajoran man in scraggly leather clothing materialized in the cargo bay. He was surrounded by nearly a dozen different cargo containers. “Thank the Prophets you arrived,” Kelsen exclaimed.

    “That’s assuming they were still with us,” replied Tahna Los, the blond-haired Bajoran delivering the supplies Kelsen had requested.

    “Is it all here?” Kelsen inquired.

    “Courtesy of the Son’a,” Tahna replied. “You’ll have all the supplies you need to create an explosion brighter than ignited metreon gas pockets in the Briar Patch.”
  6. Enterprise1981

    Enterprise1981 Vice Admiral Admiral

    Oct 23, 2008
    Tethered to a large plant
    Chapter Four
    Tirren Ra Hoth stared at a set of numbers on a readout screen on one of the auxiliary stations along the main entryway in engineering. He and Tarlazzi set up a program to alert either of them of any sudden system malfunctions. When Tarlazzi asked what they were looking for, Ra Hoth gave a deadpanned reply of, “I don’t know” that was hardly of any reassurance.

    He was pushing buttons to scroll down the display with all three of his hooves, distinguishing features of Triexians, when Goris M’Rev slowly walked towards him. “You wanted to see me?” the Tellarite asked, showing mild annoyance about being taken off the bridge.

    “I was running through the systems logs,” Ra Hoth explained. “According to Tarlazzi, an unscheduled sensor diagnostic took place an hour ago. We were unable to trace who authorized it…”

    “Get to the point already,” M’Rev sighed impatiently.
    “Well, I ran across some kind of spike on one of the subspace bands.”

    “You’re right. That is odd with the warp drives off all ships docked at the starbase are either at minimal power or offline altogether.”

    “So what could be generating such a spike?”

    “A subspace communications booster relay, a subspace corridor terminus, sub-spatial charges… ”

    “Sub-spatial charges,” Ra Hoth interrupted. “As in subspace explosives?”

    “Possibly, but those were banned by the Second Khitomer Accords of 2346.”

    “We still can’t rule it out. The Son’a and the Breen still sell them on the black market.”

    “Someone may have smuggled subspace explosives aboard the station,” Ra Hoth reported to Limis and Tarlazzi when they arrived in engineering. “We’re trying to extrapolate the location of the spike. It’s fragmentary at best since it came up during shifts in the station’s scan cycle.”

    “Couple that with our sensor diagnostic that I did not authorize,” Tarlazzi added. “We’re pooling what little sensor data we have with other ships. But we’re still waiting hear from them.”

    “M’Rev,” said Limis, “you said that the metreon particles interfere with subspace. What would happen if someone tried to activate the warp drive deep in the Patch?”

    “The particles would ignite the gases causing a highly explosive reaction,” M’Rev answered.

    “We’re about a light year from the perimeter cloud,” Limis recalled aloud. “But the devastation would still be great. We need to concentrate on where the explosive will be planted.”

    “Agreed,” Ra Hoth replied. “I’ll coordinate with station security.”

    Crewman Saul was observing the discussion amongst the four officers while looking up from a padd on the opposite side. He paced over to a port side alcove. He opened an encrypted communications channel to contact Major Kelsen on the starbase.

    “This better be important,” Kelsen snapped when his face appeared on the monitor.

    “I’m in danger of being discovered,” Saul whispered. “We have to move up our timetable.”

    “I’ll get on it right away.”

    The transmission ended, replacing the Bajoran militia officer with the Starfleet delta. Saul looked over to his to see no others present in his field of vision. “Computer,” he said, “initiate program Saul one.”

    The computer chimed and Saul dematerialized.

    Another computer chime caught the attention of Tarlazzi on the console to the right of the monitor readout he had been analyzing. The computer had finished reassembling deleted engineering diagnostic logs. The monitor could provide the identity of who authorized the unscheduled sensor diagnostic.

    Tarlazzi tapped his combadge to contact the person behind this unauthorized work. “Tarlazzi to Crewman Saul.”
    No one answered.

    “Computer, locate Crewman Saul,” Ra Hoth commanded.

    Crewman Saul is not on board the ship.

    “What was his last known location?” Limis inquired.

    Unknown. Transporter log has been erased.

    “Ra Hoth, you’re with me,” Limis instructed. “We’re beaming over to the starbase.”

    Limis and Ra Hoth accompanied three Starfleet security officers on the starbase. Ra Hoth, standing on Limis, and starbase chief of security Tamir Nussef, on Limis’s left, both scanned the area with tricorders. Two other station security officers, a human male and a Tellarite female, brought up the rear armed with phaser rifles.

    The team of five marched through a corridor in the station’s central core. As they neared the main reactor, the tricorders began beeping at a higher pitch and at quicker intervals. “Subspace energy readings are now off the scale,” Ra Hoth reported.

    Upon arrival at the door to the reactor, they all leaned against the wall; Limis and Ra Hoth stood on the left side while Nussef and his officers stood on the right side. Ra Hoth pushed a button to open the door, but nothing happened. Nussef then opened a small panel on the lower wall and pulled out a manual door clamp. He placed it on the door. The muscular Middle-Eastern man needed all his strength and Ra Hoth’’s three arms to slide the door open. They slipped through the opening in the door one at a time.

    Two Starfleet technicians lay unconscious on the floor of the reactor room. Three unkempt Bajoran civilians in tattered clothing stood guard in front of the reactor core. Both Saul and Kelsen were putting together an explosive device to attach to the core. The guards began shooting at the Starfleet team taking out the Tellarite officer and the other human security officer. Nussef, Ra Hoth, and Limis dove out of the way of the flurry of phaser fire and behind side consoles on both sides.

    Kelsen smacked Saul in his upper forearm. “You were supposed to crash the sensors,” Kelsen growled.

    “I told you I was close to getting caught,” Saul demurely insisted.

    Nussef kneeled upright and stunned the guard on the right. The other two guards, who were laying down cover fire in the direction of Limis and Ra Hoth, turned to start shooting at Nussef. Limis used the distraction to take down the two remaining guards.

    Saul removed a micro-stun grenade from underneath his left uniform sleeve and threw it on the ground. He then bolted for the door while Kelsen armed the detonator and set the timer. Limis and Ra Hoth ran after Saul. Nussef gathered himself.
    The detonation countdown had already begun. Kelsen tapped a communications device, and he dematerialized. Nussef now had sixty seconds to try and disarm the explosive, or combined with the plasma pulsing through the core, it would send out subspace pulse destroying the starbase and all surrounding ships.

    “Nussef to Ops,” he called out, tapping his combadge. “Try to lock onto the explosive attached to the reactor core.”

    We can’t get a clear lock,” the duty officer in the starbase operations center replied. “Any attempt to beam it out may trigger the explosion prematurely.

    “Then stand by for my signal,” said Nussef tapping his badge again.

    Limis and Ra Hoth continued to give chase to Crewman Saul. When the rogue Bajoran turned a corner, he stopped and fired a Starfleet issue phaser at his pursuers. Limis and Ra Hoth fired back. He completely absorbed the phaser pulses. The blasts only slowed him down rather than stunning him.

    He began to pick up the pace again and rounded the intersecting corridor. He came to a sudden stop, grimaced, and fell forward onto the deck. Limis and Ra Hoth entered the adjoining corridor and saw this taking place. His mouth began to open even though he appeared to have suddenly lost consciousness. A blue mollusk-looking creature emerged from his mouth and began crawling quickly across the deck.
    “What is that thing?” Ra Hoth gasped in horror.

    Limis did not answer, even though she was briefed on what this thing was when she first took command of the Lambda Paz. She increased the setting on her phaser and fired at the creature immediately killing it.

    Back in the reactor room, Nussef removed the casing from the explosive to get a better understanding of the wiring. A red wire and a blue wire connected the timepiece with the detonator. If he had a coin on him, he’d flip one to decide which wire to pull. Of course, the stakes were too high. “Ops,” he said, “prepare to lock onto my combadge and transport forty thousand kilometers from Docking Bay 14.”

    He pulled the cylindrical detonator off the rest of the explosive just as the time readout registered five seconds. He slapped his combadge on it and called for transport. “Now!”

    Once the detonator was out in space, it exploded harmlessly.
  7. Enterprise1981

    Enterprise1981 Vice Admiral Admiral

    Oct 23, 2008
    Tethered to a large plant
    Epilogue 1
    Limis, Markalis, and M’Rev stared into the transparent stasis container housing the dead parasitic lifeform. They were both fascinated and intimidated by it, as this parasite was most likely behind the catastrophe that was narrowly averted. Whatever these beings’ intentions were, they were clearly using the situation on Bajor as a cover for their own goals. That would probably answer the question of what these rogue Bajorans were hoping to accomplish by the mass destruction of ships in the Seventh Fleet.

    “This lifeform,” M’Rev told the others, “was behind the Starfleet conspiracy thwarted by the Enterprise-D in 2364. What they were planning then still remains a mystery.”

    The three officers observing the parasite in a makeshift science lab adjacent to sickbay all stood up straight. “That would explain why the stun setting was not enough to incapacitate its host,” Markalis added. “My medical school dissertation was on exosymbiosis. This creature, when it infects a humanoid host, significantly enhances the production of adrenaline, in effect giving the host superior strength resulting in a near immunity to non-lethal phaser settings.”

    “Hard to believe that thing could have brought about so much destruction,” Limis mused. “And we haven’t seen the last of them.”

    “Why do you say that?” M’Rev asked, raising one eyebrow.

    “Last year, I was dispatched to foil a plan by Teero Anaydis to use his mind control techniques on the Council of Ministers.”

    “I’ve heard of him,” M’Rev replied. “He was banished from the Maquis for his methods.”

    “He got away, and we arrested a few of his co-conspirators. But we couldn’t get any information from them.”

    “Doctor Bashir and I could never make sense of exactly what caused their deaths,” Markalis recalled. “It was as if every system in their bodies shut down. That happened with Crewman Saul.”

    “These neural parasites probably know how to better cover their tracks,” Limis offered. “After their failed subversion of Starfleet Command, they’ll be harder to track. We could be dealing with a threat far greater than even that of the Dominion.”
  8. Enterprise1981

    Enterprise1981 Vice Admiral Admiral

    Oct 23, 2008
    Tethered to a large plant
    Partial transcript of 8 February 2375 edition of The Bek Gillen Program

    Gillen Bek: Needless to say, all of us who were around during the Occupation did things we were not proud of. And I’m not talking about just the massacring of civilians. People took up jobs that required doing morally reprehensible things in order to make ends meet, to make sure their families were taken care of. When you consider the great many families still living in poverty, it breaks your heart. I visited a center for war orphans last month. It got me choked up.

    But back to what I was previously talking… Excuse me for a second… Many of us who were farmers, laborers, artists, sculptors gave up those professions to fight against an oppressive enemy. They were superior to us in so many ways. We had no outside help. And we can continue to prosper without outside help. You need to let your voices be heard. But not like this. This was not how it was supposed to happen.

    I’m talking about the near destruction Starbase G-6 and every surrounding ship within a million kilometers. Fighting the Cardassians desensitized many of us to the act of murder. But we must never learn to devalue sentient life. Had that explosion not been averted, the death toll would have been catastrophic. The Cardassians were notorious for devaluing Bajoran life. We were nothing more than a means to an end; their ends as much they claimed to have our own interests. They would sell out their own families to remain loyal to their government. We are supposed far above that. This is not the answer.

    Epilogue 2
    Bek never actually shed a tear, though that appeared to be case to his audience. He stepped into dressing room after he finished recording the program. He did not turn on any lights even after he closed the door. No one else was physically present, but he did start to feel another consciousness interacting with his own.

    “I did what you asked,” Bek stated. “I disassociated myself from those who nearly destroyed the starbase.”

    “You may now have twelve hours free from us,” a raspy feminine voice replied. “Now they should be less likely to suspect outside influences.”
  9. Enterprise1981

    Enterprise1981 Vice Admiral Admiral

    Oct 23, 2008
    Tethered to a large plant
    Partial transcript of 9 February 2375 edition of Countdown: Cardassia

    Mur Ol’Mav: Finally, as promised, a Special Comment on the events on Bajor this past week. As a representative of one of the founding member races of the United Federation of Planets, I can say we have moved beyond superstition, a belief in the supernatural and in divine intervention. However, for many of us during these trying times, it is all we have.

    [​IMG][​IMG] [​IMG]
    As a precursor to the UFP, long-standing rivals came together in a Coalition of Planets to address a growing threat from the Romulan Star Empire. Most notably, Vulcans and Andorians considered each other bitter enemies. And many of them remained understandably skeptical even after the resolution of the Babel Crisis and the Earth-Romulan Wars. Terrans, Vulcans, Andorians, and my people, the Tellarites, along with so many others stand together in an organization built on cooperation, not conquest. On peace, and not war. [​IMG] [​IMG] Two hundred years later, even the Klingons and Romulans, leaders of two empires built on the belief that that which is different from them is the enemy and a threat to be conquered, stand with us in the cause of beating back an oppressive and implacable enemy that has darkened this quadrant the last three Earth years.

    [​IMG] [​IMG]
    Of course, Bajorans had a right to be skeptical when Starfleet took control of Terok Nor, now designated Deep Space Nine, in 2369. The Cardassian Union made similar promises a half century earlier. Men like Skrain Dukat extended an open hand of friendship, only as long as the Bajoran people “behaved themselves” and did not ask for too much. In the subsequent years, many of the Bajoran people have come to see the Federation as the real deal and it is only a matter of time before they are officially one of us.

    Of course, an unfortunate reality in this universe is that not all sentient beings are interested in reason, a failing among my people. Many want a scapegoat, someone to blame for all the ills of society. They want panic and the guilty thrill of chaos. Many want an excuse to bash skulls, to go after someone they can challenge, because they dare not challenge the true enemy. What in the name of whatever creator you believe in can be accomplished by obstructing our ability to win the Dominion War?
    [​IMG] If you think that it would help persuade both sides to seek a peaceful settlement, as was the case when the Organians used their superior abilities to call off the First Federation-Klingon War in 2267, you are fatally mistaken. People like Bek Gillen, claiming we will lose the war and that Bajor will be the first to fall when that does happen, encourage his people to rise up against an oppressive enemy claiming that the disappearance of the wormhole is only the first step in the Federation’s conquest, and then weeps on the air saying he did not intend for the Bajoran people to become the enemy they sought to destroy.
    To those Bajorans watching and Federation citizens who have Bajoran friends or work closely with Bajorans, deliver this message. We are not the enemy. Unlike when the Cardassians came to your world fifty years ago, we do not have ulterior motives. You see the universe much as we see it. But our differences are just as important as our similarities. In fact, that is the Vulcan people’s slogan. Kol-Ut-Shan, Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations. [​IMG]We would never ask the Bajoran people to forsake or renounce their religion. That is in fact, the Federation’s highest law, not to intervene in the natural development of any society. Although Starfleet’s General Order One now needs to be bent given that Deep Space Nine is critical to the defense of this quadrant, the most fundamental principle behind our Prime Directive still stands.

    That’s Countdown for today, the 51st day since victory at Chin’toka. Good day and good luck.
  10. Enterprise1981

    Enterprise1981 Vice Admiral Admiral

    Oct 23, 2008
    Tethered to a large plant
    Historian’s Note: The main events of this story take place one week after the events of “Afterimage” (DS9).

    Station Sentok Nor, Orbiting Betazed

    Thalek had to make sure no one was following him. He would look behind himself every time he heard a crash or a clanging noise while slowly walking through the corridors of an uncompleted section of the station.

    Sentok Nor became operational only a few short months ago after the Dominion invasion of Betazed. So for now, Thalek could schedule meetings in parts of the newest Cardassian station declared off-limits to all but engineering personnel. As a one-time operative of the now-defunct Obsidian Order, the Cardassian intelligence agent had mastered going into places where he was not welcome. More was at stake here though. Getting caught trying to learn Federation secrets or classified Romulan military plans certainly meant imprisonment or death. This time, however, he was obstructing the Dominion’s ability to win the war, so his action would, by definition, be treasonous.

    The stocky Cardassian stepped into an empty storage room and locked the door once it slid shut. The scanning device he held in his right hand was linked into the transporter system. Since Dominion transporters had a range of three light years, his contact could beam in without stowing away on a legitimate ship.

    A tall blonde human male dressed in a black leather jumpsuit materialized. His intimidating scowl and large stature were more easily noticeable than his youthful appearance. “You have the information?” he asked.

    Thalek whipped a Cardassian-issue padd out of his left trousers pocket. “Right here,” he jovially declared.

    The human agent grabbed the padd and began sorting through the information. He squinted when he came across one peculiar report. He grabbed Thalek by the collar. “If you’re lying,” he growled, “if this is a trick, I’ll have your head.”

    “I assure you, it’s genuine,” Thalek calmly replied. “My people are in as much danger from this as yours are.”

    The human agent let go of the Cardassian. He then tapped a communication device on his left wrist and dematerialized.

    Cole sat down in the one seat cockpit of his small scout ship. He entered commands into console on both side viewports. “Computer,” he said, “engage sensor scramblers and set course to intercept USS Lambda Paz.”

    Cole then set down the padd in front of the main console. On the screen was the item that caught his attention. The name in red letters was Rhys Darcen. Under the letters read, “Species: Terran (Augment).”
  11. Enterprise1981

    Enterprise1981 Vice Admiral Admiral

    Oct 23, 2008
    Tethered to a large plant
    Chapter One
    Doctor Aurellan Markalis had been called into sickbay. Andorian engineer Shinar sh’Aqba was putting the finishing touches on the upgraded Emergency Medical Hologram. The lieutenant assured the doctor that the Mark Three was superior to the Mark Two. Markalis still was not expecting too much after the Mark Two was supposed to have a better “bedside manner” than the Mark One, but was just as snide and condescending as its predecessor, modeled after the balding and curmudgeonly project creator Lewis Zimmerman. At least this hologram couldn’t be any worse than the overbearing Mark Two she had put up with over the last year.

    “Computer,” sh’Aqba eagerly said, “activate updated emergency medical holographic program.”

    A middle-aged human male dressed in a Starfleet medical officer’s uniform fizzled into existence. Unlike the previous EMH’s, his dark blonde hair was unkempt and his chin was covered in what was known, in Earth slang, as a five o’clock shadow. “Welcome to sickbay,” he stated jovially, but unenthusiastically. “How may I help you?”

    “A more personable greeting,” sh’Aqba remarked to Markalis.
    Markalis’s eyes widened disbelief. Yes, the greeting was more personable, but the hologram still lacked a friendly personality.

    “Well, where are the patients?” the new EMH demanded.

    “No patients,” sh’Aqba replied. “I wanted to introduce you to the chief medical officer.”

    Looking at the human woman, he scoffed. “Aren’t you a little young to be a chief medical anything, my dear?” he asked, walking towards the main diagnostic console with a limp in his right leg.

    “I got into medical school when I was nineteen,” Markalis replied, “and I completed my surgical residency one year, five months, sixteen days ago… "

    “Ah, a child prodigy. I bet you’re a lot of fun at parties. So if no one’s dying, computer, deactivate EMH.”

    Good bye and good riddance, Markalis wanted to say as the hologram disappeared. She sighed in disappointment while glaring at sh’Aqba. “How can I rely on a holographic doctor that limps,” she huffed.

    “It could be a problem with the projectors,” sh’Aqba suggested. “I’ll look into it. But as long as it does not impair his responsibilities as a medical doctor, it may be low on the repair priority list.”

    The comm chimed. Commander Charles Logan hailed from engineering. “Logan to sh’Aqba, report to engineering.”

    “On my way, sir,” sh’Aqba answered, tapping her combadge. She then downloaded specifications on the EMH-Mark III to a padd. “Have fun,” she teased, handing the padd to Markalis.

    Mandel Morrison fell back hard on a dark blue rubber mat. The woman who had upended him then gently placed a thin wooden stick on his chest. He and Military Assault Command Operations commander Lisa Neeley were teaching a self-defense class to various officers in an empty cargo bay. The sticks the two officers used were to represent Jem’Hadar kartokins.

    Morrison stood up looking at Neeley up and down. He was not entirely amenable to the idea of the MACO’s teaching their skills to the rest of the crew, especially when her predecessor suggested it during more surgical missions. But with the Lambda Paz heading into more dangerous combat missions, the security chief felt a refresher course for the Starfleet crew would do some good. Besides, he could never say no to a beautiful woman. Neeley had the look of a military woman; tall, hair tied in a tight ponytail, and muscular upper arms.

    “On many occasions,” Neeley told the class, which consisted of Lieutenants Erhlich Tarlazzi and Sara Carson and Ensigns Rebecca Sullivan and Willis Huckaby, “the Jem’Hadar will attack from behind while unshrouding. You will want to listen for a high-pitched rippling sound and look for a sudden shadow in front of you. Computer, run program.”

    A holographic Jem’Hadar soldier materialized in the same manner a real Jem’Hadar unshrouded charging at Neeley with a kartokin. Neeley swung around to her left and deflected the sword with her stick. She then kicked the holographic soldier in the stomach sending him to the deck. Once the hologram disappeared, Neeley then turned to face the class.

    “Now try these moves with your own holographic sparring partners,” she said. “Computer, begin combat simulation Alpha-2.”

    Jem’Hadar came at the students from all directions. Drawing on what Neeley had just shown them, they deflected their opponents’ swords with their sticks. Sullivan’s stick fell out of her hands and her opponent jammed the sword into her chest. It was only a holographic sword, so it was harmless and the Jem’Hadar quickly disappeared.

    Tarlazzi and Huckaby were charged at by Jem’Hadar with plasma rifles. They both dodged their opponents’ swings, and then lunged at the soldiers sending them to the deck. Huckaby managed to kick away his opponent’s rifle while Tarlazzi took a holographic plasma charge in his right hip.
    Morrison and Neeley practiced a few choreographed fighting moves causing Carson to become distracted. She and Mandel started dating when they were first assigned to Lambda Paz, though it never got beyond playful flirting and nights of passion. She saw Neeley put Morrison in a headlock and shoot him a triumphant grin.

    Carson’s stick, meanwhile, broke in half and the Jem’Hadar then “impaled” her through her right shoulder. After the hologram disappeared, another Jem’Hadar came at her from behind. She was slow to turn around when she saw Neeley slap Morrison on his posterior. When Carson was face-to-face with the Jem’Hadar, she was punched in her left jaw.
    When class was over, Sullivan smirked at Carson. “Good thing those were holographic kartokins,” Rebecca remarked, “or you’d be dead several times over.”

    “Of course,” Sara answered with an embarrassed sigh.

    “Morrison and Neeley are getting chummy.”

    Carson looked over at those two to see those two exchanging giggles. She wasn’t certain if she was feeling jealousy, or just an annoying reminder of his rapport with women.

    “You’re sexy when you’re jealous,” Rebecca observed aloud.
    What? Sara wanted to answer, but she couldn’t think of the words. Rebecca walked away with a teasing smile.

    The Lambda Paz streaked at high warp towards a Starfleet listening post that had gone dark three days earlier. The post was on a moon barely able to support humanoid life, which orbited a completely lifeless planet resembling Earth’s moon. In all likelihood, the Dominion attacked the listening post while attempting to strengthen its position in the Kalandra sector, the jumping off for the invasion of Betazed and the threat to the Federation’s core systems.

    The ship was at Red Alert. Captain Limis Vircona sat in the command chair tightly gripping both arms. That nervous habit left fraying on the rubber upholstery. All bridge officers silently observed their posts. Mandel Morrison kept a close eye on his sensors at the tactical station in case the enemy took the ship by surprise. Sara Carson was ready to take the ship out of warp. Chaz Logan occupied an auxiliary engineering station on the port side ready to reverse engines at a moment’s notice.

    “Approaching the Epsilon Trianguli system,” Carson reported.
    “Take us out of warp,” Limis replied. “Take us to full impulse.”
    First officer Ronnie Kozar stepped off the port side turbolift and took a seat in the chair on Limis’s left. It was at that moment Limis was reminded of fleet commander Edward Jellico’s order not to engage the enemy alone. “We’ll see about that,” Limis coldly replied, having survived being outnumbered by the Jem’Hadar in lesser-armed ships while in the Maquis.

    “Any other ships in the vicinity?” Kozar asked Morrison.
    “Sensors detect no vessels in a 500 million kilometer radius,” Morrison humbly reported. “No indications of enemy weapons fire either.”

    “Even so,” Limis added, looking to Morrison, then Carson, “let’s not have any surprises.”

    Carson nodded in acknowledgement while trying to avoid Morrison with her eyes. “In visual range of the moon, Captain,” she said when she got a glance of her navigational monitor.

    “On screen,” Kozar commanded.

    A moon with a tan surface orbiting a gray crater filled planet appeared on the screen. Limis leaned forward in her seat to get a better look. She saw nothing too unusual, thought she was no expert in astronomical phenomena. “Any signs of life?” she asked Ensign Huckaby, who was manning the operations station.

    “No, sir,” Huckaby answered. “However, the atmospheric disturbances are causing havoc on the sensors.”
    “Captain,” said Logan, “based on my analysis of these disturbances, I’d recommend against beaming down.”
    “Those same conditions may overwhelm the engines of shuttle as well,” Kozar added.

    Limis nodded in agreement while ascending from her seat. “Mister Huckaby,” she said, “how many Argo-type shuttles do we have?”

    “Two, sir,” Huckaby eagerly replied.

    “I’ll take them,” Limis proclaimed. She shot a grin at the young ensign saying, “You’ll have a chance to try one of them, Ensign. Kozar, you’ll lead Team One to search for survivors. Logan, you’ll lead Team Two to try to salvage the station’s logs.”

    “Captain, I wouldn’t recommend using both when the engines haven’t been tested,” Kozar insisted.

    “We need to know what happened down there,” Limis replied. “Now’s as a good a time as any to test those engines. Have your teams in the shuttlebay in ten minutes.”

    Two shuttles launched from the aft of the secondary hull. They quickly descended towards the moon. Given the intensity of the turbulences in the atmosphere, the shuttles had to land almost a kilometer away from the station.

    After the hour-long jaunt through the blinding dust storms, Kozar and Morrison were anxious to remove the helmets on their environmental suits. “I wouldn’t advise that,” Markalis interjected. “My tricorder reads minimal life support, so not enough oxygen to go around.”

    “I’m still finding it hard to breathe with these on,” Morrison retorted.

    “You’ll live,” Kozar half-sarcastically insisted. “Logan, get your team to the computer core. Alpha team, pan out. Start looking for survivors.”

    Kozar and Morrison wandered slowly through one dark corridor. They had to stop in their tracks upon seeing three dead bodies sprawled across the metal grated floor. Two were human—one male, one female. From the vertical forehead ridge, the third was Bolian, but his skin was manilla just like the human corpses. Their eyes were open with their mouths seemingly agape in horror.

    “From these readings,” Morrison said, showing Kozar his tricorder. “I’d say they experienced total blood loss.”

    “Maybe we should’ve brought a vampire slayer,” Kozar quipped.

    A loud masculine-sounding scream suddenly caught their attention. A young blonde-haired man in a blue technician’s jumpsuit down the corridor was shouting and firing a hand phaser. “No!” he cried out. “Make it stop!”

    Kozar and Morrison pinned themselves against the wall on their left to dodge the phaser fire. “I’m Commander Ronnie Kozar of the starship Lambda Paz!” the first officer called out. “We’re here to help!”

    “No! Make it stop!” the technician kept screaming. Then all of a sudden, he began gasping for air before collapsing to the floor.”

    Morrison crouched down and felt for a pulse on the young man’s neck. “He’s alive,” he reported to Kozar. Morrison then removed a hypospray from his left wrist pouch and injected the unconscious human with a sub-dermal transport enhancer.

    “Morrison to Carson,” he called, tapping the communicator on the front of his helmet. “We have a survivor. Lock on and beam him aboard.”

    “Aye, sir,” Carson responded.

    The human then dematerialized.

    Upon returning to the ship, Markalis had the listening post’s lone survivor resting in the sickbay’s primary intensive care unit. The EMH and a human female nurse attended to him while Markalis briefed Limis, Kozar, and Morrison at the entryway to her office. “This one was in a state of severe hypoxia,” she explained. “He was most likely hallucinating before he lost consciousness.”

    “Everyone else was dead,” Morrison added.

    “Any clue about how they died?” Limis inquired.
    “Preliminary scans showed their hemoglobin dissolved,” the doctor replied. “Their blood turned into some kind of liquid polymer.”

    “Good thing you stopped us from taking off our helmets,” Kozar teased. “But why wasn’t he affected.”

    “We’re still trying to find that out.

    “We could be dealing with a biological weapon the Dominion is experimenting with,” Limis suggested to Kozar and Morrison. “Access all available data on the subject.” After those officers left, she told Markalis, “And I want complete autopsies on the others.”

    “Autopsies?” Markalis repeated with a feeling of queasiness.

    “Not your comfort zone I take it?” Limis asked.

    Markalis’s wincing said it all.

    “As Starfleet officers, we don’t always have the luxury of staying in our comfort zones.”

    Hours later, Markalis was in a deep sleep. A padd she was reading containing the Federation News Service's latest reports on the war was still in her right hand. She barely got through the first page of reports since working an eighteen-hour day put her to sleep the second she left the sickbay for her quarters. She was suddenly woken up when the dog Milady whined.

    "What is it, girl?" Markalis asked.

    Someone was in the room with her. The Russell terrier growled and barked at a humanoid figure, which was sitting in the chair facing her bed.

    "Computer, lights," she called out.

    The lights came on. Upon seeing a tall human male in a black leather jumpsuit sitting in the chair, Markalis pulled the bedspread up to her shoulders and activated the comm panel on the nightstand. "Security to CMO's quarters," she gasped.
  12. Enterprise1981

    Enterprise1981 Vice Admiral Admiral

    Oct 23, 2008
    Tethered to a large plant
    Chapter Two
    No one answered Markalis’s page.

    The strange man grinned. "We don't want any interruptions, do we?" he quipped. "You act like I just saw you coming out of the shower."

    "If you're with who I think you're with, you keep track of that sort of thing to some degree, so you're still a pervert."

    The man chuckled. "You're halfway there," he said with a smirk. "I am with Section 31 and the name is Cole." He stood up and sauntered into the living area.

    Markalis followed, putting on a white silk robe over her sleeveless gray tank and gray sweatpants. She slipped her bare feet into a pair of pink slippers. Before sitting in a chair across from Cole, she replicated a mug of coffee. “So what does Section 31 want with a simple country doctor?” she demanded, taking a slow sip of coffee.

    “What have you been able to learn about the crew of the Epsilon Trianguli listening post?” Cole asked.

    “All of them died because their hemoglobin dissolved. Based on the autopsies, this was caused by a virus. The EMH is crosschecking with our medical databases. He hasn’t found anything yet.”

    “But one survived, and he is recovering in your sickbay.”

    “That’s right. You already seem to know a lot about what’s been happening on this ship the last twenty-four hours.”

    Cole snickered. “That’s true,” he stated. “I’m here for some information that will help in my investigation. Why was this one survivor immune to what killed the others?”

    “We don’t know that either.”

    “Any theories, hypotheses?”

    “That he had some kind of genetic immunity.”

    “Possibly because he was genetically enhanced, allowing for accelerated critical neural pathway formation, improved lung and respiratory efficiency… “

    “Yes, he was conscious a lot longer than most humans would be with life support being off-line for as long as it was. Are you going to play twenty questions all night?”

    “Let me let you in on a little secret. The Dominion was not responsible for those deaths. The listening post was a proving ground. If the other powers were to learn that a group of humans possess a biological weapon, the ramifications would be disastrous. We need to do damage control. Have you made out your full report to your captain?”

    Markalis sighed anxiously. Finally, she would know the catch behind this unannounced debriefing, and she wasn’t sure she was going to like it. “I may not always be able to pick up on non-verbal cues or deduce hidden messages,” she said, “but I’m getting a good idea about what you are asking of me.”

    “Enlighten me then,” Cole replied, grinning deviously.

    “You expect me to lie to my commanding officer, falsify my medical logs, and impede an investigation into a potential threat to the security of the Federation.”

    “In a nutshell, yes,” Cole replied, standing up and sauntering towards the door. “Those acts might jeopardize your Starfleet career, but those acts are only ‘sins of the system’, unlike, say, murdering a sentient being.”

    Markalis was reminded of when she was forced to shoot and kill a Jem’Hadar. That act saved her own life, but it also marked the first time she had taken a life. That was something that still haunted her. She turned herself to her left to face Cole. “How do you know about that?” she asked.

    “Very little escapes our attention,” Cole stated. “Despite your reluctance, your willingness to hear me out indicates what I’m saying makes sense on a subconscious level. I know of your interest in interstellar politics. After Earth’s second world war four hundred years ago, the major powers tried to no avail to put the ‘genie’ back in the bottle. That and the Augment Crisis of 2154.”

    Cole stepped out of the crew quarters after the doors parted and walked away. Markalis was suddenly felt a rush of anxiety over this newest crisis of conscience. She walked to the bedroom and removed a miniature hypospray from a drawer under the nightstand. She injected the contents into her left wrist, and then lay back on the bed. Milady strutted towards her master, jumped onto the bed, and rested her chin on Aurellan’s right forearm. She arched her head to the right to stroke the dog’s snout.

    The following morning, Aurellan called a security team to her quarters to conduct close-range scans in search of evidence of a transporter beam. Two human security officers used interphasic scanners to scan the bedroom while Morrison scanned the living area with a tricorder and interphasic scanner. Markalis stood by the desk in the front right corner while the EMH scanned her with a medical tricorder. Limis observed while waiting for the other officers to report.

    “Nothing out of the ordinary aside from elevated adrenaline levels,” the holographic doctor reported. “That’s to be expected when Big Brother pays an unexpected visit.”

    “Thank you anyway, Doctor,” Markalis timidly replied.

    The EMH then set the medical tricorder down on the desk and ordered the computer to transfer himself back to sickbay.

    Ensign Calliope Morales walked over to the security chief to report. “I read no evidence of anyone having beamed in or out,” said the petite woman of mixed Latin American and African ancestry. “He certainly covers his tracks well since the security logs indicate no intruders in the last twelve hours.”

    “Then I’m sure they have transporter technology we can’t detect,” Morrison replied. “Perhaps it’s something like Dominion transporters or folded space transport.”

    “That kind of transport has deadly side effects,” said Markalis.

    “This agency hasn’t been around that long without an effective means of stealth transport,” Limis offered. To Morales and Morrison, and the male security ensign, she said, “If you don’t mind, I’d like a few minutes with the doctor.”

    The security officers stepped out of the quarters. Limis sighed as she paced across the room. She stared out of the viewport remembering her first encounter with an organization that went against the very principles on which the Federation was founded. Markalis was uncertain why Limis was looking out a window rather than speaking to her, as claimed.

    “Captain?” she said with confusion.

    Limis turned to face Markalis. “I learned of this rogue agency fourteen years ago,” she said, “Article Fourteen, Section Thirty-One could be interpreted in many ways. In times of crisis, even the Federation needs to take extraordinary measures. I’m proof of that. That Starfleet actually sanctions an organization that operates in the same manner as the Obsidian Order and the Tal Shiar is one reason for my skepticism. But unlike Bek Gillen, I don’t use that as an excuse for fear mongering.”

    “What are you getting at?” Markalis impatiently demanded.

    “I want you to go along with Cole’s request. Did he say who has this biological weapon?”

    “Only that a group of humans used Epsilon Trianguli as a proving ground.”

    “Even Section 31 finds that unacceptable, and I can see wanting to keep this secret as long as possible. After all, the Federation does not engage in biological warfare.

    “Just remember, Doctor,” Limis continued, heading for the door, “don’t be too quick to volunteer information. That way you won’t leave too many clues that you’re on our side.”

    “But I am on your side, Captain. I promise you that.”
    “You shouldn’t let him think that.”

    Markalis let out an anxious sigh. This special assignment just got more complicated.

    Upon the Lambda Paz’s return to Starbase G-6, Limis appeared at a briefing with the station commander Christopher Dennings and the captains of other ships in the Seventh Fleet. The briefing was held in one of the holosuites in order to communicate with ship captains not physically on the station. Limis never saw the point of that other than making teleconferences seem less impersonal. Starfleet engineers seemed to love showing off technological innovations. The holographic representations of nearly a dozen different Starfleet captains were so perfect she could not distinguish who was really in the room from who was a projection.

    Of course, Lieutenant Commander Selek, a Vulcan who had previously served as the Lambda Paz’s night watch duty officer and Limis’s former Bajoran Resistance colleague Lenaris Holem were really there since she saw them out in the hallway. Despite not always being a fan of Starfleet, Limis thought she and Lenaris looked better in Starfleet uniforms. Among the non-Starfleet officers were Klingon General Gh’ralg, Romulan Star Navy admiral Temlek, and Deep Space Nine’s resident Cardassian Elim Garak.

    Rear Admiral Edward Jellico, commanding the Constantinople, addressed the group to deliver updates on his reconnaissance mission. A three dimensional holographic display appeared in front of the holographic projection of the admiral. “As you can see,” said Jellico, indicating the Starfleet deltas that filled the display, “our forces continue to hold the line at the Tibor Nebula.”

    “Weren’t most of our ships there decimated during the first engagement?” Lenaris said of the initial confrontation shortly after the invasion of Betazed.

    “That engagement also came at a heavy cost for the Dominion,” Selek explained. “Their efforts to fortify the supply line from Kalandra through the Beta Veldonna system continue to be curtailed.”

    “From these reports,” Vice-Admiral Dennings chimed in, looking up from a padd, “I see that the outermost systems at Kalandra are defended only by Cardassian warships.”

    “Using them as cannon fodder is becoming a more common strategy,” Garak answered. “It is an ideal cover for seeking retaliation for my people’s attack on the Founder’s homeworld.”

    “A dishonorable motive in any case,” Gh’ralg growled.

    “So why would the Cardassians go along with it?” Limis wondered trying to ignore Dennings staring at her. She could see why the portly man with graying hair had been married four times with his propensity for leering at women thirty years his junior.

    “As much as they are realizing the emptiness of the Dominion’s promises,” Garak explained, “the military also sees that the price of losing the war is too high.”

    “It is also a classic strategy of unpredictability,” Temlek added. “The enemy expects that we would go after the easier target while the Jem’Hadar continue to fortify their own holdings.”

    Something the Romulans know all about, Gh’ralg silently thought.

    “At the very least, it would keep the Cardassians on the defensive while my task force continues pouring deeper into the sector,” Jellico replied. The holographic display zoomed in towards the two star systems Jellico pointed to. “That’s where the Lambda Paz, the Derna, and the Epimetheus come in. Those ships will occupy the Cardassian flank in the Chudala system and the Amducro field.”

    “The ion storms in that system may pose a problem,” Temlek observed, looking up from his briefing padd. “They could counteract the masking effect of Klingon cloaking devices. I would suggest a Romulan task force to conduct the preliminary patrols.”

    “Our analysis of the ion storms did not yield such conclusions,” Gh’ralg insisted.

    “Fortunately,” Temlek shot back, “our scientists are more thorough.”

    “Or you tohzahs would try to take most of the credit.”
    “Gentlemen,” Dennings cut in, “let’s try to keep a united front. You can work out these little issues yourselves. If that is all, I wish every one of you Godspeed.”

    Jellico and the other holographic projections quickly disappeared. The crowd dispersed. Limis did not see anyone enter with a few people filing out. But someone who was not part of the meeting was conversing with Lenaris, most likely his new first officer. Despite initial plans to have a mostly Bajoran crew on the Derna, Starfleet Intelligence wanted one of its operatives aboard after Lenaris’s former second-in-command attempted to deal a crippling blow to the Alliance out of the misguided that it would lead to a less destructive end to the war.

    Lenaris gave Limis a quick wave. The human also looked in her direction. He seemed familiar, even fitting Markalis’s description of Agent Cole— well over six feet tall, burly, athletic upper body, and a scowling facial expression. Or maybe he wasn’t Cole since Limis hadn’t met the man in person.

    Outside the starbase, larger numbers of Federation, Klingon, and Romulan ships continued massing. On most days, a few dozen heavy cruisers, light frigates, medical transports, and tow ships were moored at the station. Today, over a hundred ships were situated in the general vicinity of the starbase in preparation for one of the most important offensives of the entire war.
  13. Enterprise1981

    Enterprise1981 Vice Admiral Admiral

    Oct 23, 2008
    Tethered to a large plant
    Chapter Three

    Doctor Markalis entered her office through the corridor joining the primary ICU with the research lab. She came to a sudden stop when her desk chair swiveled around. Cole, now in a Starfleet uniform, was the chair’s occupant. “May I offer you some refreshments, ‘Commander’?” Markalis sarcastically asked, noticing the pips on his collar.

    “No thank you,” Cole retorted. “But I see you passed the first test. I have a follow-up assignment.”

    “You’re going to tell me whether I show any interest or not.”
    Cole rose from the chair and sauntered around the desk. “And you’d be correct,” he said with a grin. “I understand you’ve been temporarily re-assigned to the Semmelweis. And she’ll be making a detour to Tagra Four.”

    “Yes, we’ll be picking up medical equipment before rejoining the rest of the medical convoy at our fallback position.

    You’ll be doing more than that,” Cole cut in, knowing of Aurellan’s tendency to ramble. “When convenient, you’ll slip away to meet with your contact. He or she will arrange for you to meet Rhys Darcen.”

    “And how will I meet this contact? And who is Rhys Darcen?”

    “To answer your first question, I’ll have the details sent to your quarters. The answer to the second question is that he is the leader of a group of genetically enhanced humans my agency has been tracking the last six months.”

    Markalis’s eyes widened. The existence of such humans hardly seemed possible since that type of genetic resequencing had been outlawed for centuries. While some would surely have circumvented the law, that would produce as many super humans as those existing during the Eugenics Wars. “As in augments,” she demurely asked. “Like from the Eugenics Wars?”

    “For lack of a better descriptor, yes,” Cole answered with a nod. “They have various characteristics in common with Khan Noonien Singh and his brethren. Your job is to gain Darcen’s trust and learn his plans.”

    “That simple, huh?” Markalis sighed.

    “As soon as you read the mission briefing on the trip to Tagra. And if you still feel a need to contact me—though I would advise against it—ask for Commander Casey Johns, first officer of the Derna.”

    Markalis almost wanted to laugh at the absurdity of her upcoming mission. Of course, she was going by Limis’s instructions, she remembered. Aurellan just smiled grudgingly. “No problem, ‘Commander’,” she said.

    Cole then walked off, not caring that anyone on duty in sickbay might regard him as an intruder. After all, he got away without arousing suspicion the night before.

    During the day’s crash course in self-defense, Neeley’s MACO’s were sparring partners fro the other Starfleet officers present. Morrison stood in a huff the entire time Tarlazzi was pitted against Mik Tannin, a Brikar. Hence, Tannin’s strength was that of five Jem’Hadar. Morrison actually preferred holographic Jem’Hadar, even knowing that simulations provided limited experience. Neeley, meanwhile, complimented Tarlazzi on his deflections of Tannin’s punches. “Excellent,” Neeley interjected. “Now try the chop and kick.”

    Tarlazzi lunged at Tannin delivering a right chop while raising his right leg. Tannin grabbed his opponent’s arm and effortlessly threw him to the floor. Morrison was visibly annoyed. Tarlazzi winced in pain, but quickly got back on his feet.

    Neeley was about to speak when Morrison cut in. “That’s all for today,” he announced.

    Neeley’s eyes widened, but she said nothing. She just followed Morrison out into the corridor as he stormed off. He want to discuss the matter any further, but Lisa wanted an explanation for the early dismissal. She followed Mandel to the end of the corridor, where he stood waiting for a turbolift. “What was that about?” she demanded.

    “That whole demonstration was out of line,” Morrison hurriedly replied, seeing the turbolift doors open. He stepped inside hoping to be rid of her, but Neeley followed.

    “Deck six,” Morrison called.

    The lift barely moved when Neeley called out, “Halt!”

    “Tannin went easy on him,” Lisa continued, glaring at Mandel. “And Tarlazzi got right back up. He had no broken bones or dislocated joints.”

    “I’ll suggest Markalis add you to her medical staff,” Morrison sarcastically quipped. “Resume. You’re lucky I didn’t collapse from a heart attack. What were you thinking pairing a Brikar with a Rigellian?”

    “He has mixed Vulcan and Kaylar ancestry. And I was trying to make the conditions as realistic as possible. The Jem’Hadar are not as generous.”

    “All I’m saying is that if you’re people can’t dial it down, I’m calling this off.”

    The lift doors opened and Morrison stormed out. Neeley sighed and rolled her eyes. An on-duty male officer stepped onto the turbolift with a curious stare. Neeley gave a stern glare at the young man who was mentally undressing her.

    The medical facilities aboard the Olympic-class USS Semmelweis were a lot larger than those on most other Starfleet vessels. The spherical primary hull below the bridge was largely comprised of intensive care and triage facilities. IN that sense, this ship was like the field hospitals in which Markalis had served hurdling through space.

    While the ship headed for the Tagra system, all the doctors and nurses gathered in the medical briefing room. Heading the briefing was a blonde Bajoran woman of early middle age. Commander Ziminske Aris, the officer and medical team leader, had the task of delegating various assignments to her staff. Markalis began to sense that Ziminske was looking in her direction during most of the briefing. That much was certainly true when the commander assigned her to examine the atmospheric conversion units. That took place early in the briefing, yet Ziminske seemed to look towards her by the counting of twenty different times. She never met the woman before, but was she rubbing her the wrong way already?

    Once the crowd dispersed, Markalis hoped to walk past Ziminske without making eye contact. She nearly succeeded when the commander spoke. “Queen to queen’s level three,” she said.

    “Pardon me?” Aurellan asked, before turning around to face her superior.

    “Queen to queen’s level three,” Aris repeated. “What’s the countermove?”

    “Queen to king’s level one,” the younger woman replied.

    “Good,” said Ziminske. “I am your special contact. I will have the plans for you to meet Darcen uploaded to your quarters.”

    Markalis grinned lightly. Once Ziminske sauntered off, Aurellan sighed in annoyance. How many people were going to speak in riddles before this covert mission was over?

    Commander Keith Ellison glanced over at the bridge’s port auxiliary stations aboard the Constantinople. The youthful looking middle aged man paced over to the primary communications station while noticing Admiral Jellico enter the bridge from the observation lounge’s port egress. “What have you got Keith?” the admiral inquired.

    “Nothing yet, sir,” Ellison replied. “We’re still waiting on the USS Revolution and the IKS Koord to report back in.”

    Speak of the devil, the communications station chimed. “That’s them,” said the human male ensign manning the station.

    “On speakers then,” Jellico replied heading for the center seat.

    The voice of a human male officer pierced through the bridge’s speakers. “Cardassian Galor-class destroyers massing along the outer planets,” he reported.

    “Confirmed,” a male Klingon added. “They should reach your position in ten minutes.”

    “Copy that,” said Jellico, sitting in the command chair. Then to the Efrosian at tactical, “Mister Jeth’ron, raise shields and ready weapons. Ensign Nave, full ahead.”

    “Aye, sir,” the freckle-faced blonde woman at conn answered. Jellico noticed from her service record that Sara Nave was only twenty years old. That made the seasoned veteran wonder how many officers young enough to be his grandchildren were part of this fleet.

    The Constantinople, the Kaneda, and the Tetsuo moved off to make the rendezvous.

    On the bridge of the Lambda Paz, the officers and crew awaited the order to engage the enemy while the ship waited at a fallback position. Ronnie Kozar glanced at the portside auxiliary stations, while Limis Vircona reviewed battle plans with Mandel Morrison at the starboard mission operations station. At that station, Morrison reported a hail from fleet command.

    All ships,” Jellico said over the speakers, “ready attack formation.”

    The rest of the alpha shift came on duty at that moment. Huckaby assumed Ops, while Carson relieved Sullivan at Conn. Morrison caught a glimpse of the two women’s banter. The officer going off-shift would usually have to brief the officer relieving him or her. Morrison got the impression Sara and Rebecca’s interactions were moving beyond discussions of their common station when he saw his ex smirk.

    “It’s only your helm a third of the day,” Rebecca joked.

    “But of the three of us, I’m the senior officer,” Sara shot back.

    “Aye, aye, sir.”

    Limis nodded to Sullivan as the later headed for the starboard turbolift. “You heard the man,” Limis announced to the bridge. “Let’s move out.”

    “New course, bearing 1-4-6 mark 2-7,” Carson reported.

    “Weapons and shields are online,” Morrison added.

    “Ship-to-ship communications in stand-by mode,” said Huckaby.

    Without thinking, Limis raised an index finger and waved it forwards, vaguely recalling that a more seasoned starship captain made this gesture. “Punch it.”

    The Lambda Paz, the Derna, and the Epimetheus were the leading three ships. Several Defiant and Akira-class destroyers flanked them, while about a dozen Klingon Birds-of-Prey and D’Deridix-class Romulan warbirds took up the rear.
    Last edited: Jul 1, 2010
  14. Enterprise1981

    Enterprise1981 Vice Admiral Admiral

    Oct 23, 2008
    Tethered to a large plant
    Chapter Four

    Gul Latham stepped onto the bridge of the lead Galor-class warship stationed at the Chudala system. He had been a seasoned veteran having fought in both the Dominion War and the last Federation-Cardassian war. His lightening skin and streaks of silver in his black hair were the most visible signs of aging. Among his people, however, his advanced age was worthy of great respect. “What do you have, Glinn?” he asked the officer manning a starboard tactical monitor.

    “Intermittent tachyon spikes at a 500 thousand klarik radius,” answered Glinn Orlak.

    “Cloaked ships?” the gul wondered aloud.

    “Possibly. Sensor technicians are trying to extrapolate plasma wakes.”

    “How intense are the ion storms in this vicinity?”

    “They are beginning to subside, but they are still able to limit the effectiveness of a cloaking device.”

    Latham slowly walked over to the command chair. “Why would they even bother with cloaking?” he quietly asked himself. He sat in the chair and pushed a key on the comm-panel on the right arm. “All ships, this fleet command. Lock onto those tachyon spikes and fire on my command.”

    As the Cardassian fleet began moving towards what may have been cloaked ships, half a dozen Valdore-class Romulan warbirds decloaked around them and began firing disruptor charges. The cloaked Klingon vessels being used as bait for the Cardassians then appeared. Six Birds-of-Prey and two Vorcha-class attack cruisers decloaked and fired, severely damaging two of the twelve Galor-class warships.

    One of the important social skills Aurellan Markalis struggled to learn growing up was making eye contact. Walking into a seedy tavern on Tagra Four, she was presented with an even greater challenge. According to intelligence reports, Rhys Darcen frequented this tavern. Markalis would have to get Darcen’s attention in a subtle manner, while at the same time, not drawing attention to herself from any other patrons.

    She removed the hood on her knee-length jacket upon her entry into the tavern and let out a nervous exhale. She gave a quick visual survey of the establishment filled with people from nearly a dozen different races. She began hoping she was not the only human present since that would she would most likely stand out. She saw a group of humans at the bar. One of them was her “person of interest.”

    Markalis walked by the bar slowly and quietly to avoid attracting attention. She removed a padd from her left trousers pocket and began operating it. She bumped into a middle-aged human male. “Excuse me,” she mumbled, quickly looking up from the padd.

    The man, who had jet-black hair and a light olive-skin complexion, smiled. Aurellan ignored him and continued on her way. She sat down at an empty table in a dark corner and continued manically pushing buttons on the padd. The man at the bar stared over at her, fascinated by this beautiful, yet timid woman.

    Ziminske entered the tavern dressed in a Starfleet uniform. Unlike when she was on the Semmelweis, her collar was operations gold rather than command red. The bridge of her nose lacked the ridges that distinguished a Bajoran. Markalis saw her contact enter, so she quickly concealed her face with the hood.

    “I’m looking for a human woman,” Ziminske called out to the patrons. “Blonde hair. She is believed to be smuggling bio-mimetic gel to the Orion Syndicate.”

    No one answered. That description could have described anyone. Those who had seen Markalis didn’t consider that she was the woman Ziminske was describing. “If I learn that she is here,” Ziminske continued, “this establishment will be shut down.”

    The man who noticed Markalis shot Ziminske an up-and-down look “You’re not too shabby yourself,” he retorted, with an accent that sounded somewhere between British and Scottish.

    “Don’t get smart, bud,” Ziminske shot back. “You know anything?”

    “I’ve seen a lot of blonde haired human women. Other than yourself, I don’t see any in this bar.”

    Ziminske made another quick visual inspection of the tavern. Markalis happened to look in the agent’s direction. Markalis nervously looked down at the table to continue working the padd. “Anyone else here know anything?” she demanded.
    Many of the other patrons either ignored the inquiry or shook their heads.

    Ziminske walked out slowly. The man covering for Markalis stared intently at Ziminske waiting for the agent to leave. Once Ziminske was gone, he walked over to Markalis. She continued to ignore him even as he sat down in the chair across from her.

    “Bio-mimetic gel,” the man said with a wry grin. “That’s a controlled substance in the Federation.”

    Aurellan looked up and removed her hood. She smiled triumphantly while placing a stylus in the right edge of her mouth like it was a cigar. “I could do hard time,” she quipped. “But I hope to reap a pretty hefty commission from my next sale. Thanks for covering for me, by the way.”

    “My name’s Rhys. Rhys Darcen. Have you found a buyer yet?”

    “Aurellan. And no. I’m still shopping it around.”

    “I know of some people wanting bio-mimetic gel on the black market.”

    “I’d be interested in meeting them.”

    “I’m sure I can arrange that.”

    Markalis would later accompany Darcen to his home just outside of the cities central business district. The interior of the main living area was a large rocky enclosure, which looked more like the cargo hold of an old freighter. Three humans were present in the room to greet Darcen and his newest guest.

    “Rhys, you’ve brought a guest,” one of the two women remarked. She spoke with a slight South Asian accent. Her light tan skin complexion suggested either Middle Eastern or South Asian ancestry.

    “Ileana, this is Aurellan,” said Darcen. “She’s a dealer in bio-mimetic gel.”

    “Where did you find her?” Ileana replied. “We’ve been looking to replenish our supply.”

    “All in good time, my dear,” Darcen replied. He then introduced Markalis to other two humans.

    “This is Snežana,” Darcen continued, indicating a woman with a short black hair in a coiffure hairstyle with bangs down to her eyebrows.

    “And this is Grimaud,” Darcen said of a youthful blonde man, whose facial expression remained unchanged since Darcen and Markalis entered. “Like the character the ‘Three Musketeers’ characters, he only speaks when absolutely necessary.”

    Grimaud did smile at Markalis, and Aurellan returned the greeting. She then took another glance at the two women, who both wore sleeveless shirts and form-fitting cargo trousers. She remembered having read that the women in Khan Noonien Singh’s group dressed similarly, possibly to show off their muscular upper arms. That was one trait that set these women apart from the more stereotypical human female. On the other hand, Ileana’s cleavage contradicted that notion, as well Aurellan’s own standards of modesty.

    “Allow me to take your jacket,” Snežana offered, speaking with a thick Eastern European accent.

    Markalis just gave an uncomfortable grin as she unbuttoned the jacket. She had seen Snežana’s amorous stare from a lot of men, but she was unsure what to make of a woman looking at her in the same manner. “We have so much to show you,” Snežana continued.

    Markalis and the other four humans walked outside, into a large garden. Their surroundings did not seem possible in a desert region of the planet. Nevertheless, they were surrounded by large trees and a garden of fruits and vegetables from various worlds including a vine of Kaferian apples. Markalis’s stared in amazement at what she was seeing, especially seeing the barren desert sand just a few hundred feet away.

    “How is this even possible?” she asked.

    “This region became uninhabitable when atmospheric pollutants threatened all life on this planet,” Darcen began.

    “And even when all the pollutants were cleansed from the air six years ago,” Ileana added, “this region was very inhospitable. Even the greatest scientific minds on Tagra could not devise a way to live here.”

    “We have tamed this part of this hostile desert,” said Snežana, “Just like the first colonists of Australia and the planets Jaros Two and Ceti Alpha Five.”

    “We’ve made Eden here,” Darcen proclaimed.

    Markalis remembered hearing of Eden from a story she heard as a little girl. Until this moment, she thought that story nothing more than myth. “You did all this,” she said still in awe.

    “The four of us, and many others,” Darcen replied. “Now, I do believe we have business to transact.”

    “Yes, of course,” said Markalis, still with a rare smile.

    The Lambda Paz and two flanking Akira-class cruisers moved in on the fleet of Cardassian warships and support vessels with phasers firing. Six small fighters were clipped by phaser fire, and they quickly fell out of formation. The four Galor-class ships, however, returned each phaser hit with their own phaser fire from the forward array. The Lambda Paz fired torpedoes at one of the center vessels tearing off its starboard nacelle, and then moved towards the other center vessel to port.

    “This one’s a bit slippery,” Sara Carson noted of the quantum torpedoes that ship had dodged.

    “Keep on its tail,” Limis replied, while looking at the display on her side console. “Morrison, keep a tight lock on those flanking fighters.”

    “I see them,” said Morrison entering the targeting command sequence.

    A swarm of quantum torpedoes tore through two Hideki-class fighters over the dorsal of the warship the Lambda Paz was pursuing. The warship then fired its aft phasers inflicting some damage to the ventral of the saucer section. Three more warships slowly approached the Starfleet ship from the port stern through a flotilla of debris.

    Garak had been along for the ride because of his expertise in monitoring coded Cardassian transmissions immediately noticed the three ships on his sensor display at the port Mission Ops station. “Three more Galor-class warships approaching from stern, Captain,” he called out.

    “I see them,” Limis replied. “Call in the Vigilant and the Endurance to give us a hand.”

    “We’re way ahead of you, Captain,” Kozar answered through the comm-line from one of the Defiant-class ships.

    Two Defiant-class starships fired their multi-targeting phasers at the port and starboard ships while the Lambda Paz fired aft quantum torpedoes at the center ships. The two outside ships moved off while the middle ships turned towards the Vigilant and Endurance.

    Without warning, an explosion plowed into the Lambda Paz and four of the surrounding Starfleet ships. Crewmembers on lowermost decks of the secondary hull where the explosion took place were blown out into space. The protective field around the warp core failed. Logan scrambled to the console in front of the core to keep antimatter containment from failing. Consoles on the bridge exploded sending officers to the deck.

    Limis gathered herself and sat back down in the center seat. “What the hell was that?” she asked between coughs.

    “Some kind of explosion,” a baffled Huckaby answered. “It just came out of nowhere. We’ve got hull breaches on decks eighteen, nineteen and twenty. Emergency forcefields are in place, but they won’t hold for long.”

    “Send teams to close the emergency bulkheads manually,” Limis ordered, noticing on her display that some of the bulkheads were not closing automatically. “And evacuate those decks.”

    “Incoming hail from the Vigilant,” Morrison reported.

    “Whatever that was sure packed a wallop,” said Kozar through intermittent static. “We’re dead in the water. So are five other ships. Recommend we forward the sensor logs to the rest of the tactical wing. Maybe some other ship will catch something we missed.”

    “Some of kind of subspace mines?” Garak offered. “They were highly experimental and virtually abandoned when I was still in the Obsidian Order.”

    “Looks like the Dominion has had better success,” Limis quipped. “Make it so, Commander. You too, Huckaby. Morrison, start laying down cover fire with whatever is in the arsenal. Carson, take us to our fallback position. And call in five tow ships if you have to.”

    With the warp nacelles burned out, the Lambda Paz could manage no more than maximum impulse. The Vigilant and the Endurance fired quantum torpedoes before following the Lambda Paz. The Tetsuo and the Kaneda moved up in front of the Lambda Paz and locked their tractor beams on the crippled ship.
  15. Enterprise1981

    Enterprise1981 Vice Admiral Admiral

    Oct 23, 2008
    Tethered to a large plant
    Chapter Five

    A team from the Semmelweis came aboard the Lambda Paz to assist in triage. Naturally, Markalis was among the doctors tending to the most critical cases in sickbay. One such patient was a human male on the main biobed with nasty plasma burns on his face and chest. He wore an oxygen mask because of damage to the heart and lungs. A nurse injected the patient with an antibiotic cocktail to stave off existing infection. Markalis then rolled a layer of an artificial skin graft onto the patient’s chest.

    She flinched when the monitor began beeping. One of the readouts on the built-in bio-scanner began flat lining. “He’s in cardiac arrest!” she called out. “Cardio-stimulator!”

    A female nurse brought over a cylindrical device and placed it on the man’s chest. It sent electrical pulses into his heart to keep it beating. The readout then indicated normal cardiac activity. Markalis let out a sigh of relief. “All right,” she said. “Make sure his heart rate is stable. And continue with treating the plasma burns."

    Aurellan nearly jumped out of her own skin when she heard the comm chime. “Limis to Markalis,” the captain called. “When you get a chance, please report to the observation lounge.”

    “Yes, ma’am,” Markalis replied, tapping her comm-badge.

    Much of the senior staff gathered in a darkened observation to discuss how to combat the Dominion’s latest bag of tricks. Limis sat at the head of the table glancing at reports on several different padds. Every other officer present had a padd in hand, prepared to present his or her findings. Carson added a padd to the captain’s already thick stack. “I sorted through the helm logs,” she added. “We passed through that area thirty-six times. We didn’t snag anything then… “

    “Until lucky thirty-seven,” Limis finished. “Anything we could use as an early warning system, Morrison?”

    “I’ve looked through the logs of our passive scans,” Morrison replied, while visually scanning a padd. “I get no indication of subspace transceivers other than those of the ships in the battle. No tachyon readings, residual anti-protons, or anything else that indicate any cloaked mines.”

    “Maybe it’s hidden the same way as that Dyson Sphere we encountered last year,” Kozar offered.

    “Sensor logs did indicate spikes in subspace throughout the area,” Huckaby recalled aloud. “Those could be just anything we encountered only one of those Houdinis.”

    “Unfortunately,” sh’Aqba added, “we need to trigger more of them in order to design any kind of countermeasure.”

    “Do whatever you can,” said Limis, half-yawning. “The sooner, the better.”

    “Sooner may not be possible,” Huckaby began.

    “It’s only impossible until it’s not, Mr. Huckaby,” Limis snapped. “Get on it. Dismissed, everyone.”

    Morrison sh’Aqba, and Carson headed for the side entrance behind the monitor, while Huckaby headed for the bridge entrance. Limis threw a padd down on the table yawning. She was shaken awake by the sound of the comm chime. “Bridge to the captain,” said Sullivan, “Doctor Markalis is waiting to see you.”

    “Send her in,” Limis replied, ascending from her chair.

    She offered Kozar a cup of coffee while heading for the replicator, which he accepted. Limis had replicated two cups of coffee, which she was setting down on the table, when Markalis walked in.

    “Aurellan Markalis reporting as ordered,” the doctor stated nervously, thinking she had been summoned to the principal’s office.

    “At ease, doctor,” Limis replied. “Have you gotten this nervous around all your CO’s?”

    “Only since I joined Starfleet.”

    “Care for a beverage?”

    “No thank you,” the doctor calmly replied, taking a seat on Limis’s left.

    “After reading your report,” Limis candidly stated, sitting back in her chair, “I figured I should let you know that I’m placing Mister Darcen and his associates under arrest.”

    Markalis shot a glance at Kozar, thinking of the reportedly less than cordial relationship between captain and first officer. She was half-expecting Kozar to countermand Limis’s order to effectively derail Section 31’s operation. “Why?” Aurellan demurely asked.

    “You seem to have a fondness for these people, Doctor,” Limis replied. “I hope you remember they caused the deaths of Federation citizens on Epsilon Trianguli.”

    “Absolutely. But Mister Cole was hoping to learn what Epsilon Trianguli was a proving ground for. We can’t do that if we arrest these people. Others could carry out that plan, whatever it is.”

    “I’m aware of Section 31’s stake in this. But I don’t buy that Section 31 simply wants to stop the use of a biological weapon. This is an organization that doesn’t give a damn about the conventions of war. My decision stands.”

    “If you have a problem with this,” Kozar offered, “you can ask to be temporarily relieved of duty.”

    “No, that’s not necessary,” said Markalis.

    “You’re dismissed then,” Limis replied.

    The doctor stepped out of the observation lounge through the side entrance. She stopped once in the corridor. She felt as if another consciousness was in her mind. This consciousness told her not to allow Limis to carry out her plan.

    Mandel Morrison lunged towards the deck and speared a blue rubber ball, hitting the floor of a cargo bay. While the ship had no holodecks according to the schematics, the crew would often make use of empty cargo bays as a makeshift gymnasium. And even though the entire ship had holographic emitters to accommodate the EMH, other holographic images were not nearly as good as those on a holodeck. On several occasions, Morrison’s holographic spring-ball opponent fizzled in and out.

    “Final set to Morrison,” the computer announced. “Winner: Morrison.”

    Neeley stood outside the entrance to the cargo bay wearing the same thick royal blue jumpsuit Morrison wore. Once the match was over, she slowly walked toward him and put out her right hand to help him up. “You could probably use a real opponent,” she offered.

    Morrison threw down the ball he was still clasping, pushed up the facemask on his helmet, and took Neeley’s hand to help himself upright. “You play spring-ball?” he innocently asked, getting back on his feet.

    “Being a Starfleet brat like I was,” Lisa quipped, “you pick up a few things. But I played the kind that’s like tennis. This looks a little more intense.”

    “Think of this as extreme spring-ball,” Mandel explained, pushing down the facemask. “The captain says it became increasingly popular in the early years of the Occupation. Computer, begin new game.”

    Neeley put on her helmet and flipped down the facemask. Morrison let go of the ball and hurled his racket at it. The ball bounced off the wall opposite the entrance. Neeley hit the ball with her racket, which streaked far to Morrison’s right. “You seem awfully friendly with our captain,” Neeley remarked.

    “What’s so bad about that?” Morrison asked, running towards the ball and giving it another whack.

    “You seem to have a way with women,” Neeley replied. “Whatever happened with you and Sara Carson?” She was then able to lunge towards Morrison sending him to the deck. With him out of the way, she grabbed the ball before it took a second bounce.

    A chime sounded and the computer announced the score. “Fifteen-null, Neeley.”

    “That wasn’t fair,” Morrison groaned.

    “If I was a Jem’Hadar, I wouldn’t give a shit.”

    “Good thing there are no Jem’Hadar women.”

    “What is that supposed to mean?” Neeley asked, hitting the ball to resume the game.

    “Only that they’d be as sneaky as you,” Morrison said, angrily swatting the ball after it took a bounce.

    “Would you describe Sara that way?” Neeley curiously asked swatting the ball and knocking over her opponent in one move.

    “Thirty-null, Neeley,” said the computer.

    “She’s in the past,” Mandel stated, removing his helmet. He walked towards the entrance instructing the computer to pause the match. He pushed a button on the left of the entrance and the doors latched shut.

    “What are you doing?” Lisa wondered aloud, removing her helmet.

    “Enough pretense, Lisa,” Mandel snapped, unzipping his jumpsuit. “You’re attracted to me, I’m attracted to you. This is only logical.”

    Lisa just stood in shock as Mandel removed his undershirt and then his underpants. She did nothing but watch him in his state of undress. As Mandel walked towards her, she hurriedly unzipped her jumpsuit.

    Captain Limis sat in the command chair reading a padd containing the engineering departments latest repair updates. For now, the warp drive was good enough to get the ship to the Tagra system within a day. Her focus on all the complicated techno-babble was diverted when a security alarm sounded.

    “Unauthorized shuttle launch,” reported Huckaby, who was normally the gamma shift duty officer, but was manning the tactical station tonight.

    Limis quickly stood up and looked over to ops, where the Kobliad Tor Makassa was stationed. “Override,” she snapped.

    “Too late,” Makassa replied futilely tapping his controls.
    “Tractor beam?” Limis asked Huckaby.

    “Offline,” the ensign replied. He looked at another readout on his right. “The shuttle has gone to warp.”

    “Rebecca,” Limis called to Sullivan at conn, “pursuit course.”

    Rebecca entered a course change, but the computer would not comply. “No can do,” she replied. “Engines are in working order, but the commands from the helm aren’t reaching them.”

    “Computer, who authorized the launch?” Limis asked in a cold rage, almost expecting to know how the computer would respond.

    “Command authorization two-three-six echo. Aurellan Markalis.”

    Limis stood silently, considering how she would respond to this betrayal. She stormed off the bridge without another word. Sullivan vacated her station, asking a blonde human woman at the starboard mission ops station to take over. She recalled that Limis reacted in a similarly upon learning the true identity of Arak Katal, the Bajoran man who set up a safe house for the families of the Maquis, which was later attacked by the Dominion. Kozar also followed Limis off the bridge.

    “What are you going to do if you find her, Captain?” Rebecca asked when she caught up to her friend in a corridor.

    “I’m mostly angry with myself for not seeing that she was Section 31 all along,” Limis replied. “Her doe-eyed innocent look should have been the first clue.”

    “You can’t blame yourself, Limis,” Kozar replied. “How do you propose to find Markalis on your own when this whole expanse is swarming with enemy ships?”

    “Tagra Four will be the first place to look. I want to help her. According to her medical records, she takes a tranquilizer that leaves one extremely susceptible to suggestion if taken in high doses.”

    “You accessed classified records?” Kozar cut in.

    “Say it’s against regulations,” Limis shot back, “and so help me, Number One, you’ll be in sickbay for a week.”

    “I suggest you go in the captain’s yacht,” Kozar said calmly. “It’s the fastest support ship we have. And take a team of MACO’s.”

    “I’d like to go along too,” Sullivan offered.

    “She’s all yours, Kozar,” Limis demurely declared. “And sorry about threatening you.”

    “Quite all right,” Kozar replied, sauntering off towards the turbolift.

    “Might I also suggest Garak accompany us as well?” Rebecca asked Limis once Kozar was gone. “He’s here for his expertise in covert communications.”

    “Fine,” Limis reluctantly huffed. “I never thought I’d trust a Cardassian more than one of my own crew.”

    The captain’s yacht detached from the ventral saucer section. After moving a few hundred meters downward, the support vessel sped off. Limis sat in the cockpit’s central piloting station. Sullivan occupied a secondary piloting console on the captain’s left while conversing with Neeley. The MACO commander monitored enemy ship activity on a starboard auxiliary console while recalling her latest encounter with Morrison.

    “So he started taking his clothes off just like that?” Rebecca asked, holding in a giggle.

    “Suffice to say,” Neeley replied, “I was quite impressed.”

    Limis sighed in annoyance. Garak, while occupying a port auxiliary station was equally perturbed by the topic of conversation. He held his tongue, assuming this was a Terran cultural idiosyncrasy of which he was not aware.

    “So what’s his… equipment like?” Sullivan curiously asked Neeley.

    “Ladies,” Limis snapped. “Neeley, consider yourself and Mister Morrison on report when we get back.”

    “Under different circumstances,” Garak added, “it would be a fascinating lesson in comparative anatomy. But it is now, as you Terrans would say, too much information.”

    A chirping noise quickly refocused Garak’s attention. A Cardassian Union logo appeared on his screen, indicating communications activity in the immediate vicinity. “Captain,” he called out, “I’m reading one… no two Hideki-class patrol vessels within two-billion kilometers.”

    “Move us out of their sensor range,” Limis ordered Sullivan.

    “Too late,” said Neeley. “They’re heading right for us.”

    The two Cardassian ships moved swiftly in on the yacht firing gold phaser beams. “Return fire,” Limis commanded.

    The yacht’s phasers slowed down the starboard vessel. The port ship then arched back towards the yacht and fired two torpedoes. The blast tore off the port nacelle. The occupants of the cockpit were thrown out of their seats. The whole vessel began spiraling towards a large asteroid.

  16. Enterprise1981

    Enterprise1981 Vice Admiral Admiral

    Oct 23, 2008
    Tethered to a large plant
    Religion To Do Good

    Historian’s Note: The present-day events of this story take place concurrently with the events of “Take Me Out To the Holosuite” (DS9). The flashback scenes take place fourteen years earlier in the Earth year 2361.



    The rain fell harder and harder. The sound of the raindrops falling on the concrete housing unit gave the Bajoran woman living inside a feeling of contentment like no other. Tonight, she would be able to sleep soundly. While cradling a phaser pistol, she kept one eye halfway open to watch as her nine-year old son slept.

    Their lives were no better on Volan Three, a Federation colony on the Cardassian frontier, than on Bajor. Her days working at a manufacturing plant were long and thankless. She and her son lived in a one-room house with hardly any privacy. At least they now had a house. And she did not have to sell sexual favors to Cardassians or worry about getting a black eye from a Cardassian client or her abusive ex-husband.

    A crashing noise outside the house shook her awake. Her first instinct was to make sure her child was safe. She sat at the side of his bed and stroked the boy’s hair. She then headed for the front door, phaser pistol in hand, to find the source of the noise. Outside, a humanoid figure was skulking next to the house. She shined a flashlight on the figure to see a dark-haired Terran male. She grabbed the Terran man by the back of his collar.

    “You again,” the woman gasped, shining her flashlight in the man’s face. She instantly recognized his black leather jumpsuit, his graying hair, and his muscular upper body. She had seen this man while she was at work, at the local taverns, and at her son’s school. “Who are you and why are you following me?” she now demanded of him.

    “I’m with Starfleet Intelligence,” the man calmly replied. “I’ve been watching you to find it if you’d be a good candidate for participating in special operations on this planet. And you’ve passed the first test.”

    “Me? Starfleet?” the woman asked, letting go of the man. “No way, man. I don’t see myself in classrooms for four years.”

    The human agent adjusted his collar and his sleeves. “Not all of our agents are Starfleet officers,” he explained of Intelligence. “A lot of our agents are regular people such as yourself. We recruit people who have gone into a lot of dangerous places. It’s just a one-month training program.”

    The Bajoran woman momentarily looked away to conceal her annoyance, having realized she was being spied on for a lot longer than she initially believed. “I’m not going back to Bajor if that’s what you’re suggesting,” she insisted.

    “I don’t mean Bajor. But we could use people like you to help us keep an eye on the Cardassians.”

    The prospect of going after Cardassians was suddenly appealing to her. “Now that you mention the spoonheads,” she said. “What does it pay?”
  17. Enterprise1981

    Enterprise1981 Vice Admiral Admiral

    Oct 23, 2008
    Tethered to a large plant
    Chapter One


    The captain’s yacht attached to the USS Lambda Paz was spiraling towards an asteroid. Following a confrontation with two Cardassian patrol vessels, the yacht lost its port nacelle, as well as its ability to stay upright—as the term applied to the vastness of interstellar space. The occupants of the Starfleet support vessel’s cockpit had been thrown out of their seats after the last hit.

    Captain Limis Vircona and Ensign Rebecca Sullivan were clutching the deck to get back to the primary and secondary piloting stations. Sullivan got the main piloting station first and tried to steer the ship away from the asteroid. Limis took the other station to get an idea of the situation. Lieutenant Lisa Neeley and Elim Garak returned to the aft side stations from which they were forcibly removed. “Can you get us away from that rock?” Limis impatiently demanded.
    “No response from maneuvering thrusters,” Rebecca answered. “I can tell you we will not survive the impact.”

    “Greaaat,” Vircona retorted. “That’s some definite encouragement.”

    Looking over at Garak and then Neeley, she asked, “Can you transfer power from auxiliary circuits or from some non-essential system.”

    “Define ‘non-essential’,” Neeley quipped.

    “Anything not relating to propulsion.”

    “All transfer circuits are fused,” Garak shouted over the loudening hum of the engine.

    “Of course they are,” Limis mumbled. Didn’t think I’d meet my demise this way, she silently mused. “Becca, you and Garak go down to thruster control and try to put some more juice in the system.”

    Limis took over the primary piloting station once Sullivan headed below. “Not to put too much pressure,” Limis added, “but impact is in two minutes and twenty seconds.”

    “We could try firing two quantum torpedoes at the asteroid’s surface,” Neeley offered. “The shockwave could take us off a collision course.”

    “Or it could blow us up,” Limis shot back.

    “We’d have to time it perfectly.”

    “Every risky decision comes down to perfect timing,” Limis grumbled, rolling her eyes. In other words, death by crashing into big rock or death by explosion. “Prepare the torpedoes, Neeley. Becca, how’s it going down there?”

    Down in the lower deck, Garak set down two power packs near an access panel. Sullivan pulled retractable cables out of the packs and plugged them into the panel. She frowned when she saw how slowly power was transferring. “May take longer than we have.”

    “At least we can straighten this thing out once we implement Neeley’s plan,” Limis replied. “I’d suggest finding something to hold onto. Fire the torpedoes, Lisa.”

    “We’re not close enough,” Lisa protested.

    “There’s the asteroid’s gravity well to consider. We still have some margin of error. Fire!”

    Two quantum torpedoes erupted from the ship and rammed into the asteroid. As expected, the backwash of the explosion sent the yacht hurdling away. Limis and Neeley clasped their stations as a readout indicated inertial dampeners had failed. “We have an additional problem,” Neeley sang out. “Structural integrity is failing.”

    “Anywhere we can set down?” Limis asked.

    “There’s a Class-M planet we passed just before the Cardies showed up.”

    “I’ll take it. All hands to the escape pod.” Limis entered a command beaming herself and the rest of the yacht’s crew, along with emergency provisions.

    A spherical pod jettisoned from the yacht and streaked towards a nearby planet. The yacht exploded once the pod was in the atmosphere.”

    Limis had taken the captain’s yacht to pursue her missing chief medical officer. Aurellan Markalis left the ship after the captain had planned to arrest a group of human augments residing on Tagra Four. They had already used a listening post in the Epsilon Trianguli system as a proving ground for a deadly biological weapon. Markalis had infiltrated the group as part of a mission for Section 31. She was not initially interested in being recruited, but Agent Cole took her non-answers as maybes.

    Dressed in a short-sleeved navy blue shirt and navy trousers, Aurellan entered the residence of Rhys Darcen, the leader of the Augments on Tagra Four. “Hello,” she called out, upon entry into the stone building. No one was in the foyer, which seemed darker than the last time she was there.

    Accompanying her was a tall dark-haired human male. He was the lone survivor of the proving ground. He had been in the Lambda Paz’s sickbay before Markalis escaped with her. She found herself unable to look at him during the shuttle ride, as he was a reminder that she had withheld his genetic status from her captain.

    The lights brightened slightly as a familiar face stepped into the room. “Aurellan,” said Darcen. “You’re back already. And, Seamus, you got out of there alive.”

    Darcen and the man who came with Markalis quickly embraced. “I was the only survivor,” Seamus reported, wincing with something of migraine headache. “But I may be showing other symptoms of the virus.”

    “I could administer something for the headache,” Markalis replied, reaching into her medkit hanging from her right shoulder.

    “I’ll be all right for now,” Seamus lied, managing a squint.

    Markalis was about to insist when she noticed the two women she had met during her previous visit. A youthful blonde-haired man with an ambivalent facial expression also entered. Looking at Grimaud, Aurellan felt what could be described as a telepathic echo. She remembered a subliminal message in her mind, from after Limis announced her intention to arrest the super-humans. Grimaud looked as human as Rhys, Seamus, Ileana, and Snežana, yet telepathy was never part of the genetic enhancements on humans.

    “Does he know?” Aurellan asked him, even knowing he would not answer.

    “Of course I know that he’s a Betazoid augment,” Darcen firmly replied, stepping in front of Markalis as Grimaud walked away speechless. “Do you think I would let him probe my thoughts without my permission or even without my knowledge?

    “Of course, the doctors at the Daystrom psychiatric center on Galor Four were hoping to suppress his abilities entirely. That’s why we broke him out. Why should such an extraordinary gift go to waste? He knew you were some kind of double agent. He was just trying to make sure exactly where your loyalties lie.”

    Markalis quickly blinked her eyes and felt her temples seeing a field of roses. As quickly as they appeared in her mind, the flowers were gone. “He just did it again,” she gasped, looking over at Grimaud. “I saw a field of roses.”

    “He’s telling you he likes you,” Darcen explained.

    “Great,” Aurellan mumbled almost inaudibly, not knowing whether to be flattered or annoyed that someone was freely probing her thoughts.

    “Do you have the gel you had promised us?” Darcen asked while Aurellan was lost in a thought.

    “What?” she asked, waking from her momentary trance. Then she remembered the bio-mimetic gel she had offered to sell him when she had first met him. “Oh, yes, it’s on the shuttle.” She forced a smile, considering how direct this man was.

    The external hatch of an escape pod flew open. Limis and Neeley used a heavy cargo container as a makeshift battering ram in order to force the door open. The pod has landed on the edge of a dank and musty jungle. The area had patches of swamp. The sun shone very brightly from the west in a dimming sky, suggesting either dawn or dusk.

    Sullivan followed them out of the pod. Behind her was a dark skinned human male dressed in older-style military fatigues carrying a fair-skinned auburn haired human male, who was drifting in and out consciousness. The wounded soldier was laid down on his back. Neeley kneeled down in front of him while setting down a first-aid kit while the others went back in the pod to recover more emergency provisions.

    Neeley began scanning Les Galloway with a medical tricorder. He began gasping in pain each time he inhaled. “Take slower breaths, Les,” Neeley suggested. “You have a fractured sternum and a punctured lung. You could also have internal bleeding. We’ll get you out of here and you’ll be good as new.”

    Breathing was painful enough, so Galloway just answered with a nod.

    The rest of the team hastily returned with additional medical supplies. Samaritan Bowers handed Neeley a hypospray loaded with painkillers while Limis opened a case of disinfecting clothes and placed one on the gash on Galloway’s forehead. The captain then walked over to Sullivan to help her haul a bulky piece of equipment.

    “Can you get this com-unit working?” Vircona asked.

    “Can’t really say yet,” Rebecca answered pensively. “We don’t even know if the right people received our distress call.”

    Limis looked back at the MACO soldiers. Neeley and Bowers continued to encourage Galloway to hang in there. Bowers even suggested Galloway would soon be wishing for something that would serve as insect repellent. But Limis could tell from their repeated promises that even they knew their wounded colleague would not see tomorrow. She inhaled slowly to keep from breaking into tears around her subordinates. “What have I done, Becca?” she sighed. “This was my fool’s errand.”

    “You’re the captain, Vira,” Rebecca responded shooting her friend a stern look. “You’re always putting your people at risk.”

    “They’re prepared to lay down their lives fighting in the Dominion War,” Limis insisted choking back a sob. “I’m only acting on my obsession with bringing down an organization that stomps on everything the Federation stands for. And now that man will die because of my foolishness.”

    Limis took slow breaths to keep her emotions in check. She was now recalling how she first became familiar with the rogue intelligence organization that resorted to the kinds of underhanded methods the rest of the Federation and Starfleet outwardly condemned. That was fourteen years ago, coincidentally, about the same time she first met Rebecca. She could not have known then that they would become each other’s dearest of friends.


    Fourteen years earlier, a young Limis Vircona was living on Volan Three in a sector in dispute between the Federation and the Cardassians Union. She worked long hours at a manufacturing plant owned by a multi-planetary mining company. The hours were long, and the pay was lousy. At least she made enough to support her son and her overseers didn’t strike her for not working up to par. She frequented the local taverns after her twelve-hour workdays.

    She normally got dirty looks from various aliens who could identify her as a Bajoran. At this particular establishment, she was getting curious stares. Perhaps they were enamored by a characteristic that was foreign and exotic. Except most of the patrons were women. Some of them had masculine features: tall, short hair, muscular upper bodies. One of them stood out. A dark-haired adolescent human girl gave inquisitive stares.

    Since her childhood, Vircona had heard stories from pre-Enlightenment times that same sex couples were considered sinners, and thus were treated like outcasts. She never believed that to be true, yet her native language had no other term besides “lost souls” for individuals who “lay with mankind like he lay with womankind.” The idea of such coupling still made her feel awkward since she was not ever sexually attracted to other women.

    Vircona took a seat at the bar and leaned forward snapping her fingers to get the Tellarite bartender’s attention. The nostrils of his porcine snout slightly widened to let out a snort. She wasn’t sure if this was an expression of disdain, as she not been around many Tellarties. “Let me get a whiskey,” she snapped, trying restrain her derision.

    The bartender placed a bottle out from under the bar, and then slammed a glass on the bar.

    “This some kind of place for the balik’pagh?” the Bajoran woman asked.

    “The who?” the bartender asked, not familiar with the foreign term as he finished pouring her drink and put the bottle back on the shelf underneath the bar.

    “What you Federations call lost souls…sinners.”

    “Yeah, well we don’t discriminate,” the bartender retorted walking away. He mumbled something unintelligible, which Vircona guessed was a Tellarite swear.

    “Nice to meet you too,” Vircona shot back.

    She had heard all kinds of stories about Bajoran refugees settling on other worlds. The colony worlds were ideal resettlement locations during the early years of the Cardassian Occupation. Resources quickly dried up as the colonists were gradually forced to fend for themselves. Neighboring races throughout the region welcomed alien visitors. Yet as more and more Bajorans began settling on these worlds, the natives became more contemptuous of the “unwashed.”

    The Federation, of course, was more tolerant. Or so she had heard. She had yet to see that kind of tolerance for “her kind” from the various Federation member races residing on Volan Three. But who was Vircona to judge? She had a strong hatred of Cardassians for their callous devaluing of sentient life.

    That girl was looking in her direction again. Only this time, she walked towards her. She sat down on the stool on Vircona’s right and smirked. “Mind if I buy you that drink?” the human girl asked.

    “I’ve got money,” Vircona sneered. Though she didn’t put any thought into how Federation citizens paid for drinks if they supposedly did not use more conventional currency.

    “I’ve never seen you here before,” the girl remarked.

    “I don’t date women if that’s what you’re wondering.”
    The human girl smirked. She didn’t exactly consider herself a woman who only had romantic relationships with other women, although it was something she had “experimented” with, as adolescent girls called it about three hundred years ago. “Nothing wrong with that,” she quipped.

    “I just didn’t feel like my usual place,” Vircona said gruffly, taking a big sip of whiskey. “I’m used to being looked at funny, but not today. Tough day at work.”

    “What do you do?”

    “I work at that deuterium plant a few blocks from here. It’s exhausting, but it beats working in the Cardassian ore processors.”

    “You’re Bajoran,” the human girl stated in order to indicate interest.

    “The nose wasn’t enough of a giveaway?” Vircona retorted, finishing her drink. “Whatever, I’m out of here,” she said standing up.

    “You sure you don’t want to stay for awhile?” the girl asked, clasping Vircona’s right hand.

    “Get your fucking hands off me, you valki,” Vircona angrily hissed. “I told you, I don’t sleep with other women!”

    “That’s not it at all,” the girl implored. She never heard what this Bajoran woman just called her, but her anger suggested it was a Bajoran swear word. “I was just looking for someone to talk to. I don’t meet that many people.”

    Vircona gave a remorseful sigh, now regretting having hurt this poor girl’s feelings. “I’m sorry,” she said, sitting back down. “I’m just not used to non-Bajorans being nice to me.”

    “We humans are supposed to be more tolerant. But some do think they’re superior to those who didn’t live privileged lives. I’m not one of them.”

    “Even after what I called you? I work long and stressful days and I have a kid to take care of.”

    “You don’t have to explain. Name’s Becca, by the way.”

    “Vira,” Vircona answered with a smile. For the first time since coming to this world, she felt accepted by a non-Bajoran. This encounter gave her a new sense of purpose and a renewed sense that maybe she had made the right choice in relocating herself and her son to this place.

    In a far corner of the tavern, a man of advanced middle aged was shot a quick look at Vircona. For a very brief moment, Vircona saw staring at her for what felt like five seconds. She wasn’t certain, but he might have been the same man watching her as she dropped off her son at school. Who was he and why was he following her?
  18. Enterprise1981

    Enterprise1981 Vice Admiral Admiral

    Oct 23, 2008
    Tethered to a large plant
    Chapter Two
    Doctor Markalis scanned Grimaud with a medical tricorder, having expressed curiosity about his enhanced telepathic abilities, as well why he rarely ever spoke. She held a hand sensor to the young man’s forehead while looking at the tricorder readouts. After her last visit to Tagra, Markalis downloaded some basic information on Betazoid physiology and genetics into the tricorder for a point of comparison.

    “Higher psilosynine levels in the paracortex,” she observed aloud. “It’s as if the telepathic centers of the brain are never turned off.”

    “At least the telepathic inhibitors he’s taken all his life do temporarily silence the voices,” Darcen explained. “And he used Vulcan meditation techniques to learn not to involuntarily see into others’ minds.”

    “Glad you’re not always poking around in my head,” Aurellan retorted to Grimaud. “And I read no evidence of traumatic brain injury, or damage to the vocal cords. He can speak. He just chooses not to.”

    Grimaud squinted, which sent another telepathic message to Markalis.

    “How rude of me,” she replied. “You’re right. I shouldn’t refer to you in the third person when you’re right here. Overall, you have a clean bill of health. Thank you for your time.”

    Keeping his ambivalent expression, Grimaud stood up and walked away without even a “You’re welcome.” And people say I don’t have the best of social skills, Aurellan mused, lightly shaking her head.

    Markalis then followed Darcen to a laboratory in the catacombs. Seamus was already waiting for them, seated in front of a table with a microscope and about a dozen petri dishes. “You remember Seamus?” Rhys rhetorically asked. Without letting her speak he answered his own question. “Of course you do.”

    “We need to learn how to improve the streptococcus strain,” Seamus explained. “We’ve tried to follow the specifications of the Chrysalis Project as best we could. Yet those records are fragmentary at best. I am proof of that.”

    Seamus again winced in pain to feel his temples. “Are you sure you don’t require an analgesic?” Markalis asked.

    “No drugs,” Seamus insisted, squinting. “They could corrupt your studies of the antibodies.”

    Markalis nodded, even though she knew that statement was not entirely true. She had heard of instances where genetic modifications made to create immunity to certain medicinal agents. These humans may have undergone such genetic modifications. She paced over to the table and picked up a hypo-syringe and placed an empty extraction vial in the opposite side of the syringe’s tip.

    Seamus tilted his head to the left, so that Aurellan could extract a blood sample from his carotid artery. Afterwards, she quickly removed a vial and injected a chemical into it that would allow her to more easily see the antibodies under a microscope. Her haste was to hide her disgust with using her medical knowledge to improve a pathogen intended for use as a weapon. The sooner this façade was over, she felt, the better.

    At the top of the stairs, Ileana stared down at the newest member of her group. Once Rhys saw her, he knew his lover was conducting reconnaissance. She knew from the first time she saw Aurellan, that Rhys was attracted to the doctor. Though knowing that Grimaud had read Aurellan’s thoughts, Ileana considered her more of a threat to steal her man.

    Rebecca Sullivan poked around the emergency comm-unit hoping to increase the transmitter’s range. Garak was lending a hand by dismantling a tricorder and converting the power cell to boost its central transponder. If only it had enough power for any kind of transponder to be useful. Rebecca ran a coil spanner over a circuit board in order to recharge it. After placing the board back into its housing, she entered commands for test simulation. The unit slowly hummed to life for a few seconds before all the readout screens went blank. “Damn,” she muttered.

    Limis was checking on Neeley’s and Bowers’ progress wit h Galloway when she heard Sullivan’s momentary expression of frustration. She walked over to Rebecca to inquire on what the problem was with coaxing the comm-unit to work properly. “No luck?” Vircona asked, already knowing the answer.

    “I can’t seem to keep it running long enough for it to do any good,” Rebecca huffed, wishing their one-time Maquis colleague and now shipmate Erhlich Tarlazzi had accompanied them. “If Erhlich was here… “

    “He’s not.”

    “I’m saying if I had some help, I’d sooner be able to diagnose the problem.”

    “You mean Garak’s not much help?” Limis asked, looking over to the Cardassian mission specialist who had come aboard the Lambda Paz prior to the Kalandra campaign for his expertise in coded Cardassian communications.

    “I’m dong the best I can, Captain,” Garak insisted. “With Federation technology, I often forget the difference between a wave-guide converter and a subspace transceiver.”

    “You escaped from a Dominion internment camp using alien communications technology,” Limis recalled of Garak’s time in a Dominion prison in the Gamma Quadrant almost two years ago.

    “It wasn’t hard to master. Federation technology is a lot more complex. I suppose that’s why the engineers put brown stickers on all their tools.”

    “I understand the basic construction,” Sullivan added. “I’m still not able to nail down what’s wrong with this particular unit.”

    Limis looked over at the MACO’s to make sure they were not actively listening in on their conversation. “I’m not much of an engineer, and neither are Neeley or Bowers. “Galloway could help if he was in better shape. He was an engineer before the war.”

    “I thought you didn’t want to dwell on assets we didn’t have,” Rebecca retorted.

    “I’m considering all our options,” Vircona replied, “I don’t plan on dying of malaria in this jungle.”

    Limis shot a glance back the barely conscious body of Galloway. Despite those efforts of Neeley and Bowers to keep up his spirits, Limis was still certain those efforts were futile. She was sure hoping to be wrong, meaning forcing Galloway back into consciousness could result in his death rather than his injuries.


    When she left Bajor, Vircona swore she would never sell herself to Cardassian military officers. Though that was what Agent Chadwick had her doing on her first infiltration mission to the military base on Volan Three. And she looked the part of a common street prostitute, yet she stumbled to keep her balance in her silver stilettos. She was also making minor adjustments to her miniskirt that barely went down to her thighs during the walk to the main entrance of the base. Of course, she thought the maroon lipstick and eyeliner was overkill.

    Vircona’s mission was a day after Chadwick had recruited her, in the middle of the night after her son was sound asleep. She wished she could protect him from burglars, but this mission was also to protect her child as well. She began to notice numerous Cardassian Union logos as she and Chadwick neared the base. Until now, she thought Chadwick was referring to a secret Obsidian Order base of which only a select few were familiar. “Is this a Federation colony or not?” she asked Chadwick, who was as her dealer.

    “Federation citizens have settled here,” Chadwick explained, “but this sector is in dispute. Cardassians are allowed to settle here so long as they leave us alone. This base is to assure we keep up our end of the bargain.”

    Vircona looked away from Chadwick rolling her eyes. A similar arrangement with the Cardassians on her world led to increased tension between the two races. Before too long, largely thanks to political opportunists, the Cardassian Union had tightened its grip on Bajor to the point where there was no getting rid of the alien invaders. She knew, even if Starfleet did not, that this arrangement was a recipe for disaster. The Federation and the Cardassian Empire were at war. This planet would only stoke the fires of conflict, not douse them.

    “Have they kept up they’re end of this tenuous agreement?” Vircona asked skeptically.

    “So far, they have,” Chadwick tersely answered. “The mizinite deposits here are plentiful enough to make up for collateral damage suffered during the Betreka Nebula Incident. But the Cardies are naturally suspicious of alien species. Intelligence wants to make sure they are not antagonizing Federation settlers.”

    The pair soon approached the gate where two night watch guards were stationed. The young man on the right eyed them suspiciously. He wasn’t sure what to make of a woman with a man so much older than her.

    “She has an appointment with the prefect,” Chadwick calmly stated.

    “Is that so?” the guard asked giving an up-and-down visual inspection of Vircona.

    Vircona quietly snorted in disgust as the guard stared lustily.

    “I may want to sample her myself,” the Cardassian added.

    “For the right price,” Vircona replied, slightly pulling down the top of her shoulderless attire, though it just barely concealed her breasts. “Three slips of latinum. Though I don’t think you’re experienced enough.”

    The guard growled, pointing his rifle at Vircona’s head. Chadwick put his right arm out to nudge the rifle downward. “Now you wouldn’t want to explain a phaser wound on your prefect’s ‘merchandise’,” he said jovially.

    The guard lowered his rifle, and then entered a code on the keypad to open the gate widely enough for the two to enter.

    Gul Zarrel took a sip of kanar before taking another look at Vircona. He set the glass on the table and motioned for his “purchase” to come closer in order to make sure she was not hiding any weapons. He asked her to make a 360-degree turn so he could make absolutely sure. “For a spiritual people,” he said, “you Bajoran women have strong sexual appetites.”

    “I never believed in any of that crap,” Vircona replied.

    “We have something in common then. It all strikes me as superstitious nonsense that is a reminder of a part of our culture most of my people want to forget.”

    “So when do we get started?” Vircona asked, unfastening her attire, leaving in just black undergarments.”

    “My, you seem eager,” Zarrel replied, standing up. He squeezed Vircona’s chin tightly, and then ran his tongue down the left side of her neck and along her bare shoulder.

    Vircona looked straight ahead, her eyes widening with fear. Zarrel backed away to remove his military armor and boots. He then gave Vircona a hard shove onto the bed. He mounted her, holding down both her wrists. That was a problem since a sedative was hidden in one of her bracelets.

    Nearly an hour later, the hulking Cardassian was falling asleep on top of her. Vircona diverted her gaze from the man’s face to keep his foul-smelling breath off her skin. She felt for the hypospray in a bracelet on her left wrist, and then jammed it against the back of his neck. Vircona nudged Zarrel’s unconscious body off of her. She then walked over to the desk while dressing herself.

    Entering a decryption code Chadwick had given her to break into Zarrel’s personal database. She placed a blank isolinear data-rod into the computer port to copy the information. Once the transfer was complete, Vircona placed the rod in her cleavage.

    Vircona shot one last glance at the unconscious Zarrel. “Sweet dreams,” she sneered, before puckering her lips.

    Several blocks from the base, Vircona fidgeted with her right stiletto when she saw a humanoid figure walking towards her. The masked humanoid in a black jumpsuit was too skinny to be Chadwick. She headed in the opposite and turned a corner at a back alley. Another masked humanoid was running towards her. She tried going back the way she came, but the first humanoid was in front of her jamming a hypospray on the left side of her neck. The second grabbed her from behind and laid her down gently on the ground.

    The first humanoid Vircona ran into removed a wand-like device. The device lit and the humanoid waved it over Vircona’s neck and shoulder. The two masked humanoids then ran off leaving Vircona unconscious on the ground.
  19. Enterprise1981

    Enterprise1981 Vice Admiral Admiral

    Oct 23, 2008
    Tethered to a large plant
    Chapter Three

    Rebecca Sullivan had decided to finish her final two years of secondary school while considering her career prospects. Her parents could not understand the decision. Her academic record was good enough to get her into a good college or trade school before the rest of her peers. Though she had been encouraged to enter Starfleet Academy, Rebecca had no interest in Starfleet. She tried not to think about her parents’ infinitely high expectations, as well as her argument with them that morning over wanting to bring a girl as her date to the school dance while walking to classes.

    She didn’t consider that she would stumble across a person lying unconscious on the ground. One minute, she was walking; the next, tripped and fell. She rolled over to see the Bajoran woman she met in the tavern a few days earlier. Vircona woke up suddenly, squinting her eyes open to see the girl who made quite the impression on her.

    “B-Becca?” she stuttered.

    “Vira?” Rebecca replied. “Why are you sleeping out here?”

    Vircona felt her forehead, still feeling groggy from the sedative she was given and trying to think of a cover story for her mission. “I had to work a late shift,” she said, her voice nearly trailing off. “I was too tired to go back home.”

    “What about your kid?” Rebecca inquired, helping Vircona up. She wasn’t sure she bought Vircona’s claim about working late given that she dressed like a street prostitute. But Rebecca decided she wasn’t going to judge Vircona and did not ask about the Bajoran woman’s clothing.

    Vircona had been asked about leaving her child at home alone overnight, too often in a judgmental manner. Despite Rebecca’s claim to being a more open-minded person, a particular defense mechanism clicked on in her mind. “He can take care of himself,” she snapped. “He knows I have to work late occasionally. I didn’t have much of a childhood myself.”

    “I was just curious,” Rebecca apologetically replied.

    “I know. I’m used to people thinking that because I’m a single parent. I can’t raise a kid and hold a job at the same time.”

    “They’re full of themselves,” Rebecca assuredly stated, as they began taking small steps down the street. “It’s not the most ideal situation for a child. But I’m sure you do the best you can.”

    “Thank you,” Vircona answered with a smile. “I’m glad you understand.”

    “Earth wasn’t always the paradise it is today. That’s probably what makes some of us a little complacent. Not everyone in the universe has it as easy as we do. New challenges make life worth living, and reminds us of all the challenges that came before we built this utopia humans live in.”

    “You’re very insightful at such a young age, Becca. We should hang out again some time.

    Rebecca’s cheeks blushed. For a second, she thought Vircona was asking her out. The she remembered Vircona didn’t date women. “Sure,” she quickly blurted out.

    “I get off work early. Pick you up after your classes?”

    Rebecca just gave a quick and nervous nod, and then slowly began to walk away. She turned around, trying to contain her excitement. This was not a date, she told herself, but she still felt a connection to this woman like no other person she had ever met.


    Limis was lost in recalling events of fourteen years earlier when Neeley and Garak returned from scouting the jungle. Limis was hoping they had found some edible vegetation. She sighed discontentedly when seeing they were just carrying the water canteen they were sharing. “Nothing decent?” she asked dejectedly.

    “I wouldn’t eat anything in that jungle,” Neeley pointedly replied. “Looks like we’re stuck with boring old field rations.”

    “Hopefully not for too much longer in this excruciating heat,” Garak added.

    “Don’t Cardassians love the heat?” Limis asked.

    Desert heat,” Garak corrected, tugging at his collar. “I can barely tolerate this humidity.”

    “You’re not the only one,” Limis answered, taking a few steps backwards and trying to hide her displeasure with a certain odor. How had Neeley dealt with it the last hour? Cardassians certainly valued personal hygiene, but it was still rather poor by the standards of other races.

    “We’re going to need Mister Galloway’s help,” Limis continued, “if we’re to get off this planet.”

    Once again, Neeley rolled her eyes in annoyance at the very suggestion of asking for a barely conscious man’s assistance. But Limis had made up her mind since Galloway would be dead sooner or later. “Wake him,” Limis instructed Bowers.

    “Bowers reluctantly complied, injecting Galloway with a stimulant. Limis looked over the MACO soldier, whose breathing was still labored even though his broken sternum had healed. “We need that comm-unit fixed,” the captain stated. “You up for talking Ensign Sullivan through the repairs?”

    “Sure,” Galloway wheezed. “I may still die in this muck, but I can still strive to leave here alive. I thought you Maquis types were experts in repairing outdated equipment that’s supposed to be damaged beyond repair.”

    “’Outdated’ being the operative word,” Sullivan quipped. “My expertise is in sending clandestine messages with still working outdated equipment. This thing’s harder to navigate than a labyrinth.”

    “First, you need to give the triaxilating circuits enough juice,” Galloway continued through pained breaths. “We want to make sure a Federation or Klingon ship finds us.”

    “I’ve been concentrating on those even though their no good in the rest of the unit’s condition.”

    “One less thing to worry about,” Galloway remarked through coughing and wheezing. Neeley began scanning his chest with a medical tricorder to monitor the punctured lung. “Next,” Galloway continued, “see if the four torodial antennae dispersed throughout the unit.”

    While Galloway continued to talk Sullivan through the repairs, Bowers gave Limis a disgusted stare. That stimulant I gave him better not kill him, he had wanted to say to her.

    Rhys and Snežana entered the lab where Doctor Markalis was working to dleiver additional equipment. Aurellan was still looking through a microscope scrutinizing antibody samples. She was heavily concentrated on analyzing the samples, she did not react to their footsteps. Ileana and Seamus, who were setting up petri dishes and hypo-syringes, motioned their cohorts to set the crates down next to the table.

    “How is the analysis coming?” Darcen asked Markalis.

    “This is one of the most intricate pathogens I’ve ever seen,” Aurellan replied still staring into the microscope and injecting streptococcus samples into a petri dish suspension.

    Ileana walked over to the crates to open them. She hid her annoyance at Rhys staring in the general direction of Aurellan’s posterior, but also had felt a measure of relief that Snežana was staring lustily at Aurellan. Rhys could still sense that his lover was giving him an “eyes up here” glare and shot her an innocent grin. Her nostrils flared slightly every time he stared at her cleavage for longer than half a second.

    “It’s a major feat of genetic engineering,” Darcen replied. “We’ve still had to build from scratch. “We’ve still had to build from scratch. Much of Kaur’s data was destroyed after the Eugenics War. And rightly so. Letting basics play around with this thing would have been disastrous.”

    “That’s why I am starting to manifest symptoms,” Seamus explained.

    “Basics?” Markalis asked Darcen. Though she studied the Eugenics War in school, the term “basics” never came up. She had an idea of its meaning in this context.”

    “Neurotypical is another term,” Ileana answered, setting down orange and blue cylindrical containers on the table. “People who do not possess intellectual and physical prowess.”

    “What are these?” Markalis asked of the containers Ileana and Snežana were placing on the table.

    “The T’Lani and Kelleruns called them harvesters,” Snežana answered. “They are genetic disruptors used in their centuries long conflict.”

    Markalis felt a twinge in her chest and abdomen. She remembered not to let her eyes widen to conceal her horror at the capabilities of this weapon and that these people were planning to use it.

    “They’re mutual hatred consumed them as much as this weapon,” Seamus added. “They were so determined to exterminate each other, they nearly destroyed their planets’ ecosystems. Luckily more enligthened individuals from both planets saw the wisdom in destroying them."

    Markalis was lost in the thought of how Earth would have fared had such horrible weapons been used during the Cold War between the United States and Snežana’s ancestors when Seamus began coughing. She thought nothing of the first coughs. Then the coughs became wheezing, as if he would cough out his intestines. Aurellan saw the Augments would not act, and moved to interceded.

    “You should lie down,” she offered.

    Seamus shook his head as he clutched the table. He grabbed a beaker, which slammed to the floor and shattered as the man fell into unconsciousness.

    Markalis took a hypospray out of her medkit. Before she could kneel down and administer it, Darcen effortlessly grabbed the hypospray from her hand and flung it across the room.

    “No,” he insisted. “No medicines.”

    “He’ll die without treatment,” Markalis implored.

    “We can’t guarantee he’ll survive with it,” Darcen hissed. “He knows more important things are at stake. And that he will only be a burden if you needlessly prolong his life.”

    Markalis just nodded to hide her shock at Darcen’s disregard for the life of a fellow Augment. If he could devalue Seamus’s life, he certainly thought even less of “basics.”


    Vircona landed her hopper, an electronic scooter-shaped vehicle that glided slightly off the ground, near the main entrance of the local high school. Once classes were dismissed for the day, students of varying Federation member races began filing out of the building. A few human boys looking in Vircona’s direction gave approving glances. Maybe the sight of a woman wearing a leather jacket over a pair of form fitting jeans was what appealed to them. She nodded to them and they nodded. Soon afterwards, the girl she was waiting for appeared.

    Rebecca was accompanied by two of her female peers, a human with long dark curly hair and an Andorian girl. She was telling them she had to postpone their plans for after school. She pointed to Vircona to identify the person with whom she would be spending the afternoon. The other girls shrugged, wondering who this new friend, especially since she was a Bajoran about ten years older than they were.

    “I hope you weren’t planning anything too important,” Vircona remarked to Rebecca.

    “No, just the same old stuff we high school girls do,” Rebecca answered with a shrug. “Hang out, talk about cute boys… and girls.”

    They both grinned. Vircona then handed Rebecca an extra helmet on the back seat of the vehicle and put on the helmet on her seat. Rebecca draped her arms over Vircona’s shoulders to hold on as she activated the ignition and the vehicle took off.

    Vircona took Rebecca to a range of large bluffs and small canyons just outside of the settlement area. They sat at the base of a cliff where they watched the wind brush up clumps of sand. It was unlike any phenomenon on Earth or Bajor. Periodic wind gusts in this arid region would cause clumps of sand to brush up like a cyclone. Rebecca just gazed in awe.

    “My son would come here a lot when we first came to this planet,” Vircona recalled. “Soon I had to come here to find out what was so fascinating.”

    “Where is his father?” Rebecca curiously asked.

    For a split second, she thought Rebecca was judging her, but then considered a part of her life she left on Bajor. “Probably still on Bajor,” she answered hoarsely. “I loved that man when I was your age. Maybe we married too young. He carried a lot of repressed anger, wondering what our people had done to deserve what the Cardassians were doing to us. He would start to take that anger out on me until two years ago. Yanith was getting old enough to know how screwed up his parents’ marriage was. I didn’t want him thinking that sort of thing was acceptable in a marriage.”

    “That’s rough,” Rebecca sympathetically replied. That story made her reconsider how thankful she was that her parents had a much more cordial relationship. She could never recall a single instance where her father raised his voice to her mother. Only a deeply disturbed man, she thought, would physically injure his wife.

    During about a minute of silence, Vircona had hoped avoid any further discussion of her abusive former spouse. “So,” she said, not sure how to approach this particular question, “how did you decide you were attracted to both women and men?”

    Now who’s judging? Rebecca wondered. She giggled at the wording of the question. “We don’t always decide whom we’re attracted to,” she said plainly. “In a game of truth or dare, I kissed a girl… on the lips. It was totally random, but then I found myself open to dating both genders.”

    Vircona did not know how to respond. She just listened to the howling of the wind. “Wait until you hear this,” she instructed Rebecca. “It’s something relating to the construction of the rocks.”

    The howling slowly became a high-pitched melodic hum. “Amazing,” Rebecca gasped in awe.

    They stared off into the distance as the hum continued for nearly a minute until it dispersed. “Truth or dare?” Vircona then blurted.

    “Dare,” Rebecca replied, gazing into Vircona’s eyes and clasping her hand.

    Vircona gazed into the Rebecca’s eyes. She leaned over kissed Rebecca on the lips. Rebecca’s eyes widened in surprise. Just a few days ago, this woman said she didn’t date other women. Now she was kissing her. Rebecca then leaned over planting a longer open-lipped kiss on Vircona’s lips.

    Hours later, when the sun was setting, Vircona landed her hopper in front of Rebecca’s house. From inside, a woman gazed out the window. She did not know what how to react to the Bajoran woman kissing her daughter. Rebecca was slowly walking backwards towards the door when her mother grabbed her by the right arm. “Where have you been?” the older woman impatiently demanded.

    “I was just out with a friend,” Rebecca calmly answered.

    “You mean her?” her mother sneered, pointing at Vircona.

    “I don’t mean any harm, Mrs. Sullivan,” Vircona insisted.

    The older Sullivan quickly cut her off. “ Get off my property before I call the police,” she demanded. “I don’t want you pushing your backwards superstitions on my daughter.”

    Vircona wanted to respond, but quickly held her tongue. She knew where was not welcome and didn’t decide to push it. She sat in the driver seat of her hopper and sped away.
  20. Enterprise1981

    Enterprise1981 Vice Admiral Admiral

    Oct 23, 2008
    Tethered to a large plant
    Chapter Three (continued)

    Darcen kneeled in front of a short table, gazing at a flaming lamp, while holding his index fingers together like a steeple. He was performing a Vulcan meditation ritual where he would focus all his mental energy on the flame and tune out any other external stimuli. He heard many historical accounts of how violent others like him were, especially the infamous Khan Noonien Singh and his followers. Given the Vulcan people’s history of violent warfare millennia ago, their meditation techniques seemed an effective way of keeping strong emotions in check.

    Of course, he let himself be distracted by the sound of footsteps behind him. “Come in, Aurellan,” he said slowly opening his eyes. He turned his head slightly to see the shadow that Markalis had cast against the wall.

    Markalis grinned in embarrassment at being easily identified even though Darcen hadn’t seen her. “That’s a Vulcan meditation lamp, isn’t it?” she observed of the antiquated light source.

    “I’m intrigued by their mediation rituals,” said Darcen, still staring at the flame. “But you didn’t come here to talk about Vulcan meditation.”

    Markalis was surprised and amazed at how well he knew her already and intrigued by his directness. “Seamus is in really bad shape,” she pointedly replied. “I don’t know that he’ll make it through the night. Not even Vulcans would be as cavalier as you are being.”

    Darcen stood upright and growled at Markalis, while shooting her a hostile glare. Her eyes widened in terror. It was the same look of anger her mother gave her if she ever she challenged her authority. So much for keeping his emotions in check. He smiled at her terrified expression and backed off.

    “He was my friend since childhood,” he said ruefully as he looked away from Markalis. “He understood the risks involved when we went through with the plan on Epsilon Trianguli. He knew that in the worst-case scenario, he would die in the same gruesome fate as the basics on that outpost. We wouldn’t have thought less of him had he refused to volunteer himself. But he was willing to lay down his life for a greater good.

    Those words frightened her more than the threatening posture Rhys took just a few moments ago. The three words she heard over and over again since she entered medical school were, “Do no harm.” Yet this man was using someone he called a friend as guinea pigs in experimentation considered immoral for over four centuries. Darcen had hoped to hide his own emotions by avoiding eye contact. He then looked back at Aurellan.

    “I understand people of your breed,” he continued, “often struggle to grasp the concepts of empathy and compassion. “you may not be entirely like us on a genetic level, but I would you think you would understand my position.”

    Those words were like a punch in the stomach to Markalis. What did he mean by “people of her breed’? That kind of prejudice was one thing that made “basics” afraid of “augments.” She had often struggled with basic social interaction, and she looked at the universe in a more rational manner than most humans. But she never thought herself capable of Darcen’s level of coldness.

    “When my sister was a baby,” Aurellan began to recall of her childhood, “I could never understand why she would start fussing whenever I held her. My mother said I was always too rough on our dog, even when I didn’t think I was.”

    Ileana passed by entryway to Rhys’s room. She caught a glance of Rhys showing interest in a story Aurellan was telling him. After she passed by, she tiptoed backwards to keep from attracting Rhys’s attention while listening in.

    “My mother would hold me in her arms when I became highly agitated,” Markalis continued. “I often recoiled from physical contact. She was so gentle though. That was how I began to truly understand empathy.”

    Darcen’s eyes twinkled, as he became deeply moved. He then refocused his mind when he got a glance of the meditation lamp. “Empathy and compassion are for the weak-minded,” he insisted. “We are prepared to do what others are too afraid to do to end this devastating war. If a few people have to die for the cause, I can live with that.”

    Markalis felt a chill on her skin. She realized persuading Darcen was futile and decided not to push it further in order to maintain her cover. “I have to get back to work,” she said demurely, slowly stepping out of the room.

    With no warning whatsoever, a hand grabbed Aurellan by the neck and shoved her whole body against the wall. Ileana looked into eyes with a murderous rage. “I don’t know who you really are,” she hissed, “or where you came from. But I will not let you derail our plans. He may find you intriguing, but he loves me.”

    Aurellan tried to speak, but couldn’t for as long as this super strong woman gripping her neck.

    “If you steal him from me,” Ileana continued, “or if you sell us out, I will snap your neck, which, as you can tell, I am fully capable of doing.”

    Ileana then let go of Markalis and stormed off. Aurellan felt her throat and began coughing. She stared down the hall where Ileana had walked away wondering what kind of sociopaths with whom she had gotten involved.