The Next Generation

"Counterpoints," Part Three by Charlynn Schmiedt

Part of the Continuing Earl Grey Fiction Mini-Series

by Phillip Gilfus, with contributions from Daniel Proulx and Darren Moser

Let’s do this, thought Ensign Hegg, as he stepped inside the ship’s main shuttlebay for the first time. I’m excited but scaredEver since I got that commendation, I never know how a new senior officer will treat me.

It was almost a year ago since Hegg had received the Pantares Ribbon of Commendation. The Bolian had hoped he could remain silent about the incident after leaving the U.S.S. Merrimac. On that fateful day, all of the flight deck officers (FDOs) had been injured on the Nebula-class ship, following a series of plasma explosions in the power grid and a coolant leak in the main engine. Hegg had single-handedly organized a shuttle evacuation of all civilians and non-essential personnel to safety. In the end, the ship’s chief engineer managed to eject the warp core and save the ship, before shortly dying from her injuries.

Hegg could still remember the screams of his injured shipmates, the smell of plasma burning flesh, and the look of fright on his friend’s children, as he directed them into shuttlecrafts. The flashing red alert klaxons, smoke everywhere, the faces of terror…

Hegg closed his eyes, shook away the memory, and told himself, You’re on the Enterprise now, you have a duty to do, ensign. Let’s get to it.

He instinctively made his way to the center of the shuttlebay and walked up the main stairwell to the deck three upper main shuttlebay. Hegg assumed he would find his new commanding officer in the flight control room. Hegg soon found himself looking slightly down at a Tellarite lieutenant. Hegg knew about the race’s argumentative and confrontational reputation, but decided to stick to protocol when it came to introductions.

Hegg straightened to a position of attention and said, “Ensign Hegg reporting for duty, sir.”

“Well, well, look who finally made it to his required place of duty,” retorted the lieutenant, making a series of snorts in displeasure, as he turned to face Hegg. “If it isn’t Ensign Commendation himself, well, let me take a look at the newest officer gracing us with his presence.”

Hegg didn’t know whether to relax or not from his stiff posture as the Tellarite slowly circled him.

“Evacuated a whole shuttlebay with one hand tied behind your back, huh? I’ve read your personnel file. That’s all right. Not bad,” said the lieutenant. He suddenly pointed his left hoof-like hand in Hegg’s face.

“But this is the Enterprise, not some backwater science ship. Let’s see what you know about shuttlecraft protocols. How many shuttles must be kept operational at all times?!” the Tellerite screamed the question out, following it with another series of snorts.

“Well, um, sir, it depends on the…” Hegg struggled for a moment, trying to remember the Galaxy-class specifications, unsure if he was mixing them up with his old ship’s regulations.

“Eleven! That’s the answer,” the Tellarite bellowed, appearing almost to spit on the floor in disgust. “How many shuttlecraft must be kept on immediate standby at all times, with as little as thirty minutes prep time?!”

Hegg looked him directly in the eye. “Four.”

“Wrong, it’s fo-…oh, uh, yes, that’s right, ensign.”

The Tellarite ceased his circling and, despite the fact that he was almost half a meter shorter than Hegg, he gave the Bolian his most piercing stare.

“Looks like we got a smart one here.” The lieutenant looked over his right shoulder. “Hear that, lieutenant? We’ve got a smart one.”

Hegg quickly stole a glance to his left and saw a female lieutenant junior grade who was squatting underneath a console conducting repairs. She gave him a wink and a smile. Hegg translated the Terran’s gestures as saying, Yep, that’s how he is, sorry.

“Well, since I’m stuck with you, ensign, you’ll remained assigned to the main shuttlebay as a FDO here. But if…!” the Tellarite poked Hegg in the chest with his left hand-hoof for emphasis. “If! If you prove your mettle, and I remain dubious, we’ll put you in charge of shuttlebay three. How does that sound?”

Hegg’s nervousness started changing to amusement. He had to fight himself from smiling over the lieutenant’s overdramatic behavior.

“I’m happy to serve wherever you need me, sir.”

“Happy to serve…well, Ensign Crusher reported some issues with the shuttlecraft Justman that he piloted you new officers in. Why don’t you go service it and see what the problem is. Unless that’s too menial of a task for such a highly-decorated officer as yourself?!”

“No, sir, I’ll get right on it. What bay is it in?”

“Bay three. Do I have to tell you everything?!” With that, the lieutenant turned around quickly and walked to a flight control station.

Hegg walked down to the flight deck, found a maintenance kit, and walked to bay three. He found theJustman, opened the shuttle’s rear door, and walked over to a diagnostic control panel. 

“Excuse me!”

Hegg almost dropped his tricorder at the sound of a woman’s voice. He looked up to see the lieutenant junior grade he had noticed earlier.

She was a blonde human who looked to be in her early 30s. She reached out her hand in greeting.

“I just wanted to give you the official welcome. New people don’t usually get one from Lt. Fwaaks. My name is Jenna.”

Hegg shook her hand, happy to see a friendly face.

“I’m Ensign Hegg. That’s Lt. Fwaaks? Well, it’s been an…interesting first day here.”

“Oh, I bet! But, don’t mind Fwaaks. He can be a, well, typical Tellarite, but he can also be a real sweetheart at times, too,” said Jenna, in an almost sing-song voice. “If you need a tour of the ship or anything, let me know. Jeff always says we need to look out for each other on this ship.”

“Is Jeff another FDO here?”

“Huh? Oh, no, he’s my boyfriend,” she said, giving a small laugh. “Oh, I know Fwaaks assigned you to repair this shuttle. I wanted to let you know that Ensign Crusher said he thought the problem was in the thruster assembly. But I have a feeling it could also be a problem with the conn computer system. Do you need any help?”

“Sure, I don’t mind an extra hand.”

Jenna walked over to the shuttle’s conn and powered it up. “I remember the first day I came onboard, I was so nervous! I didn’t know anyone and kept getting lost! I think my first friend was the ship’s computer, since I kept having to ask it how to get everywhere. Then there ended up being a mix-up in my quarters assignment, and then I ended up making Fwaaks mad when I turned over an entire…oh no! Here I am babbling when you’re trying to get your first mission done. I’m sorry, I just tend to babble sometimes. I’ll go access the EPS control panel on the exterior nacelles, you can keep doing your diagnostic.”

Jenna walked out of the shuttle, leaving Hegg alone in the cabin. The diagnostic revealed four fused EPS conduits on the port thruster assembly. The Bolian knew he would have to replace them. He told Jenna what he had found, and she showed him where to replicate four new conduits from the shuttlebay’s stores.

“Here, I have to go report to cargo bay four and help supervise a mission over there. Will you be all right on your own?” asked Lt. (jg) D’Sora.

“Oh, yes. Thanks. And thanks for the help,” said Hegg, giving her a grateful nod.

“Sure, anytime!” She smiled. “Just look me up if you need anything.”

Hegg gave her a small wave and began to work. He had to admit that it had been awhile since he had worked on a Type VI thruster assembly. Maybe I should have asked for help after all, he thought. Oh well, it’s the Enterprise, I need to prove myself. Hegg managed to install two conduits quickly, but was struggling with the third when Lt. Fwaaks walked into the shuttle cabin.

“Aren’t you done yet with this, I might add, very simple assignment?” barked the Tellarite.

“I was able to diagnose the problem and was just installing these replacements,” answered Hegg.

“You know, perhaps I’ve given you too much to do on your first day. Either that or I need to think about reassigning you to captain’s yacht duty. How about you let a more experienced officer get this done and you can go about redecorating your quarters for the rest of the day?” he snarled.

Hegg thought about arguing, but decided that on his first day, as humans say, discretion was the better part of valor. He put down the conduits, said, “Yes, sir,” and exited the bay.

Not a great first impression, Hegg thought, as he walked the ship’s corridors on deck four. But I’m sure things will get better.

Any more thoughts were interrupted by the sounds of the ship going to red alert. 

"Counterpoints," Part Two by Charlynn Schmiedt

Part of the Continuing Earl Grey Fiction Mini-Series

by Phillip Gilfus, with contributions from Daniel Proulx and Darren Moser

Ensign Thovin walked the corridors of deck nine, full of determination. It was nice having his quarters on the same deck as his new duty station, the ship’s astrometrics lab.

It’s going to be a change going from Starfleet Academy instructor to junior science officer on a starship, thought Thovin. I’m used to giving the orders, not taking them.

He arrived at the entry to the lab and paused. Thovin’s antenna stood up straight as he took a moment to clear his head and attempted to look imposing. He took a step forward, the doors opened, and, as he looked around his surroundings, he instantly tried not to look disappointed.

Thovin had imagined that the Federation’s flagship astrometrics lab would be more impressive. The lab, which was poorly lit, looked to be no more than 10 by 30 meters, with only six computer access consoles and chairs. At first it looked to be empty, but then he noticed another science officer hunched over a far console, his back to Thovin.

Thovin cleared his throat, as only an Andorian could, and said, “Excuse me.”

The only response Thovin received was that the officer began to mumble to himself. Thovin’s antennae caught the phrases, “I think I need to carry the five and use the Throcian Energy Assumption Theory…” and “Twenty cochranes just to ensure a proper course vector…”

“I said, excuse me,” repeated Thovin, with an impatient tone.

The officer’s face did not move away from the screen. He merely waved his left hand and said, “I’ll be with you later. If you’re here to fix the microntelescope…”

Thovin interrupted him. “No, I’m not here to fix anything. In fact, I’m reporting for duty for the first time, if you care to pay attention.”

The officer quickly turned around. He was a human lieutenant, who looked to be in his early 30s. His expression went from pensive to friendly, and he reached out his hand to greet Thovin.

“Oh yeah, yeah, you’re Ensign…um….Ensign…” the lieutenant’s face went blank, and he started to fumble with a pile of PADDs that were next to his console.

Thovin thought, This is my new commanding officer? I see me taking over this place by next week.

“Thovin. The name is Thovin.”

“Oh, yes, Ensign Thovin. Of course. Yes, wonderful, great. I’m Colin. Colin Jones. It’s good to meet you,” responded Jones, blushing slightly with embarrassment.

The two shook hands. Lt. Jones immediately returned to his console and began pressing buttons on his console. Colin’s eyes did not leave the screen as he spoke to Thovin.

“Sorry I was distracted; I’ve been working on this problem,” said Jones, “but I’m so glad you finally arrived, I’ve been waiting for someone to be assigned here for awhile. You don’t know how much work I’ve had to deal with alone in the two years I’ve been here. And now with the mapping mission we’re starting in the Arteline Sector, I don’t know how it’s expected for me to process that data by myself.”

Thovin arched his left eyebrow in answer; however, Jones still had his back to him and continued speaking.

“Not that I’m complaining, mind you, but working by yourself for a long time can really get to someone. Which, I do have a question for you, and please be honest.”

“I will,” said Thovin, expecting a scientific inquiry or a question about his credentials.

Jones turned his chair and looked directly at the Andorian. “You’re not just here to move on to stellar cartography are you? Those guys over there think they run this deck.”

“I’m here right now to get as much experience as I can in this duty position,” answered Thovin, who began questioning whether he had entered someone’s Holodeck program.

Jones smiled, let out a breath he had been holding, and turned back to his console. “Good, I’m glad. Man, stellar cartography. They do great work, don’t get me wrong. But they really think they are … oh, wait! Now that I have you here, you can help me with my special project.”

Jones motioned for Thovin to examine his console. Thovin had no idea what to think about what this absent-minded lieutenant’s idea of a “special project” was, but he stepped closer in curiosity.

“A lot of people studying the Borg want to know how to improve our shielding and weapons, but they are missing the most important element,” said Jones, pausing a moment. “Their propulsion! How did they get here from the Delta Quadrant? Look at this, I’ve been calculating the position of the Borg cube encountered by the Enterprise in System J-25 on stardate 42761.9 and comparing it to the position of the cube encountered on stardate 43993.5. Nobody is asking how they got there. I think it’s fascinating. Would you be interested in helping?”

Thovin’s antennae began to slowly twirl in slow concentric circles. “I think your premise is flawed,” said the ensign. “You are assuming that it was the same Borg vessel encountered at both times. The Borg may be located closer than the Delta Quadrant. We do not have enough information at this time.”

“Hmm, maybe,” said Jones, disappointment visible on his face. “Well, I suppose we should get to work. You should be able to access the long-range sensors. I’ll save you the grand tour of the lab, since I know it’s not your first time in one. See if you can do any long-range scans of the Baselad system in the Arteline Sector. It’s the first system on our mapping mission itinerary.”

Thovin walked to a console on the other side of the lab, sat down, and began accessing the appropriate science sensor systems. The scanners soon informed him that the Baselad sector contained five planetary bodies, with an asteroid belt separating the third and fourth planets. The only habitable planets appeared to be Baselad II and Baselad III, Class M and H respectively. However, no life forms had ever been detected on either planet. Thovin was surprised to see an unknown radiation signature in the vicinity of Baselad II. He readjusted the long-range sensors to focus on the radioactive anomaly near the Class M planet.

Thovin moved his face closer to the console and studied the readings. The ship’s computer was unable to properly classify the composition and nature of the radiation, however it was perfectly capable to showing him that twelve ships were near the planet, all with Romulan-type ship signatures.

Thovin opened his mouth to report to Jones, and then, thinking that his commanding officer did not seem quite capable, stopped himself, and instead he activated his comm badge.

“Ensign Thovin to…Lieutenant Commander Data,” said Thovin. The ship’s second officer seemed the logical person to contact. The Andorian knew of the android’s reputation as a scientist, engineer, and decorated senior officer.

“Data here,” came the emotionless reply.

“Sir, I know you don’t know me. I just transferred aboard. But I found some readings in preparation for our mapping mission that I think you should be aware of.”

“What are the precise nature of those readings?”

“I don’t know if I should describe them openly on the channel but-“


Thovin looked up to see Colin leaning over the Andorian’s console. The lieutenant accessed a few additional ship scanners. “Mr. Data, this is Lt. Jones. We have twelve Romulan signals coming from the Baselad system that we are approaching.”

“Thank you, lieutenant. I will confirm those findings here on the bridge and act appropriately.”

The lieutenant looked down at Thovin. He looked uncomfortable and shifted his weight from one foot to another. “Look, ensign, I know you’re new here. But you report all findings to me first before anyone else, is that understood?”

Thovin wanted to point out that Lt. Jones’ attention span didn’t seem to be the most encouraging for reporting a ship emergency. But instead the ensign answered, “Yes, sir.”

The red alert klaxons and lights began to sound on the ship.

Jones looked again at the console. “Good sensor work, though. From what I can tell, there are three scout ships, seven transports, and two freighters. What are Romulans doing in Federation space?”

"Counterpoints," Part One by Charlynn Schmiedt

by Phillip Gilfus, with contributions from Daniel Proulx and Darren Moser

Rating: K+

Synopsis: This is an ongoing mini-series written by’s Earl Grey podcasters that follows a handful of “lower decks” crew members newly appointed to the Enterprise-D.

Chronology: Several weeks after the battle of Wolf 359.

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"Redeemed" Chapter Five by Charlynn Schmiedt

by Travis Anderson

Earth had been struck by Breen and many of the Maquis, even those that had never set foot on humanity’s birth world, were dazed and fearful. Riker just looked distraught. Sito tried to be accommodating but she finally threw up her hands in disgust.

“Come on, Tom, life hasn’t ended,” Sito cajoled him.

“Maybe it has. The Klingons never struck Earth and the Romulans never succeeded, but the Dominion has,” Riker lamented.

“Tom, the Xindi hit Earth centuries ago and that was before there was a Federation,” Sito argued, “but it sets a precedent. No planet is immune from sneak attacks.”

“But…” Riker began.

Sito held up a single finger. “Stow it. Whatever feeble excuse you’re about to come up with, just stow it.”

Riker had never seen her in this light as she pressed on. “You survived Nervalla IV. You survived Letau. You’ve survived the last three years as a security specialist. You know what that says to me? You’re a survivor. So act like it!”

Riker was almost afraid not to. “Why do you still look after me?”

That irked her even more. “How can you ask that? I watch your back and you watch mine. That was the deal, right?”

“Yes, it was,” Riker agreed, “but I’m aboard the Indomitable now and you’re still flying the Razorcat.”

“But I still watch your back,” Sito promised. “Never doubt that.”

“You two!” Ro yelled across the paddock. “We’re lifting off.”

Riker and Sito jogged over to Ro’s side as she started down the flight line. Ro addressed Riker, “I’m hopping a ride aboard the Indomitable. Do you have an objection?”

“No, but I’d like to know if you’re assuming command,” Riker admitted.

“No, I’ll be in charge once we reach the ground,” Ro assured him.

“What’s the op?” Sito wondered.

“Orions have taken hostages on Golana,” Ro informed them. “The IndomitableNathan Hale, and Valhallaare lifting off with the Razorcat and heading there straightaway. Two Orion Wanderer-class-V blockade runners have landed on the planet and two more are in orbit. The Constabulary had them held down in the town hall. We’re coming in as support.”

On Golana’s surface, Tulley led the Indomitable crew in aiding the constables holding action. The Nathan Hale and the Valhalla stayed in high orbit in case more Orions arrived. The Razorcat strafed the Orion ships on the ground before she landed and they were no longer space worthy.

The Indie crew was specifically helping block the path to the shuttleport. Six ships were currently landed there: The Indomitable herself, the Razorcat, one civilian runabout, three civilian Type 6 shuttle analogues, and a number of Bajoran interceptors. The Orions were demanding passage to the shuttleport, access to the ships, and a withdrawal all under the cover of hostages. And to make matters more interesting, The militia’s response had been to send Ro in to “negotiate.” Her preferred method of talking was sneaking around back and committing a full incursion in order to disable all of the Orion pirates.

Ro reached the rear entrance to the hall. The pavilion was used for bazaars, town meetings, and religious festivals. With her phaser drawn, she went to one side of the door. Sito and Riker took the other side.

The constables that Ro was fending off had initially objected to Riker’s participation in this part of the intervention. The chief constable had wanted one of his own deputies to be included. Ro simply told him off and insisted she use someone she’d worked beside for years. She then asked if the Maquis hadn’t done a good job defending Golana for the last three years, and if so, why couldn’t they be trusted now?

Ro signaled the Nathan Hale, which in turn contacted the Valhalla, and the two Maquis raiders each beamed up two Orions. The Orions were stunned as soon the annular confinement beams of the transporters released them. The Orions on the ground flipped on their transport inhibitors at that point, realizing that help from their fellow pirates wasn’t coming.

The Maquis in orbit signaled Ro and updated her. She smiled as she spoke to Sito and Riker. “They took the bait.”

“Which means they’re coming to us,” Sito nodded.

Ro contacted the chief constable. His deputies pulled out and circled around to flank the Orions, should any get past Ro’s triad. Sito sounded off that the Orion life signs read by her tricorder were now down to eight and there were still one hundred Bajorans. So at least none of them had been killed yet.

Ro had noted Sito’s improved confidence since she enlisted in the militia. Like so many coming out of the Occupation, Sito felt a need to contribute to Bajor’s well-being. Her assignment with the Maquis was just a more practical application of helping than serving in Starfleet — or so Sito argued. Ro just felt Sito had gotten a raw deal out of Starfleet and was looking for new horizons from her own people.

Riker towered over Sito as she stood poised with a two-handed grip on her militia-issue phaser. She was crouched while Ro stood opposite her with a similar grip on her own phaser. The locks on the door cycled and Ro silently nodded at Sito and then Riker. Everyone was ready for anything.

An Orion poked his head out and Ro shot him in the temple. Even if she’d set her phaser to “stun,” a head shot would have been lethal. But Ro wasn’t playing by such niceties. She was sending a message to the Orion Syndicate and that message was “stay away.” The Orion dropped and his head, lying in the door track, prevented it from closing.

Two Orions tried to drag the body away. Ro swung into the building and killed both pirates. The pirate chieftain bellowed for Ro to disarm or hostages would start dying. Ro tossed her phaser aside and raised her hands.

The Orion captain sneered as he took aim at Ro. Sito swung around the corner has Ro dodged to one side. She shot the Orion captain in the forehead and he fell dead before his crew. Sito ordered the Bajoran hostages to hit the ground as the Orions panicked and Sito tried picking them off one by one.

Ro had dodged in the direction her phaser laid and she scooped it up and added her firepower to the fray. Riker was late to arrive and only targeted the very last Orion as he was drawing a bead on Sito while she killed another Orion. Sito grinned at him.

“Nice to see you still have my back,” she said jovially.

Chief Constable Erim Veld rushed his deputies in only to find the hostages liberated and the Orions dead. He gushed to Ro that he admired her style…among other attributes. She smirked and gently told him patience was a virtue.

When Ro reached the shuttleport, she found an excited Tulley. Korepanova had announced that the war with the Dominion was over. The Dominion and the Breen had surrendered. The Cardassians had turned against their allies and Cardassia Prime was being occupied by the Federation Alliance.

Ro told him to calm down and quickly got on the horn with Korepanova. Once she had Sveta Korepanova’s attention, she quickly reminded the former Starfleet officer of a few facts. “Sveta, we’re criminals in the eyes of Starfleet. They have long memories when it comes to things like that. The chances of us getting to return to the DMZ are highly unlikely. The only place Federation justice is going to send us to is a penal colony or two.”

“But Bajor…” Korepanova clung to her last hope.

“Will extradite us if the Federation presses too hard. The only exceptions to that rule are Sito and I. We’re both Bajorans. We’re both militia officers, and Sito has the added virtue of never having been a Maquis. And despite their making an exception for Odo, the militia is a Bajoran force and it’s going to stay that way,” Ro calmly let her friend down.

“The militia generals have spoken to you about this day, haven’t they?” Korepanova realized.

“They have, and so has First Minister Shakaar,” Ro informed her. “Shakaar has a legal trick to play that he hasn’t shared, but he’s advised me to warn you to evacuate Bajor and get to the outer colonies.”

“We’re leaving now,” Korepanova promised.

Ro and the Maquis with her listened in to Shakaar’s communication network-wide message. In short, any and all Maquis inhabiting the Bajoran Sector would be extradited to the Federation organs of justice. That explicitly left the outer colonies as safe havens. Everyone knew that Starfleet would be howling over this proclamation.

In the end, Ro and Sito got some official instructions regarding their next assignment. Riker, Tulley, Thool, and the crew of the Indomitable would be heading out into nonaligned space in order to continue to offer their services as freelance security specialists. Half the Maquis were going with them. The other half were spreading out across Free Haven, Golana, and Dreon VII and forging new lives as colonists.

Korepanova was leading the colonial faction and Riker was heading up the spacer faction. He tossed away Sito’s objection that he was merely becoming a mercenary. “Sorry Jaxa, but you could say I was a mercenary for the last three years. As you know, we’ve all become very good at providing convoy escort services so that’s what we’re going to continue to do. And at the same time, we’ll put down stakes in some world or worlds along the way.”

“Good luck, Tom. I can’t follow you this time,” Sito said.

“Ro said you two received a new assignment,” Riker recalled. “Can you share what it is?”

Sito smirked. “It seems the militia wants Ro’s and my Starfleet service record to work for them. So with Colonel Kira in command of Deep Space Nine, Ro is being assigned as its executive efficer and as the Bajoran liaison. I’m taking over Constable Odo’s position as chief of security.”

“That’s wonderful, Jaxa!” Riker enthused.

“Yeah, but it’s going to be weird being on a space station and not out there,” Sito admitted.

“You’ll do great,” Riker assured her. “You’ve always been more of a detective than a simple gunfighter. And the mysteries you couldn’t solve, Ro pitched in and you solved them together. You’ll both do great.”

“Glad you think so,” Ro said dryly from behind Riker.

“I guess we’re leaving now,” Sito surmised.

“Yes, we’re on the clock now,” Ro informed her. She turned to Riker and offered her hand. “Take it easy, Tom. Just remember you’ve got nothing to prove. You’re one helluva a man and your brother would be lucky to accomplish half as much under similar circumstances.”

“Thanks.” Riker shook Ro’s hand and then hugged Sito. “Thanks for always being there.”

“Good luck, and don’t do anything stupid,” Sito admonished him.

“Would I do that?” Riker grinned.

Sito rolled her eyes and then followed Ro to the Razorcat. “I can’t believe they’re letting us keep her.”

Ro gave her a rueful look. “They’re not. We’re handing her off to the militia when we reach Bajor. Deep Space Nine is sending a runabout to take us to the station,” Ro explained.

“I just hope I’m up to my new job,” Sito fretted.

“Tom was right. You’ll do fine.” Ro paused. “As long as your first official order upon arrival when Starfleet tries to arrest me is, ‘release her.’”

“They wouldn’t!” Sito protested.

Ro gave her a wry look and Sito shrugged. “Okay, so they would. I’ll keep it in mind.”

“Just remember, you’re in charge of the holding cells,” Ro chuckled. “If Starfleet is unwilling to see reason, Quark owes me a favor. You get me out of the detention center and Quark will get me off the station.”

“It won’t come to that,” Sito said with iron resolve. “I’ll see to it.”

Ro gave her an appreciative smile. “Somehow I don’t think it will.”


Please send feedback and other correspondence regarding this story to Brin_Macen at yahoo dot com.

"Redeemed" Chapter Four by Charlynn Schmiedt

by Travis Anderson

Sito evaded a disruptor bolt. “Where are they getting the power for weapons and shields?”

Riker had informed her of the power drop off that occurred every time the isokinetic cannon fired. “They’re routing power from their impulse engines to feed their weapons systems.”

“Doesn’t that eliminate their impulse drive from active service?” Sito rolled away from a trailing staccato of particle beam fire.

“Yes, they’re pretty much limited to RCS thrusters while their EPS conduits are rerouted,” Riker explained.

Sito wore a wry grin. “You could simply say ‘they can’t maneuver right now.’  Okay?”

The ship suddenly bucked and Riker sardonically replied, “Maybe you should spend less time chastising me and more time evading disruptor fire.”

Sito suddenly threw the Razorcat into a violent set of rolls, jerks, and loops. The inertial damper couldn’t keep up and neither could Riker. “I take it back!”

“Wimp,” Sito deadpanned. Riker always had to marvel at the breadth of the interstellar slang she’d acquired while on Earth, and it always revolved around someone named “Nick Locarno.” The former leader of Nova Squadron still weighed heavily in Sito’s memory. But instead of it being a positive one, it was a reminder of what kind of ethos not to fall prey to.

The Breen ship suddenly fired into the distance. Riker checked his readouts. “They’re firing on theIndomitable.”

“Really? And here I thought the Enterprise was inbound,” Sito quipped.

“Smart ass,” Riker replied.

“I bet you say that to all the girls,” Sito grinned.

She flew the Razorcat in on a tight approach on the Q-ship’s port side. Pulse phasers flared to life as she released two microtorpedoes. They detonated against the Breen ship’s shields as the courier banked away. It took several more seconds before the Breen disruptors began to fire again.

“You just reduced thirty percent off of their shield rating,” Riker reported.

“Watch me fly,” Sito advised.

She came up over the privateer ship in a spiraling loop. Breaking out of the loop, she reengaged the target from the port side again. She randomly threw in jukes to the right and left and up and down before bearing down on her last target site at the last second. She repeated her previous strike.

“Photon signatures!” Riker called out.

The Razorcat dove along the Breen ship’s z-axis. Two photon torpedoes flew past where they had just been. Sito smirked.

“That should be the last of the torpedoes from the port side,” Sito predicted.

“How can you say that?” Riker wanted to know.

“This is a Breen Lemba-class freighter. They converted a cargo hold into being a photon launcher. This class of freighter is known for its small holds — which, by the way, are supposedly ideal for turning into detention cells. They’re the most popular model amongst the Breen privateers.”

“I still don’t get something,” Riker admitted as Sito flew them away to start another attack run. “The isokinetic cannon is eating up all the power from their warp core. The impulse reactor is fueling their defensive systems. Where are they getting the power for life support?”

“They aren’t!” Sito suddenly realized. “They’re running without life support. That’s why they’re in a hurry to finish us off and start boarding the Bajoran convoy ships.”

“So if we keep pounding at them, they’ll eventually run out of air and freeze,” Riker surmised.

“You must be a tactical officer,” Sito dryly remarked.

“Stow it,” Riker warned as he contacted the Indomitable.

Alea gave Ro Riker’s report. Ro ordered Tulley to “pour it on” as soon as they reached optimal weapons range.  Alea now acted as Ro’s eyes on the primary sensors. Ro had the nav sensors and Tulley was tied into the targeting sensors. Since Alea had little else to do, she had every other system reading at her Ops station.

“Energy buildup from the Breen ship,” Alea calmly warned.

Ro barrel rolled hard to starboard. The isokinetic weapon’s discharge flew by where the Indie had just been. Now the crew knew they had at least thirty seconds before the cannon could fire again. That was a veritable lifetime in a battle such as this.

“We’re in weapons range,” Tulley announced. “Trim us out so I can get a shot.” 

Ro obliged him and he released two full sized photon torpedoes. Ro suddenly ordered, “Aric, hand over phaser control to me.”

Tulley happily did so and the two wing-mounted Type VIII phaser cannons were Ro’s to command. Ro began taking potshots at the Breen freighter. Alea interrupted the concentration of both bridge officers.

“The Razorcat is attacking the Breen ship’s port side. They’re taking fire from standard disruptors,” Alea informed them.

“Which means that the isokinetic cannon isn’t built as a strip emitter and that the Breen’s power is solely dedicated to their weaponry,” Ro theorized aloud. “Scan the ambient temperature of the freighter’s interior.”

“It’s zero Celsius and dropping,” Alea announced.

“Alea, warn Sito against attacking the ship’s dorsal plane,” Ro instructed. “We’re going to make a run along that aspect.”

“She acknowledges and stands advised,” Alea said crisply.

Finding themselves in a combat role, the newly-minted Militia officer and her Maquis weapons officer found it easy to sit back and forget about Alea’s admissions. Her veracity could be double-checked later. Right now, Alea was in her zone and her zone could save their lives.

Ro considered it and it had always been obvious that Alea had combat experience. She was not only a well-trained intelligence gatherer and analyst, but she was an above par tactician and something of a strategist. In the Maquis, Korepanova had always been the premier strategist while Ro was the leading tactician. Ro had appreciated Alea’s input because it stretched her planning into the long term repercussions of their intended actions.

Ro saw the flare from the Q-ship’s RCS thruster firing. Alea was on it. “Target is initiating an aspect change.”

“They’re trying to target us,” Tulley ventured.

“No, they’re angling away from us,” Alea corrected him.

“They’re targeting the Bajoran freighters!” Ro realized. “Sonuvabitch! They just destroyed one!”

“Those ships are all crippled,” Tulley assessed. “That weapon can slice an unshielded freighter in half. If they hit the right spot, the inner pressure seals won’t be able to properly deploy.”

“Lieutenant, Sito wishes to speak to you,” Alea informed her commander.

“Patch her in,” Ro ordered. “Sito, you want to talk?”

“Lt. Ro, we’ll keep the Breen occupied so that they will concentrate their firepower on us. That will free you into disabling their warp core and their impulse reactor,” Sito spoke.

Ro hesitated. “We won’t be able to assist you. You’ll be on your own.”

“Understood. I don’t think we have much choice,” Sito replied.

“We’ll try to hurry,” Ro assured her.

“That would be appreciated,” Sito confessed.

“This is nuts, Jaxa,” Riker complained.

“Trust me,” Sito said smugly. “When have I ever led you wrong?”

“You said that with the Nausicaan raiders at Golana,” Riker ruefully reminded her. “I ended up with six broken ribs and a punctured lung.”

“But you lived, didn’t you?” Sito argued. “Look, this is simple. These civilians don’t stand a chance. The Breen want us, not them. They’re simply baiting us so we get in range of fire, so I’m simply obliging them.”

“You’re talking like a Starfleet officer, Jaxa,” Riker pointed out as she positioned them away from the freighters but close enough for the Breen to easily swing into position to fire at them.

“You were a Starfleet officer too, Tom,” Sito shot back at him. “All I’m saying is we’re supposed to guard these people. That could mean with our very lives. And if it does, we’ll walk with the Prophets.”

“I’d rather not spend my eternity, if there is one, with stodgy old wormhole aliens,” Riker countered.

“But I hear they’re nice wormhole aliens. They’ve certainly been with my people,” Sito postulated.

“The Cardassian Occupation notwithstanding,” Riker quipped.

“Look, we’re doing this,” Sito said firmly.

“That’s a very cold comfort, Jaxa,” Riker protested. “This isn’t a potential sacrifice. It’s a guaranteed suicide.”

“It is what it is,” Sito said grimly.

The Breen powered up their isokinetic cannon again. Riker grew alarmed. “They’re not targeting us. They’re targeting the freighter ID’d as the Prophet’s Glory.”

“Damn it.” Sito threw the courier into action.

“Too many prophets hanging around today,” Riker grumbled. “Wait a minute, what are you doing?”

“We’ll never be able to stop them from firing,” Sito spoke with an eerie calm, “but we can interpose ourselves between the Breen and their target.”

“You said this weapon can slice a starship in half,” Riker recalled. “We’re not even a starship.”

“An unshielded starship, sure. We’ll have shields though,” Sito countered.

“Oh, the hell with it,” Riker said in resignation. “Hurry up and put us in harm’s way.”

The Breen targeting sensors locked onto the Razorcat and the cannon fired. Having found a way to insure their victim would simply evade the shot, the Breen watched with satisfaction as the Razorcat survived the blast but was dead in space. They waited for the isokinetic cannon to recharge in order to blast the courier into atoms.

“Holy hell!” Tulley blurted. “The Breen just killed Riker and Sito!”

“Negative,” Alea interjected. “My scans indicate there are still two life signs aboard the Razorcat. However, two of their four warp cores are offline and the ship seems to have suffered overloads in every system. I doubt they’ll ever get their shields up again.”

“But the stinking Breen will still target them again just to be sure,” Tulley grated.

“Hold on.” Ro changed the Indie’s vector as they came in for a strafing run. “We’re giving them something new to shoot at.”

“Sounds like something Captain Sulu would say,” Alea quipped.

“Which Captain Sulu?” Tulley asked. “Hikaru or Demora?”

Both Sulus had charted out major portions of what would later prove to be the Cardassian and Tzenkethi borders. They’d proven themselves to be heroes to the colonists living there time and time again. Hikaru Sulu had even been part of the first contact team that met the Bajoran colonists in the Valo system for the first time.

Ro curved the Indomitable around the Q-ship as the Indie passed over it. She bade Tulley to avoid using photons even as she hammered at the ship’s shields with the raider’s phasers. Heading out towards the stricken Bajoran freighters and defender, Ro committed herself to an Immelmann loop and rolled the ship so its dorsal plane was situated along the Q-ship’s.

“Hammer the bastards,” Ro ordered.

Tulley was all too happy to comply.

Sito awoke to the sound of wracking coughs. Then she realized she was the one coughing. And so was Riker.  Thick smoke hung in the Razorcat’s cockpit.

“Gimme a second and I’ll get this cleared up,” Riker managed to rasp between coughs. He engaged the filtration system and the smoke dissipated.

“I take it you’re alive,” Sito wryly said to Riker.

“No, I’m not,” Riker grumbled. “I’m officially dead.”

“The Indie is engaging the Breen,” Sito could make out on her distorted sensor board. “We need to get operational and help out.”

“Jaxa, life support is barely operational.” Riker was running a damage assessment program. “We have two warp cores offline. The impulse reactor scrammed, our primary systems are fused and in some cases we’re running on the auxiliaries of the auxiliaries. I don’t know how long it’ll take to get us mobile again.”

“Just don’t sit there! Find out!” Sito demanded.

“God save me from Bajorans,” Riker muttered as he slipped back into the access way.

Sito could hear Riker making makeshift repairs and she saw her sensor board clear up. The Breen had fired off the isokinetic cannon at the Indomitable but Ro had neatly evaded the shot. Sito’s body was practically ready to burst from the need to do something.

“Haul ass, Tom.” she called back to Riker. “I’m not going to die because some Breen slaver thought I was target practice. We need to get moving before something bad happens.”

“Bad versus what?” Riker asked in a serious tone.

“Bad as being taken alive by the Breen and spending the rest of our miserable lives on a Prophets forsaken mining colony. Think Letau on steroids,” Sito conjured the image.

The auxiliary systems suddenly came to life and Riker reentered the cockpit. “Am I good or what?”

“And oh so humble too,” Sito dryly remarked.

“On my better days,” Riker said as he returned to his seat. “We don’t have warp drive and the impulse engines are still down, but you do have RCS thrusters.”

“It’ll have to do,” Sito decided.

“Isn’t this a lot like being a lame turkey at a shooting match?” Riker wondered.

“Are turkeys the ones that gobble?” Sito suddenly asked.

“Yes,” Riker sighed as he slipped back into the access way. “Let me know when we’re about to die.”

“Would I lead you to certain death?” Sito teased.

“Yes, I thought that was your whole damn point a few minutes ago,” Riker retorted. “You went gallivanting off to send us straight to the Bajoran version of hell.”

“That would be internment in the Fire Caves,” Sito said primly. “There we would be tortured for all eternity by the pah-wraiths.”

Riker began cursing and Sito couldn’t tell if it was directed at her or the ship. Her impulse control board flared to life and she yelled back, “You did it!”

She engaged the impulse engines as Riker came back to the cockpit and Sito happily said, “This is going to work.”

“What is?” Riker asked dubiously.

“I’m not going to tell you,” Sito replied, “You won’t like it.”

Riker scowled and decided he didn’t like it already.

“Ro, we’re running out of torpedoes,” Tulley suddenly announced.

“What’s our remaining inventory?” Ro asked.

“Two,” Tulley proclaimed.

“And you’re just now telling me about this?” Ro was somewhere between incredulous and livid.

“We have two forward launchers with six round magazines. Add to that our two round aft launcher and we’ve got eight torpedoes to start with. At this point, we’ve used up everything but two forward rounds,” Tulley rattled off.

“I know that, Aric,” Ro snapped, “but why are the Breen still fighting after that much munitions expenditure?”

“Actually, they’ve lost shielding to every compartment but their bridge module,” Alea reported, “and their EPS network is wildly fluctuating. Every time they fire the isokinetic cannon it overloads the EPS conduits.”

“The cannon is charging,” Tulley warned.

“Aim right at it,” Ro ordered.

“Alea, tell him when to fire,” Ro instructed.

Alea automatically understood that Ro meant to overload the cannon by hitting it with the torpedoes when it was firing and the shields protecting it were weekend. She watched the buildup and then calmly said, “Now, Aric.”

Tulley fired as the Indomitable veered off center from the Breen ship. Explosions burst throughout the freighter as systems overloaded in a cascade effect. One last disruptor bolt fired from the Q-ship has its impulse reactor failed and it was left to fend for itself on its battery system.

“She’s dead in the water,” Alea pronounced and then blurted, “Ro, climb up the y-axis. The Razorcat is coming in fast.”

Ro did as Alea instructed and the Peregrine-class courier flew by underneath the Maquis raider. Sito volleyed all four of her remaining microtorpedoes in sequence into the Breen freighter’s bridge module. Detonations destroyed the bridge as the Razorcat passed over the vessel’s dorsal plane.

Sito strafed the stricken freighter, further gutting it. Aboard the Indomitable, Tully had to chuckle, “I knew there was a reason why I was starting to like that kid.”

“Ro, the surviving Breen are signaling their surrender,” Alea informed Ro, “but I advise we move off instead.”

“Why?” Ro inquired.

“My people have had dealings with the Breen over the last few centuries.” Alea added weight to her statement. “When they’ve been hostile, the Breen rarely are captured alive. They tend to scuttle their ships rather than be taken prisoner.”

“Inform Sito to keep her distance,” Ro ordered Alea. “Tell them to conduct system patrols until relief arrives. Aric, gather up relief teams to assist the convoy crews.”

“We don’t have a sickbay,” Tulley reminded her.

“But we have lots of experience with combat injuries,” Ro reminded him. “The order stands.”

Tulley exited the bridge just as the Breen destroyed their own ship. Ro looked over at Alea. “Good call. Now let’s have a little chat.”

Alea was suddenly filled with dread.

Two Ju’day-class Maquis raiders relieved the Indie and the Razorcat. All of the freighters had to be towed out of the system and back to Bajor by warp tugs. The Razorcat was another casualty that had to be towed as well. Sito and Riker joined Ro’s crew aboard the Indomitable while she ran escort for the freighters.

The Bajoran Militia had sent disassembled Bajoran interceptors that would be permanently stationed on Free Haven. This bolstered the Militia military and constabulary units on the planet. Ro figured one could do worse than a year’s tour on Free Haven. Golana and Dreon VII were also getting interceptors and their crews.

Once on Bajor, Ro reported on the existence of the Mishrya to her Militia superiors. In turn, they had her personally brief First Minister Shakaar before he met with Alea herself. Ro spoke with Sveta Korepanova while Shakaar conducted his interview with Alea. If Alea were to stay with the Maquis, she was off of Ro’s crew.  

Korepanova thought it just as well that Alea was assigned to Militia expedition craft that took a Bajoran delegation to her home world. The odds were good that Ro would never have contact with Alea again and that’s how Ro wanted it.

But one good thing had come out of this all for Ro. She’d been promoted past captain and now held the rank of major. Sito had been coaxed into formally joining the Militia and now served alongside the Maquis as Ro’s deputy liaison officer. 

Ro knew her new rank came with a price. She’d be serving on Bajor alongside Korepanova. Sito would be the field officer. Ro tried to convince Sito to take her place aboard the Indomitable

Sito merely wore a sly smile. “The Razorcat has put out for me, so with all due respect, Major, I’ll perform my duties from aboard her. I know Tom will be glad of the reprieve.”

“Tom is taking command of the Indomitable,” Ro warned Sito. The younger woman’s face almost fell. “I thought you might want to consider that when making your decision.”

Sito rallied, “Thank you, sir. I will.”

Ro rolled her eyes as Sito walked away. So she was a sir now? Stranger things had happened in Ro’s life, so she figured she’d just roll with this one as well.


Please send feedback and other correspondence regarding this story to Brin_Macen at yahoo dot com.

"Redeemed" Chapter Three by Charlynn Schmiedt

by Travis Anderson

A few routine months went by before the Maquis saw action. Increasingly boring patrols were finally punctuated with a little excitement. It seemed that the drop off in piracy was a temporary measure owing in large part to the pirates’ general lack of resolve in facing an armed opponent. But with the inclusion of the Breen into Dominion’s camp, patrols around Free Haven, the Bajoran colony closest to the Breen Confederacy’s borders, were stepped up.

The day’s patrol began simply enough. Sito and Riker manned the refitted Peregrine-class courier Razorcatand were running scans of Free Haven’s near-space as they approached the colony world itself. Riker manned ops because his specialty ran in that direction and Sito was an inspired pilot. She’d finally told him about being a part of the elite Nova squad during her days in the Academy. She also told the torrid story of how she’d been disqualified from the team and had her flight status revoked.

Running a few light years behind the fighter craft was Ro’s “flagship,” the Maquis raider registered as theIndomitable. While the raider was more heavily armed, the courier had better sensors, so the Razorcat had pushed out ahead to scout around and warn the larger Indie of trouble.

Orions, Acamarians, and Cardassians had started harassing local shipping. Riker jovially referred to them as “freebooters.” Sito just drolly asked him one question.

“Why do people on your planet romanticize pirates?” she wondered.

“The spirit of freedom. No one telling you how to live — just setting sail and tacking into the wind in search of plunder,” Riker waxed poetic.

“They’re rapists, murderers, and thieves,” Sito said with a hint of danger. “Do you really want to go there with me?”

Riker fell silent and finally Sito sighed, “I can see now why you were drawn to the Maquis. You’re a romantic. A romantic idiot but a romantic nonetheless.”

Sito paused before asking, “Your twin is very rule oriented. What happened to you?”

“I spent eight years alone on Nervalla IV. I depended on me, myself, and I alone for survival,” Riker reminded her.

“You were all alone?” Sito smirked.

“For eight years,” Riker stressed.

“Then you must have become your own best friend.” Sito was having a hard time keeping a straight face.

Riker wondered where she was leading with that and said as much. Sito used the jerking motion eponymous with male masturbation and Riker scowled. “Very funny.”

“Oh come on, Tom,” Sito laughed. “We were in prison for two years together and you never once mentioned a woman to go back to. Was there anyone or do you prefer men?”

“I prefer women,” Riker grated, “but there haven’t been anything but fly by night encounters since I left Nervalla.”

Riker waited and then thrust the question back in her face. “What about you?”

“What about me?” Sito asked innocently.

“Any lovers in the Academy or aboard the Enterprise?” Riker posed the inquiry, “What about at Letau?”

“Tom, every member of the guard contingent was my so-called lover at one point or another, usually while being held down by two or three others waiting their turn,” Sito said angrily.

“I don’t know what to say,” Riker admitted.

“Neither do I,” Sito confessed, “but I’m coming to grips with it.”

Riker could tell by every cue she radiated and displayed that she was far, far and away from coming to grips with it. “Is that why you didn’t go back to Starfleet? They put in the Cardassian’s reach again while you were in harm’s way?”

“Mostly,” Sito shared. “That and I couldn’t watch your back if I’m aboard a starship or starbase.”

Riker was stunned. “I never wanted you to derail your career for me.”

“I haven’t,” Sito divulged. “I’ve just altered my career vector.”

“Jaxa, you’re not in love with me, are you?” Riker suddenly blurted.

It was the wrong question. Sito was instantly insulted. While Riker was glad to discover her feelings were strictly platonic, he was also a little let down.

“You spent eight years on Nervalla. I grew up on Valo II during the Occupation. In the Valo system, the three colonies leaned on each other for support just to survive. We grew up relying on the person next to us in a way that transcended love, duty, or honor. We trusted those around us with our very lives. Starfleet tries to teach that, but practical experience does the job better,” Sito said archly. “That’s what I thought we shared.”

“We do,” Riker desperately assured her. “Consider the matter dropped.”

“Good,” Sito huffed.

Alarms sounded in the cockpit and Riker locked his board down. He began scrolling over the communication burst that had come in. “It’s an SOS.”

“From whom?” Sito was suddenly all business.

“A freighter scheduled to be departing Free Haven.” Riker perused the flight plan logs. “It’s a convoy of six ships.”

“Did they send an ID on the attackers?” Sito was already boosting their warp factor.

“A Breen freighter that’s armed to the teeth,” Riker winced.

“A Q-ship,” Sito grimaced.

Q-ships were civilian vessels boasting military-grade armaments. This was frequently done illegally by civilians for defense or by government forces for covert actions. Others were equipped for blatantly illegal acts. The Breen in question qualified under the latter.

The Breen often times captured ships and took the crew and passengers as slaves for mining operations and other hazardous duties. The captured cargos were just a bonus along the way. Free Haven had been threatened by the Breen before, so the act wasn’t unexpected.

“Call it in,” Sito advised Riker.

Riker conferred with Ro. The Indomitable was already travelling at its max speed of warp five. She ordered the Razorcat to push ahead, so Sito pushed the small craft to its maximum emergency speed of warp eight.

The Razorcat dropped out of warp at the edge of the Free Haven system and then proceeded on at maximum impulse. Riker reported that the Bajoran freighters were crippled but they were still generating enough electrostatic shielding to prevent transporters from penetrating the ships, so the Breen hadn’t boarded the civilian vessels yet. And now the brunt of the Breen’s sensors were aimed at the oncoming Federation courier.

“The Breen ships’ shields just went up,” Riker read off his sensor display. “I’ve released weapons to your control.”

“Weapons, aye,” Sito replied matter-of-factly.

The targeting grid overlapped her navigational sensor display and the cockpit before her projected a smart display mirroring her displays. The armed courier possessed two pulse phaser emitters and six photon microtorpedoes.

While the Maquis had retrofitted the Peregrine-class couriers in their inventory during their struggle with the Cardassians, they’d never been able to field any as well stocked as they could now. The Bajoran Militia’s funding insured that the torpedo magazines were fully stocked and the phaser banks had been updated to the latest technology available to the Bajorans.

“Phasers locked,” Sito announced. “Sing out if they get hostile.”

Alarms sounded from the ops panel and Riker wore a rueful grin. “That count?”

“Q-ships can be tricky,” Sito recalled. “They rarely use standardized armaments.”

“Now they’ve locked a primary weapon emitter onto us and its charging and it…” Riker frowned. “What the hell?”

Sito paired the readout to the center console between pilot and operations officer. “Oh hell.”

“What?” Riker was suddenly worried. Sito rarely sounded this worried.

“They just armed an isokinetic cannon,” Sito revealed. “It’ll finish charging in ten seconds.”

“A what?” Riker was oblivious to that tech.

“Hold on,” Sito grimaced as she slowed so she could engage in a strafing run along the Breen’s dorsal plane. The Razorcat flew past the Q-ship’s aft quarter.

“Okay, we have a chance to talk while they try to realign the cannon,” Sito breathed.

Riker recognized that Sito was setting up an approach to attack the armed freighter’s starboard side. “What is an isokinetic cannon and why are you worried about it?”

“Worried may be an overstatement,” Sito protested.

“Jaxa, I’ve seen you face down Nausicaans armed with shivs barehanded and you didn’t break half the sweat you’re building right now,” Riker argued.

Sito scowled as she began a second strafing run on the Breen ship. “Damn it. We’re barely touching them.”

“Let me prep a tachyon burst to force their shields to remodulate.” Riker began punching commands into his console. “Meanwhile, talk.”

“Some Beta Quadrant merchants travelled to the Alpha Quadrant with weapons tech they claimed derived from the Delta Quadrant,” Sito spoke as she looped the courier around for another pass. “They gathered a consortium of major powers and some minor players when they gave a demonstration. A single discharge can effectively cut a Galaxy-class starship in half.”

“Ouch,” Riker winced.

“The Breen won the bidding and received the weapon and all its technical specifications. In order to insure they had a monopoly, the Breen killed the merchants. Good for the Breen, but bad for the merchants,” Sito said indifferently, “but the Breen never overcame the cannon’s primary limitation.”

“Which is?” Riker asked then changed the topic. “I’m firing the tachyon burst in five…four…three…two…one!”

This time the Razorcat’s pulse phasers tore at the Q-ship’s hull. Sito smiled as she resumed her tale. “The isokinetic cannon is a black hole power-wise. It may not be for whoever built it, but here it’s a one-shot weapon while you wait for your systems to restore power to your ship.”

“How do you know all of this?” Riker wondered.

“Lt. Worf was very thorough in his briefings.” Sito’s smile widened. “He also shared Starfleet Intelligence reports indicating the Breen had lost several ships while trying to adapt the technology to their vessels. Supposedly the Breen military gave up on it.”

“Are you sure this really is an isokinetic cannon?” Riker had to ask.

“They have a unique power signature. You’re not likely to forget something that pronounced.” Sito attacked the freighter again and nimbly danced away.

Riker had to admit it was like watching a supernova build within the ship they were attacking. Suddenly, the Breen ship rolled and fired her thrusters so her forward cannon could engage the Razorcat. And it did.

“Lieutenant, long range sensors are detecting weapons fire and an energy burst like nothing I’ve seen before,” Tulley reported.

Ro snorted. “Stop using my rank, Aric. You never have before.”

“Yeah, but back then you were a Starfleet lieutenant, not a Bajoran Militia officer,” Tulley remarked, “and you seriously have to check out these readings.”

“Patch it into my aux display,” Ro ordered. Seeing the energy wave form she frowned. “I’ve never seen anything like this. Has anyone else?”

Thool replied that he hadn’t from the engineering console. Alea fell silent and Tulley dryly remarked he obviously hadn’t seen the pattern before. Ro clutched at Alea’s silence.

“Alea, what aren’t you telling me?” Ro wanted to know.

There were a lot of things Alea hadn’t told Ro. Things like where she came from. She largely looked like a Bajoran, but her violet hair was more akin to a Boslic. Also, it was plain to everyone that Alea was a trained intelligence officer and investigator. But no one knew who had trained her or why she’d chosen to aid the Maquis.

“It’s an isokinetic cannon pulse,” Alea said slowly. “It’s weapons tech from the Delta Quadrant brought here through the Beta Quadrant. My people were interested in it at one time.”

“That’s a lot of quadrants,” Thool opined.

“Thool, get down to engineering and do something to bolster the shields,” Ro instructed the Bolian.

“How? Prepay the power bill?” Thool quipped.

“Just go,” Ro sighed.

Thool grumbled as he made his way towards the rear of the ship. Ro cast a glance over her shoulder. “Talk to me, Alea. And make it quick. We reach the Free Haven’s system’s outer boundary in two minutes and then we proceed on impulse into the system itself.”

Alea obviously struggled with what to say. “Let me start by assuring you my people are friends to Bajor and enemies of the Cardassians.”

Tulley asked, “Why? No one has ever seen anyone like you. We’ve all lost someone to the Cardies. Why would you be their enemy?”

“Because we’ve been at war with the Cardassians almost as long as they occupied Bajor,” Alea shared. “They found our world and colonies almost at the same time they discovered Bajor. Fortunately for us, we were a lot less peaceful and much better prepared so we weren’t occupied ourselves. Then between the violence of the Resistance and the border wars with the Federation, we were never attacked in strength, so we were able to hold our own until the Cardassians just felt it wasn’t worth it anymore. They didn’t know we were at the breaking point by then and would’ve collapsed had they invaded one last time.”

“But when my people arrived in the Alpha Quadrant, we arrived in the Bajoran system,” Alea stated. “That was over two centuries ago as the Federation reckons them.”

“You’re from the Gamma Quadrant?” Ro could hardly believe it.

“Yes, but our investigations on Bajor revealed we shared a common ancestor with your people, Lt. Ro,” Alea revealed. “Our bloodlines may have gotten muddied with Gamma Quadrant locals, but we originally came out of Bajor.”

“Ain’t that a helluva thing,” Tulle mused.

“Our histories showed that we were colonists in the Gamma Quadrant, but no one could account for where we came from besides an astrogation marker,” Alea recited from memory. “When we were later pushed out of our colony in the Gamma Quadrant, we tried to return to our mythical home. We ended up at Bajor.”

“I’ll be damned,” Tulley commented again.

“One more word out of you and you will be,” Ro warned. “So why didn’t you settle on Bajor?”

“Because our presence was disruptive, so we went looking for a world we could call our own,” Alea divulged. “We plunged deeper into what you consider unexplored Alpha Quadrant space and made a home for ourselves, but we never forgot our cousins on Bajor.”

“So what do you call yourselves?” Ro wanted to know.

“We’re called the Mishrya,” Alea shared.

“That’s a Bajoran word!” Ro yelped. “It means ‘sojourner.’”

“It does in our tongue as well,” Alea acknowledged.

“So why haven’t your people contacted us?” Ro grated. “Particularly during the Occupation.”

“My people absorbed losses against the Cardassians we couldn’t afford,” Alea deemed fit to share. “Our population stands poised to plunge over the tipping point into eventual extinction. But even with that, volunteers went out to help other worlds against the Cardassians. In my case, I chose the Maquis and the Ronaran cell in particular.”

“But if your people are well-armed, why didn’t you equip our cell with a fleet?” Ro demanded to know.

“We don’t have a fleet!” Alea snapped. “We never did. We had patrol and survey ships that could defend themselves. At the end we barely had any of those left. We were down to armed couriers and runabouts.”

“Sounds like the Maquis to me,” Tulley quipped.

“I don’t buy it,” Ro decided.

“I knew I shouldn’t have told you,” Alea complained.

“Then why did you?” Ro sharply inquired.

“Because I’m tired of lying to you,” Alea confessed, “and because I trust you all. I wanted you to trust me as much.”

Ro’s nav sensors chimed and Tulley straightened up and reported, “We’re coming into weapons range.”

“Ours or theirs?” Ro asked.

“Both,” Alea answered for Tulley.

“Dammit! The Breen are already targeting us,” Tulley alerted Ro.

Ro threw the Indomitable into a series of evasive maneuvers to avoid the isokinetic cannon’s wrath. “I hope Thool bolstered those shields.”

“It won’t do any good,” Alea direly predicted.


Please send feedback and other correspondence regarding this story to Brin_Macen at yahoo dot com.

"Redeemed" Chapter Two by Charlynn Schmiedt

by Travis Anderson

A long and arduous two years followed, but the incarcerated prisoners had no idea that the span of time was so short. All they had to measure time with was the death, release, or induction of prisoners. Brief spurts of brutality from either the guards or their fellow prisoners punctuated Sito and Riker’s daily existence.

But for both Starfleet officers, one listed as KIA and the other as AWOL, the spats of violence were nothing compared to what they had already endured at the hands of their captors. The Cardassian jailors actually adopted a “hands off” approach toward the Bajoran and human, which just enraged the gangs dominating life amongst the First Level dwellers all the more…which was Rokai’s intent all along.

Riker collapsed down onto a makeshift bench, utterly exhausted. Sito plopped down next to him. She surveyed the broken bodies strewn about.

“You’d think they would have given up by now. However long ‘now’ is,” Sito mused. “Prophets know however long we’ve both been here now.”

“It’s got to be at least ten years,” Riker grumbled.

Sito gave him a rueful look. “I don’t think so. You don’t have enough gray in your beard or hair for that.”

“But I do have some now. I didn’t before I got here,” Riker complained.

“But it gives you a dashing appearance,” Sito tried to console him. Riker’s self image as a ladies’ man had suffered while he was on Nervalla IV, and his dreams of a life with Deanna Troi had also been shattered afterwards, but he still knew he’d been a desirable male for most women.

“Yeah, but you’re the one who’s popular here,” Riker teased.

“Just the same, I’d prefer a little anonymity,” Sito sighed. “We seriously had to hurt them this time. The guards may take it out on them by not sending them to the infirmary this time — which would serve them right.”

Riker winced. “There are quite a few bones jutting out.”

Flashing lights flared to life and a siren began to sound. Cardassian guards lined up at the hatch leading down to the inner corridors of the administrative section. The airlock lay that way.

“Another new prisoner,” Sito said warily.

The hatch opened and a human male and a Bajoran female were shoved through it. The hatch closed behind them. Riker’s jaw dropped.

“I know them!” he blurted.

“Really?” Sito’s interest was piqued. The woman was familiar to her for some reason. “Should we do the meet and greet then?”

Riker grinned at Sito’s knowledge of Earth slang learned while at Starfleet Academy. “The woman is Ro Laren and then man is Aric Tulley. They were senior Maquis cell leaders on Ronara Prime. They planned my last mission.”

Now Sito remembered Ro. Ro had been the first Bajoran to ever serve aboard the Enterprise and Sito’s fellow officers had initially gauged Sito’s behavior by Ro’s precedent. Ro herself had been away attending Starfleet’s advanced tactical training course during Sito’s eight months aboard Starfleet’s flagship.

“So, are we saying ‘hello’ or what?” Sito impatiently asked.

“Follow me,” Riker chuckled.

Sito and Riker approached the Maquis pair. Ro greeted Riker with a smile. “It’s good to see you again, Tom. And you look healthy enough for a dead woman, Ensign.”

Sito digested the fact that she’d been declared KIA. “It’s just Sito now.”

Riker looked at Ro. “You wouldn’t know how long we’ve been here, would you?”

“You’ve been here two years.” Ro then looked to Sito. “And it’s been three for you.”

“How did they capture you?” Riker wanted to know.

“They didn’t,” Ro answered. “We surrendered.”

They went to Riker’s cell to explain. Sito’s sleeping mat had been moved into it years before, shortly after Riker arrived. Ro could tell from Sito’s body language that there was nothing overt about it. It was simply a measure of protection. And the broken and bleeding bodies outside the cell attested to the need for it.

“I think you’d better explain yourself,” Riker said.

“Watch your mouth, Riker,” Tulley snapped.

“Calm down, Aric,” Ro said quietly but with a measure of authority that made Tulley cower. Ro explained how the Maquis had blossomed while the Cardassians were losing a war against the Klingons, but then Dukat had come to power and had forged an alliance between the Cardassian Union and the Dominion.

The Maquis were subsequently butchered wholesale by the Jem’Hadar. Starfleet had then been pushed out of the Bajoran Sector and the Federation had been invaded while Dukat transferred his seat of power to Terok Nor and tried to learn how to destroy the self-replicating minefield sealing off the Bajoran Wormhole.

Starfleet had finally recaptured Terok Nor and had it redesignated Deep Space Nine again. Michael Eddington persuaded Captain Benjamin Sisko to undertake a mission into the Badlands. There, a handful of Maquis survivors were barely holding out against the Jem’Hadar. Eddington’s wife led them to safety aboard Sisko’s runabout, but Eddington himself died holding the Jem’Hadar shock troops off of the departing runabout.

In the weeks that followed, the Bajoran government had issued an amnesty offer to the Maquis survivors — not just to the Bajoran members, but all members regardless of race. Sveta Korepanova had led a bulk of the Maquis to safety on the Bajoran colony of Dreon VII near the Badlands. There, she spread the word and most of the Maquis had come in from the cold.

“Why is that significant?” Sito asked.

“Korepanova was code-named ‘the Architect.’ She was the primary unified mission planner, as well as one of the people who made the plan to break you out of here,” Ro stated.

“If there was a way out, we would have found it already,” Sito asserted. “All you did was trap yourselves in here with us.”

“You really think so?” Tulley scoffed.

“Yes, I do,” Sito challenged.

Ro suddenly posed the question, “Why weren’t we tortured before being brought here?”

Sito frowned. “I don’t know.”

“Think about it and get back to me.” Ro turned to Riker. “Think you could still handle OPS aboard a ship?”

“You know someone on the inside?” Sito blurted.

Ro nodded. “Which is how I knew about you even though Starfleet has you listed as ‘deceased.’”

“You’ll never get the rest of the Maquis out of here,” Sito warned. “They’re detained on the Fourth Level in permanent lockdown in their cells, they’re completely broken, and there’s only one spaceworthy craft and it’s a courier ship with room for four. That’s not exactly a transport liner waiting to be stolen.”

Sito challenged Ro. “Besides, I don’t think you can do it.”

“Are you certain you haven’t been broken as well?” Ro asked harshly.

“As long as I’m alive they’ll never break me,” Sito growled.

Ro nodded. “I like the attitude. You can come with us.”

Sito stared at her with an incredulous look on her face. For her part, Ro stood and started out of the cell. “Follow me.”

“Why should we?” Sito asked Tulley as he rose as well.

“Just do it if you know what’s good for you,” he said as he exited the cell.

Riker was already out the door. Sito caught up with him. “Who is she to come in here like she owns the place?”

“She’s Ro Laren,” Riker said matter-of-factly.

“That’s not an answer,” Sito said dourly.

Riker whispered to her a brief sampling of Ro’s résumé. Sito began to understand. “Okay, I may be a little impressed now. Over a third of the advanced tactical classes wash out every cycle.”

Riker smirked. “So she told me.”

Sito suddenly looked worried. “Did you ever sleep with her?”

Riker grinned. “Sort of.”

“Isn’t that typically a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ question?” Sito was getting confused.

“She slept with my twin,” Riker relieved her bafflement.

“Commander Riker slept with her?” Sito was indignant.

“If you’re done talking about me, we can get to work,” Ro said from the edge of a corner. That corner opened into the hatch that led into the restricted zone housing the administrative center and eventually led to the shuttle bay.

“Why is it you seem to know where you’re going?” Riker asked Ro.

Ro smirked. “If you recall, Aric and I were conscious when we were escorted into the complex. And then there are all the briefings we attended. So you figure it out.”

Sito glared at Ro but Riker gave her a side hug. “It’s okay, Jaxa. You need to trust Ro.”

Ro reappraised Sito. “Anger’s good. It’ll keep you going strong. But don’t let it cloud your judgment or rush you into easy assumptions. Anger kept me going in the Bajoran Resistance, Starfleet Academy, and ever subsequent assignment and training. It can be a valuable tool if you know how to shape it and master its energy for your needs.”

Ro had just given Sito two valuable insights, the first into one aspect of perseverance and the other into Ro herself. Sito suddenly knew without a doubt not to underestimate the woman.

“Now we’re going straight into those guards. Your help would be appreciated but it isn’t necessary,” Ro informed them.

“Of course we’ll help,” Sito volunteered before Riker could even react.

Ro wore an honest smile. “Good to know. Just follow Aric’s and my lead.”

Ro led the contingent to the four guards posted at the hatch and Sito wondered just what the older Bajoran had in mind. The Cardassians challenged them. “Halt! This area is off limits.”

They came to a halt in front of the guards anyway. The garresh in charge snarled, “No admittance to prisoners.”

“I’m afraid cargo arrived during the prisoner transfer,” Ro spoke up. “We were detailed with bringing out of the cargo bay.”

“No, it didn’t,” the garresh argued.

“Sir, some cargo did arrive.” A gorr behind the garresh checked his padd.

The garresh snatched the padd from his subordinate’s hands and checked the display. Then he wheeled on the four prisoners. “Just don’t stand there gaping like simple primates. Get in there and unload that cargo!”

The squad escorted the “prisoners” to the cargo bay. Two gorrs joined them inside the bay while the garresh and another gorr stood at the entrance. But Ro went straight for a cargo container labeled in both Federation Standard and Efrosian marking. She popped the seal and the container opened.

The garresh began barking warnings while Ro lifted a metal sphere out of the container. Depressing her thumb on a small circle imbedded in the sphere’s surface, she sat it down. Tulley reacted by punching a nearby guard and ripping his disruptor rifle out of his hands. Ro smacked the palm of her hand into another’s nose.

Dragging the two bodies behind cover while the garresh and the remaining gorr opened fire, Ro gave her gorr’s rifle to Riker while she retrieved the fallen soldier’s pistol. Tully did the same for Sito. Then they gunned down the Cardassians who were still trying to get heir communicator cuffs to work.

“Aric and Tom, drag the bodies in here and get them under cover,” Ro ordered. Grabbing Sito, Ro returned to the cargo container. She plucked a padd out of it and handed it to Sito. “Guard this with your life.”

“What is it?” Sito wondered.

“Beyond the obvious, it’s our ticket out of here,” Ro informed her. Ro then fished a tricorder out of the container.

“So why didn’t the guards raise the alarm?” Riker asked after he and Tulley had completed their task.

“The sphere creates a subspace distortion field,” Tulley explained. “No FTL communications are possible while it’s on.”

Ro shut it down. “But if we leave it on it will be detected.”

Ro and Tulley returned to the exit. “Come on. We’re still just at the beginning.”

The quartet navigated the interior of the administrative hub. Neglecting to actually approach the operations center, Ro led the escapees to the troop barracks. There they gunned down the off-duty Cardassian troops. Sito discovered she had an almost orgasmic release from shooting her tormentors.

Ro checked on Sito afterward. “Are you all right?”

Sito was flushed but eagerly smiling with a satisfied radiance. “Never better.”

Ro’s party then moved onward to the shuttle bay doors. The Maquis gunned down the two Cardassian guards before they could react. Ro asked for the padd back from Sito.

She patched it into the door’s interlink with the prison’s computer. Activating one command sequence, she opened every secure door. That included the ones on Levels Four through Six. Alarms sounded throughout the complex as the lower levels rioted. Additional guards called on duty but they never arrived because they were all dead.

The Maquis prisoners entered the hangar. Riker went to the operations booth and cleared the courier ship for takeoff. Transferring all control functions to the fastboat shuttle, Riker boarded the ship. Sito and Tulley sat in the auxiliary station seats. Ro told Riker to sit down at the ops station.

Riker deactivated the force field keeping the vacuum at bay just as he released the artificial gravity. Ro pushed the ship’s impulse engines to their maximum thrust and the courier boat launched out of the hangar bay. Ro then handed off the essential padd to Tulley before concentrating solely on piloting the ship.

Tulley patched the padd into the courier’s comm array and transmitted a signal. Sito’s board registered a massive explosion in the prison’s first level originating in the cargo bay — an explosion that gutted the administrative wing and gouged a hole into the second level as well. Sito found herself grimly enjoying the prison’s fate.

Tulley then checked his board. “Central Command got a data squirt concerning the prison being overrun. Then they queried us. I ran Administrator Rokai’s ID past them so, for the moment, they believe we’re the prison officials running like hell from their worst case scenario.”

“Well, the names and places may have changed but it’s a fair assessment,” Ro grinned. Slipping free of Cardassia Prime’s gravity as well as clear of Letau and the other two moons, Ro slipped the ship into warp.

“Central Command is demanding we return to Cardassia Prime at once,” Tulley snickered.

“Give them our reply,” Ro ordered with a straight face.

Tulley hit the transmit key and blew the listeners a “raspberry.”

Outside of the former Demilitarized Zone, Ro dropped out of warp long enough for everyone to beam over to a Boslic freighter. The escape shuttle, operated by computer, lurched out towards the Badlands and streaked off, hell-bent to reach them. The Cardassians destroyed the vessel in short order. Tricorders had emitted falsified life signs and a liter of biomemetic gel would provide the organic residual matter, but there was still a chance the Cardassians would confront the Boslic captain.

This was a fact Captain Rionoj impressed upon her passengers. “If the Cardies get uppity and board my ship, I will hand you over without a qualm.”

“That’s what I understood at the beginning of this,” Ro assured her.

“Follow me and we’ll get you into the shielded smuggling bins,” Rionoj insisted. “The Cardassians won’t be able to detect you, but anything is possible for those damn Jem’Hadar. It doesn’t help that you’re late to begin with.”

“I never could keep a schedule,” Ro retorted.

“This is a hell of a time to discover your sense of humor, Ro,” Rionoj scolded her.

“Better now than when I’m dead,” Ro countered.

“Whatever,” Rionoj said dismissively as she opened a hatch door. “Just get in.”

The former prisoners did so.

The Cardassian border patrols did come alongside Rionoj’s freighter and scan her, but they didn’t find any trace of anyone that wasn’t listed on the crew manifest that was provided by the captain. Rionoj’s poise swayed the Cardassian patrol leader more than anything and the Boslics were sent on their way.

The freighter skirted the Badlands plasma storms until it neared the Rolor Nebula. Finally, it came within sensor range of the Bajoran colony of Dreon VII. This was her passengers’ ultimate destination. Rionoj escorted the liberated prisoners to the transporter room as the freighter made orbit and wished them luck as they beamed down to the surface. Rionoj herself followed them down but to a different location. She had business with the Colonial Governor’s Office. Ro and her party would be meeting with representatives of the Maquis survivors and the Bajoran Militia.

The Bajorans had first settled Dreon VII before the Occupation. Relative hordes of refugees had settled upon the world when the Cardassians claimed Bajor as their own. A similar rush had been made to the Valo system where three Bajoran colonies had been established, one each on each habitable world. Valo I-III had received the greatest influx of refugees. Although Valo had been located in nonaligned space, the Federation had incorporated it into the DMZ and now it was occupied territory.

The Bajoran Militia’s offer to the Maquis was a simple one. In exchange for policing Bajor’s outer colonies, the Maquis would receive legal protection from the Federation and the Cardassians. Piracy had increased around the colony worlds and shippers were loudly proclaiming they would abandon their routes if Bajor didn’t provide a modicum of protection.

That being said, the Militia’s pool of warp capable craft was comprised of roughly three runabouts. The Maquis had over eight and most were the larger Ju’day-class raiders that the Maquis favored. Most of the rest were the modified Peregrine-class couriers retrofitted into fighter craft.

The list of colonies was fairly short. Bajor VIII, also known as Andros, was within the Bajoran system itself. Prophet’s Landing was the closest colony to the Cardassian border. Starfleet patrolled these regions for Bajor. Then there was the unfortunate Valo system. Until the Dominion’s lines could be broken, those settlers were cut off from Bajor.

But that left Golana, Free Haven, and Dreon VII. All were in nonaligned territory and all had become targets as of late. No troops were involved, despite rumors of the Cardassian Union hiring ex-soldiers to harass Bajoran shipping, but no standing military forces were engaged in piracy.

Ro had been formally offered a commission within the Bajoran Militia. She’d enlist with the rank of Lieutenant and be the Militia’s official liaison with the Maquis. Ro would also retain command of her Maquis raider, the Indomitable.

The Maquis, in turn, were being chartered as a private security firm incorporated on Bajor. As privateers for the Militia, they would be duly authorized law enforcement agents. A fact that would rankle Starfleet Command. In addition to that legal pretext the Militia would also supply funds for additional weapons and ships.

Sveta Korepanova would head the Maquis as their Commander. Since the vote was overwhelmingly to adopt the new post, Korepanova took Sito aside. “Ensign, I understand you’ve endured hell on Letau for the past three years. If you’d like, I can arrange for transportation to Deep Space Nine where you can report for duty.”

Sito grimaced. “If it’s just the same to you, I’d rather not throw myself under the treads of the war machine. I’d like to pitch in here instead.”

Korepanova smiled. “Well, I’m certainly not going to throw away anyone with your training and potential.”

Sito smiled as well.

The Maquis moved from Dreon VII to Bajor. Captain Sisko personally challenged them and Ro appeared on his viewer in Militia Special Forces gray. “Hello, Captain. Sorry to ruin your day, but we’re reporting for duty.”

“The Bajoran government and Militia Command has informed me of the so-called status of you and your Maquis, Ro,” Sisko said with an edge to his voice. “The legal trickery supposedly shielding you all from Federation justice will only hold up as long as the war lasts.”

“Maybe, but then again, maybe not,” Ro replied. “The Federation is going to have more on its mind after this conflict ends than a few privateers serving an allied government.”

“You sound like Michael Eddington,” Sisko grated. “When he died, he thought he was a hero.”

“Captain,” Ro said dryly, “to my people he was a hero. Are we going to have a face off with Starfleet now or can we transit the rest of the way into the system?”

“You’re cleared to proceed. Just watch yourself very closely because I will be watching you too,” Sisko warned her.

“I just feel all warm and cuddly now,” Ro said flippantly before signing off.

“Major, I want them observed every time they leave or approach Bajor’s surface,” Sisko ordered.

“Can I speak with you?” Kira wondered. “Privately.”

Sisko led the way to his office and as he sat down, he noted Kira remained standing. It was her usual posture for an impending confrontation. “Speak your mind, Major.”

“I don’t think you should be harassing the Maquis,” Kira stated baldly. “They’re providing a vital service to Bajor while Starfleet is refusing to engage the pirates.”

“The colonies in question are in neutral space,” Sisko replied. “Under peace time conditions, we’d be happy to oblige, but…”

“But there’s a war on and Bajor found a solution to our own problem,” Kira retorted. “Why do you object to it?”

“They’re terrorists,” Sisko said simply.

“So was I, yet here I am,” Kira reminded him.

Sisko struggled for a reply when his computer chimed to alert him that the communications officer had traffic for Sisko. “Go ahead.”

“Sir, we just received a resignation letter from one Ensign Sito Jaxa,” the comm officer reported.

Sisko knew it would fall on his desk because he was sector commander, but he was curious as to why this warranted his immediate attention and said as much. The comm officer was quick with a reply. “Sir, she was listed as KIA off of the Enterprise three years ago. Commander Dax triangulated the subspace message to its source and it’s a Maquis ship. If she’s dead, then what the hell is she doing with the Maquis?” Catching himself, he quickly added, “Sir!”

Sisko let the junior officer’s lack of protocol go. “Thank you, Blevins. I’ll look into it.”

“Major, does the Militia have a record of every Maquis that bought into this amnesty deal?” Sisko wondered.

“Probably,” Kira warily answered.

“I want it,” Sisko stated.

“Why don’t I look into it for you?” Kira asked. “I’m more inclined to be less…rude about it.”

Sisko almost laughed at this new reality where Kira considered herself more diplomatic than he himself. “Carry on, Major.”

A few hours later, Kira reported to Sisko. “The Militia is refusing to hand over a list of contracted ‘security specialists,’ but the general was willing to tell me that Sito Jaxa and Tom Riker were liberated from the prison complex on Cardassia Prime’s moon, Letau.”

Sisko repressed a shudder. Letau was as legendary as Rura Penthe and possibly even more brutal. Sisko knew Gul Dukat had revised the prison along the lines he would later employ on Bajor during his stint as Prefect. Having seen those results firsthand, he could only dare imagine what Dukat’s vision for a captive “society” would be when he had an unrestricted hand.

“Why won’t the Militia share the personnel files with us?” Sisko wondered.

“Does the Militia ask for the files on all of Starfleet’s personnel in the sector?” Kira retorted.

Sisko had to give her that one. “Very wel,l Major. What were your superiors willing to share?”

Kira handed him a padd. “These are the results of medical examinations of both Sito and Riker. I think they’re rather informative.”

Sisko perused the summaries and what he found made him glad he’d skimmed over the actual details, “I’m beginning to see Ensign Sito’s point of view.”

“Starfleet simply left her there to endure violation after violation. It’s no wonder she doesn’t want to return to active duty,” Kira ventured. “It wouldn’t matter to her that Starfleet thought she was dead. That sense of abandonment would still be there and then the Maquis came along and rescued her. She’d feel obligated to them just out of a sense of gratitude.”

“Are you authorized to tell me how she and Riker were rescued?” Sisko wondered.

“Not precisely,” Kira replied, “but I can tell you it was a two person infiltration of Letau led by Ro Laren.”

Sisko didn’t know whether or not to applaud Ro’s efforts or condemn her for them. To escape Letau, and then Cardassian space, while the Dominion was in a war footing bespoke of a certain amount of genius. Sisko suddenly worried where Ro would lead people like Sito Jaxa and Tom Riker. Certainly Ro answered to the Bajoran Militia now, but it seemed they were giving her free rein.

Sisko didn’t agree with Bajor’s position on the Maquis, but he wasn’t in a position to argue with the government over it. Starfleet needed Deep Space Nine and its strategic position, and he certainly wasn’t willing to abandon Bajor to the Dominion for a second time. So he would bide his time and wait until the war ended to see what the political climate was then.


Please send feedback and other correspondence regarding this story to Brin_Macen at yahoo dot com.

"Redeemed" Chapter One by Charlynn Schmiedt

by Travis Anderson

Series: TNG, DS9

Rating: M (dark themes)

Synopsis: In the TNG season 7 episode "Lower Decks," the Enterprise detected debris indicative of a Federation shuttlecraft’s life pod’s destruction. There was no mention of organic material. In fact, the crew had to hear about the death of Sito Jaxa though Cardassian military reports. But again, no body was ever presented as evidence. Is Sito Jaxa alive, and if so, what happened to her?

Chronology: The following are a series of vignettes beginning in 2371 post-DS9 “Defiant” and stretching until post-DS9 “What You Leave Behind.”

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"Course Correction" Chapter Three by Charlynn Schmiedt

by Travis Anderson

Chakotay brought the Val Jean in on an oblique course towards Valo VI. The protocol held that precise turns and banks had to be made at designated times. Chakotay related it to ancient submariners running precisely charted undersea canyons based upon turning at times intervals.

Alea had obtained the chart and the navigation chart for remaining within Valo VI’s dedicated sensor blind. The course kept one out of sight of Valo 1-III as well as that of Valo VI as well. Chakotay wondered again how Alea had obtained her data. Her methods were as mysterious as her origins, but Ro Laren trusted her so Chakotay felt forced to as well.

Besides, Seska had confirmed the data through independent sources. She always distracted him in tantalizing ways whenever he pressed her on how she obtained her intelligence, but she always came through in a clutch. Still, for some strange reason he’d curtailed the crew’s missions into Cardassian space for a while now.

Gul Evek had been a little too close for comfort when they last approached Dorvan V. Chakotay’s home planet was occupied by Cardassians and Evek had “just” happened to be tucked behind a moon in the solar system when the Val Jean appeared. He suspected there might be a leak amongst the Maquis cell commanders, but he trusted his crew implicitly.

Chakotay refocused on what he was doing as he almost blew a turn. Ayala turned to him. “Problems?”

“No,” Chakotay asserted. Starfleet had drilled into him the necessity of a commander appearing infallible. He didn’t quite buy into it. “Just distracted for a second.”

“A second is all it’ll take to alert them,” Ayala cajoled.

Chakotay wore a sheepish smile. “Duly noted.”

They cleared the sensors and landed on the backside of the planet. The base was on the side facing the Valo star. Valo VI was a class P glaciated world. It was warmer than Pluto but colder than Mars. The Maquis had stocked up on polar survival gear and breath masks. Valo VI had an atmosphere, but it needed to be filtered.

Torres and Tuvok were leading Yosa and Lon Suder in a trek halfway across the globe to erect a transport relay. The components had cost the Maquis plenty, but they were military-grade. The Maquis had been specifically warned against asking which military.

It took two long hours, but Torres finally signaled Chakotay that they were ready to tap into the Cardassian transporter array. Chakotay didn’t envy those that he’d dispatched on this little chore. Torres and Tuvok’s ancestry were evolved for high-temperature worlds. They had to be utterly despising the cold — and their commander — right now.

“Ready?” Chakotay asked Ayala.

“How hard is it to hold down the fort in case a hasty retreat or if extra firepower is needed?” Ayala asked ruefully.

“I need someone dependable to stay behind,” Chakotay counseled his deputy.

“Sure, sure. That’s the kiss of death, you know,” Ayala mock protested.

“Keep tabs on B’Elanna and Tuvok. I’m worried about how they’re tolerating the cold,” Chakotay requested.

“That’s why Yosa and Suder are driving the skimobiles,” Ayala reminded him, “but I know you’ll fret anyway.”

Chakotay thought of the group remaining behind to fly the Val Jean, should the worst happen. Doyle, Hogan, Jackson, and Jarvin were manning the ship’s various vital posts. Kenneth Dalby and Gerron were minding Wren. Dalby was watching over Gerron as much as he was watching out for the Andorian Starfleet officer.

A long line had formed towards the ship’s cargo transporter. It also served as the main transporter since the “official” personnel transporter only had two pads. Chakotay was leading the first foray into the Cardassian base. With luck, the Cardassians wouldn’t post a watch officer on the transporters. If they did, this effort would die while still being born.

Chakotay gathered his selected group. Riker stood beside him. Chell, O’Donnell, and Henley also stepped onto the transporter grid. Jarvin did the honors and locked the transporter onto the Cardassian transporter room through Torres’ relay.

The team materialized in an abandoned transporter room. Riker immediately fired up the unit, solidified the lock and added the security of a second buffer to the transporters. He, above all others, knew the advantages of having a second buffer in play.

Seska’s group came next. Michael Jonas and Jor were included. Seska saw Riker at the transporter controls and snorted. Seska didn’t let the inevitable acidic barb loose. Instead, she and her unit went out to the corridor. O’Donnell, Chell and Henley followed them.

While Seska’s group secured one end of the corridor and O’Donnell, Chell, and Henley defended the other approach, Riker brought the next team across the distance from the Val Jean. Ann Smithers led this group. Tabor and Carlson were assigned to her. Riker noted that they all seemed to enjoy a light repartee.

Out in the corridor, Seska navigated a hall monitor’s display. Getting a layout of the base, she transferred the schematics to the team leaders’ PADDs. They were of Bajoran issue. Programmed to interpret Bajoran data encryption as well as Cardassian and Starfleet digital languages, Bajoran PADDs were ideally suited to the Maquis.

Chakotay led his team to the operations center. Seska’s group proceeded to the power plant. Meanwhile, Smithers and her unit proceeded to the crews’ barracks.

Seska quickly accessed the base security network and bypassed the lockout guarding the reactor core. Jonas and Jor laid down suppressive fire as Seska made her way through the engineering space.

As she crept through the room, she shot the unarmed engineers. One engineer managed to sound the alarm before he died. It wasn’t the first time Seska had killed fellow Cardassians in the line of duty. They certainly wouldn’t hold back because they’d think she was a damn Bajoran terrorist. Her people had already had a bellyful of Bajoran extremists.

The room was pacified in seconds. The engineering staff was decimated. Seska took the control of the fusion reactor and pushed it to one hundred and fifty percent capacity. Then she blew out the controls. In twenty to thirty minutes, the reactor would erupt in an orgasmic display of destructive power. The entire base would be taken out by it.

Seska then led Jonas and Jor to the operations center but the security force was finally responding to the reactor alert. The Maquis opened fire and then retreated into the bowels of the base. This would alleviate Chakotay’s team because Seska’s group would draw them off.

Chakotay’s team stormed the operations center in similar fashion. Cardassian guards had been posted in the ops center — four, to be precise. Three were now dead, but the analysts themselves had taken up arms. There were six of those. The only good part was that they had been driven from their stations before they could react.

Henley joined Chakotay in laying down cover fire while Chell and O’Donnell crossed over to the other side of the room. Sporadic bursts of particle beam fire illustrated the point that both sides were still alive, although Henley and O’Donnell had each scored hits on members of the opposition.

Kneeling beside Chakotay, Riker suddenly interjected. “Give me a phaser.”

Henley cast a questioning eye Chakotay’s way. He solemnly nodded. She pulled a spare Son’a built phaser out of her waistband. Riker studied the model before he began tearing it apart.

Once he had it field stripped, he reversed the polarity of the phase emitter. Reassembling it, he pulled the trigger and it slowly whined. He leaned toward Chakotay again.

“Have everyone cover me,” Riker insisted.

Seeing that Riker had overloaded the phaser, Chakotay yelled instructions across to Chell and O’Donnell. Then he and Henley began barraging the Cardassians. Chell and O’Donnell lent the weight of their firepower into it and Riker stepped out unmolested.

Tossing the phaser down the length of the room, he stepped back as Cardassians started surging forward to disarm the phaser. The Maquis dutifully shot them as they tried.

When the phaser detonated, only two Cardassians remained alive by Chakotay’s count. The Maquis all rose with their weapons ready. Not seeing any movement through the smoke, Chakotay faced Riker.

“Good thinking, Tom,” Chakotay said encouragingly. “That’s the type of thinking that the Maquis need.”

“That’s good, because I just effectively threw my Starfleet career away,” Riker ruefully realized.

“And blew up a perfectly working phaser,” Henley grumped.

“Set it aside, Mariah,” Chakotay chuckled. “Tom will buy you a new one.”

Henley looked at Riker with an expectant gaze. Riker looked caught in the crosshairs. “Sure. Pick a model.”

“Anything as long as it’s not Ferengi crap,” Henley stated.

“Tom, if you don’t mind my saying, it didn’t look like you had much of a career anyway,” Chakotay observed. “I saw the way your Andorian babysitter was looking at you. She doesn’t trust you to make the wisest decision.”

“After this, do you blame her?” Riker wondered.

“There’s a wide world outside of Starfleet. Trust me, I know,” Chakotay assured him, “but I didn’t used to think so. So I can understand where you’re coming from.”

“Maybe, but how do you sleep at night?” Riker wondered.

“Guilt-free,” Chakotay grinned. “Now come with me. You need to grab the data as fast as you can.”

Riker gave him a quizzical look so Chakotay explained, “Seska rigged the reactor to explode. By my count, we have less than ten minutes left before this base goes up in a nuclear firestorm.”

“Sure. No pressure,” Riker chuckled. Sitting down at a station, he found that the agent assigned to it hadn’t logged out. Pulling a Cardassian isolinear rod out and inserting it into the data receptacle, he recorded the bulk of the database. He repeated this process and then stood up.

“Let’s go,” Riker urged.

Chakotay didn’t hesitate. He knew Cardassian equipment was designed to reject Federation isolinear rods, but Federation computers could be adapted to accept Cardassian rods. They had prepared for this eventuality.

The Maquis exited the operations center and proceeded towards the transporter room. Along the way, they encountered Smithers’ group. Chakotay wanted an update. “Any problems, Ann?”

“No, we caught them napping. Literally,” Smithers reported.

“Where are Carlson and Tabor?” Chakotay wondered.

“They helped Seska establish a crossfire and eliminate the guards. She’s beaming people back to the Val Jean right now,” Smithers explained.

Chakotay relieved Seska and beamed her back with a group of four Maquis. Riker was joined by Henley and Chell. Henley was being a tad protective of Riker now. She had a phaser on the line, and maybe more considering the look in her eye.

Chakotay beamed out last. He did so with three minutes to spare. The reactor overloaded and destroyed the base in a burst resembling a solar flare.

Chakotay returned to the Val Jean to find that Torres’ team had safely returned while his crew was away. Chakotay pulled up Riker, who was being closely watched by Seska again, and instructed him to wait with Wren while they flew to Valo I.

“Why Valo I?” Riker wondered. “Do the colonists support the Maquis?”

“Some do,” Chakotay shared, “but we’re really going to its moon. A Bajoran Resistance fighter named Orta used its caverns and caves for a base. We stockpiled the necessary equipment to translate the data you’re carrying there.”

“Besides, you need to settle down your friend’s ruffled feathers,” Chakotay urged.

Wren wasn’t so much angry as she was severely disappointed. “You know I’m going to have to report this.”

“I know,” Riker replied simply.

“Look, I don’t actually know what you did on this little raid, but these Maquis now trust you.” Wren looked toward Seska. “Certain Bajorans notwithstanding.”

Riker watched her eyes and the turmoil within them. “That kind of trust is earned and it speaks volumes.”

“The data will be worth it,” Riker promised her.

“I hope so,” Wren said wryly. “For your sake.”

Inside Valo I’s moon, the caves and caverns underneath the surface were oxygenated by atmosphere processors even older than the Val Jean. Wren honestly wondered when they’d give out and they’d all asphyxiate.

She’d come up in the world. Gerron and Dalby were once again joined by Chell and Henley. And she noticed that Henley was watching Riker more than Wren herself. That irked Wren to no end.

Torres adapted the fitting to the Federation-built portable computer. It was at least two generations out of date, but the Maquis were used to working with what they had. Riker spent the next few hours unpacking the files. When he was done, he helped Chakotay, Tuvok, and Seska go over the data by copying it to their PADDs and running through it himself.

Riker almost groaned when Seska sat beside him. She shot him a scathing glare before picking up her PADD and perusing its contents. The others silently plowed into the information.

What they found in the end was that the identities and locations of the deep cover operatives were sealed away in an encryption that the portable computer couldn’t fathom, much less break. But various sites were revealed all throughout the DMZ.

Most baffling were two items that hinted at a much greater story behind them. One was that the Obsidian Order was tracking Central Command’s deep cover operatives in the Maquis. Seska barely held it together for that, but she played it cool and found comfort in the fact that no names or location were given. She was surprised to discover that Evek had doubled down and sent more undercover agents to infiltrate the Maquis than just herself. She understood the reasoning why and she was insulted by it.

The second were personnel and material transfers to the Orias system. Seska picked up on that. “You read it wrong, Riker. The Orias system is uninhabited. There nothing there but a few class D planetoids, three asteroid belts, and a number of gas giants.”

“Look at the section yourself.” Riker fought to keep the anger out of his voice.

Seska read the summaries and then shook her head. “It has to be a mistake.”

“Seska, you know as well as I do that the Order rarely makes mistakes,” Chakotay cautioned her.

Seska lasered another look Riker’s way. “Who are you going to trust? Starfleet or me?”

“I’m afraid I have to go with Tom on this one,” Chakotay admitted.

Seska stared at Riker and her eyes announced that she had just declared war. Riker was getting rather tired of it. “Look, I’ll be out of your way soon enough. Give someone else the death stare after I’m gone.” He turned back to Chakotay. “But why are they transferring all of these resources into a nowhere system?” Riker asked.

“We may never know,” Tuvok warned him. “It is logical to assume we will never gain access to a system that deep inside Cardassian space.”

“I don’t buy that,” Riker asserted. “The right people with the right ship could get there.”

“There may be a way,” Chakotay mused, “but it would take just the right commander. Maybe we’ll discuss it later.”

Riker found himself looking forward to that talk.

The Val Jean returned to Ronara Prime and the Odyssey was in orbit over the planet, waiting to transfer the Maquis’ Starfleet guests back to the Gandhi. Chakotay and Seska escorted Riker and Wren to the transporter. Seska manned the equipment and gave the pair a surly look.

“Well? Aren’t you leaving?” she demanded to know.

Riker looked at Wren and she was crestfallen. “You’re staying, aren’t you?”

“I have to,” Riker declared. “I need answers and only the Maquis can provide them.”

Wren pulled him in and fiercely kissed him. “Take care, Tom Riker. Stay lucky and don’t do anything more idiotic than this in the future.”

“I’m afraid I’ll just have to take my chances,” Riker replied.

Seska gloated over the hurt look in Wren’s eyes. It served the little Andorian strumpet right. She gleefully engaged the transporter and sent Wren back to the Odyssey.

Aboard the scoutship, Macen awaited her along with Tom Eckles, who operated the transporter. Macen looked puzzled. “Weren’t there two of you at the beginning?”

“Tom defected to the Maquis,” Wren said woefully.

“Good for him,” Eckles blurted.

Wren shot him an angry glare. Mellowing, she turned to Macen. “You’ve worked for the Maquis?”

“Is this on the record?” Macen asked, “because if it is, I’ve worked with suspected Maquis.”

“This is completely off the record,” Wren sighed.

“Then yes, I’ve worked for them at times,” Macen admitted.

“What about Chakotay?” Wren asked. “What type of person is he?”

“Meaning you want to know if Chakotay will throw Riker to the Cardassian wolves,” Macen surmised.

“Kind of,” Wren confessed.

“Chakotay is one of the movement’s best and brightest,” Macen assured her. “He’ll only send people into a situation if he thinks there’s a reasonable chance of survival.”

“That’s good,” Wren brightened.

“Be warned though,” Macen cautioned her. “reasonable is a relative term.”

Chakotay and Riker beamed back to the surface of Ronara Prime. As they exited the customs house, Kalita welcomed them. “Hello, Tom. I see you made the right choice.”

“Chakotay said you had a way of getting to the Orias system,” Riker stated.

“We have contingency plans regarding the perfect vessel for an incursion into Cardassian space,” Kalita informed him. “We could go to Orias if you want.”

“Our cell commander, Ro Laren, has a scheme of how to capture the Defiant at Deep Space Nine. Learning of your joining us, she found the perfect way of accessing the ship and stealing it.”

“How is that?” Riker wondered.

“We send you aboard,” Kalita smirked.

“That plan is dead in the water as soon as Wren gets back to the Gandhi and Halifax reports me as AWOL and with the Maquis,” Riker countered.

“Megan Halifax will stall the report for as long as humanly possible,” Chakotay promised.

“You don’t know Halifax then,” Riker opined.

“I know her very well,” Chakotay chuckled. “We went to the Academy together.”

Riker gaped so Chakotay decided to spare him the endless hours of wondering. “The Central Command has its undercover agents and we have ours. Megan’s been quietly pushing you towards joining us for months now.”

“‘Push’ isn’t the word,” Riker griped.

“Well, she had to be persuasive,” Chakotay grinned.

“She was,” Riker admitted. “Believe me, she was.”

Captain Moneii nearly hit the ceiling when she learned of Riker’s defection. She basically wanted him clapped in irons and crucified. She immediately ordered Halifax to report his status to Starfleet Command. Halifax kowtowed and went away happy.

Vallis stopped Wren as the Andorian was on her way to drown her sorrows in the crew’s lounge. Vallis was fretting. “Is it true?”

Wren sadly nodded. “Yes. Tom joined the Maquis.”

Vallis cast her a sympathetic look. “Did you ever tell him how you felt about him?”

“I gave him a major clue at the end, but he still went traipsing off to certain doom,” Wren sighed.

“I’m so sorry,” Vallis expressed.

“I’m due on Andoria in a few months anyway. My bond group wants to have a second baby. Me, I’m not so thrilled with the idea,” Wren admitted. “Why I had to be born into a four sex species is beyond me. Balancing two people’s lives together is hard enough. But four? You might as well put a phaser to your head.”

Vallis was horrified. “Don’t say that. Look, I say we eat decadent food and drink a few glasses of synthehol.”

Wren caved. “Any port in a storm.”

“That’s almost the spirit,” Vallis smiled.

As promised, Halifax camped on the report outlining Riker’s new affiliation. It wasn’t until she received an innocuous message regarding the weather on Ronara Prime that Halifax mentally decoded the underlying verbal text. Tom Riker was going to impersonate Will Riker and steal the Defiant. Kalita was backing his play so there would be two senior Maquis aboard for the mission.

Now that Halifax knew the plan was already in motion, she transmitted the report. Now no one could accuse her of not doing her duty. 


Many thanks to Bernd Schneider of for designing the Blackbird-class scout vessel mentioned in this story.


Please send feedback and other correspondence regarding this story to Brin_Macen at yahoo dot com.

"Course Correction" Chapter Two by Charlynn Schmiedt

by Travis Anderson

Macen transported down to Ronara Prime with Riker and Wren. They rematerialized in the spaceport customs office. They then travelled on foot through Dayton City to a public house named the Old Biddy. Macen escorted them in.

Once inside, he directed them to a table in the rear seating four people. “There’s my client. Have fun.”

He excused himself and left the pub at that time. Riker and Wren moved through the space. Hard gazes followed them. The freighter crews and local riffraff that frequented this establishment were certainly camouflage for groups like the Maquis. Judging by some of the presumably criminal classes represented as well, the Maquis were hardly the only illegal group present.

Riker studied those at the wraparound booth he and Wren were proceeding towards. The male human, who must be the mysterious Chakotay, was obviously of Native American extraction. He also had a facial tattoo on the left side of his face.

Chakotay had a visible sense of serenity that belied his rumored actions — that was, until one beheld his eyes and the anger that burned within them. He was a Starfleet-trained killer and was now set loose with no restraints.

Beside Chakotay sat a rather severe looking Bajoran woman. Riker didn’t know why, but she appeared to look threatened. And it seemed her response to threats was hostility. A perfect rationale for a Maquis.

Beside the Bajoran sat a seeming Bajoran with violet hair. Upon closer scrutiny, it was revealed her nasal ridges were much more pronounced and extended into her brow. Beside this stranger, Kalita relaxed with a saucy grin.

“Tom, glad you could make it.” Kalita offered, “Take a seat.”

Six men then jumped Wren and pulled a hood over her head. She disabled two of them while she struggled. They finally got a hypospray to her wrist and moments after it hissed, Wren went slack and collapsed into the waiting arms of her attackers.

As they carried the Andorian away, Riker gave Chakotay a sour look. “Was that really necessary?”

“You made it necessary by bringing her here,” the Bajoran accused.

“Seska, we need to move on,” Chakotay gently chided her. She subsided but cast one last loathing look Riker’s way.

Riker sat down and addressed the near-Bajoran. “Excuse me, but are you Bajoran?”

“No,” she said blithely.

Seeing he wasn’t getting anywhere yet, he tried again. “May I ask where you’re from?”

“You can ask,” she replied merrily.

“Can I at least have your name?” Riker was getting frustrated.

“Alea,” she said mirthfully, “but don’t tell anyone.”

“Alea is our cell’s intelligence officer,” Kalita boasted.

“There’s seems to be a plethora of them today,” Riker remarked. And then he asked, “Aren’t you all in the same group?”

“No,” Chakotay answered. “Kalita and Alea represent our partners in the Ronaran cell. My crew is a mobile unit operating out of my ship, the Val Jean, rather than a geographic location.”

Riker had to ask, “Aren’t you telling me a lot I shouldn’t know?”

Chakotay wore a ready smile. “Kalita says I can trust you.”

“What does she know?” Seska suddenly blurted, “She only met him that one time on a scrub planet.”

Chakotay took this in stride. “You know Kalita is an excellent judge of character.”

Chakotay also knew Seska resented Kalita because the human had reservations about the Bajoran, which no one realized yet that she was a genetically disguised Cardassian agent directly responsible to Gul Evek. Evek felt Seska was in a pivotal position because Chakotay was one of the most accomplished Maquis commanders.

Chakotay mercifully got straight to business. “Tom, you’re here because we need a witness.”

“Then why choose me?” Riker asked.

“Because, like Chakotay said, I trust you,” Kalita informed him. “And since Chakotay trusts my judgment, that decided who amongst Starfleet we would choose.”

Riker decided to pin Chakotay down. “Why do you need a witness?”

“We’ve found a hidden military target within the DMZ,” Chakotay said succinctly.

“So why not inform Starfleet directly?” Riker wanted to know.

“Because diplomatic channels require time,” Chakotay replied, “and that’s one thing we don’t have a lot of.”

“So you intend to strike out at this target,” Riker surmised.

“Exactly.” Chakotay was pleased Riker was on the same page.

“Look, I’m sorry, I honestly empathize with your cause but I can’t condone your methodology,” Riker admitted.

“I told you,” Seska huffed.

“Just hear us out and then decide,” Chakotay requested. He turned to Alea. “It’s your show now.”

“All right, Tom. I came across an Obsidian Order facility inside the DMZ,” Alea reported. Seeing she had Riker’s complete attention, she moved forward. “The observation base is in the Valo system. The Valo star system was claimed by Bajor before and during the Occupation era. The first three planets in the Valo system have Bajoran settlers. The colonies swelled with refugees escaping Bajor, but most opted to stay on their planet of choice when Bajor was liberated.”

“The point of all this is that Valo VI hosts a Cardassian observation base. It did so throughout the Occupation and up until now,” Alea described. “From Valo VI, the Obsidian Order can not only oversee the Valo system but they can also spy on the entire Bajoran sector as well as the entirety of the DMZ, coupled with their observation bases near the Argus Array and Starbases 129, 211, and 310. And of course, this doesn’t include mirroring the Starfleet Intelligence Outposts 47 and 61.”

“The base on Valo VI represents a clear and present danger not only to the colonists within the DMZ but also to Bajor and the Federation border,” Alea finished.

Riker was impressed. He had more than a sneaking suspicion that Alea actually was a career intelligence officer. But for whom? And why support the Maquis?

“Have you corroborated this intelligence?” Riker pointedly asked.

“I used my contacts in the Valo system to confirm it,” Seska asserted acerbically. “They all know about the base.”

“Yet they never told anyone about it until now,” Riker’s rejoinder almost slapped Seska’s face.

“If Seska says it’s true then it is,” Chakotay firmly stated.

Seska glared at Riker while Chakotay pondered her sources of information. Seska frequently brought previously unknown intel to the fore. He never asked about her sources because she had assured him they were confidential and lives were on the line. Chakotay could readily accept that concept.

What no one among Chakotay’s crew had realized was that Seska’s source of information was Cardassian Military Intelligence funneled to her through Gul Evek. Evek had cleared this assault on the Obsidian Order. It was a means to eliminate potential rivals for political control over the Cardassian interests within the DMZ. The Maquis would absorb the risks and potential casualties while Evek reaped the benefits.

Chakotay presented the pistol question. “So Tom, are you willing to come along and verify the nature of this base and report any data we may recover?”

“I am,” Riker instantly decided, “but Wren is the one you really want. She’s the tactical expert.”

Chakotay glanced at Kalita. Her nod was almost imperceptible. Chakotay made his decision.

“Very well, your friend will be brought aboard the Val Jean prior to liftoff,” Chakotay assured Riker. “Anything else?”

“Is your ship in orbit?” Riker was curious.

Chakotay grinned, “It’s in the city’s shuttleport. She’s a bit big for her berth but most of the freighters that land are twice her size.”

“And this is where we say goodbye.” Kalita and Alea rose and strolled away.

“They’re not coming?” Riker was confused.

“They’re local assets,” Chakotay explained. “Their job was to persuade you. They accomplished that.”

Chakotay stepped outside to discreetly use his communicator. Seska snorted derisively, “Kalita thinks highly of you despite the fact you’re a failed science experiment.”

Riker took in Seska’s measure. She had access to Starfleet personnel jackets, which made her far more than the guttersnipe she appeared to be.

“Do you always warm up to people so charmingly?” Riker retorted.

“Don’t even think about betraying us to Starfleet,” Seska warned. “I’m making it my mission to watch you.”

“Have fun,” Riker quipped. “But who will be watching you?”

He could tell that struck a sensitive nerve.

Chakotay returned to find Seska giving Riker a sullen stare. Chakotay found it mildly frustrating, but it was also part of who Seska was. He was fond of her because she cared for him in her own way.

“Our rides will be here in a moment so we’d best wait outside,” Chakotay announced.

Riker found that to be a relief until he actually went outside. The threatening clouds were done with posturing and a torrential downpour was covering the land. The wait for the ground transport was a lot longer than Riker cared for.

Once aboard the Val Jean, Chakotay brought Riker to the Maquis raider’s cockpit. There, the bridge crew was already assembled. Chakotay made cursory introductions.

He presented a taciturn man seated at the navigation console. “This is Ayala, my second in command.”

Chakotay explained that he himself was the pilot before he introduced a dark-skinned Vulcan named Tuvok. Tuvok studied him in a disconcerting manner. Even Seska’s scrutiny paled in comparison. It turned out Tuvok was the weapons officer.

The ship’s chief engineer turned out to be a moody half-human, half-Klingon woman named B’Elanna Torres. She angrily pointed out that there was no room for passengers since the cockpit was cramped enough already. Chakotay took this in stride as well.

“Don’t worry, B’Elanna. Seska is loitering at the hatch to take Lt. Riker back to a storage locker. He’ll be safe enough in her care,” Chakotay reassured her.

Riker wasn’t as sure about that last bit as Seska marched him off into the bowels of the ship. Seska practically shoved him into the locker. It turned out it had two crash seats in it, so it was obvious the Maquis had stowed passengers in here before.

Seska sat across from him fingering a Klingon disruptor in her lap. Riker couldn’t resist baiting her. “You seem awfully fond of that thing.”

Seska regarded him coolly. “I actually favor Cardassian disruptors. Bajor had plenty of them to go around.”

“But what if I try to take that from you?” Riker joked.

Seska moved almost faster than Riker could track. The disruptor was now aimed at his face and she wore a smile that dared him to try and snatch it. She tipped the disruptor back slightly and grew even more pleased with herself.

“Zap. You’re dead,” Seska taunted him.

Riker could tell she’d do it in a heartbeat. She stared at him like he was a bug she wished to squash, so evidently his life meant very little to her. She’d kill him and justify it with a concocted story about needing to defend herself. Frankly, Riker was wondering why she hadn’t done so already.

“When do I get to see Wren?” Riker finally inquired after the lights stopped flickering.

“Soon enough.” Seska was ostensibly watching the lighting panels. Riker knew well enough her entire focus was on him. “This ship is over seventy years old. Gravity wells tend to wreak havoc on its inertial damper. So when Chakotay calls the ‘all clear,’ we’ll visit your blue-skinned girlfriend.”

As if on cue, Chakotay’s voice reverberated throughout the ship. “All hands, stand down. We’ve cleared Ronara’s gravity and are en route to the Valo system.”

Seska rose. “Come on, lover boy. Your fair maiden awaits.”

She took him to a larger room with bunk stacked three high. It was a crew’s barracks. Wren lay motionless on a cot guarded by two Maquis.

“I thought you said your sedative is harmless.” Riker was instantly angry.

“You’d best keep a civil tongue, human,” Seska warned icily. “Meet Chell and Mariah Henley. They’ve been caring for your little friend. They’ll rouse her.”

Chell had to be the Bolian male, Riker assumed. That made the woman with the exorbitantly festive head scarf Mariah Henley. Riker calmed himself.

“Can you wake her?” Riker kindly asked.

Chell moved for the med kit but Henley snatched it from him. “Chell, you remember what happened last time.”

Chell’s cheeks flushed an even deeper shade of blue as he subsided. Riker knelt beside Wren as Henley leaned in. She cast an amused look his way.

“She’ll come out of this in a hurry,” Henley warned, “so you might have to duck.”

There was a snap hiss of the hypo and Henley quickly retreated. Wren’s eyes snapped open and Riker could see the fury in them. He barely got to his feet in time to avoid her punch. Seska nearly choked on her laughter.

“I give already,” Riker said as he held his hands up.

Wren put her feet on the deck but didn’t get up. Instead, she took a look around at her surroundings and who was in them. Finally, she grimaced.

“What the frinx have you gotten us into, Riker?” Wren asked wearily.

Riker sat down on the bunk opposite of hers. “Do you really want to know?”

Wren cast him an angry glare so Riker plunged ahead with everything that had happened while she’d been out. When he finished, Wren groaned, “I give up. Put me back to sleep.”

Seska hurriedly motioned for Henley to dose Wren again. Riker stopped Henley. “Why?”

“Get Commander Chakotay down here,” Wren instructed Seska, “and I’ll explain why this is a fool’s errand.”

“Don’t order me about, Starfleet,” Seska growled, “and that’s Captain Chakotay to you.”

“Sure. Just get Chakotay here,” Wren shrugged. She didn’t have time for pissing contests.

Seska stepped out of the room to use the intraship intercom. Wren looked at Henley and Chell. “Is she always like this?”

Chell and Henley just grinned. Chell conspiratorially explained, “Seska has been a little protective of Chakotay since she started bedding him.”

“It’s pretty casual,” Henley piped in. “At least for him.”

Wren looked at Riker and rolled her eyes. “Wonderful.”

Chakotay made an appearance. Riker could tell from the Maquis commander’s expression that Seska had warned him of potential trouble. Still, he was cordial. “You wanted to see me, Lieutenant?”

“You’re after an Obsidian Order facility, right?” Wren asked without preamble.

Chakotay wondered exactly who the leak was. “Riker told you?”

“No,” Wren said dryly. “A hummingbird transported aboard and spilled your secrets.”

Riker watched the flash of anger in Chakotay’s eyes. When he spoke, it was with a stern measure of control. “You have something to add to our mission planning?”

“The Obsidian Order is technically a civilian entity,” Wren pointed out. “The DMZ forbids either side from posting a military presence inside the zone. Starfleet has no jurisdiction or recourse to expunging the presence of an Obsidian Order station. They can hand a complaint over to the diplomats and then they can work their magic.”

Chakotay appreciated Wren’s sardonic tone. “If you haven’t noticed, we’re not Starfleet.”

“You’re still not getting it.” Wren tried a different approach. “The Order isn’t the Central Command. An attack upon them will merely feed into the Cardassians’ rhetoric regarding your cause.”

“We know that,” Chakotay assured her.

Wren and Riker both wondered if Chakotay was just colossally stupid. Chakotay could see that in their expressions, so he decided to address that concern. “The Obsidian Order listening post on Valo VI is tied into their network. If we get in without alerting them, we can gain access to their computers and find out where every Order base and agent within distance of the DMZ is located. This data will be shared with Starfleet. Maybe it’ll buy us some goodwill.”

“How generous of you,” Wren snidely remarked, “especially since you’ll need Tom to access the Cardassians’ computers. Or do you have a qualified ops officer aboard?”

Chakotay didn’t know about Seska’s hidden skill set, so he replied in the negative. “So yes, I’m asking Tom to contribute to a mission that will serve Maquis interests while it serves Starfleet’s security concerns as well.”

“You want me to aid and abet a terrorist strike?” Riker asked.

Chakotay smiled. “Essentially.”

Riker thought it over. “I’m in.”

Wren thought about bouncing her head off the bulkhead a few times. Then she reconsidered. She’d rather bounce Riker’s instead.

“Does Starfleet know about this base on Valo VI?” Wren asked.

“You should know better than I do,” Chakotay countered, “and if Starfleet knows, why haven’t they done anything about it?”

“If they do, diplomatic channels take time,” Riker finally voiced a little reason.

“We’re hoping to accelerate the timetable a bit.” Chakotay grinned. “We’re just going to skip diplomacy this time and let Starfleet, the Obsidian Order, and the Central Command all catch up. With any luck, the Bajoran Militia will take a stance as well. This base directly threatens Prophet’s Landing, so they’ll have a vested interest.”

“There’s no talking you out of this, is there?” Wren asked.

“No.” Chakotay exited on that note.

Seska stepped out as well and then returned a moment later. “You two will remain here until we land on Valo VI.”

“I suppose your charming self will be here as well,” Riker ventured.

Seska smiled like a caged Bajoran razorcat. “Of course. Ready to try me yet?”

Chell and Henley settled into unoccupied bunks and watched as the Starfleet officers verbally fenced with Seska.


Many thanks to Bernd Schneider of for designing the Blackbird-class scout vessel mentioned in this story.


Please send feedback and other correspondence regarding this story to Brin_Macen at yahoo dot com.

"Course Correction" Chapter One by Charlynn Schmiedt

by Travis Anderson

Series: TNG, DS9, VOY

Rating: K+

Tom Riker is drawn into a Maquis web as Chakotay recruits Riker on Kalita’s recommendation. The task: To infiltrate and eliminate a Cardassian base located within the Demilitarized Zone. In doing so, the Maquis provide Riker with a crisis of conscience. Will he commit to them just in this small matter, or will he go even further once presented with a tantalizing mystery?

Chronology: Six months after TNG’s “Preemptive Strike,” one month prior to the events in VOY’s “Caretaker,” and two months prior to the DS9 episode “Defiant.”

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"Decisions" Chapter Seven by Charlynn Schmiedt

by Travis Anderson

Vallis suddenly let a curse fly out of her mouth.  For coming from a nonsexual culture, Riker was surprised that she essentially demanded that he exchange fluids with her again.  He finished disabling his device, the last of his allotted weapons, and moved to her side.

“What is it?”He asked jovially.

“This bastard just armed itself,” she said with trepidation in her voice.

“What?” he blurted. “How?”

“If I knew that, it wouldn’t have happened,” she grated.  “I think I rushed it too much.  You would have gotten ahead of me and I was trying to beat you.”

He noted that Vallis wasn’t laying the blame at his feet.  She was simply stating a fact.  He gently placed a hand on her back.

“I’m done now, so let’s see if we can diffuse this sucker together,” he offered.  “I faced worse hazards then this for eight years on Nervalla IV.  Every day was a new adventure. I brushed with death constantly when some piece of equipment failed or overloaded.  If it wasn’t that, then the elements and the atmosphere were trying to kill me.  What can one bomb do?”

She gave him a grateful smile. “Okay.  We can do this.  But, just so you know, this thing could eat our flesh if it discharges.”

“I’ll never miss it,” he jested.

“We need to stop the matter-antimatter annihilation.  I’ll focus on the injectors and you work on removing the deuterium and antideuterium pods,” she decided.

“Yes, ma’am,” he agreed enthusiastically.

Riker focused on his assigned task.  The deuterium pod was easy to seal and disengage.  The antimatter pod’s seal was damaged, though.  He couldn’t shut it down with the antideuterium. This problem, combined with the disconnected deuterium pod, was making the intermix ratio destabilize and a warp core breach was inevitable if nothing changed.

He stripped the deuterium pod’s seal.  Deuterium was basically energized hydrogen, so venting it into the atmosphere wouldn’t create any lasting harm.  Using components from that seal, he rebuilt the damaged antimatter seal.  He managed to seal off the pod and remove it.

Unfortunately, the intermix ratio had gone wildly out of control.  There was too much antimatter and the warp core was dangerously unstable.  Vallis was struggling to regain control, but at this point, destruction was a foregone conclusion.

“It’s going to blow,” Riker forced her to realize. “We need to get to a safe distance.”

She shook her head. “We’ll never make it on foot.  What we need to do is vent the warp core.”

“Say what?” Her words gave Riker an absurd thought.

“We need to vent the core,” she repeated.

“Can you unlock the magnetic seal around the injectors?” he suddenly asked.

“Yeah, but then the energy will leak through the injector,” she protested.

“Through the injector, through the roof, and out into space,” Riker finished her thought.

“Thereby venting the core!” She grinned, “Not a problem.  Hang on!”

She released the magnetic interlocks and scrambled away as a stream of energy burst forth like a volcanic eruption.  It blew through the roof and expended itself out into space.  Fortunately, air traffic was virtually unknown on Hadon II.  The primary risk had been the orbital parking traffic.  As it happened, several freighters were close to the expulsion, but they weren’t directly hit by it.

Riker shielded Vallis’ body with his own as fragments from the roof rained down.  The whole manor house was shaken by the blast.  The structure began to collapse within itself.  The suspected Syndicate goons fled the scene.  Halifax and Wren sought cover as best they could as they bolted outside.

“I hope Riker and Vallis survived that,” Wren wished.

Halifax was livid. “Of all the idiotic things…”

“Commander, I don’t think now is the time,” Wren advised. “Our first concerns are to secure the remaining weapons and conduct a search and rescue for our crewmates…assuming they’re still alive.”

“Riker had better be alive,” Halifax declared. “I want the satisfaction of presenting that sonuvabitch to a review board.”

Wren cast her a disparaging look, then pulled out her tricorder and started walking into the wreckage of the house.

Several hours later, the Gandhi returned to find the away team shaken but otherwise unharmed.  Borien led an engineering team to the surface and was delighted to discover that all of the remaining isolytic weapons had already been disabled.  He was also of the opinion that Riker and Vallis’ actions saved the lives of everyone on the planet.  Halifax wasn’t as forgiving.

As the engineers began transporting the weapons to the ship, Wren gathered a security team and tore the colony apart as he looked for suspects.  She also headed back to the arms cache she and Vallis had stumbled upon.  Not surprisingly, the pods were all missing.  Tricorders picked up traces of a transporter effect.

Returning to the ship, Wren informed the captain of what transpired.  Any of the two dozen transports in orbit could have moved those pods.  Or it could even have been transports that departed while the Gandhiwas out of the system.  She requested permission to conduct a search and seizure of every ship in orbit.  Moneii quietly turned her down.

Moneii was most interested in hearing Halifax’s after-action report.  The XO was disturbed as she admitted, “We were successful despite ourselves.”

“I’m afraid I‘ll need clarification on that,” Moneii stated.

“It wasn’t bad enough that the plan was reckless to begin with, but Ensign Vallis nearly detonated an isolytic device on the surface,” Halifax explained. “As it was, she was damn lucky no ships were parked in orbit over the weapon.”

“I thought Lt. Riker’s improvisation was admirable given the circumstances,” Moneii opined.

Halifax snorted derisively, “If it hadn’t been for Riker, we wouldn’t have been there to begin with.”

“And the isolytic warheads might very well be in Cardassian hands now,” Moneii rebutted.

“We could have blocked Ocett without resorting to a ground mission,” Halifax argued. “It was wasteful and irresponsible.”

“And you place the blame squarely at Lt. Riker’s feet?” Moneii asked.

“Yes,” Halifax said in a surly tone.

“So I take it you are withdrawing your recommendation to make him second officer?” Moneii asked.

“Yes, and not only that, I’m about to put such a black mark on his record he’ll never see Lt. Commander,” Halifax declared.

“I may not be able to sign off on his fitness report if you do,” Moneii warned.

“I understand,” Halifax assured her.

Riker was down at the Grimshaw.  He’d received his dressing down by Halifax and notification that his planned promotion had been negated.  He took another drink of his whiskey.  It was the real stuff and he was savoring every drop.  He still wasn’t certain why he’d been allowed shore leave, but permission had come straight from the captain, so he didn’t waste time arguing.

“I’ll buy the next round,” Kalinda offered as she came to sit beside him.

“I was wondering if I’d see you again,” Riker admitted. “I assumed you had taken off by now.  Guns and all.”

Kalinda smiled. “I just wanted to check in on you first.  Besides, I have no idea what you’re talking about.  I just stopped by for a drink on my way home.”

“And where is home?” Riker wondered.

“Ronara Prime,” she answered. “Ever heard of it?”

“It’s in the Demilitarized Zone.  That’s about all I know,” he admitted.

“It used to be a nice place to live,” Kalinda sighed.  “Someday it will be again.”

“Why are you really here?” Riker just came out and asked.

“I appreciate what you did with the isolytic burst.  That kind of quick thinking is appreciated in certain parts, even if Starfleet is too stupid to recognize brilliance in action,” she declared.

“And just who would the people be in these parts?” he inquired.

Kalinda shared a sly smile with him. “You’ll figure it out when you need to.”

She slid off her stool and left as suddenly as she’d arrived. Twenty minutes later, Wren came storming into the tavern with four security officers.  She spotted Riker and went to his side.

“The woman who contacted you earlier about the Cardassian connection, has she been here?” Wren wanted to know.

“Haven’t seen her,” Riker lied despite not quite knowing why he was doing so.

“Well, if you see her, alert me or one of my officers,” Wren instructed.

“What’s this about?” Riker asked.

“She’s a Maquis,” Wren explained.

“And what’s a ‘Maquis?’”

Wren had an exasperated look on her face. “Don’t you follow the news?  They’re terrorists that run around the Demilitarized Zone killing anything and everything Cardassian.  They’re wanted by both Starfleet and the Central Command.”

“Too bad I haven’t seen her then,” Riker said smoothly.

“For some reason I don’t entirely believe you right now,” Wren admitted, “but scuttlebutt has it you have your own problems right now, so I’ll let it go.”

Riker saluted her with his glass and she and her team left.

Later, in his quarters aboard the Gandhi, Riker began a search of records concerning the Maquis.  What he found intrigued him.  They were rebels fighting a perceived injustice.  He could relate to that.   

He pondered Kalinda’s parting words.  He wasn’t ready to leave Starfleet just yet.  But if he were, he could think of worse fates than helping freedom fighters win back their homes.  It was definitely something to think about.


Please send feedback and other correspondence regarding this story to Brin_Macen at yahoo dot com.

"Decisions" Chapter Six by Charlynn Schmiedt

by Travis Anderson           

Wren rushed up to the door.  It was an old-fashioned hinged affair.  It looked heavy since it had an outer layer of armor.  Halifax drew to the left side and aimed her phaser at the doorway.  Wren used her own weapon to shoot the deadbolt lock.  Turning the knob, she pushed the door slightly ajar.

She did a five count and then reared back and kicked the door open, right into the face of an Acamarian waiting on the other side.  Wren shoved him aside and went for the Klingon that lurked behind him.  The Klingon posed a greater threat than the Acamarian, who was still struggling to clear his eyes as they watered from the abuse his nose had just taken.

The Klingon readied himself as Wren approached.  He wasn’t wearing House armor.  Rather, he was garbed in a utilitarian jumpsuit.

Wren slammed the palm of her hand into his nose.  The Klingon staggered back and Wren pressed her momentary advantage.  She placed a sidekick into his solar plexus and he convulsively blew out the air in his lungs. 

A remote part of Wren’s mind analyzed her foe.  He had a moderate amount of skill — enough to have been a conscript with the Klingon Defense Force.  But he lacked armor and any sign of Imperial insignia, which made him a dishonored renegade of some kind.    

She tried a round kick to his ribs but the Klingon blocked the blow.  Wren tried a follow through punch but he blocked that as well.  He surprised her by using the same hand to throw a jab into her mouth.  Her lip split and dark indigo blood began trickling down her powder blue face.  Knowing that she didn’t have a moment to waste, she forewent wiping the blood off.

Instead of continuing her frontal assault, Wren dove into a slide tackle and took the Klingon’s legs out with a scissor kick.  The Klingon went down, but he caught himself with his hands.  She used her left arm to swipe his hands out from underneath him.  As he collided face first with the floor, she continued her motion and brought her left arm up above his head and smashed his face back into the floor just as he lifted his head.

She scrambled to her feet as he got to his hands and knees.  Reeling back her leg, she kicked him in the ribs for all she was worth.  She repeated the move three more times.  She heard bones breaking but she didn’t relent.  His head was merely hanging when she focused all of her energy to a shot on his face.  His head snapped back and then fell to the ground as his body collapsed in a heap.  Wren straddled his chest and began to pound his face.

Riker had been dealing with bruised Acamarian during this time.  The Acamarian threw a punch and Riker blocked it.  His own punch connected.  The Acamarian stumbled back.  Riker threw a body blow.  The Acamarian dropped his defenses so Riker jabbed his face.  The defenses came up, so Riker followed up with another body shot.  The defenses came down, but this time, they hung heavily.  Riker placed a right cross to maximum effect.

Riker shoved the Acamarian to the floor and zip tied his hands behind his back.  A screech outside announced the arrival of a wheeled transport.  A Nallorite led a ragtag group of armed gunmen through the gates.  They were headed for the front door and Halifax wheeled into motion.

“Riker!  You and Vallis will find and decommission any weapons that may be stored here.  Wren and I will hold them off for as long as we can,” Halifax ordered.

Riker hesitated and Halifax got in his face. “Go!”

He grabbed Vallis and the hurried down the hallway.  Wren took up position behind the armored door.

“Now this should be fun,” she said dryly.

“Do you really think the isolytic weapons are here?” Halifax suddenly asked.

Wren wore a whimsical expression. “If not, then we owe these people a hell of an apology.”

Halifax had just enough time to consider that before the first particle beam sizzled through the air.  She ordered Wren to return fire and they held the newcomers at the gate.

Riker flipped his tricorder open and it immediately detected subspace radiation.  Vallis looked at the displays. “Found anything?”

“Yes, just further down,” he answered.

They reached a set of double doors and opened them to reveal what would have once been a ballroom.  Now it was filled with cargo pods.  The Precarious had brought three pods with it, which brought the total present here to twelve.

She gave him a horrified look. “How will we…?”

Riker grinned, “We’ll just have to work that much faster.”

Vallis began to wonder if he’d lost his mind while he spent those eight years all alone.

“I’m glad you opted to see reason, Gul Ocett,” Moneii said as she gazed upon the Cardassian woman’s features captured on her desktop display.

“Thank Central Command,” Ocett replied drolly. “They saw the peace treaty as being more important than my mission.”

Moneii noted that Ocett left out exactly what her mission was.  Whether it was the official “survey” mission or the suspected collection of the isolytic weapons, it remained unsaid.  Moneii wasn’t about to openly accuse Ocett in the name of the same peace that the Cardassian had just alluded to. 

“You will be sending us your course and intended speed?” Moneii was careful to present it as a request rather than a demand.

Ocett wore a thin smile. “My officers have already alerted your bridge crew.  After all, we wouldn’t want to lose our minders.”

Moneii offered a grim smile in return. “Just consider us your map in case you get lost again and can’t manage to find the border on your own.”

“And I suppose you’ll be staying on station inside of the Hadon system for a time just to ensure that I don’t return?” Ocett ventured.

“Wouldn’t you?” Moneii replied evenly.

“Of course,” Ocett allowed, “but you can’t stay here indefinitely.  What if an emergency occurs elsewhere and demands your attention?”

“Then I would suggest that no traces of such an event lead to you,” Moneii warned.

“Of course,” Ocett said silkily.  “I have alerted your crew of our intention to depart in five of your minutes.  Perhaps we’ll speak further during our journey?”

“Perhaps,” Moneii allowed. “Until then…”

The Starfleet captain terminated the transmission and headed out of her Ready Room to the bridge. “Mr. Boerhoven, stand by to make way.”

“Yes ma’am,” he said as he vacated the captain’s chair.

“Be ready for an ‘unexpected’ emergency to arise,” Moneii advised.

“You think the Cardassians are going to try and pull us away?” Boerhoven asked.

“They’re certainly going to try,” Moneii chuckled, “but Starfleet Command is putting all border patrol vessels on alert.  If the Cardassians so much as sneeze wrong, they’ll have a ring of starships around them.”

Boerhoven chuckled. “It would serve them right.”

Moneii arched an eyebrow. “Do I detect a note of vindictiveness?”

“Did you ever serve on the line during the Border Wars?” Boerhoven inquired.

“No, but I did see action against the Tzenkethi,” she said ruefully.

“There are certain similarities between their brands of xenophobia, but where the Tzenkethi want to establish genetic control and domination of every form of life by turning everything into themselves, the Cardassians want to conquer everyone and place themselves as demigods over every other culture,” Boerhoven related to her.

“I think that’s a gross oversimplification,” Moneii chided him.

“Maybe, but it’s a hard won opinion,” Boerhoven protested.

“I’d keep opinions like that to yourself in your new posting,” Moneii advised. “Ship’s XO’s can’t be seen having such racist views.  You’re lucky I think you’ll outgrow this absurd opinion or I’d report you to Captain Remick and you might find yourself XO of a ferry tug instead.”

“Duly noted,” he said defiantly.  Opting to change the subject, he asked, “Any word from Megan and her team?”

Moneii gave him a curious look. “I thought you and Commander Halifax were on the outs.  I expedited your transfer and promotion because of that fact.”

Boerhoven looked pained. “I don’t have anything against Megan.  At least not professionally.  There were some personal issues that couldn’t be resolved, but I didn’t allow them to interfere with my duties.”

“That’s what she said about herself too,” Moneii mused. “Regardless of how you two thought you were performing, the truth is that you were both affecting performance of the bridge crew.  Even moving you to Beta watch didn’t help.  So, I foisted you off onto someone else’s lap.”

Boerhoven hesitated and then plunged ahead. “So you’re saying you don’t think I’m ready to be XO yet?”

Moneii’s eyes bored into his. “Mister, if you think I’d jeopardize another command just to alleviate a minor problem with my own, you have another thing coming.”

“Understood, ma’am,” Boerhoven said briskly. “So I take that to mean that there has been no word.”

Moneii sighed. “No.  Not a peep.”

“Hold your fire!” a voice called out from the gate. “I’d like to parlay.”

Wren looked to Halifax, who nodded. “Advance and be recognized.  And know this: If you make one misstep, I will blow your damn head off.”

The Nallorite stepped forward and straightened his tie.  He was dressed in an Iotian suit, circa 2266.  He even had a fedora canted on his brow.  The grey pinstripe of his suit made his ebon skin stand out even more.  As he approached, his ivory teeth seemed to practically shine in contrast to the obsidian-like face.

He reached the porch and Halifax spoke to him. “That’s close enough.”

“If you’ll give me a moment of your time, perhaps we can make an accommodation,” he said. “Captain Halifax, my name is Mercel.  I am the local representative for the concern that has a vested interest in the items stored within this structure.”

“First off, it’s Commander Halifax of Starfleet.  Second, are you perchance referring to the isolytic warheads inside the house?” Halifax retorted.

His pearlescent teeth shone again. “It seems you know more about our merchandise than I do.”

“Yeah right,” Halifax snorted. “Do your employers happen to go by the title the ‘Orion Syndicate?’”

He chuckled, “My employers prefer their anonymity.”

“I bet they do,” Halifax quipped.  “Are they aware that dealing in weapons of mass destruction can earn them life without parole on a penal colony?”

“Commander, let’s be reasonable,” Mercel pleaded. “I can assure you that these items will never be used against the Federation.”

“How can you promise that?” Halifax wondered.

“It was a condition of the sale,” Mercel revealed.  “Now, we have already received an advance up front.  I’ve been authorized to release a portion of those funds to you and your crew if you just walk away.  Think about it: You get a ship of your own, and not just a scut freighter.  Why, there might even be opportunities for a ship’s captain like yourself in our organization if you choose wisely.”

“I’ll pass,” Halifax decided.

“I’d suggest you reconsider,” Mercel suddenly urged.  There was a hint of menace in his voice now. “The alternative is to face down my people, and we vastly outnumber you.  Even if you survive the first incursion by these hapless fellows, I have more readily available.  We won’t take prisoners and we won’t stop until every last one of you is dead or dying.”

“Why don’t you just wander back to your safe place behind your gunmen and go to hell?” Halifax wondered.

Mercel shrugged his shoulders. “Have it your way.”

As the Nallorite trudged back to the gate, Wren turned to Halifax. “Are you sure that was the wisest move?”

Halifax was aghast. “You can’t seriously be tempted by his offer?”

“No, but playing along may have bought us some time and reinforcements,” Wren explained. “My power pack is nearly drained and I can’t imagine yours is any better off.”

Halifax checked her power indicator. “Damn.”

“I’ll back your play, but I need to know what it is,” Wren assured her.

“We hold as long as we can and then we fight hand-to-hand with any of those idiots that make it inside,” Halifax ordered. “We need to give Riker and Vallis time to disarm the isolytics.”

“Aye ma’am,” Wren said with as much enthusiasm as she could muster, which wasn’t a lot. And frankly, Halifax couldn’t blame her.

“I can’t do it!” Vallis declared as she pulled back away from the second isolytic warhead. “We don’t have enough time!”

Riker put his hands on her shoulders as he sat beside her.  She turned to face him and he could see the raw panic in her eyes.  He had to stabilize the situation, and fast!

“Look, you wanted your individuality, so you left the only home you ever knew and entered a wider galaxy.  That galaxy was filled with more diversity that you even could have dreamt of, but you adapted.  You entered Starfleet, wanted to graduate the Academy in two years, and you did it,” Riker reassured her. “You just have to want this that badly.”

She stared into his eyes, saw the confidence he had in her, and settled down.  She swallowed hard and nodded. “Okay.  I can do this.”

“I know you can,” he insisted. “Just pick up your tools and start again.”

“This would go faster if I had some help,” she admitted. “You have a tool pouch as well, right?”

They both wore tool belts with a basic assortment of equipment.  He smirked, “You know I do.”

“Then pay attention.” She guided him through a disarmament and the watched as he did one on his own.  She smiled. “You’re a quick study.  You’ll do fine.”

“How about I race you?” he suggested. “Three are already disarmed.  That leaves nine and you’ve disconnected two and I managed one.  That leaves six between us.  First one done buys the other one a drink at Grimshaws.”

Intrigued, she smiled. “You’re on.”

Filled with newfound determination, they both went to work.

Halifax fired, pressed the actuation stud and nothing happened.  She shook her phaser and turned to Wren, “Dammit!  I’m out.”

Wren jostled hers as well. “Looks like I am, too.”

“We’d best set up our ambush points.  These idiots will be on us in a few minutes,” Halifax suggested.

They retreated down the hallway.  Wren tested a door on the right and it opened.  It seemed to be a multimedia room of some kind.  She left the door wide open and pressed up against the wall on the other side of the doorway.

Halifax went a little further so they’d be staggered and tried a door.  It opened into a den with an old-fashioned library filled with aged books.  She thought there must have been a fortune in manuscripts in there.

Shouts announced the arrival of the gunmen.  Neither Wren nor Halifax had ever gotten a good look at how many they’d stunned.  The whole criminal gang could be ambulatory and coming through the front door for all they knew.

Heavy footfalls sounded throughout the hall as the gunmen approached.  They heard doors opening and the footfalls seemed to decrease as doors opened.  Wren guessed there were three of them as they began to pass by her doorway.

A Talarian entered the room she occupied and called for the lights.  Wren launched herself at him as the lights came up.  She inverted the wrist of his gun hand and he cried out in pain.  A pair of footfalls came back to the doorway.

Wren stayed close to the Talarian as she pulled his disruptor out of his hand.  Unfortunately for her, he still had enough presence of mind to knock the pistol from her hands.  She was simply aware of the fact the other gunman was missing from the doorway.  Ascertaining that he wasn’t in the room with her, she grabbed hold of the Talarians’s arms and swept his legs out from underneath him.

Wren clamped an arm bar on the Talarian and pushed him down face first into the floor.  She wrapped her free arm around his throat and choked off his airway.  Knowing it took longer for a Talarian to succumb to such a move, she maintained the hold for ninety seconds and he slipped away into unconsciousness.  Afterwards, she bound his wrists behind his back with one of her last zip ties.  Retrieving the disruptor, she went to check on Halifax.

While Wren engaged the Talarian, Halifax came out of the den at a dead run and shoulder checked the Bajoran who’d been trying to enter.  Halifax was almost surprised to discover the Bajoran was female.  So far this had been a “men’s only” club of crooks. 

Seeing that another Bajoran stood in front of Wren’s hidey hole, she twisted the woman in front of her as the man targeted her.  Particle beams struck the Bajoran woman in the back.  Halifax was horrified to see the life die out of the Bajoran’s eyes yet she was also grateful that it wasn’t her.

She threw the body at the gunman and dove into the den.  The other Bajoran uttered several oaths that Halifax assumed were curses in his native tongue.  He ran to the den’s doorway and unleashed dozens of shots into it.  The smell of burnt leather and parchment filled the air.  Fires started on the bookshelves and the fire retardant system activated. 

As a hazy mist filled the space, the Bajoran called for the lights.  Halifax chose that moment to make her move.  She came into the Bajoran and kneed him in the groin.  He went down with a gurgle and she picked up his abandoned disruptor and shot him in each arm and leg.  She figured that would keep him busy and out of the way.

Halifax went to the doorway.  Leaning against the frame furthest away from the front door, she spotted Wren down the hall.  She’d been tucked into a move opposite of Halifax’s, trying to peer into the den.  Halifax gave her a thumbs up.  Wren flashed the same gesture.

Wren looked at her weapon’s power indicator.  It read that it a third of a charge left.  Apparently the Talarian was a tad trigger happy.  She flashed Halifax three fingers.

Halifax checked her charge.  She was only half empty.  She returned five fingers to Wren.  The Andorian nodded. She jerked her thumb towards the manor’s entrance and then gave Halifax a five count.  The commander knew she meant there were five foes that had cleared their rooms and were now approaching them.

Wren help up three fingers and nodded towards her hand.  Halifax nodded her agreement.  They’d go on her three count.  Halifax counted off slowly and then she and Wren opened fire on the gunmen cloistered in the hallway.


Please send feedback and other correspondence regarding this story to Brin_Macen at yahoo dot com.

"Decisions" Chapter Five by Charlynn Schmiedt

by Travis Anderson 

Wren and Vallis went to the closest of their two targets.  What they found was two warehouses occupying the same general city block.  From what they’d observed so far, a single warehouse generally dominated a block.

Wren looked bemused. “So, left or right?”

“Let’s start with left and move to right,” Vallis suggested.

Wren pursed her lips. “How human.”

“Excuse me?” Vallis yelped.

“Humans.  You’re so devoted to Federation standard script and reading from left to right it colors your perceptions,” Wren observed.

“Then let’s start with the one on the right,” Vallis offered.

“And change our plans?” Wren teased, “Heavens forefend.”

Vallis thought she was starting to appreciate the Andorian’s sense of humor.  She certainly had to thank Wren for her sense of propriety.  If not for Wren, she would never have exchanged fluids with Tom, and what a world of discovery that had been! 

Wren got them into the first storage facility.  There were stacks and stacks of cargo pods but they scanned as being empty.  Then in a corner of the warehouse, they came upon several rows of neatly stacked pods separated from the rest.  Wren used her tricorder and the readings were blank.

“These are shielded carriers,” she announced.

Before the Andorian could stop her, Vallis approached the nearest pods.  A couple lay slightly apart from their double stacked brethren.  She activated the release and the hatch opened.  Her mouth dropped open.

“Oh my!” she breathed.

Wren was obligated to take a look.  Inside the pod were racks of small arms and power packs.  There were enough rifles to equip half of her security force in this pod alone.  She turned to the pod next to it.  It had a completely different configuration.  In fact, it looked like a photon torpedo rack.

Wren opened the pod and her worst suspicions were confirmed.  Four Mark VII photons were suspended in cargo harnesses.  The Mark VII had been the vogue weapon of choice for Starfleet back in the late twenty-third century, but they were still highly potent even by today’s standards, and they were highly illegal for use by anyone outside of Starfleet or planetary militias.

“Well, while this is certainly a surprise, it isn’t what we’re looking for,” Wren said ruefully.

“But who are they meant for?” Vallis asked.

Wren plucked up a PADD and began perusing its contents.  It listed dozens of cargo pods all similarly stocked.  But there was no buyer listed.  Hell, there wasn’t even a supplier.

“I don’t know,” Wren admitted. “Mark this location on the PADD and let’s check out the neighboring warehouse.”

A clattering noise had them both whirling about and drawing their weapons.  The problem with a Type I phaser was that while it was concealable, its diminutive power pack couldn’t support a sustained firefight. 

They heard voices and Wren began backing Vallis out towards the closest exit.  They slipped behind some pods to get to the door and they heard voices raised as the latecomers discovered the opened pods.  The Starfleet officers slipped out and briskly headed for the neighboring warehouse.

Wren jimmied the door and they entered the second facility.  Vallis stopped Wren.

“Shouldn’t we do something about those rifles and torpedoes?” she asked.

“We will,” Wren assured her. “As soon as the Gandhi returns and I have some support, I’ll tear this colony apart looking for the sellers and the buyers.  In the meantime though, we have the isolytics to worry about.  The Cardassians cannot be allowed to acquire them.”  And then Wren shrugged, “Besides, how do we know the buyer isn’t legit?”

“If you were legitimate, would you be shopping here?” Vallis argued.

Wren winced. “Okay, so that theory is a little weak.”

Vallis looked around. “This place is empty.”

Wren shared a wry grin, “I had noticed that.  I’m just giving our neighbors time to cool off.”

“Where did the isolytic weapons come from?” Vallis suddenly asked.

“What do you mean?” Wren wondered.

“Who built them?” Vallis clarified, “If it is the Orion Syndicate, I’ve never heard of them running isolytics before.  Do you think they’re a domestic product?”

Wren shared what Borien’s investigation had yielded. “If they are, they altered the warp signature enough to mask their trademark subspace signature.”

“So it isn’t the Orions,” Vallis guessed.

“No, that just might mean they didn’t build them,” Wren corrected her, “although that still doesn’t narrow down who the manufacturer could be.”

“I’m just surprised that Commander Borien wasn’t able to get those answers from our captured bombs,” Vallis admitted.

“You mean the same bombs we’re currently missing?” Wren asked dryly.

“Um…yeah,” Vallis conceded.

“Don’t worry. Whether Commander Halifax and Riker find them first or we do, we will find them,” Wren assured her.

“This isn’t the place, Commander,” Riker reported as he closed down his tricorder. “There aren’t any isolytics in this housing quad.  The mere fact that I can scan the interior is pretty indicative that it isn’t the site.”

“Scan it again,” Halifax ordered anyway.

Riker gave her an askance glance but he didn’t protest.  He just activated his tricorder and walked around the city block dominating housing unit.  As he disappeared around the corner, Halifax cursed the cold.

Freshly fallen snow covered the streets and sidewalks.  A cold wind had kicked up since dawn and frankly, Halifax was chilly.  Of course, she mused, if I were walking around the building a few times I probably wouldn’t be half as cold.

This was Riker’s fourth circuit around the quad.  Each time, he had produced the same results.  She’d accepted them after the second go around but now she was merely teaching the bastard a lesson.  He needed to learn respect, and if she was going to have to smack him around until he learned some, then so be it.  Hell, if she had to physically beat it into him, she would.

Halifax shook herself.  Where had that come from?  She knew she hadn’t felt this strongly before Riker and Vallis’ tryst last night.  Was she so shaken up over Boerhoven that she was just having a knee-jerk reaction to any of her subordinates engaging in intimate relations?

No! She defiantly declared to herself.  She wasn’t overreacting.  Riker was a potential disciplinary problem and she was going to quash said problem even before it arose.

She saw him returning and he wore the same resigned expression that he had since completing his secondcircuit.  This time, like every other, he thrust the tricorder out towards her, “Care to oversee the results, ma’am?”

“I trust your ability, Lt. Riker,” she said haughtily.

His eyes called her out with a well placed, Bullshit!  Aloud, he reported the same thing he had three times before.  Halifax was tempted to send him forth again just for the look in his eyes.  Yet, he wasn’t being disrespectful.  His analysis was actually right on target.  Should she punish him merely for being right about her?  Yes! A distant corner of her mind railed.

“Let’s move on to the second site,” Halifax ordered.

She could feel the relief eking off of Riker but his face was an impassive mask.  Halifax was pleased despite herself.  Perhaps he could be broken and taught after all.  She had her doubts though.  He had eight years of isolation to contend with.  Years of utter self reliance where the chain of command did not exist.  Riker’s chief problem was self-sufficiency. 

Add to that the complex he had over being duplicated.  He just couldn’t accept that he was the duplicate.  Commander Riker deserved the life he’d earned while Lt. Riker shouldn’t even exist, so he should simply be grateful to be alive and accept whatever scraps Starfleet doled out.

Halifax suddenly stopped mid-stride at that thought.  She wondered where it had come from.  Riker had overshot her and was coming back.  He looked concerned.

“Problems?” he inquired.

His obvious concern over her well being made her cheeks burn.  Fortunately, the wind and the cold covered that fact up.  She shook her head.

“Nothing,” she asserted.  She could see he didn’t quite believe her, so she decided to flex her authoritative muscles. “Let’s get moving.”

Riker complied and they went further down the street.  Turning at a cross street, they proceeded down several blocks of residential units.  They finally came to a large, gated-off manor house.  Riker stopped and gave it an appraising look.

Halifax couldn’t quite believe it. “This is it?”

He double-checked his PADD. “Yup, this is it.”

Halifax was having a hard enough time believing such a structure even existed on Hadon II.  It bespoke of wealth — A degree of wealth that was utterly lacking throughout the rest of the colony.

The house stood at least three stories tall and had dormered windows on a steepled roof.  There were only a few lights shining on the bottom floor.  Heavy curtains kept the interior out of sight, yet a halo of light indicated there were occupants.

“Sensor readings?” Halifax found her voice.

“It’s shielded,” Riker said as though that were condemnation enough.

She was strangely hesitant all of a sudden. “There could be a reasonable explanation for that.”

“Commander, the only reason to shield a structure from sensors is to hide what’s inside,” Riker said with obvious eagerness.

“And privacy is a right that is guaranteed in the Federation.  Or have you forgotten that?” Halifax snapped.

“No ma’am,” he said forcefully, “but I happen to think the Commander agrees with me.  She may just be afraid to authorize an incursion.”

Halifax set her jaw defiantly but he had her.  After a moment of quelling her anger, she tried a new tactic: “We’ll pull back to that deli that we ran into two blocks back and spend some time observing the premises.  We can note any traffic and capture imagery of anyone that goes in or out.”

“What about Wren and Vallis?” Riker inquired, somewhat mollified by the idea.

“I’ll spare a couple of minutes to get a sitrep and direct them here if they haven’t found a better target,” Halifax informed him.

“Okay, sounds like a good idea,” Riker conceded.

“I’m so happy you approve, Lieutenant,” Halifax dryly replied.

They got coffee and sandwiches from the proprietor of the deli and sat outside.  Personally, Halifax thought that any customers that typically enjoyed the outside seating had to be crazy.  If her duty didn’t compel her to, she certainly wouldn’t.  Then again, I could just leave Riker out here by himself, she mused.  Dismissing the idea, she contacted Wren.

Wren reported that the two assigned warehouses were clean.  There was a third, though, that might have illegal cargo.  Halifax asked for details.

“We’re being tracked, remember?” Wren said. “Give us your coordinates and we’ll join you.”

Halifax relayed the coordinates and she and Riker refilled their coffees while Wren and Vallis trudged across town.  They eventually arrived, chagrined to be excluded out of a meal.

Halifax ordered them to grab some coffee and sandwiches.  The ladies gratefully obeyed.  Later, after they wolfed down the food and refilled their cups, Wren asked if Halifax and Riker had spotted anyone.

“No,” Halifax admitted. “Whoever is in there is content to stay holed up.”

“I don’t blame them,” Vallis shivered.

Wren suddenly grinned as she went for another bagel sandwich and coffee. “Who would have ever thought we’d run across a kosher deli on a planet like this?”

When she returned with a full plate and an even fuller cup, she wondered, “You can’t scan the building?”

“They have complete sensor shrouds in place,” Riker explained.

“But they don’t have any active sensor sweeps in place either?” she asked between mouthfuls.

“You’re on to something,” Halifax realized.

“They’re using something other than standard sensors to ensure their security.  Whatever it is, we may be able to spoof and get to the door before they realize we’re there,” Wren thought aloud. “Get me to the location and I’ll be able to spot what they’re using.”

They eventually moved out and brought Wren and Vallis to the entrance of the manor house.  Wren immediately spotted the infrared eyes and motion sensors.  She chuckled.

“This is so twentieth century it isn’t even funny,” she opined.

“What about visual monitors?” Halifax asked.

Wren looked around and spotted the orbs under the eaves. “Commander, we’re blown.”

“Then prepare to breach,” Halifax ordered.

“Ma’am?” Ensign Orwatt at Ops spoke, “Sensors mark a Cardassian Galor-class cruiser entering the Hadon system.”

“Is she running ID?” Moneii was curious as to whether the Cardassian commander had silenced their transponder or was just brazen enough to leave it on.

“It’s up and running,” Orwatt answered. “She’s marked as the Grimpett.”

“Helm, plot an intercept course,” Moneii ordered.  She tapped a control on her armrest. “All hands, yellow alert.”

“They’ve detected us…and they’re hailing,” Orwatt reported.

“Maintain intercept but put their transmission on the main viewer.”  Moneii was almost startled to see that her potential foe was Gul Ocett.  Malyn Ocett was one of a handful of Cardassian women to reach the rank of gul.  Rumor had it, when she’d commanded a system cutter, she’d been the one to discover and recognize the potential worth of the lifeform later known as Odo.

“Gul Ocett, this is an honor,” Moneii offered.

Ocett broke into a wry smile. “I see my reputation precedes me.”

“Yes, and so does your propensity to wander about,” Moneii fired the first verbal salvo. “Tell me, what business do you have in Federation space?”

“My crew and I are on a surveying mission and we were suffering some equipment failures.  We sought out Hadon II as a source for replacements,” Ocett said smoothly.

“I wasn’t aware that the Central Command undertook such missions.  From all reports, you leave that sort of thing to civilians,” Moneii countered.

“Times change,” Ocett replied. “We enjoy a peace now.  Idle hands make for mischief.”

“True enough,” Moneii agreed. “I’ll tell you what.  We’ll escort back to the border and we’ll supply whatever equipment you need.”

“Cardassian and Federation technologies are incompatible,” Ocett said flatly.

“We’ve learned wonders at Deep Space Nine,” Moneii stated. “It seems we have more in common than was commonly perceived.”

“I rather doubt that,” Ocett said disdainfully.

“Ideas like that led to our last war,” Moneii chastised her. “In fact, your very presence here is provocative.  Misunderstandings frequently lead to hostilities.  Unless of course, that is actually your intent?”

“What do you mean, Captain?” Ocett was finally openly hostile.

“The border was firmly established by our recent treaty.  You’re way out of bounds, unless of course, you’d like to show us your navigation logs and demonstrate how you got lost,” Moneii offered yet another alternative.

“We are not lost.” Ocett grated at this slight upon her competence. “We are here for equipment.”

“And I’ve offered to give you some.  My engineers will work with your people and tailor it to your needs,” Moneii explained. “But you can throw any intentions that you have for reaching Hadon II out of your mind.  We will escort you back to the border, by force, if necessary.”

“And what would happen to your precious peace then?” Ocett scoffed.

Moneii was truly disappointed. “It’s your peace too, Gul Ocett.  I’ll give you thirty minutes to decide.”

“To decide what?” Ocett was still stubbornly trying to bluff her way through to Hadon.

“If you haven’t reversed course and started back for the Cardassian border in thirty minutes, I will disable your vessel and board her,” Moneii revealed.  Seeing Ocett’s eyes bulge, she elaborated, “You are in foreign territory in violation of the terms of our mutual peace treaty.  Now how would you react if I crossed the border?”

Moneii terminated the transmission.  Boerhoven turned to her. “Was that the wisest move?  Shouldn’t we have forced her to turn back now?”

“If we were to, she’d fight,” Moneii read the situation. “However, if she has time to think about it she’ll have time to wonder about how much of her mission we are fully aware of.  She’ll report back to the Central Command and they, in turn, will order her to cut her losses and withdraw.”

“And if they decide to reinforce her instead?” Boerhoven wondered.

“Then we have trouble,” Moneii admitted. “Make no mistake about it, Commander.  If Ocett doesn’t reverse course in thirty minutes time, I will engage her.”

“Here’s hoping it doesn’t come to that,” he said.

Moneii agreed with him inwardly.  Her thoughts drifted towards her away team.  They’d received only one transmission in the last twenty hours.  Were they still all right?  She supposed she’d find out soon enough, one way or another.


Please send feedback and other correspondence regarding this story to Brin_Macen at yahoo dot com.

"Decisions" Chapter Four by Charlynn Schmiedt

by Travis Anderson

“She said what?” Halifax exploded after Riker had returned with their meals and explained what had transpired.

“She said the Cardassians were the buyers,” Riker repeated…again.

Wren was curiously studying the padd.  She’d taken scans of it as soon as Riker returned.  She’d told Halifax she had run down the woman’s ID as soon as they returned to the Gandhi.  Halifax had darkly muttered they might need to apprehend the stranger before then.

“There’s a map of the colony on here,” Riker pointed out, trying to retrieve the padd from Wren’s clutches.  She was having none of it and perused the data display herself.

“He’s right,” she announced.

“They’re listed as potential locations for storing the warheads,” he shared.

Wren looked at Halifax. “He’s right again.”

“Should we trust this mystery woman?” Halifax wondered aloud, soliciting input.

“It’s the best lead that we have,” Wren shared, “and like I said, I have her biometric data and genetic samples to use to track her down later.”

Halifax turned to Riker. “Can we trust this woman?”

“She isn’t hiding much.  There was a note of desperation in her voice and in her eyes as she described the Cardassians getting these weapons,” Riker stated. “If she’s right about their targets and their motives, I could see why she’d be afraid.  The targets are all populated areas.”

Halifax had noted that as well. “Ensign, do you have anything to contribute?”

“I say we take her at her word,” Vallis spoke up.

Halifax was intrigued. “And why is that?”

“The woman, Kalinda, took a risk.  It was a calculated one to be sure, but she stepped out to approach us when it would have been safer to stay out of it and try and deal with the problem alone, like Tom suggested,” Vallis opined.

Halifax stumbled over Vallis calling Riker “Tom.” “Are you certain that’s your only motive?”

“Yes,” Vallis asserted with some confusion. “Why wouldn’t it be?”

“The four sites are clustered into two groupings,” Riker observed. “We could split up and scout out those locations.”

Halifax looked to Wren, who nodded.  She accepted the recommendation and ran with it. “We’ll split into two teams of two.”

“I suggest Lt. Riker escort Ensign Vallis,” Wren suddenly put in.

Halifax stifled a groan.  It was obvious that Wren liked Riker and was trying to play matchmaker.  Their pairing up in the other room should have satisfied that impulse. 

“The Ensign needs someone of your experience to assist her,” Halifax insisted of Wren.

The security chief wisely backed down. “Yes, ma’am.”

“Riker, if we find the weapons depot, can you get us inside of it?” Halifax inquired.

He grinned confidently. “I sure can.”

She turned to Wren. “Could you do the same?”

“Probably, but I’m not on par with Tom,” Wren admitted with some chagrin.

Again with the “Tom,” Halifax thought sourly.  She knew she should be happy since one of her reservations about him was that he’d isolated himself from the rest of the crew.  He was stretching out now, and yet she was uneasy.

“Then after we’ve examined the four sites, we’ll regroup at the primary site, assuming there’s only one, and scout it out,” Halifax ordered.

“What about the Gandhi?” Riker asked. “Captain Moneii needs to know that the Cardassians could be arriving soon.”

Halifax nodded.  It was a good point.  She nodded to Wren.  The Andorian peeked through the closed curtains.

Halifax tapped her comm badge.  The signal linked her badge to the Precarious’ subspace transmitter and it activated.  Transmitting into space, it bounced a signal through the system’s subspace relay network.  She requested a connection with Moneii and was grateful when the captain replied.

Commander, are you and the away team all right?  We’ve been growing concerned,” Moneii spoke.

“Captain, the buyers are presumably Cardassian.  Repeat, the buyers are Cardassian.  They’ll be in-system within the next twenty-four hours.  Our signals are being monitored and tracked.  Halifax out.” She terminated the connection.

“That was quick,” Riker commended her.

Halifax turned to Wren. “Anything?”

“There’s movement at the end of the street.  About a dozen toughs with some kind of lupine creatures.” Wren described what she saw. “They’re waving a radial around.  They seem to have lost the signal.”

“Won’t they just come here?” Vallis nervously asked.

“There are three flophouses on this block,” Halifax reminded her. “That’s why we chose this street.”

“They’re moving off,” Wren said to everyone’s relief. “Night’s fallen and they don’t seem too happy to be out in it.  I guess searching three boarding houses versus holing up in a tavern has a clear winner.”

“All right, we’ll hole up here for the night,” Halifax allowed.

“I guess that’s my cue to leave,” Riker chuckled.  As he excused himself, Halifax took Vallis aside.

“Be careful, Ensign.  Remember Starfleet’s code of conduct at all times,” Halifax urged.

Vallis left with a rather puzzled look on her face.  Meanwhile, Wren was trying to choke down laughter.  Halifax snapped at her.

“This is all your fault, you know!” she accused.

Wren held up her hands in surrender. “Let nature take its course, Megan.  If anything untoward happens, maybe it’s best to leave it alone.”

“And if they end up hating each other,” Halifax wanted to know, “that’ll make for some long watches.

“Sort of like you and Boerhoven?” Wren asked pointedly.

“Yes.” Halifax loathed admitting it. “I dipped into my chain of command and it cost me and the ship.”

“I hate to bring it up, Megan, but Karl was being transferred regardless if you two shagged or not.  He got promoted.  Don’t begrudge him his promotion,” Wren advised.

“Why do you like him?” Halifax blurted.

“Who?” Wren asked, “Tom or Karl?”

“Riker,” Halifax grated.

“He’s got promise.  He’s bright, enthusiastic, charismatic, and he’s making the best of a situation even after Starfleet gave him the shaft,” Wren explained.

“He told you that?” Halifax scented blood in the water.

“No, Elizabeth Mayweather did,” Wren clarified.

“Oh, there’s a fount of unbridled truth,” Halifax quipped.

Wren grinned. “She actually got most of her facts straight in this one.  Her interpretations leave a lot to be desired, but she got the basics down this time.”

“So tell me what you really think of him,” Halifax invited her.

Wren shared.

In their room, Riker and Vallis sat down.  He took a chair that occupied an old fashioned writing desk and straddled it.  He turned it so that he could face Vallis, who sat at the edge of her bed.  He noticed she seemed off.  Not noticeably nervous, but she was distracted by something.

“Penny for your thoughts,” Riker offered.

Vallis suddenly came back into focus. “A what?”

“A penny,” he smiled. “On Earth, in Anglo-American countries, it was a form of currency.  Sort of like strips of latinum today.”

“So it was worth a lot?” she wondered.

He shook his head and chuckled. “No, it was next to worthless.”

She smiled. “Not much of a bribe then.”

“All kidding aside, what’s on your mind?” he asked.

“You, actually,” she admitted.

“Should I be flattered or worried?” he inquired.

“Earlier you said you grew up somewhere on Earth called Alaska.  Tell me about it,” she requested.

He spoke to her of frigid winters and how people traveled by snowshoe and skimobile.  They used air transports to get to most places because wheeled and tracked vehicles bogged down in the snow, ice, and mud.  Then he described the grand vistas and the seemingly endless forests.  He moved to the summers and the copious waterways and lakes. 

“It was probably considered pretty rugged to most people on Earth, but it was home.  Our house had its own fusion reactor, so we were set for power.  My dad was away a lot, so I was always prowling about, getting into mischief,” he opted to disclose as well.

“I don’t have any memories like that,” she said wistfully.

“What’s your planet like then?” Riker wondered.

She smiled warmly. “It’s a lot like what you described, only a lot less snow.  What I meant is, I didn’t have a childhood.  I emerged from the lab force grown to a relative age of eighteen years with my education imprinted into me.  I already had a job lined up and all I had to do was pick a name and accept both.”

“Of course, they kept me pretty close to the lab for the first six months.  They had to determine if I was genetically viable.  The cloning stock had degraded so much that most Vallises weren’t viable anymore.  Everyone was afraid because they saw the collapse of our culture looming over us.” She brightened suddenly, “And that’s when the Enterprise came.  Captain Picard had rescued the other colony founded by the SS Mariposa and brought its inhabitants to us.  By combining the Bringloidi into our society, we staved off extinction.”

“And rediscovered fluid transfers,” he smirked.

“Yes, there was that too.  Every woman needed to take four to six husbands.  Frankly, I didn’t know what to do with one, so I left on the next transport that came by,” Vallis revealed.

She hesitated before plunging on. “I actually met your ‘brother’ while he toured our colony.  He spoke some pleasantries at me and went on his way.  The team sent down to find us was the first group of naturally born humans I’d ever met.  I have to admit I didn’t know what to make of them.”

“But the little I learned about Starfleet captivated me,” Vallis confessed. “To have the opportunity to move from world to world and see indescribable diversity?  That sounded like a dream come true.”

She smiled slyly, “And I have to confess, I thought your brother was beautiful.”

Riker smiled. “Most men prefer to be called ‘handsome.’”

“Whatever,” she said dismissively. “I found both of you to be beautiful.”

“You think I’m beautiful?” he asked, wondering where this conversation was suddenly leading.  He felt a slippery slope sliding out from underneath.

“Yes,” she asserted defiantly, “I don’t care if you want to be called ‘handsome.’ I think you’re beautiful.”

“Thank you,” he replied. “Why the sudden ‘true confessions?’”

“Tell me about fluid transfers,” she suddenly demanded.

“Well, I’ll try to explain everything as best as I can,” he began.

Vallis waved him off. “No, I understand the mechanics.  My education implants took care of that.  I want to know about the experience.”

Riker shook his head. “I don’t think I can.”

“Really?” she asked imploringly.

“I’d have to show you and you could make up your own mind,” he suggested.

“Okay,” she said blithely, “how do we do that?”

He rose from the chair came to stand before her. “We start with the basics.”

“How?” she asked as he coaxed her off of the bed.

He leaned down and kissed her.  She tentatively responded but she looked rather downcast when he pulled away. “Was that it?”

“Try opening your mouth,” he suggested with a grin and leaned back down.  Their mouths met and suddenly Vallis came alive.  After a few seconds she gripped him and tried to pull him in as though she were about to absorb him into herself.

Riker smiled as he pulled back. “That’s better.  What do you think?”

“I like that,” she confessed. “I’m not to sure about the other parts, but I definitely want to do that again.”

“It’s called a kiss,” Riker explained.

“Would you kiss me again?” Vallis requested.

“Of course.” He readily complied.  When he pulled away, this time he whispered into her ear, “So, do you still like it?”

“Are all fluid transfers like this?” she asked in a husky voice.

“They get even better,” he promised.

“Well, I guess you’re going to have to show me,” she coyly suggested.  He leaned back so he could see her face.  She winked at him, “After all, how else will I decide if I like them or not?”

Riker grinned and began showing her everything he knew about fluid transfers.

The next morning, he stepped outside of their room to get some coffee.  Wren was out there too, watching him with some amusement.

“So, how was your evening?” she asked, despite her eyes revealing that she already knew the answer.

Riker instantly knew that she knew what had happened between he and Vallis.  She’d turned out to be a bit of a screamer and he had no idea how thin or thick the walls were.  Still, he opted to bluff his way out.

“It was pleasant,” he downplayed the events of the evening, which had gone on for hours.

“Oh, it sounded much more impressive than ‘pleasant,’” Wren chuckled. “One might even call it ‘momentous.’”

Riker hung his head and Wren decided to share one last zing. “You friend has some lung power.”

“Are you done?” Riker groaned.

“I just have one word of advice: Make certain you both know where you stand this morning.  If I’m guessing correctly, it was her first time and you may have completely different intentions at this point.  Don’t let things hang in limbo because that’ll ruin whatever friendship you’ve already forged with the lady,” Wren advised.

Riker eyed her in a new light. “When did you become so wise?”

Wren laughed. “I’m Andorian.  It takes four of us to come together and make a baby.  That’s a huge balancing act.  Not just of time and schedules but of egos and intentions.”

“And have you made a baby?” Riker wondered.

“Yes,” Wren confided, “but I’m not the birther so I didn’t have to carry anything to term.  But I played my part and I helped conceive a child.”

“Boy or a girl?” Riker asked. “Or do your people even qualify to those standards?”

“We had a boy, or at least a member of one of the two male sexes that Andorians have.  Andorians also come in two female sexes.  That’s as close to human biology that I can frame it,” she explained.  

Riker came back to the original topic. “Does Halifax know about Annalise and I?”

Wren looked downcast. “Yes, and she’s chewing deuterium.”

Riker sighed, “Thanks for the warning.  Want anything for breakfast?”

Wren smiled again. “I was about to head down myself, so I’ll join you.  I’ll keep Megan busy while you hash things over with Annalise.”

Riker returned to his shared room with coffee and a scone for Vallis. 

“Here you go,” he said cheerfully. “They didn’t have much in the way of selection, but this should cover the basic carb requirements.”

“Thanks,” she met his cheerfulness with her own.  She munched on her scone for moment before mentioning, “Thank you for last night.  I had no idea.  I can’t wait to try this out with Mark, or Alfonso, or Darien.”

Riker almost choked on his coffee. “Really?”

“Yeah, they’ve all offered to show me about fluid transfers but I’m glad it was you that did it.  I trust you.  I feel comfortable with you in ways that I don’t with the other guys.”

“But you want to sleep with them?” Riker was reeling.

“No, I want to exchange fluids with them,” she corrected him. “I don’t think sleep will factor into it.  Not if last night was any indicator.”

Riker was thrilled that he didn’t have to explain recreational sex.  She seemed to have mastered that concept with her first outing.  But it sort of hurt his feelings that she didn’t want to pursue him further.

There was a knock on the door and Riker opened it.  Wren was standing outside wearing a wry expression. “Commander Halifax wants to see you now.”

“Understood. Will you wait here with Annalise?” he requested.

“Certainly,” Wren assured him.

That having been said, Riker marched off to his doom.

“What the hell were you thinking?” Halifax shouted at him.

Riker didn’t even flinch. “My actions were warranted.”

“How can you say that?” Halifax growled.

“She specifically asked me to engage in sexual activities with her.” Riker decided bald faced honesty was the best approach here.

“What does she know?” Halifax retorted, “She’s a sexual infant.  Until last night, she’d never even had intercourse.”

“That may be true, but she wanted to know what it was like and I was honored to be her first,” Riker declared.

“I’m about two seconds away from writing you up for conduct unbecoming,” Halifax warned.  She moved away to the other side of the room and then turned. “What are you intentions now?”

“I was just speaking to Ensign Vallis about that when you sent for me,” Riker admitted.

“And?” Halifax queried him. “Weigh your answer carefully, mister.”

“Ensign Vallis gave me a list of fellow officers that she’d like to exchange fluids with,” he announced.

Halifax’s jaw dropped. “She did?”

“Ensign Vallis is a grown woman with much more emotional maturity than she’s been assumed to have,ma’am,” Riker said smartly.

“Don’t get an attitude with me,” Halifax warned him. “You’ve got an attitude, mister.  And I intend to drum it out of you.”

“Maybe the Commander is wasting her time,” Riker riposted.

“Just what is eating at you, Riker?” Halifax finally asked.  He’d been surprised no one had dared to ask until now. “Was it that you were stranded for eight years?  Because if it is, boo hoo.  Starfleet did what they could and pulled you out of there as soon as they humanly could.  That’s the hand fate dealt you, so suck it up and deal with it.”

“I knew Starfleet couldn’t reach me for eight years.” For the first time, anger laced Riker’s voice. “I spent every day trying to survive and hold on for that magical day.  I don’t know if this has ever happened to you, but when I was rescued I found an exact copy of myself leading the party.”

His jaw set and he spoke again. “I wasn’t happy with that fact, but I dealt with it and moved on.  To theGandhi, to be precise.  Am I happy?  Define happiness.  I’m alive and I’m free of Nervalla.  However, one important consideration was overlooked.  Commander Will Riker received his initial promotion to Lt. Commander based upon his gallantry on Nervalla IV.  There was only one Riker when those events occurred, which means I participated in them, too.  However, the recovered Will Riker received the promotion and when I was recovered I was overlooked.”

“Should I be singing a maudlin tune?” Halifax asked acerbically.  “Let me tell you, mister.  You’re actionshave been considered —  to the point that you were a candidate for second officer.  As you know, Lt. Commander Boerhoven has been promoted and made first officer of the Potemkin, a ship I’m certain you clearly remember.  That means his position is open.”

“And I was a candidate?” Riker said with resignation.

“You might be still,” Halifax declared, “but you have the rest of this mission to prove you’re not what I currently think you are.”

“May I ask what that is?” Riker inquired.

Halifax’s eyes narrowed. “I believe you are a complete egoist who is a threat to both his crewmates and the service.  Plain enough?”

“Perfectly clear,” Riker said.  Halifax appreciated the maturity and professionalism he exhibited while receiving that news.

“Now get Wren and Vallis in here so they can stop leaning against the wall to listen in,” Halifax instructed.


Please send feedback and other correspondence regarding this story to Brin_Macen at yahoo dot com.

"Decisions" Chapter Three by Charlynn Schmiedt

by Travis Anderson

As the away team wandered the colony’s snow-laden streets, Wren seemed enchanted.  Riker also seemed in his element while Halifax and Vallis were decidedly cold.  Wren nudged Riker with her elbow playfully.

“So why aren’t you pretending you’re dying like our two lady friends?” she asked. “I know why I’m not.  This is like being back on Andoria but what’s your deal?”

“I grew up in Alaska,” Riker said as if that explained everything.

Wren looked confused. “I’ve never heard of that planet.”

Riker grinned. “It’s not a planet.  It’s place on Earth.  It’s part of what used to be the United States of America.”

“And it’s like this?” Wren wondered.

“The winters are actually colder than this,” he assured her.

She smiled wistfully. “I wish I could have visited it.  We spent all our time on Earth in San Francisco except for survival courses in the Sahara Desert and Antarctica.  Antarctica wasn’t bad.  The penguins were rather cute.  But the Sahara?  Worst place imaginable.”

“I’ll have to take you some time,” Riker offered.

“Why Mr. Riker, are you flirting with me?” she teased.

“Maybe,” he teased back.

“You are aware that Andorians come in four sexes, of which I am only one?” she asked.

“But you are female?” Riker asked, wondering if he’d been under the wrong impression.

“Yes, but maybe I’m not the right type of female for you,” she answered enigmatically.

“We’d have to see,” Riker suggested.

“There it is!” Vallis suddenly blurted as she pointed at a hanging sign over a doorway.

“Thank God,” Halifax muttered.

They approached the establishment ad Wren went in first, followed by Riker.  Halifax and Vallis followed after a moment’s peace.  There hadn’t been any trouble as their teammates entered, so they ventured onward.

It was a roomy establishment contrary to its impression from the outside.  There were thirty to forty people in it.  They were a varied lot.  Races from across the quadrant were represented.  They all shared one attribute though: They were happy to be in from the cold.

Wren seemed to be the only put out by the roaring fireplace.  She turned to Halifax, “I’ll find us a table.”

While Riker, Vallis, and Halifax milled about, a patron approached Vallis and offered to buy her a drink.  Riker intercepted him and shooed him away.  Vallis seemed both appreciative and insulted all the same.

“Where would the harm be in it?” she asked.

He gave her a wry look. “He just wanted a fluid transfer.”

Wren overheard this as she approached and she snickered.  Halifax looked lost.  Lost and miffed that she hadn’t received similar attention yet.

Wren led them to the table she’d scouted.  Halifax settled in and asked Vallis what this “fluid transfer” business was about, so Vallis explained her origins and her views on natural reproduction.

“We should all be so enlightened,” Halifax murmured.  Seeing Wren’s imploring look, she stipulated, “Yes, you can order drinks but make them synthales.  We need to be focused.”

“Don’t worry, Commander.  You’re focused enough for all of us,” Wren jibed as she went to the bar.  If the Andorian noticed Halifax’s responding glare, she ignored it.

Halifax thought about Vallis’ revelation.  It explained her camaraderie with Riker. Since they shared similar origins, she saw him as non-threatening.  However, Halifax wasn’t as certain that Riker didn’t have intentions of his own.

Wren returned with a tray bearing four glasses slopping over with synthale.  Halifax had to comment, “Lord Almighty, Wren, do you think you got enough in each glass?”

Wren grinned, “Blame the bartender.  He likes Andorians.”

“Which sex?” Halifax retorted.

Wren’s smile blossomed. “All of them.”

“Adventurous,” Halifax muttered as she took a sip of her drink.   

Wren quietly studied the crowd while the others engaged in conversation.  Riker and Vallis tried to draw Halifax out but she was abnormally reserved.  Riker couldn’t tell if it was personal or not.  Halifax was usually quite warm with her subordinates, but he and Vallis seemed to rub her the wrong way.  Him especially.  He wondered if she was even aware of that fact.

“Commander,” Wren said softly, “we’re not alone here.”

“Really, Wren?” Halifax lipped off, “I hadn’t noticed the crowd in here.”

“We’re being watched,” Wren said nonchalantly, “and don’t start looking around.  A group in the corner has been observing us since we came in.”

“Maybe we’re a sideshow?” Riker asked.  He certainly felt on display.

“No, they’re professionals,” Wren opined. “They’re not Starfleet caliber but they are seasoned and they know the basics of tradecraft.  It actually took me a couple of minutes to spot them.” 

“Who are they?” Halifax inquired a little more sharply than she’d intended, “Are they associated with the loading crew?”

“No.” Wren decided, “they’re a lot more subtle than that.  Particularly a women with violet hair.”

“A Boslic?” Riker asked.

Wren took a drink before answering, “I don’t know her species.  I’d guess she’s human and altered her hair color.”

“Unusual choice for someone trying to lay low,” Riker commented.

“Or maybe she’s trying to hide in plain sight, like us,” Halifax rebutted.

“No, she’s the expert among them,” Wren commented, “and she knows that we know it too.”

“What do you want to do about it?” Riker pointedly asked Halifax.

“We’re not jumping into an impulsive confrontation, Lieutenant,” Halifax warned, “so don’t even go there.”

“They’re moving,” Wren announced.

Riker watched as the men and women sauntered past and headed for the exit.  The woman with the violet hair was even younger than Vallis, but she moved with an air of certainty and purpose that startled Riker.  An older woman, closer to his age, shared that effect.  She was subtly directing the others.  Her eyes locked on his for a moment and something passed between them.  He wasn’t certain what it was, but there was a definite unspoken exchange.  It was like he was a book and she read him cover to cover in that moment.

“What the hell was that, Lt. Riker?” Halifax hissed.

“Excuse me?” he asked irritably.

“What was that look?” Halifax demanded to know.

“I have no idea,” Riker confessed.  He could tell Halifax was less than satisfied with that answer, but it was the best he could come up with.

They settled in to an uncomfortable silence.  An hour passed slowly and finally, Muscleman entered into the Grimshaw.  He spotted them and headed over to their table.

“Your story checked out,” he said without preamble. “We need you to unlock your cargo bay.  Your boys aboard have been…uncooperative.”

“Then I’ll need to give them a raise,” Halifax quipped. “One thing though, my crew needs to oversee the unloading.”

“Why?” Muscleman asked.

“Do you know what we’re hauling?” she sharply inquired.

“What do you think?” he retorted.

“I think you’re as ignorant as you are thick.  The cargo is volatile and we know how to disarm it.  You want to do that on your own?  Fine.  Have at it,” Halifax said dismissively.

Muscleman had given in, so they all went to the Precarious’ landing site.  The Starfleet team oversaw the offloading onto antigrav pallet hailed about by a vehicle resembling a Work Bee.  Halifax made to follow the Bee but Muscleman stopped her.

“No, you’re staying here.  We’ve got it now” He thrust a padd her way. “Imprint the transfer authorization and the latinum will be yours.”

“But I…” Halifax ceased her protest when she saw that two of the loading crew were staying behind and now brandished disruptors.

Muscleman followed her line of sight and chuckled, “My boys will leave as soon as we deliver the cargo.  You’ll stay here.  After all, we wouldn’t want to have to buy it twice.”

Suddenly she understood.  Their cover hadn’t been blown.  Muscleman, or more likely his employers, had taken her crew for what they seemed: unrepentant opportunists.  They weren’t allowed to follow the cargo for fear that they would steal it back and try to sell it again, this time to the highest bidder.

Halifax returned to the ship.  The Starfleet personnel headed inside and sealed the cargo ramp.  Wren immediately pulled out a tricorder and tracked the signal from the isolytics.  Tapping into the local navigation satellite, she overlapped a city map against the movements of the weapons.  Suddenly they disappeared.

“What the hell?” Halifax yelped.

“Damn,” Riker frowned, “They must have entered a shielded area.”

“So what do you suggest?” Halifax grated.

“We can follow the trail on foot and see about accessing the storage facility.  Once we’ve confirmed or denied the existence of the other weapons, we can exit and signal the Gandhi.  When we’re reinforced, we can apprehend the bosses of this little enterprise and get the buyer’s identity out if them,” Riker suggested.

Halifax hated to admit it but she was impressed.  It was a good idea.  She looked to Wren.  The Andorian was grinning ear to ear.

“Sounds good, Commander,” she opined.

“We’ll all go this time,” Halifax decided.

Crewmen Hosters and Westerly looked excited to finally leave the ship.  Ten minutes later, they were wishing they were back aboard.   Vallis was downright miserable and Halifax was trying to put on a brave front — The invulnerability of the commanding officer and all that.  Wren was in her element and Riker felt bad for the others.  Besides growing up in Alaska, he had eight years of wretched weather on Nervalla to acclimate him.

They reached the massive warehouse where the trackers had gone offline.  Footprints in the snow led a trail to the loading docks.  Halifax asked Wren to scout the area out.  Seeing her crewmen were convulsively shivering, she asked Riker to help her out.

The rounded the first corner to find nothing but a smooth wall facing them on one side.  They rounded it and found four people guarding a door.  They backtracked and Wren pointed out a secondary set of tracks that went to the wall and stopped.  She pulled out her tricorder.

She smiled slyly, “That’s what I thought.  A hidden door.”

“Can you get any scans of the interior?” Riker inquired.

“No, the shielding must be too thick even close up,” she replied.

“You know, I think I can spring the door,” he offered.

Her grin only grew. “I’ll get the others.”

They arrived to find Riker engaged with his tricorder.  Halifax studied the footprints that led to a seamless wall. “There’s nothing here.”

“It’s a hologram,” Riker informed her as a tapped a control.  The hologram faded, revealing a pressure door.  Beside the door was a control panel.  Riker studied it for several seconds and then began to utilize his tricorder again.

Accessing the door’s control circuit through a subspace connection, he instructed the door to open.  It slid aside with an audible hiss.  Halifax began to surge forward but Wren caught her.

“Crewmen Hosters and Westerly, front and center,” Wren ordered.  The security men entered in and Halifax followed them.  They’d entered only to discover the warehouse was vacant.  There wasn’t a single cargo pod to be found.

A particle beam cut through the air and burned a hole in Hosters’ chest.  Westerly began backing out, interposing himself between the unseen shooter and Halifax.  A second beam cut him down and Halifax barely made it through the door before a third shot zipped through the empty space where she’d been. 

Riker sealed the door and encrypted the activation cycle.  Potential assailants rounded the nearby corner.  They were the same fellows who had guarded the main door.  They waved their weapons around and ordered the away team to stand still.

Wren pulled her phaser out of her waistband and volleyed off a couple of shots.  Deciding to opt for the better part of valor, the guards disappeared around the corner.  Wren looked to Halifax.

“What now?” she asked.

“Now we get out of here and try to regroup,” Halifax ordered.

The team sprinted down the street, turned a corner, came around another and then ducked into an occluded alley.  It didn’t take long for a search party to make its way past.  One straggler barely jogged by and Wren nabbed him.

Using a choke hold, she kept the human from crying out.  When Riker gave the all clear signal, she released the man’s neck.  He threw a punch, which she deftly blocked.  She locked his wrist and slapped him into an arm bar.  The man made high pitched squeal.

“Shut up!” Wren ordered, “Or this will get painful.”

He started yelling for help so she pushed him down and drove her knee into his face.  Blood trickled out of his nose and he began gagging.  Halifax stepped closer and Wren backed her off with a glare.

“Pardon my saying so, Commander, but you may not want to be present for this,” Wren advised.

“At ease, Lieutenant!” Halifax snapped, “Release that prisoner.”

Wren reluctantly let go and Halifax began her interrogation. “How many are there?”

“Go screw yourself,” the man snapped.

Wren punched him in the face.  Halifax shot her warning and the tried again. “You’re antagonizing my security chief.  You know how Andorians are.  They don’t like to be antagonized.  Things that are legal in the treatment of prisoners on their world are highly illegal on others.  Should we pretend this is Andoria?”

Wren loomed ever closer.  Riker was keeping lookout while Vallis was making herself one with the shadows.  The man decided to play up to Halifax for no other reason than to avoid Wren.

“We’ve got men all over the colony.  They will find you,” he boasted.

“How many sensors do they have?” Wren cut in sharply.

“What?” The man was confused by the question.

“How many tricorders or other portable sensors do they have?” Halifax said with forced patience.

“None,” he smirked. “They don’t need them.  We have people surrounding your ship.  If anyone’s aboard and they come looking for you, boom!  If you go there, same story.”

“If you don’t have sensors, then how will they try and track us?” Halifax needed to know.

The man was insufferably pleased with himself now. “They got subspace detection gear.  You call out to your ship or another one in orbit or further out in the system, and we got you.”

Halifax frowned.  Their lives had just gotten harder.  She turned to Riker.

“Anyone out there?” she inquired.

“The streets are completely empty.  The locals must know enough to stay indoors,” he replied.

“What do we do with this vole,” Wren asked with contempt lacing her every word.

“We tie hum up and leave behind,” Halifax recommended. “They’ll find him eventually.”

Halifax got a worried look on her face, “We can tie him up, can’t we?”

“Sure,” Wren said grimly. “Tom, I need some of those zip ties you’re carrying.”

Riker handed over a handful and returned to his post.  Wren ripped off the lower section of her blouse.  Halifax was amused.

“Isn’t it a little cold to go mid-riff?” she asked.

Wren ignored her and approached the prisoner.  He began to try and swat her away.  She punched his increasingly pulpy nose again.  He doubled over in pain and she yanked his arms behind him and bound his wrists.  Next she kicked his legs out from underneath and bound his ankles as well.  She tied off the wrists to the ankles, effectively hog tying him.  She finished off by using the scrap from her shirt to gag him.

She stood up and wiped her hands off. “That should do it.”

“You’re a dangerous woman, Shwren ann’Deri,” Halifax realized.

“I just want to live another day,” the Andorian admitted.

“We still clear?” Halifax asked Riker.

“Crystal,” he said.

Halifax retrieved Vallis and they ventured into the streets.  It took several hours but they happened upon a boarding house.  The proprietor had two rooms available, so Halifax rented them.  Now came the hard part: Who would sleep with whom?

“Put Riker with Vallis,” Wren suggested as though she could read her commander’s mind.

“But what if…?” Halifax began to argue.

“It’ll do them both a world of good,” Wren asserted. “Besides, you heard of how she thinks of ‘fluid transfers.’  Where’s the harm?”

Despite her better judgment, she opted to go with Wren’s recommendation.  As Halifax delivered the news, Wren stood behind her and winked at Riker.  He wasn’t quite sure how to take that gesture.

First they gathered in Halifax and Wren’s shared room.  Halifax was pacing. “Just who the hell are these people?”

“I’d guess they’re Orion Syndicate,” Wren ventured.

“What makes you say that?” Riker wondered.

“Their small arms are of Orion manufacture,” Wren explained.

“That doesn’t mean much,” Halifax was loathe to admit. “Orions will sell to anybody.  Just like the Ferengi.”

“So what do we do?” Vallis wondered.  They were all surprised that she’d spoken.  She’d fallen into silence since they left the Grimshaw.

“I say I go pick up meals for everyone in the tavern below,” Riker offered. “Any requests?”

“Whatever they’re serving,” Halifax ordered.  Wren looked ready to argue and Halifax stressed, “We don’t want to draw attention to ourselves.”

“Like we haven’t already,” Wren muttered.

Halifax gave her a pained look and then shooed Riker, “Just go.  We’ll take whatever you get.”

Riker wandered down the hallway to the stairs and wound his way to the bottom floor.  Crossing the threshold he passed by the front desk and entered into the attached tavern.  When he stepped up to the bar, a rather bemused bartender eyed him.

“What’ll ya have, honey?” she asked with a slightly suggestive vibe.

“Do you have a menu?” he asked.

She pointed to a chalkboard. “Everything is listed right there.  Should I give you a moment?”

“Please,” he smiled.

She returned the smile. “Good.  When I get back, we can discuss what’s not on the menu.”

He watched her go down the line to another customer trying to reach across the taps and refill his drink.  Riker chuckled as she slapped the man’s hand.  His flailing hand groped her breast and he smiled giddily…until her right cross knocked him over. 

“Careful, Starfleet,” a feminine voice advised. “The local health codes aren’t up to your usual standards.  You might catch something.  That meal ticket has been served up to plenty of customers.”

He turned around to find the woman who’d eyed him at Grimshaw’s. “Forget your posse?”

“Oh, they’re around, but I figured it would just be the two of us so we could have a little chat,” she said with a confident smile.

“How do you figure that I’m Starfleet?” he wanted to know.

“It’s pathetically obvious who you and your herd of women really are,” she ventured. “You and the little Swiss Miss read like an open book.  The Andorian’s pretty sly but she’s a little too alert.  As for your CO, she’s got an unstable warp core rammed up her backside.”

“What is it you want?” he inquired while trying not to agree about Halifax.

Her smile grew appreciative. “Very smart.  Most would have asked who I was first.”

“I’m assuming by the way you watched us in the pub, and took off before trouble started, that you’d rather not tell me your name,” Riker surmised.

“As I said, smart.” He could tell she was enjoying herself.

“So that just leaves two options,” Riker stated.

“And they are?” she asked innocently.

“You’re here to help or you’re here to hand me over to the wolves,” he said.

“Well, I’m not much on handing over anyone to wolves so I guess I have to help,” she said.

“So who are your friends?” he repeated.

“Oh, I don’t think you’re ready for that particular answer.  Let’s just say that for now I’m on Starfleet’s side,” she suggested.

“Compared to normal?” he wondered.

She grinned. “Like I said, I don’t think you’re ready for the complete truth.”

“Then what truth am I ready for?” he returned the grin.

“You want the buyer for the isolytics.  I happen to know who that is.  Well, we know,” she amended at the end.

Riker was stunned and it showed.  She laughed, “Are you wondering why it’s so obvious or are wondering whether or not you should try and drag me off to your friends upstairs?”

“A little bit of both,” he admitted.

“If you want to know where my friends are, lay one finger on me and you’ll find out,” she advised. “As for why I want to help, I happen to know why the buyer wants them and where they’ll be used.”

“Let’s just imagine for a second that I’m buying into this,” Riker said. “Who’s the buyer?”

“The Cardassian Central Command,” she asserted.

“But why?” Riker was flummoxed. “The Cardassians can just build their own.  Why do they need to import them?”

“Because if they build them, the warp signatures will be unmistakably Cardassian.  They need plausible deniability.  They need to be able to say the detonations were malfunctions from a local player who shopped off world,” she explained.

“And who is the local player?” Riker inquired.  She just eyed him and he grimaced, “I’m not ready for that answer.  Yeah, I got it.”

“Look, you don’t have much time.  The Cardassians are coming,” she reiterated.

“This planet is in Federation territory,” Riker protested.

The woman snorted, “When has that ever stopped the Cardies?  Look, they don’t care about borders because everything belongs to them, or at least it should.”

This was spoken with such vehemence that Riker was momentarily taken aback. “Okay, let’s just say I have a starship nearby that can intercept them.”

“The Gandhi,” she inserted the name.

He was becoming seriously unnerved. “Why don’t you just deal with the problem yourself if you’re so high and mighty?”

She looked sad. “Because we’re not.  This time around, we’re just well informed.  And besides, this is aStarfleet-type problem and we’re definitely not Starfleet.”

“Then how can you help?” he wondered.

She slid a PADD across the tabletop his way. “This outlines everything.  Do with it what you will.”

She started to move away and he called after her, “How will I find you to thank you?”

She smiled over her shoulder at him. “I’ll be keeping an eye on you.  If the time is right, I’ll collect my thanks.  And just so you know, my name’s Kalinda.”

She strolled away and he looked at the PADD, perusing its contents. “Targets in the DMZ?”  He looked at where “Kalinda” had been.  This game was getting bigger all the time.


Please send feedback and other correspondence regarding this story to Brin_Macen at yahoo dot com.

"Decisions" Chapter Two by Charlynn Schmiedt

by Travis Anderson

“Well, Lieutenant, we can have your transport’s warp and impulse drives up in four hours,” Lt. Commander Orca Borien, the Gandhi’s Chief Engineer, informed him. “Give us another two hours and we can every system up and running.”

“What about the cloak?” Riker inquired.

Borien wore a sly smile. “You know cloaking technology is illegal in the Federation.”

Riker gave him a wry smirk. “Commander, what about this ship is legal?”

Borien nodded. “Good point.  I’ll see what I can do.  Between the warp core going down and the fusion reactor scramming, the cloak’s endured a lot of surges.  It may not be operable.”

“I’ll take what I can get,” Riker assured him.

Four hours later, Moneii assembled Commander Halifax, Wren, and Riker.  She wore a very dour expression. “It seems Admiral Ross likes your idea, Mr. Riker.  Therefore, under orders, I am authorizing this mission proposal.”

She nodded towards Halifax. “Commander Halifax will personally lead the mission.  Mr. Riker, since this fiasco was your idea, you’re tasked with being her deputy.  Lt. ann’Deri, you will assemble a security team and prepare to go undercover.”

Moneii steepled her fingers again.  Gazing over them, she gave them a flinty look. “We need a CONN officer and an engineer.  Any suggestions?”

 “I recommend Ensign Vallis,” Riker blurted out before Halifax could speak.

Moneii gave Halifax a glance.  The Commander gave an almost imperceptible nod.  Moneii put her clasped hands on her desk. “Very well.  Ensign Vallis it is.  You have some planning to do, so you are all dismissed.”

“Meet in briefing room two in forty-five minutes,” Halifax instructed Wren.  She then turned to Riker. “You.  Follow me.”

They exited the ready room and went straight for the turbolift.  Halifax maintained a composed silence.  Riker sensed she was merely presenting a pretense.  They headed into her office.  Upon entering, the door sealed and Halifax whirled on him.

“Why Vallis?  What aren’t you telling us?” she asked sharply.

“Ensign Vallis is not only a qualified helmsman, but she holds several PhD equivalents.  The majority of those are in engineering.  She had her choice between engineering and flight ops and she chose the CONN but she’s fully qualified for either position,” Riker shared.

“You seem to know quite a bit about Ensign Vallis,” Halifax observed. “That doesn’t fit your usual MO.”

“She recently shared her story with me,” Riker admitted. “That made me think of her when this mission first occurred to me.  I looked up her personnel file and found she was qualified for the task.”

“And that’s your only interest?” Halifax was dubious.

“Yes, it is,” Riker strongly asserted.

“Somehow I doubt that,” Halifax commented. “But she is an excellent recommendation, so I backed your play back there.  Don’t expect a freebie next time.”

Halifax stared him down. “And for the record, I am in command of this mission.  Is that fully understood?”

“Duly noted,” Riker assured her.

“You’re dismissed,” Halifax gruffly informed him. “See you in the briefing room in thirty-five minutes.”

“Aye, ma’am,” Riker said and departed. 

Halifax was left wondering where all of this would lead.

Halifax spent her time before the planning session pouring over Vallis’ records.  The clone had completed Starfleet Academy in just two years instead of the usual four.  She’d challenged every academic course and passed them all so she didn’t have to attend classes.  She’d concentrated on command track courses and flight operation training.  Riker had been right.  She was imminently qualified to both pilot the Precariousand to disarm the isolytic weapons — if they found any.

Halifax had her doubts regarding that.  It seemed too coincidental that they found the transport in the first place, and even more so that Riker was able to retrieve the data he recovered.  But then again, the average criminal was a rather stupid creature.  It might be possible after all.  Admiral Ross certainly felt it was.

Halifax received word from Borien that his people had disabled the isolytics.  The ship would be fully prepped in an hour.  The planning session was done and Halifax had sent everyone to their quarters to change into civilian garb.

Halifax presented the plan to Moneii.  The captain’s mien was grave. “Do you think this plan has merit?”

“I think it can work,” Halifax admitted. “Wren and Riker put together a solid proposal.  I just don’t know if we need to undertake this mission.”

“How so?” Moneii asked.

“Just how stupid are we supposed to believe these people were?  What kind of gun runner leaves all of the evidence on their computer core?”

“They did try to erase the data.  At least three times, if Riker’s report is accurate,” Moneii replied mirthfully.

“Do you really think the transport crew was that incompetent?” Halifax inquired.  She knew her captain had spoken with the Precarious’ skipper.

Moneii chuckled humorlessly. “Let’s just say our good smuggler captain wasn’t exactly chosen for his genius.”

Moneii’s comm badge chirped and she tapped it in response. “Moneii here.”

We finished ahead of schedule, Captain,” Borien reported. “I’m ready to hand over the ship to Commander Halifax at her leisure.  It’ll take a minute to transfer the command codes.  Lt. Riker will be able to do that easily enough.  The trackers are embedded inside the isolytics rather than in the cargo pods.  We don’t know if they’ll stay in the pods once they reach Hadon II, so I thought it would be an appropriate precaution.  The subspace signature of the weapons themselves should mask the constant output of the tracker.

“Will the weapons’ warp cores interfere with the trackers’ signals?” Moneii warned to know.

Not according to our tests.  A standard tricorder should be able to detect and follow the signals,” Borien explained.

“I understand,” Moneii assured him and cut the connection.  Focusing on Halifax she smiled ruefully, “It seems you’re a ‘go.’”

“So it seems,” Halifax deadpanned. “You’ll escort us to the system?”

“And then we’ll hang back with the outer planets,” Moneii reassured her. “Yell and we’ll come running.”

“Good enough.  I’ll round up my little lambs then.” Halifax exited and Moneii silently wished her well.

Riker and Vallis joined Halifax, Wren, and the two security men in the armory to be issued Type I “cricket” phasers.  They had collected their tricorders and their non-descript comm badges before stopping here last.  Everyone stowed their gear and then reported to the transporter room.

They materialized in the Precarious’ transporter room.  Riker quietly checked himself.  He didn’t feel duplicated again, but then again, he hadn’t the first time, either.  Vallis gave him a sympathetic smile as if she knew his unspoken fear. 

Borien was waiting for them. “Ah Riker, good.  You can begin transferring command codes as soon as Commander Halifax is ready to input her necessary information.”

They went to the bridge.  Various engineers were packing up and transferring back to the Gandhi.  Riker established a subspace computer link with the starship.  He downloaded the staff’s command code data.  Turning to Halifax, he said, “Ready when you are, Commander.”

Halifax recited her verbal code and transferred the command codes to herself.  Riker used his codes to establish himself as second in command.  Vallis and Wren also coded in.  The two security crewmen were included as ship’s crew but given no real authority.

“Wren, hail the Gandhi and tell them we’ll setting out in ten minutes at…?” Halifax looked to Borien.

“You have warp one through four available.  But I’d keep it under three to be safe,” he shared.

“Inform then we’ll be proceeding at warp two,” Halifax ordered.  She regarded Borien, “Thanks, Orca.  For everything.”

“Not a problem.  It was a challenge,” Borien replied.

“A challenge?” That certainly surprised her. “Come on, there has to be at least a thousand of these transports in service.  The Lovell- and Antares-class transports are the most popular in space faring history.” 

“But most of them don’t have cloaking devices,” Borien’s eyes twinkled. “Please express my regrets to Lt. Riker that I wasn’t able to get it working again.”

“Oh, I’ll be sure to do that,” Halifax said coldly.

Borien detected the sour note and excused himself.  Halifax eyed Riker’s back.  He was seated at the Ops station as he should be, busied in tasks to get the engines up and running.  She wouldn’t interrupt him just yet.

Beside him sat Vallis at CONN. Halifax peered over her shoulder and saw that she was checking the navigation chart.  She pulled up the data on Hadon II itself.

“What can you tell me about our destination, Ensign?” Halifax suddenly asked.

“Hadon II supports a Federation colony and is a Class-P world orbiting a Class-M star,” Vallis read off.  As every Starfleet officer or NCO knew, that meant a glaciated world orbiting a red star.  The “two” designator indicated the planet was the second world in and orbital track around the star labeled Hadon.  To qualify as Class-P, Hadon II had to have more than 80% water ice, which meant the bulk of the colony was centered around the relatively temperate equator. 

“Hadon was colonized in the late 22nd century, shortly after the foundation of the United Federation of Planets,” Vallis continued. “It’s a transportation hub.”

“Run that by me again?” Halifax requested.

“It’s a transfer center,” Wren put in. “Cargoes are exchanged at Hadon.  The bulk of the surface construction is massive warehouses designed for the sole purpose of dropping off a cargo and picking up another.”

“Why not run the cargo all the way in yourself?” Halifax wondered.

“What if it’s a cargo you don’t want to be caught carrying?” Wren wryly suggested.

Halifax had to admit that isolytic weapons certainly qualified on that score. “Okay, I see your point.  Riker, how long until we can get underway?”

“Engines read ‘green’ and are ready to be coaxed into action,” Riker answered.

“Just how much coaxing will they need?” Halifax sought clarification.

“I suggest not engaging the warp drive until after we’ve achieved three quarters impulse for five minutes, and then shift into warp and repeat the procedure before accelerating to warp two,” he explained.

“Got that, Vallis?” Halifax asked.

“Aye, ma’am!” Vallis enthused.

“ETA for Hadon?” Halifax inquired.

“Six hours at recommended speed,” Vallis shared.

Halifax thought of one last thing. “Mr. Riker, about the crew manifest?”

“I’m already working on modifying it to our needs, Commander,” Riker assured her.

Smart ass, Halifax thought sourly.

While they were underway, Halifax moved about the cramped cockpit that served as a bridge and moved to where Wren was sitting.  She had some data pulled up on her display and was smirking.

“Reading something good?” Halifax asked.  She noted the two security crewmen were making like a hole in the back of cockpit.

“This crew manifest,” Wren began to explain, “is genius.”

Halifax had rather been hoping that Wren wouldn’t pull it up.  Riker had indeed outdone himself.  He’d incorporated their Starfleet careers, with embellished criminal activities to support their resigning or being cashiered, and placed them aboard the transport together.  Supposedly Halifax had acquired the ship from the previous captain as he went on the run from Starfleet Intelligence.

Halifax and her crew were listed as having participated in a mutiny aboard the U.S.S. Riviera a few years ago during the Border Wars.  It was a real event and an unfortunately publically documented one.  It madeMutiny on the Bounty pale in comparison. Having ostensibly served a six year sentence in the stockade on Jaros II, they were now out on parole and making their way as a freighter captain and crew. 

The Precarious was a ship for hire and Transplanet Shipping had hired it for this run, which was true enough.  The firm was legally documented within the Federation — On Izar, to be precise — but the headquarters in New Seattle proved to be empty.  The U.S.S. Exeter had found a fictional front office handling messaging and correspondences for the corporate shell, but no logistical work was handled there, nor were any records to be found.  The Precarious had made stops at Izar, Ferenginar, Oralliius, and Bajor.  The ship had steadfastly avoided Deep Space Nine and skirted Starbase 310 alongside the Demilitarized Zone.  Now she was headed for Hadon II near Starbase 129.  The thing was, Hadon was still near the DMZ, but it was also near the end of the zone and skirted close to the Cardassian border. 

It was the proximity to the border than had alarmed Starfleet Command, Halifax decided.  The war between the Cardassian Union and the Federation had ended, but that peace was still rather recent and fragile.  Still, she couldn’t imagine anyone in the Cardassians’ Central Command being stupid enough tobuy isolytics when they could produce them locally.

The hours had dragged by and finally Vallis announced, “We’ve reached the Hadon system and the Gandhiis dropping back.”

Halifax turned to Wren. “Inform the Gandhi we appreciated the escort and we’ll contact them as soon as we learn anything.”

Wren looked rather grateful to be doing something, so she got straight to it.   Halifax knew how she felt.  This was worse than conducting border patrols.

Riker had struck up a conversation with Vallis to pass the time.  Or rather, he continued their earlier conversation.  Inevitably, she brought up the dream woman that had kept his hopes alive for eight years.

Riker looked downcast as he answered, “Deanna was the most perfect woman I’d ever met.”

Was?” Vallis sought clarification.

“She was aboard the Enterprise when they found me.  When he found me,” Riker stipulated.

“The venomous ‘he’ being your ‘brother?’” Vallis wondered.

“Yes,” Riker grated. “He’s First Officer.”

“So are you,” Vallis said with a twinkle in her eye.

“Oh, yes.  This is absolutely my dream posting,” he smarted off.

“Look at it this way: At least you’re here with me,” she commented. “Now what happened with Deanna?”

“My brother didn’t stay in the relationship.  He sacrificed it for his career.  They’re friends now, but I can see a glimmer of regret in both their eyes,” Riker commented.

“Why do I get the feeling you took advantage of that?” she asked.

“Hey, he blew it, not me.   I would’ve made that date on Risa that he skipped out on.  So I explained that to Deanna and we…” he trailed off.

“Transferred fluids,” Vallis chimed in.

Riker felt slightly embarrassed by the frankness of the conversation. “Yes.  Captain Picard searched for an opening suitable to my talents. The Ops job aboard the Gandhi was open and it was close by, supporting a terraforming project, so they dropped me off.”

“The end of said project is where I came in,” Vallis said brightly. “So why didn’t Deanna follow you if the two of you were happy trading fluids?”

Riker felt unnerved. “She had a life and a career aboard the Enterprise.  So like he stood her up eight years ago, she declined to come with me.”

Vallis didn’t seem to know how to respond to this.  A beep from her console alerted her to the fact they were nearing the Hadon system.  She dropped the transport out of warp at the edge of the system and Riker nodded his confirmation that the Gandhi had, too.  She made her report to Halifax and prepared to actually do something.

Riker contacted the system’s traffic control center.  He earned an approach path and an atmospheric insertion.  They were landing the Precarious on the ground in order to deploy the entire away team.  Otherwise, they’d have to leave a skeleton crew of at least one aboard.

They would also lose sight of the weapons, however temporarily.  Halifax considered this an unacceptable risk.  Riker had queried her as to what they would do if they did end up separated. 

“That’s not an option, mister,” Halifax had sternly retorted.

The Precarious bucked and shook as it navigated the planet’s atmosphere.  Although built like a wedge, the surfaces of the ship were still far from forming a delta wing.  It was rather like crafting a paper airplane with its wings clipped short.  The Precarious lived up to its name as it tried to do nothing better than nosedive straight into the ground below.

“Mr. Riker!” Halifax suddenly blurted, “Adjust the shields.  It’s getting too hot in here.”

“Shields are at maximum, Commander,” he replied through gritted teeth. “I’ve adjusted the environmental controls to their maximum outputs.  This is as good as it’s going to get.”

He half expected her to tell him that was unacceptable, but she refrained.  He kept the ship from cooking while Vallis did her best to keep them from crashing.  As they neared the spaceport, Vallis slowed their descent even more.  This alleviated the friction and the interior began to cool off.  He had to admit he and Vallis made a good team.

“Now if the landing struts haven’t melted,” Vallis muttered.

Riker grinned. “The antigravs have cycled and are back to full strength.  You should be able to set us down just like a feather.”

“Here’s hoping,” Vallis said as she committed to the final landing sequence.

The ship sat down on its landing skids.  There was an audible groan that reverberated through the hull and Vallis winced.  Riker’s Ops board went insane.

“We’re showing systems failures all across the ship,” he announced. “Antigravs just overloaded and the RCS thrusters are now inoperative.”

He turned to face Halifax. “Seems we landed just in time.”

Halifax snorted. “Lucky for you the plan was always to abandon this derelict here.”

Wren had been watching the monitor feeds towards the cargo hatches. “Commander, a crew is here to offload us.”

Halifax grew reflective. “Maybe we’re making progress after all.”

The primary hatch opened and Halifax stepped out.  The work crew was composed of a dozen bodies from a dozen different worlds.  A half dozen races were represented.   

“Where’s Captain Stovix?” a rough hewn human, built from pure muscle and possessing absolutely no neck, inquired.

Halifax gave the cover story. “Stovix opted to retire seconds before a Starfleet security team blew open his door.  He sold me the Precarious beforehand and this contract came with the ship.”

“No one told us,” Muscleman replied.

“Now you’re being told,” Halifax said. “You have your cargo.  Hand over my latinum and we’ll all go our separate ways.”

“Not so fast,” Muscleman warned. “Hand over your crew and cargo manifests.  I’ll check with my superiors and then we’ll see if we do business.”

“Mr. Riker,” she snapped and held her hand over her shoulder.  Riker handed her a PADD which she then thrust into Muscleman’s face. “There are my manifests.  Satisfied?

“Think you’re pretty smart, don’t you?” he asked threateningly. “My bosses don’t like smart women.”

“They must be awfully lonely then,” she retorted.

“Fine.  We’ll be taking your cargo now,” he announced.

She stopped him with a hand pushing back at his brawny chest. “Not so fast yourself.  No payment.  No cargo.”

“I told you, I have to run your credentials.  Once the bona fides are double checked, then you’ll get your payment,” Muscleman grated.

“And that’s when you’ll get your cargo,” Halifax insisted.

Muscleman stared her down but Halifax never flinched.  His eyes shifted to Riker’s.  They were just as resolute.  Wren’s looked predatory and the two men at her shoulders were coolly gathering for a fight.  The only one who looked slightly intimidated was the small brunette.

“All right,” he conceded. “We’ll contact you later and we’ll make the exchange then.”

“So where do we meet?” Halifax asked.

“There’s a pub called the Grimshaw.  We’ll meet there,” Muscleman informed her.

“How will we find it?” she wondered.

He smirked. “It’s the most famous establishment on Hadon.  You won’t be able to miss it.”

They packed up and left.  Halifax turned to the away team. “Everyone got your coats on?”

All but Wren nodded.  Halifax resisted rolling her eyes and turned to the security men instead. “You two stay here and mind the store just in case they try anything.”

Halifax turned to Riker. “It seems our lives are in your hand at this moment.”

“Don’t worry,” Wren advised. “Like I said, those credentials were genius.”

Riker grinned and Halifax gave Wren a pained look. “Then it looks like we go pub crawling.


Please send feedback and other correspondence regarding this story to Brin_Macen at yahoo dot com.

"Decisions" Chapter One by Charlynn Schmiedt

by Travis Anderson

Rating: K+

Synopsis: Tom Riker faces new challenges and new choices aboard the USS Gandhi.  After eight years alone on Nervalla IV, what will he do now that he’s surrounded by the crew of a starship?  How will he differentiate himself from William Riker?  One thing is for certain, it won’t be by playing it safe.

Chronology: Three months after the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode “Second Chances” in early 2370 and nine months before the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode “Defiant” in 2371.

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