"The Cause" Chapter Five by Charlynn Schmiedt

by Travis Anderson

The Artemis made her approach. Riley noted the presence of a Blackbird-class scoutship. He informed Aellai that the ship’s ID transponder pinged it as the Odyssey.

“I wonder what Macen is doing here?” Aellai pondered aloud. She knew Macen by reputation alone. She also knew he’d worked closely with Hudson and Chakotay before their passing and still worked hand in hand with Ro and Korepanova. It seemed Eddington would be getting rid of yet another potential thorn in the side.

“Eddington’s report just arrived,” Riley advised Aellai. “There are two starships assigned to this patrol region. The first is a Springfield-class ship called the Courageous and the other is a Cheyenne-class named the Navajo. But they both seem to be out of the vicinity right now.”

“Scan the Odyssey,” Aellai ordered. “I want to know what she’s capable of.”

“Ye Gods,” Riley breathed, “she’s intact.”

“Of course she’s intact,” Aellai grated. “She’s right in front of us.”

“No, I mean she’s listed as being decommissioned but she’s in service trim. Starfleet didn’t remove a blessed thing when they handed her over to Macen,” Riley described.

“Who is he?” Aellai mused.

“A freelance investigator, or so he claims,” Riley recalled. “No one seems to know much about him except Ro and Korepanova.”

“What’s a ‘freelance investigator?’” Aellai wondered.

“That’s commercial talk for ‘spy for hire,’” Riley retorted.

“Isn’t he a former Starfleet officer?” Aellai seemed to recall.

“That’s what put him in the club with everyone he worked with,” Riley informed her. “They’re all ex-Starfleet.”

“What’s Eddington have to say about it?” Aellai wanted to know.

Riley scrolled through the report. “He says Macen isn’t an active member of the Maquis, but he is a vital support asset.”

“Too bad he’s about to become a dead one,” Aellai snorted.

“Eddington may not approve of killing him,” Riley warned.

“Eddington can kiss my gorgeous butt,” Aellai quipped. “We’re doing this for him.”

“You know, Ro could be a problem.” Riley delved further into the file. “Eddington believes that Ro will go to great lengths to stop the deployment of biogenic weapons.”

“So she’s a traitor to the cause,” Aellai mused. “She’ll just have to be one of our first targets when we get back.”

“It says Ro completed Starfleet’s Advanced Tactical Training course, a feat Eddington couldn’t pull off.” Riley thought it over. “It means she’ll be very dangerous in a fight.”

“She hasn’t met me yet,” Aellai mused. “I’ll show her the meaning of the word ‘dangerous.’”

“But Ro may have hired Macen to spy on us,” Riley considered, “and if so, Ro could be here as well.”

“How would they know we were coming here?” Aellai breezily dismissed the notion.

“I don’t know. We didn’t share this plan with anyone, but Eddington seems to be a bit of an ego maniac. He may have bragged it up to some loose lips,” Riley countered.

“Okay, I grant you the fact that the plan to make and use biogenic weapons may have leaked,” Aellai conceded, “but how would they know to come here?”

“It may be coincidence that Macen’s here and that he’s friends with Ro, but I also don’t believe in coincidence,” Riley stated.

“You might have a point,” Aellai granted him. “Have Don offload the weapon and then he’ll stay aboard to guard the ship while Siobhan, you, and I deliver it, arm it, and get the hell away from here.”

“Does Siobhan think she can penetrate Life Support?” Riley wondered. “It is a secure area.”

“Siobhan has a former lover that gave her the standard access codes for these types of things,” Aellai explained.

“Remind me to thank him someday,” Riley requested.

Aellai smirked. “Actually, it’s a her.”

“She’s never said a word,” Riley admitted.

“Siobhan is quite cosmopolitan. She’s attracted to both sexes,” Aellai shared.

“Just so long as Starfleet Security doesn’t come crawling up our ass,” Riley opined.

“Agreed,” Aellai said heartily.

Macen’s predictions came true as the Maquis stepped off of the transporter pad. Security hurriedly confiscated all of the visible phasers. But as expected, they were so consumed by the larger Bajoran models, they confused their readings and didn’t find the compact Type I’s.

Ro traveled under a falsified ID that T’Kir had whipped up. It wouldn’t withstand a retina scan activated probe, but it was enough to initially get her past security. It seemed to Ro that there was no end to T’Kir’s illicit activities.

The Maquis spread across the station. The docking ring was divided into four quads. Lee and Vorhoven took up position in Quad One to observe the comings and goings there. To allay suspicions, they struck up conversations with various dock hands and freighter crews.

Tebler and Mayweather watched Quad Three. They chose to mingle with unemployed day laborers looking to load and offload cargo. Gutierrez and D’ofo took up their vigil in Quad Four.

Ro watched over Quad Two, which sat next to the station’s main commercial transporter. Macen was designated to join her when he was done haranguing the station CO. All of the Maquis had been given restraints and comm badges along with their weapons.

The silver comm badges were identical to the gold comm badges worn by Federation law enforcement agents. It turned out that silver badges were issued to quasi-legal enforcement authorities such as privateers, private investigators, security specialists, and bounty hunters. T’Kir had linked the badges to the station’s central comm network. They’d reach anywhere inside the starbase as well as utilize the comm array to reach the Odyssey. As an added bonus, T’Kir had set up a private channel but Starfleet’s internal channel could be accessed with a phrase uttered before speaking the intended message.

Macen joined Ro fifteen minutes later. He wore a rueful grin. “Well, that went as well as expected.”

“M’rarr is still being a pigheaded jackass?” Ro wondered.

“That’s probably an even greater mixed metaphor with a Caitian than the usual,” Macen mused. “His Chief of Security seemed interested though.”

“Is he or she going to do anything?” Ro tersely inquired.

“Maybe, maybe not,” Macen shrugged.

“Great,” Ro groused.

“Something else bothering you?” Macen wondered.

“These stupid badges make my people stand out,” Ro complained.

“You should wear them on your belt like I do,” Macen repeated his earlier suggestion, “but they grant you an air of legitimacy that you’d otherwise lack. Standing around waiting for people to arrive would be suspicious behavior, but with our comm badges, your group appears to have legitimate business doing so.”

Ro removed the badge and reaffixed it to her belt. “Happy?”

“Thrilled,” Macen deadpanned.

“Good,” Ro asserted, “because I’m not… they’re here.”

“Where?” Macen asked.

Granger exited Docking Port 8, in Quad Two. He sat down a large duffel bag, gave some final instructions to Hennessy and then reentered the ship. Riley hefted the bag and then he left the quad with Aellai and Hennessy at his side.

“Get going,” Macen urged Ro.

“Are you going to be okay?” Ro asked.

“I’m having Lees, Christine, and Tom beam over to the station so we can access the Artemis. They only left one person aboard, so we’ll be fine,” Macen assured her. “Now scoot!”

Ro immediately departed. As she dropped back and followed the Artemis crew from a discreet distance, she signaled the other Maquis and had them converge on the station’s Life Support plant. They all arrived in time to find the two Starfleet Security officers assigned to protect the oxygen, heating, and cooling providers already stunned.

“Aellai, don’t do this,” Ro called out to the other leader. “Once you do, there’s no going back.”

“Siobhan, go faster!” Aellai demanded.

Ro stepped around the pressure seal and fired. She missed Aellai and Hennessy but she struck Riley. He crumpled to the deck as Aellai returned fire. Tebler and Gutierrez joined Ro and added their weight to the phaser barrage. Aellai slapped the door controls and the hatch sealed.

“We’re trapped,” Hennessy complained. “We’ll be stuck here until this thing goes off. I’ve already started the ignition process, and in two hours, this thing goes off and I can’t find a way to stop it.”

“We’ll die for the cause,” Aellai declared with a manic edge to her voice. “Don will deliver the weapons and we’ll still have our revenge.”

“I’m not dying for your revenge,” Hennessy snarled as she stood up from the ventilation shaft she’d been working on.

Aellai stunned her own crewman and went to work sliding the biogenic weapon into the shaft.

“What’s going on here?” Lt. Commander Aerick of Starfleet Security demanded to know as he and a handful of Security officers descended upon Life Support.

Ro pointed to her badge. “We’re trying to apprehend Maquis terrorists who are attempting to plant a biogenic weapon in your ventilation shafts.”

Aerick eyed Ro. “You must be with Captain Macen.”

“You’re smart,” Ro said acerbically.

“Macen captured the other Maquis crewman and my men have seized their transports, as well as the eleven biogenic devices in their hold,” Aerick informed her. “The Navajo has been recalled to transport the prisoners to Izar where they can stand trial.”

“You can’t do that here?” Ro was surprised.

“We only have one JAG officer aboard the station, so we don’t have enough legal representation to conduct a trial ourselves,” Aerick explained. “Now, I’d recommend you return to your ship.”

“I want to see this through,” Ro insisted.

“Can we step out into the corridor?” Aerick requested.

Ro nodded her acquiescence and they left the area. Aerick gave Ro a pained look. “Lt. Ro, I strongly urge you to take your Maquis and get aboard the Odyssey.”

Ro studied him. “How long have you known?”

“I served aboard the Wellington when you did,” Aerick revealed. “I thought you got a raw deal then and I think so now.”

Ro continued to weigh the Rigellian’s words as he continued. “I’ll give you a twenty minute escape window. Afterwards, the Navajo will be here. Her XO is Shannon Farley and her Chief of Security is Onyx Drell. I don’t suppose you recall them?”

“I do and I see your point,” Ro consented after hearing the names of the prosecution’s chief witnesses against her at her court martial.

She gathered her people and as they withdrew, Aerick called out after them, “You’re welcome.”

The Odyssey headed away from Starbase 621 and back towards Ronara Prime at warp 6. Ro joined Macen on the bridge, despite her obvious exhaustion from being up for over thirty-six hours straight. She asked for a private conference with Macen.

Danan rolled her eyes at his imploring look. “Look, either make her the ‘other’ woman or put her on staff.”

Ro cast a quizzical glance Macen’s way. Danan laughed. “Go, get off my bridge.”

Ro followed Macen into the briefing room, casting a beleaguered look Danan’s way as the Trill past her by while heading for the center seat. As the door closed behind her, Ro asked, “Is there something you should tell me about you and Lisea?”

“Is there?” Macen asked merrily.

“I feel like I’ve stepped into a mine field here,” Ro confessed.

“Don’t worry about it. She’s just playing with you,” Macen assured. “Now, what’s on your mind?”

“I take it everyone aboard Starbase 621 didn’t die a horrible, agonizing death,” she surmised.

“No,” Macen smiled. “The crisis has been averted thanks to brilliant deduction work by Starfleet Security. The weapon was beamed into space. And the Maquis are being properly vilified yet again.”

“Of course,” Ro said ruefully. “It figures.”

“Commander Aerick isn’t an active Maquis, nor is he a collaborator, but he is a sympathizer,” Macen analyzed the Rigellian’s behavior. “Which is valuable information.”

“He pretty much told me the same thing,” Ro shared, “but I don’t know if he sympathizes with the Maquis cause or me.”

“Maybe it’s both,” Macen suggested, “or it’s even that he sympathizes with the cause because of your involvement.”

“What are you suggesting?” Ro was instantly defensive.

“I don’t know if I am suggesting anything,” Macen admitted. “Take my statement for what you will.”

“At least we got away and the biogenic devices aren’t in Eddington’s hands.” Ro tried to put a positive spin on the mission.

“So it counts as a ‘win?’” Macen wondered.

“Not really,” Ro grumped. “I really wanted to confront Eddington with his handiwork.”

“Too dangerous,” Macen warned. “The rest of his followers, and that’s practically every Maquis, would have taken the weapons and used them anyway. You and Sveta would have only ostracized yourself further. And Eddington would have known you were personally involved. Nothing occurs in a vacuum.”

“Brin, we’re traveling in a vacuum right now,” Ro retorted.

“But we’re moving. We have motion, a life sustaining construct around us and life forms from several different worlds inside of it,” Macen lectured her. “That alone should tell you nothing is stagnant in this universe. All life interacts and intrinsically affects other life, even if it’s only on a microscopic level.”

Ro derisively snorted. “That’s what the vedeks taught us as children.”

“There’s wisdom to be found in those teachings,” Macen opined.

“I didn’t believe it then and I won’t believe in superstition now,” Ro asserted.

“Truth can be extracted from superstition,” Macen countered, “but my real question is ‘what next?’”

“We go back to business as usual,” Ro shrugged. “We still have a war to win.”

“And if Eddington completely cuts you off from the rest of the Maquis?” Macen had to ask.

“Then we scale back the magnitude of our operations but we keep fighting,” Ro decided.

“I’ll feed you what intelligence that I can,” Macen assured Ro. “Tell Sveta that she’s in the pipeline as well. Eddington and his supporters won’t be.”

“What? Why?” Ro was astounded.

“I can’t support Eddington’s new direction for the Maquis,” Macen stated. “Genocide is not the way to win and Eddington and his loyal little minions need to learn that.”

Ro suddenly felt like kissing him despite however Danan would feel about it, and told him so. Macen looked uncomfortable. “Let’s not get drastic.”

Ro reunited with Tulley at their base on Ronara Prime. Every Maquis that had been aboard theIndomitable was trading war stories with those that had been aboard the Odyssey. Ro had already quite a few exaggerations from the latter group to make their trip sound more exciting.

“I hear you were successful,” Ro congratulated Tulley. “You even escaped from three Starfleet ships and two Cardassian cruisers.”

“Never leave me behind again,” Tulley begged. “I almost had a nervous breakdown.”

“Poor baby. I’ll try not to,” Ro consoled him. “I got back to find a message from Eddington on my comp/comm.”

“What did he have to say?” Tulley sneered the word ‘he.’

“That we’re too independent and we should have cleared the Orion strike through him. Apparently he’s upset that the freighters were intercepted and destroyed,” Ro informed him, “so now we’re truly independent operators that are Maquis in name only. All the other cells have been warned to avoid us and not to cooperate with us our support any of our operations in any way.”

“So he tossed us out on our ear,” Tulley said bitterly.

“Not really,” Ro mused. “It seems our little group is too successful to simply throw away, so we’re now viewed as a splinter faction whose logistics are completely up to us.”

“What about the Architect?” Tulley wondered.

“Sveta has received the same message and she already left a separate message to insure me we have her full support,” Ro told him.

“So they’re not going to let her plan group missions anymore?” Tulley was incredulous.

“Nope,” Ro shook her head. “They have one of Starfleet’s finest strategists at their disposal and they cast her aside simply because she wouldn’t bow before the new king.”

“Still, with you and the Architect on our side, we should be able to kick some royal ass,” Tulley enthused.

Ro smiled. “I’m glad you think so, because a major part of making that work will be a result of your work.”

Tulley groaned and Ro chided him. “It’s part of being my deputy. You want to step down? That’s fine. I’ll ask Sam to take the job.”

The thought of Richards leapfrogging him in the cell’s seniority rankled Tulley. Although, he knew Richards was a former law enforcement officer, whereas Tulley was just an inspired amateur. But he was especially motivated.

“I’m fine with the way things stand,” Tulley promised Ro.

“I understand you paid Athos IV a visit while I was away,” Ro recalled. “How did you explain my not making an appearance?”

“Shanra just told everyone you were down with Rigellian fever and were being quarantined in what passes as a med bay aboard the Indie,” Tulley explained.

“Bajorans can’t get Rigellian fever,” Ro said to much chuckling from Tulley.

“Ro, the Architect has requested that you contact her. She says you two need to start planning a new offensive,” Alea informed Ro as she approached.

“Yes, we do,” Ro said with some satisfaction. “You two stand by. I’ll need to consult with the pair of you in a few minutes.”

“We’ll be waiting,” Alea promised.

Ro suddenly felt more confident about her cause and her cell then she had since she first joined it. She also felt as bold and forceful has she had under Hudson’s wing. She was still committed enough to win the lousy struggle the Maquis faced as a daily reality. And in this game, the most committed one won.

And with any luck Eddington will get killed or captured before that victory is achieved and he can set himself up as a demigod over a Maquis Confederacy, Ro thought to herself.


U.S.S. Andor and U.S.S. Blackbird designed by Bernrd Schneider.


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

"The Cause" Chapter Four by Charlynn Schmiedt

by Travis Anderson

The S.S. Indomitable soared through DMZ space and ventured beyond Gryma into the Cardassian border with the Zone. Tulley knew that Cardassian Outpost 47 monitored the space around Gryma and would alert the High Command of the Indie’s attack on the Orion convoy. The Cardassians felt far less constricted about deploying military units in the DMZ than Starfleet did, but Starbase 129 and the Argus Array watched over this region of space as well, and would dispatch starships in response to an incursion by the Cardassian Guard.

Macen’s information regarding the number of Orion vessels had been incorrect. The actual number of freighters was six, that and their two Wanderer-class escorts. Tulley’s gut clenched as he saw the freighters and fully realized just how many ground based disruptor banks were being brought to Gryma and Quatal Prime.

Tulley also fully realized he had to knock out the blockade runners before he engaged the lightly shielded freighters. Sam Richards scanned the escorts. “They’re armed with disruptors but they’re lacking torpedo tubes.”

Tulley nodded his acknowledgement. Richards was occupying his usual post at Tactical. Ro usually commanded as she also piloted the ship. Tulley hadn’t wanted any distractions, so he was seated at the oft neglected Auxiliary Station.

“From what I read on Jane’s Starships about these things, they’ll easily outmaneuver us, so we have to come in hard and fast,” Tulley thought aloud.

“I recommend an approach along their z-axis,” Alea spoke up. “Their sensors are pretty muddled along that line by their shields.”

“Got that, Audra?” Tulley asked.

“Laying in a course now,” North announced.

“Sam?” Tulley looked across at Richards.

“Photons are loaded and phasers are charged,” Richards reported. “Guidance and tracking are up and running.”

Tulley turned towards Halep. “Athena, you’re monitoring Engineering. Sing out if Thool starts to lose power. I don’t want to experience a sudden catastrophic power failure.”

“You should have used a different ship,” Halep snorted.

Tulley ignored the comment. “Do they have us on sensors?”

“Yes,” Alea informed him. “They’ve been actively scanning us for some time.”

“The escorts have interposed themselves between us and the freighters,” Richards shared.

“Good, that’s just what we wanted them to do,” Tulley commented.

“Hopefully they know that,” Richards remarked.

“Audra, now!” Tulley ordered.

The Indomitable suddenly vectored towards the Orions along their dorsal plane. The blockade runners maneuvered to intercept. Outpost 47 began broadcasting warnings toward the Indie.

Richards opened fire. He fired one photon at each interceptor. When their shields wavered, he opened up with a phaser barrage. The Orions responded with their disruptors.

The Maquis and the Orions strafed each other as they passed by. The Indomitable then concentrated firepower on the hapless freighters. Richards expended the torpedo magazines in destroying the freighters. North then cut and ran.

The Indie flew along the curved belt that comprised the DMZ with the Orion blockade runners in pursuit. The Orion craft were already damaged, so their best speed merely matched that of the Maquis raider. The Cardassian Guard pulled two Galor-class cruisers off of patrol to mirror the Maquis and Orion movements within the DMZ. Starfleet dispatched the Centaur-class U.S.S. Hydra and alerted two Saber-class Starfleet Border Patrol ships.

The Indomitable broke free of the DMZ and headed straight into the Bajoran Sector. The U.S.S. Centaur, the U.S.S. Vigilance, and the U.S.S. Steadfast joined the pursuit. The Orions opened fire upon the Starfleet ships to warn them off.

The Vigilance broke off and dealt with the Orion ships. The Hydra and the Steadfast slowed as theIndomitable slipped into the Badlands. The Cardassian cruisers traversed nonaligned space and dove into the plasma storm field.

The lead Galor-class ship, the Tergal, fired several photon torpedoes at the fleeing Maquis raider. They struck a plasma funnel and created a plasma storm eruption. The Indomitable maneuvered underneath the blast wave but the Tergal, and her sister the Tipitz, were beaten by the plasma wave.

The Hydra and the Steadfast moved in to assist. They found the Tergal was a gutted ruin while the Tipitzwas merely disabled. Towed out of the Badlands, the crew of the Tipitz decided they’d be able to restore minimal power and limp back into Cardassian space.

Meanwhile, Starfleet temporarily impounded the Orion blockade runners to find out why the Maquis targeted them. Tulley fired off a subspace radio message to the starships and laid out their reasoning. Captain Victoria Oshera read the missive and then proceeded to file her report laying out specific charges to lay against the crew of the Indomitable and urging Starfleet Intelligence to focus their efforts on finding which cell the ship and crew belonged to.

Eddington fumed as word spread of “Ro’s” strike against the Orions. He angrily wondered who she’d received her intelligence from. He then wondered why she hadn’t informed him of her plans. The part of Eddington that thought like a Starfleet officer railed against Ro’s unilateral action.

Ro was far too independent an operator to include him in her master plans. Ro had obviously wanted to derail the Cardassians’ attempt to install disruptor networks on their chief colonies within the DMZ. Eddington had wanted them in place so that the Maquis would have them after the Cardassians died en masse.

Eddington felt that Ro was far too shortsighted in these matters. Ro had worked best with Hudson, Chakotay, and Korepanova. Chakotay and Hudson were dead and Korepanova was proving to be a thorn in Eddington’s side. And now Ro was too.

Eddington’s vanity didn’t allow him to see that he held a large degree of jealousy towards Ro. Ro had completed Starfleet’s Advanced Tactical Training program. Eddington had taken the course himself earlier in his career. He’d been one of the sixty percent statistic that washed out every year.

Ro’s accomplishments, both in Starfleet and the Maquis, made others look up to her. And Ro had thrown in behind Korepanova in the battle for succession. Unfortunately, only one victor would stand as Maquis Commander when the psychological war was concluded and Eddington would be that man—no matter what it took.

It took the Odyssey eighteen hours to cross the Bajoran Sector and reach Kalandra. Ro and the Maquis were in command of the ship. Ro followed Danan’s plan and inserted the starship into an orbital track between Kalandra VIII and Kalandra IX. D’ofo reported that she had a clear sensor sweep of Kalandra IV.

“The Artemis is breaking orbit,” D’ofo informed Ro, “and she’s plotting a course towards Federation space.”

“Mayweather, set course to follow her,” Ro ordered. “Keep us within sensor range, but don’t close the distance.”

“Easy enough,” Mayweather boasted.

Ro wondered where the transport was headed to next.

The Odyssey’s crew relieved the Maquis. After each station officer reported the ongoing situation to their relief, the Maquis left the bridge except for Ro. She and Macen exchanged quiet words. Macen signaled a very curious Danan to join them.

“We’ve been following the Artemis for four hours,” Ro informed the pair. “She hasn’t deviated from her course once, but I have no idea where she’s going.”

“T’Kir, are we still in the Artemis’ subspace wake?” Macen asked the young Vulcan.

“You betcha,” she flippantly replied. “I would’ve told you if we lost them in the last two minutes.”

Ro was really getting curious as to T’Kir’s mental state. She was totally unlike any Vulcan she’d ever met. Of course, the fact that her parents had been disciples of Sybok rather that Surak said a lot. Macen had clued Ro into the fact that T’Kir had experienced a total emotional breakdown when her parents were killed by a Cardassian raid.

“We’ve skirted the Breen Confederacy,” Danan announced as she studied her charts. “Now we’re closing in on the Tzenkethi Coalition’s territory. We’ve actually followed a circuitous path back towards the Bajoran Sector again. We’re nearing Starbase 621, but I’d bet that’s not their destination. I’d guess that we’ll end up at Temechlia.”

“What’s our ETA for the system?” Macen inquired.

“Half an hour at our current speed,” Ebert stated.

“Care to wait up?” Macen asked Ro.

“I’d just be in the way,” Ro deferred.

“The platform behind me has three stations and only two are occupied,” Macen informed her. “Slave the Auxiliary Station to Lees’ sensors. You’re not going to relax until you know what’s going on anyway.”

“Bastard,” Ro chuckled knowing Macen had figured her out too well.

Danan proved to be correct because the Artemis plunged into the Temechlia system and achieved standard aboard over the planet…parallel to a Tzenkethi cruiser. The cruiser followed Tzenkethi aesthetics and appeared to be a silvery tear drop.

“What the hell are they doing?” Ro wondered aloud.

“That’s a very important question,” Macen mused. “Lees, I know the Tzenkethi have more sensitive sensors than our friends’, but keep an eye on everything they do. Tracy, keep us out here in the system’s hinter land. If the Tzenkethi are going to prove to be hostile, I want time to react.”

“No problem,” Ebert readily agreed.

Three Tzenkethi beamed aboard the Artemis. The sight of them awed Granger. Aellai was also taken in by their appearance. Many humanoids considered the Tzenkethi to be the most beautiful species in the quadrant, and now Aellai and Granger knew that firsthand.

Tzenkethi bodies were essentially a transparent carapace filled with a gel-like internal fluid. The gel was tensile enough to act as a muscle fiber and yet, without bones, flexible enough to allow Tzenkethi to contort their bodies in ways unimaginable to most humanoids. The gel was also luminescent and gave the Tzenkethi a soft glow.

Their society was composed of genetic castes. Each individual was born into the role they would play within Tzenkethi society. There no advancements in that society only downgrades. Repeated or catastrophic failure would reduce a once proud caste member to the menial classes. The lowest of the low were mind wiped to purest simplicity and they lived only to perform basic functions.

The Tzenkethi saw the Federation, with its myriad species and autonomous actions as anarchy personified. The fact that the Federation espoused self determination and democratic choices offended Tzenkethi to their core. They were utterly dependent upon their Autarch. And there was only one Autarch allowed to live to rule the Tzenkethi in a generation.

But the Tzenkethi had come to realize they were vastly outnumbered by the Federation’s scope and its member worlds and colonies, so their plan of neutralizing the Federation’s expansion was to destabilize it and to plunge it into conflicts with other races.

Chaos would expand into greater chaos and rend the Federation apart. And then the other stellar nations would tear the offal apart. For their part, the Tzenkethi would absorb the closest Federation worlds and impose order and genetic controls upon them. After all, the menial classes always needed to be bolstered by fresh blood.

Eddington had made Aellai aware of the Tzenkethi’s motives for assisting the Maquis plan and Aellai didn’t care. The end result would exterminate all Cardassian life on Gryma and Quatal Prime. There was enough biomimetic gel to create a dozen biogenic devices so there would even be leftovers to threaten worlds within the Cardassian Union itself. Frankly, Aellai hoped the Cardassians would provoke Eddington into using them.

Aellai escorted the three Tzenkethi to the main cargo bay where Granger had laid out their “special wares.” After arriving, the Tzenkethi made brief introductions. The medical expert glowed a pale shade of blue. The warrior escorting them glowed shades of silver. The facilitator was a light green.

The facilitator’s name was Arikene. Just Arikene. Aellai had been briefed that Tzenkethi had an alphanumeric designator attached to their name to publically demonstrate their caste rank. Without knowing the caste rank, Aellai had no means of knowing whether or not she was dealing with anyone of influence.

“What are your targets?” Arikene inquired.

Aellai listed them all and Arikene made a decision. “All are acceptable except for Chin’Toka.”

“But it’s a strategic position that will block Starfleet’s advance into Cardassian space,” Aellai argued.

“We are aware of that; nevertheless, the prohibition stands,” Arikene insisted, “precisely for that reason.”

“But the military base on Chin’Toka will launch a reprisal at Maquis worlds,” Aellai protested.

“That will not occur until the Cardassians unleash their own biogenic weapons,” Arikene lectured Aellai. “That will prompt an intervention by Starfleet. That intervention will primarily come through the Chin’Toka system and they shall meet considerable resistance.”

“You mean to start a war between Cardassia and the Federation,” Aellai grasped it all of a sudden.

“That would suit my Autarch,” Arikene admitted, “and it shall allow the Maquis the time and opportunity to fortify their positions within the Demilitarized Zone.”

“If you don’t want us to hit Chin’Toka, then where would you like us to use the last device?” Aellai inquired.

“We shall prepare a portable delivery system,” Arikene explained. “This device will be placed within the life support network of Starbase 621. There, it will release an aerosol agent that will eliminate all humanoid life within the station.”

Aellai struggled with that and said as much. Eventually, Aellai convinced herself it was a reasonable trade off.”Fine, we’ll deliver it.”

Arikene was pleased. “Then we may now proceed with creating your weapons.”

Tensions were rising aboard the Odyssey. Ro’s impatience was growing by the minute. “Why don’t we go there and find out what they’re doing?”

“Well, like the last twenty times you’ve asked that particular question over the last six hours, we don’t have definitive proof yet,” Macen retorted.

“Then what do you think they’re doing?” Ro tried again.

 “Best guess?” Macen asked.

“Anything,” Ro huffed.

“Tzenkethi society revolves around genetic engineering, so I’d say if you were going to have someone build you a biogenic device, you’d want them to be Tzenkethi,” Macen stated. “The problem is that help will come with a steep price.”

“What kind of price?” Ro wondered.

“Let’s just say that all the latinum in the galaxy wouldn’t motivate them,” Macen replied.

“Brin, the Artemis is breaking orbit,” Danan reported.

“Where are the Tzenkethi headed off to?” Macen wanted to know.

“Coalition space,” Danan informed him, “but the curious thing is that the Artemis isn’t headed back towards the Bajor Sector or the DMZ.”

“Then where is she going?” Ro asked irritably.

“On a straight line for Starbase 621,” Danan told her.

“Why?” Ro didn’t quite get it.

“That’s the price,” Macen said heavily.

“They’re going to detonate a biogenic device in a Federation starbase?” Ro didn’t want to believe it.

“It would line up with Eddington’s ‘you’re either with us or against us’ philosophy,” Macen remarked. “Aellai is his first convert.”

“Tebler would be his second,” Ro said sourly.

“Is he going to be a problem?” Macen wanted to know.

“Probably not,” Ro guessed.

“So what do we do now?” Macen asked her.

“What do you mean?” Ro wanted to know.

“Laren, you’re my employer. My ship and crew do what you tell us to do within the confines of our contract,” Macen explained.

“Of course we prevent then from doing whatever they intend to do.” Ro was a little outraged by Macen’s mercenary attitude.

“You and your Maquis will probably be arrested if you step foot on Starbase 621, and my crew isn’t combat trained,” Macen informed her.

“You’re the captain of a licensed starship bearing a letter of marque,” Ro reminded him. “You’re also the owner-operator of a business concern that has dealings with Starfleet. Just contact the commanding officer and tell them what’s coming their way.”

“I’m a freelancer now, not a Starfleet Intelligence agent, so they’re going to view me with suspicion,” Macen warned her. “And we have no proof whatsoever that the Artemis has hostile intentions. Just a guess.”

“I thought you used to be an analyst, not an agent,” Ro pointedly thrust back at him.

“Agent, analyst, all the same thing,” Macen said dismissively.

“Here’s the deal: My people will be ‘working’ for you when we board the station. If the CO hasn’t believed you by then, you’ll come aboard to argue the point with him while we get busy,” Ro suggested.

“It’s just stupid enough to work,” Macen mused.

Ro’s ire was raised by the appellation of ‘stupid’ being applied to her plan. “Just trust me.”

“Tracy, set course for Starbase 621,” Macen suddenly ordered. “Make it an elliptical approach so we won’t pass the Artemis by. We have a speed advantage, so we can use that to get there first.”

“I can get us there before them, but I can’t estimate how much ‘before’ them,” Ebert warned.

“Do what you can,” Macen urged. “Lees, you have the bridge.”

“Sure, run away just when it’s getting interesting,” Danan mock complained.

“Laren, if you’ll join me in the briefing room, I’ll call Starbase 621 and see what happens,” Macen requested.

“All right.” Ro was feeling more amiable now that she was getting what she wanted.

Macen was true to his word and contacted Starbase 621. After navigating through a sea of bureaucracy, he reached Captain M’rarr. M’rarr was a Caitian and his ears were flattened against his head. Not a promising sight.

“Why are you interfering in our work day, Commander?” M’rarr demanded to know.

“Technically, it’s ‘Captain’ now,” Macen asserted.

“I don’t care about your civilian position, Commander,” M’rarr shot back. “You invoked several Starfleet security protocols to get my attention. If you’re now saying you aren’t Starfleet, then stop wasting my time.”

“I’ve retired, Captain,” Macen explained, “but I have reasons to believe that Maquis collaborators will be attacking your station within the hour.”

If you’re a civilian now, I need your business license, transport credentials and registration, cargo manifest, and personnel list before I can discuss your so-called ‘terrorists,’” M’rarr insisted.

Macen transmitted the data. M’rarr cut the transmission and Macen and Ro waited in silence for several minutes—several more minutes than it took to verify Macen’s credentials. After ten minutes had passed, M’rarr’s visage returned to the screen.

“I’m sorry, Captain,” he sneered, “I don’t listen to what ‘freelance investigators’ have to say.”

The screen went dark again. Macen gave Ro a wry look. “Now we do it your way.”

“Come with me; we need to brief my people,” Ro requested.

Everyone but D’ofo and Vorhoven were awakened for the meeting. Lee asked one of the obvious questions. “How do you know we’ll reach Starbase 621 before the Artemis?”

“This ship is capable of a twelve hour burst at warp 8.3. The Artemis maxes out at warp 6.3. In her day, theOdyssey was one of the fastest ships in the fleet. Transports? Not so much,” Macen replied.

Lee and Vorhoven grinned as she said, “Good to know.”

“To do this, you’ll each be drawing a Bajoran Militia issue phaser from the ship’s armory,” Macen informed them. “You’ll also be issued a Starfleet Type I ‘cricket’ phaser. While security is busy relieving you of the Bajoran gear, you’ll still have your Federation phaser to fall back on.”

Ro looked at all her teammates. “Starfleet Security will hold onto Macen’s pistols for the duration of our stay. He’ll be reporting to the CO’s office to press our case. Seeing as how Captain M’rarr doesn’t like Macen already, it should prove to be quite distracting to the station’s senior staff.”

Macen pulled up Starbase 621’s layout and downloaded it into prepared PADDs. Ro advised them to quickly study. “We have less than twenty minutes until we arrive, so I need opinions on where Aellai could deploy a biogenic weapon and have it effectively kill everyone before we get there.”

“Sure, no pressure,” Gutierrez complained.


U.S.S. Andor and U.S.S. Blackbird designed by Bernrd Schneider.


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

"The Cause" Chapter Three by Charlynn Schmiedt

by Travis Anderson

“No! I forbid it!” Tulley was reacting to the news Ro had brought him. “You’ll be on the bridge of theIndomitable where you belong. Let Macen chase down Aellai across god knows where.”

“I think I can decide for myself where I belong,” Ro said coldly.

“Ro, I’m not you. I can’t command an attack,” Tulley pleaded.

“You do it on the ground all the time,” Ro adamantly quashed his argument. “My decision stands. The Maquis are pretty loose-knit, but when the cell commander issues an order, she still expects it to be obeyed. The only difference between an extra-atmospheric attack and a ground attack is the one in space is waged in three dimensions.”

“Even if the order is stupid?” Tulley lashed out.

“That’s what command prerogative in the field is for,” Ro asserted. “Once you’re on scene, you’ll know what to do.”

“And if I don’t?” Tulley groused.

“Retreat is always an option,” Ro consoled him, “but it’s a costly one in the long run.”

Tulley gathered around the cell’s leadership. Ro briefed them on what was going to occur and she listed off the personnel she’d be taking with her. Giving the time, coordinates, and payload of their target, Ro was pleased when everyone enthusiastically agreed to go on the mission despite Tulley’s qualms. Alea, the cell’s intelligence officer, wanted to verify all of the data with the Odyssey crew.

As the woman hustled off to find a comm unit, Ro reflected once again on the mystery that Alea represented. Alea had nasal bone ridges even more pronounced than a Bajoran’s and yet had naturally purple hair—which definitely wasn’t a Bajoran trait. No one knew what planet Alea hailed from and she wasn’t talking. Yet she was far too good at her job to press her into an ultimatum of revealing her secrets or leaving the Maquis.

Emjin Thool approached Ro after the meeting had adjourned and the room had cleared. The Bolian licked his lips. “Are you sure about this? Aric is untested.”

Ro knew Thool’s worry was more for the Indomitable than her crew. Engineers, even Maquis ones, were slavishly devoted to their vessels. And Thool had a definite love affair going on with the Ju’day-class raider.

“Just prep the ship, Thool,” Ro insisted. “Aric will do fine. I have faith in him and so should you.”

Tulley herded Ro’s team into the meeting hall. They were a fairly assorted lot. Humans dominated the group. There exceptions though and Hev Tebler was one of them. The Cappellan was a better fighter than an engineer but both of his skill sets might be needed.

Lee Ziyi was Thool’s deputy. She was of Chinese descent and was quite proud of her heritage. She was also a walking burst of color since she dip-dyed her raven hair blue.

Larn Vorhoven was another engineer. He was more skilled than Tebler, but he just knew basic maintenance, unlike Lee and Thool. But he was also a fair hand in a fight.

Nadima D’ofo was one of the two medics the cell boasted. She was of African descent and also engaged in hair color playfulness. Her hair was currently blonde.

Juliana Gutierrez was one of the cell’s squad assault leaders. Lance Mayweather was a general hand and transporter chief. The other members of this group were going with the Indie.

Shanra Neet was among them. The Gideonite settler was the other medic. Athena Halep was an ops officer aboard the raider. The young Romani was yet another hair colorist, her current choice being platinum blonde. Audra North was a pilot and also half human and half Galenite, her alien heritage reflected by her bright green hair. Sam Richards rounded out the group. Richards was Tulley’s deputy, and as much as Ro would like to have his steely nerves aboard the Odyssey, she judged that Tulley needed him more.

Ro briefed the group. As usual, Tebler and Gutierrez were ready for a fight. Lee and Vorhoven were eager to get inside a starship even if it was a decommissioned one. D’ofo was slightly anxious about the new setting until she learned the Odyssey had a fully stocked Sickbay. She was much happier after learning that.

Ro got her team to the rendezvous point and wondered when someone would meet them. Seconds later, an annular confinement beam locked onto them and then they were transported up to the Odyssey in its position in orbit. They looked around and realized they’d rematerialized in a cargo bay. Macen and his Engineer’s Mate, Heidi Darcy, stood at the transporter controls.

“Thanks, Heidi. We can manage from here,” Macen informed her.

Darcy was stopped by Lee as she was exiting. Darcy’s own brunette hair was dip dyed blonde and Lee was delighted. “I love your hair!”

“Thanks.” The younger woman smiled and then reported back to Engineering.

“Excuse me, but who was that?” Lee asked Macen.

Macen explained who Darcy was and what her position aboard ship was as well. Lee lit up. “I knew anyone that fabulous had to be an engineer.”

“Does that include me?” Vorhoven teased.

“There are exceptions to every rule, Larry,” Lee quipped, “and you’re obviously one of them.”

Vorhoven clutched his heart. “Cut to the quick…again.”

Even the stoic Tebler smiled at that. Ro had had enough. “Can we get serious here?”

“Follow me and I’ll show you all to your quarters,” Macen decided. “This ship was designed with a crew of twenty-two in mind. There are six officer’s quarters with five permanent crewmen, so that leaves most of you in the enlisted barracks, since I have a feeling Ro will take the last single cabin. How you divvy up the rest of the rooms is up to you.”

What the Maquis discovered was that there were four rooms remaining that could house four crewmen in each. Ro did take the last officer’s cabin. Tebler got a barracks to himself. Vorhoven and Mayweather took a second room. Gutierrez would sleep alone and that left Lee and D’ofo sharing the last room.

Macen let everyone sort themselves out and then took them to the nearby galley. He left and Ro conducted an informal meeting. Lee was the first to speak.

“We’re already underway. I can feel that the warp core’s vibrational harmonics have shifted,” she shared.

Mayweather asked the obvious question on everyone’s mind. “So where are we headed anyway?”

“And just why the hell did we come along?” Gutierrez gruffly demanded to know. “This ship should be able to swat one lone transport.”

“We don’t want to lose the ship. It’s a transport that itself is a former Starfleet starship. We could use it in many different ways,” Ro explained, “and as far as Captain Aellai and her crew, that depends on how they react to our presence and if we have to board them or not.”

“What are we expecting to find?” D’ofo noticed all the stares her question drew. “Hey, we have to be after them for a reason.”

“I don’t know what we’ll find or where the Artemis will travel to,” Ro admitted. “This is a fishing expedition with firepower. What I do know is Eddington came to the Maquis with several dozen liters of biomimetic gel. Enough to build several weapons.”

“I can’t believe Aellai would go along with biogenic weapons,” D’ofo argued. “After all, her ancestors lost their planet to one.”

“Perhaps that is her motivation and perhaps these weapons would provide the tipping point to insure our eventual victory,” Tebler reasoned.

Ro glared at the Cappellan. “We may be labeled as ‘terrorists,’ but even we have rules of conduct.”

“Maybe that’s why we haven’t won already,” Tebler argued.

Ro suddenly saw that many in the Maquis would be swayed by a similar argument. After all, her own cell was being swayed even now. “This isn’t right. Once the bottle on biogenic weapons gets uncorked, the Cardassians are going to reply in kind and both sides will escalate until no one is left alive inside of the DMZ.”

Everyone but Tebler was with her again. “And no one will intervene unless Starfleet decides to step in. Do you really want to rely upon Starfleet?”

Tebler was still resistant. Ro wondered if he would prove to be a problem later on, so she decided to outline the hastily agreed upon plan. “The Odyssey is going to tail the Artemis at a discreet distance. We’ll be seeing where they go and who they meet with. If Aellai meets with someone capable of building a biogenic weapon, or several, Odyssey will pursue and engage when the Artemis is alone again,” Ro shared. “Our team will stand by if boarding action is required. We’ll aim for taking prisoners and then we’ll decide what to do with them after we’ve secured the Artemis and pilot her back to the DMZ. Then Eddington will be forced to justify his intentions.”

“So what are we going to do on this little voyage until we need to shoot something?” Mayweather inquired.

“Good question,” Ro admitted. “Let me ask the ship’s captain.”

Macen reported to the galley, leaving his executive officer, Lisea Danan in charge. Ro was uncertain as to the exact nature of the relationship between the El-Aurian intelligence agent and the Trill stellar cartographer. What Ro had gathered was that Danan and Macen had known each other for quite some time, and possibly through several lifetimes since Danan was Lisea’s symbiot. She’d also learned through Cal Hudson that Danan had abruptly resigned Starfleet and left a premier posting in order to join Macen on his freelance enterprise.

But the interactions between the two suggested that there was something greater than a simple platonic friendship. And Ro knew that no one was allowed to needle Macen as effectively as Danan, with the possible exception of Ro herself. Ro considered herself in rarified circles.

“I’d prefer if you restricted your movements to the cargo bays, Sickbay, and the galley when you’re not in your quarters,” Macen announced. He called up a deck layout on the galley’s main information screen. “As you can see, there are five decks total. Deck One is the bridge and I’d rather doubt you’d have a need to be there. You’re on Deck Two. Sickbay and the cargo bays make up the accessible portions of Deck Three. Deck Four is Engineering and Deck Five is monopolized by antimatter storage.”

“This would all go a lot smoother if you let us help out around here,” Lee interjected. “Have your engineers shadow Tebler, Vorhoven, and I. Ro can command while your crew sleeps. Mayweather also knows how to pilot ships. Gutierrez can man virtually any tactical board. D’ofo is a fair hand with Ops and sensors when she isn’t needed in Sickbay.”

Macen cast a quizzical glance Ro’s way. She nodded her approval. “I trust them with my life, so I suggest you loosen up and do the same.”

“All right,” Macen decided. “If you’d all follow me, I’ll show you to your future stations.”

The group moved to Deck Three where D’ofo was introduced to the Sickbay. She was left behind to examine the equipment and stores to be found there. Everyone else descended into Deck Four.

There the Maquis were introduced to Tom Eckles. Eckles and Darcy were a long-standing technical team. Eckles had first taken Darcy under his wing when she’d come aboard a tramp freighter he worked on. They’d been inseparable ever since. But they’d never moved past their age difference—greater than twenty years—to change their working relationship into a romantic one.

Eckles and Darcy both loved the prospect of working with additional crewmen. Eckles decided on the spot that he would supervise the Alpha watch while Darcy would oversee the Gamma. There was no Beta watch and the crew stood for twelve hour rotations. Fortunately, the Odyssey didn’t embark on long term missions. The crew’s longest voyage thus far had lasted for two and a half weeks.

Darcy would have Lee assisting her in overseeing Tebler while Vorhoven would work with the more experienced Eckles. Darcy quickly dismissed her group to get some food and rest before their watch commenced in five hours. Lee was more than delighted to have Darcy nearly to herself.

The Maquis were led back to Deck Three to pick D’ofo up and take her to the bridge. Upon arrival, the Maquis discovered that the ship was queued up to pass through the closest Federation checkpoint near Ronara Prime. Their wait had been estimated at two hours—plenty of time for the crew to show the Maquis their future duties.

Christine Lacey showed Gutierrez the tactical board and ran a few simulated scenarios to get Gutierrez comfortable and competent with the systems. Gutierrez mentioned that she’d seen Lacey on Ronara Prime on a couple of occasions. She’d been curious as to how Lacey got her hair to be its particular shade of red. Off the cuff, Gutierrez also revealed she missed Lacey’s blonde bangs.

T’Kir ran D’ofo through the Ops systems. D’ofo had been a nurse on Umoth before the Cardassians shut the clinic down. It was easy for her to deduce that T’Kir had been a mental patient and was probably an escapee from the Ardra Psychotherapy Institute on Ronara before it was cut off from Federation support and had shut down, thereby releasing its patients upon the general populace.

Tracy Ebert was surprised to learn Mayweather would pilot the ship in her off hours. Mayweather shrugged. “I come from a long line of freighter owner-operators. My family has been in the shipping business since the 22nd Century. I had a relative aboard the NX-01 USS Enterprise.”

Mayweather tried not to stare at Ebert’s spectacles. “I’m just as surprised that you have to wear those things.”

Ebert shrugged. “I’m allergic to Retnax.”

Mayweather accepted that simple explanation. As Ebert got him comfortable with the CONN station, he began to note that Ebert’s glasses also functioned with a heads up display feeding her navigational sensor data. For the first time in his life, he wished he were wearing spectacles.

The Maquis left the bridge after the ship cleared the checkpoint. They only had three hours before they’d pull a twelve hour shift controlling the starship. To a greater degree, they were all comfortable with that, but there was still an edge of trepidation because this was a starship and not simply a scout ship converted into a raider.

As her Maquis reported to Deck Two, Ro followed Macen into the briefing room located behind the bridge. As Ro sat down at the table, she noted the displays mounted into it. Keyboard controls predating the LCARS interfaces dominated the terminals.

“Now it’s time to talk about the practical aspects of our mission,” Macen decided. “We’ll be intercepting theArtemis in the Kalandra system. We have the sensor range to observe her transit through the inner system from the Ort Cloud. When she nears the habitable zone, we’ll move into the outer system.”

Macen pulled up a star chart of the Kalandra system. “As you can see, the primary has sixteen planets held captive. Lisea calculated the orbital mechanics of the system while we’ll be there. For several days, Kalandra IX will be in alignment with Kalandra IV.”

“And Kalandra IV is home to the system’s natives,” Ro recalled.

“True, there are colonies on Kalandras III, V, and VI, but the race evolved on Kalandra IV.” Macen gave her even more information. “This will place us well out of sensor range of an Andor-class transport. Everything about the Artemis has remained at constructed norms except her offensive weapons were removed prior to decommissioning.”

“But Aellai replaced them with Klingon Class V disruptors. Rumor has it she unblocked the torpedo tubes and has a few photons aboard as well,” Ro remembered.

“While I’d prefer to void an armed conflict or a ship to ship battle. Even though the Odyssey retains all of her original armament and defensive capabilities,” Macen advised Ro. “Of course, that means we have fixed phaser banks rather than Type IX or X phaser strips. But we do have fully stocked photon torpedo magazines. We have thirty-six photons in the forward launchers and eighteen in the aft launcher.”

“Now, we can observe suspicious activity all we want. We can’t prove criminal activities without boarding the ship,” Macen warned. “If we’re wrong, Aellai cab press charges and we’ll be tried for piracy. Everyone aboard would end up on a penal colony except you, Lees, and I. We’ll end up on Jaros II.”

“Next, you have to decide ahead of time what you’ll do with the prisoners,” Macen told her. “I’d recommend handing them over to Starfleet.”

“Why not over to the Bajoran Militia?” Ro wondered.

“The Militia supports the Kohn Ma and the Maquis,” Macen forced her to acknowledge. “An arbiter would simply release Aellai and send her back to the DMZ where she would become a very vocal, and potentially belligerent, foe of yours.”

Macen softened a bit. “Also, it doesn’t pay to antagonize the Provisional Government. Shakaar has extended the amnesty for Bajoran Resistance fighters who return home to the Maquis as well. If things go badly for you, you may want to take that option.”

“And do what?” Ro scoffed. “Farm?”

“You could always join the Militia,” Macen suggested. “They need someone with your training and experience. And most of them are ex-Resistance.”

“Why the sudden free advice?” Ro was suddenly suspicious.

“The Cardassian government is teetering on collapse. The Klingons have broken the will of the Cardassian Guard. Only Dukat’s raids even sting the Klingons. In other words, the Cardassian Union is in shambles and people under those conditions usually seek desperate measures to make all their problems go away,” Macen advised. “The Maquis are viewed as a major problem and an even greater embarrassment to the Cardassian people. Don’t be surprised if the Cardassians strike out and escalate the conflict or acquire allies who will do it for them.”

“You’re serious,” Ro suddenly realized.

“The Cardassians are hardly the first people to go down this path,” Macen warned, “nor will they be the last. But desperation makes extreme options tantalizing whereas they weren’t palatable before.”

Ro was caught short. Finally she said, “I’ll take it under advisement.”

“I really don’t think you have much more time to consider it,” Macen opined. “If Eddington does heighten tensions in the DMZ in a very real and catastrophic way, he opens the door to his own destruction and he’ll take all of you with him. Because the Detapa Council and the High Command are teetering on an abyss and that kind of provocation will throw them over it.”

Ro suddenly had a chilling feeling Macen was right.


U.S.S. Andor and U.S.S. Blackbird designed by Bernrd Schneider.


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

"The Cause" Chapter Two by Charlynn Schmiedt

by Travis Anderson

Captain Aellai guided Eddington through her Andor-class transport. The Artemis had been built nearly at the beginning of Starfleet’s hull construction run beginning in 2322. The ships had endured in service until the late 2360s and had recently all been decommissioned en masse. The SS Artemis had begun life as theUSS Artemis and had proudly served Starfleet’s needs throughout its forty plus year tenure.

Over the last two years, the ship had changed hands and owners three times. Each prior owner-operator had secured the necessary clearance to purchase a decommissioned starship, but they had all been woefully ignorant of what kind of life an itinerant trader led. Aellai had led that life since the Setlik III massacre, so when the owner of the vessel let Aellai know his ship was up for sale, she leapt at the opportunity.

Cal Hudson had devised Aellai’s role in the Maquis but she chafed under its restrictions. She wanted to inflict a great deal of harm back upon the Cardassians for what they’d done to the settlers on Setlik III and her own people. She’d begun by replacing the removed phaser banks with Klingon disruptors and unblocked the torpedo tubes that now carried four photons.

Fortunately for Aellai’s line of work, and her secret life as well, the Artemis’ sensor suite was intact, as were her shield array. Her engines were also unaltered so she could easily outpace the fastest conventional freighter. No other Maquis ship could catch her or escape her.

“How did the Quatal assignment go?” Eddington inquired as they neared the transporter room where the tour had begun.

Aellai fished an isolinear rod out of her bra and handed it to Eddington. “That encompasses all of our orbital sensor readings as well as those taken on the ground with tricorders. The atmospheric studies will be of particular interest to you.”

Eddington stopped in his tracks. “Why would you say that?”

“Let’s just say if someone wanted to deploy an aerosol agent into Quatal’s atmosphere, these wind current projections would be valuable,” Aellai fenced with him.

“Too bad I’m not doing that then,” Eddington parried.

“Just keep saying that,” Aellai said smugly. “After our next little ‘job’ is completed, what do you have in mind for us?”

“I need a similar study of Gryma,” Eddington answered.

“Gryma is more of a challenge,” Aellai mused. “It was the funnel point for the Cardassian Guard’s assistance to the colonial paramilitaries. Despite that support having dried up to a trickle because of the Klingons, the Cardassians will still suspect anyone moving across their world of being spies.”

“Then it’s a good thing you will be,” Eddington chuckled. “I’d hate to disappoint them. And I never thought I’d say this, but thank God for the Klingons in this. Now that they’ve broken faith with the Khitomer Accords treaty, I’ve been in contact with representatives from the High Council. We may have a new door for material support opening up for us.”

“They’re interested in throwing weaponry our way but not of fighting beside us,” Aellai immediately grasped.

“They see putting out the ultimate effort as a virtue in warfare,” Eddington smirked.

“Like a cloaking device is honorable,” Aellai snorted.

“Like Commander Worf recently said, ‘There’s nothing as honorable as winning’ and the Klingons do intend to win,” Eddington summed up.

They reached the transporter room and the impromptu tour concluded. Aellai eyed Eddington skeptically. “Well, what do you think of my ship?”

“With only five decks, this ship is comparable in size to the Defiant,” Eddington commented. “Of course, the Artemis has much greater cargo capacity.”

“And I’ll be filling its holds with various trinkets to buy my way onto Gryma’s surface as well as taking care of your other little errand. That process is going to take several weeks,” Aellai warned him.

“Really?” Eddington was disappointed. “That long?”

“Starfleet has become aware of Captain Yates’ involvement with the Maquis,” Aellai forced him to recall. “In doing so, they’ve tightened security and are sending out exploratory patrols into nonaligned space with greater frequency and intensity. I can’t tip my hand just yet.”

“And getting your little weapons assembled will also take time,” Aellai warned. “My people had experience with biogenic weapons. They’ll be worth the wait. They completely poisoned Platonius so that no one can inhabit it.”

“We’re not destroying any planets,” Eddington countered. “We need the planets intact for settlement. Of course, they’re also going to require one helluva burial detail.”

“Well, our losses forced us to interbreed with humans just to survive,” Aellai lamented.

“As I have heard it, you’re half human yourself,” Eddington pointed out.

“Through no fault of my own,” Aellai retorted.

“Oh, we’re not so bad. If you have to interbreed with someone it might as well be us,” Eddington jovially remarked.

His good humor was lost on her. “I’ll call someone in to handle the transporter. Good day.”

As Eddington watched Aellai depart, he realized he’d just found a major vulnerability in her emotional shields. It was good to know these things. He patiently waited for Don Granger to return to the transporter room.

Granger served as the Artemis’ cargo master as well as the transporter chief. Since the entire crew was made up of four people, everyone undertook multiple specialties. Aellai was not only the captain, but she also handled the conn and ops. Donal Riley was her first officer and also controlled weapons, sensors, and communications. Siobhan Hennessy was the chief engineer and also the munitions handler. All in all, they were a highly efficient operation.

“Just step on the pad, Commander Eddington, and I’ll have you on the surface in a heartbeat,” Granger said jovially.

“I’m no longer in Starfleet, so you don’t have to refer to me by my former rank,” Eddington deadpanned.

“But you’re the next Maquis commander,” Granger quipped, “so I’m still right.”

Eddington smiled. “I’ll give you that.”

He stepped onto a pad and looked around at the unit. “Is this still a Mark V transporter?”

“It works,” Granger shot back. “With all the care Siobhan and I give this baby, she’ll outperform any Mark VII.”

“I believe you,” Eddington assured him.

Granger grinned. “Good, ‘cause otherwise Siobhan would hand you your ass.”

Eddington recalled the feisty engineer. “I believe you’re right again.”

“Energizing,” Granger smirked.

Aellai ran a tight ship with so few crewmen because greater numbers increased the security risks around what they really did and the cargoes they handled. Everyone aboard hated the Cardassians as much if not more than Aellai. So their little conspiracy ran unabated until someone outside the circle grew the wiser.

Ro contacted Elijah Waters. Macen had told her about Waters, but she’d never seen him before. His advanced years startled her. Waters was at least eighty years old. Humans were now living past the century mark, but Waters was still far older than Ro expected.

Her only estimate of his age before this was based on the comment Macen had made that he’d worked with Waters for sixty years. Given that Macen was an El-Aurian, that made his own age very deceptive and rounded out appropriately for Waters’ own appearance.

“Hello Ro, I’m afraid your reputation does go before you,” Waters smiled.

Ro appreciated Waters’ snowy white beard and hair. The twinkle in his eyes also swayed her towards immediately liking him. “So does yours. I think I’m safe in assuming the reports are from the same source.”

“Not quite. Admiral Nechayev had some choice things to say about you behind closed doors,” Waters chuckled. “Just as Brin does.”

“I have a few things to say regarding Nechayev myself,” Ro confessed. “What were hers?”

“Her metaphors were mixed and very colorful,” Waters admitted. “The sort of language you’d hear from a Klingon whorehouse.”

Ro liked that thought. “And Macen?”

“Only the best,” Waters assured her.

“Okay, setting all that aside, I need…” Ro began.

“To hire the Odyssey and her captain,” Waters surmised before Ro could finish. “You’re in luck. They just finished an investigation into the Boslics for a certain Ferengi.”

“I hope Quark paid well,” Ro said dryly.

“Far more than he expected to, I assure you,” Waters said slyly. “The Odyssey will be returning to Starbase 412 from Bajor in two days time.”

“Why Bajor and not Deep Space Nine?” Ro was instantly curious.

“Macen is confirming a rumor,” Waters said simply.

Ro waited for the man to elaborate but it quickly dawned her he wasn’t going to. “Tell Brin to meet me in the usual place on Ronara Prime.”

“I will indeed, and if I were forty years younger, I’d be a very jealous man.” Waters’ eyes twinkled with delight as he signed off.

Ro wondered just what the hell Macen had shared about her.

Two days later, Ro cautiously entered the Old Biddy. The tavern had become such a draw for the planet’s Maquis cell that she was surprised that Starfleet and the Cardassians hadn’t targeted it yet. Then again, Starfleet might have done so and no one realized it yet. The Cardassians, however, would have stood out even in the bar’s usual crowd.

The “usual” crowd was an eclectic mix of freighter crews and locals. Various fringe elements also found the Old Biddy to be a haven of sorts, which is probably why the Maquis felt at home there.

Ro had been recruited to the Maquis in an establishment similar to this, at least in the eclectic mix of patrons’ arena. That watering hole had been light years far and away in class. The Old Biddy was simply a place where one drank their cares away — or conducted clandestine meetings such as Ro was about to have.

Ro’s right hand was in her jacket pocket. Inside was a Type I “cricket” phaser. Starfleet had stopped issuing the diminutive weapons so they’d found their way into surplus dealers’ hands and the black market. As Ro worked her way through the tavern, she ordered a drink and then spotted Macen at their usual table in the back of the establishment.

Ro made her approach and as she drew closer to the table, she realized there was a male Galenite lying unconscious on the floor next to the table. His ancestry was obvious because of his green hair. His people were native to Galen III, a pre-warp culture whose planet was near the Federation colony on Galen IV. Ro knew from personal acquaintances that the colonists had violated the Prime Directive on more than one occasion.

“Did you really have to stun him?” Ro dryly asked.

Macen shrugged. “He wouldn’t vacate your seat.”

“We could have used a different table,” Ro wryly suggested.

“And break tradition?” Macen queried her with mock horror.

“It’s no wonder you’re no longer in Starfleet,” Ro snorted.

“You’re a fine one to talk,” Macen quipped.

“Too true,” she said with some satisfaction as she sat down opposite Macen, “but I’m not sure we have time for the usual repartee.”

“Elijah said you seemed to be in a hurry to hire me,” Macen began. “I suppose you’ll want my special pro bono rate.”

“What are you now?” Ro retorted. “A latinum grubbing Ferengi?”

“I know quite a few Bajorans that grub a lot too,” Macen threw back at her.

“We’re not here to discuss them,” Ro growled a warning.

“No, we’re here to discuss Michael Eddington’s intentions for the Maquis,” Macen surmised.

“How did you know?” Ro wondered. “I didn’t tell Waters anything.”

“I know you don’t like Eddington,” Macen admitted, “and if I know it, he knows it as well. That could prove to be dangerous when you’re dealing with a megalomaniac.”

 “Bully for him,” Ro retorted.

“A very free word of advice: While standing up for principle is a vital part of life, it doesn’t pay to needlessly antagonize the boss,” Macen warned her.

“So you think Eddington is a shoo in for Maquis commander?” Ro wondered.

“He already is in everything but name only,” Macen stated.

Ro sighed. “Eddington has Aellai surveying Quatal Prime. I can only guess that Gryma is next. I need to know why.”

“So do the governors of Quatal and Gryma,” Macen divulged, “and they’re willing to cover my expenses for the job.”

“So you’ll still make a profit while helping out us poor, struggling Maquis,” Ro said snidely. “Poor baby.”

“Laren, I’ve been quite generous with the Maquis in general and your cell in particular. I’d do the assignment for you gratis,” Macen shared, “but if I can get the Cardassians to finance a Maquis operation, then I’m all for it.”

“Good point,” Ro murmured.

“The Cardassians are afraid that Aellai is working for the Maquis — a fact we know to be true,” Macen remarked. “They’re of the opinion that the Maquis will learn something to enable them to deploy a weapon of some sort. I think you share this opinion.”

“Yes, but Eddington still needs Aellai’s cover intact,” Ro opined, “but the vindictive little guttersnipe wants her revenge, so I think if she enables Eddington to acquire some kind of super weapon, she’ll be likely to use it herself.”

“Aellai covered her ostensible reason for being at Quatal, which was supposedly a trade venture, by scouring nonaligned star systems to acquire exotic wares and goods that the Cardassians would want to buy,” Macen described. “Some of those planets are under protection from the Prime Directive, but apparently Aellai doesn’t feel constrained by that law anymore.”

“Should she?” Ro asked acerbically.

“Even if you don’t agree with many of the Federation’s policies, you have to admit that the Prime Directive is a valid one,” Macen conjectured.

“Unless your home planet is being occupied by a foreign aggressor when the Federation invokes its lofty principle of ‘noninterference’ and throws that in your face,” Ro snapped. “And for what? To avoid a war that they’d already been unofficially fighting for a couple of decades?”

“Then why did you swear an oath to uphold that same principle?” Macen inquired.

“Well, I didn’t fulfill that oath very well, did I?” Ro asked sardonically.

“You didn’t join the Maquis because you hated the Federation,” Macen stated the obvious fact. “You did it because you were disappointed again by the Federation’s failures to live up to its own ideals.”

For once in a rare occasion, Ro was rendered speechless. Macen brushed it all aside. “Anyway, Aellai will be stocking up her wares again so we can observe her in action and see if Eddington has any special stops arranged for her.”

“How will you find her?” Ro wondered.

“Easy. Captain Rionoj gave me Aellai’s usual route and a list of where she frequently stops,” Macen grinned.

“A little perk of working for Quark, I take it,” Ro deduced.

Macen shrugged. “Quark wanted to know where Rionoj had found her new supply of fire gems. He wanted to undercut her. She was willing to trade my silence for Aellai’s itinerary.”

“So you lied to your employer,” Ro said ruefully.

“Quark didn’t need to know the truth,” Macen decided, “and my willingness to withhold the true percentage of what he was taking off of the sale of Rionoj’s gemstones was bartered in exchange for his accepting my report at face value.”

Macen suddenly smirked. “With a twenty-five percent reduction of my standard fee, of course.”

After Ro’s mirth died down, she asked, “Will you help us?”

Macen nodded in the affirmative, “I’ve been worried about Aellai for a while now. She was clearly unhinged back in ‘57 when the massacre on Setlik III occurred.”

“And how would you know?” Ro queried him.

“I know what I saw at the time,” Macen gently replied.

That rattled Ro, so she hesitated before inquiring, “So what’s your plan?”

“That’s all up to you,” Macen informed her, “but I’d stick with the simple game plan of following theArtemis and seeing who she meets up with.”

“I agree with the idea,” Ro said after a moment’s consideration. “I’ll prep a team to come aboard your ship.”

“I’d also suggest you leave your usual staff officers behind so they can take the Indomitable out to create the illusion that you’ve never left Ronara except for this mission,” Macen urged.

“I suppose you have a mission already in mind,” Ro surmised.

“As it turns out, the Orion Syndicate is shipping Class IV ground based disruptor banks to Quatal and Gryma. The convoy will be comprised of four stock light freighters and two Wanderer-class blockade runners. The cargo manifests will show that they industrial replicators rather than weapons in order to get past any Starfleet patrols on their way to Cardassian space whereby they will transit to Gryma,” Macen shared.

“All right, I’ll inform Tulley he’s on this,” Ro agreed. “I’ll also assemble a team of reliable Maquis and meet you at Second Quad Settlement in Division Four of Primal City.”

“I have to know,” Macen interjected, “just how committed to this objective are you?”

“Normally I’d go after the Orions in my own raider,” Ro asserted, “but I’m letting Tulley do that and I’m riding with you.”

“You have to know Eddington will respond,” Macen warned her. “He has an overinflated sense of personal betrayal and he will take measures against you in response to this. You could easily be ostracized from the communal Brigade Council and the joint supply line. This would leave you utterly dependent on your own financing initiatives and logistics support.”

“I guess I really would be an independent operator afterwards,” Ro ventured.

Macen had to appreciate her courage and dedication.


U.S.S. Andor and U.S.S. Blackbird designed by Bernrd Schneider.


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

"The Cause" Chapter One by Charlynn Schmiedt

by Travis Anderson

Series: TOS, DS9

Rating: K+

Synopsis: Michael Eddington has left Starfleet, but his arrival in the DMZ heralds in a new era for the Maquis.  What Ro Laren wants to know is will it be an era of newfound success and/or a period of unrestricted extremism?

Chronology: Two weeks after the Deep Space Nine fourth season episode “For the Cause.”

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"In the Shadows" Chapter Five by Charlynn Schmiedt

by Travis Anderson

The transporter chief grunted as Aelynn and Romaine finished materializing. “Commander Talus wants you on the bridge as soon as you can get there.”

“Why?” Aelynn wondered.

“He wants you to handle our launch while he placates the officials,” the tech explained and then added, “and you’d best watch your tongue, Subcommander. We may be loose-knit but we are still Romulans. The command structure will be adhered to. That includes respect.”

“Inform the commander that I’ll be up as soon as I stow our passenger,” Aelynn assured him.

“Just hurry,” the tech advised. “Commander Talus is ready to chew neutronium.”

“It’d probably be easier on his digestion than his usual culinary massacres,” Aelynn quipped. The tech chortled and Aelynn waved Romaine on to follow her.

Aelynn led her through the ship. Romaine had studied Romulans ship designs. This was reminiscent of aBird of Prey, yet it was distinctly different. Finally, she had to ask why that was.

Aelynn grinned, “That’s because we’re in a Bird of Vengeance-class. Essentially we’re a scout. This class of vessel isn’t military. Rather, we’re privateers in the service of the Empire. We engage in exploration, anti-piracy operations, and first contact missions.”

“So, you’re counting on your semi-legitimate status to get us through security,” Romaine guessed.

Aelynn nodded as she came to a halt. “That is right. If you’ll step in here, these will be your temporary lodgings.”

Romaine looked in. It was a small berth, barely big enough to hold the cot contained within. Aelynn recognized Romaine’s look of dismay for what it was.

“This area is shielded. When the hatch closes, it is flush with the bulkhead. For all intents and purposes, it and its occupant disappear,” Aelynn described.

Dawning awareness wakened in Romaine. “You’ve done this before.”

Aelynn’s eyes twinkled with mischief. “On occasion.”

“But why?” Romaine wondered.

Aelynn suddenly wore a somber mien. “I’ll explain it all later on, but for now I need you in this area and I need to report to the bridge.”

“You’re locking me in, aren’t you?” Romaine realized.

“Only for a short span of time,” Aelynn assured her. “You must trust me.”

For some strange reason, Romaine did. And it wasn’t because Aelynn was her contact. Rather, it was in spite of that. Aelynn, and by extension her crewmates, were risking their lives to extract Romaine. The least she could do was cooperate.

Romaine entered the room and sat on the cot. “Do it. Before I change my mind.”

“Rest easy. We’re very, very good at this,” Aelynn promised. She then closed the door and locked it.

“Like I have a choice,” Romaine grumbled to the encroaching bulkheads.

It took a nearly three hours for Aelynn to release the door. Romaine had nearly gone mad from feeling claustrophobic. She gratefully accepted Aelynn’s invitation to the ship’s mess.

When they arrived, four other crewmen were present. They all openly stared at Romaine out of curiosity. Romaine was a little unnerved.

“Why am I such a focus of attention? Haven’t they seen humans before?” Romaine wondered.

“Of course they have. They just never seen one that wasn’t a slave,” Aelynn informed her.

“Slave?” Romaine latched onto that singular word.

“My people brought quite a number of prisoners back from the war between our peoples. Most were given to the noble houses to serve as slaves. The nobles use a variety of slaves from the subject races as menial laborers,” Aelynn explained. “Surely you knew.”

“No,” Romaine confessed. “Starfleet has often wondered what happened to those missing in action, but we always assumed they were actually killed in action.”

“Not always.” Aelynn seemed to be enjoying a private joke. “I am proof enough of that.”

“Are you saying…?” Romaine couldn’t believe it.

“My paternal grandmother was human. She was a slave that caught the eye of her master. He was impressed enough with her to forsake his House and marry her. That is where I learned to speak your native language. The skill has been passed down through the family,” Aelynn revealed.

“Is that why you’re helping me?” Romaine asked.

“Partly.” Aelynn decided to share, “The primary reason, and the factor motivating my crew, is the Reunification movement.”

“The what?” Romaine was baffled.

“What do you know of the Vulcan Reunification movement?” Aelynn inquired.

“I’ve never even heard of it,” Romaine confessed.

“T’Ling never spoke of it?” Aelynn had to ask.

“No.” Romaine was now wondering what the hell T’Ling had to do with anything.

Aelynn wore an approving smile. “She’s always been a cagey one. That is why she was chosen for the mission.”

“What mission?” Romaine demanded to know.

Aelynn looked sad. “I hate to inform you, Commander, but your mission was a feint.”

“Excuse me?” Romaine was incensed.

Aelynn held up her hands. “I had nothing to do with it. Commander Knight selected you out of the very limited choices. You distracted the Tal Shiar and kept their focus on you while T’Ling carried out the true mission. I am sorry to have to inform you of this.”

“But you’re not sorry I did my part,” Romaine scowled.

“Truly, I’m not,” Aelynn admitted. “T’Ling is one of our number.”

“What number?” Romaine snapped.

“The Reunification movement seeks to reunite the Vulcan and Romulan peoples in a cohesive exchange of cultures such as we had before the Sundering,” Aelynn explained.

“You’ve got to be kidding,” Romaine said dismissively.

“Over a hundred years ago, the Star Empire’s agents travelled to Vulcan and placed this idea in the minds of the High Command as a manipulative ruse. The movement took a life of its own, and now a century later, there are adherents moving in secret on both sides of the border,” Aelynn shared.

“You’re trying to tell me a bunch of idealistic dreamers schemed up this plan?” Romaine countered.

“No, we had assistance from factions within Starfleet,” Aelynn explained. “There were some unexpected variables thrown in during your transit here that threatened the mission.”

“What kind of ‘variables?’” Romaine wearily asked.

“My sister became involved,” Aelynn stated.

“Who is your sister?” Romaine had to ask.

“You have had the misfortune of meeting her. She commands the cruiser that brought you to Romulus,” Aelynn divulged.

“Commander Alera is your sister?” Romaine was astounded. “You’re saying she’s part human and she’s still such a…”

As Romaine faltered while searching for a word, Aelynn chuckled. “No matter which adjective you apply, they’ve been used frequently and often for Alera.”

“Why is she so…so…?” Romaine stumbled.

“Full of hate?” Aelynn suggested. Romaine nodded and the Romulan explained, “My sister feels she is contaminated by her human blood. It is a perceived impurity that drives her every ambition. She feels she must constantly prove her orthodoxy and goes to great extremes to demonstrate her loyalty to the Star Empire and to simply being Romulan.”

“So let me get this straight. Your sister was the great threat that could’ve been our undoing?” Romaine had to scoff.

“Alera knows of the Reunification movement,” Aelynn said. “She suspects everyone of being a traitor or a threat, especially Vulcans.”

“Why would a Vulcan pose a concrete threat?” Romaine wondered.

 “Vulcans act as philosophical ambassadors when they travel into the Star Empire. Indigenous members of the movement act as spies and agents of influence and change,” Aelynn shared. “The Tal Shiar expressly demanded that Alera be your team’s minder en route. That bodes ill.”

“The Federation’s Prime Directive forbids interference in foreign cultures. Starfleet is bound by that law, yet you’re saying Starfleet Intelligence ran an illegal covert operation?” Romaine inquired.

Aelynn wore a mischievous smile. “Did I say it was Starfleet Intelligence?”

“Yes, you did,” Romaine said flatly, even as she recalled that Aelynn hadn’t specified which branch of Starfleet had concocted this fiasco.

“I must have misspoken,” Aelynn retorted.

Romaine was stymied and she knew it.

Two days later, Romaine was brought to a small room with a viewscreen. She was curious as to why. Aelynn’s answer surprised her.

“We’ve arrived for our rendezvous with the Longbow,” the Romulan XO answered.

“We’ve reached the Neutral Zone?” Romaine asked hopefully.

“Not quite,” Aelynn smirked. Romaine was beginning to hate that mirthful expression. Aelynn opted not to leave her guest hanging in suspense. “We’re still a day away from the zone. The Longbow crossed the zone a day ago and should be here waiting for us.”

“Waitaminute!” Romaine exclaimed. “The Longbow violated the Neutral Zone?”

“Your own precious Enterprise did so,” Aelynn pointed out. “What is another starship after that?”

Romaine caught up with Aelynn’s statements. “If she’s here, why don’t you know it?”

“I think you’re about to see why,” Aelynn offered.

Romaine was half tempted to risk Aelynn’s greater strength and attempt to strangle her. Then she noticed the ripple in the viewscreen. “What the…? Something’s decloaking!”

“Right on time,” Aelynn mused.

Romaine was suddenly concerned that she’d come this far just to be delivered over to the Tal Shiar at long last. Then, as the mystery starship coalesced into view, Romaine realized the viewer displayed an image of an Archer-class scout.

“What the hell?” Romaine blurted. “When did the Longbow get a cloaking device?”

“Shortly after the Starfleet Corps of Engineers finished examining the one stolen by Kirk,” Aelynn explained. “We can proceed to the transport chamber now. I think you’ve seen what you needed to see.”

“Why did I need to see this?” Romaine asked.

“Did Commander Knight inform you what the primary rule is?” Aelynn inquired in turn.

“Yes,” Romaine answered warily.

“Then you have your answer,” Aelynn said sagely.

Romaine decided it wasn’t too late to strangle the Subcommander after all.

Romaine appeared in the Longbow’s transporter room. Knight cheerfully greeted her and Romaine responded by taking aim at her with her phaser.

The transporter chief reached for the alarm, but Knight waved him off. “Why Mira, whatever do you intend to do with that?”

“I’m not sure yet,” Romaine admitted. “I just feel more comfortable having this pointed at you.”

“And why is that?” Knight was thoroughly amused.

“You set me up,” Romaine accused. “I was your dupe. I was the decoy so your real agent could do God knows what.”

“True,” Knight admitted. “But I didn’t enjoy having to do it.”

“I don’t give a damn whether or not you enjoyed it,” Romaine growled. “You still did it.”

“Yes, I did. And given the same choice, I’d do it again in a hot second,” Knight divulged.

“I should just shoot you and take my chances with the crew,” Romaine declared.

“Go ahead,” Knight suggested.

“Say what?” Romaine was baffled.

“Knowing you would feel this way when we picked you up, do you really think I’d give you a weapon that you could use against me?” Knight inquired.

“You’re bluffing,” Romaine ventured.

“Let’s see if you are and we’ll know for sure if I am,” Knight urged.

Romaine thought for about half a second and then pulled the trigger. She tried a couple of more times. “Damn.”

Knight grinned, “I didn’t think you do it for a moment there. I’d say you’ve come a long way in a short time. Are you certain you wouldn’t like a change in careers?”

“Get stuffed,” Romaine replied.

Knight shrugged. “You might change your mind someday. I’ve got time.”

“Now what happens?” Romaine wondered.

“Now we go to our guest quarters and I’ll answer as many of your questions as I can,” Knight shared.

“I guess I’ll have to live with that,” Romaine sighed.

“Well, you certainly won’t get a better offer from anyone else,” Knight chuckled.

They were sitting in their room and Romaine finally vented, “What the hell was so important that you had to use me like a pawn?”

“I’m afraid I can’t answer that. You’re not cleared for it,” Knight reluctantly stated. “I can say that what we’ve gathered could very well insure the lives of trillions.”

“So my data is useless?” Romaine asked wearily.

“No, your data is valuable. It’s just of secondary importance because we could have acquired it by other means. Assets like Subcommander Aelynn are valuable and resourceful, but they’re still Romulan patriots and won’t hand over any information that they feel would imperil the Star Empire,” Knight divulged.

“Just who the hell are you anyway?” Romaine wanted to know, “because you sure as hell aren’t Starfleet Intelligence.”

“What makes you think that?” Knight was curious.

“Call it a hunch,” Romaine shot back.

“I feel I owe you a glimmer of the truth, so I will admit that there are layers to Starfleet and some layers are hidden from the average person. Let’s just say you’ve had a brush with something far beyond you,” Knight revealed.

“But…” Romaine started to say.

Knight held up a hand to ward off the question, “That’s all I can say. I’m serious about you joining us though. You wouldn’t have to leave Memory Alpha. You’d just be on call to protect the Federation when asked to.”

“At what price?” Romaine asked sharply.

“You’d have to broaden your paradigm slightly,” Knight shared.

“Is there such a thing as ‘going too far’ with you people?” Romaine wanted to know.

“Freedom comes at a price,” Knight countered. “Most people aren’t willing to pay it.”

“And what is that price?” Romaine inquired.

“Join us and find out,” Knight offered. “Otherwise, get used to not having your questions answered.”

Romaine decided it was going to be a long trip back to Memory Alpha.

Knight offered Romaine another chance to join her shadowy organization one last time. Romaine declined once again, but Knight wore a knowing smile. “We’ll see.”

The Longbow departed and carried Knight away with her. Romaine returned to her duties. Someone had warned off her fellow officers from asking Romaine what had happened on Romulus. They were dying to know, she could tell, but they were literally afraid to ask. Romaine knew it was Knight’s heavy hand again. Her or her mysterious compatriots.

As Romaine had suspected would happen, T’Ling was immediately transferred out of Memory Alpha. The transfer was so immediate, in fact, she left with the Longbow when she broke orbit. It wasn’t a coincidence that T’Ling had packed all of her belongings before departing for Romulus.

Over the next three months, three unexpected events occurred. First, Commander Garth retired. He moved back to Earth and became the Chief Librarian for Starfleet Academy.

Second, Romaine was then promoted to Commander ahead of schedule. And thirdly, she was made Chief Archivist of Memory Alpha. Her surprise and delight ebbed when she received a congratulatory note from Knight. She felt the hand of manipulation again, but she also shrugged it off. Her new position could serve her newfound interests.

Romaine began to dig deeper into Starfleet’s Bureau of Personnel database. Mercy Knight didn’t exist. Her file and transcripts had disappeared. But a woman matching her description did, or had, existed.

Lt. Miranda Graves was a dead ringer for Knight. She’d apparently died in a shuttle accident on Izar. She’d been one of the first graduates of the Advanced Tactical Training Center. She had been awarded medals, citations, and letters of merit with no events attached. So Miranda Graves, like Mercy Knight, stank of covert ops.

Romaine realized that shuttle accidents could be arranged. Cloning of enough tissues could provide DNA evidence to substantiate a death. Graves had been far too competent to be caught by a hidden bomb. Basically, Miranda Graves had died so Mercy Knight could be born.

The question was why had Romaine been allowed to discover these facts? She knew it had been a controlled and intentional oversight not to erase Graves’ records. Whoever Knight worked for wasn’t that sloppy. They were playing a game with Romaine, still inexorably trying to draw her in.

And that begged the question of what kind of organization could convince a loyal and patriotic officer like Graves to fake her death and serve them as Knight. Personnel files seemed to be altered at will and fake orders generated at a whim. Who had that kind of access and power?

Also disturbing was the Longbow being equipped with the stolen cloaking device. Starfleet had made it official policy not to pursue cloaking technology. Part of the reason was idealistic. Starfleet operated in the open. They shouldn’t have to resort to skullduggery. And of course, there was the matter of having to admit where they’d acquired the technology.

It was also a matter of priorities. Cloaking devices were a first strike weapon. Starfleet’s primary function was exploration. Defense was a secondary priority. And defense meant what it sounded like. Defense was not offense.

Romaine had decided to unearth the powers that be from the shadows where they lingered. Unsurprisingly, after a few months of probing, she got a message from Knight. Knight seemed genuinely pleased to be speaking with her.

“Congratulations, Mira. I can tell you you’re on the right trail. In fact, you’ve come closer to the truth than anyone has in decades,” Knight bubbled. “I’m authorized to tell you everything if you’re ready to listen.”

“What’s the price?” Romaine warily asked.

“You give up your safe little career and use your talents in defense of the Federation full-time,” Knight shared. “And I can also tell you this is a one-time offer. Take it or leave it.”

Romaine graphically described which orifice Knight could shove her offer into. Knight was a little discouraged. “Don’t continue wasting your talents, Mira.”

“I’m not,” Romaine grated.

“I’m sure you intend to chase us down and bring us into the daylight. I can freely advise you not to bother. It could be dangerous to continue your pursuit,” Knight warned.

“Is that a threat?” Romaine sought clarification.

“A possibility,” Knight deflected. “A very real one.”

“I think we’re done here,” Romaine decided.

“Just think about it, Knight requested before signing off.

Romaine was more determined than ever. She vowed to uncover the secrets and hidden agendas or die trying. What she hadn’t realized yet was that could become a reality far sooner than she suspected.


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


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

"In the Shadows" Chapter Four by Charlynn Schmiedt

by Travis Anderson

A few hours after their arrival, the Starfleet team was roused by their Romulan minders. Agent Moren gathered them up and once again they used a military transport to traverse the city of Ki Baran. The enclosed space of the transport’s passenger compartment was also completely shrouded so that the Federation specialists couldn’t see anything as they passed over it.

The transport settled down and Moren opened the hatch. Romaine led the others out of the transport. She found they had arrived at a pristine-looking multistoried glass building surrounded by a glen of trees and grasses.

“This is lovely,” Romaine confessed.

 Moren beamed with pride. “It is the city’s central library. We take great delight in it.”

“You don’t have all of your literary works and factual treatises on your central commnet?” Romaine wondered.

Moren’s visage darkened a bit. “No. Certain works are widely available, but the bulk of our factual documents are housed in repositories such as these. Here, one can find the digital copies and the original written tomes that were produced before the digital age swept over us.”

“And this way you get to control who accesses the information,” Romaine guessed.

“Very astute, Commander,” Moren mused. “I suppose the lofty Federation hasn’t such controls in place.”

Romaine wore a bemused expression. “Actually, our facility houses data and documents that are considered ‘too provocative’ to be allowed access to unauthorized personnel. Fortunately, there aren’t many cases like that and authorization is relatively easy to come by.”

“A pity,” Moren commented. “I had unexpectedly begun to have some respect for your culture. You have just dashed my hopes of reaching an understanding.”

Romaine gazed around. “I can’t help but notice that troops have surrounded the building.”

Moren fed her the often-said line, “That is to insure your safety.”

“Wouldn’t it be safer to say you’re protecting your people from us?” Romaine gibed him.

“Perhaps,” Moren allowed.

Romaine sighed, “Somehow I think today is going to be one exceptionally long day.”

“It may indeed,” Moren mused philosophically.

She found she hated him for all the same reasons she’d hated Knight.

“What kind of weapon did Kirk use to destroy the entity?” an intelligence analyst shouted.

“None!” Romaine finally raised her voice after he’d posed the same question five times already. “You have the Enterprise’s sensor logs and Admiral Kirk’s after action report. They say the same thing I’m telling you.”

“These are obvious forgeries,” the analyst scoffed. “No entity with this much strength would simply…vanish!”

“That’s what happened,” Romaine grated. She really wished T’Ling could handle this portion of the briefing but the Romulans were great respecters of the chain of command. In fact, Romaine had observed that while the Vulcans employed the use of logic and absolute suppression of emotion to quell their passions, the Romulans used martial discipline to achieve the same effect.

While that made her the mouthpiece for the Federation team in their eyes, she was also discovering that they were hard-headed sons of bitches. They couldn’t grasp even the simplest concept outside their established paradigm. It was infuriating.

“Look!” Romaine tried again, “V’Ger effectively mapped out our galaxy. Rather than just travel to another, it shifted itself into a parallel reality. Who knows exactly why, but it did. We’ll have to ask it when we cross over the dimensional barriers and arrive in another quantum universe.”

“A pretty face and a pretty tongue to espouse Federation lies,” another “expert” chimed in.

“I appreciate the fact that you find me attractive, but can we focus on the material at hand?” Romaine fired off a salvo of her own.

“You claim this entity was composed of technology beyond our reckoning, yet you also claim that its centerpiece originated on your backwater home world,” yet another voice added to the debate. “How is that so?”

“We don’t know,” Romaine admitted. Seeing all of the astonished stares directed at her she threw up her hands, “We don’t! Earth launched a series of Voyager probes three centuries ago. Somehow — no one knows how — this simplistic probe traversed the cosmos and was found by an alien civilization that modified and highly augmented it and sent back toward Earth. How that was accomplished when it had no thrust is a topic of heated debates like this one.”

“It had no thrust?” A fourth, who’d been introduced as an engineer, sought clarification.

“It was on a ballistic course when it left Earth’s solar system. It hadn’t even migrated out of Sector 001 when its handlers lost track of it,” Romaine explained. “Quite simply, it was declared ‘lost’ for all intents and purposes until it showed up back on our doorstep.”

There was a lot of muttering and grumbling. Finally, the Romulan with the most clout asked yet another question. “What was the purpose of this probe?”

“The same as Starfleet’s. To seek out new life,” Romaine answered wearily.

“Isn’t it true this probe was launched with the sole purpose of gathering intelligence on alien cultures so that Earth could conquer them?” the intelligence analyst barbed.

“Of course! That’s it!” Romaine laughed a little hysterically, “That’s why we marched all over Romulus and Remus when we had the chance.”

There was a general outcry over this that basically amounted to, “You’d never stand a chance.” Romaine opted to take this as an encouraging sign.

Moren intervened at long last. “Enough of this prattle. The Commander doesn’t know what’s beyond her brief. She wasn’t there and she certainly isn’t an expert in these areas.” Moren chastised them all, “Now show them the flight telemetry.”

“I object,” the intelligence guru declared. “Why equip our enemies with knowledge they could use to construct another of these monsters and send it towards the Star Empire?”

“Do you really believe the Federation has the wherewithal to construct one of these entities?” Moren inquired sharply.

“No, but they might be able to,” the analyst asserted.

“Be silent!” Moren commanded. “I don’t have time for your prattle. Now show them the data.”

“But…” another expert protested.

“Are you questioning my authority in this matter?” Moren asked in a soft, yet distinctly threatening, tone.

Information was released to the archivists’ data slates. Chief amongst the items was a parabolic course projection for V’Ger before it entered Klingon territory. It had traversed the territory of the Holy Order of Kinshaya before plunging into Imperial space. Romaine and the others had never heard of the Kinshaya. The fact that the Romulan Star Empire was on good enough terms with them to have this sort of telemetry was telling.        

The projection theorized an entrance into the Beta Quadrant from the Delta Quadrant. Just as Starfleet’s ventures into the Beta Quadrant were severely limited, their knowledge of the Delta Quadrant was completely lacking.

The obnoxious analyst theorized V’Ger originating from the depths of the Delta Quadrant. What he said was of limited interest. What he didn’t say was intriguing. The Romulans had no firsthand knowledge of the Delta Quadrant or its races, either.

The Romulans concluded their portion of the briefing and Romaine and the Starfleet officers were herded into an antechamber. Taurig was quick with a comment. “Now they’re going to shoot us for sure.”

“Not necessarily,” Romaine replied. “I think the Romulan Praetor is actually on our side. Or at least enough to keep us alive as a goodwill gesture.”

“I don’t know,” Pollachek griped. “You antagonized the hell out of them.”

“Who was the one always advising me to never show a weakness to Romulans?” Romaine pointedly asked.

Pollachek’s cheeks colored but he stayed quiet.

Standish quietly spoke up. “Whatever happens next, I think our trip here just ended.”

“Commander, Agent Moren is fast approaching,” T’Ling broke her silence.

Moren entered with a rueful smile. “It seems you shall be returning home earlier than originally anticipated.”

“How soon?” Romaine asked.

“Tomorrow morning,” Moren informed them. “It would be sooner, but Commander Alera has other important business to attend to. Seeing as how she is your official minder between borders, you shall remain overnight.”

“This could have gone a lot easier,” Romaine commented.

“Nonsense,” Moren chuckled. “Now our vaunted ‘experts’ know you have a spine. A lesson they should already have learned from historical experience.”

Moren went on, saying he regretted that the information exchange had to end so abruptly, but such were the political winds on his world. Romaine hardly heard him. She’d synched her data slate into the library computers and that link was still active. It had to be.

Because she only had tonight in which to accomplish her mission. She didn’t have time to test out the rhythms of the library’s nocturnal browsers. She had to commit and launch her own probe this very evening. She’d never get another chance.

Romaine bid everyone an early night after the evening meal. Standish was a bit surprised, especially when she was put in charge of making certain everyone packed and was ready to go in the morning. Taurig gave a non-committal grunt as he and Pollachek, seemingly over their differences, tried to coax Standish and T’Ling into a game of gin rummy.

The first thing Romaine did after securing her door — she’d found the lock pick could lock items as well as the reverse — was change out of her uniform. She wore black utility pants with a grey tunic. It resembled an Imperial military uniform as it was designed to. She slipped on the black jacket marking her as an officer and also draped a duster-like cloak over it. The cloak had a copious hood in case she needed to disguise her ears and decidedly pink complexion as she moved through the public.

Romaine had already opened up the biometrically sealed computer and retrieved the lock pick. She slipped that into a cylindrical pouch on her belt. Now she retrieved the phaser. The spare power back went into another pouch in the small of her back while the phaser itself glided into a half-holster. It had a rounded receptacle for the emitter while the body was held like the last generation of Type II phasers and merely adhered to the length of her belt.

She slung a messenger bag’s strap over her torso. Romaine really wished all of this would prove unnecessary but Knight had stressed to be prepared for the ugly incident before it occurred. So she sat down at her “desk/table” and called her data slate out of “standby” mode. It showed it was still linked into the Romulan library catalog. Romaine allowed herself a slight smile. Now she had to decide what to do.

Her next act could provide an excuse for a war no one wanted. It could also get her and her entire team executed. She suddenly mused that this was hell of a burden to throw on top of a glorified librarian.

Still, it was a task custom designed for a librarian/archivist. She wasn’t after military secrets, after all. Just maps and coordinates. She thought she’d be able to throw trade routes in as well since those would give an indication of the flow of resources. A list of colonies couldn’t hurt either, she decided.

Knowing she’d already committed herself, Romaine plunged into the actual work.

The hammering at the door began as Romaine was beginning her withdrawal out of the library network. Despite having a translation matrix, and not tripping over any alarms that she could detect, the system had suddenly locked her out and was trying to trace her signal.

She quickly disabled the transceiver. She removed the actuator so the transceiver couldn’t be remotely activated either. This also had the effect of disabling it so her position couldn’t be given away even by accident.

Romaine stuffed the data slate into the bag she wore. Pulling her phaser free, she checked its settings. It was currently setting for “minimum disrupt,” also known as “stun.” She thumbed up the power level and took aim at her computer case. Firing, she slagged the case. Its metals components melted as the polymers and plastics burned. She took aim directly at the crystal core and fired.

Although nothing was stored on the data core, she had to make it look as though there had been. So while the Tal Shiar’s analysts sifted through its stored code, their attention would be diverted from her. Still, she acknowledged, the whole damn planet was going to be dogging her heels. She had to get out and get out now. It was just that the only entrance/exit to the bloody room was currently blocked.

Romaine heard the lock cycle. She thumbed down her phaser’s setting through sheer reflex. The door slid open and she fired on the first guard she saw. One fell and another took aim. Still poised in a modified Weaver stance, Romaine shifted her aim to her left and dispatched the second guard into slumber land.

She heard shouts as more guards filed into the barracks. Keeping her own phaser in hand, she approached the fallen guards and retrieved their disruptors. Setting them at the table, she laid her own phaser down where she could easily scoop it up. She thought she had just enough time to accomplish her task.

Exposing the disruptor’s power cell, she first pulled the power pack free. Then she crosswired the terminals and flipped the polarity switch. Now the disruptor would build a massive feedback and detonate.

She began work on the second disruptor when she heard footfalls and a muttered curse approaching. She snatched up her phaser and waited. Controlling her breathing like she’d been taught her heart still raced and the blood pounded in her ears. She knew the nausea was from the adrenalin coursing through her veins. Yet that same adrenalin was giving the sharpened senses and reflexes she needed to accomplish her task.

The newest Romulan swung around the corner. Her disruptor lashed out blindly in an arc across the room’s confined space. Romaine instinctively dropped to one knee and waited for the Romulan to present her torso. Romaine was rewarded for her patience a few seconds later.

She could hear hushed whispers beyond the door frame as the guards conferred. Romaine slapped the power cell back into the altered disruptor. She then came to the doorway and tossed the disrupter around the frame. There was a sudden shout and Romulans scattered.

Romaine saw that one of them ran into her room. He gave a startled look around, trying to deduce where she could have gone. His shoulders slumped as he turned around in resignation.

The rigged disruptor detonated and energy washed throughout the open areas of the barracks. Romaine saw the Romulan perk up. She shook her head sadly and shot him.

Romaine modified the other disruptor while confusion reigned. She picked it up and lifted up her own phaser as well. She jacked up the power setting on her phaser to “maximum disrupt” and fired at the rear wall of her quarters. The wall vaporized as its atomic cohesion came undone.

Romaine was free to move now. She spotted a couple of military transports parked alongside the barracks. She slipped the power cell into her other modified disruptor and slid it under a transport. She then ran away.

The explosion that lit up the night sky further plunged the Romulan security forces into disruption. Crowds began littering about outside so her exit was camouflaged. After walking a few blocks, the crowds had thinned. They were mostly headed for the sights and sounds of destruction.

The riot sentries were being deployed to push the populace back, so there was a logjam as the retreating crowds ran headlong into the approaching crowds. Things were getting tense and civil unrest was mere moments away.

Romaine found an air car and unlocked it. She disabled the positioning beacon and then used the lock pick to activate the ignition. She flew off and headed off into the overhead traffic lanes.

She fished the data slate out of her messenger bag and scrolled through its menu options. Finding the one she wanted, she set course for the arranged destination. She had to manually fly the car since the missing positioning beacon cut the autopilot off from the Global Traffic Network.

Romaine soon discovered that Romulans were very aggressive drivers. She’d thought her fellow Martian colonists had an exclusive claim to that honor, but these people drove like they were in a professional race. Romaine had raced some as a teenager so she recognized the mentality. It was a cutthroat world and every opportunity for advancement would be seized.

She landed a dozen blocks away from her destination. She walked the rest of the way. Fortunately, her hood and cloak weren’t unusual in the Romulan night. Eventually, she arrived at a tavern. She thought a public house was an odd choice for a rendezvous, but she knew Knight knew what she was doing.

She entered without any fuss and she chose a booth in the back of the establishment. She couldn’t see the entrance, but she could unobtrusively observe anyone that entered the room. Here, hooded features were a rarity. She knew the longer she stayed, the more she was in danger of being discovered. And it wasn’t like she could fake her ears, so they’d know right away.

A Romulan woman wearing an insufferably familiar smirk sauntered Romaine’s way. She came to stand at Romaine’s table and she placed a hand on the table top. “Do you mind if I have a seat?”

The statement wasn’t shocking. The fact that it was spoken in Federation Standard was. Romaine panicked.

The Romulan plopped down without permission. “Have no fears, Commander Romaine. I am your contact.”

“Who are you?” Romaine blurted.

The Romulan laughed lightly. “I don’t think that’s the question you have for me. Think and the proper question will be recalled.”

Romaine was embarrassed. She’d forgotten the damn code phrase. Rummaging around in her own mind she finally stammered the expected phrase.

The Romulan dutifully gave her counter sign despite threatening to break out into a fit of hysterical laughter at any second. “Have no worries, Commander. I shall get you out of here. But we must leave now. The subspace bands and public address nets are full of your acts of ‘terrorism and sedition.’ Already calls for war have arisen.”

Romaine blanched and the Romulan gave her a wry grin. “Have no fears. There are always call for war.” She rose. “Follow me.”

They exited the tavern and the Romulan tapped a wrist comm. “Aelynn to Darkstar. Two for a site to site transport.”

“It’s about time, Subcommander,” a gruff voice replied. “They’re closing down the launch windows.”

“Then transport us already so we can be away,” Aelynn sighed. 


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

"In the Shadows" Chapter Three by Charlynn Schmiedt

by Travis Anderson

The Memory Alpha team met Romaine with excitement. Taurig wanted to know how the food had been. Pollachek inquired as to what Romaine had learned while away. Standish wanted to know if she’d “met any babes”. T’Ling, though…T’Ling was surprisingly complacent.

When Romaine had a quiet moment after the staff briefed her on their progress and their preparations for tomorrow’s departure, Romaine questioned T’Ling’s apparent lack of interest.

T’Ling arched an eyebrow. “Do not mistake my lack of inquires as a lack of interest. You did not seem predisposed to directly answering inquiries, so I refrained from asking any.”

Romaine was once again impressed with the Vulcan’s insight. “Okay, good answer. Just for that, I’ll answer one question if I can.”

“Very well,” T’Ling accepted. “Do you feel adequately prepared for the task ahead?”

Romaine struggled to keep a straight face. What did T’Ling know about her multiple missions? Did she suspect something?

“I feel I’m fully prepared,” Romaine managed to answer honestly.

“Let us hope you are,” T’Ling replied and excused herself.

“Just who the hell are you?” Romaine wondered aloud.

The next day, the archivist team transported aboard the USS Lexington. The Constitution-class starship hadn’t begun the refits that had so drastically altered the Enterprise. All new Constitution-class hulls would be built along the refit lines and the original starships would also be rebuilt to fit the new design.

Captain Dexter O’Reilly was still ecstatic about his ship though. The Captain made it quite clear they would have to drag him out of her in order to begin the rebuilding process. He’d met the Memory Alpha team in the transporter room and helped his yeoman, one Peter Burnett, guide the team to the ship’s guest quarters.

Romaine had served aboard a ship of this type, so she knew approximately where those quarters would be. However, every CO designated which of the crew’s quarters would be allotted to visitors, so there was always the random element of chance that something completely out of the norm had been decided.

O’Reilly explained to the team that they were already en route to the Romulan Neutral Zone. The starship would stay on station at the border for four weeks, even though they were only embarking on a two-week mission. Starfleet’s orders were specific that they were not to cross the Neutral Zone regardless of any provocation.

Romaine felt the weight of Knight’s constant warnings bearing down on her. She did her best to ignore it and put on a brave front, but inside she was terrified. No one else seemed to notice the stark terror in her eyes. It seemed to be coming off as normal anxiety.

That myth was dispelled when T’Ling visited her assigned guest quarters. The Vulcan had said she wanted to discuss something with Romaine. Romaine was left stunned by the Vulcan’s opening statement.

“Commander, the Romulans will detect your terror. You must control yourself or you will jeopardize our position with the Tal Shiar,” T’Ling began.

Romaine ruefully thought that she wondered why she even bothered trying. T’Ling also seemed to sense this as well. “Do not disparage yourself, Commander. You are fraught over dealing with a hostile culture. Such distress is a given. However, the Tal Shiar will prey upon it.”

Romaine recalled from T’Ling’s briefings that the Tal Shiar were the Romulans’ secret police. Sort of like Earth’s Gestapo, KGB, and foreign intelligence agencies combined. She said it was believed by some circles that the Director of the Tal Shiar wielded as much power with the Praetor as the Proconsul.

“It seems to be natural for everyone but you, Ensign,” Romaine remarked ruefully.           

“My facade of pure logic is useful in that regard, Commander. My training and discipline enable me to control my emotional expressions, but those emotions are still present. Even now, they are on the verge of spinning out of my control,” T’Ling admitted. “We are all in the unknown now. What happens next may shift the nature of the relations between our nation state and that of the Star Empire.”   

“That’s still a cold comfort, T’Ling,” Romaine said dryly.

“It was not my intention to comfort you, Commander,” T’Ling expressed, “only to advise you that the Romulans, and especially the Tal Shiar, will expect nervousness on your part. But only to a certain degree. After that threshold is exceeded, their suspicions will be aroused.

T’Ling left at that point and Romaine was left wondering once again why she had volunteered for her “extracurricular” assignment.

It took a few days to traverse the Alpha Quadrant and arrive at the Romulan Neutral Zone. The Lexingtonwas hailed by Starfleet’s Observation Command staff. Starfleet traffic in the region had increased recently. Several starbases were being built near the zone with accompanying starships that would be assigned to them. Usually a starbase received one to three starships under its nominal control. This was especially true of these starbases since their assigned ships would be conducting border patrol sweeps.

The Lexington’s captain acknowledged the observer’s scrutiny. O’Reilly squinted over the bare essentials of the data regarding his ship’s current assignment. The commodore receiving these orders informed O’Reilly that she was well aware of why he was there. A Romulan flagged D7 was lingering near the Neutral Zone. She’d send a message for them to contact the Lexington and arrange for the personnel transfer.

The Lexington dispatched a shuttle into the Neutral Zone. While the Romulans had agreed not to penetrate the zone with their starship, and insisted upon the same from Starfleet, they did allow the shuttle to approach within transporter range of the Romulan side of the border.

The Memory Alpha team stood by as the shuttle crew communicated with the Romulan cruiser. It had an ominous ring that the cruiser’s Romulan name translated into Dagger Thrust in Federation standard. The Starfleet officers felt the tug of the transporter and it was strangely new and overly familiar at the same time.

The Memory Alpha team materialized to find themselves staring down two armed guards. A rather amused woman was standing next to the transporter tech. Her amusement seemed to grow by the second as the Starfleet personnel tried to ascertain what kind of situation they’d suddenly been thrust into.     

“Oh, do behave,” the Romulan officer scolded her security personnel.

The guards lowered their weapons but they didn’t holster them, either. The ranking officer stepped out from behind the transporter control console. Her uniform surprised the Starfleet officers. The ablative armor the security guards wore distracted from the fact the Romulan military had also altered its uniform code since the Enterprise’s fateful encounter with their forces.

Gone were the faux togas and body wraps. This woman wore a simple grey tunic with dark pants. Over the tunic she wore a black jacket that the others lacked. She also wore a gun belt. A disruptor was holstered halfway between her hip and her knee. Her ease with it seemed to demonstrate her acceptance of its intended purpose.

“I am Commander Alera,” she announced in Romulan. The team’s universal translators rendered the words in Federation Standard. “I command this vessel. I hold the lives of its crew, and now yours as well, in my hand. Do not give me cause to close my hand.”

Romaine thought it best to derail any and all tensions. “I’m Lt. Commander Mira Romaine. I’m here to vouch for the conduct of my fellow officers.”

Alera nodded while holding Romaine’s eyes in a sharp gaze. “Very well, Commander Romaine. You shall be responsible for them and you shall be responsible to me.”

Alera tapped a control on her wristband. “Subcommander Elic, report to the transport chamber.”

She turned back to Romaine. “My second will be here in a moment to sort you out. Do as he says as though I am saying it. Understood?”

Romaine tipped her head. “We understand and will comply.”

“Good,” Alera snorted and exited the room.

Subcommander Elic met the Memory Alpha researchers with open disdain. He led and they followed. Of course, the armed guards trailing them would probably shoot any stragglers. He brought them to a dead end corridor.

“These three rooms are our only guest accommodations,” Elic said diffidently. “You will decide how to distribute them amongst yourselves.”

“What areas of the ship are we restricted from?” Romaine asked.

Elic laughed harshly, “You are restricted from the entire ship. Guards will monitor this corridor. You have access to one another’s rooms. Do no attempt to stray out of these accommodations or you will be dealt with.”

Romaine could tell that being dealt with implied a permanent solution. “Very well. How far are we from Romulus?”

“You should have done your homework already, human.” Elic spat the last word.

Romaine suddenly recited the actual distance in both kilometers and their Romulan analog. She gave him a wry look. “What I was really wondering is how long it would take us to get there. Starfleet estimates three days there and three days back, which would leave us four days to transfer the data.”

“You are lucky you will even have that,” Elic snapped and stormed off.

The team appraised their surroundings. There were three nondescript doors facing them. There were also two guards whose hands couldn’t stray away from their disruptors. They were in the mood for some sport and Romaine’s team might occupy them for a few seconds. 

“Standish, you and T’Ling grab a room. Pollachek and Taurig, you’re roommates now,” Romaine ordered.

“But he snores,” Pollachek accused Taurig.

“Like you don’t?” Taurig riposted. “And what makes you think bunking with her will be any better?”

“At least she’s more pleasant to wake up to,” Pollachek shot back.

“Gentlemen,” Romaine impatiently interjected, “settle this inside of your quarters.”

They settled down with some good-natured grumbling. The next three days — and it did indeed take three days —were largely spent hopping between rooms. T’Ling’s arcane knowledge of all things Romulan came in handy during meals. She was the only one who could read the food dispenser’s menu and she also knew what the dishes were.

At the end of their voyage, Alera contacted the Starfleet team and ordered them to prepare for transport. Elic shepherded them back to the transporter. This time, he goaded them in an attempt to provoke an incident that would be deemed worthy of their deaths.

Alera stood by, waiting inside of the transport chamber. She waved her hand and the guards prodded Romaine’s team onto the pads. It seemed Alera was coming with them.

A rather severely dressed male Romulan awaited them at their destination. Four other Romulans stood by, two male and two female. Romaine idly wondered if this was a response to the composition of her team. The Romulan in the foreground broke into a smug smile.

“It seems you have developed a sense of urgency after all, Commander Alera,” he said with hidden meaning.

“I serve the Empire,” Alera replied. “The Praetor guides the Senate. The Senate serves the people, and the proconsul and the Tal Shiar serve the Praetor. So when the Tal Shiar beckons, I will comply as though ordered to by the Praetor herself.”

Alera cocked an eyebrow at the Romulan provocateur. “But you already knew this, Agent Moren. Otherwise, you wouldn’t have sent me on this fool’s errand.”

“You military officers are so closed-minded and parochial. We stand to gain quite a bit from these Starfleet archivists. Things that could ensure we can defeat a foe that humbled both the Klingon Defense Force and Starfleet,” Moren countered.

“Starfleet bested the entity,” Alera retorted, “and it never drew near to our territory. So why the alarm?”

“Wouldn’t you like to learn how Starfleet defeated it?” Moren asked condescendingly, “or has that thought never occurred to you?”

“Like they’ll tell you!” Alera spat.

Moren chuckled. “Their species are wonderfully naive. They’ll tell us anything we want to know in the name of peace and friendship.”

“Why are we discussing this in front of them?” Alera’s hindbrain suddenly kicked in. “Their bloody universal translators are giving them everything we say.”

“Do you think I’m really that great a fool, Alera?” Moren was pained by the thought. “A damping field has shut down their translation devices. They will not reactivate until I allow them to do so.”

“Why did you ask for me?” Alera wondered. “Elic could have handled this handover. It’s his place, not mine.”

“What is your impression of these people?” Moren suddenly asked.

“I would hardly call them ‘people’. They are our inferiors, just as the officials dictates have spoken of for a century,” Alera proclaimed.

“You of all people should know better than that, Commander,” Moren softly chided.

Alera’s cheeks burned. Most were too afraid to mention the accursed contamination in her gene pool. Her sister shared her bloodline, yet she’d not only come to terms with it, she’d embraced it. Which is why Aelynn was merely a first officer on a misbegotten privateer scout.

“Is this a test of my loyalties?” Alera wanted to know.

Moren sighed, “Hardly. Your faithfulness to the orthodox way is well proven. What I am hoping for is some insights into these creatures based upon inside information you should possess.”

“They are weak,” Alera asserted. “They deserve to live out their lives as slaves to a proper house.”

Moren sighed, “This is gaining me nothing. Perhaps I should have asked Elic to come down after all.”

Alera’s eyes narrowed at the slight. “If you and your fellow agents have things in hand, my troops and I will return to our ship. We will be here when you should require our services again.”

“I’ll keep it in mind,” Moren replied half-heartedly.

Moren turned to face the Starfleet officers as Alera and her soldiers transported out. He activated the control on his wristband. “I think you should be able to understand me once again.”

“Trouble in Paradise?” Romaine quipped.

“Commander Alera feels she has a lot to prove and compensate for. Sometimes her zeal outweighs her practicality,” Moren shared.

“And what happens now?” Romaine asked warily.

“You have arrived in the middle of the night here in Ki Baran,” Moren revealed. “Now you will be taken to your assigned domicile and await the dawn where you will begin work on our joint project.”

“Interesting that you refer to it as a joint project,” Romaine commented. “Especially since I’ve come under the impression that we’re simply here to do you a service.”

Moren smiled. It was more like a lazy cat assessing its prey. “Nonsense. We have data you have no other means of acquiring. And you have the same in regards to us. So we have a meeting of the minds and perhaps our cultures reach a state detente if not trust.”

“Well said,” Romaine said skeptically. “Let’s see if it actually happens.”

“It will,” Moren assured her. “Now if you would all follow me, I have transportation to your barracks arranged.”

Romaine signaled the others and they dutifully traipsed after Moran as he ventured outside. The obligatory guards accompanied them. As stated, the skies were dark, but there were lights all around.

The evening air was cool and humid. Although the Romulans derived from Vulcan’s deserts, they had settled a not-quite-tropical world. Romaine and her team expected high temperatures, uncomfortable for them and quite pleasant for Vulcanoids, and choking humidity.

They traveled by troop carrier to their destination. Romaine was disappointed to discover that they were literally staying in a military barracks. Romulan soldiers surrounded the dormitory.

“Is this really necessary?” Romaine inquired of Moren.

“It is for your own safety, I assure you,” Moren replied.

“I bet,” Romaine said ruefully.

They were assigned to three rooms once again, so the living arrangements remained the same. Romaine was escorted to a small room that was locked. Inside, a communications panel awaited her.

Moren had granted her the chance to send a five minute to message to Captain O’Reilly aboard theLexington. Moren had been quite pleased to boast that the Romulan military knew where the Federation starship was at all times. Romaine could only assume that she was being monitored just as stringently as Starfleet Intelligence had monitored her at the Advanced Tactical Training Center, if not more so.

She had enough time to explain she had no time for pleasantries. She reported that the team had made it safely to Romulus. They were expecting to get five or less hours of sleep and then begin work in the morning. O’Reilly admitted that while he didn’t envy them, he and his crew had been under that kind of pressure before. Romaine was surprised as the comm link was broken.

Romaine sighed as she exited the comm station. She wondered what her crime had been. It had all been innocent enough in her estimation.

Romaine was led back to the team’s temporary quarters. The entire team was gathered in the common area and they looked quite put out. Romaine inquired as to what had happened.

“They searched us,” Taurig grumbled. “Not only did they physically paw at us, but they also manhandled our belongings and equipment.”

Moren suddenly appeared and beckoned for Romaine to approach. She turned to Taurig. “It seems it’s my turn.”

“Screw peace,” Taurig urged. “It’s time to break someone’s hand.”

Romaine sighed as she approached Moren. She knew his hearing was sensitive enough to overhear it, but she didn’t care. These people’s paranoia was getting on her nerves. Elic’s open hostility beat this slippery discrimination any day.

“All right,” Romaine said sourly, “I’m ready to be groped.”

“I assure you that is not our way,” Moren tried to console her, “but even the most modern of scanning technology can be fooled. We can’t leave anything to chance.”

“I’m certain that Starfleet feels the same way about your operatives within the Federation,” Romaine quipped.

“I am certain I have no idea of what you are referring to,” Moren said straight-faced.

“Good boy. Stick to your official lie,” Romaine smarted off.

“I have my Optio standing by to frisk you,” Moren informed her. “She is an Immunes recruited from the Imperial military. Her specialty is criminal investigations.”

“So we’re criminals now?” Romaine sharply inquired.

“You are classified as enemies of the state. So of course you’re criminals. But your freedom is being purchased by the data you carry,” Moren explained frankly.

“Then why not arrest us and just crack the data rods?” Romaine asked.

“Many of my superiors would have me do just that,” Moren admitted, “but the Praetor has instructed the director to try this approach instead.”

“So the Praetor is willing to foster a dialogue between the Star Empire and the Federation?” Romaine guessed.

“The Praetor’s predecessor begrudgingly embraced the concept behind the tripartite colony on Nimbus III. Despite continued misgivings, and the apparent failure of the colony’s aims, our current Praetor does desire to normalize relations between our two states,” Moren explained. “This would include establishing diplomatic relations.”

“I’m surprised you’d even consider a diplomatic mission after what happened to your ambassador on Nimbus III,” Romaine confessed.

“We will never forget what happened,” Moren warned her, “but we can expand our paradigm enough to work around it.”

“Thank you for sharing,” Romaine said at long last. “I’ll pass your message along to my superiors.”

“That, above all else, is why you and your officers were brought here.” Moren wore a tightly controlled smile. “The entity you call V’Ger is just a timely pretext.”

“But you still want our data,” Romaine said cannily.

Moren allowed himself a small chuckle. “Of course.”

Romaine drew herself up. “Okay. Point me at your second.”

“She awaits you in the quarters you claimed for yourself,” Moren divulged.

“Well, if I’m going to be molested, I guess it should be in my own room,” Romaine said darkly.

Moren decided that maybe human humor was more like the Romulan variety than anyone was willing to admit.


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

"In the Shadows" Chapter Two by Charlynn Schmiedt

by Travis Anderson            

Romaine and Knight transported down to New Seattle together. Romaine was slightly curious as to why they had beamed into Izar’s capitol rather than directly to the Advanced Tactical Training Center. Knight merely assured her everything would become clear.

An air car approached and landed near their location. The driver’s gull wing door popped open. “You Knight and Romaine?”

“You already know we are,” Knight glibly replied.

The man smiled, “Too true. Hop in the back. It’s unlocked.”

The two Starfleet officers boarded the car. When the doors were locked, the driver queried traffic control and got permission to enter the traffic grid. The car lifted and climbed into the sky.        

They stayed with the local traffic for a time and then the car vectored off and headed towards a wooded area outside of the city. Of course, Izar was also heavily forested. The primary landmass had a water way similar to the Puget Sound on Earth. Given its resemblance to the Terran analog and the heavy forestation that also surrounded both of the natural features on both Izar and Earth, the capitol was placed along the banks of the Anacortes Sound and named New Seattle.

They approached the rather secluded Advanced Tactical Training Center from the air and Romaine got a good look at portions of it. It reminded her of Quantico in Virginian Earth. The Federation Bureau of Investigation trained there. This was almost a duplicate of that base.

Romaine was surprised when they didn’t land. “Where are we going?”

Knight grinned, “There’s advanced tactical training and then there’s specialized advanced tactical training. You need the latter, so we’re proceeding to our facilities adjacent to the main center.”      

“Great,” Romaine grumbled.

Romaine learned that her training would be divided into two segments. The first was the physical segment. She would be undergoing endurance training, hand to hand combat instruction, and weapons practice. She’d done all of the above at Starfleet Academy, but those were years long gone. Where once she’d scored fairly highly at these disciplines, now she was more comfortable behind a desk.

Her days became a grueling ordeal of running and forced marches. Afterwards, with only five minutes of rest, she would begin her hand to hand training. When she finished a three-hour stretch at that, she went to the range and practiced marksmanship. Moving targets and live opponents were pitted against her for several hours.

Her nights were subsequently spent in contact with her research team. Garth was delighted that she’d be able to check in for an hour each evening. She didn’t say much about her experiences because Knight had warned her that she was under observation every moment of every day. Her transmission would be terminated if she broached the subject of her current activities.

One interesting aspect of her training was that of vehicular operations. This was an area she easily excelled at. Having an engineer as a father, he’d indulged in owning several air cars, racers, and flyers. So Romaine was well versed in how to operate them. What she learned now was how to break into them and steal them. She graduated from that portion of her training when she finally adopted disabling the positioning beacon as a matter of rote.

Romaine wasn’t panting as hard in the ring after her morning runs and marches at the end of her two weeks as she had at the beginning. She still only got a five minute break to hydrate before she stepped into the sparring ring. This time, she faced Commander Hodges.

Hodges was the most experienced instructor she’d sat under. Hodges was a twenty-year veteran of Starfleet’s Special Operations Command. She learned early on not to make any inquiries into his professional life…or his personal one at that.

Her task was simple. In order to complete her course, she had to land a solid blow on Hodge. That challenge had begun a week ago, and so far she utterly failed at every attempt. She knew today was her last attempt, regardless of Hodge’s threats, but she wanted to honestly win her freedom.

Hodge and Romaine circled one another. He threw the first punch, which Romaine blocked as she reset her position and replied with a knee strike aimed at Hodge’s groin. He taught her early on that there was no distinction between “clean” and “dirty” fighting in the world outside of sports arenas. It was simply life or death.

They exchanged blows and blocks for around two minutes when Romaine shifted to Hodge’s left. He threw a backhand that she caught with her left hand. She employed her right into a chop straight into Hodge’s nose. He looked stunned.

Romaine released his arm and grinned. Hodge suddenly spun on his heels and drove his right fist into her left eye. Romaine was knocked off of her feet. She quickly gathered herself and came up onto her feet in a ready fighting stance.

“Never drop your guard, Romaine,” Hodge’s advised, “You should have gone for my throat rather than my nose. A dead enemy can’t tag you when you get sloppy. Just for that, I’m calling the Infirmary and instructing them to make you wear that bruise for a few days.”

“No,” Knight suddenly interjected as she approached the ring, “you’re not.”

“I outrank you, so the order stands,” Hodge growled.

“And I’m the mission commander,” Knight firmly replied. “Her fellow officers at Memory Alpha are unaware of her current location or that she’s agreed to cooperate with us. Operational security dictates that they stay unaware. A visible black eye will elicit questions we can’t afford to waste time on.”

Hodge looked like he’d swallowed something sour. He turned to Romaine. “Well? What the hell are youwaiting for? Report to the Infirmary and get that eye treated.”

Romaine climbed out of the ring and headed out of the facility. Knight called after her, “Mira, I’m dropping by your quarters tonight. I have some equipment to show you.”

Romaine turned around and nodded to Knight. She then exited the training center and went seek treatment for her eye. It was really starting to ache.

Knight joined Romaine as the archivist was sitting down to a meal. She’d been fairly isolated since her arrival. Knight had explained that Romaine wasn’t a professional operative and the service didn’t want the professional trainees and applicants identifying her as one of them. If they were eventually captured, they could give Romaine up and therefore place her life in peril from enemy operatives.

“Does that really happen?” Romaine dryly asked.

“The Klingons are surgically altering their agents to look like human beings. Look at Arne Darvin on station K-7 and Anna Sandesjo on Starbase 47. Sandesjo was a trusted Federation diplomatic attaché while really being a Klingon Imperial Intelligence agent born under the name Lurqal,” Knight cited. “It happens. Trust me, it happens more often than you’d be comfortable knowing.”

“Okay, I’ll drop it then,” Romaine assured her.

Knight entered Romaine’s dining nook with a Starfleet-issue duffel bag. Romaine could tell it was fully laden. Knight grinned.

“Mind if I join you?” she asked.

“Suit yourself,” Romaine replied indifferently. The truth was, she was glad for the company. The room was equipped with its own synthesizer food slot, so she didn’t really need to exit her room at any time. Romaine had thought about trying to open the door to see if there were guards assigned to keeping her inside, but held back. She thought the truth would be more depressing than the suspicion.

Knight sat down and they ate their meals in hospitable, if not overly friendly, silence. Romaine finished first but held off from interrupting Knight’s meal. She could’ve sworn Knight malingered over her last few bites just to torment her.     

Knight broke into a fit of laughter when she finished dabbing her mouth with her napkin. “My God! You’re a warp core breach in progress right now.” 

“Not to be rude, but why are you here?” Romaine burst out at long last. “You look like you’ve lugged in enough equipment to build a starship.”

Knight grinned, “Not quite, but you will be constructing a basic component of one.”

“What?” Romaine yelped. “Get my father here instead. He’s the engineer in the family.”

“You actually have a high mechanical aptitude, so don’t balk now,” Knight said with some amusement.

Knight rose and cleared their plates. Recycling the scraps into the synthesizer’s protein sequencer, she replaced the trays and dishes into the cubicle that dispensed them. They’d be sanitized and reused during the next meal.

“You may want to get some caffeine into you,” Knight advised. “This is the beginning of a week-long endurance test. I’m going to show you the technical aspects of tradecraft. We only have this last week to get you prepped and ready, so I’m not going to waste a minute of the day.”

“Ooo-kay,” Romaine said with some apprehension. She dutifully complied with the caffeine order. She opted for breakfast tea despite the late hour. It would dump a heavier dose of caffeine into her than a comparable cup of coffee.

Knight placed a suitcase style computer console on the table. “Open this and see what’s inside.”

Romaine complied but all she found was a fairly standard Starfleet issue portable computer. “I give. What’s special about it?”

“Look below the ten key pad. There’s an indentation in the case. Place your right thumb on it and see what happens,” Knight instructed.

Romaine was rather surprised when the touch screen keyboard unlocked and she was able to detach it from the case. Inside was a small crystalline data core. Hardly the size a model of this type usually boasted. It was just enough to grant the computer an air of legitimacy.

There was also a distinct power cell. And there was a Type II phaser. The data core and the power cell were recessed beneath the swept back rear of the phaser. Its grip formed a barrier between the computer parts and both a spare power pack for the phaser and a small cylindrical device that seemed to have a radial dish atop like the old style deflector arrays of the Constitution-, and as she’d recently learned, Archer-class starships.

“You’ve got to be joking,” Romaine almost stammered. “It’ll be detected.”

Knight pooh-pahhed the idea. “It reads as the computer’s power cell. Even Starfleet can’t detect it. It’s a proven platform that’s been used dozens of times. We do know what we’re doing, after all.”

“But I don’t,” Romaine admitted bleakly.

“That’s why I’m here,” Knight assured. “Now, why haven’t you asked about the case’s other stowaway?”

“I assumed it’s a transmitter of some sorts. Probably a distress beacon,” Romaine ventured.

“Good guess,” Knight replied. “Completely wrong, but it’s a good guess. We’re sending you into hostile territory. There won’t be a Federation starship inside of Romulan territory, so a beacon would be pretty useless. Unless, of course, you wanted the Romulans to pinpoint your exact location.”

“I guess I didn’t think it through,” Romaine said glumly.      

“And that’s going to stop. Always remember the primary rule,” Knight counseled her.

“The Prime Directive?” Romaine offered.

Knight bopped her upside the head. “No! The primary rule is ‘nothing is ever what it appears to be.’”

“Okay, I think I can attest to that,” Romaine admitted. “So what is this doohickey?”

“A universal lock pick,” Knight said affectionately. “No door or ignition will be able to keep you out with this baby.”

“That’s why I had the vehicular training,” Romaine realized.

“If you need to make a fast break for it, commandeer a vehicle and head for these coordinates,” Knight said as she handed over a data slate.

“Why?” Romaine asked.

“Because that’s where you’ll meet your emergency contact and they’ll extract you out of the Star Empire,” Knight explained.

“Wait a minute!” Romaine protested. “If you have someone on Romulus, why am I doing this?”

“Because our asset doesn’t have access to this kind of data. You will. It’s simple math, really,” Knight divulged.

“I so hate you right now,” Romaine grumped.

Knight chuckled, “Wait until the week is out. Then you’ll really loathe me.”

“I’m not even going to take that bet,” Romaine grumbled.

“All right, back to work.” Knight dumped a bag of components onto the table. “Next, you’re going to learn how to assemble a subspace transceiver using commonly found components.”

“Is it too early to start loathing you already?” Romaine wondered.

“Much, much too early,” Knight confided.

“Figures,” Romaine bleakly remarked.

The week went by in a flurry of moments. Some moments dragged on endlessly and others warped out faster than Romaine could track. Knight had Romaine keeping up and improving her conditioning.

Romaine started the day with breakfast followed by a five kilometer run. She then got some downtime before returning to the sparring ring. Her regular opponent now was a Lt. Arender sha’Drenhilla. The Andorian was from one of the “male” sexes from his planet. Aren, as he was called, was fast and sneaky. He played a lively game with Romaine and they exchanged unchecked blows. Romaine was learning all the names of the base’s medical staff.

Target practice rounded the tactical portion of her morning and led to lunch. Between the mid-day meal and dinner, Romaine learned the technical aspects of her task. The data slate she’d been given was equipped with a subspace transceiver and a universal translator. It was with this tool that she would tap into the Romulan data nets.

As the week closed and Romaine and Knight were waiting at the transporter pads, Romaine finally asked the question that had been nagging at her. “Why aren’t you going on this mission?”

“You never asked,” Knight brightly grinned. Seeing Romaine’s dissatisfaction with that answer, Knight staved off any further inquiries. “I’ll tell you once we’re ensconced in our quarters aboard the Longbow.”

“I guess that will have to do,” Romaine said with a sense of resignation.


Romaine passed the somewhat familiar faces of the Longbow’s crew in the corridors and in the sections that they worked. Only certain rooms had closing doors. Engineering and the transporter room were two areas with no doors and open access. The ladder well leading to the bridge had no obstacles either.

Sickbay and crew quarters were the only private portions of the ship. Knight made friendly greetings to the crew as she herded Romaine toward their shared room. It was obvious to Romaine that Knight was comfortable with these people. Just out of curiosity, Romaine had looked up the Longbow, her assignment, and her crew during her limited down time.

The crew all had vanilla dossiers like Knights. They gave a lot of information away, but what was more telling was what they didn’t say. Another revealing feature was that the bulk of the crew had been with the ship since it was commissioned. Most of the crew had accepted temporary demotions and were acting in the place of their former grade, and sometimes two grades below, their current rank. That kind of loyalty, to ship and crew, was rare.

The Longbow was currently TDY. That was it. No mention of what department, planet, or starbase the ship was temporarily detached to. Just TDY.

So Romaine was eagerly waiting for Knight to begin her explanation. Fortunately, she didn’t have to wait long. Otherwise, she might have burst open as Knight had estimated already.

“I can’t go because the Romulans would get suspicious over a last minute change,” Knight offered at first.

“But things happen…” Romaine started to argue.

“Not to Romulans,” Knight drolly put in. “The Romulans chose you. They chose the entire team. Why do you think T’Ling was suddenly swept into the picture? That wasn’t Starfleet’s choice.”

“But how can they…?” Romaine trailed off as dread clenched her gut.

“The Romulans have been active inside of the Federation’s borders for close to a hundred and twenty years now,” Knight revealed.

“But that proceeds the Earth-Romulan War!” Romaine burst out.

Knight dryly appraised her. Romaine gathered herself together. “It’s all right. I’m calm now.”

“That’s good because you’re stuck with going. No one gets out. If they can’t go, it had better be because of a medical emergency or an act of God they couldn’t avoid,” Knight summed up. “And no one gets replaced. If you lose a member for any reason, the remaining team members go on without them.”

Romaine asked the one question she hadn’t dared voice until now. “What if they get what they want out of us and simply arrest us for no reason?”

“Then you pray the Romulans do indeed take prisoners,” Knight replied.

Romaine found the advice to be cold comfort.


The trip back to Memory Alpha took just over a day. Knight saw Romaine to the Longbow’s transporter room where she once again performed the duties of managing the transport to the surface. “This time, you’ll be glad to learn we’re leaving at the proper site. We aroused enough suspicion with your last disappearance.”

“Just how did you explain away my supposedly impossible transport?” Romaine wondered.

Knight smirked, “The transporter logs and the tram schedule dutifully show you used both to reach the surface and beyond.”

“Falsifying records is illegal,” Romaine said sternly.

Knight shrugged. “So’s spying. You get used to it.”   

Romaine was less than happy with that answer and it plainly showed. Knight redirected the conversation. “You’re as prepared as anyone can hope to be. I’ll be in touch when this is over to retrieve the data you’ve acquired.”

“And if I’m captured or worse?”

“You’ll get a nice little plaque on the walls of Starfleet Intelligence headquarters on Earth.” Knight’s answer was less than thrilling and she noted it, “Mira, we’re not going to start a war over the fate of one woman. No matter how much we’d feel compelled to.”

Romaine suddenly realized that Knight was personally invested in Romaine’s fate. It wasn’t like Standish and her girlfriend. There was no romance in this. But there was a healthy dose of camaraderie and that feeling Romaine had at the beginning of kinship. Apparently Knight felt it too.    

“All right.” Romaine accepted her fate, whatever it was going to be, “I’m ready.”

Knight smiled encouragingly. “Yes, I think you are.”


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

Romaine passed the somewhat familiar faces of the Longbow’s crew in the corridors and in the sections that they worked. Only certain rooms had closing doors. Engineering and the transporter room were two areas with no doors and open access. The ladder well leading to the bridge had no obstacles either.

Sickbay and crew quarters were the only private portions of the ship. Knight made friendly greetings to the crew as she herded Romaine toward their shared room. It was obvious to Romaine that Knight was comfortable with these people. Just out of curiosity, Romaine had looked up the Longbow, her assignment, and her crew during her limited down time.

The crew all had vanilla dossiers like Knights. They gave a lot of information away, but what was more telling was what they didn’t say. Another revealing feature was that the bulk of the crew had been with the ship since it was commissioned. Most of the crew had accepted temporary demotions and were acting in the place of their former grade, and sometimes two grades below, their current rank. That kind of loyalty, to ship and crew, was rare.

The Longbow was currently TDY. That was it. No mention of what department, planet, or starbase the ship was temporarily detached to. Just TDY.

So Romaine was eagerly waiting for Knight to begin her explanation. Fortunately, she didn’t have to wait long. Otherwise, she might have burst open as Knight had estimated already.

“I can’t go because the Romulans would get suspicious over a last minute change,” Knight offered at first.

“But things happen…” Romaine started to argue.

“Not to Romulans,” Knight drolly put in. “The Romulans chose you. They chose the entire team. Why do you think T’Ling was suddenly swept into the picture? That wasn’t Starfleet’s choice.”

“But how can they…?” Romaine trailed off as dread clenched her gut.

“The Romulans have been active inside of the Federation’s borders for close to a hundred and twenty years now,” Knight revealed.

“But that proceeds the Earth-Romulan War!” Romaine burst out.

Knight dryly appraised her. Romaine gathered herself together. “It’s all right. I’m calm now.”

“That’s good because you’re stuck with going. No one gets out. If they can’t go, it had better be because of a medical emergency or an act of God they couldn’t avoid,” Knight summed up. “And no one gets replaced. If you lose a member for any reason, the remaining team members go on without them.”

Romaine asked the one question she hadn’t dared voice until now. “What if they get what they want out of us and simply arrest us for no reason?”

“Then you pray the Romulans do indeed take prisoners,” Knight replied.

Romaine found the advice to be cold comfort.

The trip back to Memory Alpha took just over a day. Knight saw Romaine to the Longbow’s transporter room where she once again performed the duties of managing the transport to the surface. “This time, you’ll be glad to learn we’re leaving at the proper site. We aroused enough suspicion with your last disappearance.”

“Just how did you explain away my supposedly impossible transport?” Romaine wondered.

Knight smirked, “The transporter logs and the tram schedule dutifully show you used both to reach the surface and beyond.”

“Falsifying records is illegal,” Romaine said sternly.

Knight shrugged. “So’s spying. You get used to it.”   

Romaine was less than happy with that answer and it plainly showed. Knight redirected the conversation. “You’re as prepared as anyone can hope to be. I’ll be in touch when this is over to retrieve the data you’ve acquired.”

“And if I’m captured or worse?”

“You’ll get a nice little plaque on the walls of Starfleet Intelligence headquarters on Earth.” Knight’s answer was less than thrilling and she noted it, “Mira, we’re not going to start a war over the fate of one woman. No matter how much we’d feel compelled to.”

Romaine suddenly realized that Knight was personally invested in Romaine’s fate. It wasn’t like Standish and her girlfriend. There was no romance in this. But there was a healthy dose of camaraderie and that feeling Romaine had at the beginning of kinship. Apparently Knight felt it too.    

“All right.” Romaine accepted her fate, whatever it was going to be, “I’m ready.”

Knight smiled encouragingly. “Yes, I think you are.”


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