Author: Alan Decker, Anthony Butler
STAR TRAKS: BOLDLY GONE…
“Mrs. Bain, You’re Needed”
By Alan Decker & Anthony Butler
(Dialogue in // indicates it’s dialogue being spoken in the Breen native tongue, and probably sounds in reality like a squirrel in a blender, or, roughly “GARNT GARNT GARD VARRK DRARN DRART!” Use your imagination.)
Thot-Phul stood in his darkened bridge, suited up as usual. Other species may have wondered why they wore those stuffy suits, even when aboard their own ships. Thot-Phul enjoyed the idea that no one really knew WHY they wore those suits. If only they knew.
But what really interested Phul on that particular morning was the report from his senior analyst, Zar.
//Well, don’t make me beg. Report on your findings, Zar.//
The junior Breen stood opposite Phul, looking sheepish (as sheepish as one could behind a blinking mask).
//I finally found that ship you’ve had me looking for for so long. It wasn’t easy.//
//It’s about time. Show me the ship!//
Zar turned toward the holo-screen and commanded, //Screen on. File 277.//
On the holographic table, a vessel appeared, tearing through space, oblong and nacelled, silver highlighted with green.
//That’s it. The Hermes!// Phul said excitedly, hopping out of his chair.
//No, no, not the Hermes,// Zar said. //That’s what made it so hard to find. It’s not called the Hermes anymore.//
//They’ve rechristened it the U.S.S. Anomaly.//
//Anomaly, eh? A bold name.// Phul scratched his chest plate. //Say, Zar…what is their course now?//
Zar made an excited “BARNK!” sound. //That’s the best part, Thot! They’re headed for Breen space.//
Phul nearly choked on his saline drip. //What’s that? They violate our space, and then they DARE do it again?//
//Oh…they’re not violating our space this time,// said Zar. //They’ve been invited, by our government. Peace talks.//
“DAARKVARZARAGAR!” cursed Phul.
Roughly, that meant “Let us be the first to welcome them.”
“Metsedig, what seems to be the problem? You just haven’t contributed in class as much as you used to,” Professor Rosalyn Bain said, sitting on the edge of her desk at the front of the empty classroom. Rosalyn had a kindly round face, rosy cheeks and grey-streaked hair tied back in a French braid. She was known as the sweetest teacher at Starfleet Academy, and the best cook too. She always made fresh cookies on exam day.
“I don’t know, Professor Bain,” Cadet Metsedig muttered, shifting slightly as the morning sun streamed into the classroom. “I just feel like I can’t concentrate anymore.”
Rosalyn leaned forward and smiled. “You tell Auntie Rosalyn what the problem is. I’m not just your teacher. I’m here to help you become a total Starfleet officer, and that includes being able to cope with blossoming feelings. It’s a romantic problem, isn’t it?”
“It’s this boy. Debonari Ral. Sometimes it’s like he doesn’t know I exist. And others…it’s as though he knows my every thought.”
“He’s Betazoid, so that last one is a distinct possibility,” Rosalyn replied.
“I’m sorry, Professor. I shouldn’t be bothering with this silly…”
Rosalyn nodded knowingly. “Nonsense. I get the picture. You know, Debonari Ral’s no good. He’s been all around this campus with his filthy pick-up lines and cheap come-ons. They’re ancient and outdated. Eyes as bright as stars, my bum!”
“He’s not that bad at all!” Metsedig said, off-put. “He’s a true romantic.”
Rosalyn sighed. “Metsedig, dear, you have a lot to learn about love. And even more to learn about Federation tactics.”
“But, Professor Bain!” Metsedig moaned.
“Tut-tut,” the kindly woman said. “Let’s have a few lessons in tactics. That’ll clear your mind of that Ral fellow, guaranteed!”
Rosalyn walked around her desk and sat down. She waved her hand over a control inset into the desk and a holographic sheet of information materialized before her eyes. “Right then, here’s your situation: You’re stranded in a marketplace on Yridia. A Yridian bandit-goon has just jabbed a jumja stick into your eye and slammed a croquet mallet into the small of your back, fracturing several vertebrae…you’re paralyzed from the waist down and half-blind. Other bandit-goons are closing in. What do you do?”
Metsedig thought for a moment. “Date Debonari Ral?”
“You are hopeless my dear,” Rosalyn scoffed. “But you have to realize, Metsedig…this could very well happen to you some time. You have to prepare yourself for the oddest possible situation. That galaxy out there, she’s a cruel one!”
“I guess you’re right,” Metsedig sighed. “Okay, then. Half-blind, and paralyzed, you say?”
“Righty-o,” Rosalyn said brightly.
“Hmmm. So I’m not a Horta anymore?”
Rosalyn chuckled. “I’m sorry, Cadet. That was mean of me. Just checking to see if you were paying attention, which you weren’t the first time.”
“It’s ok…,” Metsedig began, but Rosalyn was now the one not paying attention. Instead her head was cocked as if she were listening to something that Metsedig couldn’t hear.
“Professor Bain?” Metsedig asked timidly.
Rosalyn blinked and looked at Metsedig. “Right, then. Well, I think that’s enough for today. Go ask that Debonari out for a date or something.”
“I thought you just said–”
Rosalyn rushed over to the door, which slid open in an unmistakable sign that it was time for Metsedig to leave. “Forget what I said. You’re a sentient rock; he’s a cocky mind-reader. Maybe he knows your thoughts. Maybe you’re a stone to him. No insult intended. Go have fun! You only go to Starfleet Academy once!”
Before Metsedig could say anything else, Rosalyn had closed the classroom door, leaving the Horta alone in the hallway. Rosalyn now had the classroom to herself. Or so she was supposed to think.
“Come out, whoever you are. You’re not fooling me for a second,” Rosalyn said boredly.
Suddenly, at the center of the classroom, space rippled.
A plain-faced man in a suit of black stood there, looking mockingly at Rosalyn.
“Your senses are as honed as ever, I see,” the man said.
“I know a bad wind when it blows in.”
“These personal cloaking devices are supposed to be foolproof,” muttered the man in black. “No one should be able to detect someone who wears one. How did you sense I was here?”
“A shift in the air…a prickle in my bum leg…a twitch in the back of my mind,” Rosalyn said lightly as she walked over to a replicator. “Can I interest you in a snack?”
“You know I don’t eat.”
“You used to.”
“That was a long time ago.”
Rosalyn returned from the replicator with two steaming cups of tea. “Well, at least have some tea. It’s only civilized.”
The man in black took the tea. “Fine, as you insist.” He took the tea, sipped it, and sat down. “I expect you’re wondering why I’m here.”
“The thought had crossed my mind.” Rosalyn sat down on the table opposite the man in black.
“Well, I wouldn’t have come if it wasn’t extremely important. I know how you prefer to keep…less active…these days.”
“And it has nothing to do with my arthritis…it’s a matter of choice.”
“They can cure that now, you know. Have been able to for hundreds of years.”
Rosalyn smiled. “And then how would I detect you coming?”
“Touche,” said the man in black.
“Well, Carn, get to it,” said Rosalyn. “Surely the Director of Section 31 has better places to be than Starfleet Academy?”
“Assuredly, he does…or rather I do.” Carn was an android. A “Moong-type” android, which, as Rosalyn understood it, was a cheap copy of a Soong-type android. Nevertheless, Rosalyn considered him a good boss, even if he was somewhat…quirky at times. The fact remained, the guy could dance.
Carn glanced to his right, and with a subspace command from his internal transceiver, the holographic projector at the front of the classroom came to life with a cube-shaped image of space the size of Rosalyn’s desk. Zipping through that space was an oval silver ship with green highlights. “But on to the reason for my visit. You recognize this ship?”
“Of course I do,” Rosalyn frowned. “It’s the Anomaly. My husband’s ship.”
“Do you know where she’s off to?”
Rosalyn cocked an eyebrow. “I have a few ideas.”
“You’ve been watching her.”
“Starfleet hasn’t bothered to volunteer much information. And going through unconventional channels is what we’re all about, is it not?”
Carn nodded. “Indeed it is. Tell me, then, where the Anomaly is going.”
“To Breen space,” Rosalyn replied. “To make overtures for some kind of peace agreement.”
“Correct,” said Carn. “Just one problem. There are Breen who don’t want that to happen.”
“And they’re Breen who have a SPECIAL dislike for your husband.”
“He fought in the Breen War just like millions of other Starfleet Officers. He was no different.”
Carn smiled. “No different? Did those other millions of officers obliterate an entire convoy of Breen transports by detonating a free-floating wormhole in front of it?”
“Not that I know of,” Rosalyn said sheepishly.
“Did the others storm the Breen capital city and blow up the Overseer General’s palace?”
“He said he was sorry. Besides…that was 20 years ago.”
“And even after we defeated the Breen, they still haven’t ceased to be a threat.”
Rosalyn nodded. “Which is why, I presume, we are attempting to make peace with them.”
“Attempt is a good word,” replied Carn. “It assumes there’s a good chance for failure.”
“Someone’s going to try to stop the Anomaly.”
“Someone’s going to try to stop Captain Bain.” Carn smiled nervously. “By killing him, Rosalyn.”
Rosalyn didn’t seem affected by the news. “So you need me to sweep up.”
“You’re needed, Mrs. Bain,” Carn said, scooting off the desk and sitting his teacup down. “Because you know the Breen, and you know your husband. You have to watch his back and make sure the peace overtures go as planned. And you have to prevent the folks at Starfleet Command from finding out the true details of your mission. Such a revelation on their part would likely permanently sabotage peace with the Breen. And, my friends at Section 31 are in total agreement that peace with the Breen must happen.”
Carn shrugged. “Trust me, it’s a good thing. Now be on your way.” Carn’s eyes darted for a few seconds. “There. I just entered your request for sabbatical.” His eyes moved again. “Now it’s approved.” Another dart of the eyes. “Just secured a Section 31 raceabout for you. It’s idling in bay G-12 up at Spacedock. Get going!”
Rosalyn turned for the door. “But Carn, what if I can’t–” She glanced around. “Carn?”
“I’m still right here,” a voice said, coming from the seemingly empty space just ahead of Rosalyn. “And, in answer to your question…if you can’t stop the Breen from sabotaging your peace process…then you have our authorization to simply make sure the Anomaly, and your husband, make it out of there alive.”
“Thanks, Carn, wherever you are,” Rosalyn said, and scurried for the door. She’d have to have the housekeeper beam her knitting to the raceabout. She’d need to do some knitting if she was to plan a way to keep her husband out of trouble. She wondered idly if all captain’s spouses had this problem.
Captain Reginald Bain lined up his croquet mallet with the striped blue ball, reared back, and swung.
The mallet collided with the ball and sent it flying chest-level at the door to his quarters, which promptly opened to reveal Lieutenant Commander Tovar.
With astounding reflexes, Tovar reached out and grabbed the ball.
“You will never get the ball through the divits if you hit it this high, Captain,” Tovar said calmly, tossing the ball back on the floor.”
“Right you are, Tovar,” Bain said, swinging the mallet over his shoulder and sitting down in one of the chairs surrounding his dining room table. In the small foyer area of his quarters, he’d set up an array of croquet divits, which rose up out of the floor on command whenever he felt the need to bang the ball around and relieve some stress. “I guess I have a bit more stress to relieve than the game allows.”
“May I suggest badminton, then?” Tovar asked helpfully, clasping his hands behind his back. “Doubles against the holographic Gorn twins?”
“Sounds smashing…but later,” Bain said. He set down his mallet and stood. “We have pressing business today. Speaking of…what brings you here?”
“I wanted to relay to you that we’re just ten minutes from entering orbit around the Breen homeworld.”
“I’m all too aware,” Bain said.
“Hence the ball-banging.”
“I’d choose a different phrasing, but that’s it in a…erm…nutshell.”
Tovar nodded respectfully. “I am aware of your feelings about the Breen, sir. This must not be easy.”
“Right you are it’s not. What’s worse, for all I know, I could be meeting with some chaps I slapped about 20 years ago. Breen hold grudges, my boy, you can bet on that.”
“Luckily, those Breen who you ‘slapped about,’ seldom ever got up again.”
“But they almost always have relatives,” Bain muttered.
Tovar studied Bain as he shuffled about his quarters, pulling on his uniform jacket and commanding the replication system to dematerialize his dirty dishes where they stood. When Bain returned to face him, he asked: “And you, sir? Are you not holding similar grudges?”
Bain nodded. “Right-o I am. But being in Starfleet is all about ignoring those animal urges.”
Tovar’s eyes seemed to glaze over. He seemed far away indeed.
“Tovar?” Bain asked, waving a hand in front of the Yynsian’s eyes. “Anyone home, old chap?”
Tovar blinked. “Right, sir. Animal urges. Shall we go to the bridge?”
Bain nodded. “Yes indeed. You lead the way.”
“With pleasure.” Tovar headed out of Bain’s quarters, feeling skittish, but glad he wasn’t the only one.
When Bain and Tovar stepped onto the bridge, they came face to face with the massive, blue-teal world of Breen, encircled by a massive network of ships and stations.
The Breen were a technologically advanced species, but not very good at conversation or brimming with personality. That’s what made them so damned obnoxious to fight, Bain recalled fondly.
One of the swarm of battleship grey sickle-shaped ships surrounding the planet broke off and came toward the Anomaly.
Tovar, who’d just assumed the tac-ops station, checked his readings. “They’re hailing us.”
“Can you get an I.D. on the ship?” Bain asked, easing into the command chair as Ensign Hector Arroyo brought the Anomaly alongside the Breen warship.
“Yes, sir,” Tovar said. “It’s the Breen Imperial Cruiser XAXRDAARD.”
“The B.I.C. XAXRDAARD,” Bain muttered. “That name sounds familiar.”
“It should,” replied Tovar. “We did battle with it when Cabral had control of the Anomaly, during our initial mission.”
“Hope they don’t hold a grudge,” Bain grumbled.
“Along with the rest of the species,” Arroyo said solemnly, just as Commander Prosak stepped out onto the bridge and hurried over to Bain’s side.
“Glad you could make it, Commander,” Bain told Prosak warmly. “What’s the good word down in Astrophysics?”
“They’re getting all sorts of cartographic information from the surrounding systems,” Prosak said. “Lieutenant Lester is excited about compiling all of it, since this is the first time in over a century that a Federation starship has entered Breen space without being involved in combat.”
“Absolutely top-drawer,” Bain said disinterestedly. “How’s that hailing coming, Mister Tovar?”
“I have Thot-Phul holding on ultra-space, because I assumed Commander Prosak would want to continue her pedantic ramblings for a while longer,” Tovar said.
Bain turned to face Tovar. “What’s that, chum?”
“Uhm…nothing,” Tovar said quietly. What had made them say that? And why did he just assume he should despise the ship’s first officer? She was nice enough, however arrogant and stupid…wait, no she wasn’t. What was Tovar thinking? He stabbed a control and the helmeted Breen Thot-Phul appeared on the viewscreen, the eerie dim light of his vessel’s bridge blinking in the background.
//I’m so pleased to see you, Captain Bain,// Thot-Phul said in that twangy Breen language, which sounded oddly like a car wreck. //I’m also pleased I was able to pull some strings to get the dubious honor of escorting you around our homeworld. It will be my pleasure to kill you, or have you killed, whichever is easier.//
Bain grinned uneasily at Thot-Phul, saying between his teeth: “Tovar, could you translate that for us? I thought our universal translators were able to understand Breen.”
“The language seems to change several times each decade,” Tovar said. “It’s actually the reason Breen has one of the best educational systems in the galaxy. It’s also the reason our universal translator always seems to be a step or two behind. What once were verbs a few years ago may now be nouns.”
“Damn annoying blighters,” Bain muttered. “Can they understand us?”
“Most certainly, sir,” Tovar whispered. “However, you’re in luck. They likely have no idea what a ‘blighter’ is.”
“Fancy that.” Bain grinned uneasily at Thot-Phul, remembering what Admiral Larkin had told him to say to the Breen. “Thot-Phul, it is my great honor to come here on this mission of peace. I wish to meet with you and your Leadership Council at once to discuss the possibility of peace.” That wasn’t the reason at all, of course. Starfleet had a huge diplomatic corps for things such as that. It was the hope of Larkin and others at Starfleet Command that Bain could show, by way of the Anomaly, the fruits of an alliance such as that between the Federation and Romulans.
Still, Larkin had insisted on sending a diplomatic attache. An annoying bugger he was, too.
Wait. Diplomatic attache. Bain thunked the arm of his command chair. He knew he’d forgotten something. But so had Tovar, and that was quite unlike the young Yynsian. Bain made a mental note to have a man-to-man with Tovar when time allowed. Right now, though, there was unfinished business.
Bain punched a button on his command chair. “Bain to Ambassador Rogers. Please report to the bridge.”
Meanwhile, Thot-Phul was still muttering that screeching jabber of the Breen that Bain had come to despise so.
//…have always wanted to see what a human’s innards look like…//
“Tovar, any luck cleaning that up yet?” Bain asked.
“One more moment,” Tovar said, and waved his hand over a control:
“BAARD AVARBARDDAR GARNT-…–thing tells me the pictures just don’t do it justice.”
Bain, startled, looked at Thot-Phul with what he hoped was a warm, sincere expression. He’d have to B.S. his way through this. “How right you are, Thot. The pictures of Earth don’t do it justice. We hope to have you as a visitor there soon!”
Thot-Phul looked taken aback. “Ah, I see your universal translators have adjusted so that you can now understand us. How fortunate.”
“Undoubtedly,” said Bain. “So, let’s get down to brass tacks. When and where would you like to meet?”
“How about aboard your vessel?” asked Thot-Phul. “I’ve heard so much about it, I’d really like to have a grand tour.”
Bain exchanged a worried look with Tovar. “Well, I suppose that wouldn’t do any harm. You know, we recently entertained a contingent of Romulan dignitaries.”
“Really?” Thot-Phul’s visor blinked. “Interesting. Perhaps, one day, we may share an alliance with you similar to that of the Romulans.’”
“We’re hopeful,” Bain said. “Stand by and we’ll beam you and any other guests over at once.”
“I so look forward to meeting you,” Thot-Phul said dryly.
As Thot-Phul made his way down to the transporter room, he was cornered by Zar, coming around the bend of an adjoining corridor.
//Thot! I’ve done the research you asked,// Zar said excitedly.
//Killers for hire, and whatnot? Remember? You didn’t want to bloody your hands with the Starfleet captain?//
Phul nodded. //Indeed. So, you’ve found an assassin who has a score to settle with the good captain Bain?//
//I found hundreds. You may be interested to learn that, in military circles, Captain Bain is referred to as the ‘Grinning Brit Breen-Butcher.’//
Phul cocked his head. //What is a Brit?//
//Apparently, Captain Bain is. Whatever the case, after a careful screening process, I’ve located an assassin whom I think you’ll find more than adequate to the job.//
Phul nodded again. //Good work, Zar. In the interim, you may accompany me over to the Anomaly. If we’re going to kill the poor…// Phul searched for an appropriate word, //’blighter,’ we might as well have fun with him first.//
On his way down to the Anomaly’s transporter room, Tovar detoured to the armory to pick up a pair of wrist-phasers. He strapped one on each wrist and retracted them beneath his shirtsleeves. It paid to be careful in the early stages of the peace process. And being armed was the best way of being careful, in Tovar’s opinion.
“Stupid! Senseless! Violent!”
“Who said that?” Tovar whipped his head around as he rifled through the other deadly goodies in the small armory closet. “Who’s in here with me?” He ejected his left-wrist phaser and aimed it around the room.
“I didn’t say anything, Tovar…but I’m glad to see you still have the sensory acuity to figure out when you’re being watched.”
Tovar would have known the warm, sweet voice anywhere.
“Mum Rosalyn!” he said giddily, and sure enough, Rosalyn Bain materialized in the closet before Tovar’s very eyes.
“The one and only, my boy!” Rosalyn said brightly.
“What brings you here?” Tovar asked. “And why are you cloaked? Oh, no, don’t tell me.”
“Section 31,” they both said at once.
“I should have figured it wouldn’t be a social call,” Tovar said. “Please tell me at the very least that it doesn’t have to do with the Breen peace talks.”
“Oh, it does all right.”
“Well, at least tell me they don’t plan on trying to kill the Captain.”
“You’re good at this.” Rosalyn grinned.
“How can you be so calm about this?” Tovar demanded.
“We’ve been through worse,” Rosalyn shrugged. She wrapped a proprietary arm around Tovar. “But I need your help. You’re one of very few people alive in this galaxy who don’t belong to 31 who know I work for 31.”
“It wasn’t like I figured it out on purpose.”
10 YEARS EARLIER SUSSEX, ENGLAND EARTH
Tovar tossed and turned in his bed, but, try as he might, he could not fall asleep. The next day was to be his first day at Starfleet Academy. And what was even worse than the idea of fitting in with the other cadets was the idea that one of his teachers would be the woman who’d spent the last five years caring for him as if he were her own son.
And even more disturbing than that, he knew Reginald Bain would be watching him, no matter where his assignments took him, no matter to what distant world, he’d always keep one eye on the Yynsian. It had been that way since Bain had been his Camp Counselor on Waystation while his parents were vacationing on Multos. Tovar had learned later that Bain was doing the camp counseling job because he blew up something he wasn’t supposed to. He’d never actually said what that was.
At any rate, Bain had to break the news to Tovar that his parents had disappeared, along with the entire Multek empire, in some kind of colossal subspace collapse. Tovar was left alone, without any friends or family to speak of.
Except for Bain.
Bain, whose own children were already grown and moved away, took him back to Earth, and, along with Rosalyn, they raised him as their own.
Now, years later, Tovar would be starting classes at Starfleet Academy. He knew Bain had a lot riding on him, since Bain’s own children had not opted to go into Starfleet. It was a lot of pressure.
But although Tovar had never had any real experience with Starfleet, other than a few rides on the Malaventure, Bain’s ship, he’d had this unavoidable feeling in his gut that he had Starfleet experience. Decades worth. But that couldn’t be–none of his legitimate past lives had any Starfleet experience.
Tovar considered this as he tossed and turned that night, only to be brought sitting straight up when he heard the tiniest of clatters downstairs.
One of Bain’s tulip pots.
With Bain out on assignment, Tovar was the only one left in the house to protect Rosalyn. So, like any good surrogate son, he leapt out of bed, grabbed a stun phaser out of his desk drawer, and carefully, quietly, with catlike skill, padded downstairs.
And, in the foyer, he came face to face with Rosalyn Bain, dragging the body of a dead Orion through the foyer.
Rosalyn and Tovar stared at each other for a long, long moment.
Finally, Rosalyn spoke. “Damn salesmen.” She smiled weakly.
Over hot toddies and granola, after dematerializing the body in the large industrial replicator out back, Rosalyn explained that the Orion was an assassin who’d been planted by the Syndicate to topple Earth’s mass transit system, so the syndicate could sell the Federation one of its own.
Rosalyn had been sent to “take him out,” and was in the process of “cleaning up,” when Tovar found her. Astoundingly, she’d come home like this many a night, and Captain Bain was none the wiser. He was a heavy sleeper.
So they shared that secret, and Tovar decided to change his Academy concentration from science to security and tactics. He wasn’t even sure what had prompted him toward science. At any rate, Bain had always assumed he was Tovar’s sole inspiration. Rosalyn, after all, had been a teacher for twenty years. She’d left Starfleet as a lieutenant. She wasn’t the career officer that Bain was.
Then again, how could she be, when all that time she was secretly a member of a shadow organization bent on preserving the Federation’s quality of life no matter what the cost.
“So you need my help,” Tovar said, looking uneasily at Rosalyn. Now was not the best of times for this sort of thing.
Rosalyn nodded. “You’re the only one that CAN help me, dear Tovar. I’ll fill you in later, but–”
“Over hot toddies and granola?”
Rosalyn nodded patiently. “Yes, over hot toddies and granola. For now, meet with these Breen, but don’t let them alone with my husband for an instant! Be on special alert. Don’t let them put anything past you.”
“Can’t we just expose them for what they plan to do?”
“Not till we have proof, and not in such a way that we could endanger the forthcoming alliance.”
“Why do things always have to be so complicated?”
Rosalyn smiled at Tovar. “You always were naive, my dear. Now get out there and keep an eye on my husband. I’ll see you this evening.”
“Where will you be?”
“Catching up with some old…um…friends.”
Pelt-Bart sat staring at his status screen, in the docking room of one of the many space stations that circled the entirely over-technological world of Breen. The buildup had begun shortly after the Breen war and the Breen’s concurrent withdrawal as Federation allies. The Breen were trusted by no one, and trusted no one. And that meant they had to have the facilities with which to defend themselves.
Bart wasn’t paying much attention to his particular section of Breen airspace. He was more interested in the Federation vessel that hovered nearby, just outside the station, several thousand klicks away. It was definitely not something run-of-the-mill. Moreover, Bart was sure the arrival of a Federation ship was the kind of event to attract the attention of all sorts of constituencies. Many he didn’t relish dealing with.
With that in mind he turned around, and wasn’t at all surprised to find himself face to face with Rosalyn Bain.
“Bart, nice to see you again. You haven’t aged a bit.” That was, of course, a joke on Rosalyn’s part. Who knew how Bart looked, underneath the heavy tan thermo-suit and helmet?
Bart stood. //What do you want?//
Amazingly, Rosalyn understood him perfectly. With apparent ease, she’d learned Breen, and had stayed current on the language changes. Her 200 I.Q. was one of the things that had attracted Section 31 to her in the first place. Reginald, on the other hand, was more attracted to her blue eyes, big heart, and ability to bake.
//To talk,// Rosalyn said in Breen. //I want to know who’s going to make an attempt on my husband’s life.//
//Heheh.// Bart chuckled with a metallic chirp sound. //Reggie’s in command of that ship, huh? They could have done a better job picking the person to offer the olive branch.//
//Well, you know what they say about Nixon and China.//
//Actually, I don’t. But that’s beside the point. What do you actually think I can do to help you?//
Rosalyn smiled, resting a hand on Bart’s suited shoulder. //You still have contacts down on Breen, don’t you?//
//Some. But, why should I waste them to save your husband, when his offing would make room for me to move in?//
Rosalyn smiled. //Bart, you are such a card! But really, I need to know these things.//
Bart suddenly stepped closer. //Mate with me, Rosalyn! Do that, and I’ll do whatever you want. I promise!//
Rosalyn chuckled. //Oh…Bart…I would not know where to begin.// Hell, no one even knew Breen anatomy. Did they have genders? Who knew?
//Trust me, it’s easier than you might think. Just give me a couple hours to remove my suit and we’ll be in business!//
Rosalyn stepped back. //I’m afraid not. If you have a change of heart and decide you want to help me save my husband, send a coded message on frequency X2J-Red. I’ll get it. Otherwise …good day.//
//Rosalyn…you could turn an old Breen on to humans…//
//That’s what they say about me!// Rosalyn said lightly, and then, as if by pure thought, she transported away–not with the typical blue flurries, but with the momentary and untraceable orange flash of subspace “sliding.” Top of the line tech.
“And this is where we keep our big brain,” Captain Bain said, gesturing for the Breen to look around Science Lab Four.
Dr. Natalia Kasyov was seated at a console table, hunched over some screens of itinerant data.
Bain led the group over, but the stout and jolly Ambassador Horace Rogers shouldered his way through to lead the way. Bain tried not to look annoyed.
“Doctor Kasyov…don’t be such a bookworm!” Rogers spoke up, hefting Kasyov to her feet and switching off her viewpanel. She glared at him, not trying at all not to look annoyed.
“I was doing a study of Cabral’s electromagnetic neural signature!” Kasyov grumbled, grinding her teeth at Horace Rogers. “You’ve just ruined three days of research!”
“Fascinating, fascinating,” Rogers said. “But our visitors aren’t interested at all in that. Tell them something interesting about that big brain over there.” Rogers turned to look at Cabral’s alcove, where the spherical brain, roughly the size of a round dinner table, sat blinking and humming. The Breen were already looking it over.
Bain dashed over, looking over their high shoulders and patting them affectionately. “Quite a sight, isn’t he?”
The Breen glanced over their shoulders at Bain, and although he couldn’t make out their expressions, he was pretty sure they were displeased.
//This one is the butcher,// Zar said to Phul.
Phul nodded. //Yes. But say nothing more. They may have found ways to decipher even this obscure dialect.//
//Of course,// Zar said, and turned to Bain. “You have an impressive Brain, there, Captain Bain.”
“Well, I wish I could take credit for it, but Cabral’s a sentient creature just like any of us. Isn’t that right, Cabral?”
The brain didn’t respond. Bain leaned in closer. “Cabral? Isn’t that right?”
Kasyov walked over, still glaring at Rogers, who trotted close behind. “He’s giving you the silent treatment, Captain. He’s mad that you didn’t say hello to him as soon as you walked in.”
Bain clicked his tongue. “Tsk, Cabral. Don’t be like that. We’ve got company!”
“He’s been moody lately,” Kasyov said. “Shelly…I mean, Lieutenant Marsden seems to think it’s because she’s been repolarizing the dilithium crystals or some such thing.”
“Fascinating,” Rogers said. “Let’s have a look at the holographic facilities.”
It was just then that Tovar hurried through the doors to the lab.
“There you are,” he huffed, jogging up alongside Bain. “I’ve been searching for you.”
“Where’d you get off to, Tovar?” Bain asked jovially. “We lost you after we visited engineering.”
“Just…um, checking some things,” Tovar lied. He’d really been enhancing the ship’s internal surveillance system. It would notify them if anything was out of order, through a subcutaneous earpiece. The Breen wouldn’t put anything past him. Not on his watch. Rosalyn would be proud.
Rosalyn was proud, but not of Tovar, though she would have been had she known what he was up to. Instead, she was proud that she was still able to turn the head of a miscreant Breen. Even in her…advancing…years, she could use her body as leverage. Of course, she’d never cheated on Reginald. Come close, but never done the deed. No job was worth that.
She may have killed…and killed a lot…but no illicit sex, no sir. She figured she and Reginald were probably about even in the killing department, though that would probably be something of a surprise to him. As far as Reginald was concerned, the only thing Rosalyn was capable of killing were his petunias…every time she tried to look after them. Thankfully he had taken them with him on the Anomaly, so Rosalyn could focus on other things, such as tapping into Breen communications nets from the operations console aboard the Raceabout Eerie.
It was then that a light on the communications console lit. X2J-Red! It must be Bart, reconsidering.
She tapped a control.
“Mum? It’s Tovar!”
Wrong again. “Tovar, you remembered our secret channel!” Rosalyn exclaimed.
“How could I forget?” Tovar’s voice crackled over the channel. Rosalyn adjusted the gain. “The Breen have returned to their ship. A special meeting is scheduled for tomorrow morning, with the Leadership Council and the Thot that visited us today.”
“Does he look like the killing type?”
Rosalyn could almost hear Tovar shrug. “Not the killing type so much as the ‘order to kill’ type.”
“So you think investigating him might turn up some leads?”
“Undoubtedly. If you like, I can…”
Rosalyn shook her head. “No, Tovar. I’ll have to do this.”
“I’m fully aware of how to covertly search an enemy ship.”
“You’d be missed aboard the Anomaly. We can’t risk raising suspicion. Besides, you have another task to attend to.”
The unasked question hung of “what” hung in the air.
“Keep my husband alive. By any means necessary,” replied Rosalyn.
“You have my word on that, Mum. You just keep yourself alive.”
“Count on it,” Rosalyn said with a warm smile veiling stern determination. “By any means necessary.”
“I really appreciate this, Tovar,” Bain said, holding the badminton racquet behind his back and stretching left-to-right, then in a twisting motion. “It’s been a while since we batted the birdy around.”
“I am sorry Ensign Arroyo accidentally deleted the Gorn twins.”
“Let’s hope the worst he did was delete them. They were handsome women,” Bain said whimsically.
“If you say so.” Tovar cleared his throat and tossed the “birdy” up into the air, slamming it hard with his racquet.
Bain stumbled forward and slammed the birdy back over the net.
The holographic badminton program was set on a beach near the cliffs of Dover on Earth, complete with glistening water, squawking seagulls, and giggling kids playing along the shores.
Tovar and Bain batted the ball back and forth for several rounds, until, on a return, Bain stumbled forward, twisted around, and slammed to the ground, wincing.
“SECURITY ALERT!” Tovar cried. In a swift motion, Tovar dove under the net, arms outstretched, and landed atop the captain.
He’d heard no shots, but it may well have been a silent weapon.
Bain clutched his leg, grumbling to himself. “Ouch! Something snapped down there!”
Tovar scrambled off his captain. “Tovar to security. Belay the alert. Send a medical team to Holodeck Two.” He frowned and studied the captain’s leg.
“Not the achilles again,” Bain sighed.
Tovar tenderly bent and extended the captain’s leg and frowned. “You’re quite right, sir. It would appear to be your achilles tendon.”
Bain kept wincing. “Well, she popped all the way this time! Like a damned Venetian blind winding up!”
Well, at least it wasn’t an assassin. Or was it just an extremely clever one?
Tovar dismissed that notion and hefted the captain effortlessly in his arms. Tovar was of medium height, but built strong and compactly. He called for the holodeck arch and carried Bain away toward Sickbay.
This may be a blessing in disguise, thought Tovar. At least now I’ll be able to keep an eye on him without raising suspicion.
Otherwise, he had planned to play badminton with the captain until the following morning.
When Rosalyn made the untraceable subspace slide onto the Breen ship, she was overwhelmed at first by its size. She’d been on Breen vessels before, albeit long ago. This one was a somewhat newer model, and the corridors seemed to wind on forever.
But Rosalyn was armed with her knowledge of Breen command structure. She’d want the Senior Analyst’s quarters. And by inserting a tiny nanocordical fiber from her quadcorder control pad into a nearby computer junction, she was able to locate the quarters of said analyst.
When she got there, the quarters were atrocious. Pieces from some old isolation suits were strewn about, along with a kind of slime. Rosalyn didn’t risk touching it. Didn’t smell good. That might be normal for Breen. Then again, it might not.
Rosalyn cleared out a place at the analyst’s desk and sat down, retrieving her nanocordical fiber and jabbing it into the Breen’s interface box.
The computer screen lit up, and with some eye-motions entered into her quadcorder headset, Rosalyn was able to access the analyst’s files. His name, apparently, was “Zar.”
She’d realized that his office wasn’t the place to find the really juicy stuff. No, Breen were very private folks, and kept their really sensitive information close to home on secured, stand-alone stations.
Rosalyn scanned through the database and located the item she’d been looking for. A list of assassins. But none were highlighted. There were easily 100 to pick from. Some names she noticed from Section 31 “rap sheets,” others were unknown to her.
She knew one thing, she didn’t have much time to figure out which one of the 100 would be sent to kill her husband and sabotage the peace process.
Then again, maybe all 100 would be sent after Bain. It would take about that many to neutralize him. The man, even in his…advancing…years, could easily take on a gaggle of Breen assassins.
Rosalyn was just about to run an algorithm matching up the names on the file with the crew of the XAXRDAARD, when she read an alert coming over the system.
She’d tripped some kind of alarm. Security officers were no doubt on their way.
Good thing she was cloaked.
That thought crossed her mind as the doors to the analysts office opened, and someone came in crying out in Breen,
//Whoever broke in trashed the place!// Obviously, Zar, lying.
//They did a darn good job of it.// A much taller Breen, with the bearing of a Thot. Must be the captain.
//What could they have been looking for?//
Rosalyn scrambled out of the chair, yanking her nanocordical fiber out of the slot in Zar’s terminal. In her haste, she knocked over a chair.
//Did you see that?// Zar pointed at his desk.
Phul shrugged. //So what?//
//Chairs just don’t fall over.//
Phul was looking around. //You’ve really got to do something about your slime. It’s getting all over the place. That’s what the hose is for!//
//Of course, Thot.// Zar waved his hand over a control. //Zar to bridge. Run a thermospectral scan of this cabin. Our intruder might still be here.//
In fact, she wasn’t. In that instant, Rosalyn dimension-slid back to the Raceabout Eerie, having narrowed the list of Bain’s potential assassins down to 100. Not as productive as she’d hoped to be.
“And how are we today?” Dr. Fred Nooney asked, peering down into the eyes of Captain Bain.
“A little on the sore side, actually.”
Tovar hovered over Bain. “I blame myself. I know your achilles tendon never quite healed from that accident on Shelvis Seven. From now on, we shall stick to croquet.”
Bain sat up on the biobed. “Nonsense. The tendon’s ship-shape, thanks to the good Doctor Nooney’s ministrations!”
Dr. Nooney placed a tentative hand on Bain’s shoulder. “That’s not altogether true. I did repair the tendon, but Mr. Tovar’s right. It’s not as strong as it once was. This is a very old injury. Why haven’t you let someone clone you a new tendon?”
Bain hopped off the bed and grunted. “Because, good doctor, I believe when you clone the tendon, you take something away from the tendon.”
Nooney blinked at Bain, blissfully unaware of what the hell the captain was talking about.
Tovar took Bain by the arm and led him toward the sickbay door. “Do not worry, Doctor Nooney. I will ensure that the captain is safe and sound.”
“Physically, perhaps, but what about mentally?”
“I shall see to that as well,” Tovar said, moving Bain out the door without looking back at the doctor.
“Need I remind you that, since the counselor position was removed from starships during the Starfleet cutbacks of 2462, that the Chief Medical Officer is responsible for the mental well-being of–”
“You need NOT remind me, Doctor,” Tovar said, and swiftly left Sickbay.
“The Captain will be getting a house call from me later!” Nooney called after Tovar, but the doors had already closed.
“He’s WHAT?” Rosalyn Bain shouted into the viewscreen in the runabout cockpit.
“He’ll be beaming down to the planet within the hour,” Tovar said, looking worriedly over his shoulder. “I tried to persuade him to stay aboard until the meeting tomorrow morning, but he wouldn’t hear of it.”
“They dangled a dinner invite in front of him,” Rosalyn sighed.
Tovar nodded gravely. “Yes, Mum.”
“That man would beam down to Ferenginar in the monsoon season for a ceremonial dinner. The man loves a free meal. Bloody inconvenient for me, though, isn’t it?”
“I will, of course, be with him.”
“You’ll have to do better than that. You’ll have to stay in his very quarters.”
“It may be hard to get him to agree to that, Mum.”
“Assassins and plotters are the same in any culture, my boy. They’ll make their move when he’s sleeping. Neat and tidy, it’ll be.”
“This would be easier if you would make your presence known,” Tovar said, purposefully diverting his eyes away from Rosalyn.
Rosalyn put her hands on her hips. “What should I do then? Just pop in down there on Breen saying ‘well, love, I just happened to be in enemy territory for a stroll, I figured I’d go ahead and drop in on your crucial peace negotiations!”
Tovar looked down. “I’m sorry, Mum.”
Rosalyn sighed. “No, hon, it’s me who’s sorry. I’m just terribly concerned for my Reg.”
“You love him greatly, don’t you?”
“Of course I do!”
“Then why can’t you tell him about Section 31?”
“The man is a starched and pressed Starfleet officer, Tovar. He’d never understand.”
“How do you know if you never tell him?”
“I know. Trust me. I know. Now get on with you, you have a Captain to sleep with.”
“Yes, Mum. And where will you be?”
“Not far off.”
“Captain Bain and Lieutenant Commander Tovar are away, Commander,” Lt. Bre’zan Brazzell said from the tac-ops console.
“Thank you, Brazzell,” Prosak said, glancing back at the obsessive-compulsive-by-nature Mezzakkan tac-ops backup. Mezzakka was a beautiful planet, and neater than a pin. But, much like their neurotic neighbors, the Leeramar, the Mezzakkans were unnaturally obsessed with cleanliness, and even more than that, order. If they had any interest in dirtying their ships by making war, they’d probably be ruthless tyrants. As it was, their days were filled with the simple chores of keeping order.
So they made damn good security officers.
Probably lousy boyfriends, though, Prosak supposed to herself. She blinked to clear her mind of those thoughts and stared at the spinning, ice-blue, teal-wreathed planet Breen on the viewscreen. “I hope Captain Bain is successful. I entered Starfleet after the Breen war, and have no desire to experience battle with them.”
“I assure you, it’s not much fun,” Brazzell said, as the doors to the bridge opened. He darted his head toward the doors. “Wipe your feet, now!”
“Oh. Hi, Brazzell,” Dr. Kasyov mumbled, and quickly side-stepped to the white de-contamination mat beside the door entrance. Brazzell had petitioned, under the Equal Rights for Aliens Act, that the mats be put in throughout the ship.
Prosak didn’t mind, actually. In truth, they felt nice and tingly when one stepped on them barefoot.
“Report, Doctor Kasyov.”
“Breen space is fascinating. Lots of anomalies and the like,” Kasyov said, carefully stepping past Brazzell to sit behind the science console.
“You missed a hair in your ponytail, Doctor,” Brazzell offered helpfully.
“Oh, did I?” Kasyov asked, trying her best to sound patient.
“Yes, on your left. Right above your ear. Please, Doctor, alleviate that. It’s….disconcerting.”
“Yes. Well, I’ll get right on it.” Kasyov rolled her eyes. “Hope Tovar’s enjoying his security detail.”
“Me too,” Prosak said, thumbing a signature on a padd that the diminutive Ensign Yonk had brought by. Yonk grabbed the padd and walked back toward the bridge exit. As he walked by, the padd brushed by the tactical console, so gently bumping it that one of the ten alphabetically ordered Mezzakkan good luck god statuettes tipped and fell.
“Noooooooooooooooo!” Brazzell dropped to his knees.
“Someone put the statue back upright,” Prosak sighed. “Goodness knows Yonk can’t reach it.”
“I heard that!” Yonk snapped as the turbolift doors closed him off from the bridge and he descended toward his next destination.
“Chaos…this ship is in chaos…” muttered Brazzell.
Prosak sat down in the command chair and faced the viewer. “Yes, I do indeed think this will be a restful mission.”
Tovar looked intently around the Breen Leadership Council chambers. The council was a cavernous room, with large seats shaped eerily like a hand, no doubt shaped to fit Breen in their natural, un-suited state.
This morning, however, a special environment field had been erected around the council chambers in order to keep the voraciously bitter cold Breen weather out.
As such, the council members filed in wearing the traditional armored Breen suits. Wind, hail, and snow beat against the large oval windows overlooking the Breen capital city of XAXARAX.
“Good day for a nice hot toddy, isn’t it?” Bain asked the Breen guard to his left, who declined to react to Bain’s comment.
Tovar elbowed him. “Captain, I think we forgot something. Rather, someone.”
Bain rose an eyebrow. “That so?”
Suddenly the sound of a Starfleet transporter beacon bleeped behind Tovar and Bain and Ambassador Horace Rogers phased into existence.
“Gentlemen,” Rogers muttered, keeping a teeth-gritting smile. “You forgot about me. Again.”
“Sorry about that, chum,” Bain said. “Won’t happen again.” Bain really couldn’t explain why he neglected the Federation Ambassador so, just that he thought that Rogers was a bloody git. That generally didn’t affect the way Bain treated a man, but in this instance, Bain’s instinct was to keep Rogers at arm’s length. That included not informing him about crucial away teams such as the current one.
Rogers shouldered in between Bain and Tovar. “Gentlemen of the Leadership Council. Allow me to be the first to extend to you the hand of peace, from my friends on the Federation Council.” Rogers stepped forward to the vast, semi-circular table where the Breen Leadership Council sat, staring at him with flickering eye-sensors. Rogers stepped forward to shake the hand of the man at the far left side of the table, then worked his way, hand-shaking, around the table.
“Bugger this,” Bain said under his breath.
“I concur,” replied Tovar softly.
The Breen at the center of the table, shortly after shaking hands with Rogers, stood to address the crowd gathered in the arena-like chambers. “Distinguished guests,” he said in perfect Federation-Standard, thanks to universal translator technology, “We are here today to welcome representatives from the United Federation of Planets, with whom we would like to join one day in peaceful coexistence.”
Metallic, thumpy clapping echoed throughout the halls. The masses were pleased, Bain thought to himself, smiling. Maybe the Breen could forgive and forget. Then, damn it, so could he.
Bain turned, regarding the assembled group. He had no way of knowing Thot-Phul was in the audience, clapping harder than anyone, and smiling devilishly. Suited Breen had a way of being remarkably similar to one another.
Thot-Phul’s smile grew wider as the atmosphere indicator on his helmet screen turned red, and as alarms blared throughout the council chamber.
“What’s that, then?” Bain asked. Horace Rogers was still moving through the crowds, shaking hands.
Tovar immediately whipped out his tricorder and began scanning. “Captain…there is an atmospheric leak. A hole has formed in the elemental shield surrounding this chamber.”
“Ah hah,” Bain said, rubbing his chin. “So we’re buggered then, is that what you’re saying?”
“In a nutshell.” Tovar spoke into thin air–air that was literally thin, and getting thinner, and colder. “Tovar to Anomaly. Emergency beam-out.” The good thing about the new comm pips was they didn’t require tapping, even when one was off-ship. In 100 years, they only recently found a method of truly hands-free communication.
Tovar had plenty of time to consider this because no one from the Anomaly was responding.
“Oh, hell,” Bain said. He glanced over at Rogers, who, oblivious, kept shaking hands. It was getting downright cold. Breen scrambled about, trying to figure out what the source of the alarm was. Bain tried to stay calm. “Bain to Anomaly. Beam us out, if you please?”
He and Tovar exchanged nervous glances.
“Right, then,” Bain said, reaching for his dinner knife. “Looks like this is it, Tovar! Grab something pointy, so we can go down fighting.”
Tovar smiled weakly at Bain, then looked about the arena. “If anyone else happens to be in range, now may be the right time for you to act.”
“Who the devil are you talking to?” Bain asked.
“Never mind,” Tovar said, as something invisible hit Bain in the neck. He slapped his neck, as if it were an insect bite, then his eyes rolled back in his head and he dropped to the chamber floor with an echoing FWAP!
“Mum?” Tovar asked with a whisper.
“Hold on, dear, Mum’s right here,” came an equally soft reply, seemingly from out of nowhere.
Tovar searched the increasingly hectic arena for Rogers, but the Ambassador was nowhere to be found.
That was the last sight he took in before he disappeared into the familiar black one-second nothingness of matter transportation. But it wasn’t any old kind of Starfleet beam-out, it was the tangy airiness one felt only when dimension-jumping. A technology still out of reach for most Starfleet scientists, but one used by Section 31 for decades.
One second later, Tovar was standing aboard what appeared to be a standard Federation raceabout. This one, of course, was not standard. First and foremost, it was phase-cloaked. Secondly, it was piloted by none other than Rosalyn Bain.
“You better hope they don’t have dimension-jump tracking ability,” Rosalyn said, hopping behind the pilot’s seat, jerking the raceabout to port and engaging its thrusters. Tovar watched snow and chunks of ice whip by as the raceabout zipped through the atmosphere.
“You were wonderful,” Tovar said, moving to sit beside Rosalyn, noting that Captain Bain was slumped, unconscious in a nearby seat.
“Considering how much I was taken by surprise with that one, I’d say so,” Rosalyn said. “I expected to have to fight someone hand-to-hand, one-on-one. Instead, what do I get? Fractured atmosphere shield. It was so OBVIOUS! I should have seen that coming.”
“You saved him, Mum, that’s what’s important,” Tovar reminded her.
Rosalyn shook her head as she steered. “Something doesn’t make sense, though. That is not at all Breen style. It was a maneuver that had to be borne purely of panic.”
“Maybe they realized someone was on to them?” Tovar asked.
“Well, they did discover some traces of me rooting around in the Senior Analyst’s suite.”
“So they did panic. They tried to take the captain out with the first convenient, untraceable method.”
“But it is traceable, by motive if no other way,” Rosalyn said, narrowing her eyes with contempt.
“Thot-Phul,” Tovar said with equal contempt. “It has to be. He’s been hanging around the captain like an Elavian gnat for the last day and a half.”
“If only we could get some evidence to tie him to this stunt,” Rosalyn mused, as the Eerie broke out of the white Breen atmosphere into cold, black space.
“Even if we did, the Breen would never extradite him,” Tovar muttered.
“You’re right about that,” Rosalyn said.
“By the way,” Tovar added, almost as an afterthought. “Did you see any sign of Federation Ambassador Rogers?”
“I didn’t,” Rosalyn said. “The Anomaly must’ve brought him up.”
“Well, we lost contact with the Anomaly.”
“Hmm,” said Rosalyn. “It could be that the Breen rigged the accident so that Rogers could escape. That way, it achieves their goal of killing Reggie, without completely alienating the Federation.”
“To think they assume that the Federation values an ambassador over Captain Bain,” Tovar muttered.
“Yes, that is…silly,” grumbled Rosalyn. She looked over the peacefully napping Reg Bain. “Well, let’s get you and my hubby back to the Anomaly, before they get suspicious.”
“I’ll work up a feasible explanation as to how I got back to the ship,” said Tovar.
“You always were good at improvisation,” Rosalyn grinned. “You’d make a good Section 31 agent.”
“Thanks, but no thanks.”
“What do you mean you lost contact with them?” Commander Prosak asked from the Anomaly command chair. She swerved around to face Lt. Brazzell.
Brazzell narrowed his eyes at Prosak. “Why do people insist on asking such obvious questions? You’re a Vulcan for chivas’ sake. They’re supposed to be logical.”
“I’m a Romulan,” Prosak corrected. “Actually, a RommaVulc.”
Brazzell nodded disinterestedly. “Fascinating. Listen, they just disappeared off my scanners, that’s all I know - Hey, hey…watch it, you’re in my space!” The tac-ops lieutenant whirled to face Ensign Yonk who was doing some maintenance at a nearby nanolinear junction. He’d returned, annoyingly.
Yonk glared up at Brazzell. “I’m two meters away from you!”
“And I have a two point five meter radius of personal space around me.” Brazzell drew an imaginary square around himself with his two index fingers.
“Ahhh. So what,” Yonk said and went back to working.
“Lieutenant,” said Prosak, trying to regain command, “please go over to the science station and see if you can break through that interference and find our away team. And find Doctor Kasyov…it is disconcerting that our science officer spends so little time on the bridge.”
“Oh, very well,” snapped Brazzell, marching over to the science console. He whipped a feather duster from out of its holster on his hip and began swiping it over the console. “It wouldn’t kill the science people to dust over here! You’ll notice my console is squeaky clean!”
“Lieutenant, focus on the mission at hand, if you please,” muttered Prosak, staring at the twirling ball of Breen on the viewscreen.
Brazzell tapped at the science panel, then waved his hand over a control. “Hmm.”
“Hmm?” Prosak arched an eyebrow. She could show Brazzell ‘Vulcan,’ if that’s what he wanted.
“Yes. Hmmm. I say ‘Hmmm,’ because now we have sensors back.”
“And the captain? And Lieutenant Commander Tovar? And that ambassador, whatever his name is? Their life signs?”
Brazzell shook his head. “Still no sign of them. One interesting thing…the atmosphere shield is down.”
“I see.” Prosak appeared thoughtful. “How about death signs? Any of those?”
Brazzell frowned. “You’re trying to be cute.”
“No, actually. I am trying to find a missing away team!” Prosak realized she had snapped and inwardly scolded herself.
“No need to get snippy,” muttered Brazzell, then he looked again at the science panel. “Hmm.”
“Don’t make me ask again.”
“Two life signs just appeared aboard ship. Captain Bain, Commander Tovar.”
Prosak folded her arms. “It’s about time.”
Prosak found Tovar hovering over Bain in sickbay, with Nooney at his side.
“And how are we since this morning?” Dr. Nooney asked, leaning over Bain.
“Bloody headachy,” muttered Bain.
“Maybe if you stopped saying nasty words like ‘bloody,’ the mean old headachy monster would leave you alone,” Nooney said kindly, but bloody irritatingly.
Prosak stopped at the foot of Bain’s biobed, looking from the captain to Tovar. “Report, Commander Tovar.”
“The atmosphere shield failed,” Tovar said, looking at Prosak with his best poker face. “We started to black out as atmosphere rushed in, then we appeared here.”
“How can you explain that?” Prosak asked.
“Who in blazes cares. We’re here,” Bain said, leaning up. “And I know an assassination attempt when I smell one.”
“You’re kidding,” muttered Tovar.
“The fact remains, how DID you get aboard?” asked Prosak.
Tovar scratched his chin. “The Breen beamed us here, maybe. Or maybe it was an act of…oh, who do you believe in? Surak?”
“Surak is incapable of beaming people around,” Prosak snapped.
“Your loss,” Tovar said, pivoting Prosak around to face the door to sickbay. “Moving forward…I think we should enact some security measures, since, apparently, some Breen may be out to get the captain.”
“Good thinking,” said Prosak.
Before they reached the doors to sickbay, they parted and Rogers strolled in, looking pleased.
“Close call, eh?” asked Rogers.
“We forgot about him again,” Prosak whispered to Tovar.
“Indeed,” said Tovar. “Sir, may I ask how YOU escaped the arena?”
“The Breen did it?” Rogers offered, giving Tovar a challenging glance.
“That pretty much jives with your story,” Prosak said, looking at Tovar.
“Yes. Yes it does,” said Tovar, glaring suspiciously at Rogers.
Bain stormed out onto the bridge. “We’re obviously not welcome on Breen. Hell with diplomacy, we’re getting out of here.”
Tovar followed him out of the turbolift, followed by Prosak and Ambassador Rogers. “Perhaps you are being a bit hasty. Maybe it’s only certain elements on Breen that are out to kill you.”
“The whole place and time of the accident is what really ruffles me,” Bain muttered, hopping into his command chair. “We were in the PLANETARY LEADERSHIP council chambers. If the council’s rulers are out to get me, what hope do I have negotiating a peace? And how come they didn’t have the common decency to let us get through the bloody soup course?”
“I did not realize Breen served blood soup. Seems like that would be a Klingon tradition,” Prosak mused, but no one seemed to notice.
Tovar ushered Brazzell away from tac-ops, good-luck statues and all. He inclined his head to Brazzell, a signal for the security officer to wait by the turbolift. Extra precaution.
“Raise the Chair of the Breen Leadership Council,” Bain said, as Prosak took her position standing beside him.
“Standing by on ultra-space,” Tovar reported.
The suited Breen appeared on the viewscreen.
“VARAXAAGARRDBARNT BAR BAR GART BARN DART!” announced the Breen Leader quickly. He sounded concerned.
“Enough with the pleasantries, mister chairman,” Bain snapped, and swivelled back toward Tovar. “Make some sense of that, if you please.”
Rogers side-stepped next to Bain. “Captain, I suggest you let me talk to the Breen. Perhaps we can reschedule…”
“Forget about it, Rogers,” muttered Bain. “I know a ruse when I see one. The Breen tried to kill us, tried to kill me, because they’re still stewing about that whole war thing.” He turned to face the Breen Leader, Grot-Grart. “Isn’t that about right, Grot?”
“FARD BARG BARP…not right at all,” replied Grot-Gart. “We were as shocked as you.”
“That would explain why they beamed you up to the ship as quickly and efficiently as they did,” Prosak said diplomatically.
“What?” asked Grot-Gart. “We did no such thing.”
Bain looked at Prosak, then turned to Rogers, who shrugged.
Tovar’s eyes narrowed.
Bain turned back to Grot-Gart. “I know when I’m not welcome. Well, you’ve got the result you wanted. I’m turning tail and heading back for the Federation. Some other corps of diplomats will arrive in a few days. I hope you show them more hospitality than you’ve shown me.”
“Don’t go away angry,” Grot-Gart said. “I want to make this work, honestly! For Dart’s sake, give us another shot!”
“Talk is cheap, Grottie!” replied Bain. “Cut him off, Tovar. Steer us back toward the Federation, Warp 13.”
“The Federation Council will not be happy to hear about this,” Rogers muttered. “You didn’t even give me a chance to salvage negotiations!”
“Nobody tries to kill Reg Bain and gets a second chance! Either I kill them, or I run away. Would you prefer I did the former?”
“Certainly not,” said Rogers. “Still, you have doomed this mission.”
“You can go with some other captain, some other ship, to sort out matters with the Breen. Starfleet was batty thinking that they could send a hero of the Breen War back to negotiate a peace.”
“Perhaps you’re right,” Rogers said, and headed for the off-bridge turbolift.
Prosak sighed. “That could have gone much more smoothly.”
“You’re not kidding,” Bain said, and stood. “You have the bridge, Prosak. I have a date with a hot mineral bath.”
He headed for the port turbolift, opposite from the one Rogers had taken. Tovar quickly jogged up next to him. “I will accompany you, Captain.”
“That’s really not necessary,” said Bain, holding up a hand. “I appreciate it. But, at the very least, I can bathe myself.”
“I will guard your quarters. An attempt HAS been made on your life.” By trying openly to kill Bain, the Breen had actually helped Tovar protect him.
“Well, then, if you insist,” Bain said, and gestured Tovar into the turbolift. “Prosak, you’d better recall Lieutenant Brazzell.”
“Terrific,” Prosak said numbly, sitting in the command chair.
Tovar sat in the high-wing-backed Victorian chair, chin propped on fist, waiting as Bain splashed in the bathtub in the adjacent bathroom.
“I am the very model of a modern major general…” sang the captain as he splashed. “Watch out, Titanic…here comes the Lusitania. She’ll ram you amidships! And you know you’re vulnerable above C-deck!”
Tovar sighed. He despised Gilbert and Sullivan, not to mention all things nautical. Both seemed to be an obsession for most starship captains, and Bain in particular.
“Singing from ‘Pirates of Penzance’ again, is he?” came the voice of Rosalyn Bain from behind him.
Tovar turned to see Rosalyn standing there, in a black jumpsuit, hands on hips.
“Mum, good to see you.”
“You too, my boy,” Rosalyn said, and sighed. “But I do miss my dear Reg. Wish I could say hi.”
“As do I.”
She leaned against Tovar’s chair. “Well, I talked to Pelt-Bart one more time. He couldn’t trace, or even begin to fathom, who sabotaged the elemental shield that nearly killed you and Reggie.”
“The result was probably for the best,” Tovar said. “We’re headed away from Breen space. Leave it to someone else to negotiate with the Breen. At least the captain is safe.”
“Yes,” Rosalyn said, rubbing her chin. “That he is.”
“…vegetable and miner–WHOAAAAAA!”
That’s when Bain’s happy splashing turned into panicked thrashing.
Rosalyn and Tovar exchanged worried glances and darted for the bathroom.
Steam filled the room as a pink shape slumped down onto the tile at Tovar’s feet. He bent down. It was Bain. He felt for a pulse. He was alive, but unconscious.
“Time to finish the job.”
Tovar looked up to face none other than…Tovar.
“Who the–?” asked the Yynsian.
“Recognize me now?” The image flickered to become Ambassador Horace Rogers.
“Changeling?” Tovar asked, heart racing.
“Nope. Hologram,” Rogers replied with an evil grin and spin-kicked Tovar across the jaw.
Wondering vaguely where Rosalyn had gotten to, Tovar slid back on the tile, but was up immediately in his Yynsian fighting stance, which was, essentially, hands on hips.
“That will NOT do!” Tovar shouted.
“And who will stop me?”
Tovar twitched. No, no. Not now. Not now of all times. Damn it. His eyes glazed over. Anger surged through every nerve and vein.
“YOU WILL NOW DIE!” Tovar shouted and dove at the hologram, who immediately became transparent so that Tovar could tumble right through him and smash into the opposite wall.
Tovar blinked and instantly he was someone else. Not a fighter, for sure. More a thinker. Damn past lives.
“This is a most unappealing situation,” he muttered, and Horace Rogers advanced on him. “Hardly even worth popping up for. If you’ll all just excuse me, I’ll pop right back where I came from…” And Tovar’s eyes rolled back in his head, and he became a frightened child…
“Mommy!” Tovar cried out, and shrunk into a ball, as the rotund Horace Rogers turned his hands into spinning saw blades and he brought them to bear on Tovar.
“You can’t stop something made of pure light, you cowering pile of Yynsian crap!” Rogers cackled. “Or, should I say…BARARAAVARD VARD BARK VAR BARD! That’s a message from Thot-Phul. It loses something in the translation, but essentially it means–”
Suddenly, Rogers stopped in his tracks. A blue field flickered around him. He was trapped.
“What the hell?” Rogers demanded.
Suddenly, Rosalyn Bain dimension-jumped right in front of him.
“And who the blazes are you?” Rogers demanded.
“I’m made of pure darkness, chum,” Rosalyn said, and smiled. “Tell your Breen boss that it’ll take a hell of a lot more to stop a Bain. Computer,” she announced, calling to the Raceabout Eerie. “Reverse the proton charge within this field, then neutralize any circuitry within.”
“No, no…noooooooooooo….holos have feelings toooooooooo!” cried Rogers, as his body crackled and flickered, then dissipated in a flurry of sparkling light. A tiny chip clattered to the deck and the blue field dropped.
Rosalyn knelt on the tile and picked up the chip between her thumb and forefinger. “Holographic assassin. This Thot-Phul made an excellent choice. I just wonder when they had an opportunity to switch our Horace Rogers with the hologram?”
Now, once again himself, Tovar dragged himself to his feet by grabbing a towel rack. “Probably when Thot-Phul was touring the Anomaly yesterday. As hard as I tried to keep an eye on him, he somehow found the time to implant the holo-assassin and do away with poor Horace Rogers.”
“I wonder where Rogers is?” questioned Rosalyn.
“We may never know,” muttered Tovar as he regarded Bain, slumped unconscious against the tub. “You do realize, the hologram almost succeeded in accomplishing his mission.”
“Almost,” Rosalyn said, “but not quite.” She grinned at Tovar, then glanced over at Bain with an affectionate smile. “Look at it this way. At least he’s not singing anymore.”
“Captain’s Log, Stardate 175114.6. I have a bugger of a headache.”
Bain held a bag of ice to his head as he stared at Starfleet’s ultraspace response to his report, elbows propped up on the conference room table.
“Captain, Doctor Nooney is more than capable of ridding you of your headache,” Prosak said helpfully from beside him. “It is the 26th century after all.”
“I’m well aware,” muttered Bain. “But I’ve had quite enough of the good Doctor Nooney for one day.”
Tovar sat on the opposite side of Bain. “Under the circumstances, Captain, I think a headache is not so bad. That hologram could have killed you.”
“Right you are, Tovar,” Bain said. “But thanks to your quick thinking, he didn’t.”
“How did you stop the hologram, Commander?” asked Prosak.
“I’ll get back to you on that,” Tovar replied, and turned to face Bain. “I take it Starfleet’s response is not all you hoped for.”
“All that and less,” replied Bain. “They are more interested in pushing forward with the Breen peace process. They’re not even going to push for an investigation of Thot-Phul. No evidence, apparently.”
“No evidence indeed,” Tovar huffed quietly.
“So someone else will be assigned to this particular diplomacy mission,” Prosak wondered.
“That’s right,” replied Bain. “Ambassador Rogers, for one, if they ever find the real one.”
“Hope he wasn’t killed,” Tovar mumbled.
“Indeed,” Bain said. “Well, then, it’s off to our next mission. Something about subspace studies.” He looked at Prosak. “Prepare for an anti-sing jump to these coordinates.” He passed the padd to Prosak and stood. “I’m going to play some croquet and call my wife. She’ll be wanting to know about the past couple days.”
Tovar smiled. “I’m sure she will.”
Mrs. Bain smiled roundly on the small viewscreen in Bain’s quarters as he thumped a ball through its proper loop on his living room rug.
“Glad you made it out in one piece, Reg.”
“With chaps like Tovar on the case, I always will,” Bain grinned, and putted again.
“I hope that blighter who made an attempt on your life gets what’s coming to him,” Rosalyn huffed.
“I wouldn’t trouble yourself with worries like that, dear,” Bain said. “We’re an enlightened civilization. Revenge is no longer a motivating factor.”
“Quite so,” Rosalyn muttered. She looked to the left. “Would you look at that? My shepherd’s pie is ready. I’ve got to be off, Reg.”
“Mmm. I would so enjoy some of your shepherd’s pie,” Bain said.
“I’ll have some waiting next time you put in for shore leave, dear. Now I really must be going.”
“Right, then. Well. I love you, dearest.”
“I love you too, Reg. Be careful out there.”
“Not to worry, love, not to worry.”
“Computer, deactivate holo-filter,” Rosalyn told the raceabout Eerie’s computer. She spun in her chair to face the forward viewer. Thot-Phul’s ship came to bear. She smiled. “Section 31 didn’t authorize me to start a war. But they never said anything about leaving Mr. Phul a little parting gift. Enlightened civilization my arse.”
//You mean he isn’t dead! What good are you, then, Zar? And what good is your holo-assassin technology?// Thot-Phul demanded, pounding the desk in his quarters as he prepared to unwind and slip out of his suit after a long day of commanding and plotting a Starfleet captain’s demise.
//We did our very best, Thot. He just can’t be stopped. It’s like the man is charmed… protected!//
Thot-Phul rubbed the visor of his face mask. //Protected, huh. I wonder by whom.//
//I doubt we’ll ever know.//
//You’ve been quite helpful.// Thot-Phul punched a control, closing the channel. He turned in his desk chair and slowly lifted off his helmet. Time for a nice, soothing ba—-
Then something collided with his face, which felt surprisingly like a fist.
Phul was immediately on his feet.
//What on brontil?//
Another fist landed across his outer jaw. Then a kick dropped his legs out from under him.
Something stomped on his chest, in the small section that wasn’t protected by armor.
And just as quickly as it had started, the bizarre, invisible assault stopped, and Phul was left aching, wincing, lying on his back, alone in his quarters.
//Not…fair,// he muttered and lost consciousness.
And Rosalyn Bain returned home. She had some baking to attend to.