Author: Alan Decker, Anthony Butler
STAR TRAKS: BOLDLY GONE “Mind If I Play Through?” By Alan Decker & Anthony Butler
When you’ve spent as much time in the center seat as Captain Reginald Bain had throughout his Starfleet career, you come to understand a few things about the way the universe works. High atop that list is the unwavering truth that the moment things look peaceful and calm is the very moment that everything goes to utter hell.
For once, just once, Reginald Bain wanted to be wrong. After months trapped in the hostile Andromeda Galaxy, he and his crew had returned safely to the Milky Way. They were tired, they wanted to see their families, the anti-singularity drive was offline, and the Anomaly desperately needed some time in a spacedock. Considering all they’d been through, they deserved a break.
But now Bain was faced with a bomb-clutching madman on his bridge, a madman who was also his tac-ops officer and adopted son. The universe does not change the rules for anybody, even Reginald Bain.
“Tovar,” Bain said, wild eyes staring back at him from the out of control Yynsian. “Just calm down, lad. You can fight these buggers.”
“I am a prince of Yyns! I can fight any man…especially an elderly old fool like you,” Tovar spat back in a voice not his own. His demeanor changed suddenly, shifting to the epitome of calm. “As long as you obey my instructions, the warrior-prince will remain submerged, and you will remain unharmed. Bring the ship about to heading 278 mark 6 and engage at Warp 8!”
From the helm, Ensign Hector Arroyo looked at Bain questioningly. Bain shook his head briefly, then turned back to Tovar.
“Somewhere inside that mass of past lives is your present one, and he knows damn well that I’m not just going to hand my ship over to the likes of you.”
Tovar held up the bomb slightly. “That is why I brought more persuasive measures.”
Commander Prosak, who had been quiet up to now as she allowed Bain to handle the situation, spoke up. “Detonating a bomb would kill you as well. Where is the logic in that?”
“Do not debate logic with me. I studied at the Vulcan Science Academy,” Tovar, or whoever was in charge at that particular moment, replied haughtily. “It is illogical for me to allow an intolerable set of circumstances to continue. Either I will achieve my goal, or I will be killed. Either eventuality is preferable to my current status.”
“Do you have a response there, Commander?” Bain asked hopefully. Debating logic had never been one of his strong suits.
“Er…no,” Prosak replied after a few moments. Her RommaVulc training had never covered how to out-logic a fanatical past life.
“If you will not comply with my demands,” Tovar continued, “I will fly the ship myself.” He extended his wrist phaser. “Step away from your consoles and gather to the port side of the bridge.”
Once again Arroyo looked to Bain for guidance. The captain nodded solemnly then followed Tovar’s orders as Arroyo and Prosak did the same. In the back of his mind, Bain couldn’t help but note that this would not have happened in years past. It took more than three people to run a bridge in those days, so one armed maniac wouldn’t be able to just waltz in and take over so easily…not that Bain had any intention of making this easy.
“Computer, lock out all command codes. Authorization Bain Psi Phi 56!” Bain turned on Tovar as the computer beeped its acknowledgment of the order. “Ha! Your move!”
Tovar sighed boredly. “Computer, release command codes to Lieutenant Commander Tovar. Authorization Bain Rosalyn Alpha Alpha Alpha.” The computer beeped again while Bain looked at Tovar aghast.
“How did you know that blasted code?” Bain demanded.
“You told it to Tovar just in case you ever forgot it,” the past life occupying Tovar replied.
“Bloody hell,” Bain muttered.
“May I suggest using alternate means to assist your memory in the future?” Prosak said to Bain, attempting to remain placid as Tovar continued to aim his wrist phaser at them. “Perhaps a nice encrypted padd or something?”
“Fine suggestion, but a tad late now,” Bain said testily.
Once Bain, Arroyo, and Prosak had gathered at the side of the bridge, Tovar stepped over to the command chair and tapped several controls on the arm rest, causing a force field to crackle to life around Bain and the others. Then, after sliding the wrist phaser back into concealment under his uniform sleeve, Tovar moved to the helm and programmed in the Anomaly’s new course, sending the ship shooting forward into warp.
BARRIER OBSERVATION OUTPOST
Station Commander Y’scicht, a rather twitchy insectoid, watched the Anomaly leap into warp on his desk monitor in annoyance. First the Anomaly shows up at the barrier after being missing for months, scaring the hell out of everyone on the BOO as the barrier gateway sprung to life. Then Captain Bain doesn’t even have the common decency to speak to Y’scicht face to face before zipping off again.
Y’scicht had half a mind to lodge a formal protest with Starfleet Command, informing them of the Anomaly’s unusual and downright rude behavior.
But he didn’t.
The absolute last thing Y’scicht wanted to do was file a report against the man responsible for wiping out more Breen than any single Starfleet officer in history. Bain would probably rip through Y’scicht’s carapace with his bare hands then pummel his soft underbelly to paste.
Pushing the thought out of his head with a shudder, Y’scicht returned to his usual job of watching the barrier undulate outside his viewport.
Back on the Anomaly, Captain Bain paced helplessly (as much as he could anyway, considering that he could only move about six feet in any direction before smacking into the force field) as Tovar busied himself back at tac-ops.
“Arroyo, do you have any idea where he’s taking us?” Bain whispered.
“Not really, sir. I didn’t bother to put the course he ordered into the helm to see what was on that trajectory.”
“Could one of his past lives be an enemy spy?” Prosak asked. “Perhaps he is working for the Breen. Or the Dyonians.”
“It doesn’t work like that,” Bain said, shaking his head. “Obviously one of his past lives is damned determined to get to wherever it is that we’re headed, but we’ve got to take Tovar somewhere else entirely.”
“Where’s that?” Arroyo asked.
“Yyns. They’re the only ones equipped to deal with a rogue past life.”
Prosak nodded. “An excellent idea; however, I do not see how we’re going to be able to take Mister Tovar to Yyns when he is currently in control of the ship.”
“No worries, Commander. Surely the rest of the crew will notice something unusual is going on and come up to investigate,” Bain said confidently.
FOUR HOURS LATER…
“Anytime now…” Captain Bain said for the hundredth time as he kept his eyes darting between the turbolift doors. Prosak only nodded quickly. Arroyo, meanwhile, had curled up on the carpet and drifted off to sleep.
Bain began to pace again, but found that he was being lapped by Prosak. “Problems, Commander.”
“I am experiencing certain natural urges that are difficult to satisfy in these close quarters.”
“English, Prosak,” Bain said.
“I have to pee.”
“Oh dear. Surely Tovar can let you out for that.”
“No he cannot,” Tovar called from tac-ops.
“Criminy!” Bain snapped. “Be reasonable!”
“I have no assurances that she will not attempt to alert the crew.”
“Then tape her bloody mouth shut. Just let the woman pee!”
“Captain!” Prosak exclaimed.
But Tovar was already considering the proposal. “That may be acceptable,” Tovar said. He stepped into Bain’s former ready room (now Prosak’s quarters) for a moment, then emerged with a freshly-replicated roll of duct tape. He then created a small hole in the forcefield and passed the tape through to Bain. “Once her mouth has been covered, I will escort her to the facilities, where I have disabled the comm system.”
“See, I told you he’d help you out,” Bain said brightly as he ripped off a large strip of tape. Prosak just glared at him, almost shaking with anger while Bain firmly pressed the tape across her mouth. “Off you go!”
Tovar deactivated enough of the forcefield for Prosak to slip out. Even if Bain had wanted to try to charge Tovar, he would have had to mow down Prosak in the process. No. He’d just have to look for another opportunity. In the meantime, at least Prosak would be able to take care of the forces pressing against her bladder.
Before Bain could turn his attention to formulating a new escape plan, Prosak suddenly dove at Tovar, hands outstretched and muffled screams filtering through the tape. Tovar moved to deflect the attack, but Prosak’s move had caught him by surprise. She was on top of him before he managed to get a hand around her throat.
In an instant, Prosak slapped her left hand to the side of Tovar’s face, her fingers spreading to find the correct positions while she ripped the tape off of her mouth with her right.
“My mind to…OW! DAMN THAT HURT!” Prosak cried. She shook it off quickly, as Tovar’s body locked, his eyes frozen wide open. “Mymindtoyourmind…mymindtoyourmind.”
“Prosak!” Bain shouted. “What the devil are you doing?”
“Mymindtoyourmind…my mind to your mind…my mind…” Prosak trailed off as her consciousness burst into Tovar’s. Even though they were an off-shoot of Vulcans, Romulans generally did not possess much in the way of telepathic ability due to millennia of not making use of their abilities. Through her RommaVulc training, Prosak had tried to change that by learning to mind meld. Her attempts had generally been disastrous, but considering the fix she and the others were in, she didn’t think it could make things much worse.
But that was before something inside Tovar literally seemed to grab hold of her consciousness and drag it deeper into Tovar.
She was almost drowning in a maelstrom of warring voices, all shouting, all vying for control. But above it all, one power seemed to be in charge…and it wasn’t Tovar. Gradually, she sensed a sort of order to the chaos. Yes there were many voices, and yes they were all shouting, but they seemed to be divided into one of two distinct camps, each with its own unique energy, for lack of a better term. And they all wanted Prosak.
Fighting her way clear of the camps, she pushed upward, ascending to the power in charge.
“Release me now!” it demanded angrily. “I must go!”
“Let us help you,” Prosak said. “We are your friends.”
“You are Tovar’s friends. You will help him, and that will not help me in the slightest.”
“Then we will do it the hard way,” Prosak replied, suddenly attempting to wrest control of Tovar from the life in charge.
Back in the realm of the Anomaly’s bridge, Bain watched anxiously as Prosak lay motionless on top of an equally motionless Tovar. Gradually, Tovar’s lips began to move, twisting into horrendous shapes as though fighting with themselves.
Prosak froze. Tovar’s authorization code. She had no idea what…
“Tovar Omega 546 Delta 3,” Tovar’s voice said in a distant whisper from somewhere she could not pinpoint. He was still here, but unable to take control of his own body.
“Thank you,” Prosak said. “Hold on, Tovar. We will rescue you.”
“NOOOOOOO!” the past life in charge bellowed.
After a moment’s pause, Bain saw Tovar’s mouth begin to move again. “Authorization…Tovar…Omega…5…4…6…Delta…3.”
The computer blipped its compliance as Bain sprung into action.
“Computer, lower this blasted forcefield!” Bain charged forward as the forcefield dissipated. In a flash, he reached his fallen first officer and tac-ops officer. His first impulse was to yank Prosak off of Tovar, but Bain stopped himself just in time. He’d made the mistake of doing that when the Vulcan science officer on one of his previous commands was deep into a meld with some kind of sentient tree. The poor man lost his hair every Fall from that point on.
“Prosak! PROSAK!” Bain shouted, shaking the RommaVulc’s shoulders. “Get out of that boy’s mind!”
Prosak began to stir, her hand gradually lifting from Tovar’s face as she slumped sideways, sliding off of him.
“Prosak! Are you all right?”
“I will…be fine,” she said shakily.
“Tovar!” Bain exclaimed, turning his attention back to his adopted son.
Tovar’s wrist phaser locked into position as he weakly lifted his arm. “Must…go…”
“Bloody hell,” Bain muttered, hauling off and slugging Tovar with a solid right cross before the Yynsian even knew what was happening. Tovar’s head lolled to the side unconscious.
“Arroyo,” Bain called. The ensign didn’t even stir. “ARROYO!”
“Wha? Huh?” Arroyo shot up to a sitting position, his head whipping from side to side. “Did we get rescued?”
“Yes we did, Ensign,” Prosak said.
“So you want to go to Yyns now?”
“That would be a capital idea,” Bain said.
“Okay,” Arroyo said nonchalantly, picking himself up off the carpet and heading to the helm.
Bain looked down at his insensate pseudo-son. “Just hang on, my lad. We’re have you right as rain in no time.”
Inside Tovar’s mind, the war intensified.
“Captain’s Log. Stardate 175271.6. Actually, it seems to me to be a bit odd to be keeping a log for an unofficial action like this, but far be it from me not to let Starfleet know what’s happening to their ship at all times. After a few days of travel, we have arrived at Yyns, where I hope we can find a resolution to Tovar’s…issues. Dr. Nooney has kept Tovar under sedation and close observation in sickbay, while Commander Prosak has kept Dr. Nooney under close observation to make sure he doesn’t do anything to exacerbate Tovar’s condition. Now I’ve said before that I’m sure Nooney is a top-notch medical man, but honestly he can be a bit too eager at times.”
“Yyns Docking Control has approved our request to orbit. Receiving the coordinates now,” Ensign Arroyo reported as he slid the Anomaly into orbit around Tovar’s homeworld. Compared to many Federation worlds, Yyns space was relatively uncrowded. Six massive docking facilities orbited the planet as well as several smaller stations for research, tourism, or housing the elderly (low gravity was good for the bones). Most visiting vessels used one of the docking facilities, but larger craft, such as the Anomaly and high-capacity freighters, circled the planet in various orbits over the world’s three main continents and island-dotted oceans.
“Captain, your request for an appointment with the Office for Rogue Past Life Assessment has also been approved,” Lieutenant Gworos said from tac-ops. “A High Priest T’Dur will meet you in the Temple of Mi Clane.”
“Then I’d best be off,” Captain Bain said, rising out of the command chair. “Bain to Prosak.”
“Prosak here, Captain. Doctor, please get that away from him!”
“What the devil is going on down there?” Bain demanded.
Dr. Nooney’s broke into the comm line. “I just want to check his vitals!”
“I do not see how sticking that device into his anus will assist you in that endeavor,” Prosak said.
“It’s a thermometer!” Nooney retorted. “And the rectal reading is the most accurate.”
Everyone on the bridge found themselves clenching their butt cheeks involuntarily.
“That will be quite enough, Doctor,” Bain said firmly. “Tovar and I have an appointment on Yyns. Prosak, you have…”
“I would like to accompany you,” Prosak interrupted before Bain could get out “the conn.”
“Having seen a bit inside Tovar’s mind, I want to be sure that he is getting the help he needs, sir,” she continued.
“I’m sure he’d be touched by your concern, Commander. Request approved. We’ll be beaming down momentarily. Bain out. Bridge to Marsden.”
“Marsden here,” the chief engineer replied quickly. As usual, she sounded a tad on edge.
“Prosak, Tovar and I are about to nip down to the surface. You have the conn.”
“Can I conn from here?” Marsden asked annoyed. “We have several systems in need of major overhauls after two extended anti-sing trips and several months in Andromeda.”
“I’m afraid not, Marsie. But remember that true leaders delegate. Get to the bridge. Bain out.” Bain closed the channel just before he could hear Marsden mutter some choice words about delegating a neutron torpedo up his ass.
“Bain to transporter control.”
“Welcome to transporter control. Leave the beaming to us,” the computer personality in charge of the Anomaly’s transporter systems replied brightly. “What planet please?”
“The Temple of Mi Clane.”
“How many in your party?”
“And their names?”
“Captain Reginald Bain, Commander Prosak, and Lieutenant Commander Tovar.”
“One moment please while I access those coordinates and locate the requested personnel….DING…ready to energize.”
“Energize,” Bain ordered. As the transporter locked on and dematerialized him, Bain couldn’t help longing for the old days when people actually used to run the transporter. Sure it seemed like a waste to have personnel dedicated to the transporter when people just didn’t beam all that often, but this computer interface was bloody annoying.
Bain materialized next to Prosak and Tovar, who was extremely drugged and strapped to an anti-grav stretcher, in the lobby of the Temple of Mi Clane. The temple itself consisted of two tremendously tall towers reaching up into the sky above the Yynsian capital city of Cageria. The towers, which were so tall that they could actually be seen from orbit, only stayed up due to the support of several structural integrity and anti-gravity generators built into their spires. Bain had never actually been to the Temple before. In fact, he’d only been to Yyns once to deal with some paperwork surrounding his adoption of Tovar shortly after the boy’s parents’ disappearance in Multek space. Well, actually all of Multek space had disappeared with them, an event which still baffled the Federation’s best scientists.
In any case, Tovar had once told him that the Temple’s towers were supposed to symbolize one life force with many lives stretching into infinity. Bain honestly didn’t care. Frankly, he thought the entire past life mess was far more trouble than it was worth, the present circumstances being a prime example.
But at this point, Bain had no choice but to do whatever he could to help Tovar get these past lives under control. To that end, he marched up to the small information desk in the Temple lobby, where a robed acolyte wearing a name tag that read “P’Randi” sat grinning eagerly.
“Welcome to the Temple of Mi Clane. Our next tour starts in 20 minutes. Feel free to explore the lobby and the adjoining meditation chapel until your guide arrives,” P’Randi said through her broad smile.
“That sounds lovely, miss, but actually we have an appointment with the Office for Rogue Past Life Assessment,” Bain said. By the way P’Randi’s eyes widened in abject horror, he might as well have said “We have a large pack of rabid targs.”
She pointed at Tovar, averting her eyes as she did so. “Is that…him?” she said, her voice wavering somewhere in between disgust and pity.
“His NAME is Tovar,” Prosak said rather forcefully. “And he needs your help!”
“Of course!” P’Randi said. “And he will get the absolute best care here, the same care we always provide when this rare tragedy occurs.”
“Rare?” Bain asked. “I was under the impression that Yynsian past lives tended to take control rather frequently.”
“True, but if you’ve been referred to the Rogue Team, something far more serious is going on. Has Tovar been…” She looked around to make sure no one was eavesdropping, then lowered her voice to a barely audible whisper. “…randomly switching.”
Bain thought for a moment. “Actually, he has of late, now that you mention it. Our Chief Medical Officer assured me it was probably just due to the pregnancy.”
P’Randi looked aghast. “He…was pregnant?”
“Oh very. A couple hundred little squid things. Happened in Andromeda. Don’t tell anyone I told you that. I don’t know how much of our Andromeda experiences Starfleet is going to want classified, since we haven’t talked to the top brass yet. But I’m blathering on. Are we going to get to see this T’Dur chap or not?”
“I’ll alert the Polem right away,” P’Randi said with obvious discomfort as she tapped a control on her desk console. Almost immediately, a tall, blond Yynsian in priest robes with chiseled features and muscled frame swirled into existence beside them. An almost glowing white smile greeted Bain and Prosak as he stepped forward.
“I am Polem T’Dur. Welcome to the Temple of Mi Clane, Captain Bain,” the man said. “I’ve been anxiously awaiting your arrival.” He turned to the stretcher. “And this must be our unfortunate Tovar.”
“Quite right,” Bain said, shaking T’Dur’s hand. He gestured to Prosak. “This is Commander Prosak., my first officer.”
“Welcome,” T’Dur said with a slight bow.
“Thank you,” Prosak said, with a nod of her head.
“Let’s adjourn to my office to discuss Tovar’s case. Once you fill me in on the particulars, I’ll see what we can do for him.” T’Dur extended his arm, revealed a wristband lined with a keypad. He tapped three controls, and a moment later the group was whisked away by a transporter.
T’Dur’s office was a rather medieval-looking affair with dark stone walls and torches burning all about. On closer inspection, Prosak realized that the torches were in fact holographic. T’Dur stepped behind his desk, an imposingly large mass of dark wood, and took a seat as he gestured for Bain and Prosak to do the same in the chairs across from him. Tovar, meanwhile, had been beamed right off of his stretcher and now lay on a stone altar at the side of the office.
“Now then,” T’Dur said, taking at look at a monitor that rose up out of his desk. “You say that one of Tovar’s past lives has tried twice to take over your ship in order to go somewhere. And beyond that, he’s been switching almost randomly between lives and recently suffered a somewhat traumatic pregnancy and a forced mind meld. Is all of that correct?”
“That about sums it up,” Bain said.
“And he left me no choice on the mind meld,” Prosak added defensively.
“No one is blaming you for anything,” T’Dur said comfortingly. “Actually, you may be of some help to me. You were inside Tovar’s mind?”
“Yes,” Prosak said hesitantly.
“And what did you sense?”
“A lot of shouting,” Prosak replied. “Everybody was yelling. And the two sides were yelling at each other a lot.”
T’Dur suddenly sat up ramrod straight. “Excuse me? Did you say two sides?”
“Was this just two particular lives shouting at each other?”
Prosak shook her head. “No. There were two distinct groups. This is difficult to put into precise words, but I could just sense that the two groups were somehow different than each other.”
As Prosak spoke, T’Dur seemed to get more and more excited. “And here I thought we just had a PMAACH on our hands, but this is a full-fledged Interloper!”
“PMAACH?” Bain asked, completely lost.
“Past Mass Aggression Against Current Host. Basically the past lives all gang up on the current host due to some perceived weakness in the host. Or it can sometimes occur if the current host as a propensity for experiencing physical trauma. It can lead to the random switching problem, but an Interloper is far far more serious.”
“How serious?” Bain asked gravely.
“It could possibly cause the current host to be completely lost as the Interloper seizes full control to fulfill its own ends.”
“Pardon my ignorance of Yynsian practices, but what is an Interloper?” Prosak asked.
T’Dur stood up, practically a quiver with excitement. “I’m really not the expert on this. We need to talk to the Office of Interloping Past Life Assessment and Removal. Please come with me.”
“What about Tovar?” Bain said as he and Prosak moved to follow the Yynsian priest.
“He’ll be just fine here. No one will disturb him.”
T’Dur, Bain, and Prosak filed out of the room. On the altar, Tovar’s eyes opened. The past life in command, one of the lives contained in the Interloper, frantically tried to get the body’s drugged limbs to move.
He could not allow the Office of Interloping Past Life Assessment and Removal to get their hands on him. If they did, all was lost.
T’Dur led Bain and Prosak through a narrow corridor, then down three flights of stairs to another level of the Temple. With all the beaming, then walking, then stair climbing they’d been doing, Bain honestly had no idea where the hell he was, a fact he found quite disconcerting. Prosak, meanwhile, seemed to be taking in every detail of the Temple with total fascination.
“Here we are,” T’Dur said finally, steering the group down a narrow dimly-lit hallway in an out of the way section of this level of the Temple.
“Popular place,” Bain commented.
“Interlopers are exceptionally rare,” T’Dur replied as they stepped to a featureless wooden door. T’Dur knocked nine times in a rhythmic pattern.
“Fifteen more seconds,” a wavering voice called from the other side of the door.
“Until what?” Prosak asked.
T’Dur just shrugged, but fifteen seconds later, the door swung open revealing a tiny office. At the door stood a short, very old man. He couldn’t have been any more that five foot two, but he had to be at least one hundred. “Are you lost?” he asked.
“No, J’Atric,” T’Dur said. “This is Captain Bain and Commander Prosak of the USS Anomaly, a Federation starship. They have a Yynsian officer on board with an Interloper.”
J’Atric didn’t react for several seconds. He stood unmoving for so long that Bain wondered if the man had died on the spot.
“Better come in then,” he said finally, moving slowly back to his desk.
Prosak noted that several sheets of paper covered in various colored paint splotches sat on his desk. “Are you an artist, Polem J’Atric?” she asked.
“Your desk,” she said, gesturing at the papers.
J’Atric laughed, a dry, wheezing noise. “THAT is why I needed the fifteen seconds.”
“I don’t understand.”
“My project. I just discovered that blue takes thirty seconds longer to dry than yellow. Ha!”
“Really?” Bain asked interested. “What about red?”
“Shouldn’t we discuss Tovar?” T’Dur interrupted.
“But he doesn’t paint. I do,” Bain replied.
“The Polem does have a point,” J’Atric acknowledged. “If your officer truly has an Interloper, it needs to be dealt with as soon as possible so as to prevent any further harm to the current host.”
“No one has told me yet what an Interloper even is,” Prosak said.
“True enough,” Bain concurred. “What’s it all about?”
“How much do you know about Yynsian past life metaphysics?” J’Atric asked.
“Very little,” Prosak replied. “I know you believe you are all reincarnated, but that is about it.”
J’Atric chuckled. “If only it were that simple, my dear. Yynsians are not reincarnated in the sense most species in the galaxy use to define the term. We are not so much born again as passed along.”
Prosak could see Bain’s face contorting as he tried to make sense of what had just been said. Before he could hurt himself too severely, J’Atric continued.
“All that I am is held within the lifeforce that animates this shell we call a body. This lifeforce, however, has already animated others before me, and all that they were is still a part of it. While their bodies have long since died, their essence lives on. I believe the Vulcans would call it a katra. When I finally die, my essence will join them as this lifeforce moves on to animate a new host.”
“I see,” Prosak said thoughtfully. “But where does this Interloper come in?”
“We are all born with a single lifeforce containing many past lives; however, on exceptionally rare occasions, two lifeforces will be present in one host. We don’t completely understand the mechanics of it or what happens in the Past Life Clearinghouse before our births…”
Bain frowned. Past Life Clearinghouse? It didn’t sound especially spiritual to him.
“…but somehow after a lifeforce is designated to animate a host, a second lifeforce breaks its way into the host. This second lifeforce is the Interloper, and while the primary lifeforce is generally in control, the Interloper will try with all its might to seize control, usually to complete some business from its life that it feels is unfinished.”
“I would think that many people have unfinished business,” Prosak said. “Why is this not more common?”
“Simple biology,” J’Atric said. “If a lifeforce gets into a new host, they come back as an infant. By the time the host’s mind is ready to be seized and body is old enough to take independent action as an adult, close to thirty years have passed. For most people, whatever business they may have had is long since over.”
Bain raised his hand for a moment as a thought struck him. “But what about someone who gets murdered? Surely they have unfinished business.”
“And how many people get murdered on Earth each year?” T’Dur asked.
“It is the same here,” J’Atric said. “Which is why, as I said, something like what has happened to Tovar, if it is actually has happened, is exceptionally rare.”
“I understand the rare part, but are you going to do for Tovar?” Bain said, diving to the heart of the matter.
J’Atric steepled his fingers thoughtfully. “If indeed Tovar has an Interloper, we must perform the Holnym, which will remove the Interloper.”
Something about the look on J’Atric and T’Dur’s faces troubled Prosak. “Why do I sense there is a catch here? Will Tovar be harmed?”
“Tovar? No. He and his lifeforce will not be harmed at all. However, without a new host, the Interloper will be utterly destroyed.”
“What do you mean without a new host?” Prosak said. “Won’t it just go back to the Past Life Clearinghouse to get one?”
T’Dur shook his head. “Unfortunately no. The death process is what transports the lifeforce to the Clearinghouse. Tovar will not die, yet the Interloper will be removed.”
“That’ll teach the bastard to butt in where it doesn’t belong,” Bain said, clapping his hands down on his knees. “Let’s get to it.”
“Captain!” Prosak exclaimed. “We’re talking about the end of many lives here.”
“They all already lived and died, Prosak. My concern right now is for Tovar.” Bain rose from his chair. “On with this Hokum or whatever it is.”
BING BONG BING BING BONG!
“What the devil is that?” Bain shouted as the deafening gonging subsided. J’Atric ignored him and stepped over to a small panel on his desk. “Office of Interloping Past Life Assessment and Removal. Polem J’Atric speaking.”
“This is Accyl J’Roki. I was actually looking for Polem T’Dur.”
“I am here as well,” T’Dur said. “We’re in a meeting right now, J’Roki. Can this wait?”
“We just found P’Randi unconscious in the lobby, and you’re the only one with visitors in the Temple at the moment. Did one of them happen to slip away and knock her senseless?”
“I’ve been here the whole time!” Bain said defensively.
“Perhaps Tovar woke up,” Prosak suggested.
“Or whoever is in control of him currently,” J’Atric said.
“He will assuredly have removed his commpips,” Prosak said.
“Most likely,” Bain said. “He’s a clever one, but we have one advantage. We know where he’s going!”
“And where’s that?”
“Off the planet.”
“It would be nice if we could narrow it down a little further,” Prosak mused.
“Can’t have everything, Prosak,” Bain said rushing toward the door. “Let’s move!” He stopped just short of the doorway. “How in blazes do we get out of here?”
T’Dur rose from his seat. “I will transport us to the street. You may need my help to handle the Interloper.”
“Take this with you,” J’Atric added, pulling a decades-old hypospray from his desk and handing it to T’Dur. “It contains a potion that should draw Tovar’s consciousness to the surface. “And be careful. There are few beings in the universe more dangerous than a pissed-off dead guy.” He chuckled again and returned to his paints as Bain, Prosak, and T’Dur dematerialized.
A split second later, the trio reformed on the sidewalk outside of the Temple of Mi Clane, a bustling thoroughfare crowded with Yynsians and hovercars all walking quickly or zipping toward their destinations. Upon sighting T’Dur in his robes, the entire street stopped as each and every Yynsian raised their hands, showing with their fingers how many past lives their lifeforce held.
Almost every Yynsian, anyway. At the end of the block, heading toward the massive, 200 story Cageria docking structure, a land-based version of the facilities orbiting the planet, was Tovar.
“Got him!” Bain said, taking off in a run, Prosak right at his side. T’Dur quickly tossed off his robes, revealing a yellow T-shirt with “Off Duty” emblazoned upon it in large black type. The Yynsian citizenry immediately returned to their regularly-scheduled travel paths as T’Dur rushed to catch up with Bain and Tovar.
Tovar, meanwhile, had ducked into a clear booth on the corner and was frantically scanning down a pad.
“Transport…booth!” T’Dur shouted from behind Bain and Tovar. Despite the Polem’s muscular build, he sure got winded easily.
“Oh no he doesn’t!” Bain cried, extending his wrist phaser. Before Prosak could protest, Bain fired, obliterating the assembly on top of the booth housing the transporter workings. Tovar whirled around, his eyes locking on Bain in wide-eyed shock.
“STAND DOWN!” Bain bellowed, keeping his phaser trained on the booth as Tovar emerged.
“You cannot shoot this body,” Tovar replied calmly. Then in a blur of motion that caught Bain off-guard, Tovar sprinted around the corner, the Temple wall shielding him from Bain’s phaser.
“Get that hypospray,” Bain ordered Prosak as he took off after Tovar again. He rounded the corner just in time to see Tovar race into the middle of the street, leap onto the hood of a hovercar and drop to a prone position to catch a lift. Bain charged out into traffic, facing down the oncoming hovercar dead on and hopping onto its sloped hood as the driver slammed to a halt, almost pitching Tovar off of the vehicle.
“Let me go, Bain,” Tovar said. “This does not concern you.”
“That boy’s safety most definitely concerns me,” Bain shot back, retraining his weapon on Tovar, who had sprung to his feet.
The driver’s side window of the hovercar lowered tentatively. “Um…could you watch it with your boots? I just had this waxed.”
“I appreciate the job you have done raising this body,” Tovar replied. “And while I am loath to say any life is not important, Tovar really has nothing at this point. I do! And I will not be denied any longer.”
“Tough luck, old boy,” Bain said, activating the fire control on his phaser. As he did so, Tovar’s foot lashed out with practiced speed, catching Bain on the side of the head and knocking him off of the hood, his blast sailing down the street.
“Go!” Tovar ordered, stomping his boot down on the hovercar’s roof and leaving a small dent.
Suddenly, a golden hovercar whipped up a ramp leading out from under the Temple with Prosak leaning out the passenger side window, hypospray in hand. Before Tovar could dodge to the side, the golden hovercar swerved alongside him and Prosak latched onto his leg with an iron grip. He swung his fist down at her, but Prosak was ready. The hypospray, which she held in her free hand, intercepted Tovar’s incoming arm, injecting its contents into the Yynsian’s forearm as his fist slammed into her shoulder.
Tovar staggered back instantly, quickly losing his balance. Bain was in motion before Tovar could topple backwards, catching his adopted son just before he fell onto the road’s metallic surface. Tovar looked up at him with dazed eyes.
“Dadums…” he said weakly.
“I’m here, lad,” Bain said soothingly. “We’re going to get you a Hokum or Hoinum or something like that. But you’ll be all better.”
“Holnym,” Tovar said, his face looking deeply troubled as his eyes fluttered. “Can’t let…” And Tovar slumped over, going limp in Bain’s arms as Prosak and T’Dur ran over.
“Let’s get him inside,” T’Dur said.
“Capital,” Bain said distractedly, looking at his unconscious tac-ops officer as T’Dur activated his transport wrist band.
Stone. That was the first sensation Tovar consciously processed as he slowly awoke. Obviously he was now laying on some kind of stone slab. He strained to search his memory for some clue as to how he’d gotten into this position.
He was on the Anomaly. Then the Interloper’s lifeforce had crashed over him like a massive wave, submerging his conscious deep deep inside his mind as the Interloper took over…one part of the Interloper anyway. He remembered feeling determination from the Interloper, but no hatred toward himself. The Interloper simply felt as thought he had to take the course that he was taking.
Tovar’s next memory was Bain looking down at him on a street. His memory cleared slightly. It was a street on Yyns. He was back on Yyns. The final piece clicked into place.
They were going to perform the Holnym. The interloper would be removed. It would be destroyed.
Tovar would finally have peace.
But he could not let it happen.
He forced his eyes open and allowed them to adjust to the dim, torch-lit chamber. He was alone except for a woman…Prosak. She sat in a narrow wooden chair a few feet away reading a padd.
“Prosak…” Tovar croaked.
The Romulan was over to him in an instant. “Are you all right, Tovar?” she asked concerned as she leaned over him.
“Groggy.” He reached over and grabbed her hand, looking up at her intensely. “Where is Bain?”
“Just in the next room with the Polems. They’re preparing for the ritual.”
“Can’t let it happen.”
“Tovar?” Prosak asked, concerned that the Interloper was back in control.
“It’s me. Get Bain. He’ll understand.”
“Hang on,” she said, keeping her eyes locked on him as she stepped over to the doorway to the Polem’s antechamber attached to the small chapel Tovar had found himself in. “Captain…could I speak to you a moment regarding…ship’s business?”
“Half a tic,” Bain’s voice replied from the next room.
“It is rather urgent.”
“Very well,” Bain said, emerging into the chapel, struggling with the fasteners on a deep blue-colored ceremonial robe as he did so. “What is the problem, Prosak?”
She pointed at Tovar, who put his finger over his lips to prevent Bain from calling out. Bain rushed over, the robe billowing awkwardly behind him.
“I’m here, son,” Bain said. “You’re going to be all right.”
“Get me out of here,” Tovar replied.
“That’s just the Interloper talking.”
“No, it isn’t,” Tovar said firmly. “But I am acting on his behalf. He does not deserve to be destroyed.”
“Come now, lad. He’s caused us no end of trouble. Let him…it go.”
Tovar shook his head. “I…we can help him. It’s important.”
“And if we do?”
“His business here will be finished, and I will not be troubled further.”
“If that is the case, Captain,” Prosak interjected. “There’s no reason to destroy the Interloper with the Holnym if the end result is the same.”
“That whole sanctity of life thing, eh? Even if it is dead life?”
“Precisely,” Prosak said.
“Please…” Tovar implored, struggling to sit up.
“Can you lead us to wherever it is this Interloper wants to go?”
“Yes. And he assures me we will be in no danger.”
“I’m not worried about danger, my boy,” Bain said. “Keeps the blood pumping.”
“Should I tell the Polems we won’t need the ceremony after all?” Prosak asked.
“NO!” Tovar said quickly. “They will try to keep me here! We must go.”
“That’s good enough for me,” Bain said, pinching his commpip. “Bain to Anomaly. Three to beam up. Energize.”
Polems J’Atric and T’Dur stepped out of the antechamber a moment later, dressed in their Holnym ceremonial robes, to find a completely empty chapel.
“Potty break?” J’Atric suggested as T’Dur raced to the chapel door to look out into the corridor.
“He’s tricked them into helping him escape,” T’Dur snapped. “Stay here!” T’Dur quickly typed several commands into his wrist band and vanished in a swirl of energy.
“Captain’s Log. Stardate 175272.3. After leaving Yyns in something of a hurry, we’re on a course for…well, no one knows really. Tovar is providing headings, which are evidently being supplied to him by the Interloper, but we seem to be zigging and zagging across the quadrant almost erratically. I have to wonder if the Interloper is just being cautious of if he’s out of his bloody gourd. Of course, he could just be bad with directions.
“In the meantime, I have informed the crew of our present situation, and without exception they have agreed to postpone our return to Earth briefly in order to assist Tovar. Of course, I think the rumor that someone started about our destination may have had something to do with that. Who would have thought that they’d be so taken in by the idea of a secret treasure hoard? Well, I did, but then that’s why I started the rumor.”
After grabbing a bit of breakfast (steak and eggs, if you must know), Captain Bain exited the turbolift onto the bridge, where the scene had changed very little from the moment they’d left Yyns. Ensign Arroyo was back at the helm, having just relieved Yonk, while Tovar sat beside him on an inflatable chair in the general shape of some Romulan children’s show character that he’d borrowed from Prosak’s quarters. Prosak, meanwhile, sat in the command chair, looking somewhat bored.
“Everything ship shape up here?” Bain asked Prosak softly, not wanting to disturb Tovar, who seemed to be deep in concentration.
“Perfectly,” Prosak said, rising from the command chair. “Although, considering the fact that we’re following a flight plan set by the Interloper, there’s very little for me to do.”
“Um…” Lieutenant Brazzell’s voice interrupted. “That may be about to change.”
“What’s the problem, Lieutenant?” Bain asked.
“I just picked up several ships on long range sensors. Yynsian design.”
“Bollocks,” Bain spat.
“I fail to see the problem,” Prosak said. “They are Federation members. Surely they won’t fire on a Starfleet vessel.”
Bain shook his head. “Unfortunately, it’s not going to be that simple.”
“We’re being hailed. It’s Admiral Larkin,” Brazzell said.
“That’s why,” Bain replied, turning toward the viewscreen. “Put her on.” The image shifted, showing Admiral Kristen Larkin. The look in the android’s eyes told Bain that his worst fears were about to be realized.
“Hello, Krissers,” he said flatly.
“Reginald,” Larkin replied with a curt nod of her head. “Welcome back to the Milky Way. I’m gratified to see that you and your ship returned safely.”
“Nothing we couldn’t handle, Admiral. Sorry we haven’t had time to swing by headquarters, but a bit of a family emergency’s come up.”
“Indeed. Captain, I must insist that you stand down.”
“With all due respect, Admiral, I have little urge to talk with you right now, and even less of an urge to listen to the blather coming out of your mouth,” Bain said sharply.
“I detect very little respect in that remark, Reginald.”
“I guess it’s hard to muster any up for a supposed friend who’d install a blasted hologram on my ship behind my back.”
Larkin nodded in understanding. “I take it you learned about the Emergency Diplomatic Hologram.”
“Learned about him?” Bain exclaimed. “The bastard took over my ship and tried to start a damn war. If it weren’t for Tovar, he’d still be around! How could you do something like that to me? We’ve known each other far too long for you to pull this sort of stunt.”
“My knowledge of you is precisely why I did it. You are a dear friend, Reginald, but you can be a bit too willing to take matters into your own hands at times as the current situation shows.”
“I’m not about to stand by and let those blokes work their mystical mumbo-jumbo on my boy.”
“So I’ve heard,” Larkin said. “The Yynsians contacted us shortly after you removed Tovar from the Temple of Mi Clane.”
“He asked to leave, Krissers. It was of his own free will.”
“You of all people know that it does not work like that,” Larkin said. “Return him to the Yynsians.”
“Admiral, you cannot be serious!” Prosak exclaimed. “He doesn’t want to go.”
“Commander, you do not understand Yynsian affairs. Actually, almost no one does. That’s why the Federation has put all past life matters under the purview of the Yynsians. They’ve told us that Tovar is a danger to himself and those around him in his present condition, and I am not about to allow him to put a Starfleet vessel at risk…and don’t tell me that old ‘Risk is our business’ line,” Larkin added quickly before Bain could get the words out of his mouth.
“So that’s it then. You just expect me to hand my son over to them?” Bain said.
“He’s not your son.”
“Considering your odd parentage, I would think that you of all people would understand my feelings about this.”
Larkin appeared struck for a moment. “I’m sorry, Reggie,” she said finally. “I allowed my emotion chip to get the better of me.”
“Apology accepted. Now call off those bloody Yynsians.”
“I cannot do that. This is their call. You are ordered to hand over Mr. Tovar.”
“And I cannot do that,” Bain said.
“They will disable your ship and take him by force.”
“They’ll have to find him first,” Bain replied.
“Is that your final word on the matter?”
“You already know the answer to that, Krissers.”
“Indeed.” She smiled slightly. “Off the record, Reginald, good luck. Larkin out.”
Prosak looked puzzled. “I’m confused, sir. Do we have her permission to disobey her orders?”
“Not officially,” Bain said. “But Larkin’s got a good head on her shoulders…even if it is detachable.” He stepped over to Tovar. “How are you holding up?”
“Well,” Tovar said, obviously exhausted. Lack of sleep and the aftereffects of the Yynsians’ drugs were taking their toll. “Thank you for standing up to Larkin on my behalf.”
“Couldn’t imagine doing otherwise,” Bain said with a warm smile. “Just stay with us for a bit longer. We’ll pull you through this.”
“Speaking of,” Arroyo piped up. “The Yynsians are still closing. Are we running for it, fighting, or what?”
“We should try to avoid a fire-fight if possible,” Prosak said. “The Yynsians are still our allies.”
“I have no intention of fighting them,” Bain said. “How many ships do we have out there?”
“Seven, sir,” Brazzell reported.
“Hmmm…this would be much easier with anti-sing, but this way is a lot more fun,” Bain said, a slow smile crossing his face. “Any cover nearby? Planets, nebulae or the like?”
Arroyo checked his readouts again. “Actually, we’re passing the Nikser asteroid belt now. It’s a hundred thousand kilometers away at heading 178 mark 4.”
Bain’s smile broadened to a grin. “Brilliant.”
On the bridge of the Yynsian Defense Force and Past Life Emergency Response Craft P’Shaw (Named for the woman who narrowly averted The Eighth Mass Conflagration in 34,978 (Yyns Calender - Sixth Revision). It’s long story really and not worth going into here, but since you asked…basically the leader of the Teravia Province was about to invade neighboring Resitonia because one of his past lives thought a Resitonian had run over his pet lingit, but at the last moment, P’Shaw came forward under the control of the Teravian leader’s past life’s mother and revealed that she’d accidentally killed the lingit while under the control of one of her past lives (I told you it wasn’t worth going into). The mother was incredibly remorseful, particularly since her past life had fixed the lingit into a wonderful casserole. Satisfied with P’Shaw’s confession, the Teravian leader called off the war and had P’Shaw herself prepared into a lovely casserole that he served to the castle’s herd of lingits).
Wow. We completely lost track of where this sentence was going. Let us start over…
On the bridge of the Yynsian Defense Force and Past Life Emergency Response Craft P’Shaw (See the history lesson in the preceding paragraph if you need a refresher about the name), Polem T’Dur watched the tactical display on the viewscreen with satisfaction as his vessels closed on the Anomaly. As a Polem from the Temple of Mi Clane, T’Dur had broad powers, one of which was the ability to command Yynsian Defense Force ships during Past Life Emergencies, and the Tovar situation definitely qualified. There was no way he would allow an Interloper to roam free when incalculable damage could be done to the current host. Besides, if the Interloper was allowed to escape, other lifeforces might decide to try Interloping themselves, something that could lead to anarchy in the Past Life Clearinghouse.
T’Dur’s satisfaction quickly shifted to annoyance as he watched the Anomaly change course and head into the nearby Nikser asteroid belt.
“Hail them again,” T’Dur ordered, turning to face the Defense Force officer manning the P’Shaw’s tactical console and past life records bureau information desk.
“Still no response,” the officer replied. “Oh wait. There’s something.”
“Let me talk to them.”
“It’s not really a message. Look.” The officer pointed at the tactical display on the viewscreen. T’Dur turned back to see several sensor contacts spreading out from the Anomaly, weaving in and out of the asteroids, and zipping off in opposite directions.
“What is Bain doing?” T’Dur asked, staring at the screen.
“Abandoning ship?” the officer offered. “It’s raceabouts and shuttles and microshuttles and even a Lincoln-class starship.”
“Search for Yynsian life signs!” T’Dur snapped quickly, realizing what was happening.
“I’m not reading any life signs at all.”
T’Dur could feel stirring deep within his own lifeforce as one of his past lives tried to use this stressful situation as an excuse to come to the surface. “He’s not playing fair! Make him stop!!!!!” Too late. It was J’Rell.
T’Dur forced the eight-year-old (who was killed in a bizarre kickball accident at a young age) back down and presented a more reasonable response to the situation. “Bain’s masking them. Alert the fleet to split up and pursue those ships. I want each and everyone of them stopped and brought back here. NOW!”
Minutes later, as the last of the Yynsian ships left the Nikser region in pursuit of the Anomaly or one of its support craft, a lone raceabout powered up its systems and lifted off from a massive asteroid. Rising up over the rim of the crater in which it had been ensconced, the raceabout activated its polaron drive and sped away.
“217 Mark 8,” Tovar said softly, leaning back as best he could in the Raceabout Frinoqua’s co-pilot’s seat. Bain altered the craft’s course without a word as he watched Tovar struggled to retain consciousness.
“How long on this heading?” Bain asked finally.
“At this speed…five hours,” Tovar said, after a moment’s pause during which he consulted with the Interloper.
“Then maybe you should head to the back and get some sleep.”
“I will manage.”
“Don’t make me get your mum on the comm. You know Rosalyn would be out here in a heartbeat if she knew what was happening.”
Tovar smiled weakly. “I miss her tea and scones.”
“As do I, son, but we’ll get some soon enough. Now, as your father and your commanding officer, I’m ordering you to get some sleep.”
The Yynsian stood slowly, almost toppling over. “The drugs,” he muttered.
“Hopefully, they’ll flush out of your system soon. Go rest.”
After Tovar left the cockpit, Bain brought up star charts of the region, trying to get a sense of where the Interloper could be leading them. Five hours on their current heading would take them well away from the major space lanes, but beyond that Bain could see little of interest. Of course, it was hard to say for certain what the Interloper was even after. Tovar did not seem to know either, yet somehow the Interloper had convinced him to go along with it. At the back of his mind, Bain wondered if Tovar was really in full control. It wasn’t a comforting thought, but Bain hoped that his presence would be enough to help Tovar hold on.
Tovar returned to the cockpit four hours and fifty-six minutes later looking only slightly less haggard than he had when he left for his nap. He slid into the chair beside Bain and quickly looked over the status readouts.
“We will be turning to course 226 mark 6,” he said simply.
“Turbulent,” Tovar replied. “They all know something is happening. Even the one controlling the Interloping lifeforce is becoming agitated.”
Bain checked over the star charts again. “I can’t imagine why. There’s nothing out here but a massive nebula.”
“That is where we must go,” Tovar said, looking at the display.
“In there? It’s just a bunch of gas…highly explosive gas, I might add…and all sorts of nasty radiation. Starfleet has had warning buoys around here for over a century.”
“There is no danger,” Tovar stated calmly. “The Interloper has been here before.”
“He didn’t die here by any chance, did he?”
“No. But he left something very important behind.”
“In the gas?” Bain said skeptically.
Tovar shrugged. “That’s all I know.”
“Sod it! We’re going in,” Bain said determinedly as he veered the Frinoqua toward the nebula and brought the ship out of warp, ignoring the persistent hails from the warning buoys stationed nearby. He steeled himself for the worst as the raceabout into the nebula, which turned out to be overkill as absolutely nothing happened.
“Ha! What do you know?” Bain said. He checked the forward sensors, which were having difficulty piercing the nebula’s interior.
“The sensor interference is artificial,” Tovar said. “Compensating.”
“How did you know…” Bain trailed off as the sensors cleared, revealing the last thing Bain ever expected to find inside a nebula: a star system. Well, system was a bit of an overstatement, actually. The small star was being orbited by a lone planet. “Blimey!”
“Quite,” Tovar said. His face went blank for a moment as the Interloper spoke to him. “He says we are in a place called the Briar Patch. The Federation had it cordoned off over a century ago to prevent others from reaching this planet.”
“Why? What’s so special about it?” Bain asked as he read the sensor readouts. Class M. A few hundred humanoid life signs. No unusual minerals. No dilithium (not that that was hard to come by anymore…unless you’re in Andromeda). He could see some odd metaphasic radiation, but he didn’t see how that could be important.
Unfortunately, he would have several hours to wait until he could find out. The nebula was truly immense, meaning even with the raceabout’s polaron drives at maximum, it would take 5 hours to reach the planet.
Bain’s thoughts turned to his wife. A pang of guilt would not let him alone. He should have contacted her about Tovar as soon as he was able to regain control of the Anomaly, but these were deep waters. Technically, he was operating without Starfleet approval, so comming Rosalyn would just worry her. She was the boy’s mum, though. Well, he’d make it up to her when he returned to Earth. With thoughts of a quiet dinner alone with his wife filling his head, Bain drifted off to sleep.
He was abruptly awakened hours later as Tovar stood up and headed to the transporter console at the rear of the cockpit. In front of the raceabout, a ringed planet loomed.
“Shouldn’t we give them a ring first?” Bain asked, getting up to join his tac-ops officer.
“They would not respond. The Ba’ku have rejected technology.”
“Tovar, the Prime Directive…”
“Does not apply here,” Tovar snapped back testily. “I apologize. The Interloper is growing impatient. But the Ba’ku have had contact with Starfleet before, and they have their own ships, which they choose not to use.”
“Oh. All right then. Let’s get moving!”
Moments later, the pair materialized in the middle of a rustic village surrounded by white-capped mountains. Bain took a deep breath of the fresh cool air and let out a satisfied sigh. The landscape was truly gorgeous and a far cry from the sterile interiors of the Anomaly or the metropolis of Cageria (which had been his first time on a planet in weeks).
The residents of the village, curious at the sudden arrival of two strangely clad newcomers, soon gathered around Bain and Tovar murmuring to themselves about “outlanders.” A blond man and dark haired woman soon broke through the crowd, a look of displeasure on their faces.
“I am Captain Reginald Bain of the Federation Starship Anomaly,” Bain announced. “And this is Lieutenant Commander Tovar. We’re just here on a little personal business, so pay us no mind.”
“What do you want here?” the woman said harshly.
“Calm down, Anij,” the man replied. “They probably don’t even know Picard.”
“He SAID he would come back, Artim. He promised he’d use his leave time here.”
“That was a long time ago.”
“Picard?” Bain said confused. “The man’s been dead for decades.”
“DEAD!” Anij shouted.
“I don’t see why that should be such a shock. He had to have been dead before you were even born.”
Tovar leaned over and whispered in Bain’s ear, causing the captain’s eyes to almost bug out of his head. “SHE’S HOW OLD?!?!?”
Anij stared at Tovar. “You seem to know me, yet I do not recognize you.”
“We’ve never met,” Tovar said. “But I know this place. I need to see Prijan.”
The crowd suddenly appeared to get very uncomfortable. “What do you want with Prijan?” Artim asked pointedly. “We do not appreciate Outlanders appearing here uninvited and demanding to see one of us.”
“That way,” Tovar said, ignoring Artim and pushing through the crowd toward a path leading into a forest on the village outskirts, Bain close on his heels.
“Stay here,” Anij said to the gathered crowd as she and Artim headed off to pursue Bain and Tovar.
A short ways into the woods, the trail branched. The main path continued on toward the mountains, while a narrow walk led to a small dwelling nestled in a clearing, which Tovar proceeded to examine as though it were some archeological find.
“Prijan is a simple artisan,” Artim insisted. “Unless you need metalwork done, I do not see what interest she could possibly be to you.”
Bain put a hand on Artim’s shoulder. “We’ve come farther than you could possibly imagine to be here. If Tovar there says he needs this Prijan person, he’s damn well going to get her.”
“Do I have any say in the matter?” a woman’s voice said from behind Bain. He whirled around to see that the door had opened revealing an athletically-built woman with curly light brown hair. She appeared to be in her mid-40s, but considering what Tovar had told him about Anij’s age, Bain couldn’t be sure how old this Prijan really was.
“Who are you?” Prijan demanded, sizing up Bain and Tovar.
“Captain Reginald Bain, ma’am,” Bain said with a slight bow. “This is Lieutenant Commander Tovar.” Bain pointed off to where Tovar had been standing, only he wasn’t standing anymore. He’d collapsed into the tall grass. Bain rushed over to him and helped Tovar to his feet.
“What’s wrong with him?” Prijan asked.
“He’s had a long journey, and the Yynsians drugged him,” Bain said.
“Yynsians!” Prijan exclaimed.
Tovar’s eyes fluttered as he tried to focus on Prijan. A smile spread across his face. “It’s…her.”
“Her?” Bain asked. “A Ba’ku?”
Tovar shook his head. “Not Ba’ku…human.”
“Human!” Bain exclaimed, turning on Prijan so quickly that he almost dropped Tovar. “Is this true?”
Prijan nodded, her eyes not leaving Tovar’s face as she seemed to be searching for something.
“My name,” she said somewhat hesitantly, “is Patricia Hawkins.”
TO BE CONTINUED…