Author: Alan Decker, Anthony Butler
STAR TRAKS: BOLDLY GONE…
“Every Space You Take”
By Alan Decker and Anthony Butler
Story Idea from Matt Furukawa
124 YEARS AGO
“Dean go boom boom boom!”
“Yes, Dean did.” Captain Andrew Baxter reached over to a nearby rack and grabbed a towel.
On the biobed was Crewman Dean Wilcox. Suffering a grave head injury during the ill-fated Aerostar mission three years prior, Wilcox remained a valued member of Baxter’s crew in spite of the fact that his higher brain functions were all but wiped out. In the recent weeks, however, thanks to Baxter’s science officer and cutting-edge Starfleet medical technology, Dean regained his extraordinary cognitive abilities.
It turned out Dean Wilcox was one of the smartest minds in the Federation. And that mind got smashed. Mind you, the mind DID get to perform above and beyond the call of duty for that one week when it was restored to its former glory.
The problem was, the Explorer hit some…turbulence…Dean went “boom,” again, and Baxter found himself staring at a braindead crewmember once more.
“Here, Dean,” Baxter said, grabbing a cloth. “Let me get that bit of drool off your chin.” He rubbed Dean’s chin until the cloth was totally soaked. “There we go.”
He set the sopping cloth down. “I have to tell you, Dean. I’m proud of you. You discovered a new layer of space and saved the ship all in a couple of days. That’s way more than most braindead guys can say.”
“That’s right. That’s very good you remember that,” Baxter said. “Who knows what science will do with your discovery, Dean? You could still even win the Cochrane award.”
“Sure. That’s right.”
“Love Cappy, love love love Cappy!” Dean reached forward and wrapped Baxter in a bearhug.
“Uh….yes, well, Cappy love you too, Dean. Cappy love you too.”
Deep down, though, Captain Baxter realized nothing would ever, ever come of Dean’s knowledge.
NEPTUNE RESEARCH STATION
“I wish you wouldn’t have interrupted my flargan tournament,” chided Doctor Dennis Pommier as he strode into the laboratory.
The consensus among the brains in the research division was that Natalia Kasyov’s replacement as Director of Brain Operations was nowhere near as cheerful, playful, or attentive as she had been.
Pommier was more of a pencil pusher. He sat in the lab, sometimes for hours, studying the brains through the observation window and making notes, never uttering a word. It drove the brains batty.
It especially annoyed Subject 341 this morning.
341, also known as Dean Wilcox, fairly boiled in his jar in the brain room beyond the observation window as Pommier stared at him and studied the readings on the panel before him.
“What is the problem, 341?” Pommier said dully.
“I had a nightmare, good sir, and I assure you it was enough to warrant interrupting your oh-so-important game of batting rhomboid objects around inside a moving sphere.”
“Flargan is about much more than that,” Pommier said defensively.
“Just check my vitals. I need to know that everything is okay.”
Pommier stared through the observation window at Dean’s brain. “Would you like to tell me what you dreamt about?”
“I’d rather not go into it. But suffice it to say it was a flashback of some of my time aboard a vessel I once traveled on– when I had a body, of course.”
“So you had a dream. What’s got you so concerned?”
“Because I simply do NOT dream.”
Pommier blinked at the brain. “Never?”
“Doctor Kasyov would have known that,” muttered 141, the Horta brain.
“You shut up,” the slightly crazed Orion brain, 241, snapped.
“All of you quiet down. I’m not going to be made to feel insignificant again, just because you happened to like Doctor Kasyov better. Give me a few moments and I will study your brainwave signatures, 341. I’m sure it’s nothing to worry about.”
“Check external sources. I may have been probed from outside.”
“Impossible,” Pommier said with a dry chuckle. “Such things do not happ–oh…um. What’s this?”
If 341 had eyes, he would have rolled him. “I am one of the Federation’s preeminent minds, you know. You should learn to trust me.”
“Quiet down, I’m trying to find the source of the probe.” Pommier’s hands flew across the instrumentation. “You were definitely scanned intrusively by some kind of phased nutrion beam. It had to come from somewhere, and it certainly wasn’t from inside this station. I–oh Great Goblin!”
Suddenly a huge explosion rattled in the corridor outside, blasting the double doors inwards, shaking all the brains in their tanks.
“Get us the hell out of here!” 441, the newly-added Betazoid brain added. “They want to steal one of us! I don’t know who!” 441 was slightly defective.
“There is no logic in panicking,” snapped 541, a Vulcan brain (another new addition).
Pommier slammed his hand down on a control. “Pommier to Security. Send a team down to Brain Division. The station has been breached. A four-man assault team has just beamed in. They’ve masked their ship from our sensors and scrambled their lifesign identifiers. Send help quick!”
Pommier punched a control that shut off all the lights in the room, then dashed into the brain room and sealed the double-thick isolation door. One wondered why the brains were isolated and kept in such a secure room. Of course one wouldn’t wonder that if one had known that 241, the crazy Orion brain, had escaped by attaching himself to a member of station services and kidnapped Doctor Kasyov several months earlier.
None of this, of course, was on Pommier’s mind as he slid below the observation window, pressing himself up against the wall and trying his best not to make the slightest noise as he heard clanging footsteps banging about in the observation room.
“The attackers are Breen,” Dean said thoughtfully. “I wonder what they want with me.”
“Shut up,” Pommier hissed. “Don’t make a sound.”
Pommier wasn’t sure why he was even trying to evade the Breen. He saw beacons of light play about the interior of the lab, shining through the observation glass and pinpointing the tanks with their separate brains. He hoped the darkness of the room would give Starfleet Security that extra bit of time they needed to get to him.
“BRAAAARZ GARRTZ BRARTZ!”
He heard the Breen discussing something in the room outside. Then, suddenly, an explosion blasted open the double- thick isolation door. Pommier pondered why they didn’t just use transporters. Probably shooting for dramatic flair. It was effective; Pommier was panicking.
Four Breen in full armor tromped into the room, shining beacons in Pommier’s face. One dragged him up to his feet and addressed him in clanging metallic tones.
“GRART GRART GRART!”
“I don’t know what you want from me!” Pommier cried. “My universal translator isn’t configured for Breen.”
“BARK BARK BARK!”
“What do you want me to do?” Pommier blubbered as the Breen dropped him. He lost consciousness out of pure fright as the Breen turned on the five tanks of brains.
“See here, now, I happen to speak Breen,” Dean’s brain said. “And I’m none too pleased to hear what you have to say. I’m not going anywhere with you. Starfleet Security will be here to apprehend you presently!”
“GART XART GARD BAR!”
“You did what? Jammed our comm systems! You bastard! See here now, let go of my jar, you nit! I’ll not have this! I swear, by—mmpphpmmm.” And the Breen shoved the tank containing Dean’s brain into an opaque metal drum and carried it out of the lab.
“He should have played dumb,” said 241, the Orion. “They’d never have guessed which one was him.”
“Yes, then they’d have taken us all,” muttered 441, the Betazoid brain.
“Good point,” 241 replied. “We all owe our freedom to Dean.”
“What freedom?” asked 441. “We just sit here all day in tanks.”
“You’ll get used to it. Trust me.”
Stardate 175439.6. The Anomaly just finished a run to Deep Space 85 to bring some fresh air filters to its Benzite strategic operations officer, who’d apparently run out and had no back up supply. I tried to explain to Admiral Larkin the old phrase “poor planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on our part” but she made us go anyway.
“He could have at least said ‘thank you,’” Lt. Commander Tovar said idly as he bent over the tac-ops display, watching the passing star systems as the Anomaly anti-singed back toward the Federation proper at a steady clip of Warp J.
“Yes, he was quite the git, that one,” Bain remarked.
“The station commander was cute,” Arroyo spoke up.
“Aren’t you engaged?” Bain asked.
“I guess you could say that,” Arroyo muttered as Doctor Natalia Kasyov stepped out onto the bridge.
“The mission wasn’t a total loss, folks,” Kasyov said brightly as she walked over to her station.
“And why not?” asked Bain.
“Commander Froth let me study his brain.” She grinned. “And Benzite brains are so… mmm…gooshy.” Kasyov looked utterly pleased.
“You don’t say,” Bain muttered. “Well, I don’t know about the rest of you, but I sure feel better.”
Just then, the doors to Prosak’s quarters (the former captain’s ready room) slid open, and Prosak stormed out in a pair of silky purple pajamas.
“New jammies, Commander?” Bain queried.
“I figured, if I had to come out here in my pajamas so often, I should at least have a little variety,” Prosak said, rubbing the sleep from her eyes.
“What has you up and about this fine morning, Commander?” asked Bain.
Prosak stabbed a finger at Bain. “You have a comm from Starfleet Security.”
“Why’d it go to your quarters?” asked Bain.
Prosak shrugged. “I do not know. Other than the fact that Starfleet must still think that’s your office.”
“Very well,” Bain said. “Let’s see what the brass at Starfleet are on about this time.”
He ambled into Prosak’s quarters as the Romulan grabbed an orange juice from the replicator and flopped down into the command chair.
“Anything interesting going on out here?” Prosak asked conversationally.
“You missed a button,” Arroyo said, and quickly went back to checking his panel.
Prosak stared down at her pajama shirt. “Well, wouldn’t you know it. My…katra is showing.”
Suddenly the doors to Prosak’s quarters slid open and Bain poked his head out. “Ummm …Doctor Kasyov. Could you join me in here for a moment?”
Kasyov got up slowly and walked over to Prosak’s quarters. “I guess…”
She ducked into the cabin, leaving the rest of the bridge crew in an awkward silence.
“I wonder what all that’s about?” asked Tovar.
“I don’t know,” said Prosak. “But I left a hot Brivellian torte in the replicator. They better not eat it.”
At that moment, Kasyov stormed out of the ready room, followed by Bain.
“They’ve stolen my brain!”
Tovar slammed his fist into his control panel. “Not Cabral again! We just went through this!”
“Not Cabral!” Kasyov cried, storming up to the science station. “A Breen raiding party ransacked my former research station on Neptune this morning and stole off with 341.”
“341?” asked Arroyo.
“Dean Wilcox. One of the most intelligent humans to ever be born, by all of our testing standards.”
“Wasn’t he an Oxford man?” Bain asked thoughtfully, retaking his command chair from Prosak.
“Please. He went to Federation University,” Kasyov snapped, causing Bain to blink in annoyance. “I want you to call Admiral Larkin. Get us diverted to find that brain. I don’t care how you do it, just make it happen!”
“You’re damn right I’ll make it happen. The Breen.” Bain snorted. “They never learn do they?”
“Just do it, sir!” Kasyov insisted.
Bain nodded back at Tovar. “Commander, get me Admiral Larkin immediately. Tell her it’s urgent! We have a brain to save!”
“Damn right we do,” Kasyov said, hurrying over to take her station.
Prosak meanwhile slumped back toward her quarters. “Wake me up when we get there.”
BREEN IMPERIAL CRUISER (B.I.C.) REGULARITY
//Have I registered my objection to this treatment yet?// Dean’s brain asked, sitting placidly in a jar on top of the tactical console. Not surprisingly, he spoke perfect Breen.
//Many times,// Thot-Luss grunted. //Nevertheless, we have a mission to complete, and you have no choice but to help us complete it.//
//I don’t understand why we don’t just destroy that brain now, since we’ve managed to get into BreenSpace successfully already,// said Vent-Blat, the observer from the Breen Leadership Council. Luss had barely tolerated him since he’d come aboard the Regularity to do spot checks and basically look over Luss’ shoulder the whole time.
//I’ll thank you not to call it /BreenSpace,/// muttered Dean. //The name is /DeanSpace./ It’s copyrighted. I came up with this concept and, while I’m obliged on threat of death to help you for the time being, I will NOT have you take credit for MY idea, you neanderthal!//
//Silence!// Blat snapped at Dean’s jar. He pivoted to face Luss. //Destroy that brain, Thot, before I do it for you.//
//It’s not that simple,// Luss replied. //We’ve only just begun to understand this layer of space.// Luss stared at the swirling pink and yellow energies on the viewscreen, the jellyfish-like tendrils that flitted around the Regularity. //We need Dean to help us navigate it.//
Blat scoffed in Dean’s general direction. //I think you’re overstating his importance. We have some of Breen’s most prized scientific minds aboard this ship. They can handle any eventuality.//
//Then why couldn’t they get us into DeanSpace without his help?//
Blat stared placidly at Luss, the lights in his visor twinkling angrily. He didn’t have a retort.
//Sir,// the Regularity communication officer, Pelt-Card, piped up. //We are receiving our complete mission orders from Breen command.//
//In my office,// Luss said, nodding to Bart who followed him through the door at the back of the bridge.
Luss sat down at his desk and punched in a control on his monitor, signaling his clearance. Blat did the same, keying his security code.
The golden-helmeted head of Grot-Gart, the leader of the Breen, appeared on Luss’ holomonitor. It was a recording.
//Luss, Blat…this is an historic occasion. The two of you today will prove Breen superiority in all things. You will strike a blow for the Breen today that will make up for the fact that the Breen have suffered one bitter defeat after another, from the Federation invasion of Cardassia 130 years ago to our more recent losses 20 years ago. Go out, be proud, kick Federation ass, and report back to me. Gart out.//
//Those weren’t orders. It was just rhetoric,// Luss sighed.
//Yes. And that is why I am here, to decipher the rhetoric.// Blat grabbed a padd and plunked away at it. //Yes, as I thought. The Leader wants us to set a course 130 mark 20. 130 years, 20 years. Ingenious.//
//Yes. Ingenious. And I assume the course is for Earth…?//
//Not at all. The Romulan Empire.//
Luss rubbed his helmeted chin. //I wonder why.//
//I should think it is obvious. Attack the Federation’s most powerful ally, then go in for the kill.//
//Yes,// Luss said thoughtfully. //I should have realized…//
//You are a scientist,// Blat said, not flatteringly. //There is much you have to learn about brinkmanship and war. That is yet another reason I am here, to make sure your work on the BreenSpace drive comes to fruition.//
Blat stood. “How right you are.”
//What are you saying?// Blat tapped his helmet. //What language is that?//
“Federation Standard. I learned to speak it, since I’m going to be visiting there, you pompous, bloated windbag.” Luss circled around behind Blat and with one swift movement yanked Blat’s helmet off.
What followed was a chorus of wheezing, sucking and rattling, that ended as soon as Luss slammed Blat face-down into his desk.
//Luss to Card,// Luss said, walking over to his monitor. //Send a medical crew to my office immediately. There has been an…accident.// Then, Luss deleted the message from the Breen Leader and formulated a message of his own for the Breen Leadership Council. The Regularity would be changing plans slightly.
And it was all thanks to a human. A human who, on outward appearance to Luss’ crew seemed defiant and unwilling. A human who, in reality, once he had been filled in on Luss’ defection plans, was more than happy to assist. A human who was capable of astounding feats, considering the fact he had no body.
EXPLORER PROJECT CENTRAL
“Dean Wilcox. I haven’t said that name in a long time.” Admiral Kristen Larkin watched Captain Bain pace the bridge of the Anomaly on her holographic viewer, as she spoke with him from her office at Explorer Project Central. Her base of operations spanned almost the entire Eastern Shore of what used to be called “Maryland,” and her office in particular overlooked the Chesapeake bay.
“Well now’s a good a time as any to say it, Krissers,” Bain said on the 3-D viewscreen, which was more like a pedestal on which a miniature holographic representation of the Anomaly bridge was displayed. “The Breen have him.”
“Yes! The Breen have him!” Doctor Kasyov called from behind Bain.
“Tut now, Natalia. I have the situation well under control,” Bain said, and turned back to Larkin. “Obviously, this constitutes a bit of a problem.”
“It is a terrible setback to the recent diplomatic overtures made by the Federation,” Larkin said with a sad shake of her head. The android leveled at gaze at Bain. “Do you know what the Breen want to use Dean’s brain for?”
“He’s brilliant,” Kasyov broke in. “It could be anything.”
Larkin sighed at Kasyov. “Indeed, he is brilliant. But Mister Wilcox possesses certain… knowledge that is most valuable to the Breen–knowledge that probably led to his kidnaping. Especially considering the Breen are in the midst of a struggle to launch a vessel capable of outrunning the Anomaly.”
“Do go on…” Bain said, leaning on the helm console.
“It’s called Deanspace…” Larkin began, detailing for Bain and crew exactly what Deanspace was. She described the method in which the original U.S.S. Explorer found its way into Deanspace, encountered odd creatures and readings that defied the physics of the normal universe, and how her vessel was almost destroyed by powerful eddies in the spatial “ether.”
When she was finished, Kasyov let out a low whistle. “I remember Dean talking about that.”
Larkin’s eyes moved from side to side for a nanosecond. “I just sent you the entirety of my files from that mission, Doctor Kasyov. I want you to combine them with what you know of Deanspace from your conversations with Mister Wilcox. You must find a way to access Deanspace. If the Breen send a ship into that layer of space, they could conceivably arrive at Earth with a fleet of ships and open fire before we even know it. The vastness of the threat of Deanspace is not even fully known to us. What is certain, however, is that the Breen must be stopped from carrying out this plan.”
“Any idea how we might find these blighters?” Bain asked. “I don’t need to tell you Breen space is vast.”
“I will check some of my…sources.” Larkin averted her eyes, and she realized Bain caught her at it.
“What aren’t you telling me, Krissers?”
“That is none of your concern. Set a course for Breen space and engage using your anti-singularity engines. I will contact you as soon as I know more.”
“You’ve never let us down before, Admiral,” Bain said, straightening. “Except for that whole diplomatic hologram thing.”
“I already apologized for that, and I wish you would stop bringing it up.”
“Too right, too right,” Bain said. “We’ll await your further instruction and get underway immediately. Anomaly out.”
Larkin turned in her chair and swiftly punched a rapid series of controls at her desk. She then turned to face forward, and in less then four seconds the Chief of Section 31 was standing in front of her.
“It’s been too long, you old M-1,” Carn said with a grin, extending his hand to shake Larkin’s.
“I still have not forgiven you for the Omarian incident.”
“Kristen, that was seventy-four years ago!”
“And yet my memory of it is as clear as ever. I require a favor from you.”
Carn sat opposite Larkin. “Well, when you put it that way…”
“I must know the location of a Breen warship.”
“Can you be more specific?” Carn asked jauntily. Larkin could see in his eyes he knew exactly what Larkin was talking about. He nodded his head in Larkin’s direction, sending a compressed pulse of information from his subspace transceiver to hers. “Just picked that up from a Section 31 listening post.”
Larkin unraveled the information in her mind. It detailed the construction of a Breen starship called the Regularity, designed for one purpose and one only: to enter DeanSpace successfully. Now that it was complete, a Breen insertion team had kidnapped Dean’s brain and taken it to the ship to help guide it into DeanSpace. Insideous. “Excellent.” She blinked, then looked at Carn. “Do you realize we could have had this whole conversation in mere nanoseconds if we’d used our subspace transceivers?”
“What would be the fun in that?” he laughed and disappeared in a quick flash of blue light.
Larkin punched a control on her desk. “Alice, would you please come in here?”
“Just give me a second, sweetie.” Alice Chambers was 144 years old. Larkin had taken her on as a special assistant while she was First Officer of the Aerostar-A, and had retained her services, off and on, ever since.
After what seemed like an eternity, the hunched over grey- haired woman wobbled in on unstable legs, gripping the wall.
“Alice, I’ve told you many times that we can order you an anti-grav harness. These days they are small enough that they are barely noticeable.”
“Nonsense. I’m getting around as well today as I did when I was 90. Now, then, what did you want?”
“I want you to send a message to the Breen Diplomatic Corps.”
“Ahh, well, then, you should have told me you wanted me to take dictation. Let me just go get my padd.” Alice slowly pivoted to wobble back into the front office.
Larkin held up a hand. “No, no. Thank you anyway, Alice. I shall simply contact the Corps on my own.”
“Nonsense. I’ll just brew up some tea, and then we can talk about this letter.”
“I am an android, Alice. I do not drink tea, remember?”
“Nonsense,” Alice mumbled over her shoulder as she hobbled out of Larkin’s office. Larkin engaged her “sigh” protocol and turned to her viewpedestal. She engaged her subspace transceiver and made the appropriate subspace connections, giving the requested clearance codes when necessary. The whole operation took four nanoseconds.
Clop-Crunk, the Breen Ambassador to the Federation, appeared on Larkin’s viewer.
“Ahh, Larkin Admiral, it is?” he said in broken Federation Standard. “So see good you to again. Did we not meet together at the conference we were both at which we both attended some time ago before today?
“I do not have time for pleasantries, Crunk, although I must say your armor has a pleasant sheen to it today.”
“You are thanked.”
“You are welcomed.” Larkin leaned forward to face the holographic Breen on her pedestal. “Now, to the matter at hand. I understand your people have kidnapped a brain from our Neptune Research Station and are going to use it to send a ship into an uncharted layer of space. I cannot allow that to happen; moreover, I cannot allow your people to possess that brain for one moment longer. I demand you have it turned over to the Federation authorities post-haste.”
The Breen sat there, its visor blinking maddeningly, for several minutes.
“Well?” Larkin asked, after her patience program had shut down claiming it had performed an “illegal operation.”
“My Standard, not is good, so it is!”
“Your Federation Standard is fine. Return our brain and abandon Deanspace research. The Gornathon Accords of 2412 declared it unsafe in any form, and you are well advised to stay away from it.”
“Our research….eh….it our own business being. For as the brain has Dean, we not to know talk what aboutting you.”
And Clop-Crunk disappeared from the viewpedestal, leaving Larkin furious.
“Well,” she said to no one. “I can’t be accused of not trying diplomatic channels.” Presently, she contacted the Anomaly and gave them the coordinates she’d gotten from Carn. She included a command to Bain to stop the Breen ship, called the Regularity, at all costs, even if that meant destroying it. She figured Bain would have no problems following that order.
Grot-Grart sat down at his desk and sighed. He’d just spoken to the Breen press about the Regularity, and they were not impressed. It seemed they were more interested in the Annual Breen lacrosse tournament. His people had grown so much less bloodthirsty over the years. It made Grart’s stomachs turn.
His eyes lit up when he saw a message on his holoviewer. He tapped a control, switching it on.
Thot-Luss appeared, which was heartening to Grart. He must be reporting on the success of the DeanSpace drive.
Then Thot-Luss started talking.
//The Federation is making strides in diplomacy with dozens of worlds, forging a quadrant more peaceful than it has been in centuries, and the Breen look like throwbacks, still obsessed with empire-building and conquering. It’s embarrassing, really!// Luss growled as Grart watched in shock. //That’s why I’m making this statement, Grart. To show you that your people are intelligent enough to build great machines, but are not content to just use them to destroy. I’m taking this one to Earth, where my people and I will resettle and attempt to form a common bond between the Breen and the other races of the Alpha Quadrant. And there’s nothing you can do to stop me. How does that feel, Grart?//
Grart stared up at the ceiling of his office and made a sound roughly the equivalent to an ‘75 Volkswagen Beetle being crushed in a compactor.
It wasn’t a happy sound.
Stardate 175440.4 Thanks to some…unusual…assistance from Admiral Larkin, we have been informed as to the whereabouts of the vessel carrying Dean Wilcox’s brain. We are headed there at Warp L and are due to intercept it in less than an hour. Meanwhile, I am forced to discuss certain…matters with our Chief Science Officer.
“How do you like the room, Doctor?” Captain Bain asked as Doctor Kasyov stepped into the plushly decorated room just off the storage access corridor adjacent to the bridge.
“Quite nice. Like something out of a British museum.”
“Come sit on the sofa.” Bain patted the sofa and Kasyov sat down. One entire wall of the room was devoted to books. She noted classics like Dante’s Inferno, The Canterbury Tales, some Sherlock Holmes mysteries, and the four-volume set of Clonek’s enigma tales. The whole room was wood-paneled, with two cherry-finished couches, richly upholstered in soft blue tones. A seemingly useless telescope sat next to an observation window that overlooked the stars as they streaked by abnormally fast (due to the fact that the Anomaly was traveling at Warp “L”).
“What did you call this place again?” Kasyov asked, scooching a polite distance away from Bain on the sofa.
“The Captain’s Lounge,” Bain said. “I asked Lieutenant Marsden to install it during the refit. Quite nice, don’t you think?”
“Isn’t it the same thing as a ready room?”
“I gave that to Commander Prosak. Besides, a ready room is too much like an office. This is more a place I can have private conversations, reflect on great works of literature, contemplate command decisions, get drunk, and the like.”
“I hope you didn’t invite me here to get me drunk,” Kasyov said with a small grin.
“Nothing of the sort,” Bain said. “I did come here to discuss some possible…sticky…”
“Don’t you dare say wickets…”
“Situations…that we may get into in the very near future.”
“Go ahead,” Kasyov said skeptically.
Bain stood and walked over to the viewport. “You have a way of attaching yourself to brains. Beside your own, of course.”
“I’d like to think so. I am a brain expert after all.”
“Yes. And your attachment to Cabral helped us survive the ghastly experience in Andromeda. Your attachment to Dean, however…”
“Will help us prevent the Breen from exploiting Deanspace.”
“Yes, that it might. It might also be something of a liability.”
Kasyov crossed her arms. “How so?”
Bain sat back down on the couch. “We may have to blow up the Regularity.”
Bain sighed. “The ship that Dean is on. It’s a possibility you need to be prepared for.”
“I’ll be prepared to beam Dean’s brain off the Regularity, then.”
“We may not be able to do that. Dean has lived a long, long life. Longer than many of us are granted. He would be willing, I’m sure, to give his life to ensure his contribution to mankind goes unmolested.”
“Well put, Captain, but I’m not going to sit back and let you shoot first and ask questions later.”
“I’ve no intention of doing anything of the sort. Shooting, though, may indeed factor into the equation.”
“I’m a big girl, Captain. If that’s the last resort, then that’s the last resort.”
“I’m glad we understand each other.” He pointed toward a small table in the corner. “Now. Can I get you a drink?”
Commander Prosak sat idly in the command chair.
“They’ve been in there a long time,” Lt. Shelly Marsden said from the engineering console, staring at the door that led back to the access corridor and the Captain’s Lounge.
“I’m sure they are discussing scientific matters,” Prosak said.
“Captain Bain is making sure Doctor Kasyov doesn’t do anything stupid,” Lt. Commander Tovar said from tac-ops.
“What do you mean ‘anything stupid’?” Marsden asked, glaring at Tovar.
“Acting on emotional human impulse as most of you non- British humans are prone to do.”
“Like your dead Yynsian friend did a while ago, when he took over your body and led us on a wild wife-chase?”
“I prefer not to talk about that.”
“Yeah, that’s what I thought you’d say,” Marsden muttered, turning back to Prosak. “I want to know what they’re talking about.”
“It is none of our concern,” Prosak said. “Besides, Tovar is probably correct.”
“Well, I don’t like any of this,” Ensign Hector Arroyo said from the helm. “Trying to intercept a ship that may not even be in the same space as us…it’s disturbing.”
“Any less natural than having anti-sing drive, Ensign?” asked Prosak. “Or breaking the lightspeed barrier, which many people thought to be impossible?”
“I don’t care what you say. If we have to go into Deanspace, we may be opening a can of worms that none of us will ever be able to close.”
“Well-spoken, as always, Ensign.”
“Was that sarcasm?”
Thot-Phul was roused from sleep by a bleeping beside his bed. He rolled over, right over a particularly comfortable bed of spikes, and slapped the control. A hologram of his lieutenant, Pelt- Shok, appeared on the small, circular platform.
//Sorry to wake you, Thot. I thought you would like to know that there has been a development in the DeanSpace quest.//
//What?// Phul said groggily.
//The Regularity’s captain, Thot-Luss, has defected and is headed for Earth. Every Breen warship has been scrambled to find it.//
Phul reflected on this. //Luss is an imbecile. They never should have put a scientist in command of a starship, especially not one with a mission as important as that one.//
//What do you suggest we do, Phul?//
//Set a course for Earth. Scanners to maximum. FIND THAT SHIP!//
//Should we expect you on the bridge?//
//Of course,// snapped Phul. //Right after my bath.//
Supplemental. We have been in Breen space for two hours and have not yet located the Regularity. It is possible that the vessel has already entered DeanSpace. If that is the case, then we are royally rogered.
Bain sat in the command chair, testily rapping his knuckles on his knee. “I don’t like this.”
“But you said chai was one of your favorite teas,” Commander Prosak said, studying the tea cup in the saucer that sat balanced on the arm of Bain’s command chair.
“Not the tea, Prosak. I hate waiting. I hate sitting in this blasted chair and waiting. It’s nerve-wracking.”
“Especially when a Breen warship could slide out of DeanSpace at any moment and cut us to shreds,” Tovar added helpfully.
“Spot on, Tovar, spot on,” Bain muttered.
“It’s just not possible.” Dr. Kasyov stared at her instruments, then pivoted in her chair to face Bain in his command chair.
“What’s not possible?”
“Getting into DeanSpace safely. I know the underlying principles after lots…and lots… of conversation with Dean. But there’s no way I can actually pilot us in there. Not without substantial risk to the crew of the Anomaly.”
“I tend to agree,” Marsden said from engineering.
“I don’t like the sounds of that, Captain,” Prosak offered calmly.
Bain rubbed his chin. “No. No, me neither. Then the sensible course is to disable the Regularity before they are able to enter Deanspace.”
“If they haven’t already,” said Prosak.
“What makes you think that’s the case?”
“Pure Vulcan, I mean Romulan, instinct.” Prosak circled Bain’s command chair, staring thoughtfully at the floor. “Yes, I think they are quite close to us. Possibly beneath us.”
“Impossible!” Arroyo said. “We’d have found them on sensors by now.”
“Not necessarily,” Tovar countered. “We really don’t understand how DeanSpace works. If they’re in there, they’re probably totally undetectable.”
Kasyov swung back around to face her station. “I have been checking all scanning bands. I’m not finding anything. There should at least be a phase-shift in subspace if they go to warp.”
“And nothing like that so far?” Bain asked.
“Not that I can detect.” Kasyov blinked at a readout on her station. “Wait a second.”
“I just saw an enormous phase-shift…right to Warp 13.” She glanced at Prosak. “Right from beneath us.”
“Wow,” Prosak said. “I am good.”
“Course?” Bain asked.
Kasyov took a deep breath. “Take a guess.”
Bain pounded his command chair. “Earth!”
“Course Zero Zero One Mark Zero Zero One,” Kasyov said.
“Which is?” asked Prosak.
Bain stared at Prosak. “Earth!”
“Oh. Yes, I knew that.”
“Go after them, Arroyo!” Bain said, swiveling to face the main viewer.
//A Federation starship is pursuing us,// Pelt-Card announced from the forward sensor station.
//Are they,// chuckled Luss. //I sincerely doubt they will detect us.//
//It is the U.S.S. Anomaly.//
//Doctor Kasyov’s ship!// exclaimed Dean’s brain. //You, dear Luss, are in a particular amount of trouble now.//
“Hush,” Luss said quickly in Federation Standard. He turned to Card. //Continue on silent running.//
//They probably spotted us when we went into warp,// said Dean. //Their science officer is a brilliant scientist. The same scientist mind you, who studied my brain for years.//
//So if anyone knows as much as you about DeanSpace technology, it’s her,// muttered Luss. He looked at Pelt-Card, who was staring at him expectantly.
//Maintain course, Pelt-Card.// Luss walked over and scooped up the bowl Dean’s brain was sitting in. //I need to go talk to my brain in private.//
EXPLORER PROJECT CENTRAL
“What the hell?”
Alice blinked at Larkin. “Now, now, my dear. I won’t stand for such language. It’s not ladylike.”
“Alice, are you sure these reports are correct?” Larkin stared at the information on her viewer. It was disconcerting to say the least.
“Yes, all those Breen vessels are coming here. Should I set out an extra place setting?”
“Yes. Yes, you do that,” Larkin said distractedly, sending Alice shuffling off back to her office. Larkin swung around to face her holoviewer, upon which she called up Clop-Crunk.
“Admiralty, I calling about you just to call!”
“I hope you’re calling to explain why every ship in the Breen fleet has just set a course for Earth,” Larkin snapped.
“Yes, to explaining will be me.”
“Get to the point!”
“Emergent problem having us to have with ship of our. Captain of craziness, obliterating wanting to Earth be.”
It took Larkin’s subprocessors a moment to understand what the Breen was saying. “You’re saying that ship wants to obliterate Earth?”
“Affirming. You to help us destroy or nothing?”
“Certainly,” Larkin said, folding her hands atop her desk. “Just tell us how to find it.”
“That more difficult is thing.”
“BLAST!” Bain said, whirling in his chair to face Tovar. “Red Alert!” He turned back to Larkin on his viewscreen, as Prosak placidly looked on. Everyone else was at their stations, save for Marsden who’d gone down to engineering to monitor from there. “Are you sure about this, Larks?”
“I am sure of nothing,” Larkin said, her hologram standing in front of the viewscreen. “Only that, if Crunk is telling us the truth, this situation just went from bad to worse. A normal Breen in possession of DeanSpace technology is infinitely preferable to a crazy Breen with DeanSpace technology.”
“Did he give you any tips on how to find the Regularity?”
“Only the basic direction in which it was heading.”
“Well, we’re right on its tail, we think,” Bain said. “But we can only detect it when it goes to warp.”
“So, they managed to somehow maintain a stable warp field inside DeanSpace,” Larkin said in awe. “Incredible.”
“Yes, if our information is correct. The problem is, if we can only detect the ship when it changes warp speed, we may not be able to get a lock on its position until it stops at Earth and unloads its arsenal.”
“And even then we probably won’t be able to do harm the yvotting ship with our weapons until it comes out of DeanSpace,” said Kasyov.
“By which time it may be too late,” Larkin said. “In any event, I will scramble several ships around Earth, just in case you are not successful at stopping the Regularity, especially since so many other Breen ships are on their way.”
“Good idea. Anomaly out,” Bain said, then looked at Kasyov. “I want to get this ship into DeanSpace, double quick.”
“I don’t know if that’s such a good idea…”
“It’s our only hope, Kas. Go down to your lab. Study Larkin’s information from the Explorer logs. See if Cabral can help. Just get us into DeanSpace!”
“I’ll do my best,” Kasyov said and headed for the aft turbolift.
Feeling shiny and clean in a new suit of armor, Thot-Phul strode out onto his bridge, to see the aft section of the Anomaly on their viewscreen.
//No,// Phul said simply.
//Yes,// said his lieutenant, Pelt-Shok.
//How can it be?// Phul collapsed into his command chair. //Not the Anomaly again. And that yekkl, Captain Bain.//
//We’re outside their scanner range,// reported Shok. //However, we have intercepted a communication from their Earth base. It is apparent that the Anomaly is trailing the Regularity. Our people have told the Federation that the Regularity is going to try to destroy Earth, not defect there.//
//Then we shall trail the Anomaly,// Phul said. //Let them do all the work to capture our rogue ship, then we will swoop in and destroy them both.//
//Won’t we need a valid reason to destroy the Federation ship?//
//Yes. So why don’t you start thinking of one!//
“Well, Dean, we have a problem,” Thot-Luss said, once again speaking Federation Standard. He sat at his desk, staring at Dean’s jar with rapt interest.
“Yes,” agreed Dean.
“What do we do about it?”
“Well, I propose we send out a signal out to the Anomaly and let them know that we are simply trying to defect. Once they know that, I assume they will do whatever they can to help us, as opposed to hindering us.”
Luss stared at a report on his desktop monitor. “I’m afraid it’s not as simple as that anymore.”
“What do you mean?”
He turned the monitor to face Dean’s brain. A sensor on the jar fed visual information directly into Dean’s brain. The screen showed a map of the sector, with symbols indicating Breen and Starfleet ships, nonaligned vessels, planets, and the like.
“It would appear that the whole of the Breen fleet has been sent after us. Of particular concern is this one.” He pointed to the blip, the Breen symbol directly behind the Starfleet symbol (representing the Anomaly) pursuing them on the screen. “That is the XAXRDAARD. Thot-Phul’s ship. Phul is a relentless and resourceful commander. He is no doubt monitoring all communications bandwidths. We will not be able to use traditional means to get a signal to the Anomaly.”
“Then we will have to use non-traditional means,” Dean said resolutely.
“Have you read these logs?” Kasyov asked, crossing her legs and staring at a padd as she sat by Cabral.
“Yes, I have been reviewing them,” Cabral said serenely. “This ‘Captain Baxter’ was a bit of an imbecile, wasn’t he?”
“All these little asides in his captain’s logs,” Kasyov said, paging through them. “He keeps telling the computer to ‘delete that last part’ or ‘forget I said it.’ The funny part is, the computer obviously didn’t do that, or else we wouldn’t be reading everything. To think, he’s made some pretty stupid remarks, and they’re preserved for all time against his will.”
“Sad, really,” Cabral said.
“And it brings us no closer to a solution.”
“Look at the remarks of the Explorer’s science officer, a Lieutenant Commander Tilleran.”
“Yes. Got them.” Kasyov studied Tilleran’s report. “She’s a bit pompous.”
“And a nosier Betazoid you will never meet,” Cabral finished. “Still, she has some interesting things to say about DeanSpace.”
“Let me see…” Kasyov paged through the padd. “Yes. Apparently the Explorer had to reconfigure her warp engines to get into DeanSpace, but the ship’s warp field caused a wake reflection that nearly tore it to pieces.”
“Why didn’t they simply come out of warp?” Cabral asked, sounding like he already knew the answer.
“Apparently their injectors and nacelles froze up.”
“And why didn’t they try again, only keeping themselves to impulse power.”
“Because they were scared away by the first attempt and decided not to risk another one.” Kasyov put down the padd. “And Starfleet concurred. Can’t say that I blame them. Even at rest, warp engines emit a signature. That in itself could eventually cause a reaction that would tear the ship apart.”
“But this ship doesn’t simply have warp engines, Natalia,” Cabral said. “We have anti-sing drive.”
“Which is still attached to the warp engines. One can’t work without the other.”
“Yes, but because the anti-sing drive is attached to the warp drive, they emit a very different signature. One I can control.”
“Are you saying you think you can pilot us into DeanSpace.”
“I’m no Dean, but my brain is quite capable of modulating our engine outputs. I’ll remind you I am in control of every vital system of this ship. It shouldn’t be a problem.”
“But what if we get in there and it is?”
“I believe I can get us out,” Cabral said confidently.
Kasyov stared at the deck plating thoughtfully. “Are you willing to stake the lives of this crew on that?”
“Sure,” Cabral said easily. “It would tax my resources, but it would be worth it.”
“Why?” Kasyov looked at Cabral.
“Because I know how much getting Dean back means to you, and I know if the Regularity comes out of DeanSpace in front of Earth, then Starfleet will destroy it on sight.”
“So you’re doing all this for ME?”
“Would you do nothing less?”
Kasyov leaned over and hugged Cabral’s sphere. “You know, Cabral, you never cease to amaze me.”
“That’s the way I like it.”
“Bain to Kasyov,” came a chirp over Kasyov’s commpip.
“Go ahead,” Kasyov said, looking at Cabral.
“We just picked up an instability in the subspace layer we want you to take a look at. Tovar thinks it might be a side-effect of the Regularity’s traveling at high warp.”
“Something we can exploit,” Tovar called over the comm.
“I’ll be right up,” Kasyov said. “Cabral…stand by.”
“As always,” Cabral said evenly.
Admiral Larkin stepped out of the turbolift into the Ops Center of the Juggernaut-Class Enterprise-J, the largest and most intimidating Starship in Starfleet’s Arsenal.
The eleventh starship to bare the name Enterprise, the J was the combination of all of Starfleet’s technological efforts leading up to the year 2500. Boasting 20 warp nacelles, 10-layer polygeometric shielding, quadruple-barreled neutron torpedo launchers, nadion phasers and 120 decks of military, scientific, and exploratory living space, the Enterprise was indeed worthy of being called the Federation Flagship.
And, not for the first time, the J beat out the current jewel of the Explorer Project, the Explorer-K (why so many ships named Explorer had come and gone in 100 years was not something Larkin liked to talk about).
Larkin surveyed the massive Ops Center, which was too large to be called a bridge.
Three levels, as wide as a small cargo bay, with a huge holographic viewscreen dominating the front of the room.
And, at the command chair, flanked by two attending officers and panels of bleeping streaming information on either side of him, in the center of it all, sat the only being in Starfleet with more experience than Larkin.
Larkin walked up and extended her hand. “Captain Dax, it is a pleasure seeing you again.”
Captain Barnum Dax stood and clasped Larkin’s shoulders in a way that made the android uncomfortable. “Larkin! It’s great to see you!” He reached under his chair and retrieved a baseball cap, handing it to the android. “Here’s that Pike City Pioneers cap I promised you.”
“Yes. Thank you,” Larkin said, taking the cap and setting it down on a nearby console. “I wish our reunion could be under better circumstances.”
“Oh, I’ve seen worse,” Dax said with a chuckle.
“I…know you have.” Larkin immediately set her computing resources to find a way to put a stop to Dax’s certain outflow of nostalgia. She couldn’t come up with anything.
“Back when I was Jadzia Dax, when we tried to take Deep Space Nine back from the Dominion…that was worse. We went into the wormhole and faced a whole Jem’Hadar fleet. Boy, was I SCARED!”
“Captain Dax,” Larkin began.
“Not to mention the time Gul Dukat was possessed by a Pagh Wraith and killed me! I still have some sore feelings about that.”
“Captain Dax!” Larkin said, more sharply. “I order you to stop talking!”
“What, oh…yes.” Dax surveyed his Ops Center. “Is this your first trip aboard the J?”
“I believe so.”
“Sorry about the Explorer-K not making Flagship,” Dax said, putting a comforting hand on Larkin’s arm.
“I am not disappointed,” Larkin lied. “She has an important enough assignment.”
“Yes, keeping watch over the unmanned orbital platform which oversees the development of a tiny race out in the Beta Quadrant which won’t reach warp travel capability for another twenty years. I think that’s fascinating.”
“Sarcasm ill befits you, Captain.”
“Yes, well…I was just joking. All Daxes use humor to diffuse a situation. It reminds me of the time when Donegal Dax tried to crash the funeral of the Tarkalian Ambassador. That was a HOOT!”
“Captain Dax!” Larkin said. “Another word about your past, and I will court-martial you.”
“Right, so…” Dax said. “What are your orders?”
“You and the other ships are to open fire on the Regularity as soon as it appears. If it reaches Earth, we must not allow it to get past us.”
“I agree,” Dax said. “But, I can’t help but feel that we may not be seeing the whole picture.”
“You may be right,” Larkin said. “But the sanctity of Earth is in the balance.”
“Very well.” Captain Dax watched Earth roll by on the viewscreen, clasping his hands behind his back. “Will you be monitoring from here, or the Aerostar-W?”
“Here!” Larkin said quickly.
Dr. Kasyov swung in behind the science station and stared at the information on the screen. Instantly, she knew what was happening.
“Captain,” Kasyov spoke up. “I don’t know how he’s doing it, but Dean is giving us a way in.”
“A what?” Bain asked spinning to face Kasyov.
“An opening in DeanSpace. I can exploit it, and we can elbow our way in.”
“Care to go into detail?”
Kasyov tapped her controls, bringing up an infrared-style image of the space in front of them. A jagged tear dominated the middle of the screen. “There’s your ‘instability,’” Kasyov said. She tapped another control. “Dean has managed to rip open the layer between DeanSpace and normal space and leave us just enough room to elbow our way in.”
“How can you be sure that Dean did it?” asked Tovar.
“Because everyone else on the Regularity is Breen, and frankly I don’t see why they would want to help us,” said Kasyov.
“She has a point, Tovar,” Prosak said.
“Well, then, exploit away,” said Bain.
“Before we do,” Kasyov said uneasily, turning to Bain. “I recommend we turn over control of the ship to Cabral once we get inside DeanSpace, if this works at all.”
“Total control?” asked Tovar. “I would not recommend that.”
“Yeah,” said Arroyo. “Then what does that give me to do?”
“Monitor, and be ready to re-take control if you have to, Ensign,” Kasyov said, returning her gaze to Bain. “Cabral has the ability to make split second corrections to any of our systems, simultaneously. He’s the only one aboard who can, and the only way I can guarantee our safety in DeanSpace.”
“Far be it from me not to trust one of my crew,” Bain said. “Do it.” He turned to Arroyo. “Ensign, monitor.”
“Hurrah,” muttered Arroyo.
“Do not feel so bad,” said Prosak. “I never get anything to do.”
//Strange activity aboard the Federation ship,// Pelt-Shok piped up from his sensor station.
//Explain,// said Thot-Phul, leaning forward in his command chair.
//They are firing some sort of multi-phasic neutrino beam at the space ahead of them.//
//Why would they do that?// asked Thot-Phul.
//Uncertain.// Pelt-Shok’s eyes widened. //Thot!//
//The Anomaly just disappeared off our screens. Into some kind of middle subspace layer.//
Phul clenched his fist. //DeanSpace!//
//No, sir,// said Shok. //BREENSpace!//
“We’re in!” Kasyov cried, and small sighs of relief were let out all around the bridge. “Some kind of beam is emitting from the Regularity.”
“At us?” asked Prosak.
“Negative,” replied Kasyov. “It seems to be zipping up the tear behind us.”
“I wonder why,” pondered Arroyo.
“Lieutenant Marsden,” Bain said, thumbing a control on his chair.
“Engineering, Marsden here,” said Marsden, sounding busy.
“How’re things down your way, Lieutenant?”
“Just fine, so far. All systems reporting normal.”
“Give us a shout at the first sign of trouble,” Bain said, closing the channel. He stared at the beautiful pink and yellow billowing beauty of DeanSpace on the viewscreen. “By Altair’s rings, it’s beautiful.”
“It is at that,” said Kasyov.
“Like a sunrise behind a mesa back in Arizona,” said Arroyo.
“I fail to see it,” Prosak said calmly.
“Prosak…” Bain said warningly.
“Okay, fine, it’s breathtaking. I just wanted to sound Vulcan.”
“Breathtaking it may be,” said Tovar. “But perhaps we should pay more attention to the ship traveling in there. Namely,” he pointed, “there.”
On the viewscreen, an angular, scythe-like green ship floated, traveling the same warp speed as the Anomaly.
“Regularity,” Bain scoffed. “We meet at last.” He looked at Tovar. “Hailing frequencies, lad.”
“Breen vessel. This is Captain Reginald Bain of the Federation Starship Anomaly. We know you’re trying to invade Earth. We’re here to stop you. Stand down and exit this area of space or we will be forced to destroy you.”
Moments later, Tovar saw a blip on his panel. “We’re getting a response,” he said crisply.
“Make sure our translators are in order,” Bain said. “And put him on.”
A slight, pale-suited Breen figure appeared on the viewscreen, with other Breen working quickly and quietly behind him. “Captain,” he began. “I am Thot-Luss.”
“You sure are, for pulling a stunt like this,” Bain muttered.
“No, Captain, Thot-Luss is my name.”
“If you say so.” Bain shifted in his chair. “I’m not interested in pleasantries. Stand down. Now. I have 90 neutron torpedoes trained on you, and I’m not afraid to use them.”
“Sir…if I may talk to you…” Luss leaned closer to the screen. “In private?”
“As you wish,” Bain said. “But do it quickly. I want this problem wrapped up before we reach Earth. Which is in…” He looked at Tovar.
“Oh…um…” Tovar said distractedly. “Forty minutes.”
“Of course,” Luss said, and the screen momentarily went black, with a brief voiceover: “Please be patient and stay on the line. A Breen will be with you shortly.”
Luss appeared again, in a small, cramped office, sitting at a desk, with a bowl sitting next to him. Kasyov jumped out of her seat.
“Dean!” She’d recognize that brain anywhere.
“Doctor, how nice to see you again,” Dean said.
“What are you, trying to threaten us?” Bain asked. “No matter what you do to that brain, your fate will be the same. So why don’t you just give up?”
“Captain!” Kasyov cried.
“Look,” Luss interrupted before Bain could reply. “I am not your enemy. I am only trying to defect to Earth. Dean here will back me up.”
“He’s telling the truth, Captain,” Dean said. “I give you my word.”
Bain looked at Kasyov, who simply shrugged.
“We need safe passage to Earth, where my crew, who I assume are not willing to defect, can be transferred off-ship. In return, I offer you my ship and my services as a Breen scientist.”
“Captain,” Kasyov said, rushing over to Bain’s side, shouldering past Prosak to lean toward his ear. “I was at a conference with Luss a few years ago. He’s an honorable man. You should trust him.”
Bain’s brow furrowed as he stared at Luss. Truthfully, the Breen didn’t look like a warrior. Then again, it was hard to tell a lot about a man when you couldn’t see his face. And why had Bain never seen a Breen woman?
Bain shook off that thought and addressed Luss. “Thot, I will personally vouch for your safety. We will escort you back to Earth where you can defect with ease. Simply follow us out of DeanSpace…”
“Are you crazy?” Luss said. “Have you been monitoring sensors? Half the Breen fleet is after us. So is the Federation fleet. The B.I.C. XAXRDAARD has been trailing you since the Moloma system.”
“Is this true?” Bain asked, looking back at Tovar.
Tovar shrugged. “Maybe.”
Bain resisted the urge to shout out a profanity and instead looked back at Luss. “Okay, then. We’ll play it your way. DeanSpace until we reach Earth.”
“Then what?” Kasyov asked, looking from Bain to the screen.
“Then we scuttle the Regularity.” Bain rubbed his chin. “Or at least make it look that way.”
Thot-Phul stared vacantly at the viewscreen. //I cannot believe you just lost them.//
//The spatial rip sealed up before we could maneuver through,// Pelt-Shok replied as he monitored his station. //I fail to see what I could…hold on…//
//What now?// muttered Phul.
//The tear opened back up.//
Phul shot up ramrod straight in his chair. //You’re kidding me! Well, what are we waiting for? Helm! Full speed! Take us through that rip!//
“I hope you all know what you are doing,” Prosak said, scooting into the command chair as Bain and Kasyov headed toward the bridge turbolift.
“By going over to the Regularity or by letting the XAXRDAARD into DeanSpace with us?” asked Bain.
“Both,” said Prosak. “Why are you going to the Regularity again?”
“Simply because someone from Starfleet needs to be there to guide the ship safely into Federation space,” Kasyov said.
“Not to worry, Prosak,” said Bain. “The Anomaly will be otherwise occupied.”
“Why would the Anomaly be otherwise occupied?” Prosak asked nervously, watching the tactical view on the screen, showing the Anomaly trailing Regularity, and the XAXRDAARD following close behind.
“Someone’s got to destroy the XAXRDAARD,” Bain said easily, as he and Kasyov stepped onto the turbolift. He just hoped Luss did his part.
“Does that mean us?” Tovar wondered aloud.
Thot-Luss whistled a happy tune as he walked out onto the bridge of the Regularity with Dean’s jar tucked under one arm. He nodded at his passing officers as he slyly sat Dean’s jar in its normal spot on a readout console. What no one saw was the slithering of a neural fiber from the jar, out into an access port on the console.
Luss walked back to his chair and sat down. He nodded in the direction of Dean’s jar.
And then, quite suddenly, alarms wailed throughout the Regularity.
//Report!// Luss called out, trying to sound surprised.
//Sudden spike in the warp core!// cried Pelt-Card. //All indicators are red-lining.//
//Just like on the Explorer!// Dean called out, on cue. //I warned you all that this was an imperfect science!//
//Silence!// Luss called out, hoping he didn’t sound too melodramatic. //Card, attempt to divert overload energy away from the warp core!//
//I can do nothing. My controls are all jammed!// Card cried out, surprised.
//How can that be?// Luss said, sounding truly shocked.
“You’re pushing it,” Dean said in a low Fed-standard voice.
//Well,// Luss said, ignoring Dean. //We’ll have to abandon the Regularity.//
//Is that wise, so close to Earth?// Card asked.
//We have no choice. Do you want to die aboard this ship?//
Card shook his head.
//That’s what I thought. Organize the evacuations. Get everyone aboard escape pods. I will coordinate from here. Dean will help us get the escape pods out through a tear in DeanSpace.//
//How can you be sure he will help us?// asked Card.
//I can be very convincing,// Luss said, winking his visor lights at Dean.
Prosak gripped the arms of the command chair as she watched the billowing folds of DeanSpace on the viewscreen. She spoke into the continuously open channel to Cabral’s lab. “Status, Cabral?”
“A smooth trip, don’t you think?” Cabral replied over the comm.
“Yes, I suppose.” She looked to Arroyo. “Time to Earth?”
“We just received a coded message from the Regularity,” Tovar said from tac-ops. “All hands are aboard escape pods. I wonder why Bain didn’t take me with him. Doesn’t he trust me anymore?”
“This is neither the time nor the place, Mister Tovar,” said Prosak. “At any rate, the captain’s plan is working so far.” She tried not to sound surprised.
“But now comes the hard part,” said Arroyo.
“Indeed,” said Prosak. “Transport the captain and his party over to the Regularity. Then turn us around, directly in the XAXRDAARD’s flight path. Arm all weapons and go to Red Alert, putting all shields to maximum sheathing. Let’s give the XAXRDAARD a run for its latinum.”
“Right, then, chaps, let’s get this show on the road,” Captain Bain said merrily as he and Kasyov strolled out onto the bridge of the Regularity. He found it empty but for Luss and the jar containing Dean’s brain, which shouldn’t have been a surprise, that being part of the plan. He hadn’t been on a Breen ship in quite some time. He thought he’d find it disconcerting, but he didn’t. It did seem a little gloomy, what with the dark grey lighting, pulsing to signal an alert condition.
“Nice to see you finally, Captain,” Luss said, stepping forward to extend a hand to Bain, who shook it tentatively.
“Yes, indeed. Same here,” Bain said, looking around. “You speak excellent Fed-standard.”
“I have been practicing.”
Kasyov rushed over to Dean’s jar. “Dean! I mean, uh…subject 341! How are you?”
“I am fine, Doctor,” Dean’s brain replied. “Luckily, Luss had a neural fiber on board that allowed me to tap into the Regularity’s systems.”
“Lucky is right,” Bain said. He walked over to the jar. “I have heard quite a lot about you, my boy. Is that a British accent I detect?”
“Yes,” Dean said. “It’s London proper. Proper meaning both in and around London as well as correct.”
“Yes, well, I see,” Bain said, turning to Kasyov. “Doctor, find a place to sit. This could be a bumpy ride.”
“You don’t think the Federation will fire on us with you aboard, do you?” Luss asked Bain.
“It depends on whose finger is on the trigger,” Bain said firmly.
“No sign of the Anomaly OR the Regularity on sensors,” said Ensign Gig Collum from the Enterprise science station.
“Damn,” said Captain Dax, swerving in his chair to face Larkin. “They could have been destroyed.”
“Yes,” agreed Larkin. “At this distance, it would be hard to tell.”
“Sensors estimate the Regularity will arrive in under ten minutes,” said Collum.
“Prepare weapons,” Larkin said solemnly.
“Right,” replied Dax. “That will take some time, since there are so many.”
//Veer off, veer off! All weapons and shields to maximum!// Phul cried as the Anomaly came after them on the viewscreen.
The XAXRDAARD pitched wildly just by the course change, since DeanSpace was so sensitive to course corrections and the XAXRDAARD wasn’t prepped to handle that.
//Incoming!// called out Pelt-Shok.as weapons fire crashed against the XAXRDAARD. //Shields down to fifty-percent.//
//Return fire!// Phul cried. //Destroy the Anomaly!// Phul allowed himself a small smile as he pictured that damnable Reginald Bain on the Anomaly’s bridge as his ship blew up around him.
Bain, who was, unbeknownst to Thot Phul, nowhere near the Anomaly’s bridge, watched the sensors, vaguely deciphering the Breen language as Dean guided the vessel through the last leg of DeanSpace toward Earth.
“Sensors reading a large Federation fleet outside Earth,” Dean called out.
“Well,” said Luss.
“Sensors also reading a large Breen fleet coming toward Earth,” Dean interrupted.
“Umm…” said Kasyov.
“A rock and a hard place,” said Bain.
“And one hell of a catfight between the Breen attack ship and the Anomaly,” Dean continued.
“Cat…what?” asked Bain.
“Forgive me,” said Dean. “I once knew someone who had a lot of cats.”
“All weapons, fire at full strength!” Prosak called out, desperately fighting every militant urge in her body, to no avail.
“Massive damage to the Breen vessel,” Tovar replied above the din of alert klaxons. “And none too little damage to us.”
“Go in for the final kill,” Prosak growled, more a woman of action at this point than of logical action. Of course, what could be more logical than fulfilling her obligations to her captain?
//The Anomaly is packing quite a bit of firepower!// Pelt- Shok called out. //Even worse, their shields seem to be constantly modulated to accommodate travel through DeanSpace while ours…//
//Aren’t,// Phul said heavily.
//Should we break off?// Shok suggested.
//Never!// cried Phul. //We shall destroy the Anomaly while Captain Bain is aboard!//
“They aren’t backing down,” Tovar said. “Our shields are holding at twenty percent, theirs are dropping below eight.”
Prosak sneered at the XAXRDAARD on the viewscreen. “Finish them.”
“The XAXRDAARD is heavily damaged,” said Dean.
“We’re two minutes from Earth.”
“Tear a slit in DeanSpace, lad,” said Bain.
“Lad? I’m 100 years your senior!”
“My apologies. But a slit in DeanSpace would still be appreciated.”
“Spot on,” Dean replied. After a moment, he added, “Done!”
“Take us near the opening and release the escape pods,” Luss said, standing next to Bain.
“Done. Escape pods away!”
“This is all too easy,” said Bain. “I trust the XAXRDAARD is nearly obliterated?”
“Nearly,” said Dean.
“Too bad about that, too,” muttered Bain.
//That does it for our shields!// Pelt-Shok cried out. He was barely touching his panel as he leaned toward the door that lead off the bridge. //I strongly suggest we…//
//I get the idea! Evacuate!// cried Thot-Phul. He joined Shok and the other bridge officers in squirming into the turbolift. Phul took one last look at his bridge as the doors closed, hoping someone would say something appropriately melancholy about the loss of their ship. No one did.
“The Breen cruiser’s core is about to go critical!” Tovar called out.
“Which one?” asked Prosak.
“The bad one!”
“What are your criteria for judging good and evil?”
“The one that isn’t the Regularity!”
“Oh. Very well, then. We’ve done our job. Get us the hell out of here!”
“There…look!” cried Captain Dax.
Larkin looked on the holo-screen to see a welcome sight indeed: the USS Anomaly tearing out of the tear in DeanSpace like a bat out of hell.
“Registering multiple explosions within the subspace layers,” reported Collum. “Reading Breen ship debris emerging from a tear in the spatial layer.”
“YES! GO ANOMALY!” Larkin cried, drawing stares from the troops in Enterprise’s Ops Center.
“I mean, well done.” She looked at Dax. “And I…was never here.”
“Sure you were. Hey…you left your cap…” Dax called after Larkin, but the android was already in the turbolift.
Meanwhile, on the holoscreen, every Breen ship surrounding Earth turned on a wing and warped away.
“Now we wait,” Bain said, looking at Luss.
“For how long?” asked Luss.
“Until all those Breen ships scatter from sensor range,” Kasyov broke in.
“Of course,” Luss said. He patted Bain on the shoulder. “Thank you, Captain, for trusting me. For trusting a Breen.”
“Nonsense. I’ve never had much of a problem with the Breen,” Bain lied.
“What’s next for you, Luss?” asked Dean as Kasyov looked over him with her quadcorder.
“Debriefing. Sharing my knowledge with Starfleet. And making sure DeanSpace never falls into the wrong hands.”
“Which means it never gets used, by Starfleet or anyone else,” Dean said. “As long as either of us live. Agreed?”
“Very much so,” said Luss. “I will be content simply to retire to some small village on Earth. I’ve heard Maryland is quite nice this time of year…”
EXPLORER PROJECT CENTRAL
Admiral Larkin looked placidly at her holo-screen. Clop- Crunk, meanwhile, seemed quite agitated, considering the fact that he couldn’t be seen behind his mask.
“Again, sorry am I quite being,” Crunk said, twiddling his gloved fingers.
“As am I,” Larkin replied. “Perhaps if you’d notified us sooner, we could have averted such a loss.”
“Least were you at to saving crew ship the of,” said Crunk.
“With the exception of Thot-Luss, yes,” Larkin affirmed. “We will send your people back post-haste. That would wrap things up, I believe?”
Crunk was silent a moment. “Another…matter is to be.”
“Yes?” Larkin said, not wearily.
“From our fleet disappeared, the XAXRDAARD, withinside the Space of Dean during Earth at standoff between us fleets.”
Larkin initiated her “sigh” protocol. “You’ve lost another One, Clop-Crunk?”
“You uncomfort understand our being.”
“Yes,” Larkin said. “Yes, of course. We’ll do our best to find them. And, perhaps in the future, our two peoples can cooperate to make sure nothing like this ever happens again.”
“That being for definite,” Clop-Crunk replied.
Supplemental. After collecting all refugees from the Regularity and the XAXRDAARD and sending them aboard a transport back to their homeworld, we have retrieved the Regularity from DeanSpace and tucked it away in a cozy slip at spacedock. Luss is currently debriefing at Starfleet command, after thanking us vigorously for our help, and Doctor Kasyov is visiting Neptune station, putting her prodigal brain back in its proper place.
“Good work, Captain,” Larkin said. Her hologram stood, hands clasped behind her back, in front of the Anomaly’s viewscreen.
“It was all in a day’s work, Krissers,” Bain said. “Although I find it somewhat amusing that, according to the Federation Tribune…” he held up a padd. “The Enterprise-J was responsible for ‘protecting Earth from the nefarious Breen.’”
“Don’t be bitter, Captain. That’s all part of the cover story engineered to make certain the Breen do not suspect their ship still exists.”
“It still burns my backside, Larks.”
“I am aware of your backside,” Larkin replied, not coldly. “However, you are aware of the current PR regulations regarding the Enterprise-J.”
“Top billing, yes.”
“You get a lovely side-bar…” Larkin said helpfully.
“Terrific,” Bain said, closing the channel.
NEPTUNE RESEARCH STATION
“Thanks for getting me set up again,” Dean said as Kasyov returned him to his normal jar in the lab. Doctor Pommier, who was still undergoing counseling because of the Breen attack on Neptune Station, arranged to conveniently take Subject 241, the Orion brain obsessed with Kasyov, out for “walkies.”
“Thank you for helping us save the Regularity,” Kasyov said. “Starfleet, as you know, is eternally grateful.”
“And I am so incredibly impressed, Doctor,” Dean said dully.
“Hope it was a nice change of pace.”
“Not one I care to repeat, although it is somewhat nice to feel useful again.”
“Doctor, if it’s not too much of an imposition…”
“Sure, I’ll come visit more often.”
“No, I wasn’t going to say that. I was going to say, would you mind turning the light off when you leave?”
“You old softy,” Kasyov grinned, and walked out of the lab, touching the control padd as she left and plunging the room into soothing darkness.
WITH APOLOGIES TO TOM CLANCY…