Author: Alan Decker, Anthony Butler
STAR TRAKS: BOLDLY GONE…
By Alan Decker & Anthony Butler
“Let me tell you a thing or two about love, Lieutenant,” Captain Reginald Bain said, leaning back in his chair at Twain the Keel, the on-board tavern and former Holographic lounge. On Bain’s order, and with the full support of the crew, the lounge had been permanently programmed to be a tavern, and the tavern had been given a name. Bain had suggested the name, and the fact that most of the crew had no idea what the hell it meant convinced Bain that it was a good and proper name.
“Do you have to?” Lt. Shelly Marsden asked, sipping gingerly from her hot toddy. She wasn’t even sure how she’d been stuck at the bar with Captain Bain at 2300, when most of the crew had already gone back to their quarters. All she knew was that she’d taken her engineering staff there for drinks when they’d gotten off-shift, and their little get-together had quickly blossomed into a ship-wide party, which Bain not only endorsed, but fully participated in.
Hours of drinking and singing space chanteys later, she and Bain were all that was left, besides the vomiting Ensign Yonk, who was still in Twain the Keel’s bathroom, ridding himself of five gallons of Tellarite scotch.
“Let me tell you a think or two about love, Lieutenant,” Bain said again, and belched. “Am I repeating myself?”
“No. You just finished telling me both things about love,” Marsden quickly said, then glanced at the wooden double doors that led to the bar. Would she be court martialled if she just ran away?
“I did?” Bain asked. “Hrm. Maybe I did.”
“Yes. Even though we were originally talking about plasma infusers.”
“Funny notion that. Quite the subject change it was, then, eh?”
“Quite indeed,” Marsden said, gently sliding back from the bar. “You also said you were getting really tired and that we should probably both retire to our quarters.”
Bain spun in his bar stool, then braced his hands on his knees as his feet dropped down to stop the spinning. He glanced dizzily at Marsden. “The thing…or two…is this: You don’t find love. It finds you.”
“You don’t say. You found this out with Mrs. Bain, eh?” Marsden asked. As much as she endeavored to keep her relationship with the captain purely professional, she was always enchanted by the relationship between Bain and his wife. It was pure, passionate; it didn’t put on airs. In many ways, it was her ideal relationship. Something she’d been seeking for a while now, but couldn’t put a name to.
“No. Not Rosalyn. I found that out with Lizzie Cipher, a Graduate Student at Federation University, when I was in Starfleet Academy, back in ‘sixty-six.”
“This is fascinating.”
“Wonder whatever became of old Lizzie. The gal was like a human pretzel, I tell you. Quite a magnificent specimen of blossoming womanhood. Know what I mean, Marsie?”
“Oh, for the love of…” Marsden stood up. “Captain. I think I hear the warp core breaching. I’ve got to go.”
“Carry on, then. I’ll just go and check on Mister Yonk. He went to the head some time ago and hasn’t returned. Poor boy can’t hold his liquor….mmmph…then again…”
Marsden ran out of the tavern as fast as her feet could take her. The wooden doors to the tavern had barely stopped swinging on her exit when she felt a tremendous dizzy spell, and leaned up against a nearby bulkhead in the lower-deck corridor of the Anomaly.
Damn that last hot toddy. She should have stopped at ten.
She pounded her fist on the bulkhead. And damn Tovar. Damn him for being in a relationship. For being unreachable.
Marsden straightened, glad the corridor was empty, and began an uneven walk back to her quarters.
She wasn’t the kind of person who pined for someone. She’d always been very comfortable with herself. She was happier approaching men than fielding their advances. She was better at it than they were. And when she was rebuffed, which wasn’t often, she shrugged and moved on to the next guy in the room.
But this time, unfortunately, Marsden couldn’t seem to take her mind off Tovar. And that was a bad thing, since she saw him just about every day.
To her consternation, though, seeing Tovar didn’t cement her resolve. It didn’t help to see him roaming the corridors arm in arm with Lt. Torgerson, the ship’s historian. Why did the ship need a historian anyway?
No, being around Tovar did nothing to dull the pain of wanting to be with him. Wanting to at least know if those exciting twinges she felt meant anything.
But Tovar was off-ship at the moment, aboard the Navigator doing an archaeological survey with Torgerson and some of the ship’s science staff. Not having him around was even worse than having him around. And Kasyov, her only confidant on the ship, was with him.
Her only other real friend on board, Hector Arroyo, had gone off to live with a godlike entity for what would probably end up being eternity.
This being spurned for another woman was getting to be an ugly trend.
As she walked back to her quarters, Marsden idly wondered if Tovar was having any fun without her.
Couldn’t be any worse than what she was dealing with.
Tovar was in hell. The Yynsians, of course, had no concept of hell, but Tovar was certain, if they’d had such a concept, that getting the “silent treatment” from a Vulcanized Romulan had to be close to it.
The Navigator’s bridge was eerily quiet, and empty to boot. The rest of the ship’s complement, all Anomaly science staff, plus the ship’s Cultural Anthropologist and Historian, Jamie Torgerson, had beamed down to Xirxis Eight to study the remains of a long-dead species. Tovar had questioned Captain Bain when he’d assigned him to this duty, but Bain would not relent. Xirxis Eight was on the edge of Breen space, and there was no telling what those “buggers” might do, as Bain had put it.
Tovar would have felt better, though, had the Anomaly herself come to Xirxis, but Starfleet had other things in store for the Federation/Romulan hybrid vessel.
Diplomats on both sides of the former Neutral Zone were still praising the addition of several Romulans to the Anomaly’s crew as another step toward a full-blown alliance. In accordance, Bain and Vioxx had been reluctantly assigned the task of marshalling the Anomaly along on a PR tour of sorts. Tovar didn’t envy Bain in the least. Bain was a meat and potatoes man. A warrior. A soldier of the cause. These were qualities Tovar envied and admired, and hoped to one day emulate to the best of his ability. They were not, however, qualities that translated well into public relations.
Tovar sat at the helm/tactical console in front of the command chair, hands resting on his panel, eyes gazing at the sensor readouts, and took some small comfort in the fact that he’d be no help to Bain.
He glanced over his shoulder at the command chair, where Prosak had been seated for the last three hours, eyes fixed on the orange planet on the viewscreen.
If anyone would be good at publicizing the Romulan/Federation alliance, it would be Prosak. She was a Starfleet officer born of Romulus, who’d again and again proven her value to the crew of the Anomaly. Who better to represent the united front that the Romulans and Federation so yearned for?
Finally, Tovar decided he had to speak. The hours of silence had gone beyond what he could bear. It was time to begin a dialogue with Prosak.
“Commander,” he said. “Our orbit remains stable. All sensors are clear.”
Prosak was quiet for several moments. Finally, she said: “Good,” without looking up.
“Awaiting further orders,” Tovar continued.
“Thank you,” Prosak said, and continued staring at the planet on the screen.
Well, Tovar thought to himself. He’d tried.
Suddenly, his panel trilled, and he glanced down. “Commander. Priority one communication coming in on ultraspace.”
“Origin?” Prosak asked, raising an eyebrow.
Tovar computed the signal’s origin, then looked back at Prosak. “It’s from a colony governor in the Romulan system.”
“Put it on screen,” Prosak said, standing. Tovar guessed she felt more formal, more professional that way. He had to admire her poise.
A panicked-looking Romulan male, middle-aged in appearance, with a tall forehead and darting eyes appeared on the viewscreen. “Prosak! I’ve found you!”
“Vorak,” Prosak said, her eyes widening. “Why are you using a priority channel to contact me?”
“Because you must come home, Prosak. They’re coming, and we’ve got to be ready for them. We’re not prepared….we’re not ready. We won’t even know what hit us, Prosak! Promise you’ll come. Promise you’ll hear me out!”
“Hear what?” Prosak asked, stepping toward the viewscreen. “You are acting most illogical.”
“I’m not logical. I’m a Romulan. I am also your ex-sharal. That should still count for something.”
“Ex-sharal?” Tovar asked quietly.
Prosak glanced down at him. “Be quiet.” She looked back at the viewscreen. “Vorak. Please tell me what is going on.”
“I’ve said more than I can say over ultraspace. Come to my colony at once, and I promise I will explain everything.”
“I am on a mission. I have a Starfleet team with me. We cannot simply divert our course just so that I can indulge another of your conspiracy theories.”
“This isn’t a conspiracy theory, Prosak. It’s real. And the future of Romulus is at stake.”
Prosak arched an eyebrow. “Would you say your colony is in distress?”
“Well…yes. Our whole way of life is, Prosak!”
“So this is a distress call.” She glanced at Tovar. “You heard him, Lieutenant Commander. It’s a distress call. We are duty-bound to respond.”
“Commander, I believe the appropriate channels would be to contact the Romulan…”
“Recall the away team immediately and lay in a course for Reno.”
“The sixth planet in the Romulan system,” Prosak said, and sighed. “I truly wish Starfleet Academy would start teaching cadets that there’s more than just Romulus and Remus in that system.” She turned toward the helm station at the front of the bridge. “Now lay in your course and be ready to engage as soon as the away team is aboard.” She walked back to the command chair and sat down. An expectant Vorak remained on the screen. “We are on our way, Vorak. When we arrive, I expect a full explanation.”
“And you’ll get one, Prosak. I promise. Vorak out.”
“Commander,” Tovar said, after another few moments of silence. “Would you mind explaining what is happening?”
“Not at the moment. I would prefer to pass the time in quiet contemplation for now.”
“Fantastic,” Tovar said under his breath.
“Anybody get the number of that wormhole that sucked me in?” Lt. Marsden mumbled, stumbling into the Engineering compartment, where the constant thrum of the anti-sing drive was doing nothing to help her splitting headache. She cursed herself from quitting synthale months earlier. It always gave her a stomach ache, but at this point, that would be exceedingly preferable to what she was going through now.
“Chief Engineer, your loyal staff awaits your orders,” Engineer Selex, the engine crew’s Romulan addition, announced loudly. “You may begin delivering orders at any time. We stand ready to assist you.”
“First, speak about half that loud,” Marsden said, leaning against the master systems console as she looked around at her staff. “Second, stop talking like you’re making a mayoral proclamation. This is an engine room. We keep it casual around here. I’ve been trying, who knows how long, to stress that to you, Selex.”
“And I have been trying to my utmost to abide your lackadaisical attitude,” Selex responded crisply.
“I miss Polnuc,” Marsden muttered. “All he did was nearly destroy the ship.”
“Noted,” Selex said, looking around at the other members of the engineering crew. “Nevertheless, we await orders.”
“Right,” Marsden said, and brought up the Anomaly’s schedule on the main console at the center of engineering. “Looks like we’re passing Sitorian Four and Drangil today, and then looping around the Romulan colonies of Cephus and Morvala tomorrow. The PR trip continues, in a nonsensical route that circles Federation and Romulan space about ten times.”
“Starfleet and Romulan Command are obviously displaying the might and power of the anti-singularity drive,” Selex said. “It would be wrong to question them.”
“Far be it from me to question Command,” Marsden said, holding up her hands. “I just work here. As for us engineering people, it’s for us to make sure the ship runs smoothly through this marathon around the block. Devix, I want you and Ragone to check out the quantum generator. Make sure those capacitors haven’t fused. Grozier, I want you, Edwards, and Selex to focus on aligning the plasma infusers. We don’t want them to…infuse too much. Damn my head hurts.”.
“May I ask where you are going, Lieutenant?” Selex asked as Marsden stepped through the door to her office.
“To do office work. You have a problem with that?”
“Indeed not. But the other engineers have placed bets that you are going to sulk about being cruelly rebuffed by Lieutenant Commander Tovar.”
The doors had almost closed when Marsden stuck her head back out, causing them to open again. “Come again?”
“Yes. The ship’s message net is abuzz with the news that you made several advances on Tovar, and he… what is the human expression? There are so many! Oh, yes. Ripped your heart to shreds.”
Marsden felt her eyes burning with anger. “And WHO exactly started this buzz?” she growled, advancing on Selex and grabbing him by the front of his uniform.
“Someone on the crew,” Selex choked.
“And you wouldn’t know who such a person might be, do you?”
Selex shook his head quickly. “No, Lieutenant. I do not know. But…your engineering staff remains ever at the ready.”
“Good to know,” Marsden said, dropping Selex and heading back toward your office. “You Romulans are good at interrogation, aren’t you?”
“Superb,” Selex said.
“Good. Forget about the engines. They can wait. You’ve got more important work to do right now.”
“I remain ever in your loyal service,” Selex said, smiling thinly, and walked out of Engineering.
“Could you please tell me why you decided at the spur of the moment to ruin two weeks of research?” Dr. Natalia Kasyov demanded, standing square in front of Commander Prosak, who sat calmly in the command chair of the Navigator.
“I can understand your ire, Doctor, but I am afraid we had no choice. There is an emergency on Reno that must be dealt with.”
“Reno?” Kasyov asked, scratching her head.
“YES,” Prosak said. “The sixth planet in the Romulan system. I keep trying to tell you people, there’s more to that star system than just Romulus and Remus.”
“Oh,” Kasyov said. “Reno. Why didn’t you just say so?”
Prosak sighed. “Please report belowdecks, Doctor. I will call on you if you’re needed.”
“Commander, I’m your Chief Science Officer. If there’s an emergency, I deserve to at least know what’s going on.”
Prosak steepled her fingers. “That is yet to be determined.”
“Don’t go steepling your fingers at me. I have a right to know.”
“Tovar, remove the good doctor,” Prosak said remotely.
“Commander…” Tovar began, not wanting to get in the middle of this particular argument. He’d had enough of facing off with Prosak.
“I gave you an order,” Prosak said.
“Fine,” Kasyov said, turning on a heel and heading for the turbolift. “But you wait and see. You’ll need a science officer on this mission, and you’ll be damn glad you have me.”
“Indeed,” Prosak said, as Kasyov disappeared down the corridor.
“Selex tells me you ordered him to interrogate some crewmen. Can you explain to me exactly why you thought that was appropriate?” Commander Vioxx asked, looming over Marsden’s desk and glaring down at her. “You have no place giving that order, and he has no place carrying it out. Who do you think you are? The leader of the Tal Shiar? If there even was such a thing anymore. Which, of course, there isn’t. Because the Tal Shiar was abolished, much like your Section Thirty-One, right?”
“You Romulans talk too loud,” Marsden moaned, and leaned her chin on her hands.
“The fact remains, I am in charge of all staffing matters on this ship. If you are incapable of providing the appropriate orders to your staff, I shall find someone who is. Like Selex, perhaps.”
“You are NOT giving him my job,” Marsden fumed. Now it was her turn to glare, up at Vioxx.
“Do not give me reason to,” Vioxx said, and headed for the door. “At any rate, you can stop your inane search for answers. I believe it was Captain Bain who began the rumor about you and Tovar.”
“Bain!” Marsden railed.
“Yes,” Vioxx said. “And if you are really so desperate for a date, may I suggest my son Striax? He’s only fourteen, but he has a good head on his shoulders.”
“I’ll get back to you on that,” Marsden said, straining to grin as Vioxx left. She immediately rose from her desk. It was time to have a little conversation with Captain Bain.
“Orbit, Commander?” Zantak announced briefly, then went back to her habitual silence.
“Standard orbit. Hail the Gubernatorial Palace, Tovar.”
“Oh, so you’re talking to me again?” Tovar asked. “It’s been three hours.”
“I’ve had nothing to say.”
“Nothing to say, or just nothing to say to me?”
“Neither,” Prosak said. “Now, hail the Governor, please.”
“Of course,” Tovar shot back. He could be clipped too, if that’s what she was after. “Reply coming in.”
“On-screen.” Prosak stood.
A very relaxed-looking Vorak appeared on the viewscreen. “Commander Prosak! What a surprise!”
Prosak arched her eyebrow. “A surprise? You begged me to come to the planet as soon as possible. You said the Romulan Empire was in danger.”
“I’ve always been a master of oveerstatement. You know that, Prosak.”
“Still, you’ve diverted a Federation Starship for apparently no reason.”
“Well, there is a reason,” Vorak said coyly.
“And that is?”
“It always is nice to see you, Prosak. Might we have dinner tonight?” Just then, Vorak’s pointed nose twitched just a bit, and Prosak knew without a shadow of a doubt he was trying to signal her.
She cocked her head. “Of course, Governor. Expect me in one hour.”
“I will be ready,” Vorak said, and disappeared from the screen.
Prosak turned around in her chair. “Governor Vorak is in terrible danger. I want you to form a security team made up of two of the most able-bodied science officers we have and prepare to beam down to Reno at my signal.”
“You’re still planning to go to dinner with him?”
“Barging in on that planet will do us no good. This mission will take delicacy and tact. Whatever Vorak knows, he isn’t eager to share it with anyone. It is best if I go down alone, initially. Your preparations will simply be a fall-back position for a worst-case scenario.”
“Are you expecting a worst-case scenario?” Tovar asked as Prosak walked into the turbolift.
“Always, Commander. You have your orders.”
Tovar sighed. “Whatever you say, Commander.”
“Raspberry Scones?” Captain Bain asked, lifting the plate up toward Marsden as she stalked into the plushly decorated “Captain’s Lounge.”
“As delicious as that sounds….no,” Marsden said, standing before Bain and folding her arms. “I can’t take your pastry because I came here to yell at you.”
Bain blinked at her vacantly. “Why would you come to yell at me, Lieutenant?” he asked.
Marsden huffed at Bain and paced in front of him as he put the plate down on his endtable and closed his copy of Hank Dickens’ “The Bouncing British Hovercar.” Talent never necessarily ran in the family, but Bain enjoyed the book as a form of escapism.
“I confided in you during last night’s drunken escapade in the tavern. And you spread all my dirty business all over this ship. How could you, Captain?”
“We were in the tavern together last night?” Bain asked, raising his eyebrows. “Fascinating! Did we have a good time?”
Marsden stopped pacing and stared at Bain. “Weren’t you there with me?”
Bain shrugged. “I suppose I was. I woke up in the Deck Six lavatory this morning with a bugger of a headache. Haven’t had a night like that since my Academy days.”
“You went on drinking binges at Starfleet Academy?”
“Heavens no,” Bain said with a wistful laugh. “I was referring to Dorothy Perringale’s Academy for Young Roguish Boys. I stayed there four years, from age eleven to age fifteen.”
“You have a very…interesting past, Captain.”
“Remind me to tell you one day about the incident with the phaser welder and Mrs. Perringale’s knickers.”
“You’ve got it,” Marsden said.
“So….what were you asking again?” asked Bain.
“I can barely remember,” Marsden said, and turned for the door. She turned and looked back at Bain. “So you didn’t say anything to anyone…about…anything?”
“If I did, it escapes me,” Bain said with a jovial laugh. “But since I do believe I had difficulty forming words that night, the chances are rather poor that I would have said anything to anyone. What did we talk about?”
“Nevermind. You’ll find out sooner or later,” Marsden groaned, and walked out of the Lounge.
“Nice girl,” Bain said, and walked back to his book.
“You look pensive,” Jamie Torgerson whispered, wrapping her arms around Tovar as he stood in the center of the Navigator’s bridge, glowering down at the planet on the viewscreen.
“I’m concentrating on command,” he said distantly.
“The bridge is empty except for you and me,” Torgerson said with a small giggle. “You know, we could…”
Tovar shrugged her off. “That,” he said, “is strictly against Starfleet regulations.”
Torgerson huffed. “What am I supposed to do, then? Go down to the tiny little stellar cartography lab and help Kasyov review her geologic studies?”
“Your time would be better spent doing that than staying up here with me.”
“What’s wrong, Tovar?” Torgerson asked, taking a step back.
“This mission,” he said, turning to Torgerson and taking her hands. “It’s just got me confused. I don’t know why Prosak brought us here, or what she’s doing down there. I’m supposed to be chief of security, and yet I have no idea what’s going on here. It’s disconcerting. I’m…sorry.”
Torgerson smiled. “I’m surprised, Tovar. You’re actually talking about your feelings. That’s a new side of you.”
“I know. I’ll understand if you want to discontinue our relationship.”
“Are you kidding?” she asked with an impish grin. “I was starting to wonder if you’d ever open up. This is fantastic!”
“The fact that I’m so disconcerted is fantastic?”
“Yes,” Torgerson said, backing toward the door that led off the bridge. “In so many ways, yes. Now finish your bridge shift, and when you’re free again, I’ll show you some of my feelings…”
Tovar gave a small smile as Torgerson left. He had no idea what she was talking about, but he had to admit to being intrigued.
“The most glorious Commander Prosak, of the tiny, weakling Starfleet vessel Navigator,” the Centurion announced as Prosak stepped into the large, parting doors that lead into Vorak’s Master Dining Room.
“Thank you for the conflicting adjectives,” Prosak said politely to the Centurion, who bowed and exited the room as Vorak stood from the dining table and walked over to embrace Prosak in a tight hug.
“My dearest ex-sharal! It’s really you!” he exclaimed, and squeezed Prosak’s shoulders hard.
“It is indeed, Vorak,” Prosak said. “Now then, shall we eat?”
“Dinner will be served in a short while. I believe we should adjourn to the veranda briefly, to discuss matters of…” Vorak looked around. “Current affairs.”
Prosak nodded. “If you insist.”
Vorak led Prosak by the hand, out to the balcony that overlooked the magnificent Tafflax Falls on Reno.
Prosak could barely hear herself think over the booming noise of the water crashing down all around her. Below, a dizzying way down, water boomed over a cliff and into the sprawling Tafflax river.
“I take it you brought me out here to tell me something important?” Prosak asked.
“You are correct,” Vorak said, his eyes growing wide. “We’re all in great danger.”
“Why did you not communicate this through proper channels? The Starfleet Ambassador…”
“I don’t trust him. I don’t trust anyone in Starfleet. Or in our command. I needed to talk to someone I knew. Who I had unwavering faith in. That’s you, Prosak.”
Prosak warmed a bit at that. After her recent attraction to, and subsequent falling out with, Tovar, it was a nice change of pace to hear sincere words of appreciation from a male. She was still, however, annoyed at having been brought out here from her mission to Xirxis. “I am happy to have your trust, Vorak. Now what do you have to tell me?”
“More like something to ask you,” Vorak said. “Tell me…what was the color of the sky when we first met?”
Prosak blinked. “The color of…” She sighed. “The sky was black when we met, because I was floating in space during my zero-gravity exam when we bumped into each other and drastically altered each other’s trajectories.”
“A fantastic metaphor for our relationship, no?” Vorak asked whimsically, then smiled. “Glad to still have you with us, Prosak. I guess you’re wondering why I asked you that.”
“You guess correctly.”
“I had to make sure you were…untampered.”
“Yes. Since we last spoke, there have been attempts, by some forces unknown to me, to compromise my position here.”
“I don’t think so. I’m just being…watched. Studied. I can feel it, Prosak. I can feel their eyes on me!”
“Isn’t it obvious?”
“I’m afraid not.”
Vorak grabbed Prosak’s shoulders. “The Vulcans, Prosak. It’s the Vulcans! They’re invading Romulus. They’ll take every last one of us, mind-meld us, make us emotionless automotons!”
Prosak nodded as Vorak told him this, then raised an eyebrow. “Emotionless, really?” In a manner of speaking, it was everything she aspired to as a RommaVulc. Still, if Vorak’s ranting was correct, it presented a grave danger to her people. “What proof do you have to back this up with, Vorak?”
“Suspicious ship activity around several of our defense ports. Romulans I grew up with acting very strangely. Vacant, emotionless replies to my comms. Strategic outposts along our border drastically reducing their ultraspace signal output…”
“You have nothing further than that to base your theory of a Vulcan invasion on?”
“I have only that, and my instincts,” Vorak said. “That used to be good enough for you.”
“We were sharal long ago, Vorak. Before I learned the RommaVulc way. I’m bound by logic to disagree with your assessment. Until we see further proof, I cannot forsee a Vulcan invasion of Romulus. They stand to gain nothing but territory, and empire-building is illogical.”
“But look what the Vulcans have done so far! Used diplomacy to pry planets away from the Federation, withdrawn their population from Federation and Romulan worlds. Condemned our way of life! Isn’t it obvious that they won’t be happy until they control the quadrant!”
Prosak frowned at Vorak. “You are, as you have always been, an alarmist, Vorak. It is one of the reason I ended our sharal. One wonders how you’ve risen to the level of authority that you have.”
“I reached this level of authority by letting my instincts guide me!” Vorak said desparately, tugging on Prosak’s arm. “Just for once, trust those instincts, Prosak. I promise you, you’ll reach the same conclusion I have.”
“I’m afraid I cannot do that,” Prosak said, and turned to leave. “Now then, I have a mission to return to. Perhaps we can have dinner another time.”
“So that’s it?” Vorak asked, following her out into the dining room. “You’ll do nothing to stop this catastrophe?”
“There is nothing I can do, short of filing a report to Starfleet. And I am afraid there is nothing I can put in that report that would lead my superiors at Starfleet to believe Romulus is any more in danger of Vulcan invasion than the rest of the quadrant.”
“You’re turning your back on your planet, Prosak!” Vorak called after her. “And you’re turning your back on me!”
“Then that is how it must be,” Prosak said, and walked out the door.
Lt. Marsden sat in her office in Engineering, her feet propped up on her desk, staring at the anti-sing engine status reports that scrolled by on her holographic monitor. She felt numb. She felt stupid. She dare not go on the shipwide communication network. No doubt there were posts about her and her illicit attraction to Lt. Commander Tovar.
What would she do when Tovar and Torgerson returned from their trip aboard the Navigator?
It would get awkward, no doubt about that. She’d have to face up to Tovar, and Torgerson. She’d have to have the confrontation she so desperately wanted to avoid, the one that brewed and threatened to boil over at that high school career day on Earth.
Shelly Marsden would have to come face to face with her feelings, and that was something she rarely did.
Just then, the doorchime sounded.
“Come,” she said gruffly, and sat up.
Engineer Selex stood framed in the doorway, his hands clasped behind his back. “In case you are interested, I am here to inform you that I completed actual engine work this afternoon, much unlike some of the supervisory staff around here.”
“I am the supervisory staff around here,” Marsden mumbled.
“I see my point is well taken, then,” Selex replied cooly. He looked around Marsden’s office. “You have been in here for several hours. Am I to take it you plan to stay in here until the end of your shift?”
“Something like that.”
“You do not wish to face a crew that knows all your sordid secrets.”
Marsden thought about that, biting her lip. “Well, not all of them…”
“I suppose it would make you feel better to know who would be so callous as to spread malfeasant rumors about you.”
Marsden was on her feet and in Selex’s face in an instant. “What do you know, Selex?”
Selex didn’t flinch. “I suppose that depends on whether you would permit me to take command of Engineering for the rest of the day.”
She didn’t even have to think about it. “Done.” She inched closer. “Now what do you know?”
Selex told her.
Moments later, Marsden marched out of Engineering, shouting, “That little snit!” She parted engine crew like the red sea, pushing past her staff as she made her way to the turbolift.
Selex, meanwhile, walked out into the main compartment of engineering and looked around. “Ladies and gentlemen, prepare yourselves. You are about to learn how an engine room should be run.”
Prosak sipped daintily at her plomeek soup in the Navigator’s cramped comissary, as the ship darted back to finish its assignment at Xirxis Eight at Warp 13.
“May I sit down?” a voice asked, and Prosak looked up surprised to see Dr. Kasyov hovering over her.
“It is a common area. You are permitted to sit,” Prosak said, and went back to her soup.
“You’ve been awful quiet since we left Reno.”
“I was not aware that I was usually the boisterous type.”
“Still, it’s evident to pretty much everybody on the ship that you’ve got something on your mind. You were actually civil to Sub-Commander Remax. Until now, you’ve made a point of avoiding contact with the Romulan crew.”
“Their presence is an attempt to subvert my authority. I have nothing to say to them.”
“Right,” Kasyov said. “Which makes it all the more interesting you talked to him. You even told him to ‘have a nice day.’”
“I did not mean it, if that is any consolation.” Prosak blew softly on her steaming bowl of soup and looked up at Kasyov. “Is there a point to this line of questioning?”
“Only that you’re still in command, at least here on the Navigator, for now, and that means something. Your crew deserves to know what happened down on that planet.”
“It is none of your concern, or Starfleet’s. It is a personal matter.”
Kasyov cocked her head. “Why do I not believe you?”
“Is that a rhetorical question?”
“Yes,” Kasyov said flatly. “I don’t believe you.”
“Doctor, I refuse to…”
Just then, the comm system chirped.
“Tovar to Prosak. You have an communication incoming on ultra- space.”
“Please route the message down to the Commissary,” Prosak said, standing and straightening her uniform. She nodded at Kasyov. “Doctor, if you’ll excuse me.”
“Well, I did want some lunch…”
“I can come back later,” Kasyov said, and headed for the door. “Maybe you’ll be in more of a talking mood then.”
“Unlikely,” Prosak said, and turned to the monitor inset into the wall of the commissary. She punched a control, accessing the message Tovar had routed to her.
A familiar face appeared on the screen, her pudgy friend from grad school, Councillor Fexora.
“PRO!” Fexora exalted, clapping her pudgy hands. “I actually got through to you.”
“Fexora,” Prosak said, smiling. “It is agreeable to see you. I trust the the Imperial Courts under your jurisdiction are functioning properly?”
“I suppoes they are,” Fexora said. “But I wouldn’t know. I’ve taken a leave of absence.” She squinted at Prosak. “You’ve done the same, haven’t you?”
“Why would I take a leave of absence?”
“To join the RommaVulc conference on Reno, of course,” Fexora said with a giggle. “You really must be out of sorts, Pro.”
“I know of no conference,” Prosak said, staring at Fexora. “What are you talking about?”
Fexora’s eyes suddenly went wide. “You don’t know? You…oh by the hills of ranarr! You’re not supposed to know!”
“Not…supposed to know what?”
Fexora said nothing more, simply slammed her hand down on a control near her, and the communication was cut.
“Prosak to Tovar,” Prosak said quickly. “Open a channel to Reno. Priority One.”
Prosak paced the commissary for several minutes as Tovar worked, working her fingers in and out of fists.
“Patch me through directly to Vorak.”
“Commander,” Tovar continued. “We cannot reach Reno. It is under communications blackout, by the order of the Colony Governor.”
“Turn us around, Tovar,” Prosak said, walking out of the commissary and out into the corridor beyond. “Lay in a course back to Reno. Maximum warp.”
“But we were just there…”
The doors to the cabin opened up and Marsden stood there in the doorway, her chest rising and falling as she breathed heavily. Had she been a cartoon character, she’d be breathing fire.
“Lieutenant, what can I do…”
She leaned down, practically had to get on her knees to reach that far down, and grabbed the surprised Ensign Yonk by the shoulders and lifted the .7 meter tall dwarf Ferengi into the air. “You repugnant little troll!” she cried, pushing him up against a wall. “How dare you blurt my business out to the rest of the crew!”
Yonk’s little legs swung back and forth as Marsden pushed him back against the wall, closing on his throat. “Lieutenant, I’m sure I don’t know what you’re talking about…” he stammered.
“Sure you do. I just checked the manifest. You called in sick to the bridge today. You’re hung over. You went on a drunken rampage last night and topped it off by barging into the holo-caf at the beginning of breakfast hour and shouting to anyone who would hear it that I was in love with Lieutenant Commander Tovar.”
Yonk’s face fell. “Who told you that?”
“Selex, who found it out from Centurion Nortal, who heard it from Ensign Lennum, who was there.”
“Lennum’s a Vorta. They’re hardly a truthful species. I mean they were genetically engineer–”
Marsden responded by tossing Yonk across the room like a basketball. He landed harmlessly on a pile of pillows. Ferengi did not believe in furniture; it was bad for the back, and often caused one to sit in awkward positions; thus, Yonk’s quarters were furnished soley with little piles of pillows.
Presently, Yonk climbed under some of this pillows, in an attempt to elude Marsden.
“Get back here, you little…” Marsden cried, scrambling across the room, diving into the piles of pillows.
“I’m innocent!” Yonk blurted, his tiny head popping out from behind a stack of pillows on the other side of the cabin. “I swear, I don’t remember saying anything about your love for Tovar! And if I did, it was while I was drunk, so it doesn’t count as…achhh achhh achh!” Yonk didn’t get to finish his sentence, because Marsden was already on top of him again, grabbing him by the throat.
The little Ferengi slid out from under Marsden, dove between her legs, and dashed into the darkened bedroom.
Fueled by anger and incredulity, Marsden stormed the bedroom, and immediately tripped on a statue of Rom, the Crown Prince of the Ferengi Ideological Revolution.
“OW!” she called out in the dark, falling back against the wall and grabbing her throbbing toe. “Why’d you put that in the middle of the floor?”
“It’s my room!” Yonk’s high-pitched voice called out in the dark. “Truce?”
“That offer’s not even on the table,” Marsden growled. “I’m going to make you pay for this embarrassment, Yonk. With your tiny little lobes!”
“Take that back!” the voice called out, now behind Marsden.
“Where’d you go?” the engineer called out, then turned around, to see Yonk run back into his quarters, right for the door. “Computer, lock door 707B, authorization Marsden Gamma Four Two One.”
Yonk slammed into the door, and fell to the ground in a heap.
Moments later, Marsden was looming over him. “You’re going to delete all the comments about me and Tovar from the shipwide communication net. And you’re going to post a message apologizing for being drunk and disorderly aboard ship. Just because Tovar isn’t around right now doesn’t mean the crew can run around like crazy persons. It’s just not civilized.”
“I’m sorry,” Yonk moaned, hugging Marsden’s ankles. “I really am. I didn’t mean to spread your dirty little secret across the ship’s message net, and urinate all over the doors to your quarters…”
Marsden looked down at Yonk and smiled. “Apology accepted. WHAT?”
“This is all going to go in my report,” Tovar said calmly from his seat at the front of the Navigator’s bridge as Prosak paced behind him.
“I am totally unconcerned,” Prosak tossed over her shoulder as she paced.
“You should be concerned. With Commander Vioxx taking over as First Officer and you being relegated to Second Officer, you should be very concerned. Your position within the Anomaly’s leadership structure is precarious.”
Prosak looked over her shoulder at Tovar. “I’m still ahead of you in the command chain. I may have been moved down to third in command, but now that makes you fourth.”
“I am totally unconcerned,” Tovar echoed, and for a moment, Prosak smiled.
“It may be impertinent for me to say so, Commander,” she said, finally stopping her pacing. “But, when I first came aboard the Anomaly, I didn’t think you had a personality.”
“Likewise,” Tovar said simply.
“But you have confounded my expectations.”
“I choose to take that as a compliment,” Tovar said with a small grin.
“It was intended as such.”
Tovar turned around and looked back at Prosak. “Is that it? Are we finished with the silent treatment?”
“It is illogical to hold grudges. You have chosen a relationship with Lieutenant Torgerson, and I respect that. I will no longer stand in the way.” She looked at Tovar a moment, her gaze softening. “I would like, in time, to be able to call you a friend.”
“We have arrived.”
“Like I said, all in good time, Tovar.”
“No, I mean we’ve arrived at the planet Reno.” Tovar pointed at the viewscreen.
“Oh,” Prosak said sheepishly, turning to face the screen. “Try to contact Vorak again. If you don’t get through in five minutes, I’m beaming down there.”
“Understood,” Tovar said, and worked at his panel a moment. He looked up at the screen, suddenly alarmed. “Commander! Two Warhawks, decloaking port and starboard!”
“Shields up,” Prosak said calmly, sitting down in the command chair.
“We are at a truce, are we not?” Tovar asked, looking back from the seat at helm/tac.
“I said, all in good time…how many times do I…?”
“I meant the Federation and Romulus!” Tovar snapped.
“Oh. Yes, yes, we’re at a truce. I do not know why they would approach us cloaked. That usually connotes attack posture…”
Tovar looked at his panel. “We’re being hailed.”
On the viewscreen, the calm, collected face of Vorak appeared.
“Commander Prosak,” he said cooly. “I was under the assumption that your business on Reno was finished.”
“Vorak?” Prosak asked, leaning forward in her chair. She barely recognized him without the constant look of panic on his face.
“Indeed,” Vorak said simply. “What do you want?”
Something didn’t compute to Prosak. “I…understand the RommaVulcs are holding a conference on your planet?”
Vorak looked off-screen a moment, then back at Prosak. “Your information is incorrect. There is no such conference.”
“But Fexora told me…”
“Her information should be considered unreliable.” Vorak straightened, pulling himself up to his full height, which was surprisingly imposing to Prosak. “Now then, if you have no other business here, I suggest you return to your Starfleet mission, outside the Romulan border.”
“But, Vorak, I have questions…”
“Commander,” Tovar said. “They are arming disruptors.”
“By arriving in our territory unannounced, without escort, you have violated Romulan/Federation treaty. I am giving you ten minutes to leave the Romulan Empire. After that time expires, I am permitted by treaty stipulations to fire on you.”
“Fire…” Prosak’s mouth opened and closed in disbelief. “Vorak, those treaty stipulations haven’t been observed for decades. The border between the Federation and the Romulan Empire is virtually open.”
“Still, we ask you observe diplomatic courtesy and leave at once.”
“Courtesy,” Prosak said. “You’re not making any sense.”
“On the contrary, Commander. I am being utterly logical. Now, depart, at once, and do not return to Romulan space without good reason. Vorak out.”
Prosak stood there on the bridge, feeling like a puppet with strings cut.
“Orders, Commander?” Tovar asked.
Prosak fairly deflated in her chair. “Do as he says. Turn around and return to Xirxis Eight. Maximum warp.”
“Are you certain this time?”
Stardate 177736.5. The Navigator has returned to the Anomaly after what was apparently a successful mission on Xirxis Eight. I would inquire more about the mission, but Commander Prosak has for some reason barricaded herself in her quarters for the moment, and if there’s one thing I respect, it’s a good sulk.
Captain Bain was sitting in the command chair on the bridge when the doors to his former readyroom, which had some time ago become Prosak’s quarters, opened, and Prosak, in her IDIC pajamas, ducked her head out.
“Captain, can you come in here a moment, please?”
Bain pivoted to face Prosak. “Can’t sleep, Prosak?”
“Indeed. I have matters of some importance to discuss with you.”
Bain leaned out of his chair. “By all means,” he said jovially. “Let’s have a chat. Mister Tovar, you have the bridge.”
From tac-ops, Tovar gave Prosak a sidelong glance. She did not return his glance as she led Bain into her dim quarters.
Bain squinted. “You’ve been sitting in the dark all this time?”
“I have been contemplating recent events,” Prosak said.
“So you have been sitting in the dark.”
Bain nodded. “Sitting in the dark.”
Prosak sighed. “Yes, Captain. Because I have been unable to sleep.”
“Out with it, Prosak,” Bain said, clapping the Romulan on the shoulders. “Let’s hear what the problem is. I’m sure I can help in some way. That’s what I’m here for.”
“I believe the Vulcans are trying to invade Romulus. And they’re going to use the RommaVulcs to do it. And, somehow, my ex-sharal is involved. I think they’ve…gotten control of him somehow.”
“Oh,” Bain said, and stood there quietly a moment. “I see.”
Prosak stared at him balefully, waiting for some kind of reaction, some kind of meaningful response.
Bain rubbed his chin. “What’s a sharal?”
Tovar looked down at the chronometer on his panel. Bain and Prosak had been in the commander’s quarters for nearly an hour. What could they be talking about that was so interesting, other than the Vulcan invasion of Romulus. Certainly it wouldn’t take that long to talk about such a thing. Bain was a man of action. He should be storming out of there any minute, certain of what course of action to take. He would head this blighter off at the pass. That was Bain’s job.
But another half hour passed, and Tovar realized that wasn’t going to happen.
About that time, he realized his shift had ended, and Centurion Nortal arrived on the bridge to relieve him.
“By Jenichai, you stand relieved!” Nortal bellowed, and Tovar just groaned.
“Take the bridge. The captain is with Commander Prosak in her quarters.”
“I will take the bridge with all due discretion and valor, Commander. You shall not have reason to fear.”
“I don’t,” Tovar said, heading toward the aft turbolift. He amended that. “At least not much.”
On the lift ride back to his quarters, Tovar thought about the strange mission aboard the Navigator: his truce with Prosak, his strange conversation with Torgerson, the fact that Kasyov had single-handedly devoured all the fresh kumquats that were in ship’s stores.
He was left with one, unmistakable impression, after the whole thing.
Lt. Shelly Marsden was standing in front of the door to his quarters.
“Shell–” Tovar began. “Lieutenant Marsden?”
“Tovar, am I glad to see you,” Marsden said. “I haven’t gotten a chance to talk to you since the Navigator returned. Have you checked your messages yet?”
“I hadn’t the chance. I went on duty as soon as we returned. Why?”
“Because, there’s something I need to explain…” Marsden said, biting her lip.
Just then, the doors to Tovar’s quarters opened up.
“Tovar,” Lt. Torgerson said, looking from the Yynsian to Marsden. “I let myself in your quarters, so I could surprise you. But, wouldn’t you know, I’m the one who got surprised.”
Tovar blinked. “What do you mean?”
Torgerson shouldered past Tovar, glaring back at Marsden. “Check your messages.”
Marsden clenched her fists, her jaw working angrily. “YONK!”
It’s crisis time for the Romulan Empire as the Vulcans make a long-awaited move. But the Anomaly may not be in a position to help, because there are bigger issues at hand. How much bigger? How about an insane goddess trying to destroy the Flarn Empire, deep in the Delta Quadrant? It’s funny who you run into out in space, and Reginald Bain is about to find that out in “God Complex.”