Author: Alan Decker, Anthony Butler
STAR TRAKS: BOLDLY GONE…
“Once More, with Feelings”
By Alan Decker & Anthony Butler
Stardate 177739.7. Fresh from a trip to the Delta Quadrant, we are now entering the Romulan Neutral Zone after receiving chilling news that the Vulcans have moved into the zone in an apparent show of force. Because the Anomaly is a joint Federation and Romulan effort, and because there are so many Romulans serving aboard, the Anomaly has naturally been selected to head up the effort to stave off war. The brass at Starfleet feels there may yet be a diplomatic solution to this increasing threat of conflict. Nevertheless, we’re bloody well ready to get involved in some conflict if the need arises.
“Now entering the Romulan Neutral Zone,” Sub-Lieutenant Zantak announced, looking up from the helm console as space sprawled out before the Anomaly bridge crew on the viewscreen.
“Take us to the rendezvous coordinates,” Bain ordered. “Full speed on the polarons.”
“Aye, Captain,” Zantak said as someone tapped her on the shoulder. She turned. “What do you want?” she asked blankly. She had to look down, for the person who had tapped her on the shoulder was none other than the diminutive Ensign Yonk.
“I want your chair,” Yonk said simply. “My shift just began.”
“We are at yellow alert,” Zantak said. “Surely…”
“Regulations are clear!” Yonk said between gritted teeth. “This is my seat!”
“What’s the matter up there?” Bain asked.
“It’s shift change, Captain. Zantak is in my seat.”
“The Ferengi, unfortunately, has a point,” Vioxx said. He and Prosak were seated in their new command chairs on either side of Captain Bain.
“We are in the middle of a mission,” Zantak insisted.
Yonk shrugged. “Even so…”
“Fine!” Zantak hissed, and slid out of her chair. “I have an appointment in the ship’s salon anyway. Excuse me…” And she walked off the bridge.
“Was it something I said?” Yonk chuckled as he hopped into the helm chair with the assistance of the tiny step he’d had installed.
“Time to rendezvous?” Prosak asked, from Bain’s right.
“Two minutes,” Yonk said.
“Tactical scan, Mister Tovar” Bain said, waving back at his Tac- Ops chief.
“Scanning,” Tovar said, studying his board. “Picking up a number of Vulcan ships just over the border of the Neutral Zone. Not matching our previous specs on Vulcan ships. These are…bulkier.”
“Explain,” said Vioxx.
“More weapons. More firepower.”
“Sehlats,” Bain mumbled, shifting in his chair.
“That’s no reason to curse, sir,” Tovar said.
“No, my boy, I wasn’t cursing, damn it,” Bain said, gritting his teeth. “I was referring to Sehlat-class vessels. Something Starfleet Intelligence sent around in a memo a few weeks ago. Apparently, the Vulcans have been building warships, or adapting their old ships with more weapons. Preparing them for who knows what. Well, now we know what.”
“No doubt a contribution from the Klingons,” Prosak muttered wryly, thinking back to the KlingaVulcs, and their preposterous notion of a Vulcan warship, the Karva’chang. Although that notion seemed a lot less preposterous now.
“Do you think the Vulcans would actually be so bold as to invade Romulus?” Bain asked Prosak.
“Isn’t it obvious?” Vioxx asked with an arched eyebrow.
Prosak glared at Vioxx. “He wasn’t talking to you.”
“Carpathia coming into communications range,” Tovar announced.
“Hail them,” Bain said, leaning forward in his chair.
Moments later, the sprawling buttresses and four-pronged warp engines of the Damocles-class U.S.S. Carpathia swung into view. Then came the scaly orange face and bright blonde hair bun of Captain Pratello Maddox, Bain’s Bewhal friend from his days on the Malaventure.
Maddox’s blue eyes sparkled. “Reg! What a relief to see you. Everything’s gone to pot in the Neutral Zone since you flitted off to the Delta Quadrant.”
“No doubt because you somehow screwed it up,” Bain said with a chuckle. “Seriously, Prat. What’s the caper?”
Maddox leaned forward. “I’ve counted at least two dozen Sehlat- class cruisers.”
Bain leaned back, steepling his fingers. “Then the memo is a reality.”
“It’s more than a reality. It’s happening right now, Bain. The Vulcan buildup has come to fruition. It’s only a matter of time until they invade Romulus.”
“Well, we’ve got to stop them,” Bain resolved, pounding the arm of his chair.
“Us and what army?”
“I understand Admiral Larkin has diverted several more ships to this sector,” Bain said.
“Yes, but they may be as much as a day away. The bulk of our fleet is on the other side of the Federation on maneuvers.”
“No doubt that timing played a part in the Vulcans plans,” Prosak whispered to Bain, who nodded.
“Fear not, Prat. Bain is on the case now,” Bain said. “We’ll get down to the bottom of this Vulcan nonsense. Mister Yonk, lay in a course for the other side of the Neutral Zone. Best speed.”
“Is that advisable?” Maddox asked from the viewscreen. “We don’t know quite yet what we’re dealing with, Bain.”
“I’m damn well going to find out,” Bain said. “Stand by. We’ll report back in a few hours.”
“Standing by,” Maddox said. “Watch your step, Reg.”
“Always do,” Bain said, and punched a panel, closing the communication. “Mister Tovar, stay alert. All weapons on standby just in case the Vulcans decide to shoot first and ask questions later.”
“That would be illogical,” Prosak pointed out.
“Nothing they’ve done to this point has been logical,” Vioxx said.
“Touche,” Prosak said with a nod.
“Approaching the Romulan border,” Yonk said. “Vulcan ships are all around, just in case you were wondering.”
“Stay crisp, Mister Yonk,” Bain urged. “We may have to dash off if things get dicey.”
“Seven Vulcan ships have broken off formation and are approaching our location,” Tovar announced.
“Like I said,” Bain said. “Dicey. Open a channel.”
The view of space on the screen was replaced with the withered features of a familiar Vulcan.
“This is Captain T’Fal, of the Vulcan warship Coercion. How may I direct you out of our space?”
“Your space. This is the Neutral Zone between the Federation and the Romulans!” Bain retorted.
“It is our space now. See how our vessels are occupying it? That, therefore, makes it our space. I believe, if you consult interplanetary law, you will see I am correct in this matter.”
“Just a bleeding minute!” Bain said, standing up. “You can’t just go commandeering people’s neutral zones. Its not…not proper!”
“And still, we have done so. Are you authorized to provide a Federation response to this development?”
“Response…” Bain trailed off. “What kind of response do you expect us to offer? ‘Help yourself! Here are a few of our planets while you’re at it! And watch out for the radiation spikes on Galorndon Core, they can be nasty this time of year!’”
“That would be a pleasant surprise,” T’Fal said. “But based on our experience with humans, we expect this will not be the case.”
“You’re damned right it’s not the case,” Bain said. “I’m not authorized to give any kind of response, but you can bloody well bet that the Federation will want you and your fancy warships, under no uncertain terms, to vacate the Neutral Zone immediately.”
“In that case, I suggest you have your ambassador contact ours,” T’Fal said. “In the meantime, you will vacate our space, or we will be forced to destroy your ship.”
“Now wait just a damn–”
“All seven ships are arming weapons,” Tovar said.
“Raise our shields. Sheathing to maximum. All weapons ready,” Vioxx said.
“Belay that,” Bain snapped, and sat back down. “Close the channel. Get us out of here. Return to a position adjacent to the Carpathia. It seems we will have to wait for a diplomatic solution to this problem.”
“Captain–” Vioxx said. “Surely you will not simply…”
“If we’re going to butt heads, we’re going to do it in a matched fight. I’m not about to stand by and let my ship be pulverized by some Machiavellian Vulcans. Not today. Not ever. You have your orders. I’ll be in my lounge.”
“I’ll be in my office,” Vioxx snapped, and rose out of his chair, stepping over to the readyroom. “You have the bridge, Prosak.”
Prosak slunk down in her chair. “How demeaning. He gave me the bridge.”
“I would think that would be a good thing,” Tovar observed.
“Oh,” Prosak said. “It’s just the way he did it. And now he’s going to go in my old quarters to do first officer business, knowing full well I should be a party to any decisions he makes.”
“Maybe you should remind him of your presence, then,” Tovar suggested.
Prosak rubbed her chin. “But how would I do that?”
Tovar waited a few moments. “Go in there.”
Prosak looked back at Tovar. “As always, you are a brilliant officer, Mister Tovar.” She got up and headed over to the turbolift.
“Aren’t you going to the ready room?” Tovar asked.
“In time,” Prosak said. “First, I have to get a few things.”
“Useless!” Vioxx spat at the empty ready room, sliding back from his desk. Despite numerous attempts, he could find no way to get a channel into Romulus. Even the classified channels were blocked.
Suddenly, the doors to his office opened, and Prosak stepped in.
“Greetings,” she said, carrying a large crate into the room and setting it on Vioxx’s desk. “Excuse me while I unpack.”
“Office supplies,” Prosak said.
“Is this a…a joke?” Vioxx asked.
“Not at all,” Prosak said. “Tovar, could you bring in my chair?”
“Not another chair,” Vioxx said, covering his face.
“In this case, the chair is going to be across from you,” Prosak said. “Consider me your office mate.”
“I am not going to consider you any kind of mate,” Vioxx said. “The idea of sharing an office with you is absurd.”
“And completely appropriate, according to Starfleet regulations. The First Officer and Executive Officer may share offices if facilities do not provide ample room for each to have offices of their own.”
Vioxx sighed as Tovar slid a rolling chair behind Prosak and she sat down, arranging several padds and assorted knick-knacks on her desk, including small figurines…the “Romulan Praetors Past” Hummel collection.
“Thanks Tovar, that will be all,” Prosak said. “You can have the bridge now.”
“We are in the middle of a political crisis that affects our homeworld,” Vioxx said, a vein bulging in his forehead. “And you decide this is the perfect time to move into my office?”
“Correction,” Prosak said. “Our office. At any rate, it is all the more reason I should be near the bridge. If the captain calls on my expertise, I must be available to him. Plus, we will now be able to collaborate on matters of shipwide policy with greater ease. I think you’ll find this arrangement beneficial to both of us.”
“I find it a disaster,” Vioxx said, leaning his head in his hands.
Supplemental. According to Admiral Larkin, more Federation ships are on their way to the Neutral Zone. One of them carries with it Ambassador Hank, the Federation Foreign Affairs Minister. Why they picked a Tellarite for that job is anybody’s guess.
Regardless, the Anomaly has been charged, along with the Carpathia, with standing guard outside the Neutral Zone until the reinforcements arrive…just in case the Vulcans make a move in our direction. This whole thing frustrates me to no end. Times that try men’s souls, and all that rot.
“Nervous, Tovar?” Lt. Jamie Torgerson asked, sitting across the dinner table with Tovar as he stared uneasily at the raw fish on his plate.
“Are you sure this is edible?”
“It was a delicacy on Earth. You liked the fried flounder I made you last week.”
“Yes. Because it was fried. Raw aquamarine creatures carry disease…filth…” Toflay, his chef personality, raged inside Tovar as he thought of the idea of serving raw fish. “Not to mention the fact that this particular ‘delicacy’ resembles some beings I gave birth to a couple years back.”
“I assure you these are clean aquamarine creatures,” Torgerson said, sliding a tray of crab rolls in front of Tovar. “And you didn’t give birth to any of them.” She tried not to chuckle. She laughed every time Tovar told her the story of giving birth to those little squiddy creatures. “C’mon,” she said with a smile. “Eat one.”
“Very well,” Tovar said, taking a crab roll and gently nibbling off the edge. “Seaweedy,” he said. “But not bad.”
“So you never answered my question. Are you nervous?”
“Nervous?” Tovar asked. His eyes went wide. “Why would I be nervous?”
“About the Vulcan buildup in the Neutral Zone.”
“Oh. That. No. I don’t think they’ll make a move to invade Romulus. Not yet. They don’t have enough ships.”
“Why do you think the Romulans haven’t sent ships into the Neutral Zone to get them out?”
“Probably the same reason we haven’t,” Tovar said. “Because they’re waiting to see what the Vulcans’ next move is.”
“I thought we were going to try to shoo them off, but Captain Bain ordered us away. Sub-Commander Remax said he was being cowardly.”
“Remax is a fool,” Tovar spat, shoving his plate away. “He knows nothing about the current situation. Captain Bain made the prudent move.”
“Relax, Tovar,” Torgerson said, reaching a hand across the table and touching Tovar’s hand. He stared down at her hand as if it were a foreign object. “I’m not judging Bain. I’m just telling you what Remax said.”
“Of course. I understand,” Tovar said distantly.
“So,” Torgerson said, pulling her hand back. “Any more encounters with Lieutenant Marsden?” she smirked.
“What is that supposed to mean?”
“Just a joke. Trying to lighten the mood. You know, the one you brought in here with you. Maybe I shouldn’t have brought her up…”
“I am sorry. I have been preoccupied.”
“There are many things we must talk about, Jamie,” Tovar said, making eye contact with Torgerson for the first time that evening. “Perhaps we should talk about them now.”
“Better now than later,” Torgerson said uneasily.
“All senior staff, report to the bridge immediately,” Captain Bain’s voice suddenly boomed over the comm system.
“Hold that thought,” Tovar said and headed for the door.
“I’m not going anywhere.” Torgerson sighed and plunked a crab roll into her mouth.
Tovar walked out onto the bridge just in time to see the viewscreen filled with the familiar face of Romulan Ambassador Rorshak.
“Ambassador,” Captain Bain said, nodding at the viewscreen as Tovar took his station. “I’m glad to see you’re in one piece and in good health. I’m right in that assumption, aren’t I?”
Rorshak nodded, looking uncomfortable. “For the moment, Captain.” He diverted his eyes to Prosak, who was seated beside Bain and Vioxx. Then he looked back at Bain. “I do not know how long this signal will hold. I am calling on behalf of myself and several select members of the Romulan Senate. We were on a fact finding mission to Reno when the Vulcans invaded the Neutral Zone. Intelligence tells us it will only be a matter of time before Romulus is invaded. We have lost contact with the homeworld, and frankly, none of us are sure of our safety if we return there.”
Bain steepled his fingers. “Looking for a safe harbor, then?”
Rorshak nodded urgently. “It would seem a prudent move until the current political crisis is resolved. If there are Vulcans on Romulus already, and if the Senate is compromised…”
“Then the blokes on your ship may be the last stronghold of Romulan leadership,” Bain said, finishing Rorshak’s thought.
“Where are you now?” Vioxx asked. Bain noticed that Prosak was strangely quiet, looking thoughtfully away from the viewscreen.
“Just inside Romulan space. Near our side of the Neutral Zone. We haven’t been detected by the Vulcans yet, but if we make a move, we certainly would be. Our vessel is small and not well armed. We…we need your help getting out of Romulan space, Captain.”
“All right,” Bain said, clapping his hands on the arms of his command chair. “Wire us your coordinates and sit tight. We’ll assemble a rescue team and get you out, Rorshak. Observe ultraspace silence and cut all your energy emissions until you hear from us again.”
“Thank you, Captain,” Rorshak said. He again looked at Prosak. “Rorshak out.”
“Prosak, Vioxx,” Bain said. “Assemble an all-Romulan infiltration team. We mustn’t give the impression that the Federation is involved in this maneuver.”
“May I ask how you plan on us getting in there?” Vioxx asked.
“Good question,” Bain said, looking back at Tovar.
“We can strip a raceabout of all Federation markings and transponder codes which will, make it appear as if it’s a general courier,” Tovar said. “It shouldn’t take more than an hour.”
“You have two minutes,” Bain said, then thought better of it. “Okay, fifteen.”
Tovar darted toward the turbolift. “Tovar to Marsden. I require your assistance in the shuttle hangar.”
“So NOW you want a date,” Marsden’s voice muttered over the comm as the doors closed. “Fine, whatever.”
“Brave boy,” Bain said. He looked at Prosak and Vioxx. “Your team needs to be ready to leave in a half hour. Off with you!”
Prosak stared at Vioxx and reluctantly followed him into the other turbolift.
“What a crew,” Bain said with a grin. “That’s what I like to see. A well-oiled machine.”
“Forgive me if my information is wrong,” Vioxx said, standing in the Anomaly’s observation lounge as he and Prosak waited for the other Romulans on the crew to assemble. “But wasn’t that man your father?”
“Rorshak is indeed my father, Vioxx,” Prosak said, seated in her chair at the head of the table. She was turned to face the windows, fingers steepled and pressed to her chin.
“You didn’t seem to acknowledge it.”
“It’s not pertinent to the mission.”
“Not pertinent? The man’s your father.” Vioxx walked over to Prosak, straightening his grey-checkered Romulan uniform top and sitting on the edge of the conference table. “We may not see eye to eye on a great many things, Commander, but we both understand the value of family.”
“Be that as it may…there is no point to this discussion.”
“Contrary to popular belief, Prosak, you’re not a Vulcan,” Vioxx said rigidly, pounding the conference table for emphasis. “Start acting like it.”
“No. I’m not a Vulcan. I’m a RommaVulc,” Prosak said, glaring up at Vioxx. “And that may not mean anything to you, but it means everything to me. Let’s get on with this mission.”
Moments later, Sub-Commander Remax, Sub-Lieutenant Zantak, Engineer Selex and Centurion Nortal filed into the observation lounge.
“By Jenichai, we stand ready to crush the Vulcan invaders, Commander,” Nortal announced as the group circled around the table and sat down.
Vioxx turned to address his crew. “We’re not crushing anyone. Not yet. This is merely a search and rescue mission.”
“Search and rescue?” Selex asked. “Pardon me, Commander, but we will need a large ship indeed if we are to rescue the whole of Romulus.”
“Not to mention the colony worlds,” Remax observed.
“We’re not rescuing Romulus on this mission,” Vioxx said sternly, looking at the faces of his assembled officers. “We’re going in to get a select group of Romulan…refugees, for lack of better words. Valuable government officials that must be safeguarded before the Vulcans can get their hands on them. This isn’t a Federation mission. It’s a Romulan one. And as such, the crew for this mission will be all Romulan.”
“Then why is she here?” Remax said, inclining his head toward Prosak.
“I am Romulan,” Prosak said impassively, standing. “Now, then. This briefing is at an end. You are all to report to the hangar immediately.”
They all turned to look at Vioxx.
“I end the briefings around here, Prosak,” Vioxx said easily, leaning forward on the table. “Now do what Prosak said and get to the hangar. We all have work to do.”
The group filed out one by one, leaving Prosak and Vioxx once
“They do not respect me,” Prosak said. “If we go into battle, they will not follow my orders.”
“Then it sounds like you have a problem, Prosak,” Vioxx said and walked out.
Prosak sat alone in the observation lounge after Vioxx left, staring blankly into space.
“Just one?” she said quietly.
“I’m proud of you Tovar,” Lieutenant Marsden said, as she waved Ensign Devix over to the port bulkhead of the Raceabout Silverwood. “It takes a lot of guts to procrastinate about talking about something this important with Jamie.”
“You obviously do not appreciate the sensitivity of this situation,” Tovar said, leaning in next to Marsden. “It must be handled with extreme delicacy.”
“Why? Because she’s a woman? Don’t let that stop you, Tovar. Hurt her feelings,” Marsden said, and walked around to the other side of the Silverwood as Devix finished blasting away the Federation markings with a handheld omniplaser. “After all, that never stopped you from hurting me.”
“Lieutenant…Shelly…” Tovar said, following Marsden around the nose of the massive, spheroid vessel. “I never meant to hurt you.”
“Funny thing about that,” Marsden said. “Cause you did. Havensfield, get me a tutonic amplifier. We need to modulate the transponder signal to a wavelength of delta four zero two.”
Tovar put his hand on Marsden’s shoulder. “Shelly. I don’t know what to say. I want to make it up to you.”
Marsden didn’t look back at Tovar. “Then leave me alone for a while. That’s the best thing you can do right now.”
Tovar watched her as she walked off. He was about to say something else when the doors to the hangar opened and Vioxx, Prosak, Remax, Selex, Zantak, and Nortal came strolling in.
Vioxx observed Marsden and her engineers. “Is the work on the vessel complete?”
“It will be momentarily,” Tovar said, glancing sidelong at Marsden. “Do you require a refresher course in Starfleet raceabout operations?”
“Unnecessary,” Vioxx said, motioning his people into the vessel’s side hatch. “Romulans are well aware of the strengths and weaknesses of this design. Plus we have Commander Prosak at our disposal should we encounter any difficulties. We will be fine.”
Tovar watched them file in, Prosak at the end. “Commander!” he said, waving Prosak over.
The executive officer stepped down from the hatch and walked over to Prosak. “What is it, Commander. I have work…”
“I just wanted to say…” Tovar began. “I hope you’re successful in finding your father. I know a thing or two about losing a parent.”
“You’re lucky,” Prosak said simply, and walked into the runabout.
“I never thought I’d hear myself say this,” Tovar said, “But I really need a pick-me-up.”
“Mister Tovar! Mister Tovar!” Doctor Fred Nooney, the Anomaly’s Chief Medical Officer, exclaimed, traipsing into the hangar. “Good news! It is once again time for your annual physical! Guess who gets a lollipop if he’s good!”
Tovar stared up at the hangar ceiling. “That’s not what I meant!”
“Now come on and get your clothes off before I have to take them off you myself!” Nooney giggled, grabbing Tovar by the wrist and dragging him toward the door.
“Have fun!” Marsden called after him as he was dragged out.
“All eyes on the Vulcans,” Vioxx ordered, his hands clasped on the back of Zantak’s chair as she piloted the Silverwood into the Romulan Neutral Zone. “Any sign we’re being scanned?”
“We are proceeding with extreme guile and all due tactical skill!” Nortal announced from beside Zantak. “We will be made living legends by the time this tale is fully told.”
“And, in addition to that, the refractive shield sheaths that Lieutenant Marsden installed are working surprisingly well,” Remax said from the rear side seat dedicated to science matters.
“I could have done it better,” Selex smouldered from the seat across from Nortal.
Vioxx clapped his hands together. “Excellent. Then keep course for the rendezvous. If the Vulcans detect us, I want to know about it thirty seconds before they do.”
“Commander, that is a little…” Zantak began.
“Done! We will not let you down!” Nortal bellowed.
“Right,” Vioxx said. “Well, I’m going to be in the back.”
“With that blathering half-Romulan?” Remax asked. “Why waste your time?”
“Because she’s a member of the Anomaly crew, Remax. And it’s important that we embrace them. They’re our crewmates, our brethren. Those whom we have sworn to stand beside in battle and share both the glory and the blame with. For all intents and purposes, they are our countrymen. Especially the ones like Prosak, who literally are our countrymen.”
“Good point,” Remax said after a brief silence.
“Plus, the replicator is back there, and I’m dying for a jurel smoothie.”
“I do not want to talk to you,” Prosak said gruffly as Vioxx walked into the aft compartment. The room was lined with bunkbeds on either side, a couple of viewports set into the wall, and a large conference table in the center.
“Actually, I want a jurel smoothie,” Vioxx said, walking up to the nearby replicator. “Is that all right with you?”
“If you must.”
“Would you like one?”
“I never touch the stuff.”
“You do not know what you’re missing.”
“This is a misguided attempt to make me feel better,” Prosak said. Before Vioxx could respond, she added, “Furthermore, you aren’t attempting this because you truly care about me. You just want my head clear for the mission ahead.”
“You’re right. Except for the part about the attempt being misguided.” Vioxx removed his smoothie from the replicator slot and sat down across from Prosak. “We need you for this mission, Prosak. It’s that simple. Your father needs you, too.”
“Do not speak of my father.”
“You’re mad because your father knew he was sending the Anomaly into a trap when he sent you to rescue my crew and I from that energy-being.”
“It’s a familiar story of betrayal,” Prosak nodded.
“You cannot blame him. He was following orders from the Romulan High Command. Those orders are not easily countermanded.”
“He could have warned me. There would have been nothing wrong with that.”
“We all serve in our own way, for our own reasons, Prosak. This is not for others to judge.”
Prosak looked up at Vioxx. “Why do you care?”
“Because you’re a shipmate, and you fall under my command.”
Prosak stood up and walked out. “Don’t remind me.”
Vioxx watched Prosak walk back into the front compartment and frowned. “Glad I could help, Commander.”
“We have reached the appointed coordinates,” Zantak said as Prosak looked on and Vioxx re-entered the cockpit of the Silverwood.
“Scans,” Prosak said.
“Picking up a D’Mynus class scout craft bearing zero seven zero mark one one four,” Remax observed. “Seven Romulan life signs aboard.”
“Ahh, the D’Mynus,” Vioxx said with a tinge of pride and remembrance at their former ship, the D’Mynus class Tyvek.
“We are being hailed,” Nortal said. “No, not hailed. Communicated with. Discreetly. Sensor blips only.”
“What are the sensor blips saying?” Prosak said.
“I believe they wish for us to beam them aboard,” Vioxx said, leaning over Nortal’s shoulder.
“Why would you say that?” Prosak asked.
Vioxx pointed through the forward viewport. “Because a Vulcan warship is bearing down on them fast.”
Prosak looked up to see the elongated, sideways umbrella that was a Vulcan warship, complete with bristling neutrino weapons ports and more menacing, more curved, foreward bulkheads, swing in from above like a…well, like a bird of prey.
“Lock on to the occupants of the scout ship and beam them aboard immediately!” Prosak ordered. “And don’t ask Vioxx for confirmation. Just do it!”
“Do as she says,” Vioxx assured Nortal, who plugged in the transporter sequence on the control panel.
“Transport complete,” Nortal said. “They are safely in our aft compartment.”
“Zantak,” Vioxx said. “Get us out of here. Now!”
“Coming about,” Zantak said.
“The scout ship has been disabled,” Nortal observed. “But not destroyed.”
“Destroying a ship is illogical,” Prosak said, grabbing a railing as Zantak brought the Silverwood around in a tight maneuver and engaged the polaron engines.
“Let’s hope they continue to think so,” Vioxx said. “Is there any indication we’re being followed?”
“They are following us,” Remax said. “Is that a good enough indication?”
“What in on the Hilltop of Thul is going on here?” Ambassador Rorshak asked, ducking out of the aft compartment and into the cockpit.
“Return to your seat,” Vioxx ordered gruffly. “We are not secure yet.”
“I gathered that,” Rorshak said, turning to Prosak. “Boogles. It is agreeable to see you again.”
“Ambassador,” Prosak said, returning her gaze to the Silverwood’s sensors. “The Vulcan ship is closing.”
“Will they reach us before we reach the border of the Neutral Zone?” Vioxx asked.
“They’ll reach us before I finish this sentence,” Remax said, as the Silverwood suddenly jolted. “Tractor beams locked on.”
“Fantastic!” Vioxx growled.
“We must tear free of this ensnaring beam!” Nortal said. “By all that is holy and sacred, so let it be!”
“Belay that!” Vioxx said. “Stand down engines. Hail the Vulcans. We are going to use unconventional methods to get out of this situation.”
“Such as?” Prosak asked.
“We’re going to use our brains.”
Doctor Natalia Kasyov strolled into the ship’s holo-bistro, which was currently holographically decorated as a delightful Andorian Coffee House.
“Hurricane season?” she asked, pulling up a seat next to Lt. Shelly Marsden under the arched metal tent that dominated the lush, smouldering swampy countryside of Andor.
“Acid rain,” Marsden corrected, shifting around something that looked vaguely like grilled organ meat on her plate.
“Dahna’s has the best v’haspant,” Marsden said, as she stared at the orange glob on her fork. “But their entrees are a little suspect.”
“V’haspant? What is that, like Andorian raktageeno?” Kasyov asked, paging through an electronic menu padd.
“No,” Marsden said. “Nothing like it. It’s a completely creative, original idea that doesn’t resemble raktageeno in any way.”
“Fine, fine, whatever you say,” Kasyov said with a small giggle as she looked at the menu. “Mmmm. The crusted zzzatt fish sounds good.”
“You don’t want to know what it’s crusted with,” Marsden said, pushing her plate away and sipping her bubbling mug of v’haspant. “How’s your day going?”
“People are panicking about the Romulans. Apparently, half the ship thinks we’re going to war.”
“What does the other half think?”
“Oh, they think we’re going to war too, but they aren’t panicking about it. They’re actually looking forward to it. I think Security Officer Gworos is in that pack.” Kasyov waved over a waitress, who glared at her as she stormed over.
“Order now,” the waitress, whose name-tag read “Z’hara,” said.
“Um….how about a medium v’haspant, not too frothy, and the Andorain nectar fruit salad.”
“It’s organ meat, just in case you were wondering,” Z’hara said, and marched off. “Your order will be up in a minute. Try not to die of hunger.”
“Lovely woman,” Kasyov said.
“So what do you think?” Marsden asked, sipping from her mug.
“About the waitress? I think she has an attitude problem. Then again, she’s Andorian, so…”
“No. About the Vulcans.”
“Oh,” Kasyov said. “I don’t know. I think everything will work itself out.”
“That’s a positive outlook.”
“I’m a scientist, Shelly. I see the big picture. I’m not interested in what will happen in the next six months. I’m interested in what will happen in the next six hundred years. This little incident…it’s just a ripple in the tide of history. Blah blah blah…where’s my damn coffee?”
“Don’t call it coffee,” Marsden said. “They really don’t like that.”
“Right,” Kasyov said, looking back at Marsden. “So what’s new with you? I feel like we haven’t talked in ages.”
“Been busy,” Marsden said.
“Mmhmm,” Kasyov replied as Z’hara slammed a boiling mug of v’haspant and a tray of wriggling organ meat in front of her. “Busy with work, or…pleasure?”
“Work,” Marsden said. She allowed a small smile. “And…working on pleasure, I guess.”
“A Mister Tovar,” Kasyov said.
Marsden glared at Kasyov. “What makes you say that?”
“I’ve been observing trends.”
“I thought you were interested in the big picture?”
Kasyov leaned forward as she drank from her mug–and immediately retched. “I AM looking at the big picture, Shelly. You’re crazy about him. It’s one of the reasons we’ve talked so little lately. You’re all taken up with him. And he is with you too.”
“You’re crazy. He’s with someone.”
“For the moment. But don’t expect that to last. No, I think it’s safe to say I’m going to be at your wedding one day.”
“That’ll be the day,” Marsden sighed.
“You two will have beautiful children. Did you know Yynsians have six-lobed brains? I guess they need the extra lobes to hold all those extra personalities. I wonder if your children will have extra personalities? I’ll have to ask Tovar how that works.”
“Stop it, Nat,” Marsden said. “Me and Tovar would never work. It’s silly. Just to want a man purely because…because you’re attracted for no good reason…isn’t reason enough.”
“No. I think it’s all the reason you need.”
“You have no idea what you’re talking about. You’re in love with a disembodied brain.”
Kasyov’s eyes went wide. “First of all, no I’m not! Second of all, that’s neither here nor there. You’re not going to be happy until you talk this out with Tovar and establish something. Let’s call it a relationship.”
“Thank Providence they abolished counselors,” Marsden said and got out of her chair. “Thanks for a lovely lunch.”
“Anytime,” Kasyov gurgled as she tried to swallow a chunk of meat from her plate. “Waitress! I can’t eat this ground up organ meat! Bring me something decent! Like borsht!”
“Romulans, state your business in Vulcan space,” Captain Slocum of the Vulcan Warship Debator said, folding his hands in front of him on top of his desk.
“This is Romulan space,” Rorshak said, stepping up between Prosak and Rorshak in the Raceabout Silverwood’s cockpit.
“Mister Plornak,” Vioxx said, holding up his hand. “Please. We understand you’re agitated, but let us handle this matter.”
“Plornak?” Rorshak asked, looking at Prosak, who just shrugged.
“We are private citizens,” Vioxx said to Slocum. “We are simple merchants trying to deliver our wares to the rest of the quadrant. You have no cause to fight us.”
“No Romulans will be allowed out of Romulan space until an armistice agreement can be reached,” Slocum said, reading from a screen inset on his desk. “I believe this edict applies to all of you as well.”
“Doesn’t Interstellar Law provide some leeway in this regard? To private citizens working for a greater good?”
Slocum rubbed his chin. “It depends on what that good is.”
“Mute!” Prosak said, and Nortal deleted the audio portion of the signal.
“You have an idea?” Vioxx asked.
“He wants to be bought,” Rorshak said.
Prosak nodded. “He can be bought.”
“But he’s Vulcan,” Vioxx said confused.
“Everyone has a price,” Prosak said. “Even Vulcans. That’s one of the first thing you learn when you become a RommaVulc. They have needs too. They just hide them better.”
“You have a concrete suggestion?” Vioxx asked hopefully.
“We have to think of something we can offer them that they might need.”
“Highly-placed Romulan dignitaries?” Zantak asked helpfully.
“No!” Rorshak snapped.
“She was just kidding,” Vioxx said, glaring at Zantak.
“No. Something we can do. Something we can do.” Prosak rubbed the bridge of her nose. “Let me think.”
“This had better not be…romantic in nature…” Vioxx warned.
“No. I wasn’t thinking that way at all,” Prosak said. “As a matter of fact…” She snapped her fingers. “Nortal…unmute.”
“Unmuted, with great vengeance!” Nortal exalted.
“Captain Slocum,” Prosak said. “Allow me to introduce myself. I am Soprak. Surely you have heard of me?”
“I am afraid not.”
“I am the leader of the Romulan Interspecies Acting Troupe. We propagate Romulan theatrical works across the galaxy. Perhaps you’ve heard of some of our performances?”
Prosak bit her lip. “I don’t guess you are a lover of great theater, are you?”
Slocum stared at her impassively from the viewscreen for several moments.
“Safe to say, Ms. Soprak…” He arched his eyebrow. “I am! How did you know?”
“I have a sense for these things,” Prosak said with a grin. “Now then. We have a busy show schedule. As you can see, we pose no threat to you or your invasion plans. As a matter of fact, we make the galaxy more culturally rich. Now what could be wrong with that?”
“Nothing I am aware of,” Slocum said. He sighed. “Very well, we will let you go.”
“Thank you!” Vioxx said, looking to Nortal. “Centurion, cut the…”
“Don’t call him Centurion!” Remax hissed.
“One more thing,” Slocum said, holding up his hand. “Before you leave, I’m sure your troupe would indulge us in a brief performance. My crew and I have been on maneuvers for many months. They could use some entertainment.”
“I don’t think that’s a very–” Vioxx began.
Prosak stepped in front of him. “We’d love to! See you in fifteen minutes!” She reached over and stamped her hand on a panel, closing the channel.
“Are you insane?” Vioxx railed. “How are we supposed to put together a theater show in fifteen minutes?”
“My apologies,” Prosak said, heading toward the aft compartment. “But I didn’t hear you coming up with any better ideas.”
“That’s because I didn’t get the chance to have them,” Vioxx said.
“Well, better luck next time.” She ducked into the aft compartment. “Everybody gather in the back. I need to see what I have to work with.”
“Have you ANY theater experience?” Vioxx asked desperately as he followed Prosak back.
“She has extensive background in drama, acting and directing,” Rorshak said proudly. “She won the Uumlat prize for her performance as Tanala the Imperfect Officer.”
“Glad I asked,” Vioxx muttered. “Now I feel much better.”
“I assume you are all familiar with Starscape Over Chula?” Prosak asked, standing at the front of the conference table in the rear compartment of the Silverwood.
“No,” Vioxx said, and looked around at the other officers, who likewise had blank expressions on their faces.
All, that is, except for Rorshak.
“A classic,” Rorshak said. “By T’lok. A clever tale of family dynamics interwoven with governmental intrigue. The wisdom of the Praetor wins out. Classic republican-era thinking!”
“Yes,” Prosak said. “Starscape Over Chula is about the daughter of a high placed Romulan dignitary who gets betrayed by him. In the end, she kills him. It’s quite moving.”
“What made you choose that piece, Boogles?” Rorshak asked.
“Don’t call me Boogles, Ambassador,” Prosak said coldly and ducked into a small closet behind her. She returned with a stack of padds and distributed them to each of the Romulans gathered in the room. “These are scripts. You’ll find you’ve already been assigned roles. Some of you will be playing scenery. Please memorize them in seven minutes. Thanks.” Prosak then turned around and walked into the cockpit, carrying one of the padds.
“It appears you have fallen out of favor with your daughter,” Vioxx observed as Prosak handed out the padds to the Romulan members of the Anomaly crew and the four dignitaries brought by Rorshak.
“Nonsense!” Rorshak replied. “Boogles and I are as close as the day that she finished puberty.”
“You may want to ask her about that,” Vioxx said as the Romulans in the room surveyed the information on the padds. He looked around at the group. “Does everyone understand your roles?”
“How am I supposed to portray a hill?” Zantak asked.
“I am a door,” Romulan Trade Minister Lotek said.
“Great then. Let’s get to work!” Vioxx announced.
Twelve minutes later, Rorshak walked into the cockpit to find Prosak staring at her padd intently.
“Boogles,” he said softly.
She didn’t look up.
Prosak slowly turned around. “Yes, Ambassador?”
“You are not responding to the nickname,” Rorshak said, sitting down at one of the stations across from Prosak. “So you are indeed upset with me.”
“Is that not obvious? Study the context, Father.”
Rorshak wondered, not for the first time, why Prosak insisted on speaking so strangely.
“Am I to take it this is about the mission I sent the Anomaly on?”
“The mission where we were almost destroyed by a giant energy being. A being you knew about it, yet did nothing to warn us of the danger?” Prosak asked, her face becoming flushed with grey. Her face softened a bit as she regained her calm. “Perhaps.”
“That was…unfortunate…” Rorshak said, aimlessly studying one of the Silverwood’s engineering readouts. “But it was a necessity. For the safety of the Romulan…”
“What about the safety of your daughter?”
“Boogles, you know what I did was for the greater good…”
“Oh, Father, please do spare me that rhetoric,” Prosak said, shifting out of her chair. “The needs of the many thing? The Vulcans invented that.”
Rorshak rubbed his chin. “I always thought the Romulans did.”
“Of course you did,” Prosak said. “But as long as you feel like you were justified for what you did, as long as you show no remorse, I cannot forgive you.”
Suddenly, the comm panel trilled. “Ms. Soprak,” the voice of Slocum said over the comm. “Our crew has gathered in the ship’s assembly area. We await you and your colleagues. “
Prosak looked at Rorshak a moment, then punched a control. “We will be right there.”
Tovar limped into his quarters, rubbing his backside gingerly, and came face to face with Lt. Jamie Torgerson.
“Hi Tovar,” she said softly as he walked over to his couch and eased down onto it.
“Did we have a date scheduled?” Tovar asked, wincing as he shoved a pillow underneath his buttocks. Nooney was thorough in his physicals. Extremely thorough.
“No,” Torgerson said, sitting down beside Tovar and taking his hand. “That’s actually why I’m here. You see, we have to break up.”
Tovar stared at Torgerson blankly, his mouth opening and closing slightly struggling to form some sort of coherent response.
“Come on, Tovar,” she continued. “You can’t honestly tell me that you’re surprised.”
“Actually…I am. I thought we…that our relationship…I thought we were making it work between the two of us.”
“Maybe we were trying to make something work that was never there in the first place,” Torgerson said. “It shouldn’t take this much effort.”
“I was–am willing to try.”
“We already tried. You’re in love, Tovar,” Torgerson said with a sad smile. “And it’s not with me. I’m surprised it’s taken me this long to figure that out.”
Tovar squeezed Torgerson’s hand. “But, Jamie…I really do enjoy your company.”
“Please, spare me the ‘let’s be friends,’ line. I know you don’t really mean it.” Torgerson smiled. “I wish I could encourage you to go right now and tell Lieutenant Marsden how you feel, but I don’t really want you to. Maybe, sooner or later, I might.”
“Maybe, sooner or later, we really can be friends,” Tovar suggested as she walked to the door.
Torgerson turned around, looked at Tovar a moment, then flatly said: “Nah, I don’t think so.” With that, she walked out.
“Well,” Tovar said, clapping his hands on his thighs, mirroring one of Captain Bain’s common gestures. “That’s that, then.” He got up and walked out of his quarters, making sure to head in the direction opposite the one Torgerson had taken.
“I could have loved you, Father,” Prosak said, standing over the prone, backwards-bent form of Rorshak. She wore a long, flowing gown, and he the ancient grey patchwork uniform of the old Romulan military. She wielded an old-style hand phaser, pointing it at his chest. “I could have loved you so much more than you loved Romulus. More than you loved duty. And perhaps, in your own way, you may even have loved me back, if you had given me the chance.”
“Er….” Rorshak said, obviously feeling a twinge in his back, caused mostly by his awkward backwards tilt. The blocking in T’lok’s plays was always so convoluted. He also seemed to have a bit of difficulty remembering his lines.
“‘I love you just as much,’” Prosak whispered.
Rorshak cleared his throat. “I love you just as much…just as much, Sythemia, as I love Romulus.”
“Prove it, Father. Die for me,” Prosak said calmly, and shoved the phaser toward Rorshak, firing it. A harmless ray of effervescent light shot out of the prop phaser and nailed Rorshak in the chest. The Ambassador quickly rolled to the side limply and closed his eyes, as Prosak propped her foot on his chest. She was enjoying this way too much.
“What have I done?” Prosak asked the audience. “I’ve killed my father; the only person in the world I really care about. And for what? Because he loved Romulus. I shouldn’t fault him for that. I love Romulus too. And so should you.” Prosak then shot herself in the head with the phaser and fell limply on top of Rorshak.
A spotlight shone down on them, then moved to the wing of the stage in the gathering room, as Commander Vioxx walked out. “Ladies and Gentlemen, what you’ve seen here today is…” he glanced down at a small padd in the palm of his hand. “An example of Romulans’ true love for their homeworld. Be a patriot. Because we said so. This message has been brought to you by the Romulan government.”
The lights in the room went completely dark for several seconds, then the house lights went up full.
Rorshak and Prosak climbed to their feet and bowed, as the other Romulan Anomaly crewmembers and Senate dignitaries who had played set pieces, supernumeraries and minor characters, formed up behind them.
Nobody clapped. Not a single sound was made. All 200 Vulcans in the room simply stared impassively back at Prosak and her troupe.
Finally, from the front row, Slocum stood up and walked up onto the stage. He turned and addressed his crew. “I believe I speak for all gathered here when I say that was…utterly unredeemable tripe. It is no wonder your homeworld has been invaded.”
That caused Nortal to leap at Slocum from behind but Vioxx grabbed her by her collar just in time.
“Please, for all things logical, go back to your ship and depart this place. This sector would be better served by you leaving it,” Slocum said, waving his hand dismissively at the Romulans and walking off the stage.
“Thanks!” Prosak waved after him. “You’ve been a great audience!”
And with that, her and her Romulan troupe ducked quickly off- stage.
Tovar raced down the corridor to Marsden’s quarters, quickening his pace as he passed doorway after doorway, knowing hers wasn’t far ahead.
He rounded a corner and came face to face with Marsden herself.
She too, looked out of breath, as if she’d been running as well.
“Tovar!” she said, leaning on her knees and catching her breath. “I’ve…been…wanting to talk to you.”
“I’ve been wanting to talk to you too, Shelly.”
“What happened to calling me Lieutenant Marsden?” she asked, leaning back against the bulkhead.
Tovar had already caught his breath, being in far better physical condition than Marsden, or much of the Anomaly crew for that matter. “I suppose that’s not an appropriate nomenclature.”
“And why not?”
“Because I think I am falling in love with you, Shelly,” Tovar said, relieved to finally be able to say the words. He grabbed Marsden’s shoulders, pulling her close.
“You think?” she asked with a smile, then leaned in and kissed him softly on the lips.
After a few moments, they parted lips and looked at each other, smiling.
To Tovar, everything had been set right. This was what he’d been missing with Torgerson. This is what he’d been looking for.
“Guess you’d better go give Jamie the bad news, huh?” Marsden asked, running her fingers through Tovar’s hair.
“No need,” Tovar said with a grin. “She just broke up with me, a few minutes ago.”
Marsden took a step back, her face suddenly going slate rigid. “She WHAT?”
“Broke…up…” Tovar said slowly. “Uh, with me.
“I see!” Marsden said, folding her arms. “So you came running to me for some comfort. What do you think I am? A backup power conduit? A tertiary nanoprocessor?”
“No. I think…that is…I mean I always felt…”
“Forget it,” Marsden said, turning on a heel and walking off. “I’m not here to soften the blow of your breakup. You had your chance to end it yourself and you didn’t have the guts to. You don’t deserve me, Tovar. Maybe you never did.”
“But…” Tovar said, his shoulders slumping. “Shelly, I…”
But she was already out of earshot.
Captain Bain was waiting as the Silverwood touched down in the Anomaly’s hangar. Prosak led the way out of the cabin, Vioxx on her heels.
“Ahh, Commander!” Bain exclaimed. “I take it you were successful?”
“We got the Romulan dignitaries,” Prosak said. “If you’ll excuse me, Captain. I’ll be in my quarters.”
Bain stared after her as she left the hangar, and as Rorshak ducked out behind Vioxx.
“What was that flap about?” Bain asked, still looking at the door Prosak had just exited.
“Family problems, I suspect,” Vioxx said. “But she is right, Captain. We got Rorshak and the others out of Romulan space. The mission was a success. Largely, thanks to her.” With that, the Romulan Commander waved his people and the other Romulans toward the exit. “If you’ll excuse me, Captain. I’ll arrange quarters for our guests.”
Bain nodded at Vioxx as he and the others walked out of the hangar, leaving him alone with a somber-looking Rorshak.
“My Boogles is an incredible woman,” Rorshak said. “It really is a pleasure to see her in action.”
“She is at that, Mister Ambassador,” Bain said. “Do I sense some disharmony in the family?”
“She is mad at me.”
“Just in general or about something specific. I’ve certainly been on the receiving end of both kinds at one point or another.”
“Specific. It is because I sent you and your ship off to be destroyed by a giant energy being.”
Bain nodded. “Oh, yes. That. Quite a row, that was. Anyway, I got past it, and I’m sure she will too. Daughters can be…tricky sometimes. Give her time.”
“Good advice, Captain. One might think you’ve had a skirmish or two with a daughter.”
“With two daughters, Ambassador,” Bain said. “Why do you think I always request deep space assignments?” He chuckled and clapped Rorshak on the back. “Let’s get a drink, chum. We can drown our sorrows and toast to a quick end to this war.”
“Romulan ale?” Rorshak asked hopefully.
“Well, it will definitely be ale,” Bain said.
Prosak stood in the bathroom in her new quarters, staring at herself in the mirror. She hadn’t even fully unpacked her things. Vioxx had only recently kicked her out of her cozy abode in the former captain’s readyroom. With the Romulan invasion and its aftereffects taking up so much of her time, unpacking hardly seemed a priority.
Prosak bit her lip, wondering if she’d ever forgive Rorshak. She loved him. He was her father. She was his Boogles.
But he betrayed her, and much like Sythemia, she too was betrayed for the greater good of the Romulan empire. But she couldn’t just solve the problem by killing him. No, that only worked in tragic plays.
She wasn’t even sure how long Rorshak would be on the Anomaly; but she knew it wouldn’t be easy to avoid him. She’d have to deal with him eventually, and it would take all her inner strength to do that.
Prosak’s hands balled into fists as she stared at herself, wondering what she would do. Everything had built up in her: Her failed attempts at romance, her concern over Romulus, her conflict with Vioxx, her anger at her father, her demotion…it all had driven her to the very edge. She wondered what a Vulcan would do. What a being that lacked emotions would do to get rid of these emotions threatening to boil over.
But she wasn’t Vulcan. She had emotions. And even though her RommaVulc training taught her to suppress them, these emotions were far to great to simply suppress.
Suddenly, the door chime rang.
“Come,” she said, not turning around.
In the mirror’s reflection, she saw Tovar step into her darkened quarters, bringing with him streaming light from the corridor outside.
“Commander,” Tovar said, peering into the bathroom. “I was just wondering if you had a moment to…well…to talk.”
A smile spread across Prosak’s face as she looked at Tovar, square- shouldered and muscular, silhouetted in the light. Yes, it was perfectly logical.
She whirled on a heel and rushed toward him, leaping into his arms and throwing her legs around his waist. “I have a counterproposal. Let’s not talk at all, shall we?” she said, dragging him into her quarters so the doors closed.
“Mmmmmph!?” Tovar’s muffled voice said surprised as Prosak kissed him deeply, grabbing his face. The Yynsian stumbled backwards on the couch, falling onto it as Prosak yanked his uniform tunic open. “But don’t you want to know why I’m here?”
“Doesn’t matter to me,” Prosak said, leaning over him, raising an eyebrow. “Why? Does it matter to you?”
Tovar shrugged. “I suppose not.”
And he pulled Prosak down into another kiss.
Things couldn’t seem to get much worse. Tovar’s love life is on the rocks, the Vulcans are preparing for a massive offensive, and Reginald Bain’s day just keeps getting worse. But when a Romulan starship shows up on the Federation side of the Neutral Zone claiming to come in peace, it may just be a life changing event for one member of the Anomaly crew. Don’t miss the Series Six Finale!