Author: Alan Decker, Anthony Butler
STAR TRAKS: BOLDLY GONE…
By Alan Decker and Anthony Butler
Tovar’s eyes shot open.
Immediately, he knew where he was, and what he had done. Yynsians were known for going from being sound asleep to fully alert in no time at all. In this case, that ability was somewhat helpful. It allowed him to ascertain the situation, draw some conclusions, and determine a plan of action.
“We’re late for bridge duty,” he said, looking over at Commander Prosak, his superior officer, who was lying next to him. “Don’t worry about it,” Prosak said, rolling toward Tovar and draping an arm around him. “I can do nothing but worry,” Tovar said, kicking the covers off him and leaping out of bed. He quickly realized he was fully naked.
Tovar stumbled around Prosak’s darkened bedroom for several minutes, feeling around for his clothes.
“They’re in the living room,” Prosak said, leaning up. “That’s where…it…transpired.”
“Right,” Tovar said, and walked out into the living room. He quickly found his pants and tunic and yanked them on, even as Prosak emerged, adjusting her uniform and her page-boy Vulcan hairstyle, patting it gently in the mirror above her desk.
“Thanks for last night, by the way,” Prosak said casually. “I suppose that’s what pon’farr feels like. Not bad.”
“Thanks? Not bad?” Tovar asked. “That’s all you’ve got to say?”
“Let’s not belabor the point,” Prosak said. “We both obviously needed to blow off some steam. I think last night afforded us ample opportunity.”
“How’d you get dressed so fast?”
“I am a fast dresser,” Prosak said. “Shall we walk to the bridge together?”
“Is that wise?” Tovar asked as he pulled his hair back into a ponytail and tied it.
“Our cabins are on the same deck. It is logical.” Prosak glanced at the chronometer on her desk. “Alas, we’re late, or we could stop and get a coffee at the holomess.”
“Why are you being so casual about this?” Tovar asked. “I mean, last night, we…we…”
Prosak patted Tovar on the chest. “Let’s not make more out of this than we need to, okay? And let’s not speak of this to any of our…friends…or captains. No need involving others in what was, at its center, a personal issue between us.”
“So that’s that?”
“Yes,” Prosak said, stepping out of her quarters. “I don’t know about you, but I feel much better.”
“Ahhh, good morning, Mister Vioxx!” Captain Reginald Bain bellowed, stepping out onto the bridge and strolling over to the center seat. Vioxx was seated in his customary seat to Bain’s left.
“I don’t think you’ll be so chipper when you read the latest reports from Starfleet,” Vioxx said. “According to the reports from the Foreign Minister’s office, we may be declaring war on Vulcan within the next few hours. They have a secure foothold on Romulan space, they have shown a new trend of aggressive tendencies, and many of the decision-makers in Starfleet feel the Federation could be the next to be invaded.”
“That’s exactly why it IS a good morning, chum,” Bain said, punching Vioxx in the shoulder. “Nothing gets one’s juices flowing like the prospect of war looming on the horizon. Now, mind you, I’m no fan of explosions and bloodshed, but I’ll be damned if I’ll shy away from a good fight if I can help it.” He glanced around. “I know many of you are well- equipped for exploration and diplomacy, but damned if the Bains weren’t forged as warriors. I’m pleased, dear Vioxx, because I’m a man in my element. How about you?”
“A battle fleet is surrounding my homeworld,” Vioxx said, glaring at Bain. “And, to tell you the truth, I am pretty damned upset about that.”
“Well, let’s see what we can do about that, shall we?” Bain glanced over his shoulder. “Tactical update.”
Nobody answered. Bain did a double take as he realized nobody was standing at tac-ops. “Bloody hell, where’s Tovar?” he asked, scratching his head.
“Commander Prosak is late as well,” Vioxx said. “Should I enter the demerits into her personnel file, or should you?”
“Belay that,” Bain said, “I just want to know where my crew is. It’s wartime. There could be foul play afoot.”
Just then, the doors to the aft turbolift opened and Tovar and Prosak stumbled out.
“Glad you could join us,” Vioxx muttered.
“Sorry I am late, Captain,” Tovar said as he slid behind his station. “Commander Prosak and I had to meet to discuss a personnel issue.”
“I’m sure you will fill me in on the details,” Vioxx said, following Prosak with his eyes as she walked over to her seat on the other side of Bain and sat down.
“No, I won’t,” she said primly.
“Very well then,” Bain said. “Now that we’re all here, why don’t we commence our patrol of the Neutral Zone perimeter. Ensign Yonk, ahead one half on the polarons. Course zero two zero mark one one eight.”
“Aye, sir,” the diminutive Ferengi said as he swung the Anomaly about.
“Captain,” Tovar said, as his station bleeped. “I’m receiving a broadband ultraspace signal. It appears that it’s being sent from Vulcan.”
“Put it on screen,” Bain ordered.
The screen flared to life, and there, big as life, was the massive forehead of Sh’rak, the High Chancellor of the Vulcan Alliance.
“People of the Alpha Quadrant,” Sh’rak said imperiously. “Some explanation is in order. In recent days, Vulcan starships have surrounded Romulan space and set up blockades. Many have posited that this is an invasion. That is simply not the case. We are merely attempting to unify our peoples with the Romulans. That is all we ever wanted. It is logical that Vulcan and Romulus should one day unite. It is time to heal wounds of eons past. It is time for our peoples to be one, and to rule the Alpha Quadrant together.
“It is only natural that some of you may object to this. Specifically, citizens of the Federation may be concerned, because Federation citizens often make the false assumption that they are at the center of the galaxy. This is simply not true. Shakaree is at the center of the galaxy, if you wish to be literal about it. Now then, I am sure those disgruntled persons in the Federation might be eager to send ships to ‘free’ your Romulan friends. That is unnecessary. We are not going to hurt the Romulans; thus, they do not need to be saved.”
Sh’rak leaned forward. “You Federation citizens would serve yourselves better by worrying about your own borders. Once Vulcan and Romulus are united; and once a fair, autonomous and democratic government ruled by logic is in place, we will turn our attention to those people in the galaxy who do not follow the path of logic. We will seek you out, make you understand, that logic is the one, true way. We do this not out of malice, or any other primitive human emotion, but out of a sense of duty. We are Vulcans. We are superior. And it is about time we started acting like it. For a transcript of this speech, please contact Coordinator Slenep, Chief of Public Relations. Good day.”
Bain sat back in his chair. “Green-blooded bastard!” He looked at Prosak, then Vioxx. “Well…green-blooded VULCAN bastard.”
“Much better,” Vioxx mumbled. “Racial epithets aside, we are no clearer now than we were at the start of the morning on what course of action we should take to liberate Romulus.”
“Maybe Romulus does not need liberating,” Prosak said quietly.
“Come again?” Bain asked, looking at her.
“Maybe Sh’rak is right. I mean…all my life I’ve been seeking unification. That’s all me and my Romma-Vulc bretheren have ever wanted. Sh’rak may be a dictactor; he may be insane, even. But he may be doing a good thing.”
“Dictators never do good things,” Vioxx said. “The man is obviously lying.”
“Plus, he said it himself,” Bain said, folding his arms. “He’s setting his sights on the Federation next. If he succeeds in pulling Vulcan and Romulus together, that would put us in a precarious situation. Romulus has the remnants of the Klingon empire to draw on, not to mention hundreds of colony worlds.”
“If Sh’rak can bring together the resources of Romulus, he would certainly make a worthy foe,” Vioxx said, steepling his fingers. “I must agree with you, Captain. We must take steps to make sure unification doesn’t happen.”
“Well it’s sure not to happen while we’ve got some of the major decision-makers of the Romulan government aboard, right, Prosak?”
Prosak thought about that. Ambassador Rorshak, her father, and half a dozen other Romulan dignitaries were aboard, thanks in no small part to a rescue attempt led by her and Vioxx. “New leaders can always be elected,” Prosak said. “Everyone can be replaced.”
“I’m not sure I like where you’re going with this, Prosak,” Bain said. “Those Romulans belowdecks may be our only link to the empire. We need them to ensure the empire doesn’t turn against us.”
“You need me and my crew as well,” Vioxx said. “If we could take the Navigator….run a sortie deep into Romulan space…maybe we could destabilize…”
“No,” Bain said. “Not until we’re have a better idea of the scope of this threat. It was risky enough sending the Silverwood in to get those dignitaries. No, if it’s going to be a game of brinksmanship, I’ll be the one taking us to the brink.”
“I’m not sure I understand,” Vioxx said.
“You don’t have to. I’m going to go have a chat with my boss,” Bain said, sliding out of his chair. He gave Prosak an odd glance as he stepped off the bridge and headed down the corridor toward the Captain’s Lounge.
“The Federation Council is discussing the matter as we speak, Capain Bain,” Admiral Kristin Larkin’s tiny hologram said, standing atop the small corner table in Bain’s lounge. “Your orders remain the same. You are to police the border of the Romulan Neutral Zone and ensure that no Vulcan forces break through into Federation space.”
“You know we’re going to need more ships,” Bain said.
“They are already on their way.” Larkin stepped forward, her hologram precariously close to falling off the edge of Bain’s table (that is, if she had really been standing on top of the table). “Furthermore, Captain, we want you to lead the task force.”
“Come again?” Bain asked.
“You are to coordinate our fleet movements in that sector. Are you comfortable with this? If not, we can always send in Captain Dax…”
“No, not Captain Dax!” Bain snapped. “I mean, Pete’s sakes, Krissers, of course I am comfortable with that. I’m the Butcher of Breen, remember? War is my niche. Point me at the enemy, Admiral, and I’ll blast them from here to the next quadrant!”
“No blasting just yet, Bain,” Larkin said. “Just stay vigilant. And let me know if there are any changes in the situation. Larkin out.”
Bain sat back in his chair as Larkin’s hologram disappeared. This Romulan situation vexed him far more than even he’d let on to his crew. Bloody Vulcans. What right did they have pushing their logical view on the universe? Truth be known, he’d never really cared for Vulcans to begin with. Too snooty. But now they were threatening his homeland. It set off something feral, something primal in Bain, and it was all he could do not to send the Anomaly in shooting. But he was an officer first and foremost, and he knew how to follow orders.
He’d wait if that’s what he had to do, but he wouldn’t have to like it.
And sooner or later, he knew, the Anomaly would be called on to fight. And he’d damned well be ready.
“What is it good for, Doctor?” Cabral asked serenely, sitting in his shell in the science lab, as Doctor Natalia Kasyov monitored his readings, sitting in her armchair beside him, reclined, with her legs crossed, her foot thoughtfully tapping.
“What?” she asked, looking up from her padd. “War?”
“Yes. What is it good for?”
Kasyov thought about that. “Not much of anything, I suppose.”
“Than why does humankind persist at such a worthless enterprise?”
Kasyov chuckled. “You’re asking me?”
“Are you not human?”
“Last time I checked.” Kasyov uncrossed her legs and leaned toward Cabral. “Truth be told, Cabral, I have no idea why we go to war. You’d think by now, as a civilization, we’d have gotten it out of our system. Things have been nice and quiet since the Breen wars. I think there were those of us who’d actually been convinced that society was enlightened now beyond the need for armed conflict.”
“The Vulcans are considered by many to be the most enlightened creatures in the galaxy. If they cannot resist the call to war, is there any hope for any of us?”
Kasyov patted Cabral’s sphere. “As long as there are beings like you around to ask that question, I think there’s all the hope in the world.”
“I hope the others on the crew share those sentiments.”
“I think you’ll find most of them do. If not all of them.”
Just then, the doors to the lab opened up and Lt. Shelly Marsden marched in, followed by her assistants, Devix and Ragone. “Reinforce this room with forcefields. They know about Cabral, and they’re certain to aim for this location to try and disable us when the shooting starts.” Marsden walked up to Kasyov, sat a small suitcase on a nearby shelf and opened it. She reached in and produced a slim wrist phaser, complete with strap, and handed it to Kasyov. “We’re issuing sidearms to all hands. You’ll never know when they might come in handy.”
“There are always exceptions…” Kasyov said quietly, as she took the weapon from Marsden. “You really think this will be necessary?”
“There’s no telling. Better safe than sorry.”
“And why aren’t Tovar and his people handing them out?”
“Tovar can do whatever he wants to. I don’t know what he’s doing, and I don’t really care. I just thought I’d make sure and cover my friend’s ass. Is that all right?”
“Something you want to talk about, Shelly?” Kasyov asked, as Marsden walked over to Devix and Ragone and conferred with them a few moments.
“All right, you two move on to the astrophysics and xenobiology labs.” She looked over at Kasyov. “There’s nothing I want to talk about, other than the coming war. That’s what’s important right now.”
“But I expect there is far more than that on your mind, at present,” Cabral chimed in.
“You can read minds?” Marsden asked, with arched eyebrow, as her assistants left. “That’s got to be good for your resume.”
“You hide it well, Lieutenant. But it’s obvious your heart is broken. I know that feeling well. Need I remind you of the story of the fair brain Jacinda?”
“Please don’t,” Kasyov said, gently patting the brain and turning toward Marsden. “Something happened with Tovar?”
“I don’t want to talk about it. There isn’t time.” Marsden’s expression softened a little as she walked over to Kasyov. She squeezed the doctor’s arm. “Thanks for being concerned. But there’s really nothing you can do right now. Just keep your head up and try to stay safe.”
“You too,” Kasyov said distantly, watching as Marsden left.
“Humanity may be constantly trying to tear itself apart, but it’s darned interesting to watch,” Cabral observed neutrally.
“Vulcan fleet movements seem to be concentrated inward,” Lt. Commander Tovar said, gesturing to a schematic of the Neutral Zone, with Vulcan, Romulan and Federation ships identified by their respective symbols. “They are moving to the various colony worlds within the Romulan Empire.”
Captain Bain, Commander Vioxx, Commander Prosak, Centurion Nortal and Sub-Commander Remax sat around the front of the conference table as Tovar spoke. Bain nodded, taking everything in. Behind him, at the other end of the conference table, Rorshak and the other Romulan dignitaries that were currently staying aboard the Anomaly all sat in their seats, listening intently.
“Then it doesn’t seem like they’re making any moves in our direction yet?” Bain asked.
“Not as yet,” Tovar said.
“They’ll make sure the Romulan threat is extinguished before they make any move toward Federation space,” Vioxx said. “It’s the strategically sound maneuver.”
“You Romulans are always so arrogant,” Prosak said, slumping against the conference table. “Always so sure of yourselves, and your strategies. If you’re so together, than why did you get invaded in the first place?”
“You make it sound as if you’re not a Romulan,” Remax snorted, from his seat beside Vioxx.
“I am many things,” Prosak said. “I am a Romulan, a RommaVulc, a Starfleet officer, and a thespian.”
Vioxx whispered something to Remax at that last remark, and the elder Romulan leaned over and whispered something back to Vioxx, apparently clarifying Prosak’s comment.
There were rumbles of conversation from the Romulans at the back of the room.
“I know Commander Prosak is simply upset about the takeover of her homeland,” Bain said. “And who could blame her. Now then, Mister Tovar, perhaps you could shed some light on the–”
“It’s not that at all, Captain,” Prosak said. She looked sidelong at Tovar. “Because of some…recent events…I am thinking more clearly now than I have in a long time. It’s clear to me now that the RommaVulc way is the right way. And despite Sh’rak’s spurious motives, perhaps the end justifies the means. Perhaps the Romulans will be better off unified with Vulcan. Perhaps, the Romulans will even be able to provide the Vulcans with the understanding that logic is the beginning of wisdom, not the end.”
“Captain Spock,” Rorshak said from the back of the room. “Stardate 8390.”
“Yes, father,” Prosak said.
“May I see you in my lounge for a moment, Commander?” Bain asked crisply.
“Scotch?” Bain asked, offering a glass full of clinking ice and amber liquid to the Romulan.
“No thank you.”
“Good enough,” Bain said, and took a long sip from the tumbler. He sat down, gesturing for Prosak to sit across from him. “Now then. Would you mind telling me what in blazes is going on?”
Prosak cocked her head. “I’m not sure I follow.”
“You think this invasion could be a boon to your people, instead of pushing them to the brink of chaos?”
“Chaos is not logical. A Vulcan occupation of Romulus would be anything but chaotic.”
Bain pounded his glass down on his endtable. “Damn it, Prosak. I don’t care if it’s chaotic or not. It’s still an occupation. And you have to face that it’s certainly not in the best interests of your people to be occupied.”
“Pardon me for saying so, Captain, but I believe you are speaking out of bias.”
“Damn right I’m biased! And you should be too. Do you realize, if the Vulcans succeed in their takeover of Romulus, and then swallow up the Federation, it will be an end to life as we know it? Great bird, Prosak, it’ll be the end of everything!”
Prosak nodded. “I fail to see your point, Captain.”
“Prosak, you’re a valued colleague, but sometimes I do not understand you.”
“Likewise,” Prosak said. “But I believe that change is a painful process. And sometimes we’re not ready for it. That doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a bad thing. I merely suggest we keep an open mind.”
Bain worked his jaw a moment. “I am not in the business of keeping an open mind, Prosak. Not when my home is at risk. And I need to know that we’re of the same thinking. That if it’s crunch time, I can depend on you to follow orders, whether you agree with them or not. Do we have that understanding?”
“I am a Starfleet officer, Captain. I am well aware of my duty to follow your orders explicitly. I have no plans to deviate from that arrangement.”
“That’s all I needed to know,” Bain said, and flashed a quick smile. “Now let’s get back in that meeting. They’re supposed to be bringing out appetizers soon.”
After the meeting, and the appetizers, Ambassador Rorshak caught up with Prosak as she was leaving the conference room.
“Boogles,” he said. “Can we talk?”
“I am busy, father. Can this wait until after the war?”
“We have not declared war yet.”
“That’s but a formality. War is indeed upon us,” Prosak said. “I have a lot of…things… to do.”
“I need to know, Boogles,” Rorshak said, gently touching Prosak’s shoulder, stopping her from walking any farther. “Why you said all that. About the invasion of Romulus being a good thing.”
“I believe my words speak for themselves.”
“Are you still angry at me? For shiar’s sake. Don’t take your anger at me out on the Romulan people!”
“Your misdeeds as a father are but a symptom of a much larger problem. The Romulan Empire is a flawed system. If the Vulcans hadn’t come along to disassemble that system, another force would have in time. That said, I will do as my Captain tells me. If I am instructed to force the Vulcans off Romulus, then I will do that to the best of my ability. Because it is only logical that, sooner or later, Romulus will fall. And, by all rights, it should.” Prosak gently pulled free of Rorshak’s grasp and turned around, walking down the corridor.
“But, Boogles…don’t you think you’re being a bit rash?”
She didn’t respond.
“Give me something strong, Scotty,” Tovar said to the bartender in Twain the Keel, the Anomaly’s full-time British tavern.
“Aye, ye look as if ye need it,” the scruffy, white-haired, portly old bartender said as he scooped a shotglass full of brown liquor out of the depths below the bar and slid it in front of Tovar. “That’ll put whiskers on ye.”
“What if I don’t want whiskers?”
“Ye haven’t a choice in the matter, son.”
“Oh, very well,” Tovar muttered, and tossed the contents of the shotglass into his mouth.
“Now then, what seems to be the problem?” Scotty asked, leaning over the bar.
“I’d rather not get into it, you being a hologram and all. Nothing personal.”
“Ye don’t trust holograms, laddy?”
“It’s not that. Well, yes. It is that. I’ve had some nasty run-ins with holograms.”
“That’s a shame. We’re generally a good-spirited lot.”
“I’ll have another. And I’ll also have to disagree with you on that point. But that’s a discussion for another time.”
“Aye,” Scotty said, and slid another drink in front of Tovar.
“Truth is,” Tovar said, as he tossed down the next shot. “I just feel alone. Ever feel that way?”
“You’re quite helpful. Another shot, please.”
Tovar watched Scotty as he sat another drink in front of him. “Your conversation algorithms aren’t very detailed, are they?”
“No, I s’pose they aren’t.”
“Pity,” Tovar said, and tossed back his thid shot, just as the doors to the pub swung open, and Natalia Kasyov stepped in.
“Vodka, neat, Scotty,” she said primly, and hopped onto a stool beside Tovar. “Hi, Tovar.”
“Doctor,” he said, and turned around. “Good night.”
“Leaving so soon?” Kasyov asked, grabbing Tovar’s arm. “Now why would you do that?”
Tovar glared at her. “Because you are no doubt here to confront me on behalf of Lieutenant Marsden.”
“That’s why you think I’m here?”
“What would I have to confront you about?”
“She hasn’t talked to you?”
“Not as much as I’d like,” Kasyov said, and sipped her vodka. “Maybe she’s talked to you a bit more.”
“She has. But it has been nothing good.”
“Well, call it curiosity, call it concern, or whatever you want, Tovar, but I’m here because I want to know what’s going on. I’m worried about Shelly. And, I guess, you too.”
“I’m touched,” Tovar said flatly. “Another, Scotty. Keep them coming. I have a lot of time to sleep this off before all hell breaks loose.”
“Is it that bad out in the Neutral Zone?” Kasyov asked as Scotty served up another shot.
“No. I just have an incredibly high tolerance for alcohol.”
“You think you can drink a Russian under the table?”
“Under the…it’s an expression. It’s not important.” She leaned forward. “Now tell me what’s happened with Shelly. Maybe I can help.”
“Doubtful,” Tovar said, downing his fourth shot. “There is nothing to help with.”
“What do you mean?”
“Shelly is upset with me, because I asked her out.”
Kasyov folded har arms. “I have a feeling there’s more to it than that.”
Tovar nodded. “I asked her out after Jamie discontinued our relationship.”
Kasyov stared up at the ceiling. “Oh, for yvot’s sakes. That’s the worst think you can do to a woman, Tovar! I thought you knew women better than that.”
“Since I have realized that I have certain…feelings…for Lieutenant Marsden, I have realized that I know even less about women than I had thought.”
“That’s a start,” Kasyov said. “But, in retrospect, you’ve got to see why she’d be so angry.”
“Because she feels like second best?”
“Because she feels like an honorable mention in a science fair!” Kasyov snapped. “She feels like only…only half a brain.”
“Please don’t complicate this further with brain lingo.”
“Sorry. That just slipped out,” Kasyov said. “The important thing is, the wounds are only superficial. She’ll get over it. And at the end of the day, she’ll still be crazy about you.”
“Crazy…she’s said this?”
“Well, not in so many words. Friends can pick up on these things.”
“You said at the end of the day. Do you mean at the end of this day?”
“Doubtful,” Kasyov said. “You’re looking at a week or two, minimum. The good news is that there’s all kinds of bad things afoot in the Romulan Empire to keep both of you busy until you can devote your full attention to this relationship.”
“So you really think a relationship with Shelly is still possible?”
Kasyov nodded, drinking the rest of her vodka. “I’m certain. Just give her some space, Tovar. Let her stew for awhile. And don’t, under any circumstances, try to talk to her. You’ll only end up making things worse.”
“I see.” Tovar looked at Kasyov’s empty glass. “Would you like another, Doctor?”
“No way. I can barely stand after the first one.”
“But you said…”
“I was lying. Good night, Tovar,” Kasyov said, and ambled out of the bar.
“Lassies,” Scotty said with a grin.
“You said a mouthful,” Tovar said.
The next morning, Tovar walked onto the bridge feeling certifiably hung over. He didn’t know how Bain handled those late-night benders in the tavern, and still managed to come on-shift looking ship-shape and bristol fashion, whatever that meant.
As he stepped out onto the bridge, Tovar noted a heightened level of activity among the officers manning each post. Bain was in the command chair; Vioxx and Prosak were nowhere to be seen.
Centurion Nortal tapped a few controls on the tac-ops panel, preparing to go off-shift. She looked up at Tovar. “Commander, salutations and hello. Your post stands ready.”
“Nortal,” Tovar said. “What’s going on? Something feels…off.”
“War is in the making, Commander. By jenichai, we are about to embark on a glorious mission to liberate our homeland. It is only a matter of time before the Federation unleashes its might on the puny Vulcans!”
“What?” Tovar asked as Nortal stepped into the turbolift.
“My boy,” Bain said, turning in his command chair to face Tovar. “Nortal is dead on, although her phrasing was somewhat cryptic. The Federation is on a war footing, as of this morning. The official proclamation is expected any minute now. Prosak and Vioxx are monitoring Romulan communication channels. They’re hoping…”
Just then, the doors to Vioxx and Prosak’s office whisked open, and the pair burst out, waving a padd.
“News from the front?” Bain asked.
Vioxx nodded as Prosak handed Bain the padd. “Three Romulan ships ambushed a Vulcan frigate near Daeus Morti. The frigate was crippled, but half a dozen Vulcan warships converged on the Romulan vessels before they could cloak. They’re all running for the border as we speak.”
Tovar looked down at his panel. Something was blinking. He looked up. “Our border!”
“Red alert!” Bain said, swinging back to the viewscreen. “Alert the closest ship to intercept. Zantak, pursuit course.”
“Captain,” Prosak said, sitting down beside Bain as Vioxx did likewise. “Perhaps I should remind you that Starfleet has not given us permission to enter the Neutral Zone.”
“Captain’s prerogative,” Bain said.
“Some of us still care about the Romulan Empire,” Vioxx said.
“It is near, the great crucible of conflict!” Nortal suddenly cried out, bursting from the aft turbolift. “I feel it in the heart of my bearing. The battle must be joined!”
“Join the battle at the aft damage control station,” Vioxx snapped, and turned to Bain. “We’ve got to save those three ships!”
Bain nodded. “Tovar, arm all weapons. Shields to maximum sheathing. Tactical…”
“Three vessels. D’travian class warhawks, bearing zero-one-eight mark one-eight-nine,” Tovar announced, watching the holographic Romulan symbols cross his panel, chased by six Vulcan IDIC emblems. “The Vulcans are closing on them.”
“Distance from the border?” Vioxx asked.
“One million kilometers.”
“We are now entering the neutral zone,” Zantak announced.
“Those ships are outnumbered two to one,” Prosak pointed out.
“Not anymore they aren’t. Tovar, are any other Federation ships near?”
“The Carpathia is nearest, and will be in weapons range in four minutes. The Zanzibar and the Osbourne are also on there way. They will reach our position in thirteen minutes.”
“Far too much time to do any good,” Bain said. “Come about to firing distance from the Vulcans. Warn them off.”
“For what it’s worth,” Tovar said, tapping the communication signal into his panel. “Vulcan vessels, you are in neutral Federation territory. Break off your pursuit at once.”
“They aren’t paying any attention to you,” Vioxx said, then sneered at Prosak. “Guess it wouldn’t be logical to trade barbs, eh?”
“Well, it wouldn’t,” Prosak said, folding her arms.
Bain watched on the viewscreen as three half-cloaked Warhawks seared past them, the umbrella-shaped Vulcan warships bearing down.
“This is it,” Prosak said, looking at Bain. “Do we strike first, or…?”
“Lock onto the Vulcans and fire all weapons!” Bain ordered, pounding his fist on the arm of his command chair.
Tovar’s hands scrambled keenly over the controls, unleashing volley after volley from the Anomaly’s disruptor banks and neutron torpedo launchers.
The assault was joined by the sleek and long, four-nacelled U.S.S. Carpathia, which dove into the fray from beneath the Anomaly, cutting a swath right between the Vulcan ships.
“Two Vulcan warships have broken off and are pursuing the Romulans ships across our border,” Tovar said. “The Carpathia is luring the other ones away.”
“Follow the ones chasing the Romulans,” Bain said, as fire from one of the Vulcan ships pounded the Anomaly, shaking its deckplates. “Target their engines and fire at will.”
The Anomaly’s shots disabled one of the warships, but the other got off several volleys at the Romulans.
“Two of the three ships have taken major damage. Their shields are almost…” Tovar looked up at the viewscreen as the two flanking Romulan Warhawks exploded in a blaze of white light, sending the other one careening through space, end over end.
The Vulcan warships turned around and headed back toward the Neutral Zone.
“Scan for life pods,” Bain said softly. “And scan the remaining Warhawk for lifesigns.”
“Captain, we have bigger problems,” Tovar said.
Bain, Vioxx, and Prosak turned to face Tovar.
“The Carpathia…she’s surrounded.”
“Come about,” Bain said. “Full speed on the polarons, Zantak. Get us in weapons range!” He stood up, watching as the starscape on the viewscreen tumbled, then swung around to a view of four Vulcan warships swarming the Carpathia, firing on it from every direction. The Carpathia fired back, but she was vastly outnumbered, and it was obvious the shields were buckling, as black pock marks riddled her hull, and one warp engine suddenly blew off, spinning away uselessly.
“Tovar…” Bain said, and the order was clear enough. Tovar let loose with everything the Anomaly had.
One of the warships exploded, washing the bridge in light again, just as Tovar’s panel chirped.
“Zanzibar and Osbourne are on approach,” Tovar said. He checked his scans. “The Vulcans are turning around. Heading back toward the Romulan side of the zone.”
“Follow them!” Vioxx ordered, standing.
“Belay that,” Bain said, holding up a hand. “We have troubles of our own. Order the Zanzibar to go see to the Warhawk. Tell me what’s happening on Carpathia. How bad is it?”
“Shields are gone. Hull damage on at least twenty decks. Life support failing.”
“Can they respond to hails?”
Tovar nodded. “Already calling them.”
Bain paced the bridge.
After a few moments’ silence, the bridge speakers fizzled to life. “Anomaly…this is Captain Maddox.”
“Pratello,” Bain said. “I’m glad to hear you’re in one piece, old friend.”
“For the time being, Reg.”
“I can have a dozen engineers on your ship in five minutes, Captain. We’ll get you stabilized and back to port, fear not.”
“What was that? What on Earth are the Vulcans up to in there, Reginald?”
Bain sighed. “I wish I knew, Prat. I wish I knew.”
Stardate 177743.4. After spending half a day stabilizing the damaged systems on the Carpathia, we are escorting her to the edge of the Neutral Zone. From there, the Osbourne and Zanzibar will tow her to Starbase 228. The Anomaly, meanwhile, will be responsible for debriefing the crew of the damaged Warhawk we rescued and seeing to their needs. Although we did save one of the three upstart Romulan vessels, I can’t help but feel like we’ve done nothing heroic today. Merely fired the first volley in a long continuing salvo.
“It’s official, Captain,” Admiral Larkin said, standing once again in miniature on Bain’s desk. “At eleven hundred hours today, the Federation declared war on Vulcan.”
Bain sat back in his chair. “I can’t say I’m surprised, Larks, after the skirmish yesterday.”
“You’ll likely be doing more damage than that in the coming months, Reginald.”
“Gladly, if it means putting an end to this Romulan occupation.”
“But you won’t be doing it from the Neutral Zone. You’re to pull back from your position and convene all our forces at Starbase 228.”
“The Neutral Zone is too hot right now, Reginald. Yesterday’s events proved that. We are not yet ready for full-scale armed conflict with the Vulcans. We must prepare.”
“While they do who knows what on Romulus.”
Larkin narrowed her eyes at Bain. “You have your orders.”
Lieutenant Shelly Marsden walked into her quarters and collapsed on the couch, kicking her boots off and putting her feet up. She felt sore all over. She was covered in grime: plasma residue and sweat.
She’d just spent nearly eight hours patching up the Carpathia, and beamed back to the Anomaly only to face a number of damaged systems on her own ship that needed tending to. By the time she got back to her quarters, it had been 16 hours since she’d had a nap or a meal. Such was the life of a Chief Engineer.
“First order of business,” she said quietly, to nobody in particular. “I need to shower.”
She leaned forward, making a Herculean effort to get off her couch, when the door chime rang.
“What?” she groaned, leaning back.
“It’s Tovar. May I talk to you?”
“You must be joking,” she said.
“No, I’m not. Why would I be?”
“Because I have had the longest, most disgustingly draining day you can ever imagine, and all I want to do is curl up in bed and NOT sleep with you.”
“Funny. I actually had a very restful night’s sleep.”
“Then go to the rec room or something,” she said to her door. “Just leave me alone.”
“I will only take a few moments of your time.”
“Did Kasyov talk you into this?”
“Nonsense. I have not spoken to Doctor Kasyov in days.”
“Uh-huh,” Marsden said, sliding off her couch and ambling over to the door. “Likely story. That woman needs to get a life and stop dabbling in other people’s affairs. Come on in.” As Tovar gingerly stepped into her quarters, she added, “And make it quick.”
Tovar looked around Marsden’s cabin. He hadn’t spent much time there, and found it unsettlingly spartan. Kind of like his quarters. He always thought humans a much more indulgent people, and Marsden was more human-acting than most. So it surprised him that she didn’t have any objects or personal affects of note. Bain’s quarters, on the other hand, looked like a museum.
“Feel free to get a drink out of the replicator,” Marsden called, as she ducked into her bedroom.
“Anything for you?” Tovar asked.
“Lordovan wine would be nice.”
“Computer: One bottle of Lordovan…” Tovar thought about that. “On second thought, one glass of Lordovan wine. And one black coffee.” He was still feeling the aftereffects of his visit to the tavern the previous night, after all.
The replicator slot inset in the back wall of Marsden’s quarters buzzed to life, producing the two beverages, and Tovar walked over to get them. When he turned around, he saw Marsden had slipped out of her Starfleet uniform and into a lavender robe. It was loose-fitting, but tightly tied at her waist, and closed over her chest. Nothing alluring or inviting about that, to be sure.
“So what do you want?” Marsden asked, taking the glass of wine from Tovar and walking back to the couch.
Tovar followed her, sipping his coffee. “To talk.”
“To have the talk we’ve been avoiding for almost a year now.”
“And what talk would that be?”
Marsden sipped her wine and smiled. “I really don’t. I know you don’t mean the romantic talk, because I believe we’ve already settled all that. We’re just friends.”
“Now Tovar,” Marsden said, leaning forward and touching Tovar’s hand. “You didn’t really think you could come back to me, hat in hand, and make everything better with a few nice words did you? I mean…come on. You didn’t even bring flowers.”
“I was under the assumption that we were beyond flowers.”
“Sweetheart, we haven’t even reached flowers yet,” Marsden said. “And I don’t think we will.”
“I’d like to change that.”
“Oh yeah?” Marsden said, raising an eyebrow. “Too bad. I know Jamie ended your relationship. I’m a lot of things, Tovar, but I’m not a consolation prize.”
“I wouldn’t presume otherwise,” Tovar said, leaning forward and touching Marsden’s arm. “And I’m sorry that it has taken me this long to get up the nerve to talk to you about…all this.”
“‘All this,’” Marsden giggled. “You make it sound so romantic.”
“Shelly…please don’t do this,” Tovar said. “I am trying to be honest with you. Can you at least offer me the same?”
Marsden scooted back a bit, folded her arms. “I’m being completely honest.”
“You’re being completely irritating.”
“So why are you pursuing me, then?”
Tovar stood up, rigid. “I suppose I’m not.”
“That’s a boy.”
“And I suppose what happened the night before last was for the best, after all.”
“Oh, and what was that?” Marsden asked lightly as Tovar headed for the door.
“After we talkled, I slept with Commander Prosak. SHE understands me.” With that, Tovar turned on a heel and walked out of Marsden’s quarters.
He got about five paces down the corridor before the door opened and she stormed out.
He stopped in his tracks, knowing instantly he’d made a big mistake.
Marsden was behind him in an instant, grabbing him by the shoulder and spinning him around. He wondered briefly if she was going to take him right then and there in the middle of the corridor. Her rough grip on him was much like Prosak’s the night before, but Tovar discerned this roughness came for an entirely different reason.
She stared him in the face. “How DARE you wave that in my face as if it’s something to be proud of!” she shouted, pushing him against the bulkhead. “What do you think I am? A science experiment? Are you trying different variables to see what computes?”
“I have no idea what you are saying,” Tovar said helplessly, as Anomaly crew walked by, desperately trying to look in the other direction from him.
“Well here’s a better idea. We’re not ever going to be lovers. I don’t think we’re even going to be friends. You are sick, Tovar. And even worse than that, you’re alone. Because the kind of companionship you got the other night isn’t going to get you very far when you really need someone.”
“Do us all a favor and launch yourself out an airlock!” Marsden growled, releasing Tovar and marching back into her quarters.
“I’m sorry,” he said in a small voice as her cabin doors whizzed closed.
The cabin doors opened and Prosak looked up at her father.
“Boogles,” Rorshak said. “We need to talk.”
“I am…” she looked around. “Busy.”
“This is important, Boogles.”
“What?” Prosak asked, backing into her quarters and waving Rorshak in. “What is it? You came to apologize again?”
“I came to tell you I’m leaving. The senate members and I are transporting aboard the Shakalak in two hours.”
“The Shakalak? The ship we rescued?”
Rorshak nodded. “It is the proper vehicle from which to restage the retaking of Romulus, by Romulans.”
“What do you mean, father?”
“Their cloaking device has been repaired. We will now be able to run small hit and run operations inside Romulan territory. We will be able to loosen the Vulcan’s stranglehold on our home system. Perhaps come up with a way to drive them off.”
“All by yourselves?”
“We will merely be playing a part. This has all been cleared through Starfleet. They are in agreement, although they weren’t too happy to learn the senators and myself would be joining the Shakalak. There is little choice in the matter. This is a Romulan problem. We must find our own answers.”
Prosak nodded, focusing on maintaining her impassive demeanor. “If you must.”
“I will spare you the ‘war is hell’ speech, Boogles,” Rorshak said, taking Prosak by the shoulders and squeezing them tightly. “There are no guarantees that we will succeed in our mission. But for the greater glory of Romulus, we must try.”
“I knew it would come to that, eventually.”
“Think of it as getting even with dad,” Rorshak chuckled as he pulled Prosak into a hug. “This is my chance, in some small way, to atone for sending you and the Anomaly out on a hopeless mission for the glory of Romulus. Now I’m the one going on a hopeless mission for the glory of Romulus. There’s some logic to that, isn’t there?”
“No, Father, there’s no logic to it at all,” Prosak said, hugging Rorshak back, squeezing him hard. “Not at all. But logic isn’t everything.”
“Dear, that’s the most beautiful thing you’ve ever said to me.”
Tovar arrived at the doors to the Captain’s Lounge and pressed the call button. When nobody answered, he pressed it again.
Moments later, the doors split open, to reveal Bain sitting in the wingbacked chair next to his couch, where two Romulans were seated.
“Commander,” Bain said, standing up and gesturing Tovar in. “Allow me to introduce you to Commander Zanex, of the Romulan Warhawk Shakalak, and his First Officer, Sub-Commander Nural.”
“Shakalak. That’s hard to say,” Tovar said.
“Not if it’s your ship,” Zanex said, standing and extending his hand to Tovar. “How do you do, Commander…”
“Tovar,” Tovar said. He looked at Bain. “I can come back, Captain, if you’re busy.”
“Nonsense,” Bain scoffed, gesturing Tovar into his wingbacked chair. “I’m actually glad you’re here. You can help us work something out.”
“Sure,” Tovar said flatly. “I’ve had a great track record of that so far.”
Bain leaned against Tovar’s chair. “Of course you have. At any rate, Zanex here has told me that he’s a little short-staffed since the Vulcan attack.”
“The Vulcan filth obliterated much of my tactical staff,” Zanex said, clenching his hands into fists.
“I’m sorry to hear that,” Tovar said.
Bain patted Tovar on the shoulder. “So I thought we could put one of our crew temporarily aboard. You know, sort of an informal officer exchange? I was thinking Gworos would be excellent.”
Tovar leaned toward Bain and whispered. “Sir, Klingons and Romulans despise each other.”
“Oh, right right,” Bain said with a small chuckle. “How about that Brazzell fellow? Or Nortal. She’s actually a Romulan, so she’d fit right in.” Bain thought about that. “Although that would defeat the purpose of having an officer exchange to begin with, I suppose.”
Tovar nodded along, but he wasn’t thinking about Brazzell or Nortal. Maybe his emotions were running too high right now to make a crucial decision. Maybe he should just sit and keep his mouth shut. But that was the thing about having emotions. They rarely allowed you to keep your cool. That, Tovar figured, was what separated Vulcans from other species in the first place.
All this happened in a matter of a couple seconds, and in those couple seconds, Tovar had made up his mind.
“I volunteer, Captain,” he said. “I’ll go aboard the Shakatak.”
“Shakalak,” Nural, Zanex’s female first officer, said with a small smile.
“Yes. That sounds great. I’ve always wanted to see what serving on a Romulan Warhawk is like,” he lied.
Bain stared at Tovar, his mouth agape. “Commander, Sub- Commander. Would you excuse us a moment?”
“Of course,” Zanex said, and nodded at Nural. The two stood, bowed gently, then walked briskly out of the Captain’s lounge.
Once the doors were closed, Bain turned to Tovar. “Lad, do you realize what you’re proposing?”
“Absolutely,” Tovar said, and stood up, walking over to Bain’s large, wooden, galactic globe (which housed a minibar). He leaned on it. “I have never been more sure of anything in my life.”
“But,” Bain said. “There’s no telling when you’d return. The war…it could last a very long time.”
“I’m prepared for that,” Tovar said, and looked back at Bain. “Captain…Father. I know you don’t understand. This probably seems arbitrary and capricious of me…”
“Not at all. I just think you’re being rash.”
“I’ve put a lot of thought into it.” Two seconds worth, he thought to himself. “And I think it’s the right move for me. I need to get out of here for a while. I need new surroundings.”
Bain looked baffled, his brow creased. “But…why?”
“Personal reasons, sir.”
Bain folded his arms. “Marsden.”
“This is all about our Chief Engineer, is it not? What did she do…or not do…to you, son?”
“That’s not it at all,” Tovar said. “Well, okay, so it is that. Partially. But it only pulled into focus why I’ve felt so detached, for so long.”
“You’ve felt detached?”
“Yes.” Tovar stepped toward Bain. “Where was my first posting out of Starfleet Academy?”
Bain blinked. “Why, with me, on the Malaventure.”
“And where have I been since then?”
“With me, as always. My trusty…” Bain nodded. “I see. You’ve grown bored of Dad, then. I suppose it was only a matter of time. Audrey will barely have a thing to do with me…”
“No, Father. I’m not bored of you. But I think perhaps I’ve grown too comfortable with you. It’s lead me to make the wrong decisions. I should have never even approached Lieutenant Marsden about a relationship. It’s wrong. We work together.”
“Pshah!” Bain huffed, waving a hand at Tovar. “Nine months into my first posting, and I’d already bedded half a dozen female crewmembers. Of course, that was before I was married, and I had a LOT more stamina in those days…”
“Dad…” Tovar said, stepping closer to Bain. “I want to do this. Because I know I’ll be fighting for a good cause. I want to make you proud.”
“To make me….but Tovar, you’ve already done that.”
“And I plan on doing it again,” Tovar said, and pulled Bain into a tight hug. The captain gasped momentarily, then hugged the Yynsian back. “But this time, it will be on my own.”
“Request granted, son,” Bain said hoarsely.
Tovar smiled as he stepped back and turned toward the door. “I’ll be packed and aboard the Shakalak in an hour.”
“Shakatak,” Bain corrected, rubbing the corner of his eye as Tovar walked out of the Captain’s Lounge. “Shakatak.”
Doctor Kasyov stood in the doorway to D’ahna’s, the Andorian Coffee Restaurant on Deck Six that had been getting rave reviews in spite of an “accidental” stabbing several days earlier that had led Engineer Selex to run a diagnostic on the holocafe safety protocols.
Lt. Shelly Marsden sat hunched over a padd, sipping her v’haspant, intent on whatever she was reading.
“Ahem,” Kasyov cleared her throat.
Marsden didn’t look up from her padd. “I’m catching up on singularity protocols. It’s very important stuff. Can we talk later?”
“Nope,” Kasyov said.
“If you’re here to give some more sage advice, to tell me I need to go back to Tovar, try to patch things up, you’re barking up the wrong tree. I’d rather climb into an operational plasma conduit.”
“I wasn’t going to say anything of the sort,” Kasyov said. “I was just going to tell you, you might want to check the schedule of transporter activity for the next hour.”
Marsden glanced at her. “Why?”
“It might be more interesting reading than those protocols, that’s all,” she said, and stepped out of the cafe.
“I believe you’ll enjoy your time aboard a Romulan Warhawk, Mister Tovar,” Ambassador Rorshak said, as he six milling Romulan Senators stepped onto the transporter pad in the Anomaly’s small transporter room. “All the negative publicity you’ve no doubt heard is all wrong. Romulans are a warm, friendly people, and our vessels reflect that.”
“I hadn’t heard any negative publicity,” Tovar said, hoisting his duffle over his arm.
“Then nevermind,” Rorshak said, looking at the others. “Are we ready?”
“Wait!” a female voice cried, as the transporter room doors opened. “Tovar, I need you. You can’t leave!”
Tovar turned around. “Doctor Nooney. What can I do for you?”
“Perhaps we’ll just run along,” Rorshak said, looking askance at the plump, rosey-cheeked and grinning doctor. He’d heard Prosak talk of the frighteningly friendly doctor. Including tales of physicals that were, well… frighteningly friendly.
“Ambassador, I assure you, you don’t have to…”
“Computer, energize!” Rorshak said quickly, and he and the senators were gone in a bright flash.
“Doctor, if this is about my immunizations, I…”
“Oh, who cares about immunizations,” Nooney said lightly, shoving a small grey canister into Tovar’s hand. “I did an internship on a Romulan frigate when I was in medical school. The food is horrible! I made you some fritatas and salsa. You know, food from home!”
“I am Yynsian.”
“But you lived on Earth.”
“Well, that’s close enough,” Nooney said, patting Tovar on the shoulder. “Good luck out there, Commander, and godspeed to you. We’ll…we’ll miss you…!” he cooed, tears welling up in his eyes. “Oh, I can’t do this. I just can’t…” he wailed as he darted out of the transporter room.
“And suddenly I have no second thoughts,” Tovar said quietly, and stepped on the transporter pad.
Then, the doors to the transporter room opened again. Lieutenant Marsden stood, framed in the doorway, arms crossed behind her back.
“Tovar,” she said. “I believe I told you to blow yourself out an airlock.” She looked around. “This doesn’t look like an airlock.”
“I’ve grown kind of attached to air,” Tovar said uneasily, shifting from foot to foot.
“Understandable,” Marsden said, stepping toward the transporter pad. “You’re an idiot, you know.”
“I know,” Tovar said, then blinked. “I mean, for what? For sleeping with Prosak, or for leaving on a dangerous mission that I may not survive?”
“For both,” Marsden said, and stepped closer. “But mainly, for leaving.”
“This isn’t because of you, you know,” Tovar said. “There are a lot of reasons. And none of them have anything to do with you. Most of them, anyway.”
“Right,” Marsden said. “Well, if you make it back in one piece, you know, years from now…look me up.”
“You’d want me to?”
Marsden shrugged. “My last boyfriend stabbed me in the back. Literally. So, as you can imagine, I’ve significantly lowered my expectations of men.”
“I would like the opportunity to change that.”
Marsden smiled. “Maybe you’ll get that opportunity sometime. See you later, Tovar.”
Tovar nodded. “Goodbye, Shelly.”
Captain Bain stood in his lounge, watching the Warhawk through his large, wide viewport, as it angled on a wing and then warped away.
His door chime sounded.
“Come,” he said softly.
“Captain?” Prosak asked, stepping into the lounge.
“Yes, Prosak,” Bain said, turning and giving the Romulan his “stiff upper lip” smile. “What can I do for you?”
“The Warhawk. Has it left?”
“Yes. Just now.”
“I understand Commander Tovar transferred aboard.”
“I’ll make the necessary staffing adjustments. I recommend we move Centurion Nortal to Alpha Shift.”
“Agreed. Take care of it, will you?”
She nodded. “Of course.” Then she turned back toward the door.
“You and your father. You straightened things out?”
“As much as was possible, in the time allowed, yes, sir.”
“Good,” Bain said, and smiled. “I’m glad.”
Prosak nodded. “Me too.” And she actually meant it. She glanced back at Bain. “Will I see you on the bridge, Captain?”
Bain watched the stars. “In a little while, Prosak.”
Commander Tovar sat in the rudimentary and spartan guest quarters aboard the Shakalak and stared at the walls. There was not even a viewport to gaze out of. No matter. If there had been a viewport, he’d probably only see the Anomaly shrinking away in the distance as the Warhawk entered warp, and that would be counterproductive.
Not that anything like that could possibly shake his resolve.
Tovar had come aboard the Shakalak for one reason and one reason only. To become a better person. Someone he could be proud of. Someone Bain could be proud of.
Someone Marsden could really love.
Okay, maybe that was more than one reason.
Tovar had done a lot of courageous things in his post as tac-ops officer. He’d gone in firing, fighting for what he believed was right. But he’d always gone in firing right behind Reginald Bain, and for once in his life he had the chance to do something on his own.
And Tovar was determined not to screw that up.
He was about to head down to the Romulan mess, since he’d opened Nooney’s canister of fritatas, whatever those were, and the smell had almost made him ill. He hadn’t even reached the door when it opened, revealing Sub-Commander Nural.
“Sub-Commander. I didn’t hear you buzz…”
“Romulan vessels don’t have doorchimes. We feel that our officers should be prepared at at the spur of the moment to receive visitors.”
“How quaint,” Tovar muttered.
“Isn’t it?” Nural said, and stepped into the cabin, allowing the doors to close behind her. “May we talk for a moment?”
Tovar shrugged. “I suppose. What’s on your mind, Sub- Commander?”
“One moment,” Nural said, and bent down, removing a small cylinder from her boot. She waved it around the room, then glanced at it. A small light at the end glowed green. “Good. The listening devices in this room haven’t been activated yet.”
Tovar put up an eyebrow. “Why would you be concerned about listening devices?”
“Because I wouldn’t want the people running this ship to hear your reaction when I do this…” she said, as she tapped a quick sequence of buttons on the cylinder.
Nural’s face quickly flashed and rippled, then faded away to reveal another face underneath.
“Holographic overlay,” she explained. “You’ve got to love technology.”
“Audrey!” Tovar shouted, and Audrey Bain leaned forward and covered his mouth. “I think there are some Romulans on Deck Ten who didn’t hear you.”
“But…” Tovar gasped. “Why?”
“Section Thirty-One, silly,” Audrey said, taking her hand off Tovar’s mouth. “But I guess you’ve figured that out already.”
“Why are you aboard a Romulan ship?” Tovar asked, as Audrey undid her hair bun and shook her head, letting it cascade down to her shoulders.
“Because everything on this ship is not as it seems. And everything the Vulcans are doing is not as it seems.”
“We have to tell Captain Bain!” Tovar said, waking toward the door. “We have to–”
“No,” Audrey said. “It’s too dangerous. We’re going to have to do this on our own.”
“Damn,” Audrey said, shaking her head. “I’m really sorry Bain sent you here.”
“Audrey, tell me right now. What’s happening? Why is Section Thirty-One aboard this ship?”
Audrey sighed. “You might as well know. We’re going to save Earth, Tovar. And we’re not coming back.”
END OF SERIES SIX.