Star Traks: Boldly Gone... was created by Alan Decker and Anthony Butler. It's based on Star Traks, which in turn is based on Star Trek, created by Gene Roddenberry. Star Trek is owned by CBS, Paramount and Viacom. If you're offended by mildly disturbing language, situations, and the utter disregard of some of Star Trek's greatest premises, not to mention a huge jump 120 years into Star Trek's future, better hit the 'Back' button on your browser right now. If not, welcome aboard!

Author: Alan Decker, Anthony Butler
Copyright: 2006


“Uncomfortably Close”

By Alan Decker & Anthony Butler

Lieutenant Commander Tovar had to admit that he’d had something of a surprising day. Certainly it wasn’t the day he expected to have when he woke up with something of a hangover this morning. Was it just this morning? It seemed like an eternity had passed. And in that eternity the Federation had declared war on Vulcan, he’d obliterated any chance of a relationship with Lieutenant Shelly Marsden by telling her that he’d slept with Commander Prosak, and then, to escape his troubles on the USS Anomaly, he’d volunteered to be part of an officer exchange program and serve on the Romulan Warhawk Shakalak, the vessel on which he was currently traveling.

For anyone, that would be a full day, but the fun hadn’t stopped there. Soon after his arrival on board, he’d been visited in his quarters by the ship’s First Officer, Sub-Commander Nural. This normally wouldn’t be all that unusual, but Nural had turned out to be just a holographic overlay concealing Audrey Bain, Section 31 operative and his adopted sister, underneath. Then, to top everything off, she not only appeared to be happy to see Tovar, something that never happened, but she also had just told him that their warhawk, which was supposed to be resisting the Vulcan occupation of Romulan space, was really going to Earth and that they wouldn’t be coming back.

Faced with all of these events hitting in such a short time, Tovar did the only sensible thing and sat down.

“Are you all right?” Audrey Bain asked with concern. Tovar almost couldn’t look at her. As much as Audrey would have hated to admit it, she was the proverbial spitting image of her father, a much more feminine image to be sure, but Tovar had seen Reginald Bain peer at him with the same look on his face when he worried about his adopted Yynsian son.

“I am…processing,” Tovar replied.

“I always said you were part robot,” Audrey said. It was obviously not a compliment.

“I try to maintain control.”

“Except when that guy who called us all ‘puny mortals’ would pop out and try to slaughter everyone.”

“That past life is no longer with me.”

“Oh yeah. Mum told me you had an extra lifeforce removed or something like that. Dad didn’t say anything, of course. Not that he would.”

“I do not believe this is the time for us to catch up on family business,” Tovar said. “There is the small matter of our visit to and non-return from Earth that I would like to discuss.”

“Relax. It’s not going to happen immediately,” Audrey said. “Commander Zanex is going to take the Shakalak back into Romulan space and try to do what he promised, but I believe there are forces on this ship that will soon be acting against him.”

“What sort of forces? Vulcans?”

“Yes. The ones with really good hearing, remember? Possibly even through bulkheads, so keep your bloody voice down.”


“There’s a reason I am on this ship, Tovar. Do you think I just got lucky and happened to be on the only one of those three warhawks to survive? Section 31 knew something was in the offing involving this vessel. We just didn’t know exactly what. But then the orders came for the ambush on that Vulcan frigate, with the Shakalak assigned to take the lead and to transport something off of it.”

“What was it?”

“A weapon, we believe. A weapon that can wipe out a planet.”

“But our people were crawling all over this ship making repairs.”

“Yes, but I bet none of them looked through the containers in the cargo holds.”

A grim understanding washed over Tovar. “Of course not. They wouldn’t have any reason to. This entire event was a ploy. The Vulcans wanted to chase the ships across the Neutral Zone to start hostilities with the Federation. Then, with all of our attention focused on that situation, they could use a cloaked Romulan ship, one that had already been helped by Starfleet, to carry out their plans.”

“And if there’s one thing our enemies have learned from past conflicts, it’s that you have to hit Earth fast and early if you want to have a prayer of defeating the Federation,” Audrey said. “It’s the logical thing for the Vulcans to do.”

Tovar nodded in agreement. “We must assume then that whoever gave the Shakalak the order to attack the Vulcan frigate and transport the weapon aboard this vessel was actually working with the Vulcans. And if the weapon is here, the Vulcans must be here as well. Attempting to commandeer the Shakalak later on would risk the ship’s destruction or that someone else would be alerted.”

“The tactical genius strikes again,” Audrey replied snidely.

“And once again I must ask that you not bring your personal issues into this situation. I would think that as a Section 31 operative, you of all people would understand the need for detached professionalism in these circumstances.”

Audrey laughed. “I don’t understand? What about you? My mother invited you into Section 31.”

“I was approached by other parties.”

“But she was involved. She wants us to have a family business.”

“We already do. It’s Starfleet.”

“Starfleet is small potatoes compared to Section 31,” Audrey said, standing over Tovar as he sat on the room’s simple bed. “There we Bains can make things happen in the universe. For some reason Mum thought you would want to be a part of that. She thought you’d become more than that nutty kid Dad brought home from Waystation Prime. But you tossed it away because you’d rather spend your life as Father’s manservant. No wonder he adores you. You’re always at his beck and call. His loyal dog, always at his side.”

Tovar stiffened and stood up to face his adopted sister. “This isn’t about me. This is about you. Look at yourself. You’re 44 years old and still can’t grow up. It’s been twenty years since Captain Bain took me in. I was a child, and you were supposedly an adult woman. But that’s not the case. You still wanted to be daddy’s little girl.”

“That’s ridiculous. We fought like crazy from the time I hit high school, long before you got there.”

“Only because you wanted attention from a father who spent most of his time on a starship. You made your choices and went your own direction. That’s fine. That’s what a child should do, but don’t throw your angst back at me. I made my own choices. I chose to serve with our father, and today I chose to leave and come here because I wanted to get out from the Bain shadow for a little while.”

“I thought it was women trouble.”

Tovar’s eyes bulged. “How could you possibly…”

“Section 31.”

“Grrrrr…my point is that I didn’t come here to wallow in your daddy issues! If we have to save the Earth, then let’s do it. And if this is a suicide mission that we aren’t coming back from, so much the better!”

“Fine!” Audrey shouted back. She dropped her voice to a whisper. “First, I need you to pull out that science officer past life and go check out that weapon.”

Tovar was quiet for a moment. “I left him in my other lifeforce,” he replied softly.

“What? He’s gone?”


“Okay. Fine. Just don’t do anything for now. Don’t act like anything is amiss. We don’t know who on this crew is Romulan and who is Vulcan. Until someone makes a move, we’ll bide our time. There’s more than one way to win a war.”

“Ready weapons!” Captain Reginald Bain said, leaning forward in his command chair expectantly as the USS Anomaly dropped out of warp. On the viewscreen, a Vulcan cruiser loomed, a cruiser which was currently in Federation space.

“Give it to them, Nortal!” Bain ordered, pounding his fist on the armrest of his command chair. “Full phasers and torpedoes.”

“My might shall reduce them to dust!” Centurion Nortal, formerly of the Romulan Scout Ship Tyvek and now the USS Anomaly’s primary tac-ops officer, replied theatrically from her console as she let loose with all of the fury the Anomaly’s weapons systems would allow. For its part, the Vulcan cruiser seemed to have been caught somewhat off guard by the Federation starship warping in from out of nowhere (one of the benefits of the Anomaly’s anti-singularity drive was the ability to get from nowhere to the Neutral Zone in the blink of an eye). The Vulcan ship seemed even less prepared for said Federation starship to charge in with weapons blazing, and, therefore, it promptly exploded.

“Smartly done, Centurion,” Bain said. “Sub-Lieutenant Zantak, take us back to Starbase 228.”

Zantak, also formerly of the Tyvek, did not respond. Instead, she cooly spun the ship around and activated the Anomaly’s anti-singularity drive, sending it back toward their current base of operations.

Bain extended his arm to the chair beside him and clapped his First Officer, Commander Vioxx, on the shoulder. “Another one down, eh Commander?”

“Yes,” the Romulan replied flatly.

“What? Is something wrong there, chum?”

“No…I just…thought this would be more satisfying.”

“What do you mean?” Bain said. “This was your plan. And it’s working! You’re using that good old Romulan deceit to free your empire.”

“One ship at a time,” Vioxx said.

“At least the transmission buoy survived this time,” Bain said. The transmission buoy was the heart of Vioxx’s plan. It was the bait. The buoy streamed recorded ultraspace messages into the Empire from “The Voice of Romulus” (really Nortal, since they determined she had the most dramatic presentation) advocating resistance against the Vulcan occupation force. The Vulcans, not surprisingly, did not appreciate having a propaganda machine sitting just outside of the space they were trying to conquer and, therefore, had sent a ship on a foray across the Neutral Zone to destroy it. As soon as they entered Federation space, though, the Anomaly would warp in using its anti-singularity drive, destroy the Vulcan ship, then duck away. It was a nicely deceitful plan, as Bain had said, and so far it had worked three times (but in two of them the buoy had also been destroyed). Vioxx had a feeling that the Vulcans wouldn’t allow a fourth. They would either ignore the buoy or, more likely, send in a larger force.

“Anyone else taking the bait?” Bain asked, looking back to Sub-Commander Remax, who was manning the science station.

“Not currently,” the elder Romulan scientist replied. “But three Vulcan ships in one day is nothing to complain about. We need a fleet, though. Then we could show those logic-mongers what Romulans are really made of.”

“That we could,” Bain said. “Except I’m not Romulan obviously.” Bain took a quick glance around his bridge. Actually, he was the only non-Romulan there at the moment. Here he was on the bridge of a Federation starship, and he was the only Federation member. It was a funny universe sometimes. But then these folks were just trying to free their homeworld. He couldn’t begrudge them that, not that he had anything to begrudge them for anyway. If the last couple of years had taught him anything, it was that Romulans generally weren’t a bad sort.

“Our superiors hail!” Nortal exclaimed suddenly.

“Thank you for that, Nortal, but there’s no need to hail me,” Bain said.

“The comm! The comm!”

“Oh! Right. Our superiors ARE hailing us. I’m with you. On screen.”

The streaking starfield on the viewscreen was instantly replaced with the image of Admiral Kristen Larkin.

“Krissers!” Bain exclaimed. “How goes the war effort?”

“The declaration was only made yesterday, Reginald,” Larkin replied. “Both sides are preparing for the conflict to come. In short, the situation is quiet except for the noise I believe you are causing.”

“This dog of war has been let slip. You won’t catch us letting those blasted Vulcans off easy,” Bain said.

“They are indeed blasted Vulcans,” Nortal said. “And, by Jenichai, my hand will be doing the blasting!”

“Well said.”

“While I appreciate your desire to decimate that entire sector, we at the Admiralty were hoping that you might indulge us by participating in some minor activities called planning and tactics,” Larkin said.

“Now now, Krissers. There’s no need to be condescending,” Bain said.

“And there’s no need for you to further aggravate an already tense situation.”

“Tense! We’ve declared war, for god’s sake! How do you think this works?”

“By hopefully not obliterating a species we have been allies with for close to half a millennium. Present behavior aside, the Vulcans have been our friends for centuries. The Federation Council appreciates the gravity of the current threat, but we would like to proceed with this confrontation in as diplomatic a fashion as possible.”

“A diplomatic war?” Bain sputtered. “Has someone altered your programming, Admiral?”

“No. And I believe we have had quite enough discussion on the matter. You are to continue on course to Starbase 228 where you will be briefed on your next mission. Larkin out.”

“Well that’s a bitter pill,” Bain sighed.

“This is the worst war ever,” Nortal groused.

“Well said.”

“Does anyone else feel like we are about to be punished for something?” Commander Prosak asked as she, Bain, Vioxx, Nortal, Dr. Natalia Kasyov, and Lieutenant Shelly Marsden filed into a briefing room on Starbase 228. The group had been rather solemn since their summons from Admiral Larkin. Prosak imagined that the source of her misgivings was somewhat different than that of her colleagues, though. The captain had basically been ordered not to blow anything up, which was the sort of order that tended not to sit so well with Reginald Bain. Bain was a warrior in a way that few of his species (or any species really) could understand. He wasn’t out for honor or glory. He went to battle because that was what he was born to do. If there was a conflict, Bain would charge in and sort it, most often leaving a trail of debris and destruction in his wake. It was never malicious or personal. War was just his business.

But for Vioxx and the other Romulans (except her), it was personal. Their Empire had been invaded and pretty much conquered. To make matters worse, it had been conquered by Vulcans, a race that most Romulans despised on principle or at the very least mistrusted. To the Romulans, the Vulcans were like looking into a mirror and seeing a warped reflection.

Prosak did not find the reflection warped at all. Up until recent events, she had whole-heartedly believed in the RommaVulc way. Romulans could benefit from an infusion of logic in their lives. And even with Sh’rak’s actions as High Chancellor of the Vulcan Alliance, Prosak still believed that the Vulcan way was a good way. She had told her father, Ambassador Rorshak, before he left on the Shakalak with the other rescued Romulan officials and Tovar, that she felt the Vulcan invasion was possibly a good thing. She wasn’t sure if she meant it. On the one hand, she wanted her people to realize the value of Vulcan wisdom and philosophy, but she wasn’t sure that it should be put upon them by force. Also, it pained her to know that her captain would be setting his inborn battle skills against the people she had come to admire. If there was one thing Prosak had learned over the last few years it was that logic had no effect on Reginald Bain.

The other Anomaly officers had quickly taken most of the available seats at the briefing table, leaving only the one next to Lieutenant Marsden empty. Marsden eyed Prosak coldly as she took her seat, then focused her attention at the table in front of her, leaving Prosak to wonder if she had offended the Anomaly’s Chief Engineer in some way. She is most likely associating me with the Vulcans, Prosak thought. She believes I am siding with them in this war. This was simply not the case. In fact, Prosak was feeling more and more like not siding with anyone. These feelings of divided loyalties were getting old fast, and she was becoming more and more tempted to find a nice neutral world to hide on until this was over. Of course, she would never do that. She was far too involved with both sides to stand idly by while they attempted to destroy each other.

The table in front of Prosak hummed softly as the holoemitters inside flared to life. In an instant, foot-tall holograms of Admiral Larkin as well as Admiral Th’ril, an Andorian, and Admiral Khalid Haddad, both of Starfleet Tactical Operations, appeared on the table. Across the table, Bain’s eyes narrowed. Th’ril and Haddad had both made it known that they felt the Anomaly should be the province of the STO rather than the Larkin-run Explorer Project. It was an idea that bristled Bain to no end. Larkin was his friend, and he was determined to stay with her project, whether the Anomaly did any exploration or not

“Good afternoon, everyone,” Admiral Larkin said as her holographic image began to walk around the surface of the table. “Thank you all for coming.”

“Not to spoil your fun, Admiral, but we weren’t exactly given an option,” Bain said.

“I was being polite, Reginald, but if you would prefer to get straight to business, I am not opposed.”

“Frankly, Larks, the sooner we can get the Anomaly back out there and dealing with the Vulcans, the better.”

“Dealing with them non-violently, of course,” Commander Vioxx added with more than a bit of sarcasm in his voice.

“We appreciate your eagerness to engage the enemy,” Admiral Haddad said, his tiny image stepping toward Bain and Vioxx. “However, we must first assess the tactical situation. Our opponent has claimed most, if not all, of the Romulan Empire, and we are seriously lacking in information about their numbers and movements.”

“The Romulans are secretive about their space even in the best of times,” Admiral Th’ril said. “But in the current circumstances, we are almost blind.”

“So you want us to go in and size things up, eh?” Bain said.

“We would prefer that the Vulcans not know that we’re watching,” Th’ril said. “We’re attempting to establish a tactical advantage here.”

“You’ve lost me then,” Bain said.

“Allow me to explain,” Larkin said as several small holographic spheres appeared in the air above the table. “What you are looking at is a small section of Romulan space. The Romulans have a network of sensor stations throughout their space which, as a group, monitor the Empire in its entirety. As you would expect, many of the stations are located along the Neutral Zone. We believe that this network is still in operation and under the control of the Vulcans. It would be a logical tool to use to monitor the movements of any potential rebel ships inside the Empire.”

“And if we could get access to that network, we could watch the movements of every Vulcan ship,” Dr. Kasyov said.

“Precisely, Doctor,” Larkin replied. “To that end, Captain Bain, you will be sending a small team on a cloaked microshuttle to the sensor outpost on Gortex Four, and uninhabited world less than a parsec inside Romulan space from the Neutral Zone. While this team is performing its assigned task…”

“We’ll be providing a distraction,” Bain said.

“Yes,” Haddad said, obviously surprised.

Bain chuckled. “When you need a ruckus stirred up, there are few people more qualified to get the job done than Reg Bain.”

“You do have something of a reputation,” Th’ril admitted.

“Well earned, I assure you,” Prosak said.

“Indeed it is,” Larkin said.

“But enough about my talents,” Bain said. “What about this team? Who’s on it?”

“It will be small, as I said. Based on situation and your available personnel, we feel that it should consist solely of Commander Prosak and Lieutenant Marsden.”

“Yippee,” Marsden muttered.

“Wait a moment,” Commander Vioxx said. “This is a mission into Romulan space. As the ranking Romulan here, I should be going with my officers.”

“Lieutenant Marsden is adequately familiar with Romulan technology, and we would prefer that you remain on this side of the Neutral Zone, Commander. Captain Bain has often praised the abilities of Commander Prosak, so I have no doubt that she will be more than capable of completing this assignment while also representing the interests of Romulus in the matter,” Larkin said. “Now then, if there are no further questions, Captain, I will leave the formulation of the details of your distraction up to you and your crew.”

“We’ll put on a show. Of that I can assure you,” Bain said, pushing his chair away from the table.

“A non-violent show, of course,” Vioxx muttered.

“Good luck to you all,” Haddad said. “Starfleet out.”

“That was my line,” Larkin said just as the holograms winked out.

With the briefing adjourned, the Anomaly officers got up from their chairs and headed for the exit, with Bain quickly circling around the table and coming up behind Prosak and Marsden. “Larks made a good call on this one,” he said. “You two will have this thing sorted out in no time.”

“We shall do our best to complete our mission,” Prosak said.

“Never doubted that for a moment,” Bain said, strolling along with the pair. “Yes, indeed. The time away will be good for you both. It’ll give you a chance to work on that bond between you.”

“Lieutenant Marsden and I have worked together on previous occasions,” Prosak said. “Our bond, as you call it, is fine.”

“Never better,” Marsden muttered. “If you’ll excuse me…” She practically jogged ahead, leaving Bain and Prosak behind.

“I wish you the best of luck, Commander,” Bain said, patting Prosak on the shoulder. “May the trip be good for you both.”

Marsden, meanwhile, silently fell into step beside Dr. Kasyov. The engineer’s long time friend glanced over and smiled. “Hi there,” Kasyov said.

“Hi,” Marsden replied flatly.

“Don’t you just hate meetings?”

“Sure do.”

“Thinking about Tovar?”

“I thought I told you to butt out.”

“You’re the one who walked up to me.”

“You noticed that, huh?”

“I am trained to observe.”

“Did I blow it, Nat?” Marsden asked. “Sure I was mad, but I wasn’t trying to drive him away.”

“Tovar’s a big boy. He can make his own decisions.”

“Oh yeah. He’s doing a hell of a job so far. Asks me out right after Torgerson dumps him, sleeps with Prosak…”

Kasyov’s head whipped toward Marsden, her eyes practically leaping out of her skull. “He and Prosak!” Kasyov exclaimed, somehow managing to keep her voice to a frantic whisper. “When did he do that…well, her?”

“The night before he left.”

“And he told you?”



“At the time, he said it to upset me.”

“I’m guessing it worked.”

“It certainly didn’t help,” Marsden said. “But he’s gone, and I’m getting to spend some ‘alone’ time with the other woman.”

“Does she know that you know?” Kasyov asked.

“I don’t think so. But who can tell with her?”

“Um…just about everyone. She’s not exactly great at hiding her emotions, no matter how much of that RommaVulc training she claims she’s had. But don’t worry about it. Don’t mention Tovar, and you two can just focus on your mission. You’ve got bigger things to worry about than him, such as making sure you and Prosak come home.”

“Hard to argue with that one. We’ll just go and do our jobs. Things between us will be…”


“I was going to say awkward, but professional works too.”

So far serving on a Romulan warhawk was not quite the experience that Tovar was expecting. Considering the Federation’s reputation for being soft, he imagined that a Romulan vessel would be far more strict and militaristic than he was used to. From what he could tell from his little over a day on board, though, things on the Shakalak were run in an almost casual manner. It was subdued, but casual all the same.

Granted, he was not exactly catching the Romulans at their best. This was not one ship which was part of the Empire’s vast fleet. Instead, it was a lone craft, fighting against an occupation force.

And some of that force might actually be on board with a weapon capable of wiping out Earth.

The thought unnerved Tovar more than he cared to admit. He was not human, but the years he spent on Earth had made it feel more like home than Yyns ever was. His birth parents hadn’t spent much time on Yyns anyway. They were too busy hopping around the galaxy looking for the next great resort spot. That’s why they disappeared. They wanted to visit the hot spots of the Multek Enclave. At least they left him on Waystation Prime before they went (Who wanted to take a 12-year-old on vacation when they didn’t have to?). Otherwise, he could have been lost with them when the entire Enclave vanished all those years ago.

If that had happened, he never would have met Reginald Bain, the man who took him in and raised him like his own son. Not once did Tovar ever feel that Bain thought of him as anything other than his own flesh and blood. Rosalyn was the same way. The Bains’ daughters, Audrey and Sophie, however, were a different story. Sophie seemed to feel that Tovar was a sweet hobby her parents had gotten once their own children had grown up and moved out. For Audrey, though, it was a personal affront. He had usurped her place as the youngest in the family.

But now Tovar was relying on her to keep them and the Earth in one piece. That might be why he was feeling so unnerved.

Tovar also wasn’t thrilled with Audrey’s “plan” up to now, which seemed to consist mostly of not doing anything at all about the potential catastrophe looming before them. The simple fact was, though, that Audrey was not in charge of him. Okay, technically she was, since she was cavorting around as the Shakalak’s First Officer, but Tovar was not about to stand by while Vulcan operatives schemed to take over the ship. He would find them, and he would expose them before they had a chance to carry out their plans.

First, though, he had to deal with the finding them part, which was not the easiest thing to do when he was only person on the entire ship not sporting pointed ears. At least Nural/Audrey’s were holographic, so he could rule her out. While it was a small warhawk, the Shakalak had a crew of almost 100, and there were also the so-called Romulan dignitaries that beamed over from the Anomaly at the same time as Tovar. Of course, one of those dignitaries was Prosak’s father, Ambassador Rorshak, so he could most likely be ruled out as well.

What Tovar needed was a way to test the crew quickly to weed out who was Vulcan and who wasn’t. Walking around with a quadcorder was liable to get him hurt fast, but there was one other method that just might work…

“So then the first Romulan says, ‘You’d just better pray Etor doesn’t have you assassinated.’” Tovar looked out at the blank faces staring back at him as he finished his joke. “Pray Etor? Praetor? Get it?”

Hmmm…not a single person in the Shakalak’s mess hall was so much as smiling. The reason he’d decided to tell the joke at dinner was that he could get almost all of the crew in the same place at the same time and see who showed an emotional response. So far he wasn’t getting a thing. Maybe they were all Vulcans. It was certainly a possibility.

Later that evening, the door to Tovar’s quarters slid open, allowing Sub-Commander Nural (aka Audrey) to enter. She did not look like a happy Romulan. And once she deactivated her holographic overlay, she didn’t look much like a happy human either.

“What was that?” Audrey demanded.

“What that are you referring to specifically?”

“That little performance at dinner. Is that supposed to endear you to the crew or something?”

“No. That was a little thing called a test. I was attempting to ascertain who on this crew was actually Romulan as opposed to a Vulcan pretending to be a Romulan by provoking an emotional response, in this case laughter. The results were not what I would have hoped. Either we are on a ship crewed entirely by Vulcans or…”

“Your joke stunk,” Audrey finished.

“I beg your pardon. That was quality humor.”

“Pray Etor? Come on. That was horrible.”

“At least I was making an effort to do something,” Tovar snapped back.

“I am doing something!” Audrey insisted. “I’m gathering information.”

“What about when Earth is destroyed? Will that be informative as well?”

“We will take action before then, but we need a better grasp on the situation.”

“I agree completely, but it has been 24 hours since you last told me to do nothing. I will not stand idle for much longer. Section 31 may believe in waiting until they know every little detail about everything before they make a move, but in the real universe sometimes you have to jump to the occasional conclusion and take action.”

“Which is why Section 31 spends so much of its time cleaning up after Starfleet. If we bollocks this one up, Tovar, it will be Earth bits that we’re cleaning up. Neither of us wants that to happen, but you have to trust me. No more testing the crew, agreed?”

“I will abstain for now,” Tovar said, clearly not pleased with the situation.

“Good. And good night.”

“I do not even get a ‘thank you’?” Tovar said.

“I’m not going to thank you for doing what you’re supposed to be doing. I shouldn’t have to. You’re an adult now, remember?” With that, Audrey reactivated her hologram, turned on her heel and strode out of his quarters.

“All too well,” Tovar said as Shelly Marsden’s face after he’d told her about sleeping with Prosak leapt unbidden into his mind. “I remember all too well.”

As Commander Prosak expected, Lieutenant Marsden was already in the Anomaly’s secondary shuttlebay by the time Prosak arrived. Calling Shuttlebay Two the secondary shuttlebay was really somewhat inaccurate. Just about all of the Anomaly’s support craft launched from this bay because the main shuttlebay was completely filled by the USS Navigator, the Lincoln class craft that was practically a starship all its own. A very small starship, but a starship none-the-less.

Marsden was performing the last of the pre-flight check on one of the Anomaly’s microshuttles as Prosak approached.

“ETA for departure is two minutes, ma’am,” Marsden said crisply and without so much as a glance at Prosak as she continued her work.

“Is there anything I can do to assist you?”

“No, ma’am. As the only engineering officer on this mission, it is my duty to properly perform all maintenance checks before departure.”

“Yes. However…”

Marsden was already at the rear of the shuttle and quickly crawling underneath.

“I shall wait in the ship then,” Prosak said to no one in particular, since it was more than obvious that Marsden was occupied with other matters.

Prosak climbed into the microshuttle’s pilot’s seat through the open cockpit and started her own pre-flight check, not that there was much for the pilot to check on a vessel this small. There just wasn’t much to the interior beyond the two seats, the control console, and a tiny storage locker with room for little more than Marsden’s tool kit and the transmitter they would be installing in the Romulan…now Vulcan sensor station.

Just under two minutes later, Marsden climbed into the seat next to Prosak and put her tool kit into the waiting storage locker. “Pre-flight check is complete, Commander.”

Prosak eyed Marsden for a moment. She was acting rather oddly. Stiff, when Shelly Marsden was rarely that way. Of course, Marsden was rarely sent out on missions of this sort. If this was her method of coping with the potential danger, so be it. Actually, Prosak approved. Her demeanor was almost Vulcan. Hmm…perhaps this was not a reaction to stress. Maybe this was a form of method acting, which Prosak was familiar with from her years of theater studies. Perhaps Marsden was simply trying to get into the mind of their adversary. Either way, Prosak would not interfere.

The RommaVulc tapped the cockpit control, causing the transparent covering to close and sealing the microshuttle’s occupants from the outside world.

“Prosak to bridge. We are ready for departure.”

“Right on schedule,” Captain Bain’s voice said over the comm. “Stand by for my signal.” The signal would be given as soon as the Anomaly passed behind a nearby planetoid, which would effective block the view of any Vulcan sensor apparatus that happened to be monitoring the Anomaly’s movements and give the microshuttle an opportunity to slip out of the ship undetected.

“All right. Good hunting to you. Sensor shadow in three…two…one…now.”

Marsden silently activated the shuttlebay doors as Prosak lifted the microshuttle off of the deck, activated the vessel’s cloak, and steered it out through the opening doors, which Marsden immediately closed.

The Anomaly continued on course without so much as slowing down, and the entire launch operation was complete in a matter of moments. In theory, the Vulcans would have no inkling that anything unusual had just occurred. Of course, Prosak and Marsden would not know if that was truly the case until they made their way across the Neutral Zone on their course for the monitoring post on Gortex Four.

Captain Bain stole another glance at the chronometer on the armrest of his command chair. It had been an hour since the microshuttle left the Anomaly, which meant two things. First of all, the shuttle should be very close to the monitoring station on Gortex Four by this time. Second, and more interesting from Bain’s perspective, it was time to make with the diversionary tactics.

“Sub-Lieutenant Zantak, I would very much like a tour of your homeland,” Bain said casually. “Do you think you could take the time to show me around?”

Zantak spun around in her chair at the helm toward Bain and Commander Vioxx, her face filled with confusion.

“He means it’s time to start the mission,” Vioxx said from the chair beside Bain. Zantak nodded her understanding, then wordlessly set to work complying with the order.

“Speaking of, Commander, I’d say it was high time you got in position yourself,” Bain said.

“Try not to get shot at until we’re ready,” Vioxx replied, getting up from his seat and heading for the turbolift, catching a glare from Lieutenant Gworos, the Klingon currently manning tac- ops. For some reason, Vioxx had the distinct feeling that the Klingon didn’t like him. Of course, he got that impression about every Klingon he met.

“What does it look like, Gworos?” Bain asked once Vioxx was gone.

“We are once again allowing Romulans to dictate our actions.”

“Excuse me?”

“That’s what it looks like to me.”

“I wasn’t clear then, Lieutenant. What does the tactical situation look like?” Bain tried not to let himself wish too hard that he had Tovar at tac-ops for this, but blast it, Tovar would have given the right answer the first time. Actually, Bain could have just said “Tovar?” and gotten the right answer, because the boy knew exactly what Bain needed to know in each situation. That was what made him such an ideal officer. Why the devil did he let Tovar run off to that Romulan ship? He needed him here!

But then Tovar needed to be there. Bain knew that as well as Tovar did. Maybe even a bit better. It had taken him a little while to catch on, but he wasn’t so blind as to miss what was going on around him. The looks between Tovar and Marsden. The looks between Tovar and Prosak. The blow up at the high school career night. And then the morning Prosak and Tovar both arrived for their shifts late. One day after that, Tovar volunteered for duty on the Romulan ship. It didn’t take a genius to deduce what had happened there. Personal relationships were inevitable on a starship, but sometimes they could by damned inconvenient. Times like this made Bain feel like he was part den mother as well as the captain. He’d granted Tovar permission to go work things out on his own, and then he’d sent Prosak and Marsden off together to get their end of things worked out. Bain was confident that everything would be fine when they returned, but until then he planned to take out a few of his frustrations on the Vulcans.

“No Vulcan ships are currently in range,” Gworos reported.

“Capital.” Bain turned to the science console. “Are you ready to go, Kassie?” he asked Dr. Kasyov.

“Payloads are standing by.”

“The Navigator reports they are ready,” Gworos said.

Bain smiled. “Very good. The Vulcans aren’t going to know what’s hit them. Well…they are, but they aren’t going to be very fond of it. That I can assure you.”

The monitoring station on Gortex Four didn’t have a lot going for it in the way of design aesthetics. Of course, there was really no reason for a glorified shack on an uninhabited world to be anything more than a place to put a sensor and transmitter array. The station was designed to be unmanned and didn’t have so much as a restroom in it. Fortunately Prosak and Marsden both went on the Anomaly before the mission started.

As it was currently, the pair was inside the shack facing a conglomeration of equipment designed to collect sensor data and send it into the Empire. Romulan redundant engineering also meant that the station received data from every other station as well. It made for a mesh of sensors that effectively covered the Romulan Empire. Of course, the data was also supposed to only be used by agents of said Empire. Now it was working for the Vulcans and soon, if all went according to plan, the Federation as well.

Prosak, thus far, was feeling spectacularly useless on the current assignment. Her ability to read Romulan (seeing as how she was Romulan, this wasn’t a big stretch for her) had saved them a little time in translating signage around the facility, but Marsden could have accomplished the same task with a quadcorder. Now Marsden was deep into examining the layout of the equipment in the monitoring station as she looked for the ideal position to place the transmitter that would shunt information collected from this outpost to a waiting Starfleet comm buoy inside the Neutral Zone. Even if that buoy should be destroyed for some reason, the signal would make it all the way to Starbase 288.

“I have found the position, Commander,” Marsden said finally.

“Good,” Prosak said. She was actually starting to find Lieutenant Marsden’s matter-of-fact attitude to be somewhat grating, which surprised Prosak a little, since she’d always imagined that serving with an entirely-emotionless crew would be rather liberating. Coming from a human, though, it just seemed unnatural.

As Marsden gathered her toolkit and the new transmitter, which was actually built from Romulan parts so it would blend into the other technology present in the monitoring station, Prosak moved closer to assist with the installation.

Marsden gave Prosak a quick glare as the RommaVulc approached, but quickly composed herself. “I can handle this, Commander,” she said.

“I am sure that you can; however, the operation may be performed more quickly and efficiently if you do not have to dig for tools. As you are well aware, I am capable of putting my hands on the proper tool and then giving it to you,” Prosak replied. That last bit had come out a bit more caustic than she had planned. Hopefully, Marsden would not notice.

Marsden stopped in mid-motion and slowly turned on Prosak, her eyes blazing. “Oh, I am VERY aware that you know all about putting your hands on things, especially things that you have no business touching.”

“I’m sorry. I have absolutely no idea what you are implying, Lieutenant,” Prosak said. “And do not deny that there is not an implication of some sort in your statement, because there most certainly was.”

“Oh, I’m not denying anything. I know exactly what I said and what I meant by it. If you don’t, you’re even sadder than I thought.”

“I do not believe that I am experiencing anything resembling sadness at the current time. I will admit to some confusion, and, if you must know, a growing feeling of irritation which seems to be aimed squarely in your direction. Now I am more than willing to hear you out should you feel that you have a grievance of some sort with me; however, I would like to recommend that you air said grievance while we complete our mission here because I for one would rather not be captured because you and I are too busy arguing about something to notice the approach of the enemy.”

“So they are your enemy now, huh?” Marsden said as she yanked an access panel off of the olive green mass of metal and circuitry in front of her and set to work. “And here I thought you were ready to ship your unfeeling self off to the nearest Vulcan recruitment center.”

“You think I want to join the Vulcans? Is that why you seem so upset at me?” Prosak asked. “I assure that I will be remaining with this crew. My loyalty is to Captain Bain. And what did any of that have to do with where I put my hands?”

“This isn’t about the damn Vulcans!” Marsden shouted. “For someone who’s supposed to be so damn logical, you sure as hell suck at figuring things out!”

“Fine!” Prosak snapped back, losing any pretense of being cool and emotionless. “What is this about?”

Marsden tossed the tool she was using back into her kit in a rage. “Tovar, you moron! Tovar! Remember him? The man you f**ked a few nights ago! Is that ringing any goddamn bells?”

“Probe away,” Dr. Kasyov announced as the Anomaly sent another sensor-laden projectile streaking into Romulan space.

Captain Bain was actually a bit surprised. They’d been at this for twenty minutes, launching several probes and a couple of comm buoys transmitting their “Voice of Romulus” propaganda, and the Vulcans hadn’t so much as twitched.

“Sensor contacts!” Lieutenant Gworos shouted suddenly. “Three Vulcan battlecruisers are closing on our position.”

“Coming in force this time, eh?” Bain said. He smiled slightly. “That’s very sporting of them. Get ready to run for the Federation, Zantak. Gworos, prep the rear launchers with a full spread of torpedoes and standby on compression phaser banks. Are you getting this, Vioxx?”

“We’re ready, Captain,” the Romulan Commander’s voice said over the comm.

“Vulcan ships closing at warp eight!” Gworos said.

“Bridge to Cabral.”

“Cabral here, Captain,” the sentient brain that really formed the heart of the Anomaly’s anti-singularity drive replied.

“We have some company approaching. Think you can manage to beat warp eight for a while?”

“Is that a joke, Captain?” Cabral asked.

“Just my way of letting you know that your services may soon be needed.”

“I am ready and waiting.”

“Good show. Hang on down there. This might get a little bumpy.”

“They’re almost in firing range!” Gworos exclaimed.

“Escape course, Zantak. Warp 7.99.”

Zantak nodded and spun the Anomaly around faster than the inertial dampeners could compensate for, causing the rest of the bridge crew to cling to their console or chairs for dear life. An instant later, the Anomaly shot forward with the Vulcan closing in.

“Torpedoes on my mark, Mister Gworos,” Bain said watching the Vulcan ships on the viewscreen. “Fire!”

A dozen torpedoes streaked out of the Anomaly’s rear launchers, quickly spreading out as they locked onto the three Vulcan targets heading their way.

“Now, Vioxx!” Bain cried as the torpedoes began to detonate.

The three Vulcan ships passed through the flares of the torpedo explosions just as the Anomaly’s main docking bay finished opening, allowing the Navigator to come streaking out, weapons blazing. The already battered Vulcan cruisers rocked again under this new barrage of heavy fire.

“I wish I could have seen the looks on those Vulcan blighters faces when they saw that coming at them,” Bain said grinning. “Well…they probably didn’t really show anything on their faces, but I’d wager one or two of them could stand a change of trousers right now.”

“Captain?” Gworos asked confused.

“No matter. Let’s not leave all the fun to Commander Vioxx. Get us around, Zantak.”

Once again, the Anomaly went into a stomach-wrenching turn and bore down on two limping Vulcan cruisers while the Navigator zig-zagged, dodging fire from the one Vulcan ship left in any condition to mount a counterstrike.

“Finish these two off, Gworos. Then we’ll…” Bain trailed off as Admiral Larkin’s admonitions echoed in his mind. “Blast!” he spat, smacking his arm rest. “Just give their engines another whack. We’ll give Krissers that diplomatic war she asked for.”

“With all due respect, sir,” Gworos said, “this will do nothing to make you known as the Butcher of Breen and Vulcan.”

“I know that, but that doesn’t mean I still can’t show them a good what for. Engines, Gworos.”

“Firing now…gently.”

“Good show.”

Commander Prosak watched the seething Lieutenant Marsden for a few moments, just to make sure that the human woman’s tirade was not about to escalate into actual violence. Instead, Marsden let out an exasperated grunt and went back to work on the transmitter.

“I was not aware that Tovar would be sharing the details of our evening together,” Prosak said softly.

“Fortunately, he spared me the details,” Marsden said. “It was enough for him to tell me that it happened. Threw it in my face, more like.”

“I doubt this will help any, but I can assure you that our liaison was strictly recreational. I have no desire at this time to pursue a relationship with Mister Tovar. It was simply a way for both of us to deal with personal situations we were experiencing. I would actually call it therapy.”

“You’re right. That doesn’t help.”

“I would remind you that Tovar is not your property, or even your boyfriend as far as I know. Actually, if the gossip moving around the Anomaly is to be believed, you told him that you would not even consider dating him because he came to you soon after his breakup with Lieutenant Torgerson. I cannot say that I understand your logic, since both of you obviously have strong feelings for each other; however, that is your decision to make. Just as it was Tovar’s decision to engage in sexual intercourse with me.”

“Oh please stop. You make it sound even worse than it was,” Marsden said.

“Would you prefer that I adopt your vulgarities?” Prosak asked.

“No, I’d prefer that it never happened and that right now Tovar was on the Anomaly instead of off on some Romulan ship because I made him run away.”

“You cannot take the blame for Tovar’s departure. As I have said, he makes his own decisions, whether we agree with them or not.”

“I know. It’s just… This is supposed to be the easy part, Prosak!”

“I do not understand.”

“I found the guy. He’s smart, attractive, strong, and he’s interested in me, too. He’s not even in a relationship anymore. The hard part’s supposed to be done. So why the hell can’t we get it together?”

“Again, I do not know. Logic suggests that you two would begin your relationship as soon as you were both available; however, as is true in many areas such as this, logic cannot account for the vagaries of emotions. Lieutenant Torgerson was an unsuitable mate for Tovar, yet he would not end that relationship for fear of causing hurt feelings. Once she took the first step and ended it, he came to you, yet you would not accept him because you felt somehow like second prize. When you would not take him, he came to me because he needed to feel comfort. Your emotional reaction upon learning of his night with me further deteriorated matters, leaving Tovar feeling as though he had to leave the ship to escape the situation. It is an unfortunate spiral of events and one that could have been avoided entirely if emotions were not involved.”

“That’s it. I’m done,” Marsden said.

“I am sorry if my interpretation of events was somehow too blunt.”

“No. The transmitter. I’m done. As for the rest of it, you’re probably right. But if emotions aren’t involved, why have a relationship in the first place? Even Vulcans don’t mate based on logic alone, do they?”

“That is true,” Prosak admitted.

“You see. There’s no way around it. And if anyone should be all for an emotion-ectomy, it’s me. My love life has sucked for as long as I can remember. I get involved, and then the guy ends up hurting me. I’ve been dumped, cheated on, even stabbed. I must be some kind of moron, but I keep coming back for more.”

“I am sorry if my actions upset you. I have no desire to cause you pain,” Prosak said as Marsden gathered her gear together.

“I’m not mad at you, Prosak. I’m not even mad at Tovar. I’m not sure who the hell I’m mad at. Maybe me. I think I’m my own biggest problem.”

“Tovar will return to the Anomaly,” Prosak said. “At that time, perhaps you will be able to talk to him as you have talked to me.”

“Maybe. I don’t know. We’ll see,” Marsden said. “If I do, I’d like to skip the screaming part, though.”

“That would be wise.”

“But let’s get out of here before the Vulcans find us and make it all a moot point.”

“That would also be wise,” Prosak said resealing the helmet of her EVA suit and following Marsden toward the exit.

Despite the fact that he had seen Lieutenant Yonk in action several times and knew that the diminutive Ferengi was a competent helm officer, Commander Vioxx felt uncomfortable having someone that…short operating the helm during a crisis situation like this. Federation ideals preached that the fact that Yonk was small even for a Ferengi was no big deal, but Vioxx was a Romulan. And to him, it WAS a big deal. The Ferengi couldn’t reach his arm all the way across the console, for Praetor’s sake!

Yet somehow the Navigator was smoothly pitching and rolling and managing to avoid just about everything the Vulcan ship pursuing them could throw at it.

“The craven dogs have once again felt the sting of my lash!” Centurion Nortal exclaimed from tac-ops as another blast from the Navigator’s compression phaser banks slashed across the bow of the Vulcan cruiser.

“I’m reading fluctuations in their shield grid,” Sub-Commander Remax reported from the science station. “This Starfleet crap heap may be able to hurt them after all. Of course, if we had a warhawk, we’d be done by now.”

“Well, we don’t,” Vioxx said. “Hard to port, Yonk. Then full stop.”

Remax snorted. “You don’t actually think they’ll fall for…”

The Vulcan cruiser suddenly zipped by the Navigator as the Starfleet vessel turned then shuddered to a stop.

“Hmmmph,” Remax grunted as Vioxx smiled at him.

“Nortal, lash away,” Vioxx said.

“I shall punish them so hard the stars will wince,” Nortal replied as, good to her word, she let loose with the Navigator’s torpedoes and phaser banks. On the viewscreen, the Vulcan vessel was rocked, jolted, and otherwise bashed around under Nortal’s onslaught.

“My hand has been stayed!” Nortal screamed with displeasure.

“Huh?” Vioxx said, spinning around in his chair to face her.

“Captain Bain has granted them mercy!”

Vioxx put his head in his hand and shook it slowly. “It’s that damn android and her non-violent war,” he muttered. “Why are we fighting alongside these people?”

“Because we still have a fleet,” Yonk said. The bridge fell quiet, VERY quiet, as Yonk felt three pairs of Romulan eyes glaring at him.

“May I destroy the dogs anyway?” Nortal asked finally.

Vioxx thought for a moment. “No. Take us back to the Anomaly. We’ll play it Starfleet’s way for now. Otherwise, they may not let us borrow a ship anymore.”

“And somewhere, every ancestor I have is rolling in his grave,” Remax muttered.

“Captain’s Log. Stardate 177746.7. As much as I would have preferred to stay on the other side of the Neutral Zone to show those bloody Vulcans what Reginald Bain is made of, we’ve returned with the Navigator to Federation space where we have rendezvoused with Prosak and Marsden’s shuttle. From what we can tell thanks to our new eyes into the Empire, the Vulcans have sent fifteen ships to chase down the various probes and comm buoys we let loose in Romulan space. Admiral Larkin is as close to thrilled as I’ve seen her. I’m just not sure if it’s because of the sensor data she’s getting on the Vulcans or the fact that I left those three ships of theirs alone.

“Additionally, Prosak and Marsie seem to have come to terms and settled the issues between them, much to my delight. Sometimes a good mission is just the thing to work out some personnel problems. My second officer and chief engineer are back to themselves. Now I need my tac-ops officer back at his post. I just hope the lad is doing all right on that Romulan bird.”

Tovar was about to be killed. He was sure of it.

Commander Zanex rose from his chair, both hands firmly planted on his desk as his eyes bored into the Yynsian. “Do you have any idea how long I’ve known the men and women on this crew?” Zanex demanded, his voice almost quaking with fury. “Do you honestly think I would not know if even one of my officers was a Vulcan, much less several? What kind of fool do you think I am?”

“I am not here to imply anything about your command ability,” Tovar said soothingly. “I am merely trying to protect you and this ship from Vulcan infiltrators.”

“The only infiltrator on this ship is you,” Zanex shot back. “And I’m cursing the day I invited you aboard.”

The doors to Zanex’s office suddenly whooshed open, and Sub-Commander Nural ran in, out of breath. “Is he…bothering you…Commander?” Nural gasped, shooting a glare at Tovar. Audrey was obviously not pleased that he had taken it upon himself to visit Zanex.

“Yes,” Zanex snapped. “Get him out of here.”

“At once, Commander,” Nural/Audrey said, gripping Tovar by the arm.

Zanex narrowed his eyes at Tovar. “If this is the kind of assistance we can expect from Starfleet, we would be better off on our own.”

“I believe that you will soon find that you are very much mistaken,” Tovar said as he was led from the office.

As soon as they were in the corridor and Zanex’s doors had closed, Tovar yanked his arm away from Audrey and stormed off down the hallway.

“Where are you going?” she demanded, narrowly avoiding losing him as he ducked into a turbolift.

“Cargo bay,” Tovar said, both answering Audrey’s question and setting the turbolift into motion.

“Stop turbolift,” Audrey said. As the lift slowed, she whipped a small device out of her pocket and set it on the floor. “That takes care of the sensors.” A moment later she deactivated her holographic overlay. “Do you realize I have authorization to kill you right here and now?”

“Is that from Commander Zanex or Section 31?” Tovar asked nonplused.

“Both! You are endangering this mission and compromising my work here.”

“Work? I haven’t seen you do a bit of work since I arrived. You asked me to be patient, and I gave you another full day. I have yet to see any sign that you are any closer to locating the Vulcan infiltrators on this ship. I, however, have spent my time observing Commander Zanex, and I believe he is a loyal Romulan. With you not taking any action, I went to him with my concerns.”

“And that obviously went swimmingly.”

“He was far more skeptical than I was expecting,” Tovar admitted. “Therefore, I am trying a different approach. Resume lift.”

“What are you doing?” Audrey demanded, quickly reactivating her holographic overlay as the lift started, then almost instantly came to a halt at the warhawk’s cargo bay.

“If the lift was out of operation for much longer, we would arouse suspicion,” Tovar replied, snatching up Audrey’s sensor jammer and handing it back to her before striding out into the dimly lit cargo bay.

“I think you’ve aroused enough suspicion already,” Audrey said. “You’ll be lucky if Zanex allows you to remain on the ship.”

“Possibly. But what about you? Zanex indicated that he had served with everyone on this ship for some time. I assume that would include Nural.”

“It would,” Audrey said.

“I see. I suppose I should not ask about the current whereabouts of the real Nural.”

“I wouldn’t. And I wouldn’t be down here either.”

“I see little choice,” Tovar said. “By miscalculating Zanex’s reaction to my story, I have seriously jeopardized my position on this vessel, and if the Vulcan operatives on board were to learn of our discussion, they may feel forced to act before they would normally. Since I am no closer to identifying the true Vulcans on board, I will instead remove their reason for being here. This is it, I presume.” He stepped up to the large three meter cubed silver cargo container dominating the center of the bay. Audrey nodded, then, with her confirmation, Tovar pressed the control panel, causing the front of the container to slide open. Inside was a black oval pedestal approximately two meters long and half a meter high with various lights blinking on a small panel on its top surface.

“It is…somewhat underwhelming,” Tovar said.

“What were you expecting?”

“I don’t know, but I would have thought something with the power to destroy the Earth would be bigger.”

“Does it matter?”

“Not really. All that matters is that I damage it beyond repair.”

Tovar took a step into the container. Instantly, the device started blinking wildly as its top surface began to glow white.

“I have possibly made a tactical error,” Tovar observed.

Audrey stared ahead grimly with Nural’s features. “If it detonates here, it can’t destroy Earth.”

“You did say we wouldn’t be coming back.”

“At the time, I was just being dramatic. Leave it to you to take me literally.”

“On the bright side, while I may not have been able to find the Vulcans on board, they will not be able to complete their mission.”

The device finished its warm-up sequence and then let out a loud whine. This whine was accompanied by twenty transporter beams which quickly coalesced into heavily armed Vulcans.

Tovar looked around at the newly-appeared troops.

“Ah. There they are.”


Tags: boldly