Author: Alan Decker, Anthony Butler
STAR TRAKS: BOLDLY GONE…
“Behind the Curtain”
By Alan Decker & Anthony Butler
“Hands off me, you buggering fool!” Captain Reginald Bain snapped, twisting away from the Vulcan that nudged him down the austere corridor, which, based on its taupe coloring, was likely a Vulcan warship of some sort.
“Sir, I’m not sure that epithets will help us right now,” Tovar said softly as a cadre of Vulcans led the group of Anomaly officers down the corridor.
“I want answers and I want them now,” Bain said in a low voice. “One moment, we’re on Vulcan, calling for beamout, the next moment we’re on this bloody ship, and down a man, to boot!”
“Prosak was with us on the surface,” Tovar insisted. “I’m sure these Vulcans know where she is.” He glared at one of them. “Maybe this one. And if he knows what’s good for him, he’ll tell us where they’re keeping her.”
“I am a female,” the Vulcan said gruffly.
“Oh. Sorry. It’s…it’s the hair,” Tovar said quietly.
“We will find Commander Prosak!” Nortal bellowed. “And disembowel all who stand in our way! By Jenichai, so it be done!”
“Well said, Centurion,” Bain said, and paused as the group reached the end of the corridor and a pair of doors. One of the Vulcans punched a control, and the doors opened, revealing a conference room.
Two stoic old Vulcans in flowing burgundy robes stood from the table, walked up to Bain, and bowed respectfully.
“Captain Bain. We have not met, but we are familiar with others on your crew.”
“You’re…” Tovar began. “Surap, and Surat?”
The taller of the two Vulcans shook his head. “You are incorrect. I am Surat. He is Surap.”
“Ah,” Tovar said. “I am aware of your teachings. They were required reading in Fundamentals of Logic at Starfleet Academy.” He glanced at Bain. “They’re two of the finest logicians on Vulcan, Captain.”
Bain glared at the Vulcans. “I don’t care if you’re Spock himself. Where the devil is Commander Prosak?”
“The RommaVulc,” Surap said, nodding at Surat. “We were unable to retrieve her.”
“Unable?” Tovar asked pointedly.
Surat nodded. “When our sensors detected you on Vulcan’s surface, surrounded by Sh’rak’s palace guard, we arranged immediate beamout.” He raised an eyebrow at Surap. “However, we were only able to transport the three of you.”
“That doesn’t answer my question. What happened to Prosak?”
“She was beamed away shortly after the three of you were,” Surap said. “Her destination is unknown, although we expect she is in Sh’rak’s hands now.”
Tovar looked at Bain. “We’ve got to go get her.”
“That would be…” Surat began.
“…unwise,” Surap finished.
“No, friend. Trying to stop us would be unwise,” Bain said, his jaw working tensely.
“Of that we have no doubt,” Surat said. “The fact remains, we cannot retrieve Prosak at this time. Sh’rak’s facility is too heavily guarded. To infiltrate it would be…”
“We just got back from infiltrating it,” Tovar said. “We did it once. We can do it again.”
“To infiltrate it would be folly,” Surap said. “Proven by the fact that your team failed in capturing Sh’rak or achieving any measurable goal. Your scout ship, in fact, was lost, in addition to Commander Prosak.”
“Doesn’t mean we won’t try again,” Bain said. “Humans can be pigheaded about these matters, Mister Surap. Especially when our family’s involved.”
“You are related to this Romulan?” Surat asked, confused.
“Might as well be,” Bain said. “She’s on my crew.”
“Perhaps you should contact Starfleet,” Surap broke in stiffly. “Much has changed since your infiltration team went to Vulcan, and I am sure your superiors will have new orders for you.”
“Yes,” Bain said. “Good idea.” He softened a bit as he looked from one Vulcan to the other. “So who are you blokes anyway? I mean, other than logicians?”
“We are the LOL.”
Tovar blinked. “The what?”
“Logicians for Order and Law. We constitute the planet Vulcan’s orderly resistance to the current, corrupt government.”
Bain rubbed his chin. “Why do I feel like that acronym is already taken?”
Surap arched an eyebrow. “We were originally called Reunification Objectors Theorizing on Freedom, Liberation, Mediation and Order.”
“ROTFLMAO?” Tovar asked.
“Indeed,” Surat said. “But we found that abbreviation clumsy.”
“Can one of your chums point me to a ultraspace relay?” Bain prodded. “I need to contact my ship.”
“Of course,” Surap said, and pointed at one of his guards. “Sharpay, if you will?”
“Be right back,” Bain said.
ELSEWHERE. . .
The red curtains swung open, billowing as they parted.
Prosak strode onto the stage, wincing in the glare of the bright stage lights, holding up a hand to block them out.
“Hello?” she called out. “What is this place? Where have you brought me?”
She was met with a deafening silence.
“I demand to see a neutral Federation representative!” Prosak said. After more silence, she continued on, a little less confident. “I will, however, settle for a neutral Romulan representative. Or a neutral Vulcan representative. Or even a slightly angry Tellarite, if you have one…”
And then, all at once, a chorus of cheers.
Were the seats out in the auditorium filled? Why hadn’t she seen those people moments ago? Were the lights so bright she couldn’t make out the crowd?
“PROSAK! PROSAK! PROSAK!”
She stepped toward the front of the stage, looking out on the crowd. She couldn’t even tell what species they were. Vulcan, human, or otherwise.
“Who are you people?” she called out into the audience. “And why did you bring me here?”
“Ladies and gentlemen,” a booming, yet familiar, voice called out from some kind of P.A. system. “Today the part of Prosak will be played by Prosak.”
Prosak glanced up at the ceiling. “Who else would…nevermind. I don’t want to know.” She turned to look at the bare stage. “Can somebody tell me what this is all about? Because if it’s some kind of interrogation trick, it’s not going to work.”
“SCENE!” a chorus of voices called out from off-stage.
Suddenly all the lights went out, and Prosak was bathed in black.
The lights came back up, but they weren’t nearly as bright as before. Actually, they felt good. Like Romulus at dusk.
Prosak glanced around as her eyes adjusted. She WAS on Romulus at dusk. On the veranda of her family home, overlooking the scenic Valley of Chula.
“Dessert, Boogles?” a warm voice called behind her, prompting her to turn around.
“F-father?” Prosak asked, turning slowly. Sure enough, Rorshak was sitting at the outdoor table, leaning back and inspecting a padd…no doubt the daily senate briefing.
“Come sit down. T’alice is preparing a nice sontarberry compote.”
Prosak gingerly stepped toward the table and sat. Her father seemed so much younger. What year was this?
“Father…why are you here?”
“Just enjoying the evening air on Romulus with my Boogles. Is there any other way I’d rather pass the time? I think not.”
“You’re a busy man,” Prosak said slowly. “Evenings are a time for you to clear your head.”
“And spend time with you,” Rorshak said, setting his padd down. “Surely I can do both at the same time.”
“I…” Prosak began.
“I want you to read something,” Rorshak said. “Look at this report from the Department of Patriotism. There’s a group forming out there. Radicals. Unificationists calling themselves Vulcrommans.” He shook his head as he picked the padd back up. “Wait, I’ve got it wrong. RommaVulcs.”
“Oh?” Prosak asked. “I have not heard of them.” Not a lie. An omission. Okay, that was wrong. It was just a plain old lie.
Was Prosak dreaming? Had she been injected with some kind of drugs? Hooked up to some kind of mind-altering device? Put in a holodeck? She needed to find out, and sooner rather than later, as she figured her very presence on Vulcan…if that was where she still was… meant she was in danger.
“So,” Rorshak suddenly piped up. “How is your mother?”
“Mother?” Rorshak seldom spoke of Eudora. The only time he did was purely out of courtesy, and only after Prosak had come back from one of the monthly custodial visits required by the marriage settlement.
“She treated you well during your visit?”
“Yes,” Prosak said. “Well.” She looked around again. Everything felt familiar. Real. She realized this was the Summer before she began syllabic school, and she was but eighteen years old.
And she lied to Rorshak about knowing the RommaVulcs, just like she’d done more than twenty years ago when she and her father had originally had this conversation.
She remembered her next line as if it were part of a memorized script.
“She asked about you.”
“Eudora asked about me?” Rorshak asked, shifting in his seat. “That’s…unusual.”
“She wanted to know if you were well.”
Rorshak gave Prosak a stern glance. “She didn’t ask about me, Boogles, and you know it.”
“Perhaps not,” Prosak asked. “But I am sure she was, er, thinking about you.”
“She wasn’t. She was thinking about one thing and one thing only, which is all she’s ever thought about. Unification.” Rorshak shook his head. “What’s worse, if the news is correct, then the madness is spreading.”
“Mother isn’t mad!” Prosak exclaimed, standing. “The Romulans and Vulcans share a common ancestry! She just believes they belong together.”
Rorshak stood, eye to eye with Prosak. “And do you believe that as well?”
“I am keeping an open mind.”
“These RommaVulcs. You’re not meeting with them, are you, Prosak?”
Prosak shifted from foot to foot. “I’ve only attended a few meetings…”
“By the forests of Kraal, Prosak! Do you realize what could happen to my career if you’re found out? I’m up for a spot on the Praetor’s council next session!”
“You’re…worried about your career?” Prosak said flatly.
“And shouldn’t you be too?” Rorshak asked, waving about the veranda. “Because it’s what gave you this life of yours. Wouldn’t you seek to preserve it?”
“The leaders of Romulus shouldn’t be threatened by Unification.”
“That’s not for us to decide,” Rorshak snapped. “We do what we are asked to do, and we ask no questions. That’s the Romulan way.”
“Perhaps there’s a better way….” Prosak trailed off.
If Rorshak was listening, he gave no indication. “I want you to end your association with the RommaVulcs, Prosak. Do you understand?”
Prosak stood there defiantly a moment, under Rorshak’s reproachful glare.
“Do you understand?”
“Y-yes, Father,” Prosak said reluctantly. “I…understand.”
“Good, then. I’ll go see what’s for dessert.”
Prosak numbly watched Rorshak walk away, and stood there in silence on the veranda.
“You’re lying,” a voice said from behind her, causing her to jump noticably. She turned.
The slim, beady-eyed Vulcan leader narrowed his eyes at Prosak. “That is my name. Are you enjoying this experience?”
“What are you doing to me?”
“That’s irrelevant for now. You should simply let this…experience unfold around you.”
Prosak advanced on Sh’rak. “To what purpose? WHY?”
“Because you have no choice, dear Prosak.” And the Vulcan grinned slightly as the world went black again, and the red curtain billowed around Prosak.
Prosak blinked as she found herself floating, weightless, in the vast expanse of space.
To her relief, she was at least wearing a space suit.
“Prosak, you are drifting. Adjust your bearing by point zero five,” a voice crackled in her helmet. “Fall into line with the others.”
“My positioning beams are misaligned, Professor Zocor,” Prosak called out as she drifted. “I’m having trouble stabilizing…”
She plowed headlong into another spacesuited figure, causing the two to flop end-over-end through space.
“Prosak, Vorak, correct course! This will affect your final grade!”
Disoriented, Prosak spun to face the person with whom she’d collided. This day felt familiar. Significant.
A hand gripped her arm, and she glanced up at the figure that held her. “Stabilizing, Professor Zocor. We’re coming home.”
“Vorak…” Prosak said, and smiled at the thought. Her first sharal. And currently under Vulcan mind control.
Just like me, Prosak said. Sh’rak was trying to get control of her mind, once again. That was the only explanation.
But why was it taking so long? Sh’rak had used Prosak to infiltrate the Romulan government over a year ago. She hadn’t even realized he’d taken her mind. So why make a big show of it this time? Unless…
He wanted information. Yes. That had to be it.
“I’m not telling you anything,” Prosak said, staring across the table at Vorak, as they sat in the mess hall at Admiral Tomalak Syllabic School.
“I just asked what kind of soup you like,” Vorak said as he poked at his creamy fenorr casserole.
“Be that as it may, I prefer to keep to my own counsel,” Prosak said standoffishly.
“Then why did you ask me to lunch?”
“I…” Prosak stammered. “Damn this Vulcan mind control!”
Vorak leaned over the table, slapping his hand over Prosak’s mouth. “Shhhhh! Why…why did you say the V word?”
“It is not important.”
“Mind control?” Vorak asked, staring at his meal. “The Vulcans aren’t trying to control our minds. More militaristic propaganda.”
“My father is part of the military,” Prosak said, then inwardly kicked herself. Why was she being so honest with Vorak? He was handsome and disarming then, and he still was, in her memories.
“Then I shouldn’t even be talking to you,” Vorak said. “Anyway, it is you who mentioned the Vulcans first.”
“I simply…I believe the Vulcans mean us no harm,” Prosak said. “And this casserole needs more spice. Herbs from the rolling mountains of Norpan.”
“Right on both counts,” Vorak said, beaming as he stared across the table at Prosak. “Could it be? A daughter of the Romulan military, a Unification sympathizer?”
Like my mother before me, Prosak thought wrlyly.
Vorak leaned forward, and in a low, low voice, he said: “There’s a local RommaVulc group that meets weekly. They’re meeting tonight. Want to come with me?”
“I…” Prosak thought of the promise she made her father. “Yes. I would like that.”
“But your father wouldn’t,” a voice said, prompting Prosak to turn around.
“Stop doing that!” she told Sh’rak, who took her fork and poked at the compartments of her plate.
“Are you going to finish this?”
“Vorak, will you tell this Vulcan idiot to go…” Prosak glanced back at Vorak, but he was gone. So was everyone else in the mess hall. She was alone with Sh’rak.
“Fascinating,” Sh’rak said, taking a bite of her casserole. “This needs herbs from the rolling mountains of Norpan. We don’t have rolling mountains of Norpan on Vulcan, so it will be nice to add those when we colonize your world.”
“You won’t colonize our world. RommaVulcanism isn’t about conquest. It’s about sharing knowledge and ideals. Something you’d never understand.”
“You’d be surprised,” Sh’rak said distantly. “Still, I do enjoy this cuisine….”
“Why are you doing this?” Prosak demanded, as Sh’rak put her fork down and slid off the bench.
“Scene,” he said quietly, and walked off.
Prosak blinked as the curtains billowed once again, revealing a crowded room deep in a sub-basement of the Theatre and Performing Arts Building at her Syllabic School. There, about a dozen RommaVulcs gathered to meet and discuss their options for Unification.
“We could hold a bake sale,” Jermak spoke up, raising a hand.
“That’s preposterous,” Ko’dak, another RommaVulc said, pacing at the front of the room. “What will that accomplish?”
“My mother’s recipe for encrusted gondar truffles is legendary.”
“This is pointless,” Prosak whispered to Vorak, who shrugged his assent. “Logic cannot exist without structure, and structure is the foundation of control.”
“Try telling it to these misguided youths,” Vorak said. “We’re decidedly outnumbered by the radical element, I’m afraid.”
Prosak nodded. She realized she was in what amounted to a dream sequence, but part of her wanted to play along with this charade, if for no other reason than that she knew the words by heart. “We could just go back to my dormitory and make out,” Prosak suggested.
“That would be an illogical use of my time.”
“You weren’t complaining when I discovered your sixth katra point the other day.”
“That was a meditative exercise.”
“We certainly did feel relaxed afterwards.”
Vorak sighed. “I am going to get a refill on my soup. Would you like anything?”
“I’d like to bring my own soup next time. My soup is infinitely superior to the soup served here.”
“I’ll lodge a complaint with the kitchen,” Vorak said dryly and walked off.
“I should have broken up with you right here and now,” Prosak muttered to herself, not for the first time regretting a decision about her youth.
“…perhaps if we came up with an attractive give-away item, that might generate some interest. A medallion or pendant of some sort. Are there any good Vulcan symbols out there?” Jermak continued to prattle on, as Ko’dak and the others mumbled to themselves about promoting unification.
“Pointless,” a voice said from beside Prosak.
Prosak turned, raising an eyebrow. The person who’d spoken to her was an intense, intellectual-looking Romulan with piercing eyes. “Excuse me?”
“I said, this whole exercise is pointless,” the Romulan replied. “There’s no logic in bake sales and giveaways. They do nothing to achieve our cause.”
“I’m in total agreement. I voiced similar sentiments to my sharal just a moment ago.”
The Romulan narrowed his eyes at Prosak. “You have a sharal. You seem so young to be shar-ing already.”
“I blossomed quickly once I began school.” Prosak smiled as she remembered her first weeks with Vorak.
“That is a shame,” the Romulan said. “I am in search of a sharal of my own.”
“If you don’t mind the observation, I’d wager you won’t find a worthy sharal in the room,” Prosak said. “These are extremists. They don’t bring a balanced perspective to this endeavor.”
The Romulan stared. “But you do.”
“I believe in the fundamental Vulcan philosophies, yes.”
“So do I,” the Romulan said, looking intently at Prosak. “I believe unification can only be brought on by strong leadership, swift action, and careful planning. None of which is present in this pathetic excuse for a movement.”
“I did not get your name,” Prosak said, cocking her head at the odd Romulan.
“Harvak,” he said, and bowed. “You should remember that name. It will be connected intimately with the unification of Romulus and Vulcan one day.”
“I got you a soup,” Vorak said, walking up. “Hello, friend. Did you know there’s free soup over there?”
“I must go,” Harvak said. “But I will see you again, Prosak.”
“Hmm,” Prosak said, watching the Romulan walk away. “I don’t remember telling him my name.”
“Problem?” Vorak asked, sipping the cream of plomeek, which was nowhere near as good as Prosak’s.
“Just a very odd man. So…not logical.”
“Drink your soup,” Vorak said. “I’m sure it’s nothing.”
“Yes, nothing,” Sh’rak whispered in her ear. Prosak turned, startled, flipping the soup in the Vulcan’s face.
“I shall pretend that doesn’t burn worse than midday in the Forge,” Sh’rak said as hot soup drizzled down his face. “Meantime, we have more memories to attend to. Scene!”
Prosak rolled her eyes. “Could I at least get another soup before we go?”
The curtains billowed again, and Prosak stood staring at herself in the mirror, her Starfleet uniform feeling itchy. Tight in the hips, loose in the shoulders. The Federation tailors could learn something from Romulans’ baggy, comfortable style.
“Guess not,” Prosak whispered to herself, wishing for a cup of soup. Even if it was inferior.
“Congratulations, Ensign. How does it feel to wear the uniform of your people’s sworn enemy?”
“Cozy,” Prosak replied, staring at herself in the mirror in her dorm room at Starfleet Academy, as Rorshak stood behind her. He rested his hands on her shoulders. Prosak twisted a little uncomfortably. She didn’t want this man touching her. He wasn’t her father. He was a figment. Or even worse, he was Sh’rak, toying with her.
She stared at herself in the mirror. She was over thirty now. Ten years had passed. She’d finished Syllabic School, bounced around Romulan space with her RommaVulc compatriots, done the make- up/break-up thing with Vorak, been brought up on charges by the Senate, freed by her father (at no small political cost) and finally, for lack of any better ideas, had fled to Starfleet Academy.
“I’m proud of you, Boogles,” Roshak said, stepping up beside her and studying his diplomat’s sash in the mirror.
“And the sworn enemy part?”
“The Romulan government actually required me to say that.”
“They’ve gone downhill since you left.”
“They’re just paranoid, Prosak. It’s up to us to make them understand there’s a better way.”
“And becoming an Ambassador is the best way to do that?” Prosak asked. “San Francisco is so far from Romulus. How will you effect change?”
“By creating a better relationship between Earth and Romulus.” Rorshak glanced thoughtfully out of Prosak’s dorm room window. “As a matter of fact, I’ll be meeting soon with some Starfleet engineers to discuss a project that will bring our two worlds much closer together…”
Prosak nodded. “And how is that any different than RommaVulcanism?”
“Because I don’t want to combine Romulus and Earth, dear. I just want them to get along.”
“And how do the Vulcans fit in with that?”
“They fit. As do all the other worlds of the Federation. Vulcan is no different than Earth, Andor, Tellar…Beta Zaspirid Sixteen…”
“We don’t share common ancestry with those other worlds, Father,” Prosak said, turning to face Rorshak. “Doesn’t that make them different?”
“The common ancestry thing. Again? Is that the only argument you have?”
“It is a major precept of RommaVulc philosophy.”
“I’d hoped that your duties as a Starfleet Officer would give you a new focus. That your…radical beliefs…would fall by the wayside.”
“So that’s why you sponsored my entrance into the academy?” Prosak asked. “To distract me?” She reached into her uniform, pulling out a chain, from which the IDIC symbol she’d carried since she was a teenager still hung. “I’ve still got this, Father. And I’ll always carry it with me. Nothing you can do can change my mind. Once RommaVulc, always RommaVulc! Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a graduation to get to.”
And she marched out of her dorm room…
…and smack-dab into Sh’rak.
“Interesting,” Sh’rak said. “But that’s not what you said.”
“Perhaps not,” Prosak said, alone with Sh’rak in the silent corridor. “But it felt good.”
“I bet it did feel good. Felt much better than your original response?” He leaned in toward Prosak. “‘Yes, Father.’ Isn’t that what you said?”
Prosak turned, grabbed Sh’rak’s neck, and pushed him up against the wall. “GET. OUT. OF. MY. BRAIN.”
“You can’t hurt me in here.”
“Really?” Prosak asked, and slammed Sh’rak repeatedly against the wall.
“OUCH!” Sh’rak winced, squirming out of Prosak’s grip. “Okay, so you can hurt me in here.”
“Imagine the possibilities…” Prosak said, marching toward Sh’rak.
“Scene! SCENE SCENE SCENE!” Sh’rak cried out and ran.
“Hard to port!” a voice called out through smoke and cinders as Prosak gripped something hard and…blinky.
She shook her head as her vision came back into focus. She was holding on to a tac-ops console. A glance up at the viewscreen told her everything she needed to know.
A pair of scythe-shaped Breen warships was bearing down on them fast.
She was on the USS Encino, part of a battle group fighting off the latest in a series of Breen incursions in Federation space.
“More neutron torpedos, Prosak. Reinforce multiphasic shields!” Captain Rochelle Lockheed called out, standing at the front of the bridge, struggling to maintain her balance as blast after blast hit the Encino, and the Breen kept piling it on.
“Sheilds rotating but failing fast,” Prosak said, quickly getting her bearings and running her hands over console’s holographic interface controls. She knew this was all taking place in her memory, but somehow she still felt compelled to relive the memory as it was originally lived.
“More power to forward armor!” Lockheed called out.
“We just lost two more ships,” Prosak reported, glancing at her scans. “The Meridian and the Kennebunkport are dead in space.”
“Starfleet promised more ships,” Lockheed said, pushing her hair back out of her face as she gripped the helmsman’s chair. “Where are they?”
“Late to the occasion, I expect,” Prosak suggested, bracing as two more shots from the Breen warships collided with the Encino. Then she saw a blip on her console. “Hold on. Contact bearing oh-two-four mark one-one-six.”
“Friend or foe?” Lockheed asked.
“Federation starship, Captain! Sonoma-class. Sir, it’s the USS Maladventure.”
Lockheed’s tight expression loosened into an almost giddy grin. “The Butcher of Breen,” she said softly.
“The who?” Prosak asked.
“Back off, Ensign Anders. Don’t get in the man’s way.”
“Captain, all due respect,” Prosak began. “We should help…”
“Just put the battle on forward viewer,” Lockheed said. “Sit back, and enjoy the show.”
Prosak did as she was told, and watched as the slim, graceful, dagger-shaped Maladventure cut in and around the Breen scythe ships, hitting each with precision blasts, then coming about for another pass and firing again.
This time each ship exploded as it was hit, casting off a staggering explosive wave that nearly blinded Prosak. As her eyes adjusted, she saw the Maladventure sail through, unscathed.
“Encino, this is Bain,” a voice crackled over the comm system. “You ship-shape over there, chums?”
“We are indeed, Captain,” Lockheed said. “It was good to see you in action again.”
“Think nothing of it. Love to stay and chat, but we’ve got a fracas in the Belendren Belt to get to. On with the show!”
Prosak watched the Maladventure shoot into warp on the viewscreen and smiled inwardly. She’d never told Bain how close they’d come to meeting, all those years ago. It had just never seemed relevant. Now she wanted more than anything to tell him just that, and she couldn’t.
She suddenly found herself very angry.
“Lieutenant Prosak, why don’t you go belowdecks and ascertain…” Lockheed said, as Prosak made her way down to the front of the bridge.
“Ascertain this!” she shouted, and slapped her commander hard across the face, knocking her down.
Ensign Anders leapt from his seat. “Prosak! What are you doing?”
“Taking control of this…this fantasy,” Prosak said, walking up to the command chair, where she found Sh’rak sitting primly, his fingers steepled. With one glance around, Prosak confirmed that the bridge crew had all vanished. “Why are we here, Sh’rak? This has nothing to do with RommaVulcanism.”
“Except that this was the first day you forgot to wear your IDIC symbol under your tunic,” Sh’rak said. “Is it possible that, in all your zeal to fit in with the other members of Starfleet, you began to ignore your RommaVulc roots?”
“I’ve done no such thing,” Prosak said. “And I’m just about tired of your line of questioning.”
“You’re evading the question, Prosak,” Sh’rak said, standing. “I just want you to define your loyalty to the RommaVulc cause. How hard is that?”
“My loyalty is none of your concern.”
“You’re so wrong, Prosak. Your loyalty means everything,” Sh’rak said, and smiled.
“Computer, enable auto-destruct.”
“I repeat. What are you doing?”
“Waking up,” she said flatly.
“Command authorization required,” the computer said.
“You’re only a lieutenant in this reality.”
“Then I guess my Starfleet Command codes…the ones I have now…won’t work, eh?”
“Probably not,” Sh’rak said, shifting a bit.
“Ten second countdown,” Prosak said. “Authorization Prosak Zero One Zero Alpha Enable.”
“Why are the destruct codes always so easy?” Sh’rak demanded, shooting out of his chair.
“Not my problem,” Prosak said, as the computer began counting down. “Want to get us out of here?”
“Ten…nine…eight…” the computer droned.
“I can. Whenever I want,” Sh’rak said.
“Then why aren’t you?”
Sh’rak folded his arms. “I have my reasons.”
Prosak smiled and leaned down in Sh’rak’s face. “You don’t have near as much control as you thought you did. Do you?”
“And…scene….” Prosak whispered softly into Sh’rak’s ear, as the Encino blew up all around them.
The red curtains billowed, thrown open by the blast.
And Prosak was sitting in a chair, in an empty room.
Empty, that is, except for the woman sitting across from her, hands on her temples.
Prosak stared. “M-mother?”
“Yes, dear?” Eudora asked matter-of-factly.
She looked around. “What are you doing here? Where’s here?”
“You’re on Vulcan,” Eudora said calmly, standing and smoothing her robes. “How do you like my hair?”
“A perfect bowl, as always,” Prosak said distantly. She stayed seated, following Eudora with her eyes. “Why are we here?”
“You always were a destructive child. I should have known I couldn’t tarry long in your mind.”
Prosak touched her temples. “We were…melded?”
“For a time. Some fifteen minutes or so.”
“Fifteen minutes? That’s all it was?”
“An eternity, when you’re melded.” Eudora glanced out the window, into the bright orange light of Vulcan daytime. “Are you hungry?”
“I’m hungry only for knowledge,” Prosak said, standing. “To understand what’s happening. The…visions I had. Sh’rak was…was everywhere.”
“Yes. I’m sorry about that,” Eudora said. “I had to meld with you to test you. To make sure Sh’rak hadn’t gotten to you already and…changed you as he’s changed the others.”
“He tried to brainwash me two years ago, when this whole Vulcan business started. He tried to get me to assassinate the Praetor.”
“But you resisted.”
“I…was neutralized by a fellow officer before I could follow through. But the point is he wasn’t successful.”
“I wish the same could be said for the hundreds of Romulans and Vulcans he’s bent to his will,” Eudora said. “Sh’rak is at the center of a vast conspiracy. He’s using his mind meld abilities to control the Vulcan populace, and turn it on the rest of the galaxy. He’s even corrupted key Romulan staff.”
“More corrupt than they already are?”
“That’s not funny.”
Prosak rubbed her temples. “My head hurts.”
“Understandable. You’ve had a profound experience.” Eudora smiled. “And so have I. It was gratifying that I was able to experience so much of your growth and life during that brief meld. I feel like I haven’t quite missed out on so much now.”
“You were crucial to my upbringing, Mother,” Prosak said. “You helped form my worldview. Missing one or two events is nothing in comparison.”
“Your graduation from syllabic school, your first love, your Starfleet commission, war stories, flying around in a starship born of Federation and Romulan technology, undertaking feats most others dare not dream of?”
“Last month I baked a casserole for the senior staff,” Prosak said proudly.
“And your theater career,” Eudora said, grinning. “How I wish I could have seen more of your shows.”
“I wish we could reminisce more, Mother, I really do,” Prosak said, and stepped toward the window, glancing out. “But I need to know why we’re here. Why did you take me? Where are the others?”
“The others were taken by the LOL. Vulcan resistance. I intercepted you, though, because your mission is not finished here, and the LOL had orders to get Starfleet personnel off Vulcan at all costs.”
“Who are you to decide my mission isn’t finished?” Prosak asked, cocking her head. “That’s SO not logical!”
“I’m your mother,” Eudora said. “Now then. There are other RommaVulcs on the planet. Their compound has a shortrange transporter. That’s where we are now.”
“Does the Vulcan High Command know we’re here?”
“One should hope not,” Eudora said. “Sh’rak is scared to death of our existence. He feels true RommaVulcs threaten his plans for unification. His first order of business was to try and wipe out every RommaVulc on Romulus.”
“For what it’s worth, Mother, I tried to contact you. Father did too. His sources told him you were off Vulcan. We had thought you’d gotten to safety.”
“There is no safer place than with our RommaVulc brethren, dearest.” Eudora smirked. “Your father. Does he still call you by that silly name?”
“I am, and ever shall be, his Boogles.”
Eudora nodded. “How well I know. There was a time I was called Snoogles.”
“He means well.”
“I trust he’s out of danger?”
“As much as any of us. He’s on the Anomaly.”
“You should know, Prosak. The Vulcans sent a fleet of cloaked Romulan ships into Federation space. Your fleet is now facing a battle on two fronts. Vulcans in Romulan space, Romulans in Federation space.”
Prosak headed for the door. “I have to leave. Find a way off the planet so I can help Captain Bain.”
Eudora gently took her wrist. “I wish it were that easy. Sh’rak has control of all the major ports. You’ll find it difficult, if not impossible, to get off planet right now.”
“We have to do something.”
“We will do something,” Eudora said. “We will meet with Sh’rak, and convince him what he’s doing is wrong.”
“And you think he’ll listen?” Prosak laughed dryly. “He hasn’t yet. Why should he start now?”
Eudora squeezed Prosak’s hand. “We’ll make him understand. Together.”
“And you expect us to walk right in there and get an audience with Sh’rak?”
“No. I expect his soldiers to bring us to him.” Eudora glanced at the door, heard a rattle. “This compound was evacuated a day ago. The other RommaVulcs are long gone. And I called the local constabulary, notifying them that we are here, awaiting audience with Sh’rak.”
“They might kill us!” Prosak said, searching the room for anything she could use as a weapon, finding only the two wooden chairs. “They’re capable of anything, what with Sh’rak controlling their minds!”
“We must have faith, Prosak, that the universe will unfold as it should. We must merely play our part.”
Prosak stared at the door, behind which she heard rapid footfalls.
“What kind of casserole?” Eudora asked, as Prosak braced herself.
“What kind of casserole did you make for the senior staff?”
“Fenorr,” said Prosak.
“You grew an affinity for it, after all these years.”
“I’ve grown an affinity for many things I once thought I’d never like,” Prosak said. “It’s all part of growing up.”
“It’s heartening to know that the RommaVulc way was not lost on you, dear. I worried your father would drown it out with all his military rhetoric.”
“The rhetoric wasn’t so bad,” Prosak said. “Not after he was forced into the diplomatic corps.” She thought back to her recent flashbacks. Rorshak’s new posting came on the heels of her being brought up on conspiracy charges. She’d never connected the two. But she realized now that Rorshak had given up a promising government career, a seat on the Praetor’s Council, in defense of his daughter.
“Are you dating anyone?”
“I mated recently, but it was born of convenience more than anything else,” Prosak said offhand, still staring at the door, as it suddenly was kicked open, and a half dozen Vulcan guards poured in, grabbing her and Eudora.
“Thank goodness you all arrived. I was about to call and see what was taking you so long,” Eudora said.
“You are both under arrest. You’re to be taken to the capital building at once!”
“Excellent. Lead the way, my good man!” Eudora said, gesturing the Vulcans out of the room and winking back at Prosak.
Prosak glared at her. What had her mother dragged her into?
“Rendez-vous in four minutes, Captain,” Surap said, standing stonily at the back of the bridge of the Vulcan transport with Bain. “Are you sure I cannot convince you to bring your other officers with you?”
Bain glanced over at Tovar and Nortal. “No. Safe to say they’re needed on Vulcan.”
“You would do well to consider Prosak a lost cause, Captain Bain. There are…larger concerns,” Surat said, stepping up next to Surap.
“You’ll forgive me if I disagree vehemently,” Bain said softly as he watched the stars streak on the viewscreen.
“Humans are irrational,” Surap said. “We have come to learn that this is the cost of doing business with your people.”
“Too right,” Bain said. “Too bloody right.”
Tovar glanced at the communication panel that blinked nearby. “Sir. The USS Leviathan is approaching on an intercept course. They’re instructing us to lower shields and beam you over.”
“Gladly,” Bain said, nodding at Surap and Surat. “Gentlemen, if you’ll excuse me. I have a battle to join.”
With that, Bain swiftly stepped out of the room.
“I assume your Captain Bain understands the odds are stacked heavily against him.”
Tovar nodded. “Your point, sir?”
“The Federation is embroiled in a lost cause. Combined Vulcan and Romulan forces outnumber them in a two-front war that threatens the disposition of their entire fleet.”
“The captain understands all that,” Tovar said. “I can’t say that he cares. But he understands.” He watched the communication panel bleep to acknowledge that the Leviathan had beamed Bain aboard. Then he watched on the viewscreen as the Ventura-class starship shot into warp.
“Then why, for logic’s sake, is he so eager to join a battle that’s statistically impossible to win?”
“Because,” Tovar said, smiling enigmatically. “He’s Bain.”
“Commander Prosak. I didn’t expect to see you again so soon!” Sh’rak said flatly, watching the guards herd Prosak and Eudora into his chamber, where a few construction workers were working fastidiously to repair the damage Bain’s strike team had done hours earlier.
“Consider this a…” Prosak glanced at Eudora. “Surprise visit.”
“You did well, Eudora. You’re wise to turn yourself and your daughter in, for the sake of the future of our two peoples. There can be only one true way to Unification. And your contribution today will help us…”
“Shut up,” Eudora said flatly. She stepped toward Sh’rak, feeling the point of a lirpa blade poke her in the back the moment she made a move. “Shut up and listen, Mister High Chancellor. I’m not here to turn over my RommaVulc brethren, or my daughter. I’m here to talk to you. To convince you that what you’re doing is wrong.”
“How quaint,” Sh’rak said. “And what makes you think a couple RommaVulc dissenters will do anything to stay me from my appointed path?”
“Because you’ve always had a soft spot for the RommaVulcs.”
Sh’rak’s face stiffened. “I don’t know what you mean.”
Prosak stared at Eudora. “Yes. What do you mean, Mother?”
“I mean, dear, that Sh’rak here isn’t what he claims to be.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Sh’rak said. “Guards, take them to a holding cell. We’ll see if they’re feeling so conversational in the morning.”
“Ignore me if you want to, Sh’rak,” Eudora called out, as the guards dragged her and Prosak toward the door. “But you are and always will be a RommaVulc.”
Prosak cocked her head. “You mean he’s a Vulcan who wants to be Romulan?”
“No. I mean he’s a Romulan who wants to be Vulcan”
Prosak stared incredulously at her Mother. “Sh’rak is Romulan?”
“How else could he have been capable of such plotting, deceit, and trickery?” Eudora asked. “A Vulcan wouldn’t have it in him.”
Sh’rak laughed as Eudora and Prosak were carried out the door. He threw his head back and laughed.
“How do you know all this, Mother?” Prosak asked, her eyes wide with shock.
“I’ve been piecing the evidence together for months,” Eudora said, giving one last glance at Sh’rak. “But I confirmed it when I went inside your mind. I found him there, amidst your memories. He isn’t just any RommaVulc. He’s one that you knew…”
Prosak stared long and hard at Sh’rak. The intense, beady eyes. The intent expression that bordered on insanity. She’d met him once before, and had been hit on by him several other times, at Syllabic School. “Harvak…” she said softly.
Sh’rak kept laughing, even after the guards slammed his door shut. “And if you’d gone out with me like I’d asked you to, we might have avoided all this trouble!”
“Believe me, Captain Bain, I sympathize with your situation,” Captain Earl Hayman said, arms folded over his expansive paunch as he stood in the front of the Leviathan’s bridge. He watched Bain pace in front of the viewscreen. “We were all shocked when we heard about the Romulans invading. I’m afraid news from the front isn’t encouraging…”
Bain stopped pacing a moment and glanced at Hayman.
“They took us for surprise, is all I’m saying, Captain.”
Bain continued pacing.
“I’ve heard we lost a half dozen ships in the first salvo. Reinforcements are on the way, but the Vulcans and Romulans will still have an edge in numbers.”
“We don’t need a bloody edge in numbers,” Bain said. “We have our wills, our minds, and our stubborn determination. We need nothing else.”
“You’d know better than I, Captain,” Hyman admitted. “I’ve only been a ship commander for three years. I read about you growing up. The Scourge of the Shelliac, the Gouger of the Gorn. Fascinating stuff.”
“Hrumph,” Bain muttered, glancing at times at the viewscreen.
“If there’s anyone that can save us, it’s you, sir,” Hayman said. “And I’m glad you’re in this fight with us.”
“Where else would I be?” Bain asked, trying not to show his distemper with the man.
“Nowhere. I was just…I was just speaking rhetorically.”
Bain shook his head, and glanced at the helmsman. “Ensign, what’s our ETA?”
“Thirteen minutes to the front lines, sir,” the young Ensign said, ducking a bit.
Bain glanced back at Hayman. “If you want to help, old man, you’ll put on more speed, and now.”
Hayman nodded at the ensign. “More power to the engines, Ensign. All sails to the wind.”
“All sails to the bloody wind,” Bain echoed, staring at the viewscreen.
Admiral Larkin stood on the bridge, holding steady as the Anomaly rocked.
“More damage to Deck Five!” Lt. Gworos called out. “Inertial dampers failing.”
“Damage control to Deck Five,” Vioxx said calmly, standing at Larkin’s side. On the viewscreen, three Starfleet ships flew in formation with the Anomaly, ducking in and out of the lines, bobbing up and blasting at the line of Romulan warships occupying Federation space. The rest of the fleet moved out to solidify the border with the Vulcans. The Anomaly and her squadron was tasked with fighting back the Romulans in Federation space.
“Attack pattern Victor Three Three Two,” Larkin said, computing every viable attack strategy she could come up with. “Helm, bring us around for another pass. Protect the fleet’s flanks. We cannot let the Romulans spread us too thin.”
Another blast crashed into the Anomaly, and Larkin nearly stumbled. She diverted the proper internal resources to her leg servos to keep her upright. She glanced at Vioxx. “Send to engineering. We need to reinforce shield sheaths nineteen alpha to fourteen baker.”
“How do you know which ones are weakened?”
“By the resonance frequency of the last shield impact,” Larkin said. “Just do it.”
Vioxx nodded, glancing back at Dr. Kasyov. “Doctor. Send a message down to Engineering, please.”
“Would this be a good time to point out that I’m not Starfleet, and therefore have very little combat training?” Kasyov asked nobody in particular.
“It would be a horrible time for that,” Vioxx said. “Send the message.”
“Admiral!” Gworos said, looking up from his panel. “Contact coming in. It’s Captain Bain, aboard the USS Leviathan.”
“He is early,” Larkin surmised.
“Captain Bain is requesting permission to board,” Kasyov said.
“His timing could have been better,” Larkin said, glancing down at Ensign Yonk. “Ensign, move us out of the Romulans’ weapons range. If one of them breaks off and follows us, have the Detroit and the Saratoga intercept.”
Yonk nodded. “Bringing us around, aye.”
“Leviathan is pulling to,” Kasyov said. “Another message coming in from Captain Bain. He insists on beaming aboard immediately..”
“I imagined he would,” Larkin said. “Drop our shields only as long as absolutely necessary. Instruct the Leviathan to do the same. Initiate transport, then reestablish shields.”
Kasyov nodded. “Here goes nothing. Is this a good time to mention I’m not fully checked out on all the transporter protocols?”
Vioxx shot her a cutting glare.
“Right. Right,” Kasyov said, and quickly tapped at her panel.
Moments later, Bain stepped briskly onto the bridge, glancing around at the crew, who all looked a little tired, a little worse for wear.
“Admiral Larkin,” he said gruffly. “Permission to take command of the fleet.”
Vioxx stepped out from behind Larkin. “Captain, with all due respect, you’re speaking to one of your own flag officers. An Admiral with over a hundred and forty years of experience, who is the ranking Starfleet officer in this sector, who has instant access to a database equal to our ship’s computer, who can process a million thoughts in a nanosecond. And you have the impertinence to suggest you’ll do a better job commanding this fleet?”
Bain gave Vioxx a quick glance. “That’s right.” Then he turned back to Larkin. “Admiral?”
Larkin looked at Bain for the briefest of moments, then stepped back from the command chair. “Captain. I stand relieved. The fleet is yours.”
“Thank you, Admiral,” Bain said, and stepped toward of the center of the bridge. “Now then, people, let’s drive these buggers out of our space!”
Vioxx stared, dumbfounded, at Larkin, as she stepped aside. “Admiral…may I…may I ask why?”
Larkin inclined her head. “Because he’s Bain.”
TO BE CONTINUED. . .