Author: Alan Decker, Anthony Butler
STAR TRAKS: BOLDLY GONE…
By Alan Decker & Anthony Butler
“Don’t let up! Keep the bloody weapons firing!” Captain Reginald Bain called out, marching back and forth in front of his bridge crew, orchestrating the firefight like a master conductor.
“Captain, we’ll be out of neutron torpedoes in six minutes at this rate,” Lieutenant Tovar called out from tac-ops.
“Six minutes is all we’ll need, my boy,” Bain said, and pointed at the viewscreen, where a mass of Breen scythe-ships passed in front of him like the blades of a wheat thresher. “Into the fray, Ensign Skonn. Let’s get a few more notches on our belts!”
“We’re not wearing belts,” Ensign Friednich Skonn, the half-Gorn, half-human helm officer hissed.
“No matter!” Bain said. “We’ll find something to notch. Continue firing, pattern Bain Delta Four-Two-Zero.”
The Maladventure swarthed through space, gracefully navigating through the mass of Breen ships toward her goal.
“We’re almost there,” Tovar said, gripping his station as the Maladventure bucked. “Two minutes.”
“Make contact on all ultraspace frequencies. Don’t stop until you get a response, my boy.”
“What if..what if everyone on the planet’s dead?” Skonn asked, not looking up from his helm readouts.
“Then nary a Breen will escape this system alive, my friend,” Bain said. “But don’t worry, we’ve yet to write a finish to this war. But when we do, it’ll be a happy ending. The Federation will yet prevail.”
“We’re almost through their lines!” Tovar said, as the Maladventure shook again. “Just a little farther..”
Bain rested his hand on the back of the helmsman’s chair. “You heard the man, Skonn. Press onward. No stopping until we end this war. No stopping till we reach Earth…”
EARTH TWELVE YEARS LATER
“…which is why we’ve gathered today to give thanks to a great leader. A great patriot. The savior of the Federation, the Romulans, and countless others: I welcome…Captain Barnum Dax!” Vice President Zorn Zorknot clapped his flippers excitedly as he stepped aside, while Barnum Dax, Trill captain of the Federation Flagship, U.S.S. Enterprise-J, mounted the dais and waved at the clapping crowd.
“Thank you, thank you!” Dax said jovially. “I’m so pleased to be here to commemorate the very first Barnum Dax Day. Surely, across the Federation, this is a time of rejoicing! I have just a few prepared remarks…”
“Hmmmph,” Bain said, leaning back, arms folded over his chest, as he shifted in his chair.
“Captain,” Dr. Natalia Kasyov asked, seated beside Bain. She touched his arm. “Were you just nodding off?”
“Just daydreaming, Doctor. I assure you, I wouldn’t besmirch this auspicious occasion by sleeping through it.”
“Sarcasm ill becomes you, Captain,” Kasyov said, as Tovar and Marsden walked up, arm in arm, whispering to each other.
“No, you are,” Tovar grinned, and pulled out a seat for the Engineer.
“YOU are!” Marsden said, and sat, watching Tovar as he sat beside her. “You know you are.”
“What in blazes are you two talking about?” Bain asked.
“Nothing, Father,” Tovar said, grinning and kissing Marsden on the cheek.
“Shh! The guy is talking!” Kasyov said.
“Are you truly interested in what he’s saying?” asked Cabral, whose hovercam floated right beside Kasyov.
“Well, I think we should at least be polite. The Federation is recognizing Barnum Dax for his contribution during the war with the Vulcans, and even if he didn’t really contribute anything, I think we should respect the occasion.”
“Occasion my bum,” Bain said. “The man sat idly by while his ship was pummeled to rubbish, then wailed for help. Were it not for the Anomaly, the Enterprise-J would likely be molten slag by now.”
“Sir, it’s not like you to be jealous,” Kasyov said. “Or to claim credit for things. Do you really care who gets recognized for saving the Federation? You know what part you played.”
“I’m not jealous,” Bain said. “And I could give a fig whether Starfleet ever recognizes my contributions during the war. But this oaf…this bloated windbag…for him to get credit where none is due. It’s more than I can stomach, Nat. The very thought of it makes me nauseous.”
“More Cream de Clumclop?” a metallic, scratchy voice asked from behind Bain.
“No. I’m fine, thanks.”
“Coffee? Tea? We’re carrying a copious amount of Earl Grey for this event…”
“Nothing, thanks,” Bain said, not looking back at the waiter.
“As you wish, sir,” the waiter said, and walked off.
“I for one think you’re handling all this very well, Captain,” Marsden said, sliding her hand over Tovar’s. “Considering that we’re not only here to recognize an incompetent git for doing basically nothing, but that we’re also being served by a team of Breen waiters…”
“Someone’s playing a joke on me,” Bain said, tapping his fork idly on the table. “Wait a tic. Did you just say ‘git,’ Marsie?”
Marsden blanched. “It’s official. I’ve been around him too long.”
“The Federation has been trying to make peace overtures with the Breen for years now,” Kasyov said. “The whole Vulcan thing caused it to stall, and now that’s behind us, the Federation is recommitted. What’s so wrong with that?”
“And the Cream de Clumclop is delicious!” Dr. Fred Nooney said, excitedly hefting his spoon.
“I think there are better places to start making peace with the Breen than by inviting them to serve us braised chicken couscous on a pomegranate reduction,” Bain said, eying Nooney.
“One has to start somewhere. The Waiter Exchange Program is but the first in a series of initiatives planned to improve relations with the Breen,” Tovar said thoughtfully. He glanced at Marsden. “Thumper, can I get you anything else?”
Kasyov covered her eyes. “Please tell me that nickname isn’t really going to stick.”
“You’d understand if you knew its origins,” Marsden grinned at Tovar. “And no, thank you. I think I have everything I want.”
“…which is why, ninety-nine years ago, I scaled the upside-down cliffs of Klevath…” Barnum Dax said, continuing his “brief remarks.”
“Somebody kill me now,” Bain muttered, and tossed down his napkin. “I’m going to the lav.”
//Someone kill him now!// Thot-Norm growled at the viewscreen, as the Breen Imperial Cruiser BARKBARKBARK sailed after the Maladventure in impetuous pursuit.
//None of us has a clear shot,// Norm’s lieutenant, Zak, ground out in the beauteous, clanging Breen tongue. //His ship is moving too fast. His maneuvers are too…evasive.//
//Are you telling me that we have a fleet of fifty ships surrounding Earth, and we can’t stop one insignificant ship from breaching our lines?//
Zak turned from his station. //It’s far from insignificant, sir. The Butcher of Breen is aboard that ship.//
//I know that well, Zak. I’ve faced him in battle many times.//
//Well, just thought you’d like a reminder.//
Norm slammed a gloved hand down on Zak’s helmet. //I’ll tell you when I need a reminder. For now, just stop that ship!//
//As you well know, Thot, defeating Reginald Bain is far easier said than done…//
“What the blazes is going on out there,” Reginald Bain said to the mirror in the bathroom, looking at himself with cold, calculating eyes. “Why do I give a wank what the man gets recognized for? That’s not my style.”
Suddenly he heard the toilet flush in one of the other stalls behind him, and he straightened, trying to effect his best, most composed bearing. He also pondered the fact that, after all the technological advances of the last several centuries, toilet technology hadn’t improved one iota. It still worked on the same basic principal. Give or take a waste extraction system here and there.
The far stall door opened, and Admiral Kristen Larkin emerged.
“Larks?” Bain asked, looking back. “What are you doing in here?”
“I have been experimenting with waste recycling to further understand humanity.”
“Well, that’s all well and good, Larks. But this is the MEN’s room!”
“Men and women have different rooms?” Larkin asked. “How odd that I did not know that.”
“Are you all right?” Bain asked.
“I should be asking you that question,” Larkin said. “This event is a farce.”
“Could you do nothing to stop it?”
“My pull with Starfleet Command is significantly less impressive than you might think. I am in charge of the Explorer project, as you recall, and that carries with it a certain stigma. Even to this day.” She grimaced. “At any rate, after the Vulcan war, Starfleet was looking for good P.R. any way they could get it. And if nothing else, Barnum Dax is good for P.R.”
“The insufferable fool,” Bain said.
“Would you prefer it if you were up there, Captain?”
“I’d prefer it was anyone but him. And I certainly don’t care if I ever get the recognition I deserve. You know that’s not what I’m about, Larks. I fight, I captain, I lead because that’s what I know how to do. I have no higher aspirations.”
“Why not?” Larkin asked. “It’s human. It’s logical to have such desires.”
“Please don’t bring up logic. It’s still too soon. After, you know…”
“Indeed,” Larkin said. “My apologies.”
“You should really leave before someone else sees you in here,” Bain said.
“Quite right,” Larkin said. “I’ll see you at the after-party?”
“Count on it,” Bain said with a small smile, as Larkin headed out of the head.
Bain was about to do the same when he heard another toilet flush, this time from one of the other stalls he’d thought unoccupied. How many people were in this bathroom, anyway?
After the sound of the flush died down, he heard what sounded like a supercomputer being booted up. A whirr, a whiz, a whine, and a series of clacks and brittle clinks. The sound of metal teeth closing upon other metal teeth.
Then the sound of a zipper. Another little piece of technology that hadn’t changed significantly in centuries.
Curious, Bain glanced at the door as it swung open. Not surprisingly, the tall man that emerged was Breen. That would explain the sounds. Bain wondered what exactly went on in those Breen suits. He’d always wondered, even at the height of the war, what had made these intriguing beings tick.
The Breen stepped up to the sinkerator and put his hands in the cleansing field, then turned to Bain.
“Greetings,” he said in a metal voice. “Do you know Captain Dax well?”
“Well enough,” Bain said. “Listen here, thanks for…uh, for participating in this exchange thing. I’m sure it means a lot to the Federation.”
“It means a lot to the Breen,” the waiter intoned. “We should all be together one day, should all be part of the galactic firmament.”
“That’s nice,” Bain said. “I’ve got to go.”
“Would you and your friends like an after-dinner brandy?” the Breen called after him.
“Several. Yes!” Bain said, and headed back to his table.
“There it is,” Tovar said, pointing at the viewscreen and the bristling, cigar-shaped array that hovered in front of them.
“Innocent-looking, as weapons of death go,” Bain said calmly, even though fifty Breen ships were now closing on his ship, and all that stood between him and Earth was a glorified sensor platform.
“It’s not a weapon of death,” Tovar said. “It’s just emitting a field of some kind that’s dampening the power grids of all the ships orbiting Earth.”
“How many are there?” Bain asked.
“Thirty-six in all, including the Enterprise-I. All out of commission as long as that array is operational.”
“Then it’s up to us to destroy the array,” Bain said.
“And what about those fifty-some Breen ships coming at us?” Skonn asked.
“We’re going to destroy those too,” Bain said easily. “Well, then. Let’s go!”
“Is this seat taken?” Commander Prosak asked, hovering by the table of Anomaly officers.
“It’s Captain Bain’s,” Tovar said. “So, yes.”
“Sorry!” Marsden said, taking her hand off Tovar’s, suddenly feeling a little awkward. She and Prosak hadn’t spoken much since her and Tovar’s relationship had been solidified.
“That is all right,” Prosak said. “I don’t suppose Cabral could move, since he, being a hovering camera, doesn’t particularly need a seat…”
“He needs a seat,” Kasyov said, and stroked the camera, a little too affectionately for Prosak’s taste.
“…which is the only trait all my hosts share in common. Odd, too, as the majority of Trill are not double-jointed…” Dax continued, though few at the Anomaly table were listening anymore.
Prosak, meanwhile, gave a little bow, averting her eyes as much as possible from Tovar and Marsden.
“Sorry, Prosak,” Tovar said.
“No apologies are necessary,” she said, and turned, nearly bumping into Bain as he headed back to his seat.
“Are you all right, Commander?” Bain asked.
“You and I both. See you at the after-party?”
“Yes, sir,” Prosak said, and moved off across the crowded banquet hall, searching for a free table, as Barnum Dax droned on.
“…flood her body with cesium isotopes. It’s quick, painless, and efficient,” Selex said, looking around the table of Romulan Anomaly officers.
“That’s fine, if we were Cardassians,” Remax said. “But we’re not. It needs to be bloody. Violent. We need to send a message. That’s why it has to be a fillet job. Who here is good with cutlery?”
“My expertise with a blade is like no other in the galaxy!” Nortal exclaimed. “Who are we killing again?”
“Nobody!” Commander Vioxx said between clenched teeth. “And be quiet about it! We’re surrounded by Starfleet officers and Federation citizens. You know how they are about killing people.”
“They don’t like it?” Selex asked. “How typically shortsighted of them. Don’t they realize that Romulans see planned assassinations as an essential element to teambuilding?”
“They’re weak,” Remax said. “Which is why they’ll want to put this whole thing behind them as quickly as possible. We can even do it in such a way that it won’t be traced back to us.”
“Yes, because a number of people on the Anomaly want to kill Prosak,” Vioxx said. “We should blend right in.”
“Why do I feel like you’re not fully behind this?” Remax asked, sipping from his coffee cup.
“Because I’m not,” Vioxx said. “You still haven’t convinced me of the threat Prosak poses to us.”
“It’s not the threat she poses, but the clear advantage we’ll have with her out of the way. We’ll be heroes! Returned to Romulus, given back a Warhawk. We’ve been through all this already. Why must we rehash it?”
“Exposition,” Zantak said, and quietly went back to eating her meal.
“I’m still not sure,” Vioxx said. “Our tour aboard the Anomaly hasn’t been all bad. We may have the opportunity to forge a real peace between our two peoples. Isn’t that worth exploring?”
“You sound like a Terran,” Remax grimaced. “What are you, red- blooded?”
“Certainly not,” Vioxx said. “I just haven’t made a decision yet. I need to hear more.”
“We should talk about using the transporter to disassemble her molecules,” Selex said, and Remax shot him a glare. “Don’t worry. I can make it painful!”
Just then, Prosak stepped up, looking around the table at the Romulans. “Excuse me. I couldn’t help but notice there were a couple of free seats at your table…”
Everyone froze, staring at the Romulan.
“I was wondering if I could sit down?”
Vioxx nodded. “Certainly, Commander. Take a seat between Remax and Selex.” It was then that he felt Remax kick him hard in the shin under the table. He glared at Remax. There would be political retribution for that.
Prosak stiffly pulled the chair back and sat down, scooting back in. She glanced uneasily around the table. “I’m sorry to interrupt your conversation. What were you discussing?”
“Well…” Selex said.
“Weather!” Remax exclaimed, patting Prosak on the back. “We were discussing that the weather on Earth is rather humid when compared to that on Romulus.”
“Yes. It…is,” Prosak said, glancing at Remax. “I thought I heard something about pain?”
“Just that the humidity causes my arthritis to flare up,” Remax said, his arm still around Prosak. He shot an almost unnoticeable look at Selex, who, from the other side of Prosak, reached back and slipped a finger inside Remax’s glove. He fished out a small, needle-like object and aimed it at the back of Prosak’s neck.
“This weather is so humid, we will tell tales and sing songs of it for years to come!” Nortal announced.
“Well, some of us will,” Selex sneered, and flicked his wrist backward, preparing to stab the needle into Prosak’s neck.
Vioxx spotted this, his eyes went wide, and he flung his dessert plate at Selex’s wrist, causing the needle to tumble harmlessly to the ground, and causing the engineer to pull back, cradling his wrist.
Prosak stared at Vioxx. “Commander, may I ask why you did that?”
“A…tradition my crew and I have come to enjoy,” Vioxx said. “Isn’t that right, Selex?”
“Yes,” Selex said, and lifted his own dessert plate. “It’s quite enjoyable!”
“But we’re done with that tradition for right now,” Vioxx said, giving Selex a stern glare. “Or else some of us might be cleaning out the singularity residue chamber aboard the Anomaly tonight.”
“Yes. Right,” Selex said, lowering his plate, and sharing glares with Remax. “Another time, perhaps.”
“There will be plenty of opportunities,” Remax said enigmatically. “Would you like some Cream de Clumclop, Commander Prosak?” He pushed the dish over to her. “Please, there’s plenty.”
“That’s very nice of you, Sub-Commander,” Prosak said, spooning from the dish onto her plate.
“We all just want to get along,” Remax said. “Isn’t that right, people?”
The group around the table nodded assent, all exchanging uneasy glances with each other.
“Eat up, Commander,” Remax smiled. “We’re all friends here.”
“Unfriendly targets incoming fast! Multiple vectors, weapons hot!” Lt. Tovar called out from tac-ops as Captain Bain paced the bridge of the Maladventure and the weapons fire started to rain in from the swarm of Breen scythe-ships closing on them.
“Can we reach the ships on the other side of the jamming field?” Bain asked, glancing back at Liana Choy, his science officer.
Choy shook her head as she brought an image on screen, displaying the tactical readout on the sensor platform that was holding the Earth fleet at bay. “No, sir. The field’s jamming all communication with Earth: satellites, starbases, orbital weapons platforms…”
“Evasive, Skonn,” Bain said, and pivoted back to Tovar. “How do we destroy that blasted emitter, Tovar?”
“It is heavily shielded,” Tovar said as he deftly fired back at the various Breen ships raining fire down on the Madadventure. “And being that we expended our neutron torpedoes busting through their lines…”
“I get it,” Bain said. “I only wish I had time for a good scolding, my boy. But I need other options.”
“The Maladventure is usually equipped with three tri-cobalt devices, any one of which would be capable of breaking through the emitter’s shields,” Tovar said.
“But we expended those destroying the superstarbase in orbit of Ariadne Prime,” Bain said.
“It was a glorious explosion,” Tovar said. “But it did leave us with rather limited firepower options.”
“Compression phasers would take hours to cut through the emitter’s shields,” Tovar said, checking his sensors, as the Maladventure rocked. “And right now we have minutes, not hours, to finish our task.”
“Duck around the moon, Ensign,” Bain ordered, grabbing a nearby railing to stop the deck from pitching out from under him.
“I’m ducking as fast as I can,” Skonn muttered, clawed hands flying over the helm console. “But the Breen are coming at us from all sides.”
“Sir, unless something unforseen occurs, at this rate of attack, we’ll lose hull integrity within fourteen minutes,” Tovar said. “Shields are already down to two-thirds sheath.”
“Re-sheath and polarize,” Bain said, stalking toward the viewscreen with grim determination. “Divert power from life support and sensors to weapons and shields and…” He looked down. “And tell everyone to report to the life pods.”
“Sir?” Tovar asked.
“We have one last weapon aboard, son,” Bain said, and looked at his tac-ops officer. “It’s down on Deck Forty-Three.”
Tovar nodded. “The warp core.”
“Send to all hands,” Bain said. “I’m scuttling the Maladventure.”
“…and it was a glorious wedding, with batleths and everything. Jadzia’s dress was gorgeous! And Worf was so handsome. Anyway, the wedding was the high point. Jadzia died a little while after that. So that leads us to Ezri. Now HER wedding…that was a real debacle!”
Bain leaned over the table, sipping brandy slowly, watching it swirl in the glass. “Has he shut up yet?” he asked, glancing around at his officers.
“He seems to be pausing every three point five minutes for applause,” Cabral’s camera module said, hovering next to Bain. “A standard orator’s methodology.”
“Smashing,” Bain said, and glanced over at Tovar and Marsden. “What about the two of you? Enjoying yourselves?”
Tovar grinned at Marsden. “Immensely, sir.”
“That could be a Vesouvian death-chant going on up there, and you wouldn’t care in the least, would you?”
“Nope,” Marsden said, smiling at Tovar and squeezing his hand.
“As it should be,” Bain said, and drained the rest of his brandy. “Yes, love is a beautiful thing, when it’s real. When it’s passionate and filled with…” He glanced away. “Love.”
“Sir, you should stop drinking now,” Tovar said, reaching for the brandy bottle.
Bain put up a hand. “Tut-tut-tut, my good boy, I’ll let you know when I’ve had enough.”
“Is he always like this when he drinks?” Kasyov asked.
“I like him like this!” Nooney said, draining his own glass. “He reminds me of a pirate.”
“Well, the captain does have pirate lineage,” Tovar said, as Bain idly tapped his spoon on his glass. “And it’s much more apparent when he imbibes.”
“Maybe we should get him back to the ship,” Marsden suggested.
“Before Dax has finished his speech?” Tovar asked. “No. That would be unseemly. He’ll be fine. The captain can hold his liquor.”
“Anyone want to fight me?” Bain asked, looking around the table.
“Ooh, me!” Nooney replied, clapping.
“Doctor, I’d advise against that,” Tovar said.
“I’m not in my right mind,” Nooney said, googily eyed. “I think I’ve had one two many snifters, if you know what I mean.”
“We don’t,” Marsden said. “You’re drinking fruit punch.”
“But I’m drinking it from a snifter!” Nooney giggled, and stood up woozily. “Off to find more punch!”
“Are we sure he has a medical degree?” Kasyov asked as Nooney stumbled off.
“I’m not sure we ever actually checked,” Tovar said thoughtfully, as Bain refilled his glass.
“I wonder what they’re talking about at the other table,” Bain said. “Romulans. Feh. That’s a fun table, eh?”
“I imagine it depends a great deal on your perspective, sir,” Tovar said.
“Sir?” Tovar asked, as Bain stood in the center of his empty bridge, the Maladventure rattling apart all around him, panels popping and exploding as Breen fire shook the ship nearly to pieces.
“Eh?” Bain asked, glancing over his shoulder.
“The collision sequence has been entered. We can trigger it remotely from the lifepod. It’s time to go.”
“Just remembering something,” Bain said, walking slowly up the side of the bridge, and resting his hand on his vessel’s brass dedication plaque. He squinted as he read it. “‘Never give in–never, never, never, never, in nothing great or small, large or petty, never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense. Never yield to force, never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy’.” He glanced back at Tovar. “Winston Churchill.”
“Yes, sir, and the irony of the quote is not lost on me,” Tovar said. “Now, sir, we must go. We should have gone three minutes ago.”
“By all means, Tovar,” Bain said, heading up to the back of the bridge. He gave once last glance around the empty, smoking bridge. “The judgment of history awaits us.”
“Actually, lifepod thirty-three awaits us,” Tovar said.
“That a boy. Don’t give in to sentiment.”
“I leave that to you, Captain,” Tovar replied, and ducked with Bain into the aft Jefferies tube.
“Friends, Romulans, countrymen,” Bain said gutterally, bracing his hands on Vioxx’s chair and leaning down to address those gathered around his table. “Lend me a beer.”
“Captain?” Prosak asked, arching her eyebrows with concern.
“Don’t mind me, Commander, just making my rounds,” Bain said with a fatherly smile.
“Captain Dax is still speaking, I believe,” Vioxx said tightly, as the others stared at Bain.
Bain glanced up at the dais, where Dax was, indeed still talking. Most of the other tables had either descended into their own conversations or were thudding their heads on the table, hoping he would stop. “So he is, so he is. But I’d rather hear from all of you. How was your meal?”
“The Spleen Pudding was the stuff of legend!” Nortal enunciated, holding her fork high. “It shall be remembered now, and for all time!”
“Good show, Nortal,” Bain said, and looked to Selex and Remax. “What about you two. Why so glum?”
“We are not glum,” Remax said. “We are simply…lost in thought.”
“Deep in planning,” Selex said, drawing a stiff elbow from Remax. “Planning our duty shifts.”
“Well that’s just grand,” Bain said. “But all work and no play makes you all dull Romulans. Try to have some fun, once in a while.”
“We’re going to have quite a bit of fun soon,” Remax said, smiling amicably at Prosak. “Of that you can be sure.”
“Glad to hear it,” Bain said. “Carry on!” And he stumbled off.
Meanwhile, three Breen who had been clearing the dishes from another table saw him walk away, and headed toward him.
As the lifepod shot away from the Maladventure, Bain wearily ran a hand over the control panel in front of him, prepared to give his last order to the vessel’s helm console.
“Sir, if the ship explodes before we can execute the collision course…” Tovar said from the second chair in the pod.
“Too right, Tovar. It’s time we made a bold stroke.” And Bain tapped a sequence of controls, watching as the Maladventure lurched forward. The scythe ships cut in to intercept it, but the Maladventure was quicker, racing to full-polaron speed in an instant, and slamming dagger- like into the smaller sensor platform. It was then that explosions racked the Maladventure’s twin engine pods, and cascaded along her hull, reverberating against the sensor platform’s shields and decimating them in an instant. The resulting explosions crackled across the sensor platform, first buckling, and then, finally, incinerating it in a wash of light that enveloped both the platform and the ruined Maladventure.
“Sit up straight, boy,” Bain said, staring out the window. “If there was room, we’d be standing.”
“Yes, sir,” Tovar said, and glanced at his readouts. “Sir, the scythe-ships are changing course, heading toward our life pods. They’re going to attempt to bring us aboard, or just blast us out of space.”
“Not if our fleet has to say anything about it,” Bain said, and as if on cue, a phalanx of starships shot out of Earth’s orbit and rained fire down on the Breen scythe ships, blowing up a half dozen in the first volley.
The comm system in the life pod bleeped to life: “All life pods, this is Captain Barnum Dax. Prepare to be brought aboard the Enterprise- I. Relax, folks. I have this well in hand!”
Bain gritted his teeth. “I’ll live to rue this day, Tovar.”
“Best not to dwell on it, sir,” Tovar said as he and Bain dematerialized.
“He’s acting a little strange, is all,” Marsden said, rolling her napkin into knots. “Haven’t you noticed?”
“I know the captain better than anyone at this table, or in this room, save for Admiral Larkin,” Tovar said. “His behavior has not escaped my notice.”
“Do you know what’s wrong?” Kasyov asked.
“Captains Bain and Dax have something of a…past,” Tovar said. “To put it mildly, Dax is not his kind of guy.”
“I’ll say,” Marsden said. “You couldn’t find two different captains.”
“Yes,” Tovar said. “One’s a hero, a born leader. And one’s not.”
“Captain Dax seems to do an adequate job,” Cabral said. “He is the commander of the Federation flagship.”
“And by all rights, that honor should belong to Captain Bain,” Tovar said. “But you’ll never hear him say that.”
“He’s prideful,” Kasyov said. “But he never struck me as arrogant.”
“He isn’t,” Tovar said. “He just wants the universe to unfold a certain way. And when it doesn’t, it frustrates him.”
“You love him, don’t you?” Marsden asked with a slight grin.
“He is my father,” Tovar said simply, and watched Bain approach the table from across the room. “And he has survived many ordeals, many battles. Today’s proceedings are of no consequence.”
And that’s when he saw the three Breen waiters converge on Bain, withdraw their disruptors, and aim.
Tovar was out of his chair in seconds. With a flick of his wrists, dual phaser barrels emerged from his shirtsleeves. He never felt his feet touch ground.
Bain was so deep in thought, he didn’t see the Breen until they were right on top of him. But when he did see them, he took quick action. Saw Tovar charging up, phasers at the ready.
He held up a hand. “Hold off, Tove! No reason to panic!” He swung a leg out and knocked the blaster out of the closest Breen’s gloved hand.
One of the other two took aim, but Bain ducked, rolled backwards, just as the beam lanced out and slammed into the unfortunate Breen Bain had just kicked, who immediately vaporized.
Bain came up punching. Hard rights, right under the chin (the only part protected by cloth rather than helmet. Then a hard kick to the Breen’s gut, knocking him to the floor.
“Pardon, mind if I borrow this?” Bain asked casually, to a guest at a nearby table, as he grabbed a platinum serving tray and slung it behind him, catching the third Breen right in the throat.
His would-be attacker garbled and grunted, trying to steady himself, as Bain whirled and slammed the tray repeatedly down on the Breen’s head.
“Anybody have a dinner fork?” Bain asked. A nearby lieutenant stood up from his table and gingerly handed Bain a fork with shaking hand.
“Blast it, son, this is a dessert fork!” Bain rumbled, tossing the fork down. He reached out and snapped one out of a female guest’s hand and brought it down quickly, plunging it into the oxygenation tube attached to one of the Breen’s helmets. With a gasp and a gurgle, that Breen lost consciousness.
The second Breen, the one he’d kicked to the floor, struggled to his feet.
“Now look here!” Dax called out, jogging down from the dais at the front of the room. “I won’t stand for these kinds of shenanigans. This is a hallowed occasion!”
Getting his bearings, the second Breen (the only one left conscious), staggered backwards and drove a fist into Dax’s face, sending him dropping to the ground like a bag of potatoes.
“Who the BRAXIX are you?” the Breen demanded, looming over the dazed Dax.
“It’s Barnum Dax day. Yayyyyyyy…” Dax mumbled, then lost consciousness.
The Breen turned, mumbling metallically to himself, when he felt a fist grip his throat and a fork get shoved menacingly in his face.
“Now what’s all this bother about, friend?” Bain asked sharply.
“YOU!” the Breen bellowed with a metal roar, pointing a finger at Bain.
“Wait a sec,” Tovar said, stepping up behind Bain. “I recognize that Breen’s voice.”
Bain glanced over his shoulder. “How can you? They all sound like a bloody Synthrock ballad to me.”
“It’s Thot Phul,” Tovar said. “I’m certain of it.”
Bain turned, still gripping the Breen by the throat. “Is that so, old man?”
“Yes,” Phul warbled, squirming. “Yes, you ZAXXXXING BRAXPAX!”
“What’s he on about?” Bain asked Tovar.
“Revenge,” Tovar said. “He is a member of your Rogues Gallery, sir.”
“I thought I’d killed them all,” Bain said thoughtfully.
Tovar withdrew a pad from his vest and scanned it. “Nope, not yet. Baron Krall, the Foot Fetishist of Ovanar Twelve, is currently ‘whereabouts: unknown.’”
“I’ll be buggered,” Bain said, and dropped Phul, as Starfleet Security officers raced up, and a medtech knelt by Dax. “What’d I do to him again?”
Tovar consulted his padd. “You indirectly led to him losing face among the Breen leadership, during several skirmishes and encounters.” Tovar glanced back at Prosak, who had also rushed up to see what the commotion was all about. “It’s notable that Commander Prosak was actually the person responsible for most of Phul’s defeats.”
“Really?” Prosak asked. “Does that mean I have an arch-nemesis now?”
“You’re welcomed to him,” Bain said, slapping his hands together briskly and walking off toward the banquet hall’s exit, as Starfleet Security dragged the three Breen away in the opposite direction. “Let’s get to that after party. The night is young!”
Stardate 178212.7. We’ve returned to the Anomaly, after a smashing after-party which included drinks, dancing, and merriment.
It’s my understanding that Phul and his accomplices will be taken to a Starbase for debriefing and holding until the powers that be can figure out whether or not they’ll be extradited or charged with attempted assassination and sent to a Federation Penal Colony.
Personally, I could care less what happens to Phul and his associates, as long as he doesn’t come ‘round our way again.
Meanwhile, aboard the good ship Anomaly, all is right with the world. It’s time to put the foolishness of this day behind us and get back to the real mission at hand: exploration of the glorious ether known as the Universe. We’ve no time for petty assassination schemes.
“That was the time! We missed a golden opportunity!” Selex said, slamming a fist down on the table in Vioxx’s quarters, as the other Romulan officers gathered for an impromptu meeting.
“You suggest we should have killed Prosak in front of five hundred Starfleet officers and Federation dignitaries?” Vioxx asked serenely, steepling his fingers. “No. This was not the time.”
“That’s a tired refrain, old friend,” Remax said, leaning toward Vioxx.
“And one you’ll continue hearing until I deem it’s the right time.”
‘“When will that be?” Selex asked.
“When I say so,” Vioxx said. “Is that perfectly clear?”
“We have duty shift in two hours,” Remax said, shifting out of his chair and heading toward the door.
“I didn’t dismiss you,” Vioxx said without turning around.
“Please, by all means, dismiss me,” Remax replied.
“You’re dismissed,” Vioxx said, and glowered at the other Romulans. “All of you.”
“Prosak lives to fight another day!” Nortal exclaimed. “Shall we all soon die in magnificent combat!”
“That’s the spirit,” Vioxx muttered, as the other Romulans filed out of the room.
Tovar and Marsden watched the stars stretch out as the Anomaly shot into warp, curled together on Tovar’s couch, fingers interlaced.
“I never get tired of that view,” Marsden said, leaning her head on Tovar’s shoulder.
Tovar turned, kissed Marsden on the forehead. “And I never get tired of this one.” He squeezed her. “Dinner?”
“Sure. As long as Toflay doesn’t pop out and start quizzing me on appetizer trivia again.”
“Don’t be silly. I have all that…nonsense…under control,” Tovar said. “I assure you.”
“Good. Because I’d rather not have any interruptions tonight,” Marsden said, as she turned and kissed Tovar deeply. “If you know what I mean…”
Just then, Tovar’s door bleeped.
“If that’s Prosak wanting a three-way, my head will explode,” Marsden growled.
“I need not answer the door,” Tovar said. “This room has a security dampening field. No one has to know we’re here.”
Suddenly the beeping gave way to knocking. “Tovar, it’s your father!” Reginald Bain’s voice boomed over the speaker’s in Tovar’s cabin. “I know you’re in there, son. Hop to!”
Tovar sighed and stood up. “One moment, father.”
“What happened to ‘I need not answer’?”
Tovar didn’t reply, merely stood at the door and pressed the activation panel.
The door slid open to reveal a grinning Bain. “Son, care to share a few pints with your father?”
“I’m rather busy at the moment.”
“I’m going to the bedroom,” Marsden muttered, and stalked back to the bedroom. “Anyone who cares to join me can follow.”
Bain stepped in. “I imagine she was referring to you, chum.”
“Ostensibly,” Tovar said. “Did you need something, Father?”
“Just some quality time. But I see you’re…otherwise engaged.”
“We can have breakfast tomorrow, if you like.”
“Smashing!” Bain said.
“Father, after today’s events, I assume you’ve settled the matter of the Battle of Earth?”
“What? You mean scuttling the Maladventure?”
“That is why you were so…sullen…today, is it not?”
“Rubbish. I didn’t care if Dax got the credit then, and I don’t care if he gets the credit now. It’s immaterial, my boy.”
“Yet so many miscreants out there want to kill you,” Tovar observed.
Bain considered that a moment, stroking his chin. “Son, knowing that is worth all the Barnum Dax Days in the world!” Bain grinned, and headed out of Tovar’s quarters.
THREE WEEKS LATER BREEN FLAGSHIP BLAXABETH
//Grad, the Starbase is hailing. They instruct us to keep our distance to five million kilometers,// Undergrad Rax said, glancing from the Grad to the viewscreen, where Starbase 398 loomed.
//’Partners in Peace,’ my COXYX,// the Grad bellowed, pacing the bridge.
//Sir?// Rax asked.
//Forget it. Tell them we’re ready to receive the prisoners. And send over the conciliatory fruit basket we prepared.//
//Not everyone in engineering has signed the card yet,// Rax said.
//It doesn’t matter. Just do it! And have the prisoners report to my conference room immediately!//
Rax ducked his helmeted head a little. //Yes, Grad.//
The Grad put his booted feet up on the heavy iron conference table, and glanced out from time to time out the viewports as Starbase 398 disappeared into the distance, and the Blaxabeth angled back toward Breen space.
The doors to the conference room swung open, and guards escorted the three prisoners in: Thot Phul, and the surviving waiters. Norm was told one of them disintegrated, which was really a pity.
//Have a seat, Thot Phul,// the Grad said, putting his feet down and leaning forward. //The two extras can wait outside.// He gestured to the guards, and the other two Breen were dragged out into the corridor.
//Don’t have them killed. They’re good guys. Just a little incompetent.//
//Much like yourself,// the Grad snarled.
//Here now, I object to that. I’m just a victim of circumstance. While we’re on the subject, though, don’t have me killed either.//
//I wouldn’t dream of it,// the Grad said. //I have much bigger plans for you.//
Thot Phul cocked his head. //You do?//
//You’re not a bad sort, Thot Phul. You just need to be trained in the art of revenge. And Grad Norm is just the Breen to do it.//
//Who’s Norm?// Phul asked.
//I AM, YOU IDIOT!//
It’s a happy day for the Romulan members of the Anomaly crew, at least the ones not named Prosak, when they visit Romulan space to pick up their new ship, the Allegra. Before the shakedown cruise can even start, a Warhawk goes missing, and Vioxx and company are asked to lend a hand tracking it down. Will Marsden and Prosak survive the confrontation, much less Vioxx’s crew? And what connection does the Warhawk theft have to Prosak’s past? Answers to these questions, plus Andy Rooney….whoops, this isn’t Sixty Minutes. Never mind.