Author: Alan Decker, Anthony Butler
STAR TRAKS: BOLDLY GONE…
“The Bain Supremacy”
By Alan Decker & Anthony Butler
Over the course of his long Starfleet career, Captain Reginald Bain had regained consciousness in any number of nasty predicaments. Considering the maniacal laughter of the James T. Kirk hologram that he’d heard as he was being electrocuted into oblivion, Bain expected the present circumstances to rank up there with the worst of them.
Gingerly he tried his limbs. Much to his surprise, they didn’t seem to be bound in any way whatsoever. He opened his eyes, ready to find himself inside some kind of holographic death trap.
No. It was just a room. Some sort of maintenance closet by the look of it. He picked himself up off of the floor and looked around. The little bit of signage he saw was in Romulan text, so he was still on the Allegra. But why the devil had Kirk shoved him in a closet? Only one way to find out.
“Kirk! KIRK! Do you hear me, you loony bastard?”
“Of course I can hear you, Captain,” Kirk’s voice replied over the comm speakers mounted in the ceiling. “I could hear the slight increase in your breathing as you came to a few moments ago. I hear everything on this ship.”
“How bloody marvelous for you. Now how are we playing this one? What’s the game?”
“No game, Reginald. We’ve played enough. And, to be honest, I didn’t really enjoy how the last one ended.”
“I seem to remember beating you to a pulp and then crashing into your ship,” Bain said. “I had hoped that you were wiped out when the holopod program shut down.”
“Tut tut, Captain. You should know by now that it takes a lot more than that to kill James T. Kirk.”
“You mean like falling off of a bridge.”
“You had to bring that up, didn’t you?” Kirk snapped petulantly. “No. Not like that. I could feel what your little minion Kasyov was doing in the computer, and I do mean in the computer. In my day, I never would have put up with people joining themselves to technology like that. Times change, though, and the situation being what it was, I decided to follow her lead. The Anomaly was otherwise occupied, but I was able to pass through a data link to the Allegra here and merge myself with its computer system.”
“Merge? So you are the Allegra?”
“For the moment,” Kirk said.
Bain smiled. “You can’t get out, can you?” He started laughing.
“Stop it!” Kirk shouted. “STOP IT!”
“All right. Don’t get your circuits in a twist,” Bain said. He suddenly turned deadly serious. “Before this farce goes any farther, though, you are going to tell me what you have done with Tovar, Prosak, and Marsden.”
Now it was Kirk’s turn to laugh. “I have no interest in your supporting cast, Bain. They have been dealt with.”
“Dealt with?” Bain shouted.
“Yes. Don’t worry, though. I’m sure they’ll be just fine…as long as someone finds them before they run out of air.”
“Come now, Captain. We both know this is between you and me. And I assure you, I am not a poor marksman, and I do not ever miss my target.”
“How long do you think we have?” Lieutenant Shelly Marsden asked, putting up her hands to keep herself from bouncing against the cold metal wall of the large cargo container she, Tovar, and Prosak had awoken to find themselves trapped inside.
“There are a number of variables,” Tovar replied, his face barely visible in the dim glow of the small emergency light that had been placed in the container with them. “Based on our movements and the lack of gravity, we can conclude that we have been ejected into space. The container appears to have enough insulation to prevent us from freezing to death, which means we only have to worry about running out of breathable air. Considering the size of this container, we have…” He paused.
“You don’t have any idea, do you?”
“Not really. The other lifeforce had the scientist in it.”
“It doesn’t matter,” Marsden said. “It’s not like there’s much we can do about it at the moment.”
“Since we appear to have a great deal of free time available to us, is there anything that anyone would like to discuss?” Prosak asked. “Any issues that need to be brought out into the open?”
“I don’t have any,” Marsden said. “Tovar?”
“I am good. I believe that any and all issues between the three of us have been resolved.”
“They have,” Prosak said. “Although, I have to admit that our captivity here would be far more engaging if there were some festering situation between us all. Perhaps the two of you would like to spend our remaining time alive sharing some intimate moments together? I have heard that zero gravity is quite pleasurable once the initial awkwardness is overcome. I can turn toward a wall, if you wish.”
“Thanks, but I think that would use up a lot of our air,” Marsden said. “Maybe we should all sit quietly and not talk.”
“Meditation would slow our oxygen consumption,” Tovar said.
“An excellent suggestion. Vulcan meditative techniques are very effective at reducing heartbeat and respiration.”
“I am sure they are adequate, but I find Yynsian techniques far superior,” Tovar replied.
“I find that idea…illogical. Vulcans have been masters of meditation for thousands of years.”
“And Yynsians have had many lifetimes in which to perfect our skills.”
“Would you two stop it!” Marsden snapped, floating between them. “Or at least have the decency to knock me out, so I don’t have to listen to it!”
Prosak shrugged then closed her fingers on Marsden’s shoulder. The human was knocked out instantly.
“Your technique has improved,” Tovar said.
“Thank you,” Prosak said.
“I do believe that she may not have been serious in her request, though.”
“Ah. Well, she will use less oxygen this way.”
“True. And I shall be using less than you.”
“We will see about that,” Prosak replied. “Ready. Set. Meditate!”
“So this is it?” Vioxx said, staring at the phalanx of Breen scythe ships on the viewscreen of the Enterprise-J. “We’re at war?”
Larkin ignored Vioxx and instead turned to Ensign Apoulous at the tactical station. “Ensign, instruct all vessels to fire on the Breen fleet until every last one of their ships has turned to ashes.” As Ensign Apoulous tapped the commands into his station, she turned cooly to face Commander Vioxx. “NOW we’re at war.”
Remax stepped up behind Vioxx. “Frankly, I don’t see what all the fuss is about.”
Vioxx held up a quieting hand. “STOP!”
Larkin turned to Vioxx. “Excuse me?”
“Tell the ships to hold their fire!” Vioxx said, stepping in between Larkin and the tactical station and waving his arms at Larkin. “You’ve got to listen to me, Admiral.”
Larkin nodded in the direction of Apoulous. “Instruct all ships to hold their fire and await further orders.”
The ensign nodded, looking a little confused. “Yes, sir. All ships report standing by.”
“You have six point two seconds,” Larkin said, turning to Vioxx, “to tell me why I shouldn’t open fire on the Breen for murdering a decorated Starfleet captain in cold blood.”
“Because…” Vioxx said, looking to Remax, who gave him a “don’t look at me” look. “Because we don’t know if Bain is dead. We don’t know anything yet.”
“We know he’s disappeared from his cell,” Larkin said. “Or so the Breen say. I have calculated all possible outcomes of this scenario, and the likelihood is ninety-eight percent that they have killed Captain Bain and are using his so-called escape as an excuse to kill the Butcher of Breen and start a war with the Federation.”
“Yes, but ninety-eight percent probability means that there is a chance you could be wrong.”
“Infinitesimal. It falls within the margin for error.”
“And I’m asking you to look beyond the margin for error, Admiral,” Vioxx implored. “As a neutral representative of the Romulan Star Empire, I’m asking you to let me mediate this conflict.”
“I believe this is the first time a Romulan has ever referred to himself as a ‘neutral representative.’”
Vioxx ignored her and pressed on. “Let’s extend the olive branch to the Breen and see if they take it. That will buy us time to look into Bain’s disappearance and possibly avert a war. And if, after all of this, the Breen are exposed for their duplicity, I’ll fire the first shots myself.”
Larkin considered the matter for several seconds - for her, an eternity.
“Very well,” she said finally. “Ensign, open a channel to Thot Mutch.”
Bain paced the confines of his maintenance closet prison. Closets being what they are, though, he didn’t exactly have a lot of room to work with. “Blast it all, Kirk!” he shouted suddenly. “Why am I cooped up in here? Are you going to take a shot at me or what?”
“Patience, Reg,” Kirk’s maddeningly smug voice replied. “Everything will happen in its time. You’re a special man, and I want to make sure that your death is equally special. It needs to have significance! Gravitas! In short, Reg, I want to make sure that you go out…”
“If you say, ‘go out with a bang,’ I swear I will dismantle you byte by byte.”
“How have you survived so long, Bain? This interrupting your adversary’s speech stuff is really annoying,” Kirk said.
“Most of my adversaries don’t live long enough to make a speech.”
“And that’s why you will never sit in the center seat of an Enterprise, Reg. You don’t have the stuff.”
“I never wanted a bloody Enterprise, Kirk! Flagships are for pretty-boys who like to talk instead of getting things done. I’m a man of the trenches. I want to be where things are happening. I make things happen. And, so far, nothing is happening here, so would you GET ON WITH IT?!?”
“Fine. You’re going to get your wish, Reginald. You’ll be making things happen. Ever heard of Lorkassun?”
Bain frowned. “It’s a Cardassian world. Nothing of note there except…” he trailed off.
“The Ziyal Center,” Kirk finished for him. “Yes, after your triumphant assault on a Breen facility chock full of families, you’ve decided to continue your war on the little children by destroying the quadrant’s largest pediatric hospital and orphanage. It’s the miserable Cardassians’ one contribution to galactic civilization besides balls and balls of yarn, and you had to go and destroy it by slamming a spaceship into the facility. It’s going to be quite the explosion, but I think this closet is sturdy enough to make sure that the investigators find at least a little bit of your DNA intact.”
“You’ll be destroyed, too.”
“Me? No no. There’s a very nice comm relay station in orbit over Lorkassun. Normally a backwater like that wouldn’t have one so nice, but folks do love to help the children. I’ll be transmitting myself there once I’m sure that you’re on your way. You’ll die, but your name will live on in infamy. Reginald Bain, the rogue captain responsible for the deaths of thousands of innocents. Quite a legacy, don’t you think?”
Bain cocked his wrist phaser into position and began adjusting the unit’s settings.
“That’s not going to help matters, Reg. You can’t shoot your way out of here.”
“Overload then? You’ll be killed, but I’m sure they’ll still be something left to identify you. The galaxy will know you were on this ship. Suicide won’t prevent that.”
“Reginald Bain does not commit suicide,” Bain said determinedly as he cracked open the phaser and made a few more adjustments.
“Go on with your secret plan then. It won’t help you.”
“There’s nothing secret about it, Kirk,” Bain said. “I’m leaving this room and then I’m coming to get you.”
Kirk started laughing. Ignoring him, Bain grabbed one of the Romulan tools laying about, something long, solid and metal that he couldn’t identify. It wasn’t quite a hammer, but it would do. He smashed it into the wall beside the door frame. Two more hits and he had punctured the wall material. Two more, and he was able to jab the tool into the hole completely. Bain wrenched the rod around, decimating the delicate circuitry within.
“Destroying the place won’t help you either,” Kirk said. Bain begged to differ. With the door circuitry, and therefore its magnetic lock, destroyed, he attacked the door itself, shoving it open by brute force and stalking out into the corridor.
“Nicely done, Reg. I’ll have to beam you into a room with fewer helpful knick-knacks this time.”
Bain grunted but did not stop his march down the hallway.
“What have you done?” Kirk demanded suddenly.
“Spot of trouble with the transporter, Jimmy?” Bain asked.
“Drop your phaser!” Kirk ordered.
“Is it bothering you somehow? I thought you told me it wouldn’t help. Funny, I’m finding the low-level energy field it’s putting out to be quite helpful at the moment, particularly for preventing transporter locks.”
“Its power cell won’t last long, Bain.”
“It doesn’t have to,” Bain replied. He’d arrived at his destination. Stepping through a set of doors, he entered the Allegra’s small transporter room. He passed the transporter control console and the beaming chamber, making his way to the rear of the room, which housed the real guts of the transporter system. Bain ripped the access panel covering the transporter’s vital components free and used it as a battering ram, trashing the transport buffer, mangling the materialization circuits, hacking the Heisenburg compensator, and finally slagging the scanning systems. Leaving a mass of smouldering wreckage in his wake, Bain tossed the access hatch aside and strode toward the exit. On his way out, he slammed himself against the transporter control console, toppling it over and shattering its systems for good measure.
Looking up at the ceiling, Bain addressed his unseen opponent.
“I’m coming for you, Kirk.”
There were freighter captains who made a good living shuttling goods across the galaxy, getting items people wanted sent from here to there while making a tidy sum in the process. It had all sounded really good and fairly easy to Gridloo and Pridloo when they’d started out in the business over two decades ago. But in all that time, the Pakleds had just barely managed to scrape by.
And then things got worse.
They’d let themselves be talked into a revenge scheme against a human Starfleet Captain that had once wronged them. Or at least they thought he had wronged them. By the end of the whole mess, they were a bit confused…and in a rehabilitation colony.
Once they were released, Gridloo and Pridloo decided that they didn’t want anything to do with humans or Starfleet. That ended up being fairly easy, since they were banned from doing business inside of the Federation. On the bright side, they could be sure they would never have to worry about Reginald Bain ever again.
Unfortunately, it also made their business even worse.
On this particular run, they were transporting a few thousand pairs of the latest styles of Cardassian socks to Breen, hoping to make a bit of latinum before the Breen realized that they were the latest styles only if you defined “latest” as two years ago.
Realistically, though, the Pakleds knew they would be lucky to sell them all to the Breen Bin O’ Bargains, which would make the trip barely worth the effort.
And if anything were to breakdown on their ship en route…well…that would be the end of Gridloo and Pridloo: Takers of Stuff.
With these dire thoughts weighing heavily on their simple minds, the Pakleds tried to come up with some better ideas for earning a profit as they made the journey between Cardassia Prime and Breen. They were so wrapped up in their brainstorming (“What do you want to do?” “I don’t know. What do you want to do?” “I don’t know. What do you want to do?” “I don’t know…”) that they almost didn’t notice the blip on their sensors until they were past it.
Pridloo frowned at his console on the freighter’s small bridge. “There is a box.”
“A space box.”
“What’s a space box?”
“I don’t know. It’s just there.”
“What’s in it?” Gridloo asked.
“I don’t know. Want to get it?”
“Umm…does it belong to somebody?”
“I don’t know. But it’s alone in space.”
“It could have things to make us rich.”
“Let’s get it.”
And so they did. Doubling back, they grabbed onto the mysterious space box and brought it into their sock-filled cargo hold.
“It’s green,” Pridloo observed.
“Romulan,” Gridloo said, noting the letters on the side.
“Uh oh. They could do things to make us dead.”
“They aren’t here.”
“Oh. Let’s open it.”
Working together, they unsealed the top of the cargo container and slid the lid off. Suddenly two Starfleet officers, a man and a woman, sprung up, wrist phasers extended.
“Ohhhhhhhh,” Pridloo and Gridloo groaned.
A third Starfleet officer pulled her head up over the edge. “Where are we? Who are these guys?”
“We did a bad thing,” Gridloo said.
“We shouldn’t have taken the box. We’re sorry,” Pridloo said.
“Don’t be,” Tovar said, leaping out of the crate. He stared at the Pakleds for a moment. “Didn’t I shoot you guys a couple of years ago?”
“Ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh,” Pridloo and Gridloo groaned.
“The box was a trap from Bain!” Gridloo said.
“It was a trap, and Captain Bain is involved, but not directly,” Prosak said, hopping out of the box, followed by a somewhat-groggy Marsden. “Thank you for the timely rescue. We will now be commandeering your ship.”
“Space hates us,” Pridloo said to Gridloo.
“We did things to make it mad,” Gridloo agreed.
They turned and trudged out of the cargo hold, shaking their bowed heads.
“Does that mean we have the ship?” Marsden asked.
“I believe so,” Prosak replied. “Now we just have to figure out what to do with it.”
“What to do with it?” Marsden snapped. “We go after the captain!”
“And how do you suggest we do that? We are still deep in Breen space, we do not know the Allegra’s destination or who has taken the captain, and even if we did, this ship is far too slow to intercept Captain Bain’s captors before they can carry out whatever plan they have set in motion…assuming they haven’t carried it out already.”
“It was Kirk,” Tovar said.
“Are you certain?” Prosak asked.
“Fine. We know who, and I’ll see what I can do about our speed,” Marsden said. “Just get me a heading.”
“We should contact the Anomaly,” Prosak said.
“We would need to alter this vessel’s comm systems in order to transmit a suitably encrypted message. That would take time we do not have, and there is no reason to believe that the Anomaly would be any better able to determine Captain Bain’s location,” Tovar replied.
“They could rescue us,” Prosak said.
“No. If they cross into Breen space again, it would just make things worse than they already are.”
“You…are correct,” Prosak said.
“Well, what then?” Marsden said. “We’re going to have to get some help from somewhere.”
Tovar looked pained. “There is,” he said hesitantly, “one person I could contact.”
Miltary Log, Commander Vioxx,
Stardate 178305.4. After Thot Mutch graciously agreed to meet with Admiral Larkin and myself, I returned to the Anomaly to prepare for what is potentially an historic summit. Because this was all my idea, I’ve offered the Anomaly as a neutral location and instructed Sub-Lieutenant Zantak to move us to the open space between the two fleets, beyond the protection of larger vessels such as the Enterprise-J and Excalibur-T. This will prove our good intentions to the Breen, or provide them with an opportunity to easily blow up one of our ships before all-out war ensues.
“I don’t like this,” the voice of Natalia Kasyov said over the bridge speakers as Sub-Commander Remax stood at the center of the bridge.
“You don’t have to like it, computer. You have to follow the Commander’s orders. Nothing more, nothing less,” Remax said with a touch of disdain.
“I’m not a computer. I’m the chief science officer, which, comes to think of it, means I’m your boss!”
“No Romulan shall ever be commanded by a human,” Remax replied.
“Whatever. Anyway, I’m not the computer. I just happen to be…in the computer…right now.”
“I’m sure I don’t care,” Remax said, and settled into the command chair. “Just keep an eye on the sensors and make sure the Breen don’t make any overtly aggressive moves toward us.”
“Cabral, are you going to let him talk to me like that?”
“What? Oh, I was hoping you wouldn’t draw me into this nonsense,” Cabral’s voice responded.
“Nonsense? He’s treating me like a padd…or worse, a replicator!”
“You’ll get used to that,” Cabral replied.
“I don’t want to get used to it!”
“You’re the one who plugged yourself into the computer.”
“I did it to save you!”
“Thanks, by the way.”
“Bridge speakers off,” Remax said, rubbing his temples.
Following were several peaceful seconds, then: “…and another thing, Commander. We’re your ship’s computer at the moment, so you can’t just shut us up with one command.”
“Centurion Nortal, on my command, please go down to the science lab and unhook Doctor Kasyov from our computer.”
“If you do that suddenly, she could die!” Cabral protested.
“That a fact?”
Just then, the doors to Vioxx’s office opened, and he stepped out, followed by Larkin. “I believe we’re in agreement on the major points, then,” he said. “It’s time to greet the Breen.”
“Yes,” Larkin said, surveying the bridge. Zantak was at helm; Nortal at tac-ops. The Vorta science officer, Lennum, was at the science console, but Larkin knew Dr. Kasyov was… around, in the form of the ship’s computer. “The Anomaly is being run largely by Romulans at the moment, isn’t it?”
Vioxx nodded. “Do you have a problem with that?”
“Normally, I would not; however, one of your officers did just try to kill one of our officers.”
“Water under the Bridge of Verichandai, Admiral,” Remax said with a broad smile. “To be sure, no harm will come to your officers while I am in charge.”
“You threatened to kill me just now!” Kasyov protested over the bridge speakers.
“Funny, I thought we’d fixed that little glitch,” Remax said. “Nortal, please go down to the science lab and…see what you can do.”
“By Jenichai, I will…”
“No you won’t,” Vioxx said, pushing Nortal back behind her station as he walked past. “No killing, no scheming, and absolutely no obfuscation! Do I make myself clear, Sub- Commander Remax?”
Remax sunk in the command chair a bit. “I suppose. But then…what’s the fun of being in command?”
“I’m sure you’ll find a way to pass the day,” Vioxx said tersely, and gestured for Larkin to step into the lift ahead of him. One thing was for sure: once this business with the Breen was over, Vioxx was going to have to sit down with his Romulan crew and have a serious talk about fitting in with the Anomaly crew. And he thought he’d come so far in a relatively short time. Obviously he was wrong.
“I hope you know what you’re doing,” Larkin said, casting a wary glance at Vioxx as the lift doors closed.
Me too, Vioxx thought.
“I don’t know why I’m sitting here,” Thot Mutch said, standing in the doorway to the Anomaly conference room, with two Breen officers flanking him.
“In point of fact,” Remax, who had stepped away from the bridge long enough to escort Mutch to the proceedings, said from his seat beside Vioxx at the other end of the table, “you’re standing.”
“But that’s certainly your option,” Vioxx broke in pleasantly.
Larkin sat beside Vioxx, casting him the occasional skeptical glance. “You’re welcomed to sit, Thot Mutch. We have…much to discuss.”
Not for the first time, Vioxx wished there was some way to see beyond the opaque visor on Mutch’s helmet to get some idea of what the obtuse Breen was thinking.
“Not by my account,” Mutch said. “I have delivered the message as relayed to me by Breen War Command.”
“And you delivered it well,” Vioxx said diplomatically. “But perhaps you could be so kind as to meet us…half way…”
“Sit down,” Larkin said impatiently.
“Admiral, perhaps you should adjust your emotional program slightly,” Vioxx offered.
Mutch looked from Larkin to Vioxx. “Do you two need a moment alone?”
“No,” Larkin said, glaring at Vioxx. “Commander Vioxx knows his place, tenuous as it is.” She turned to Mutch. “Now sit down so we can discuss why my fleet should not blow your fleet to pieces for killing Reginald Bain.”
“We did not kill Reginald Bain. You stole him from us, and I assure you, it is your fleet that will be blown to pieces,” Mutch said flatly.
“Well, now we’re getting somewhere,” Vioxx said.
“Are we?” Remax whispered under his breath.
“Enough!” Vioxx breathed through clenched teeth. “You are only here to observe. Be silent!”
“Respectfully, Commander, I cannot keep my place any longer. Continue to stall them. I will take care of this problem.” Remax patted Vioxx on the shoulder and pushed out of his seat. “If you’ll all excuse me, I have…other matters to attend to.”
Mutch nodded at him, then continued to stare holes through Larkin.
“Where is he going?” Larkin asked.
“Don’t worry about it. I’m sure it’s fine,” Vioxx said, watching Remax leave, feeling his stomach turn at Remax’s last statement.
“I know where you’re going,” Kirk’s voice said over the Allegra’s speakers. “You don’t want to do that.”
“Don’t I?” Bain asked, continuing onward without hesitation.
“Get any closer to engineering, and I’ll activate the intruder suppression systems.”
Now it was Bain’s turn to laugh. “Bollocks!” he said.
“I will!” Kirk insisted.
“Don’t try to Corbomite me, Kirk. If you had access to one, you would have used it on the bridge to knock us out instead of forcing power surges through the whole place.”
“I wanted to see you suffer.”
“I don’t doubt that, you loony. But that doesn’t change the simple fact that this isn’t a Federation boat. The Roms aren’t ones to include intruder suppression systems in their ships. You have nothing.”
Bain had reached the doors to engineering, which were, not surprisingly, sealed. Kirk had learned his lesson from the transporter room, not that it mattered much to Bain. En route, he had restored his wrist phaser to normal functioning. He quickly seared open the section of the wall around the door access panel and yanked the circuitry out. A few seconds after that, he forced the doors open, revealing the Allegra’s small engineering compartment.
“So what’s the plan now?” Kirk said, the swagger returning to his voice. “Try to activate the self-destruct? No. Reg Bain doesn’t commit suicide, does he? What then? Order the computer to shut down warp drive and take the quantum singularity offline, so you can prevent the crash? I am the computer, Reginald! I’m regulating the singularity. Mess with that, and you die. No win scenario, Bain.”
“Let me tell you a story,” Bain said as he ripped the access panel off of the singularity containment system.
“Great Bird. Not one of Reg Bain’s campfire tales.”
“I got into a bit of a pickle with a rogue Rom ship back when I was captain of the Maladventure. A couple of blokes got it into their heads that they could shake up the Federation-Romulan alliance by kidnapping and murdering a Starfleet captain. I had a bit of a reputation after the Breen dust-up, so they set their sights on me. Got as far as bringing me on board their ship. Of course Tovar was onto them in no time and had the Maladventure giving their aft sections a good what for.”
“Is there a point to this?”
“In the confusion, I got loose and made my way to their engineering section. Just as I did, Tovar put a hit on them that knocked out their computer core. For a moment, I thought that would be it. They’d lose control of their singularity, and the whole ship would implode, sucked into a mini-black hole. But it didn’t. You know why? Well, you’re about to find out.”
“I don’t think so,” Kirk said. The hatch to the compartment holding the singularity began to swing open. “But thanks for the black hole idea. Goodbye, Reginald.”
Bain poked his head deeper into the access panel. He didn’t have a lot of time, but if he didn’t do this just right…
An incredible force suddenly grabbed hold of his legs. He felt as though he was ripping internally as he struggled to hold on to the edge of the panel with one hand as…he…reached…for…
With the computer’s connection to the singularity systems severed, an automated emergency protocol sprang into action. The pull stopped abruptly as the singularity hatch slammed shut with a clang. The singularity was locked down tight and sealed off from the rest of the ship, which shuddered slightly as the Allegra dropped out of warp into normal space, all engines dead. With the primary source of power cut off, engineering went dark. Emergency lighting flickered on a split-second later as systems switched to emergency power.
Bain pulled himself out of the access panel and moved determinedly to his next target: the emergency power systems.
“Stop!” Kirk’s voice cried. “You do that, and you’ll take out life support! Reginald Bain doesn’t commit suicide, remember?”
“I’m not dead yet,” Bain replied, ripping the conduit away from the emergency power batteries, severing their connections to the Allegra’s systems. Again, the lights went out. Moments later, a few lights and consoles, the ones with their own internal battery backups, shone dimly in engineering. Bain made his way to a supply cabinet, where quickly found a portable power supply unit and lugged it over to the master comm console.
“Oh, I see. You’re calling for help,” Kirk asked. As Bain expected, the computer core was one of those places with its own power supply. “We’re barely out of Breen territory and not exactly in friendly spacelanes. You might not like who shows up.”
“Not the plan,” Bain muttered as he concentrated on his work. After a few minutes he had the power supply tied into the comm system. With the tap of a button, he sent the unit’s entire charge surging into the comm system. Circuits and relays struggled to handle the power, then gave out, sizzling and popping all throughout the network. Bain checked the engineering master status board and saw to his satisfaction that the external comm relay unit had been fried.
“You won’t be transmitting your program into some poor unsuspecting sod’s system now, Kirk. There’s nowhere for you to go,” Bain said. He started moving through engineering, yanking the emergency power cells out of each and every console capable of storing data. “And pretty soon, nowhere for you to hide.”
Shelly Marsden was under the impression that she’d been involved with Tovar long enough to know him pretty well. He’d told her about this disappearance of his birth parents, she certainly knew his adopted father, and she’d met his adopted mother briefly. They’d had many conversations long into the evening about their childhoods and their families. Somehow in all of that Tovar had skipped over one tiny detail.
“Your mother…that sweet gray-haired lady married to the captain…is a secret agent?”
“I do not believe that the phrase ‘secret agent’ appropriately encompasses the level and importance of her activities,” Tovar said, “but, basically, yes.”
“Oh no. Don’t go into robot mode on me now, Tovar,” Marsden said. “I want some details here.”
“I apologize. This is very…difficult for me to talk about. My mother’s activities are a closely guarded secret. Even my father does not know that his wife is…”
“He doesn’t know!” Marsden exclaimed. “How is that even possible?”
“The captain does tend to see the universe from his own particular frame of reference,” Prosak remarked. “As long as Mrs. Bain has been reasonably clandestine in her occupation, the idea that she could be involved in anything covert may very well have never even crossed Captain Bain’s mind.”
“But he’s her husband!” Marsden protested.
“People keep secrets. Even from those they love the most,” Prosak said. “That’s true even on Romulus…well maybe especially on Romulus. But it’s so great to be let in on one of those secrets. I’m thrilled to be a part of this one!” She paused for a moment. “Logically thrilled, of course.”
“I would point out that while we are standing here arguing about situations that cannot be changed, Captain Bain is getting farther and farther away from us,” Tovar said. “If we are to have any effect on that situation…”
“Just comm her!” Marsden snapped.
“Thank you,” Tovar said, reaching for the three pips on his collar. Instead of pinching one of them, as he normally would to open a comm channel, he pressed all three. An instant later, the voice of Rosalyn Bain filtered through the commpip speaker.
“Yes, Tovar, dear?”
Prosak looked at Marsden in shock. “Do your pips do that?”
Tovar shot her a silencing glare. Taking the hint, she rushed over to a corner of the cargo bay and grabbed all three of her pips. “Hello?”
Tovar, meanwhile, continued with his conversation. “I am sorry to comm you like this, Mum, but I am in a bit of a situation.”
“Is the rescue not going well?” Rosalyn asked. “You haven’t been captured by the Breen, have you?”
“No. We were able to retrieve Father, but a third party intervened. At present, I am on a slow-moving Pakled freighter.”
“He was on our Romulan scout ship, the Allegra, in the hands of the James T. Kirk hologram.”
“Him again?” Rosalyn said. “I knew Audrey should have deleted that thing for good. No sense thinking about that now, though. You want to go after your father yourself, I imagine.”
“That would be my preferred course of action,” Tovar replied. “However, this vessel is…slow.”
“I can bring you something to help with that, but you’ll need an engineer to get it installed unless you’ve developed some new skills or a rapport with Totap.”
“Not to worry, Mum. There is a skilled engineer aboard.”
“Very well. I’ll be along in a minute. Mum out.”
Marsden stared wide-eyed at Tovar as the comm channel closed. “She’ll be along in a minute? She doesn’t even know where we are. How the hell…”
But before Marsden could even finish her statement, a cascade of energy showered down onto the deck, quickly coalescing into the black-clad form of Rosalyn Bain who was cradling a shoebox-sized device in her left arm. She smiled upon seeing her son. “There you are, dear. Give us a hug.” She wrapped her free arm around Tovar. Realizing suddenly that they weren’t alone, she released him and turned to face Marsden and Prosak.
“Tovar, dear,” she said.
“I’m sorry, Mum, but considering the seriousness of the situation, I had no choice but to take them into my confidence.”
Rosalyn considered this for a moment, then smiled slightly. “Oh very well.” She handed the device she’d brought along to Tovar, then approached Marsden. Before the Anomaly’s engineer realized what was happening, Rosalyn was hugging her. “It’s good to see you again, Shelly. And I’m very pleased that you and Tovar are together. Actually, now that you know about me, it makes things so much easier. I don’t have to pretend I don’t already know everything about you.”
“Um…excuse me? You know everything about me?” Marsden said as Rosalyn ended the embrace.
“Of course, dear. When Reginald informed me that the two of you has started seeing each other, I wanted to learn everything I could. It was just a bit of reconnaissance. Looked up your Starfleet personnel file, read school records, met your parents…”
“You met my parents?”
“Truly lovely people. And they’re so proud of you. Oh don’t look so alarmed. They had no idea I was Tovar’s mum. They just thought I was an especially chatty Nausicaan.”
“But my parents?”
“Don’t worry, dear. It’s nothing personal. I did the same thing when Tovar was with that Torgerson woman. And when it appeared that he might become involved with Commander Prosak over there, I did it again.” Prosak blanched. “Yes, even you, Boogles,” Rosalyn said, giving Prosak a wave and causing the RommaVulc to go even paler. “Now then, we should see about going after my beloved. Shelly, you’ll need to integrate the field optimizer I brought into the freighter’s warp regulator. That should get us a bit more pep. In the meantime, Tovar, Prosak, and I will see to it that the ship is ready to stand up to the Allegra when we find it. It would be quite embarrassing to catch up to this Kirk hologram only to have him immediately blast us out of space.”
“Were that to occur, embarrassment would be the least of our problems,” Tovar said as Marsden took the field optimizer device from him and they headed toward the cargo bay exit, leaving Prosak in stunned silence.
“She can’t call me Boogles,” she whimpered finally. “Only Daddy calls me…”
“Come along, Prosak!” Rosalyn called from the cargo bay door.
“Yes, ma’am,” Prosak said, rushing after the others, her mind racing as she went. Did she find out about that problem Prosak had with the Atachia’dev in primary? Or when she shaved her pet yackas? Or the juoni ball incident? No. She couldn’t have. No one saw… She reached Rosalyn, who smiled at her.
Oh Great Bird, she knew everything!
“Thank you all for joining me,” Remax said, pacing his cabin as Zantak and Nortal sat placidly on his sofa. “I’m sure you know why I brought you here.”
“The war drums beat, and we must ready ourselves,” Nortal announced. “I will cloak myself in the blood of my enemies until they are all writhing at my feet, drowning in the blood of their own…”
“Bah! Stop!” Remax said, waving his hands. “I don’t even know what you’re talking about. Look, nobody wants a war, not even me. But it will take more than weak-kneed Federation diplomacy to stop this war, whether Vioxx wants to believe it or not.”
“Then what, O Remax, will it take to stop this magnificent battle?” Nortal asked.
“Romulan cunning and guile,” Remax said with a smile, and stroked his chin. “We just have to figure out how to make our wits work for us.”
“You’re not actually thinking about falsifying evidence?” Kasyov’s voice broke into the conversation.
“How does that computer keep interrupting us?” Remax asked, looking around.
“Because she isn’t alone,” Cabral’s voice said. “She sort of insisted I help her spy on you.”
“Egads, there isn’t a private spot on this ship,” Remax muttered. “Now what’s this about falsifying evidence?”
“Don’t play dumb with me, Remax. You’re talking about pulling up the sensor footage from the destruction of the Breen outpost and altering it somehow to make it look like the Breen blew it up instead of us.”
“We already tried that,” Remax said. “But we tried to blame it on the Kirk hologram. Your idea has merit, though. Go on.”
“Well, it wouldn’t be that hard to change sensor footage, presuming they don’t have their own sensor records that might contradict it.”
Remax walked toward his windows, staring out at the Breen fleet that hovered far too close for his comfort. “You’re right, it wouldn’t be that hard….”
“Wait,” Kasyov’s voice said. “I wasn’t offering up a plan here.”
“You dear, would make a perfect Romulan,” Remax said, ignoring her.
“Uh-oh,” Cabral said.
“Nortal, collect every scrap of sensor data on the Breen outpost we destroyed…check that, the BREEN destroyed, and send it down to the terminal in Science Lab Three.”
“Wait just one minute!” Kasyov said. “You can’t do this!”
“The alternative is all-out war, and if Captain Bain is still alive, he won’t be for long. Would you prefer that, Doctor?”
“Well, when you put it that way…”
“So you’ll help us?”
The room was silent for several moments.
“I’ll see what I can do.”
“Giant living brains can’t be court-martialed, can they?” Cabral’s voice asked.
“Then we’re agreed. Any objections?” Remax looked to Zantak, who’d been silent up to now. “No? Good. Then this just might work. But if we’re going to to do this, we’ll need some help from an experienced engineer…”
Bain shoved open another door. Kirk, blighter that he was, had closed everything he could between engineering and…well…everywhere else. Already the air was going stale, but he would be fine. As the only biological entity aboard, it would be a long time before he used up all of the Allegra’s oxygen.
“Bain.” Kirk’s voice sounded distant now and broken with static as the few pieces of the internal comm network that hadn’t been completely fried strained to transmit his voice.
“Didn’t I shut you up?” Bain gasped.
“I’m James T. Kirk. I’m everywhere.”
“Not everywhere,” Bain said. “And definitely not James T. Kirk. You look like him. You have…or started with, a personality based on things Kirk said and did, but you’re not him. You don’t have his memories, his thoughts, or his heart. You are nothing like him!”
“Can you be sure, Reginald? They say you should never meet your heroes in person. You might not like the reality you find.”
“The real Kirk constantly risked himself to protect the Federation. The real Kirk took a rickety Klingon ship back in time to get a bloomin’ whale in order to save his own planet! The real Kirk gave his life to save a planet full of billions of people he’d never even met! When he fought, it was against those who would harm others. He never struck first. He would never attack an outpost full of civilians. And he would damn well never try to kill hundreds of children. You aren’t Jim Kirk. You’re a villain. And at this point, you’re worse than that! You’re a cliche!”
Bain shoved open another door. He had the vague sense that his muscles were starting to protest, but he was too close to his quarry to pay them much attention. One more set of doors, and he was confronted with the Allegra’s small computer core. Somewhere inside it, the Kirk hologram’s bits and bytes swirled.
“Maybe I’m not the real Kirk, but I’m still a sentient being, Reg,” Kirk said. “You do this, and what will you be? A killer.”
“I’ve killed when I’ve had to,” Bain said grimly. “It’s not new to me. And, that ‘Butcher of Breen’ rot aside, it’s not something I enjoy. I do it well, though. Too well, perhaps. Just another reason I’ll never be commanding the Federation flagship. Leave that to others. Someone has to be down here in the trenches getting their hands dirty.”
“I thought that’s what Section 31 was for.”
“Never heard of it,” Bain said, taking off his wrist phaser. He’d drained a bit of its power cell with his activities so far, but there would be more than enough left for this. He set the device to overload, tossed it at the core, and ran.
“Reginald!” Kirk called. “Bain! BAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAIN!”
Bringing the box onto their ship was bad. Gridloo and Pridloo already knew that. They were more than a little confused by what had happened after they opened the box and the Starfleet Officers jumped out and commandeered their ship. The Pakleds expected to be arrested. Instead, they were basically being ignored. After waiting for a while outside of the cargo bay, they ventured up a level to the small freighter’s main deck. Stepping out of the lift into the corridor, they were almost run down by an older human female who had somehow ended up on their ship. Gridloo and Pridloo did not remember seeing her in the crate when they opened it. She was dressed all in black, though, so she could have been hiding at the bottom of the dark box.
“…power shunted to the phaser systems,” she called out, rushing toward the engine room, just as the younger human female emerged from said chamber.
“Not if you want any more speed out of these engines!”
The Yynsian male charged out of the bridge. “We will not be able to subdue the Allegra without weapons.”
“Weapons won’t matter if we can’t even catch up,” the younger of the two women said.
“She does have a point, dear,” the older woman added.
“A most logical one,” the Vulcan woman (or maybe Romulan. Who could tell?) said as she exited the bridge.
“You are all ganging up on me,” the Yynsian said.
“Get used to it,” the younger human female said. “So power to engines first. We’ll transfer to weapons if we catch the Allegra.”
“When we catch the Allegra,” the older woman said.
“Very well,” the Yynsian said. “I have us on the heading Kirk put the Allegra on before he incapacitated us. Hopefully it is the correct course and not a ruse on his part.”
“I doubt there was any deception on his part. I suspect it was simply confidence that we would be removed as a threat,” the Romulan (or Vulcan) said.
“Quite so,” the older human agreed. The pointy-eared one smiled briefly at this, so she was Romulan. “But that’s enough chit-chat. Back to work!” The four invaders rushed off in different directions, leaving Gridloo and Pridloo alone again in the corridor. No one had so much as glanced in their direction.
“What do we do?” Pridloo asked.
“We should go,” Gridloo said.
“We can’t. We sold the escape pod.”
“Oh. We are not smart.”
“No. And Starfleet would be mad.”
“Yeah. We’re in trouble with them.”
They stood in silence for a minute. Five really.
“We should be in the brig,” Gridloo said finally.
“Yeah. That is where Starfleet puts bad people.”
“Yeah. Maybe they forgot.”
“We could help. That could make them nicer to us,” Pridloo suggested.
“Good idea. We should put ourselves in the brig.”
“Yeah. Good idea.” Pridloo thought for a moment. “Do we have a brig?”
“We could lock ourselves up in our rooms.”
“Yeah. Let’s do that.”
Gridloo and Pridloo let out a long sad sigh then trudged off to imprison themselves.
“Ahhh, Mister Gworos,” Remax said, stepping into the brig and looking at the glowering Klingon security officer. “How are you this afternoon, my friend?”
Growos narrowed his eyes at Remax. “At present, I am extremely suspicious of you. What do you want?”
“Just to relay a message. You’re needed on the bridge.”
“Strategy session. Centurion Nortal is unfamiliar with some of our large-scale weapons systems, and without Tovar aboard, you’re the next senior Starfleet officer.”
He stared long and hard at Remax. “Why did she not simply comm me?”
“She’s, um, shy,” Remax said, patting Gworos on the shoulder. “Now then, hurry up. The safety of the Anomaly depends on it.”
“Well, when you put it that way…” Growos said and headed for the door. He glanced at the brig cells, particularly the brig’s lone occupant. “You should know that an automatic computer alert will trigger if you attempt to free Mister Selex.”
“I’m supremely aware of the computer’s capabilities, my dear boy,” Remax said. “I simply wanted to have a few words with my former colleague.”
“Very well,” Growos said in a low snarl, and turned on a heel, leaving the brig.
Remax walked up to the only occupied cell in the room and stared across the flickering field at Selex, who sat in there, elbows propped on knees.
“It’s about time you came to see me, my former co-conspirator,” Selex said.
“There are no documented records to prove that,” Remax said. “Because of course I did not conspire with you.”
“How quickly you forget. Your memory must be dulling with age.”
“On the contrary, my memory is sharp as ever. I did not tell you to try to kill Commander Prosak.”
“No, well, not THAT particular time,” Selex said. “Feh. Semantics. What are you doing here anyway?”
“I need your help.”
Selex huffed. “Unless you mean that you need my help breaking me out of here, then I’m not interested.”
“Get your head out of your vernak for a moment,” Remax said. “This is your chance to redeem yourself in the eyes of Starfleet, you dolt.”
Selex looked up. “What do you mean?”
“It’s quite simple. We need a qualified engineer to help us forge our sensor records from the attack on the Breen outpost at Van Dandrel Six. You’re quite capable of doing that. If you do, we would be credited with preventing a war and possibly saving Captain Bain, if indeed he’s still alive.”
“And why would I want to do that?”
“To get back in the good graces of the people on this ship! We have to work with them for the foreseeable future, after all.”
“I do not,” Selex said. “Don’t you see, I don’t regret trying to kill Prosak at all.”
“Not even a little?” Remax asked.
“No. I only regret that I did not finish the job - something I hope I get the chance to rectify soon.”
“But you, I…we are on the same crew. If you do not redeem yourself, you’ll be charged, imprisoned…”
“The Federation will have no choice but to extradite me to Romulus, where I will receive the accolades of my peers for attempting to kill not only a Starfleet officer, but a RommaVulc, a Romulan who turned on her own people. The daughter of a diplomat, no less!”
Remax shook his head. “You don’t get it, do you, Selex? We have to work with these people, somehow, some way…”
“No, we really don’t,” Selex said. “And if you believe we do, you’re as misguided as Vioxx.”
Remax’s eyes hardened. “Say what you like about the Federation, but you will not insult our commanding officer.”
“Funny, I believe I just did.”
“Rot in this cell,” Remax said, and turned around. “I will find someone else to help us.”
“Hurry back,” Selex muttered and turned around, laying back on his cot.
The job wasn’t finished.
There was still one more place to hide. And while the hologram wasn’t the real James T. Kirk, Bain was not about to assume that it did not have Kirk’s knack for escaping certain doom.
Each door was harder than the last. As was each breath. He should have oxygen to spare, so why was he gasping for air? Was it just age? Or maybe the Romulan ship didn’t hold atmosphere the way a Starfleet vessel would.
That wasn’t something he could worry about now, though.
One more place to go.
He shoved open the bridge doors with a pained growl. The Allegra’s command center was a little brighter than the rest of the ship due to several battery-powered emergency lights and the glow coming from several independently-powered consoles.
Summoning one last burst of energy, Bain started his sweep, ripping open access panel after access panel and dismantling the power systems within.
He saved the best for last: the Allegra’s back-up computer core, located inside the science console. This was officially the last system on board the ship capable of housing Kirk’s program.
“Any last requests?” Bain asked.
“Stop now before someone gets hurt,” Kirk’s voice replied.
“It’s far too late for that.” He yanked the core free of its housing, pulled it out from under the console, then hoisted it over his head and smashed it down against the deck. The core cracked, but that wasn’t enough for Bain. He brought his boot down on it again and again, grinding the unit into tiny shards.
“Checkmate,” Bain said.
“Indeed it is, but not in the way you’d hoped,” Kirk said, to Bain’s shock. How was the hologram still speaking to him? What had he forgotten?
“Do you get it yet, Bain? You don’t win. You can’t win against me. You’re old and weak.”
Bain didn’t have the energy to protest. He was still stuck on his failure. What had he missed? Usually he was so…
Wait a moment. Kirk’s voice. It wasn’t coming from the speakers in the bridge ceiling. It was too soft for that, and it was missing the crackle of the damaged comm system.
“Oh bloody hell, Reg,” Bain said with a chuckle.
“What are you laughing about?” Kirk demanded. “Wake up and smell the mortality, Bain.”
But Bain wasn’t listening. Still shaking his head at how silly he’d been to overlook it, Bain stumbled over to the Allegra’s command chair, reached into a small bin mounted on its side, and pulled out the log recorder, the one device left on the ship with both the capability of receiving data and the storage capacity to hold it.
“I shouldn’t have said anything,” Kirk’s voice groused, issuing forth from the small speaker mounted in the surface of the book-sized recording device.
“I didn’t mind,” Bain replied. “But now…now, I’d give real money if you’d shut up.” And with that, he settled into the command chair to wait for the end.
“What have you got,” Remax said, his jaw working thoughtfully as he stepped into Science Lab Three, where Nortal and Zantak were huddled around a holo screen. On the screen, Remax saw the familiar footage of the Van Dandrel outpost being blasted to bits by the Anomaly’s neutron torpedoes.
“Contradictions,” Kasyov’s voice said over the comm system.
“What do you mean?”
“The sensor information from the Breen Outpost. In order to falsify it, we had to deconstruct it, down to its smallest elements.”
“So what’s the problem?” Remax asked impatiently.
“When we deconstructed it, the image wasn’t…right,” Kasyov said. “The dimensions are too perfect. The lines too crisp. It’s…”
“Fake,” Cabral finished for her.
“Wait a second,” Remax said. “The image we were trying to forge was already faked…”
“I’m saying that isn’t a scientific or colony outpost out there, and the thousands of Breen aboard weren’t simple Breen citizens.”
“We kept digging,” Cabral said. “And we found an appalling number of thoron fields.”
“Thoron fields…” Remax said slowly. “But those are used to mask…”
“Weapons,” Kasyov said. “And not just a few…”
“An historic cache of implements of death!” Nortal announced.
Remax pointed at the screen. “So that Breen outpost is really…”
“…the Death Star,” Kasyov said softly. “To quote ancient literature.”
“We’ve got to do something,” Remax said. “Expose this for what it is.”
“Or we do the Romulan thing,” Kasyov said, the smile plain in her voice.
Remax glanced around at his officers. If Kasyov was there, he’d have glanced at her too.
“We blackmail them,” Zantak said simply.
“I’m picking up a vessel on long range sensors,” Tovar reported, struggling to interpret what he was seeing on the tiny screen mounted in the Pakled freighter’s woefully inadequate excuse for a tactical console. “Which in this instance are not very long.”
“Identify,” Commander Prosak said from the ragged command chair. Despite being the ranking officer on board, Prosak’s first instinct had been to give command to Mrs. Bain. There was just something about the woman that intimidated the hell out of Prosak. In the end, her sense of duty and decorum had taken over. Yes, Rosalyn Bain was a secret agent and an Academy professor, but really someone with experience commanding a starship needed to be in the center seat. Although it didn’t look like anyone had actually sat in the seat in ages. The two Pakleds most likely sat together at the two-person conn and ops console at the front of the bridge, which was currently manned by Marsden and Mrs. Bain. That also explained the layer of dust Tovar had to brush off of the small tactical console crammed into the rear corner of the bridge.
“Unknown at present,” Tovar replied. “Wait. The computer is scanning…slowly. I have an identification.”
“The computer says it is…bad.”
“I suppose it is too much to ask for Pakled computers to be more specific than that,” Prosak said. “Pursuit course.”
“The vessel appears to be adrift.”
“Maybe they got in the Allegra’s way,” Marsden said.
“Perhaps,” Rosalyn said thoughtfully. “I suppose we should offer assistance with you lot being Starfleet and all. Can you coax anything more out of those sensors, son?”
“I believe so. I am attempting to convince the computer to at least allow me to view the sensor silhouette of the vessel; although, we may be in visual range before that happens.”
“Thirty seconds to intercept,” Marsden reported.
“It’s the Allegra!” Tovar shouted suddenly.
“Are you certain?” Prosak asked.
“We had to be almost sharing the same space as the ship to get full sensor readings, but, yes, I am certain. I’m reading one lifesign. Power levels are minimal. Not enough for life support. I cannot see any external damage, though. What happened over there?”
Rosalyn looked back at Tovar, smiling proudly. “I believe your father happened.”
Bain slumped in the Allegra’s command chair, the log recorder clutched in his hand. Gasps of air were getting hard to come by. Unconsciousness was not far off. But he would not release the log recorder and the artificially-intelligent bastard imprisoned within.
“It’s just about over, Reg,” Kirk’s voice said from the recorder speaker. “You’ve put up one hell of a fight. More than even I would have thought possible. You may have chased me into this thing, but you had to take out every system on the ship to do it.”
Bain raised the log recorder into the air.
“Sure. Smash it,” Kirk said. “Maybe it will destroy me. Maybe it won’t. Probably won’t. You know that.”
“If I…had…a disruptor.”
“Shhh. Save your oxygen. I’d give you more if I could. Just to prolong this a bit. I know it can’t last, though. You’re going to die, and I’ll just sit back and wait until I’m found, which will happen eventually. You know that, too.”
A slight grin creased the edges of Bain’s lips. “I wonder,” he said, “if you’re…waterproof.” He struggled to his feet, put the log recorder down in front of him, and started working the clasp of his pants.
“What are you doing?” Kirk demanded.
“Tovar to Bain!” Bain’s commpip barked suddenly.
“Oh thank the Great Bird.” Kirk said. “Wait. NOOOOOO! He’s dead!”
“Tovar, my lad,” Bain said, ignoring Kirk. “Excellent…timing.”
“Are you safe, sir? Is Kirk…”
“Kirk isn’t going anywhere,” Bain said.
“Acknowledged. As soon as we find the transporter, we will bring you aboard.”
“Find it? It’s lost?”
“It is a long story, father. Standby. Tovar out.”
“I should be going,” Rosalyn said, getting to her feet as Tovar closed the channel.
“You don’t want to see your husband?” Marsden asked surprised.
Rosalyn turned to her. “My dear, I would like nothing more, but I can’t. And he must not ever know that I was here. Is that understood?”
“Yes, but he’s…”
“The man I love very very much,” Rosalyn said. “I would do anything to ensure that he is not hurt.”
“You think knowing the truth about you would hurt him?”
“In this instance, yes. More than you could imagine. But right now I’m more concerned about him suffocating. Go get him.”
“Of course, mum,” Tovar said.
“I love you, dear, and it was nice to see the both of you, ladies. Hopefully we’ll be able to get together again soon.” With a final nod, she tapped the sleeve of her black uniform top and dematerialized.
“I will find the transporter,” Tovar said, striding out of the bridge.
“What?” Marsden demanded.
“I was just thinking. If you and Tovar were to ever get married, she would be your mother-in-law.”
“Just imagine the powers at her command.”
“Okay. I get it.”
“The prospect is…terrifying.”
“We’re nowhere,” Larkin said, letting out a long breath and turning to Vioxx. “I turned my emotion program off an hour ago, and I’m still fuming.”
“Perhaps it is malfunctioning,” Vioxx said, tugging at his collar and looking across the table at Thot Mutch, who still hadn’t sat down. He’d stepped closer to the table over the last three hours, however, but that in and of itself didn’t feel like much of a win.
“Perhaps YOU are malfunctioning,” Thot Mutch said, “if you believe anything will stop us from taking vengeance for crimes your Starfleet crew have committed against the Breen people. Need I spend any more time citing the numerous violations committed by your people, a vast majority of which were committed by your decorated Captain Bain!”
“Tread carefully when you speak of Bain,” Larkin said coldly, rising from her seat.
“People, people,” Vioxx said, rising, if for no other reason than not wanting to be the only one sitting.
Just then, the door to the conference room opened, and Remax jogged in. “Commander! I need to see you immediately!”
Remax glanced from Larkin to Mutch.
“Do not bother,” Mutch said. “This negotiation is fruitless. You are simply buying time.”
“On the contrary,” Remax said. “Commander Vioxx is one of our most talented negotiators. He would not waste his considerable diplomatic skills by using them as a stalling tactic!”
“I have my doubts,” Mutch said.
“Well, let’s take a break,” Vioxx said, moving toward the door. “Please, by the gods, let’s take a break.”
“Very well,” Mutch said. “We will take a break, then we will return and finally put a stop to these negotiations.”
“I suppose that’s prudent,” Larkin said, moving out of her chair and shouldering past Mutch for the door. Mutch and his associates followed, while the Anomaly security officers who’d been guarding the room brought up the rear.
Once they were alone, Vioxx turned to Remax, who looked breathless and agitated. “What is it, old friend? Come to gloat over my stunning failure?”
“Not at all,” Remax said. “I came to share wonderful news. We’ve got a way to stop the war!”
“I’m listening,” Vioxx said, leaning against the conference table, resting on his palms.
“I’ve got to warn you,” Remax said, moving closer to Vioxx and lowering his voice. “There’s a chance that this plan involves a possible compromise in our ethics.”
Vioxx thought the matter over for…oh…maybe a second. “Fair enough. Let’s hear it,” he said quickly.
“Your bridge is unimpressive,” Mutch said, surveying the bridge of the Anomaly as Larkin took respite in Vioxx’s office. He glanced up at the conn. “And your helmsman is small.”
“Hey!” Yonk said, turning in his chair.
Suddenly, Vioxx and Remax ducked out of the turbolift. “Thot Mutch, could we have a word?”
Mutch turned to the Romulans. “Are we finally going to bring this fruitless endeavor to a close?”
Vioxx and Remax shared a glance. “Safe to say, yes,” Vioxx said quickly.
“Then, by all means,” Mutch said, stepping up to the quarterdeck. His guards followed.
“Would you mind if we spoke in private, without your guards,” Vioxx said. “It is a…sensitive matter.”
“Very well. It’s not as if either of you pose a significant threat to me.” Mutch nodded at his guards, and they stood back as he entered the turbolift.
“Thank you for agreeing to speak with us today,” Vioxx said once they had returned to the conference room. “I know this hasn’t been easy.”
“It has, in fact, been a grand waste of time,” Mutch rumbled.
“I’m hoping you’ll find this visit worthwhile, after our talk,” Remax said.
Vioxx stepped up. “Are you familiar with the purpose of the Breen Outpost at Van Dandrel, sir?”
“Just in passing. I do know that the outpost’s mission was peaceful, scientific in nature. They didn’t deserve what your captain did to them.”
“Is that so?” Remax asked. “So you’d say that Van Dandrel was a peaceful outpost.”
“Very much so.”
“And the thoron fields were for what? Decoration?”
“What?” Mutch snapped back.
Vioxx held up a hand. “What my colleague so delicately points out is that we’ve discovered some…problems…with the sensor footage of Van Dandrel.”
“What kinds of…problems?” Mutch asked cautiously.
“Just that the sensor logs, which we combed over thoroughly, didn’t make a whole lot of sense.”
“In particular, it seemed to us that the station was built to wage war on the Federation.”
“We presume it was the Federation,” Vioxx said. “But perhaps it was Romulus, or the Xen’Kethi. Hard to say, really. Just to be safe, we might want to inform all major powers in the quadrant of the threat posed to them by such an outpost, which was handily destroyed by the Anomaly.”
“You…you have no proof.”
“Yes we do!” Kasyov broke in over the comm system.
“Proof which so many at Starfleet Command would love to pore over,” Vioxx said. “The investigation, of course, would be embarassing, and revealing, I think.”
“Perhaps,” Mutch snorted.
“Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could find a way to prevent such a thing from happening?”
“It…might,” Mutch said.
“Just for example,” Vioxx said, circling the conference room. “If you had the brilliant idea of negotiating a cease-fire with Admiral Larkin. Think how great THAT would be for your career. Saving us all from the brink of war…”
“And saving the Breen from the embarrassment of a long, drawn out investigation into the true intent of the outpost at Van Dandrel,” Remax finished.
“And, your findings…”
“Nobody has to know about those but us.”
“And me,” Kasyov said.
“That’s just our ship’s computer,” Remax said through gritted teeth. “Trust that it’s memory can be wiped.”
Mutch shifted uncomfortably. “I will need to clear this with my superiors.”
“Fair enough,” Vioxx said. “Then I will, of course, need to clear this with my superiors as well. Vioxx to Larkin…”
“No!” Mutch said, stepping toward Vioxx. “That’s not necessary.”
“Never mind. We’ll be back in session soon, Admiral. Stand by. Vioxx out.”
“Are you meeting with the Breen…” Larkin asked as the channel abruptly cut.
“Oops,” Kasyov said precociously. “We lost her.”
“I will do as you ask,” Mutch said.
“Wait,” Remax said, holding up a hand. “We need a little more than that.”
“What,” Mutch said dully.
Remax looked at Vioxx and grinned. “Let’s see. For starters, we’d like some weapons schematics. Good ones.”
“Fine,” Mutch said, clenching up his fists. “Anything else?”
“Yes. The Breen are known for having some of the best lingerie in all the quadrant. Have two crates of your most extravagant pantaloons shipped to our Centurion Nortal and Sub- lieutenant Zantak.”
“Make that three,” Kasyov broke in.
“Pardon?” Cabral’s voice cut in.
“Well, I may be hooked up to the ship’s computer, but I want to look good while doing so!”
“Uh…well…that’s nice…” Cabral replied nervously.
“And one final thing,” Vioxx said, stepping toward Mutch. “We want to see what you all look like under there. It’s been driving us crazy.”
“You can’t be serious,” Mutch said in abject annoyance.
“A small price to pay,” Remax reminded him. “You’ll be a hero, and the Federation won’t find out how close they came to being invaded by the Breen.”
Mutch let out a long sigh. “Very well. You may be…disappointed, however…” He reached up to his mask and undid a series of clasps along its perimeter.
With a hiss, the mask opened, and he removed it, along with the surrounding helmet casing. Gasses plumed out from the mask, at first obscuring the view.
Remax and Vioxx crept forward.
“This was a terrific idea,” Remax whispered. “No wonder you are my superior officer.”
“Shh,” Vioxx said, peering into the clearing mist. “I’m staring.”
As the mist finally evaporated, Vioxx and Remax looked at Mutch’s face for several moments, their mouths gradually gaping.
“It’s…” Vioxx said.
“I think I’m going to be sick,” Remax said, swallowing hard.
“Don’t take this the wrong way,” Vioxx said, his face turning a greenish hue.
“Among my people, I’m considered quite handsome,” Mutch said.
“I’m sure…” Vioxx said, wincing as he stared…but couldn’t look away. “Um, your…uh…whatever that thing is…is…flopping…”
“It’s supposed to do that,” Mutch replied.
“BLORRRRP!” Remax retched, and vomited in his cupped hands.
“That’s enough,” Vioxx said, putting an arm around Remax’s shoulder. “I think it’s suffice to say we have an agreement.”
“Should we shake hands on it?”
“No! I mean…put your mask back on first,” Vioxx said, clutching at his stomach as he patted Remax on his back. The Sub- Commander, for his part, was leaning over, hands on knees, retching.
“Victory…is…sweet…” Remax said between dry heaves.
“Captain’s Log. Stardate 178312.3. After Marsie did another one of her bang-up repair jobs on the Allegra, we said our goodbyes to the excellent Pakled chaps who assisted in my rescue and got underway. The Pakleds seemed rather surprised to see us go, but I’m sure they’ll be glad to get back to whatever they were doing before they stopped to lend Starfleet their able assistance…not that they have much of a ship left. Marsie had to strip most of their systems to get the Allegra up and running again.
“The repair and travel time allowed me to catch up with my fearless crew; although, Prosak and Tovar seemed to spend much of the time meditating. Having finally rendezvoused with the Anomaly, I have been told that we narrowly missed coming back to a war. Now I’ve never been one to turn away from a good scrape, but still I’m very pleased that Commander Vioxx and company were able to defuse the situation. I haven’t been able to congratulate him myself, unfortunately. Doctor Nooney tells me that he has taken ill and is keeping to his quarters.
“We are taking Admiral Larkin to Breen for the formal signing of the cease fire accords. Oddly, I was not invited to the ceremony. I can’t say that I’m too broken up about it as it gives me time to see to one of our other loose ends.”
Cargo Bay Two had been cleared out. The room stood empty except for a single holopod and a trio of officers.
“It’s all finished, Captain,” Marsden reported. “Completely self-contained. No external connections of any kind.”
“And the program?”
“Loaded, sir,” Tovar said.
“All right,” Bain said. “I’ll be the first to admit that what I’m about to do isn’t very Starfleet, but dammit, after all I’ve been through with this blighter, I’ve earned a bit of restitution. I don’t think there’s a person on this ship who doesn’t feel this Kirk hologram has it coming.”
“Yes, sir,” Tovar said.
“Okay then. I’m going in to kick his ass. But I don’t want you to watch. This is not going to be pretty. He’s going to get more than a little bit of the old one-two. And then some of the three-four and five-six. Possibly even the seven-eight. Be out in a few hours.”
And with that, Bain stepped into the holopod and closed the hatch.
“How the hell did he get eight?” Marsden said once the captain was gone.
Tovar shrugged. “He is Bain.”
“How are you feeling?” Remax asked, sliding gingerly into a chair in the living area of Vioxx’s quarters.
“A little better,” Commander Vioxx said, reclining on the sofa. “You.”
“Getting there. But every time I close my eyes…”
“Please,” Vioxx said, holding up a hand to silence Remax. “I know.”
The door chime sounded. “Come in,” Vioxx called.
Nortal lunged into the room. “I have been summoned!” she exclaimed, hands on her hips.
“I know. I summoned you,” Vioxx said.
Nortal made an expansive gesture, waving at her mid- section. “And I have answered your call, clad in the panties of victory!”
Vioxx narrowed his eyes. “Sit. Down.”
“At once, my Commander!” Nortal cried, throwing herself onto the sofa beside Vioxx. Vioxx turned a bit green (well, greener) from the jolt, but recovered himself.
“Thot Mutch seems to be holding up his end of the deal,” Vioxx said. “I’m certain he’s not going to say anything about what really happened, and we need to make sure that we do the same.”
“No one will hear about it from me,” Remax said.
“We shall engage in a valiant obfuscation of the Breen’s great deeds of forgery!” Nortal said, then winced. “The Breen panties ride up, like a thousand Centurions on the way to battle!”
Vioxx glared at her. “Just don’t say anything. And don’t mention where you got the panties.”
“Songs will be sung of my silence!”
Vioxx’s glare hardened.
“Perhaps just poems. A sonnet. Maybe a haiku.”
“Nothing. Complete silence. Now what about our other problem?”
“I shall be silent on it as well!” Nortal said. She frowned. “What other problem?”
“Selex. He cannot remain in the Anomaly’s brig forever, and I do not relish the thought of handing him over to a Starfleet tribunal. I am thinking of contacting High Command, but I have concerns about their reaction. What are your thoughts?”
“I don’t think it will be a problem,” Remax said.
“Arrangements?” Vioxx snapped. “What did you do?”
Remax simply shrugged.
The red alert klaxon suddenly blared to life.
“WHAT DID YOU DO?” Vioxx shouted again, leaping up from the couch and rushing for the door, clutching his stomach as he went.
He was on the bridge less than a minute later.
“Report,” he shouted, stumbling out of the turbolift.
“Force-field systems in the brig have failed,” Prosak reported as she rose from the command chair. “We have lost contact with the guard on-duty. Security is en route.”
“The transporter has activated,” Lieutenant Bre’zan Brazzell reported from Tac-Ops.
“Doctor Kasyov!” Prosak shouted.
“What is it?” Kasyov’s asked through the bridge speakers.
“Why are the transporters still working?”
“Um…why wouldn’t they be?”
“We may have an attempt to escape from the brig in progress. Shutting down the transporters would seem to be the, dare I say it, logical course of action.”
“Nobody told me. I’m not omniscient, you know.”
“Who transported and where did they go?”
“Selex went to the last coordinates input in the transporter system.”
“The last person to transport was Admiral Larkin,” Prosak said.
“So Selex went to Breen?” Vioxx said. “What does he hope to gain?”
“Asylum?” Prosak suggested.
Selex felt a rush of excitement at winning his freedom, having materialized in the hallway outside the signing ceremony on Breen. He had spent the last couple of years on one of the most advanced ships in Starfleet. Surely the Breen would see the value in that.
Selex came to some time later in a nicely-appointed office. Even the chair he was chained into was well-upholstered. Two Breen were peering at him…or at least the front of their helmets were aimed in his direction.
“I can see that, Phul. Get me the Anomaly.”
“Right away, Grad Norm.” The Breen called Norm turned Selex’s chair around toward a large viewscreen mounted in the office wall. A moment later, the image of the Anomaly’s bridge appeared.
“This is the Starship Anomaly. I am Commander Vioxx.”
“Where is Bain?” Norm hissed.
“Yes. Where is Bain?” Phul added.
“I don’t need any help with this part.”
“Bain!” Norm insisted.
“Captain Bain is unavailable right now,” Vioxx said.
“I have his man,” Norm said. “If he wants this one to remain alive, he will turn himself over to me right now!”
“No!” Selex said. “I’m not going back there! I want asylum! I demand asylum!”
“You will return Selex to us to answer for his crimes,” Vioxx said.
“No they won’t!” Selex cackled as Norm and Phul exchanged a look. “I’m safe here! You can’t do anything to me!”
“I don’t think Bain will exchange himself for this one,” Phul said.
“Really?” Norm spat sarcastically. He thought for a moment. “He did invade our planet.”
“No. This Selex person.”
“Oh. Yeah, I guess he did.”
“That’s worth a trial. He’s not Bain, but we could play it up a bit. Get the people interested.”
“Get him down to interrogation.”
“Wait. WHAT?” Selex cried as two more Breen entered the office and hoisted his chair into the air.
“Tell them no marks above the neck,” Norm said.
“Wait! STOP! NOOOOOOOO!”
Norm turned his attention back to the viewscreen. “Sorry to have troubled you,” he said. “Close channel.”
Vioxx sighed as the Breen’s image vanished from the viewscreen. “So much for that.”
“Sir?” Prosak asked.
“What? You think we should do something?”
“Well…he did try to kill me.”
“But handing him over to the Breen…”
“He handed himself over. We didn’t do anything.”
“You do have a point. And, if we take it as a given that the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the one, it is logical to leave Mister Selex to his decision in the interest of peace with the Breen.”
“In the interest of peace,” Vioxx agreed just as the turbolift doors opened and Captain Bain bounded out onto the bridge.
“Back on your feet, I see!” Bain said, grabbing Vioxx’s hand and shaking it warmly. “Capital! Capital! Good show with the Breen, old boy! I couldn’t be more pleased!”
“Thank you, sir,” Vioxx said. He looked more closely at Bain. “Are you all right, sir?”
“But…you’re sweating. A lot.”
“Just had a bit of a workout.”
“I would go so far as to say that you’re glowing,” Vioxx said.
“It was a really good workout,” Bain said. “Has Admiral Larkin returned to the ship yet?”
“No, sir. The ceremony should be ending soon, though,” Prosak reported. “But I believe she plans to depart almost immediately to the Enterprise-J for the trip back to Earth.”
“Very well. I need to make sure I see her before she goes. I have a package for her. Anything else going on?”
“No, sir,” Vioxx said.
“All’s quiet,” Prosak agreed.
“Good. Thought for a second I heard a red alert while I was in the holopod earlier, but must have been my imagination. All right. Off to the showers.” Bain was back in the turbolift and gone a moment later.
“Now I just have to figure out what to tell him when he realizes Selex is gone,” Vioxx said.
“He might never notice,” Prosak said.
“Are you kidding?”
“With Captain Bain, you never can tell. As long as no one mentions Selex, Bain may not ever give him another thought.”
“Great. Something else to be silent about.”
“Are you awake?” Marsden asked, rolling over.
“After what we were just doing, how could I be asleep?” Tovar replied from beside her.
“Some men…after…don’t worry about it,” Marsden said, snuggling up close to Tovar as he wrapped his arm around her. As always, his hand seemed to find its way right to her bare breast.
“Something is on your mind?”
“At least you waited until we were done to bring her up,” Tovar said.
“It’s just…she’s kept this secret from Captain Bain for years now.”
“It’s not a small secret either. She has a whole life he doesn’t know about. Add in the fact that he’s gone all the time. How is that a marriage?”
“It is their marriage,” Tovar replied. “When they are together, they are the happiest I have ever seen two people in my life. It may not be what another couple would choose, but it works for them.”
“Does it? Captain Bain doesn’t really know his wife.”
“She doesn’t know everything he does here.”
“It’s not the same. I know she thinks she’s protecting him from getting hurt, but I can’t see the captain wanting to be protected,” Marsden said.
“All the more reason not to tell him.”
“I don’t want a life like that, Tovar. I want to be with you, but I can’t live with those kinds of secrets.”
“Then we won’t have any,” Tovar said, pulling her closer.
“So you’re not secretly working for this Section 31 or whatever it is.”
“No. They offered; I declined.”
“Good boy,” Marsden said. “And they aren’t sneaking the Kirk hologram off to some facility for analysis or anything?”
“No. Father turned Kirk over to Admiral Larkin. They apparently came up with a way to deal with him properly.”
“Fine. I hope he’s never seen again.”
“Oh, he’ll be seen. That much is certain.”
Two Weeks Later…
The Fleet Museum orbiting Earth has an unparallel collection of artifacts from Starfleet’s long and illustrious history. An entire wing has been dedicated to ships bearing the name Enterprise. As the vessel that always seems to get the most press (a tradition that continues to this day with Captain Barnum Dax and the Enterprise-J), it is the museum’s most-visited section and the one to get the flashiest exhibits.
The latest addition is a tall cylinder constructed of transparent duranium, highly-difficult to manufacture and nigh- invulnerable. Inside the cylinder is a lone holoemitter running off of the most advanced battery ever created, developed by a team from Starfleet R&D and the Vulcan Science Academy (although, word is that the Dillon Consortium will have a similar model soon). This battery will be able to power the holoemitter without recharging for the next 1200 years.
As you first approach the cylinder, it may seem to be empty, but then a man will appear, a famous man. Perhaps the most famous man in Starfleet history.
He materializes and says two equally famous words.
He looks around for a moment, confused at his surroundings.
Then he vanishes.
Five seconds later, he appears again.
He looks around for a moment, confused at his surroundings.
Then he vanishes.
Five seconds later, he appears again.
He looks around for a moment, confused at his surroundings.
Then he vanishes…