Author: Alan Decker
STAR TRAKS: THE TRAKS FILES
“Three Rings of the Condor”
ALPHA CENTAURI ZEPHYRIS CITY
Cadet Karen Acairno looked at the large striped circus tent standing before her and frowned. “This is better than a bar?” she said skeptically. After coming all the way to Alpha Centauri to spend their three day weekend away from the Academy, the last thing Acairno wanted to do was watch some clowns throw confetti at each other.
“Come on, Karen,” Cadet V’ziin, her Andorian roommate, said encouragingly. “It’ll be different.” Her boyfriend, Cadet Raoul Garsanza nodded in agreement as the pair stepped forward toward the grinning Yridian taking tickets.
“We’ll have fun,” Cadet Jorgan Maas, the Hytellian serving as Acairno’s date for the evening, added.
“Wait. Don’t we need tickets first?” Acairno asked.
“It’s Starfleet night,” V’ziin called back over her shoulder, sending her long white ponytail swinging into Raoul’s face. He caught it in his teeth and tugged playfully. “Don’t start something here you don’t want to finish, Garsanza,” V’ziin threatened.
“We may be a bit much to qualify as family entertainment,” Raoul replied after releasing the ponytail. The couple practically started devouring each other with their lips.
“Animals,” Acairno muttered, shaking her head as she passed the guard and entered the tent. Loud music blared from an actual brass band playing in a small area just away from the three rings laying on the sawdust floor of the tent. Above it all, a hologram reading “The Crazy Condor Circus” hovered in mid-air.
“Wow. They really go all out,” Jorgan said impressed.
“Yeah. You’d think with all this they could come up with a better name,” Acairno replied.
“I don’t know. I like condors. Magnificent birds.”
“Never seen one.”
“You should. They’re striking, powerful creatures with the ability to…”
“Woah,” Acairno interrupted. “No offense, Jorgs, but I’m not getting anything out of the bird talk.”
“How would you like me to talk?” he replied suggestively.
“Talk that big guy into giving us some popcorn,” Acairno said, pointing at the vendor making his way through the stands with an actual snack tray strapped across his stomach. How retro.
The rest of the circus performance was equally retro. Dancing bears, a weightlifting bearded lady, Vulcan trapeze artists, a snotty French guy with some trained poodles. Through it all, Acairno found herself struggling to stay awake. She barely noticed when Raoul and V’ziin slipped away. Off to find a secluded spot where their moans and screams wouldn’t attract too much attention, no doubt.
“You don’t seem to be having a good time,” Jorgan said, leaning over to his date as the tumbling fire-jugglers worked through their routine in the darkened tent.
“This lighting is about to put me asleep.”
“I’m sorry the Condors aren’t for you.”
“Don’t worry about it,” Acairno muttered.
“Gotta hit the head,” Jorgan said, getting up and making his way out of the row.
“Yeah yeah.” Acairno took the opportunity to stretch out along the vacated bench and drift off for a brief nap.
She had no idea how long she slept, but Acairno woke up to a fully-lit tent and the audience milling out of the rows, down the aisles, toward the exits. Her companions were nowhere in sight.
Acairno quickly shot up and started looking around, soon standing up on the bench itself to survey the crowd. There were a few other groups of cadets who’d also decided to spend the long weekend on Alpha Centauri, but no sign of V’ziin, Raoul, or Jorgan.
She waited, allowing the crowd to clear out. Still no sign of them.
EARTH STARFLEET INTELLIGENCE KANTELOV ANNEX - SIBERIA
“Who the hell is Jimmy Hoffa, and why is he in a cement block in our basement?” Agent Samantha Dallas demanded as she burst through the door of the small office she shared with her Antidean partner, Agent Batyn.
Batyn looked up languidly from the padd he was perusing, gazing at Dallas with his bulging fish-eyes. “Who cares? Did you find the environmental controls?” Despite his calm exterior, Batyn was freezing. The Kantelov Annex was basically just a warehouse for evidence from various Starfleet Intel cases. The fact that Admiral Gitt had decided to assign Dallas and Batyn offices there gave Batyn a real clear idea about the regard Starfleet Intel had for their work.
Of course, Batyn didn’t have much regard for their work either. Chasing around dancing asteroids and invisible hairstylists wasn’t exactly the way to get anything resembling positive notice, not that Batyn cared. Before Starfleet Intel had assigned him to work with Agent Dallas, Batyn had been an official burn-out ready to just pack it in and open an algae farm back on Antide Three. Amazing what fifteen years of skulking around and being shot at could do to what was once an ambitious gung-ho attitude.
Now the only thing Batyn was gung-ho about was getting the heat in this freezer working properly. No living thing had been here in months, and if Batyn stayed much longer, he wouldn’t be living either. On the upside, at this temperature, he’d be fresh whenever he was discovered.
“Yeah yeah. I found it,” Dallas said, throwing herself into her desk chair. “It was right behind the head case.”
“There’s an insane person down there?” Batyn asked confused.
“No no. It’s a case of disembodied heads. A head case. Some decapitation rampage from a few decades ago.”
“Yummy,” Batyn muttered.
A loud chirping filled the air suddenly.
“What did you do now?” Batyn said.
“Me? Who says it was me?”
“Hmm…I haven’t left my desk. You’ve been mucking around in the basement. Who do you think screwed up?”
Another loud chirping.
“Computer, how soon do we have until this building explodes?” Batyn asked resigned to his doom.
“No explosion is imminent. However, the woman outside appears to be approximately fifteen seconds away from the onset of hypothermia.”
“What?” Dallas exclaimed, leaping up from her chair and racing toward the main door of the Annex.
“I’ll just wait here, if you don’t mind,” Batyn said. He could feel a gentle wave of heat rising through the room. Much better. Once he installed a sleeping tank in one of the spare rooms (of which there were many), this place would be almost livable…until Dallas dragged him off on another ridiculous “assignment.”
Speaking of Dallas, she stepped back into the office a few seconds later, followed by a shivering Starfleet ensign. Dallas steered her to a chair, then ordered up a cup of hot chocolate from the replicator.
“Drink it slowly,” Dallas said, handing the ensign the steaming cup. “It’s got vodka in it. For some reason, the replicator puts vodka in everything.”
“Because I am Russian!” the replicator shouted.
“Can it, you!” Dallas snapped over her shoulder at the offending device. She turned back to the ensign. “What can we do for you?”
“Are you Agent Dallas?”
“I am. This is my partner, Agent Batyn.”
Batyn raised a long blue hand in a half-hearted wave without looking up from the display of the latest AAN (Antidean Aquatic News) report on his padd.
“My name is Kelly Derrman. I work in Starfleet’s Personnel Office,” the ensign said hesitantly. “I’m here because…my family is from Sherman’s Planet, and Dad said you and your partner managed to deal with a strange problem they were having.”
“You could call it that,” Batyn remarked. Sherman’s Planet had been the site of the invisible hairstylist attacks, a matter Starfleet still didn’t know the whole truth about.
“Just ignore him,” Dallas said, scowling at her partner, not that he noticed.
“I just thought that…well…maybe you could help me.”
“Do you have a strange problem too?” Batyn asked. “Because we only deal with the strange. If it’s normal, Dallas won’t get anywhere near it.”
“I think it’s strange,” Derrman replied.
“Just tell me about it, and we’ll see if we can help,” Dallas said, leaning back in her chair.
Derrman took a deep breath, then began to speak. “I haven’t been in Personnel very long. Only about a year. I was stationed there right after I graduated from the Academy. It’s been pretty uneventful…until last week, anyway. That’s when my old Academy roommate, Karen Acairno, commed me. She, her new Andorian roommate, and a couple of other cadets went to Alpha Centauri for leave over the long Federation Day weekend. Karen came back alone.”
“They ditched her?” Batyn asked. “Tell me, Ensign, does your friend have a problem with offensive body odor? Does she talk too much? Pick her nose?”
“No. Nothing like that,” Derrman said. “And even if she did, V’ziin and the others would still return to the Academy. Right now, they’re AWOL and have been for almost a week.”
Dallas leaned in closer, interested. “Does Cadet Acairno have any idea where they could have gone?”
Ensign Derrman shook her head. “It’s like they just vanished. Karen wanted to know if I could see if anything had been put in their Starfleet personnel records, like a special assignment or anything, but they’re just AWOL. I did a little more digging and found that at least fifteen other cadets and officers have disappeared while on leave in the last year.”
“What does Starfleet have to say about this?” Dallas asked.
“That’s just it. They’re not saying anything. I pointed it out to my Lieutenant, and he took it to the Admiral in charge of Personnel. The Admiral evidently kicked it upstairs, then it died. I was told that it wasn’t my problem and to leave it alone. But Karen seemed so worried that I had to find out something for her. That’s when I remembered what my Dad told me about you and Agent Batyn, so I looked up your current posting, and here I am.”
“You and Dallas are going to get along wonderfully,” Batyn muttered. “Two people who can’t leave things the hell alone.”
“Is he always like this?”
“Only when he’s thawing,” Dallas replied. “But I’m thinking of having him filleted and broiled in a nice garlic butter sauce this evening.”
“Oh, har har,” Batyn said.
“Um…so…do you think you can help me?” Derrman asked.
Dallas stood up and began to pace the office. “I don’t know. It’s certainly not much to go on.”
“And Starfleet Command specifically said to leave it alone,” Batyn said firmly.
Derrman broke in again. “But it just seems so wrong. Three people go to a circus and disappear…”
Dallas’ eyes widened. “Wait! Did you say circus?”
The ensign nodded.
“We’ll start immediately.”
Batyn slammed his head against his padd. “Why did I know she was going to say that?” he moaned.
SIX HOURS LATER…
ALPHA CENTAURI ZEPHYRIS CITY
There she went again. Batyn could just make out Dallas’ head darting in and out of the crowd milling toward the exit of the Zephyris Transport Hub, which they’d been transported to after parking the Runabout Pee Dee in Alpha Centauri’s primary orbital docking facility. The Transport Hub, which handled all arrivals and departures from the Zephyris metropolitan area by ship or transporter beam, would have been where the Academy cadets arrived for their visit to the city.
Dallas didn’t seem to care a bit about that, though. She was just bound and determined to find out about the circus Ensign Derrman had mentioned. Considering Dallas’ past history, Batyn had a feeling he knew why. Just before being put on her current assignment, Dallas had become obsessed with the delusion that The Crazy Condor Circus was acting as a front for some sinister organization. The final straw had come when she trespassed into a cargo bay containing the circus troupe’s gear and blew up several poodles in the melee that ensued when members of the troupe found her. Dallas claimed to find crates of Starfleet-issue plasma conduit, but she had no proof, and, rather than risk another such incident, Admiral Gitt reassigned Dallas to look into the off-the- wall cases no self-respecting Starfleet Intel Agent would get anywhere near. And lucky Batyn got to come along for the ride.
“So how many poodles are going to have to die this time before the insanity ends?” he said, catching up to her with long strides.
“Mock me while you can, gill-breath. Very soon, this is all going to blow up big time!”
“Most likely right in your face.”
Dallas scowled and charged ahead, once again forcing Batyn to speed up to keep with her. “Are we even going to attempt traditional investigative techniques in this case?” he asked. “Or are you bound and determined to go shakedown some clowns?”
“Why the hell do you care?” Dallas snapped.
“Because I’d like to avoid being thrown into the brig for harassing some nice circus folk.”
His partner snorted. “You’ve obviously never had Matilda the Bearded Lady staring down at you.”
“I don’t think I want to.”
“Then maybe you should just let me handle this myself. I’ve dealt with these freaks before,” Dallas said as she and Batyn stepped out of the Transport Hub onto the streets of Zephyris proper.
“Hey. If you want me to get lost, just tell me to get lost.”
Batyn shook his head and chuckled. “If I’d known it was that easy, I would have done that months ago.” Dallas was already charging down the street. “Have fun, Dallas.”
Dallas’ hand shot up in the air displaying a one-fingered gesture Batyn was unfamiliar with, but the meaning was clear enough. Fine. If Dallas wanted to be that way about it, Batyn would just have to annoy her in the most satisfying way possible: solving the case himself.
After pulling out his padd, initiating a datalink with Dallas’ padd in her shoulder pack, and downloading all of the pertinent information given to them by Ensign Derrman, Batyn headed off to pursue his own line of inquiry.
The lot looked so innocent now, but Dallas knew that mere days earlier, The Crazy Condor Circus covered this ground with its tendrils of darkness and duplicity. Smuggling plasma conduits was one thing, but kidnapping Starfleet cadets put them into a whole new realm of evil.
Dallas was pulled out of her thoughts by a soft tugging on the sleeve of her jacket. She looked down to see a young Alpha Centaurian girl, no more than six, holding a pink teddy bear in her arm.
“They left,” the girl said, pointing at the empty ground where the big top once stood.
“Come on, Andila,” a woman, presumably the girl’s mother, called from the pedestrian walkway running past the lot.
“Do you know where they went?” Dallas asked before Andila could run off.
The girl shook her head. “Nuh unh. But Mommy won me my teddy there. See.” Andila held the pink bear up to Dallas.
“You got this at the circus?”
“Uh huh,” Andila nodded.
“Get back!” Dallas cried, snatching the bear away from the frightened child. Dallas slammed the teddy to the dirt and whipped out her hand phaser, vaporizing the stuffed animal in an instant. “You’re not laying an evil paw on this child’s head!”
“AHHHHHHHHH!” Andila screamed, immediately collapsing to the grass in hysterics as her mother rushed over frantically.
“What the hell is wrong with you?” the mother screamed at Dallas while crouching down to comfort Andila.
“The devil you know, ma’am. The devil you know,” Dallas replied, pocketing her weapon as she walked away.
“What the hell is that supposed to mean?”
Two Starfleet ensigns passed by Batyn hand in hand on their way out of Cochrane Court as he headed into the hotel. Cochrane Court almost exclusively served Starfleet clientele, mainly because most people visiting Alpha Centauri had no interest in being anywhere near a bunch of rowdy cadets and junior officers.
Batyn noticed a small sensor mounted just inside the door that was most likely transmitting to the front desk, informing them that he was not a guest and, based on his species, what his accommodation requirements would most likely entail.
Sure enough, the desk clerk was waiting for him with a broad smile as Batyn approached. “Good morning, sir,” the clerk said cheerily. “Welcome to Cochrane Court. We are well-equipped to serve our Antidean guests, so put your mind at ease.”
Now came the part that Batyn used to love, just to watch the reactions on people’s faces. He flashed his ID at the clerk. “Starfleet Intel. I have a few questions for you…” He looked at the clerk’s name tag. “Fetts.”
“O-O-O-Of Course,” Fetts stammered, his eyes wide with alarm. “How may I help you?”
Batyn pulled up pictures of Cadets V’ziin, Jorgan Maas, and Raoul Garsanza on his padd and placed it on the counter facing Fetts. “First off, tell me everything you know about these three.”
“And second…” Batyn thought for a moment. He really didn’t have anything else to ask right away, but now that he had stopped for a moment, he realized he was a bit drained from the trip. “And second, I think I’ll take you up on that room.”
“Wally!” Dallas exclaimed as the publi-comm booth inside the Transport Hub finally connected her to her requested party. Federizon was taking longer and longer to complete subspace comms…either that or Wally had just taken forever to answer.
“Dallas?” her sometimes informant said, his voice revealing his displeasure at receiving this particular comm. “Are you on a public comm unit?”
“Yes! I didn’t want to use the runabout comm system. They could be listening.”
“Oh of course,” Wally replied condescendingly. “THEY do that sort of thing, don’t they?”
“You can’t be too careful.”
“Is there an actual reason you’re pestering me, Sam? Or did you just want to swap paranoid delusions?”
“I need some information.”
“Skip ahead, Dallas. You always need information. That’s the only reason you comm me. You never just want to chat or anything, not that I have any interest in chatting with the likes of you. There are dust bunnies around here older than you.”
“Don’t they clean that place?”
“The POINT, Sam!”
“Where is The Crazy Condor Circus currently performing?”
The line went silent for a second. “You are comming me,” Wally said in measured tones, “to check on your evening’s entertainment!”
“This is serious, Wally. There’s more going on at that circus than meets the eye.”
“I don’t want to know. I don’t want to hear anymore. You’ve officially lost your mind.”
“The circus, Wally,” Dallas insisted.
“Hang on.” The line went silent as Wally checked his vast resources. “Vega Two. They’re appearing in conjunction with Vega Two’s Starfleet Appreciation Day celebration tomorrow night.”
“Thanks, Wally. I owe you.”
“Then pay me back by LEAVING ME THE HELL ALONE!”
Wally cut the channel, not that Dallas was paying much attention. She was already racing off to the nearest Simms Express counter to catch the next transport to the Vega System. If she left in the Pee Dee, Batyn might get suspicious and try to follow her, and his hindrance was the last thing she needed right now. This was between her and the Crazy Condors.
Just to set the record straight, Batyn was about as far from suspicious as you could get. In fact, he was unconscious. As soon as he’d entered his room at the Cochrane Court, he’d climbed into the oh-so-comfy-looking tank and fallen fast asleep, dreaming of the freshly-prepared plankton soup he planned to order from room service as soon as he finished his nap. Hmm…plankton. Maybe he could start a plankton farm back on Antide Three after he retired…whenever that ended up being.
Eight hours later, while Agent Dallas rocked impatiently back and forth in her none-too-comfortable seat on a Simms Express Transport to Vega Two, Agent Batyn finally emerged from his sleep, stretching slowly as he luxuriated in the simple sensation of sleeping in a quiet, comfortable place without the threat of Dallas bursting in on him at any moment to drag him along on some psychotic carp chase or another.
Of course, none of that meant that he had any intention of letting Dallas get the best of him on this case. She could run around like a crazy person all she wanted babbling about evil circuses, but he was going to engage in some real detective work.
After spending two hours in front of his room’s comm panel, his real detective work was done. The Zephyris hospitals and constabulary had all drawn blanks on the three missing cadets, and no one using their retinal scans had booked passage off of the planet. Kidnapping was still a possibility, but Batyn was having a very hard time getting a handle on a possible motive. No one had made any demands, which surely would have happened within the first week after the cadets had been snatched. It just didn’t make sense…
…which was probably why he and Dallas were now stuck with it.
Seeing that the sun had long since gone down, Batyn decided to pursue one final avenue of investigation. Being the sort of hotel it was, there would surely be a party of some sort going on in one of the rooms.
He stepped out into the corridor and heard a satisfying thumping. Yep. All he had to do now was follow the music.
The Pakled’s sleeping body once against slumped against Dallas, smashing her into the side of the transport. She shoved, futilely trying to push his large frame back into his own seat.
“WAKE UP!” she screamed finally.
The Pakled’s eyes opened languidly, looking up at Dallas from a position uncomfortably close to her lap.
“I am sorry. I did things that made me tired,” the Pakled said without moving.
“I think I have a way to help you. May I?”
“You would do things to keep me awake? Please.”
“You got it.”
The Pakled suddenly screeched in agony and frantically tried to get as far away from Dallas as possible as she viciously poked her fingers into his eyes.
“Awake now, big boy?”
“You do things that make me hurt,” the Pakled whimpered.
“Stay in your own damn seat, and it won’t happen anymore.”
“You are bad.”
The Pakled lumbered out into the aisle, taking up position in another empty seat a few rows away as Dallas stretched her legs out across the now-vacated chair next to her.
Batyn localized the source of the music three floors above his room. Of course, even if the room in question had been absolutely music-free, Batyn still would have known something was going on. The door to the room was open, allowing a free-flowing stream of Starfleet cadets and junior officers to come and go as they pleased while the music pulsed at levels sure to damage the hearing of most humanoids.
Two Antidean ensigns standing outside of the room holding mugs of beer spotted Batyn as he approached and raised their hands in a wave. “Oh yeah! Now we officially outnumber the Hortas!” one of the ensigns exclaimed. “Where are you stationed, bud?”
“Intel,” Batyn replied casually.
The ensigns’ eyes bulged appreciatively. “Woah. How is it?”
“It’s a job,” Batyn said with a shrug. “Were either of you here last week?”
“No…wait. Are you working a case right now?!?” the other ensign said in awe.
“Shhh,” Batyn said, putting a finger to his lips. “Help a fellow fish out?”
“Talk to Darla. It’s her room. Has been for months, evidently. She opens it up every single night for this party.”
“So she’s not Starfleet, I take it.”
“Nah. Rumor is she was an officer groupie for a while, then took up with some scientist. After she got bored with him, she came here.”
“I can see the draw,” Batyn said flatly. The ensigns didn’t pick up on his sarcasm. “Is Darla inside?”
“Thanks. I’ll bring you back a couple of new beers.”
Batyn moved away from his fellow Antideans and slipped into the room itself. The furniture had been pushed to the far corners of the room, except for the bed frame, which was now leaning upright against the wall. Its mattress sat underneath the window at the far wall where an exceptionally well-constructed human woman with locks of flowing blonde hair lounged while several obviously-smitten cadets and officers gathered around her. If anyone looked to be in charge around here, it was her.
“Miss Darla?” Batyn asked after striding through the crowds of officers gathered at the replicator, old-fashioned keg, and the wet bar.
The woman looked Batyn up and down with a mixture of interest and revulsion. “I am Darla. No promises on the ‘Miss’ part.”
“I’m an agent with Starfleet Intelligence, ma’am. I’d like to ask you a couple of questions, if I could.”
“Not if any of them are going to get me in trouble for my…activities.”
“No, ma’am. As far as I’m concerned, you’re probably doing these young folks a service. Most Starfleet Officers I’ve run into are way too uptight.”
Darla smiled. “Then we’re of similar minds. Let me get you a drink, then we can chat.”
“Sounds like a win-win deal to me.”
Darla, much to the consternation of her crowd of admirers, rose gracefully off of the mattress, took Batyn by the arm, and led him over to the wet bar, which was currently manned by a young Orion. “Two whiskey sours,” she said. The Orion produced the drinks moments later while Batyn questioned Darla about the missing cadets.
He lost track of how many drinks he had over the course of the ensuing conversation. Finally, after telling Batyn what little she knew (She recognized the pictures of the missing cadets, but nothing about them stood out in her mind), Darla stopped Batyn as he drained yet another whiskey sour.
“I can’t believe you’re still standing,” Darla said. “We don’t use synthehol, and you’ve had…” She looked at the mass of empty glasses on the counter. “Twelve! Forgive me for saying so, but you drink like…
“A fish. Yeah. I get that a lot.”
Dallas was operating almost solely on adrenaline as she crept toward the field on Vega Two where The Crazy Condor Circus was busy erecting its tents and preparing for that night’s performance. Really, she should have slept on the transport to prepare herself for this, but the thought of finally getting the proof she needed to nail the Crazy Condors was too much to sleep through.
A small team of hovering mechbots tugged in unison on the massive support cables for the big top, fastening them into the ground with large stakes as inside the tent, the main support poles were maneuvered into position by another group of mechbots. Few actual people were in sight around the big top itself.
Agent Dallas moved in closer, passing by the oblivious mechbots and around the big top toward the landing site of the circus’ freighter. Large cargo modules from the freighter that had been adapted into temporary quarters and animal habitats had been positioned between the freighter and the big top, giving the Crazy Condors a virtual mini-city to mill about in. At this early hour, not much milling seemed to be taking place.
Voices approaching from her left forced Dallas to dive into the back of a hovercart full of sawdust, covering herself as best she could until the danger passed.
“Come on! No one’s going to care,” a male voice said insistently. “I’m bored!”
“Can’t you hold off for one s’narzzin day?” a female voice shot back. That obscenity. It was Andorian. Dallas risked poking her head up slightly and opening her eyes to see. Three figures were headed her way. One was definitely an Andorian female, and one of the remaining two had the right extreme height and lanky build to be Hytellian; although, it was hard to tell at this distance. Dallas held her position, waiting for more information. “You heard Cullers. We pick a couple more recruits at tonight’s show, then we’re going to the Nest.”
“So can you just sit it out, Jorgan?” the other male said. “Getting found now would be beyond stupid.”
Jorgan. Jorgan Maas. These were the cadets, but they hadn’t been kidnapped by The Crazy Condor Circus. They’d gone willingly. But why? And to where? And to do what?
And was this hovercart moving?
Oh yeah. It was moving. Right into the big top where a couple of Yridians with rakes waited. Dallas craned her neck slightly to see the front of the cart, where another Yridian worked the controls. He must have slipped on board while she was busy listening to the cadets.
As the cart slowed to a stop, Dallas waited for an opportunity to slip out unnoticed while the Yridians conferred, went for a coffee break, or did whatever it was Yridians did. Unfortunately, it was not to be. Almost as soon as the cart stopped, the cargo bed flipped upward, sending the entire pile sawdust and Dallas sliding onto the ground in the middle of the tent.
“Great garshat!” one of the Yridians exclaimed upon seeing a person fall out of the cart. Her cover blown, Dallas leapt to her feet, sending a shower of sawdust cascading back to the floor.
“Starfleet Intel,” she exclaimed. “Stay where you are or…” She suddenly broke down in a fit of coughing as dust billowed up and filled her lungs.
“Stay!…<cough>…freeze…<cough>…Hang on a sec. <cough cough COUGH!> Better. Like I was saying…” But the Yridians were already making a break for the exits, crying for help as they went.
“I said FREEZE!” Dallas shouted, pulling her hand phaser. She quickly got off two shots, nailing one fleeing Yridian in the back with a stun blast and narrowly missing another. Sounds of alarm went up throughout the compound.
Not good. And considering how large the big top was, there was no way she was going to make it out the opposite end before someone could get there and intercept there. She was going to have to make a stand, and that would require high ground. Dallas raced to the nearest support pole, high above which the mechbots had just completed stringing up the trapeze and netting, and started climbing, taking up position on the small platform used by the Flying T’Falls, The Crazy Condor Circus’ Vulcan trapeze act, just as several members of the circus troupe charged into the tent.
Maybe a confrontation wouldn’t be necessary. If they’d didn’t spot her, she could hide out until the coast was clear and…
“There she is!” Claude, the poodle trainer, exclaimed in his thick French accent, pointing up at Dallas.
So much for that.
“Come on down here,” Adrian Cullers, the Ringmaster (and ringleader of this gang of criminals as far as Dallas was concerned) called up to her. “You won’t be harmed.”
“Much,” Matilda, the hulking bearded lady famed for her waltzing and weightlifting, added menacingly.
Cullers ignored Matilda and continued. “My employees tell me that you said you were with Starfleet Intel. This wouldn’t happen to be Samantha Dallas, would it?”
“You’re damn right,” Dallas replied. “And I know all about the missing cadets, Cullers.” She’d never actually dealt with Cullers directly before, but she knew him all to well from her research on the circus. The man seemed oh so friendly and urbane, but Dallas was positive that underneath, a criminal mastermind lurked.
“I see you know who I am as well,” Cullers said. “At least we’re finally getting to meet in person. Why don’t you come down here so we can discuss matters privately?”
“Why don’t you come up here so I…”
Before Dallas could finish the sentence, a boot slammed into the side of her head, almost sending her plummeting off of the platform. Damn Cullers! He’d distracted her long enough for the Flying T’Falls to scramble up to the opposite trapeze platform and swing across to her.
Dallas recovered quickly, shaking off the blow and turning her phaser on the three Vulcans swinging through the air. She fired just as one Vulcan let go of his trapeze, flipping through the air until his female partner grabbed him from another trapeze. With a more steady target to shoot at, Dallas fired again, nailing the female partner and sending both Vulcans plummeting into the net below.
The third Vulcan was already in motion, heading Dallas’ way. She fired again, winging him in the hand. His stunned hand lost its grip on the trapeze, but the Vulcan had enough momentum to flip forward onto the platform beside Dallas.
Dallas fired again at point-blank range, sending a stun bolt slamming into the Vulcan’s gut. He grunted, then toppled forward toward Dallas, who bashed him on the side of the head with her forearm, which knocked him off the platform and into the netting below.
“That all you’ve got, Cullers?” Dallas taunted. A iron grip suddenly locked around her boot and yanked her backwards off of the platform. The one T’Fall that she hadn’t actually shot had managed to move across the netting and climb up the support pole to Dallas’ position.
She landed painfully on the Vulcan she’d just stunned, the impact knocking the breath out of her. Gasping for air, she watched helplessly as the final T’Fall leapt down at her from above. He tucked his body as he landed, immediately rolling toward Dallas. Faster than she could track his motion, the Vulcan’s hand lanced out and gripped her shoulder. And before she could think the words “Vulcan nerve pinch,” Dallas was unconscious.
All in all, this was turning out to be more like a vacation than an actual case. Batyn had been able to check into a perfectly comfortable hotel room and spend a good deal of the prior evening speaking with a human who actually didn’t annoy the hell out of him. Of course, the amount of alcohol he’d consumed might have helped in that regard.
The reality of his assignment reasserted itself early the next morning as Batyn was roused unpleasantly from a deep sleep by the incessant chirping of his wrist communicator.
He tiredly hoisted himself up over the edge of the tank and snatched the source of the ear-splitting noise off of his nightstand. “What?” he snapped after opening the channel.
“Incoming comm from Admiral Gitt’s office,” the voice of the Runabout Pee Dee’s computer announced flatly.
Wonderful. Batyn pulled himself fully out of the tank and stumbled over to the room’s comm panel. “Route the signal to the following console. ACX783S,” he said, reading the panel’s address off of its monitor.
A moment later, the Cochrane Court logo disappeared from the panel’s monitor and was replaced by an image of Admiral Gitt, the Bolian at Starfleet Intel who oversaw Dallas and Batyn’s assignment.
“Yes, Admiral,” Batyn said tiredly.
“Batyn! Where are you?” Gitt demanded.
“Alpha Centauri, sir. Agent Dallas and I are investigating the disappearance of three Academy cadets.”
“Disappearance? I never heard anything about this.”
“You could say the case was brought to our attention outside of the usual channels.”
“Is Dallas with you?”
“She’s pursuing her own line of investigation.”
“You mean she’s run off on her own again,” Gitt said. “Dammit, Batyn! You’re supposed to be partners!”
Batyn shrugged. “I’m not her babysitter.”
“This investigation is over. Find Dallas and get back here NOW!”
“Is something wrong? You seem edgy.”
“I am not.”
“Then why are you shouting so much?”
“Just do it, Batyn. Gitt out.”
The Admiral cut the channel as Batyn let out a deep sigh. The plankton farm was looking better and better.
Upon regaining consciousness, Agent Dallas found herself tied to a chair in front of a large mirror in what appeared to be one of the cargo modules used by the circus as dressing rooms.
She tugged at the bindings attaching her wrists to the armrests of the chair but quickly realized it was useless. Her whole hands were encased in ropes, making it almost impossible to move her fingers, much less get a grip on anything to untie. Standard issue binders would have been far easier for her to deal with. But, of course, these circus freaks just had to go and use rope, way too much of it at that.
At long last, the door of the module opened, allowing four black clad individuals to enter the room. Wordlessly, they approached Dallas, moving all around her as they looked her up and down disconcertingly.
“I am an officer with Starfleet Intelligence,” Dallas said commandingly. “So unless all of you want to spend the rest of your short lives in a rehabilitation colony, I suggest you release me immediately. Are you listening to me? ANSWER ME!”
“I don’t think they will,” Ringmaster Cullers said, stepping into the module.
Dallas looked at the figures again. Black outfits. White faces.
“Mimes,” she spat disgustedly.
“Very talented ones, actually.”
“I’ll have to catch their act sometime,” Dallas replied sarcastically.
“Definitely,” Cullers said, sitting himself down in the swivel chair next to hers. “But first I thought we should talk.”
“About what? Assault? False imprisonment? Theft of Starfleet property? Encouraging cadets to go AWOL?”
Cullers chuckled. “That’s quite a list of charges you have there.”
“I don’t hear you denying them.”
“I was hoping to make this less adversarial. Matilda told me about you after she caught you rummaging through our belongings back on Tellar. I’m sorry I wasn’t there to meet you. Perhaps the lives of some innocent poodles could have been saved.”
“There wasn’t a damn thing innocent about those demon dogs,” Dallas said.
“Look, Agent Dallas. We’re a circus. We’re in the business of entertaining people. I just can’t begin to understand why you harbor this grudge against us.”
Dallas glared at Cullers. “Are you seriously going to continue to play innocent when I’ve seen evidence to the contrary with my own eyes?”
“But no one seems to believe you.”
“Perhaps. But first you’re going to give me one chance to show you our true natures.”
“I think I’ve seen enough,” Dallas said.
“I insist,” Cullers said, his eyes flashing even though his tone remained perfectly polite. “You said you’d have to catch our mime act sometime. Well, we’re going to do you one better. Tonight, you’re going to be a part of it.”
Dallas yanked against her bonds furiously. “If you think for one damn second that I’m…”
She was abruptly silenced as Cullers placed a small strip of metal on the front of her neck just below her chin, which immediately bonded in place. Dallas mouthed frantically, but no sound emerged.
“Mimes are silent, Agent Dallas,” Cullers said, rising from his chair. “Amazing how a small vocal disrupter patch can change the entire tenor of a conversation, isn’t it?” He turned to his mimes. “Prepare her for her big debut.”
Cullers turned on his heel and strode out of the module as the mimes descended on Dallas, completely ignoring her silent cries of protest.
After checking out of the Cochrane Court and making several unsuccessful attempts to comm Dallas, Batyn returned to the Transport Hub to try and track down his partner. The Pee Dee was still in the parking facility, so, if she’d left the planet, she’d taken an alternate form of transportation.
With the circus gone, the odds were high that that was exactly what had occurred. Before leaving his room at the hotel, Batyn had logged onto the Federnet to look up The Crazy Condor Circus’ touring schedule, but, oddly, the circus didn’t have an entry. Not even so much as a passing reference to it seemed to exist. Strange.
The Transport Hub was crowded with tourists arriving at Zephyris City and residents making arrangements to travel to other destinations on and off world. After checking with the ticket counters for Pan-Fed Spaceways and Trans Galactic Starcruisers for any sign of Dallas, Batyn got into line at the Simms Express counter behind a woman and a small girl who appeared to have been doing a great deal of crying.
He didn’t think much of the pair, instead focusing on the plankton farm of his dreams as he slowly made his way closer and closer to the counter as the ticketing agents dealt with their customers.
The woman and her sniffling child reached an agent, then soon after, Batyn was called up to the agent next to them.
“Welcome to Simms Express. May I help you, sir?” the Alpha Centaurian behind the counter asked.
“Starfleet Intel,” Batyn said, placing his ID down on the counter. “I need to know if someone booked passage in the last 24 hours.”
The agent’s eyes widened in alarm. “Y-yes. Of course. The name please?”
The agent immediately began checking his terminal. “She isn’t…dangerous, is she?”
“Usually only to herself,” Batyn muttered.
“But that’s an hour too late,” the woman at the next counter exclaimed.
“I’m very sorry, madam,” her agent replied.
“Mommy!” the girl wailed. “You promised me a new teddy!”
“I know, dear,” the mother said consolingly. “But the circus has gone far away.”
“Vega Two,” the agent said, pulling Batyn’s attention back to the present. “She should have arrived this morning.”
“Thank you,” Batyn said, retrieving his ID and moving away from the desk. He walked behind the woman and her daughter on his way to the transporter bays just as they turned to leave the counter themselves.
“But she zapped teddy!” the girl cried.
“I know. I know. She was a mean lady.”
Batyn stopped in his tracks. Dallas wouldn’t have incinerated a teddy bear, would she? Batyn sighed. She would. He turned back to the pair walking up behind him.
“Pardon me,” he said. “Did you say that a woman shot your teddy bear?”
“Uh huh!” the girl said firmly.
“Don’t speak with strangers, Andila,” the mother said.
“Starfleet Intel, ma’am,” Batyn said, flashing his ID. “Unfortunately, I have a feeling I know who hurt your bear. Human. Shoulder-length brown hair. About so high.” He held his hand up approximating Dallas’ height.
“That’s her!” Andila said, jumping up and down and pointing at the air under Batyn’s hand.
“Typical,” he muttered. “And I suppose you originally got that bear at The Crazy Condor Circus?”
“That’s right,” the mother said. “One of the Condors told us they were going to Vega Two next, I wanted to take Andila to the show there to get a new bear. But the transport doesn’t get there in time.”
Batyn sighed. He was going to have to clean up after Dallas again. “My runabout will,” Batyn said. “I’m on my way there.”
“Can we ride with the fish, Mommy? Please!!!” Andila said.
“We wouldn’t be interfering?” the mother asked.
“Not at all, Miss…”
“Gallian. Gallian Piteo.”
“Right this way, Miss Piteo,” Batyn said, gesturing for her and Andila to follow him. This pretty much covered his good deed for the decade, Batyn thought, cursing Dallas. But if that girl asked “Are we there yet?” so much as once, she was going straight out the airlock.
They’d done it. The stupid bastards had actually done it. Dallas stared at herself in the mirror, trying not to let the blank white visage staring back at her freak her out. Despite all of her efforts to contort her face or whip her head around while the mimes worked on her, they’d managed to complete her make-up job. As soon as she kicked Cullers ass and wiped this crap off, every single mime in the circus was due for a serious beating.
Another mime approached her holding a small, oddly curved shaped device. Dallas once again tried to move away, but the mime latched onto her head firmly and pushed the device into her ear canal.
“Good afternoon, Agent Dallas,” Adrian Cullers’ voice said suddenly. The damn mimes had fitted her with an earpiece receiver. As if being painted white wasn’t bad enough, she was now to be forced to listen to Cullers gloat.
“I hope you enjoyed your makeover. It’s so rare in this day and age that we find ourselves being fussed over by not one, but four eager souls, now isn’t it? You, of course, cannot respond, but I must admit that I find talking with you relaxing. Perhaps it is true that the only way we can truly thrive is if we have an adversary. You’re the only one I’ve encountered so far, and that will forever give you a special place in my heart.”
Lucky me, Dallas thought ruefully.
“My mute associates are going to untie you soon and give you something more comfortable to slip into. I wouldn’t recommend trying anything foolish, though. All four are highly trained in the Ralmec fighting disciplines, a silent but deadly martial arts technique. And even if, by some fluke, you were able to incapacitate them, the module itself is equipped with a rather potent security system. So will you be a good girl and do as I ask?”
Dallas nodded, her eyes cold with fury.
“I’d hoped as much. Proceed.”
The Ralmec mimes untied Dallas, handed her a black one piece leotard and a pair of white gloves and shoes, then gestured for her to step behind a privacy screen in the far corner of the room.
“Don’t worry, Agent Dallas,” Cullers voice said. “I would never be so ungallant as to indulge in voyeurism.”
Dallas’ fists involuntarily clenched. Unless she really felt like taking on a group of mute ninjas and a computer security system, she was going to have to go along with Cullers demands…for now. She had little choice but to bide her time until they made a mistake. All she had to do was be ready to capitalize on whatever opportunity was presented to her.
Mammalian species had a very odd idea of “entertainment,” Agent Batyn concluded as he sat on a bench wedged between two Vegans who were in dire need of either a shower or some stronger deodorant. How could watching some fool swing a whip around at a bunch of yipping dogs be considered the slightest bit entertaining? And the racket from the so-called band was giving him a splitting headache. Batyn just wanted to find Dallas and get the hell out of there.
Gallian and Andila, however, seemed to be having a wonderful time. They were seated in the row in front of Batyn, Andila clutching a brand new pink teddy that Batyn had grudgingly won for her at the ring toss booth outside the big top. He was quite sure that Gallian could have won it for Andila herself, but he still felt somewhat obliged to make up for whatever psychological trauma Dallas had inflicted on the poor girl.
Batyn applauded politely as Claude the poodle trainer and his Fifi Brigade finished up their routine, but inwardly he felt tense, wondering what new torment the Ringmaster had in store for them. He didn’t have long to wait. Ringmaster Adrian Cullers stepped back into the spotlight and announced the next act, drawing an anguished groan from Batyn. Mimes. Why did it have to be mimes?
Dallas knew that the Crazy Condors would make a mistake, and sure enough they did. After she changed into her mime costume, the Ralmecs needed to rebind her hands behind her back. Stupidly, they used the rope again. Dallas allowed them to get the first loop around, then tensed her muscles, pressing outward as hard as she could while the rest of the knot was tied. To the Ralmec mimes, the ropes appeared sung, but Dallas’ action gave her just enough wiggle room to work as soon as she untensed her muscles.
At that moment, she was riding in the back of a cartoony paddy wagon, which was being dragged into the center ring for the mime’s Keystone Kops act.
“The ending of this routine will really be quite spectacular,” Cullers’ voice said with its usual mix of charm and menace. “After the prisoner, namely you, attempts to escape and is recaptured after a hilarious chase, she will be placed into a special cage. Moments later, she’ll vanish, mystifying the Keystone Kops as to how she escaped. In reality, you’ll be instantly incinerated by an amazing little device mounted into the floor of the cell, but the audience doesn’t need to know the gory details, now do they?”
Dallas rolled her eyes as she continued to maneuver her wrists, working incessantly to free them.
“Now do try to make the chase exciting, Agent Dallas,” Cullers continued.
You’re going to have all the excitement you can handle, pal, Dallas thought, allowing herself a slight smile.
Subjecting a crowd to the “antics” of clowns was bad enough, but mimes were just a whole new level of pain and torment. Also, there were two loud people under the bleachers beneath his seat engaged in who knew what sort of activity. Batyn was tempted to say the hell with Dallas and get up and leave right then and there.
Unfortunately for him, the lights in the tent went completely out as a loud siren filled the air. The spotlight circled around, seemingly searching for something until it finally stopped on a group of mimes dressed in what Batyn assumed were supposed to be police uniforms. Behind them, a square-ish vehicle rolled along. Judging from the bars on the vehicle’s sides, Batyn concluded that it was for transporting prisoners.
He was proven right when, moments later, the mimes threw open the doors of the vehicle, and another mime with her hands tied behind her back leapt out, sending a flying knee into the crotch of the closest mime. Batyn’s interest grew. That knee shot was surprisingly realistic as was the agonized expression on the mime- cop’s face.
The lights gradually came back up, allowing the full action to be reveal. Additionally, a small cage had been dragged into the middle of the center ring. Hmmm…this may be entertaining after all.
Dallas jumped over the barrier around the center ring, her eyes darting around for some sign of that bastard Cullers. Meanwhile, the mimes tumbled and fumbled about, drawing large rounds of laughter out of the audience.
“I wouldn’t try for the exits, Dallas,” Cullers said in her ear. “The ticket takers tend to frown on performers leaving without putting in a full day’s work.”
She’d already come to a similar conclusion, so Dallas wasn’t all that bothered by Cullers’ remark. More worrisome was the fact that the mimes seem to have begun their pursuit in earnest, flipping and charging across the ring with surprising grace and speed.
“I am actually sorry you haven’t been able to speak during all of this,” Cullers continued. “The mind boggles at the witty repartee we could be exchanging at this very moment.”
At that moment, all Dallas wanted was to finish freeing her arms. In her present condition, she wouldn’t be able to avoid the mimes for much longer. Finally, she slipped her right wrist out of the bindings, then her left. With the rope in hand, she brought her aching arms around to her front and began running in earnest. Shaking off the stiffness in her muscles, she knotted the end of the rope into a large bundle, then turned, charging straight toward the nearest mime.
Surprised, the mime hesitated for a split second, which was just long enough for Dallas to swing the rope, sending the large knotted bundle slamming into the mime’s head, dazing it. Before it could recover, Dallas followed up with a flying drop kick. She landed on top of the prone and gasping mime, then, scrambling to her feet, sent him to dreamland with a swift kick to the head.
Triumphantly, she ripped the vocal disrupter off of her throat. “Where are those martial arts now, huh?” she taunted, then dashed off before the other Ralmecs could converge on her position.
“I see the game has changed,” Cullers said, obviously unhappy.
“And you’re the new grand prize, buddy,” Dallas replied.
“Play ball, Agent Dallas.”
Batyn leaned farther forward in his seat. That last melee had been way too realistic. And that stance when the “prisoner” took out the mime cop. It couldn’t be…could it?
The prisoner narrowly dodged a confrontation with two of the remaining mime cops after she tossed her rope, tripping the third mime, who fell forward, slamming his head against the barrier of the left ring with a thud that sent a gasp through the audience.
Then the prisoner flipper her hair back, revealing two blazing eyes. Oh great blobs of blubber! It was Dallas!
“Excuse me,” Batyn said urgently, standing up from the bench and pushing his way toward the aisle. He had to do something before Dallas completely spoiled the entire show.
Two down…two to go. Unfortunately, taking on both at once was proving to be a bit rough.
A boot slammed into Dallas’ back, launching her forward. She managed to grab onto a support pole and swing around it, quickly grabbing the front of the mime’s outfit and yanking him toward her. He smashed painfully into the pole and slumped to the sawdust floor, a trickle of red blood from his nose standing out against his white face as he rubbed his hands over his eyes to mime crying.
“Suck it up, you baby,” Dallas said, kicking him under the chin and sending him flying backwards into unconsciousness.
“I have to admit that I expected better from the Ralmecs,” Cullers observed in her ear.
“I could fight you instead,” Dallas replied.
“You’d like that, wouldn’t you?”
“More than you’ll ever know,” Dallas said. Her gaze fell on a small gathering of people near the performers’ exit of the big top. Cullers was there, right next to the hulking Matilda.
Dallas started to run just as she heard faint footsteps charging up behind her. She didn’t react until the last possible second, when she suddenly stopped and kicked backwards, catching the final attacking mime in the knee, which cracked satisfyingly.
“AHHHHHH!” the mime screamed.
“So you can speak?” Dallas said amused.
The mime reverted to silence, but his angry gestures as he writhed on the floor spoke volumes.
Dallas ignored him and turned her attention back to Cullers. “You ready for the Greatest Asskicking on Earth?” she called.
“This isn’t Earth,” Cullers said.
Matilda stepped in front of the Ringmaster, crossing her arms and waiting for Dallas. “One asskicking, coming up,” Matilda said menacingly.
“I’ll take both of you,” Dallas said confidently, increasing speed…
…and then she was suddenly scooped up into a strong set of arms.
“That’s enough of that,” Batyn said, restraining the struggling Dallas.
“NO! Let me go!” Dallas cried.
“I didn’t even hear you.”
“Run silent. Run deep,” Batyn replied. “Batyn to Pee Dee. Two to beam up. Energize,” he said into his wrist communicator.
“I’m coming back for you, Cullers!” Dallas screamed just before she and Batyn vanished in a flurry of molecules.
TWO DAYS LATER
EARTH STARFLEET INTELLIGENCE HQ
“Death by mime?” Admiral Gitt asked incredulously as he stared across his desk at Samantha Dallas. Batyn rolled his massive eyes and leaned back in his chair to get comfortable. At least he wouldn’t be the one getting dressed down this time.
“That was their plan,” Dallas said. She pointed at the earpiece sitting on Gitt’s desk. “And I’ve brought proof.”
“Proof of what? This is proof of nothing.”
“Cullers had that put in my ear.”
“The man runs a circus, Dallas. A CIRCUS! Clowns, elephants, laughing children. Does any of this ring a bell?”
“It’s the perfect insidious cover for anti-Federation activities.”
Gitt sighed. “Bear with me for a moment while I go over your record for the last few months, okay. You were seen chasing through the streets of Sherman’s Planet after an invisible hairdresser…”
“My report states that was nothing.”
“Uh huh. Then you hypnotized everyone at a subspace relay outpost…”
“That was a legitimate investigative technique.”
“How about getting yourself arrested on Waystation for trying to start a panic about giant lizard things?”
“The Flarn are real. Batyn can back me up on that one.”
Batyn grunted non-commitally.
Gitt ignored the comment and continued. “Fine. How about blaming a distortion in our cartography satellites on magic? Or harassing a simple circus repeatedly looking for who knows what?”
“I know what I saw, Admiral,” Dallas said. “And I won’t change what I believe.”
“You know what I believe, Agent Dallas,” Admiral Gitt said, leaning forward. “I believe you’ve lost your mind.”
“There’s no need to be nasty, sir.”
“No, I mean it. You’ve really lost your mind. And with that being the case, I’m having you committed to Tantalus V.”
“What?” Dallas exclaimed, rising from her chair as Gitt pressed a button on his desk panel. Almost instantly, two large Starfleet Security officers charged into the office and grabbed Dallas firmly by the arms.
“But it’s an evil circus!” Dallas shouted. “Evil. Evil!”
“You need help, Dallas,” Gitt said.
“Energize,” one of the security officers said after tapping his commbadge.
“EVIL!!!” Dallas screamed one last time before she and the officers dematerialized.
Gitt turned his attention to Batyn. “I’m sorry you had to witness that, Agent Batyn.”
Batyn shrugged. “No biggie. So what does this mean for me?”
“Nothing. Go back to work.”
“On the same cases?” Batyn asked unhappily.
“Absolutely. You’re performing a valuable service. Dismissed.”
The Antidean gloomily pulled himself out of his chair and trudged out of the office, his mind drifting to thoughts of a nice, quiet plankton farm back home.
As soon as Batyn was gone, Admiral Gitt wasted no time in activating his comm panel.
“Admiral Sulu’s office,” the image of Lieutenant Radley, Hitori Sulu’s administrative assistant said on the monitor.
“I need to speak with the Admiral on B Channel immediately.”
“Flock A, Nest 76.”
The image soon shifted to show Admiral Hitori Sulu seated behind a massive desk, an equally massive portrait of his famous ancestor, Hikaru Sulu, hanging on the wall behind him. “Admiral Gitt. I expected to hear from you,” Sulu said.
“Not surprising. You heard about the circus, I suppose.”
“No real damage done; although, I do wish that you’d have let them just kill Agent Dallas.”
Gitt shook his head. “With all due respect, Admiral. I’m not willing to be an accessory to homicide.”
“I trust you have handled the matter appropriately.”
“Samantha Dallas has been committed to Tantalus V. There she can spout off about the circus all she wants along with the other lunatics.”
“Admiral, that is simply beautiful,” Hitori Sulu said, a broad smile crossing his face. “And by the time she is released…”
“If she is released,” Gitt said.
“Of course. By that time, the Next Federation will have completed its ascendance. Excellent work, Hatchling 23.”
“Thank you, Condor. Gitt out.”